Trail Monster Running

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mt W Double

Several months ago I had the idea of hiking Mt Katahdin twice in the same day as training for the VT100, but as time passed and other things came up I never managed to work it into my schedule. As luck would have it though I managed to find an even bigger mountain to double up on. My friend Dora wasn't lucky enough to get into the Mt Washington Road Race lottery this year so Emma offered to volunteer at the race to allow Dora to get one of the 10 spots in the race that the MTC gets every year. The week before the race Emma found out that she was to be awarded a scholarship for her achievements in nursing school and was asked to attend a luncheon the same day as the race. I decided to step into Emma's place volunteering at the race and take the opportunity to get some good hill training in.

I've run up Mt Washington 3 times before, but had never taken any of the trails so I sought the advice of Jamie, Danielle and Ryan who helped me figure out a route. The plan was to start at Pinkham Notch, take the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Lion Head to the summit, then descend on the Nelson Crag Trail which intersects the auto road and do the last two miles down on the road. This would bring me to where I needed to volunteer, and then I'd return the way I came later in the day.

I woke up at 4:30am, was on the road at 5:05 and hit the trail at 7:05. The hike started out well, I was actually able to run all of the first mile, and part of the second, but then it just got too steep and technical so I settled into a fast paced hike. The temperature was in the low 50's which was very comfortable for hiking, but it didn't take long to break a sweat. I stopped on the way up only long enough to take a few photos of the mountains all around me, I wasn't sure how long this was going to take and I needed to get down to the race start area by 11:00am.

As I neared the summit I could see Jamie up above me perched on a rock, he was driving Stephen and a few other folks down off the mountain after the race but had to get up there before the race even started. Once the trail intersected the road near the summit I had to weave though the tourists and spectators who had driven up. As we climbed a big wooden stair case I heard one lazy bastard say "man, I'm tired already!" This inspired me to push past and run up the rest of the stairs. I said a quick hello to Jamie and then went off to tag the actual summit.

4,250 ft up

After chatting with Jamie for a few minutes I headed off to find the Nelson Crag Trail. The way down proved to be much more difficult than I had expected. Once I got below the tree line the trail was soaked and the rocks were treacherously slippery. I was forced to move very slowly and came very close to taking some major falls on several occasions. I had hoped to be able to make it to the intersection with the Auto Road in time to see all the runners come past, but by the time I got there it was 10:42 and there were only 4 runners still coming up at this point. This left me just enough time to get down to the race start area a few minutes before 11:00.

4,725 ft down

After spending a few hours on my feet serving food to all the runners I wasn't exactly looking forward to hiking up and over the mountain a second time, but it needed to be done. I was still a few miles away from where I started and I wasn't about to take the easy way there, even though Danielle and Ryan informed me of a shortcut across the mountain. Besides, I had bumped into a lot of people that I knew and told them about my plans, so I had to follow through. At about 3:00pm I set off up the Auto Road to get back to the Nelson Crag Trail. This was the least enjoyable part of my day because there was a motorcycle rally going on and a steady stream of bikes was passing me going up and down the mountain. Too much chrome, leather, carbon dioxide and burning brakes for this trail runner. After about 30 minutes I made it to the trail head and was grateful to get off the road. I was also delighted to find that the trail had dried out quite a bit in the 4+ hours since I was last on it and the climb up went very well.

I bumped into two couples whom I had passed going up the mountain early in the day, they were just coming down and had a hard time comprehending why I was going back up again. I couldn't understand why the hell it took them so long come down. One woman was very concerned about me finishing before dark and tried to force a headlamp on me. Probably a good idea actually, but I planned to be off the mountain by 7:00pm and being the longest day of the year I really wasn't concerned about running out of daylight.

4,725 ft up

Once again I had soaked myself in sweat on the way up so I went into the summit building to change my shirt and refill the bladder in my pack. I didn't stick around too long this time because by now the summit was crawling with fat bikers and slutty chicks and it was making my stomach turn. I ran the first part of the descent just to distance myself from the appalling crowd. Lion Head and Tuckerman are great trails to descend on because they aren't too steep and you can keep a pretty consistently quick pace. I was surprised to find that my legs weren't very fatigued and I didn't find myself tripping over my own sloppy feet the way I sometimes do at the end of a long trail run. I did encounter a lot of hikers coming down the same trail, and most didn't seem appreciate me hurrying past but it was fun. As the trail flattened out I was able to run for the last 2+ miles. The trail is covered with sports ball sized rocks (baseball to slightly bigger than basketball size) which makes for some fun technical running.

4,250 ft down

How's that for hill repeats?

For shoes I decided to wear my Brooks Cascadia which are the shoes I plan to wear for the VT100. I've done a few runs in them but nothing too long or technical so I really wanted to put these shoes to the test, and they held up very well. I was particularly thankful for the roomy toebox that kept my feet from getting too smashed up on all the rocks. I complemented the shoes with my Inov-8 Debrisoc, which is a sock with a built-in gaiter. A genius invention that works perfectly. My feet were comfortable all day despite being wet for hours.

I carried with me a Bigelow Day Pack that I picked up from LL Bean. This was probably a bigger pack than I needed for the day, but given Mt Washington's reputation for bad weather I didn't want to take any chances and this pack allowed me to carry enough gear and food for a whole weekend in the wilderness. I have never done any real backpacking, but I have to say that this was the most comfortable pack I've ever worn. The fit and weight distribution made it perfect for fast hiking and for the short amount of time I was running I hardly noticed it was there.

For the first time I can say that I really feel good about doing the VT 100 four weeks from now. One last long run at Mt. Agamenticus next Saturday and then it's time to taper!


Jamie said...

Excellent! Vermont 100, lookout...!

Sparkplug said...

Awesome photos! I laughed when I saw the one of your feet up near the summit. You can see our bright yellow car in the parking lot :-) I must have been off hiking while you were on the summit, but it was great to see you at the cookout.
Great job in doing the hike the 2nd time around! Somehow I think you're going to do awesome in the VT100 :-)

Anonymous said...

Nice job Ace. Wished I had the time to accompany you. But alas, someone had to help Emma find her way around the Mountain Breaker course. I did six laps so think I have the course pretty well figured out at this point.


sn0m8n said...

That kicks ass! But, once was enough for me.