Been spending quite a bit of time up in New Hampshire this summer, running, hiking, exploring. I took these photos during a 20-mile outing last week, when my friend, Eric, and I ran from the Lincoln Woods trailhead up the Osseo Path to Flume and the Franconia Ridge, across the ridge to Lafayette, and then back. An amazing day during which we ran under, into, and above the clouds. Talk about feeling as if on top of the world!
The start/finish area deck and aid station.(Photo cred: PGuza)
Almost a year has elapsed since my first, and only, attempt at the 100-mile distance. I DNFed. My friend, Jeff, had anxiously awaited my arrival at the start/finish area so that he could pace me for the third of my four 25-mile loops. Unfortunately, I dropped out after mile 53, succumbing to a tight and painful Achilles tendon. It did not take me long to recover physically, but the mental toll of the race and the DNF took me longer to overcome. Since then, I’ve learned a lot in the past year: patience, goal-setting and the revision of goals, the need for flexibility, the drive to just move forward. But as registration opened and this year’s TARC 100 neared, I did not possess the mental state or the physical readiness to take on the challenge again.
Jeff, however, had been training all winter for the event, and this year, I had the opportunity to support him in his quest to complete this sacred distance. Given my training and Jeff’s fear that the third loop would be the toughest for him, I planned to run miles 50-75 with him. Then, based on how I felt after that leg, I would try to join him for as much more as I could. Here’s our story.
I woke up around 7:00am on Saturday morning, two hours after gun time and immediately checked the live update page to see the runners’ progress. Nothing. I texted Edie, Jeff’s wife and got a quick note from her: Jeff was moving well. Fast-forward three hours later and Jeff had already completed his first lap in 4:58. Well ahead of schedule, but I was not too surprised. The man is fast, and he has trouble reining himself in at the start of races. Sometimes, you just have to run! I did some quick math and realized that my projected start time of 5:00pm was too late. If Jeff stayed on this pace, I’d be running at 3:00pm.
I arrived at Hale Reservation around 1:30pm and quickly learned about numerous runners who had already dropped out due to the heat and various injuries. This year’s course, while drier than last year’s, featured much more technical terrain, and the warm temperature and humidity did not help matters. I also heard of 100-mile runners who, after spending eight hours on the course for their first 25 miles, had only just begun their second loop. They would surely miss a cut-off time later in the day, but I admired their determination and desire to stay out there on the course for as long as they could.
The start/finish area beach.(Photo cred: PGuza)
While waiting for Jeff to come back in, I drank two liters of water and still could not stay hydrated. With temperatures in the high 80s and my inability to take in enough water while remaining stationary, I could not imagine how all the runners would manage as they exerted themselves throughout the afternoon.
I began to have mixed feelings about when I wanted to start running. An earlier start meant running in the heat, but having more daylight by which to navigate the course; a later start meant cooler temps but encountering nightfall sooner. I quickly ridded my mind of those thoughts; I could not control any of that. I had to focus on the single task that I was there to complete: help Jeff cross the finish line. I soon learned that he had passed through the 45-mile aid station and would be back at the start/finish area soon. I made my final preparations, drank yet more water, and got ready. Before long, I saw a tall, skinny, shirtless guy in an orange hat come bounding down the beach. It was time to go.
We set off just before 4:00pm, and Jeff immediately told me that he needed to walk. After running so hard and so well for 50 miles, he had hit a low point. His legs ached, his Achilles tendon had tightened up, and his stomach did not feel great; he warned me quickly that he might throw up soon. We walked and jogged for the next few miles, and he updated me on the first half of the race. A few runners passed us in this section and we let them go. Such is the nature of a long race; we just had to worry about ourselves. Before long, Jeff pulled over and threw up, emptying his stomach of the raspberry smoothie he had consumed at the last aid station. “It’s not blood,” he quickly assured me, immediately sensing my worry when I saw red. I made a quick note to myself to switch out Jeff’s Tailwind drink for plain water, and to get some bland food into him at the next aid station. The mind has a strange way of making associations, and it quickly forms connections between certain tastes and nausea/vomiting; Jeff would not want any fruity drink for a long time (in the psychology world, we call this a conditioned taste aversion). With three-or-so miles to go, he would have some time to recover and for his stomach to settle, and so we pressed on.
The next 15 miles passed without much event. We went in and out of aid stations, we climbed a couple of steep hills, and we mixed bursts of chatter with bouts of silence. We passed some runners who had gotten lost and tried to redirect them, but without knowing where they had veered off course, we were unable to offer much help. At one point, after hearing some whip-poor-wills call out in the dusk, a reminder of his youth in Virginia, Jeff mentioned that he missed seeing fireflies, which were abundant in Virginia. I’ve seen them around here, and said as much, but in my experience, they’re more the exception than the rule.
Not long thereafter, we crested Powisett Peak, one of the high points of the course, and off in the distance, the final glow of the sun burned above the horizon. We stopped to soak in the scenery, admiring the beauty and grandeur of the surrounding land, silently expressing our gratitude for this small reward. Nighttime had already descended upon the valleys around us, and we began our downward trek into the darkness.
A view from one of the peaks, taken earlier in the day.(Photo cred: PGuza)
We began to hike more and run less as Jeff’s Achilles continued to tighten. We swapped off leads, doing our best to keep our pace at sub-20-minute-miles. Approaching the Powisett Farm aid station, we ran through a large field. And what graced our presence? FIREFLIES. Another sign, another occasion to rejoice, another lift for our spirits. In and out of the aid station, and Jeff told me he’d probably have to walk the last five miles of this loop, along with the 25 miles of the fourth loop.
It’s amazing how quickly doubts can arise. My mind and body quickly had opposing thoughts. My body: “I can do that. We’re not moving too fast right now. I can keep this up.” My mind: “Holy crap — eight hours of power hiking through this? That sounds miserable. There’s no way I can do that.” So again, I had to remind myself that I had but a single goal, and that goal had nothing to do with me. So long as my legs could move, I would stay on the course and keep Jeff company. At times I experienced the twinges and aches that inevitably sink in with this much time on the trail, and I doubted my ability to go much farther than 25 miles. I thought about warning Jeff that I would probably stop once we returned to the start/finish area. But then I thought about HIS race and HIS goal of finishing, and I knew the effect that a simple warning like that might have. I kept my mouth shut; I wouldn’t say anything unless I absolutely had to.
Before exiting the field, we ran into another runner and his pacer, lost on the trail. They had been way ahead of us, and as we pointed them in the right direction, they shared that they’d been circling this area for an hour. We kept going, figuring they’d pass us soon enough. But they never did. I don’t know what happened to them but Jeff and I wondered if the psychological blow of spending an extra hour on the course, lost at night, might have been the final straw for them. More doubts crept in: One of my jobs as a pacer is to keep my runner on course. What if I fail in this regard? Would I miss a turn and get us lost?
We kept hiking, trying to maintain a quick pace, and every time my watch beeped to signal that another mile had passed, we marveled at our ability to stay below 20 minutes, no matter how slowly we felt we had been moving. Whereas this truly would have been slow on other occasions, we gained confidence in our ability to continue. We stopped at the start/finish area to change socks and shoes, refill on water, and we kept walking. Hills came and went, seemingly taller and steeper than before.
"Every step you take is a PR, so just keep moving forward," I told Jeff over and over again, to the point that the was repeating aloud, too. It became our mantra through all of the difficult moments when it would have just been easier to stop.
Midnight. 1:00am. 2:00am. 3:00am. Soon we would see the sky lighting up. 4:00am and the black sky began to take on a blue-ish hue. 5:00am, and as chance would have it, we found ourselves atop Powisset Peak, the site of last night’s sunset. And there we paused, now catching a glimpse of the impending sunrise, another round of orange and pink rising in the distance. At this point, we knew that we could, and that we would, finish.
In the last five miles, I took over the lead, setting a pace that I knew Jeff could handle, allowing him to just focus on making forward progress. We began to jog more, taking the flats and downhills as much as his Achilles could handle. With about a mile left, we encountered three small rises, with the finish line just around the corner. As we crested the final bump, I moved over and Jeff took over in front. He picked up the pace, and as we neared the beach and finish line, I said to him, “When we hit the sand, I want you to do your best David Hasselhoff impersonation.” One last chuckle as we heard the ringing bell and cheers, as we picked up the pace one last time. I stayed close behind, offering final words of encouragement, praise, and applause.
Approaching the finish line! (Photo cred: EDixon)
27 hours, 13 minutes, 36 seconds. Jeff did it. He trained for this event with purpose and determination. He didn’t quit when he realized that he would not meet his goal of 24 hours. He pushed through every low point on the course. He held his head high. He kept moving. He put in a gutsy performance. He finished.
Thank yous: First, a huge thank you to Jeff. I owe you tremendously for your many miles of companionship over the past year, and for letting me be a part of this momentous occasion. You’ve taught me a lot about about toughness — both mental and physical, and the will and fortitude it takes to go this distance. Second, a huge thank you to Edie, the race RDs, and all of the volunteers who got us through this event. We could not have done this without your smiles and words of encouragement, and your incredible care for our needs. Third, thank you to all of the other runners, and to the entire TARC family. We are an incredible community of people who push one another to accomplish incredible things. The example you set out there makes all of better runners and better people. Finally, thank you to my wife, who puts up with all of my training and crazy adventures, and who slept alone Saturday night. (Jeff thanks you, too.)
A link to our GPS track: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/516742599
Jeff shows off his new belt buckle! (Photo cred: MMaher)
Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.
If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:
“You look so healthy!” is a great one.
Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”
“I can see how happy you are – you’re glowing.”
Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.
Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.
Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.
Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.
Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.
Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.
Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.
Teach your daughter how to cook kale.
Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.
Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.
Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.
Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.
A few panoramas from last week’s trip to Zion National Park.
1) From the top Angel’s Landing, looking north into the Virgin River Canyon.
2) Surrounding landscape outside Zion, during our mountain biking trip on the Hurricane Cliffs Trail System.
3) The group pauses on the bridge across from the Grotto after coming down from our hike of Angel’s Landing.
Desert Bighorn Sheep. Not many in Zion, but we managed to see ten of them! Here’s one up on a hill, silhouetted against the evening sky. We were on our way to a good lookout for the sunset when we spotted a Bighorn on a small ledge on the side of the road. Went back to the spot and found not only one, but ten(!) Bighorn Sheep, a mix of ewes and lambs (maybe a male or two in there, too… hard to tell). I climbed up on a short ledge and took a ton of photos of them and this was the very last. A Bighorn had made its way to the top of the hill and we patiently waited for quite a while until it turned to give us this great profile. Metered for the sky and used a combo of small aperture / fast shutter speed to get the image. Processed the photo in black-and-white.
Very creative photo set using two sets of viewfinders to capture the scene. I particularly love the depth of field, allowing the focus to lie mainly within the iPhone’s screen.
Through The Phone - New York by SamAlive
The creative view through the phone is truely amazing. I really like the DOF. Check his href=”http://instagram.com/samalive”>Instragram Profile too.
The winter season is never complete unless I hike the Franconia Ridge Loop at least once. Conditions yesterday made for a great day in the mountains — clear, blue sky with plenty of sun hinted at spring, but low temps and a brisk wind, especially above tree line provided a gentle reminder that Old Man Winter has not quite departed yet.
Given the forecast of a northwesterly wind, I decided to ascend Lafayette first via the Old Bridle Path. The trail was packed down well and microspikes provided enough traction on the way up. I took refuge at the Greenleaf Hut to refuel and put on an additional layer before tackling the final mile to the summit. I always forget how deceiving the approach to Lafayette’s summit is: every time I think I’ve surmounted the final “bump” to the top, I realize that I have more trail to climb! The wind came at me hard and upon summiting, I immediately looked for a windbreak to catch my breath, eat some lunch, and snap some photos. Off to the east, the Presidential Range stood majestically, with Mount Washington completely clear of any cloud cap. It’s rare that we get days like this one.
From Lafayette, I began the trek over to Lincoln and Little Haystack, stopping on occasion to snap photos of Cannon, Washington, the Bonds, and the trail that lay behind and ahead of me. Across the Ridge, the wind continued to deliver blasts of frigid air, reminding me that I should not stop in one place for too long!
From Little Haystack down, it was easy going. Steep, snow-packed trails meant lots of glissading, and I made great time on the descent. Snow bridges are solid at this time of year, and the waterfalls were completely frozen over.
Solo hike for me, but I saw quite a few people on the trails today. I love that there are others out there braving the elements to get a taste of adventure and to witness the beauty of the mountains.
January 1, 2014: Spent the first day of 2014 solo hiking the Pumpelly Trail up Mt. Monadnock. Cold (15˚F at the start; 20˚F at the finish; cold at the summit) and windy with a mix of sun and clouds. Not many others on this particular trail, though I saw a number of parties going up and down the White Dot and White Cross Trails.
This was my first time hiking the Pumpelly — I’m in love! Finding the trailhead was not as tricky as I feared, though parking in winter can be a challenge; we’re at the mercy of those who plow. The first 1.5 miles are pretty gradual, with small rises and drops; easy hiking to warm up the legs and establish a good rhythm. Then, the trail kicks up and rises as steeply as some of the steep sections of the White Dot. With snow and ice over the rocks and roots, I did not have to worry as much about tripping over trail obstacles and I moved pretty quickly through this section, too.
Once above tree line, the Pumpelly Ridge offers great views of the approach to Monadnock’s summit as well as the surrounding towns. Lakes and ponds dot the landscape in every direction, breaking up the monotony of the flat expanses (etymology lesson: “monadnock” is a Native American word meaning “lone mountain”). But beware! The ridge rises and dips, hardly following a gradual and linear approach to the peak. There are a few sections with good exposure; one wrong step would result in a good little fall. I’m excited to come back in warmer weather when the snow is gone to see what the scrambling sections really look like.
On a day like today, with cold air temperatures and stiff winds, I was grateful for the opportunities to duck back into the trees; it limited my exposure to the elements. It wasn’t until I passed the junction with the Spelman Trail that I found myself out of the trees (save for one final dip just beyond the junction with the Red Spot Trail), and at that point, I began to count down the steps to the summit, where I could seek refuge behind one of the large rock blocks.
Just before summiting, a guy passed me running down the mountain. He stopped abruptly and asked me if he was on the White Dot Trail — nope! Good thing he checked; otherwise, he would have had a long run down to Dublin before realizing his mistake! I met several other parties on the summit, most of whom had hiked up the White Dot and White Cross Trails, though a few had opted for the less-traveled Red Spot. After a quick lunch and some photos at the summit, I began the trek down. About nine miles, 4.5 hours total, up and down with the lunch break. Awesome way to start the new year!
Trail conditions: Not much snow on the ground yet; an inch or two packed down over ice. Microspikes were definitely helpful, though bare-booting probably would have been fine. Maybe this storm system coming in will drop some more snow on the trails!