Sunday, July 31, 2011

Massive Mount Mansfield Run

What happens when 8 "non-competitive" ultra runners connect to do a 26 mile mountain run on Mount Mansfield?  Well I found the answer to the question this morning.
Bob Ayers, Nick Yardley, Serena Wilcox, Todd Archambault, Nate Sanel, Joyce Holsten, & Jack Pilla
With a 7 AM start time some of us were more awake and alive than others.  From the parking lot off of Stevensville road in Underhill we immediately headed uphill on the Nebraska Notch Trail.  At the start Serena took the lead and set the pace, but eventually she decided that she didn't want to field the comments on her choice of pace so she allowed me to take over.  She, Nick and I unintentionally pulled away from the others, although waited for them before heading onto the Long Trail towards the Lake Mansfield Trout Club.

The pack formed and again I was the pace setter.  I settle into a comfortable pace as I enjoyed that we were now being treated to some sweet downhill running after a few miles of climbing.  After about 4 miles of total running we arrived at the Mansfield Lake Trout Club, which is rather exclusive.

From the Trout Club we showed our leg speed as we did some dirt road running before connecting with the Catamount Trail.  We followed the Catamount Trail to the Trapp Family Lodge network of trails where we typically stop, use the restrooms and top our packs off with water.  To our surprise the building was locked, although a gentleman was there to greet us and inform us that we were not to be using the trails.  After I had a discussion with the employee and wowed him with my knowledge of the trail network along with rules and regulations (I will spare you all the details) we bypassed the man using the public road and then regained access to our route further down the way.

Joyce & Serena Looking Strong
Once we left Trapps in our dust we eventually hit the Mount Mansfield touring center trails and we started to find our groove as we descended and headed towards the bottom of Stowe's Toll Road.  Here we all stopped and filled up our packs before starting up the Toll Road.  As we began I declared that I was not going to run a step until I meandered up the first 1/4 mile of steep pavement.  Nick laughed and offered me $10 to walk the entire 4 mile auto road, although I knew it wasn't worth the money.  Immediately after that I heard the pitter patter of short little strides behind me as Jack went cruising past and Bob followed suit.  I continued to walk, but then took the bait and started running as well, even though they already had a lead on me.  The group joined me and Jack was already running off into the distance and someone said "who is going to chase Jack down?" There is no verbal response, but I know I am not ready to let him get more of a lead on me than he already had.  No longer visible to me I put my head down and began to pick up my pace.  The pitch wasn't feeling friendly today right off and I found myself hoping that everything would start to settle for me and become more comfortable since I still had 3.5 miles until the visitors center at the top.

About a mile later I start to catch glimpses of Jack. The heat seemed to be intensifying and there wasn't the breeze I had been hoping for.  I know if Jack were to see me he would push harder so I planned a sneak attack as I hugged the edges of the road so he couldn't as easily monitor my progress on corners and bends.  I kept sipping my pack, but the water just wasn't quenching my thirst.  Eventually I got within about 50 feet of Jack and we start chatting as we switched back and forth from running and hiking depending on the grade of the road.   Within about 10 minutes Todd joined us and then just before the top I decided to take a risk and fill my pack from a runoff hose that I have drank from before.  This is the first time I have drank what I would deem "sketchy" water since having giardia last summer.  Jack's comment was "give it a week" and I crossed my fingers as I filled my hydration pack.  Once at the visitors center I took off my pack, peed, had a snack and then headed back down the road to take some photos of the others.  As brutal as this 4 mile dirt road climb can feel the views are amazing as are some of the looks that we get from passing cars as they go past us after having paid to drive up what we are running.

We all worked to devise a plan of attack as we enjoyed our snacks in the sun.  We decided to stick together and make our way to the chin and back before heading back down the mountain on the Underhill side.  Before we take off we are joined by Joyce's husband Scott.  At this point in the day the parking lot that we are sitting on the edge of us full and people are wondering in every direction.  We know that the chin will be a busy place, but with a beautiful day such as this we cannot pass up the opportunity to do a little more climbing and a little more sight seeing. The rocks on the trip over would be rather dry in comparison to many other days so we knew we could make quick work of the trip for a few more vertical feet and more expansive views.  

I always love and hate these sections.  They are great because they make me slow down focus and take in the scenery around me, but at the same time I still want to be turning my legs over and making solid progress.  It is all part of New England mountain running, especially on the long trail.

An Interesting Section Coming Down Long Trail
Reminds Me Of the Game "Shoots & Ladders

All said and done a great day to be out running with a good group of ultra runners.  This was by far the largest group of runners I have set out on for a training run on trails with and it worked better than I had anticipated.  We all left our ultra competitive egos out on the trail on Thursday night (Jack, Todd, Bob and Serena you know what I am talking about) and enjoyed the sights, sounds and countless miles of trail together.  


  1. Is that a tattoo on your leg sissy?!?!

  2. It is a great place to run and the best thing it is the sight when you reach to the top of the mountain.