• April 28th, 2019 • Ward Pound Ridge Reservation • Cross River, NY •
33rd Leatherman’s Loop
The sun rose at 5:57 a.m. and Loop organizers were in the park already with last minute tent setup, showmobile opening for bib pickup, food table setup, water table setup, testing the sound system, and a dozen other items that could not be done the night before.
A hardy group of early risers from our Sunday Runners group left at around 6:30am for a pre-run of the course to check the markings and make sure there were no (unplanned) surprises to greet runners.
Temperatures were around 40 degrees at the dawn and would only reach a high of 45 degrees or so for the day. The sunshine did not last long as threatening storm clouds rolled in at around 8 a.m. The promised rain never really materialized except for a few sprinkles here and there just before the Loop start.
A new entrant into the Loop: Beavers
The state animal of New York is the Beaver. It has been rapidly making a comeback in Westchester after surging in population in upstate New York. The local beavers have laid down roots in the Cross River over the past four years and their extended family has colonized the entire length of the river. Splashdown has been altered permanently by their presence.
The latest generation has built a dam and lodge around 100 feet upstream from the Splashdown crossing, making it resemble more of a delta than a river. The familiar island tree handholds are a thing of the past. Tony and Bill installed a rope guide before the Loop to help runners keep from getting swept away in the wide crossing.
Runners from Far & Wide
Runners came in from 310 towns and cities from 21 different states plus Sweden, Denmark, India, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, and Spain. Runners registered from states as far away as Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, Vermont, Maine, California, Florida, and Louisiana.
The Town of Bedford (including villages of Katonah and Bedford Hills) had the most local representation with over 200 runners registered. They were followed by Lewisboro (including villages of South Salem, Waccabuc, Goldens Bridge, and Cross River) at 125 runners. Manhattan and Brooklyn were 3rd and 4th with nearly 200 runners from the two boros. Pound Ridge was 5th for runner registrations at 80.
Eleven years ago runner David Ceisler of Katonah approached us with his idea to “Help Feed The Leatherman” — partnering with the Loop to have runners bring an optional donation for a food drive to benefit the Community Center of Northern Westchester’s (CCNW) food pantry. It is a natural fit with the Loop philosophy of lending a hand. Thank you to all the runners who pitched in — and thanks to David and his family and friends for starting and continuing this important mission.
Head registrar Judy Godino led the team of volunteers handing out bibs and shirts on the showmobile. Judy makes this look easy — but in reality it is a carefully organized and quickly moving cooperative effort that gets over 1,000 bibs and hundreds of shirts handed out in just over 90 minutes. If anything unusual pops up, Judy is right on it with a solution. In recent years the early bib pickup the day before the loop has taken the edge off of the morning rush for many runners.
Tony promised a shortened pre-race welcome due to the temps and threat of rain. He shared credit for the Loop course design “If you like the mud flats – 100% credit to Ken Littlefield.” For the inclusion and sometimes creation of some of the single-track trails on the course, Dave Cope gets credit — especially for the magical pine forest section of the course. Pete Thomspon, who couldn’t be in attendance, came up with the sand hill climbs: The first is called “The Pit” (where the Mariachi band plays) and the second is “The Wall” (where the bagpiper plays). Tony had the idea to cross the rivers when the trail connections were not there. Mitch Stein brought the Loop into the 21st century with online registration, timing, and the very first Loop website way back in the year 2000. Tony also introduced Liz Cope and Judy Godino who pitch in every year and have trail sections named for them on course.
Tony recognized several people integral to the success of the race. He introduced Rob Cummings, assistant race director, who is in charge of lots of behind the scenes technical stuff and who helps direct Run The Farm, directs Raven Rocks Run, and coordinates the Trail Mix Series scoring and communications. Tony introduced Mike & Kate Paletta who do a ton of stuff before, during, and after the race and are constantly convincing new runners to join in. Jeff Main is the superintendent of Ward Pound Ridge Reservation and the race would not happen without his help. Jeff and his crew have been invaluable for setup, race day, parking, and post race activities.
Tony moved on to warn runners of the potential dangers on course such as roots, stumps, hidden underwater hazards, and the extensive mud. Tony then passed the microphone on to Danny Martin, the Loop’s spiritual advisor. Danny called the race “a form of culture” and asked the runners to turn to the runners next to you and give them a hug. He asked them to take the spirit of the Loop home with them and spread it in their every day lives. Danny then led the runners in the traditional pre-Loop Navajo/Irish Blessing and then sent them off into the Meadow towards the Cross River.
On the trail runners encountered Lee-Stuart Evans dressed in an authentic re-creation Old Leather Man suit kindly lent him by the Plymouth (CT) Historical Society. Just last month Lee completed an epic 10-day 365 mile retracing of the Old Leather Man’s journey through Westchester and Connecticut towns. Tony and Lee came up with the plan to have Lee start out walking the course at about the halfway mark where runners – who had no idea he was present – would encounter him deep in the woods wandering and wearing the suit. “I was treated to a huge number of ‘Woah its the Leatherman’ from people as they ran past, as well as ‘Hobo High Fives.’” Said Mr. Evans. When asked if people took selfies with him on the trail he said “I was stopped about a hundred times for photos and had an absolute blast.”
A field of over 1,320 runners started out on the Meadow towards the turn and the entrance to the Fox Hill trail. The heavy rains in the days before had were still soaking into the dirt of the trail — mud was definitely a factor in this year’s race, even at the beginning.
The first water crossing was at a semi-high level, knee to waist deep with slippery rocks hidden near the exit. Kimberly Bridge had throngs of fans cheering runners on. Carol and Ted photographed runners as they exited the woods.
Runners then headed up “The Pit” — the first and smaller of the two sand hill climbs. At the bottom of The Pit, a Mariachi Band performed to boost the runners at the 1/3 point of the race and help with the climb. At the top of the pit, Tom was poised with his camera snapping away.
The water stop is just under the halfway point on the course. Just after that refreshing water is the famous Mud Flats. With the fresh rain from friday and the prior week the mud flats the deepest seen in two decades. Lots of thrills and spills this year and Zoe was there with her camera, umbrella, and mud boots to capture it all.
The most successful mud flats strategy is to power straight through the middle of the trail, heedless of the mud. The edges of the trail are the most slick and they tend to have a slope which makes footing tricky and falls common. Add in the thorns of the Japanese barberry on the trail edge and you can see why experienced mud runners always take the straight-on straight-through route. It’s not like you’re going to come out of it clean!
Next the runners pass through Arsenault’s Alley just after the Cope-Godino bridge where observant runners can look to the left and see a large beaver lodge no more than 40 feet off the trail. Then comes The Wall. This part of the trail is a 100 vertical foot 45 degree climb up an old sand quarry. At the top bagpiper John Henken beckons with Scotland the Brave and Amazing Grace and other songs. Accompanying John is his personal Loop day driver Andy Hafter.
After The Wall, the real race begins in earnest on the Deer Hollow trail. The trails along this section are wide enough for runners with gas still in their tanks begin passing and moving up. The trails have rolling climbs and descents until the first left hand intersection when it becomes all uphill for the longest stretch of the course — just under a mile of ascent. This uphill is not super steep and it does have some flatter sections but it is a long climb between miles four and five. At the crest of this climb, runners may not notice, but they are at the highest point on the Loop course. Heading downhill after the wide summit, runners pass through the beautiful Pine Forest.
The river trail leads out past Gary’s corner to the birdhouse meadow. Then on to Splashdown. Runners heard the cheering fans well before they could see them at the river crossing. Ted and Sawyer were photographing runners as they crossed or exited Splashdown.
The final 200 meters over the meadow are by some measures one of the toughest in the Loop. But the finish is is site with bagels, bananas, oranges, coffee, and water just afterwards.
Full results are available here and below are some highlights:
Jacqueline Kehoe of New York, NY (originally from Katonah) won her second Leatherman’s Loop with a time of 49:01. Last year’s winner Kelsey Crawford of Waccabuc, NY came in second (49:26). Lindsey Felling of Larchmont, NY came in third at 50:39. Fourth and fifth to finish were Allison Gadaleta of Brooklyn (52:06) and Chelsea Ellis of Rye Brook (53:36).
Will McDonough of New Caanan made it back-to-back Loop victories with his overall top finish in 39:29. Two-time past winner Lucas Meyer of Silver Spring, MD (originally from Ridgefield, CT) came second overall 39:39. Third place was Eamonn Sullivan of White Plains, NY with a time of 39:59. Rounding out the top 5 were James Boeding of West Hartford, CT (41:23) and Kevin Hoyt of Newtown, CT with a time of 42:06.
The oldest finisher of this year’s Loop (and any Loop) was John Young of Ridgefield, CT at age 85 — he won a well-deserved pie for his age group. The youngest finishers were 7-year-olds Kody Alvarez of North Salem and Eleanor Fraiberg of Greenlawn, NY.
Loop veteran Joe Stanley completed his thirty-third consecutive Loop — an unbroken streak from the first Loop in 1987 through 2019. Shirley Iselin ran her twenty-fourth Loop, the most for any woman and also an unbroken streak since 1996.
Other notable milestones: Nick Ohnell and John Partilla ran their 28th Loops. Tim Debany and John Krazneiwicz each ran their 26th Loops. Geoff Steadman and Dan Wiley each ran #23. Bill Bradsell and Jim Kapp reached #21 to break into the exclusive “blackjack” club. Eddie “The Plummer” Donlon, Michael Markhoff, and Kelsey Nix each earned their 20+ Loops Club hat on Sunday with their 20th Loops.
For a complete list of the “Muddiest Runners” check this page. Page will be updated with new inductees from 2019 within a week or so.
The Leatherman’s Loop 2019 is the official start for the 2019 Trail Mix series. All runners who completed the Leatherman’s Loop have been automatically entered into the current Trail Mix series. Runners need to finish 4 of the 7 races to complete the series and be eligible for automatic Loop Lottery selection if they enter the 2020 Lottery. See below for more details and links to other races in the series.
The race could not happen without many dozens of volunteers on race day, plus pre-race and post-race. The team is always ready to help and when someone has an unexpected change of plans there is always another person willing to step in. Thank you to each and every one who comes out to help! We even have a page dedicated to recognizing our Volunteers here.
We have lots of photos shared by our “Official Loop Photographers” and others on and around the course. Thank you to everyone who shared their photo memories of the day! You can become an official Loop photographer by taking lots of photos of the Loop and sending them in to us. If you have more than 100 photos from the Loop, we’ll make you your own album at the link below and send you a coveted “Official Loop Photographer” long-sleeved t-shirt! Contact us at [email protected]
A description of photos — by photographer and location — can be found here. Or you can click directly on our 2019 album site: http://leathermansloop.smugmug.com/2019.
Photographers Zoe Wegener, Sawyer Cummings, Carol Gordon, Tom Casper, Bill Crawford, Diane Bradsell, Ted Erkkila, Rob Cummings, and John Cummings were out snapping away. YOUR NAME CAN GO HERE AS WELL (if you send us your photos!). We have many different vantage points — the start, the mud flats, the pit, the first crossing, splashdown, and others. Photo album link here.
If you have photos you would like to send us, the easiest way to get them directly to us is via this website link (https://leathermansloop.smugmug.com/upload/qcjkGG/2019) where you can simply drag and drop the pictures. We have unlimited storage space at our photo site for photos or short videos. Or you can send us links via Facebook or if you have your own albums on Instagram, Flickr, Picassa, or another photo site send us the link. We appreciate all of the photos and love looking through them!
If you have any feedback, please send us a note at [email protected]. The only way we know to fix things is when we hear about things that went wrong. Don’t feel shy about feedback — that is how we make the event better. Your feedback is a gift you give to the runners next time around.
Once again we are indebted to the leadership and members of the Lewisboro Volunteer Ambulance Corps for standing by when medical help is needed during the event. We truly appreciate the dedication of the volunteers who give their time to come tend to runners each year and evacuate any immobile injured runners.
Thanks to Westchester County Parks and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation for hosting us for the 33rd year.
Thank you all for coming out to run and to those who came to support your friends and family! We look forward to seeing many of you again at an upcoming race!
Tony, Judy, Rob, Mike, Bill, and the Leatherman Harriers
The Loop is the first in the 2019 series of trail races called The Trail Mix.
Every runner in the 2019 Leatherman’s Loop is entered into the 2019 Trail Mix Series automatically.
Check these upcoming Trail Mix races (and some other favorite races of ours):
- A Mild Sprain 4.25M Trail Race (6/2) – Trail Mix Race #2
- Where the Pavement Ends 4.25M Trail Race (9/15) – Trail Mix Race #3
- Sarah Bishop Bushwhack 10k Trail Race (9/29) – Trail Mix Race #4
- Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon (10/13) – Trail Mix Race #5
- Run The Farm 5M Trail Race (10/20) – Trail Mix Race #6
- Raven Rocks Run 10k Trail Race (11/10) – Trail Mix Race #7
- Rock The Ridge (May) 50k race and relay Mohonk Preserve, NY
- Rockwood Ramble 10k Trail Race (June) Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Sleepy Hollow, NY
- Mt Kisco 5k road race (9/15) Mt. Kisco, NY
- Where the Wild Things Run 5k Trail Race (Oct) Woodcock Nature Center, Ridgefield CT
- John Jay 5k Trail Race (4/19/20) John Jay Campus, Cross River, NY
- For a broad curated list of trail races from Virginia through New England, check this list from Essex Running Club member Chris Jaworski here: http://sundayruns.org/races
Last but not least – join us on our SundayRuns.org club website — we do group trail runs throughout the year Sunday mornings at 8am, Locations are available on the site calendar.
Links to some 2019 Loop Writeups we found or were tagged in: