Running in the dark, time crunched

This morning I ran in the cold (zero degrees was the real feel) and it was dark (6 a.m.).

I don’t remember the last time I did this. Granted, my memory isn’t great but I think I would remember bragging somewhere online that I ran when it was very cold. Oh wait, I remember running in the cold and snow when I lived in Granby, Colo and was training for my first Ironman. But I don’t think I ever ran in both the cold and dark. I know I read every article about training for Ironman and ultrarunning. I know that so many articles talked about the time-crunched endurance athlete; the ones who wore up at 4 a.m., took care of the kids and still made it to their CEO job. I always seemed to figure out training during daylight all these years of endurance training.

“I think it is habit and my affection for the activity, rather than the sheer force of will, that sustains my running on a regular basis.” Sabrina Little

Today, this morning, was different. I layered up, wore a headlamp, a balaclava, and reflective gear and just got the training plan done. I sucked it up.

This makes all the difference. Tomorrow I plan to do the same.

There will hopefully be a lot of snow to add to the challenge.

This is my new challenge: to actually do every workout that is prescribed in my McMillian 50 Mile Training plan that I just bought and synched to Training Peaks. Buying this training plan is helping me reach my goal of finishing another 50 miler in 16 weeks, and later a 100 miler. I need to run in the cold and dark as training to finish a 100 miler. The next few days will test that will power and mental training.

There are 15 days left in the year. I’m planning to make them amazing and inspiring. We are all excited to end 2020. I’m motivated to make the best of it, make the best of every circumstance and end the year on a positive note. I have so much I want to do and accomplish.

2021 is going to be amazing. I’m sure of it.

Why I need to finish a 100 mile race

I need to finish what I start. 

If my history has proven anything this may take years. However, I hope to finish a 100 mile trail run in 2021. College took more than four years; many starts and stops but I finished. 

Finishing triathlon and Ironman races took a more traditional path; I finished what I started right away.

I’m not exactly sure why I am compelled to race long. Maybe because I’m not fast. Maybe because I need to push myself and be out there longer. I don’t want to run Badwater or a 200 mile race – now that is crazy, but I’ve always liked a physical challenge. I’ve always needed a goal that was out there.

Where does this come from? I’m not sure. 

Growing up I always played team sports. Once I graduated from high school I started hiking and biking, I started doing individual sports. When I started running in 2004 while living in Steamboat everyone I knew had a training plan. Since then I’ve always loved a training plan even if I didn’t follow it exactly. I knew I needed one when I started running marathons and later training for my first Ironman.

I now think going long was a way to exhaust my over-thinking brain. Somehow running and biking long distance calmed my tendency to be high strung and anxious.

Ultra running and Ironman did the trick. 

I just feel better when I’m in the process of training for something I’m not sure I can do. 

Case in point: Leadville Training. 

Two years ago this month I started my 100 mile training plan with a goal to finish the Leadville 100 in August 2019. Nine months of training in the snow and cold, trail running, mountain running, a little mountain biking. I got to my race weight and felt like a million bucks. I finished a 50K, then a 50 miler and was ready for the 100. On race day at Leadville I DNF’d at mile 39. 

I don’t regret any of the time training for that event. I only regret letting my mind tell me to stop running. I want to fix that.

I’m ready to start training again and do it even better, which means mental training, running at night, waking up at 3 a.m. and running. It means weights and mountain biking. Laser Focus. I’m not even sure I’ll get into that race or a race, or if a race will even happen, but I’m going to try. 

Why do I need to finish a 100 mile race? I’m not content not to. I want to know what it’s like to cross a 100 mile finish line. I want to understand what my body must do to finish one. I need to finish what I started. I want the buckle.

Goals, Joy and Training

Now that I have finished my 4,000 in a year now it’s time to 

  1. Finish my grid (this will take years)
  2. Start training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene
  3. Finish a 100 mile trail run
  4. Ski – a lot

I’ve been following the 100 mile training plan so far. My watch tells me my training status is Productive – so that makes me happy.

Swimming has been difficult since the lanes at the Y fill up by 5:05 a.m. Biking is difficult because it’s cold however mountain biking is still possible. 

I mountain biked at Bear Brook this past weekend and since I was hiking every weekend my biking legs were a little ….. Under trained, let’s say. Sonja and Jay are so fun to bike with.

I’m considering a fat bike but haven’t looked into if I actually can find one. That could be fun.

However, I’m pretty psyched to ski. Gunstock is making snow this week and we are hopeful for a December 4 opening day. This is going to be so fun. 

These are the skis I’m considering. Aren’t they pretty and their name: Joy

Everyone should have Joy in their life.

48 4000 footers in one year, Ending on Kinsmans

On Sunday as I hiked to the top of South Kinsman I realized I finally reached a goal in 2020. I hiked all the 4,000 footers in my 49th year. 2020 has been a rough year for everyone. One of the things about being in the mountains is that you feel far removed from the real world. Maybe that is why I like to do it so much. Reality has been hard this year.

It could be why I always seem to go long: running, triathlon and hiking. You get to escape from reality for a longer time. Ultra running, Ironman and White Mountain Traverses – I love them all.

Eight weeks ago I realized that I had 20 peaks to hike to actually accomplish one goal I set for myself for the year. I went into full planning mode. Somehow, magically, it all came together. If it wasn’t for the people who joined me on many of the hikes I may not have made it in time. Not every hike went as planned and there were some (attempt) days. One thing I know is true is that it’s good to have goals and arrange your life around them. You always have your life to come back to after hours and days in the mountains and on the trails. 

The Kinsmans were tough and I was procrastinating hiking them. John agreed to join me on this hike since he hiked it a few weeks ago. He told me that he fell a lot and lost the trail a lot; great, I thought. And, when we didn’t start hiking until 11:15 a.m., I wasn’t sure I was even going to make the peak.  

We parked at The Basin and took Cascade Trail to Kinsman Pond then Kinsman Ridge to the peaks. The hardest part of this route is just keeping on the trail and keeping your feet dry. We did neither. We hiked fast because of the late start. We had headlamps but I wanted to hike fast enough so we didn’t have to use them. 

We arrived at Kinsman Pond in all its glory. The bright, flat November light reflecting on the pond blinded us so I waited until the return to take this picture.

We looked up to see where we had to go from the pond and it seemed so far away. We had to keep moving.

As soon as we turned on the Kinsman Ridge Trail there were more people. We hoped they all had headlamps because it was late in the day. We knew we were going to need them although I wanted to make it to the end in daylight.

We got to North Kinsman and didn’t stop. The top of South Kinsman offered fantastic 360 degree views. John took my picture on this last summit. We ate some food and headed down. 

For some reason I had an abundance of energy and strong legs for the descent. About two miles from the car we needed headlamps. It was difficult navigating some of the trail in the dark, especially two of the river crossings. But we made it out alive and have some fun stories to tell. 

It’s good to finish this goal. It was truly a fun adventure with so many great tales to tell. I wanted to hike the 4,000 footers again because when I finished the first round in July 2019 I didn’t remember the mountains I hiked from 20 years ago. I wanted to know these mountains – all the 4,000 footers. I wanted to know the trails and listen to people talk about these mountains and actually know what they were talking about. I think I’m a little closer to this. 

These 4,000 footers in the White Mountains will scare the bejesus out of you and make you a believer in the power of your own body. They will bruise and batter you and make you stronger than you’ve ever known

Hiking Moosilauke via Benton Trail in November

Two weeks ago this trail looked a little different than Saturday. I attempted Moosilauke with my dogs on the Benton trail on October 18, the day after the big snow storm, and couldn’t find a good river crossing spot with the high water running, so I turned around. 

Saturday the water was much lower and I was able to cross the river and hike to the peak.

It was a good day to be in the mountains.

Tunnel Brook trail was a nice gradual walk to the Benton Trailhead. Once we crossed the river the climb began. No big boulders and no granite slabs – it was just a nice hike. 

As we arrived at the Beaver Brook trail two families with young children came up the trail. I know that trail and it’s a tough one – good for them! We hiked for .4 and came out of the woods with a short hike above the treeline to a crowded summit. 

On Moosilauke trying to get out of the wind for a break.

As I took my phone off airplane mode I got a text message from the New York Times: Joe Biden is our 46th President. I yelled to everyone on the top the great news.

It was so windy only the people closest to us heard and cheered too. 

I could see the Kinsmans in the distance knowing I would be up there the next day. And then we headed down. We only saw one other person heading up. 

Termed the quiet side of the Moose, I opted for the Benton trail since it is the easiest trail for dogs and it turned out to be both quiet and gentle. Just shy of 10 miles, it was a great hike option. Saturday wasn’t as warm at 4,802 feet than most parts of New Hampshire however Peter wore shorts and I wore regular hiking leggings.

The dogs had a great time but are definitely tired today, Sunday. Goldies 7th 4,000 footer, and Winnie’s 20th. Now it’s on to the Kinsmans today and to accomplish my goal of 48 in my 49th year.