That ugly mug is my best attempt at a self-photo with my iPhone on the summit of Mt. Mansfield - Vermont's highest peak. I had an amazing hike/run on Mt. Mansfield last night and I was on the summit all by myself.
I had to laugh when I pulled my phone out of my waist pack. I had a text message from a friend who wanted me to meet him for a beer after work. I responded that I was on the summit of Mansfield and e-mailed him this photo. A year ago, I would have laughed at anyone sending photos or text messages from a remote peak somewhere, but the iPhone is an addictive little toy.
Yesterday, I had looked at my past times for the route I was using yesterday. I wasn't trying to beat my best time, but I was curious how I'd done on this 6.4 mile route in the past. I found that my best time ever was 2:17, done solo in 2005. I had done a slightly shorter route in 2:21 with a friend that same summer. I'd done this exact route with my wife in 3:14 in 2004.
I felt strong as I headed up yesterday. I was expecting to be up there for about 2:45, and I had an incentive to be no slower. The gates to the park where I started the hike would close at 8:30, three hours after I started. So, I couldn't dawdle. Even though I thought it would be close to 3 hours, I didn't take any water. I took a flashlight, my phone, an extra long sleeve shirt and a wind jacket. Those items would be enough to sustain me overnight on the peak if anything bad happened.
I checked my altimeter occasionally on the way up the Laura Cowles trail. This is the steepest trail on the peak - almost a straight shot up the mountain. My climbing pace was over 2000'/hour the entire way up and it felt great. I stopped once to catch my breath and I could just feel my heart pounding and the blood being pushed through my body. I was just amazed that my body could work that hard and yet I was having fun.
At the one hour mark, I emerged above treeline where the Laura Cowles trail and the Sunset Ridge trail intersect. I'd climbed 2300' in one hour. A minute later, I was on the Long Trail and after 1:00:29, I was all by myself on the summit of Mt. Mansfield. I love going up these peaks during the week rather than the weekend, when I often find myself alone on the summit. A few summers ago, a friend and I did an overnight double-traverse of Mansfield and we stood on the summit in complete darkness at 2:00 a.m. I just love being up there, no matter when or what the conditions are like.
My ascent had been my fastest ever ascent of the peak. I took some pictures, replied to my text message, and headed down. The Sunset Ridge trail is rocky and exposed, although not exceptionally steep, for the first mile or so. There are a few steep spots where you have to be careful, but overall, it's a longer and less steep route than the trail I'd used on the way up. I did manage to fall once on the descent, but it was a minor fall.
About 2/3 of the way down, I hit an easier section of trail. Without thinking about it, I found myself running. This surprised me, as I had no intention of running and I'd worked really hard on the way up. But, as the trail moderated, I found myself running spontaneously at spots.
With just over half a mile to go, I could tell that I was going to have a really fast total time. I ran easily whenever the terrain allowed. My final time was 2:06:06, and my descent time was 1:00:37. I had just managed to do my fastest ever ascent of the peak followed by my fastest ever descent. In some ways, this really surprises me. My climbing right now is as strong as it's ever been, even though I weigh 10 pounds more than I did for WS last year. On the descent, I could tell that I'm finally starting to get my "trail legs". I felt very comfortable on very uneven terrain, with lots of rocks, roots and mud.
I've had a very encouraging training week right now in every respect.
I saw the chiropractor this morning and he was happy with how things are going at the moment.
Tomorrow, I'll run 30 rolling miles, and I'll follow that with an easy run or bike ride on Sunday. It costs $90 to enter the Pittsfield Peaks 50K on race day, and I can't justify that expense when I can run from home for the cost of some Hammergel and electrolyte caps.