Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 In Pictures - Part 2

Part 2 in a 2 part series. To read part 1 GO HERE.

Another year another presi-traverse in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Nothing beats the rock hopping up high and anyone who things Massanutten is the only place with rocks can still... think again.
It was hot as hell at the Vermont 100 and we survived, barely. Fourth year in a row running in the VT100 and my fourth finish. First time we didn't break 24 hours but we still earned every step.

Headed to Leadville Colorado for my third 100 in three months. I made it up and over Hope Pass, twice, before timing out at Twin Lakes II. I'll be back!

Helped a newcomer reach the finish line at the Vermont 50 on the most perfect day in race history.
Picked up an old passion of mine and casted a line a few times even managing to catch a few keepers.

The Run Across NH was held on trails this year. After 25 hours and 100K, the team just couldn't stand getting lost anymore. So we called it a day... but a heck of a day it was to get people moving in New Hampshire.
Made it to some lesser travelled places to take in the fall foliage of NH one last time.

At some point you just gotta relax. I spent November at home, finishing up the fall semester of Senior year and curling up next to our kitty Buttercup.

While I don't have a picture for December I can't say that life is without adventure. Trying to get back into running again, losing weight and trying to relax. The end of the semester has been crazy, and looking ahead to 2011 is even crazier. While I won't be racing as much... the types and amounts of adventure I look forward to having are both countless and different. Yet I am sitting here looking at these pictures thinking back to all the adventures we were capable of in 2010 and I am nothing less then grateful. It's been one hell of a year. From sea level to 14,000 feet. To all 4 corners of America. From the mundane to the extreme. I feel like I've accomplished a lot and have once again spent a year living the dream. Human Potential is about being ALIVE and a life has been well lived in 2010.

Hopefully in the next few weeks I can continue to provide the blog-world with some exciting news about my future (ie. Career) and welcoming back sponsors for 2011. So until then, Happy Holidays to you and yours and a very Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010 In Pictures - Part 1

My annual year in review, in pictures. 2010 has been nothing short of an amazing adventure. As I look back on it, I am humbled by the kinds of things I've been fortunate to experience. Here's a stroll down the year that was, 2010.

How do you forget "the streak" I managed to string together in January which was completed with the naked mile on the 31st of the month. Could 2011 see a repeat of the feat?
Then there was the Hammy Slammy in Hillabammy 50K run. Just a typical Sherpa John fat ass training run amongst friends. I even managed to lose a glove to the snow gods... we won't get into why.

We spent 24 hours on the streets of Boston, MA investigating social justice and how experiential education theory works. Found a place to sleep in Harvard and discovered the sadness that is homelessness in America.
Then I had a little winter camping out in Barrington in preparation for our upcoming trip in the whites. The dance party was the best part and we had an absolute blast!

No Power? No Problem! We ran 50K around my town of Epping while jumping over downed power lines, under hanging limbs and then through blinding snow squalls. Epic!
Then it was the backpacking trip to Greely Ponds off the Kancamagus of NH. On a weekend of 50 degree temps, we camped on top of 10 feet of snow, created an amazing snow kitchen, did some x-country skiing and dragged 3 pounds of beef stew into the wilderness. Good times!
The month was completed by heading to Tennessee where I completed a long time dream of running in and finishing one loop at the Barkley Marathons. I survived the loop but not without paying my penance to the ultra/Barkley gods.

Three of us ran the Cross Rivendell Trail from Vermont into NH. The 54 Mile run was the first time anyone had run the trail from end to end.

If Andy Weinberg is involved, chances are its going to rain. After 60 miles of downpours and the onslaught of Snow, I dropped out of the McNaughton in VT 100 Miler focusing my sights more on the upcoming Grand Slam.
We finished May off with an 8 day backpacking trip around the Eastern Half of the Pemi-Loop in NH's White Mountains. Along the way the class was able to assist Randy Pierce and his trusty guide dog Quinn along the way. One of the toughest yet more rewarding experiences of my life.

I set a personal best on the Pittsfield Peaks 50 Mile course coming in 8th place. One of the best performances of my running career and exceptionally meaningful.
Then after 4 years.. I finally had my chance to run Western States where I finished, got my buckle, then spent a week in Vegas and the Grand Canyon celebrating life.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Goodbye Friend

Tonight I read some very sad news about the passing of my dear friend Alyssa Skye.

Some of you may know that in November 2008, I checked myself into a psychiatric ICU to do battle one on one with severe depression. And so began a very turbulent time in my life which included... and still includes.. a very tough daily struggle to climb out of the ditch. But I fondly remember the time I met Alyssa Skye out in San Francisco.. in March of 2009.

Alyssa and I had started playing e-mail tag with each other through e-mails and facebook. We started having conversations off list from the ultra-list during the time of my personal incarceration. I remember those months talking to her being very soothing and helpful. She seemed to understand me and what i was going through. She listened with an open heart and an open mind and then one day she said.. "You need a vacation.."

Without blinking an eye, I got an e-mail from Alyssa that she had bought me a plane ticket to visit her in San Francisco during my spring break. So, that March I hopped on airplane and flew to San Francisco, alone, to see my new friend. She picked me up in the airport and brought me to Pier 39 where we had lunch and some Fat Tires. Then it was up to me where to go. We ran back and forth over the Golden Gate Bridge then ran in Muir Woods where we ran underneath the giant Red Woods, along the Dipsea all the way to Stinson Beach where I soaked my legs in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.. and just stared out at the water.

She even paid for a hotel room.. and every meal we ate, every beer we drank. We talked for hours about running and hiking and rock climbing. The next day we went to the the Marin Headlands, checking out the Miwok 100 Course and the Beach down at Tennessee Valley. Down there I watched in awe as Alyssa free climbed on the rocks that the waves crashed upon. The next day we made it out towards Point Reyes and ran on the trails up there. We made it all the way out to that famous light house where we looked for whales.

Four days of my life... during my darkest days... a complete stranger who never batted an eye at flying me to California all expenses paid to simply LIVE. I will always remember this trip as a life changing experience, as a trip that put some sunshine on my darker days and when someone... or something.. greater showed me that people do love in this world. Even strangers.
It had been a few months since I had heard from Alyssa. I talked with her last week. As always we talked about her children and how much she loved them. How much she grew to hate SAR yet enjoyed the work she did in looking for those in trouble. But I'll always remember my friend Alyssa... telling me that once I moved to Boulder she was coming over to teach me to climb lead on those Flat Irons out there... we were both so excited..

I leave you with this.. While out at Point Reyes.. we made our way to Arch Rock and headed down to the seashore where we walked along the sandy shore searching for creatures and shells. I'll never forget the huge starfish and sea anenomes. I found a huge chunk of quartz down there.. that was too big to take home on the plane. Little did I know but my friend had picked it up and hid it in her bag... I got it in the mail a week after returning home with a book titled, "Everybody Needs a Rock."   I guess I'll read before bed tonight...

Good Night Alyssa... I'll miss you friend. Keep bringing me that sunshine.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Hampshire Adventures

It's no secret that in a few months it is my every intention to now longer be a resident of New Hampshire or New England. With that thought in mind, over the last few months I've made it a bit of a point to try and get to a few places I've never been before I head out. I wanted to provide a pretty elaborate reflection of these adventures but I thought I'd keep it rather short and just give you the nitty gritty. So without further adieu, here's a little more of what NH has to offer.

The Flume Gorge
One of America's top ten most beautiful State Parks. A natural chasm takes visitors from the Flume Visitor Center on wide gravel paths and wooden walkways through covered bridges, past waterfalls and through the 800-foot long gorge with its sheer 90-foot walls. Scenic pools, glacial boulders, and mountain views. Discovered in 1808, the Flume is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mt. Liberty. The walls of Conway granite rise perpendicularly to a height of 70 to 90 feet and are from 12 to 20 feet apart. Bus service is provided to transport visitors to within 500 yards of the gorge entrance. Marked walking trails with signs explaining natural features lead to other points of interest, including the Pool and Sentinel Pine Bridge.
We decided to check it out. New Hampshire is the ONLY state of the 50 whose State Parks are funded specifically through entry fees. The State of NH charges $13 a person to take this 2 mile, self interpretive walk through the woods of the Flume Gorge Area. After paying the same amount (for 2) that you pay for a tank of gas, you and 300+ of your closest friends stand in lines on wooden scaffolding that lines the walls of the gorge. As the water crashes over the rock cliffs, you get to enjoy being soaked and cold while enjoying the natural beauty herein. Ok.. really.. I enjoyed the place, I just can't understand the $13 price of admission. But I guess it costs money to operate a place like this especially where many of these citidiots treat the surrounding nature like their own personal trash can.

Georgiana & Harvard Falls
Down the road from the Flume is a free hike. Into the woods, under 93 and up the hill you'll find a series of amazing waterfalls as the water cascades down the mountainside. These falls or even more gorgeous then the Flume and you definitely get better bang for your buck. Crystal cascades, weave in and out of the rocks strewn about as this river meets up eventually with the Pemi. Gorgeous views looking south along I-93 complete this trip as you hike ever higher up the trail to its terminus at Harvard Falls.

Every once in awhile you run into one of these but seldom up this close.

Yeah, I finally made it to the top of Monadnock. It was cold as hell this past weekend when we finally got up there. Shuffling our feet along the frozen puddles up high, temps in the 30s and wind cranking out of the west at 35+. This is the second most climbed mountain in the world and I finally made it up there to soak in the scenery of Massachusetts, Vermont, NH, NY and even a sliver of Connecticut. No mountain rises remotely as high for nearly 100 miles in any direction. The hike wasn't nearly as difficult as I expected and was truly enjoyable. Anyone can hike Monadnock.. if they wanted to.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Imagine If

Ray Zahab has only been running/adventuring for the last 5 years. A Former pack a day smoker, Ray continues to show the world what is possible.. by simply believing in yourself. He ran across the Sahara and then ran across Antarctica as you'll learn in the video above. But the reason I've decided to share this video with you is not because of Ray's accomplishments, per say, but what he says at the end. When talking about young people when Ray says, "We can make the impossible, possible... Imagine being 13 years old, hearing those words and believing it."

Yes, imagine being 13 and hearing that "You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To." This is indeed the life I lived as a youngster. My parents told me time and time again that I could do anything I put my mind to, and I believed them. Even when I got older, and started telling them, "I want to do this... " and they sometimes fired back some hesitation in supporting me by questions whether or not I was biting off more then I could chew, I believed what they had taught me earlier. I was so invested in the idea that the mental power to believe and achieve rules above all else.

Over the years, I was told that I'd never hike the 4000 footers in one summer... I believed I could and I did. I was told that I'd never make a documentary film that people would want to buy... or sell 500 copies of it.. I did and sold 800. I was told that I'd never run 100 miles.. and I have. I was told I'd never get a college degree... I'm got an associates and in May I'm graduating with a Bachelors. I've started to wonder.. did my parents really mean it when they put that bug in my head? Or did I just take it far too literally. I guess what they meant matters not because I made the saying meaningful for myself.

And you can too! I recently gave a talk in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where I received some feedback from a gentleman who said, "The idea that someone can do anything they put their mind to is hogwash. Someone with an IQ under 100 would never become a neurologist." Which is probably true.. why would someone with an IQ under 100 want to be a neurologist? But that's not the point.. the point is, if you have heart, if you believe in yourself that you can accomplish anything... you can... and you will.

Now.. Imagine if it went one step deeper.. and this is where YOU come into play. Imagine if the 13 year old believed it... and then you helped foster it? Think about how much more productive our society would be if instead of people telling you why you couldn't, shouldn't or can't do something they spent more time supporting you to do, to achieve, to get there.. just think about it.. and then the next time someone tells you that they're going to do something so unbelievable, so unfathomable.. you'll tell them.. yes you can.. And I'm here to support you every step of the way.

Happy Trails

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Manchester City Miracle Version 2.0

Manchester City Marathon
26.2 Miles - Manchester, NH
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Team Relay
Every once in awhile, something happens in your life where you realize that your work is worth while. I've made it my life's work and my mission on this earth to inspire as many people as I can. To help as many people as possible realize their own true Human Potential. To help individuals realize that through some of life's more exceptional experiences, you too can accomplish anything you put your mind to. This past Sunday in Manchester, NH is where some of my work has finally come to fruition. I've said it before and I'll say it here again, that in all the work I do, my family tends to be the hardest people to get through to. While I was raised with the belief that you can do anything you put your mind to, I see a flurry of hypocrisy in my genetic relatives that at times leaves me speechless, aggravated and on the verge of giving up my mission. Until this past weekend...

Leg 1: Sibling Motivation
We arrived in Manchester dangerously close to the start of the race. It was my step-mother Helen who suggested first that we run the Relay here as a family team. unsure of if she could run a 6 mile leg and after having not heard form her for her decision, my sister Ann stepped forward to take the spot. My sister Ann who up until today had yet to run further then one and a half miles at any given time previously. She's never been a runner, isn't a runner... but she's stubborn. She has a ton of heart, some motivation, and if anything she has hope. She trained with my nephew Timmy in the months heading into the race, repeating out loud how much she hated running and how much it hurt. Yet this morning as the air is frigidly cold and windy on Elm St, I found her ready to run. hat, gloves, knee brace and a "Why the hell am I doing this." It was perfect.

I walked with her to the very end of the crowd of people and told her there'd be no pressure back here. We stood around, shivering a bit as the national anthem was sung. Here we were, two siblings, who grew up in this city the son and daughter of blue collar workers just trying to make it... about to run some miles together down memory lane. The race started, we walked across the starting line and then we began to run slowly. It was all about Ann's pace. We knew we had to average 13.6 min miles over the course of 26.2 miles for our team to finish officially.. our simple goal was to finish the first 10K of the race, at that pace. Ann thought for sure it'd take her 2 hours or more to run the 6 miles. I didn't care if it took 3...

We ran together down through the mill yard and I pulled every pacing trick I could out of my bag of tricks. I engaged my sister in conversation about anything just to make sure that she was running and running at a pace where she could hold conversation. This conversation pace, is a pace where you can run at a decent clip while still breathing. It's just below thresh-hold and she knew none of this. At the first hill an ultra-friend of mine, Tammy, and I were yukking it up. She laughed that I was running a hill as she said, "Sherpa you NEVER run the hills," my sister refused to walk the first hill so.. so did I. We ran as best we could and kept running when we could. Before we knew it, we were at the very tail end of the entire marathon/half marathon field. It was us, a handful of others and the police escort.

My sister kept looking back to apologize to the cop. I kept telling her that the longer it took us the more overtime he got... "Don't worry about it! Stop apologizing." We walked when she felt like walking but the further into the run we got and the more the miles began to tick away the more my sister wanted to run. She wanted to run that she almost couldn't walk. We eventually did walk those hills, but we moved at a good clip. I tried to give her a Powergel Chew, she spit it out in a fit of laughter at how awful it tasted. We looked for Halloween Candy at aid stations.. nothing but water and gatorade. We walked and ran and walked... we picked objects in the distance to run to, we picked objects to walk to. Before we knew it, we were making the turn at Dorrs Pond and out on the trail. My sister, after more then 5 miles of running was finally feeling discomfort but she kept running anyway.

We ran together that last bit on the trail. I can't describe here or anywhere how proud I was of my sister. There were no excuses, no reason why not, just the belief that she could run 6.2 miles and then here she was at the end of 6.2 miles. Sweaty, breathing heavy, sore legs and hips but smiling from ear to ear and happy. Not only did she make it the first 10K of the race but she did it in 1:16... a far cry from the 2_+ hours she thought it would take. The only problem now was, our crew and her husband weren't in the transition area. We had arrived way sooner then they had anticipated us to and they were away eating at Dunkin Donuts. My brother-in-law Mike was supposed to run the 2nd leg but since he was no where to be found, I knelt down and took the chip off my sisters ankle and took of running up the hill.

Leg #2: Run Like The Wind
After having run 12ish minute miles with my sister, I knew it was up to Mike and I to pick up the pace, to give Sarah a little cushion with the final leg and to ensure we finish in under 6 hours. So with that, and the chip around my ankle, after having run the first 10K with my sister as a warm-up; I settled into my own threshold pace. This would immediately turn into the greatest game of pac-man I've ever played. My sister and I rolled into the transition area as the very last two people to come into the 6.2 mile point of the race... out of EVERYONE. One after another I started to catch people. While some huffed and puffed, I could hear the frustrations of the many runners who felt that they were standing still as compared to my blazing pace. I was now running 7-8 minute miles with my mission to get to the half marathon point in an hour or less.

One after another... and about a hundred or so of that, and I was still feeling great. At first I felt like I was running much too fast, gasping for air, hurting a bit but eventually I settled into a pace around 8 minute miles where I wasn't breathing heavy. This was around mile 10 where I was trying to maintain a decent clip while also preparing for the final run downhill towards Elm Street. I had worn my Nathan Waist Pack so I had no need to stop in an aid station for water or other. I just focused on what was ahead of me, focused on runners up ahead and then catching them then finding another. This went on and on and on. I lent encouragement to those with their names on the backs of their shirts. I lent encouragement to other relay runners I passed. To those who were walking or stretching I offered gel packs or salt (they all declined). I knew I wasn't alone out there and every one of these other runners were helping me get the job done quickly and inspiring me.

After topping out on Hanover St. now began the long 2ish mile run downhill back to Elm St. I picked up my pace and let gravity take me downtown. As I made it right down in the heart of the city, the wind picked up and blew in my face almost standing me up but I cut through it. Cheers rang out from both sides of the street. Half Marathoners to the left, Marathon and relay right. I took the hard right onto Elm where I saw my family waiting in the transition area. I ran in, Mike bent down and took the chip off my ankle and put it on his wrist. I took off running with him, "John.... you can stay back if you want." "Nah, I want to run the whole thing. I'll run with you." I thought I'd be pacing him. I was unprepared for what would happen next.

Leg 3: Holy Blazing Tornado!
Mike and I ran over the Merrimack River and into Manchester's West Side. Up the hill into Manchester's old "French City With-in a City," and across Rimmon Heights. We talked along the way about how Ann had done on leg one and then how I tried my best during leg 2. During leg two I had run faster for further then I'd run in the last 2 years of running. I ran the 7 miles back to Elm St in a tiring 1:07. After talking with Mike for a bit I pointed out that if we could keep the pace going we'd give Sarah an excellent cushion and still finish with a great time as a team. That's all I needed to say. From that moment on I struggled to keep up with Mike. I was expecting to pace him but after the first half of the race, half of that which was faster then I'm used to, I was cooked. Mike began to take off and I struggled to keep up.

As we came to the Kelly St Bridge, Mike took off across the span and I couldn't keep up. I played it smart and hung back, letting him go. I knew he knew what to do and he was doing it well running a 7:30 min mile on average. I was beyond elated to see this happen. I wasn't the least bit upset at not being able to keep up because I knew at this point that we were kicking ass. That's not all, we were running this thing about an hour faster then planned at this point and Mike was running faster then I thought he was capable of over the course of 8 miles. I stopped at a porta-potty for a Sherpa Ritual and when I came out he was nowhere to be seen.

I kept running as best I could. In all the hustle of getting to town and then chasing Mike, my hamstrings were now shot. I mean.. SHOT. It had been a very long time since I'd been in so much pain and I forgot the essential role hamstrings play in our abilities to remain upright. Hunkered forward, I trudged along as best I could to make it to the next transition area. Around St. Anselm's college I realized I was running next to the News 9 Weather man. "Skarupa" We talked for a few miles while running to the top of St. A's then I took off down the hill. I ran into the next transition area where I saw Ann and the Kids. They ushered me into the van and we took off to a point on the course about 2.5 miles up.

Leg 4: Sarah
I saw Laura Bleakly round the turn somewhere at Mile 23.6. So I got out of the car knowing that there was no way we were that far ahead. Laura was pacing the 4 hour marathoners to their finish. I got out of the van and sat on the sidewalk trying to stretch out my pained hamstrings. They hurt and hurt bad. After about 10 minutes Mike and Sarah came running down the hill. At the last transition, Mike handed the chip to Sarah and she took off alone. Mike had come in some 15 minutes ahead of me after he blasted his section of the course. He eventually caught Sarah to keep her some company as I was supposed to.

They appeared from off a hill and the three of us ran together. We ran through the last neighborhood on the west side before crossing the new pedestrian bridge back over the Merrimack. Sarah was doing great, running at her own threshold and managing her own race. There was no doubt that she was in charge of her run, running her own race and doing so comfortably and at a good pace. I was so proud of her. We settled into her pace while crossing the river, around Fisher Cats stadium and back up towards Elm. We only walked a few times as Sarah told us she'd run almost the entire way. Sarah has run 4.5 miles before, today's run was putting her at a personal distance record of 5.1 miles. It was so great that the three of us could run together and then, around the final corner there was Ann and the boys.

The entire family was out here. Sarah, myself and the Robinsons. As we ran the final mile together I was elated. My sister was running with her husband now, trying to keep up with Sarah and I who were trying to keep up with the boys. What a GREAT feeling this was for me. My family had finally gotten it. You CAN do anything you put your mind to and nothing in this world is impossible. We all peeled off to let Sarah run it in. She picked up the pace on Elm St and sprinted across the finish line. Score one for Team Sherpa on This day!

Our team time was 4:21:26.
I managed to run all but 2.5 miles of the race.
We came in 51st out of 67 Relay Teams. Not bad for being dead last at mile 6.
We were 30th out of the 37 Coed Relay Teams.

Monday, November 1, 2010


One of the usual questions I get when folks hear that I run ultra's is "What Do You Eat?" This of course comes right after the more simpler question "Do You Eat?" During this years RANH I had the crew keep tabs on what I ate during the 24 hours that I was actually out running around West Central New Hampshire. Here are the results:

2 Bananas
1 Jelly Dunkin Donut
2 Boosts
5 Powergels
Cup of Chicken Broth
Handful of Grapes
1 Strawberry Banana Stonyfield Farms Yogurt Smoothie
1 Small Bag of Lays Potato Chips
1/2 of an Orange
1 Can of Ginger Ale
1 Can of Coke
3 S-Caps
2 Cups of Mom's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
3 Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
2 Slices of Cheese Pizza

Saturday, October 30, 2010

RR: 2010 RANH

Saturday, October 23, 2010
2010 Run Across New Hampshire
Miles Travelled: 63
Time: 24:10:13
Elev Gain: 12,611.4'
Elev Loss: 12,365.5'

Josh and I met up with Mike O'Meara from Conservation NH at 4:15 AM up a side road from Newbury Harbor in Newbury, NH. As we exit out vehicles and exchange salutations, it's hard not to smile, laugh and shake your head a little bit at the fact that it's snowing. This is the first time this year that I've seen the snow fall and it's sticking to everything. It's all of 27 degrees, a balmy morning for the Run Across NH. As we begin to hike Mount Sunapee the wind howls out of the West North West and chills you to the bone. As it blows across the ridge lines you can hear that eerie winter "whir" of the wind cutting the trees. Snow whips in circles around us as we talk about the year that's now come and gone. We reach the junction of the two greenways and the boys snap a few photos of me at the start. It seems like it took forever to get here, but just as we arrived, we turned and left to head back down the mountain.
A New Kind of Adventure
Down in Newbury I run alone along the silent small town streets of no where New Hampshire. The world hasn't quit awoken yet. It's all of 6:30 AM. The police patrol town slowly and only the newspaper drivers are around. I take my first left and then.. I miss my second. I continue to run down Old Post road, and run and run and run as the sun continues to rise. As it does, the light of the sun hit's the leaves just right so that the oranges and yellows of a New England fall shine brightly in the crisp morning air. The wind, still blows softly but the snow has stopped and the skies are clear. It's a beautiful day and it's hard to not get into flow. I start to think though, that I've missed my turn. I recall the map in my head and remember that it wasn't long that I was supposed to turn off this road. But there were no markings.. I stop and try to call Josh.. no service. About 3 miles down this long road, I finally get service enough to call my crew. They answer and I give them lessons on how to read a map over the phone. I was beyond frustrated all ready. I'm lost. They come get me, I jump in the car and they drive me to where I was supposed to make my turn. I get out and take off up the road again.

I hike vigorously up Bly Hill Rd. Josh had driven around to Chalk pond and I knew he was backtracking to find me. I only hope I hadn't missed him or that he was lost as well. I keep hiking when I see a pick-up truck coming down the hill. While in the car with the ladies, I had ripped the map out of the State Gazeteer. This would be my map for the day now. I stop the pick-up and tell them I'm looking for a trail. They vaguely know what I'm talking about, even thought it travels through their yard. They point to a yellow house and it's driveway. "Go up the driveway, even though it doesn't look like it, the trail travels to the right of the driveway and keeps going. That's it.. trust us." I head to the driveway and look up the pavement and see what they're saying. It doesn't look like a trail goes through here at all. Some 100 yards up from the main road is a tree with a blaze on it. I think I could have better luck finding Waldo as this day has gone so far. I walk past Bly Cemetery when a huge Owl swoops off a near-by tree and flies over to the other side of the yard. I am awed by its grandeur and then I continue on my way.

At the top of Bly Hill I see many high end houses with gorgeous views. I begin thinking about the immense "views tax" that New Hampshire is charging them for their views. As I crest over the top of the trail, I head down the other side. I look at my map knowing something doesn't seem right. I'm looking for my right turn... instead I'm on the next road. I hail a van to stop and they do. I ask the woman inside if she was from around here, "No." I thank her for stopping, turn around.. and march back up the hill. I come to the driveway I had run parallel to earlier. Private Property and No Trespassing signs are plastered everywhere. I ignore them and climb the hill anyway and then I stand at the end of the driveway at what looks like and old parking lot, long since grown in. I stand and turn left and look curiously at the woods. I see two logs laying parallel to each other about 2 feet apart.. I continue to stare and realize.. that's it. The Trail.

I head back into the woods and not before long I see Josh, sitting on a log, looking tired and frazzled and wielding a big stick. "There was a sign that says Bear Sanctuary." I didn't care. Here it was, 8:30am and I'm still not even 6 miles into this adventure after 3 hours of walking. He was continued to make our way towards Chalk Pond we talked about the new challenges that lay before us. We knew the adventure in and of itself was a challenge alone.. but we never expected it to be this hard to follow a 75 mile trail that's been in existence for some 20 years. We're all ready pissed, frustrated, tired.. and our gears are turning. We soon make it back down to the ladies. My mom has arrived with Munchkins and warm treats. So happy to see her and Sarah. Leah and Josh round the crew out nicely. I sit down and eat. Talk about my feet being soaked all ready and after a short rest.. I'm back off into the woods alone.

Progress Finally
I had an opportunity to change my shoes at the aid stop but I declined. There was still some snow on the ground in pockets and I didn't want the shoe change to be for nothing. Good choice too because just a few moments down the trail, my feet sunk into a leaf covered puddle of mud. I slurped my foot out, giggled, and kept right on running. The cold water inside the mud has now seeped into my shoes and the chill is shocking. It's getting late in the year here in New Hampshire and mother earth is certainly letting me know today. I keep running down the trail, searching for a massive deer my crew claims to have seen. I find only hoof prints in the mud, no deer. The trail winds it way out of the woods and onto dirt roads. I have no clue where I am but I can clearly follow trail markings now. I am amazed at how one moment I am running beside a golf course, big expensive houses, then turn up the next road and it's shacks, camps and farms. I run by one house that has about a dozen chickens pecking at the ground. It's quiet... almost too quiet.

I see a sign ahead warning that the road is now turning into a Class 6 road. I'd never heard the term and wondered what that meant. The road is closed from March 1 to June 1 every year... classic new hampshire mud season. As I continue running I learn quickly that Class 6 Road means... not a road. The divots are huge and there is no way any normal vehicle could ever make it's way up or down the next 2 miles of road safely. Only a monster truck could survive and I laugh to myself at the thought of this happening. I come off of the Class 6 road and onto town roads again. I see pick-up trucks parked in peculiar spots along the way, indicative of the hunters that are out and about with their bows and arrows. I'm sure to make enough noise so they hear me coming and not to mistake me for their big prize.
As I run along the next set of road, I enter a neighborhood of lakeside camps. I know I've made it to Wadleigh State Park area. It seems like every house around here is for sale. A sure sign of the recessions deep woods affects around here. Painful to see given that it's the tourism and recreation industry that New Hampshire relies so heavily on. I see two women walking their dogs coming towards me. I slow down and greet them good morning. I hand them a small business card which tells them about my journey and why I'm running it. We stand in the middle of the road talking about conservation and how important it is to many of the locals. They see me off with big smiles. As I round the next turn, the lake is almost still with only the slightest breeze making ripples in the water. In the distance is Mount Kearsarge and it's reflection shines as bright as the actual mountain against the clear morning sky. I meet up with Josh and Leah who are waiting for me.. Josh trying to sleep in the front seat. Sarah and mom arrive a bit late and I take the time to change my shoes.
NH is NOT Flat
Josh yells to me that the next section is flat. What he meant to say, I'm sure, is that it's the flatest section I'll run all day. It wasn't all that flat to be honest with you. The hills were just steep enough that I had to slow to a hike. It seemed like I was forever running up and down this horrid roller coaster. I run off of a road not far from where I last left the crew and see a truck parked. I knew hunters were just ahead. I proceed with caution. About 3 or so minutes into the woods I hear a "Hey!" I nearly jump out of my skin and look in the direction from where I hear the sound. I look and look... then I hear, "over here" I look ever closer and see a hunter sitting on a rock wall. I can barely see him and he's all of 15 feet away. I guess camouflage works after all. He warns me that there is one more up ahead and I thank him for the warning and being so kind. I continue on and see the other hunter, in the middle of the trail, on his cell phone, talking to the one I'd passed before. It was a father and son, hunting with bows.

I continue to run along a trail I can barely see at times. The fallen leaves has made it nearly impossible to find my way. From time to time I have to stop dead in my tracks to search for the last or next trail marker or some sign of an inverted single-track. I do all right but it's slow going and I feel like I'm wasting time. I'm pretty frustrated. In my mind we started a half hour late. We left Solitude a half hour late. We took an hour longer then I hoped to do leg 1 and then I kept getting lost. By now.. I've easily wasted some 2 to 3 hours out here.. and it's only getting worse. Yet I trudge along. I hop up and over rock wall after rock wall. it's really amazing to see the miles and miles of walls in NH. Built in the 18th/19th century, these are pieces of history. I stop and take some video of the walls and video of the maple syrup lines. There i something truly charming about this state. Something... old.
I get back out on to some roads near the middle school and run under I-89, the major interstate that connects NH and VT. I stop to enjoy the art work that graces the bridge abutments. under the highway and then back into the woods. I run towards the gold course, then along side it before I see Josh again coming up the trail. He's rejuvenated and talks about how much a 10 minute nap works. "You were right man! 10 Minute cat naps are pisser!" We run together at a pace I'm not really capable of keeping up. As Josh, charged and ready to go forges ahead, I have to slow down and take a breath before I get back up into a gallop. We come out of the woods onto Kearsarge Valley Rd where the crew is waiting in the trail head parking lot. I stop for a rest and grab some food. The parking lot is loaded with cars and the crew has made good on getting the word out about Conservation NH. Every car had a pamphlet and sticker on the windshield.
Up and Away
I knew what was ahead now. I'd all ready hiked this section and Josh and Grant had hiked the one after that. So we finally had some good recon on the trail ahead. I asked Josh to come with me up and over Kearsarge because I knew he hadn't hiked the peak yet. As a fellow hiker (before runner) himself, I knew he'd appreciate the section. We take off up the trail and Josh is still flying. I think in my head and get this evil laugh going on knowing what is ahead... and the thought that Josh didn't. So I sat back and enjoyed the show. I let him haul ass up the trail, and I smiled the whole way. We talked and caught up on how the day is going. We crossed a new bridge built with downed logs and we continue to climb. Every so often Josh asks, "It's not much further is it?" He's getting slow now.. so am I. We breath heavy... hell.. we're gasping for air, sweating now, it's warm when you're working as hard as we are. "Keep going Josh.. top of this hill you'll see it." We top out into a field, we look ahead.. he sees it and we both groan a little. This is why I do these things.. moments like this.. where two men have to dig deep to go such a little distance.
We continue to climb. The climbs get steep yet short, you top out, roll along and then boom! Another steep climb. Soon enough we emerge into a young Birch forest, re-growth over a section of the mountain that burned not long ago thanks to a lightning strike. Josh snaps a few photos and then we push to the boulder field. Here it's all rock scramble for a short ways before you pay for your effort. We top out on the uppers of the ridge where we can see the top within grasp. We take in all of the views, breathe in the fresh crisp air and feel great as a cold wind whips across our face. We reach the top and quickly just walk up and over it. It's too crowded here.. too many people and they're all in jeans. We head off the cone and back down into the woods. I run into a group of ladies and hand them one of the cards and ask them to check us out on the web. Then I see a couple. I go to hand the male a card and he stands there with his arms crossed just staring at me. It was odd.. almost rude. He finally takes it.. and I tell them what I'm doing. "Running 130 miles..." The woman replies "there is a race like that in France you should do." "Yes, the Tour Du Mont Blanc.. very expensive to go." "So are you going?" WHAT?! I had to keep going... this was just too much for my brain to handle. I'm in the here and now.. running in NH... trying to show you that you don't have to go to France to enjoy the earth and its beauty.
Josh and I roll into the state park where the crew seems to be having a good old time just screwing around. They were allowed to park for free...usually you pay a pretty penny. Grant is there and ready to run. Josh is done.. I think I broke him, but he's in great spirits and we laugh at the bitch of a climb we had just done together.. all 6+ miles of it. I sit down on the tail gate of a truck and eat some grille cheese, chips and slowly drink soda. I figure I've got to be about 50K into this thing... I'm only in the 20's and I've been running for 8 hours. An 8 or 9 hour marathon.. I'm sick to my stomach. It's very evident that this run is a lot tougher then I had anticipated. Front getting lost to the actual elevation changes. Everything has been drastic, nothing easy and we've literally fought for every single mile to this point. I'm discouraged early, and my mind is all ready wondering if we're going to make it to Monadnock.
Off to Proctor
Grant and I leave the state park and run down the hill. I fill him in on how the run has been going. It pains me to tell him the things I've experienced thus far, since they all revolve around frustration. We switch from talk of the run to "how's life." We really don't know each other too well but thank goodness we have plenty of time to get acquainted. I listen to him, he listens to me; we immediately start talking like we're best friends. We have no problems in locating the trail and we fly through this section towards proctor. We come out of the woods onto a flat farm road that abuts a huge field. Up ahead we see two women playing with their dogs, gun shots go off in the woods and we run along a small river. Soon, we reach a rickety bridge that moves and sways as I run across. We head up a small embankment and along the Andover Soccer fields. Families are everywhere while their kids play soccer. We cross the road and into the Academy parking lot where the crew waits again. I'm in the weeds, my mind if not well. I'm tiring and aggravated with the real lack of progress. I sit down and take a load off. Getting tired of the constant, "Do you want a sandwich? Want beef jerky? Want gummy bears?" The crew goes through the grocery list every time... I know exactly what I want and what I don't want. I try not to snap.. but it's no use. I'm just tired... I want them to leave me alone.. I'll ask them for what I want when I want it.. it's all here and I know what we have.. I'm getting snippy.. so I opt to leave as soon as possible.
Running Ragged
As I left Proctor Academy and started to climb the hill out of the valley, I was moving slowly. I was tight, tired, sore and feeling really dejected. We're hours behind plan and I have no clue if I'm going to make it around even this greenway never-mind the entire adventure. As we continue to move forward I am at least grateful for that but have growing doubts about our ability to endure through Sunday. Grant and I continue to climb Ragged Mountain. The further along we walk the steeper the trail gets. We're walking up what appears to be a back country ski route down the back side of the mountain. Grant stops dead in his tracks and throws his arm out in front of my stop me, "Cub!" I look up to see a Black Bear in the trail and as soon as it sees and hears us, it turns and darts into the woods. I laugh at Grant's reaction. He seemed rather terrified of this chance encounter. "See man... see how fast that thing took off into the woods?" I say as I reassure him that they're more scared of us then we are of them.
We continue to climb and the trail gets ever steeper. 35-40% grades torment us as we get near the summit. As it begins to level off we stop to enjoy a few viewpoints of the Kearsarge Valley. The winds which had once died down are starting to pick up again, sightly. As we pick our way across the rugged summit ridge, it's growing hard to stay on our feet given the steep slopes covered by the fine pine needles  that have rained down on the trail. As I tried to gently lower myself down a rock face I slip and fall. I throw my hands out behind me to break my fall and I jam my wrists into the ground. I feel a sharp pain in my shoulder and I'm instantly sore in my right arm, I have a stinger and my arm goes numb. I get up, brush if off and we make it to the top of the ski slope. From the summit I point out Carrigain and the White Mountains (snow covered) to Grant before shooting some video.
We head down the mountain and pick up some speed finally as we descend back down to the valley below. At New Canada Rd. we meet up with our crew. They've been waiting for some time and have the PowerBar banner hanging up on a forest gate. I sit down and eat more chicken soup and grilled cheese while Josh gets ready to go. Grant bows out for a short break and then Josh and I take off for the short section to Wilmot. We head down the dirt road and barely find the trail heading off the road in through tall grasses. We hop up onto an old rail bed then through another field, across a bridge, along a pond and a summer camp. We're back through a few neighborhoods as the sun sets on us. We continue to run as fast as we can when we finally need to turn our headlamps on. Back at the last stop I thought for sure I had run 47 miles... Josh told me... "It was 37." Out.. 13+ hours for 37 miles.
At the next aid stop, Grant is ready to roll again and the three of us take off up the trail. I could tell back at the last stop that the crew is tired. You can tell mostly by their eyes batting a lot and how quiet it is. They're not as cheery as before and I can only imagine what is going through their heads. They've all told me that they are here till the bitter end even if that's at Monday Morning 9am.. but I know better. They'd be here... but they really don't want to be. As we continue to climb Bog mountain the three of us walk by some kind of old stove and we joke that it's an old crematorium based on the mound of dirty nestled within rocks near by. To our left for about a mile rests the biggest rock wall of the day. Easily 3-4 feet high and 2 feet thick. It's a monster... "someone important once lived here." And just then, we hear a crackling in the trees that sounded like a branch was coming down. I try my best to grab Josh and throw him off the trail as we roll off into the weeds. And then, when we gather ourselves.. nothing had fallen. I distinctly remember that before the crashing started, it was raining. Funny that as there are no clouds in the sky. So as we look up and see Turkey's flying in all directions, we've just realized that we scared the piss out of some turkey's.. literally.

Bogged Down
Bog is a short mountain but steep none-the-less. Near the top, Josh and Grant are talking about the game plan. When would Loni come in, when would Sarah come in and pace etc etc. They go on for about 10 minutes when I finally interject. "This has been a LOT tougher then I anticipated guys. We're hours behind. As it stands right now, we're not going to get to Sunapee even until sun-up (7am) and thats generous and based on how the day has gone so far. There is no way we're doing both of these Greenways so... I think the plan now is to get to Sunapee, hop in the car and drive to Dublin to hike Monadnock with everyone." Though they seemed hesitant, they agreed and that was the plan moving forward. As we reached the girls once again, we filled them in on how things were going to go down.

As we shop up in the aid station Loni arrives with pizza in her back seat. I grab a few slices of cheese pizza and pace around in the road. I tell Sarah the plan and let her know that I'm fine with it. I'm tired, I'm burnt out and I'm really struggling to get this thing done. I'm mentally and physically worked beyond what I had been prepared for.. yet I felt great. What an adventure we were all having together. Yet.. again I notice the crew is tired still... I'm really keen to how they're doing and it gets the gears turning in my head. Grant and I leave back into the woods on uncharted territory. Before we left, Josh told us about how up ahead the guidebooks talks about the trail being marked Red and White. Into the darkness we hike and seldom run. We continue talking as the night gets ever darker. The moon is up and Full, but the forest is dark under the canopy of firs. To our left is one lonely maple tree, illuminated by the moon light, like a heavenly oasis. We notice silently, with our headlamps off, as we slowly meander by.

Up ahead we start to lose the trail again. We find red paint and follow it to a  multitude of junctions. Trails seem to spin off to the left and the right. We forge ahead via the way we think is the way to go. We get lost again and again. We come up on logging roads and have no clue where the trail goes from here. We march up the trail and down. We look everywhere and then I spot what looks like a trail heading uphill to the right. Grant checks it out when a coyote runs across the trail in front of him. He yells to me and throws sticks and rocks into the woods hoping to scare it further away. As I approach, he has a club/stick in his hand and he'd run the rest of the way out of the woods (silly boy) yet I'm glad I have his protection in my tired and delusional state. We finally emerge out of the woods onto a logging road again when we see our first white marker for some time. I look uphill behind us and we realize.. we had spent the last 2 hours meandering around on an interpretive trail and off of the SRKG. We can't help but be angry.

We head down hill for a ways until we come up to Great Brook. We take a right and follow the brook uphill. We see a sign telling us where the road is and we follow the way it tells us to go. 15-20 minutes later we come to another sign that dumps us over a bridge and out onto another road. We get out on the road and we sit down in the ditch. I get out my cell phone and call the crew. I tell them our location which is uphill from them about a mile away. Sarah tells me where they are. "That's nice... we're up here..come up here." I can hear the frustration in her voice but we're not running downhill needlessly when they could easily come to us. So we wait and they arrive. We have no idea where we went wrong but once again, this crazy network of "trails" known as the SRKG has duped us once more. I'm exhausted from being lost and stagger to my moms car where I get in the passenger seat and try to sleep. The seat doesn't recline because of all the gear so I go to Loni's car where I doze off for a half hour. When I wake up, Loni is ready to go and it'll be her and I into the wild.

The Towel is Thrown
Loni and I head into the woods, get our bearings and continue to climb up Great Brook. It's still hard for us to find the trail and from time to time we're forced to stop and peer into the darkness in search of an indent in the leaves. Once we find it.. we continue on. We march slowly up hill, something I didn't expect much of in this section. They're killing me. Every so often I have to stop, catch my breath and then carry on. It's a death march at this point yet we're doing our best. We lose the trail again and this time when we find it, it heads up a steep 100' climb. I stop, turn around and tell Loni I need a break. I get out my don jacket, throw it on and then crash into the leaves. I lay down and sleep instantly, snowing away. I wake up at once point to the sound of coyotes howling in the distance. Loni is still standing the entire time, taking guard. I fall back to sleep.. and then just as quickly as I was out, I'm up. A few minutes later while still climbing uphill, I ask Loni how long I was out for. It felt like forever.. it was 10 minutes.

Then all of a sudden, the trails comes out onto a road and we have no clue where it goes. We head downhill on the road and look for trail markers.. anywhere. After 150-200 yards we find nothing so turn around and head back uphill then walk 150-200 yards the other way. We go back to the trail and search for trail markers across the road from where we came out, indicated by a spot on our map where it appears this happens. We bushwhack for a bit.. and nothing. After a half hour or searching, we call the crew and get Leah. The maps come out and she tries to help us. They think they know our location.. Loni takes out her Phone which has GPS.. we're way away from where the the crew thinks we are. they direct us to the south so we go. 400 yards down the road we see a marker, finally, and we know we're on track. We follow, it dumps us back into the woods where the guessing game continues. We keep getting lost, of trail, etc over and over and over.. I stop at one point and tell Loni.. this adventure is done kid. We can't keep doing this. She agrees.

We exit the trail by losing it again and ending up in someone's driveway. We know the crew is nearby so we decide to walk down the driveway to 114 and then figure out which direction to go. We et to 114 and call the crew. Josh comes running up the hill and we follow his headlamp. We meet up with him and take it into the aid stop. When we get there I take tally of the numbers. We've been on course for 24+ hours now and we've gone 58 Miles. 63 if you count all the back and forth of being lost. The crew is ragged, sleeping and cranky. I overhear Leah talking to Sarah in the background about ending the adventure. It was evident to me that the crew was as frustrated and tired as I and their level of fun has long since disappeared. I of course was having a great time enjoying being out in the wild, on this adventure, trying to find my way.. but I too agree that a certain level of fun has been lost to the conditions and safety concerns of myself and my crew. Up on that road Loni and I were lost on we actually considered laying in the road until the sun came up and finding our way out then. Not a feasible plan given the 20 degree temperatures. So it was with this that I decided, as I hopped into Josh's truck and fell asleep, that it was time for us all to go home.