Monday, July 27, 2009

White Mountain training, week #1

OK, So Deb and I (and Tucker) began our serious training for MMD and the Bear 100 yesterday in the White Mountains and we had a great day!

For starters, we drove up to the Cog Railroad parking lot to hike Mount Washington on the southern side, by way of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail with the plan to return by way of the Jewell Trail, which is much more runnable than the Ammonoosuc. This makes a nice loop of about 10 miles with 3800 feet of elevation gain and loss and you pass by the Lake of the Clouds Hut, then reach the summit with it's vast assortment of food to purchase at the restaurant.
Here is a great write-up of this loop.

We started the climb at around 9:30 AM and reached the hut at 11...our plan was to just continue on by it, but we heard some great music coming from inside, so tied up Tucker in the awful weather and went in to listen and to put on our jackets. I wore only my Wasatch Speedgoat jacket, which is a Golite Ether Wind jacket. This super thin jacket is incredibly warm and it packs into a fist sized package for easy packing.

The music inside was two members of the crew playing a guitar and fiddle to an empty house. This might be the first time there was no one inside the hut in my 40+ years of visiting my favorite hut!

One side note I want to mention is my shoes....and a particularly aggravating knee injury I've had since the late 70's. Patella Tendinitis is the injury and it has bee aggravation me since I ran a marathon last fall. Well, my team has La Sportiva's as one of our sponsors so I've been trying their shoes. The shoe that was recommended to me is the LaSportiva Fireblade. Well, I've been wearing these mostly just during races because they are low profile, low heel, close to the trail shoes and I thought that maybe I shouldn't wear these "all" the time. Well, they are so comfortable that I've begun wearing them all the time and the knee is feeling the best it has in years! I think that maybe running in these, I am "closer to the trail and thus getting less side to side movement.

The weather below started out as humid and some sun breaking through the clouds, but as soon as we reached treeline, the clouds moved in and with that the rain and wind. The visibility was so bad we could hear the hut, but couldn't see it until we were right beside it, so it was nice to get in out of that weather, even if it was only for about 10 minutes.

After our brief stop there, we headed outside to continue on to the summit of Mount Washington. Now the winds were becoming such that you could not remain on your feet. Our eyeglasses were also covered in water from the fine mist blowing about. We couldn't see a thing!

I took a couple of videos of the conditions and posted them here.

Just before the Mount Washington Summit

We were hiking up on the Crawford Path, but had to stop to closely look at the signs to not miss the turn up to the summit. It was easy to get disoriented in this thick cloud and wind. We passed a group teenage Girl Scouts that didn't see too happy, they were hiking up in soaking wet blue jeans and here are two older folks in shorts gliding right by them ;-)
Tucker didn't know what to make of all of it, but he stuck close by and loyally followed us to not get lost. He looks at us every now and then and I think he must be saying to himself "What the heck are we doing now?"

Just after we summitted

In the restaurant we grabbed some food and a Coke because we had a long day ahead of us...I tied tucker up outside and I guess he was frightening some of the people in their clean dry clothes and flip flop sandals who drove up the auto road. Here is this soaking wet, very wolf like looking dog trying his best to get to everyone to get a pat. Next thing you know we hear over the loudspeaker for the owner of the dog tied outside to please remove him. The guy was nice, he showed me a spot out of the wind and away from the clean people....but Tuck didn't like that, he barked and barked, so we had to eat fast and get going.

The weather was actually getting worse as we fumbled our way to the sign in the thick cloud and wind to find the sign for the Gulfside Trail that will take us to the Jewell Trail and back down into the warmth and sunshine. Before we reached the trail intersection the wind was so strong it would stop us in our tracks, you literally could not move forward!

Cog Railway parking area from the Jewell Trail

We finally reached the Jewell Trail and got below the clouds and weather. We also knew that nice downhill running was coming once we got through the initial rocks near the top and it did....we reached the bottom after being gone for 4hours and 45 minutes, about 45 of which was spent inside buildings. And Just we thought, it was warm and sunny down at the Cog railroad base station.

Looking over at the Cog railway from the Jewell Trail

...BUT, we just didn't feel like it was enough, so we drove around the corner a bit and hiked up the Skookumchuck Trail to the Franconia/Lafayette Ridge, which is about 8.5 miles round trip and has a little over 3o00 feet of elevation gain and loss. Our plan was to hike until we reached 5PM, then head down because of the forecasted thunderstorms with lightening and hail.
Lafayette Ridge is not place to be in that type of weather. I knew the top was around 4800', so kept an eye on my altimeter to watch our progress and when we reached 5PM, I knew we didn't have far to go and we also didn't hear any distant thunder, so continued on to the top,which we reached a little after 5. The weather up top was calm, but very hazy. I did take several pictures, which didn't come out that great. We'll be passing this spot again next Saturday when we do the Pemi Loop.

Signs at the top of the Skookumchuck Trail

Looking over at Mount Garfield from the Ridge

Ok, time to get down, weather is not going to took us 2 hours to reach the top, so I was guessing an hour run down, but it actually took us 1.5 hours due to very slippery boulders and very tired legs.

It was a great first training day in the Whites. We got some 4 hours of climbing and almost that much descent, most of which we ran to pound the quads. The total mileage we guessed at 17.5 miles.

This weekend was a good warm up for some real long training with lots of climbing. Next weekend we are planning on doing the 31.5 mile Pemi Loop, and the following weekend we'll go up to Maine for the Grafton Notch Loop. The distance, as I was told, is around 26 miles, but runs about the same time as the Pemi, which will take us anywhere from 10-12 hours. The weekend after that is the tough MMD50K in the White Mountains, which will take us anywhere from 16-20 hours.

So as you can see we have some great training runs coming up with the goal being the Bear 100 on September 25th. After MMD, we'll take a breather weekend and do something locally to rest the old bodies, then most likely go up to the Whites one last time in early September for at least one last long hike before we start tapering in mid September.

Next week I'll post photos and a report on the Pemi Loop...

Until then, happy trails!
Steve and Deb

PS: It is always fun to mingle with "civilians" after a hard run or hike. We stopped on the way out of town to get food. We were both covered with mud, dirt, grime, salt, etc. etc. (there's been lots of rain lately and the trails were a slopfest). I (Deb) went to the ladies' room to at least wash my face and hands (no towels, just those air dryers.. grrrr). A lady in there tried to steer way clear of me...I could tell. She had neat little capri pants and clean feet. She stared at the mud that was calf deep on my legs. I might have had branches stuck in my hair too. And some blood. There was probably blood somewhere on my shin...Just saying, it wasn't a Vogue moment for me. She stared again while we were waiting in line for food.
Finally, she smiled and said, "We're supposed to go hiking tomorrow. Is that what I'm going to look like when we're done?"
Steve answered, "If you have a good hike, you will!"


Dan said...

Deb/Steve - Great response to woman's question about her upcoming hike. What's a hike/run without some mud and blood? It sounds like you two are having a nice summer. Enjoy, and good luck with your training. Steve, I hope your knee comes around soon. Dan

Paige said...

Great post! Sounds like a blast of a hike, and a success judging by how much mud you had on you :)

Looking forward to reading about the Pemi Loop!

Rock on, Peros!

Bob Buckingham said...

Wow guys, sounds like the trail was in awesome shape. I love the PS at the bottom of your post. It is incredible how often that has happened after a very satisfying hike/run. The clean people just do not understand. Have fun with your upcoming training. Wish I was there with you.