A more perfect day couldn’t have been dreamt of for the revamp of the Black Bear Half Marathon in Waterville Valley. Having been last run primarily on road in 2016, the race is back in name and evolved in form. This year’s full fledged Black Bear Half Marathon trail run delivered 800 feet of elevation gain over 13.5 miles (bonus miles!) of smooth forest road, technical single track, and through just enough mud to satisfy.
The race saw strong finishes among the women’s and men’s fields with Megan Bonney of Cambridge finishing first among women and 5th overall in 1:39:16, while Patrick Ward, also of Cambridge, finished first overall in 1:27:41. The Watervillians did not disappoint on their home turf. Matt Siegel came in for a 2nd place half marathon finish at 1:36:27 and his daughter, Gabriela finished first among the women in the 5K with a time of 33:51. Students from the Waterville Valley Academy came out in force to dominate the men’s field in the 5K, with Nicolas Hotermans taking the win in 28:56 over the 3.8 mile course.
As a fundraiser organized by the Waterville Valley Elementary School PTA along with Fresh Tracks Racing, the event was a huge success! With 180 racers attending and great support from local and regional sponsors including The Common Man, Hannaford, and Honey Stinger the event will continue to support the small community school and the future leaders they foster.
Keep an eye out for more events coming up in Waterville Valley!
September 29th Waterville Valley Mountain Race by Acidotic
October 13th The Fall Foliage Foot Race 10 miler, 5k, and fun run
March, 2020 Winter Wild 2.5 mile winter mountain race
Click here to learn more about The Seven Sisters Trail Race and register for next year’s race.
Legend has it that The Seven Sisters Trail Race began in the 80s as an underground race between friends looking to test themselves along a challenging section of trail. These friends and their non-permitted race were promptly busted by local forest rangers, forcing them to downgrade (or was it an upgrade?) to a “fun group run”. This “fun group run” became an official event in 1991 and has since grown to be known as one of the most challenging and competitive trail running races in New England.
Ask any trail runner in the region about the race and you will receive one of two responses. Either they have run it, or they can’t wait to run it. This grassroots race now welcomes a field of 500 participants to test themselves on a 6 mile, out and back course over a section of undulating rocky trail along the 114 mile long Metacomet-Monadnock trail in Western Massachusetts.
A win for men requires a time under 1h 50m (1h 42m course record) and 2h 15m for women (2h 5m course record). Though the race is typically competitive among the top 10 places, competitors cover a wide range of abilities and motivations. The list of finishers is rounded out by participants taking it all in at a hiking pace. Click here to see results for this year’s and past races dating back to 1991.
Part of the appeal of the event is the festive atmosphere gathered in the small wooded enclave where the race starts and finishes. Runners arrive at the festival area after walking along winding single track from the parking area and are greeted by a crowd of excitedly nervous racers packed around a circus tent and various pop-ups. The scene is a picture perfect home grown trail race.
The race course starts along the edge of this woodland clearing and sends runners directly onto narrow single track that soon begins its climb to the heavens. From this point on racers are treated to 3500 feet of ascent rolling over crumbling rock, exposed roots, and slick mud. A number of sections require runners (at this point climbers) to scramble hand over hand up short, but steep rock faces. Ascending these sections are only outdone by descending them on the return trip.
Upon finishing the challenging course with at least a splash of mud and likely some blood drawn, racers are cheered into the festival area by a constant packed crowd around the finish line. As their senses return to them runners are congratulated with a steel pint cup (unique to 2019), hearty pieces of pizza, cider donuts, and various other calorie replenishing treats. The colorful range of shirts from past years’ races worn widely among the finish line crowd is a testament to the races’ long history and strong community support.
Having outgrown its rebellious beginnings, the race is now fully permitted and works closely with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to ensure a safe and smooth event. The annual Mud and Blood award, recognizing particularly dirty and harrowing stories from the race, speaks to the important role that the DCR plays as provider of on course medical support.
The race also partners with the Friends of the Mount Holyoke Range, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Mount Holyoke range through land conservation, education, and recreation. Since its inaugural race, the Seven Sisters Trail Race has raised over $100,000 to support the non-profit’s work.
The great appeal of the The Seven Sisters Trail Race owes itself, in a large part, to the community that surrounds this race. Just as the trail remains rocky, rooty, and oh-so-challenging year after year, the crowd too will hold onto its nervous excitement at the start line and its inexhaustible support at the finish line. Make a note on your calendar for next year. Whether you go as a runner, hiker, spectator, or volunteer you can rest assured you’ll be part of something special. We’ll be there at the finish line to cheer you in.
***Due to the tight switchbacks and rolling nature of the course, GPS measurements of the course vary widely. The race organizers list the course as roughly "officially" 12 miles.
April showers might bring May flowers, but in New Hampshire’s White Mountains they bring high spirits and muddy calves to the region’s trail runners. Affectionately referred to as “Mud Season”, this glorious time of year treats you to a beautiful range of pearly white snow, speckled granite, deep dark mud, heart warming green shoots, and a rainbow of buds and flowers. While you’re joyfully jumping in puddles and cruising down trails long concealed by snow it can be easy to overlook how fragile the trails are in this wet season. Fret not! There’s no need to forego your muddy stomping. By following a few simple guidelines you can minimize your impact on the trails and ensure they remain safe and enjoyable.
6 Tips for Smart Spring Trail Running
This year's UTMB has been a rather exciting event to watch. The startline of the UTMB was stacked with most of the greats, with a few notable absences. Coverage was solid this year with live video feeds of the start line and multiple aid stations on the official website, the race's official twitter and instagram, and constantly updated iRunFar coverage. The most exciting piece of media we got from the event is Journet's FB Live video covering the last few minutes on the start line before they were sent off. Chills. If only he had carried on filming as they started. That would have left me drooling.
UTMB Top Women:
1st - 25:46:42, Nuria Picas
2nd - 25:49:18, Andrea Huser
3rd - 26:39:03, Christelle Bard
4th - 26:28:30, Kaori Niwa
5th - 27:13:20, Alissa St Laurent
6th - 27:19:55, Kellie Emmerson
7th - 25:42:11, Anna-Marie Watson
8th - 26:06:33, Amy Sproston
9th - 26:14:28, Maria Nikolova
10th - 26:44:08, Robyn Bruins
UTMB Top Men:
1st - 19:01:32, Francois D'haene
2nd - 19:16:38, Kilian Jornet Burgada
3rd - 19:53:00, Tim Tollefson,
4th - 20:03:14, Xavier Thevenard
5th - 20:11:38, Jim Walmsley
6th - 20:12:43, Pau Capell
7th - 20:19:48, Dylan Bowman
8th - 21:24:19, Gediminas Grinius
9th - 21:28:32, Zach Miller
10th - 21:44:31, Jordi Gamito
Check out the results for the other races in the UTMB series, CCC, OCC, TDS, the ridiculously cool PTL, the YCC, and the YRun. These event's receive the level of attention that the UTMB does, but take a look over the course previews and you'll realize that these are equally exciting. These are all found on UTMB's homepage.
I look forward to hearing some tantalizing tales of the race in iRunFar's post-race interviews and recaps.
I've worked long and hard over these past months to bring a trail race to the Belknap Range trails in Gilford, NH. Unfortunately, due to a number of roadblocks we've run into while planning the race we've come to the point where we have to cancel the Gunstock Spring Trail Fling. We've worked through the roadblocks up to this point. We were three days away from running the race at one point! So close! Thank you to those of you who signed up and got excited for a great day on the trails along with us. As you can imagine, I'm very disappointed in having to put off the first trail race Fresh Tracks was to put on. Though, this speed bump sets me off with renewed excitement and more time to focus on another event for the New England trail community on the amazing trails in our back yard. If you were signed up for the race, please check your email and you should see a message with more details regarding the cancellation.
Eventhough we couldn't put on a race on these trails this time, I strongly encourage you to get out and enjoy the trails in the Belknap Range this summer. The range has a number of major and minor peaks, 68 miles of trails, is only 1.5 hrs from Boston and 45 minutes from Concord, and has a number of satisfying post trail bars and restaurants in nearby Laconia. This is a great spot to escape for a Saturday trail adventure or even a summer weekday evening trail run. Click here to check out the Belknap Range trails!
Get out there, enjoy the trails, enjoy the food in Laconia, and most importantly make sure to thank the Belknap Range Trail Tenders (BRATTS) for maintaining these trails. The BRATTS are among a number of trail maintenance groups across the North East that keep the trails we love in good working order. The Spring Fling was organized to bring attention to and support the vital work that BRATTS does for us trail lovers. Follow them on Facebook to keep up with their trail antics. If you enjoy the Belknap Range trails, you should consider supporting BRATTS and the trails by joining their work trips or adopting a trail segment to maintain. Click here to learn more about the BRATTS and how you can support the Belknap Range trails.
In the coming months I'll be sharing more about some exciting summer adventures I have planned in the North East and some further afield. The White Face Sky Race, a few longer distance adventures in the whites (Pemi, Presis, Hut to Hut), surfing and trail adventures in Hawaii, and a bit of exploring in Bend, Oregon, and more! And of course, a new race! It's going to be a busy, exciting, fun summer full of new adventures. I feel like I've used "adventure" 1 too many times here. Oh well, adventure is awesome. Onwards!
Dear Fresh Tracks Community,
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Fresh Tracks is postponing the Gunstock Spring Trail Fling to a later date. We apologize for this rather unfortunate news. We are working quickly to reschedule the race for a later date. Once decided, we’ll share the new race date here and by email with all registered participants. If you are registered, you should have received an email with additional details about the postponement. No race details other than the date will change, same venue, same course. Keep your eye’s peeled for the new date and keep working hard out there on the trails! We look forward to having you join us soon for an awesome day on beautiful trails with new trail friends.
Fresh Tracks Racing
Here's a little taste of the course we'll be running next Saturday, the 27th of May.
If you haven't gotten to it yet, there's still time to sign up for the Spring Trail Fling. Click here to visit the RunReg registration page for the event and sign up now.
For those of you already signed up, keep an eye out for a pre-race email with all the details you'll need for race day.
Spring running in New England, some see it as a battle with the unruly forces of nature, stomping through mud, churning through slush, crunching through snow, slipping over ice. Those enlightened runners among us see it for what it is, a chance to play in the mud and see the world coming alive with electric green leaves, humble buds, chattering birds, and giddy critters. Spring running has it's challenges, of course. Those first few runs in the spring slush might take some getting used to. After accepting soaked feet and slippery footing, it makes for some of the most fun you can have on New England trails.
We caught up with four New England trail runners who shared their favorite trails, upcoming spring races, fashion strategies, and music (and audiobook) recommendations. Read on and get ready for some epic Spring running!
WARNING: this article is definitely SFW, but we cannot be held liable for the time you'll spend looking through trail porn after reading this >>> www.trailporn.com. Your welcome.
What is your favorite North East Spring trail running destination, or one on your bucket list?
In terms of a destination, it's always great to get back to the Whites after winter. We just don't have mountains like that around Boston and it feels wild and remote. Mud season in central Vermont is always a good time too - I've been on some trails where there is more moose poop/square foot than plants or dirt, and, again, it gives you that sense of being in someplace wild. In other ways, it doesn't matter that much, because as the green starts to pop up all around New England, it's exciting! In fact, there is one ~50 yard stretch of the Western Greenway, a trail that arches around Belmont and Waltham outside of Boston, that, for a couple weeks in the spring is my favorite bit of trail, any where. For this short little stretch you are simply immersed into a vibrant world of the brightest green, it is truly amazing. So I guess a favorite destination for North East spring trail running is simply the one where I happen to be at the moment!
My favorite North East trails are right in my backyard, right outside of Boston, but this Spring I hope to get up to the White Mountains more and am planning a trip to Vermont to explore some new territory. Doing a Pemi-loop at some point this Spring or Summer is on my bucket list for sure. I'm also excited about racing in some NE trail running destinations that I've never been to this Spring.
It depends on conditions. Often, the Whites are too muddy or snowy early on. Luckily, I live in close proximity to the Belknap, Ossipee, and Sandwich ranges. Those smaller ranges generally dry out sooner, and are my go-to for Spring.
During Spring, the best trail miles are to found on the Tuckerman Ravine trail. Strap on the spikes and treat yourself to a never-ending parade of less-than-sober corn snow enthusiasts and spectators. Stay away from crevasses and ice-fall.
What shoe are you running in this Spring? What other gear do you consider essential for Spring?
Last year I discovered the Salomon Sense Ultra SG. Crazy, crazy expensive, but, as my first pair probably has close to 2,000 miles on them and still feel pretty darned good, I realized they are a great value. I just started in on my second pair recently - they're especially good for muddy conditions. A good rain jacket until we get closer to summer. I use a model from Inov-8 that is light and seems to keep me pretty dry on those misty/drizzly days. Other than that, it's just a matter of going! I feel much more confident wearing a hydration pack/vest when I'm running long as the weather warms too. Again, I've got the Inov-8 Race vest (an older model I think), which let's me go for around 4-6 hours and not have to worry at all about getting thirsty.
I have recently started wearing Altras since I needed a more supportive shoe for the type of training I've been doing. I'm really liking the Altra Superior 3.0 on the trails and the Altra Escalantes on the road. I'm a fairly minimal runner as far as gear goes, but as temps increase, carrying water becomes essential. Most times I just use an Ultimate Direction handheld I've had for awhile now, but I also love the Ultimate Direction T.O. Race Vest 3.0. It's super lightweight and carries two bottles in the front, plus some nutrition and a rain jacket in the back, so it's perfect for racing and long training runs. for even longer treks, I have the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20. I'm excited to test that one this Spring.
I am not a "shoe guy". I'm not interested in EVA foam, drops, different types of traction, or rockplates. I did the Peak 500 in $13 Wal Mart shoes. I buy shoes only when my others are completely disintegrated. I buy in bulk Skechers Go Runs from the Tanger Outlets, because they are cheap. I also like the type of rubber they use on their outsoles. It's sticky.
My Spring footwear is the New Balance Hierro, because it's inexpensive, soft and maybe won't fall apart too fast. If money grew on trees I'd have the Salomon Snowcross; they make me feel invincible. But the one truly clutch piece of Spring running equipment is a good crisp Pale Ale.
Do you do any special preparation to transition from Winter to Spring running?
I keep running throughout the winter, so there's no special prep I do in general. The biggest thing is deciding when to transition from full-tights to my (incredibly sexy) man-pri 3/4 tights to just wearing shorts (I haven't gone full monty yet . . .).
As excited as I am about breaking out the shorts and tanks, the transition to warmer temps is always hard for me. Having to carry and drink more water is hard to get used to at first, but one thing I make sure to do is drink more water throughout the day so I'm not feeling super dehydrated when I run, and also making sure I drink some sort of electrolyte during or after my run.
Nothing official or major. It really depends on the conditions. Traction, or no traction? That's about it.
To prep for Spring running, I just keep my feet perpetually wet and filthy to simulate mud season conditions. Have an arsenal of pre-soaked socks to wear to work.
What races and running goals do you have on your calendar this Spring?
After being pretty competitive a few years ago I had a "simple" knee surgery that led to a disastrous and prolonged recovery. I'm 100% healed now, but that experience taught me a lot of lessons about myself and my relationship with running. Therefore, I don't race any more (although I am thinking about running TARC's Don't Run Boston again this year, but that doesn't really qualify as a race!), but I still train and have built up a solid base of fitness. I'm much happier with my running now than I was a few years ago, and, with my fitness, have the idea of exploring more of the trails of western Massachusetts, and trying to spend a lot more time in the Whites. I have a couple of projects on the Long Trail in Vermont I want to work on (running from Mansfield to Sugarbush, about 50 miles), and I've dreamt of running the Cohos Trail in New Hampshire (175 miles from Crawford Notch to the Canadian border) in a single push since I first heard of the trail a few years ago. Reckon it's time to stop dreaming and start running!
My big goal this Spring is completing my first 50 miler at Cayuga Trails 50, but I am also guiding at the Boston Marathon, running the TARC Wapak 21.5-miler, and running the Pineland Farms Carnicross 5k with my one-year old puppy.
I had planned on doing the Northeast USATF Mountain Running Series. I am sure I will jump into some random ultras. I am also planning some FKT Attempts in the Whites.
I'm looking forward to toeing the line at the inaugural Riverlands 100 if the body allows.
What music have you been rocking out to recently?
I actually don't listen to music any more when I run. Because I want to try to become a bit more knowledgable and pretend I'm smart, I've actually started listening to audiobooks whilst driving and running on the treadmill (I own a treadmill, and, honestly don't mind it too much - especially when the trails are tough to traverse because of deep snow (I've hurt myself running through that stuff too much). I'm able to do some pretty stout hill climbs on it, and every so often will prop the back up and get some very long downhill sessions in). So, in terms of books, I just finished listening to Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (at 15+ hours, it's not too brief and definitely helped pass some miles on the treadmill and really made my time in the car much more bearable!) and am currently listening to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I'm a teacher, and I'm actually planning on using both books - Brave New World in connection to a unit I'm going to be starting about the Barkley's Marathons and the role of suffering in our culture/society. It's been pretty cool to see a connection between running and the world created by Huxley. Makes me appreciate those long miles so much more!
I don’t listen to music when I run, but the last race I ran, the TARC To Hale & Back 6-Hour , I had a song from the youngest I nanny's music class stuck in my head. Really wasn't a terrible beat to run to!
When I'm running, it's Hed PE, Tech N9ne, Dirty Wormz, and any weird, hard rap.
Doomtree, P.O.S and Sims keep me thoughtful on the run. Lamb of God keeps me angry and moving forward.
Who are these trail nuts?
After a "simple" knee surgery derailed his competitive ultra career, Josh Katzman hasn't raced much since the end of 2013. Now able to run and train in a much healthier approach, he gets most of his miles in on the trails around Boston. Since his competitive career is over, he has found a great running buddy in his dog, and as a coach for his son's soccer team. His two sons plan on teaching him how to do a back flip on their trampoline in 2017, assuredly derailing his running for another two-three years. As a teacher in the Boston Public Schools for the past ten years, Josh has recently worked with the district to open an outdoor-based semester program starting next year. He always knew he'd get paid to run the trails...
Vegan, Nutrition-Enthusiast, Trailbunny, Ultrarunner, Mediocre Weight-Lifter, Future CPT, Nanny, Wife and Mom of an Adventurous Trailpup.
Rob Rives is a Carolina-bred, New England-rooted, Californicated mountain enthusiast who always prefers the steeper route. He holds the FKT for the 170-mile Cohos Trail, invented the Swan Song Loop in the Presidential Range, and is a member of the Winter 4000-footer club. His true self is always revealed at mile 100: a gluttonous, delirious ball of pain and joy.
Kale Poland Facts: Kale Poland can build a snowman out of rain.
Kale Poland counted to infinity. Twice.
Kale Poland has a diary. It's called the Guinness Book of World Records.
Tripoli Rd. - Groomed XC ski trail till Osceola trailhead, dense snowpack with a light dusting
Tripoli Rd, Osceola trailhead to Tecumseh trailhead - large but passable downed tree branch in road, slick ice underneath an inch of loose snow, microspikes recommended
Mt. Tecumseh Trail from Tripoli Rd. - thin ice on water crossings near trailhead, icy patches on steep sections near summit, didn't need snowshoes, could have used microspikes
Mt. Tecumseh Trail down to WVV resort parking - inch of light snow on top of slick snow/icepack, luge like in places.
It had been a few weeks since I had gotten out into the mountains, owing to a 2 week struggle with a stomach bug and a week of travel down to VA. I was looking forward to getting out with a friend to camp Monday night, buuuuut she bailed on me. I have a hunch it was retribution for me bailing on her a few weeks ago. We're even now, I think. So, late Monday afternoon I decided to pack up and drive a short distance to Waterville Valley where I hiked a mile down Tripoli Rd. to the Osceola Vista Campground. I popped up my tent around around 7:30 and hunkered down with a book for the evening. Around midnight I woke to the beautiful noise of heavy snow coming down on the tent's rain fly. Rain makes such a beautiful noise, but the slow and soft sound of the falling snow is dream-like, especially when you wake from a dream to hear it.
After a nice rest in the mid 20s I woke to a light dusting of snow and slowly worked my way towards breaking camp. Breaking down a tent in the early morning in winter is not fun. With my belly and thermos full of hot coffee I broke camp and started down Tripoli Rd. I dropped my bag in the woods near the campgrounds and headed down Tripoli Rd at a trot towards the Mt. Tecumseh Trail trailhead, about 4 miles away. A large chunk of Tripoli Rd. is closed off during the winter season and groomed for XC skiing, making for nice running conditions. At the Mt. Osceola trail trailhead the grooming ends and the road changed to a slick base with a light dusting of snow, which made for some fun running and sliding down the slight grade.
I underestimated the distance at this point and couldn't remember what the Tecumseh trailhead looked like, so I ended up running 4/5 of the way to the trailhead before turning around at the Beaver Pond spur (I thought I had missed the trailhead). I made it back to the Osceola trailhead where I checked the map on the board and realized I had stopped just short of the trailhead! Left the Osceola trail head, ran back down the ice luge, and finally found the Mt. Tecumseh Trail trailhead, only after I wandered down a few spurs off Tripoli Rd. Ah! That's what I get for not taking my map with me. I believe that added 3 miles or so to the trip. They were nice miles, I won't complain.
Once I hit Mt. Tecumseh Trail I slowed to a comfortable hiking pace. The forest was silent, no wind, comfortably cool, a pleasant overcast day. From time to time I heard a truck's air-breaks off on 93 (unfortunately). The wind picked up a bit and I enjoyed the sounds of it whistling over the tops of the bare trees, their branches clicking together, dry leaves clinging on and rattling, strands of birch bark jingling. Gorgeous. On a few steep sections of the trail it became very icy, no more than 10ft at a time. I chose not to carry my microspikes with me, so at these points I pulled myself up along the trees on the side of the trail. These weren't too challenging to get around. The snow deepened a bit once I crested the first peak and there were 2 or 3 small blowdowns on the trail that sent me a few feet into deeper snow to get around.
At the summit the clouds had closed off views of the Tripyramids and Sandwich Dome. On a clear day, this view is spectacular. It was no less spectacular with a vast wall of clouds, just no mountain peaks to peek at. The descent down from Tecumseh to the WVV Resort parking lot is a blast. It's a nice snaking gradual grade most of the way down with a few steep spots. On this day, it was a bit icy underneath the thin top layer of snow so I enjoyed some sliding and picked my way down "carefully" at a good clip. It required a bit of ballet and bouncing off trees to keep from laying out or shooting off into the woods.
I popped out at the parking lot and jogged about 3 miles back down Tripoli Rd. to pick up my bag and headed back to my car. I made it to my car just as it was starting to drizzle. With temps hovering right around 32 it was a good thing I made it back when I did. Shortly after, the roads back to my place were covered in a slick sheen of ice. I was really excited to get back and drink some water, I had only taken my thermos of coffee out on the trail with me and got prrrrretty darn thirst right around the summit. That next sip of water was ahhhhh heaven. Great day all around out there on Tecumseh, but I am really starting to look forward to the spring melt and some warm sunshine on my face.
Here's the Strava track from the hike:
I'm down in New Orleans for the weekend, visiting my friend Jocelyn and enjoying some of the exciting parade season. Since our beautiful dirt trails are all snowed in up in New Hampshire I absolutely had to take the chance to hit some trails while I was down here. A quick search of local trails turned up the Bonnet Carre Spillway trails. This is a ~5mi loop of MTB trails taken care of by NOMAMBO (The New Orleans Metro Area Mountain Bike Organization). Just 30 minutes from the city, this is a sweet gem that is home to the Spillway Classic Trail Run hosted by the New Orleans Track Club.
The trail starts out from a boat launch and recreation area with ample parking. There's no map at the trail head, just a board with warnings and trail rules, but there's no reason to fret since the trail is an easy to follow out and back loop right along the spillway. When I'm running on MTB trails I prefer to run counter to the regular flow so I can see the bikers coming down the trail. This might tick off the bikers, but it ends up being safer for everyone
These are some absolutely beautiful trails. Nice and flowy with no elevation gain other than slight mounds, short steps, and some bike bridges. The trails are well broken in and it looks like NOMAMBO takes good care of them, only one instance where the trail was blocked by branches. The trail is clear single track lined with thin trees and attractive undergrowth, at times making for a beautiful green carpet spread along the trail.
After taking it slow this winter in NH, just enjoying time on the trail, running this trail was a blast. The colors, the flat trail, the warmth and humidity, it was exactly what I needed. Though there was a light rain it only made for some fun mud puddle stomping. All together this was an awesome little set of trials. There must be more gems like this hidden around these parts. I'll have to do some more exploring!