Last year at this time, I was just beginning my biggest challenge to date – The Summer of 48. And, although my primary goal for this year has shifted to 100 Miles for Sam, I can still hear the mountains calling me. So, in this interval between the conclusion of the TARC 50 and the beginning of the build-up for the Ghost Train 100m I’ve chosen to heed their call…
Mount Chocoura –
June 15I’ve hiked Mount Chocoura (3490 ft) on two previous occasions. Once in summer
and once in late fall, and both completely different. The summer trip was with
my family when we were tenting at White Ledge Campground, on the eastern slope
of the mountain. We hiked together to Carter Ledge (about halfway up) where I
left them to pick wild blueberries, while I continued on to the summit. The
fall trip was with some friends (including Steve Wolfe) and I was poorly equipped
for the steep icy slopes we encountered in our late November Assault from the west side.
This time around would be different for a number of reasons.
First, I was going to do it solo. Second, I was going to run it. And third, I was
going to do it twice!
My requested gift for Father’s Day, was a simple one. I wanted “the morning”.
So, I rose bright and early (5:15am) and left my family sleeping peacefully in
our camper at Danforth Bay in
Freedom, NH for the 20 minute drive over to Chocoura. My planned route started
just off Route 16 at the Hammond Trailhead. From there, I would run/hike directly
to the summit, then descend via the Brook Trail to Paugus Road, back up the
Liberty Trail and finish via Hammond once more. 13.8 miles total and about 4400
feet of elevation gain.
Having never done this route, I wasn’t sure how long it
would take. But, based on the distance and terrain, I hoped I could finish in
just under 4 hours – or at a pace of about 3.5 miles per hour. I struggled to
find my stride early on. Partially due to a lack of sleep – the joy of camping.
Partially due to a lack of fitness - first hike of the season. And partially
due to a lack of recovery – just 7 days after TARC! Eventually I made the 4.1
mile push to the wind-swept summit, in an hour and a half – or roughly 2.7 mph.
The start of the descent was no easier, as the steep rock
face, combined with some run-off from a recent rain made the early going treacherous.
But, as the trail eased back below tree line, so did the difficulty of the
terrain. And within a mile from the summit, I was nearly sprinting down the trail.
That is, until I turned my right ankle. Badly. After about a minute (or two) of
hopping around and cursing, I started running again. Slowly at first, then back
up to nearly the pace I sustained before the roll. I hit Paugus Road in 1 hours
time – or about 4 mph.
After a couple minutes to check the map and have a quick
snack, I headed back up Liberty for the next 2.7 mile leg. I found this trail
to be surprisingly runnable, given the 1600 feet of elevation gain. Then again,
perhaps it was because after 2 ½ hours of running (and one turned ankle) I was
finally awake! Anyway, I reached the trail
intersection (just below the Jim Liberty Cabin) in 45 minutes (3.5 mph) and turned
to head back down Hammond.
About halfway down I began to bonk. Not severely, but just
enough that I couldn’t really get my legs turning over and take advantage of
the very favorable running conditions. In the end it took me about 48 minutes
to complete the 3 mile downhill segment – or about 3 ¾ mph. My total time for
the 13.8 mile journey was 4 hours and 3 minutes. Just a bit slower (3.4 mph)
than I wanted, but given the fact that I hadn’t really fully recovered from the
50 yet, it wasn’t a bad first effort on the hills!
Mount Monadnock –
The slopes of Grand Monadnock (3166 ft), along with the Wapack Trail, are
my “go to” home town training grounds for mountain running. Both venues are
easily accessible (within an hour) from my home and both present terrain (and above
tree line running) similar to mountains with much higher elevations. I’ve hiked
Monadnock twice previously and Run It 4 times. Of course, each of those four was
a “double”. So technically, I’ve summited a total of 10 times. This trip (on
the first official day of summer) would make it a dirty dozen, and I secretly
hoped for a PR!
This time out, I was joined by a couple of younger runners –
Justin Soucy & Nick Poles. Both of whom had me questioning my fitness, and my sanity,
early on the 4.4 mile climb up Pumpelly Trail. At first I tried to stay with them.
But my lungs, and my stomach, quickly talked me out of that! Eventually, I settled
into my usual “plod along pace” and let them ease away. I lost a couple
minutes to them on the first ascent, but still finished with a 1 minute PR of
1:03 – or 4.1 mph.
Like Chocoura, the descent down the Dublin Trail can be a
bit tricky. The 1600 feet of elevation is roughy equivalent to that of Pumpelly
but, with 2 miles less distance travelled, it’s a whole lot steeper! I took the
early lead on the trail, but Nick and Justin powered by me as the running
became less technical. We reached the trailhead at Old Troy Road in 32:30 – or 4.4
mph. And, we stopped for a quick snack break before heading back up again.
Passing bewildered hikers (in this case twice - once down,
once up) is one of my favorite parts of mountain running. Mostly they ask me: “Why?”
and mostly I answer: “Because I can!” This trip we passed two such groups. As always,
I pass with a kind “hello”, or “good morning” but always while still moving forward. Despite
feeling less than well at this point, we still crushed the steep climb and finished it in
41:30 – or 3.4 mph. We did, however, incur one small casualty as Justin turned his
ankle just before the summit.
We eased back down Pumpelly for the last leg of the day. This
section is one of my favorite for running down. Not terribly technical. Lots of
open rock face. And a bunch of great views! It gets steep/rocky just below tree
line, but after a bit it flattens out once again for a nice, quick return trip.
In no time at all we found ourselves touching back down at Lake Road - 56:30
(4.7 mph) for the leg and 3:13:30 (4.2 mph) overall, for a new 13.6 mile (32oo feet of gain) Double
Monadnock PR of just under 9 minutes!
We cooled ourselves off with a quick dip in Dublin Lake and enjoyed a high-spirited
(albeit somewhat cramp-filled) ride back to Nashua for an afternoon with the family. Mountains, running, summer and sun. Does
it get any better than that?!
White Mountain Hut Traverse – Sunday, July 6th.
Because recovery is