Updated: Sep 27, 2020
This adventure report was written by Miles and Mountains athlete Rob Hanna.
When you think about adventure, often you don't think about your own hometown. Recently I saw a post on the Hike Ledyard Facebook Group that showed where all the parks/trails in my hometown. And, a strange thought popped into my head - I could run all of those parks - wouldn’t that be cool?
That thought sat unacted on for several weeks. Then the Covid-19 blues hit when I realized the Marine Corp Marathon’s Virtual Devil Dog Double just didn’t take the place of my planned scouting of Pennsylvania D&L Canal Trail. I needed something different and needed it soon.
I gave myself roughly a week to plan. I needed to know where/how to go to reach the 11 parks/land preserves and trails, where/when/how much supplies I needed, and then gather a team to help support.
I decided to use Caltopo to build my route. First, I imported the GPX routes of the 2 trails that I had run. Then, I added markers for the park entrances/trailheads. To get their positions, I began with the Hike Ledyard Facebook Group’s Google Map. To get the routes within the parks, I used a couple of techniques. First, I posted in a couple of local trail groups asking for help (turned out a friend had run about ½ of them and that helped). Second, I used images from Google Satellites to guess routes. Third, I imported routes from AllTrails. I also looked at the town’s web posting, but some were very old (with directions like bushwack at the reeds). While I was collecting details on the trails, I built road segment routes between each of the trailheads.
Pacing Plan and Aid
After building the route, the next step involved figuring out when I would be at each point using a Google Sheet. This process required copying the distances for each route into the spreadsheet and estimating my pace for the leg. I also estimated a break time between legs. This break time would be for resupply, sock change outs, etc…Critical to my plan was figuring out a course that would allow finishing the last trail before sunset due to town regulations. And, the spreadsheet showed it was possible. So the adventure was a go.
I then looked for places that had good parking. I wouldn’t get them too early to ask folks to meet me. And, that would have a couple of hours between spots. I knew from past experience on some long runs and a couple of Ultras that for me the middle of the day is my hard spot. So I picked 5 prime places and 1 back-up place. I built a map and a table that had street addresses, estimated times and what supplies to have at each place (see picture).
The next part was probably the hardest for me. I went “public” about my plan by asking friends for help. That felt like taking a giant commitment and may have been the most important step in retrospect.
A friend organized a Zoom meeting for the 4 people that agreed to help the Friday before the run. None of them had ever been crew before and I had never organized a crew, so it was a bit of a challenge to communicate what was needed and to address how to do this safely in a Covid-19 era. With that in mind, I told everyone that I would pre-pack the supplies into bags so all they had to do was get the supplies to the right spot. Further, since the trails all were loops, people were asked to wait for the arrival and the departure. The people divided up the 5 sites. And, my very patient wife, who was working during this event, agreed to act as the pick-up place for the supply bags.
For more on this approach to planning, I recommend listening to this FKT podcast.
I also highly recommend using Jared Campbell's Google Sheet for route planning.
After all the planning and packing, Saturday morning came way too early. I almost didn’t make it out of bed. What kept me going, was knowing my friends were excited (and not wanting to admit that I wussed out before starting). I got off about 15 minutes late to an absolutely beautiful but cold morning.
I’ll skip most of the details of the run itself, but here are some highlights:
My friends decide to run a couple of the loops of trails with me
One friend escorted me during the longest (and loneliest) road section
It snowed four times on me during the run
I discovered Glacial Boulder Park has boulders, and rock jumping after 4 hours of running sucks
My last 18 miles were by myself. My one resupply got missed when my wife got stuck at work. I planned each drop so if one was missed, I would be okay and that worked.
I got way ahead of schedule so I took an “easier” way back that I would not have in the dark. This meant I ended up doing about 6 miles of loops near my house (I wanted to do 50 miles). Loops are tough when home is 1 block away.
I started my watch in road mode and not trail mode. This resulted in hiding all the trail maps. And, I forgot to turn on the route that I loaded into the watch. I lost my paper map. However, I had a picture saved on my camera and the detailed planning allowed me to run anyway (plus I had back-up maps at each drop).
Garmin Live was great. My team tracked me the whole way. This resulted in some unexpected drive bys when they decided to surprise me and when I got an hour ahead of schedule, it was easy for them to adjust.
So, I ran 50 miles through my home town hitting 11 parks/trails (and 4 snow showers). I’ve been asked why I did this, and even now, I’m not totally sure why. It might have been for the humble brag factor. “What did you do this weekend? Oh, I just ran 50 miles…” Or disappointment from cancelled races. Or I had been planning on scouting about 60-70 miles of a 150 mile adventure that just got cancelled. Or too much listening to podcasts (FKT and CULTRA).
But I think the real reason I did it was just because it was an adventure.
Finally, a big thank you Maria, Tara, Taylor, Theresa and Mike!
This adventure report and accompanying photos was written by Rob Hanna.