Sunday, May 2, 2010

For The Record... Redux

The last time I wrote about this subject, people took what I was trying to say and turned it around about 6 different ways to Tuesday. I understand that written word is often times hard to read, hard to actually understand without the assistance of tone of voice and body language. So I'm going to try one more time, one more time trying to articulate why I'm shying away from ever trying to break the "48 Speed Record," the very thing that got me into Ultra-Running in the first place.

During the summer of 2004, while I was finishing up my hiking of the 48, four-thousand foot mountain of New Hampshire, I remember driving through Pinkham Notch and glancing up at the Wildcat Ridge and saying to Sarah, "I wonder if anyone has ever hiked these things the fastest.." The notion intrigued me, and when I got home that night, I was feverishly researching if anyone had. What I discovered was fascinating to me. In 1973, George and Tom Fitch, teen-age brothers from Concord, MA had indeed hiked the four-thousand footers (Then 46) in 6 days 15 Hours and 30 Minutes. They had gotten the idea after a news story ran of a man who died of a heart attack while trying to hike the Adirondak 4K's the fastest in New York.

It wasn't until 1991 that Al Sochard, Bill Parlette and Doug Mayer hiked the 48 in Eight Days Time. They repeated the adventure 10 years later in 2001. In 2002, Ted "Cave Dog" Keizer broke the record of the 48 peaks and did so in 3 Days 17 Hours and 21 Minutes which was followed up by Tim Seaver in 2003 with a time of 3 Days 15 Hours and 51 Minutes. To this very day, the record still stands at this time. It was then that in 2004 that I met George Fitch and Tim Seaver, and spoke to Cave Dog on the phone. I was intrigued by the sport they told me of called, Ultra-Marathon Running. I asked Tim what one needed to do to be an ultra-runner to which he replied, "You need to be stubborn and willing to put up with a lot of discomfort." It was with that that I decided I wanted to become an ultra-marathon runner.

I remember driving home from Tim Seavers house and thinking about how I wanted to become an ultra-runner and challenge the guys record. And why did I want to challenge it? Because it was something so unique, something so underplayed that it sounded like an amazing adventure. To do something not many folks do, something under the radar.. something that at one point in time, stood the test of time of over 20 years... then 10 more years....

But recently, setting a record in the White Mountains doesn't seem to be so unique anymore.

The Winter Record:
2004: Sue Johnston & Robert Williams  10:22:37
2006: Tim Seaver 9:20:24  Cath Goodwin (Womens) 9:23:13
2009: Ryan Welts 7:17:07
2010: Sue Johnston (Womens) 8:04:02

The Pemi-Record:
2005: Kevin Tilton 8:14:14
2005: Alex Kahl 7:25:??
2008: Charles Dona 7:26:??
2009: Ryan Welts 7:05:32
2009: Ben Nephew & Kevin Tilton 7:04:47

The Presi-Traverse:
1988: Ian Torrence 5:25:??
2009: Ryan Welts 5:07:44

As you can see from the lists above, the records are falling like dominoes in the White Mountains. I'm willing to bet that in 2010, both the Presi-traverse and 48 records will fall. Now I have nothing against Ryan Welts. Ryan first heard about these same records on the internet hiking forums. He dedicated himself to testing his limits in the mountains, by losing some 90 pounds and then taking to the hills. God Bless him and I commend him for his efforts. BUT.. at the end of the day, these records just aren't as unique as they used to be. It's almost turned into a competition and for some of the record holders, a vendetive exercise.

Over these last fews years, I've wondered if I really could break the 48 Summer Record. I know deep within myself that if I truly wanted it bad enough, I could train for it and get it. But the fire within just really isn't there. I know I could do it... why? Because I've done everything else I've set out to do. I was brought up on the premise that "you can do anything you put your mind to," and I still live everyday  with this saying in my head and heart. As time as rolled along, and these records keep falling, it's really just lost its allure, its luster, it's intrigue. "Big Deal.." is what it's become. I just don't care anymore.

To this day, I still set my sights on doing things that I wonder if they've ever been done. Like running the Belknap Range in 8 hours... setting a new mark in a range where no previous mark had been set. This October, I plan to run 100 miles of New Hampshire mountains in an attempt to run from A to B in a place where I am unsure it's ever been done. And like a few weeks ago, running the Cross Rivendell Trail from end to end.. never been done until now. I'll continue to do these adventures... the lesser known, the lesser tried and the unique.