Saturday was a hike the Hancock Loop kind of day. The morning started out cold. When I left Concord it was 9 degrees and during the drive it hovered between 5 and 10 degrees. It was a high of 14 when I started from the Hancock parking lot on the Kancamagus Highway.
I know this trail so well. I’ve been on it five times already in the last two years. Attempting North and South separately in all seasons. Today my goal was to do the entire loop. In my mind I knew that if it didn’t feel right I would turn around: too icy, too cold, too scary.
All reasons to turn around.
At mile 3 I met my first hiker. A solo, woman on her way back to the trailhead. At 10:00 she had already done the loop – impressive. She told me she had an early start and the conditions on the ridge were amazing: no wind, some soft snow and no snowshoes needed. She warned of icy conditions going up and coming down but said all very doable. Running into her gave me the confidence that I could do this loop.
I’m so glad I did. Going up South Hancock was tricky. Icy spots had me grabbing trees and stumps to get up. Steep. Steep.
The ridge was awesome. Fluffy snow, cool views, no wind. I started to run when I could and felt giddy, laughing to myself at the pure joy of being at 4,000 feet in December. Joy. Joy. Joy.
A little more climbing to North Hancock and then down the steep trail back into the valley.
We hiked 9.5 miles; the most mileage Winnie has ever hiked.
Today, Sunday is a 16 mile run and then a recovery day on Monday.
We hiked Mount Tom today, the day after Thanksgiving. There were a lot more people and dogs on the trail compared to yesterday on Tecumseh.
I wore snowshoes because reports said some overnight snow and I’m a bit of freak when it comes to hiking alone in the winter so I’m prepared.
I should’ve brought my spikes, but I left them in the car. (Note: always bring spikes.) The monorail is fine and living well on the Avalon and A-Z Trail to Mount Tom. Snowshoes were overkill ,however I feel like I contributed to the overall tidiness of the monorail so I’m okay with it!
The A-Z Trail is steep in sections and I was running out of steam until I met a wonderful couple about 500 yards from the saddle who told me “that’s the worst of it, you’re almost to the saddle and it’s a nice hike to Tom”.
OMG – I love these people. They made me so happy when I was dying from too much uphill and wearing clucky snowshoes when spikes would have sufficed.
The summit was socked in with fog but I don’t care. I made the summit and it was freaking beautiful! So many nice people along the way who loved on my dog even though she barked at them (why is she barking when she typically doesn’t care about other people or dogs?). Every. Single. Hiker. Was. Awesome. And the dogs we met were so freaking cute and happy! It was a great day.
I’m happy to be home after being in mid-winter conditions in Crawford Notch.
4,000 footer Number 2 done – 48-4,000-footers-in-my-49th-year. This goal is getting me out there everyday I can, and pushing my limits and making me do the things I say I’m going to do.
On Sunday, I took Winnie hiking to Mount Sunapee. I’ve hiked the Andrew Brook Trail three times now and it never gets old. It’s a gentle, nice hike to great views. Originally I was thinking about hiking the Tripyrimids or Tecumseh so I could get started on hiking (again) all 4,000 footers. But it was so cold in the morning, despite the sun, and wanted to wait until it warmed up a bit. I went for a swim at the Y and once I got back and made lunch it was almost noon. There wasn’t enough time left to hike in the Whites.
It’s a 45 minute drive from Concord to Sunapee versus over an hour to Waterville Valley, so I decided that we would hike Sunapee and get comfortable winter hiking on a smaller peak before Waterville peaks.
The first .75 miles of the trail I was able to bareboot it. Then it started to get icy and slick so I put on my microspikes. We got to Lake Solitude in an hour and then about 30 minutes to the top where snowmaking operations had started. According to the Mount Sunapee website they open next Wednesday for skiing. It’s been so cold that I suspect there will be a lot of trails open.
I love being on the Greenway Trail. The sign reminded me of the 3 day trail running event that I’ve been wanting to do for a few years: The Ragged Mountain Stage Race. I wanted to do it last year but I trained for the Leadville 100 instead. So this year, I might just sign up. Three days of 50Ks – sounds awesome.
It was a beautiful day for views. I only saw six people the entire afternoon – so quiet. I didn’t see or hear any wildlife other than chipmunks. It was a great day to get used to winter hiking conditions before heading to the White Mountain next weekend to bag some 4,000 footers.
I hiked Eisenhower on Sunday like I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
Clinton Road was not well marked off the Auto Road, but once I knew I was on the right road, I found the trailhead easily. The Edmands Path is a gorgeous trail. The first mile was a nice walk in the woods although I was worried about water for Winnie. Luckily there were a few streams along the way. Once we got to the rocky section closer to the top there was water; it rained a lot there on Saturday.
There were a lot of dogs on the trail, only two were off leash. But all well behaved and cute! One particular grey/blue pit bull – so adorable.
The top was windy and cold. Mount Washington was in the clouds but a 360 degree view of the world was not too bad. It was Winnie’s 6th 4,000 footer and her first in the Presidentials. She did great.
I didn’t stay at Eisenhower’s peak for very long. I stayed hidden in front of a small cairn just below the summit cairn to stay out of the wind so Winnie could rest and drink water. I saw about 40 people all day. I probably should’ve done a loop and hiked to Pierce or Monroe. Next time I will plan a bit better. It took just 3 ½ hours to hike and 3,110 feet of elevation gain, according to my Garmin.
Wednesday’s run was fantastic with a 15 mile scheduled run and I finished 14 miles on a mixture of trails and roads. The bugs in the woods are terrible. If I wasn’t for wearing headphones with ear buds they would’ve been in my ears. The small, buzzy’ing black bugs really liked to bite the back of my arms. Grrrrrr
Thursday was a little longer than scheduled but again, a nice post-14-mile run that was about 7 miles. Since it was the 4th of July I packed in so many fun things that it felt like a super, big training day: swimming in Lake Winnipesaukee with Kendra, Adam and Toby-dog, and a fun swim in the Merrimack River. Such a fun, fun day.
Friday was another recovery day preparing for what was supposed to be a big mileage weekend. I’m trying to not be disappointed as I write about the weekend because I think part of the ultra running life is learning to go with the changes that happen in a long training plan and just not dwelling on it; keep moving forward to the next big training day.
Saturday was hot and humid at 6am. I had to run 30 miles but after 4 miles in I had to decide to go left for the big loop that would bring me back for water/electrolytes at mile 15, or go right and 8 miles would bring me back for water/electrolytes or stopping – I went right. I was dripping from sweating and just felt off for the entire run.
At mile 8 I called it quits for running outside and went to the Y to run in A/C. The real feel was 84 and I was very low energy, and a bit dizzy. I ran 2.5 miles on the treadmill and did about 200 stairs and wanted to quit.
I sat on the stretching floor for about 5 minutes trying to figure out what to do. I wanted to go home. I debated. I could do some weights which I seemed to have energy for or more treadmill or just sit here and decide. For the record, I don’t usually ponder for so long what to do, I usually act. I usually just go home. But this time, I decided to make use of the time and do weights. This is huge for me. I just couldn’t run.
Sunday was a hike with Bob and Mark to Mount Washington. Originally the plan was to run 20 miles. At the beginning of the week it was unknown if I could even be able to go to Mount Washington since I didn’t have anyone to let out Winnie during the day. I couldn’t take her because it’s one of the hardest hikes in the White Mountains. On Saturday Jeff texted me and said his plans changed and he could let Winnie out. Whoo Hooo!!! It was on.
When I arrived at Pinkham Notch Bob mentioned something about two loops. Wait, WHAT? Their plan, which wasn’t communicated, was learning mental fortitude for Leadville – they would hike to the top, turn around and do it one more time. I had no idea. But I should’ve known because these guys are ultra runners, they think like me however, this one caught me by surprise. I thought it was one run/hike ascent of Mount Washington. I said I would try.
The hike was amazing and since I hadn’t hiked it since 1992, it was new to me. Although, I did remember all the rocks on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and how hard it was. However, being in the best, freaking shape of my life made the hike so doable and so enjoyable. We had to take Lions Head trail to the top of Mount Washington because the top part of Tuckerman’s was closed due to snow. Being on top of the rock pile is one of the most amazing things in the world.
Being on top of the world was amazing and I want to do it again – I want to do the Presidential Loop before heading to Leadville. The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky. We talked about all our training and they told me about Leadville Training Camp, and what they learned. It’s so great hanging out with people who are going through what you are and have the same joys and concerns about preparing for 100 miles at 10,000 feet. It was a great day.
I opted out of the second loop. But those two – total rocks stars with 9,000 feet of climbing in 8 hours and 16 miles. I drove home and hung out with Winnie-dog.