I checked my watch with a nervous stomach; it was nine o’clock in the morning and Doug and I were getting ready to make a run at the Hancocks. Literally a run at them. Despite being full of enthusiasm for mountain running post-Owl’s Head a few weeks ago, my psych was now running low with the prospect of suffering through another long run. Even more demoralizing was that I would be running with Doug, the human incarnation of the Energizer Bunny. If the running was not going to be hard enough, Doug said he had hoped to be done by noon. No pressure…just ten miles and 2,500 feet of elevation gain before lunch. Easy, right?
We quickly found our rhythm picking our way up the slightly inclining trail. Despite the remnants of heavy rain over the previous days making the running a little wet, Doug and I began overtaking a few slower parties. As we passed these happy parties quietly picking their way to the top – where they probably sat, relaxed, and had a calm lunch – I began to wonder what is wrong with me. Why don’t I find as much satisfaction in the experience of hiking that these other parties do? Then I remembered what hiking is like with Doug: fast. Even though you are walking, you still spend an inordinate amount of time trying to catch your breath. Running with Doug is the equivalent of just ripping off the band aid. It might be more painful, but at least it is over quicker.
After about forty five minutes we found ourselves switching from run to brisk walk as the trail kicked up on the ascent of North Hancock. Although our pace diminished, we made steady progress up the trail and, shortly thereafter, were soaking in a view from North Hancock’s summit. Stopping just long enough for GU, we picked up the pace again as we ran toward the Summit of South Hancock. After the run across the ridge we found ourselves standing on South Hancock’s summit at eleven o’clock. Perhaps Doug was right? If we could negotiate the descent in decent time, we would have a real shot at finishing by noon.
As the trail began to level, my legs rejoiced with the easy rhythm on running mostly level ground. Glancing at my watch I noticed that we would be making it back to the car before Doug’s goal of noon, so I softened my pace hoping to maintain some energy as we were meeting friends at Rumney to climb the following day. Once at the car, I stripped my wet shoes and socks and let the sun’s rays hit my body as I began to slip into relaxation mode.
As I was sitting on the table enjoying the satisfaction that comes from an effort in the mountains, Doug burst forth, “You want to go get a few climbs in this afternoon? Just to warm up for tomorrow? Nothing too hard.” If you know Doug, you know that there is no saying no to this. And you already know that he just keeps going…and going…and going…