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,



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!

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop




…enjoying the sunshine and breeze while I work from home.

…checking my calendar to try to remember what day of what month it is, then getting excited about the fun plans that are on there!

…slacking off! I have updates on my Spring To Do List and I have a Summer To Do List to share!


…getting my butt kicked at bootcamp (and Friday Fitness Challenges!) while I struggle to find a running routine that fits into my suddenly busy summer.

…making (too many) iced coffees over the course of the day.

…thinking about this talk that I watched yesterday. (You should make an iced coffee to sip while you watch!)


…laughing at the goofy places I find that cats sleeping throughout the day. Who wants to sleep next to Pete’s dirty laundry?! Champ does.

Number 3: Attend a live taping of Only A Game

I’m just going to start with this: if you’re not already listening to Only A Game, it’s time to start.

I’m sure I’ve talked about it before, but I grew up in an NPR household. To this day, hearing the opening music for Weekend Edition fills my head with images of my father in front of the stove, his favorite omelette pan in hand, crafting made-to-order omelets for us as we arrived downstairs throughout the morning. I still love to play along with the Sunday Puzzle when I get the chance! I think I surprised myself when, as an adult, I found myself listening to WBUR in the car. Back in the Day when I worked in retail and still owned a car (can I pause to comment on how that feels like a lifetime ago?!), I would listen to Only A Game on my way to the store for the Saturday opening shift. I never caught the whole show, but it was enough to make me fall in love with the show.

It turns out, though, that getting rid of your car leads to a lot less radio listening, so it was a long while until Only A Game worked its way back into my life. I’m pretty sure I missed out on a lot of awesome stories about amazing “sports” – to this day, one of my favorite OAG stories was the one about racing ride-on lawn mowers that I heard one of those Saturday mornings en route to work! Go ahead and do a quick search for “lawn mower racing” while I wait, because if that OAG story from ten+ years ago is any indication it is 100% worth looking for videos!

Now that you’re back…OAG worked its way back into my life when I was doing a lot of solo runs this past winter and started listening to podcasts on my runs. There are a few other podcasts in my regular rotation that I have managed to see live in the last few years (Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me & my boyfriend, Dr. Drew) which proved to be pretty awesome, so the second I heard that OAG was doing a live event?! You know I had to be there. And since it’s sports (ish), I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to convince Pete to go with me (our tastes in podcasts overlap far more than our tastes in music).

OaG sign

So that’s how Pete and I ended up heading to Somerville Theater last month to see the first ever live taping of Only A Game, in honor of the twentieth anniversary. We were promised music from The Zambonis, who perform exclusively songs about hockey (side note/random fact: The Zambonis frontman has a side project with Adam Gardner, of Guster…one of the few bands that fall into the overlap between Pete and my tastes in music). Also on the agenda: an interview with Bob Kraft and a live chat with Charlie Pierce, who is hilarious and I happen to love.

The show was as fun to watch as I had hoped it would be, and it was very interesting to see how different it was for the OAG folks, who have never done a live taping, compared to the Wait Wait folks a few years back, who tape live every week. Bob Kraft was more entertaining than I expected, and it was a funny coincidence that one of the guests for the show was Meghan Duggan, who is captain of the US National Women’s Hockey team and also happened to have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch at the one Red Sox game that Pete and I have made it to this year…I decided it was a sign and that I should become a fan, and so we’re planning to hit a few Boston Blades games next year to watch her play.

OaG stage

All told? Completely worth the donation to WBUR to get two tickets for this!

Spring 2014, Number 1 (Part 2): Run a Half Marathon

When last we were talking about this half marathon thing, I was twelve days away from running Boston’s Run to Remember. My final long run was over and I had nearly two weeks to take it easy (workout wise), wrap my mind around racing thirteen (point one) miles, and worry about how likely it was that I would poop my pants mid-race.

I think most distance runners will tell you that taper weeks might actually be the hardest two weeks of your training – even harder than your highest mileage week. These races tend to be far more mental than physical, and that’s especially true in my case. I mentioned in my previous post that I knew with the proper training I could run a half marathon, and I was definitely properly trained.

Before we go any further, let me interrupt for a mini-commercial:  if you want to be properly trained, too, you should call Alicia at A Healthy Balance. She doesn’t pay me to say awesome things about her, but I will proclaim loudly and often how great both the bootcamps at A Health Balance and training with Alicia for my half have been for my running! And, you know, my general fitness and health. CALL HER. And Alicia doesn’t pay me to say good things about her, but you can totally buy me Starbucks to say thank you for giving you awesome advice. (iced grande soy chai, thanks!)

Also before we go any further, you all know I talk a lot so you should probably make sure you have a beverage and possibly a snack before you keep reading. We might will certainly be here a while.

Back to where we were…I knew I was properly trained and that I could run thirteen miles, but I also knew the hardest part of the actual race would be mental. For one, of course it was five days out from the race that the arthritis in my left knee flared up. It was, thankfully, significantly less painful and shorter lived than previous flare ups, but it’s not what I wanted to happen during my taper. I also woke up three days before the race with a completely out of the blue migraine – the first (out of the blue, anyway) since February. I’m sure somewhere in my head I knew that would be over and done and I’d be fine for the race, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend all of that day feeling horrible and worrying that it would affect my half. These, my friends, are called the taper crazies.

In addition to the taper crazies, and with more free time than I usually find myself with since I was skipping bootcamps because of my knee, I also got to spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about how to run the race itself.

What’s that saying? Eyes closed, head first, can’t lose!

Wait, that’s not it.

Clear eyes

I haven’t checked with Alicia, but I suspect she likes the Dillon Panthers version better. I also suspected it would take more than just a catchy motivational saying to get me through this.

This was where I had to convince myself that I was going to nail this race, knowing that I would end up doubting myself or wanting to give up on my time goal and take it easy during the race. I was totally confident that I was physically capable of running a half marathon, but I had done all but one of my long runs with friends, and even that “solo” run wasn’t truly solo because I had company for the first ~5 miles (of 12). I knew a lot of people who were also running Run to Remember (we had 10 Running Dawgs running either the half or the 5-miler!), but I hadn’t talked with any of them about their goal times and assumed that I would maybe start with some of them, and possibly see some of them along the route, but I would be mostly on my own.

It turns out I got super lucky…my friend Natasha (below in the hat) was planning to run her race at a pace that was almost exactly what I needed to do to hit my goal time, and my friend Breann (below in white) was hoping to finish about five minutes faster than us so planned to start with us, see how things went, and maybe take off at some point. I’m still disgruntled about how the race organizers decided to start both the half marathon and the 5-miler at the same time this year, so there were 12,000 runners in a non-corralled start…turning from very wide roads to very narrow roads and causing 2-3 bottlenecks in the first 2 miles, but whatever. It kept me from going out too fast, and gave me time to take a quick selfie while we were still feeling all caffeinated from our pre-race coffees!

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It turns out, that when you design great t-shirts for your running club and have tall running club members, they’re easy to spot in a crowd of 12,000 runners! Somewhere in the middle of the second mile, we saw another Running Dawg from across three lanes of the road and realized our buddy Richard was about 50 feet in front of us…so of course we started weaving our way across and up to him. He thought we were nuts, and I thought we needed another selfie to document that we had found him.

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Richard stuck with us for another few miles, and the four of us did a pretty awesome job of entertaining ourselves, keeping our pace, and not losing each other when some or all of us stopped at water stops. I won’t lie, I was impressed with our ability to stick together being solid mid-packers in an 8,000 person race (we dropped 4,000 runners who split off around mile 2.5ish for the 5-miler). Eventually, we were watching the lead runners come back towards us from the turn around, so we made our way to the middle of the road and started scanning the crowd for two of our speedier Running Dawgs…despite having them text a photo pre-race, I screwed up who was wearing what color and we only spotted – and of course screamed at – one of them (race spectating tip: get a photo of your runner pre-race so you know exactly what they’re wearing and can double-check it while you watch for them if needed! This makes it a thousand times easier to find them in the crowd).

I think the turn-around, which was around mile eight I think, was where I would have poked my eyes out due to boredom if I had been alone. We did spot – and cheer for – Richard, who had fallen behind us a few miles earlier, but after that it was just about getting back across the river to the last few miles of the course and being done already. This is what I’m talking about when people are shocked I don’t want to run more half marathons…eight miles is about my 1:20 mark time-wise, and I’m kind of over running at that point. Can I keep doing it? Sure. Do I want to? Not especially. Around mile nine was when Breann got ahead of us at a water stop and went on to run her own race. Around mile nine and a half was where I was really starting to feel over it and I plugged in an earphone.

Let’s rewind a minute and talk about my play list for a second. Hockey Mike will not condone this behavior, but I usually listen to music during my races. I often have only one earphone in, but I like having the music there. Last week, I got my final instructions from Alicia which outlined my plan for pacing this race to hit my goal and then I sat on my couch and crafted an amazing playlist that had songs worked out nearly perfectly timed to my pace plan…a few slower songs to start for the crowded miles when I wouldn’t have much control over my pace, then a block of slightly faster songs for my next few miles, then a bigger block of even faster songs for the bulk of my race, and then wrapping up with some overly speedy songs to get me through my last few miles – when I was supposed to be giving it whatever I had left. I crafted this playlist and knew I needed to start it at the race start even if I wasn’t planning to listen to it until later in the race, because otherwise it would throw off my pace instead of helping it. I also only made this playlist two hours and twenty minutes long, so if I totally blew my goal (2:15) I was going to run out of music just when I needed it most, so I really needed to not blow my goal.

2014-05-27 10.10.24
So around mile nine and a half, I plugged one earphone in. I really wanted to stop and go to the bathroom, but I wasn’t willing to wait in line and I wasn’t yet (overly) concerned about pooping my pants despite my stomach being not thrilled since around mile five. It wasn’t long before I decided I needed to plug in the other earphone and get serious about getting to a port-a-potty sooner rather than later…if that meant finishing, then I wanted to be done with it, but I would be happier if it meant there was a port-a-potty without a line somewhere before that.

For the entire race, I was intentionally not looking at the clocks at every mile. I can barely do math on a good day, you can imagine what happens when I try to do math mid-race! Looking at those clocks and trying to figure out how many minutes to take off because I crossed the start a few minutes behind the gun, and then trying to figure out how many minutes I had left to hit my goal, and then to take those minutes and divide them into mile splits. I knew if I started doing that, I would screw myself up. I had my watch set to show me distance, heart rate, and pace for the full race. I heard it beep for most of my mile splits and knew I was pretty close to the plan…all I wanted to do for the entire race was see my splits on there, know they were where they should be, and do that thirteen times over. At one point, Natasha started to say “we’re at 1:4…” and I interrupted her and was like “DON’T SAY IT!” I knew 2:15 was totally within reach – which was her point – but I didn’t want to start over thinking it and cause myself to either a) panic, speed up, burn out, and blow it or, equally possible, b) think I had more time than I did, get too comfortable, and blow it.

By the time we crossed back over the river, just about mile ten, I was singularly focused on getting to a line-free port-a-potty, so I (sorry Natasha) plugged in my other earphone, buckled down, and started to pull ahead of Natasha. If I was going to stop I wanted to make up some time before then so I would have less to make up between my pit stop and the finish, because I suspected I could make a pit stop and still hit my 2:15 goal. Lucky for me, there were line free port-a-potties in mile 10. Not lucky for me, my clothes were soaked through with sweat because despite the cool weather, it was pretty humid (moist, if you will), and it’s tricky to do a quick pit stop when you’re already soaked and sticky with sweat and then you step into a plastic box with very limited space and no air circulation. Regardless, I got in and out as quickly as possible and got back on my way.

My music, at this point, was prepped to get me to a much faster pace and it was working. There were a few spectators along the Public Gardens with signs for me (well…for someone named Sarah, so I mentally claimed them as mine – thanks strangers!), and it wasn’t long before we were winding through Downtown Crossing and the Financial District. A lot of folks complain about the number of turns on the Run to Remember course, but the part of this course with all the turns, that runs through the heart of the city is what I love about this race (I think the 5-miler course is perfect, it’s hands down my favorite city course). It’s early on the Sunday morning of a holiday weekend and the streets are closed to traffic…it’s you, 7,999 running buddies, and a few dozen spectators…and you OWN the city for the hours you’re running this race. That’s why I ran the 5-miler again last year despite the early start time. It’s why I was willing to make this my half this year. It’s why I’ll probably run the 5-miler again and again despite the early start and even though I’m fed up with the security and start logistics of the race. So this point? This was where I was ready to get down to it and race.

I sped up, slowly but surely, and wound my way through the turns. I kind of loved running around my office, and getting to run straight down the middle of the streets I’m usually dodging cars and MBTA buses on while I’m out getting coffee or lunch in the middle of the day. The course was a bit different from past years, so there were a few turns that threw me for a loop, but soon enough we were on Atlantic Ave and turning down Seaport Blvd. This is the tricky bit, as there’s an incline on the bridge over the channel that isn’t huge, but is significant when you’re trying to figure out exactly how far away from the finish you are and exactly how fast you can go right then without burning out before you get to that line. I heart me some hills, though, so I smiled and dodged around a few Air Force guys with a little “see ya, sucker!” in my head as I passed them. Not long after the bridge I saw Natasha’s yellow hat ahead of me, and I chased her down. I had to weave around folks and ended up on the other side of the road from her, and I didn’t have the energy to cross back and get her attention. And then it was just me and the finish line, and a clock that I didn’t read closely, but I knew was pretty dang close to my 2:15.

I won’t lie, the finish felt a bit anti-climactic and as I turned into the World Trade Center to get water/food/whatever, I was blasted with heat and forced to a slow walk (and near stop) because of the crowd. There was definitely a second there when the heat and the lack of moving were too much and I knew I needed to get something to drink and get the hell out of there before I passed out…so that’s basically what I did. It was easy to find my other Running Dawgs (seriously…I designed awesome shirts, if I do say so myself) and got to catch up on how everyone’s race went. Oh, and get one last picture.

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I don’t remember what point it was that I finally got my official results, but here they are….13 seconds away from hitting my 2:15 goal, and I’m totally happy with it!

Run to Remember Results

You’re now 2,500+ words into this little “race recap” (if you’re still here…thanks for sticking around!), if you can call it that, but I’m not sure I’m done talking about it yet. You just may come back here soon and find a little “things I don’t want to forget” post. Plus…supposedly official race photos come tomorrow, and if the historic trend continues there are sure to be some ridiculous ones to share!

A Monotonous Life List

A Monotonous Life List | My Monotonous Life

This photo has nothing to do with this post, but I like to give you guys something to look at besides a wall of text. I spent part of my afternoon yesterday volunteering with coworkers to plant the Memorial Day Flag Garden on Boston Common. It’s a really beautiful thing to see, and we had pretty perfect weather yesterday. The event/display is organized by the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, and we had so many volunteers (from my company and plenty of others) yesterday that we planted 37,000 flags in just about two and a half hours!

Anyway, that wasn’t actually why I’m posting. I’m obviously a list maker (hence my seasonal lists!) so it only makes sense that I’ve got a life list hidden somewhere, right? Well, it’s hidden no more! Go ahead and look up, and you’ll find a new page with my life list on it. You better believe I also have a spreadsheet in my Google Docs so I can keep track of a few of those items, too.  If you’re observant, you’ll also notice that some of those life list items creep onto my seasonal lists…slowly but surely, I’ll get through it all!

Who else has a life list? What’s on it?!