The Dorset Running Festival weekend has arrived in western Vermont once again! Hooray!!
..or at least it had at the time of writing this, by the time of you reading this.. it is slightly passed for 2019. But the memory of sweaty running shorts, rockin’ awards and rad friends are still very apparent in my mind thanks to the three day event put on by Nor’East Trail Runs!
I say ‘three day’ event because technically that’s really what it was;
Day One: The Wild Card Friday
Or better known as The Up-hill Mile. For a very modest $5.28 (one penny per ten feet..) runners would be able to tackle this paved mile while climbing somewhere along the lines of 450 feet of elevation gain.
Unfortunately, I was not in the area for the kick off of this spectacular event, so I cannot report on the Up-hill Mile nor the plethora of adorable, adoptable kittens greeting racers at the finish line. Wait… what was that..? Kittens you say?! YES! The entire weekend-long running festival put on by Nor’East Trail Runs worked paw in hand, donating all proceeds to the Second Chance Animal Shelter, pretty darn awesome if you ask a pet lover!!
Day Two: The Lost Cat
An epic race indeed! Racers can take their pick of either the full 26.2mi marathon or the quad-busting 50K distance, both of which began at 8am simultaneously. For those weekend runners who are not early risers, Nor’East also offered the 13.1mi Half Marathon which was also saw a huge turn out!
I chose to sign up about 9 months in advance for the 50K distance (still riding the high from the Nor’witch 50K back toward the end of 2018!) and conveniently was rewarded with a surprise free-entry into the Dorset Hollow Road 10K which would be taking place the following day.
After a brief pow-wow with Adam and Eliza, the friendly Race Directors over at Nor’East Trail Runs, the clock was ticking and we were off scooting down the road. Knowing to not go out too fast, I tried to just run as efficiently as possible while transitioning from asphalt to gravel – which made up the initial miles of the day.
Somewhere around mile 4 we began the gentle climb up the first out and back – I mention this because I really enjoy having the opportunity to wave and cheer on the front of the pack.. and scope out the competition (knowing they will destroy my attempts at any speed records!), all were extremely friendly – no surprise there, I have found the running community is comprised of some totally awesome folks!
Just as I was having my fill of gravel descents and a ~7 minute pace we slammed passed the Sheriff watching traffic and jammed out onto the Route 7 blacktop and before long we were all greeted by crowds cheering us into the Emerald Lake State Park.
Emerald Lake State Park, where to begin with this gem of a natural environment.. immediately after stepping cautiously over active (not this morning luckily!) railroad tracks, runners were treated to what I would find to be perhaps the most scenic and west-coast-style single track of soft packed blackened soil surrounded by the most picturesque ferns and every other bit of plant life in varying shades of green.
Hills and switch-backs were the name of the game for the foreseeable future, that is, until we looped back into on-coming runners for a short bit of trail. Here, where the trail made a Y and I proceeded in a lefterly direction, is where I saw my first runner going literally in circles, unsure of where to go; seeing me, she turned back while I proceeded ahead along the shimmering lake.
I desperately wanted to look up and take in the lovely lakeside vistas that flickered just inches beside my dusty Altras, but assumed if I did.. I would probably eat the trail, which was now extremely washed out with roots, rocks and other obstacles – but don’t read that as me complaining, still an absolute blast to find myself on these trails, it just took a certain level of concentration – that’s all!
Just shy of hitting the 15mi point on my GPS watch, I entered another aid-station – this one staffed by none other than Ciara, Boone and Crockett!! I took my short opportunity to stop, stretch the legs a bit after the last climb up from the campground and visit with her, she always has a way of tugging some enthusiasm back into my steps just when I need it most!
Unfortunately, the miles during the next couple of sections had one theme amoungst my fellow runners: too much road. Sure there was a bit of gravel and road, but when Nor’East dished out “trail”, they dumped bucket loads of sweet, sweet trail right on top of us!
I heard talks of “rabbit-ears” earlier on in the day, and admittedly I had no idea what folks were talking about. Now I knew! A slew of two more out-and-backs before we could hang up our 50K hats for the day! Runners hit their high-point of the day (literally!) between miles 25-28 where we were treated to a 650 foot climb where we hole-punched a heart into our bibs (the proof we did the climb!) followed by a direct reversal and fast-paced shimmy back down.
The best views of the day came from the first climb where we were treated to the expansive vistas of a green mountaintop skyline, it was hard to not stop to snap several photos!
Passing Eliza’s aid station for yet a third time, I had the option of filling up on some water.. but when I heard the shout of: “hang a right down that road and you’ll find the finish line about a mile down there..”, I had to blast past and boogey my kicks right down the last gravel and dirt descent of the day. I found it in my tired and hungry heart to perform one final heel-clicking leap off the last mound of dirt for our event photographer, Joe Viger, just prior to hitting the last stretch of asphalt and being greeted by loads of spectators and friends who had already finished their day.
‘Last right turn of Saturday’, I repeated in my mind until feeling entirely rejuvenated with raw plant-based power engulfing my legs, my aim was now set on the Finish line flags and Adam, there at the finish with my prized new pint glass, finishers dog tag medal and my very own inch-thick block of marble.
What a day it had been!
Day Three: Dorset Hollow 10K
This one had been a reward for running in the winter snowshoe series months prior, I can still remember shaking my head when I received the invite email from the Race Directors and thinking: “welp.. I always wanted to do back-to-back races.. I suppose!“
Today I had the joy of running with Ciara and her mama, Tuesday as all of us were signed up for the 10K distance.
Waivers signed, good morning greetings shared, porta-potties used, we three then began our three quarter mile trek to the starting line, enjoying the classic Northeast farm vistas all the way! Stone driveways lined with leaves on the brink of color changing led to crisp red barns, as if we had been dropped in a postcard-like farm village on this cool, clear August morning.
One by one the Forrest Gump clones appeared at our starting line, legs bent in every position imaginable, stretching the morning stiffness out of their running legs. Buses crawled by dropping folks off who did not want the warm up trek and to bring the 5K-ers further down the road to their starting point.
All 56 of us gathered around listening to Eliza break down the flow of the morning and before long we all did the “3,2,1.. start the watches” count down!
My initial attempts of taking this 10K easy were squashed with a punch to the arm, a kiss or three as Ciara told me to ‘go run!’ .. hard to say no to that, so I promised them I would wait and catch some finish line shots of the happy ladies as they ran it in!
One by one I began passing folks, amping up the running intensity and trying to not blow snot on anyone.. it was a crisp morning for sure. I was even lucky enough to run into a friend from the winter snowshoe series, what a lovely little running community we have!
The gravel hills rolled by as the sun gained elevation, my core was toasty by now but my stiff fingers still craved all of those sun rays. Lots of families and local residents were out and about this morning to cheer us on.
Somewhere around the 4 mile mark aid station I was reliving my early hiking days of telling folks “the summit is just ahead, couple of minutes”, thinking I was bringing hope to someones day as I was dished a dose of my own harsh medicine when a friend yelled “its all downhill from here!”
He was wrong, I found those hills and I crushed those hills (at least, I survived the hills and pressed on further down the road!).
Passing our friendly Sheriff who had shut the roads down for us wild runners, I knew we were close to home, I knew where we were now.. time for hyper-speed!
Hyper-speed is not at all what I should call it.. perhaps something like ‘lead feet’ is a wee bit more accurate as I now began to feel the effects of 31+ miles the day before.
Knowing my discomfort would dissipate the instant I stepped over the finish line, and if I were to give into comfort now, not pushing harder than ever in this moment, that I would be left in a world of disappointment for the rest of my life: I kicked hard. I ran it in, completing 6.3 miles in 47 minutes and 8 seconds; good enough for Third Place in the men’s division and Fourth place overall. I was thriiiiilled!!!
Waiting for Ciara and Tuesday to run it in, I had the opportunity to meet some of the local running legends, making more new friends than I can count, and finally getting to talk to many of the friends that I run with in the Lost Cat yesterday.. today they exchanged their hats to be ‘Volunteers’, such an incredible community of wacky running folks out here for sure!
Not too sure that I have ever witnessed smiles so big and laughter so loud as my favorite mother-daughter team brought it in with high fives and hugs galore! Despite what they say, they both crushed these miles.. they bring the type of spirit to these events that makes the most distant stranger glisten with glee inside, their joy and laughter is truly infectious!
Once again, thanks so much to Nor’East Trail Runs for giving all of us a place to come together, hooking us up with a place to shimmy our feet down the dusty trail and fill us all with a huge sense of accomplishment! And of course all the volunteers who came out and staffed the aid-stations in the most remote locations and allowed our grubby little fingers all over their chips and Twizzlers.
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us. Roads, mountains, forest roads, running with doggies, whatever is in store for us.. it is sure to make us better people inside and out when we crush our training and reach the finish line together.
Oh.. and I just signed up for the Beebe Farm 12hr..
See you there! 😉
Overall stats for the weekend:
Recorded with COROS Pace
Lost Cat 50K
- 5hr 44min 32sec
- 4754′ elevation gain
- 9th Place overall
Dorset Hollow 10K
- 47min 8sec
- 545′ elevation gain
- 3rd Place for the guys
- 4th Place overall