The "schedule" called for a run today in the 5 mile range. I'm at work for a few days, and my options are limited. Sure, the skiing's great right now, but it certainly limits the trail running options. And there was no way I was going to run up and down Route 16. That would have been a whole new level of misery.
I'd spent the last couple days trying to come up with a solid plan to no avail. Finally, this afternoon, I decided that I would check out Dolly Copp Road. I figured that it would have seen a lot of snowmobile traffic. At around 4:00, I drove the couple miles up Route 16 and parked near the Hayes-Copp Ski Trail giving me a two-minute run to the unplowed portion of Dolly Copp. Well, Dolly Copp had seen snowmobile traffic, but only one snowmobile. I made it about 2 minutes up the road constantly postholing and at one point I went in almost to my knee. Enough of that. I turned around and went back to the car. Plan B it is!
Ideally, I would have gone a short way back south to the Great Gulf Trail, which is great for running, but after my Dolly Copp experience I wanted to go somewhere I was certain would be packed out. 50/50 shot at the Great Gulf Trail, and I couldn't take another strike. So, I drove to the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center to head up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail.
I know this trail pretty well having skied Tuckerman Ravine many times when I was younger and more foolish. (I once skied this. What the hell was I thinking?) My plan was to run the 2.4 miles to Hermit Lake Shelters, aka HoJos, and back down. Here's the catch the trail rises about 1900 feet in those 2.4 miles. So, yeah, I'm an idiot. The good news was that the trail sees a ton of traffic and was really well packed. I wore my YakTrax, and they were perfect. I also noticed some interesting tracks in the trail. They looked just the soles of the Inov-8 Mudclaw 340's. (Yes, I'm a total shoe geek.) Who could that be?
Anyway, running that much uphill is hard. Really hard. Actually, it reminded me a lot of cross country skiing because it hit a level of pain within the first half mile or so, but never got any worse. It just hurt. I took it pretty easy as not to die on the side of Mt. Washington. I was forced to stop (twist my arm) at one point because the snowcat was coming down the trail. Tucks is such a popular destination, the snow rangers have a snowcat for supplies, etc. In summer the trail feels like it's 8 miles wide, but in winter it is exactly one snowcat wide. So, I graciously moved to the side. And by the side, I mean the unpacked snow off the trail. I sunk in to mid-thigh. Just what I was hoping for. The snowcat churned up the snow making the sides of the trail much softer, but in most places I was able to stick to the hardpack in the middle. The corners were toughest because things were just more uneven. At one point it felt like my feet were falling asleep. I guess I was up on my toes so much that everything was getting a good stretch. It was a strange feeling.
I'm happy to report that I ran the whole way. No walking. Although the pace I was going could hardly be considered running. I reached HoJo's in about 37:30. This was the reward:
(OK, that's not actually what it looked like today as I didn't have a camera. It's a blatantly stolen pic from somewhere. But you get the point.)
There were about a dozen folks hanging out on the deck at HoJos eating dinner and whatnot. Couple comments. Couple questions. Then one woman said, "Well, you're better dressed than the last guy. He was wearing shorts. He said it took him 27 minutes."
"Um, was he skinny, glasses, soul patch type facial hair thing"
So I expected to arrive at HoJos as the toughest guy they'd seen all day. Instead, I decided to do this run on the same day and only about an hour after this guy. If he wasn't such a nice guy, I'd be pissed. Kevin's been in the top five of the Mt. Washington Road Race, so I guess I can take getting smoked by 10 minutes. Plus, he was rocking those snazzy Inov-8's. I wonder how he got those? Needless to say, I didn't hang around too long at HoJos. My "fans" seemed more concerned than impressed. I downed some Hammer Gel and headed back down the trail. Plus, I had worked up a good sweat on the way up. It was warm today, and with just a light top and a shell, I was overdressed.
The run down was great. In fact, as tired I felt on the way up, I felt pretty fresh on the way down. I figure that's a good sign. I ran in the snowcat tracks practically the whole way. They were soft and made for a nice landing. The YakTrax gave me the grip I needed, so it was nice. It took me about 21 minutes to get to the bottom for total of 58:25.
It wasn't the most fun I've ever had on a run, but it was definitely a good workout to say the least. I'm sure I'll hit it a couple more times as the season goes on.