Ice, ice baby.

The most traumatic (well, the only traumatic) part of my trip home was a visit to the doctor’s office. For almost a year now I have been suffering from tendinitis in my left elbow, the result of a little too much rollerskiing. Feet are designed to absorb the body’s impact on a hard surface; arms are not. This spring the tendinitis was identified as medial epicondylitis, better known as golfer’s elbow, and even though I did everything I could to minimize the damage, it continued to be a problem.

So I decided to get a cortisone injection.

Which turned out to be way more intense that I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, I still would have gotten the shot, because I really want this problem to go away. But it would have been nice to be better-prepared, mentally. For some reason I thought it was going to be like getting a flu shot, but in my elbow instead.

Then they wheeled in the ultrasound machine, took several minutes to shoot me up with a numbing agent, and then quite a few more minutes with a big needle stuck in my arm, spreading the good stuff around in there.

It hurt.

It hurt in an unnatural way.

And afterward, the numbing agent ran down to my hand and I couldn’t feel my fingers for the next four hours.

I just really wanted my mom to be there to drive me home. Instead, I cruised along the windy back roads from Sharon to Lyme trying not to hyperventilate while thinking about how much it still hurt, and reaching over the steering wheel with my right hand every time I needed to use a turn signal.

The good news is that things got better fairly quickly. For the last few days I have had random-ish shots of pain when I flex my arm a certain way or grab something, but the constant pain faded after an hour or two. I’ve been icing it quite a bit – “Ice will be your new best friend,” the doctor said – and I think that tomorrow I might even rollerski with poles. Just for a little while, to see how it feels.

The other good news is that being forced to take some time off from rollerskiing (and biking, since leaning on handlebars wouldn’t have been good) gave me an excuse to do a long run I had been dreaming of for months. The Dartmouth team always runs Cube-Smarts, a 16-mile jaunt over two 3,000-foot mountains. It’s one of the toughest OD workouts of the year, second in my mind only to Kinsman (which they don’t even do every year). I wanted to make the run a bit longer and harder by running back to my house from the Smarts trailhead, another 5 or 6 miles on dirt roads.

My mother agreed to drop me off before she went to work (even though it was NOT on the way), so I started running at about 7 in the morning. The only thing I hate about being the first one on the trails is that you have to run through the spiderwebs! I have this terror that the spiders are still in the webs and will be crawling all over you. It took me about an hour of running/hiking to reach the top of Cube, where I was offered a lovely view of my next conquest.

Shortly after beginning the run down Cube, I banged my ankle on a sharp rock. Hard. A large gash immediately opened up and started bleeding everywhere. Great. If my elbow hurt at all, I sure wasn’t noticing it now.

When I reached Jacobs Brook 45 minutes later, I had another sip of water (which I had to ration carefully) and the first of my snacks. It was kind of a bummer not to have Cami there with the bus and a cooler full of fresh water, but I was having fun. I put my drink belt back around my waist and started heading up Smarts.

I was getting tired, so I was walking a bit more than I had on the first mountain, but still carrying pretty good speed. I made it up the mountain in less than an hour, which had been my goal. Even though I’ve been up the Smarts fire tower a million times, I had to climb up those wooden steps again to enjoy the view of the ground I had covered and relax for a moment while I had another snack.

By the time I was running down Smarts, I was really tired. I had to remind myself to slow down as I picked my way over the rocks, because tripping and hurting myself would have been a disaster: Tuesday morning on the AT, miles from home, with nobody to pick me up or find me except for the occasional through-hiker…. yikes.

Once I finally reached the trailhead I finished off the last of my water, ate the last of my snacks, and started trudging along the road. It seemed like those five miles were really thirty, and it felt like it might take me hours to get home. But as I jogged along, the reliable pace and the fact that it was no longer necessary to place each foot so carefully meant that I felt a little better, and I actually covered the distance in a respectable amount of time.

When I got home, I chugged at least two liters of water and had to fight hard to resist the urge to sprawl out on the floor. Food: I knew I needed some. I had just run most of a marathon over some fairly gnarly trail. Luckily, we had yogurt, raspberries, maple syrup, and apricot nectar in the fridge, so I crushed up some ice and made myself the smoothie that I had been dreaming about for the last three hours (since I had started up Smarts, more or less). It was great.

As I drank my icy treat, I slapped a cold pack back on my elbow. There’s no such thing as too much prevention.

Tomorrow it’s back to rollerskiing. I loved my mountain run – and the one we did on the Long Trail yesterday – but my running and uphill-hiking muscles are tired. I never thought I would say this, but rollerskiing will provide some welcome variety, even to my most-favorite training type.

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Prouty on!

Don't be fooled, it was NOT sunny out.

Yesterday was the 29th Annual Audrey Prouty Memorial Ride. The ride, which is not a race, has options of biking 20, 35, 50, or 100 miles, starting and ending in Hanover, and is a fundraiser for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. This year the Prouty had 4,500 participants and raised over $2 million. I decided to ride my bike 100 miles – how hard could it be compared to some of the training that Pepa makes us do?

I had another reason, too, for choosing the longer option. I was riding in memory of my grandmother, Jean McIntyre.

I was a lucky kid growing up, because my grandparents lived on the other side of town. I could go over to their house after school every day, and I got to know them and spend more time with my grandmother than many kids get to spend with all of their grandparents combined. “Mommom” was a truly amazing lady: kind, thoughtful, hard-working, creative, and very nurturing. My first pony lived at their house, which made it even more exciting to visit. I learned my first lessons about taking care of animals, and always got to help name the lambs when they were born. I’d go over after school, and Mommom would make me cream cheese and homemade cherry jelly sandwiches, cut on the diagonal just like I liked. She taught me how to bake cookies and how to knit, using yarn that she had spun herself from the wool from her flock of sheep. When I was in high school she gave me a Canon A-1 camera and taught me how to use a darkroom.

But more than any of the skills she taught me, she taught me to be a good person (to the skeptics out there: think of how much more of a bitch I would be if it weren’t for her). I really enjoyed all the time I got to spend with her.

Jean.

I rode my first Prouty (that I can remember) after Mommom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2001. Even though she was going through treatment and the cancer was wrecking her body, she and the rest of our family rode 20 miles together. It was amazing to see the willpower she used to get herself through that bike ride, and she was incredibly cheerful the whole time.

After Mommom passed away in the spring of 2005, I decided I would ride 100 miles. I had never done much bike riding and back then, I wasn’t in the kind of shape I am now – I was a senior in high school, a decent runner but not a great skier, and I didn’t even own my own bike. Nevertheless, my aunt Liz, my friend Julia Schwartzman and I rode 100 miles in the rain in memory of Mommom.

I missed the next few Proutys because I was working in Colorado. Last year, when I started living in Vermont (a manageable commute!), I rode 100 miles again, this time with my neighbor, Ray Clark. Ray is in great shape for being 60 and no doubt rode his bike much more than I did, but still rode kind of slowly. The 100 miles didn’t seem to hard.

This year, I rode with Sara Cavin and Ed Meyer. Ed is a really, really good rider. He goes to Cyclocross National Championships and stuff. Sara is also a very good rider. She rides about a million times as often as me (I hadn’t ridden in the last three weeks).

Not surprisingly, the ride felt a little bit harder this year! We rode much faster, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there were moments when I doubted I could stick with them for the whole 100 miles (this might have been in part because the first 25 or so miles, until we went down the far side of Mount Cube towards Wentworth, were in the rain, which was pretty discouraging). But in Haverhill, when I realized that we had already covered 50 miles, things started looking up. I knew I could ride the next 40 miles, which were basically flat, with Sara. Hills were my real problem. So we rolled along, taking turns leading and joining up with two other riders (whom we didn’t know) to make a 5-person pack. It was fun. It even stopped raining and turned into a nice day, and the scenery was beautiful: acres of farm fields in Woodstock, Newbury, Bradford, Fairlee, and Orford.

When we made it to Lyme, we were almost home. Just 12 more miles left. Unfortunately for me, we faced more hills, too. It’s not that they were big hills in any sense of the word, but for some reason my legs just weren’t with me yesterday. Sara and Ed dropped me at one point and it took me a while to catch up on the downhill – just like in the Tour de France, if you’re one rider trying to catch a group, it’s tough work.

In the end, though, we rode into Hanover together, triumphant, tired, and covered completely in sand and road grime. We munched on pizza and burritos, drank chocolate milk, and caught up with Sara’s parents and their adorable puppy, Cider.

Remember how white this jersey was in the first picture? I'd never worn it before. Not so shiny and new anymore!

Remember how white this jersey was in the first picture? I'd never worn it before. Not so shiny and new anymore!

I’m proud of myself for riding 100 miles in the rain, and sticking with Sara and Ed even when my legs felt like rubber. But I’m much more proud of my mother.

She’s the one standing next to me in the top picture. My mom has ridden the 20-mile loop numerous times, but she doesn’t really like biking. Last year she volunteered instead of riding. But this year, she decided to do the 35-mile loop. To get ready, she’s been riding her bike to work (15 miles) twice a week, and I think she’s even starting to like it. Yesterday morning, her riding partners bailed at the Lyme support station and decided to do 20 miles instead, because of the rain. So my mom rode on, by herself, and finished the longest ride she’s ever done in her life.

I like to think that my grandmother would be proud of both of us. Mommom, this was for you.

Happy 4th.

I swear that I am more thrilled than I look in this picture. Lauren is actually smiling. I meant to smile but for some reason it didn’t work out.

Yes, I was thrilled to be on top of Mount Mansfield today. The members of the Small Boat Training Center had decided to hike it, and Lauren and I couldn’t pass up the chance to tag along (or lead as the case may be). We decided not to do any work today to celebrate Independence Day, and enjoy the full glory of a sunny day on the summit without the specter of an afternoon’s-worth of labor hanging over our heads.

I thought a bit about my previous 4th of July celebrations. I spent three summers celebrating in earnest out in Colorado, running a race early in the morning and starting to drink immediately afterwards. There were costumes, parades, running through firehoses and getting pelted with water balloons, and naps to combat afternoon hangovers. It was fun. It was exhausting. It’s entertaining to look through the pictures from those years.

I wish I could be out in Crested Butte right now for that raucous celebration, but I can’t. Today was a more low-key 4th, yet in its own way it was just as enjoyable. For weeks I have been wishing that I could go hiking and get on top of a mountain, and I feel totally spoiled to have been able to do so twice in four days. Having the other Craftsbury athletes for company was a treat too.

We decided to hike up under the gondola, following a Graves family tradition despite the fact that there were no Graves boys actually present. I can say without question that this is my least favorite way to get up the mountain. But we made it to the top of the gondola, regrouped, and then headed up the Cliff Trail.

Luckily, the Cliff Trail is my new favorite trail on the mountain. It was really fun to pick our way up, down, over, and between boulders, following the elusive stripe of paint that suggested a route through the rocks. In addition I was able to snap some cool photos of the SBTC crew hiking up behind me. Now I guess I just have to figure out how to get to the Cliff Trail without having to hike straight up a ski run.

The whole crew eventually made it to the top, where we snacked on trail mix and sandwiches. Although the rowers had made fun of the drink belts Lauren and I had worn, I think we had the better deal: several of them brought backpacks, and one didn’t bring any water at all – stupid on a day where it was in the 80s in the valley! Nordiepacks aren’t no laughing matter.

We capped the trip off by running back south on the Long Trail, jumping on the toll road for half a mile, starting down Nosedive (ouch), and then running down the Haselton Trail. Last year, when our team had hiked on the mountain, we had gone up the Haselton Trail after already running for 2 1/2 hours. I had been grumpy and it had seemed really hard. This time, running down it, I loved it. I was able to really cruise along, jumping from rock to rock and skipping over roots: the trail was rugged enough to be interesting and challenging and require my full attention, but I was still going at almost full-speed. Being light of foot kept me light at heart. I was in a great mood when the trail spit us out at the bottom.

The rest of the day was nothing special: we swam in a pond, watched a movie, and relaxed after dinner. I guess this is what independence means to me now, not having to go do anything I don’t want to do. We are about to start a fun but stressful week-long camp for younger skiers, so it was nice not to have any obligations for a day.

Thanks, rowers, for giving us an excuse to go climb a mountain!

Kinsman Ridge

This has been a pretty busy week for us, with the Regional Elite Group camp in town and it being a speed week to boot.  Even after the time trials we did with the juniors, we have another coming up on Saturday. I had pretty much put my head down and figured I was in it for the long haul when I got an e-mail from my friend Andrew McCauley, asking if I wanted to go hiking because he had quit his job(!).

After much hemming and hawing – a long hike is decidedly NOT the best thing to do in between a bunch of time trials, and I knew Pepa would be mad – I decided that this was an opportunity not to be missed. A hike? In the Whites? With a friend? Awesome! We decided to do Kinsman Ridge, from south to north, because it’s the only ridge that Andrew hadn’t hiked all in one go, and I had never been to the top of Cannon. More importantly, it would be long, and hard, and that’s generally what we look for in a hike. I was psyched.

Andrew had a job interview in southern NH on Thursday morning, and so it came to be that he arrived at the Lafayette Place parking lot at 10:45 in a dress shirt, khakis, and leather shoes. Ha! This was soon remedied and we were heading south to Kinsman Notch to start our hike.

It is almost ten miles from Kinsman Notch to the Eliza Brook Shelter, but it is the easiest part of the hike and we cruised along, catching up. I am embarrassed to say that although we have been great hiking buddies in the past, we hadn’t actually seen each other since graduation a year ago. It was great to chat and the miles passed easily.

Mt Moosilauke hulking in the distance.

I was so incredibly happy to be in the mountains with a friend. I was rejuvenated, mentally, spiritually, whatever, even though I was tired and my legs hurt from all the hard training I had been doing earlier in the week.

We stopped for lunch a bit before Eliza Brook on some sunny rocks. Little did we know it would be the sunniest, nicest view we had for the rest of the hike – things were moving in and out of rain showers and the sun. We ate our crummy lunches – mine a PB&J, Andrew’s a bagel, hooray for unemployment – and I lay back on a rock to soak up some Vitamin D.

After some hard climbing up one of those rock piles that passes for a trail, we reached South Kinsman, the first peak of the day even though we’d already been hiking for several hours.

Unfortunately, the elevation gave us a chance to see the weather that was coming our way, which was rain. I put on my raincoat and we headed off into the clouds.

I thought that since we’d reached the first peak, the rest of the hike would be easier – after all, we were already up high, right? How hard could it be to traverse the ridge?

Of course, I had forgotten that the ridge in question was Kinsman. It wasn’t too hard to reach North Kinsman (no view this time), but then things got tougher. For one thing, continuing along the ridge meant leaving the Appalachian Trail, and the trail became narrower and bit less maintained. For another, we were all of a sudden going steeply uphill and downhill. The next 3.2 miles took what seemed like forever.

Plus, it started really raining. Not just drizzling, but raining. The last mile to the top of Cannon Mountain went more quickly, but I was getting cold. I climbed the fire tower just because it was my first time up Cannon, but there was zero visibility, and we were exposed to the wind. So down we went.

We decided to take the Hi-Cannon Trail down instead of heading back to Lonesome Lake. The first mile was really hard, and, as I said, “Hour six: Andrew and Chelsea get grumpy.” We were walking down steep, wet slabs of rock, in the rain, and my fingers were going numb. If I had slipped and fallen, I’m not sure my hands would have been much use. Plus, we regularly looked ahead of us to see steep drop-offs into the mist…. nobody wants to fall off a cliff.

The bottom of the trail was much nicer though, dirt switchbacks which we were able to speed along. By the time we reached the car, I wasn’t even cold, and I was back to being happy again.

In fact, I soon forgot how cold I had been, and how much I had longed for dry clothes and hot chocolate. I seldom hike unless it is long and hard, and the key to wanting to go hiking again is to quickly block out the unpleasant parts. Plus, it had been a long time since I’d been in the mountains, and my pure joy easily overrode the grumpy parts.

We hopped in my car to go pick up Andrew’s car at Kinsman Notch, and then grabbed McDonalds in Lincoln for dinner. It was my first bit of fast food in quite some time. After a long day on the trail, anything tastes good, and prospect of getting a burger and fries for $2 is always alluring. I’m ashamed of myself.

We said our goodbyes and drove off our separate ways, me north to Vermont, him south to Massachusetts. I was sad, driving away, because I had enjoyed the company, the mountains, and a day of freedom from my regular obligations.

As I headed back toward Franconia Notch, though, my spirits were lifted by a beautiful sunset. The clouds were drifting and spinning over the Cannon cliffs, lit up orange and pink by the setting sun.

What a wonderful way to end a wonderful day. I drove back to the Kingdom still a bit sad, but in peace.