Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail's Ultra Past

While doing some research on the Bay Circuit Trail I came across this article about a 50 mile race on the BCT hosted by GAC back in 1998.  I see a few familiar names on the list of finishers.   It would be pretty cool to see an ultra return to the BCT. Any RDs out there looking for a challenge?

The Bay Circuit Trail 50 Mile: All Guts, No Glory

By Don Allison

Had you come across the Boxford, Mass community center on Sunday, you probably would have paid little attention to the small gathering of people out front: just a couple of tables with drinks, food, and supplies, along with a couple of dozen folks in lawn chairs. Then you might have seen the moving liquid figures on the chronomix clock and deduced that a race was in progress.

Had you stuck around to investigate a little further, you would have seen an occasional runner saunter up to the supplies table every five or ten minutes, stop to chat while drinking and eating, then saunter off in the opposite direction after a while. Boy, this is some kind of relaxed race, you might have said to yourself. A check on the clock however, already at six hours and counting, would have solved the puzzle: it was an ultramarathon race.

No, there were not any booming public address announcers, no thronging masses pushing and shoving for a look at the finishers, no media truck with cameras and notebooks at the ready, no volunteers in lime-green Adidas jackets. But if you were looking for plenty of good running, with the emphasis on plenty, you would have been in the right place.
Under the direction of Gil's AC and the irrepressible Jim Gilford, the 2nd Bay Circuit Trail 50 Mile took place on Sunday on Boston's North Shore. Not only was the race nearly twice as long as the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles, the course was held over changeable and often rugged off-road terrain of the Bay Circuit Trail.

The BCT is a network of trails that runs from Boston's North to South Shores. It is the dream of BCT officials to have an uninterrupted 200-mile route completed by early next century. Some of the best-maintained and most scenic parts of the BCT are on the North Shore in the towns of Boxford, Ipswich, Rowley, and Gerogetown, where the race was held.

A group of about 50 hardy ultrarunners set off at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday to conquer the 50 miles of trail. Some were competing for top placement while others were merely hoping to sneak in before the 12-hour cutoff. Although 12 hours for 50 miles is only 14 minutes per mile, don't be deceived. Fourteen minutes for a mile goes by pretty quickly when you have been slogging on a rocky and rooty trail, 10 hours into a run on a hot spring day. Everyone who completed this run possessed all the requisites of the true ultrarunner.

For Harry Lepp from Danielson, Connecticut, this race offered redemption of sorts. The soft-spoken Lepp had gone off course in the inaugural edition of this race last year, while leading at mile 30. By the time Lepp was able to get back on track, a top finish was beyond reach. This time, he seized the race early on, establishing a commanding lead. There would be no mistakes; he went on to win in a superb time of 6:46:33. That's just over eight minutes mile for 50 off road miles.

Lepp is an experienced distance runner, having racked up dozens of ultras and 2:40 marathons. In fact, just a few weeks before the BCT, he won the Holyoke Marathon in 2:46. No biggy, just an easy 26.2-mile jaunt. After the race he seemed as composed as was on the trails all day, and not a bit sore, as walked about in no apparent discomfort. "I enjoyed the race," he said. "It was a nice day and the course was very scenic." Like many of the runners here, Lepp has bigger fish to fry in the near future. He is headed off for the Vermont 100 Mile in July, a race that draws runners from across the USA, and in which he recorded a top ten finish in 1997.

On the women's side, Christy Cosgrove, a Gil's AC disciple, ran a fine 7:32:16 to finish sixth overall and capture the women's division. Cosgrove had the full and very vocal support of her Gil's AC teammates throughout the day as she tallied up the trail miles."You've got sub-eight, you've got sub-eight!" bellowed Gilford as Cosgrove passed the 40-mile mark. The declaration was made with such authority that surely Cosgrove never doubted the sub-eight hour finish would indeed become a reality.

Cosgrove will tackle the legendary Western States 100 mile in California next month with several of the Gil's teammates, including Gilford himself. Unlike Lepp, she was not quite so nimble after the BCT race. Asked for a photo by an intrepid CR journalist, she began to try to unfold her sore and exhausted body from the lawn chair in which she was sitting, With a little effort, she was able to complete the task. Ultrarunners-they always finish what they start, no matter how tough the task. 

Results of the Second Annual Bay Circuit Trail 50 Mile Run

Place Time      Sex  Age  Name   
  1.   6:46:33   M    41  Harry Lepp
  2.   7:05:53   M    33  Jerry DeZutter
  3.   7:12:00   M    37  Hans Put
  4.   7:25:41   M    39  Joe Clapper
  5.   7:25:41   M    33  Al Paine
  6.   7:32:16   F    37  Christy Cosgrove
  7.   7:47:57   M    46  Steve Pero
  8.   7:56:24   M    55  Roger Welsh
  9.   7:59:49   M    41  Rick Silverman
 10.   8:08:19   M    29  Marc Eaton
 11.   8:08:57   M    37  Dave Leslie
 12.   8:24:59   F    34  Donna D'Agostino
 13.   8:42:06   F    35  Karen Hammond
 14.   8:49:38   M    46  James Gawle
 15.   8:51:33   M    54  Ray Lavigne
 16.   8:53:17   M    35  John Berard
 17.   8:55:06   M    51  Nick Palazzo
 18.   9:03:03   M    39  Stephen Peckiconis
 19.   9:12:50   M    47  Paul Hoffman
 20.   9:14:04   M    45  Rich LeBoeuf
 21.   9:27:01   M    44  Lee Dickey
 22.   9:27:40   F    44  Diane McNamara
 23.   9:28:58   M    37  Dave Ackerman
 24.   9:28:58   F    34  Tracy Reusch
 25.   9:38:45   M    56  Don Platko
 26.   9:45:58   F    33  Amy Hummel
 27.   9:56:09   M    35  Nick DiBenedetto
 28.  10:18:33   M    35  Charles Nasser
 29.  10:19:02   M    40  Wayne Smokler
 30.  10:23:22   M    45  Len Gibely
 31.  10:33:16   F    53  Jean Boswell
 32.  10:38:16   M    52  Bert Meyer
 33.  10:49:33   F    49  Peg Ryan
 34.  10:50:00   M    54  Vincent Croce
 35.  10:54:21   F    41  Melanie Kalafatis
 36.  11:08:07   M    43  Fred Gruhle
 37.  11:13:15   M    68  Richard Busa
 38.  11:29:58   M    60  Timothy Kourounis
 39.  11:33:21   M    40  Nick Leighton
 40.  11:34:37   M    51  John Horvath
 41.  11:38:48   F    32  Julie Burnett
 42.  11:42:43   F    28  Tammy Seed
 43.  11:44:27   F    36  Cheryl Hood
 44.  11:54:00   M    59  Art Gulliver
 45.  12:11:39   M    65  Dick Sullivan
 46.  12:35:41   M    34  Ken Gulliver 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail Run, Section #3 - Single-track Heaven

Saturday morning I met my friend Bill H. in Andover to run my third leg of the Bay Circuit Trail.  This leg begins in Boxford at the entrance to Boxford Wildlife Sanctuary and ends in Andover.  The distance reported on the trail map was 14.5 miles but with re-routing caused by beaver activity and one missed turn, the run concluded after 17.2 miles. Bill left his car in Andover and we took my truck to Boxford to start the run.  It was cold and damp at 8:30 am but there was no rain.  It was a good morning for a long run.

 Course overview

The terrain was mostly flat to gently rolling with one longer climb up Holt Hill in Ward Reservation in Andover.

View of the 47 miles of the BCT run to date.

After a 5 minute warm-up walk we broke into a slow trot.  It wasn't long before we reached our first obstacle, submerged trail.  We were able to follow a herd path around the water and keep our feet dry.  There's nothing worse than getting your feet wet in the first 10 minutes of a 4 hour run.  We encountered a few more wet trails in Boxford Forest but we were able to find detours around all of them.

One of the many wet spots in Boxford Forest.

The moisture and warmer temps are bring the sleeping forest back to life.
Bill's effortless stride makes it look easy. 

The trail was well marked in Boxford Forest and following it was easy with one exception.  When we came to a graveled clearing we had the option of going left or right but could not see a blaze indicating direction.  We went left and looked for the cairns mentioned in the trail description but could not see any.  Unsure if we were heading in the right direction we backtracked until we realized we were going the right way all along.  This added another half mile to the run but the walking break felt good to me so it was all good. After leaving Boxford Forest we ran on a brief stretch of pavement, cut back into the woods, crossed Route 114 and entered into Harold Parker State Forest

We did come across one unpleasant sight in North Andover just before reaching Bradley Palmer.  I'm not sure if the town is responsible for this or a private business but there was a huge volume of fill spilling onto the trail.  Besides earth, it contained concrete blocks, steel pipes and other road and construction materials.  I alerted Al French to this after the run but of course he was already aware of it and working to get it resolved.  I'm not sure how he does it but he seems to know what is happening on the 200 miles of BCT at all times!

 Huge pile of earth and other material covers the trail.
 This makes me very angry!

This berm is about 15 feet high.

The thing I like most about taking on the Bay Circuit Trail is the excitement of exploring new trails in the area.  I have never been to Harold Parker before and didn't know I was about to be running on some of the sweetest single-track I have seen in my five years as a trail runner. Entering the trail head off Rt 114 we bushwhacked a short while through trails that have seen little traffic.  It was here that Bill noticed a few unwelcome hitchhikers on his arm, ticks! He said they were not the Lyme-carrying type but a tick is a tick and they had to go.  Once we broke out of the brush we were treated to four miles of twisting, undulating single-track the likes I have not seen before.  I was in single-track heaven!

 Entrance to Harold Parker.

 Bill dances along a stone wall keeping his new Hokas dry.

 Tropical looking.

 A sign of good things ahead.

 The trail snaked through Harold Parker for miles.

 This reminded me of Wapack. I may have nightmares!

Bill clings to a grant erratic.

Before leaving Harold Parker we ran into a large contingent of GACers running in the opposite direction.  We stopped and chatted briefly with Cheryl, Paula, Al, Norm and a bunch of others I recognized but don't know by name.  Bill and I moved on to meet up with Emily. She had called me earlier and told me she was coming from the Andover end and would meet us somewhere near Skug River Reservation.  Her estimate was right on. We ended up meeting her just across the street in Hammond Reservation.

 Curving boardwalk in Skug Reservation.

Hey Em, we're here for the "meet-up."

Once we connected with Emily I was able to put away my trail map and follow Em's lead.  This is her home turf and she knows the trails in this area as well as I know the trails in Breakheart Reservation.  After leading us through Hammond we entered the Mary French Reservation.  Although this is one of the smaller Reservations in the Andover area it is one of my favorites.  The 1000 foot boardwalk over a bog is a great place to watch and listen for a variety of birds.

 Emily showing us around her stomping grounds.

If you ignore my footsteps you can hear the birds chirping.

After passing through a residential neighborhood our shoes where back in the dirt as we entered Ward Reservation.  We ran past a large, sloping meadow with a charming old house overlooking a sea of green and colorful trees. Ward was home the to only real hill during our 17 mile run. At 424 feet, Holt Hill was also the high point and offered splendid views of the surrounding area.  I only wish it was a clearer day. 

 Em and Bill giving scale to the magnificent meadow.

 An idyllic location.

 Fire Tower atop Holt Hill.

 View from Holt Hill.

Leaving Ward Reservation we made a final push to the finish.  A quick jaunt along a busy road brought us to the Philips Academy athletic Field.  After cutting across the open field we were on the road again passing beautiful old homes and landscaped lawns.  It was easy for me to avoid the pavement since I was able to run on a wide strip of lawn on the sidewalk.  About 200 yards from Bill's car a got a twinge in my knee but other than that I had no discomfort during 4+ hours of running.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping this is a sign of better health to come.

 Running against oncoming traffic.

 Grassy field in Phillips Academy.

Stately old home.

Closing in on the finish.


After the run we stopped by Moor and Mountain and spoke with Al and Burt a bit.  Two very nice and knowledgeable men.  If you're ever in the Andover area you should stop by for a visit.  I was happy to get this third leg of the Bay Circuit Trail completed without any IT band issues (except at the end).  Still, I'm running behind schedule if I plan to run the full 200 mile before late fall.  I think I'll have to consider running two sections next time out in order to get back on track. 

Many more photos from the run can be seen HERE.

Until next time, chow....

BCT Leg 3: 16.2 miles
Surface split: 14.2 trails, 2.0 roads (can be avoided by running on soft shoulder).
Elevation gain: 857 feet
BCT Legs 1-3: 46.7 miles
Surface split: 34.2 trail & dirt road, 12.5 pavement
Elevation gain legs 1-3: 2154 feet
BCT remaining: 153.3
Start Point: Bald Hill Reservation, Boxford
End Point: Lupine Road, Andover
Other towns: North Andover
Green spaces: Bald Hill Reservation, Boxford State Forest, Harold Parker State Forest, Skug, Hammond, Mary French and Ward Reservations.
Hydration: 80 oz  Heed
Fuel:  Gu gel (2) PB&J crackers (6)
Footware: Brooks Cascadia 5, Drymax trail socks.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

GAC Mother's Day Run - 6 Hours That Didn't Happen

I headed to Bradley Palmer State Park this morning intending to run for 6 hours or 50 kilometers, whichever came first. In the back of my mind I knew there was a strong possibility this may not happen. Two weeks ago I experienced significant knee pain while running the TARC 50K. Since that race I have only run twice and still felt some discomfort even though I kept the runs very short. I was hoping today would be different.

I started out walking for 10 minutes to warm up my IT band. That seems to help with the knee pain, sometimes. After that, I began running at a comfortable pace. The two week rest since TARC was beneficial as I felt well rested and very strong today. I was ticking off mile after mile at 11:00 pace and it felt very easy indeed. I know that sounds slow but maintaining that pace for the full six hours would give me about 33 miles, more than I needed, or wanted for today.

Photo credit: Roger Purham

I was monitoring my body closely for any signs of discomfort but there were none. For a while I thought I had 50K in the bag. Then, at mile 11, I felt the usual stabbing pain in my knee. I knew then my race was over. I decided not run the remain 20 miles in pain like I did at the TARC race two weeks earlier. I only had one more mile to go to the end of the fourth loop and would end my race there.

Although I was disappointed I didn't go the distance, stopping when I did was the right decision. I don't want to jeopardize my Bay Circuit Trail runs nor my chance to run the Wakely Dam Ultra in July. I still had a great time seeing so many familiar faces and a few new ones too. GAC races always brings out a huge North Shore contingent.

I was also very happy to have my wife out with me on the trails today. She planned to walk a loop and then head back home while I continued to run. Unfortunately, she had a hard time finding her way back and ended up walking for 2.5 hours. Because of this I got to see her three times during my run. Although I explained to her where the trail went, she just didn't seem to get it. Or did I leave out an important piece of information critical to her finding her way back?  Of course I would never do something like that on Mother's Day!

Happy trails!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Product Review - Everything You Don't Want To Know About Iliotibial Band Straps

In the past year I’ve become very familiar with the many IT band straps on the market. Since first experiencing knee pain during the Traprock 50K in April 2010 I have tried four straps from different manufacturers with mixed success. No IT band strap on the market will cure ITBFS, nor will it allow you to run completely pain-free. At best, a properly placed and fitted strap can delay the onset of pain allowing you to run longer than you could have (or should) without one. That being said, here is my take on the four I’ve used from worse to best.

Fourth Place: The McDavid Knee Strap. I’ll admit I never gave this one a real chance. I just never liked it all that much. The strap width is too narrow and the neoprene support is not firm enough to apply enough pressure to the IT band. One the plus side it’s the least expensive at $10.

Third Place: Mueller ITB Strap. This is the first strap I tried. It’s the widest of the four and I thought it would provide the most support. It does apply a lot of pressure but most of it is felt on the hamstring and not the IT band. Perhaps my leg is not large enough because this strap is long enough to wrap around the leg of Quadzilla! The plastic loop makes it fast and easy to adjust the strap but it also digs into your leg. And you will need to adjust this one often. The neoprene stretches easily and also causes excessive perspiration which causes the strap to slide down your leg.

Second Place: Imak Knee Strap. I haven’t been wearing the Imak for that long but it still finished a close second. This strap incorporates a pressure pad filled with many small gel beads that provide focused pressure and maximum support. Another cool feature is a dual locking strap system that allows flexible tension and a perfect fit. Lined with soft cotton lycra this strap stays in place even after several hours.

And the winner is?

Pro-Tec Athletics IT Band Compression Wrap. This strap is two inches wide and has a large compression pad that provides targeted pressure stabilizing the Iliotibial tract. It’s not as easy to use as the Imak but once in place it tends to stay there. This product is well made and should last a long time. I rated the Pro-Tec first due to the fact I was able to run the 2010 Stone Cat Marathon totally pain-free wearing this strap.

I hope none of you ever have a need for an IT band strap but if you do, I hope this helps you choose the one that meets your needs.

Until next time, wishing you healthy, pain-free running.
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