FKT: Art Byram - Mattabesett Trail (CT) - 2018-09-10
Report from Strava (where Art posted some photos as well):
I’ve had my eye on this trail for a long time, given that it is the longest blue blaze trail in the state of Connecticut. Especially now with the recent moving of the trail to include 3 miles of additional singletrack. https://www.ctwoodlands.org/blue-blazed-hiking-trails/trail-notices/mattabesett-trail-durham-trail-relocation I had tried to run this trail two weeks after running Vermont 100, and failed miserably in severe heat, torrential downpours, and a plague of flies. So after blowing up, I knew that this was something I had to get after again.
Running this route unsupported requires some basic planning as far as calories, and also a knowledge of the location of water which turned out to be a huge factor. Unfortunately water sources are fickle and what is one time a raging stream is another time a bone dry drainage ditch. I will spare the details and drama of the typical run for a typical runner. Yes there was suffering at times, and relentless songs blasting in my head, but overall it was a fantastic run. For those wishing to duplicate or better my time which I feel is quite possible, I will provide information on gathering water and support logistics which can be somewhat critical.
I carried my Salomon 12 liter pack and carried the following: three quarters of a pound of trail mix, 35 dates, half a pound gummy crap candy, two avocados, and four baggies of tailwind, two buzz, two decaf premeasured in six scoop bags, and 2 L of tailwind mixed with water. Minor first-aid kit with duct tape, a few Band-Aids, and 2 Tom’s sports shield individual packs, a buff, lipstick sized booster battery and charger for my Fenix 3HR watch, Petzel NAO headlamp, and spare battery, Mamut windbreaker, chapstick, eyedrops, micro hand sanitizer, and running cap, and an MSR Trailshot water filter. Overall the pack was pretty darn heavy weighing in at about 10 pounds at the start. In the past I’ve gone with a lot less like when I ran the Metacomet 60 mile trail with just tailwind, but I decided to go for a different approach this time.
I started the route in Middletown on River Road at the trailhead at approximately 4:15 AM Sunday morning. The air was clear and was in the low 50s which was a great day for running. The early part of the trail is very raw, technical, and easy to get lost. But since I know the trail pretty well, I got through to my first water stop at 10 ½ miles where a filtered water at the stream at Seven Falls near the road.
I continued on for about 5 miles until I reached Miller’s pond and topped off the pack with water. At about 20 miles in there was another stream (see photo) where I topped off again with water and tailwind. I also found some more water at cream pot Brook about 5 miles later mile 24. Cream pot Brook was kind of dank and black but I knew that there might not be any water for a while so I had better refill while I could. I stopped and addressed some minor feet issues at mile 30 which was the bluff head parking lot. I found water again at about mile 35 just over Route 17 which was nice and clean in a running stream. I knew that the next section was basically dry, and was counting on the stream at route 66 to refill. Somewhere around mile 45 I ran out of water, but was not concerned at all because at mile 47 just behind Guida’s there is a stream which unfortunately turned out to be bone dry. Guida’s was open, and I could have gone in and refilled at the restroom, or bought something but I decided to press on to the next stream which I knew to be on the other side of Mount Higby which was a decent climb. As I traveled along Route 66, I checked for drainage ditches near the highway as I thought I had remembered seeing water at that location in the past. I also was very conscious about not going too fast and working up a sweat as it had been a few miles without water and I did not know where the next water would definitely come from. At that point my pace suffered greatly. At the top of mount Higby I found a puddle in the trap rock which can best be described as a shallow 2 foot wide birdbath at mile 48. I was pretty thirsty at that point so I decided to trust my filter and took just a little bit, knowing that there was a stream at the bottom of Higby where I could refill. My right hip flexor had been tight all day and was starting to bug me, and it didn’t help that I took a few little side trips on Higby that found me in situations where I was bouldering which didn’t feel really great. I also started to take a wrong turn at the top and headed down the wrong side of the mountain before I realized there were no blazes and doubled back. Of course there was no water at the bottom of Higby, and I had not scouted for water beyond that part of the course so really had no idea where my next drink was coming from. After going in from Country Club , then Bell St., Highland Pond preserve at about mile 53, provided a opportunity to get a full refill of 2 L. At this point I was pretty dehydrated and my legs and hip flexor really tightened up as I sat and pumped this green water. So it took me a while to get the job done and to get out of there, but at least I had enough water to finish at that point.
As I headed into the Guiffrida Park I lost the trail and had to double back several times which pissed me off. I actually found myself back at the section of the trail that has the eyeballs painted on the rocks which I ran into during the #CUT112 So I threw a fresh battery in my headlamp, which helped me focus again. I got up and over Chauncey peak, but was not making great time. The last peak to hit was Lamentation Mountain. I survived that and work my way slowly to spruce Brook Road and ran in the last mile on the road to Route 15. I finished about 18 minutes slower than the Self Supported time set recently by Michael LoPresti. It is nice to see the growing interest in setting FKT’s and I hope other people will go after them especially in the unsupported category.