Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Peak Snowshoe Race

This was my first Peak race and my first snowshoe race, but having visited Pittsfield numerous times, drank to silliness with the RD at Sherpa’s wedding, and hanging with Team Robert, I felt like an old pro.  I knew, or at least knew OF, almost a dozen other folks at the starting line.

The night before we had convinced (see: roped, connived, contrived, manipulated) Sherpa into staying the night in our cozy dwellings generously offered by the Strongs while they were in Mexico and doing at least one more loop with us.  I was the only one signed up for the 6.5 mile "fun run" while My Runner, Taps, and Puma were all signed up for the marathon.  My Runner's Pops and Bro showed in time for registration and signed up for the half-marathon.  We had a great Team Robert showing.

The next morning came early for me.  I'm slow to get ready.  I have my pace, and I can't seem to step it up.  So rather than keep people waiting I set my alarm 15 min earlier than everyone else.  This seems to have worked as I had all my gear prepped, including shit I had forgotten the night before, I was dressed, washed, packed, "bathroomed," and heat-warmered by the time we had planned to leave.

We packed in to two cars and started the 5 minute commute to downtown Pittsfield to pick up our registration.  We met Pop and Bro Robert while at the general store picking up our numbers.  I was happy to see them as we thought they might not show till well after the start (Pops is a volunteer firefighter and his hours are wonky).  Sherpa, already registered for his 100 mile race that started the day before at noon, chatted up the other runners eating breakfast.  He's a Peak veteran, and a major proponent of their work.

We head to the start with So. Much. Time. to kill.  I'm going crazy.  I kina hafta pee, but I'm not willing to leave the start line with less than 10 minutes to go.  This will come back to haunt me. 

Sherpa tells me he's gonna drag me up the mountain.  After hearing the trail is 4 miles up 2 miles down, I believe him.  I remember climbing this mountain at the Holidays are Over Party weekend- it's effing STEEP.  And other than kickboxing and hockey my training has been... wait, what's training again?  We vaguely hear Andy the RD tell us to line up, and I move to the back.  There are a TON of college aged kids in costumes.  I'm way too envious of the chick in silver leggings, a pink tank tunic, and an even pinker fishnet overshirt.  It looks like something my Gem doll wore.  She's ten years younger than me.  I picture how I’d look in that getup and I feel old.  (Later I pass her skinny slow ass while she's gasping and I feel inordinately superior.  Funny how that works.)

The course isn't easy.  I recognize the first few miles, but I'm moving slow.  The whole of team Robert is ahead of me: My runner, Pops, Bro, and Taps are moving in a group with a few ultra vets.  Puma and I leap frog up a few hills, but Sherpa is way back, hanging with folks he hasn't talked to and nursing wounds and pains from the marathon he ran night before.  I pause on "The Stairs" (a switch back trail that snakes up the side of the mountain) for a while waiting for Sherpa.  I finally saw him, but was getting chilled and was unwilling to wait.  Figured he was so much stronger than me that he would overtake me on the many climbs ahead.

The climbs were *tough*; I felt weak.  Still, I was having fun watching all the college aged kids around me in their groups having fun and encouraging each other.  What a great moment.  I came to a portion of the trail with some lookouts over other peaks and valleys of the area.  It was LOVELY and I wish I had a camera though it would not pick up the beauty.  I decided to real in Puma to pick up the pace.

And catch her I do.  Not without some effort, mind you.  I could see her on the switch backs and called out to her.  I could even see the Robert boys, though I knew that catching up to them would be a) unlikely, b)super draining, and c) useless as they were having guy-time and I would be an interloper.  I enjoyed my friendly hunt of Puma, who kept me moving hard even when I caught up to her.   We summit together, having seen Taps and My Runner coming down off the peak on the trail.  Pops and Bro are still there, and Puma takes off with them.  I wait for Sherpa.

Hanging out at the summit with the other runners and aid station volunteers, I am *desperately* searching for a place to pee.  The woods around the trails are pretty sparse, and I’m way to pee-shy to walk a foot off trail and drop trou.  The summit’s a clearing (lucky me) and of course no one was gonna drag a porta john up with a snowmobile.  There’s a small hut/cabin, and I take my chances, crouch behind it, and do whatcha do.  Ah the fun of outdoor sports.

Sherpa finally summits and in full Sherpa form.  He's the man everyone wants to talk to.  I get tired of waiting for him to quit socializing... and now I’m dragging HIM down the trail.  We WALK down hill... and walk, and walk... selfishly?  I start running, throwing a challenge to the Sherpa.  The run feels good for me, but I know Sherpa’s hurting. We walk and talk the rest of the way, others occasionally joining our conversation.  We had come to the mountain last night urging Sherpa to "come out with us for one more loop" and this was the only time any of us traveled with him.  Sherpa, and so many others, have given their time to me, running my race with me, for the pure pleasure of running with someone whose company you enjoy.  It was nice to finally return the favor.  

We get back to base in I don’t know how much time.  I mostly don’t care.  This was about the experience, not the time.  My Runner and Taps are back out on the course, Pops and Bro head out for their second of two laps.  Puma attempted another, but her shoes have torn up her feet and it's not possible.

Sherpa takes off before the Robert team comes back. He just misses My Runner and Taps coming off their second lap.  They're in good spirits and feeling great and I'm happy for them as they set out on lap 3.  It's a bit more before Bro comes loping off the trail.  At 15 he's got that gangly-horse look where he's all limbs and big feet and hands, but a baby face.  He comes in relatively easily- a testament to the Robert genes and his swim training, grabs some food and sits on a snow bank.  When I asked where Pops was, he stated, "I dunno... I left him. Maybe half an hour?"   Pops came in, as usual entertaining a group of runners with only slightly exaggerated stories, about 45 minutes later.  He seemed in good spirits, and that's all we are here for.

Pops, having worked the night before, decided to head out while he was still awake enough to drive.  The boys are maybe 2/3 up the mountain when it starts to rain.  We predict this may be the last lap, if the rain stays steady, but the weather refuses to be predictable: sleet, sun, clouds, wind, and more rain occur in the next hour and a half.

I look over the times while waiting for My Runner and Taps to come in.  I see that I’m 4th out of 4 in my age group, and note that the 1st place in the age group was only 20 minutes ahead of me.  I note with some satisfaction that if I had run this like a RACE, I would have won my age group.

The boys come in after third lap and eventually call it.  Happy with their experience, we all head home for showers then a trip to Long Trail where we celebrate our achievements.  Could I have run longer and suffered more?  Yes.  Did I want to?  No.  And I’m happy with my choice.

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