Presidential Traverse in June

The Presidential Traverse – Saturday June 27, 2020

  • Mount Madison – 5,367′
  • Mount Adams – 5,794′
  • Mount Jefferson – 5,712
  • Mount Washington – 6,289′
  • Mount Monroe – 5,371′
  • Mount Eisenhower – 4,780′
  • Mount Pierce – 4,311′
  • Mount Jackson – 4,052’

Since I’m the type of hiker and runner who likes to get things done as quick as possible, I think the traverse is a perfect event for me. To complete an event like this – in one day – you can’t stop a lot and you have to keep moving despite the pain to get to the end. But what is great for people like me is to be around people I really like, who stop to smell the roses, take in the views and hang out at waterfalls. I don’t normally do this so it’s good to be with people who do, and do it without annoying me too much, LOL. 

That said – it was a freaking perfect day to be above treeline. 

The crew met at 4:30 at the AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch to drop a car and then drove up to Appalachia trailhead. We didn’t quite know what trail we were going to take and ultimately decided on the direction of Valley Way or Airline. The only plan up to that point was to get to the hut and backtrack to Madison so when we came to a trail junction that offered a choice to Madison first – we took it – Watson Path. Looking back Valley Way would’ve been the better choice but we opted for a loop instead of out and back. 

Madison was amazing. About 10 people on the summit. Since we would be at this all day, we stopped for a short time and kept moving. The weather was perfect, hovering around 50 and very little wind. All day there was cloud cover and we could see Mount Washington the entire time. 

Next up, Adams. This is always a tough climb. As I hiked, I thought of all the search and rescue stories of so many people being trapped or killed on this mountain. The weather on this summit can be unpredictable but today, it was perfection. 

Hiking with this crew: Bob and Mark, is so fun. They are silly and fun to be around. They were in much better shape that I on this hike. They have been hiking much more and training better so it was an effort to keep up most of the day.

We really wanted to run some of this but there weren’t many runable spots. There was a group of trail runners who knew exactly how to get to Jefferson after we took a wrong turn with another group of traversers. We hiked close to them most of the day. This group had the same group dynamics we had. They were telling funny jokes to each other as they hiked and giving each other shit like I did to Mark about leading us the wrong way. A few times when Mark led, he wasn’t following cairns and I would exclaim “Damn It, Mark” in fun. You just go forward the way that looks obvious and you go off route a bit when you follow Mark. LOL

After the steep climb to the top of the crowded Jefferson summit I was falling a little behind the crew. My legs were dead. There was so much scrambling and the rocks are rough and abrasive. I cut my hands in a few spots. I turned my ankle a few times and my metatarsals were twisted and turned in odd ways due to rock placement. That’s life in the Presidentials for sure.

Bob Joke: Could someone come and remove some of these rocks? 

We missed the signs for Clay and continued to bypass it even after realizing our mistake when talking to some hikers. Since it’s not a true 4,000 by the AMC definition we were all okay and didn’t go back. Onward to Mount Washington – the rock pile

Mount Washington was the only place I added a layer and a beanie. We didn’t stay too long because the wind made it cold! The only summit with wind today. We headed to Lake of the Clouds for a bathroom break (no restrooms at Washington) but all the huts had water, snacks for sale and bathrooms. 

From this point on I had Zombie brain and dead legs. We had heard that the northern Presidentials were much harder so we briefly enjoyed the thought that the hardest climbing was behind us. HA! 

Over Monroe and Franklin (a 5,000 footer but not on the official list) 

I remembered Eisenhower from a hike last fall with Winnie-Dog. It was a nice easier climb with the huge cairn at the top. 

Pierce wasn’t as exciting after the day we had above the trees but the cairn was pretty big. We kept moving. 

We saw a mountain in the distance and I hoped it was Webster (one we weren’t doing) because it looked so far away and it was going to be a good climb. It was Jackson. This was the start of entering the dark place at hour 10 or 11. 

We finally got to the top and I was swearing and hating this mountain. I’m sure it’s a fine mountain but the last big climb made me mean. But come to find out, the descent back to the car would be the worst part of the day. Talk about a dark place. This is the part that marked distances seemed so wrong and much longer than 1.6 miles or even .9. The remaining miles back to the car were pure hell but we got er’ done.

Bob Joke: This is not a place to get hurt. We wouldn’t want to leave you behind.

How people run this – I can’t conceive – however, I want to. I will. I will try to next time. Except someone mentioned a Presidential Traverse Double. Now that would be great and something to really train for AND I wouldn’t have to death march down the Webster / Jackson trail. Along the trail I told Mark how lucky we were today. We were fortunate to not get hurt and that the weather report was wrong all day. One wrong foot placement, looking the wrong way or not paying attention – our day would be done in a second. I’m a worst-case-scenario-person a lot of the time and know how quickly things can go sideways. I’m cautious but not risk averse. We were fortunate today. We were blessed. 

I decided at mile 18 that I would 1) never do something for more than 12 hours ever again and 2) my body will never finish a 100 mile race because I felt much worse at this moment than DNF’ing at Leadville at mile 36. However, now, two days later, I’m ready to get stronger and fitter to do more crazy things like this

Lessons Learned: 

  • Do more trail running with rocks prior to event
  • More glute strength workouts
  • Decide on routes first, there were too many options at the start
  • Always do this with people you like – the two people I was with are the best, anything else would suck
  • When you run/hike with Bob you always have perfect weather above treelike – that’s a fact (so far)

Post Blog Writing Advice from DangerGirl about running the traverse. I will take it: 

Week 8, a big training week done

Happy July 1st. 

The highlight of Week 8: running 70 miles.

In past weeks I hit 68 mile which included hiking but this is a solid 70 mile with just running. 

This is Week 7 and total mileage is 75 and plan to follow the plan exactly meaning two days off and hitting the daily mileage. Last week I improvised some days; specifically running on Monday since I was sick the week before and didn’t need ANOTHER day off. I ran extra miles during the week because I just felt good, and on Saturday I ran 25 instead of 30 because I had a bit of total-mile-wiggle-room.

This week the temperatures were consistently in the 80s and humidity was high. I mainly ran in the morning to avoid it and on weekends tried to start early but gradually just got used to being drenched in sweat. The plus side of the heat is trips to the Merrimack River for Winnie to swim. The trail leading to the beach wasn’t buggy and not a lot of people yet. I didn’t swim yet but I’m sure this week I’ll jump in. 

Merrimack River in Concord

Saturday’s long run was an ass kicker with 2,500 feet in elevation gain. I ran out to Carter Hill and the apple orchard and along the way hit as my hills as I could. 

Coming down the hill from Carter Hill on the West End Trail in Concord. So green, so buggy, so beautiful.

Then came home, got more water and nutrition and headed out on the road to Bow and the big hill on the logging road. I was toast after. On Sunday I woke up sore, took Advil and headed out for a 16 mile run mainly on roads. The first three miles were slow but I was amazed when I got on the trail how good I felt; even felt fast. I knocked out the miles and then recovered the rest of the day which included another trip to the river and dinner on the patio at Cheers. 

And now for a day off! 

Just 7 weeks to Leadville. July is going to fun-filled. Yeah Summer. This coming week a possible Mount Washington ascent. A trip to Colorado to climb Pikes Peak. A trip to Lake Placid for the Sky Race. And finally, the last weekend the Pemi Loop with Bob and his Leadville buddies.

Hiking Whiteface, what cures hopelessness

This morning I head up to the White Mountains to hike Mount Whiteface. I attempted her early this spring and turned around at the granite ledges because I seriously thought I would die. It was snowy and icy and I brought my dog. I wanted to live. So I turned around.

Now, June 1 I hike Blueberry Ledge solo. I want the peak. I am not sure what the day will hold for me; maybe Passaconway, too. But I don’t have a plan except to bag Whiteface.

The trailhead has a little history for me. Back in 1988 my boyfriend at the time took me to Sandwich and Wonalancet for a second-hike-ever to Whiteface. He told me that he wanted to be buried in Wonalancet because he loved the place so much. Now, so many years later I had a first kiss in the trailhead with a guy I really liked. Hmmphf. The mountains. The place where I felt reborn after not having any goals and not knowing what my life would be like after high school graduation – the most confusing time of my life. I feel for high school graduates.

June 1, 2019 – I’m running/hiking Blueberry Ledge for the third time in my life and I’m feeling great. One week after running 50 miles I feel like a million bucks….. Until I get to the ledges where I turned around a month ago. It is so steep and scary and I feel at any moment I will fall to my death. Okay, a little dramatic, but I’m not in love with this trail or this mountain in any way, shape or form. I somehow manage to scramble to the top and I’m pissed. The trail diverges and I don’t know where to go. I go left and then it doesn’t feel right. The view is amazing but I’m distracted. I take off my pack and look at the map and I have to decide where to go. I’m not going back the way I came; certain death. I decide to go the Rollins Trail and just go home. I know I should summit Passaconway, I’m so close. I’ll wait and see.

But my mood is dark. I’m mad. I’m pissed. It has more to do than the hike and certain death; I’m just mad.

I follow the trail and it meanders into dark, moody places along the ridge. I run when I can; I want out. I think about Leadville and how I will feel running downhill. Will there be as many rocks and roots? There will definitely be more people. I stop and eat and finally take a picture.

I’m praying and hoping the mountains change my mood but I’m mad. I want the mountains to change my mood; I want to be happy and hopeful – but I’m not. There are no people on this trail. I finally reach the trail junction where I can head to Passaconway or go down Dicey’s Mill Trail.

I chose home.

I run as much as I can and finish 9.7 miles back to my car. The parking lot is overfilling with cars. I only saw 5 people the entire day.

I actually came to do what I set out to but in the back of my mind it would’ve been good to get Passaconaway.

I stink. I’m mad. I drive home.

I walk down to the Concord Co-Op for dinner. My heart hurts for a million different reasons. I feel like a teenager whose heart is broken and my stomach aches. As I enter the store I hear the song, Let It Be from the Beatles.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

I buy my food and walk home. I hear a line from a book I read so many times, so many years ago: Running From Safety, that reminds me –  take me out of the ball game, tell me it’s over, and I get instant perspective.

The anger, frustration is gone, gone. Instant perspective is all that I needed.

While the mountains didn’t cure me today, I’m still certain they will.

Training Recap, Week 18

The TARC Spring Classic 50K on Saturday was painful and I battled negative thoughts during the first two loops.

Half way through the first loop I hit a rock or root and fell, hard, to the ground and into bushes landing on my right shoulder. I got up quickly and realized that I wasn’t injured but cut my left hand. Since it was raining I had all kinds of wet vegetation on me. I was more embarrassed than hurt. I started running and the only thing that hurt was my hand. Thank goodness. If I fell on the first loop when my mind was working well, I better pay attention on the future loops.

The race was so well organized. The food was good. I ate PB&J and grilled cheese on every loop. The water bottle fillers were awesome and helpful; very friendly. I loved that the aid station at every loop had my drop bag waiting for me. I ran pretty light and didn’t carry much water or my soft flasks because I knew every 10K I would have Tailwind and water. I didn’t use Perpetum until the 4th loop and it really help my energy level because during the third loop I realized that I might not make the cut-off and didn’t even know what the the cut-off was. My mind was so out of it that I couldn’t figure out how long each 10K loop took me. Was it an hour? 90 minutes? I couldn’t do the math. At the aid station before heading out on the 4th loop I found out that I had to start the 5th loop by 2:15. It was 12:15. Could I do one loop in 2 hours. My mind couldn’t figure it out so I headed out on the 4th loop to go as fast as I could.

While running the 4th loop I realized that I hate it when people have to wait for me; I hate inconveniencing people. If I barely meet the cut off, the race director and all his people would be waiting for me to finish and that makes me feel bad. I thought that if I was cutting it too close I just wouldn’t go out on the final loop. As I got closer to the end of the loop I realized each loop took about 90 minutes to finish.

I came into the aid station at 1:45 (phew!) and headed out on the last loop; everything hurt so much. Now I just wanted to finish as fast as I could so I didn’t keep race volunteers from leaving and get my 31 training miles in.

I don’t fully understand why I felt so weary most of the run. It wasn’t super hilly, the total elevation gain was just under 1,000. It could just be that I was still tired from a running 38 total miles last weekend.

As I ran this race I thought about all the things I need to do for the next 5 weeks before my 50 miler: more weights, more stairs and more time on my feet.

Gear Note: I wore the Lone Peak shoes and SmartWool socks. By the 2nd loop they were pretty soaked from the rain showers and I thought I would stop and change shoes but by the time I got back to the aid station an hour later, my feet seemed dry. Amazing. So I didn’t waste time changing shoes, I wore them the entire 31 miles.

The week of training was good. No knee pain and while the total mileage this week was less than last week, I’m okay with it knowing I pushed a little harder than I normally would on Saturday. Next weekend I’m going to try for more elevation gain and get the mileage back up where it should be. Weights, night running and stairs are all in my plan this week!

Average Resting Heart Rate: 51

Total Vert: 2,100

Miles: 51.3 (includes hiking)

This Week’s Plan



Week 19 Recap

The most mileage yet and I’m feeling it. 38 miles this weekend!

I hope after the last few week I’ll be ready for the first race of the year – next Saturday. The race is a 50K on trails.

This week I am back on track with weight training and stairs. I’m up to 1,200 stairs on the stair climber. I slept well all week except for Saturday night. However, I wasn’t too stiff/sore when I woke up on Sunday to run 12 miles. I feel like my knee is 100% back to normal after Saturday long run that was mostly on trails. It didn’t hurt at all on Sunday’s run. Icing and ibuprofen really worked well.

One note about Saturday’s 25-mile run. I started running at 10:30 which is really late to start a 25 mile run. It was also the hottest and most humid day of the year so far. I wasn’t prepared for the heat and overdressed; and ran out of water when I was about two miles from the house. Also by starting late, I ran into more people on the Concord Trail system. There were a lot of dogs too; all very well behaved!

But since it was the first warm day, I also saw more people outside their homes on the routes I usually run super early. When you run at a different time, the typical run routes are like a new world.

I’m excited for tomorrow’s rest day and will not mind the rain that is in the forecast.

Average Weight: [I’m just going to remove this category on future posts]

Average Resting Heart Rate: 48

Total Vert: 6,229 ft elevation gain (woot woot – high score)

Miles: 58 (includes hiking)