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!
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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.