Coast + rainforest run.

One of the coolest things about living where I live is that you’re just an hour or two away from some pretty big, majestic mountains, and you’re only a bit over an hour away from the ocean. How many other places in the country have that going for them?

After heading out on some hiking trips for the last few weekends, I realized that I was missing out on the other side of the state. I love the ocean; why hadn’t I been there yet? I was pretty busy all week so I didn’t have much time to plan, but I woke up early and drove over to Cape Perpetua Scenic Area.

Almost as soon as I hit the coast, I was smack-dab in the middle of what I had hoped for. It was foggy and moody, with steep bluffs and rocky crags overlooking the Pacific. The road wound up and down the hills, which were covered in the tall Douglas fir trees. The roads were lined with stone walls and there was even a lighthouse. I had made it to the Acadia of the west.

After stopping at a picnic area to stretch my legs and breathe in some ocean air, I made my way to the Cummins Creek trailhead, hopped out, and started running. There was only one other car (another 4Runner) in the parking lot so I knew I’d have the trails to myself.

As a kid, I remember thinking people were crazy when they said there was rainforest right here in the United States. No way, thought my little New England self! But as I padded along the soft path and gradually climbed up through the moss-covered firs, I knew that there was rainforest. It was all around me. I never saw Cummins Creek, which was in deep valley below me, but from time to time I could hear it, and I crossed several small streams which emptied into the larger one.

After three or so miles of gentle uphill, I reached an overlook. It was too foggy to see the ocean, but I could gaze out over the ridges and deep valleys of firs. In a few places the trees thinned out to meadows, which were covered in wildflowers. I still hadn’t seen a single other person.

In all, I ran through the Cape Perpetua trail system for about two hours, never pushing myself, but just enjoying the scenery and the birdsong and the solitude. It was cool this early in the morning, and that was the point. I had a great run.

And then – back to the coast, where I went to a different picnic area, ate my lunch, wrote some letters (yes, some people still hand-write letters), and walked on the beach. A little boy was playing with a big, swooping kite, and I spent a silly amount of time trying to capture a good shot of it as it danced above the waves. I didn’t, really.

I wanted to soak up all of the salty air and the cold wind that I possibly could before I went back to Eugene, so I loitered on the beach for a while more, taking more and more pictures and finally just sitting looking at the water.

Then it was off to a coffeeshop to do some work. It’s funny, because I don’t like coffee that much, but I’m finding that I’m becoming a coffeeshop person anyway – it can be a much nicer place to work than my own house, where I am always distracted by things that I’d much rather be doing. After all, there’s bread that needs to get made, berries that need to get picked, and my room has been looking like a bomb went off in it recently.

It was great to finally see the coast and I am sure that I will be back again soon!

Improbable.

I had never known, before, that running a flat five kilometers in just under 21 minutes was something very exciting.

But this weekend, I competed in the Sunset Stampede 5k here in Navarre, and clocking in at 20 minutes and 43 seconds was very exciting indeed. It was good enough to get paid, which is something that I have never before been able to say about running. Here’s the story.

When I arrived in Navarre, I didn’t have much to do. I didn’t know anyone. I was living in a trailer with my single co-worker, and we saw plenty of each other during the day. I read books, and I researched a few stories for FasterSkier, but all in all, I was looking for something to do. And so I ran.

I didn’t run much, but the production of deciding to go for a run, changing into running clothes, going for the actual run – which was often only 35 minutes long – and then coming back, stretching, changing my clothes and taking a shower, eating…. well, that took up enough time. It gave me a window that I had all to myself, just me and the surprisingly deserted streets off highway 98.

That lasted about a week. Then I remembered that I was retired from racing and training and didn’t have to run if I didn’t feel like it. So I didn’t.

After I went through those two phases, I decided that I needed something to focus on. Luckily for me, there was a 5k right in Navarre at the beginning of May. I was sure I wouldn’t run fast then, but I decided to sign myself up anyway. Then, at least, I would have to run a few times a week, because everyone knows that racing while out of shape is no fun at all. I also knew that I would have to work the day of the race, so figured that I might as well train a little bit to give myself an opportunity to make up for the fact that I’d be tired.

I made myself a training plan, but I didn’t follow it. I never got around to those VO2Max intervals. Why would I? I’m retired, for God’s sake.

And so the week of the run came around, and I did a short run every other day. I meant to do a hard workout, but I didn’t. And then the day of the run arrived. I took special care to drink gatorade all day at work to stay hydrated, and by a lucky break, we finished early, so I had the afternoon to recover.

I warmed up just as I would for a normal race when racing was still my job, trying not to think about how the 40 minutes I ran were as long as any workout I’d done in almost two weeks. When we lined up on the starting line, I was in the midst of many very fit-looking Air Force men. Most were tatooed and were wearing nice running flats. I had my year-old Salomon trail shoes and a silly pair of sunglasses.

When the gun went off, I followed the leading woman. We ran at what seemed like a sustainable pace, going through the first mile at 6:26. Compared to the men we were running with, our strides were efficient. We were having an easier time of it, not fighting our bodies or our feet or the pavement, just running.

Then she got tired. I was in the lead on my own, trying to reel in men, at the halfway point when the race turned around and went back to the start. As I passed all the runners behind me, I noticed that I had a decent, although not indefensible gap. So I just kind of ran.

I had no idea how fast to run. I hadn’t run a race since Thanksgiving, and I hadn’t even really run any hard pieces. I didn’t know when I’d get tired. I just had no idea what I was doing out there. I went through mile two at 13:13, a bit slower than mile one, and told myself to pick it up.

With half a mile to go, I was undeniably tired. But it didn’t seem to matter; none of the women had caught me. I did my best to make it towards the finish line. As I turned off the main drag, a photographer told me that I had 40 seconds left. But as I entered the finishing straightaway, I heard a different message.

“She’s coming! She’s coming!”

I looked over my shoulder (bad form) and saw that, to my horror, someone was, in fact, coming for me. If I wanted the win, I’d have to start moving. I’d have to sprint. And so I did. It wasn’t a sprint I am proud of, but after running alone for two miles, I won the race by two seconds.

My time wasn’t something I’m proud of either. I didn’t train for the race, but I’m a competitive person and I hold myself to high standards. I ran faster than that in high school all the time. Training or no, I know what an okay 5k is. That wasn’t it.

But.

I won.

And I got interviewed by the local newspaper!

And….. I won a cash prize of $200.

What???

In my entire ski career, in which I was supposedly a “professional”, I did not win that much money combined. So I’m not sure what it says that as soon as I “retire”, I start winning money in a different sport. I guess the last few years of my life have been rather futile.

Mostly, though, I’m confused because I have been in more competitive races which have no prize money at all. I guess I just picked the right race on the right day. I couldn’t be more pleased with myself, even if it all is pretty confusing.

After the race, there was a fun little party at a beach pagoda, where there was free beer, dinner, live music, swimming, and a volleyball court which was mostly populated by people’s children. My roommate Jamie came out to watch the race – these pictures are hers – and we had a good time watching the sunset on the beach.

It was a really fun experience. More than the winning or the cash, it was fun because a lot of people came out for it. It was a big race, and an event that people were excited for. We heard the national anthem on the start line and had a moment of silence for our military comrades. There was a bouncy castle for kids, and everyone stayed for the post-race party. A lot of the racers weren’t from Navarre, so I can’t say that I became part of the town, but still, it was fun to see a bunch of local people get together, and it was fun for me to do something that I don’t do every day.

Mostly, it was fun to race in a low-key way, with no expectations, no pressure, just because I wanted to. That’s what I get to do for the rest of my life, and this was a great start.

Oh yeah, and I sweat a lot. I grossed Jamie out with my sweat. That was also kind of fun.

The early-morning workout bribe.

My drinkbelt hasn’t seen the light of day for quite some time – not since Monday, March, 21st to be exact. That day, I went for a short ski with Jennie Brentrup at Oak Hill in Hanover. The snow was, well, not good. But we had fun. After that, I packed my trusty training partner in a small Dynastar duffle bag patched with duct tape. The bag traveled down the east coast in my 4-Runner and ultimately was shoved under my bed, where it has stayed, mostly unopened, since I arrived in Florida.

Last night, I dug out the duffle bag and filled my drink belt up with water in preparation for an early morning.

It was our first day off in 25 days, and it seemed masochistic to wake up early in the morning yet again. But that’s what I wanted to do. I have been running after work most days, waiting until 6 or 6:30 in the evening when it is cool enough to work out comfortably. Instead, I wanted to run in the early morning, and do my first “very long” run of the season.

To accomplish this, I resorted to an old trick. I call it the early-morning workout bribe. It’s a system I began using in Crested Butte, Colorado the summer before my senior year of college. I would start fieldwork for my thesis at 8 a.m., but because of the thunderstorms that rolled in almost every evening, it was best to train before work. When I was running, this was no problem- I could get up a little early, run from the cabin, have breakfast, and head off into the field. But when I needed to rollerski, things were more complicated. It was a 20 minute drive to get to a place with pavement appropriate for rollerskiing, and I had to take all of my work gear with me and go straight to the field afterwards. It required an earlier start and a lot more planning.

So on the mornings when I rollerskied, I would buy myself breakfast and a coffee at Camp 4. Not only was their coffee delicious, but their breakfast burritos were to die for. If you are ever in Crested Butte, check it out. Camp 4 was pretty much the sole reason that I rollerskied that summer, and it was extremely effective.

This morning, I tried the bribery method again, and set my alarm for 6:40, 20 minutes later than usual.

I started running on the mainland side of the Navarre bridge. The foot path on the side of the main bridge felt a little sketchy – rather than being an integrated part of the bridge’s concrete structure, it was a metal outcropping. Luckily I’m not afraid of heights, because it felt a bit like I was dangling out over the Sound.

One I reached Santa Rosa Island, I turned right and ran out the bike path until I reached the start of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. I can’t say that I was running particularly quickly or efficiently, but it felt good to be out in the early morning. I assessed the beach houses as I ran by and passed innumerable walkers out in pairs or with their small dogs. I passed a place called “Sandy Bottoms” which advertised Baja Fish Tacos and might have started salivating.

But I didn’t stop. I ran out to the seashore and then turned around and stopped at a small entrance to the beach, where I took in the views and had some water (thanks, drinkbelt!).

The beach looks pretty much the same anywhere, but I was interested to see the difference that four miles can make. Whereas the beach where we park and walk to work is wide and dominated by dunes, this beach was narrow. It made me remember that our usual walking route sports signs advertising that is was selected as one of America’s best restored beaches. My grandparents always talk about how the hurricanes hammer the beach and destroy the dunes, literally washing them into the ocean. At Navarre Beach State Park, the dunes had been rebuilt, whereas a few miles away, they were left to fend for themselves. In time, they will accumulate more sand, but for now, the beach is much smaller.

It was still just as beautiful. And so quiet! There weren’t even any early-morning fishermen out setting up.

After running back to my car – I ran 9 or 10 miles, something I haven’t done since, hmm, October? – I stretched, put on a dry shirt, and headed out for breakfast. That was, after all, my reward for getting up early on my day off.

As far as I can tell, there’s only one permanent coffeeshop in Navarre. I have passed it a few times. It’s called Higher Ground, and it resides in a cute, tiny building with a fresh fruit stand behind it. When I walked in, I was greeted by sunny, bright colors on the walls, vintage prints and advertisements, and some cheery yet calm Flamenco guitar music in the background. I took a booth and was soon sipping a capuccino and perusing a menu.

Was I tempted by the gourmet veggie quiche? Yes. What about the buttered croissant with fresh fruit? Why, yes.

But I could not order those things. When I imagine a perfect southern breakfast, I think of one thing: biscuits and sausage gravy. Not the crappy kind, but the good kind. This idealistic breakfast vision was born in Wakulla Springs, Florida, some years ago, when I stayed at the lodge of the State Park (which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places) with my parents and had amazing biscuits and gravy for breakfast in the beautiful dining room.

And Higher Ground specifically advertised biscuits and gravy. I had to try them. I ordered “The Eye Opener”: one biscuit topped with an egg and another with sausage, all covered in gravy.

It was amazing.

I loved the food, the atmosphere, and the nice women who ran the place. I was tempted to order another coffee to go, but since I haven’t been drinking coffee in the morning, that seemed like it could lead to an overcaffeinated disaster. I also wanted to buy some more baked goods from the counter, but reined myself in. Overall, I was so happy to find a place like this in Navarre; before now I wasn’t entirely convinced that it was just a giant strip mall of a town with no local, independent character.

Could I eat breakfast here every day?

Ah. But then it wouldn’t be a bribe.

Fall comes.

Did I mention that autumn has arrived in northern New England?

It has. It has arrived, in all its rainy, cold sogginess. Fortunately, for every day that features cold rain, there’s one – or at least half of one – which is clear and completely beautiful. Today was one of those days. The leaves are changing and almost passed, coating some hillsides in yellow and others in orangey red. A cold breeze tempers the warm air. These are perfect days to be outside.

Which was lucky for me, because I was supposed to do a long workout. I decided to run up Smarts – which I have written about before, but, well, I’ve run Smarts many times and every time is different. Last time it was summer. This time it was fall. Before, I’ve been alone, or with Dartmouth, or with my dog. This time I was with someone else’s dog.

Yes, that’s right, I took someone else’s dog for a workout. I’m housesitting and one of the two black labs is very rambunctious. I decided maybe a workout would be good for him, mellow him out a little.

And it was funny to watch: for the first 45 minutes, he was dragging me around on the leash, so excited to be going on an adventure. Gradually he ran out of steam and ended up just trotting behind me, but he still had enough energy in reserve to shoot off down the trail to bark at other hikers if I didn’t keep him on a leash.

It turns out that running on the Appalachian Trail with a dog in front of you isn’t really ideal. It’s important to, like, see where your feet are landing, and stuff. Also, even when you aren’t putting any pressure on the leash, holding it changes your running form by a surprising amount. I was not prepared for all this. The run took me longer than I thought it would.

But I didn’t really mind. It was nice to have a buddy; I love dogs and am sad I don’t have one in Craftsbury. Plus, of course, it was a gorgeous day, and I was outside. The view from the firetower was colored differently than the last time I’d been on the mountain.

I only have three weeks of fall left before I leave for Finland (still can’t believe it!), so it’s important that I can get outside and enjoy the season. I don’t want to miss this fall, and the best way to see it is undoubtedly on a trail, in the mountains. Rollerskiing is okay, but it’s not the same. On a trail, in the middle of nowhere, you can really be surrounded by fall.

Parting thought: when I’m older (like 27, maybe) and have retired from ski racing, I’m going to have a great dog and we’re going to go on adventures every weekend. That’s what I decided. Until then… housesitting will have to do.

A fun, blustery day on the Long Trail north.

Our team suffers from a certain lack of adventurousness in our training, I would say. We rollerski in approximately three places; every once in a while, we’ll venture out for a longer point-to-point, but this happens literally three or four times a year. If we need to do a long run/hike, we go to Stowe and Mount Mansfield. We do the same running workouts around the ski trails or around the lake every week.

So many times, one of us (or even two of us) have wanted to go somewhere new, but the rest of the team, tired from a long week of training already, has argued that it’s too much of a drive, too much of a hassle. I’ve been on both sides of this argument.

Every once in a while, though, we break out of the mold. Today Lauren and I decided that, goshdarnit, we were going to explore the Long Trail going over Jay Peak. It would have been easier to do with support, and with an extra car to make a point-to-point, but no matter; we were going to go anyway, even if it was just a self-supported out-and-back. We were aiming for 3 to 3 1/2 hours of running and hiking.

And so after a 7 a.m. breakfast at the Outdoor Center – French toast, bacon, yogurt with raspberries and dried fruit on top, cantaloupe, tea – we set out in the silver 4Runner, northbound.

When we arrived at the Long Trail crossing on Route 242, it had turned blustery. I was nervous that it was going to be a long, cold hike. But after only 5 minutes of jogging, we were plenty warm and shed our long-sleeve shirts. I was impressed with the trail – while there were certainly some steep, rocky sections, much of it was a nice, dirt path, and the grade was gradual enough that we were able to run in many places. As we rose higher on the mountain, we were able to look south over Green Mountains.

All of a sudden, the trail entered a giant rockpile with two snowmaking pipes on top. After scrambling over this odd collection of items, we were dumped out onto a ski trail, where we could look East towards Jay as well.

We were immediately pummeled by the wind, but we took a few pictures before putting our long-sleeves back on. I think my favorite part about the landscape was the combination of dying yellow grass and fading wooden snowfence. Many alpine ski trails (ahem Stowe, I’m looking at you) are covered in taller plants which need to be bushwhacked. These trails were just soft, billowy grass. With the gray clouds overhead, I felt like I was in northern Britain or something. Or something.

After appreciating the scenery, we crossed the trail and scrambled along the white-blazed rocks that would lead us to the summit.

The wind up here was even stronger. We felt a bit like we might blow away. Or at the very least, our hats might blow right off of our heads. At the summit, clouds seemed to be flying by and there was barely a view. We hurried down, past the summit lodge and back onto the alpine trails, and began to head down the north side of the mountain.

After the trail went back into the woods for a short period, it popped back onto the ski trail briefly, and this is where our adventure began to get strange. There were two trails heading into the woods. Neither showed any evidence of white blazes. We ventured down the ski trail a bit further, but became convinced that this was the wrong move. The first unblazed trail ended at a small pond 100 feet into the woods. The second, well, it was covered in orange tape and warning signs: ski area boundary.

Then the signs got bizarre.

Huh?

The next sign was special, too:

It’s not just the photo…. 95% of the writing had disappeared from the sign. But as best as we could tell, it said, “This is the place that if people get lost they spend the night outside. Is it worth it?”

I felt a little bit like we were in some horror movie: Long Trail Gone Wrong. To make matters worse, the white blazes were very few and extremely far between. We still weren’t completely sure if we were even on the Long Trail or some other weird side spur. But we continued on down the side of the mountain and eventually made it to a shelter, where we saw some other hikers. We knew we were in the right place.

On our way down, Lauren had really slipped on some wet rock and kind of tore up her leg. We both began to trip more. Oops, it turns out we were both really tired! How did that happen? Well, a long week of training, not quite enough sleep, and yesterday when we were supposed to have the afternoon off after a glycogen depletion workout, I had gone down to Stowe and hiked Mount Mansfield with the rowers. Was this the best idea for recovery? No, and my quads and calves were punishing me for it. But it had been a beautiful day and I had needed to fulfill my spiritual yearning for the mountains. Plus, getting out of Craftsbury, with people I don’t spend every minute of every day with, is always a bonus.

Anyway, we passed the shelter and kept running for a bit, then decided we should probably turn around and head back to the car. In our exhausted state, who knows how long it might take us?

Going back up the mountain, we saw an additional sign that really clarified what was going on with this section of trail:

Right! So all those people getting lost were in the winter! Which would explain why they were so concerned, because getting lost in the winter would be a huge bummer. All of a sudden, things made sense. I even hypothesized that maybe the trail wasn’t blazed because they didn’t want skiers trying to follow it.

Anyway, we eventually hiked back up the section of ski trail (my calves were seriously questioning my instructions at this point) and found a nice older couple to take our picture at the top. We got to enjoy the yellow grassiness one more time before jogging back down to the car, where we more or less collapsed. Neither of us wanted to move any part of our body in the near, or distant, future.

It was a great morning, no matter how tired we felt. I can’t wait to try running that same section from the north side, perhaps when I am less exhausted. In any case, we were thrilled to go somewhere new, somewhere that lived up to and even surpassed our high expectations.

Finally, I swear we didn’t try to coordinate our clothes…. we just accidentally turned out matching!

Gloomy Days

When you open your eyes and see this out the window, it’s hard to get out of bed:

Dark. Gloomy. Rain in the distance. These are things that seriously hamper my motivation to go train.

Yesterday was particularly tough – the morning workout was threshold around the lake, something I often struggle with. “Around the lake” sounds flat, doesn’t it? And Big Hosmer Pond isn’t that big, is it? Well. The loop is actually 7.1 miles long, and starts with a long climb – about 200 feet of height differential in a mile.

Threshold work is supposed to be light and fun. The idea is that you are working hard, but not accumulating too much lactic acid. For me, I try to keep my heart rate at 180 to 185 beats per minute for threshold work. That’s about 90% of my max.

When you do 8 minute intervals at threshold pace, it feels good, like you could keep doing intervals at that pace forever.

When you run for 7 miles straight at threshold pace, it doesn’t feel so easy. Except for the fact that you don’t sprint at the end, the pace is not all that different than racing over the same distance.

Anyway, yesterday morning I woke up and looked out the window. It was gray. It was drizzling. It was a little bit cold. And I didn’t have a training partner for the workout: Ida, Susan, and Hannah are gone on extended trips, and Lauren was in Jericho doing biathlon. I ate a quick breakfast and set out on the workout.

Even on gloomy days, you have to suck it up and try to motivate yourself. Was I as excited for the workout as I would have been if it was perfect running weather and I had a buddy to run with? Absolutely not. But I did manage to get the workout done and accomplish what I was supposed to accomplish. When I got home, I made zucchini bread, with lots of chocolate chips, and ate it warm out of the oven. Gloom calls for hot baked goods with melty chocolate.

This morning, I was faced with another similar situation. Before I went to bed last night, I checked the weather, which called for rain all day. Lauren and I had planned a 3 1/2 hour bike ride, and we had to do the workout no matter what the weather did. When we woke up, it was indeed wet and cold. But we put on our long-sleeve shirts and headed out promptly at 8 a.m. anyway.

On the first downhills, our fingers and toes felt frosty. But after ten minutes of riding, we were headed up the East Craftsbury road, which climbs about 700 feet in 4 miles. It’s no mountain pass, certainly, but it did warm us up.

On numerous occasions we felt sure we were about to ride into the rain. We could see it, right there, on the hill across the road. But after a minute of light sprinkles, the rain would disappear, and we would once again be riding through the wet, cold air – nothing to get too excited about, but at least it wasn’t wet, cold rain.

The ride went perfectly except for one thing: I flatted twice. The first time, I was upset, but changed the tube and used one of Lauren’s CO2 cartridges to fill up with air. As neither of us had used one of these handy tools before, there was a lot of giggling and screeching, especially when the cartridge seemed to freeze onto my valve. New skill: check!

The second time, we were in Irasburg, with less than 45 minutes left to ride. I chickened out and didn’t feel like fixing another flat so close to home. Luckily, my housemate Anna happened to be driving through Irasburg and picked me up! So I got a ride home, where I took a long, hot shower and ate some more zucchini bread.

Fall is in a way the toughest time of year for finding motivation. It should be easy, because racing is so immediate: you need to get out there and get ready. But at the same time, you’ve been doing dryland training for months already, and you’re kind of sick of it. Do you really want to go for another long rollerski now that it’s cold and, invariably, raining?

I know that I have to buckle down and stop being such a gloom-bucket myself. There’s always a hot shower waiting for me at home – so how bad can it be?

What's wrong with this picture? Look closer....

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.