Monday, September 29, 2008

Race Report: Vermont 50 2008


Bikers continued to line up on the access road to Ascutney Mountain Ski Resort, being called by class, and darting off into the darkness in large groups. As my buddy Pete lined his bike up in the Novice class, I gave Sarah some last minute instruction before walking down onto the pavement as well. I was looking at the starting line differently today. The last month has played out like an eternity. Questions asked.. answers given. A month ago this very weekend I had a hard time finishing a 17.5 mile race in New Hampshire Monadnock Region. Gasping for air, I leaned against trees searching for something.. anything. On that day I thought about folding my hand and taking my first DNF. Instead, I shuffled forward as I always do and saw myself to the finish line. When I went to the doctors and heard words like blood deficiency, cardia arrest and surgical proceedures.. it scared me. I nervously moved forward with my physical struggle.. my mental battle forever rages on. But on this day, this day beneath the clouds, under a canopy of color, mingling with friends.. I looked up at the word START stretched across the street and I knew today could hold something special. What? I did not know.. but I was determined to find out. You never know when its going to be your last race..

I stood on the starting line joking and chatting with Nate Sanel, Adam Wilcox, Leigh Schmidt, Jack Pilla, Todd Walker and Pat Hamel. Part of what I love about this sport is that over-all feeling of equality. Equality amongst men where we stand at the threshold of battle and find the time to joke, smile and enjoy each others company. Everyone wished each other well on the journey we were about to take. I glanced one last time at the word start as a precision based mental focus overcame my mind. Was this how today would be run? A mental race, where I truly race against myself, fueling an inner fire to succeed, to live, to strive, to survive... to prove? GO! We were off.

Nate, Adam and I hung together on the paved section before heading down the first dirt road. Nate quickly pulled away from us and it was just Adam and I not long after. Adam asked, "Where did Nate go?" I turned to look at Adam, smiled and told him we might see him again if he's going out that fast. I heard Zeke Zucker pull up behind us and I rather enjoy Zeke's pace early in a race. So we hung back with Zeke and his group and plodded along. But there was something different about this group.. a voice. I heard a female voice and as I turned my head there she was. Ultrarunning and New England Peak-bagging Legend Sue Johnston. "Hello John... you know you're getting a LOT better!" I was stunned. Sue and I share a rough history of mis-representation, rumors and jabs. And here we were, on this day running through the country roads of Vermont, having a civil and lovely conversation. I congratulated her on some of her latest adventures and we struck up conversation as we made our way up the first hill.

As the race wore on and we past our first aid station, Adam and I shared a conversation about life. Adam and I have been friends for a few years now and earlier this year I told him he could run this race in sub 10. He took the challenge and ran beside me for much of the day. I enjoyed his company immensely as we ran along. We came to a rather large mud puddle and we opted to dodge around it given the early nature of the race in an attempt to stay somewhat dry. We ran into the bushes around the puddle and as we came out the otherside... I noticed a cut on my knee and a stinging sensation on my legs. GREAT! Stinging Nettle! We ran in awkward positions as we itched and scratched until we found a puddle on the side of the trail. We stopped and washed our legs off to kill the sting before moving forward. As we ran into the first Handler Station I found Sarah. I ran over to her and she had all of my stuff sitting around a chair. I picked through my gear for what I wanted and set her off to fill my bottle with water. I looked up and saw Sue... "Adam! Lets go!" We were off. As we made our way out of Skunk Hollow I looked at Adam and told him, "I don;t know if I can do it... but I'd like to finish ahead of Sue."

The next section of the course is a long continuous up-hill which runs us along an immaculate rock wall bordering area hay fields. At the top of the hill is the sugaring shack and shed filled with fire-wood to fuel the operation. The past 2 years I've run this race, I felt terrible on this hill and walked... today Adam and I ran most of it and in recognizing I was doing so.. the gears in my head began to turn. I had three goals for this race. 1. is always to finish. 2.) Was Sub 10:06 which would be a course PR. And the Other was sub 9:47 which would have been a 50 mile PR. Goal 1 never changes. Goal 2 is something I think I have a good shot at achieving.. 3 is a far fetched goal where I typically set the bar too high. As we ran up this hill... Goal 1 was well within my sights.

As Adam and I climbed another hill around 20 miles we spotted Nate. Nate slowed down, walked backwards and waited for us. We did some of our usual jawing back and forth (yes I know I start it Nate). At one point Adam and Nate were behind me running together and I had a flashback to this years Vermont 100, "Gee guys... this is a familiar sight. You two behind me." I think Nate was getting pissed. I'm not used to seeing him without his glasses. He didn't look 100% to me and I thought about not giving him shit anymore until he fired back... "When I pass you later I'm not going to let you forget it. I'm going to give you so much shit! I'm going to burry you!" Nate then tried to slow me down as I was indeed running uphill and at a faster pace than I normally do... and then it happened... I said it. "Ya know guys... just once I want to leave it all out here. I want to run fast, get tired, hang on for dear life and crash into the finish line a total mental and physical mess." The replies echoed through my soul, "Then do it. Go for it!" The gears turned a little more as Adam and I moved ahead of Nate.

As Adam and I moved away from Nate and through the new "Rollercoaster" aid station, I looked back and Sue had caught us. We made small talk as we carried on. I tried my best to keep up with her.. the whole time thinking I was crazy to even try, afraid of burning myself out. Moments later it was just her and I with Adam a bit further back. "Sue... I owe you an apology." For a while now I've wanted to right and wrong and today seemed like the perfect day to do it. We exchanged apologies and cleared the air, making sure we were on the same page about what events transpired to bring us to our more embarrassing moments in dealing with each other. I was relieved and felt a huge weight lifting from my shoulders in knowing that a wrong was righted... and continued on. Adam, Sue and I ran into Smoke Rise together, picking from the aid station table. I started to linger as I sometimes do until I heard, "Come on John!" I looked up and Sue was waving for me to come catch her and continue on together. From foes to friends... we were helping each other.. her more-so helping me. As Sue and I made our way out of Smoke Rise I was feeling great and moving fine... Adam began to trail off and we suddenly lost him.

As Sue and I ran I told her I wanted to PR here today. We had just run the first 26 miles in 4:20. Sue told me, "If you keep up your current pace you can pass a lot of people. Just keep it up.. you're doing great!" I listened to her closely and started to think that I CAN DO THIS. I moved forward with purpose, thinking methodically about how I wanted the rest of this race to play out. A lot of thoughts crossed my mind. The start line.. the finish line. My scare with anemia. My life in general... and then motivation and inspiration comes from the most unexpected places. I had a vision. A pair of eyes started at me from the trail and lured me forward. I was focused.. fixed on a goal.. I ran on. I made my way into Dugdale's where Sarah had my chair waiting for me. I wanted my waist pack but it was up in the car.. she ran to get it. I sat in the chair and changed my shoes as quickly as I could. My Brooks Cascadia's were killing my feet due to their lack of arch support. I threw on my ASR 5's and felt instantly better. Sarah arrived with my pack... I only had one baggy of drink mix... "Where are the extra bags of mix?" They too were in the car. Thankful I got to change my shoes, Adam's dad filled my bottles for me. I needed an energy plan. I drank more of a boost than I normally would, loaded my pack up with gels.. and decided I'd conserve what drink mix I had in the bottle. I was disappointed but still determined. "How you doing John?" ... "I'm on a Mission... it's called 9:47"

I left Dugdale's and turned back to see Sue again. I stopped to answer Nature's call and as I ran back out onto the road we ran together along this section of the course that closely mirror's the final miles of the Vermont 100. Sue continued to encourage and push me to run run run. "You are doing great John... just keep it up." It seemed as though every time I put my head down today in a moment of underlying defeat, Sue Johnston picked me back up. "Come on Sherpa... you've got this." I carried on. As we made our way up the road and turned onto the next section of Single-track... I replayed what I said to Nate earlier in the race, "Ya know guys... just once I want to leave it all out here. I want to run fast, get tired, hang on for dear life and crash into the finish line a total mental and physical mess." Just once I want to leave it all out there... hang on for dear life... total mental mess..... At this point in the race I still feel great and I know full well that my pace thus far was MUCH faster than I had ever run this far into a 50 Miler before. I WAS laying it all out here... I WAS getting to the point of hanging on for dear life... and who knows what the finish line would bring.

As I ran ahead I caught up with Ian and Emma Parlin. Ian was hoping for a sub 9 hour finish but was feeling nauseam. As we made our way along the switchback sections of mile 35ish.. Emma and I seemed to be pushing and pulling each other a long now. I didn't know where Sue had gone.. and I was starting to tire. I heard cheering and applause up ahead but know there are no aid stations near-by. As we rounded the final switches leading up to the house on the hill, the owners were having a porch party cheering all of the competitors on. I ran up the hill clapping for them and thanked them for allowing us to use their land. Then I heard the magic word... BEER! "Where is the beer?!" "Around the corner in a cooler!" Say it aint so. I rounded the next turn and there was a sign with an arrow pointing at a chair resting on the hill with a cooler on top. I walked up to the cooler, openned it and found some Long Trail Blackberry Wheat... HEAVEN! I pulled one out of its plastic coffin, unscrewed the top, raised the bottle in the air and yelled "Cheers!" placed it upon my lips and chugged about 3/4 of the bottle of Beer. I placed the rest on the chair for the next thirsty runner and hurried along. Emma asked me, "Sherpa, did you just down a beer." "Why yes I did.. and it was AMAZING!"

Emma raced ahead with me in hot pursuit... I couldn't chase her long as she quickly disappeared but I carried on in my blistered pace. My legs began to go numb, my knees were starting to get sore, my brain was going a thousand miles a minute. I thought about a lot of things.. I thought about everything. I thought about people important to me. I thought about my life.. I thought about the impossible... which for those who don't know DOES NOT EXIST. And then I thought about what I try to preach to people I meet... Human Potential. Yeah.. that thought of Human Potential, what it is, where it is.. how do I tap into it? I ran up another road section I've always walked at the race before turning onto a long section of trail which leads into Goodman's Aid station at 39 Miles. As I turned onto the trail.. I found my human potential. I tapped into the unknown area of my soul which I discovered on this very day that I had merely glanced upon before. As my eyes locked on the course, I did some math in my head, "If I can only make it to Johnson's by 3:30pm.. I can break 9:47." My eyes fixed on the trail ,I sought motivation from an unsuspecting place. The most gorgeous pair of eyes I've ever seen appeared before me. Was this another hallucination? No.. it was something else. I stared ahead, left right repeat flying down the trail towards Goodman's. I popped out of the woods and onto another rd forging ahead leaving nothing but the mud and leaves in my wake.

I ran into Goodmans and saw Scott Deslongchamps "I'm hoping to break 10" he exclaimed. "You've got it in the bag Scott.. just keep going!" He at his watch and then looked at me. I stood there eating a grilled cheese. My legs shook from shock. My arms quivered. Sweat gushed down my face. I was soaked from head to toe.. feeling good... but I was doing what I wanted to do. Run fast and hang on for dear life. "Sherpa.. you are FLYIN!" Scott yelled... "I'm hangin on Scott... hangin on!" Another female runner offered some encouragement as we both took off down the trail. 40 Miles down... 10 to go.

These last 10 miles of the course are probably the worst. The section between Goodmans(39) and Johnsons (46) are the most technical and muddiest on the course. I continued to pass weary runners one by one as I felt myself beginning to fade. I had refilled my water bottles at Goodmans and was now pumping power-gels into my system at a disgusting rate. I was fighting off exhaustion and my body was begging for forgiveness. The pain in my legs is now screaming with torture.. I'm hanging on as tight as I can and pushing forward. I caught a few bikers and used them as a pacer, much like I had used horses in the Vermont 100. Up and down hills, through streams, across bridges.. over rock and root.. through deep piles of mud that splashed all over every inch of my body as I ran feverishly across the land. Sweat poured down my face and as I wiped it off, tiny shards of salt scraped against my skin. My legs felt like they were starting to cramp.. I downed some S-Caps to ward off the inevitable. I was truly leaving it all out here.. physically and mentally. I hopped off the trail around mile 45 and onto a dirt road. As I lifted my head I saw Mt. Ascutney... I started to lose control of my emotions. I got choked up, tears welled into my eyes and only one managed an escape. I talked myself into hanging on for just a little bit longer... "Just hang on John.. keep it together... we're not there yet." I put my head down and ran across some more fields and onto the next road where I found Emma. She had a good clip going. We crossed the bridged and rounded the turn onto 44. She looked back and saw me.. I was a complete mess. My face was beet red and on fire. My legs burned and screamed. My pace was slowing... but I had found my human potential. "Come on John... You're gonna get your PR... lets go!" She fired me up as I walked into Johnson's aid station. Sarah asked what I needed.. I opted for a few more gels and a refill of my bottles. Some more fruit from the aid table and I was off.


What used to be the final 3 miles of the course from Johnson's was now the final 4.6. And the longest 4.6 miles of my life. I had no idea where I was.. just that I needed to keep moving. I heard a few reports of what time it was along the way and a realization had popped into my head back before mile 35. I COULD potential shatter my VT50 PR.. and my 50 Mile PR and complete what I thought was impossible. Nate told me he wanted to break 9 hours at the Vermont 50 way back at the beginning of August, "Good luck Nate.. I'll never see that." Was my reply. And yet here today underneath the clouds.. under the canopy of color.. with my Human Potential placed brilliantly before me.. I all of a sudden found out what possible is. I pushed up the final miles, placing my hands on my hips and running every uphill that I could. I sucked down Gel after gel in an effort to get as much energy in my system as I could. I drank water and breathed deep. The hills had been saturated with water all day long. Mud covered every inch of the course.. but as I wrote in my blog only days before.. I am the Mud Master.

I was lost in a sea of switchbacks when I heard Emma again.. "Sherpa.. LETS GO!" I was talking to a biker about how the course had changed. I grumbled and continued on. My legs are done. My muscles are tightening with every step. As I ran along, I concentrated on how my body was actually feeling. This was indeed a special moment and I didn't want to forget it. I honed in on my muscles and suddenly I felt it. Every since fiber in my body was working together to achieve what I said was impossible., which from this point on does not exist. I forged ahead along the sides of Mount Ascutney in what has always been one of my favorite races of all time even before today. The leaves fell from the sky as the wind picked up. And I began to sing songs in my head. What is Human Potential? I once wrote, "Well you see, I believe that in every human being lies this untapped potential to achieve great things. Whether those things are physical, subjective or spiritual.. it doesn't matter....I want to be a part of the process where individuals can realize their Human Potential and tap into it... Drink from the waters of your soul and your heart will carry you to places of grandeur. No it won't be easy, it might hurt.. but IT CAN BE DONE. The human body is the most amazing instrument you will EVER own. Why don't you take it out for a spin and learn what your potential REALLY is. You'll be surprised.. I promise. Human Potential is UNLIMITED, so don't be afriad to get in line and take a drink from the waters of life."

Human potential is unlimited and in those final miles, I rode a wave of spirituality that sent my heart into a frenzy. I drank from the waters of life as the waters of my soul spilled from my pours. I ran as hard as I've ever run before, discovering what my own Human Potential is.. practicing what I preach. So many times in sport people tell us what is right and what is wrong. What you HAVE to do to accomplish certain goals. Sometimes its a matter of running fartleks and repeats. Sometimes its being told you need to eat right or you'll never be in shape enough. Sometimes you're told that a 6:31 50K two weeks before the Vermont 50 will never equal a sub 9 in the mountains of Vermont. But its the times when your human potential knows what is best. When that will power fuels your engine and gets your meat turbines turning over. Its the times when your HP politely raises that middle finger into the air for the naysayers to see... that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE and IMPOSSIBLE DOES NOT EXIST. And just as it says on my shirt.. "You say I can't, I'll Show you I can" I soldiered on. I rounded the last turn and across the ski slopes. The grass is muddy and soaked. I bear left and begin to run down the hill, I take a sharp left and look straight ahead at that next sign.... FINISH.

I run as fast as I possibly could. I thanked god for giving me strength, my grandfather for his courage and I thank those who've helped me today.. Sue, Emma and Nate. My legs flew everywhere as I ran down the final stretch.. clapping my hands in sheer excitement. I ran all out across the finish line fearing I would fall.


I crossed the line and stopped. My hamstrings and quads curled up into balls, into the tightest cramps I've ever felt. I couldn't move as tears streaked down my face. I'm drenched with sweat, my body is shaking and quivering. Shock begins to set in. My vision is blurred, I'm dizzy and can only hear one thing amidst the cheering supporters. I heard my own voice... the voice that keeps me going. The voice I listen to rather than an iPod.. the voice that at the finish line on this special day said, "8 Hours and 58 Minutes John... You did it man... You did it! You ran as fast as you could, left nothing out there, came crashing across the line... you are indeed a mess mentally and physically. You discovered your human potential.. its in you man... its in you." I placed my head into my hands, got on my knees.. and cried.

I stood up and was assisted by Eric. Eric usually does the time for the VT100 in a kilt. He picked me up and walked me over to get my medal. We walked into the nearby tent and shared 2 cups of Powerade Endurance drink. We clinked cups as he thanked me.. apparently I motivated him in the final miles to push for the finish. Great job Eric! I found Pete who had finished in a time of something over 6 hours coming in 2nd for his age group in the Novice Class of the Mountain Bike Race. I was so happy to know Pete came out today and discovered his own Human Potential in his first 50 mile Bike Race.

I watched as Nate crossed the line.. he spotted me and pointed at me, "YOU are a friggin mad man... good work man." Thanks Nate. I walked down to the food line and saw Sue Johnston. She congratulated me on my run and then asked.."John.. did you run that fast because I was here? Did you want to beat me?" I looked her dead in the eye and with a smile said, "Absolutely." She smiled and we had a picture together of us in our new found friendship. Thanks to Sue.

And Adam... Adam broke sub 10 hours as well... just as I knew he could. Good Job Adam.

And so I sit here writing this report. Unsure of what REALLY to say. I am still in a state of disbelief. I have no idea how in the world I did that even though I know my potential finally came to light. I've never been this tired.. this sore after a run. I know I left it all out there. I'm extremely satisfied. I'm humbled... and I'm ready to start a new year of adventure in running. You never know when your last race is going to be... so dig in, go for a ride.. and see where your soul will lead you. Over mountains, through the pastures and along the muddy shore. The roads of dirt, pavement hurts.. and it hurts forever more. The sun will shine, the rain will fall.. your heart will carry you through. But as the clock ticks by, and your brain lingers on.. the only thing which fuels you is YOU.

(Standings will come as they are available)
Happy Trails.
SJ

Sunday, September 28, 2008

UPDATE: Vermont 50 Result

I just got home from the Vermont 50 and will have a report up within the next few days. I'm totally wrecked as of now. And for good reason. Lets go back to my race preview post to see my goals for the race and I'll let you know how I did:

Goals:
1.) FINISH
2.) Sub 10 Hours (Third times a charm??)
3.) Sub 9:47 (A New PR)

1.) DONE
2.) DONE
3.) DONE

My OLD VT50 PR was 10 Hours 6 Minutes
My OLD 50 Mile PR was 9 Hours 47 Minutes at the 2006 JFK 50.

MY NEW VT50 PR and NEW 50 Mile PR is now

8 HOURS 58 MINUTES!


Report to come!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

RR: Pisgah 50K - Resurrection

What: Pisgah 50K (31 Miles)
Where: Pisgah State Park Chesterfield, NH
When: September 14, 2008 8:45am
Time: 6:31:57
Place: 40 out of 68 (78 Starters)

For Photos I invite you to check out Pam Dolan's Report HERE

There are many things that attract us to this sport, those of us who have been here for a while now. And I'll be the first to admit that over time my faith, in what it is that has indeed attracted me to this sport, has waned. But it's times like what I experienced this past weekend at the Pisgah 50K that brings me back to earth. Its time like these that help me realize that Ultra-running has become a part of my every day life. It defines who I am and it has helped me define and reshape my very existence. I gained more then experience this weekend in Chesterfield, NH. I gained spirit, hope and motivation moving forward... and here is how.

It has been an amazing year thus far and September is typically a time each year where I stop and reflect on this wonderful road I've been down in running. It was in September 2004 that I challenged myself to run a mile without walking, and after 2 weeks of hard work, stubbornness and determination, I accomplished that goal. I'll reflect upon this various times moving forward towards the VT50. Four years later, I've run my legs into oblivion, transforming my body in a metronome like machine, and click miles off like they are nothing but routine. That was until I found out that I was anemic. I don't need to go into the details here because you can read about it in a previous blog post of mine. The effects of anemia sent shivers down my spine and caused quite a stir in my life. Learning that if my blood count was any lower I would have needed a transfusion, that during the Wapack Race a few weekends ago I could have gone into cardiac arrest.. are never wonderful things to hear. I honestly thought for a short time that my running days had ended, many dreams left to chase dashed away and my heart left to work in overdrive just to maintain basic homeostasis. Sure... I might have over-reacted then; but as I lived in the Now heading into Pisgah I had many questions to answer.

Will my treatments have affected me yet? Will I even be able to run half of this rather than the whole 50K? Am I going to simply embarrass myself? Should I have just stayed home? I was scared stupid on the car-ride over but as with any challenge in my life, I stepped up to the plate and prepared for battle. I'm one stubborn individual, and I was sure I'd get the answers to my questions quickly.

I ended up at a friends Birthday Party the night before the race and didn't get any sleep. Not only was I nervous, but the borrowed alarm clock died as did any near-by cell phones. I laid in bed all night waiting for civil twilight so I could rise and head over to meet Nate and Steve in Pembroke. As the sun began to rose to illuminate a brand new day, I turned my phone on to see the time.. I was running very late. We changed the plans for meeting time and location and I was quickly driving down the dirt backroads in Deerfield and Allenstown, NH on my way to Concord. Rain was falling heavily and fog encased the scene the whole way. Ah yes... another ultra.. another mud fest. I have quickly become the king of mud! Of the 19 ultras I have completed, I have been rain free in only 5 or 6. Thats only 25%.

Nate was ready to roll when I met him at the Park N Ride in Concord off of Route 89. Steve was stuffed in the back seat ready to go on what would become his very first ultra-adventure. Steve is a runner I met almost a year ago in the Eastern Mountain Sports I work at in Portsmouth. As he tried on trail running shoes, I spoke to him about my fun and fascinating exploits as an ultra-runner and dared him and his wife Allyson into researching the culture. Steve and I tried our best to run on a weekly/bi-weekly basis for a few months before Steve decided to explore the ultimate Step. Steve wanted to try an Ultra... a 50K.. and he wanted to go to a race together. I became Steve's coach and he became my first student. We worked through science, injury and motivation. I helped him plan a training routine which he followed as closely as possible and today in Pisgah... he would take his final exam. His first Ultra... a 50K. His longest run to date? A 17.5 mile race on the Wapack Trail just 2 weeks ago. I was praying for his sake and my own.

As we arrived at the fire station in Chesterfield, we meandered over to the porta-potties and then into race registration. Event staff was in a flurry to set everything up for us runners. Word was that the RD was hurting for money to put the event on. In doing the math and in seeing what had been assembled for us, I found it hard to imagine that he could be in debt. The race appears to be very bare bones in nature, and is New Hampshires ONLY official Ultra-Marathon. We squeezed into the tighly packed fire house to get our bib numbers and headed back to the car to get ready. The fog was thick and the air was 100% humid. The temp rose ever so slightly into the 70's as a chilling wind brushed across our faces. Nate and Steve quickly clothed themselves and sought out the shelter of the car in and attempt to stay dry. I opted to stay out in the sheets of pouring rain, getting soaked from head to toe before the race even started. What the hell right? I was going to be in it most of the day anyway, might as well adjust to my environment.

But what slowly began to happen next is what called to my heart and sang to my soul. I've met MANY people over the last 4 years of running in this sport, and what I experienced next is what sets our culture apart from that of your shorter distance trail runners and your road runners alike. As my fellow runners began to trickle in from their various locations, many saw me meandering about and made a point to come on over. I received warm hugs from a few, a few hands on my shoulder and a pat on the back and each runner expressed the same sentiment; "John... we're really glad you made it here today." I was moved deeply by all of this as pre-race preparations continued. Not only was I glad to be ok but my friends were as well. I think it was Jeff Waldron's sentiments that moved me most. He didn't say much but I could see it in his eyes. We've become great friends he and I and his pat on the shoulder and contagious smile re-lit the fire in my soul and super charged my legs for what lie ahead. I was ready to go! LETS DO IT!

Steve and I walked over to the starting area where Gary Montgomery gathered us around to shout out the last minute instructions. All I heard was to "turn left at the aid station for the loop for 50K runners!" I had no idea what he was talking about but I'm sure I'd find out. Nate settled in up in the front with aspirations of a 5:15 finish. Steve nervously waiting along side me and I cracked my usual pre-race jokes with a few fellow knuckle-heads. Then I turned right and saw a tall gentleman reach out his hand asking if I was John. I was of course and he introduced himself as Sean Hurley. Sean is a reporter from New Hampshire Public Radio. A few weeks ago I was randomly contacted by Sean about his interest in doing an article on Ultra-Running in NH. A runner himself, the story had potential. Through e-mail communication I fed him what info I could and invited him out to Pisgah for the states only official Ultra. It was great to see him here, though I was sorry I had forgotten he was coming. As Sean lined up beside me, he took a long microphone out of his pocket and began interviewing us right away. I called Nate and Steve over as I wanted as many of my friends to get in on this as possible. We are, after all, a community. Sean then went to the front to catch some of Gary's last minute pre-amble and then the whistle blew and we were off!

The pack began to sort out immediately. Steve and I ran at a comfy but good clip as we headed down the first hill. Sean found us in the mix and ran along side us continuing his interview. We were asked all of the typical questions. What do we carry? What do we wear? Why are we doing this? How long will it take? Whats the course like? etc etc. It was a LOT of fun. We walked ran quite a bit of the first hill and walked our fair share too. Sean did great in interviewing us as the rain continued to drive down and he even entered the woods with us running out to about the 3 mile mark on the course. This was remarkable to Steve and I because we both agreed later that carrying that damn microphone must have been a pain in the arse! The trails were saturated and submerged by the recent rains. Torrential rains on Friday night and Saturday Night left water ponding everywhere. The mud was early, deep and thick. Beaver activity was everywhere and their flooding caused quite a problem for us trying to keep our feet wet. I'm glad Sean saw some of this and can't wait to hear his story.

In the meantime, Steve and I had a race to run Steve's plan was to hang with me as long as he could and then take it from there. Knowing how individual we all are, I was unsure how his plan was going to play out but I decided to play along. After 3.5 miles of jumping puddles, the effort was worthless and energy consuming at best. I ran straight through a puddle, submerging my foot and encasing my ankles in mud. "Screw it Steve.. its going to be a long day. Get it over with and worry about it later." Our feet were soaked and our focus turned to post-race blister care. Oh well.. such is life.

As we made our way into the first aid station, we ran into two guys running together. I listened into their conversation and it was easy to pick up that this was their first Ultra. They had the right mind-set and I'm not sure if they finished but they had the right ideas. I wished them well as we refilled our bottles, took S-Caps and hurried on down the road. The rain began to pick up as did the wind and what I knew might be the last hurray of this for the day. I didn't mind so much, after all, I'm getting used to it. We continued to pick our way around puddles even after getting our feet wet, but as the miles wore on I began to trudge through more and more puddles as the day went on. Steve and I fell into a groove and slowly began to run like pac-men. We picked off runners as we slowly went along; we'd run until we saw someone and then we picked it up until we overcame them. This type of running is a fun way to pass the time and miles for me and it always feels good to pass another runner.

We hit our first manned aid station and I told Steve that 8 mile were all ready gone. We began a long climb up an old paved road where we caught Dave Delebec. Dave is from Vermont and a true gentleman. He is one of those guys who is both courteous and fun and knows how to liven things up when needed. Further up the trail I was walking a bit when Dave gave me an old "Drew-ism"... "hey... get the #%$%^& Lead out!" I groaned and started running as I mumbled under my breath. We laughed about it and bounded through the mud. We then found Josh and Rik Roberts on the trail as well as Movingon from Kickrunners. We all buddied up and chipped off quite a few miles together. We went up and over hills around bends, over bridges, around swamps, over dams.. all the while running on a soft bed of pine needles. Pisgah State park is the States Largest State Park and true hidden gem. CHECK IT OUT!

At Mile 17 we reached the reservoir aid station. We had lost Rik a few miles back and Josh was now opting to hang back for his old man. Dave came wandering in as Steve, Movingon and I prepared to head back out. We drank some soda and made sure we were set to go. I had Steve empty his trash and concentrate on his nutrition moving forward. He was starting to look tired as we approached his previous "longest mark" of 17.5 Miles. He claimed he was cramping up a bit, so we worked on his electrolyte plan as we walked down the course. We got back into a groove as we talked with Movingon. As we made our way up Mt. Pisgah I quickly realized that I felt pretty mint, getting back into a groove and ready to roll. Steve was slowing down and feeling tired. I was impressed he hung with me 18 miles but I knew now was his time to find himself in this event. I kicked it into gear leaving Steve behind, quietly, and hoping he would dig deep within his soul and find himself crossing that finish line.

I made my way to an aid station where I ran into Ryan Pretess' Dad. I'm not sure what race he was in but he looked beat. I realized he had no bottles, no gels no nothing. The guy was running with the aid from stations alone! WOWSERS! I said hi and headed t the right before being called back to the station by some grumpy volunteers. I thank them for being there but SHEESH! They told me this was the loop and I needed to go left. I wished the directors had made some decent signage for this aid station indicating so... but regardless, I headed off on the loop alone. The loop took us down and around a pond area. The fog remained thick and heavy as smells of my grandmothers old basement wafted from the molded earth. I was very much alone, and digging deep to keep on pace. I passed a couple and headed back to the aid table, took the right and headed on my way across the final 5 miles of the race.

The next mile was pristine pine forest, soft footing and wonderful sounds. I ran past more waterfalls and gorgeous landscapes. Pisgah is an amazing place and on this day resembled an enchanted forest or even the fire swamp from the Princess Bride. And then all hell broke loose. I turned right at an orange Backhoe where a lot of trail work had been done. The trail was an all out mud best. Ankle to shin deep all around. My foot slipped and slid all around, my legs began to burn, covered in slick mud and sore from the constant twisting actions. Water splashed up to my face with each step, mud splashed everywhere as I continued to push on and pick up my pace. I wanted to catch just one more runner. I pushed on. Compared to running over the last month, I was feeling great. My legs were full of energy, never short of breath, alone for the last 12 miles and picking up steam. I felt reborn, resurrected and hunted the finish line with each forward step.

I finally slid off the trails and onto a dirt road heading for home. Up ahead I spotted a runner and knew exactly who it was. It was Ryan's father again, walking slowly but in good spirits heading down the road. I ran along and caught up to him, lended support, offered a gel and got him to run a bit more. As he slowed back to a walk I continued on vowing to tell Ryan pops was ok. The road led adjacent to two massive fields/meadows as the clouds continued to swirl and the fog lifted. The sun tried to burn through to no avail and the wind blew lightly across my face. My eyes were wide open, my heart pounded proudly as blood flowed through my arteries and veins. I could feel the burn in my legs, pain in my feet and a journey in my soul. The end was near. A gray car came down the road, It was my friend Dan Myers, he had dropped and told me to "Run it in! It's right there!" I thanked him for his encouragement and picked up my step!

I headed down the final stretch of road, took the final right and saw the finish ahead. I made the sign of the cross, pounded the "moe" on my chest and pointed to the sky as I thanked god and my grandfather for the strength to carry on in this great adventure. I ran into the chute and sprinted as best I could before doing a baseball slide across the finish line on the saturated grass. I got up to my feet and proudly stood there offering a high five to Nate. A few weeks ago I wondered if I'd ever be able to run and compete again. Scared and alone, I faced my demons once more; rose to the occasion and ran to the promised land. You can do ANYTHING you put your mind too.. and I once again proved my point. I felt great in hearing my time of 6:31. I sat down, sore but satisfied. I left it all out there as I chomped down on a burger. Its great to be back, this is home. Nate and I talked and joked as we waited for Steve. Would he finish? Where was he? At 7:09 (race time) I watched as a runner sprinted to the end with a runner on his tail. I moved my position and noticed it was Steve racing to the finish line coming in strong. HE DID IT! From never running more than 17.5 miles; from doubting his own ability to complete the task; Steve dug deep and found his Human Potential and carried himself through thick and thin to finish his first 50K. I've never been as proud.

The Vermont 50 is in 2 weeks and I'll be ready; hoping to break 10 hours for the first time in one of my favorites. I hope to see you all there; my friends.

Happy Trails!
SJ

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The 2008 Run Across New Hampshire

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you all, the 2008 Run Across New Hampshire to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire!

AT A GLANCE:
WHO: Ultramarathon runners Nathan Sanel and “Sherpa” John Lacroix
WHAT: A 124 Mile Around the Clock Run from The Connecticut River to The Atlantic Ocean.
WHY: To benefit The Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire
WHEN: Saturday, October 18, 2008 – Sunday, October 19, 2008
WHERE: Route 9 Chesterfield, NH to Ordiorne State Park in Rye, NH.

Check out our special RANH BLOG! Visit our site to donate and try your luck at wining a 2007 Honda VT600VLX!!


What started out as an idea to discover New Hampshire’s autumn charm, has turned into an all out fundraiser for The Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire. Myself and Nate Sanel are planning to run around the clock starting October 18th; 124 miles from New Hampshire’s Western-most point to the State’s easternmost point and do it all to make Wishes a reality for children battling life-threatening illnesses.

Nathan Sanel is the owner of National PowerSports Distributors (www.nationalpowersports.net) in Pembroke, NH; a NH based company that sells motorcycles world-wide. Every year, Sanel plans a run that benefits a charity along with an open house to kick-off fundraising efforts held at his business. Last year he raised over $10,000 dollars on behalf of the AT Childrens Project. Nate will be hosting an open house at his business on September 13th where he will donate $100 for every motorcycle sold that day. In addition, he will be raffling off a 2007 Honda VT600VLX and has planned a full day of fun events to benefit Make-A-Wish®. Sanel was having a hard time deciding on where he wanted to run; until I presented him with an idea to run across New Hampshire.

Myself... I am an ultramarathon runner from Newmarket, NH and full time student at the University of New Hampshire where I major in Outdoor Education. Previously I have raised over $20,000 on behalf of the American Diabetes Association Research Fund through a documentary film I made on hiking New Hampshire’s 4,000 Foot Peaks. I had a vision to run across New Hampshire for quite some time and was looking for the right engine to drive it. Together, myself and Nate will take to the roads of the Granite State and run on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire.

The Route
Our journey is 124 miles (200 Kilometers) in length and will be run Around The Clock, start to finish. We will start on the NH Route 9 Bridge connecting Brattleboro, VT with Chesterfield, NH over the Connecticut River. Our Run on Route 9 will take us through the towns of Chesterfield, Keene, Sullivan, Hillsborough, Henniker, Hopkinton, and Concord. We will then take US Route 4 through the towns of Chichester, Epsom, Northwood, Barrington, Lee, Madbury, Durham, Dover and Newington. We will then run through the streets of Portsmouth and New Castle before reaching our terminus at Ordiorne State Park in Rye, NH. They also plan short stints through downtown Hillsboro, Henniker, Concord, Durham and Portsmouth.

Why Make-A-Wish®
A Wish can teach a sick child that anything is possible… even the future. The Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire does an amazing job at making the dreams of children a reality. Both Nate and I are big time dreamers, and we understand the power of dreams. It would be an honor to help the dreams of children in our state come true. We also want to inspire others to get outside and join us on our journey, even if for a few hundred yards.

How You Can Help
We encourage everyone to show support through donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire. We also invite everyone in the surrounding areas to come on out and run with us on our Around the Clock Journey across the state. Whether it be for 1 mile or 20 miles, we ask that you donate at least 1 dollar per mile you run beside us.

About Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire
Since 1986, more than 700 children battling life-threatening medical conditions across New Hampshire have experienced their dream come true. Your support helps the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire continue its mission of granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.

The true impact of a wish cannot be valued monetarily. Yet, the Make-A-Wish Foundation® is dependent on generous contributions of individuals and corporate sponsors to provide the funding and in-kind resources necessary to create a unique wish experience for every Wish Child. These contributions provide immense hope, strength, and joy for all Wish Children and their families.

To follow our training and the adventure Check out our special RANH BLOG!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Interview: Mike Silverman (VT50 RD)


As you all may or may not know, September marks the changing of season's here in New England. The days are getting shorter and the leaves are starting to display their magnificent colors. There really is no better time to run in this area, crisp mornings and cold evenings, cool days and beautiful views. This becomes a runner's mecca. But for those looking for a challenge, looking for a top notch race, there is none more stellar than the Vermont 50 held on September 28th.

I had the chance to talk with Race Director Mike Silverman about the event, and it is our hope that you'll sign up and take the challenge to join us at the end of September. Thanks for taking the time to join us Mike.

SJ: So, tell us a little bit about the Vermont 50; how many years has this race been
around?

MS: 18 years

SJ: Was it always a mountain bike race as well or was it originally strictly for runners?
MS: Originally it was just a running race, Lou Schmertz and Seth Warren (Then 15 years old) put together the Mt Bike addition

SJ: How many bikers will be on the course and when do they start?
MS: There will be 725, where 650 is our real agreement with the 70 landowners

SJ: Now the runners start a tad later; how many runners do you anticipate in the 50K and the 50 Mile options?
MS: The 50 mile runners and the 50 mile 3 person relay start 5 minutes behind the last bikers. I expect (250 50 mile runners) 1 .5 hrs later the 50 K runners will start and we have 150 of them.

SJ: Who does the race benefit?
MS: The benefactor is Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.
Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports is committed to empowering individuals with disabilities. We promote independence and further equality through access and instruction to sports and recreational opportunities. You can discover more about VASS at
http://www.vermontadaptive.org

SJ: How much money is typically donated to VASS through this particular event?
MS: About $40,000

SJ: What should entrants expect?
MS: Well I think they should expect us to be their host from the time they leave home until the time they leave Brownsville VT.
They are all very special to the first timer, the repeat participant and us. We want them to feel safe and looked after.

SJ: Tell us about the course; Trails, roads, elevation change, etc?
MS: I feel what has made our course what it is, is not the 50-mile or the 50K distance. It is how it is strung together, there is a rhythm. We cross 70 private lands, and we offer very special Fall Vermont vistas with lots of aid stations with friendly volunteers and LOTS of food. We are still around 8900 vert for the 50 milers and 5600 vert for the 50K. We keep trying to get off the roads and adding more double and single-track trails. The hardest part is the last section on Ascutney, which was about 2.5 miles up and a .5-mile down to the finish. Surprisingly, we added 1.5 more to the Mountain with adding lots of Vert.

SJ: Have you ever run or ridden either of the race options?
MS: Yes, I have ridden the 50 many times before becoming RD. l always wanted to run the 50K, but never seem to find the time to run and organize as many do.

SJ: Compared to other ultramarathons, how do you think the Vermont 50 compares?
MS: Well, since I have taken the RD position 8 years ago, we have introduced the 50 K and the 50 mile 3 person relay. Last year we went from 200 runners to 400 and I am hoping to break 500 this year. The goal was to become more runner friendly, listen to their needs, reduce the concern of the bikers, and introduce more runners to the ultra world. I think the VT 50 does that with its "private" course, many well stocked aid stations, and its event/ party atmosphere. I feel we do offer more than most, and we continue to listen to the needs of our participants. Once we think we have it all, we will never improve. Ideas come from listening and the willingness to try new things.

SJ: Tell us your favorite story from Vermont 50's past.
MS: Well there are so many from proposals at the finish line (2 last year) to runners and bikers meeting in the parking lots and end up married and now bring their little ones with them. But the 2003 race was really the big story. It was called our "Mud fest." The trails and small streams became rivers. It was a very different event. It was not whether you would beat your time of last year, it was "will I finish." More than 1/2 the field took a DNF. There was a steady stream of bikers and runners coming down the paved road near the Resort. Someone said, "They are all off course!" No they have all decided to quit. All 450 of them. The truth be told, it was so amazing how the community came out and helped transport the wet and weary participants. They had cars and trucks willing to move whoever need their assistance.

SJ: How can folks sign up for the race and how much room is left for runners given that bikers are filled?
MS: The runners are unlimited. They can go to www.vermont50.com and they can also register Saturday September 27 that Ascutney Mountain Resort. 12- 8

Great Mike, thanks so much for your time and efforts in putting on a solid race in New England. I look forward to being there myself for my third Vermont 50; enjoying the views and powering up and down the many hills. "Challenge Yourself" is the race motto and quite the challenge indeed.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Into The Wild - Part 3

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Day 6: Wauchipauka Pond to MRL

Today was my day to be Leader of the Day (LOD) with Tory. Last night when it was time to volunteer to be LOD, I was actually hoping it would be Tory who stepped up to the plate. She has a real leadership sense about her, probably from her days as a camp counselor. I just knew we'd make a great team, and rally our troops on what would be the longest and toughest day of our journey. We got together the night before to go over the trip plan for the next day. Everything is detailed from time of departure to time of arrivals at various locations. River crossings and potential places for water. Road walks, things to look out for.. and briefing the group on what to expect the next day in terms of these issues and what else we'll be doing. We discussed everything and had a great plan put together. When we woke up today, we sprung into action and got our group working and motivated to leave camp around 8am. We got up at 6 so this gave us two hours to eat, clean, tear everything down and hit the trail.

It was sad leaving Wauchipauka Pond. It was such a peaceful location, though I'll admit I won't miss the daddy long legs who crawled across my face while there every night. I ate my last of the Pop-tarts for breakfast while Spencer ate his last Nutri-grain bars. We noticed how slim our food bag was looking, but things were looking up. We were pretty hungry for sure, but we knew we would be treated to a hearty meal while at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge tonight. By 8am everyone was ready to go, so we rounded up the troops and hit the trail. We worked our way over to the very section of trail we helped repair the day before, where we got a chance to see our changes at work. BUt we also had to pick up various tools from our work day and walk them to the road. I got stuck with the most awkward thing available.. a beach pail filled with steel nails. Ugh! There was no easy way to carry it, I just knew I wanted to make it to the road. We boogied out of the woods and made it to Rte 25 where a tool stash had been established. We all stashed our tools and headed over to Town Line Trail, where we had another student lesson planned.
(Chris With some tools)

As we made our way to the river here, Spencer had his shot at teaching a lesson. Spencer's lesson was on River Crossings. He gathered his thoughts well and told us about the hazards of River crossings which included a variety of things I never even thought of or knew about. After his lesson, we all took our shoes off (I put on my crocs), loaded up our gear and headed for the river. Now even though there was an EXCELLENT place to cross established with rocks.. we were getting in. The water was freezing cold, and about waist deep at its deepest. With our straps unbuckled, we each went hand in hand, created a chain and slinked our way across he water, making sure to not cross our legs. It went perfectly. After our group went, the seond group of 4 went through. We then sat on the far bank and put our shoes back on. Chris wasn;t taking account for his gear, and as we took off he left his hiking pole behind. Robby picked it up and put it in his pack. By the time we got to the first uphill, Chris realized his mistake and began to ran back. We yelled for him to return to which he did.. and when he got back, we gave him his pole back and told him to practice better Leave No Trace. It was pretty funny. So.. a great lesson from Spencer and fun thanks to Chris and Robby, our group remained in good spirits.

We walked the Town Line Trail to a rd in Glencliff, took a right and then a left onto High St. We made our way to the Glencliff Trail Trailhead and ducked into the woods to where we took another break. We marveled at the barbed wire surrounding the fields lining the trail, and even evidence of an old stone bridge that spanned the small stream we rock hopped over. But while resting here, Kel and Robby put on quite a show with a skit. The skit was on Trail Etiquette and more-so about how to effectively speak to other hikers on the trail. The first skit they did was a skit in where Kel approached Robby who was acting as a fisherman. Kel yelled and screamed about how its "my river" and so on... and was really a jerk and real negative. The point of the skit was to display a negative way to effectively communicate with others in the woods, AND to show how this method is not a very good way to educate anyone. The second skit was a more proactive approach where each spoke calmly and collectively to each other. It showed a more respectful and easier way to effectively communicate and educate another about the wilderness. Man... I wish all those folks who told me I was "going to F%^&ing kill myself" while running Franconia Ridge could see this!

We continued on up the trail, taking a right onto the Hurricane Ridge Trail. The trail was created as a result from the great 1938 Hurricane that devastated portions of the great northern forest. My health has been a concern for the last few weeks... and it was here that it all finally became a true and blue concern of mine. As the class began to climb the slope towards the ridge and Hurricane Mountain, EVERYONE was WAY ahead of me while I lagged far behind and gasped for air. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest, my legs had no power and I was zonked. Was it because I hadn't eaten well? OR was it something else seeing as this has been going on for a few weeks now... more on this later. The group was forced to wait for me to catch up, which was an exercise in pride sucking on my behalf. I was hurt and wanted to crawl under a rock. The group allowed me to jump into the front instead of Sweeping.. and I led the group slowly and steadily up to the ridge. I was so depressed by this... but managed myself well. When we finally made it to the ridge, Chris took the big yellow tarp from my bag to lighten my load... it was perhaps one of the most concerning and humbling moments of my life. I felt terrible.

We all sat down and ate lunch. I was finally out of fruit snacks and fruit leathers, my trail mix was gone. For lunch I ate craisins, whatever gorp was offered, and the rest of the Marshmallows Kel had given me. As I concluded eating, I was asked to give the class a quick history lesson on Peak-Bagging. So away I went, talking about the history of peak-bagging in New Hampshire and New York; what lists exist and the different games to play. I really enjoyed doing this as it is something I am passionate about and I hoped others would be just AS passionate about the same. After my lesson, Robby gave us a lesson on what to do in the event of animal/Bear encounters. I am amazed at how many people don't know what to do in these instances so the information was good to get.

We packed everything up and headed down the other side of the ridge towards MRL. Along the way we stopped at the Carriage Rd where I briefly told everyone some history of the road. I find it neat to share these 2 facts. 1.) The first US Downhill Championship was skied here on the Carriage Rd and 2.) When the US Government was looking to a new ATV to have in the field during military operations.. the Jeep motor company won the competition with their First JEEP which was test driven for the government by driving the prototype up the Carriage Rd. Yes yes... more useless info.

We arrived at MRL with 2 hours to spare. We instructed the class to use their time as they see fit, and we all seemed to do the same thing. We made our way to the lodge where we showered for the first time since Friday. It was heavenly. The water was hot and the towels soft. It was nice to peel some grime off me and freshen up. We then went upstairs where I purchased a chocolate brownie and we all drank coffee or cocoa. I'm a cocoa drinker myself. I then went to the pay-phone where I got to call Sarah and let her know I was still alive.. though barely. Whatever is wrong with me whopped my butt on the ridge today, I'm starving and haven't really slept well all week. All of us returned to our bunkhouse where Robby gave us a crash course in stove assembly and repairs. He had our MSR Whisperlight stoves in various states of disassembly and explained possible problems with the stove and how to fix them. The lesson was rushed but valuable information. I am amazed at how much information Robby knows and was pretty grateful he was willing and able to share it all with us.

We then made our way to the Ravine Lodge for dinner. The menu... well... for those who know me, was not a list of things I eat.. EVER. I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy.. ok well... a Chicken Tender and Grilled Cheese kind of guy really. BUt here is what I ate: Beet and Barley Soup with cabbage and mushrooms. Followed by Rice and Lentils in a mushroom cream sauce, green beans and walnut and raisin biscuits. Whatever biscuits remained on the table, Spencer and I put in our pockets for tomorrow. The Dartmouth staff came out and tried to entertain us for 5 minutes while dessert was prepared. All of the tables had to stand and participate in an activity called "The Knot." Each group had to join hands with two different people in your group. Then we try to untangle the knot and make one unified circle... WE LOST. The waiter said, "UNH you lose so no Dessert for you." I replied, "We did your trail work.. and showed Carl how to do it too... We WIN." He nodded approval and we got our dessert... which we were getting anyway. We then sat down and enjoyed pudding cups with whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkled on top.

We then return to the bunk house where I engaged the group in my activity. Skits and acting things out are an effective way to educate others. I took the opportunity to not only get my group thinking, but to engage them in some acting of their own. I asked them to answer a few questions first: 1.) Dick Clark said, "Music is the soundtrack of our lives." What is your theme song? 2.)If there is one movie that you think closely resembles your life.. what movie is it? and 3.) If your movie were to be remade, list the first 3 people that come to your mind.. then fill in actors names next to those names and one next to you. Who would play these parts? And who would play Kel? It was fun and neat to hear everyone's answers. Then I had everyone write some kind of scene on a piece of paper that they'd like to see played out. It was exactly like "Scenes From A Hat" on Whose Line Is It Anyway? It was a fun activity and we all had good laughs. My favorite was, "What Sherpa John says to Sarah after running 100 Miles." Interesting acting... sorry for me that the kid was DEAD ON with it. Hehe

After my activity we turned the lights off in the cabin and sat around as Kel read us Dr. Seuss's: The Lorax. Following his reading of the Lorax, he read aloud an article The Watermans Wrote titled,"Why The Lorax Lost." We then discussed our varying opinions on the Watermans piece and how we felt. It was a stunning reading and even better conversation. As a group we did a great job discussing the important issues effectively and being respectful to one another. In fact, previously in the day; Kel and Robby made mention of how amazed they were by the melding of our group of hikers. It was no Thursday and we had yet to have ANY kind of disagreement or negative interaction. So Chris and I wanted to play with this fact a little bit and tried staging our own little altercation. Chris's acting was good... TOO good. I worked wonders at getting under his skin, he was a great "annoyed" actor.. I couldn't stop laughing though and had to spill the beans of our plan. It was funny though. And no confrontation in our group continued... We also all sat down and had a debriefing session where everyone gave us feedback on how we did as LOD's. All of the feedback was positive and great, but we also learned of things we as a class should continue to build upon.

Before bed, we all do our own thing. Greg and Martha were planning and plotting the next day as it was their turn to be LOD. Tory worked with Robby on disassembling stoves and reassembling them. Chris, Spencer and I went to working on our knots knowing that tomorrow we would be tested on our knowledge of them and other things we learned. And Kel waited patiently for Robby to be done with Tory, at which point they went off to debrief one another of how they thought the day went. While they talked, the rest of us settled in. I skipped playing the Harmonica tonight, slid the earplugs in.. and quickly dozed off in my comfy cozy bunk bed. Ahhh... a mattress, and no bugs to crawl on me. It was a great night. My stomach was re-filled and I am finally comfortable for some sleep.

Day 7: MRL Over Moose to Mud Ponds
We woke up early on Friday morning to head back into MRL for some breakfast. While most of the other groups made what they had bought for breakfast... Spencer, Chris and I paid the $5 to get breakfast served to us by the crew. For the first time in my life I ate Oatmeal... something I swore to myself I'd never have. It wasn't half bad except terribly bland. I had to add a ton of Applesauce and Raisins to it for some flavor. After pigging out on that, the scrambled eggs and sausage came out followed by lemon scones. You guessed it, spencer pocketed some scones to eat along the way today. After breakfast we all packed it up and got ready to roll. Greg and Martha were our final LOD's of the week and had a hell of a day in front of them. They led us out of the main lodge area and onto the Gorge Brook Trail, a trail I've hiked many times before. Once in Spring, Once in Summer and Once in Fall with Winter Conditions. We were heading up Moosilauke which would be my 6th time summiting this peak.

We ambled our way steadily up the summit. Spencer and I had finally eaten some food, so our energy was rather high today, but I was till having trouble at times. I can't wait to get home to go see the doctor. We got to the first major outlook on the trail and here we had another lesson on map and compass. We used our skills to identify a few peaks off in the distance. I'm not sure what the second one was but I do know one of them was Kineo. I guess the Osceola's but was WAY off. Oh well! We continued up the trail stopping a little while later for snacks and something to drink. While we stopped on the trail, I had the opportunity to give the class a short lesson on Alpine Zone Etiquette. The alpine zone is a tough pace to grow, where the only place on earth that the environment here is replicated is the arctic tundra. I stressed the importance to stay on and keep everything on the trail to lower our impact here. We packed up and continued on, reaching tree-line and taking another shor break before we ran out of places to pee.

The weather on top of Moosilauke was almost as good as I've ever had it. Temps in the mid to upper 60's with a very light breeze. The clouds danced and whirled about. Now it was my time to give my lesson for the week on Mountain Weather. Everyone sat around eating their lunch while I cracked out some small diagrams and pictures I had prepared at home to talk to the class about mountain weather.. and more locally, the worlds worst weather. We talked about the Orographic Lift, lightning, clud types and how they form, New Hampshires unique weather, storm tracks and Rime Ice and the Alpine Zone. I had a great time teaching the class as they all remained engaged and asking questions. This is why I've chosen Outdoor Education.


After completing my weather lesson, we turned our attention to more map and compass. We all really enjoyed the number of these lessons we engaged in because its an area we all stated (pre-trip) that we wanted to hone our skills on. While on the summit of Moosilauke we perfected the skills of orientation, declination, triangulation and back-bearings. Everyone had a great time trying to name surrounding peaks and properly locate each one via compass. It was great. But soon we had to pack things up again and keep moving on another high mileage day. We bid farewell to a few thru-hikers and began hiking down towards the Benton Trail.

As we began to leave the summit, I noticed a couple I had recognized form somewhere. They asked if my name was John in front of the group and I replied, "Yes." Turns out these folks met me in 2005 at Bryant University in Rhode Island. They came and saw my film showing at that particular location. We shared smiles and pleasantries before taking off down the trail. About 200 yards further and I was stopped by another hiker, "Sherpa John?" It was GlennS. We talked about the last time we saw each other being a winter trip to Isolation. So nice to run into a familiar face. As we continued on down the trail, it was fun to see the reactions of my classmates. "Well excuuuuuseee us!" I had a huge smile from ear to ear. I love when people say hello.

We continued to the bottom of the Benton Trail where we stopped at a stream crossing to refill our water bottles and eat some snacks. We had a short road walk ahead of us and it would be warm on the road even though a layer of overcast was starting to filter in over-head. Would our rainless streak end? The Benton trail was one of two trails I had yet to travel on the Moose.. all that remains now is Snapper. I found the trail to be rather easy, pleasant and the outlook from a ledgy outcropping about 3/4 of the way down was exciting. We turned left onto the road and spread out. Robby and Chris ran ahead as a sort of race while the rest of us hung back and walked relaxed with our huge packs on our back. At the end of the road, we stopped and would embark on our 3rd solo hike of the trip. The plan was to leave in 1 minute increments and all meet up at our second river crossing on the Tunnel Brook Trail. We were on our way to Mud pond for the night.

Martha led and I fell in second. Spencer and I weren't too interested in a solo hike, so I waited on the trail for him to come behind. Once he caught up we continued our journey together, eating lemon scones and thinking of tonight's pot-luck dinner. At one point i looked up and realized we had caught Martha. We stopped to give her some room when behind us we heard Chris Catch up... we were now a party of three. After a short while we continued on, caught Martha again and had to wait... thats when Kel showed up... now a party of 4. We waited once more and spread back out... but some 00 yards down trail... we all met up again at what was our meeting place. I'm not sure anyone actually HAD a solo hike. From here we continued on together headed for our camping location for the night. The trail led us to a campsite and we soon found ourselves on what I recognized as a herd path to nowhere. We consulted the map and discovered the need to cross the stream. We crossed the stream and stopped on a small island. Our lod's devised a plan to spread out and try to find the actual trail and our campsite. Two people went one way, two the other, the rest hung out. In what could have been a stressful and sticky situation; we al held true and remained calm. Greg and Chris found the trail, Martha and Spencer returned.. and off we were once more... until we found a campsite along the ponds.

We all voted to set up camp quickly and then get right into our testing.. this was a class after-all. While setting up camp I over-heard Greg tell his cook partner Chris, "We need to find food for the pot-luck." And chris responded with some less than exciting words about that idea. Spencer and I damn near starved all week... and the whole time we had a box of Kraft, 4 cheese Mac N' Cheese in our pack that we saved just for pot-luck. We could have eaten it.. but we opted to save it for the group. Greg and Chris had a version of Shells and Cheese with Dried Tomatoes they opted to eat on Wednesday. This was supposed to be their pot-luck meal, but because they were hungry, they opted to eat it. They were now thinking of serving us PB&J on Bagels, leftover fig newtons, leftover cheese and Grasshopper pie they decided to name "Giardia." This pissed me off.. especially since Spencer and I saved our meal.. so I jokingly said something about them feeding us gorp and Chris replied with, "Shut up you ungrateful Prick!" Now... usually I would haul off and give the kid a piece of my mind. But this is a classroom where one of my goals was to be patient and the other was to be positive. After a few minutes passed, I waited for Chris and I to be alone and I told him, "Chris, I think you calling me ungrateful was uncalled for and a bit over the top. Its not that I am ungrateful, its that I think you are unthoughtful." And he apologized and we went about our business. The groups only confrontation and it was solved in less than 30 seconds. I wish some of the older hikers I know could be so mature.
(Spencer at Camp)

After we set up the tarps, Robby and Kel split up into two stations and the testing began. We were tested on our knots first. We each had to perform the clove-hitch, taught-line, truckers hitch, figure 8 with a bite and a bowline. After knots, we had to do Map and Compass where we oriented a map, took a bearing, and took a back bearing from and un-named peak on the map. We then moved on to stoves. Stove safety was first where we had to "teach" our instructors the proper way to safely set up a stove as well as to light and operate a stove safely.
(Mud Pond and I)

After testing completed it was time for the Pot-luck dinner. Spencer and I brought our Mac N' Cheese, Tory and Martha brought shells and cheese in some kind of sauce. Kel and Robby had tortellini's in pesto sauce with sun dried tomatoes, and of course Greg and Chris had their PB&J Bagels, Cheese, Fig Newtons and Grasshopper Pie. Spencer and I had munched on our biscuits all day and thank god we did. Everyone tried everyone else's meals, we all shared... but after everyone had firsts of our mac N' Cheese.. we asked if anyone wanted more. Everyone declined an I immediately yelled, "Get it!" Spencer and I shared the last bit like the scavengers we'd become. And it was DAMN good!

After dinner, the clouds continued to roll in. Tomorrow we planned to wake up at 5:15 for our walk to the bus. But tonight, a special reading from Kel about what we could learn from our trip. HERE IS A COPY of what Kel read. After he finished... camp was quiet and reflective... I broke the silence asking if I could read my journal entry from the night before. Everyone sat silently as I read aloud what I wrote during the reading of the Lorax. My journal is not handy as of the writing of this report... but know that I wrote about the exceptional group of individuals I had the pleasure of spending 8 days with. Seven strangers who helped re-inspire, re-motivate and reshape my life. I often times forget why I do the things I do... why I hike, why I run.. and on this trip I was reminded. Per my goals on the trip.. I learned to be patient, I learned to be humble and I learned how to spread knowledge. I learned that in the outdoors.. THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG, even though most folks will do all they can to shove their own theories down your throat. As I ended my reading, I stopped and thanked them all for being so positive on our adventure. And then I paused and looked towards Robby...

Robby and I work at EMS together and we got off on the wrong foot. I wouldn't say that I didn't like Robby, but I didn't necessarily have a positive opinion of him either. And as we sat in the darkness, and as i tried to gather my words, I couldn't help but to sit there and cry a little.. I got choked up. All I could say was, "I don't know why I am crying.. this is no big deal and is kind of ridiculous." Camp remained quiet and for more than a minute, I tried to gather myself. I looked toward Robby finally and said, "So many times in my life, I was judged upon before anyone got to know me. I judged a book by its cover... and its wrong. Robby... I respect you and your knowledge... and while I may not have thought fondly of you previously.. I'm sorry."

Its amazing how the world turns. We show up on a trip expecting things to go a certain way, expecting to learn a pre-determined set of lessons. But I learned more than just lessons on this trip. I learned a lot about myself, and others. Robby is one amazing individual with greater knowledge than most of the experienced "peak-baggers" I know. But what was beautiful about our trip was our ability to bury the hatchet, and get off on the right foot. I gained a new sense of hope for the world in which I live and the people I know. I gained a level of skill and confidence that no one can take from me or my peers. It was amazing.
(The Clouds move in)

We then began our peer evaluations for the trip. We had to evaluate everyones performance from the trip including our own and proved effective feedback to them as well.It took quite awhile to fill these forms out properly, but it was part of the learning process. As soon as I was done with my evaluations, I broke out the harmonica for one last song.. only this time I played it louder and for longer. I played from my soul, and played a tune which to me was the song of the trip. As I finished it up, my classmates thanked me for playing and bringing the harmonica along. Our final night together in these great woods I call home. We nestled into our sleeping bags.. slid in the ear-plugs.. and nodded off one last time.

In the middle of the night, I woke up to a small downpour. Kel was sleeping under the stars. We woke him up and he ran for cover under our tarp. Poor guy.

Day 8: End Game
We woke up at 5:15 am and began taking down camp. The only food anyone had left was gorp or snacks for a quick snack. We had a 3 mile walk out to the fun bus locale. We strapped it all up and hit the trail. We walked briskly down the tunnel brook trail, all along the brook through a magical hardwood forest. Remnants of old and new remained in these woods and provided us with some wonderful last minute scenery. There wasn't much talking as we all walked like zombies. We cam out on the road and walked a short ways to our pick-up spot.... where there was no bus. After 20 minutes of waiting, Robby and I ran up High Street to see if it was at The Glencliff Trailhead on accident.. no dice. We ran back to the group. The plan was to have the group hike with our packs and poles down the road while Robby and I ran to 25C where that river crossing was 2 days ago. We ran down the Town Line Trail and sure enough... there was the bus. We hoped on board and directed our driver to head up High Street where we found the rest of the class. We loaded up and headed for home.

About 45 minutes later we turned off towards Rumney and stopped to eat at a local General Store that made immaculate breakfast sandwiches. I ordered a ham, egg and cheese on a white bagel... extra meat. And it was ike heaven. I drank 2 chocolate milks as well. So good. We continued to UNH where the Freshman were having their move-in day. We made our way to the Gray building for the de-issuing of gear. We made sure everything was clean and folded nicely to be stored away in our majors "supply closet." From here it was back to the Browne Center where we had a group de-brief about our trip which was filled with thank you's and farewells. We then each had a one on one debrief with Robby and Kel where our performance for the week was evaluated and we could also talk about what we want to work on moving forward. My meeting ended and I called Sarah. Her and our friend Bekah came to pick me up where I returned home to the land of stress and negativity. I all ready long to be back in the woods, living the simple life... but perhaps another time.. where I can learn more than originally planned once more.

Good to be home!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Into The Wild - Part 2

READ PART 1 if you missed it

Day 3: Monday, August 21, 2008 - Hexacube Shelter to Ore Hill Shelter
We woke up early monday morning and retrieved the bear bag. this would become quick ritual to start our days before we got our breakfasts going. Given the shorter mileage of todays hike, I opted to eat two nutri-grain bars and a fruit leather for breakfast. While everyone else cooked decent meals, hearty, nutrional breakfasts... I knew that it was only a matter of time before my tummy turned to revolt against me. But for now I was content. I deal with my self image quite a bit at home, and not eating was making me feel better. I knew for sure I was losing SOME weight and my body would start to thin up a little more... I also knew that upon my return home, binge eating would once again pose a personal issue.

After breakfast we had a quick meeting on how to properly poop in the woods. You see a trend? We shared poop stories, found poop at the campsite, learned how to poop properly.. and now we're about to learn how to properly dispose of our poop. The method we learned was called "Chip and Putt." We dug a 6" deep hole and properly "putted" the poop into its new cozy domain; buried the hole and continued tearing down camp. Then we all made our way to the stream for one more fill of our water bottles before hitting the trail once more.

As we wandered down the trail towards the summit of Mount Cube, I immersed myself in conversation with my instructor. The conversation was centered around various topics of White Mountain history. My two favorite stories included talk about how Cannon Mountain used to be named for the Old man... with the name "Freaks Mountain" and how natives thought the great stone face had a magical gemstone called "The Great Carbunkle" in his forehead which captured the spirit of their god. My other story was centered around J.E. Henry, the great (or not so great) Timber baron of NH's woods; how his logging operation built the town of Lincoln and woodstock, how his same operation burned the forest which now is comprised of the Pemigewassett Wilderness and how JE was perhaps the cheapest prick in New Hampshire History. It felt amazing to share the knowledge I had learned over the years with someone both interested/intrigued and willing to engage in converstaion over these topics. The moments were truly liberating.

On top of Mount Cube we were treated to a dance from the clouds abound. The sky was for the most part overcast with morning fog quickly being hustled over the summits while large cumulonimbus clouds towerered overhead. It appeared as though we dodged a bullet with Thunderstorms, which I leater heard struck the southern portion of the state. The sun slowly continued to peak through the trees as another Thru-hiker crested the peak. His trailname was "Izzy" and he is from Wisconsin. Izzy had hiked to Harpers ferry from Georgia before needing to be removed from the trail for family issues. He had to return to Katahdin and head south to avoid time crunching through continued North. His adventure will end at the traditional half-way point in a few short months. in good spirits, Izzy continued on his way as we continued on ours.

As lunch time approached we sat next to a wonderful stream bed where I was able to give the class a quick lesson on The History of the Appalachian Trail. The lesson was appropriate given our location on the trail, but due to the heavy traffic from no one other than us AND said thru-hikers. As is the norm, you could see and smell them from a mile away. Spencer and I ate trailmix and fruit snacks and our stomach continued to be quite the trooper. After lunch we rose to our feet and made the final approach to the Ore Hill Shelter.

When we got to Ore Hill, we immediately began to figure out where things were. Where would eb assemble camp? Where would we put up our bear bag? Where is the Privy? Where is our water source. We found the privy first, which was nothing more than a hole in the ground covered by a wooden pallet of sorts. A salloon style entrance with swinging doors and a wooden "chute" rising up from the platform. There was no real seat. A hexagonal piece of wood covered the top which was just big enough for use to get SOME comfort. We properly named this the "crap chute." Upon sitting on the hexagon, your head was over the doors and walls and afforded us a chance to enjoy woods from a rather different perspective.

After finding the privy, I made it my job to look to the woods for water. The water source most used at the shelter was piece of stagnant water. The water was literally rising from the ground right here but not moving hardly at all. Mosquitos swarmed the air and a methane type smell wafted about. Not my idea of an ideal water source. I grabbed a map and compass, and whistle and went out to find a stream indicated on the map. I bushwhacked for over an hour while the rest of the class hung the bear bag rope and set up camp, learning a few new knots (clove hitch, figure 8 and taught line). As I wandered through the woods, I was immediately grumpy at the fact that I had to be covered in as many spider webs as possible, even going so far as killing the ones who chose to crawl on my face. ICKY!

I ended up finding the water source, looked at my watched and began walking back to camp. Along the way I found some surveyors tape (pink) in the trees and followed it to an AT Geological Marker. I tried to follow it to camp but soon found myself off course, lost and staring down at a few piles of fresh bear droppings. Word on the trail from the group ahead of us, was that a bear was insdeed spotted the night before at this shelter. I began to panic, and blew my whistle. After 5 minutes of agony, I calmed myself down and retraced my steps to 4 different locations. I managed to find the path I took down to this area and returned safely to camp. I told m instrcutor and class that though I found good runnign water; effort needed to get there was irrationale and we should stick to what is more readily available. Chris and I grabbed my water filter and headed to what we dubbed the "Degoba Water Swamp" and pumped 10 nalgenes to the the brim with filtered water. Our arms were exhausted.

We then all settled in to take weather observations, more lessons on wilderness issues and cooked dinner. Tonight spencer and I had a packet each fo Ramen noodle soup. Robby our TA was making pizzas in a fry pan which we jumped at the offer to help eat. And as a class we learned how to make and care for a mound fire, returning the ash to the earth and leaving No Trace. With the fire we all cooked s'mores and told more stories and continued to come together as a group. Chris had his activity planned for the night where we explored some of our inner secrets and feelings.

We all then headed to be to prepare for tomorrow's higher mileage. I'm exhausted but not yet hungry. I break out the harmonica and again, play us to sleep. I slide my earplugs in.. and dream of the day I get back to my wonderful bed.

Day 4: Tuesday, August 22, 2008 - Ore Hill Shelter to Wauchipauka Pond
(Ore Hill Shelter)

We woke up at Ore Hill Shelter to a very crisp morning. Air was so cool I actually put on my long underwear for the start of today's hike. We continued with our morning rituals of weather obs and bear bag retrieval. I ate pop-tarts for Breakfast and packed up for our longest hike yet. It was nearly 8 miles to our next destination known as Wauchipauka Pond. Spencer and Chris were to be our Leaders of the Day, us students first chance at taking the reigns of our trip. Their leadership design was that of democracy. They wanted the group to make decisions and lead as a single unit. There are pros and cons to this design, of which we won't discuss here. I'll just say that these two gentlemen stepped up to the plate to be the first to lead our group and they did a fine job in doing so.

We left Ore Hill Shelter and continued our journey through some of the lower points of our journey, yet still heading uphill towards the land of Moosilauke. Along the way we rose to the summit of Mt Mist where we stopped for lunch. As we ate our snacks (I had a bag of fruit snacks and some gorp) we listened to Kel tell a story of days of old. The story he read was about the logging days in these woods and how hard the men had it who worked these hills. Long cold days in winter chopping trees, sleeping in bunks with no cushion. We sat and listened as the sun shone brightly and the temps rose to near 65. The weather we had had on our trip thus far was perfect, hearing of the hardships the old loggers faced was humbling of our experience. I had an opportunity to address the class and teach them a little about J.E. Henry and his effect on the New Hampshire landscape during the mid to late 1800's. I shared with the class the same stories I shared of J.E. with Kel on Monday's hike. I very much enjoyed sharing the knowledge with the class as they were very responsive.

Even more unique to these stories was what we encountered on our journey today. Along our hike we passed a series of rock walls hidden within the growth of the woods. We stopped to talk about the rock walls and how they got there.. how farmers of old would till the fields and their teams of oxen would drag the rocks to the edge of the farm to create these walls. But we spotted an added bonus. As we walked down the trail which was obviously once a road of sorts, we found a foundation nestled under the 100 year old forest. Ah yes, the settlers once farmed here but left when stories of rich and fertile soils in the west were abound. In New Hampshire, in these mountains.. history comes alive.
(Mt Mist)

We continued on down the trail making our way to a magnificent outlook. We all stopped to take in the views to the East and Northeast. For the first time on our journey, Mount Moosilauke was visible and how grande it appeared rising from the forests. Chris has a dream to hike all of NH's 4,000 Foot Mountains, and was excited to see a 4K on our path. I enjoyed sitting watching him plan and dream of his own finish of the 48.. something I once did myself and even depicted in my film in 2004. Chris' attitude was both inspiring and fulfilling to me as it was a kind of way to come full circle on my own accomplishments in a way. As we sat and enjoyed the views, we were let loose one by one for our first "solo hike." The plan was to hike down the mountain alone and enjoy our surroundings. After a few minutes looking over Wauchipauka Pond (our destination) it was my turn to descend.
(Wach pond)


As we got to Wauchipauka Pond we took our time setting up camp. It is very safe to say that it was a bit disorganized. We were all pretty tired from our hike and the fast paced yet always firing at us lessons on our journey. I am having a hard time listing all of the things we learned and discussed on our journey but maybe its just as well. Just know that up to this point, we've had virtually ZERO down time. We've always been either hiking or learning or setting up base camp. Here at Wauchipauka pond things were no different, until today. After we finished erecting camp and the bear bag location.. we all took a break to dunk our weary bodies into the pond for a quick rinse. The grime had to be peeled from my body in a sorry effort to do so. There was no way for me to get it all. The pond was scummy as crawfish and bugs inhabited the water. A beaver lodge was nearby and I began to miss my close friends in the Beaver Brigade.

After our swim we were allotted some down time to kind of chill and decompress for 30 minutes. Although by the time we were done cleaning up and finished the erecting of camp.. there was no down time left. I wandered up the hill to find the outhouse which was appropriately named the "S*** Box." Yes.. it was nothing more than a box resting on the ground with a hole cut in the top. If you had to go you were going in the box. Yippee! What was funny about the box was the sign attached to its side. An old advertisement for Black Horse Ale Brewery. Its in my notebook which the instructor still has but I drew a picture and wrote the poem down. I'll be sure to share later, but I know it said something about "Quaff the Foaming Brew." Nice!

Dinner tonight for Spencer and I was Teriyaki Rice Side with a can of chicken each. It was actually a pretty decent and filling meal. After dinner I decided to try what others had all ready... the drinking of the gray water. I poured water into our bowls and the pot and scraped the sides clean of the teriyaki sauce and bits, once it was all cleaned, I tipped my head back with the pot to my lips and chugged the gray water. THE single most disgusting thing I've ever drank, so bad that I choked for a bit and coughed for air. Just terrible. Needless to say, we were burying the gray water from here on out.

We enjoyed a campfire this night as we tried to burn the fire that remained in the pit from old visitors. Kel engaged us once more in thoughtful discussion, this time centered around wilderness ethics and the real historic figures that were instrumental in the process such as those in the CCC, The Beatnicks, Roosevelt and John Muir. It was a pretty long and engaging lecture that I found super interesting and after a short break we al returned to the campfire for a short discussion on local wilderness issues like signs, designation and other. But as always, we retired to under our tarp. I retrieved the Harmonica and played the group to silence. The night was very cold as the winds whipped from the west shaking the tarp. I got very little sleep this night. My stomach finally bottomed out and I needed to retreat to "The box." I was starting to worry about not making it the week on our menu, but I knew i had superior mental resolve to overcome many obstacles. This would be just like any other.

Day 5: Wednesday, August 23, 2008 - Wauchipauka Pond and Trail Work

We woke up very early in the morning to hike to the top of Webster Slide Mountain where would watch the sunrise to the east. As we woke at 5am, the wind still blew lightly from the west as the fog rolled over the top of the pond. It was a stunning sight to see as we prepared for our early morning excursion. It was quite a treat to watch the crowd slowly walk about camp like a group of zombies as we hastily prepared for our trip up to what we hoped would be a decent viewpoint for the sunrise. We gathered ater bottles and camera's and headed up the trail to the Webster Slide Trail. The trail was a muddy mucky eroded mess as we stumbled around in our half awake states... gee... have I been here before? I struggled to climb the short but steep mountain. I haven't been feeling well lately as severe muscle fatigue has taken over my body. I lagged behind the group and they even had to stop and wait for me. How embarassing for this 100 Mile runner. We made it to the top of the mountain and walked over the crest to the eastern slope where we sat in blueberry bushes. We picked away and ate blueberries while we waited for the suns arrival. It was fairly easy to see the sun illuminating the various peaks around us before finally rising above the ridge-line of Hurricane Mountain and Moosilauke's Ridge. But when we finally saw it it was something truly amazing.
(Sunrise)

We then went back to camp for breakfast and to prepare for our day of trail work with a member from the Dartmouth Outing Club. I ate two nutri-grain bars and packed a lunch of trail mix and gatorade. Carl came bounding down the trail with stories of a temperamental chainsaw that was no longer sharp and was failing to work to HIS expectations. This was altering our plans for the day. The plan was to construct a section of bog bridges on the AT to allow hikers safe and dry passage over a swamp and poorly draining area. But if his chain saw did not work, our day would be cut short. He asked how many hours we were going to be with him to which Kel answered 8-4 if you'd like. Carl was shocked and almost seemed beside himself. Either way, as a group we hiked to our area of concentration. When we got there, Carl gave us a tour of what we needed to work on and it was easy to see how eroded the trail was becoming and how dangerous it was to travel through.

Carl wasn't a very organized man and seemed to lack trail work and leadership experience. His display was perfect for our class because it gave us something to discuss in our own teachings and education through the course. No offense to Carl, but I think the real lack of communication and preparation came from his superiors. Carl admitted to us he was used to being in control of youth groups.. not college students. He also explained how he usually gave an entire presentation on trail work and kel and I wondered why he didn't just give his presentation to us. We would have loved it. Regardless, in the middle of giving us our tasks for the day, Carl disappeared into the woods. We looked around trying to figure out what was going on when we heard his chain saw rev up and dig into a very much alive tree. Carl returned to look for volunteers to help him with the trees while requesting others look for rocks. I took Kel and Spencer and we headed off into the woods in search of decent sized rocks to do god knows what with. Meanwhile, the rest of the class chopped, sawed and worked with trees in the area to be used in the building of the bog bridges. This was turning out to be quite the cluster bomb in a short period of time.

Kel, Spencer and I gathered about 30 rocks for use on the trail before stopping for a drink. We saw Chris chop up a log to be used as a base for the bog birdge, which was later deemed to rotted for use. Meanwhile, Greg and Robby were using specialized tools to strip the bark from the logs they cut down. I have no idea what the girls were working on because I never made my way to them but I DO know they were working exceptionally hard... we all were. Back at the trail (aka. Swamp) Kel, Spencer and I got a good look at what needed to be done. I first noticed that a water bar had been clogged by a large stone. and a short area of smallers stones needed to be re-organized. We spent quite a bit of time fixing the water bar and re-organizing the stones. We had mud up to our elbows and shins, we struggled and huffed large boulders.. and we ever got mud on our faces. We were down right disgusting and a smelly lot.

As the bog bridge process continue to evolve slowly, I took a closer look at the real issue with the trail. There little to know drainage on the trail given that all of the water bars had collapsed or been clogged with muck. So.. I help lead a small group of us to repair and replace 2 other water bars and get the water flowing through them once again. We gather logs and leaves and buried visible herd paths and we even put logs down on heavily eroded sections of trail to sway hikers away. All in all, we did an amazing job. We finished the rock work and turned to help stripping the rest of the logs that had been felled. The process was painfully slow and gave us new appreciation to the work that HAS been done on these trail before us. Regardless, we soon began standing around loking for things to do, when Kel allowed some of us to return to camp. Robby, Spencer, Chris and I returned to camp where we swam in the pond to clean up and I fell onto my pad for a 45 minute nap. Kel and the rest returned later and cleaned up themselves before telling us that long story short.. Carl didn;t even know how to make a bog bridge as he had never done it. Our trail work day could have been a disaster, but out great group of dedicated and heart healthy students made work of a great opportunity. We all enjoyed the experience greatly and had the chance to give back.

We then had 45 minutes of solo time where we had to leave camp and lose ourselves in the woods for some moments of self reflection. I took the opportunity to climb back up to the outlook we had perched upon yesterday and then run back down to camp. I enjoyed the views from the top before running down. As I neared the pond on my decent it finally happened... my stomach growled and for the first time on this trip.. I was hungry. Dinner tonight was Ramen again, we ate the Ramen and Kel gave us Bouillon Cubes and the rest of our Marshmallows from S'mores. After eating our ramen, we made broth and drank it down and I snacked on the marshmallows. I was hungry and looking for food. The class felt our hunger and started to constantly offer us food. We felt really bad that they were even offering it and were very hesitant to take it. What we committed was OUR mistake and we were fully prepared to live with the consequences.

After dinner we gathered once more as a group for another lesson and ethical discussion about the wilderness and education. Following the lesson, we headed for bed, more harmonica and sliding the ear plugs in. Wednesday has ended.. 3 days to go.. and I am wanting to go home... to hot food and a warm cozy bed. However.. I am doing quite well and enjoying this great experience.

(To Be Continuted)