Monday, March 10, 2008

Breakheart Test Run

I took a short run at Breakheart Reservation last week. The purpose of the run was three-fold. First, I wanted to see how my body would react to climbing and descending hills as well as running on uneven surfaces encountered on trails. Up until now I had only been running on a local track and on some flat roads around town due to a long-term injury. Second, I wanted to test a new pair of Merrell Overdrive trail running shoes. Lastly, I wanted to see what the trail conditions were like after the snowy, wet conditions we had this winter.

I started from the Ranger's station parking lot and headed uphill on a paved section of road. I wasn't on the road for long but feel the Merrells have a decent amount of cushioning for a trail shoe. They should be able to handle short sections of pavement very well. I took a quick left onto the Ridge Trail which immediately drops down from the road. It felt great to feel my feet sinking into the soft earth and to hear the crinkle of dried leaves underfoot. It's been a very long, painful time since I have experienced the freedom and solitude of the forest. It didn't take long for me to realize this was going to be a messy run. I could hear the sound of running water and I as I approached the first climb I could see the flow of a small brook cutting across the trail. It was moving quickly, churning up white foam as it pasted over semi-submerged rocks. I carefully plodded my way across, stepping from stone to stone, doing my best to avoid getting wet so early in the run. On a warm summer's day running through the brook would have been my first choice. But on a cold, windy, March morning I took the prudent way out. Looking ahead to the rocky single track leading up to Ash Hill (elevation 233') I decided to walk. I felt sort of foolish walking just minutes into my run but I decided before the start to run only the flat sections and the slightest inclines and declines. I would walk everything else not wanting to risk aggravating my chronic neck and back problems or my ongoing plantar fasciitis.

I continued to walk/run until I reached the summit. The bright, clear sky offered a beautiful view of the Boston skyline. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo due to my oxygen deprived state. I descended the Ridge trail down to Ash Path. Where the trails meet is a tricky section of jagged rock that I took slowly. At the base of the trail is a low lying area often wet after a good rain storm. It was very muddy here but Merrells handled it well. The tread on the Vibram soles gave me ample traction in the deep, thick muck. Ash Path is a narrow, winding fire road lined with tall pines and dotted with small pools of water on both sides. Like many trails I have run, Ash Path has a surprise in store around every corner. One minute your stride is cushioned with a layer of thick pine needles. The next moment you are picking your way through a loose rock-strewn section. I ran all the flat portions and walked the steeper ones. Almost all of the rolling hills on this path are covered with loose rock so watch your footing here. At the end of Ash Path I crossed the paved road and headed to Silver Lake.

The Silver Lake trail is mostly flat with a mix of single and double track. Not many roots or rocks here to reach up and grab you so I took my time and enjoyed the views of the lake. Still covered with a thick layer of ice, there were no ducks or geese in sight. The ice had a silver like sheen to it. I wondered if this is how the lake got it's name? It was here on the Silver Lake trail when I first noticed what was to become a real annoyance. The laces on the Merrills were loose less than twenty minutes into the run. They continued to need an adjustment every 10 minutes or so after that. Even though it took just a few seconds to tighten the laces up again, it was a real nuisance. I can't imagine doing that every 10-20 minutes on a long run. I wanted to test the laces with the quick release claps to see how they performed. I'm glad I tried them out on a short run. Next time I'll use conventional laces. After circling the lake I headed back to the parking lot running in the trails in reverse direction. It's funny how different a trail can look when changing the direction you run it.

On the return trip I noticed a small waterfall that I had missed before. Awesome sight! I probably didn't notice it on the my way out because I was looking at my feet! I made it back to the parking lot in one piece. I had taken it very slow and felt pretty good at the finish. I did have some minor back pain but nothing that should be long lasting. Overall, I was pleased with the Merrill Overdrives. They had good traction in the mud, plenty of protection from sharp rocks underfoot with excellent comfort and support. Now that I got a taste of the trails it will be hard going back to my mindless ovals on the track!

1 comment:

  1. Nice report and pictures. Looks like a great place to run.


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