Tuesday, January 4, 2011

North Conway Long Run

As often happens when I run the North Conway hills and mountains with Mary, a few miles into our long run today I find myself seriously wondering, "can something that feels so awful actually be good for me?" We start at the gated end of Town Hall Road and head up the tote roads, trails, and service roads into the National Forest. This involves steady gradual long climbs and descents. The descents are heavenly, the climbs are pure torture. There is something about the relentlessness of a two or three mile climb that starts sucking the life out of me part way up, no matter how gradual the grade. Then throw in a couple of shorter steeper hills (and by short I mean a half mile or so) and I come close to crying like a baby. Luckily, Mary doesn't notice. She just keeps chugging away and talking...talking, talking, talking. She's not fast anymore, but she is like a locomotive, strong and powerful.

Mary and I talk about the old days..."remember the trip to Quebec for the half marathon? We almost didn't make it to the starting line because the night before you and I..." or "Did you ever beat J.S. in college? I remember I came close once when her shoe came untied..." or "Remember that time you dropped out of the marathon in Rhode Island and C.R. saw you at the finish line and had a fit because she thought you had beaten her?" These are stories we tell each other over and over again, like a couple of old Alzheimer's patients that can't stop reliving the past.

We talk about the present... how to answer her adolescent kids' awkward questions about sex, gossip about neighbors, what our ex-husbands are up to and how glad we are that they aren't ours anymore, our current loves, trips, dates, and food. We often stop dead in our tracks because we get laughing too hard to run. We talk about the future. We both have a positive outlook on life and see only good things ahead. We talk about next week, next summer, and next year. It's all good, as far as we're concerned.

Today we run into the doctor. We have met up with him on many of our outings. I think he was a little scared of Mary the first few times we met on the trail. She has an in-your-face kind of friendly nature. But we have grown on him over time and today he seems delighted to see us. He is very interested in our running and asks a lot of questions. I tend to answer with one or two words, but Mary likes to elaborate. The doctor stands there with his hands in his pockets, nodding his head, and saying, "hmmm, reallllly?" He is a retired psychologist and I think he takes a professional interest in us. He walks a lot, getting ready for his through hike of the A.T. but he doesn't really get the whole running thing.

Today Mary and I see fresh Black Bear tracks in the snow and wonder why he isn't holed up for the winter yet. We see huge pines that have blown down in a recent storm. We stop once so Mary can point out and identify the distant peaks. We try to spot skiers on the far away ski slopes. We explore a new (to us) service road on our return trip. And so the difficult miles pass and another tough long run is in the books. We'll get together in a week or two and do it all over again.

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