A Piece of the Long Trail with Brian Rusiecki, by Ben Nephew

Some folks spend their entire lives trying to get a sighting of the rare male Rusiecki in the wild. I not only managed to spot it, it ended up chasing me all through southern VT. This is my story…

I’ve been trying to get some miles in on the Long Trail in VT this spring, which extends from the Canadian border to MA over 273 miles of quite nasty singletrack. I managed to convince Brian Rusiecki to meet me for a car shuttle so we could run a 23 mile stretch from Stratton Mountain to route 9, but the forecast did not look very pleasant at all. Brian is game for almost anything, so our early morning meet resulted in us driving through a small blizzard. I left at about 3 am, passed 4 plows, and had two overly entertaining hydroplaning moments, one being on a bridge (FYI, they do freeze before the road…). By the time we got to the parking lot at the base of Stratton, it had cooled to 20 degrees and the wind was blowing 20-30 mph. We could not feel our faces, and Brian did not love it…

Both of us are rather minimalist in our ultra racing, but the weather and the fact that there was virtually nothing other than a couple of lean-to’s for 23 miles induced us to take some extra clothes in case something happened. The LT is somewhat rough, it was covered in snow, and there could be ice. It was certainly cold and nasty at the start, but the uphill grade and a temperature dependent fast start warmed us up to point of taking our jackets off after a few miles. I’ve only worn a jacket a handful of times while running.

Created by Ben Nephew

While the ground was covered with 1-2 inches of snow, we were lucky to not run into much ice at all.  Since there had been some heavy rain before this snow storm, there was a few sections of quality VT mud, but it wasn’t too bad. We have had such a weak winter, I haven’t been able to really test out my Merrell All Out Ice shoes, so I decided to go with my Orocs to prevent major injury if we did run into considerable ice. Brian didn’t have any spikes at all and had good traction with the thin snow cover. The few blowdowns on the trail tended to be directly in line with the trail, which caused some confusion and difficulty at times, but we didn’t suffer any major navigational issues.

Overall, the run ended being good fun, at least for me. Both the weather and the trail conditions could have been much worse, and there were some nice breaks where the sun came out and the wind died down. Each of us had 1-2 good falls or slips, but we avoided major injuries, I think. We ran 4:27 for the 23 mile stretch with about 5k of climb, which was decent considering the conditions, and it was great to catch up with Brian. Despite both living in MA, our race schedules don’t cross all that much lately, which is too bad. I’ve been having a great time racing with all the MPF crew, but I do sometimes miss the days when Brian and I were racing each other all the time. If you are looking for some solitude on a highly technical trail run, we did not see a single sole the entire way. You just might want to check on the weather before you go….

This was the last time Ben & Brian ran together.