20070629 - Owl's Head

8 Miles of flat, 1 mile of really fucking steep (1,500'), fuck around on the top, then do the whole thing in reverse. Well, I think the consensus is: Owl's Head isn't so bad if you do it as fast as you can... in dry conditions ... in nice weather ... and with good company... and you only do it once. Today's adventure was #1 for tMail, #2 for me and #3 for MPM. Apparently common-sense is inversely proportional to height. Or maybe willingness to abuse oneself is proportional to height. Or maybe ascending Owl's Head causes growth in adults by providing essential nutrients.

Speaking of which, I just don't get this tMail guy. As I said to the MPM, chasing him on the way back on the rail-bed was okay until he looked back, saw me, and slipped away into the distance like a wave washing back off a beach. Buh-bye. Where the fuck does that come from? Fucking alien species. But tMail and the MPM set up a good pace on the way in and the way out. I was caboose.

It's also worth noting that tMail's disappearance into the distance was fine by me. The MPM and I were great pace-partners because of his sprained ankle and brace. It slowed him down enough and caused enough pain to match him to my speed. What a great coincidence.

Other highlights:

  • At the point in the pemi where we turned to head up the Owl's Head ascent, we greeted an older couple in the woods that the MPM somehow recognized as a couple we encountered in Huntington Ravine on the day of treadmill's race up the Bad Boy. Lots of cheers and fellow-feeling. A meal was prepared and a sow slaughtered and the fruits of a good harvest were shared amongst the townspeople. Shouts of "Huzzah!" were heard, and much ale was consumed.
  • We found the 'real' summit of Owl's Head. There's enough of a trail that it's possible to find one's way out there, although it seemed to require detours along a "douchebag trail" that had no physical manifestation other than causing hikers to feel like douchebags when they found their way back to a visible trail. Photos (posted later this weekend) will show proof of our achievement, as evidenced by a sign that somebody strategically bolted to a tree in a kind of permanent-really-fucking-big-bolt-kind-of-way.
  • At the end of our journey back at the Lincoln Woods campground, we scrambled down the bank and soaked in the cold water of Franconia Brook. The initial thrill of immersion and subsequent cooling and cleansing of the our swampy grundles gradually faded into a relaxed, non-moving, contemplative, cold, restorative soak. Several minutes of silence in the bright sun, cloudless blue sky and gurgling brook were punctuated by the MPM commenting: "this is much better than being at work". Truer words were never spoken - at least not after climbing that horse-cunt of a mountain.
  • In preparation for Jay, I pretended to step on a loose stone while crossing one of the larger sections of Lincoln Brook, and followed that with a fake stepping of both feet into the water up to my calves. That gave me the opportunity to experience exactly what my shoes feel like completely water-logged while banging on a trail and climbing up Owl's Head. I changed socks at the summit. On the way back, at that same crossing, tMail and the MPM were feeling left out, so we all used the knee deep water to all experience that same slushy lusciousness. Having experienced this on the way in, I used the excuse that I needed to wash off the dingleberries made of glops of mud that we all acquired on the trail.
Luckily for me we all stopped at the Subway in Lincoln. I took my time going home, stopping at Wal~Mart in Littleton for some odds-and-ends and had completely forgotten that I had a 7:30 board meeting in Peacham, Vermont for a project to build an astronomical observatory. After getting home I at like a pig.

My conclusions about Jay, as a result of this adventure: fuck that shit.


20070629/30/31/32/33- The Battle Plans Are Laid

A plan is afoot. Several plans really. Friday (??), Saturday (??), Sunday (??), Monday (??), Tuesday (??)...

Here's what we know so far:

  • Friday: tMail & the MPM hit Franconia. NO WAIT! change of Plans. It's OWL'S HEAD!
  • Saturday: mutha does something, MPM moves a pal.
  • Sunday: MPM & tMail in the Blue Hills (tMill as well?)
  • Monday: MPM, MadDog & mutha on the Carters?
  • Tuesday: Backup day for Monday's plan???
  • Tuesday: MadDog comes out of retirement (keerist, these plans are out of control!)
Is now a bad time to ask if anyone has thought about The Pemi Polka?


20070623 - Willey Range/Ethan Pond Loop

The MPM and Treadmill ended up staying in Mass, and tMail headed out to test run the route for his Tri tomorrow. So I ended up doing the Willey Range (Mt. Field, Mt. Willey) and dropping down to the Ethan Pond trail (taking the A-Z trail back up and over the col between Mt. Tom and Mt. Willey.

I packed light, using my little Black Diamond bag (1.5L water) and no poles. I stuck with my lightweight long-sleeve Patagonia top, running shorts and my Solomon light trail runners and a headsweat, spare socks and top. Man - the top of the ridge was in the fog, windy and I don't know the temperature but it was COLD! The summit of Mt. Washington was below freezing and using a lapse rate of 5° per 1,000', that would put the temp around 40°. No shit. I didn't have gloves and while I kept my core up (barely), my hands got so cold that they were ... uh ... cold. I actually tried to avoid touching rocks which hadn't warmed up from the previous night. That was a challenge on Mt. Avalon, which has a bare rock summit with a steep scramble. Everything on that ridge was cold and wet, with high winds and blowing fog.

The rain over the last few days had left everything slick, muddy and wet, so the slowest parts of the trail were the steep ascents and descents. One exception to that is the A-Z trail, which was muddy and slick w/ complex footing (roots and mossy rocks) and the vegetation crowding in from both sides (actually touching) - so there was a lot of bobbing and weaving. On the other hand, the Ethan Pond trail is flat and fast. I'm sure I ran sections at a 9min pace (the first 5 miles or so have numerous split-log bridges to keep you above the marsh - they were in good shape, but slick).

I didn't bring a camera but did make mages from data collected on my Suunto altimeter log and also from my mapping software. The images are posted here. One image shows average speed in two different plots:

  • Cumulative Avg Speed: This is the average speed up to that point on the trip. Once you get near the end it's hard to change the cumulative average by much. I ended with an average 3.1 mph for the trip.
  • Interval Avg Speed: The trip is divided into about 1/2 dozen intervals and this plot shows the average speed for the interval leading up to that point. For example the entire Ethan Pond segment averaged about 4mph (a 15min pace).
I wanted to run it under 6hrs (16.3 miles including a .2mi RT to Thoreau Falls) and I did (5:15). I might be able to run it sub-5hr in drier conditions. I stopped once to change my top to sleeveless and stopped a few times to snack (only a few minutes each time - maybe 5 at the Falls, which were quite stunning). Total elevation gained: ~4,700'

Note to anyone doing this route: The time I showed is actual watch time (no deductions have been made for any reason). The route included a side-trip to the summit of Avalon (a 100yd scramble up bare rocks, a look around, and a careful descent); a 0.1 mile side-trip out to Thoreau Falls, including eating a banana and some trail mix and inching out to the edge of the falls and checking it out - well worth it).


20070623 - A Little Distance

Okay, here's the deal. At the end of July, we've got the Jay Challenge. We have to run 31 miles and I personally want to average more than 3 mi/hr, although 3mi/hr is my realistic goal (at that speed, thinking of it as a 20min pace isn't as helpful). tMail & MPM will probably want to target 4mph, but that's their deal.

So this means that on Saturday I want to put in some distance - between 10 and 20 miles. I don't care about the surface - as long as I'm working hard that's fine by me. The key characteristic is distance (or alternatively, time, if it's a hard push). I don't know who's up for this weekend (tMail has a tri) but here are a few suggestions - I'll come up with some more tomorrow. All of these have a combination of rugged, steep and flat/fast:

  1. Mt. Cardigan (Cardigan Mt. State Forest/AMC Cardigan Reservation). Starting at the AMC Cardigan Lodge (1,400'), a large facility like the one at Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch, there is a network of trails that can be traversed for any length trip. There's a double ascent that I've been mulling over that hits Orange Mtn (Mt. Gilman) at 2,684', Rimrock at 2,800', drops back to 1,700' and then rockets up to 3,155' (Mt. Cardigan) in only 1.1 miles. Most of the steep gain is in the last 1/2 mile (about 1,000') over bare rock. It's not as hard as Huntington Ravine - but the same kind of environment. After that, it's about 5 miles of lovely woods and fast trails back to the AMC lodge. I forget the mileage - maybe 12.
  2. Hale/Zealand loop. This goes up Hale, then the following route: Lend-a-Hand to Twinway out to Zeacliff. Then out to Thoreau Falls and back on the Ethan Pond/Zealand trails. Maybe 14 miles total. I've never seen Thoreau Falls. This is a much more rugged route, although not as bad as in the Whites. Hale Brook is very steep, like Glen Boulder or Liberty Springs. Lend-A-Hand drops down kind of the way the Bridal Path does below Greenleaf Hut and then is fast to Zeacliff. Ethan Pond/Zealand are flat and fast.
  3. There's a 16 mile loop in Crawford Notch that goes up the Avalon Trail, Past Mt. Tom, down the A-Z trail ("Avalon To Zealand"?) to Ethan pond. Past Thoreau Falls and back to the Willey Range Trail and home again. It is pretty flat for much of the route, but there's the initial climb up to where the Mt. Tom jct is. Then, after all that flat trotting, the Ethan Pond trail curves back east toward Crawford Notch and there's a very steep ascent up to Mt. Willey. I came down this w/ g-$$$ and MadDog last fall and don't recall the terrain, but it's steep up and it comes after about 10 miles of the hike.
I can say for sure that I plan on doing this at a good clip. I doubt as fast as some of you lunatics can hamma, but this won't be a toodle in the park for me. For a 16 mile trek like #3, with it's ruggedness and challenging ascents (even though Ethan Pond is flat), I'll be targeting a time around 6 hours. I really need to be working very hard for at least 5 or 6 hours.

Some logistical things: I plan on using my teeny little black diamond pack, w/ no extras. I'm bringing a 1.5L bladder and a water pump/filter unit. I'll have food, and that's it - maybe a change of shirt (since I may be testing a sausage casing that I kind of hate), change of headsweat and change of socks.... and no poles, although I may regret that.


20060616 - Treadmill Destroys Mt. Washington!

There's nothing left but the bones, ladies and gentlemen. The mountain is laying bleeding in a corner, begging for mercy. Treadmill crossed the finish line in 1:33 and some seconds, in the top 20 women runners. How cool. Pictures are posted via the Trip Reports link on the left (or click here). I haven't gotten pics from the PM yet, but they'll be added at some point.

tMail, the PM and I had a glorious day out on Huntington Ravine - greatly missing g-$$$ (still dealing w/ pink-eye) and MD (being thrown off a cliff by huge earth-moving machinery or something like that). The weather was extraordinarily excellent and Huntington Ravine was terrific fun.

tMail tagged the summit of Monroe in an extraordinary race w/ the clock. The PM and I escorted him as far as the trail Jct of the Crawford Path, Tuckerman Cutoff (or whatever it's called) just above Lake of the Clouds. We headed up to the summit of the Bad Boy via the Crawford Path while tMail rocketed off to Monroe. We were standing around at the finish line waiting for runners for only about 15 minutes when who should pop in? tMail. How he covered that much terrain in that short a time is beyond me. Were it not for the photographic evidence, I'd say he hid behind a rock and waited until we were out of sight before sneaking up behind us.

Well, Treadmill not only crushed the mountain but didn't even crash and burn afterwards. We chowed on pizza and beer with her running-mate Stephanie at the Shannon Door in Jackson and there was no evidence she had done a damned thing. I want that kind of immunity to exertion.

Other highlights were:

  • Near the top of the Ravine, due to the verticality of the locale and my relative position on the cliff, I felt compelled to comment to the PM on his shapely behind, clad in flatteringly tight shorts. A free-soloing climber heading down from above, peeked over the edge of a rock and commented "he doesn't look so hot from here!". (tMail added further commentary on the moisture level of the PM's shorts, leading to our new favorite phrase: "Swampy Grundle".
  • the PM and I followed tMail's lead and completely immersed ourselves in a very cold brook (the one running alongside the Tuckerman trail). See the last pic for photographic proof.


Franconia Speed Hike

While we're gearing up for treadmill's dominance of The Bad Boy Road Race, some thoughts on the Franconia Ridge Speed Hike. Last Sunday I timed a trial hike with two intermediate milestones to use as comparison and pacing for the upcoming event in a few weeks (no date set yet). As I posted earlier (two posts ago), my times were as follows:

  • Start: Parking area at Falling Water/Bridal Path trailhead.
  • Little Haystack (Falling Water/Franconia Ridge jct signpost): 1:15 (3.2mi)
  • Lafayette Summit (Greenleaf jct signpost): 1:50 (4.8mi)
  • End: Parking area: 3:11 (8.8mi)
I'm quite sure that tMail and others could easily hit sub-3 times, but at my fitness level this will take a little doing. Here's where I think I could save some time and also offer some tips for anyone reading this:
  • Falling Water: I can't imagine doing it much faster. The flat part before the first major water crossing can be done faster, maybe saving a minute, but the ascent of about 3,200' is pretty tiring. Even if I could shave another 5 minutes off I think it would take too much of a toll. If you try it for time, run your heart out early as fast as you can. If you need a warmup, do it in the parking lot before starting your clock. Once you do that stone-to-stone hop crossing where it starts heading up along the stream you're going to slow way down. After the last water crossing, the trail joins an old logging road and the grade moderates for a few hundred yards. Push hard there as well.
  • Franconia Ridge: I'm sure this is the place to run fast. The ascents up Lincoln and Lafayette have a few spots that are a little tiring, but aside from that and a few rocky awkward spots, can be done as hard as possible. Don't worry about tiring because the climbs aren't going to happen any slower because you ran too fast on the 'flats'. Aside from the limits that ascending presents, the biggest barrier will be footing. I think saving 5 minutes here is possible.
  • Bridal Path/Greenleaf: This is tough. Certainly there are sections that are steep and nearly unnavigable without using hands, but the first drop to treeline and the last mile to the cars can be done quickly. That said, I should point out that I ran the last mile at a pretty fine clip - probably a 10min pace or better. I doubt I could shave off much. I do believe that in dry conditions I could do much better. I was running in ankle-deep water in many sections, and mud and slippery rock elsewhere until I was pretty low down. If you can recall the trail, you'll remember that after dropping below the open sections of the lower ridge, after the last steep spots, the grade moderates however the trail is VERY awkward, with large rocks set in a well-drained surface. The rocks are hard to step on, so you end up running on the dirt, but hopping over and around the rocks with every step. There's a lot of that and it just doesn't go fast. This is the spot where Maddog jammed his left calf with his crampon when were were out w/ Spungie and the UM/UF.
Now I have to admit that I wasn't exactly wiped out when I got back to the car with the 3:11 time. But man, going faster on the ascent just scares me. For me, sub-3 is going to be a challenge - but it would be fun to see how fast it could be done. tMail expressed an interest and in anticipation of the Jay Challenge I think I'll be trying this more than once - or at least this and the Hale/Zeacliff loop I keep talking about. Keep this terrific loop in mind if you're looking for some variety and want to harden your quads.


20070616 - Treadmill Conquers The Bad Boy!

We're anticipating an exciting Saturday, as treadmill attempts something that none of us has even come close to attempting: The Mt. Washington Road Race. The current plan is for tMail and me to support the MPM who is supporting Treadmill. What route? What plan? What The F0ck? More on this as things develop.

In the meantime, let's consider just how much treadmill has been running in the mountains: According to the USFS, Treadmill's mountain-goat antics have upset the balance of nature, as the male goats have re-focused their interest in her, and stopped concentrating on the usual goals of mating season. Apparently, the goat-herds in NH have placed their bets on her.

Treadmill could not be reached for comment, although a husky male voice answered the phone and said "baaaaaaahhhhhh".

Update 6/12: MPM has spoken: The Puppet Master has decreed that the ascent shall be via Huntington Ravine, known for it's steep, ass-puckerishly hand-holdicious exposed ledges. Once over the top, Mutha is veering south on the alpine garden for some serious photo ops with the mountain laurel, dwarf rhododendron and whatever else is in bloom. tMail will probably already be down the Ammo and back and will hopefully be just a little tired. The mPM will be scanning the horizon for his baby doll. As for g-$$$, well, if he can see out of his remaining good eye he may helicopter in and drop care packages on the runners. And what about what's-her-name? Oh yeh, the one who's actually going to run this little baby. Right. We'll get to the top first and set fire to a little voodoo thing I've been working on. It'll slow the other runners down a bit - especially when they hear the rabbit scream. I'll bring the herring.


20070610 - Spring In the Air

What, spring in the air? And fall in the lake? Hellfire and damnation! What with our funky schedules, rain and crazed lunatics running through the streets it's been hard to get back into the hills. But the hills beckon and we hear their siren call. I could use a good refresher on how to hike. For a route, I'm still thinking of the route posted on last week's post (see below).

Because Saturday is looking pretty showery, I'm shooting for a Sunday launch, if indeed anything gets off the ground this weekend at all. (The MWO is reporting a forecast for Saturday of showery/thunderstormy conditions so I'm cool w/ avoiding the high spots or indeed being stuck outdoors all day in the rain.)

Update 6/10, 2pm:
The skies were grey but it was almost 65°F when I left Danville this morning. As soon as I got into NH, the dogs and cats started falling and driving on 93 was a mess. I almost stopped and bought a used canoe. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of hiking in a complete downpour so made the decision to bag the Mt. Hale/Zeacliff hike, shaving 4 miles or so by just doing the old standard of Falling Water/Bridal Path.

But there's a punchline coming, so first the setup:

I had my mini-backpack w/ me (a little Black Diamond thing w/ space for a bladder and a little cargo). I had a windbreaker and windpants and a cap in the pack, but was wearing running shorts & tank top because it as pretty warm when I left home, and some light trail runners (MPM, they were my blue Solomons like you had at the relay). I sat in my car at the trailhead parking area (the usual spot, across from the Lafayette Campground) for almost 40 minutes waiting for the rain to let up. It was miserable - but at least I was in the car. After about 30 minutes is seemed like it was tapering off, so I went and took a piss in the woods, got soaked from rain, and sat in the car w/ the heat blasting for another 5 or 10 minutes. Other cars were pulling in and hikers were setting off w/ full rain-gear. Eventually I headed out too. Fucking rain. I figured I'd be generating a lot of heat so I'd take my chances. Good bet. That EMS TechWick rocks. But wait, there's more...

Okay, so you know how I like to complain, right? Well, the trail was soaked, the rain was falling (but tapering off) and the trees were dripping. Stream crossings were challenging (although not that bad), but I didn't have poles. The whole way up Falling Water I kept thinking "crap, I want to push it but don't seem to be making much headway. this sucks." I felt like I just didn't have fully charged batteries and I kept thinking about g-$$$'s email about his "triathalon". Plus, I was hiking in running water, squishy mud and slippery rocks. Oddly, the fact that I was blowing by other hikers seemed to escape me - probably because my left knee was acting up and my shoulders were aching (I spent 7 hours saturday weed-whacking the fence-line, picking rocks for some landscaping and digging a 120sq ft garden)... waaaaaahhhhhh!

Well, the ridge was socked in with dense fog - no wind and only faint drizzle (if any). It was really damp. On the way down, the sun actually came out (or rather, I descended out of the cloud-enshrouded summits) and it was warm, muggy, buggy, wet, slippery and muddy.

Did you get all the whining? Does it sound like a bad day? After all the complaining, it turns out I broke 3 personal records:

Car door to Ridge via Falling Water: 1:15 (beat previous record by 7 minutes)
Franconia Ridge to Lafayette: 0:36 (don't have a prior PR)
Lafayette Summit to Car: 2:20 (no prior PR)
Total Trip Time: 3:11 (beat previous fastest time by 54 minutes)
Avg speed: 2.8mph, 21.7min pace

Of course it helped that I didn't stop for lunch and only snacked twice - although I did chat w/ Marvin Schwartz on Lafayette for 5 minutes. He's an AMC/USFS caretaker, maybe 60 yrs old, and I came upon him suddenly at the summit. Visibility was down to about 20 feet, so I had popped up over the rocks and had jumped down into that little 'bowl' where the signpost is and then noticed him sitting on a rock eating a sandwich. I guess I surprised him too because he didn't see me until he heard my feet smack the rock and he looked up suddenly. It was actually his head motion that startled me, because I was looking right at him thinking it was a new cairn as I was looking for the signpost.

I'd like to see if I can beat 3:00. It'd have to be in DRY conditions.

Gear of the day:
light smartwool socks and poly liners. Feet felt warm and dry all day.

Heard it on the mountain:
Hiker (in a group of 4, standing at a rushing stream crossing on Falling Water): "Excuse me, is this the right way?"
MuthaZ: "Uh, that depends on where you're going."