Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Interview: Jennifer Pharr

Name: Jennifer Pharr, (almost - 6/8) Davis
Age: 24, (almost – 5/25) 25
Residence: Asheville, NC
Birthplace: Asheville, NC
Years Running: I have been a recreational runner since high school, but was a Division 1 college tennis player in college. I started pursuing hiking and trail-running in 2005.

Running Accomplishments: Athletic Accomplishments…
Off the Trail:
High School – All State Tennis, Basketball, and Track
College – Division I College Tennis Player, OVC Conference Team Champion, NCAA participant
Ironman Triathlete – 2004 Ironman Florida with Janus Charity Challenge ($100,000)
4 road marathons
3 ultra trail marathons (50k,50k,50m)

On the Trail:
2005 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
2006 Kilimanjaro Summit - Africa
2006 Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike and Fundraiser ($10,000)
2007 Hike for Habitat Fundraiser ($10,000)
2007 Machu Pichu and Cotahuasi Hikes - Peru
2007 Unsupported Long Trail Record
2008 Bibbulmun Track Record - Australia
2008 Appalachian Trail Women’s Supported Record Attempt
*I have hiked over 6,000 miles of US National Scenic Trails and successfully completed hikes on 6 continents (all before the ripe ol’ age of 25)

This is Jennifer Pharr. This summer she will be challenging the Womens Appalachian Trail Record in honor of a fallen female hiker. I had the honor of asking Jennifer a few questions about her upcoming adventure. Here is how it went:

What Made you Decide to take on the AT Record (why do you want to run it)?
I feel like this is the kinda stuff that chooses you, more than you choose it. I have been thinking and dreaming about blazing down the AT since first hiking it in 05. There is something beautiful about efficiently flowing down the trail. In my opinion, there is no higher test of physical, mental, and emotional fortitude than going after a long-distance trail endurance record.

This summer the timing feels right to reach for my dream. I’m hiking in memory of Meredith Emerson, the young lady who was murdered on Blood Mountain after New Year’s. I also am eager to share the trail with my new husband and couldn’t be more excited to have him run support for me and work towards this goal as a newly married couple.

What is the current female record and who holds it?
Jenny Jardine set the record in 89 days when she hiked unsupported with her husband, Ray Jardine.

Have you been in contact with any of the previous record holders for advice?
I have spoken with David Horton and Warren Doyle - both record holders on long-distance trails, although obviously not women.

When will your run begin?
My starting window is June 20th-22nd, depending on the weather at Katahdin.

How are you planning on coordinating aid throughout your run, will you have a crew?
I’m not so sure about a crew, but I will have a BREW!!! My fiance, Brew Davis, and I will wed on June 8th in Charlottesville, VA. Then after a 10-day honeymoon in New England he will run support for me going Southbound on the AT. He is committed to the hike until he has to return to teach 6th grade English and Social Studies in mid-August. If I am still on the trail at that point then my Dad will help support my remaining miles. (I am blessed with very supportive men in my life!)

How many days do you think it should take you to complete the run (target time)?
I’m aiming for a window of between 60-80 days.

What sections are you most concerned about?
I am hoping not to get held up by any bad weather in southern Maine or the White Mountains. I also heard that some of the roads up in New England might have been washed out by heavy snow and rain this spring so that could affect our support vehicle.

What sections are you most excited about?
When I thru-hiked the AT in 05 I started in March and had a very cold and gray southern section. I am excited to experience VA southward in warmer weather.

How much does weather play a role in this attempt?
Summer lightning storms will play a factor, especially on exposed terrain in New England. It will be a hot hike, but that is intentional; I love warm weather.

What type of experience do you bring into your attempt that you rely on?
I think my broad base of athletics growing up has really helped me physically succeed on long-distance trails. As a tennis player I learned how to stay positive and change strategies on my feet, as a basketball player I learned tenacity and how to make quick decisions. Mentally and emotionally I have two older brothers who like to take the credit for making me tough, but honestly my perseverance is due to a very supportive friend network, a strong faith, and a staunch aversion to quitting. Beyond that my 6,000+ previous trail miles will be invaluable experience leading into my hike this summer.

So tell me about your gear? What shoes will you wear?
I am hoping to get sponsored by a few key companies, one of which is inov-8 - a British based shoe company. Inov-8 specializes in off-road running shoes and they’ve garnered a lot of praise from industry experts concerning their comfort and durability. I am excited to try them out on the trail this summer.

Can we follow your progress from home?
Yes, Brew and I will be blogging our summer for Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. We will be contributing entries and photos weekly. To read about our summer, check out

Will you have any pacers we may know?
I am hoping that some of my friends from the AT 05 will come and hike with me for a bit in New England. Brew is very athletic and will hopefully be hiking in to pace me towards our campsite once he has shuttled the support vehicle. I estimate that I will only run about 15-20% of the trail. The trick for me will be a regimented schedule of waking up early and hiking for most of the day.

Whats your favorite kind of trail magic?
Kind words and support can be as filling as food; but brownies, fresh produce, and sodas are always appreciated.

What is your crewing plan?
Brew and I are planning to spend every night together on the trail. Where there is ample road access to the trail he will try to meet me during the day to eat lunch or replenish provisions; on more remote sections we will see each other in the morning and evening.

How do you think the other AT travelers/hikers might feel about your run?
Some will think I am traveling too fast, others will think it is an awesome test of endurance. Most everyone will be in awe that I married a man amazing enough to give up his summer and help me reach an outlandish but personally significant goal.

But if I had to choose what people were left with from my hike, then I hope folks would remember a beautiful 24-year-old woman named Meredith Emerson. A hiker who like themselves went into the woods for enjoyment and restoration yet was met by an unfortunate and heart-wrenching fate.

I want them to realize that my hike - like their own - is a way to reclaim the woods, to enjoy the natural environment and look out for those we come in contact with, and to resist evil and endorse good.

I hate that so many people I know are now scared to go into the woods on their own. I hope that despite the pace and duration, my hike and everyone’s hike this summer, would be a way to reclaim the woods as a safe environment.

Which direction are you traveling and why?
We are headed North to South for a myriad of reasons.
-I went Nobo my first thru-hike so this is a way to spice it up.
-We are honeymooning in New England and will be near Katahdin to start.
-ample daylight up North
-our window of time favors Sobo
-there is always great incentive in hiking home

How will this run affect your running plans for the rest of the year?
I am looking forward to taking the Fall off and tackling some off trail interests. Usually it takes me several weeks if not months to recover from a thru-hike. In the meantime, I look forward to running some local races with my Mom who has now built up to 10-mile runs (so proud) and also supporting my husband and helping him obtain one of his life long dreams. Right now we are talking about whether or not he wants to use the upcoming fall to train and attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Any future plans to tackle any other long distance trails?
I hope that hiking is always part of my life. In order to achieve a lifelong relationship with the woods, I realize it will have to be an evolving friendship. I am not sure whether or not I will go for any other trail records, but if so they will most likely be on shorter trails.

I look forward to completing a thru-hike with my husband on the Colorado trail next summer, and we also are hoping to hike together in Europe before we start a family. I definitely want to hike the CDT and complete the Triple Crown, but I am not in a rush and could see myself completing it in sections – perhaps in the future hiking a week each summer with my husband and children?

Post AT, I am starting my own hiking business in Asheville, which I hope will allow me to get out on the local trails several times a week. My company, Blue Ridge Hiking Co (under development) will offer: a self-published book detailing my first AT adventure, motivational and educational speaking (performed by yours truly), on-line coaching and itineraries for folks interested in hiking the AT or other trails in the southern Blue Ridge, and also guided day-hikes.

It seems that I can’t escape my love for hiking and trails, and now the big experiment will be to see if I can make a living pursuing my passion.
All of us at Team Sherpa Ultra-Running wish Jennifer the very best on her outstanding upcoming adventure across the Appalachians. We will be sure to follow her progress and lend her good tidings in the months to come. Go Jennifer!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Meandering

I trust and hope you all had an enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend. Since I started running in 2004, Memorial Day Weekend has been a time to remember and reflect on the lives of those who mad the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom, by appreciating the freedoms we have and the land that is America. Typically on Memorial Day Weekend, Sarah and I camp in Crawford Notch, NH; Hike on Saturday, I'll race on Sunday, and we'll hike again on Monday. This year the plans were only slightly different. Given the need to continue to heal from my latest 100 Mile Adventure, racing was scraped from the plans and the weekend was centered around time with Sarah.

We as ultra-runners also often time forget about our significant others. Or, we don't forget about them per-say but we fail to give them their fair share of time. This was my opportunity to thank Sarah for her patience and enjoy some quality time together doing what we love to do. Here is how our amazing weekend played out: (hey! Scroll down and enjoy some photos!)
I started my 17th season camping at Crawford Notch General Store and Campground in Harts Location, NH. For the last 5 years our campsite has been the most popular site in the campground right on the banks of the Saco River. We pitched our tent Friday Night during a light drizzle and chilly winds as we watched the river rise a bit. The sun had set and our breathtaking view would have to wait until morning. We met the new owners of the campground and enjoyed an early evening in as we listened to the rain fall upon our tent.
We woke up Saturday morning to gorgeous blue skies, the rushing waters of the Saco and one stunning view. Rest assured we made it a point to reserve our site for Memorial Day 2009 which will be our 6th year in a row on this very location. And how could anyone resist!

After an our usual Egg McMuffin Breakfast we packed up our lunches and packs and headed for Pinkham Notch. Mount Washington was in the clouds today but when it poked out all we could see was snow cap. It is terribly late in the year for old George to be covered in snow. We parked at the 19-Mile Brook Trail Head and took 19 Mile Brook Trail Toward the summit of Wildcat "A". The 19-Mile Brook Trail is a rather mellow hiking trail which leads to the AMC's Carter Notch Hut and follows along the 19-Mile Brook. We encountered corn snow and melting snish just before the junction of the 19-Mile Brook and Wildcat Ridge Trails.. I'd say the las .3 miles to this junction was off and on patches of snow.
Trail Head


From the junction to the top of Wildcat A, we post-holed, we took our time and our patience was tested. Still plenty of snow here. We enjoyed a magnificent day on the summit with stiff chilly winds from the west. A glorious day for sure on Wildcat A and another peak-bagged.

We headed into North Conway where Sarah bought me lunch at a place called Rafferty's. Great food! A few beers later we were out and about walking around town. We went to EMS, IME, Joe Jones, The 5 and 10, The Railroad Station to see the trains and museum and the local Craft Fair to taste some jams. From here we headed back towards the notch, enjoyed views of the Presidential Range from Intervale and stopped for some Ice Cream at Trails End Ice Cream Shoppe. After Ice Cream, we headed back to camp where I took a nap near the river. When I woke up, I took my yearly baptism... A few years back I had an amazing dream heading into summer. I won't detail the dream here but every year since on this very weekend, I make it a point to dunk myself into the frigid snow melt waters of the Saco River as my sort of baptism for the new year. The feeling is not only chilly... but amazing!

We finished the night off with some Sish-Kabob, baked potato and corn on the cob all cooked over the open fire. Marshmallows and cool breezes before falling asleep to the sounds of the river.
We packed camp up early and enjoyed some pop-tarts for breakfast. We headed into Lincoln and Visited The Mountain Wanderer Bookstore where we spoke with knowledgeable hiker and author, Steve Smith. From here we headed to The Ravine Lodge Trailhead in Warren, NH where the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge is located and run by the Dartmouth OUting Club.

The above picture is my favorite of the weekend. I had heard that this was written at the trail register here... but hadn't seen it first hand. To think that some coward would take the time to write this, in pencil.. here... is down right hilarious! I can;t believe someone is sick enough to waste their time with this crap. Well hey... you know you've made it when....

We started this hike at the alpine time of 10am and enjoyed another mellow and leisurely hike to the spruce filled summit of Mount Jim. Temps were plenty warmer today in the whites as snow melted briskly. Only 3 patches of ankle deep snow along this trail to the top of Jim and it appeared that the rest of the way had plenty of snow for the wayward wanderer.

Brisk warm southerly winds buffeted the summit as the sun blazed from above. We enjoyed a few dunks in the frigid mountain stream and Sarah dunked my buff into the water to keep herself cool. Long stretches of mud and tons of moose poop. LOOK OUT!

Bottom to Top and top to Bottom.. 4 hours... we made sure we hit the high spot before turning back... and enjoyed the final hike down the old carriage road to the car hand in hand. Perfect end to a perfect weekend. I am now 3 peaks away from completing the Trailwrights 72 Peak-Bagging List. Upon completion, I will become the youngest person to do so.

Finally: Congrats to Paul Kearney and Nate Sanel on their performances this weekend.
Paul ran a 3:09 in this weekends Vermont City Marathon, qualifying for Boston. Paul has been impressive the last 4 weeks with some killer running. He ran the Wapack Trail Scouting Run, then ran the Wapack 50 Miler finishing in the top 10. He paced me 43 miles at Massanutten and then pulls of the 3:09.... WOW! Incredible effort Paul!
Nate reached his goal despite having some cramping issues at Pineland Farms in Maine. Nate ran the 50K in 4:56. Way to go Nate! Nate is now asses and elbows deep in a tough 4 week plan with me as we run part of the VT100 Course, Part of the Pittsfield Peaks course and then Pittsfield Peaks. The three of us will be well prepared for the VT100.

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Guest Blog: Nate Sanel on Pineland Farms

Hey Everyone...

If you are looking for my Massanutten Mountain Trail Report, you can find it by clicking HERE or simply by scrolling down.

I'm off to go camping and hiking with Sarah for the Memorial Day Weekend up in Crawford Notch, NH. Hope to get some amazing pictures and bag a few more peaks on a list I am working on. In 2005, 06 and 07 I enjoyed running races on Memorial Day Weekend. Unforturnately this year I will be recovering from MMT100 and getting ready for Pittsfield Peaks.

Regardless of what I am doing, I want to wish Paul Kearney well on his running of the Vermont City Marathon (VCM) in Burlington, VT this weekend. I ran the race in 2005 and 2006 and my 2006 time of 3:40 in 90 degree heat stood as my marathon PR for almost 2 years. Paul is hoping to run a sub 3:30 marathon there and we wish him well. Paul was in the top 10 at the Wapack 50 Miler 2 weeks ago, and he paced me 48 Miles at MMT this past weekend. GOOD LUCK PAUL!

The other race in New England that bears watching is the Pineland Farms 50K and new 50 Miler. Good luck all of those folks from who are making the trip! Also, good luck to Jim Konopack from NJ (50M), Adam Wilcox from NH (50K) and his wife Miriam (25K). I wish I could make the trip over but gas is too expensive. I want to especially wish Nathan Sanel well on his continued progress in training for this years VT100. Nate will be at Pineland Farms running the 50K where he hopes to break 5 hours. I asked Nate to be a guest blogger and talk to us all about this weekends race.. so without further adieu.. (I'll see you all after Memorial Day Weekend!)

(Nate Sanel)
Since John is recovering from his MMT adventure and because he won’t be running it this year, he has asked me to write a guest blog entry on the upcoming race at Pinland Farms in Maine. I entered this race last year (50k, there was no 50 mile option) as my first off-road ultra. Four months earlier I had run my first ultra, a Fat-Ass 50k. That race was all roads and had little elevation gain. I finished in 4:56. In training for Pineland I ran lots of hills, but still mostly pavement. I learned a hard lesson (more on this later) regarding the old advice of training on the same type of terrain that your race is on.

I came into the race feeling confident, even cocky, about beating the 5-hour barrier again. I felt that I had trained much harder than I did for the pavement race and that my extra conditioning would more than compensate for the fact that Pineland is off-road. I was wrong. I did a bunch of research on the area, but the inaugural race was the year before and there wasn’t a ton of information or race reports about it. From what I could tell, it wasn’t technical and there were not any really serious hills. How hard could it be? I was cautioned a couple times by the locals that the race was harder that it looked on paper and make sure I was prepared, but I didn’t pay enough attention to it.

My strategy was simple. I was going to spend little or no time at the aid stations. I wore a hydration backpack and it was full of anything that I might need along the way. Looking back at it now, it was ridiculous!! I ran past all the aid stations for the first loop. I didn’t take any breaks at all. At the halfway point I filled up on my fluids and put a blister pad on my foot then took off. It only took about 2 more miles before I realized that I wasn’t in as good of shape as I thought. Pineland farms has almost no place to rest and is described appropriately as a “Roller Coaster”. The surface is slightly soft and sucks the energy out of you, especially on the grassy uphills in the open fields. I ended up blowing apart and walking a lot of the second loop and ultimately finished in 5:19. It was a decent time, but below what I expected from myself.

Last year I had run only 625 miles from January to the race date and only 4 runs were longer than 20 miles. Looking back at it, I’m not surprised that I didn’t go sub-5 hour. This year I have run close to 1000 miles and have 11 runs over 20 miles. Those long runs include 4 that were more than 30 and one 100k. I better break 5 hours this year!!!

For those of you doing it for the first time, don’t underestimate the terrain. It does not appear to be that hard and it is not technical at all. You can expect a beautiful course, evenly mixed in the woods and through open fields with lots of PUDS (pointless up and downs). You can also expect a first class Ultra that is extremely well run. The course is very well marked and there is almost zero possibility that you could get lost. I highly recommend this race and can’t wait to tear it up. See you there.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

RR: Massanutten Mountain Trails 100

Massanutten Mountain Trails 100
May 17-18, 2008
Front Royal, Virginia
Miles: 101.8
Elevation: 23,000' Gain/23,000' Loss

Pictures are HERE

I was hoping and planning on coming home to sit down and write an exciting race report about how I tamed the rocky beast known as MMT by running it in under 27 Hours. Instead, I am more than pleased to write about how the beast tamed me and how I was lucky enough to survive my first trip to the Virginia hills. I have many thoughts and feelings about what happened in Virginia this weekend. The main feeling is the feeling of accomplishment. That even though I didn't achieve my immature time goals, I still accomplished something by finishing in the middle of the pack in an amazing field of runners during one of the wettest years in Massanuttens 15 year history.

For MONTHS heading into this race, all I heard about was the rocks at Massanutten. The race prides itself on being a notoriously rocky course even donning the motto, "Massanutten ROCKS!" I personally thought that race as a whole really did rock... but not because of the rocks everyone talked about ad nauseum. Coming from the Granite State of NH, having hiked and ran on REAL rocks for the last 15 years of outdoor adventure... I truly and honestly thought that the rocks at MMT were NOT THAT BAD AT ALL. However, I can see how someone from a place where there are no rocks similar to what they find at MMT could find the course very difficult and at times daunting. I think they were over-hyped and at times a joke. The REAL demon at MMT are the monster climbs. Long never ending climbs that take every bit of energy from your soul and suck the life right out of you. The hills caught up to me late in the race... and this is how the story goes...

The night before the race I went to the bathroom at Skyline Ranch resort and while I there I heard some conversation between fellow runners. I'm not sure of all of their names, but two of the guys were the RD's from Hat Run (I believe) and they were SUPER nice. They were talking to a guy from PA who I referred to as the "Suck Guy." This guy stood in the bathroom and collectively talked to all of us 100 Mile Veterans as if this was our first 100 Miler ever. He described the course almost in its entirety and told us all about what sucks. Short Mountain... Sucks. Kearns.. Sucks... Bird Knob... you guessed it... It SUCKS. Just as I was getting ready to step out of the bathroom, Tom Sprouse walks in and gave us what I thought was the equivalent of Moses coming off of Sinai with the stone tablets. The ONLY man to have ever finished MMT the previous 13 times was giving us the advice. He said, "This race is a mental race. If you expect to finish, you must keep your head in the game." AMEN! It was with this last bit of advice that I headed to the tent and retired for the night, truly excited for the adventure I was about to take on.

The pre-race breakfast was great. Bagels, juice and other fruits was a great pre-race meal. I was well rested and ready to run after having a good nights sleep. We stood on the line in the chilly morning air and as the command was given, we headed off into the mountains of the Blue Ridge in Virginia. As we made our way down the pavement of Front Royals back roads, I shivered. I had enough clothing on but for some reason my body was not keeping me warm. And then... behind me I heard him again... the "Sucks Guy." Once again I heard him describing to a runner how much Short Mountain... SUCKS. I let out a big UGH! and spoke to myself out loud.. "This sucks, that sucks... if it sucks so bad why are you here?!" He didn't hear me, but I was pretty upset by the negativity. Where this IS a mental race, I think hearing MORE about how much its going to suck and MORE about how rocky it is, is not going to make it any easier or more enjoyable. We took a left and headed into the woods which greeted us immediately with a deep and slick patch of light brown mud. Those who were not careful slid around... after the mud was the first section of rocks. I heard a female runner fall behind me. At this point, most people would offer her a hand up and ask if she is OK.. the "sucks guy" scolded her, "YOU HAVE TO BE PATIENT!" Now my patience was gone and I needed to get away from this guy. As we hiked up-hill, I did my best to distance myself from this dude.

The first climb was long and winding. Up and over various sections of rock, though the rock was nothing I hadn't seen before. I made it a point to myself to be very patient and hold back. Walk the uphills and run the flats and downs. I had plenty of insight from Steve and Deb Pero, Hans Bauer and others who gave me great advice on how to tackle the race. I made it a point to run as if someone had attached a set of reigns on me and was pulling back on them. I would hike the uphills at a steady yet easy pace... and not pay ANY attention to where I was. I knew two things. I started at "A" and needed to get to "B." A is the start and B is the finish. After topping out on the top of the first hill, I decided to give it a go and pass most of the group I was running with which included Kerry Owens. Every chance I got to pass some runners I took, hovering over the rocks and plodding down the course. As we exited the trail we came out onto an old logging road and that's when it hit me first. STOMACH ISSUES! My stomach gurgled and turned.. I felt horrible and dove into the woods through pricker bushes to take care of business... my day started to unravel but at this point I had no idea what lay ahead for me. I ran into Shawl Gap and managed to clean up fine. I was in an out of here as quick as ever at an aid station, testament to my fine tuned crew. Shawl Gap: 6:44 Am Right on Time.

I left Shawl Gap and ran along the gravel road talking with a few fellow runners. I felt better and continued to take my time, being very patient. I passed right by Veach gap without stopping at 7:21. "Hot Pancakes!" It sounded delicious, but I was still worrying about my stomach at this point. I climbed to the next ridge and ran along the ridge with a HUGE smile on my face. I figured out a way to tame what rocks there were. My plan was to simply visualize running on a section of trail at home that closely resembled where I was. At this point in the race, I visualized Franconia Ridge. I ran into Milford Gap and enjoyed some fruit and topped off my fluids before continuing along the ridge. I was playing leap frog with the same runners and we began to notice. They would barrel up the climbs and I would barrel down the descents. Either way, I was loving the course and loving the day.. life couldn't get any better.

Just before Habron Gap aid station, while running along the long winding road that abuts the Shenendoah River (gorgeous!), I heard him AGAIN... the "Sucks Guy." This time he was talking about a different race that "sucks." I let him get ahead as I once again dove into the woods with stomach issues. I was now getting worried and frustrated. I arrived at Habron Gap at 9:57 Am and Paul and Sarah shoved some PB&J down my throat. My crew was working AWESOME today. Force feeding me, giving me what I needed, cooling me down and keeping me focused. I told Paul here that this was was all about "Discipline." The amount of focus I used to run over the stones, remain composed and try to remain patient was in an of itself, tiring. But as tiring as it was... I knew that I was doing it. That's all I can ask of myself. Damon Lease, an Ultra-Runner from VT, offered up bits of very valuable info to myself and my crew at each aid station. At Habron they warned me about the upcoming climb to the ridge. The second longest climb on the course.. take my time. And so it was..

I hiked slowly back up to the ridge and just enjoyed the sounds and smells of what would be considered summer in New England. Kerry Owens was right behind me and the same group of leap froggers was in front of me. I vowed to take it easy and just mosey up to the ridge and take it from there. Parts of the trail was pretty narrow with a long fall down a steep ridge to the left of us. I just kept moving and hoped I could stay on trail. Once on the ridge, I picked up the pace and moved right along. I walked most every little uphill and on the downhills that were steep, I stopped to walk to preserve the strength in my quads. I saw a group of hikers coming into the woods and behind them was a large group of Boy Scouts out for their weekend trip. As I ran by I asked the leader, "Boy Scouts?".."Yes".. "Remember to teach these Boys that they can do ANYTHING." Before arrive into Camp Roosevelt.. once again... I ducked into the woods. It was now apparent that I had diarrhea and I was not sure what was causing it. I spent the next 25 Miles trying to figure it out.... Camp Roosevelt: 33.3 Miles Done : 12:25pm

At Camp Roosevelt I changed my shoes and downed some soup. The day was certainly getting hot and a bit muggy. Paul told me that he was informed that the worst of the rocks was done with. I was actually pretty disappointed as I had hoped the rocks would have been more of a challenge then they were. My feet were wet and starting to blister from all of the water and mud on the course, to which I was told was unusual. Regardless of what it was, I was still on ONE mission... get to the finish. I changed shoes and socks and knew that at some point, I'd be popping blisters and taping toes.

I left Roosevelt and began a long wet climb (after the 1st mile) that seemed to never end. The first 2 or so miles out of Roosevelt was run right up a creek bed. The water was flowing and the mud was deep in spots. The field had now spread out quite a bit. Runners were spending more time in aid stations, I just wanted to keep moving. High up on this mountain side, I noticed the remnants of an old forest fire. Charred trees and earth all around and the green sprouts of new life rising through the old. Re-birth is often something I think of during these events. My skeleton tattoo tells the story. In these races, you tear yourself apart and are reborn to get to the finish. The sun was beating down on me and the breeze in here was null. I really felt like I was hiking through hell but kept moving forward. As I topped out on the ridge, I ran down the other side. As I ran into a section of switch back, I made a turn as I heard a hiss and SNAP! from out of the brush behind me. I quickly scurried forward and looked back to see a pissed off Rattlesnake that had lunged at me. GLAD IT MISSED! I was not pretty nervous and ticked off myself. The one thing I did NOT want to see was a Rattlesnake. I took the next switch back and down trail I saw 2 runners hunched over looking curiously into a tree off trail. As I got closer, I heard the rattle and they told me there was a rattle snake. I looked in and there it was. A yellow Rattlesnake, curled up ready to strike if need be. I was NOT hanging around and scurried down trail into Gap Creek I Aid station. 1:56pm

I left Gap Creek after more food, yummy grilled cheese!, and started my next climb. I didn't think this climb was too bad compared to the last two. I saw Aaron Schwartzbard sitting on the trail taking pictures. I swear he had a teleportation device because he was EVERYWHERE! I reached the ridge and came to a junction, I took a left and began to run along a rocky ridge. I passed another young runner and started to think... "Hmm... a junction" I continued to be bop along before turning to ask the runner behind me, "Hey!.. is this Kearn's?" When he told me it was I was shocked. I had heard a lot about how this place was horrible.. I ran the entire ridge until... Yup... back into the woods for some one on one time with "mother nature." But now I think I had the issue figured out. I think the diarrhea was being cause by the boost somehow. This thought was rather devastating. As I ran off of Kearns I was shocked to run into Serge Arbona. Serge had won Umstead in under 16 hours a few weeks ago. Was he tired? Was I too fast? I ran into 211E to a very loud and excited Dr. David Horton. He shook my hand and told me I looked great! My crew was ready, I took a seat and brushed my teeth. Sucked down my gels and drank some boost before heading up Bird Knob. At this point in the race I am 48 Miles in. I have not bonked once yet. I feel amazing, disciplined and patient. The diarrhea is getting to be a bit much and the chafe is getting bad... I left the aid station hoping to figure things out.

I ran and walked some with David Snipes "Sniper." David is an amazing gentleman in my opinion. He offered great encouragement and advice. The kind of guy who would all but wrap his hand around you to carry you through the course. He offered up some more advice, positive reinforcement and I took off on the climb up the knob. Bird Knob is the highest point on the course. As I made my way up to hill, the rest of the front runners were crashing down. It was so cool to see them all and they ALL looked great! As I neared the top, my issues once again took hold and I jumped into the woods through poison ivy. As I took care of the issue, everything burned. I went from a fast paced hike and running the downs and flats.. to a very slow , "Holy crap... this race just turned to hell." I know exactly how debilitating my chafe is.. In a race where I held steady on a Sub 24 Hour pace through 50 Miles.. was now being tossed for the sub 27. I struggled to Bird Knob aid where I used wet naps and Vaseline. Ate some banana and watermelon (so good!) and then turned around and headed back for 211E. When I got back to the aid, I was an hour later than I expected to return, sat in the chair and finally had to take stock of the situation. 58.2 Miles : 7:33 PM

I sat in the chair and peeled my shoes off. My feet are badly blistered. I don't dare touch the ones on my left foot. Instead I smear Vaseline into the skin fold crevasses on the balls of my feet to help quell the pinching sensation. I wrap my foot in pre-wrap and then athletic tape. Put the other pair of Brooks on and tend to my right. On my right foot is a monster blister on my big toe that rivals the one I got at McNaughton Park a month ago. I pop it and wrap my toe in tape. Care for the bottom of my foot as I did the left and put on the other shoe. I ask Sarah to give me my waist pack with my headlamp, paper towels and Body Glide in the pockets. I stopped drinking boost citing it as the reason for the stomach issues, and took my Pacer Paul. Paul was expecting to get me to that sub 27 hour finish and at the moment, I knew it was possible. I had a chance. We had no idea what lay ahead of us for the night...

We left 211 and marched briskly up hill. I was still able to run a few flat sections of trail before we got back into the woods near the junction where we split off from where I came down off of Kearns. After the split it was slowly getting darker. And as it got darker it got more humid and muggy in these woods. I had a great time telling Paul about my adventure so far. As the sun set and our headlamps came on, the trail got wetter and we were once again going up a creek bed (well... used to be a trail!). We slowly picked our way along staying to the sides of the deep mud and chilly water. I had no interest in getting my feet wet again. The effort it took to avoid the water and mud was just too much. What life I had in me I now felt getting sucked out. It was dark, getting cold and I was once again wet and muddy in a 100 mile race. As wet as it was and as slow as I was now finally getting, I still loved every minute of it. I thought of the "sucks guy" and professed to Paul that I had no idea what he was talking about. So far, this race was the toughest and neatest race I had done yet. I was going to finish for sure. I had no idea what the time would be nor did I care.. the goal is to always finish. We stumbled into Gap Creek II for a quick break. Moreland Gap wasn't far from here. We took off and thanked Sarah.

Back up the long climb to the ridge on Kearns, but instead of the left I took earlier, we headed down into the gap on the other side of the ridge I had been toying with for the better half of the day. As we ran into Moreland Gap, I took a seat and tended once again to my feet. The blisters were bad and I re-taped everything. Snipes told me about the ridge being windy and to dress warm. I really appreciated his advice and grabbed a long sleeve shirt. The wind whipped through the aid station as stuff flew everywhere. Sarah Sat beside me and looked into my eyes. As I looked into hers... I knew that we were about to head into a bad place.

Paul and I left Moreland Gap at 10:54pm. We headed into the darkness winding our way up another steep relentless climb. My climbing has slowed to a crawl. The chafe hurts so bad, my blistered feet are tender and it is taking my everything to get to the ridge. Deb Pero warned me about this place, telling me that there are many false summits and that you always continue to go up hill a little more. We made the ridge and a squall line moved in. The wind whipped at 30+mph, the rain was cold and came down sideways. All long the ridge the trail took us up onto the ridge then dumped us to the left. We'd run downhill only to run back up. Our pace slowed to 1 maybe 2 mph. We crawled. I weaved left and right in a drunken stupor. Paul asked that if I was to take a field sobriety test, would I pass. The answer was a laugh filled NO. Every tree stump turned into a human sitting on the side of the trail. At one point, as I moved my light, the shadow from a white rock made it move at the same time that Paul Burped. I thought it was a toad and I jumped 3 feet in the air. Paul asked what was wrong and I told him that I thought that rock was a toad. "You mean like the Southern Burping Toad?" Wise ass...

We continued along the ridge, very slowly and Paul told me that at Edinburg Gap I was going to sleep for 15 minutes. Yes Sir! It continued to rain off and on. The wind whipped and we finally made it to Edinburg Gap. It was now 2:20 am and it took us almost 3.5 Hours to go 8.2 miles. As I got to Edinburg I was cooked. I looked around the station and in my limited vision, it resembled a triage in a war zone. Runners laying everywhere. It was cold. I slumped into a chair and they wrapped a blanket on me. I drank soup. And as I closed my eyes, I began to shiver uncontrollably. They picked me up and moved me to the fire. As I sat there, they threw another log on. The fire burned so bright, I thought someone was shining a flashlight in my face. Phil Rosenstein was here working the station and he is a familiar face. He asked how I was doing, I was lucky to know where the hell I was. After 15 minutes, I put on my fleece pants and rain jacket and we headed back out onto the trail. Next Stop.. Woodstock Tower.

As Paul and I headed into the woods, I continued to use the patented "Sherpa Shuffle." I used my hands to spread my cheeks and tried to prevent further friction. The cafe is now so bad that it is down right annoying. My feet KILL. But the diarrhea has finally stopped. Was it the boost? Or something else I ate? Much to be learned. As the clock continued to tick, Paul got more and more tired. For the first time ever, even my pacer was hallucinating and going crazy. The 8 miles to Woodstock seemed more like 30. We were assured that we missed the station but just kept going. Paul wanted to sleep now and we almost stopped dead on the trail for another nap. I tried picking up the pace. I thought ym my grandfather. For 14 years he sat in a wheelchair unable to walk.. at this point in the race, after 80 miles of the most enjoyable hell I have ever been through.. I told myself to "walk damnit." Paul said a few minutes later, "I can't believe you're still walking." As I tried to go over a log, A whip-or-whil flew out from under my foot and I jumped back three times in rapid succession. (Paul said it looked funny.) I told him about the bird and not far down the trail we heard its noise. These things do NOT SHUT UP! They go on and on and on and on. They were cool at first. Now... we wished we had a gun.

We walked into Woodstock Tower. Sarah was tired and ready to be done. And so were we. The sad part was, we still had quite a few big climbs to go and over 33 miles left to cover. I thought about this concept only briefly, not caring where I was, how far I had come, how much left and how much time to get there. Finishing is ALWAYS the #1 goal and I was going to no matter what. Even if it meant stumbling in past 36 hours. I didn't care. I took no food, and no drink refills at Woodstock. I had given up on eating and drinking. Nothing tasted good anymore... the only thing I wanted to taste was success and a Long Trail Double Bag. I sat slumped in my chair as paul took a nap. I re-wrapped my feet again and felt sick as a dog. I wanted to throw up so bad. Sarah said I looked white as a ghost. Dave Humphreys had finally caught me and he sat in a chair next to me. We talked... I don't know what he said, I was in another world, crying inside and trying not to cry outside.

At 6:40am we left Woodstock Tower and headed for Powells Fort. The long relentless climbs at MMT had taken their toll on me and humbled me. This late in a race, you hope for aid stations closer apart... here they are 7 or 8 miles away. A long way to struggle before your next chance at some love. Paul and I quietly moved along. I think Paul was pretty pissed at me. What he thought was going to be a 13 hour run, was turning into a 19 hour death march. He wanted to be done as did I... I was enjoying it still.. him... I don't know. We pressed on. We got to Powell's fort where they were making breakfast. I wasn't hungry.. I wanted to be done. I was feeling less nauseas though and sprinted out through the field. We continued walking shortly there-after.

Elizabeth Furnace is 8 miles after Powells. Another long long time between aid stations with a big climb in the middle. The climb was long and tough. I had to stop many times, lean against a tree and take stock of the effort. We had to ford river crossings, more mud and water touched my tortured feet. Now it was so old it was funny. We struggled together, my pacer and I. Paul is training to run his first 100 Miler at VT in July... this was the best training he could have ever done. Over the ridge and we tumbled down into the furnace. As we approached the aid station, the sky clouded over and the rain began to fall again. We ate cold pizza at the aid station and we had 5 miles to go. I kissed Sarah goodbye and we headed off.

We had one more climb and it was here. I picked up the pace as best I could first passing Dave Humphreys as he limped with a troubled foot himself. I asked him if he felt at home here at MMT to which he replied, "Yeah except we actually have ROCKS at home!" Ahh... spoken like a true New Englander. I continued to push up the hill passing another runner and his pacer. A woman came running down and spoke to us about the DNF situation. Some of the names we heard were shocking. THESE people did not finish and here I was... still moving forward. I was shocked and also ignited. We continued up hill. Paul told me that at the top he was going to find a big stick and every time I walked from there to the finish he was going to beat me.

We started to head down the other side. Paul stopped in the woods for a minute.. and I rounded the corner to find a group of runners. I looked back and yelled to Paul, "Hey..!" I waved my hand and we were off. We passed the runners and kept pushing. I didn't want to be passed again. I was in 60th at The Furnace... how many more could I find in the last 2 miles. 99 miles into a race and I ran every step I could. Through streams and mud. Over logs, on gravel roads. We picked off another runner and kept pushing. Down the hill and turned onto the pavement, there was another runner walking.. we passed him, went up the hill and heard the music. I smelt the barn... lets go!

We headed into the woods and I gave it what I had left. I came here wanting to let it all out on the course. Give it all I had and leave nothing to spare. I did just that. Rocks, climbs, roots, mud, water, rattlesnakes, scortched earth, the evil darkness, pain and sickness... I had conquered it all in one of the top toughest courses in our sport. We rounded the corner and there it was. I was so damn excited to see it. 24 Hours... 27 Hours.. who cares! The goal of EVERY RACE is to FINISH. I came to MMT and took on the rocks. As I ran through the field I thanked Paul and them kicked it in. I gave it my best all out sprint and ran through the pouring rain towards the finish. As I got to the line, I slowed and jumped over. Shook someone's hand and gave Sarah a hug. I was all smiles. I was challenged... and I'd go back in a minute to take the challenge again. I finished... 32 Hours and 9 Minutes. Sarah had my chair ready and crocs. I sat down and she knelt beside me. We looked at each other. Tears welled up in her eyes.. she knew EXACTLY what this one took and she said, "I am so proud of you." As I drank back my favorite brew... that was all I needed to hear.
156 Starters - 101 Finishers
I was 54th in 32:09

Congrats to Todd Walker on his impressive win and to Keith Knipling for giving it all he had for 2nd. Special thanks to all of those who offered advice and support before, during and after the race. The Pero's, Bedford Boyce, David Snipes, David Horton, Gary Knipling, Damon Lease... and many many more. Could not have done it without you. Also to the countless volunteers who were out there for numerous hours taking care of our needs, one of THE BEST organized races from the aid station/volunteer aspect that I have ever been to. Thanks to my sponsors: Brooks, Nathan, Nuun, Darn Tough, Peak Adventures and Long Trail Ale. I want to thank my coach Karl who told me that the only goal at MMT for me is to survive. HUGE THANKS TO MY CREW AND PACER! Sarah and Paul, absolutely excpetional work from them and I appreciate it. And lastly.. I want to thank my parents and Moe.. for again instilling in me the best advice I ever got in my life, "You can do anything you put your mind to."

Next Up:
Jun 14: Pittsfield Peaks 55
Jul 19: Vermont 100

And because the rocks were what I thought they were gonna be.. here is a special bonus video in honor of the course.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rocks Part 4: Local Digs

If you are looking for the Dr. David Horton Interview about his upcoming CDT Record Attempt, please click HERE.

If you are looking for the Karl Meltzer interview about his upcoming Appalachian Trail Attempt, Please click HERE.

Pawtuckaway State Park: In Raymond/Deerfield/Nottingham, NH, Pawtuck Offers a variety of landscapes. There are many trails leading to many special points of interest, including a mountaintop fire tower; an extensive marsh where beavers, deer, and great blue herons may be seen, and a geologically unique field where large boulders called glacial erratics were deposited when glacial ice melted near the end of the Ice Age. This place is nothing but technical trails littered with rocks and roots. Steep grades, dirt roads and long twisty trails with tight switchbacks. In an October Blog Entry, Nate and I ran Pawtuck. I run a 6 mile loop here with 2,000' of gain per loop and 2,375' of elevation loss. The thing about it is there is literally ZERO flat. You're either going up or down in unrelenting quad punishment from the hammering of downhills. Putting on the breaks here is hard to do. But one thing is for sure, this place is home to plenty of rocks. Mostly slab and "chicken heads."

Bear Brook State Park: Bear Brook SP is HUGE! On the book ends of the park are two short mountains, Round and Carr. Getting to these is quite a treat. The trails here are covered with baby head sized rocks, tons of roots and a real technical workout. You really have to keep your eyes open when running on some of the trails so you don't eat it. There is also tons of single-track trail that the Mountain Bikers coast on. Its perfect training for a rocky race as it provides a good mix of technical and non-technical running.

Fort Rock - Exeter, NH: Probably one of the rockiest places to run. This place is called Fort ROCK for a reason. Its a mountain biker heaven but you see plenty of runners here as well. One of the most technical runs on the seacoast. PLenty of short hills to practice cadence on and plenty of rocks to test your grit. Its nothing but Baby and Chicken heads... EVERYWHERE. Picking your way through here can be quite the task and a little painful. I've run here on many days where at the end my ankles hurt from all the twisting turning and rolling. BUt that was then... now I'm used to it.

The Belknap Range: A strenuous adventure that visits nine peaks in the Belknap Range. The Belknap Range is an L-shaped string of small peaks that rise 1,800 feet to the west from the southwestern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. At the eastern end of the range, Mount Major, with its excellent 360-degree views, is one of the most climbed mountains in southern New Hampshire. At 2,380 feet, Belknap Mountain is the tallest peak in the range, which consists of fifteen named summits above 1,500 feet. This hike is a strenuous traverse from northwest to southeast, climbing over the summits of Mount Rowe, Gunstock Mountain, Belknap Mountain, Mount Klem, Rand Mountain, West and East Quarry Mountains, Straightback Mountain, and Mount Major. The hike involves substantial elevation gain and requires good route-finding skills, because there are many trail intersections on this route, some unmarked. less than 48 hours after the Stonecat Ale 50 Miler in November, I tackled this trail with Kevin Tilton and Dave Dunham, two mountain running legends. We completed the amazingly rugged traverse in 8 hours. You can read about it here.

These are just some more local places that I tend to train on. Before I became an Ultra-Runner, I was a hiker here in New Hampshire. While peak-bagging NH's 4000' peaks, I began to dabble in trail running. It is through my experiences in hiking these rugged mountains, the rock infested local digs, our easy Wapack excursion, the Pemi-Loop, the Presi-traverse and various other high mountain training runs that I am seriously NOT WORRIED about the rocks at Massanutten. I have the experience with rocks to pull off what some of you see as impossible. But hey... "Tell me I can't, I'll show you I can." Just because YOU haven't.. doesn't mean that someone else can't. I guess time will tell.

My pacer for MMT, Paul Kearney, ran the Wapack 50 Miler this weekend. At the end of the race he ran into Donna Utakis. Donna has previously won MMT. He asked her how the Wapack compared to MMT and she said that MMT isn't as bad as MMT and that in fact, if you made the Wapack a 100 Miler... it would be WAY tougher than Massanutten. This speaks volumes especially where I didn't think the Wapack was all that bad.

The Old Man Of The Mountain: NH is home to the Old Man of the Mountain. In 2003 it fell from its lofty perch in Franconia Notch State Park. It truely symbolized the grit and granite of NH's men and our geology. May 3rd, the day I ran the Wapack as a training run, was the 5 year anniversary of the Old Mans Falling. How much do I love rocks? So much, that I got this famous rock tattooed on my back..

The bottom line about my 4 part series on Rocks is that Virginia and MMT is NOT the only place on earth that has horrible rocks as far as the eye can see. I know some folks have a tough time with terrain like that... but I grew up with and have hiked and run on the granite terrain of NH for many many years. Its like when I was heading to McNaughton for the first time and everyone told me to "prepare for the hills," and when I got there.... I laughed my butt off at what they called "Hills" in Illinois. The bigger story there is MUD not hills. At the JFK 50 in 2006, people kept telling me that the rocky section on the AT was horrible... I blazed over it making it to Weaverton Gap wondering if I had all ready done the rock section and if I did... Where the hell was it!? Its all in how we prepare for these events... and what we are used to. Some folks run on rocks better than others, as evidenced by Brett Sarnquists SMATTERING of the Wapack TRail 50 Mile record this weekend as he ran sub 10 hours on a trail RD Bogie D claims is "NOT RUN-ABLE"... I think Brett proved it is!

Karl Meltzer has all ready proved that the rocks at MMT are run able. He's been training me since December to prepare for races like this and Vermont. And for those who don't know where Karl grew up... Its a place called New Hampshire.. where he trained and ran on the same rocks as I do.. and at the age that I currently am. And there is a long list of other elite ultra-runners who have as well... the proof (as they say) is in the results. ; )


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Interview: Dr. David Horton

Name: Dr. David Horton
Age: 58
Residence: Lynchburg, VA
Birthplace: Marshall, AR
Years Running: A LOT

Ultra Experience: 3rd fastest ever on Appalachian Trail, 2175 miles in 52 Days 9 Hours - 3rd fastest ever on Trans-America Run 2906 miles - Fastest ever on Pacific Crest Trail 2650 miles in 66 Days 7 Hours - 3rd fastest ever on the Long Trail 272 miles in 4 Days 22 Hours - 1 of 7 finishers ever at the Barkley 100 Miler - 2 time winner of Hardrock 100, the first two.

Race Director of the Holiday Lake 50K, Promise Land 50K and the Hellgate 100K.
Former RD of the Mountain Masochist (25 Years) and 5 years of Trans-Virginia Runs.

This is Dr. David Horton. He is a professor of Kinesiology: Exercise Science at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. He has been a staple of the ultra-running world for over 30 years and this summer, his adventures continue. On June 7, 2008; Horton will begin his journey of challenging the Continental Divide Trail Speed Record. The CDT is a long distance trail spanning over 3,100 Miles from Canada to Mexico. I interviewed Dr. Horton about his upcoming adventure and here is how it went.

SJ: Doc, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions with me. What is the current CDT record?
DH: 75 Days and Change.

SJ: What is your goal time?
DH: Sub 70 Days

SJ: What made you decide to run the CDT and when did you decide?
DH: Well, I've all ready run the Appalachian Trail (AT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and as some folks know, the Triple Crown is comprised of the AT, PCT and CDT. So last year I was out on the PCT and I thought, "man..I need to do it." So, I spoke to my wife about it and she made a deal with me. She said that if I gave up directing the Mountain Masochist, then she'd be ok with me running the CDT. So on September 12, 2007; it became official and I decided that this is what I was gonna do. Ya know, the AT was pretty and the PCT was spectacular. I heard that the CDT is unreal so.. I've just got to do it.

SJ: Which Direction will you travel and why?
DH: South to North. I'll be starting at Crazy Cook Monument and heading north. 700 Miles through the New Mexico Desert, 6 or 700 miles through Colorado, 6 or 700 through Wyoming, 3-400 through Montana and then Glacier National Park.

SJ: Why did you choose to start on National Trails Day?
DH: Well I originally planned to start on June 5th which is the same day I started my PCT adventure. I got a call from the director of the Continental Divide Trail Association and he thought it would be pretty neat if I started on National Trails Day. So.. he asked me if I wouldn't mind so I said why the heck not. So June 7th it is.

SJ: Are you doing it as a fundraiser or benefit of any kind?
DH: Well, I don't feel like its for any specific fundraiser. I am doing it to see it. It's what I do and the lord will have me do it. I'm doing it for my friends who get excitement in seeing me do it and I do it for everyone at home is isn't doing it because they also want to see me do it.I also want to set an example.

SJ: In the movie "The Runner" your wife mentions how she hopes your PCT adventure would be your last. How does she feel about your CDT adventure?
DH: Well again, we made the deal that I would give up the Masochist and that was a pretty big deal for her since the race really took a lot out of me and away from us. She ALSO hopes this will be it but, she said any future adventure has to be under 30 days in length. There is still plenty of things I want to do and plenty of things I can do in under 30 days so, this won't be the last adventure. So, she supports and loves me and we've made a deal. And I should also note that JB is coming out to make a film about this attempt as well.

SJ: Will she be joining you at all along the CDT run?
DH: Well she might come out and visit me in Colorado, or she may not. She might come out for the finish or.. she might not. There are no definitive plans so far but she certainly supports me.

SJ: Who will be your crew?
DH: Jonathan Basham who is the Colorado Trail record holder is coming out to crew me from start to finish.

SJ: Will you be "fast packing" or relying heavily on your crew?
DH: Well a little of both. The CDT has some VERY long sections, 200 miles in some places, where the trail never crosses a road. So I'll need to be fast packing in those areas. But there will be times when my crew will need to hike in and camp to meet me at specific locations. They'll be at road crossings. It's not going to be easy.

SJ: Will you have any pacers?
DH: Clark Zealand is planning to come out to run with me through a few sections. He plans to run with me for 7 to 8 days through Colorado. He'll also have daily updates on his website I have a few friends from out west who are planning on joining me but for the most part I'll be spending about 70-80% of the journey alone. However, I do encourage interested folks to come on out and join me.

SJ: What kind of weather will you experience?
DH: Everything. It'll be hot but dry in New Mexico, its a desert. There will be thunderstorms, rain, sleet, snow and hail in Colorado. It'll be hot in the Red Desert of Wyoming, not many people know there is a high desert in Wyoming. And then in Glacier National Park there will be some good storms, sleet, snow, rain. I'm just really hoping for no humidity because I really do NOT like the humidity.

SJ: What is your favorite kind of trail magic?
DH: Ice Cream. Mmmmm... Ice Cream for sure. Man oh man I love ice cream. And Chocolate Cookies but I really love ice cream. And also Ensure Plus. 350 calories per 8 oz bottle. Two of those, 16 oz and over 700 calories.. man thats a lot of decent energy right there so, I'll be relying on those.

SJ: Who is sponsoring your adventure?
DH: Ensure Plus, Mountain Hardware, Clif, Montrail, Kahtoola, Nathan, Eco-X, Black Diamond and Explorer Satellite Communications.

SJ: Thank you so much Doc an we wish you the very best of luck on your adventure as we follow from home.
DH: You bet and thank you!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rocks Part 3: Running The Wapack

On Saturday, May 3, 2008; a group of us ran South to North on New Hampshire's historic Wapack Trail. What we encountered along the way was nothing less than classic New Hampshire terrain and the rocks I love to run on.

I woke up to the sound of rain crashing hurriedly against the window. Sarah is well asleep and I jumped up before the alarm to allow her some continued rest. Packing the night before allowed me some extra Z's. I drove the hour to Concord arriving at Nate's for 7am "Sherpa Time" (7:15) and we loaded into his Jeep for the 45 minute drive to Peterborough, NH. We met up with Steve and Deb Pero at the Miller State Park lot at 8:15 and waited patiently from Paul Kearney, who was driving from Burlington, VT to arrive. From here we travelled North to the other side of the Pack-Monadnocks where we dropped off our cars and squeezed precariously into Steve's Pick-up and headed South.

We stopped at a road crossing near the base of the old Windblown ski area to drop off food an water for our make-shift aid station before making it to Asburnham, MA at the Southern Start/Terminus of the Trail at the Mount Watatic Lot. This is where we would begin our days adventure. The entire trip here rain came down softly and in torrents and continued to spit as we poured out of Steve's truck. All ready waiting for us was Bogie D, RD for next weekend's Wapack Trail Races, and another runner named Melanie. Mel seemed a bit preturbed by the weather and was all ready talking about taking a short jaunt up the trail before heading for home. A wise choice on this gloomy Saturday.

We began our journey North on the Wapack Trail. From Watatic to Old Mountain Rd is 21 Miles of rocks, roots and mud. To learn more about this historic trail, I invite you to visit The Friends Of The Wapack. It was raw damp and cold this morning with the temps hovering around 39 degrees. When the wind blew it cut right through you. I was dressed in shorts, but kept warm through moving and my layers of upper body tech-whick. My buff helped keep the wind off my neck and even kept my ears warm no matter how ridiculous I looked.

The trail was an awesome mix of single track trail, logging roads, old ski slopes and snowmobile/atv trails. The rain from the last week has literally saturated the trail and left many standing puddles and pockets of slick mud throughout. It is certain to be muddy still for next weeks race and its this thought that has me wishing runners well. The other portions of the trail consist of lichen covered rock slabs which make for careful foot placement on slimy slopes; jumbles of rocks and entanglements of ancient root systems. We ran over and along beaver ponds, through backwoods backyards, up gravel roads and through rock walls constructed by revolutionary settlers and their teams of oxen.

As we climbed the first mountain to run along the ridge, the wind picked up and chilled us to the bone. The temp only rose to about 41 degrees with 20+ MPH winds that were at most gusty. A constant breeze kept us cool. The drizzle kept us raw and the off and on shoers questioned our sanity. Regardless of the weather, the Eight of us present (Myself, Nate Sanel, Jeff Waldron, Greg Stone, Paul Kearney, Bogie D, Steve and Deb Pero) enjoyed the training run immensely as we all prepare for our next adventures. Not far into the run we met up with Greg Stone who had run from the Northern Terminus to meet us at the South. With 21 miles under his belt on the day, he would head back with us for 21 more making his total run on the Wapack 42 Miles. Greg is an extraordinary athlete and gifted runner for sure. He told us that when he started at 5am, it was snowing on North Pack Monadnock.

The rockiest section of our journey has to have been Pack Monadnock and North Pack Monadnock as our pace was slowled to a delicate walk as we tried hard to not slip and fall with the prospect of breaking a tail bone. The lichen and mosses on the rocks, when wet, provide for some pretty slick travel. While descending Pack Mondanock on our way North, I slipped on some mud and fell to my rear end. As this happened I took a spruce sappling to the groin area that did a great job at scraping my left inner thigh, left hammy and left teste. The boys took a picture of the end result of the fall but not the injury (thankfully). It was not very comfortable but funny none-the-less.

I had a great time out on the trail with everyone. We certainly know how to make each other laugh and catch each other off guard with a good time. Its training days like this, over rugged terrain, in the mountains and adding time on our feet that make this hobby so worth while. The Wapack Trail will see me again under better conditions. Overall the course is amazing. I can see a few places where one could get lost if they didn't pick their head up, but it should never really be an issue that would cause you to be lost for hours on end.

The run brought us over the following peaks (Watatic, Pratt, New Ipswich, Barrett, Burton, Temple, Pack Monadnock and N. Pack.) for a total of over 5,100 feet of elevation gain and 5,000 feet of loss. The 21 miles took us 5 Hours and 55 Minutes to complete. Its days like today on rocks like these that I'll bring with me to MMT. Check out Nates Garmin readings by clicking HERE.

To see more photos of our run click HERE.