Monday, May 5, 2014

Narragansett Trail FKT - May 3, 2014

I got an email from Jonny and Muddy early in the week.  They were going to attempt to run the entire Narragansett trail from Hopkinton, RI to North Stonington, CT.  Based on their research they couldn't find any evidence of previous attempts so this would be a Fastest Known Time (FKT.)  Ben Nephew had set a FKT on the Connecticut portion but we were incorporating the Rhode Island section which we felt made our run its own beast.  With the Pineland 50k three weeks out I had wanted to get in one more long, hard effort and this would certainly fit the bill.

Muddy knows the way!

I met up with them at Asheville Pond at 5:30 AM.  It was cold to start but I went with just a t-shirt - I knew I'd be working hard right off the bat.  We decided to forgo a drop anywhere - the run would be self-supported.  Muddy and I went with handheld water bottles but Jonny had a vest.  I stuffed three gels and three mini cliff bars in my pockets.  Off we went.

We started in Rhode Island because this first section is extremely rocky with a couple tricky climbs.  Better to deal with them at the start of the run rather than when were were fatigued at the end.  We all had a lot of energy and the conversation was lively.  This section runs around Asheville and Long ponds and it was the only section of the Narragansett trail that I had run before. There's some very steep, technical stuff here but we were in good spirits and got through them quickly.

It's kind of steep

Jonny at sunrise at Yawgoog Pond

We passed a large group of early morning hikers as we reached Old Rockville Road, a brief road section before we entered the woods and headed north along Yawgoog Pond.  The singletrack here was very runnable and while we had to do some fast steppin' with the many muddy sections it wasn't hard to navigate unscathed. I was now on completely unknown trails to me (and would be for the rest of the run.)  Either Jonny or Muddy knew the way at all the intersections - I just followed them.

During these early miles I was constantly doing a mental check.  This was a major run but I hadn't tapered for it - in fact, I had run more this week.  If I finished this run, I'd have 60 miles on the week.  10 more than I've ever had before.  Despite a lethargic short run the day before, I was feeling good.  Plenty of energy.  A nerve issue that had been plaguing the bottom my foot had faded over the last two weeks.  And the day before I tweaked my neck doing push-ups.  It hurt to turn sideways but it was fine for running.  Still I was constantly diagnosing every twinge and tweak as I ran.

The trail continues north along the CT/RI border before turning west at mile 6 towards Green Fall Pond.  Here it descended quickly along the edge of Green Fall and suddenly I was looking down at a dam.  I stopped to take a quick picture - the guys were already down at the road.  I thought we were in for a short road section but no - the guys were gone.  When I got down to the road I realized they had just crossed the road and continued to descend along the river on the other side.  The "trail" was slanted and slippery and up above the river.  Treacherous going - finally we touched down next to to the river.  But the trail continued on the other side.  No bridge or stone crossing here.  It was time to get wet.  It would not be our last water crossing.

Down to the dam...

and along a slick river walk...

and through the river.

After that we followed the trail through muddy flats before coming out on a road.  I was happy for the brief road interlude...until I saw the massive hill straight ahead.  This incline was pavement but it was steep.  Finally the hill ended and I was feeling its effects as we re-entered the woods.  Another mile of trails and then another short road section before we entered gun club land.

The terrain turned to grass and dirt roads. Strange animal targets in the woods.  A clearing deforested for no discernible reason.  Creepy place.  Oh and they don't want you here between October and March.  It wasn't long before we reached the edge of gun club land and made a quick jaunt through briar territory to arrive at a longer road section.  Blessed is he who looks for salvation on the roads, for surely he will find redemption.


Road Salvation at 10.5

Jonny's vest made sloshing sounds like a washing machine and it drove him crazy.  He ditched it behind a stone wall just before we turned left down a long dirt road.  The road section refreshed me and I felt good when we returned to singletrack.  I moved fast and well as skirted a brook lined with skunk cabbage.  Then at mile 12 the trail veered away from the brook and directly uphill.  This ascent was rough and really took a lot out of me.  I needed a second to get going once I reached the top.  And then there was another big goddamn hill!  This one-two punch really signaled a turn in the run for me.

The next couple miles were tough but the location was great.  Streams, big ravines, tough climbs - this was a great place to run.  I'd love to come back in less suffering conditions.  We stopped briefly at Bullet Ledge which had a nice view (and a nicer break.)  Then down around a water hole before it become a very old dirt road with misleadingly slow and hard climbs.  Jonny and I took pictures at the same time and suddenly Muddy was off in the distance.  It took a while before we could reel him in.  Everyone took turns feeling good/awful and trading off the lead throughout the run.

Muddy takes off as Jonny and I snap pictures

High Ledge - Muddy's very proud of WTAC.  Or wishes he had breasts.

We touched asphalt oh so briefly at Wyassup Lake (mile 14) before ducking back into the woods.  Still I was feeling fairly good after surviving the last few hilly miles and I found myself trouncing through the mud/water hazards as much as I was avoiding them.  We ran alongside beaver dams and waded through more streams.  Now it was Jonny's turn to lag behind.  But my turn was right ahead.  As we went up a very steep incline I slipped and slammed both knees into rocks.  Christ it hurt!  I got to my feet and climbed to the top but could barely get moving.  Jonny and Muddy were pretty far ahead at this point and I thought about yelling to them but I finally got going and after a few minutes the pain receeded and my form improved.  I caught them at an overlook which showed signs of civilization down below.  As the trail decended rapidly to a road at mile 18 I had returned to feeling good.

Such positive feelings last only as long as the climbs are absent!  We crossed the road and returned to woods on the way to Lantern Hill - our final objective.  Once the trail began to climb in rapid fashion I was officially done.  I was hiking the hills - I had no run left in me.  And I would throw myself forward at the top to get going again. We then settled into a decent groove as we ran the moderate trail around Wintechog Hill.  Suddenly up ahead we saw a bright shirt - it's Mike Crutchley!  He met us out there and then ran with us the rest of the way.

After a quick pass through the North Stonington dump, the last climb began and it was painful.  I was completely exhausted and hiked my way up Lantern Hill while Jonny took off ahead, energized by being almost done.   Finally I squeezed through this tight rock formation (the Lemon Squeezer I think) and we reached the top.  I was surprised how close we were to Foxwoods.  Crutch snapped some pictures of us at the top and then it was a fast and steep decent down to the parking lot.  We were finished!

From the summit of Lantern Hill, Foxwoods beckons

Only a 1/2 mile of downhill left - Photo by Crutch

Finished! - Photo by Crutch

Filthy, beaten legs - Photo by Crutch

Happy to be done.  Not so happy about the gnats.

It took us 3 hours and 27 minutes to complete the East to West traverse of the Narragansett Trail.  The last ten miles were a real challenge.  The hills became brutal to ascend, reminding me of my first go at the NipMuck marathon.  At the parking lot, Crutch provided us with water which was huge.  We waited for Muddy's Better Half to pick us up as we got our first taste of bugs for the season (literally - these shitty little gnats attacked us by the hundreds.)

All in all it was an awesome adventure and challenge.  And I hit 60 miles for the week for the first time which was another great milestone.  Thanks to Jonny and Muddy for setting it up and making this happen.  I sure couldn't have done this sort of thing alone. Thanks to Crutch for the company, pictures and hydration.  And thanks to Mrs. Muddy for picking us up and bringing us food (sorry we stank!)  Is this a FKT?  Until I hear othewise I'm sure saying it is!


  1. Sounded like a fun and challenge morning run – great views on the CT side as I have run that portion with Crutch – hope the knees are ok from the fall
    Nice write up

    1. Knees are sore but no worse for wear. My whole body was very sore yesterday. Today is much better but the calves are still aching.

  2. Great write-up of your epic journey! The photo documentation really brought some life to the stories.

  3. Awesome run and write up!!! I agree with Chris the photos brought a lot to the story. (and I'm secretly glad I'm not the only one who documents). Hope your knees are ok. Mine hurt reading that part. You guys look like you had a great time, thank you for sharing the good the bad and the ugly!! Oh and didn't Johnny's brother teach him how to burp a hydration pack? Greg was very helpful in solving that problem for me, no sloshing any more! Super fun!

  4. Awesome run Seth! It's adventures like these that are often more notable than many races. Congrats on the co-FKT!

  5. Nicely done, Seth! That's an epic stretch of mileage to cover in what's a very good time, in my opinion. When I woke up that morning, my first order of business was estimating your finishing time and planning to get some shots of you all coming in. Glad I could be there!