Sunday, February 5, 2023

Frozen Yeti

Well THAT was a fun little novelty run. On Saturday, February 4th I ran in the 15-mile trail race at the annual TARCtic Frozen Yeti event at the Hale Reservation in Westwood, MA, put on by the Trail Animals Running Club (TARC). I say it was novel for a couple of reasons. 1.) The course is wildly complicated, in a way that I love, 2.) the 15-mile race starts at 8 p.m. and runs entirely in the dark, which is unusual to say the least, and 3.) the freakishly cold weather. 

After a relatively mild winter so far, a record-setting cold blast polar vortexed its way south into the Northeast and spent 24 hours giving us one of the coldest cold snaps in recent memory, complete with extreme wind chills (especially up on Mt. Washington) and power outages. The house my brother and I share in Maine lost power for 5 hours and had some pipes freeze in that time (and yes, one did burst). We weren't alone; it seems like Friday night into Saturday was basically a mass pipe-freezing event in the region. 

The worst of the weather was from Friday night to Saturday morning, when the 30-hour race started. The people running in that event persevered through incredibly challenging conditions, but you can read about that elsewhere (and you should; look for the story of Brian Burke running 118 miles and breaking the course record, for starters). 

I arrived a few hours early, just before sunset on Saturday afternoon, and enjoyed chatting with Russet and Catherine, two of my immediate neighbors inside the lodge, as well as prolific MassUltra scribe Chris Wristen and race directors Surjeet and Josh. I also spent some time eavesdropping on some of the 30-hour runners who were taking breaks inside, listening for any helpful tips (which included "don't OVER-dress, as you'll get too sweaty" and "loop 2 is the most consistently runnable.")

The course is set up like a crazy 3-petaled flower, with each petal loop being roughly a third of the distance. You finish each loop back at the heated lodge in the center of the Hale Reservation where you start. Over 95% of the route is on trails, with more or less equal amounts of singletrack and doubletrack. Temperatures at the start were rebounding from the worst of the cold snap, but it was still only 13 degrees out and pretty much stayed there the whole night. 

Let's get right to the play-by-play for the 15-miler: 

shivering at the start (photo by Jade Biwa Zhang)

the crazy cool course

Loop 1: The Red Loop

  • I started out a little faster than planned, but it was hard not to because the first part is on road and the initial climbing is fairly gentle.
  • After the road start, though, the first few miles feature some of the most technical narrow singletrack of the entire course, with lots of hopping up and down and over exposed ledges on Strawberry Hill and Powissett Peak.
  • At about mile 3.5, going up and over the rocks of Powissett Peak, I realized I hadn't sipped anything from my hydration pack yet. I'd filled my 1.5-liter Osprey bladder with Gatorade hoping it would take longer to freeze than water, and bought insulation for the drinking tube and bite valve. Well, it had frozen anyway, and never unfroze again (not even the handy tube-thawing station in the lodge would melt its cold, cold heart). I carried 1.5 liters of unobtainable Gatorade around the entire course. 
  • At about mile 4, a gang of nearby coyotes started howling pretty intensely in the dark off to the left, which was a nice touch.
  • At mile 4.5, my watch informed me with a buzz that my iPhone battery was about to die, and sure enough it was completely kaput by the end of the loop; so much for any emergency calls. 

Loop 2: The White Loop

  • About a mile into this loop I was trailing the blinking red light of a runner about 200 feet ahead of me when I heard some rustling off to my left. I looked over and my headlamp beam reflected off a pair of eyes watching me. I glanced over two more times and they were watching every time. 
  • Russet passed me under the powerlines. She led a group of women at a steady pace that was just slightly faster than mine and they very slowly pulled ahead of me on the Power Glide singletrack section. 
  • More so than on other loops, there's places where you come very close to where you were just minutes or in some case miles before, and you could probably say hello to runners ahead of or behind you in the race. 

Loop 3: The Blue Loop

  • The final loop starts and ends with a very short lollipop stick with two-way traffic, though I didn't encounter anyone going the opposite way either time. 
  • After running through the woods along the west side of Noanet Pond, you bear right and cross a raised earthen dam on a dirt road. 
  • Then you bear left and drop down to a really fun "corkscrew" boardwalk. It's basically a hundred feet or so of undulating wooden boardwalk bridge over a marsh; it isn't at all level, and feels like a surrealist's idea of a path. Fortunately it wasn't very slippery.
  • Next was a climb up and over a hill called Cat Rock, which I'd remembered had a very steep pitch to navigate on the descent. It wasn't too bad but I slowed there anyway just to be safe. 
  • From there it was about a mile of relatively easy running over to a pond, up through and down an open field, and up a gentle rise past a residential area off to the left. 
  • After crossing the park road there's a series of rises and falls through the woods including one fairly significant climb, then you drop down to Cat Rock Field parking (where my car was). 
  • Around the east and south sides of Noanet Pond, the course includes two beach crossings where you run across open sandy stretches; these were actually fairly easy since the packed sand wasn't too loose underfoot. 
  • LOTS of rising and falling along the shore of the pond in the second to last mile.
  • The final mile was my least favorite stretch, partly because I was fairly beat by then but mostly because it's very rooty and unkempt. I'm pretty tall and there were lots of places where briars dangled into the trail. There were also a LOT of kickable rocks in this stretch, along with a few icy patches. That said, it's still trail, and I do loves me some trail. 
  • Shout out to the two intrepid young sisters who passed me in the final miles for the shared experience of bringing it all home at the end. 

what much of the course looks like in the light
(taken during research for Trail Running Eastern Massachusetts)


I finished in 3 hours and 27 minutes, which I was pleased with. It was about right given my training and current fitness level. Full Results.

Navigation: Zero problems, despite the complexity you see on the map. Arrows and ribbons both featured reflective markings, most of which were easy to see (unless the wind turned a ribbon the other way). The start of the white loop is ever so slightly a challenge to follow from the lodge, so maybe a hair more signage for that might help, but after a few hundred feet past the parking lot it was plenty clear enough. No major trips, stumbles, or falls! Major kudos to the course-marking crew.

Clothing: I wore a windshell jacket over a long-sleeve zip-neck top, shorts over regular ASICS trail tights, lightweight gloves, and a lightweight beanie. It was perfect. I never got too hot and rarely felt very cold. The coldest I felt was when I realized my shirt had come untucked and my lower belly was slightly exposed (tucked shirt back in; problem solved). 

Food: PB & J and a beet juice can about an hour before, 2 cups of tailwind and a cookie after each lap, and some hot soup and a quesadilla wedge after. I definitely could have used more hydration, but I did what I could given the frozen bladder tube. Volunteers were also providing a giant bounty of food inside the lodge, but for the most part I felt like the 30-hour runners should get first dibs on all of that (I did have some hot soup, a freshly grilled quesadilla wedge, and a grilled cheese bite afterwards).

In Conclusion: I loved this event and was pleased to be able to tell the course designer Josh Katzman how much I appreciated the design of his race. It was fun to run entirely at night and on trails I enjoy and with such easygoing like-minded members of my tribe. 

a very Yeti positive race bib =)

edible medal

Monday, December 12, 2022

2022 Race Photo Highlihgts

It's been a busy year here at Northeast Adventures, with so few blog posts to show for it. So far. Let's remedy that right now, starting with a selection of some of my favorite race photos from events I shot at this past year. 

Alex Jospe at the Seven Sisters Trail Race in Massachusetts

L: Running strong at the Vegan Power 50K Trail Race
R: An iconic moment at the Vermont 100 Ultramarathon

Late afternoon light at Vermont 100

Kids triathlon near Keene, NH


Wheeling for Healing in Greenfield, MA

Finishing the New England Green River Marathon

Well-earned relief

Here is a link to the full album: 

Monday, November 7, 2022

All of the Above Trail Fest

The first weekend in November was WARM this year. I mean, really warm. Which worked out well for the first-year All of the Above Trail Fest at Berkshire East, the ski area in Charlemont, MA. The race started on a ski slope by the lodge and climbed singletrack trail in the woods to the top of Mt. Institute, then wound around all over the place on a mix of singletrack, snowmobile trails, woods roads, and dirt roads. For me it was tough, it was sweaty, and it was a total blast. 

The event was created to promote greater inclusivity in the running community, and it felt great to support it. I’m not sure who all was there, but I know I ran many miles with Tom Davidson, Donna Utakis, and Alex Wirth-Cauchon; was handed my bib by Matt Czaplinski (who also raced); was greeted by Kristin Loiko in full costume; and high-fived my RD pal Amy Rusiecki at the finish. For much more information, check out Beast Coast Trail Running’s website here

finishing the AotA trail run (photo by Jen Garrett)

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

New Book Press

It's been great to see some recent promo pieces for the new guidebook come out. 

MassUltra (Chris Wristen's amazing passion project, essentially a one-stop shop for all ultra-level trail racing news in New England): 

The Greenfield Recorder (story shared with other local media outlets including The Valley Advocate, etc.): 

me, staging a running shot along Greenfield Ridge (photo by Paul Franz for The Greenfield Recorder) 

Also, stay tuned for several sweet podcast episodes, dropping soon! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The New Book Is Here!

My new guidebook, Trail Running Eastern Massachusetts, is finally in hand! It matches the previous volume very well, and I just love how it looks in general. The official release date is still technically tomorrow (3/31/22), but pre-orders should be showing up now. There are several ways to get copies if you would like one, but why not just order it from your local independent bookseller; everybody wins that way.

The book on the publisher's website: 

Monday, March 14, 2022

How To See The Super-Awesome Full Moon

Important steps you need to take to see the super-deluxe mega-awesome extra-full moon: 

  • Figure out which night of any given month the full moon will be on (tip: use a calendar)
  • Go outside ON THAT DATE (but make sure it's at night)
  • Look at moon
  • Watch out for werewolves

Note: For some super-duper overblown occasions, clickbait media will try to convince you that this is the Largest Moon You Will Ever See (since the last Super-Deluxe Extra Mega Full Moon about a month ago), and there may technically be some validity to that, but seriously, think about it for a second and realize that we're basically talking fractions of a nano-size here. The tides aren't suddenly going to sweep the sides of Mt. Everest, nor is the moon going to look like a Death Star coming up over the horizon on the planet Scarif. It's going to to look like the moon, when it's full, which always appears larger when it's right above the horizon. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Two Months to Go

It's a good feeling. Design, layout, proofing, and final tweaks to my new trail running guidebook are complete and it is officially off to the printers now. Release date is set for just over 2 months from now, and advance hardcopies should arrive well before that. So close now. I'm very pleased with how it came out and can't wait to share it with the local Massachusetts and regional New England running and hiking communities. 

Here is the book's Facebook page on which I plan to post a bunch of cool photos and other media in the coming months: 
(note that this is just a "book" page, not a group or club)

Here are its pages on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble (links open in new windows).

If you're interested, please consider pre-ordering to reserve your copy today and help generate awareness and buzz around the release. You can use the links above or ask a local retailer to order and save a copy. 

Link to an earlier "teaser" post (with lots of pretty pics) from last summer: 

Seventeen Songs

There’s some writing I need to finish up today, so naturally I spent some time coming up with this totally unrelated list of seventeen favorite new or new-to-me songs I heard this past year: 

YONAKA – Lose Our Heads 

SAM FENDER – Seventeen Going Under 

HOLLY HUMBERSTONE – The Walls Are Way Too Thin (live) 

(great growling guitar bit)

BELLY – Human Child
(nostalgia factor 11)

GREEN DAY – Dreaming (cover) 
(Blondie song cover; he does one of “I Think We’re Alone Now” with his two sons, too) 

BILLY JOE ARMSTRONG – Manic Monday (cover) 
(with Susannah Hoffs bouncing around like a teenager, and we all know damn well she’s no teenager)

AC/DC – Through The Mists Of Time 

HAZEL ENGLISH – Never Going Home 
(also check out "I'm fine" and "Waiting", among others)

SUNFLOWER BEAN – Moment in the Sun 

(also check out "Plimsoll Punks" and "Lollipop" from the same album)

WOLF ALICE – How Can I Make It OK? 
(love the slow build on this one)

TAYLOR SWIFT – All Too Well (10-minute version) 
(it’s weirdly good)

ADELE – Easy on Me
(it’s just... well damn if it isn't just really easy on the ears)

MINT JULEP – Some Feel Rain 

LORD HURON – Long Lost 

PHOEBE BRIDGERS – Steamroller 
(“you’re the feeling I get when I’m feeling fine”)

Monday, October 11, 2021

2021 Monroe Dunbar Race Photos

Every few years I hit the trail along Dunbar Brook at Monroe State Forest up in the northwest corner of Massachusetts for the annual trail race there. Sometimes I run it, sometimes I take photos, and every so often I miss it entirely. There used to be a stream crossing about a mile from the finish; I got some absolutely epic shots there over the years (see 2018 shots here, for example), but a new bridge has been installed and it's no longer quite the dramatic adventure moment it once was. This year I tried shooting at a new location, and man I gotta say some of the pics are just iconic of the race. It was a really small field this year (hopefully just due to Covid and the generally ultra-laid-back nature of the event; they essentially never advertise or promote it), but it was really cool to see a bunch of friends out there running with their young kids. 

the potholes up near the top of Dunbar Brook Trail

See all of my 2021 Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race photos here at Ben Kimball Photography