Things I Don’t Want to Forget: Presidential Traverse

Presidential Traverse | My Monotonous Life

The Hike of Doom never disappoints!

I’m pretty sure that Mark, Erica, and I hadn’t even finished hiking Mt Washington last year before we had started to plot a longer hike this year. I’m the avid researcher of our trio, so I spent plenty of time over the winter day dreaming about t and digging up info on possible routes, and we ultimately came up with a hut-to-hut hike of the Presidential Traverse. At a minimum the Presidential Traverse is about 20 miles, seven 4,000+ ft peaks, and over 8,000 ft of elevation gain. Our plan worked out to 20.24 miles, seven peaks (all over 4,000 ft), 9,001 ft of elevation gain, and 8,378 ft of elevation loss.

 

Dear knees,

I’m sorry.

Love & glucosamine,

SG

 

To say that I have been looking forward to this hike for months is an understatement. I had a lot of awesome things to look forward to this summer (Chicago! Falmouth! Weddings! Heaps of other stuff I won’t list!), but this trip has been at the top of the list despite being a relatively short one and including as much sweating as it did relaxing.

To say that this trip lived up to all of my expectations is also an understatement. Theoretically this “things I don’t want to forget” format means it’s a shorter post, but I don’t think that’s going to hold true…regardless, there’s a photo dump on Flickr and these are the things I don’t want to forget:

  • On Saturday, we caught the hiker shuttle from our endpoint to our starting point. The shuttle takes an hour and I suspect it’s normally a quiet ride at 9am. We picked up a family at the second stop, and the mother, Shannon, sat with me across the aisle from Mark and Erica. Our 5am start was extra early for me (whenever the three of us are planning a hike I groan when they tell me what time we’re starting), so I was letting them carry the conversation. We had already been up for four and a half hours and were full of “let’s get this show on the road” energy, and as we were chatting and laughing hysterically about things that weren’t all that funny, she turned to me and asked “are they like this all the time?! Do they ever crash?!?” I told her that this is 100% standard for them at any hour of the day, but I’m not sure she believed me. Until we caught up with her again at Madison Spring, where we were equally as hyper and loud. Surprisingly, she (and her husband and son) didn’t run screaming to find new seats when we sat down with them for dinner.
  • We dropped our packs at Madison Spring, had “lunch” (my fourth meal of the day, but it was around 12:30 so that makes it lunch?), and then headed up the last half mile to summit Mt Madison. Mark and Erica go up much faster than I do, so I when I finally got to the summit a few minutes later they were already up there, standing next to a couple who had been on the shuttle with us earlier that morning. I got there and pointed at the couple and was all “hey! I know you!” But you guys? I totally don’t know them. They were normal and quiet and were probably trying to avoid us on the shuttle. I force friendship with strangers while I’m in the hiking with the same dedication with which I avoid eye contact with strangers while riding the T.
  • Steaming feet! Gross, but also hilarious? Maybe just gross.
  • Speaking of forcing people to be friends with me, I would like to state for the record that while we did make friends with a lovely family on this trip, it was THEM that found US this time! I offered to share our deck of cards with Ben when he was looking for some in the afternoon, but it was his father Gary who chose to sit with us at dinner and there was no going back after that. Bonus: they were also staying at Lakes on Sunday night, so the fun didn’t have to end after just one vicious post-dinner game of Hearts.

Presidential Traverse | My Monotonous Life

  • We caught most of the sunset from Madison (I’m such a jerk – I kept thinking “meh, the sunset from Lakes is so much better” but the truth is that the sunset at Madison is equally beautiful even if it isn’t a straight westerly view), but I didn’t think about going back out after it was dark (it was cold, I’m a wuss). Then I went to bed, and holy cow! I had an amazing view of the stars out of the window next to my bunk. Given that I woke up no fewer than a half dozen times over the course of the night, I took complete advantage of that view.
  • Sunday started off with a bang! By “with a bang” I mean “with losing Erica”. Erica took off like the mountain goat that she is as we headed from the hut to summit our first peak of the day, Mt Adams, and left Mark and I straggling behind. We scaled the boulder pile that is Adams, got to the top…and she wasn’t there. It was windy and chilly and incredibly foggy and we figured she must have headed down to keep moving and stay warm, so we took our photo and started down. Maybe five minutes later we thought we heard my name, but when we turned around the group behind us didn’t acknowledge us and we couldn’t see anything through the fog, so we kept going. Then we heard my name again, and realized that Erica somehow ended up behind us. We hollered back asking where she was and heard “I’M AT THE TOP OF F*CKING MOUNT ADAMS!” Hilarity ensued (for Mark and I. Erica? Not so much), and you better believe that Erica learned quickly to stay within sight/hearing of us for the rest of our trip.
  • Sunday was brutal. It was 7.9 miles, 3,540 feet of elevation gain, and about 3,300 ft of elevation loss…we went up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down all. day. long. But after we had descended Jefferson, as we were working our way towards, up, and over Clay and about four miles into our day (I think), I could NOT stop looking around and feeling overwhelmingly happy. Hands down this ~2 miles was my favorite hiking of the trip.

Presidential Traverse | My Monotonous Life

  • S: “I see Crawford Path!” M: “You see AFRICA!?!” Almost, Mark. Almost. Let me tell you three more times so that you will actually hear it.
  • Swimming at Lakes! So cold. SO cold! So worth it. But seriously. SO EFFING COLD.
  • Monday morning, before we left Lakes, I forced our new friends to both take a photo with us and to add us as friends on facebook while explaining that they were stuck with me for life (it’s like I’m the little sister they never wanted!). This is how I operate. At least I told them it was happening instead of saying goodbye and acting like we would never meet again all normal-like…and then later using my stalker skillz to find them on facebook, like I did last year to Viagara and He Who Shall Not Be Trail Named.

Presidential Traverse | My Monotonous Life

  • We kept bumping into another couple who had been on the hiker shuttle with us, but instead of accosting them anonymously I introduced myself to them when we bumped into them at the summit of Mt Eisenhower. We crossed paths again when we stopped for a break at Mizpah Springs, but they left to head down the final ~2.5 miles before we did. About halfway down, we came across Dave standing in the middle of the trail, looking into the trees and looking rattled. As soon as he saw us, he told us he had been rushed by a squirrel and let us pass him while he recovered from the shock…we realized Liz wasn’t with him and asked if the squirrel had got her. Turns out she was just rocketing downhill, so when we caught up with her about a quarter mile from the trailhead we told her that Dave had been rushed by a squirrel and her response was “is that what he said to tell me?!” I told her that it was true, that there was blood everywhere. ;) (We’re super hilarious to run into in the middle of the woods.) She was a good sport and we assured her that he really was fine and she did not have to go back to find him, and then we were off on the final flat stretch back to the car.
  • That final flat stretch? Easy hiking but so warm and so moist…like being in a crock pot. The difference in temperature between the valley and the summits is sometimes jarring. The analogies you make after three days in the woods are also sometimes jarring.

Presidential Traverse | My Monotonous Life
Hike of Doom 2015, I can’t wait to see what you’ve got!

100 Happy Days

I don’t remember where or how I first came across the 100 Happy Days hashtag, but whatever I saw had me intrigued enough to look into it and discover the site behind it. I had been planning to do some kind of “photo a day” project over the winter, and coming across 100 Happy days mid-January fit perfectly…so I dove in. I ended up with 96 photos, two videos, and two days missed. Honestly, I’m shocked that I only missed two days!!

If we’re friends on Instagram you’ve already seen these over the last few months. For the rest of you (or if you want to see them as a collection/in order) I pulled the photos into an album on Flickr so head over there to see all of my 100 Happy Days in the same place, and check out some of my favorites below!

 

100 Happy Days Snapshot

Year in Running: 2013

I promise you this blog isn’t turning into all-running-all-the-time, but since I do spend a lot of time running, you have to deal with hearing about it periodically. I came across this survey on a few blogs that I read and really liked the idea of sitting down to figure out how I would answer, so here you go: my year in running.

  • Best race experience? Falmouth, hands down. Falmouth was totally unexpected – I didn’t even attempt to get a number in the lottery, but a got a bib through a friend of a friend who works for the race organizer. I was super nervous about this race because, at seven miles, it was the longest distance I’ve ever raced. The course is known to have a number of challenging hills. It’s also in August, on Cape Cod when humidity and heat are an Year in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Lifeincredibly real threat, and those are my least ideal running conditions (they guarantee a post-race migraine). Oh, and at 13,000 runners, it’s the largest race I’ve ever run, which means all kinds of crazy logistics….but it’s Falmouth! Falmouth is a “bucket list” race for runners from around the world, and I was lucky enough to have a bib fall into my lap, so there was no backing out. I planned to run with the friend who had finagled me a bib, and as she was coming off a back injury our plan was to just take it easy. We dubbed it a “seven mile party on the run”, and that’s exactly what we did (with heaps of goofy race photos to prove it!). We zigged and zagged across the street and PRed in running under hoses and sprinklers. We high-fived every little kid we saw with an outstretched hand. We sang along to the music being played by both live bands and folks with huge speaker set-ups on the sidelines (the crowd support for this race is, with no hyperbole, legendary). We laughed a lot, and we ran my slowest race ever, and it was AWESOME. Before Pete and I had even driven out of Falmouth to head home after the race, I was plotting to buy a house there in order to guarantee me a race bib every year (donations towards this goal are accepted and earn you visiting rights). Runners up: Firefighters 10k and Edaville Rain Run – Pete’s first race!

Year in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Life

  • Best run? Running in the Hamptons in March. Pete and Mark went on ahead of me and I had a tough, exhausting run that ended up including a lot of walking. Despite that, it was also a beautiful run through a state park and with a stretch along the beach, and maybe I spent part of that run worried that I was lost and never going to find Pete and Mark again and so would die in the woods….but it’s definitely the first run that comes to mind when I think of great runs this year. Runners up: my Philly run in October, running the Tan in Melbourne with Ros,  and (surprisingly) my super hilly training runs for Falmouth.Year in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Life
  • Best new piece of gear? I’m not a huge gear person (at least I don’t think I am?), but I finally bought a pair of insulated running tights in an effort to do more running this winter than I did last winter, and I la-la-love them. I’m waiting to find another pair on super-sale to snatch up, because I would like to own a pair for every day of the week.
  • Best piece of running advice you received? I’m really not sure how to answer this one, because there isn’t one specific thing that I heard or read that clicked and changed things. I guess the best advice (that I didn’t get from anyone in particular but had the biggest impact on my running this year) was to really embrace strength training – and to do it consistently. The impact on my running was huge! I set PRs in every distance I race in numerous times this year (10k in April and again October, 5 miler in May and again in November, 5k in August). I’ve also been more comfortable running for longer distances than I have been since I was running three seasons of track in high school. The impact on my life wasn’t exactly small, either! My goal this year was simply to get strong, but I was hoping that “get strong” would lead to “get back to my pre-desk job weight”…I’m not there (yet?), but I did lose six stubborn pounds and I am back at my pre-desk job clothing size despite the extra few pounds. I dropped ~3% body fat, too. The mental perks have been great, and I picked up a bunch of bootcamp buddies along the way.
  • Most inspirational runner? This is hard! I am ridiculously lucky to have a lot of inspiring running friends. One of them survived three months in a coma, came out of it barely able to walkYear in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Life, and is now running half marathons on the regular…and has taught me to appreciate every. freaking. day. (even a bad day is a good day) and every. freaking. run (even a bad run is a good run). One of them survived cancer as a child and is winning age-group medals at races. One of them has dropped heaps of weight and came out of it with a truly inspiring attitude. One of them set amazing goals and wasn’t afraid to talk honestly about the struggles of training and the disappointment of not reaching a goal, yet never gave up. Sorry! I can’t pick just one.
  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? PR city! Strong. SO MUCH FUN.

And last, but not least, here’s the recap from my race tracker spreadsheet for 2013…two races left before I’m done for the year (fun ones! Girls Night Out this weekend and the Ugly Sweater Run the following).

Year in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Life

Fall 2013, Number 4: Celebrate My Birthday…

…by sipping tasty wines with some of my favorite ladies. (That’s a long one.)

When I first hatched this plan, I had every intention of heading back to the Farm Coast to visit one of the wineries that Pete and I visited and loved. By the time actual planning was happening, I decided that there are so many wineries around here that I shouldn’t be repeating any…just yet. A new plan was formed: tour and tasting at Newport Vineyards followed by some meandering through and dinner in Newport.

Newport Vineyards, Rhode Island

We did both the tour and the tasting. The tour was quick and educational. I think the last time I actually did a tour of a vineyard was in elementary school on a family trip to California. I have vague memories of a photo op pretending to smash grapes, and zero memories of the winemaking process. These guys did a great job including information about what makes their vineyard unique without sounding too sales-pitchy, and gave us a high level overview of the winemaking process.

After we all became wine-making experts, we moved into their tasting tent and got down to the real reason we were there: with five of us all willing to share tastes, we managed to sample the majority of the thirty seven wines they make. The two gentlemen working the tasting were great about making suggestions when we weren’t sure what to try next, and offered sometimes hilarious commentary when we were deciding between two specific wines – “this one is like a shovel of strawberries in the face” being so hilarious at the time that I actually made a note of it on my tasting cheat sheet. In the end, we bought two cases of wine between the five of us. I guess we liked the place!

Newport Vineyards Wine Tasting

After finishing at the winery, we headed into Newport (the Vineyards are actually in Middletown, just North of Newport) and did some meandering and shopping, and finished the night off with dinner at The Red Parrot. Dinner was tasty, and between the ability to continue window shopping while we waited for our table (their pagers have a one block radius) and the variety of food available, it was the perfect way to end our night.

Birthday Girls Day? Success!

Fall 2013, Number 5: Set a new 10k PR

Boston Firefighters 10k Start | My Monotonous Life

Where’s Sarah?! Should I have worn a stripey outfit instead?

This was my third year running the Boston Firefighters Memorial 10k – it was my first ever race at the 10k distance two years ago, and both last year and this year I conned convinced a bunch of my running peeps to do it with me. It’s a fun race with a great band playing after, and the weather tends to be perfect for hanging out post-race in a parking lot with good people. Plus, one of our running peeps happens to be a firefighter at the BFD, and we love to support him and his colleagues.

(I apologize in advance if you’re not a runner, this is kind of long but hopefully not super boring?)

I was  determined to set a new personal record (PR) at this race this year. The course in past years was flat and fast, and thanks to consistent bootcamping I’ve been running faster in the last six months than I have since I started running again post-college. The course was changed not long before the race, so I didn’t know what to expect until the morning of the race…which made me a little nervous, but it worked out great – the new course avoided the big hill near the start/finish that I had been worrying about. Plus, now the final mile (1.1 miles if you want to get technical) loops through the park that was a part of our regular stomping grounds when we lived in Lower Mills – lots of good memories to get me through the last bit of the race!

I lined up at the start with a number of ladies from the running club, but knew that some of them are too fast for me to even dream about keeping up with, and some of them were taking it easy as they had run the BAA Half Marathon the week before. I jokingly commented to one of them, Angi, that if I pace with her I’d nail my PR – knowing that I run with her during our regular runs when I’m trying to get some speed in (and occassionally when she humors me and slows down to something closer to my usual pace) – but I also told her that I knew she was only seven days out from a half, so I was expecting her to run her own race and  ditch me at some point to slow down and take it easy.

Boston Fire Fighters 10k fire boat | My Monotonous Life

But here’s the thing about running buddies…they love to crush their own goals, but they also love to watch and help you crush yours. It was honestly unintentional, but once I had planted the seed of “if we run 9:20 miles, I’ll PR this race” into Angi’s head, that seed started to grow. Our first mile was pretty comfy pace-wise and a little crowded, so we were just racing along each of us listening to our own music and thoughts. Right around the mile 1 marker there was a pothole that caught Angi and she fell. (I should note here that at least three other runners stopped to help her up if needed and make sure she was okay. Runners really are the best!) We walked for a minute and she tried to tell me to go on without her –  it was my race…but I don’t leave my people behind, especially if they may be hurt. She was feeling okay and ready to run again pretty quickly, and I’m not sure if that was exactly when she decided I was going to PR or what, but as soon as we had our mile 2 splits (me on my watch, her through her phone), she told me she was pacing me to my PR and that was that.

A portion of the course is an out-and back on Morrissey Boulevard (love seeing the BFD fire boat in the harbor!) so Angi and I had a great time seeking out and cheering for all of the Running Dawgs as everyone turned around. Around mile 5.5, we passed another one of them – Pete2 (we have three Petes, so we numbered them. Pete1 is my Pete, Pete2 is the big brother of the group, and Pete3 we like to call the Mayor of Quincy because whenever we are out socially he runs into multiple people he knows…I digress). At this point Angi was trying to kill inspire me…she was keeping about 5-10 steps ahead of me and forcing me to chase her. I said hey to Pete2 as I passed him, and just kept chasing Angi. Then I started hearing someone chasing me, and realized pretty quickly it was Pete2. The three of us ran through the last bit of the park that way: me chasing Angi, Pete2 chasing me. As we turned the corner onto the street with the finish line right in front of us, we were side by side. And so this happened:

Boston Firefighters 10k Finish | My Monotonous Life

A finish that was 1 minute and 15 seconds faster than my previous 10k PR, complete with an awesome finish line photo of the three of us finishing side by side.

New 10k PR? NAILED IT.