Steve was planning to preview the full Don’t Run Boston 50K course to get a feel for the terrain before the “official’, unofficial race the day before the 113th running of the Boston Marathon. My plan was to tag along for 3 to 4 hours depending on my energy level and how my injured ankle handled the abuse. Steve assured me he would be taking it slow so I had no fear I would be dropped and lost in the wilderness alone. Ha!
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I stopped in Boston on the way to Blue Hills to pick up Kevin Z who was joining me. We made good time and were the first to arrive at our meeting location across from the Ranger and Police stations. Within a few minutes Emily pulled into the lot. She was actually the first one there but had gone to the wrong parking lot. I was pleasantly surprised to see her. I didn’t think she would be able to make it because of her duties as a track meet official. Discus! Duck!!! The rest of the group began to arrive one by one until we were 10 strong. This run was going to be awesome!
I knew a couple of the guys from some trail races I have run but most of the faces in the group were new to me. Let’s see, there was Steve, Deb, Chris, Jeff, Stephen, Bogie, Emily, Kevin, me and Damon who got the award for longest distance traveled. Damon is from Vermont! All of these people are experienced ultra runners, running races of 100 miles on many occasions. I never felt intimidated though because they were all very friendly and supportive during the run. Oh, and lest I forget, there was an 11th runner by the name of Tucker. This four-legged ultra runner is Steve and Deb’s friendly dog! Tucker seemed to enjoy himself as much we did. After the introductions were completed we all gathered our gear and made our way to the Houghton’s Pond area where the run began.
She's not Italian yet she speaks with her hands. Interesting.
Tucker the wonder dog leads the way.
Navigating your way through Blue Hills is not an easy task. The reservation is 7000 acres with an extensive system of interconnecting trails. Even with a trail map it’s easy to stray from your intended path. Jeff and Damon were keeping a watchful eye on the map and with their expertise we kept on trail. We did make a few stops to confirm we were heading in the right direction but other than that we made good progress. They were also some stops along the way to consolidate the group as it began to string out a bit too long at times.
The beautiful people of trail running.
We climbed several steep, rocky hills along the Skyline trail. To be honest, I have never run on a trail like this before. The trail to the summit was often a collection of jagged rocks and boulders that seemed to be dumped down the side of a granite face, letting the randomness of where they settled determine the trail. Most of the time these had to be attacked more as a power hike than a run, and sometimes more of a rock climb than a hike!
Rugged uphill trail.
Hey Mom look, I'm a rock climber!
The reward for these calf cramping, lung burning climbs were panoramic views for miles in all directions despite the overcast sky. Upon summiting one of the hills the winds turned into strong gusts, the temperate dropped and the rain began to fall. We made haste to get down from our exposed position as quickly and safely as possible. Care had to be taken on the descents as well since many were as hard, or harder, than the ascents. Once off the hill the sun broke through and it seemed as though the heat was instantly turned up.
The rain starts to fall.
It was around here, during a very long steep climb that the group splintered into two camps, the speedy males and the slower men and women. Deb was gracious to hang back and showed us the way back to civilization. Nearing the end of the run we came upon a very large rock. Deb pointed out that the rock resembled a turtle, which it really did! After looking at the rock for a while I thought it also looked like a whale, it just depended on what end of the rock you looked at. Some people didn’t see it that way but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. I’ll let you be the judge. Hmm, a rock with an identity crisis.
Turtle or Whale?
Thanks again Deb and Steve!