Monday, August 23, 2010
At midnight on Friday, a small group of determined runners and fast hikers started off from the Dolly Copp Campground for the annual MMD Fun Run. There were a lot of new faces this year. In previous years a few guys would take off fast at the start, but most attendees would start at a relaxed pace with lots of conversation and laughter. This year, when Jonathon said "go" I heard a woman up front yell "Let's Shake and Bake!" A few guys let out macho sounding grunts and the entire field took off at a mad sprint down the road to the Imp Trail head. I muttered "what the f#ck?" and followed. I would later learn that Steve P had been actively recruiting younger faster blood for this event. I was one of the few there with older slower blood.
I found myself travelling alone through the dark. It was good for me because usually at night I have other people or course markings to rely on to keep me on trail. This time I had to pay attention and be careful. I found myself enjoying it. After a while I passed a guy, then two women and another guy travelling together, and later another woman travelling alone. This last woman fell in behind me. I gained a lot of ground on her on the climbs, but as soon as things levelled out or started heading down hill she would close the gap. She was using trekking poles on the technical stretches and I got used to hearing the click click click at varying distances behind me. Every time I started wondering if I was still on the right trail, I would just slow down a little and listen for the clicking. It was very reassuring! When I stopped at an intersection to check the map, she caught up and we talked. I learned that she was Patty from Springfield, Mass.
I climbed over The Imp, Middle Carter, and South Carter. The moon and stars were spectacular! At the top of Mt Hight I turned off in the wrong direction. This led to a dead end. I tried another direction and it did the same. I wandered around a bit and then headed back towards the comforting sound of trekking poles clicking against rock. Patty was wandering around in the dark looking for the trail, too. Together we found it and continued on at our own paces over the Wildcats as the sun came up.
At the ski slope we were supposed to go down any way we wanted and check in near the base lodge. Patty was no where in sight so I was on my own. I chose the longer cleared trail, Pole Cat. This had just been used for the Wildman Biathlon. The other trails were a mile or more shorter, but had tall grass and brambles. I learned this the hard way last year.
I was running down at a good clip and patting myself on the back for choosing a runnable trail, when a cow moose with two calves stepped out of the thick woods directly into my path. I stopped and talked to her. This just made the calves curious and they started walking towards me. The adult didn't like this and acted a little threatening. I ducked behind a rusted old Kubota tractor that was conveniently sitting in the trail. I yelled for them to "move along!!!" but they just started grazing. Every time I would attempt to start moving past them, the cow would get annoyed with me. This went on for at least twenty minutes. I later learned that several guys up front had been held up by this same moose family. Finally the moose family started to slowly move down the trail and I could stroll slowly behind them without annoying Mom too much. I was very happy when they turned off onto a side trail and I could start running again.
Jonathon, Rick, Patrick (who had decided to drop), and Kevin were at the base. I ate a sandwich, refilled my Camelback, and chatted a little. Just as I was ready to move on, Patty came running in. She asked if I would wait so we could tackle Huntington together. Now, that's the camaraderie I remembered from past years! I agreed and the deal was done. We hiked together the rest of the day.
Huntington has never seemed so easy! In the past I have done this stretch with guys in a hurry. They just forged ahead and guessed at the difficult route over the steep rock face. I would struggle along behind as we kept getting into sticky situations with bad hand holds or dead ends. It was always terrifying. This time Patty and I took our time, looking ahead for the faint infrequent blazes so we could take the safest route through. It was great!
As the day wore on I saw that we were going slower than I had planned, but I thought this was fine. I felt really good and was enjoying the day. The sun was out until late afternoon and the views were fantastic! We climbed over Mt Washington, Mt Clay, Mt Jefferson, and Mt Adams. We found Kevin near the Madison Hut. He and I had agreed that Kevin would hike up from camp and meet me near Mt Adams so we could spend part of the day hiking together. On the technical climb up Mt Madison and then down the difficult part of Daniel Webster Trail, Kevin and Patty were well matched in pace and I went ahead enjoying the rock scrambling. I would wait so we could regroup periodically. When the trail got smoother and less steep, Patty took off at our urging. Kevin and I hiked out together to finish up a great day in the mountains!
Back at the campground there was plenty of food and beer and good company. I have no idea who finished first or what my own time or finishing place was, and I don't care. MMD is billed as a "fun run." I had fun, so I won.