Top of Mt Mansfield with Aliza, Nate, Nick, Jack, Todd, Serena, Scott, Myself and Bob!
For this past Saturday I originally had a 20 miler labeled “Easy” on my training schedule. Because I needed (and wanted) to have more trail mileage I asked Jack about a fun place to do my long easy trail run. To my surprise he suggested doing the the Mt Mansfield Loop on Sunday which is probably one of the most epic trail runs in Northern Vermont. According to my garmin, we climbed a total of 5,818 feet throughout the run! Not only did Jack suggest this loop, he also wanted me to run it with himself and a group of incredible ultra runners! Now this made me very worried!! This was going to be my longest trail run ever and my biggest week of mileage topping out at 53 miles. To put it into perspective, these inspiring athletes run 33 to 100+ mile races and they do extremely well. Yes, that is correct! Not a typo! And they also run 80 to 120 miles a week for training! A few of these ultra runners recently ran the VT 100 Endurance race a couple weeks ago and a couple also did Western States, one of the toughest 100 mile trail races in the US! The mileage and experience these runners have acquired is truly amazing and daunting to a fledgling like me who is training for her first 50K trail race in September with only one full marathon under her belt. What was I thinking!
Todd, Aliza, Myself and Nate by Lake Mansfield
I was either very brave or very naïve for showing up in the Stevensville Road Parking Lot in Underhill, Vermont at 6:45am on Sunday! On the lovely drive over, I felt very nervous! I was also excited to be running with some people I admire so much! So that prevented me from turning around and going back home to bed! The run started off on the Nebraska Notch trail which is a popular backcountry ski trail we plan on skiing this coming winter. It is maintained in the summer so it was fine to run. There were some technical spots here and there but nothing as scary as what was in store for me later in the day. Aliza, Serena and Nick pulled away from us. I wasn’t worried as I was in good company with the rest of the pack, holding my own and running comfortably. I took a small quick spill and scraped my knee, but luckily it was my only fall during the whole adventure. I got up immediately and kept going without loosing any time or disrupting everyone We then re-grouped at Lake Mansfield which was so pretty! I did a cliff shot and took a couple photos!
For miles 4 to 8 we did some running on the Catamount Trail and then the Trapp Family Lodge Cross Country Ski Trails. We love to xc ski at Trapps so it was strange to see some of these trails without snow! But it was a lot of fun to run on these trails with the group. At this point I was still feeling good and running well. We then hit the Ski/Bike shop at the Trapps Family Lodge. To our surprise, we were told we couldn’t continue on the trails. Luckily Jack was able to lead us to the down the road and back onto our route. We then did some running on Stowe’s network of cross country ski trails. These trails were pretty cool! The downhills were a blast, but my poor inexperienced quadricep muscles would pay dearly at mile 20!
Almost at the Top of the Toll Road. Stowe Ski Area
At about 14+ miles we hit the base of Stowe’s famous Toll Road which climbs to the top and is open for cars (mainly tourists). This is mostly a steep dirt road with lots of switchbacks that goes on for a little over 4 miles. Luckily we decided to stop at the base to refill our hydration packs. I did another cliff shot. I also “wolfed” down a cliff bar in the restroom which I think was helpful for later in the day. The break was very much appreciated. My longest trail run up until Sunday had only been 14 miles, so I was heading into uncharted waters. My legs were a bit sore from all the downhill running. To my relief and great joy, we power walked up the very first steep paved section of the Toll Road (less then a quarter of a mile). But then we started to run! Jack took off and then so did Aliza and Nate. And then Bob and Todd were next. Serena , Nick and I stayed together for most of the uphill battle. Serena won the Vermont 100 Endurance race 2 weeks ago so she was still recovering. Luckily she didn’t mind doing a combination of running and power waking up the road with me (an emphasis on walking!) Thank you Serena! You were very kind and I enjoyed chatting with you, even if I wasn’t in the best form. We made it to the visitor center and got to have a quick snack and break.
Power walking up parts of the Toll Road
The plan of the day was to have Scott meet us up at the Chin on the top of Mt Mansfield. He ran and power hiked up the Long Trail from Stevensville Road in Underhill. It was so great to see him! He met us at the visitor center which perfect. Scott has always been my “Knight in Shining Armor” and on Sunday he was there for me again!! My legs were very tired at the top of the visitor center. This was mile 18+ and my quads were very sore. I wasn’t very excited about going out to the Chin which is 1.4 miles one way. But we did it and took some very nice photos. I have a small fear of heights so getting to the chin for me was not easy. I was tired and decided to just power walk out to the Chin. On the way back, I felt better and did some easy and careful running back. It’s really just a matter of practice! I was so much better on the way back! I wasn’t even nervous about the heights!
Stunning views from Mt Mansfield’s Chin
At about mile 20 we all ducked into the woods and hit the Long Trail South which would take us down the backside of Mt Mansfield and back to Nebraska Notch trial. This was the toughest part of the day for me! It’s very steep and technical. There are 3 ladders you climb down and a couple very precarious rock sections to negotiate. On one tricky spot, Scott kept telling me not to look down! I actually did well and made it down without killing myself or falling down the mountain. I did my famous “crab walk” a couple times down the steep rocky sections. The Long Trail seemed to go on forever. These were my longest, toughest and slowest miles. Because my legs were so shot, I decided to take it easy and let the group go at their own pace. They are amazing and extremely experienced. I’m not so experienced and it was great that I had Scott to lead me down the mountain. It was probably very smart to just go my own pace. As Aliza said in her blog, there’s not much margin for error. You could really get hurt on that Long Trail! Once we hit the Nebraska Notch trail I was so relieved! We could run a lot easier! It was slow going and we both were very tired. Scott also did his longest trail run of over 14 miles on Sunday. I’m so impressed with how he did on Sunday! A true hero!
Scott on those famous Long Trail Ladders!
Overall it was an incredible day! It was also very tough for me at the end, but I did well and learned a lot! I was challenged to explore outside my comfort zone on Sunday! I knew I could run 25+ miles on the trails, but it was the technical stuff on Mt Mansfield that worried me. I was very apprehensive at times on the top of Mansfield but I came a long ways to conquering my fear of heights. I also realized that I need to work on the technical trail running and strengthen certain muscles utilized in handling the terrain. This will all come in time. It’s just a matter of putting in the miles and gaining more experience. Sunday’s epic trail run showed how far I’ve come…..and it also showed me how far I need to go in order to be a true ultra trail runner. I learned so much from the group! They are so amazing! And truly nice people who I hope to hang out with more in the future! Thank you so much to everyone who ran with me this Sunday! You all rock!
Today as I’m typing this I have to admit to how sore my legs are. I feel like I just did my first marathon (last May). It hurts to walk downstairs and it’s painful to even sit down in a chair! But I did my recovery run today and it was successful. It’s actually easier to run than attempt the stairs! I plan on recovering as quickly as I did after the marathon, so hopefully I’ll be back on the trails soon! Jack has me running the Catamount trail race on Tuesday. At the moment it seems crazy! Absolutely madness! But tomorrow’s a new day and I keep on surprising myself……but if I’m still in rough shape tomorrow I may just run with the kids!
Carb Loading on Saturday:
For Saturday’s pre-run dinner I made a baked veggie ziti with a cashew ricotta cheeze. The pasta was gluten free and we found it at Hunger Mountain Co-op in the bulk section. I made some cashew ricotta which was amazing. The recipe is in a great cookbook called Veganomicom. If you don’t have this book and want the recipe, just let me know and I’ll send it to you! It’s quite easy and very tasty! (can’t post it due to copyright laws). I sautéed up some onions, garlic, zucchini and red peppers and added it to the red sauce! Delicious and very easy! This seemed to be good fuel for the big Mansfield loop!