This weekend I was guilty of convincing friends and acquaintances to race and support the Presidential Ridge Relay Race.
That’s why, at 3:40 on Saturday morning, I was turning on the light at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge so we could get dressed and on the road by 4.
And that’s why, at 6:30, Hannah Dreissigacker was laying out some ground rules as we hiked up the Greenleaf Trail to Mt. Lafayette.
“If you have to fart, fart. If someone says drink water, drink. If you have to pee, stop and pee. If you need to slow down, say slow down.”
That’s also why a few skiers were absent from practice on Sunday. We needed to recover from the 21 mile effort that left us aching and exhausted. Brett Palm’s foot was so sore that he wasn’t walking, but he thought he’d be at practice on Monday.
The idea for this race originated with Lebanon native Ed Warren, a former classmate of mine at Crossroads Academy. His Tufts Mountain Club hosted the event for the third time this year, and the first since his graduation.
Race teams and support crews from colleges around New England arrived at Crawford Notch early Saturday morning.
At 5 am, it was announced that the course was moved from the Presidentials to the Lafayette – Garfield – Zealand system because of inclement weather on Mount Washington and the ridge.
“Screw this. I just want to do the Presies. We’d be fine,” Brett grumbled. I agreed, but I wanted the sprit of competition, and I didn’t feel like getting blown off a mountain by the wind.
Cars and buses zipped off to Franconia Notch for the new start, music blaring to keep racers awake and energized. We found a station playing the Top 40 from this day in 1984.
The race course was divided into three relay legs, each four to nine miles long, and three competitors had to complete each leg together.
The Dartmouth team, which I was organizing for a third and final time, took a different approach this year. Six of us, mostly skiers, completed the entire route.
Others joined us for the first or last legs, and a few very well-appreciated friends provided us with water refills, Oreos, and dry layers at the handoffs.
On Lafayette, there was snow, enough to come over the tops of my running shoes, and ice covering the rocks that formed the trail. The wind raged, making it even colder. We all fell on the ice, but nobody was injured.
Ironically, our path was marked by the footprints of several of my Outing Club friends, who were attempting a 50-mile hike from Crawford Notch to Moosilauke. They had crossed this summit at 4 a.m., and most of them dropped out afterwards. Without their prints, it would have been hard for us to stay on the trail.
Two and a half hours after we started, we reached the first handoff on the Garfield summit.
When we arrived, we saw support crews from several schools as well as organizers from Tufts who checked every team off as they came through – we were the first. It was strange to see all these chilly faces for only a few minutes.
Hannah Jeton snapped pictures as she handed us Sunbelt coconut granola bars. We tried to change shirts with the least possible exposure to the cold, and then ran off down the other side of the mountain.
Hiking up the Twinway, I lost traction trying to climb up a rock. I was obviously tiring, and fretted that I limiting our group’s speed. “You’re not a slowpoke,” Jeremy Huckins assured me, but I didn’t buy it.
We reached the handoff atop South Twin before our support staff, but luckily Alice Bradley and David Nutt, who were joining us for the third leg, had hiked ahead and arrived in time.
On the cold summit it was another daze of faces before hustling down the other side and out of the wind.
By the third leg, we were all losing spunk, but we were also confident that we had a healthy lead.
We stopped to snack of Clif bars without worrying about the teams chasing us, and admired the foliage that, for the first time, wasn’t covered by clouds. We slipped on rocks, fell in puddles, and ran into branches as our attention to detail faded.
All in all, it took us six and a half hours, and we won, just like last year. With a team of nordic skiers, I sometimes feel like we have an unfair advantage.
Our prize was a pair of giant stuffed boxing gloves. When I put them on and punched a friend’s shoulder, they made sounds from The Hulk like “Aaarrrrrr!” and “You’re making me angry!”
We thought we had been provided with endless entertainment, but mostly we just fell asleep. Anson Moxness was a hero for driving our bus back to campus.
I sometimes think I need new friends, so that we won’t convince each other that waking up at 4 a.m. and wrecking our bodies is fun.
But who am I kidding – I love this stuff, and I have the best friends in the world.