In seven days the first race of the very popular Grand Tree Series will kick off in Union CT with the Northern Nipmuck 16 mile trail race. The race is an 8 mile out and back, constantly rolling course starting in Bigelow Hollow State Park. It is beautiful country giving the runner the feeling of being deep in the forest. Race Director Jim Campiformio describes the course as follows: “The terrain is constantly rolling, and although there are no monster hills, there are enough steep sections to test your anaerobic capacity. The total gain over the 16 miles is approximately 3,200 feet. The footing is usually decent, but there are some steep, rocky sections that demand caution. If it has rained recently, expect to get your feet wet in several of the low-lying areas. Snow and ice may be present on the course at this time of year.” His description is very accurate.
I ran this race for the first time in 2007. I thought I was well prepared for the race having done many long runs on the roads. I soon realized that the roads had not prepared me well for the nearly constant climbing and descending, often on some very steep single-track trails of up to a 20% grade. In fact, only 3 miles of this race is flat. The remaining 13 miles is split evenly between uphill and downhill. The total elevation gain measured by my Garmin Forerunner 205 was 2700 feet. If you plan on running this race I hope you have trained on some serious hills.
Like many other trail races I have run in the past, this race starts to climb almost immediately from the start. I found myself walking in single-file almost before I knew it. Even though the winter had been very dry there was still a great deal of mud and water near the start. I did my best to avoid it but it was impossible since it covered the entire width of the trail. I can only image how much worse it will be this year considering how snowy and wet the winter was in 2008. I can guarantee you will be running through several small brooks for sure. The most unexpected thing I saw last year was a very large, thick icy section in a low-lying hollow. It even had a deep crevasse running through the middle of the ice field. It was very cool ice-skating across it and then hopping the fault.
Overall I ran well but the unrelenting hills finally wore me down. I was reduced to walking most of the up hills the last 2-3 miles. I was not thrilled that I had to run through the thick shoe-sucking mud again near the finish either. Even though I complained to my friend Mary about the hills, the water and the mud for most of the race, I truly enjoyed every minute of it. I think you will too.
Northern Nipmuck Elevation Profile