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Preview: Breakheart Trail Running

Breakheart Outdoors

The musings of a middle-aged, back of the pack, often injured, semi-retired ultra runner. Running, biking, camping or hiking, I do whatever I can to live an outdoor life. "The older I get, the better I was."

Updated: 2018-03-06T03:19:24.047-05:00


Where's Waldo?


My name isn't Waldo but I have been almost impossible to find on the interwebs this year. I even surprised myself when I saw my last post was 10 months ago. Well, not that surprised. I really haven't been doing anything that interesting. Combine my lack of activity with my declining interest in most forms of social media and you end up with a neglected blog. But I haven't been entirety inactive this year. Here is a brief summary my lackluster year so far.Spring:My first race in about six months was the Merrimack River Trail Race in April. It's the first race in the Grand Tree Trail Race Series and always draws a fast field of runners. This was my third time running the 'rivah' and also my slowest finish. Not all things improve with age. I went out faster than I should have but felt strong the entire 10 miles. I even managed to run all the uphills, a rare occurrence of late. My knee started hurting about two miles from the finish but I was able to maintain pace to the end. I thought I was capable of breaking two hours but when I saw the clock read 1:49:11 I was pleasantly surprised. My racing season was off to a good start.Running through the 2 inch deep water would have been easier and faster but someone put this log obstacle in the way.Up to this point I had been doing 4-6 mile training runs 2-3 times per week. Running low mileage doesn't prepare you for longer races but buoyed by my performance at Merrimack, I decided to run a half marathon at the TARC Spring Classic two weeks later. It was a cold, wet morning but I'd rather run in those conditions than heat and humidity. I knew I was in for long day so I positioned myself at the rear of the starting field and went out at a very conservative pace. I found myself in a long conga line of runners stretched before me on twisting single-track. As the race progressed I worked my way through the field, slowly picking up the pace. I ran my fastest miles over the last 5K and finished in a respectable 2:46 for the 13.5 mile course. I was hoping to break three hours so I was very pleased with my result.Oh, and I saw John Fegyversi, the 13 finisher of "The Barkley" on his way to a 3rd place finish in the marathon. John seems like a super nice guy and I would have liked to have spoken with him after the race but I didn't hang around in the rain once I finished. I did shout "GO LAKEWOOD!" to him on an out-and-back section of the course which seemed to startle him a bit. He was in the zone so sorry about that John.      Start of the TARC Spring Classic. (Photo from John Fegyversi's blog. Arrow points to him.)My work schedule prevents me from running the weekly Lynn Woods Races on Wednesday evenings but I manged to make it to four races in May and June. These races are a great way to get in some faster mid-week running. Race Director Bill Mullen does a great job varying the race course and distance each week. Just like the past two races, I was surprised how fast (for me) I ran the shorter 5-6 mile races. I was knocked down a peg when a ran the 10 mile "Baby Barkley" on a warm and humid night and finished dead last. I'm sure it won't be my last DFL finish.Running to the finish line at the Lynn Woods race.Summer:I've never been a fan of summer running so I shifted my focus to cycling more and running less. I was in the planning stages for my first bike tour so I needed to get more time in the saddle anyway. Of course I didn't do enough riding to prepare myself, but in late August I departed for the long journey. Unfortunately, symptoms from my winter knee injury returned on the first day of the tour. I tolerated the pain as it worsened for three days, enjoying my ride though Massachusetts, New Hampshire and into Maine. When I reached Portland, I decided to cut the tour short. I didn't want to cause further damage to my knee which could impact my running in the fall which is my favorite time of year to run. This tour was the most fun I had all year and I will definitely attempt another tour next summer.About to depart with too much [...]

Fells Fail


My plan for last weekend was to continue on my Sea to Summits Tour by doing another long run on the Mid State Trail. A friend was going to join me but he tweeted his back and had to bail which meant I had to change my plans. It would be impossible to do a long point to point run on the MST without a second person to spot a car. If I've learned one thing over the past few years it's that things rarely go as planned and you have to be flexible when life throws you a curve ball.Instead, I headed to nearby Middlesex Fells Reservation to run a loop or two on the eight mile Skyline Trail. I'm registered to run the TARC Winter Ultra in one week which is a 32 and 40 mile race on this very trail. What better preparation could there be than to get familiar with the terrain before race day?  I haven't run in the Fells since 2009 when I completed three loops of the Skyline Trail with my friends KZ and Michelle. I was looking forward to running someplace other than Lynn Woods where I do most of my training runs. I would soon remember why I have avoided the Fells all these years!I had a difficult time on the technical terrain and my running time for the loop was 30 to 40 minutes slower than what I ran back in 2009. Sure, I'm older, slower and more cautious now but that's a ridiculous time loss for an eight mile run. Needless to say I didn't go out for a second loop. Now, I'm wondering if I should skip the upcoming race. Given my slow time on the race course and my lack of any real training, it seems pointless to toe the starting line this weekend.Then again, I could always add to my growing list of DNFs!View of the Boston skyline from Pine Hill.A closer look.Wright Tower on Pine Hill.A distant view of North Reservoir from Winthrop Hill.North Reservoir pumping station perhaps?Great Blue Hill on the horizon about 20 miles to the south.Standing on the bank of North Reservoir.Decisions, decisions....[...]

Nougat Trail Race Report - The Hardest Race You've Never Heard Of


Anyone familiar with the sport of ultra running has heard of the "The Barkley". It's considered one of the toughest 100 mile races in the world. Perhaps THE toughest. Runners of The Barkley must navigate five loops of the unmarked course, bushwhack through razor sharp briers and locate hidden books before returning to the finish. It has 59,100 feet of climb (and 59,100 feet of descent), more than any other 100 mile race. Since the race began in 1986, only 14 runners out of about 1000 have finished within the 60 hour cutoff. "The Nougat" doesn't have books, briers or significant changes in elevation. The course is also well marked making navigation a piece of cake. So what makes this race so hard? I haven't a clue but in it's seven year history no one has ever finished. NO ONE! Surely, this makes "The Nougat" the most difficult race in the world. :)I went to The Nougat without any hope of finishing the 100 kilometer distance. I've only been running twice a week, averaging about 12 miles total. Even with this low mileage training I thought I had a shot at finishing 50K which meant completing five 10 mile loops (correction: 3 loops. Why make this more difficult than it has to be?). How optimistic of me. And maybe I would have if my mind was in the right place. It wasn't.When I arrived for the 7 am start it was in the twenties but the strong wind made it feel even colder. I was fine with that. I love cold weather running. There was a small group of runners already gathered at the starting area. I took a quick look at them and didn't recognize a single person. Suddenly, and for the first time, I felt very disconnected from the ultra running community.  It was a very strange feeling indeed. Pre-race photo. I must have been VERY tired because I didn't even notice Jim P. and Norm S. Two people I DO know! (photo by Mike Fitzgerald)Despite the cold, I decided to run in a shorts and a short-sleeved tee shirt. By the time I had taken off all my outer layers the rest of the race field was already 5 minutes ahead of me. About 200 yards into the race I realized I didn't bring any calories with me for the 10 mile loop. Back to the starting line I went. By the time I was back on course I was 10 minutes behind everyone. This led me to feel even more disconnected from the race. The 10 mile loop was a mix of single-track and dirt fire roads. I made good time on the fire roads but my pace slowed considerably on the trails. The single-track had an abundance of rocks and roots covered with a thick layer of leaves. I was worried about twisting an ankle, or worse, so I was very slow and careful on all these sections. In my case, I knew this was the right thing to do, but it really annoyed me knowing I'd become so cautious in the woods.From the beginning, my mind was not into the race. As the miles clicked by I kept hoping my attitude would change. It didn't. I believe I would have felt differently had I not been running alone the entire time. I really missed my friend Karen not being at the race. We run at the same pace and tend to take it easy over the same type of terrain. By mile eight I knew I would drop out after one loop.Two miles later I became another casualty of the hardest race you've never heard of.[...]

Sea To Summits Tour - Mid-State Trail Day 2


It was raining and 50 degrees with occasional wind gusts courtesy of Hurricane Matthew. It was a prefect morning to sleep in, or sit at the breakfast table drinking coffee. But I had already asked a friend to join me for a 15 mile run on the Massachusetts Mid-State Trail (MST) and I wasn't about to bail on him. I drove west on Route 2 and hoped the weather would improve as I moved away from the coast. It only got worse. I knew we were in for a long, wet slog.After spotting a car at the Redemption Rock parking lot in Princeton we drove to Ashburnham and found a small patch of dirt on the side of Route 12 and parked the second car. We ran along the narrow shoulder of the road before reaching the trail head and turning into the woods. From here the trail gained 300 feet of elevation in a half mile which helped to take the damp chill out of me. Once we crested the climb we stayed above 1000 feet for the next three or four miles. The trail was littered with slippery rocks and roots and I was thinking it would take a miracle to keep me from falling today.Before leaving higher elevation we made a brief stop at Muddy Pond to take in the foggy view. There was a tent pitched next to the Muddy Pond shelter and a backpack hanging inside, but no one in sight. I could tell by the size of the food hang that it was probably a thru-hiker or someone out for a long section hike. It was still fairly early in the morning and the hiker probably decided to sleep in when they heard the sound of steady rain hitting their tent. I know I would have done that. Gray sky over Muddy Pond. Muddy Pond shelter. I laughed when I saw the bear bag hanging five feet off the ground. It would do nothing to deter a hungry bear from snacking on your food.After passing under graffiti bridge we missed a turn but found it after wandering around in the rain for a while. Less than a half mile later we missing another turn. Once again Bill and I went in opposite directions in search of an elusive yellow triangle which marked the direction of travel. It took some time but we found the trail again. In both cases the trail markers were placed to high to be easily seen. We had one more mishap later in a gravel pit near Route 2 but it was not because we had missed a turn. This time the turn simply was unmarked. These navigation errors added several minutes and about a mile to the run. Much of the MST passes through private property so it's important to stay on the marked trail. Eight miles into the run we came to a fenced in cow pasture. After carefully closing the gate behind us we attempted to follow the trail along the perimeter of the pasture. A couple of cows had other ideas and they blocked our path. Instead of sticking close to the fence we had to cross through cow pasture proper, carefully avoiding the numerous, giant, soupy cow patties while looking over our shoulders for an angry bull. Fortunately, the pasture was only occupied by cows and heifers and most of them were hunkered down due to the miserable weather. A quarter mile later we exited the field unscathed and our shoes free of cow poo.Most of the cows were lying low and didn't give us a second look.The trail lost elevation over the next four miles and was generally less technical than the previous eight. That all changed when we began the climb up Crow Hill. It may be called a hill but the climb was long, steep and very technical, requiring rock scrambling at times. It's not something you want to do under wet conditions but we didn't have any choice. Crow Hill is known for its vertical cliffs and is a popular location for rock climbers. At times the trail came within inches of the cliffs and one misstep could have resulted in a long plunge to the ground below. I moved with extreme caution through these sections. Bill on the steep, rocky climb up Crow Hill.On a clear day the views from Crow Hill are spectacular but today there were only low clouds [...]

Sea To Summits Tour - Mid-State Trail Day 1


Since posting my plan two months ago to cover over 300 miles on foot through four New England states I haven't walked or run a single step of the route. I just couldn't motivate myself to do it during one of hottest summers on record. Now that cooler weather has arrived I hope to make some progress towards that end. Today's run on the Mid-State Trail was a start. A small one mind you, but still a start.Since I had previously hiked from the Northern terminus to Mt.Watatic, my plan for today was to start at the Mt. Watatic parking lot in Ashburnham and run to the Wachusetts Village Inn in Westminster, a distance of approximately 15 miles. That changed when my friend Bill M. asked if he could join me. He only had two hours available due to another morning commitment but I was happy to alter my plan. I'd much rather do a two hour out and back with a friend than a 15 mile point to point alone. I already spend way too much time alone.Although we covered less than nine miles we had to work hard for much of the run, climbing three mountains (twice, since we did and out-and-back) with nearly 1500 feet of vertical gain. I can't recall a whole lot of flat trail on this section of the MST. That's fine with me. I need to start doing more climbing which was painfully obvious as I gasped for air on the return climb up Blueberry Hill. Pass the oxygen please.Best view of the day from Mt. Hunger. Looking down at Stodge Meadow Pond with Mt. Watatic to the left and the Wapack Range in the distance.A closer look at the Wapack Range to the right of Mt. Watatic.Bill leading the way up Mt. Hunger.A cave in the mountain side.Today's elevation profile reminds me of ocean waves. Just not as much fun riding these ones!Happy Trails![...]

Maine Lighthouse Ride


This weekend, I participated in the Maine Lighthouse Ride which is the main fundraiser for The Eastern Trail in southern Maine. About 1200 riders had the option to cycle routes ranging from 25 to 100 miles. I haven't been spending as much time on the bike as I would have liked so I picked the 40 mile option. The 40 route would take me though South Portland, Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth with the final 10 miles being the hilliest. So Cruel! I thought the distance was long enough to challenge me and the route also provide an opportunity to see eight of southern Maine's lighthouses. I have to admit I must have not paid close attention to my surroundings and can't recall seeing that many. It was still a great day to be outdoors and it was my longest ride so far. Route Map.40 mile riders lining up for the early morning start.Civil War fort in Portland Harbor.Spring Port Lighthouse in PortlandPosing with Bug Light in the background. Can shorts still be called shorts if they are below your knees? Taking a break at Ferry Beach in Scarborough.Looking back at Pine Point Beach, I think.Approaching Prounts Neck.Taking another break at Higgins Beach. I have to come back here another time for a swim.Entering Cape Elizabeth.One of two Lighthouses in Cape Elizabeth.I believe this is Cape Elizabeth Light West.One of the many coves along Shore Road.I know I'm slow but no need to rub it in.Ride on![...]

A Run to Remember Eric Sherman


Yesterday morning I made the short drive to Willowdale State Forest in Ipswich to celebrate the life of Eric Sherman. Eric passed unexpectedly last month at the early age of 53. The run was organized by Eric's good friend Mike and Willowdale was one of Eric's favorite places to train. I'm guessing he really loved the trails here since he lived two hours away and would often meet Mike at 5 am for training runs. It's just an indication how passionate Eric was about running. Thankfully, Mike cut this grumpy old man some slack (and everyone else) and started this run at 7 am. Actually, I had it easy compared to Eric's friend Steve who drove up from New Jersey to join in the run. Good friends do this kind of stuff.A great turnout for the run. (photo credit: someone's iPhone)Happy times at the famous(?) Chevy Chevette. (photo credit: Stephanie Cooper)Mike named a gate after Eric to commemorate his wrong way turn during their first Willowdale run. Eric doing what he loved. RIPA message from Mike:Eric lived a great life that included a loving family, many great friends and a long lasting love of the outdoors that he nurtured with his love of hiking and trail running.Eric became a fixture in the New England Ultramarathoning community over the last 5-6 years of his life with his entry and involvement in a great many races. He became well-known beyond New England thru his podcast "DFL Ultrarunning." His ideas from this medium were to expose a great many people to his sport and to focus on the every day runners who are drawn to this sport and to be a voice of encouragement to all who choose to participate.As an active and healthy of a lifestyle as Eric led it did not stop him from being stricken down from heart disease at the very young age of 53. A void that will never be filled has been left with his family, friends and all who knew him. We ask that you consider honoring his memory with a donation that will help the American Heart Association fight heart disease. Thank you. mjsDonations appreciated.Peace.[...]

Hodges Hoedown Half Marathon Race Report


Last weekend I drove out to central MA to run my first race of the year. Yeah, I know we're eighth months into 2016 but better late than never, right? As usual, I was totally unprepared for the distance given my training of twice weekly runs totaling 8 - 10 miles. I did have one 10 mile training run under my belt but that was only because I got lost one day in the woods and my planned 7 mile run was unintentionally extended. First race bib for 2016. It won't be my last.View of Hodges Dam near the race start/finish line.I somehow managed to convince my friend Mary to join me for this race. Mary recently ran a sub-four hour road marathon so I knew I would never be able keep up with her if she was here to race. She decided to stick with me. Thanks Mary! We haven't run together since she broke her ankle on a training run with me and some friends on ice covered trails in the Middlesex Fells several years ago. Ice is one thing we didn't need to concern ourselves with on this day. It was in the mid-eighties and very humid. Just the type of weather that destroys me. Oh,well.Mary and I at the start. The smile will soon be wiped from my face.Bringing up the rear at the start of the race. We would later pass several runners only to loose places after missing a turn.The first four miles of the race were fairly flat with some short, steep climbs but very technical with plenty of rocks and roots to contend with. Miles 5 - 7 were the most difficult and hilly, at one point climbing about 200 feet in less than a mile. The downhills were also challenging with many loose rocks. I chose to move slowly on the descents not wanting to risk a bad fall. The final four miles were mostly flat, smooth trail but I bonked badly with two miles to go and my pace slowed significant. We also missed a clearly marked turn between miles 7 - 8 which added about eight minutes to our time.The course was not as flat as it appears. There were numerous short, steep climbs. Mary led the way throughout the race and set a good pace for me. I would have run slower if I was on my own. I knew the pace was WAY slow for her and told her she could leave me at any time but she stuck with me....until I bonked.  Peace sign, or me counting the number of times I stubbed a toe in the last mile?Mary crossing the finish line. She put 11 minutes on me in the final two miles! I'm sure she could have run 30 minutes faster if she ran her own race.I really had a blast running with Mary despite the weather conditions and my poor fitness.  I already have my sights set on the next race.Happy Trails![...]

North-South Trail Trek - Section #6


In May I hiked the last section of the North-South Trail (NST) from George Washington Wildlife Management Area to the northern terminus in Buck Hill Wildlife Management Area on the Rhode Island/Massachusetts border. From there I hiked another two miles on the Mid-State Trail to Wallum Lake in Douglas State Forest where my car was parked. It was an unseasonably warm and humid day and the lack of water and the constant ups and downs in Buck Hill began to wear me down. This was perhaps the best 13 miles of trail on the entire NST. Most of the miles were on single-track trail with only 1.5 miles on a gravel forest road in Buck Hill WMA.  Bowdish Reservoir in George Washington WMA.The rocky journey begins.Striated and split rock.Some company on the trail.Barefoot hiking not recommended!Crossing a boggy section. The long and winding road in Buck Hill WMA. It doesn't show well in the photo but these stones were bleached white.I saw many of these stone cellars on the Mid-State Trail in Douglas State Forest. width="320" height="266" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Reaching the Rhode Island/Massachusetts border.More photos of my hike can be viewed here.[...]

Sea To Summits Tour Preview


One thing I liked most about my early days of ultra running was that it was a relatively unknown sport. Many races had a small number of runners and over time you would see the same faces and got to know most of your competitors and often became friends. Not that I ever felt like I was racing against other runners. It was more about competing against the distance, the terrain and myself. I think many other ultra runners felt the same way. We offered encouragement to one another during races and did what we could to help each other get to the finish line.This has all changed.Ultra running has grown tremendously in the four years I was away from the sport and small races are more difficult to find. Now, when I look at the names of finishers in New England ultras I recognize very few names. I did manage to find two small races last fall which brought me back to "the good old days" of ultra running past. I could run these races again this year and hope that the fields remain small but my desire is to look for new challenges and not to repeat the same from the past.Which brings me to my next project, The Sea to Summits Tour.The Sea to Summits Tour (SST) is an attempt to bring me back to my running roots when I ran for the pure joy of it. No racing, no crowded trails. Just me and the forest. The SST is a 340 mile route I created by connecting existing trails in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It begins at the Atlantic Ocean on the shore of Rhode Island Sound and ends on a mountain top in New Hampshire.  Along the way I will summit numerous mountains and smaller hills with over 111,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.Sea to Summits Tour Route OverviewThe Sea to Summits Route from South to North:North-South Trail (red) - Rhode Island and ConnecticutMid-State Trail (blue) - MassachusettsWapack and Cranberry Meadow Pond Trails (orange) - New HampshireMonadnock Sunapee Greenway Trail (green) - New HampshireSunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway (red loop) - New HampshireI've already hiked to the northern terminus of the North-South Trail which is also the southern terminus of the Mid-State Trail (report will be posted soon) which leaves about 260 miles to go. Clearly, I wont' finish the entire route this year but I certainly hope it doesn't take as long to complete as my Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) journey. I plan to run some sections and hike others and I think this run/hike strategy over the remaining 260 miles will help me cover more distance in less time.I'm looking forward to going old school.[...]

Bay Circuit Trail Run & Hike Reports


 The Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) is a 231 mile permanent recreational trail and greenway corridor extending through eastern Massachusetts. It links 57 communities from Plum Island to the shores of Duxbury/Kingston. I have completed the trail in June 2016. Below is a listing of my run and hike reports by section. Click on the links below for detail reports and photos of my Bay Circuit Trail runs and hikes.April 2011 - Section 1A Plum Island to Rowley (13 mile run)April 2011 - Section 2 Rowley to Boxford (20 mile run)May 2011 - Section 3 Boxford to Andover (18 mile run)June 2011 - Sections 4 and 5 Andover to Chelmsford (22 mile run)June 2011 - Sections 6 and 7 Chelsford to Weyland (30 mile run)December 2011 - Section 1B Appleton Farm Spur (12 mile run)Photo slide show for sections 1 - 7July 2013 - Sections 7 and 8 Weyland to Framingham (10 mile hike)August 2013 - Section 8 Framingham to Ashland (15 mile hike) September 2013 - Section 9 Ashland to Sherborn (12 mile hike) December 2013 - Section 9 Rocky Narrows Loop (4 mile hike)April 2014 * Section 9 Sherborn to Medfield (11 mile hike)May 2014 - Section 10 Medfield to Walpole (12 mile hike)September 2014 - Sections 10 and 11 Walpole to Easton (13 mile hike)February 201 - Sections 11 and 12 Easton to West Bridgewater (17 mile hike)May 2016 - Sections 12 and 13 West Bridgewater to Hanson (14 mile hike)March 2016 - Section 13 Hanson to Pembroke (4 mile hike)June 2016 - Sections 13 and 14 Pembroke to Kingston (18 mile hike)Bay Circuit Trail End-to-End Stats[...]

Bay Circuit Trail Hike End-To-End Stats


I've compiled a few statistics from my run/hike on the Bay Circuit Trail.  I don't have the best memory but I think they're fairly accurate.Total distance: 231 miles. Whew!Distance as the crow fly: 55 miles. If only I could fly.Trails and dirt roads: 135 miles or 58%.Paved roads and bike paths: 96 miles or 42%. More road walking on the southern half vs the northern half.Miles hiked: 128 or 55%.Miles run: 103 or 45%.Longest hike: 19 miles. (last day on trail)Longest run: 30 miles. Good training run for the Damn Wakely Dam Ultra.Shortest hike: 4 miles (trying to hike north with southbound directions. No Bueno)Shortest run: 12 miles (my first day on trail)Elevation gain and loss: 18,000 - 20,000 feet estimated. More elevation gain and loss on the northern half vs the southern half.High point: Nobscot Hill, 602 feet.Low point: Northern and Southern Terminus, sea level. Number of days on trail: 15. Once on snow-covered trail in Rocky Narrows.Number of nights on trail: 0 (legal camping is scarce).I traveled through: 37 Cities and Towns.Green spaces I explored: 54 State Parks, Town Forests and local conservation areas.Rivers Crossed: 13 (and many more small brooks and streams often getting my feet wet).Most cemeteries seen on one hike: 3.Miles driven to and from trail: far too many!Number of falls: Less than usual :)Photos taken: 746 Yikes! No wonder it took so long to finish.If you have any questions about the trail please post a comment here and I'll do my best to answer them.[...]

Bay Circuit Trail Hike Report - Reaching The Southern Terminus


I did it!After five years, two months and seven days I finally finished the 231 mile Bay Circuit Trail reaching the southern terminus at Bay Farm in Kingston, MA on a warm, sunny afternoon. I'm not really sure what I was expecting or how I would feel when I stepped on the beach sand and touched the ocean's water, but in the end it was an anticlimactic finish to such a long journey. To be honest, I completed this trail out of pure subborness (some may say determination) and not because I enjoyed hiking it. At least not the last 100 miles. That's not to say I didn't have some fun along the way. Running the first 100 miles, at times with a friend or two (or three), was truly the most enjoyable time spend on the trail. Discovering the BCT's hidden gems like Ford's Folly was very interesting to me. Getting lost and navigating my way back to the trail, although frustrating at the time, was a good learning experience. Were these moments enough to offset the many miles of road walking and countless hours hiking alone? I'm not so sure about that.The final 18 miles of the BCT through Pembroke and Kingstown were uninspiring at best.  Road walks, very little change in topography, unmaintained trail, a completely overgrown and undiscernible trail at the Rt. 27 entrance of the Veterans Commemorative Town Forest in Pembroke and a section of trail blazed in two directions (east and west!) in the Hathaway Preserve in Kingston made for a slow and confusing hike. If I knew how long this hike was going to take I would have hijacked this jeep and drove the route.A quiet back road in Pembroke.A sign of things to come.I know there's a trail in here. I just have to find it.Well I wasn't alone 100% of the time. A nice view in Tubbs Meadow.And another one.The trailhead at Veterans Commemorative Forest. Really, I'm not joking. Can you say bushwhacking?This barn at Silver Lake is being reclaimed by the forest.Beautiful old church in Kingston.Less than one mile to go. The best sight I saw all day!Grassy meadow at Bay Farm.View of the bay from the trail.Standing at the Southern Terminus of the BCT!What do I do next?[...]

Bay Circuit Trail Hike Report - Reynolds Landing, West Bridgewater to Nathaniel Thomas Mill, Hanson


Last month I returned to the Bay Circuit Trail to fill in the 14 mile gap I created in March when I hiked 4 miles northbound from Pembroke State Forest to the Nathaniel Thomas Mill in Hanson. This early April hike took me through the three surprisingly rural "Bridgewaters" and into Hanson. I have now run or hiked 211 miles of the 231 mile BCT from the northern terminus on the sea shore of Newbury to the forests of Pembroke. One more hike will take me to my final destination, the southern terminus at Bay Farm on the coast of Duxbury/Kingston. But first I need to shake the pneumonia that has filled my lungs and drained my body of energy. Route was mostly road walking but often past farmland on quiet roads so not all bad.Starting point at Reynolds Landing in West Bridgewater.This is the canoe launch into Town River.Walking a quiet dirt road in West Bridgewater.This is the site of a former Iron Work on Town River in Bridgewater.Foundation of one of the buildings on site.I assume the swift moving river created by the dam was used to turn a water wheel back in the day.One of the noisy road walks as I enter into East Bridgewater.A nice old home on the Mistletoe Tree Farm in Bridgewater.An old mill building on the banks of the Satucket River.A glimpse of the Satucket River through the trees.A quiet spot for reflection.These stepping stones helped to keep my feet dry.A nice section of trail through the Phillips Wildlife Area.A tranquil space created as a memorial to Amy by her parents. Shortly after leaving this spot I had a long and moving conversation with Amy's mother.The land was purchased and cleared by Amy's parents. All are welcome to wander the quiet, well-maintained paths.Our time on earth is fragile and fleeting. Use it wisely.Crossing Poor Meadow Brook on a long boardwalk.The boardwalk is in serious need of repair.Walking past a cranberry bog in Hanson.Taking the Indian Crossway over the open water in the Burrage WMA in Hanson.I had to get my feet (and more) wet here!The end of the hike in Hanson at the Nathaniel Thomas Mill.More photos and videos of my hike can be found here.Stats: BCT Maps 12 & 13: 14.3 miles  Surface split: 4.8m trails and dirt roads, 9.5m paved roads  Elevation gain: 411 feet  Highest point: Bonney Hill, Hanson 232 ft.  Start point: Reynolds Landing, West Bridgewater   End point: Nathaniel Thomas Mill, HansonOther towns: Bridgewater and East Bridgewater  Green Spaces: Satucket River Conservation Area, Poor Meadow Brook, Burrage Pond WMAHydration: 40 oz water  Fuel: Two Cilff Bars  Footwear: Scarpa Spark trail runners, Smartwool socks  Total BCT covered to date: 211 miles  Surface split: 122 trail and dirt roads, 82 paved roads, 7 paved rail trail  Total elevation gain: 8500+ feetHighest point: Nobscot Hill 602 ft  BCT remaining: 17m estimated[...]

Bay Circuit Trail Hike Report - NOGO On The NOBO


Another cold Saturday morning, another hike on the Bay Circut Trail. This time the plan was to hike 17 miles from Reynolds Landing in West Bridgewater (where I ended my hike last weekend) to Shepherd Forest in Pembroke. That plan went up in smoke when I could not obtain a ride from Pembroke to West Bridgewater. Pembroke does not have taxi service and the nearest Uber was 30 minutes away. I could have waited for the Uber but decided to start my hike from Shepherd Forest, walk North, and do an out and back of 10-12 miles total.All my previous hikes on the BCT have been in a southerly direction. There are two reasons for this. The first being I live closer to the northern terminus than the southern terminus so it just made sense to start the trail up north. The second, and more compelling reason to hike southbound is because the trail guide's directions are written for a north to south hike. In hiking jargon, I am called a SOBO because I am hiking the trail SOuthBOund. If I were hiking the trail south to north I would be a NOBO. I've heard from other BCT hikers that going north can be confusing and more difficult. I now know first hand that this is true. It wouldn't be a problem if the trail was well blazed but it is not. Trying to interpret the guide in the opposite direction was challenging to say the least. I was able to stay on trail with some minor detours but forward progress was very slow. I decided to turn back after four miles. My first hike NOBO hike was a bust. Walking a canal dredge pile next to a cranberry bog. Cranberry bog in Pembroke.Crossing the Pembroke - Hanson border. This benign looking house in Camp Kiwanee looked creepy to me when I passed it.Snow-covered trail in Hanson Town Forest.  Stormy looking sky. Sun breaking through.Nathaniel Thomas Mill and dam built in the 1690's. I could have used a lot more of these.I learned a valuable lesson. Stick to SOBO! [...]

Bay Circuit Trail Hike Report - Borderland State Park, Easton To Reynolds Landing, West Bridgewater


After months of thinking and talking about doing a hike on the Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) I finally found the motivation I was lacking all winter to actually do it. A sunny 30 degree day and a touch of cabin fever was all that was needed to get me moving again. I hiked 17 miles from Borderland State Park (BSP), on the border of Sharon and Easton, to Reynolds Landing, a canoe launch in West Bridgewater. This puts me within 35 miles of the BCT southern terminus at Bay Farm on the Duxbury/Kingston line. I hope to reach my final destination in the next two weeks.Inching my way closer to the southern terminus of the BCT.I was a little concerned that all the rain earlier in the week in addition to the heavy overnight rainfall would impact some of the trails along this low lying section of the BCT, I checked in with the ranger at BSP to get an update on trial conditions. He told me if I encountered any water within the first eight of a mile on the Rockland Trail I should consider turning back because trail condition would worsen the deeper I went. I should have listened.I was feeling chilled as I started out from the BSP Visitors Center walking towards the Ames mansion and its expansive lawn. After a brief stop I continued down the long dirt road to the Rockland Trail. This is where trail conditions deteriorated considerably and my progress was slowed due to several areas of submerged trail. I was able to negotiate many of them without much effort but was forced to use a rock wall and downed trees to cross the worse flooded section. I thought this may not be the last underwater trail I would see and I was proved correct a short time later.Ames mansion in Borderland State Park.Easy walking on a dirt road in BSP.One of the few dry sections on the Rockland Trail.This is what most of the trail was like.Leaving the Rockland Trail I crossed the street into wooded area that would bring me to a trail under high-voltage power lines. I had only walked in a short distance before I was stopped in my tracks by a brook with fast running water. It was too wide to leap across and too deep to wade through. If it was warmer, wading the brook would have been fine but with a wind-chill in the low 20s that wasn’t an option. After much wasted time searching for a way across I decided to return to Rockland Ave for a one mile road walk. From this point I was able to access the power line trail. allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">There was no way to cross here and still stay dry.From here the BCT followed Beaver Brook for 2.5 miles through the Fox Mountain Lot and some paved roads to Old Pond in Easton. The wooded section was wet but not as bad as the trail through BSP. The footbridge over Beaver Brook was a bonus since it was far too deep and wide to ford. After a one mile road walk on busy streets I got off road again at Wheaton Farm.A welcomed sight in Beaver Brook.Old Pond in Easton.Old Pond Dam allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">Loud waterfall and a busy street.The open meadows in Wheaton Farm offered sweeping views of the property below but the cold, strong wind soon reminded me to keep moving. The meadows lead to a narrow 100 year old cart path. T[...]

What I Like About Trail Running


THE PEOPLEI'm not a very social person. Put me in a room with a bunch of people and I won't have much to say. But, put me on the trail with a group of trail runners and I turn into Chatty Cathy. Trail runners are just easy to get along with. Even people I've never met before feel like old friends after spending a few hours together in the woods. THE PLACESTrail running has taken me to some amazing places that I may not otherwise have seen. Running in the mountains and forests, along rivers and lakes and seeing wildlife brings me to a happy place. THE RACESAhh, the races. I like the challenge of pushing myself beyond what I thought possible. I love preparing for races as much as running them. Reading race reports, reviewing elevation profiles and course descriptions just adds to the pre-race excitement. And there's nothing better than licking your wounds with fellow racers over a post-race beer. THE FACES These smiles tell the story. Trail runners are a happy lot. Need I say more?THE HEADCASESWithout running, I'm certain I would have gone mad years ago. Trail running is therapeutic and certainly more fun than spending time in a shrink's office. No offense to the shrinks out there. If you're feeling stressed, sad, lonely, fill in the blank, go for a run in the woods. You'll soon forget about your problem(s) and feel renewed when you're finished.What do you like about running trails? Leave a comment.[...]

Unfinished Business


I ended 2015 with two unfinished projects and it's been bugging me all winter. 

Bay Circuit Trail, MA
When I make it my goal to run the 230 mile Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) back in 2011 I never thought I would still be working towards its completion five years later. I started out strong running over 100 miles between April and June but an ailing ITB sidelined me for the rest of 2011. I hiked another 77 miles in 2013 and 2014 but that still left me about 53 mile short of my goal. Completing the BCT is a top priority for me this year.

North-South Trail, RI

In 2015, I hiked over half of the 78 mile North-South Trail (NST) but lost interest due to a large percentage of road walking. I've had some time to reflect on this over the winter and I've decided to finish the trail this year. Completing the NST is important to me now because it will be the first leg of a 340 mile journey across four states which I'm calling the "Sea to Summits Tour." I'll be posting more details about this personal project in the coming months.

It's going to be a very busy year.


2016 Race Schedule


It feels a little strange to be putting together a race schedule given I haven't run a step in two months. I'm hoping that by making a commitment I will be motivated to start training again, and soon, as spring is right around the corner. I'm not calling this a race plan or a goal, merely a guideline for 2016. Making a solid plan with my back issue doesn't make any sense. One day my back is OK, the next not so much. I prefer to take it one day at a time and race if I'm feeling up to it. Flexibility, and not getting down of myself, is key.I'm trying to mix things up this year so races I haven't done before were given priority. I also want to improve my map and compass skills so I'll be doing several orienteering meets this year. All of the races listed are new to me unless otherwise noted. You'll notice there aren't any ultras on the list. That doesn't mean I wont run an ultra this year. I just need to decide which one(s) to participate in. I'm partial to timed ultras so that will influence my decision.Here's what I'm thinking about so far.April2nd Historic Beaver Brook Orienteering Meet 9th Merrimack River Trail Race  - Grand Tree Series Race #1 I've run this twice before but it's a GT race and I want to earn enough points to get a Stonehead ranking. (Six races needed for scoring) My 2010 race report is here.24th Needham Town Forest Orienteering Meet I ran this meet last year for the first time but controls are moved every year at orienteering meets so it's never the same race twice.May1st Breakheart Reservation Orienteering Meet7th Beaver Brook North Orienteering MeetJune 5th Goodwin Forest 30K - Grand Tree Race #6Goodwin Forest Elevation Profile. I'm screwed.19th Graylock Mountain Trail Race - Grand Tree Race #8 This one is a long 3+ hour drive for me but adding a ride on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail the day before the race will make the trip worthwhile.July10th Blue Hills Skyline Trail Run - Grand Tree Race #9 I ran this once before in 2009. The Skyline Trail is no joke.September3rd Belmont Wanderings Orienteering on a bike! What could possibly go wrong? October 8th Prospect Hill Orienteering Meet 16th Groton Town Forest Race - Grand Tree Race #16 I ran this race in 2009 and again in 2015 but it's loaded with twisting single-track so it's hard to pass up.30th Busa Trail Race - Grand Tree Race # 18 I've run this race honoring Richard Busa two times. Once in 2008 as a shake out one week before the Stone Cat Marathon and in  2011 when I was injured and just there for fun.This list is longer than it probably should be but it gives me plenty of options. Keeping my fingers crossed.[...]

Passing Time With Podcasts


During my running days I would never listen to music or podcasts during training runs or races. I preferred to enjoy the solitude and beauty around me or to converse with my fellow running mates. Now that I spend most of my time alone I find podcasts good company and I listen to them often. The subject matter varies greatly but my favorites tend to focus on an active outdoor lifestyle. Here is a small sampling of my new companions.The First 40 Miles: Hosts Heather and Josh discuss various topics geared towards beginner hikers and backpackers, recount backpacking trips with their children, review outdoor gear and reveal a "backpack hack of the week" on each episode. I think that's my favorite segment of all.The Pedalshift Project: With a focus on the "non-spandex" cyclist, this podcast is a good tool for learning more about the bike touring lifestyle. I enjoy hearing about the host and his guest's trips as well as what worked well and not so well on their journeys.The Pursuit Zone:  Whether it''s running across Mongolia, skiing the continent of Antarctica, paddling across the Pacific Ocean, cycling around the world, or kayaking the Amazon River I never tire of hearing tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This is one of my favorite podcasts. You should definitely check it out. The Trail Show: Sometimes I think the four hosts, all triple-crown hikers with over 40,000 combined miles, created this podcast as an excuse to drink beer. Not that's its a bad thing. I barely got passed the first two episodes due the incessant sound effects but the first-time prodcasters steadily improved and now The Trail Show is one of my staples.Talk Ultra: Ian Corless hosts the premier podcast in the extreme world of ultrarunning. Interviews with all the elites of the sport, race results, training talk and co-host Karl "Speedgoat" Meltzer, who has won more 100 mile races than anyone on earth, make this a must listen to for anyone serious about the sport of ultrarunning."Say hello to my little friends"[...]

What Winter?


You call this winter?

I’m reluctant to mock Old Man Winter lest he unleash a blizzard upon me but only two minor snow storms and mild temperatures all winter have resulted in bare trails here in eastern Massachusetts. That’s the good news. The bad news is I haven’t been able to enjoy them. My back sort of went south after running the Hamster Wheel 6 Hour Ultra in early November. Since then I’ve only run a few times, and not a step in the past seven weeks.

All this down time has me guessing about what direction I want to take in 2016. Should I continue to try for a return to running or finally pull the plug? It’s been my passion for nearly 50 years but running with constant pain or discomfort has taken away much of the enjoyment. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a multi-day coastal ride or a long multi-state hike for a long time.  Perhaps this will be the year.

Hiking In Wyman Hill and Great Hill Conservation Areas


I went for my first hike of 2016 in Wyman Hill and Great Hill Conservation Areas in the small town of Manchester-by-the-Sea I recently learned of these properties while doing some research on the Manchester-Essex Conservation Area. Unfortunately, I could not find any online information about Wyman Hill or Great Hill so I started the hike without a trail map or any idea of what I might find there. What I did expect was snow and ice covered trails given the recent winter storm that passed through here earlier in the week. And there was enough of both to make the trail treacherous at times.A perfect day to explore new trails, or so I thought.What I didn't expect was the amount of water I encountered. Withing 100 yards of the Crooked Lane trail head I was faced with 20-30 feet of submerged trail. I was able to stay dry by finding a way around it but I was constantly running into areas where the trail was underwater and looking for a detour on higher ground. After the fifth or sixth time bushwhacking around deep water I had enough of that @#%$ and decided to quit and go back to my car. This wasn't the worst of it.The only problem was I didn't have a trail map and most of the trails were unmarked. I really had no idea where I was and I wasn't about to backtrack and work my way around all the water obstacles for a second time. I decided to press on and eventually I did find my way back to my car (thanks to my iPhone). I cant complain about it though.  A bad day on the trail is still better than a good day at work. allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">Don't let my pretty face fool you. This hike was ugly!Happy 2016![...]

Manchester - Essex Wilderness Conservation Area Recon


After spending a week indoors with a sinus infection and a 101 degree temperature I was itching to get out of the house for some fresh air. Although still very congested and feeling worn out I decided to do a short recon of the trails in the Manchester - Essex Wilderness Conservation Area, also known as Millstone Hill. I was surprised to find an extensive trail system through mixed forest with an abundance of glacial rock and three large swamps. It was difficult to find any online information about the area but I estimate there is likely 12-15 miles of trails. You can also gain access to Chebacco Woods to the west and the Wyman and Great Hill Conservation Areas to the south for a total of 25 to 30 miles of trails.

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I'll certainly be back for a longer hike or maybe a trail run.

Happy New Year!


Gear Review - Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Essential


Ultimate Direction's Jurek Essential is a lightweight, minimalist, durable waist belt designed to meet your basic needs on shorter runs. Take a hand-held water bottle along with you and you're good to go on long runs as well. It weighs a mere 2.1 ounces on my scale so I'm not surprised I don't even notice the Essential when I'm wearing it. And it stays put, no bouncing. As an added bonus the belt is very breathable and will not absorb moisture.So light you'll forget you're wearing it.The waterproof, silicone impregnated nylon pocket is perfect for storing your cell phone, ipod or any other electronic device that needs to stay dry. The expandable mesh pocket is large enough to hold an assortment of gels, bars, electrolytes or other nutritional item within easy reach. The tiny belt pocket can hold your ID, car keys, and chap stick. Hey, you're only going for a training run not running from a zombie apocalypse! What more do you need? Plenty of storage for your basic needs.I wear this belt on most of my runs and can't think of anything I dislike about it. OK, maybe the wild colors, but it also comes in a gray/black style that may be more to your liking.   Likes:LightweightComfortableWell-madeDislikes:Color!Disclosure: Ultimate Direction provided Breakheart Trail Running with a sample product for testing but the author was under no obligation to post a review.[...]

The Hamsterwheel 6 Hour Race Report


To be honest, I had no business entering this race. The chronic musculoskeletal condition that kept me from running for 42 months has limited my training to 1 - 2 days per week over the past two and a half months. Averaging just 13 miles a week and having run between 2 -3 hours only 3 times does not prepare the body to run for 6 hours. But the Ultra goddess is a temptress and I found her siren call impossible to resist. I stood at the start line of The Hamsterwheel 6 Hour Ultra determined to go the distance, or in this case, do the time.My first ultra race bib since the 2011 Wakely Dam Ultra.The race consisted of three miles (1.5 miles out and back) on the New Boston Rail Trail along the south branch of the Piscataquog River, and one mile of dirt roads around the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, creating a lollipop loop course. The rail trail section was basically flat, although it dipped in the center creating a very slight incline/decline in both directions. The fairground section had the only hill, which was short but sort of steep, taking you to the high point on the loop before dropping back down the the start/finish line in the center of the fairgrounds.That's a sad looking lollipop but you get the idea.Elevation profile or my EKG during the race?I'm usually not a fan of out and back, multi-loop races but I actually enjoyed this course quite a bit. It was interesting to see the race leaders (making it look easy) and other runners lap after lap, offering encouragement, a smile or a just slight nod of the head as the hours wore on. The views and sounds of the rushing river offered a distraction along the rail trail and the hill in the fairground provided an opportunity to work the leg muscles in a different manner. Plus, it's comforting knowing what to expect lap after lap when you are out of shape and in over your head!My friend Wendy cruising to a 28 mile finish.The rail trail section parallels the Piscataquog River.Looking upstream from the rail trail.I knew I would have to use a run/walk system in order to go the full 6 hours so I settled on a 0.7 mile run/0.3 mile walk ratio. I thought if I could keep moving for 6 hours I would have a shot at completing marathon distance. Once the race started I began my 0.3 mile walking segment through the fairgrounds and was dead last in no time flat! When I got to the rail trail section I was disappointed to see the trail surface was crushed stone. Ugh! Not having seen the course I made the incorrect assumption that the rail trail was an unimproved dirt rail bed. I had to quit a run on a crushed stone rail trail a few weeks ago when it caused considerable plantar fascia pain so I felt like my race was over before it even started. What evil lurks beyond this sign?Leaf covered rail trail concealed my nemesis.Damn you crushed stone!After running the first 0.7 mile segment I knew my feet wouldn't survive for long if I stuck to the 0.7/0.3 run/walk plan. I would have to walk the entire three mile section of rail trail and run the one mile loop on dirt roads around the fairgrounds. I felt discouraged knowing it would be impossible to reach marathon distance running only 25% of the course. It was better than quitting though so I pressed on. I completed the first loop in 54 minutes despite walking more than planned. As I started my second loop I thought why not flip the r[...]