Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hardrock training in the Whites, take two!

So this past weekend, June 19th, I decided to do my last long back to back training weekend in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. If you read last week's blog post, you saw that Jeff List and I had a great back to back workout on no sleep, this weekend I drove up on Friday after work and made it to Bob Najar's cookout just before it was ending....after one relaxing beer, Jeanne Peckiconis, Craig Wilson and I headed over to his house in Conway to get a good night's sleep before the 2 days of fun began.

 The group starting on day 1
Chris, Christine, Bob and Bodie in front, Steve, Garry, Craig Rich and Mike in back

Day 1...Starting at Pinkham Notch at 8:20AM, we climbed up Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Huntington Ravine Trail to Nelson Crag to the summit of Mount Washington to watch the road race. The climb was fun as usual and it was even more fun seeing the expression on Chris and Christine's faces when they saw Huntington ravine headwall from lower down the trail. We reached the Mount Washington Summit at around 10:35am, so a little over 2 hours into our workout.

 Chris and Christine coming up Huntington Ravine trail

Chris, me and Garry on the Auto Road
Photo by Christine

After watching the race we went to the summit for some pizza and coke, then started down the Great Gulf Trail around 12:30, which is about as dangerous going down as Huntington is going up, maybe more-so! It is a near cliff with loose boulders and rocks, following a trickle of water that would become the river we would follow most of the afternoon.

 Looking over the abyss of the Great Gulf Trail we're about to descend

Garry sits on a log and rests feet when we cross the river

As the afternoon continued we reached the Madison Gulf Trail, which turns in the direction of Pinkham and our end of the day. Garry and I had stopped waiting for Chris and Christine after they told us they would easily find their way back....Garry started in cruise mode and living in Colorado makes it such that I am struggling to keep up with him, so I backed it off a notch, saving something for tomorrow's Presidential Traverse.

 1.9 miles to go!

I soon reached the Auto road, which is the start of the Old Jackson Road, where we can cruise into Pinkham. Garry looked beat and said he was....soon I was not hearing his footsteps behind me as I cruised the road in full flight, for me. I felt great.

I reached Pinkham at 3:55 and Garry was just a few minutes behind me. We showered, I dropped him off with his girlfriend, Nancy at the base of the auto road and went back to find Chris and Christine. I did and we talked for a bit, but i was hungry....time to get to Bob's for the eats and drinks!

Total for the day was around 12.5 miles in 5.5 hours. My guess is around 5,000' of climb give or take a little.

At Bob's "Robin's Nest" in Jackson I had a great meal of salad and a Ziti dish that Bob Dunfey made, all good washed down with a few beers and great conversation after which Craig and I headed back to his place for a good night's sleep.

Day 2, up at 4:30am for some eggs and bagels for breakfast, then head over to Crawford to drop the car off. Along the way we saw a huge bear strolling through someone's front yard looking for something to eat. Craig guesstimated it at about 250 lbs.

 Start of day 2
Bob Najar, Charlie, Me, Craig, Kim Goff and Bob Dunfey

After getting a ride over to our start at the Pine Link Trail, we began around 7:10AM. It was my hope to do this Prezi as fast as I could, finishing around 4PM. Bob Dunfey and Kim Goff took off with me after I enjoyed some of the climb with Craig and Bob Najar.

Some of the terrain we ran along
This is Madison to Adams

We weren't quite sure of the route and actually missed the Madison Summit, taking a trail that skirted around it up high, taking us to the Madison Hut. Oh, well....I've been up there before and the around trail was a little longer than going directly up and over. At the hut we ate some of the leftover breakfast waffles and pancakes, filled our bottles and headed out. Bob and Kim kept falling behind me as I was a stronger downhill runner on the rocks. We went up Adams together and I waited for them down at the Gulfside trail, which we were running to Mount Washington. After that I didn't see them again until the top of Mount Jefferson. I was talking to a hiker when Bob's head came over the horizon. Again we started together, but within minutes they were nowhere in sight, so I ran on in the hope to just stop quickly at Washington, fill my bottles and keep going. After going over Mount Clay, the sunshine was warm and the trail was dry, but I heard rumbling to the Northwest...

Snowfield we had to cross just before Jefferson

The fog was incredible now and off and on during the day. I reached one sign to see which way to go and standing in front of it I still couldn't see it without putting my nose right up against it. It said Mt Washington .5 Miles. I followed the direction it sent me, but something wasn't right, the auto road was in front of I jogged up the auto road only about 100 yards to the Nelson Crag Trail and took it to the summit. I went into the summit building at 12:30 and had a slice of pizza and a coke because the ranger said a bad storm cell was moving in...and bad it was. 70 MPH winds, hail and lightening. I soon saw Bob and Kim inside and they were drenched, having been caught in the storm. They were not letting anyone out of the building at this time and the Cog railroad was shut down until the storm passed, which took a good hour and 40 minutes before we could leave.
So what else to do but eat some more! We were concerned for the rest of our group, Bob Najar, Craig and Mike.

Soon Bob and Kim were getting warm and drier and the green light was on to leave the building and the decision had been made to stick together because the conditions outside were still pretty bad. I checked my watch, it was 2:10PM. Near zero visibility and high winds nearly blew us over. In the thick fog it took us awhile to find the actual Crawford Path we would run to the end, we finally did and ran on as best we could. at this point it was mostly hiking because of the wind and wet rocks. The trail was a river.

I eventually realized that no matter how slow I went, I would still pull ahead of Bob and Kim, but waited for them at critical intersections and would then move on. I had to move at my own pace to try to keep warm until we reached the Lake of the Clouds Hut, which I did reach soon. And when I did open the door, there's Craig standing there stretching! They had made the very wise decision to bypass Washington during the storm and just plow on through to LOC Hut.

 Group shot before leaving Lake of the Clouds Hut
Me, Bob, Bob, Kim Craig and Mike.

We soon got going and split into 2 groups, Bob Najar, Bob Dunfey and I would go hit all the summits, while Kim, Craig and Bill would stay on the Crawford Path. To hit the summits you just had to do the small loops from the Path, so it wasn't much longer than staying lower.

 Me and Bob soaked
I'm pacing Bob at the Vermont 100 again this year

Not much more to say other than fog, off and on wind and never finding a sign leading us to Pierce....The downhill trail went on and on and I was getting tired and hungry. We finally reached the right turn to the road to the cars and we ended around 6:15PM.

So I figured that the day was around 20 miles and the total time was 11:05 with the running time being around 9 hours, taking out all the time spent at Mount Washington and the huts, climb was around 9,000'.
I was satisfied with that.

One thing I'll mention is the bombproof  LaSportiva Imogene's passed the test and will be escorting me through Hardrock in 2.5 weeks.

Equipment used:
Shoes: LaSportiva Imogenes
Socks: Drymax Trail Lite
Pack: Nathan Elite 2V Plus
Shorts: Patagonia Long Trail
Shirt: Hardrock shirt, of course!
Fuel: Eggs in the AM, Pancakes at Madison and 2 slices of Pizza, a coke and hot chocolate at Washington. No gels, bars or anything like that.

To view all of my photos I took on day 1 go here
To View Chris and Christine's photos of day 1 go here
To view Bob Najar's photos of the Prezi go here

That's it, all the hard work is done! On to the big one!

This will be my last post until after Hardrock...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hardrock training in the Whites

This past weekend I met a couple of buds, Jeff List and Greg Stone, for my last big training weekend for Hardrock, it being one month from the race. Jeff was doing his last training run for Western States 100 and Greg just wanted to see what it was like to run and hike through the night in the White Mountains.

 The Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham, home sweet home

The plan was to run all night Friday and get back in time for the big breakfast at the lodge, sleep a little and go do repeats on Wildcat Mountain ski slopes. Lots of climbing involved here!

We met at Pinkham Notch Lodge after work and began our hike up Glen Boulder Trail at 7:30 PM while it was still light out. Glen Boulder we were very familiar with from prior hikes and also the MMD 50K, which went up this baby some years. It's a steep hike with great views...this is a description from Summitpost:

This route leaves Pinkham Notch and ascends past the famous Glen Boulder. The trail starts from the parking area and heads up around a cliff band on the mountain side. You will meet up to intersections with a couple different trails and also you will get some nice views over to Wildcat Mountain from certain points below treeline. The trail then starts to climb up the Gulf of Slides which is one of Mt. Washington's minor ravines on the southeast side.
At 1.6 miles you will reach the Glen Boulder and pop out of treeline with fantastic views west to the Carter Range and views within the Mt. Washington area. From here, the main trail continues over the alpine terrain and over a subpeak known as Slide Peak. Continue hiking until you reach the Davis Path.

 Glen Boulder, next to the cairn
Wildcat across the way

That said it all...The views were incredible and we were beginning to see the signs of sunset, which you only get to see by climbing up there at night.

We followed the Davis Path to our first destination, which was Mount Isolation. The Davis Path early on is above treeline and just a jumble of rocks, so no running just yet. We were able to run on the occasional dirt sections, but these were short lived. Plus it was getting dark and Greg was the first to put his light on as he was having trouble with some dizziness and wanted to turn back, but we wouldn't let him. The White Mountains are no place to be alone, especially at night, so we agreed to slow down a bit and make it a fun night. Jeff and I held off putting our lights on as it was a clear night and we were getting enough residual light from the sky, but soon our lights came on once we dropped back into the trees.

 Davis Trail intersection 

The Davis path was a mess in places! Trees down from avalanches made passing near impossible. There were several areas where we had to have one person stay put while another went in search of the trail on the other side of the jumble of trees. Climbing up and over and around huge trees that mother nature throw to the ground, some places the jumble blocked 10-15 feet of trail. This slowed us down incredibly as we picked our way through the mess. We also encountered many large blowdowns blocking the reminded me of Barkley!

 Sample of what we encountered, only at night

With persistence we finally found the trail up to Mount Isolation. It was a short out and back to reach the summit, but on wet and large rock slabs. It was quiet up on this summit that was just over 4000 feet and we had a beautiful view of a star filled sky.

Summit cairn of Mount Isolation
Mount Washington in the far distance, that's the ridgeline we followed

Back down to the Davis Path and in search of the Isolation West trail down into the Dry River Wilderness, which would bring us to the Mizpah Hut. We were worried that the trail, which we didn't see on the way to Mount Isolation, was in the middle of one of the avalanche areas and if so, we'd never find it. So Jeff studied his map and figured out that we needed to climb about 300 feet from the Isolation East trail (which we did see), so I took a reading on my altimeter and kept an eye on that. We reached the mess (to climb through again) and we had only gone about 200 feet, but we still watched for the trail...which we found right after the messy jumble of twisted trees.

This trail was no looked like it hadn't been cleared and trimmed in years. The spruce trees grew into each other making the trail barely seen and you absolutely could not see where you were putting your feet down, so the going was slow yet again. We were also getting soaked from the trees holding dew, which would not be good when up above tree line again. We could hear the wind up there and feared that.

The map told us that the trail crossed a river at it's base, so we listened for that...but what made it hard was the river or brook to our left all the way down...which was not on the map, so we feared that the river at the bottom would be a roaring thunder of water that would be impassible. No, there are no bridges out here...
We also realized that the going was so slow we were going to have to alter our route or not make it back in time for breakfast!

Soon we reached the river and it was roaring, but shallow the middle it was maybe mid thigh deep and cold. The crossing may have been around 20 feet long and Jeff got in first and helped me and Greg get across. Next up was the decision....continue on to Mizpah or head up the Eisenhower Trail, which we had reached. Hunger told us to start climbing, so up the Eisenhower we went. Next up, treeline and it's wind!

Just before we reached treeline we stopped and put some warm clothes on, jackets and hoods. It was cold up there and the wind was a gentle, but good breeze. One could easily get into trouble if not dressed properly. We bounced around all the rocks and got a good amount of running in up above treeline and soon reached the Lake of the Clouds Hut.

 Lake of the Clouds and Hut
Mt Washington on the horizon, we would climb up that smaller hill to the right and head down

We went into the hut and if I remember right, it was around 3am so we walked silently inside, refilled our water, grabbed a delicious cheese cake brownie (left some money, of course) and headed back out. It was 3 hours to breakfast and we had a ways to go. Up the trail from the hut to the Tuckerman Connector trail and it was now getting light out, so off with the lights. We followed that trail to Tuckerman's, but at the headwall it was closed due to ice and snow breaking away from the cliffs.
 From Tuckerman's, we took the Alpine Garden trail to Lion's head.

 Down to Lion's Head

Lion's head is a good, rocky descent....very steep in parts, but it does get you down quickly. Greg was having trouble with the rocks, so Jeff and I waited for him on occasion and the break was nice....but the clock was ticking! Once we reached the Tuckerman's Ravine trail again below the headwall, we ran. We ran as fast as we could on that rocky road and got back to the lodge at 6:45 am.

Now for a quick shower and a fantastic breakfast of eggs and pancakes, then a short 3 hour nap after saying bye to Greg, who had to go home.

After our nap, we got dressed for the next adventure....some repeats on Wildcat Mountain with tired legs!

Wildcat is is about 2 miles up the ski slope we took up, which was the Catapult. Lower, middle and upper. As we began we enjoyed watching the people riding the zipline over our heads, screaming like little kids. On up the slope, which was tough and I struggled to keep up with Jeff, who is a great climber. We reached the first summit in about 48 minutes, stopped for a minute to take a picture of a couple on top with their camera and started the jog down Polecat, which is more like 2.5 miles down. I've always been a better downhiller than a climber, so left Jeff in my wake and waited for him at the bottom. The run down took about 20 minutes and once Jeff got down, a couple of minutes after I did, we started over to Catapult again, which is one of the steeper slopes on the mountain. I need the climbing for Hardrock and Jeff needs the downhill for western, so it worked out well for us.

The 2nd climb really hurt...and Jeff easily pulled away from me and waited on the summit, watching me suck wind on the last really steep pitch. It did hurt, but parts of Hardrock will hurt even more, so this was good!

Down Polecat one more time and we're done for the I pulled away from Jeff and at a place where the trail turns hard left, a Moose ran across my path. It was awesome as I had not ever seen a Moose while out running. As I turned the corner, I saw he was standing there just staring, so I stopped knowing what these guys can do if they want and yelled up to Jeff  "MOOSE!" Jeff didn't hear me, but I scared the critter and it ran down into the trees. I continued on and waited for Jeff at the bottom where we jogged the half mile back to the lodge.

 Very similar to what I saw

So it was a great training day and after dinner we figured out the distance on an online map they had in the lodge. Our overnight trek was about 21 miles with 8000' of climb and took us 11:15. The Wildcat repeats were about 9 miles with about 4200' of climb and took 3 hours, so the day was a total of 29 miles, 12,200' of climb in 14 hours. Good workout!

Next Saturday I'm going back up while Jeff is in the middle of his taper. I'll meet some friends at Pinkham Lodge again and we hike up Lion's Head to the summit of Mt Washington, watch some of the the Mount Washington road race and run back down into the Great Gulf Wilderness or maybe to Madison down Osgood back to the lodge. After the post race party, I'll drive to Adams, Ma. for a night's sleep to run the Greylock Half Marathon on Sunday to put the icing on my Hardrock training cake!

One thing I'd like to mention is I've been trying to find "the" shoes for Hardrock. My team, the Wasatch Speedgoat Mountain Racing team, is sponsored by LaSportiva so they are going to be LaSportivas. The Crosslites I love but they just don't have enough under foot for the long haul, so I tried out some Imogenes and they passed the test, these are my shoes for Hardrock! So I wore the Imogenes on the overnight run/hike and the Crosslites on the Wildcat repeats.
I also used my Nathan HPL #020 backpack for the overnight to carry more water and clothes.


On another note I wanted to mention that Deb and I are well on our way to moving to New Mexico. We sold the house in NH and looked at several, made an offer on one which was accepted. Here is what will be our new home in the Jemez Mountains.

It's a Log home sitting pretty at 8200 feet, just 35 minutes West of Los Alamos, not far from Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos.

Deb has already moved out there and I will, too as soon as I find a good job that equals what I have here in NH. I will be there by the fall, the latest.

I fly out next Thursday for the 2 week acclimating for Hardrock and return on the 12th and will be pacing Bob Dunfey again at the Vermont 100 the following weekend.

So until next time....maybe see some of you at Hardrock or Vermont!