Friday, February 22, 2013

Loving Pre-Dawn Urban Running

Starting my fantastic new job two weeks ago has inspired me to get back into a routine with my day to day life, something that just hasn't been possible in recent years due to relentless and unpredictable work days. The last time I was able to have any sort of routine with running, fitness, diet, household responsibilities,  and maintaining my personal relationships with family and Friends was about 7 years ago when I stopped working regular hours in a hospital setting. I am very happy to be working a regular schedule again with a real start and finish to each day's work!

I thought it might be difficult adjusting to early morning runs through the streets of Portland. I imagined I would have to gradually ease into the routine, getting used to earlier awakenings, adjusting my meal times accordingly, adjusting to the bitter early morning cold and darkness, re-learning to navigate the streets of Portland, and slowly building my mileage back up from the pathetic level it had slipped to. But instead it has been incredible easy. I haven't missed a single morning yet! The only glitch was that my workplace has no shower facilities. I must have asked the building administrator six times, "are you sure there isn't a shower somewhere in this building?"  I ended up joining the closest cheapest dirtiest smelliest gym around and can now shower before work for only ten bucks a month. I guess I can live with that.

I don't run the same route each morning because I like variety. I've been parking in the gym's lot and running 40-50 minutes each morning on roads, sidewalks, and paved and dirt exercise paths. I often run right through what are normally the busiest streets of the Old Port, but I am early enough that I see very little traffic. I often run the paved path from the ferry terminal, timing it so I can watch the sunrise over Portland Harbor. I've also hit the Deering neighborhoods, Back Bay, Stroudwater, Eastern and Western Proms ...there is so much to see. Once the ice melts I will get out onto  dirt single track trails. There isn't much of that in Portland, but enough to get me off the streets a little.

There will come a point in the future when I will be able to work from home (but its going to take a while before I'm confident enough in my new role to fly solo) and when that time comes I will be very happy to get back to my country roads and trails. For now, urban road running is fine. I still get my woods runs in on the weekends, often in Vermont. I feel very fortunate to have so much control over my day to day life. I can plan ahead and commit. Holy Hell, I even have a few dates set to meet friends for runs before and after work next week! Life is good.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

East Haven Mountain

From our East Burke camp on any cold morning, a large frost covered mountain occupies the landscape off to the northeast. Before finding its official name on the topo map, Kevin and I referred to it as Frost Mountain. It is actually 3031 foot East Haven Mountain. It lies in the middle of heavily wooded hilly  terrain and there are no maintained trails to its summit.

Kevin and I have been exploring the woods between our camp and this mountain for some time now. Last Sunday, Scout and I left camp early to get some running miles in on the hard packed snow. We ran old logging roads, a short bushwhack, and snowmobile trails. It was hillier than I remembered so I was worried we wouldn't make it back to our rendezvous point in time to meet Kevin, who was doing a more direct bushwhack hike in. So I pushed the pace and enjoyed hearing my heart thumping in my chest for a change (I don't usually push very hard out on the trails). Scout and I made it to the meet up spot but saw no sign of Kevin so we started slowly back along the tote road, listening for tell-tale crunching off in the woods. And there it was, almost immediately, crunching of snow and snapping of twigs. These woods are so still and quiet we could hear him from a long way off. We kept moving slowly along the road in hopes of intercepting him as he stepped out onto the road. We only missed him by about 15 feet!

From there we set off for East Haven Mountain. The temperature was a mild 20 degrees, the sky was clear and blue, and the woods were beautiful. Scout scampered about with energy to spare. There had been a dusting of snow the night before so we saw a million snowshoe hare tracks, fox tracks, deer and moose tracks, and ground bird tracks. We followed the snowmobile trail in a direction we hadn't been before and then branched off onto an old tote road which seemed to head in the right direction. We were gaining altitude steadily and definitely moving closer and closer to the mountain!

Then we started noticing a few drops of blood in Scout's paw prints. We are having trouble finding booties that will stay on his feet. His feet are too big for the extra large size! So this day he was out without booties. He would have been fine if he stayed on the hard packed snow, but he likes to go crashing around on the brambles and brush where the crusty snow beaks away under his feet. Soon we noticed BIG drops of blood and called him back to us. He was happy as ever and not limping at all, but he had torn a nail off one of his paws and it was oozing blood pretty badly. I took off my hat and used it to hold pressure until the bleeding slowed down. Kevin checked our altitude and saw it was 2200 feet. We took one last look up at the summit, sighed, and  started back.

And that's the way it is with these hikes off the beaten trail. But at least we know how to get there now. The topo map shows the tote road not going all the way to the summit, but it will get us pretty darned close. Next time Scout will have something on his feet, even if its only duct tape!