The Hart-Montague trail is a rail to trail that runs from Hart to Montague (or vice versa). It is a paved, mostly flat trail with a few very slight inclines to give your leg muscles some variety and keep you engaged as a runner. I was introduced to this trail/FKT as a way of helping a friend with cars (as this is a point to point FKT) so I ran one way while he ran the other, swapping car keys midway.
I started in Hart at the "Wood St" sign, where Wood St dead ends at Waters. I started at 7:28am, a bit before sunrise, and it was a perfect mild "real feel" in the mid 30s. There was enough light to see, so while I brought my headlamp, I ended up just throwing it in my pack before I started. I planned for this trip to take me about 4 hours, so I brought my 2L hydration pack, 12 Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies, and my Suunto Ambit3 Peak for gps tracking.
I ate my 1 "pre run" Maurten Gel as my breakfast had been 3 hours earlier and I wanted some calories in me to start, and hit the trail!
My plan was to keep my HR in the high 150s, but under 160. I haven't done many longer distances off a trail, so I wasn't too sure what my pace would be, but I felt I should be able to average just over 10min miles taking into account I would slow at the end. I started off slightly uphill, so my pace was slower than I was expecting, but I assumed it would flatten out and my pace would fall into place.
I was mostly right! As I settled into the run I was able to tick away the miles in the mid 9s, barely over 10 if I had a hill thrown in. The morning was gorgeous. I felt like I was running in the hills of Ireland (Ok, I haven't been there, so my frame of reference isn't great). There was a layer of fog creating a calm, quiet, countryside feel. The farms, rolling pastures, and orchards were so gorgeous I didn't even notice the first 10 miles.
Every 20min I would eat one of my 85 calorie Pillsbury Chocolate Chip cookies, which got me almost perfectly to my 250 calorie/hour goal. Maybe not the greatest run fuel, but the ease of just eating 1 cookie every 20min is wonderful, it is spaced out enough for smaller amounts to digest, my stomach agrees with it, and I don't get bored because I can mix up the flavors from run to run if I want.
There were quite a few road crossings. The one less than a mile from a start caused me to have to pause for a car. I was hopeful that wouldn't be commonplace. I lucked out after that first pause with clear crossings for the first 2 hours. The last 100min I ended up having to wait for a car 4-5 times. By that point my HR was creeping up and I would pick up the pace a little in addition to that to make up the time I waited for the car which bumped my HR more. My legs felt fine, so I didn't worry about the temporary spikes.
Just after 15 miles, right before 16 I let my HR creep into the low 160s. I knew for the last hour I wanted to maintain my sub 10 pace and I could hold a higher HR without crashing for 60-70min. At some point right around there it started with a light "misty" rain. I had been running through fog for the most part, so I don't think I even noticed it was actually raining until about 10min after it started. It stayed the same light & steady rain the rest of the run. At mile 19.5 I just let myself push for the last 3.25 miles. When I hit mile 21.5 and realized I was about 8min away from a 3:40:00 finish, I decided to push more and see how close I could get. I knew I wouldn't actually be able to run over 1 mile in 8min, but I pretended I could and it gave me something to aim for. I got CLOSE! Closer if you consider the trail should be 22.75 miles and I ended at 22.81 miles.
Outside of swapping keys with Josh midway, I didn't see a single soul the entire time I was out there. It was a wonderful way to really enjoy a run and the nature around!
I ended with an average pace of 9:38/mile which I am SUPER jazzed about. I felt strong the whole way while executing a run that is way faster than my current marathon PR pace (10:13)
Overall the trail was a really awesome. Pretty landscape, cute towns, and minimal graffiti... Mostly flat, with enough slight inclines to keep you from going totally mad and giving your legs a little bit of variety. I tend to lean towards trail running, but I am enjoying seeing what I am capable of on flat and paved!