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on the cover Justin Kousky running the blue to blue race winner of the 50K


Hello 2021! We are ready to move forward and say, “see ya” to Covid and all that was “meh” about 2020. However before we jump ahead, let’s reflect a bit on last year. For better or worse, running was different in 2020. We all know the ways in which professional athletes were affected, but they weren’t the only ones. When this issue began, it was meant to be solely about the everyday runners. Those runners who are out there setting personal goals and achieving big things just minus all the notoriety. It was never intended to be about life in a pandemic. However when we we spoke with each person, Covid could not be ignored. Some ran more because there wasn’t much other to do. Others changed goals or reworked the workout focus. Although each story is about the person, there is an inkling of Covid impact in each story. When discussing running in 2020, it just can’t be ignored. Though really should it? Many pages will be allocated to it in the history books. Only one person will win a race. A few will medal. A handful will have sponsorship. But every person has a story. There are so many unique runners whether they finish first or last. Everyone laces up sneakers for different reasons with different goals in mind. Maybe the person coming in towards the back is completing a first marathon. Many participants in the race may have made a personal record. When our camera captures the race, photos only tell part of the story. We found ourselves wanting to know more. We have watched many running documentaries and often it is the why behind the run that is so fascinating. Watching someone accomplish the goal is just the cherry on the top. This was the catalyst for the e-zine. We wanted to know more about the everyday people from different backgrounds, professions, age groups, and ability. Though they are not professional runners, many of them have lofty goals they have achieved. We wanted to highlight a few of those stories.

Jake & Jess Koteen

Know Someone ToBe Featured? Though we have met many faces on this journey, we have not met them all. We’d love to hear your suggestions. Just Email!

hello@jakekoteen.com check us out

@j.koteen_photography www.jakekoteen.com

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anatomy of the issue

The X Chromosome 10 24

journey to the 100 mile race-

Robyn Bratica’s year-long training for her first 100 at New Hampshire’s Hamsterwheel

mastering the master classShannon Siragusa’s training has her gaining speed post 40

The Y Chromosome 34 in the groove-

Mitch is rediscovering his race legs.


why not?See how Marc Kelly brings fun and a “why not” attitude to his running.

In The DNA 46

the running chipIt seems Izzy has inherited her dad’s love of adventure, sport, and will. Hear about her first half marathon at the age of 10.

Heart of the Race


Race Director, Brian Vanderheiden, kept Connecticut racing during the pandemic.

Your Neck of the Woods

58 exploring the hubbard river trail Check out one of our favorite trails in the Granville Forest.

“Running is nothing more th between the part of your br

and the part that wants to k


han a series of arguments rain that wants to stop

keep going.�


Robyn Bratica


Part I It’s the year of Covid, the year when “time alone” has, sadly, become the norm. So if having fun with friends required a little effort, Robyn was prepared. For Robyn, a “little effort” meant putting her body and mind through 30 hours of hard work and pain. Kidding. Sort of. The 100-mile race at The Hampsterwheel in New Hampshire was the closest thing to a “party” that Robyn experienced all last year. Although she was running Hampsterwheel to fulfill a personal goal, the icing on the cake was sharing the experience with so many of her running friends. “If I get to a point where I question my life decisions, I’ll remember I am just here to hang out with my friends and run…I don’t mind running by myself, but for big events it is nice to have friends and share the experience. As social events were cancelled throughout the year, trail races proved a saving grace for many runners. Race directors worked hard to implement safety protocols to allow small races to proceed as planned. On the weekend of November 7th Robyn finally chased her 100-mile dream. Over the years more and more people have completed a marathon, a distance that was once considered the pinnacle running accomplishment. For those runners who want to separate themselves from the pack, the ultra is now the race to conquer. According to a study by RunRepeat, ultras have grown 345% since 1996. Yet despite this growth, only a quarter of ultra runners complete distances over the 50 miles. For female ultra runners, the number shrinks - 16% in 2018. Running the 100 miles would put Robyn in a very small group of female runners. So what motivated Robyn to attempt a feat that few females try and even fewer complete? Would she ultimately succeed? Robyn has always had a passion for running. In high school she ran track, though she never considered herself a good runner. More often than not she would come in towards the end of the pack. Nevertheless she contin-

ued to put in the work. Early on during college she trained for her first marathon. That training put her in a position to run Division 2 cross-country for the last few years of school. As she puts it, she wasn’t good enough to win, but she also wasn’t coming in last. “I would come in at that 5-7 person range, either the last person to place or displacing. I wasn’t so far in the back that I didn’t matter at all, but I only kind of mattered. I was peripherally involved.” Still, she kept running. And over the years she has kept on running. However, she would have never predicted a running future medaling in, or winning, many of the races she entered. In 2016, serendipity led Robyn to run almost exclusively on trails on her path to chasing distance. As a result, she has experienced her most running success. While Robyn never needed a motivator, she has used two major break ups to fuel her fire. “I break up with a guy and I go do a big race.” Her break up with her highschool sweetheart sparked her college marathon goal.When the break up got worse, the race goal intensified. In 2016 after her divorce, Robyn finished first ultra race completing a 50K. A couple of years ago, when Robyn’s schedule got tricky, she found her only time to run was late mornings during the week. This opened the door to an important partnership that would significantly change the course of her running. She had a friend with the same schedule, and he offered to be a training partner. However, there was a catch. He was a trail runner and she had to run on the trails. All winter long through the cold and the snow he and Robyn hit the trails where she gained the nickname “Crash.” She seemingly spent equally as much time on the ground as her feet courtesy of the many rocks and roots. Despite more than six months of training on the trails, Robyn she still wasn’t in love. But in May of that year she ran an eight mile trail race and placed first for women. It was both a surprise and a turning point. Winning was the biggest motivator of all. She ran the TARC trail races and won the whole series. As she noted, “When you find something you are ok at it is

kind of addictive.” Robyn “officially” considered herself a trail runner and moved her way to the front of the pack. Racing through the trails brought successes that she wasn’t finding on the roads. After being the overall women’s winner in a few 10K races, Robyn focused on longer distances. Last November she stepped up her game, completing 45 miles at Ghost Train. She wondered, could she translate the same success to longer distances?. “If I can do 45 then I can do 50. And if I can do 50 then maybe I can do 100.” But for Robyn, just finishing wasn’t enough; she wanted to lead the women. Within a month she hired Greg Souteia from At Your Pace as a running coach. She thought with a little extra push maybe Greg could help her be the women’s overall winner in a 50K. She wanted him to push her to a 100 mile race. She knew she had the spirit, but she was too busy to map it out on her own. She gave Greg a lot of credit. As a single working mom with an eightyear-old daughter, she needed him to tailor a schedule to her crazy life. He listened and she followed direction. On her own, she would never have imagined back-toback long runs or split days. Robyn’s discipline made her a good coachee. She never waivered, completing each and every workout as prescribed. In addition to Greg,

Robyn had her running partner, Patrick. Last spring, with the strictest covid measures in place, there were little options for activity besides running. Robyn and Patrick trained, raced, and planned their joint adventure to The Hamsterwheel. Robyn also never forgets to mention friends she has made in the running community who have pushed her, encouraged her, and joined her for races. There isn’t a one size fits all formula for accomplishing 100 miles. Many people target a particular race for training focus. But it was 2020, the year of Covid. Ironically training for the 100 was a great distraction, however races were continually cancelled. There were no guarantees on a race. In fact Robyn’s original race plan, the Notch View Ultra, was ultimately cancelled. She continued to register for races as they popped up to use them as building blocks for an eventual 100. Each race kept her motivated and ready. Fortunately Hamsterwheel presented itself just as Notch View Ultra was cancelled. As it turned out, the extra time and additional races were a smart addition to training. She had extra time to plan, strategize, and build an impressive race resume along the way. In terms of her training, Robyn had done everything right. She ran backto-back long runs. If a race was cancelled she replaced it with an equivalent training day. And she registered for the Midstate Massive UltraTrail to introduce herself to overnight running. She was as prepared as any runner could be. Heading into the weekend of the race, she was on the heels of three major wins, the Macedonia 50K, the Angevine 50K, and the Midstate Massive 50M. She highlighted Macedonia as one of her biggest accomplishments. “What was big for me was being third overall. That was kind of cool for me that I could have stood on a podium with the men.” The Hampsterwheel race offers options for the 100. Runners choose either a 24-hour finish or a 30-hour finish and total mileage is taken into consideration. Robyn and her training partner opted for the 30 hours. While the goal was to hit 100, truthfully she wanted to see just how far she could go. The year had brought so much success that she didn’t want

to limit the possibilities. Based on past running times, it didn’t seem like the 24 hours would give her that option. There would be nothing worse than getting that far and just missing the mark. With her big green tent, gear, andenough food to last the journey Robyn set out prepared to conquer Hamsterwheel.

Part II Running coach, Jason Koop wrote “All reasonably healthy individuals can locomote at the necessary speed to beat the cutoffs for any ultramarathon. I say this not as an opinion but as a biomechanical fact. The preferred walking speed for the average human is around a 19-minute mile (Levine and Norenzayan 1999; Browning and Kram 2005; Mohler et al. 2007). With a little effort, one can easily achieve 18-minute miles, which is a pace that would yield a 30-hour 100-mile finish.� By those statistics everyone should finish, yet that is not the reality. The course, the sleep deprivation, and most notably, the mind are not included in the math. Internal and

external factors combine to test runners’ abilities to cross the finish line. Robyn was not naïve. She realized she could face the unexpected. Like many of us she heard the stories of blindness, delirium, kidney trouble, and general unhappiness that produced a DNF. She just wouldn’t let her brain go to that place. “I am the type of person where I need them to tell me to stop. I’m not going to stop on my own… If I get to a place where

I can’t run, I am going to walk so as long as I keep moving forward.” A fresh mind thinks much differently and post- race reflection offers different clarity. But when you are in the race and have started to lose your cognitive function, this is when you meet your challenge. Like all runners, Robyn realized that the 100-mile is humbling. For the first 60 miles, everything was great. Robyn and Patrick were ahead of schedule. The food plan of Tailwind and Clif Bloks was working, and

the pace was just right. But nighttime is where things started to fall apart. The 70-degree New Hampshire day quickly dropped to a frigid 39-degree night and Robyn’s spirit dropped along with it. She became hyperaware of the temperature and all she could think about was finding different ways to stay warm. It was here that she altered her food and ate something hot. Unsure if it was mental or the actual change of diet, her body started feeling unwell and she didn’t use much in the way of nutrition going forward. The actual temperature combined with Robyn’s exhaustion found her at her lowest point between mile 68 and 76. During this time the running slowed to a walk only further magnifying the cold she was feeling. It was around this time that she experienced what it felt like to fall asleep while walking. Thankfully their pacers kept her and Patrick upright and on course, but Robyn and Patrick needed some sleep. Despite altering the initial plan by adding a brief nap, hindsight let Robyn realize that their nap happened at the perfect time. They closed their eyes just shy of sunrise, and although it was only for 40 minutes, when they awoke, mentally it felt like a new day. The site of the sun was uplifting. Although her body felt better and the air was starting to warm, she didn’t fully shake the mental frustration. “I felt really, really guilty about taking a nap because it wasn’t something I accounted for, so that convinced me that I wasn’t going to finish within 30 hours. I was totally convinced. And so the pacers were listening to me ‘I’m just really nervous were not going to do it. I just really think we’re not going to do it.’ And one of them had to stop me and say ‘listen you’ve been training for this for a year and we’re aware of that. You have us up here to help you. If you’re cutting it close we’re gonna make you go faster. So can we worry about the pace and can you not.’ And I was like, ‘you promise you’re not going to let me fail.’ ‘We promise we are not going to let you fail. This means too much to you. And you mean too much to us. So it’s not gonna happen.’ And then it was fine. But for a good lap and a half I would not shut up about it. When you are tired, not feeling well, and you are watching the clock tick down on the finish line of a yearlong goal, your mind can go to a bad place. By mile

80 Robyn had transitioned from the fear of not finishing to a fear of what was happening to her body. “I couldn’t really think very well, so then I just started to get scared…. Once I got to the 80 miles and knew I would hit the 100 then the next problem was ‘are you doing serious bodily harm to yourself?” Despite the fear and the low points, Robyn had her favorite moment of the race as she reached her 100 miles. She FaceTimed her daughter so they could end the race together. As Robyn ran the course, she let her daughter see the same view and so she could run in place from afar with her mom. Although she didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of the accomplishment, her last minute support gave Robyn a tremendous high for the end of the emotional rollercoaster. Truthfully Robyn wanted to use her 30 hours to exceed the 100-mile goal. She wanted to use all of the allotted 30 hours to achieve a record. Although she should have felt immensely proud and relieved post- race, she had an inkling of disappointment. “Psychologically I felt defeated when I didn’t hit the 125, which was the initial goal. Looking back I am still pretty proud of how we did. I still get the buckle. There is not a ton I would change other than how hard I was being on myself. I actually think if I was less hard on myself when it wasn’t going well I think I could have actually done better. Because I wouldn’t have been ‘just get through 100 and you’re done.’ I would have been ‘no you’re actually ok. Go a little further.’ That is the biggest thing I would do differently next time.” She hit her 100. She got her belt, but she left some time on the clock. Post- race reflection was important. Robyn was proud. However she also had new knowledge of herself as a runner. To have a running goal is important, but choosing the right race is a huge factor. The challenging trail terrain that earned her the name “Ccrash” also built her into a technical runner who excels at challenging courses. Hamsterwheel is an almost entirely flat out and back course, which was great for Robyn’s first 100. It allowed her to have her own aid station without carrying too many provisions. It offered a great environment for camaraderie and support. How-

ever the course didn’t provide any mental distraction. Just like the hamster on the wheel, nothing really changed with each lap. “It was cool that for the first 12 hours I could keep seeing friendly faces. And that’s why I lined up the pacers to start when the 12-hour race finished…But I got to a point that I just thought “not again, I just don’t want to do this much again. It is so boring.” And it is repetitive pounding. “I like roots. I like rocks. I like being able to kind of climb on things. I like getting to points where I have to use my hands just to get through. You know that’s what I like. So this wasn’t my type of course but it was still a wonderful day.” It should also be noted that Hamsterwheel isn’t necessarily a race. The ultimate winner might not have the fastest splits, but he or she will have accumulated the most miles. So what’s next for this goal oriented runner? Now knowing the 100 is achievable Robyn looks forward to a course where she can actually race the distance. Though a 100 won’t be her first race out

of the gate in 2021, She targeted a 100k for that, but it will be on the list. “The cool thing about running a100 miles is now I feel like there’s no race I can’t try to do, right? So now maybe I’ll start looking into the qualifiers for western states and things like that. As so many trail runners have discovered, Robyn learned running steep gradients, dodging roots and stumps, slogging through mud, and leaping over rocks all while chasing a medal in the fellowship of friendly competitors is addictive.

The percentage of female trail runners has doubled from 2013-2019. Women now make up 26% of trail race participants.

Adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you. -Marcus Purvis

Shannon Siragusa


While the majority of the world connects through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, many runners use Strava. In Simsbury, CT, Shannon Siragusa sits atop the leader board, women’s or men’s, on numerous Strava road segments. This lead to wondering, who is Shannon Siragusa? Shannon is a sub 3-hour marathoner with thousands of miles on her shoes. At the age of 45, she has only gotten faster and stronger with each year. In fact, from 2013 to 2018, Shannon shed 20 minutes off her official marathon times. So, how did Shannon become such a dynamic runner?

“I am a giant running nerd. I love everything about it. What the American women have achieved these last few years has just been inspiring. I think it has inspired the tiers down from them. I know it has me. To see what they can achieve, like when Shalane Flanagan crosses the finish line, just to see women in that strength mode, when she’s cursing across the finish line, I just

loved that. I thought that was awesome. I am just at that generation where women were just starting. I was on the first all-girls’ soccer team in my town. So you see women claiming this physical strength that I think is awesome.” Law School, marriage, and motherhood caused Shannon’s running to become sporadic and casual. But in 2013, in her 30’s, she reentered the marathon field and was pleasantly surprised by her results. Instantly running was a focus again. This last year Shannon ran almost 3000 miles, enough to cover the distance from San Diego, CA to her hometown of Simsbury, CT. There has been extra time to train, but no road races to run. “I think I strive on structure. When I don’t have to think about what I am doing, I end up in the medium zone.” Since 2014, Shannon has followed her coach’s training plan. As a result

she accomplished running times she never expected. “Some people train to race. I race to train.” It seems like she has found the right training formula to be a dynamic competitor in the Master Class of 40 and above. Shannon started running as a little girl. It was an activity she loved to share with her dad. She became quite adept at the sport and quickly surpassed his speed. Yet they were equally-passionate runners. Shannon’s talent led her to run in high school. Despite not running her senior year due to a double whammy of Lyme Disease and Mono, she headed off to Boston College to run. Sadly Shannon was unable to fully recover from her illnesses. She couldn’t find her joy or her strength for running, so she left the team to focus on her studies. But in the summer of 2013, a terminal cancer diagnosis for her dad reignited her running career. Shannon’s dad had run the Steamtown Marathon, in Scranton, PA, 6 times. Though she would have loved to run it with him, she was determined to run it for him. Thanks to a compassionate race director, Shannon got a slot in the already full marathon. Her dad was there to cheer her on. Most runners consider it a success to break 4 hours in a marathon. A new tier for success would be 3:30 or less. With merely two months of training, Shannon reemerged in the marathon world with a time of 3:13:50. She placed 3rd in her class and qualified to run the Boston Marathon. Boston was the dream race for her dad. Shannon could have stopped there. Boston is the dream for so many runners. She could have run Boston that spring. But Shannon is a fierce competitor and her biggest competition is herself. “My older daughter, who was 9 at the time, noticed that I didn’t qualify for, I think, a 30 year old man. She asked, ‘Mom why didn’t you run that?’ And I thought, yeah, why didn’t I?! So my goal was to qualify for anybody, man, woman, any age, which at the time was a 3:05.” Steamtown gave her the jumpstart she needed. Shannon ramped up her training and continued to enter races for her dad. Sharing her success with him was a good distraction. The following fall, Shannon was the women’s overall winner at the Simsbury Iron Horse Half

Marathon, and she placed 7th overall in the Baystate Marathon in Massachusetts. In just a year of racing, she accomplished a finish time of 3:03:48. This time was 37 minutes faster than was needed for her age group and 2 minutes ahead of that “anybody” qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. Initially racing was just for her dad, but now it was for herself. Sadly her dad passed away before he could see her run Boston, but her year of success had her excited to race and to set new and ambitious goals. With the right training, Shannon knew she was capable of more. If she could run fast and strong when underprepared, what would be possible with hard training? Shannon set her sights on a sub 3-hour time. “I wasn’t training intelligently. I will train too hard. I am all over the place. So I hired a coach for structure.” She contacted Run S.M.A.R.T. to find a coach who could provide a tailored plan and better direction. “I would be stuck in this medium zone of just running medium…I knew intellectually of what I was supposed to do but I was just out there, and I go into this default pace. I would just go into a 7:15, 7:15. I could never push hard enough on the hard days and slow enough on the easy days. But that was the best thing that hiring a coach did.” Since 2014 her workouts and her excitement earned her impressive accolades. While she did not run a sub 3-hour Boston Marathon, she finally crushed that time at the Hartford Marathon in 2018. Shannon finished first in the women’s master class and 7th for the women overall with a time of 2:54:57 min. Statistics state that only 2% of marathoners finish with a sub 3-hour time. Welcome to the elite class! For those who do not run, it is important to note that only a small percentage of marathoners qualify for Boston. Shannon’s 2015 Boston Marathon was her first of 4 consecutive. As she says, “I have a love/hate relationship with Boston. I love the last two turns, and I cry every time, which is not good when you are finishing a marathon. But I have had the absolute worst weather every time.” In 2018 marathoners experienced the coldest temperatures in the last 30 years, heavy rain, and wind gusts of more than 25 miles an hour. “It was the worst weather I have ever run in, period. And I run out-

side all year.” Shannon crossed finish line at 3:01:31. Despite a 6th place finish in her division, she knew she could have done better, and she was so close to finally hitting her sub 3-hour goal. Even Boston’s overall winners finished with the slowest winning times in decades. Six months later Shannon’s personal record at the Hartford Marathon reinvigorated her desire for redemption in Boston in 2019. Despite that sliver of hate for Boston, she couldn’t seem to stop. Ironically, Shannon doesn’t sign up for many races. As she said, the races are her excuse for her hard training. It is the process she most enjoys. She is truly motivated by racing against herself. Shannon’s reflection on her accomplishment puts the focus on her specific and guided training. “Each workout I would see on paper and I would think there was no way I could do it, and then I would do it and I would be so excited.” She is never afraid to push herself. “I like the hard stuff. I get a little nervous for it…but my favorites are the long fast runs, the 16 miles at a marathon pace.” However the

most important takeaway from hiring her coach was the merit of true recovery days. Though it is hard to slow herself down, it has helped significantly. “When you train smarter you appreciate whatever day is coming on the schedule.” Hard training can lead to success but it can also lead to injury and heartache. Boston 2019 was supposed to be the year of redemption. It was the year she knew she could shed that extra minute and a half. But one week shy of the race, an injury forced her to withdraw and stopped her racing for almost the entire year. Despite a tough year of running, Shannon was incredibly proud of her only race in 2019. She ran the Manchester Road Race and finished 2nd in the masters class. While she would have liked to come in first, she is comforted by the fact that she finished behind world champion marathoner, Edna Kiplagat, who was also the overall winner for the women. In 2019, it was Shannon’s body that derailed her Boston goals. This last year it was Covid. “Time is not my friend right now. It was always a reach goal, but I would like to break 2:50.” Shannon may look to the elite, American women as inspiration, but Shannon is inspirational herself. In less than a decade since rediscovering her passion and aptitude for running she has proven that age is no match for determination.

Left: Art Byram Right: Shan Riggs

Shan Runs Across America Shan


Shan Runs Across America


Mitch Morris

finding the joy

In September, Steep Endurance hosted a 12K at Macedonia State Park in Kent, CT. With a time of 59:13, Mitch Morris finished first. He crossed the line 7 minutes and 45 seconds ahead of the 2nd place runner and 9 minutes and 33 seconds ahead of the previous year’s winning time. But he wasn’t done. Two weeks later, at Angevine Farm, Steep Endurance hosted a half marathon. In his first-ever half marathon, Mitch finished first with a time of 1:32:39 and beat the previous winning time by almost 11 minutes. It is important to note that Macedonia consisted of technical single-track trails, an actual climb up Cobble Mountain, and steep descent. Angevine Farm offered over 1800’ of elevation, and as Mitch says, “the least classy race to the finish I have ever done.” Why? The race ended with an incredibly steep, vertical climb that resulted in a run/walk to the finish. Despite the course, Mitch ran a 7:04 pace. After two back-to-back wins, Mitch’s performance piqued our curiosity. We wanted to learn more about Mitch. While quite mature, Mitch is young. It’s been only a year and a half since he graduated from Williams College. However he already has a long-running resume. For the majority of the last six years, Mitch has been racing for nationally ranked teams. From cross country to indoor track to outdoor track,

Mitch trained year-round since he joined his high school’s state championship team his Junior year. For six years coaches and team goals dictated every run. He has battled a foot injury, sesamoiditis, aggravated by constant pounding on hard surfaces. The races and training was consistent and exhausting. It was hard to find any enjoyment in the sport. Though he loved running, he needed to take a breath. Mitch is from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, long associated with running thanks to Champion marathoner, Joan Benoit Samuelson. Samuelson, a Cape Elizabeth native, founded the Beach to Beacon 10K in 1998. Mitch grew up with the race right outside his front door. Being an athlete is in the genes. Mitch is from a family of football players, and he started soccer at a young age. The dream was to play in college. In high school, Mitch’s performance in the Beach to Beacon 10K caught the attention of the cross country coach. His time rivaled the top runners’ on his school’s champion-

ship team. But Mitch’s heart was with soccer. It would take a year for him to make the switch. Once Mitch joined the cross country team, he hit the ground running. (Ha!) His natural talent and drive instantly landed him in the top 5 on a team defending a state title. There was high expectation day one, and Mitch never wanted to disappoint. Upon reflection, Mitch realized he was never allowed to be a new runner. In September Mitch ran his first race, and by December, he was contacted by recruiters. He ultimately joined Williams College’s nationally ranked XC team. There expectation only grew. Running became an obligation and was no longer fun. After graduation, Mitch started teaching and coaching cross country at Salisbury School in Western, CT. Last March the school switched to remote learning, so Mitch returned home to Maine. Suddenly he had extra time for himself. For the first time, maybe ever, Mitch’s ran purely for enjoyment. “The compet-

itive side is fun but not really why I do it.” Instead of hard workouts on the roads, he explored the trails. The soft ground was good for his foot, and he liked to explore nature. It was reenergizing. As his enthusiasm increased, so did his miles. Amassing over 2000 miles in 2020, Mitch was having fun.“If it hadn’t been for Covid I would not have been doing what I have been doing. I would be doing more competitive road races. If it were not for my girlfriend I would not be racing period. It was a good reminder that I can do it, and I should probably keep up with the competitive side.” Mitch is fast, disciplined, and full of natural talent, and there is still a competitor in him. Over years of competitive racing, Mitch’s mental toughness developed his strategy for success. If he is racing, be prepared for him to take it wire-to-wire. “If you are the best runner, you should just take it wire-to-wire. The reason the best runner sometimes loses, I think, is that they are too afraid to make it hurt right off the bat. So they keep people who are not as good as them within striking distance. And maybe they are not the best at closing down the races.” This competitive strategy of remaining in the lead from start to finish worked for both of his September races. “One way I can lose is by being nervous and being afraid to go out hard from the gun.” Mitch will push hard at the start, so he doesn’t have to overtake someone at the end. While this is a risky strategy for some, it proved successful for Mitch’s first half marathon. The wins at Macedonia and Angevine started him thinking about his running career again. “I think there is more in my running future. Working with the right group of people could bring that out of me. And if I don’t, it will just kind of never happen.” Now Mitch is at a crossroads. He wants to continue to love his running, but he also doesn’t want any regrets. He still has big goals, which will require tough training. So what are Mitch’s goals? Despite the many miles he has run, he never raced a half or full marathon on the roads; and he wants to. He is curious to see how he would fare against Olympic marathoners. Mitch is a fierce competitor. “If I am going to do it, I want to do

it my way. I have learned that 130-mile weeks on paved roads will probably break all the bones in my feet all over again. My dream situation is being able to run no more than 70 miles a week, remain healthy, and still be able to enjoy every run. And, ideally, get back [to a place] where I can make the Olympic trials without having to start hating running or making it feel like a chore or obligation.” Qualifying for the Olympic trails requires a qualifying pace of 5:20. The first goal is to run a half marathon at this pace and then translate it into the full for a 2:11 marathon time to qualify. Ultimately Mitch wants to find a coach who can build a smart training plan that won’t compromise his body or his passion. While Mitch’s running was more calculated in college, he believes he is a better runner now. Finding running fun again actually bolstered his physical and mental toughness. “On a good day when everything is clicking, and you feel good, I think that’s one of the things that keeps me going. It feels like I am doing a thing that I was born to do. When you are feeling really good, and everything is just kind of flowing like that, my body never feels like it’s in so much rhythm with how its meant to be. It feels very natural, and good, in a way that just about nothing else does.” Mitch clearly has a natural talent for running. It will be exciting to see what becomes of his running career.

Running is a grownup’s lost link to playing outside -Kristin Armstrong

Runners on average are getting older average age of runners in 1986 was 35.2 and in 2018 it is 39.3. This could be due to the fact, that runners have longer racing careers, and also that people are welcome to start racing at an older age. *statistics according to runrepeat.com


Last year needed more smiles and more fun; and Marc Kelly lives for fun. At both the Blue-To-Blue 50K and Macedonia 50K races, Marc crossed the finish line wearing his tie. Some athletes are superstitious. Jason Giambi had a tiger-striped gold thong. Serena Williams wears stinky socks for entire tournaments. Rip Hamilition wore a face mask long after it was necessary. The list goes on. There are likely immeasurable quirky rituals of everyday athletes that we will never know. Maybe you have one?! As for Marc’s necktie, it could easily be mistaken for a crazy superstition. But, alas, like Marc, the tie is just for a laugh, good story, and hopefully, a conversation starter.

“Stories are a currency. When you are talking to people, the most fun thing to do is to listen to their goofy stories and then trade one, because we’ve all done stupid things, or fun things, or crazy, hard things, and to hear those stories amongst each other it’s the most fun. Just to sit around and drink a beer and talk trash and have a little fun and trade a little story. I’ve only got a hundreds on this earth max, live, have fun, try something.” Live to at least 100, be a kid for life, and have a “why not?” attitude seem like good goals. However you can’t make to 100, if you aren’t in good shape. Growing up Marc was always involved in a sport, but the running he hated. As he got older, life got busier, and it was difficult to put together a team, or play a pick up game on a whim. Running was something he could do anywhere, anytime, and feel good that he accomplished something. So now Marc is a runner, and he runs a lot. However he hasn’t quite abandoned the team sport mentality. Over the years, Marc has immersed himself in his local, trail running community. Often he will go on his long runs with others. It was on one of these runs where the tie made its debut. During a run with friends, a dialogue emerged about creating a run from Castle Craig in Meriden, CT to the Heublein Tower in Simsbury, CT. The run would need a name. From the banter and idea bouncing came “Tower to

Tower Tuxedo Tie Run,” a tongue-torturing name for a torturous run. While they did the tower-to-tower run, it was sans tuxedo. But Marc did wear a tie. That tie sat in Marc’s gym bag for years. Each time he opened the bag, he thought, “I should just be an idiot and throw the tie on.” Last summer, Live Loud Running hosted the virtual race, Escape From Castle Craig. Marc and 3 friends opted to run the 24-hour relay starting, yet again, at Castle Craig. When Marc began the fourth leg of the journey, this time he wore the tie. He just wanted to make his friends laugh. He ran and posed with the tie; and he got the laughs. So when it came time to run the Macedonia 50K, he looked at the tie and thought “why not?” Marc isn’t a tie guy. His job doesn’t require him to wear one. Instead of having them to collect dust in his closet, he is now using them to collect memories. Yes, the ties have been washed. And yes, he has worn different ones for different races. According to Marc, some days just call for one tie over another. He had a favorite that wasn’t getting use, so he thought it would be perfect for the race. Marc wanted to spark a good conversation. Logically, he assumed that wearing a tie would result in lots of commentary. “Make fun of me. I think it’s awesome.” Ironically, weird attire and costumes are not uncommon to the running world. “Occasionally I get a comment from people I know. I was waiting for someone to pick on me. But everybody is doing something goofy. You are so uncomfortable at the start line, regardless. You don’t notice anything else. When you are done you are so hollowed out you don’t care.” Despite the lack of dialogue around the tie, Marc is sticking with it. It is seemingly became a race day ritual. Perhaps giving the tie a story has ensured its future. If you run into Marc make sure to tell him just how weird, cool, or ugly his tie might be. He will appreciate it. 2020 needed joy and some light-heartedness. Runners, like Marc, who run to have fun, to be amongst people, and to put a smile on a stranger’s face are the exactly what the world needed. Stories of people who brought fun, personality, and spirit kept us positive during a year with so much difficulty.

It is nice to see someone show up with an anything-goes mentality, physical toughness, and a pure joy for running. Lastly, if you wondered if it is difficult to run in a necktie, Marc assured us that it is actually nice to have something to wipe away the sweat. Maybe he is onto something?

in september 2017, a 25 year old attorney from austrailia set the guiness world record for a marathon in a three-piece suit. matthew witaker averaged a 6:16 pace in his wool suit. he was also required to keep all buttons buttoned up! He crossed the finish line at 2:44:28. guiness rules: competitor in full suit must wear jacket, waistcoats, trousers (suit pants), tie, shirt, and socks. If any article of clothing is removed, the attempt is disqualified.�

HADLEY & IZZY is it in the DNA?

On September 27th 2020, Isabel crossed the finish line of the Angevine Farm half marathon 8 seconds ahead of her dad, Hadley. It would be difficult to determine who was more excited or proud. The small trail race, less than 120 people, was an unintimidating venue for her first half. However this did not mean it was easy. In fact, the course description stated “an iconic climb to the finish.� With 1843 feet of elevation, and an epic hill for the finish, even the most seasoned runners were challenged. But despite all the obstacles, at the mere age of 10, Izzy added half marathon to her running resume. And, she experienced it all with her dad. There is already so much to admire about Izzy. Few people can run a half marathon, and the mental toughness required is often gained with age.

Though an athlete, she is not a runner per se. She entered the race completely unsure of her capabilities. Along the way, there were low points and high points, but when it was all over she said she would do it again. As parents and runners, we wanted to know how Hadley motivated Izzy for this feat. We can’t lie; we were hoping for a road map to use with our kids! What cultivates a long distance runner or a determined athlete? Is it the nurture or could it just be the nature? Posing this question to Hadley and Izzy turned out to be even more interesting than expected since Izzy is a twin. Hadley and wife, Kerri, have prioritized physical activity a part of life from early on. Izzy and her twin brother are multisport athletes. “Our belief is expose the kids to stuff and you see what they like. The more you like something, the more you do something. You tend to get good at those things. If you are not having fun, let’s just stop and find something else… We firmly believe that kids should be multisport. One sport helps another sport. You are missing with different types of people and communities… As we have moved around the world, we have always made sure the kids maintain a connection to the New Zealand roots and the America roots and sports is a good way to do that.” Izzy and her brother play for two cricket clubs, two rugby clubs, do taekwondo, and have participated in hockey and football. Hadley has shifted from training for himself to coaching or

lenge for Izzy.

supporting his kids. However this last year with Covid sports looked much different with many of the sports games canceled. So when Hadley saw the half marathon, he thought it could be a fun experience and a good chal-

Hadley, never shied away from testing his limits. The family has lived in multiple countries, and he has raced all over the world. “Running is quite a good way to see the world. You can pick a race that is interesting and go… For me to remain vaguely competitive, I find more and more obscure and poorly attended events, which are typically longer and in more interesting places. So, it kinda works.” Hadley has run multiple ultras. In fact he placed 9th in the 2019 Racing the Planet New Zealand*. Yet these days, the kids’ sports always come first. “You have your kids and your appetite for risk is different now. So running is easy because it is low maintenance. You do whatever life sort of allows. Unless the kids want to do it, I just won’t do it. I’ll find something they want to do. There is no pressure. “But wouldn’t it be fun to do something?” This was how he presented a half marathon to Izzy. He had no plans to participate unless she joined him. In order to avoid Izzy overthinking the challenge, she was given just 24 hours to decide on registering. For Hadley, there was never doubt that Izzy could finish. Nevertheless, he assured her that they would go at her pace. They would run when she want*Racing the Planet NZ is a self-supported, 150K, 6-day ultra marathon through the South Island with 10,000 meters of elevation. www.racingtheplanet.com

ed to run and walk when she wanted to walk. There were no goals or expectations; it was simply a fun challenge to do together. “I like this stuff for giving the kids a baseline on discomfort. ‘That was hard, so actually what is in front of me now, I’ve done harder stuff before.’” Izzy had some trepidation heading into the race. Sleep was a bit challenging the night before. She didn’t eat much for breakfast. And they were likely the first participants to arrive, so there was plenty of time to work up the nerves. Since there would be so many unknowns, Hadley wanted to control what he could. “I was carrying a bag on my back that I would carry for a 5-day, self-supported run. But I wanted to make sure that no matter what Izzy asked for, if she wanted water, or coke, or meat, or sweets, or anything, I had it all in there. I was like the buffet cart kinda cruising around.” For 3 hours and 17 min and 52 seconds, Izzy experienced lots of emotions. After falling for a second time, bleeding from the knees, and crying, Izzy had a low moment where she didn’t want to go on. But, it was dad’s pep talk that moved her forward. “There was a point I wanted to stop. Dad told me, ‘there will be some happy spots in the race, but here will be dark spots. This is a dark spot. Remember how these dark spots feel because there will be a time in your life, maybe next week, maybe next month, school feels kinda hard or something else feels kinda hard. [You can remember this.] It is good to have a reference point.” Izzy picked herself up and finished. When it was over, she was able to take in the whole experience around her. She enjoyed wood-fired pizza with a

view of the beautiful tree farm and picnicked on the many snacks that were provided by dad and the race. She saw the whole event was an experience, and in the end, she realized it was great. As parents, listening to Izzy’s half marathon experience was interesting. Both she and her brother are active kids. They participate in the same number of sports. They are parented exactly the same. They even have the same birthday. However, Izzy has an innate drive and propensity for running that is not shared by her brother. In all sport, when it applies to running, amongst her peers, she is often leading the way. According to Hadley, “You’ve got to find your own way. You’ve got to find what works for you, and you can’t have people telling you all the time, do this, don’t do that because you won’t know where the boundaries are. Kids should be able to climb trees and jump off them and sometimes they are going to break something. But then they learn how high they can climb and jump.” Hadley and Kerri have no interest in setting their kids up for failure, but they allow them to fail. Izzy completed the half marathon just as her dad believed she would, and she came out stronger. She left the race excited for another one. In fact her enthusiasm was so infectious that she had her brother pondering a race in the future. That Monday, still ecstatic over her accomplishment, she proudly wore her medal to school. Mental strength and perseverance seem to be in her nature, and for Hadley, he knows that is something to be nurtured.

In September 2014, nikolas toocheck became the youngest person to finish a marathon on all 7 continents (He also ran on Antarctica twice). alongside his dad, he started his endeavor at the age of 9. In addition to running, he raised over $42,000 for his grandfather’s charity, Operation Warm. www.nikrunstheworld.com

Brian Vanderheiden

HEART OF THE RACE There is much to share about Brian Vanderheiden as a runner. His running resume dates back to his childhood when his dad introduced him to the sport. Through the years, Brian ran countless races, marathons and ultras including three 100 hundred mile races, Virginia’s Massanutten Mountain Trails, The Vermont 100, and the Western States. However, for this article, Brian’s contribution to the running community is highlighted. Last year deserved special recognition. When the 2020 race season looked all but dead, Brian pumped life back into it. It would have been easy to skip the race season. Brian’s race company, Steep Endurance, is a time-consuming passion, but not his full time job. However, Brian was determined to host races in 2020. Two aspects of running that Brian really enjoys are distance and trails. In his 40’s Brian started running Ultra marathons. He had been training for years on trails. So the swtich from road marathons to trail ultras seemed like a logical move. It didn’t take long for him to love being apart of the ultra community. Here he found a group of people who were welcoming and understanding to runners of all ability. The group was for community and the joy of running above all else. As Brian found himself training for long

races and traveling great distances to compete in 100-mile races, he wished there were more races closer to home. He consistently trained at Steep Rock Preserve in Washington Depot, CT and loved the terrain. This started him thinking about a trail race in the preserve. So, he planned one; and so began his race company. Though he wasn’t racing through the preserve, he was even happier hosting it. Brian is not an idle person. He works full time as tennis instructor for New Canaan Racquet Club. He also is a husband, dad of a teenage son, and avid runner. Each year he runs races at the start of the year, so he can host races in the height of the running season. So why does Brian dedicate his free time to hosting races? Simply put, he wants to be an ambassador for the trail community. Running the trails was not something Brian knew much about in his younger days. But once he began trail running, all of his training and runs gravitated toward trails. When he joined the ultra community, his passion for running only increased. It brought him so much fun and joy that he is committed to sharing it with others through his races. The Steep Endurance mission is to create races that feature unique locations and experiences. Brian wanted his races to be different and to inspire runners to explore somewhere new. When he formulates a new course, one of the first thoughts is how he can create a course that is like no other. If someone runs a Steep Endurance race, he or she is sure to encounter a little bit of everything. If his race is a runner’s first trail race experience, Brian wants to en-

sure that it is memorable and the runner is introduced to all that the trails have to offer. It is Brian’s attention to detail that makes his races both challenging and fun. At his Macedonia State Park race in September, Brian took time to add a rope to a steep rock face to keep the course interesting but a tad less scary. This last year, while runners hoped for races, Brian worked to make them a reality. He spent hours communicating with the state and towns to ensure compliance for Covid-safe races. This meant extra equipment, new aid station plans, and additional time communicating guidelines with participants. Organizing a race takes work. There are permits, safety considerations, EMS and fire marshall coordination as well as purchasing aid station supplies, and flagging courses. In a pandemic year, there are more. As the state adapted its safety measures, Brian had to do the same. Although he was unable to host all the races he planned, he held 5 in person races. Since not all of his in person races were possible, he created interesting virtual races as well. He hosted 4 of those. On June 13th he spent almost 20 hours on zoom as Race Director for his “Beat the Clock” challenge. Runners from all over the country competed to be the last person standing. As runners, we show up. The race starts, and we are immersed in our personal experience from the start line to the finish. For Brian, he is immersed in everyone else’s. His hard work ensured that runners had an opportunity to hit the trails for a fun and safe experiences in 2020. You can check out his company, Steep Endurance at www.steependurace.com to learn more about his events, coaching, and trail-racing team. Hopefully you will check out one of the races in person.

Hubbard River Trail

Where do you run?

The Hubbard River Trail Whenever I’m in a running rut, or craving a fun run, I head to the Hubbard River Trail. For me, there is nothing better than running along a beautiful cascading stream. I love the combination of the calming nature of flowing water and the constant eye candy. Most of the trail is located in the Granville State Forest in MA. However, I like to access the trail in Hartland, CT. There is a small, dirt lot on Route 20 for easy access. You can enter “Hubbard River take-out” or “Millstone Rd.” in Google maps. My go-to route is 8.2 miles with 800 feet of elevation gain. Start from the Rt. 20 parking and head up stream on the dirt road for 2/3 of a mile. The dirt road will make a left hand turn crossing the stream. Just past this crossing, the road will get a bit steeper and you will turn left onto the start of the H.R.T. Sadly there is no signage at the turn, but 3-4 large rocks that block vehicles from the trail is your marker. Continue on the H.R.T staying on the blue triangle trail (again, not many markings). Follow the trail upstream as it passes many small waterfalls. The trail is relatively easy in terms of footing. But like most New England trails, it gets rocky in some areas. The trail follows the stream the entire way up. So, if you find yourself too far from the water, you have taken a wrong turn. After approx.. 2 miles, the trail will turn into a thin forest road. Continue to follow the stream towards W. Hartland Rd. Once you reach road make a left over the bridge and take immediate left just before a parking lot onto another paved forest road heading downstream. Essentially you are crossing the river and turning back on the opposite side of the water. After a half mile you will pass a pretty spot to make a quick turn off to view the largest waterfall (pictured here). Continue heading downstream on the paved road, past a sign for the Camp Trail until it reconnects with a single-track trail and heads over a small, wood bridge. A few hundred feet past the bridge the trail will intersect with the Halfway Brook Trail where you will take a right, heading up a smaller but steeper stream. The trail heads more drastically uphill towards West Hartland Rd. and the campground for the Granville State Forest. You can either take a right just before West Harland Rd. over a small bridge towards the campground, or take a right onto West Hartland Rd. and head into the campground. From there, you will travel through the campground (Here you can find water and bathrooms during

operating months.) and onto the Camp Trail. The Camp trail descends quickly towards the paved road you were just on. Take a left, after a few hundred feet you will notice that waterfall junction. Head upstream on the dirt path back to West Hartland Rd. Take a right onto W. Hartland Rd. and your immediate right onto the paved forest road just past the bridge. Enjoy the next 2.7 miles downstream as you descend back to your car! There are numerous options to extend your adventure. This area has many single-track trails as well as seldom traveled dirt roads. During blueberry season visit Bahre Pond where you will find countless blueberry bushes. To find them take the turn onto Bahre Pond Trail from West Hartland Road. Once you see the Pond on your right, go another 100 feet and just look to your left and right. Though I have tried to be detailed and precise in description, it never hurts to bring a map or phone in case you get mixed up.

Exploring New Places

Part of the joy in running is exploration. A change of scenery is good for the soul . Often we find ourselves running the same few places over an over. We want to highlight different areas in hopes of featuring a location that is new to some. For this issue, we hit the trails of the Tunxis State Forest and the Granville Forest. We would love to know where you run. Send us a message, and we’ll come check it out.

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul

-John Muir

Q&A with our runners If you could run with anyone, who would it be? robyn: She would love to be able to run with her dad who passed away a few years ago. Shannon: Her dad was her inspiration and favorite running partner. She would love another run with him. Mitch: Barack Obama Marc: His teenage daughter, Maya, isn’t much of a runner, but she definitely experiences the post-run high that has her enthusiastic and fun. It is Marc’s favorite thing to see. Brian: Kilian Jornet Izzy: Her best friend, Alice, lives in Australia and she misses playing a game of rugby with her. She would choose that over just a run. Hadley: Putin for a long run so there is enough time to ask some questions.

If you were quaratined in your house, what would you need with you? Robyn: A treadmill Shannon: Twitter for her news Mitch: Books Marc: Good pizza, beer, and coffee Brian: A treadmill Izzy: Funyuns and her dog, Piper Hadley: Monopoly to entertain the family

Where is your favorite local place to run? Where would you like to go back to run? Robyn: “I would say my favorite local trail is the approximately 7 mile trail loop around Whitehall Reservoir in Hopkinton, MA. This past summer I ran the 12 peaks of the Belknap Range in New Hampshire and it was a lot of fun and quite beautiful! It was roughly 19 miles all together.” Shannon: “So, my favorite place to run is probably by the tobacco barns in Simsbury. There’s a section on firetown rd where MLK Jr. stayed during his time working in Simsbury when he was in high school. I just love running by those barns. (A little side note...a few years ago my husband got me a painting of the barns on Firetown for my birthday—painted by a local artist. I’m not sure how it came up, but he mentioned to the artist that I like to run by there and she said the photo she took to originally paint the picture had a runner in it. Anyway, she sent the original photo to us and it was me!) And as far as a place/trail I’d like to go back to...it’s probably Canyonlands National Park in Utah. A couple of years ago, our family went on a western car trip to various national parks. I wasn’t planning on running that day, but as we were driving through the park to our planned hike, I asked my husband to stop the car and said I just had to run the rest of the way. The views were incredible...I felt like I was literally on top of the world and could run forever. I just loved that feeling and would love to do that again!” Mitch: “When I’m at Salisbury, I do a good amount of running on the Appalachian Trail section that goes north and south from town. It’s a great section with run-able trails and good views in both directions... I can go north 2 miles and reach Lion’s Head and South 3.5 miles and reach Rand’s View. I also like running on Barnum Street, Foley Road, and the other dirt

roads just across the border in Sheffield, MA. With my history of foot stress fractures I love that I can run totally on soft surfaces while I’m in Salisbury.” Marc: My Fav local trail would probably be the Metacomet. It’s super close to my house (some of it anyway) and there is a ton of variety. It has sections that are torturous and painful yet others where you can open up and fly. Especially at Penwood and Hubbard Park. A trail that I want to get back to, Pemi loop. I went in completely unaware and unprepared. It kicked my ass but was absolutely beautiful and I had a ton of fun exploring it and my limits.” Brian: “My favorite trails are probably in the Steep Rock Preserve in Washington, CT. That’s where I’ve spent the most time over the years to get away from everyday life. As far as a place that Is live to get back to, I’d live to get back to some of the coastal trails in Oregon. We went there on vacation in 2015 and it was absolutely stunning!” Hadley: “Here is our regular local trail- a 5km loop. Beware the slippery rock, Izzys brother Ollie ended up with stitches and an immobilised knee for two weeks after a thanksgiving morning loop fall...Phillips-Lovdal Farm Preserve in Southbury, CT. A place to go back- why run the same place twice...but since you asked I would love to take Izzy here in New Zealand - out and back 28miles each way or at the out point you can catch a water taxi back. Back country huts along the way mean it can easily be done in stages, few people hike or run this, diverse terrain...also I tried the out and back one night with a mate and probably covered about 45miles before limping to the car, - so unfinished business..” www.alltrails.com/trail/new-zealand/hawke-s-bay/lake-waikaremoana-great-walk-trail?u=i

special Thanks steep endurance live loud running just keep running granby road race committee robyn, shannon, mitch, marc, shan, izzy, hadley, and brian, we loved hearing your stories. thanks for kicking off our journey.

If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get in. You just -JOHN BINGHAM run.

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Muddy Socks Issue 1  

Photography and articles highlighting runners of all ages and abilities in New England.

Muddy Socks Issue 1  

Photography and articles highlighting runners of all ages and abilities in New England.