- Trail Race
I signed up for the Bimbler's Bluff on a whim looking for a new challenge. When race day arrived, I had no idea the challenge that awaited me. The race had about 130 registered runners and started at a school in Guilford that was extremely easy to find and gave plenty of parking. With no pre-race day packet pickup, runners had to arrive a bit earlier than the 8am start to grab their gear, but pickup was quick and the volunteers were extremely enthusiastic given the early hour and cold temperatures.
Runners each received a bib personalized with their names, a great touch especially when volunteers out on the course took note of every runners' name to cheer them on. The race started promptly at 8 and a quick lap around the school's field took runners straight into the first of five land preserves we'd be running through on the course.
The course has an immediate bottleneck onto a single track heading into the trails, but this gave a good opportunity to slowly test the terrain. Rains earlier in the week had made for some slightly slippery terrain on top of the fallen leaves, so this was a good way to feel out the autumn track.
The course opened up just before hitting the second section and runners were able to quickly spread out and start finding their paces. The crossover to the second section of the course had spectators and volunteers cheering runners on as they set up what would be the last aid station on the lollipop course - a section that led out like the stick of a lollipop into a big looping section then back down the original stick section.
The views on the course were fantastic. The changing foliage surrounded runners as they blazed through the Connecticut trails. The first few sections were fairly comfortable to navigate, with one or two sections of steep climbs. Once runners hit the first aid station, they would then encounter the Bluff section for which the course was named. Here, running was nearly impossible as the steep climb required using your hands to navigate the rough terrain.
Once cleared off the Bluff, the overlook of the area below was breathtaking. The course then provided some rolling terrain through the gradual decline on the other side of the bluff.
Aid stations throughout the course were sparse, but the layout of the course didn't allow for them to be placed any closer together. But the aid stations when runners did get to them were packed with incredibly enthusiastic volunteers and tons of amazing supplies that included fresh soups, hot grilled cheese sandwiches, and other amazing snacks to help keep runners fueled.
The course distance is a bit deceiving, clocking in at nearly 33 miles, and can tend to play tricks with your mind. Course sections feel much longer than they actually are, so judging your exact location can be tricky at times. The course is extremely well marked, and any fears of getting lost do tend to ease themselves quickly, though falling off course can happen from time to time as runners accidentally overlook a marker.
This is an amazing race experience, though not one for the inexperienced runner. The race director recommends having at least a marathon under your belt before attempting this race which is definitely sound advice. If you're looking for a course with some amazing scenery with fantastic support, Bimbler's Bluff is definitely not to be missed.