Our plan was to run 14 miles including an ascent of Heublein Tower.
This story is primarily about an awesome run in extreme conditions, but that isn't even the best part. Humor me for a few minutes and read on friends...
The morning brought bitter cold conditions. Goat sent me at text message this morning,"What would Shackleton do?" It was 15 degrees F with a windchill of -5 deg F. Ummm..."he would eat his partner" was my reply. For those uninitiated, Shackleton was the leader of the famously "gone wrong" expedition to the South Pole. Their ship was locked in by ice...somehow they survived (most of them) due to a courageous effort. Read the book "Endurance" for all the details.
Anyway, it was that cold! We went running anyway. The only problem was that we didn't have protection for our faces. I almost always wear my blue balaclava for running, climbing, skiing, but I could not find it this morning. Damn, I had to rub my face every half mile or so just to prevent frostbite. The reservoir was (technically) closed due to dangerous conditions. We ran anyway.
After surviving the first mile or so, we started feeling confident. So, feeling better about things, we decided to make a bold attempt at our original plan: 14 miles including the ascent of Heublein Tower. Yeah Baby! Running the trail (from Reservoir 6) up to the Tower in the snow is one of the toughest climbs around and I was psyched to see if we could pull it off without the need to walk.
We found that running under tree cover provided a break from the wind. We came across a few other diehards out there: a lady walking (sorry for scaring the heck out of you), 3 guys on mountain bikes, and 1 other crazy runner. On top of the dike, we came across the runner and I told him he was crazy. He laughed. At least he had face protection.
It was so cold that my water bottle valve started freezing up. We ran onward toward the Tower. I tried to remember to keep sipping on the water to keep the valve from completely freezing. My original assumption was that we would walk most of the trail up to the Tower. It's hard enough to run it in the summer. It's even tougher in the snow.
As we started the ascent, I decided to see how far I could run up the trail. I shortened my stride and kept my legs churning. I kept checking on the Goat and he was hanging in there on my wheel. Nice! We kept cranking away, and were at the top before you could say, "frozen weenie".
We observed the view for a very brief moment and started down the road back. The descent wasn't bad. Goat had put some screws in the sole of his shoes to deal with the ice. It seemed to work well for him. I prefer the traditional approach, but definitely had to deal with the slipping a little more.
So, the run back was fairly uneventful. The run in front of the reservoir was brutal, but we survived nonetheless. All told, it was 15.5 miles in 2.5 hours on dicey terrain and in scary cold conditions. It felt great to be done, but the best part of the run was not even the run itself. The best part of the run was when the Goat formally asked me to be his pacer in the 2010 Vermont 100. Yeah Man! It is going to be an honor for me to repay the favor and pace the Mighty Goat in one of the greatest ultras in the world. It's going to be awesome and I can't wait to be part of it! Go Goat!
Have a great week everybody and Happy New Year!