March 31, 2011

Mount Monadnock Power Hike

Hunt for the four-leaf clover... 
 St. Patrick's Day on Monadnock 

I decided early morning on March 17th to enjoy the beautiful weather and fast hike to the summit of Monadnock. I was early enough to see only 5 people total on the trail and top, combined. The summit was wind-blown bare, clear and breezy. Below the tree line was slushy, loose snow, which only got more cookie dough as the temperature rose. I was glad to have my kahtoolas in the pack and put them on about 1/4 mile up the trail.

Since running with my Mountainsmith Paired trekking poles at the Peak Races Snowshoe Challenge, I'm a believer. Coordinating the pole plant with the hiking/running rhythm takes little practice but is unbelievably helpful on the knees! I used them up and down the mountain trail.

On my descent, I started to slide and could plant the poles, and my feet, like an axe in self-arrest. The slide was at first fun until jamming my spiked heal into the snow did nothing. I slid about 5 more feet. After about 8 feet I got nervous and worked the poles... 15 feet total. It would have been jolly good fun if it wasn't so steep and the rocky ledge ahead was just a mirage. Thank goodness for kahtoolas and poles and double coverage tush layers. I learned something important...kahtoolas aren't effective in slushy snow. Given the major melt off, their cleats didn't chomp into the snow like they do on ice.  
I also enjoyed the sinking lesson: step off the trail and you are suddenly three to five feet shorter. THAT was fun. I was up to my thighs in snow. Damn. Thank you, little tree.

Route: Up White dot in 1:06 (with stopping for photos); goofing at the top 4 minutes; descent down White Arrow in 45:00. Average Heart Rate 151.
Gear: Kahtoolas, Nathan Hydration Pack, camera, hat, gloves, trekking poles, arm warmers, and sunglasses.
Food: One Balance bar, water and a Hammer Gel (Huckleberry).
Lots of "Blarney Stone" to kiss here.

March 30, 2011

Snowshoe Challenge Peak Races

March came and went with a swift breeze.  I began the month with a snowshoe half marathon in the Peak Races, Pittsfield, Vermont. With all my health crud that's but lurking and sitting on the sidelines, I decided to do something adventurous outside with some friends, laughing through the woods.  
Me and my favorite colored trail blaze! (Photo by kZ.)
I wanted to make my 40th birthday memorable. And it was!  I shared the day with some of my dear running pals, including Dan and Kevin, who stuck with me for our two-loop course. Dan and I were evenly trained, which meant our log books were about as equally blank. My last run was two weeks prior to this half and before that a 4.5 mile SS at Horse hill three weeks earlier. I was going in fresh.

 kZ, Trail Pixie, Steve and Dan with our Pre-Race Faces.

kZ was out there for his first (I think) snowshoe event. Steve LaTour was back for another SS marathon AND a major PR. He’s one tough High Quality, non generic, No Trans fat Cookie.

Before the start, we goofed around as the RD spoke, then we watched Steve's circa 1980’s style gray track-suit disappear into the woods never to be seen again.  Until after his finish. What I didn’t know— as I walked quickly towards his vehicle to offer kudos—was that he was nearly Scottish Highland Cattle (buck) naked behind his car door. Good times. Also at Peak was Michelle who reincarnated herself several times in the Death Race. We got to see her a few times on the course before she took second place, overall.  Those lumberjack men hadn't met the tough as tyvek likes as 'lil Roy.

Simon Says...."Descend the Mountain"
(photo by Dan S)

The course loop was 3.5 miles up and 3 down—give or take. TWICE. SO the “down” part is deceiving because on the descents exist generous ascents. Welcome to Vermont.  The 1870 ft elevation was a calf-awakening reminder of the mountain circuit (but with snow and giant tennis racquets attached to my feet). Let me say a bit about the snowshoes out there…some folks wore giant SS’s. I’m not sure how they maneuvered the single-track slushy trail. Wow. I was pleased with my Dion 122’s; they’re light with a low profile.

Pausing at the Peak.

In the first mile I was thinking “what the heck did I get myself into…” but then I found my groove, pushed away such trivial negativity and hunkered in for the long haul. It was a beautiful (overcast, sometimes rainy and silly-fun) day. 
Not an aid station.
Keep in mind list: 
Wear calf-covering socks beneath my tights due to the snow kick up! I only need one gaiter layer for the snow (and added warmth). I spent more time in the aid station than I usually do. I was trying to get my fingers to work (cold!) and tighten my sneaker laces, that and changing my shirt and eating some...

bad cookies. 
 I had no real regrets with the day. I was only temporarily possessed with the kind of fictional regret that appears when cold with low blood sugar, one-friend down, and no Scooby snacks in the joey. 
Why didn’t I see any mythological beings in the Labyrinth?  

So, if I had not dallied the extra 1 minute and 40 seconds (blah blah blah) in between loops, I would have made 1st in my age group! HAH! This means I made 2nd in my new age group, which is a coups! We finished in under 4:15 hours. Not too shabby.
Farewell 30's.

March 01, 2011

Peak Race for my New Decade

This weekend I'll be smiling pretty in Pittsfield, Vermont to receive some (birthday) spanks by the Peak Race course. 
"Please sir, I want some more?"
I’m in no condition to run a half-marathon on trail sneakers let alone snowshoes, but there it is-- two loops up and down the mountain. Then cake, yes. Cake. Followed by a little more cake, fuzzy drink, fuzzy sleeping bag, fuzzy socks, friends and fire.  Yes, this sounds like a good way to ring in my new decade!

Predictions of snow will only make the Friday and Saturday more memorable…THAT and spending the night and day with my running TUGgers. What fun to meet up again with Breakheart Dan, Kevin Z, Michelle R, and Steve LaTour.  It’s been too long. Will miss other core members who couldn’t make the trek!

So I checked out the event roster and heck, there are a lot of familiar names! This is going to be epic. Looks like a huge crowd overall so I might as well take it from the rear. With 10 hours to complete the miles, I think I can take this on very easily and make it all about the company, the views and being present, every step—every breath.

Hopefully Dan will venture out there with me for a loop; our training is at about the same level  (long pause here…). We have a great time no matter what our speed. I’ve done two snowshoe races of up to 7k and a recent treadmill run for 30 minutes at 3% to 5% grade. This is going to be interesting.
I’ve been looking forward to this. 
BUT, I’ll have to finish before I have any cake!