I woke before my alarm this morning. That was a good thing, because it was set for 1:20 am, and waking my family was not a desirable result. Especially since was about to abandon them for the day.
I wrote before my alarm this morning. That was a minor miracle, as it has been a week. Long work hours, and commitments had me putting down three workouts a day plus overtime. By Friday, I was sore everywhere. I've said that before, and I was wrong. Did you know that the muscles that keep your skull upright can get sore? I do now (thanks, Rossi). I suspect that I'll learn all sorts of new muscles to have sore this year.
I woke before my alarm this morning. That was important to me. I despise being late, and in spite of my best intentions, I some times look down on those that are. A fine friend of mine, and mentor in insanity was coming to pick me up; and I didn't wish to disappoint. Ron Heerkens Jr. is the reason I fell into trail running so hard. I was looking for resources on how to do better at the next Spring Classic Duathlon (a defunct duathlon that had you running on grass for half a mile or so) and stumbled across this group of runners called #TrailsRoc, and one of its founding members was Ron. I had known him since 2004ish and I was intrigued. Ron is the reason I started considering trying an ultra, as I listened to him talking about his experiences at a MedVed panel. Ron is the reason that I stumbled into my first 50k, as I went down to Palmer's Pond to crew him and ended up running the whole thing. This morning, Ron was coming again to pick me up so I could help him carry gear around one of the courses that makes up his (to me) iconic race reports.
I woke before my alarm this morning. I was that excited. Before me was a chance to see Mt Tammany. The race itself (of which I'd be a mere spectator) consists of 10 3.5ish mile loops (there's some check-in road run nightmares that turns it into a 40ish mile race). Each loop climbs 1300 feet in a mile of rock, then a quarter mile of flat grapefruit sized sharp rocks and ends in a long washout across golfball sized rocks. The view at the top is stunning, the view at the bottom is gobsmacking. I knew about the elevation change before I went down (that's the famous feature). I was so worried about disappointing. That's a lot of climb and I've not been the most cardio trained guy as of late.
Let's break narrative tradition (and my parallelism) and just say, I shouldn't have worried. We were filming and therefore moving slow. I was fine. I probably had at least one more loop in me, but wasn't displeased to stop at one. That trail is no joke, you need to be confident in your ankles and feet. You know how on runs you can often power through a rolled ankle? I sure wouldn't on this one. But, I digress.
I woke up before my alarm this morning, because the race started at 6, and it is a four hour drive, and we wanted to catch the start. The drive was, uncomfortable, we're both tired, it is raining, fog everywhere. We were saved by mutual? admiration, cool podcasts, and a love of life. We arrived just after we thought the race was supposed to start, and saw the race setting up and a couple of runners milling around. Some quick conversations verified that our timing was off by half an hour, but in return we got to talk to the RD, and Sean Storie (Mike and Mark had taken an early departure option), and watch the land slowly illuminate as the sun rose obscured by thick clouds.
Not Mt Tammany
Just a quick word about the RD. He appears to be the kind I love. A bit of a goof, dedicated to what he's created, and clearly more in love with the trails and people than himself. The usual ultra few words from the RD, a quiet "you can go", and people started sauntering down the road to the trail head. We grabbed our gear (Ron with a heavy gimbal/camera/phone Rube Goldberg machine, I with a light pack) and prepped for our own climb. I don't know how to compare what we went up. It went up and up, the temperature was perfect, with me in a long sleeve and shorts, quickly shedding the light gloves and cap that the start line had necessitated. We'd strain our ears and eyes and try to capture each runner as the came up the hill. The route was the usual mix of military crests, false summits, and eyes down scrambles that makes trail climbing so interesting (and at times dispiriting, although I was unquenchable). You looked for the next red dot, oggled the terrain that was between you and it, and went. There were 35 foolhardy crazies with bibs, and we saw about half of them on that climb. But, searching always for our friends. Near one of the false summits, we caught Sean, happily chatting and running up the hill (running!). Near the top, we saw Mark also cheerily running (I swear we had had a conversation on Wednesday about how broken his feet were). A bit past the top before you drop back down, we saw Mike with his microspikes about to descend. When you finally get to the top, on the right, you are blessed with a view of the valley below. The river has carved a sheer cliff and all 1300 feet are at your feet. I stayed away and breathed in the delight of being outdoors and in love.
I woke up before my alarm this morning, full of dread, and worry, and some pain. I knew ahead of me was a long descent that manages to twist the ankles of the most goat footed of my friends and causes them all to fall. Being the north side of the mountain, the sun rarely gets much exposure, and the snow cover was complete. The warmth of the day turned it into the ideal for us. It was a soft slush instead of hard ice or gooshy mud. I suspect by time the bibbed crazies were finishing their last laps it actually was a muddy slippery mess. Ron's plan was to find scenic spots, wait for runners, then follow. What followed was the most fun I've had on trails since right beforeI rolled my ankle at a Snow Cheap two years ago and precipiatated my collapse. With speed only mitigated by the fear of falling backward and crushing Ron's camera gear, we ran down that hill, keeping pace with runners, Ron somehow holding up his heavy rig and aiming it at his targets, and not following, me in his wake, blissfully only needing to make sure I fall forward. When you are running downhill over crazy terrain for more than a mile, your mind quickly tires, and your body takes over, and things just work. While I wasn't at the time, as I type this I am reminded of the time I ran down the side of an erupting volcano, hopping from sharp rock to sharp rock, marvelling at my own unexpected dexterity. That back side was my chance to sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world (when I was sure Ron wasn't trying to get audio :) ).
I woke up before my alarm this morning, expecting to be tired, and hurt, and sad by time the loop was through. Coming around a corner at the bottom of the mountain, before you opens up a stream valley with waterfalls, and pools, and bridges, and majestic trees. A place pixies would have put their own little Last Homely House before the humans invaded. The traffic of muggles was up significantly as the day warmed, and there were day packers everywhere. By time we hit the pavement, we had spent so much time dealing with uneven terrain, the asphault felt wrong and we had to regain our urban legs. How the runners do the road section is beyond my understanding. I did suddenly understand how you could haul yourself up that hill again. I silently wanted to. I could feel the little addiction/love levers in my head twist and fall into place. I'll definitely be back. Hopefully to film, definitely with my family, unlikely some day to run. That last is years out, as I have to be strong enough to be within self delusion range. When my powerful friends that do burpees at the top of hills to pass the time while others catch up are defeated by this mountain; you know that this is a tough wonder worthy of respect.
And now, personal pictures (crappy phone pictures, sorry)
Foothill before Mt Tammany
Mount Tammany from the Start/Aid/Finish
Still Goin' Up
Race You to the Top of the Morning
Mark Going Down
Pixie in Paradise
More Bucolic Beauty
One last look