This weekend I experienced Mount Moosilauke in two parts. Neither was relaxing, exactly, but Saturday was a comfortable kind of work, closing up the Ravine Lodge for the winter.
David Asmussen, an alumni, bucked logs with a chainsaw while I operated the hydraulic splitter. We split and stacked several cords of wood, and he pointed out that I had lifted quite a few tons, so it was all right that I didn’t get into the gym over the weekend.
I enjoyed the harmony of four chainsaws, the splitter, a maul, and the work truck taking away the fruits of our labor. Especially since the weather was decent.
As Hannah Dreissigacker said, manual labor makes you think, but it is not intellectual like schoolwork. You enter a different state of mind as you try to find the most efficient way to complete your task, and it’s a great time to contemplate life.
Our work was repaid with a feast that night: one and two-thirds roast turkeys, stuffing, cranberry, gravy, sweet potatoes, challah, asparagus, potato skins with melted cheese salad, duck with maple-glazed apples, and five kinds of pie (I only tried three).
I fell asleep that night to the sound of rain on the Lodge roof, and worried that at the top of the mountain, the precipitation would be in the form of snow. After only a few minutes, though, the hard work of the day sent me off to sleep, snuggled deep inside my sleeping bag.
The next morning, I ate more pie for breakfast and tried to prepare myself for the days’ task, our annual time trial with Middlebury and whoever else feels like showing up.
I was nervous because three weeks ago, I had come down with a cold.
Being a sick athlete, especially an asthmatic, pneumonia-prone one, is distasteful. I build my life around, among other things, getting out the door to run or rollerski at least once every day.
So I took a few days completely off, and went two and a half weeks without any intensity. Friday, I did my first set of intervals after concluding that I was healthy enough to try. It wasn’t so bad.
Unfortunately, “not so bad” doesn’t cut it when you’re racing up a mountain.
I was given number 32, and started after all the alpine skiers, several mothers, and about half the nordic field.
I started out along the Baker River, running fast on the flat. By the time I got to the first uphill section, which seemed like it was actually a stream filled with rocks, I could see Sophie McClelland from Middlebury in front of me. I felt good.
As I passed a few hikers and spectators, I developed what I would term a “death rattle.” My breathing was even, but not particularly effective as the mucus bounced around my throat and lungs. I crossed the first bridge and turning onto the Gorge Brook Trail. More and more frequently, I stopped to walk in order to negotiate the rocks in the trail without tripping.
After crossing the second bridge and running past Last Sure Water, I began getting caught by the faster runners who started in back of me.
My teammates Hannah Dreissigacker and Rosie Brennan passed me at about the same time as Cassidy Edwards from Middlebury. Although they definitely gave me some motivation to run faster than I could have on my own, when I pushed to keep up with them and run with a pack, I ended up coughing and slowing down.
Climbing up and up through the trees, I thought that each corner would bring me to the landmark I could picture so clearly in my mind: granite steps curving to the left through scrubby conifers, when all of a sudden the view opens up to the sky above treeline.
I glanced at my watched when I finally got to the steps I was looking for: 46:50. My goal time was 50 minutes, but there was no way I could possibly reach the finish in the next three minutes. I still had to climb up to the false flat, cross it, and then make the final ascent to the summit.
Despite the fact that I wasn’t going to get even close to my goal time, I pushed to the finish and finally passing Sophie on the flat. One of my biggest challenges in racing is to continue trying when I know my result will be disappointing.
I think this time trial has something against me. I did not compete my freshman year, because I was running cross country for Dartmouth at that point. My sophomore year, I wasn’t completely healthy, and last year I had an asthma attack.
It turns out that the last time I was proud of my race was in high school.
Maybe that means I’ll have to come back and try again next year – and lucky for the Lodge, maybe I’ll split their wood, too.