Mt. Madison, White Mountains, NH

It’s a little early in the season for proper trail running in the White Mountains,
but I decided to try for a Presidential Traverse this past weekend.

(The Fastest Known Time (FKT) was set last September by Ben Nephew in a crazy time of
4h 34min; a time I have no hope of achieving)

In any case, I started at 5 am with a breakfast of 4 eggs, sour cream, bacon, and a coffee with heavy cream.
I then ran to the dock to catch the 6:15 ferry off the island.

Gear from my run (Yaktrax in pack). Shoes are MT110 by New Balance.

Gear from my run (Yaktrax in pack). Shoes are the excellent New Balance MT110’s.

Then, it was a 2.5 hour drive to Pinkham Notch, and after a quick talk with the AMC about weather and trail conditions, I headed off to the Appalachia trailhead. On the way, there was a nice view of the Presidential range from the Mt. Washington Auto Road:

View of the Presidential Range from Rt. 16, just north of Pinkham Notch.

View of the Presidential Range from Rt. 16, just north of Pinkham Notch.

Finally, I started from the Appalachia Trailhead at 9:40 am. That’s really too late a start (IMHO) for a Presi-traverse, but here I was, finally ready to go:
Start of the traverse attempt...took Valley Way to Madison Hut.

Start of the traverse attempt…took Valley Way to Madison Hut.

The first 3 km were pretty straightforward running—okay, that’s really not quite true, because the average grade from the trailhead to the summit of Mt. Madison is 20% (about double that of the UTMB). But there was good footing and no snow. However, around 3km, the trail turned to serious amount of snow and ice which continued until Madison Hut. To top it off, every other step would involve post-holing, and it was plain slow going. There were even a few frozen waterfall sections (which would have been impossible without my Yaktrax)—just to make things more fun. I made it to Madison Hut in about 2 h 17m:
Madison Hut and Mt. Adams. 3 May 2014

Madison Hut and Mt. Adams. 3 May 2014

Now it was much easier going (snow-wise anyway) and I made it to the summit of Mt. Madison in 2h 49m.
View from the summit of Mt. Adams. Mt. Washington on far left, Mt. Adams dead center. The weather starting to look sour now.

View from the summit of Mt. Adams. Mt. Washington on far left, Mt. Adams dead center. The weather began to deteriorate by this point, with increasing wind and visible precipitation approaching in the distance.

From the summit of Mt. Madison, it was clear that the weather was changing for the worse (as predicted), and I didn’t want to summit Mt. Adams with the potential of a thunderstorm. I therefore headed south along the Gulfside Trail to Thunderstorm Junction, at which point I could re-assess the weather and either summit Adams and continue, or bail down the Spur Trail with a stop at Crag Camp.

Unfortunately, as soon as I descended Mt. Madison and arrived back at Madison Hut, I began having cramps in my quads that forced me to stop and stretch. This happened to me back in November on a 35 km run, and it eventually went away. But this time, the combination of iffy weather (forecast to definitely get worse) and persistent cramps made the decision to abandon the traverse pretty easy.

Well, at least the decision was straightforward. The descent on the spur trail was a blast through a snowfield by Thunderstorm Junction, but then turned into a slow post-holing and icy descent on a super steep ice covered Spur Trail down to Crag Camp. By the time I arrived hail had begun in earnest, and I was psyched to have a respite from the weather. You can see the sleet/hail beginning to fall on the porch of Crag Camp:

View of Mt Adams (in distance) and Mt Adams (in the clouds now) shortly after arrival - you can see sleet/hail on the deck.

View of Mt Adams (in distance) and Mt Adams (in the clouds now) shortly after arrival – you can see sleet/hail on the deck.

After taking a rest and getting out my pack cover and proper raincoat, I headed out down the Spur Trail. I figured I had about 300-400 meters of ice and snow, and eked my way down another long steep icy-snowy-ending-on-slushy trail. Finally, after making it to the Amphibranch, I could run the rest of the way to the trailhead. This last section was super fun, and was in fact the best running of the whole day. Strangely, the cramping was really not bothering me anymore.

By the way, there’s a great excellent article about cramping over at iRunFar. You should read it. Seriously, it’s quite interesting. I especially like the part about how apparently the taste of pickle juice on the tongue somehow convinces the brain to stop the cramping in your leg. See. I told you that you need to read the article.

So, now it’s two days later and my quads are still sore. Funny though, I can tell they’ll be fine in a day or so, and I’m already psyched to get out for another run. Next time maybe I’ll try something more runnable until all the snow is gone.

Mount Desert Island from Schoodic Mountain

Went on a nice 13 km trail run with my sister-in-law Charlotte Clews (proprietor of Wild Open Heart Yoga). Ran up and over Schoodic Mountain and back to Franklin, ME. Finally the snow is gone most of the DownEast peaks, and normal crampon-free trail running can resume.
Charlotte’s photo was taken with her iPhone5.

If things work out, my family will be living on Peaks Island, ME this fall, in which case I’m really going to miss being able to run from my doorstep over five different mountain peaks. On the other hand, we’ll all be living together in one house, the White Mountains of New Hampshire won’t be more than 2 hours away (yeah), and the convenience of walking or running to work will be pretty sweet.

Mount Desert Island from Schoodic Mountain. Photo by Charlotte Clews.

Mount Desert Island from Schoodic Mountain. Photo by Charlotte Clews.

Next day, took my kids for a quick hike up Tunk Mountain on a gorgeous blue-sky day. Still chilly on top, but from the vantage point below, you can see Catherine, Caribou, Black and Schoodic Mountain. Click on either image for a larger version.

View ESE from Tunk Mountain.

View ESE from Tunk Mountain.

Perfect Camera for Trail Running: Any Recommendations?

The relative dearth of photos recently is a result of having become somewhat obsessed with trail running. I’ve never been a runner, but have done my share of distance touring, hiking, and swimming. Having decided that I don’t feel so safe bicycling on roads with swerving cell phone texting drivers, and because it takes at least 30 minutes to get to the nearest pool to swim, I decided to start running back in May 2012.

I don’t really like running on roads, but I absolutely love being in the mountains, so trail running was a natural for me. Mind you, I have never really run before aside one a very brief stint in graduate school when I ran for a few months. I say it was a “natural” but certainly not an easy progression to covering any significant distance without stopping. At first, I couldn’t even run up the first small hill (100 m) that starts 1 km from my house, and had to walk sections of a small 4 km loop. I would get totally out of breath and had to run and walk to complete the loop.

But, interestingly, once I let go of the judgement that walking was bad, it only took me about 5 tries till I could run the whole loop. Then I gradually began increasing distance, until an unfortunate night run when a previously rolled ankle decided to let me know that it had enough. It took 6 weeks of downtime when all I could do is cycle and swim to keep up the aerobic base. But come August, I’ve been able to run again, the longest run being a 20km run over on Mount Desert Island. Took me 3 hours and 4 gels, but it was a lot of fun.

I live in Franklin, Maine, in DownEast Maine, just bordering on the hopping town T10SD (which means Township 10 Southern Division, for those of you not familiar with this highly underpopulated part of Maine). There are five 300+ meter peaks in my backyard, and I’ve been working up to running all 5 in one go. I often go out on a run up Schoodic Mountain (that’s the peak in the above photograph)
or along the Sunrise Trail, and at this point, I’ve run the whole network of trails over all five peaks, and I’m ready to try a single end to end run that ends at my house.

What does this have to do with photography? Well, I still want to photograph, and since I run in places I normally would hike to in order to make images, I naturally want a camera that I can run with. My full-frame dslr is WAY too heavy to comfortably carrying while running, and I’m very interested in seeing what I can carry that still has outstanding image quality. The iPhone4s has a reasonable P&S camera, but it just doesn’t have the dynamic range and image quality that I wish it would. So, what camera would be easy to carry, yet have outstanding image quality?

View from Schoodic Mountain, Maine

So far, I have a few candidates, an Olympus Pen (the newer one with the OM-D Sony Sensor), Fuji XPro-1 (or wait for the XPRO 2?), or …well, I’m not sure what other cameras I should consider. Are there any trail runners out there with good suggestions?

I see two problems with this scheme. First, I’m already forgoing a tripod—something I’d never do with my dslr, and second, carrying anything goes against the whole minimalist simplicity I love about running. So, I’m somewhat puzzled, and cannot seem to come to any resolution, and I just keep running with my iPhone.