Sunday, January 3, 2010

Running in a Winter Wonderland - Revere Highlands, MA

I am often left in sudden state of wonder when I see what mother nature can do to a landscape that usually looks brown, down -trodden, and has a fairly nasty reputation of being a place where a person should not venture on their own. I was able to see this renewing and transformative power in action this weekend as I headed out for my first run of 2010.

Just when I thought we might get away with naked trails and good running for the G.A.C. Fat Ass on January 9th (Google searchers are going to have fun with the terms in the previous phrase!) New England has been dumped on over the last couple of days with numerous inches of snow with no melting in sight. It is the nice fluffy kind that can be plowed through by a gang of runners, but whether or not it will stay in that state over the course of the week is any one's guess.

Yesterday as the storm raged outside I looked at my running clothes and Kahtoola microspikes and knew I had the gear to grab a run in the weather. Though, being at my mother in law's house in Saugus, MA was a bit of a factor, because, for the most part, the house is not in close proximity to any trail systems on foot, well, except for one place...

Revere Highlands is not an official name, and as hard as I tried, I could not find a topographic map that showed a proper name for this place. It is only about .3 of a mile from my in-laws, and is accessible by an old rail bed, perfect for strapping on the Kahtoolas and not having to worry about any shallow snow on pavement or concrete. At first I was going to dub the place 'Mount Saugus', but on closer inspection, this section of terrain, made up of granite ledges, rocky single track and a criss cross of soft sand trails around and through the power lines, is actually within the borders of Revere:

This isn't a place new to me. Back when my wife and I were dating we would spend summer afternoons strolling around enjoying the weather, and she would tell me about how it was really unsafe to hang out around the power line trails at certain times of the day because it was a favored hideout for those up to no good in the area. In addition, the few times I have ventured into this 'forbidden' area to check out the trails during bright daylight hours, the place is typically strewn with beer bottles and cans, old car parts, and other pieces of trash.

Regardless of the condition and reputation, though, a raging storm and blanket of somewhat deep, newly fallen snow was enough to transform this place into a trail running playground.

The area isn't very big, so one can't get lost. A redeeming factor is the challenging terrain and sometimes steep trails. The snow made footing far less tricky, almost covering the rocks and roots to the point of acting as a cushion.
I decided to explore a little at first, finding a steep hill and doing repeats for the heck of it - which is a good sign that my inner psycho runner is coming back! After the repeats I ventured higher into the hills and felt like could touch the sky!:
The elevation must have been massive because I was having visions of a far off Shaolin Temple (where they allegedly serve over-priced Chinese food to snobs):

But then I caught my breath and oxygen was restored to my brain to enjoy the panorama of the real-life snow globe:
From the vista I looked down at my Garmin to see a paltry 2 miles logged and really wanted to run a bit more. I ventured back down into the low flat lands to see how far it was from the acme to the end of the trail that led into the sector of power lines and trails. The technical and undulating trail was fun, but tricky in the snow, and it was shocking to only see that one way from vista to trail head was only .6 miles. Nevertheless, it was a challenging .6 to ascend because of the steep hills, and I figured a few out and backs would more worthwhile hill work, and if things got too tricky I could ratchet down the intensity to an ultra pace with walking breaks in preparation for next weekend.

The first out an back I plowed at a decent pace and could feel every foot of elevation gain when I arrived back at the top. The intensity was a little more than I had wanted for the weekend prior to the Fat Ass, but when I have the opportunity to get out into some fine New England winter weather to partake in some adventure, I like to make it last!
The last few out and back reps were more focused on an ultra pace, and I definitely learned a few tricks for running in the snow and conserving energy that might get me an extra loop next weekend. As I neared the 10k I had hoped to cover for the day, I appropriately reached the vista one last time as darkness started to settle over Saugus, Revere and Melrose:
I headed out of Revere Highlands with an snowy smile on my face because the trail running Gods had truly blessed me with an unexpected taste of winter running in a place that certainly does not lend itself to such peaceful activities.

I can't say I'll be gathering 'The Gang' to head over for some hill repeats under the power lines, or to do hilltop flexibility and yoga exercises in the shadow of the Shaolin Temple of Spare Ribs and Suffering Bastards, but as I followed my outgoing frozen footsteps home along the rail bed, I remembered to thank mother nature for that transformative power that seems to have the ability to cover, heal, and make things new.

In some ways, I hope this simple 10 kilometers of running, ironically at the birth of a new year, somehow helps me to heal and rise anew for all the adventures to come in 2010.

Happy Trails Everyone!

1 comment:

Dan said...

I didn't know this place existed!