It has been some time since I have made a post. This is mainly due to the fact that I haven’t done much for racing this summer as I have focused more on building a strong endurance base for the winter season by running on the roads and trails and also mixing in a fair amount of road cycling.
For the past 8 years, my long runs have been primarily road miles and this year I wanted to get off the roads and into the mountains. Since running the NYC Marathon in November 2008, I have not done any runs over 13 miles. I still run regularly, putting in 1000+ miles per year but for me there just seems to be something lacking in road running. I myself am a little surprised at how long it has been since I have run longer distances and I hoped that by getting into the mountains during the summer and fall, the energy that comes from the mountains during winter would propel me through the non-snow season.
In June I jumped into mountain running with a solo Presidential Traverse, around 20 miles and over 9000ft of elevation gain on some of the roughest trails around. Thru hikers of the Appalachian Trail often are amazed at the difficulty of the trails in the White Mountains and how their average pace seems to slow to a crawl while in the range. I have skied throughout the Presidentials but this was my first trip without snow (I did see a few small patches on Jefferson and in the Great Gulf). One mistake that I made was to bring poles. I don’t think they helped as much as they got in the way. In the future I would leave them in the car.
I was happy with my effort and time, however, the last few miles to Crawford Notch seemed endless as I suffered downhill, quads burning. I finished in 8 hours and 41 minutes and then had to hitch back to my car at Dolly Copp. After standing around all sweaty with my thumb out, Adam Wilcox was nice enough to stop and pick me up. He was doing the AMC Huts Traverse the following day (50+ miles) and was at Crawford stashing supplies. He seems like a real nice guy so I was happy to hear that he did well on his run as well as an 8th place finish at Hardrock 100!
One month later I was ready to give the Pemi Loop a try (31.5 miles, 9k+ gain/loss). I was again solo, but this time at least I wouldn’t have to hitch a ride. At the Lincoln Woods trailhead I ran into a group of 3, two of whom were going CCW on the loop while I was going CW.
Hot temperatures had me drinking often with a stop to refill at the spring on the Garfield Ridge and at the Galehead Hut. I took 4 liters at the hut but didn’t end up needing all of it. (I later found out that the group of two going CCW ran out of water and crossed paths with a bear!) I finished 15 minutes under my goal time of 10 hours and then had a great soak in the river.
Not having suffered enough the first time, I joined some of the guys I had met the previous loop for a CCW attempt under almost perfect weather in mid August. Two of us did the full loop while the other half of our party headed south from the Galehead Hut to come back on the Franconia Brook Trail. In what seemed like a much more leisurely pace than my previous effort (save the last downhill), my time dropped by over 30 minutes.
In early September, I was contacted by a ski partner about an organized run he was heading up. The 22 mile Tully Trail Run fit perfectly into my schedule so I gave it a go. A small turnout didn’t hold us back from enjoying a great day on another new-to-me trail.
To finish up the summer I wanted to run from the Glencliff trailhead to Cannon Mountain which follows the AT for the majority of the trek. The route starts off with a 3500 ft climb up Mt. Moosilauke in 3.7 miles. This ascent up Moosilauke is one of the best, if not the best, runnable climbs in the White Mountains. Going down the north side on the Beaver Brook Trail is steep slab with lots of wooden steps anchored to the rock and would not be recommended in wet conditions. The views of the waterfalls along the trail are definitely worth a trip when conditions permit. My pacer, aka my dog Bailey, was fearless on this terrain and easily cruised down the slabs. A few times she tried to peek over the edge to catch a glimpse of the falls.
I dropped off my pacer at Kinsman Notch and headed on solo. The middle third of the route is excellent single track on rolling terrain before a long, steep climb up South Kinsman, rolling technical terrain to get over the Cannon Balls, and then a soul-crushing climb to the summit of Cannon Mountain. The last half mile of climbing contains what is probably the steepest ‘trail’ I have ever been on. The 1.8 mile descent was no gimme either, with lots of loose scree, slab, and washed out trail.
I much prefer point-to-point and loop routes to an out-and-back but logistics for p2p can sometimes be prohibitive. Luckily for me, my wife was kind enough to sacrifice her day to allow me to do some p2p routes!