Lately I have been running, rather, participating in different kinds of races. A Fells Run is fashioned in Britain. They run cross country races where they have several check points to touch upon in a certain order, no real directions, but a map of area given.
So on the morning of the race I go on the Web Site for the Bretton Woods Fells Run. I find it is 7.8 miles, there are 6 check points and it involves going up and down the ski area several times. I have 4 hours of driving to mull over this idea.
Arriving at Bretton Woods Ski Resort I purchase a single use camera, as I forgot my regular camera. This has to be documented. I am significantly early so I check in, get my number, and settle under a shady tree to write my bills. Once done with the bills I figure what I will wear as the temperature is rising given the bright sun.
Sports bra, skort, water bottle holder, and of course the dirty trail sneakers. The camera is put in a zip-loc bag along with the map which I marked my tentative route. Not one of my regular "Summer Camp Friends" here has run this, nor have any expectations other than "To Finish".
We toe the line which is in the direction of 1/4 of the pie, as there are no directions…. really. Honest, the Director shouts "Go", and 200 people dash off in 1/4 of the pie directions…. this quadrant. Its a race for scrappers… gotta love it. By 1/2 mile in I look around noting most everyone in some mode of walking, breathing rhythmically heavy.
Check point A is a log cabin on the mountain, probably a storage building for the ski patrols. It is at 1.3 miles… No one is checking us off but we pass, eager to find Check Point B…. The route now is slightly down but again up. Out in the distance I can see the Mount Washington hotel, far out there and down-ish… we have achieved some elevation here. Check Point B is at a Ski Lift drop off. We can see pretty far in the distance … I can not recollect the elevation which I read from the Web Site. High…
From B to C is down hill. I run the ski trail which is a blue square, zig-zagging as if skiing. Its not so bad but a great quad burn. Imagine doing a long mogul run… probably 2 mogul runs without a break for the lift. Arriving at the water station/ check point I grab the offered fare… cold water. Then turn to endeavor toward a new uphill. This, the second uphill is a tougher one…. somehow it feels like it is poorly timed, I needed more down time, or flat time.
Half way up, the mountain is beating me up in my head. I have my camera and map in zip lock. I have a little white towel with which I intermittently wipe my forehead of beads of sweat! My mind churns. In the 30 some-odd years of running I have never DNF-ed (posted a Did Not Finish)… I have never felt this bad with my quads burning so. I can barely stand straight let alone stride forward and upward. The Director at the starting line told us that if we needed to bail we needed to check in with the next Check Point then check in at Finish with him, so he’s not looking for us at 8pm. I think, ok that’s what I will do, Check in at D… then go all the way to the finish… walking.
I trod on and up… I take a picture of the lift as I near the top of "2 people on the Lift"… noting my comments for the picture board. Then snap a shot of a "Man on a Rock". The man on the rock comes over grabs my camera and takes a pic of me as I capture the top… the summit. I thank him… trodding on. Check Point D is Chutters Candy Store on top of the mountain. Mmmmm, if I had money…. I start talking with a man ("Nick"… the guy with the tatoo of a dog Max on his right shoulder… I follow him frequently) I told him "I can’t run any more", He agrees. I told him I need to be able to walk for my job. He’s in construction he added, he needs to walk too. We chatted further adding in another man, walking equally if not worse, "Richard". Nick says, "I have to go home tonight we are having our son over… My wife and I, we are going to become Grandparents in December." I say, "I have to get home for supper too" but have nothing to add so exciting as being a grand parent.
Next moment, Richard is just ahead about 50 yards and he exclaims, "SNOW!". Oh my goodness, snow…. I lay down my quads in it! My belly, my hands… ahhh instant relief. I forgot about my thought to bail. This snow is wonderful! The guys carry some in their hands. Then put it on their heads. Moments later another slab of snow. Wow, this is great! I know we all feel better… But we continue our conservative shuffle, not quite a walk, but not quite a jog. A little further along we pass two little arrows pointing left. I take note, the men missed the signs. At a cross roads they continue straight. I shout, "No, let’s turn left .. as the arrows directed us." The men missed the arrows but took my word. So we headed rather upslope. Some faster runners dashed by going the other way we weren’t going. Surely we need to be going this way. My car-pool mate John passes us. Yah he’s fast… we need to be going where he came from.
Ahhh, 200 or 300 yards further we see the tables for Check Point E…. cold water and several people pouring water. Brilliant! I have a fellow fill up my now dry water bottle with cold water. Ahh! As I start off toward Check Point F… at the top of the next ski run…. I see some friends of mine who run slower than me. I immediately think they have lapped me… and they are following John. "Oh, no" they say, they just went a different trail to get here. Oh yeah! So I plod on toward the next monster hill. It would be a blue run for skiers down. It is a terrible thing to hike! My legs are killing me but I climb onward. My camera needs to capture some of this … Peter Orni an older gentleman is right on my tail. Those two men I walked the snow trail with stayed behind at water table… One is closer to me now.
I capture the top, Check Point F. I touch the sign. Turn around and start down. The guy Nick who was on the snow trail with me, he dashes quite quickly downward. I am wary and slow. Taking note of those friends not far behind me: Emer, Peter Orni, and Ian. Actually Ian looks like he’s had better days. A few others further on my way down as they still embark upon this final hill really look pretty beaten by the mountain. I don’t let gravity make me run… maybe shuffle faster but certainly not run. My quads are fried. After passing the E Check Point water station the route is considerably easier… My guess is it is a green circle for skiers.. Ahh. I still hold back… I can not run my quads are that gone… at least my heads in the game to finish!
Coming closer to the finish I take out the camera… At this instant Peter Orni and Emer both pull up from behind and pass with determined haste. I can’t do anything more but let them go. I have nothing left in my tank, in back up storage… nothing. I finish, crossing the finish line with a nod and a silent "Amen." At the side of the finish chute there is a slight slope to sit upon. I take off my sneakers rather slowly… I can tell a blister is brewing on my right heel. Next in need is a cold water source. A sprinkler is just over there… so I walk to it and stand in the broken water stream… it refreshes but not as much as I’d like. Blister is for sure. Ache is here. Honestly I can’t afford to take as much time off as I did after the 7 Sisters Race I did several years ago. While it was a terrific course, and I felt ready for it… because it involved many down and ups… many… the resulting ache lasted several days. I took 3 days off my morning job… which requires me to walk briskly for 4 to 5 hours without much slowing down. I can’t afford to take much time off, if none at all.
This Bretton Woods Fells Race was an interesting one. I would like to try it again next year. I probably need to spend more time running my power line run… more times and repeats. I also would like to join a car-pool for sure for this race. Driving home is long. I tried to rally family and friends to call me… but everyone was busy. I ended up taking a nap after an hour and a half driving towards home. A quick 10 minute cat-nap did the trick and a good 24 oz Coca Cola. Next Mountain Race… for me is in 2 weeks when I do Mount Washington… No downs just up…