Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting Spooky in Saugus at the Breakheart Reservation!

This weekend I decided it was time to head out and do some 'serious' trail running, and as opportunity has a keen sense of rearing its head around the corner every now and again, I was fortunate that the family was headed south to visit 'Nana' and do some trick or treating. Since Nana lives in Saugus and I was really looking for some great trails, it was not hard to ask the wife if there was any way she could drop me off in the woods for a little R&R. I know, us trail running types are an odd bunch!

I was also fairly interested in what I could do on some more technical trails with the Vibram FiveFingers, and since I really only wore the Vibrams in my other run of the week - a night time mile time trial on the roads, where my Garmin blinked out - GRRRR, I didn't think the 'barefooting' would be a problem.

So Vibrams snuggly on toes I headed out to the trail that Breakheart Dan and I had regularly started on the 2 or 3 times we have met for a jaunt on his stomping grounds.

Initially, I started on the Lodge Trail, which links with the Saugus River Trail, and found that the comfy pine-needle covered trail quickly transitioned to a little more rooty and rocky terrain. I headed over the Saugus River Bridge toward Camp Nihan, but the lack of marked trails and multitude of cut paths really inspired me to get back over the river and on to the Saugus River Trail.

One thing I both like and dislike about the Saugus River Trail is the terrain. It can be a labyrinth of twisty, turny pine-needle goodness, or it can be a nasty collection of narrow single track with lots of roots and rocks, and especially along the river bank it is along a slope, making an already tricky section that much more difficult. With that said, I don't look at difficult terrain as a detraction, it is just another part of the adventure of running on trails!

Away from the Saugus River Trail I headed over to Pearce Lake, looking very seasonal with the Autumn colors:

After taking some time to take a couple pictures I headed off toward Eagle Rock, which was actually one of the trails I was really looking forward to running.

Finding the trailhead, I was given one last chance to back out, but the vista beckoned...

(decisions, decisions...)

(Up, up, and away!)

(Bird's Eye View)

I stood atop Eagle Rock for a while, just looking at the panoramic view of the landscape in transition from Summer vitality to Winter dormancy. It really is one of the greatest times to be a New England Runner. Coming down off of Eagle Rock I was really amazed by the increased level of traction that the Vibrams were providing. Where my trail shoes leave me a little tentative on rocky descents, the lack of shoe and near Spider Man like grip on the rocks were really a bonus!

I realized I was getting short on time, as I promised the wife I'd only be about an hour, and on Halloween you should never make two kids wait to get all dressed up for a night of taking candy from strangers!

Per past runs with Breakheart Dan, I followed the Pearce Lake trail, but quickly realized the folly of my choice of escape route. The Pearce Lake Trail is actually very technical and my 'run' quickly turned into a speed hike along the shores of the Lake. I also tweeted my arch on a few too many roots and serious bruised the bottom of my right foot.

Eventually I made it back out of the trails and on to the paved path for cyclists, road runners, and elderly women :-), and decided it was the quickest way back to the parking lot. As I cruised over the path, seemingly toward the parking lot, I spied the 'Ridge Link Trail', which sounded vaguely familiar from runs with Dan, so I took it. Wrong Answer! More solid rock and irritation of an already tender right foot! The irritation inspired a sudden desire to work on my road running skills and I headed back out on the road.

The good news is that if I had continued on the Ridge Link Trail I actually would have been headed in the wrong direction altogether. The bad news is that when I emerged on the paved path, instead of going South, I headed North on the road. I didn't realize this until I found myself at the north gate of the Reservation in Wakefield.

I quickly consulted the trail map and decided that I could have in much worse shape if I was making bad decisions on actual trails, but the good thing about Breakheart is that if you stick the road, it basically loops you back to where you started. Unfortunately, I was looking at the possibility of an angry wife and two kids because here I was at the other side of the park, in an entirely different town, and just a shade off of an hour on my Garmin!

I eventually made it back to the Saugus entrance, but paid my pennance by intermittently stepping on acorns fallen from the trees shedding foliage, which wouldn't have been so bad if I had something a little more substantial guarding my bruised arch. I had hoped this would have been the smooth ride home, but alas it was just plain nuts!

I must admit my adventure in Breakheart was totally worth the bumps and the bruises. Breakheart really is a hidden jewel of the network of open spaces and hiking trails in Eastern Massachusetts. It offers all types of terrain, and is definitely an option if you want to work on some technical trail running.

The Vibrams did a decent job on the rocks, preserving traction much more than I have with my trail shoes, and the barefoot feeling is great when a sure step or quick step is needed to get over or around an obstacle. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of protection when you do catch a root or protruding rock. The experiment continues, but today was a day I would have appreciated a rock plate!

I overheard a rep from Inov8 talking about a more responsive trail shoe, which might be a nice happy medium for me on the trails, but with funds being low, I'll just have to go with the gear I have!


Dan said...

Rob, sounds like you had a good time out there. Are you sure you didn't get "lost" on purpose just to spend more time on the trails?

Sach said...

I just ordered a pair and I'm eager to try them out at Borderland State park where I usually run. Just a fyi ... They now have a trail version of the Vibram FF KSO. A little steep on the wallet at $125 however ... Check it out here