Monday, April 6, 2009

Don't Run Boston 50K - A Course Preview

This weekend I had the pleasure to meet and run with Steve and Deb Pero, seasoned ultra runners and members of the Wasatch Speed Goat Mountain Racing Team. I have been corresponding with Steve via email regarding the merits of Low Heart Rate Training that Steve is a strong proponent of. He recommended a few books on the subject which I have purchased by not yet read. Through this conversation, Steve invited me to join him and his wife, along with a few friends on a run in the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, MA. I have been interested in doing a run there for quite some time now and gladly accepted the offer.

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!

View Larger Map

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!

She's not Italian yet she speaks with her hands. Interesting.

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.

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.

More climbing.

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.

Beautiful Boston

The rain starts to fall.

Dangerous descent!

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?

After 3 hours or so we made it back to the cars to hydrate and refuel. Most of the group went on to complete the rest of the 50K run with another 4 hours of running but Emily, Steven, Kevin and me were all feeling hunger pangs and decide to go have breakfast instead. I think we made a wise decision. The eggs, home fries, toast and coffee tasted mighty fine!

To view larger versions of the images in this post and to access the complete photo album of the Blue Hills run click HERE.

Thanks again Deb and Steve!


  1. Dan, what an excellent capturing of the morning. I love the map that where we were? We took some deliberate detour around a mysterious swamp area in which DRB newbies are baptizes. baptized. It was nice to follow. The blind leading the naked. Well, no, the map toting leading the curious. I hope your ankle feels good? Oh I vote for the rock being a grumpy turtle. one that just woke from a 50k year-long nap.

  2. Trail Pixie, believe it or not, that's where we was! I somehow feel cheated we didn't receive our baptism in the mysterious Great Cedar Swamp. Maybe a trip back for a ceremonial dunking is in order. Ladies first! Ok, it's an old grumpy turtle. Sort of like me!

  3. You kids are having way too much fun! The trail looks awesome. I thought it can't get rockier than Skyline in the Fells, but I was wrong!
    Loved the pics, too! Ana

  4. Wow! That course looks spectacular. I was in the Blue Hills with my wife and daughter the next day thinking of you guys!

  5. Ana, The Fells is hard but BH is SO much harder, and as you observed SO much rockier. My feet still havent't recovered and my plantar fasciitis is the worst it's been in months. Still, I would do it all over again. It was that much fun!

    Streph, The rock climber in you would have enjoyed this trail for sure!

  6. Dan,

    I assume you guys practiced the low heart rate training on this run. You didn't mention your pace. How did it compare to your normal runs?

    I enjoyed the report and pictures....I would have loved to be there.

  7. pathfinder - the pace was very casual to say the least. I averaged a little over 14 min/mile for the entire run but I'm sure some of the rock climbs were at a 20+ pace!

  8. Dan, what was your GPS distance? I figure 12 miles? I would call this (at least for me) a POWAH HIKE.

  9. TP/ET, I got 12.1 miles. I agree the pace was slightly pedestrian. Too much walking where we could have been running but still a fun time.
    ET phone home!


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