Friday, August 17, 2012

Tecumseh Thursday

Mighty Mount Tecumseh; the lowest and perhaps easiest of New Hampshire's 48 four thousand footers. This mountain was one of my first forays into peakbagging way back in the fall of 2003. Back then I was slower, heavier, and burdened with a backpack crammed with stuff. I didn't know what I really needed, so I just kept packing things in until the bag was full. Two liters of water, a ski parka, a half dozen flannel shirts, and a comically large digital camera. I sweat and panted and probably took four hours to do the 5 mile and 2,200 foot round trip, but I learned.

Almost nine years later (has it really been that long?) and I was back to visit Tecumseh for the umpteenth time. Though I was here only a few days ago, I decided to focus on just this one peak as an after work adventure. In many ways, the trip would be similar; I'd pant and wheeze and return to the parking lot feeling thoroughly worked - except this time I'd be trying to make the round trip in under 60 minutes. Rather than a 30 liter pack I'd have... a pair of shorts. And some shoes. And a tiny headlamp in my back pocket (you know, for safety).

Starting my GPS as I passed the trailhead sign, I rock-hopped across the stream that starts the trail, and ramped up to a full-on run. Normally I run much slower, at a pace that I can sustain all day and sometimes I find it difficult to differentiate between different grades of fast. Is this a half-hour race pace or a full hour race pace? Who knows? Just keep running. I probably went a bit too hard down low and ended up paying for it higher up when I had to walk a few of the steep sections.

Experiencing familiar trails at a hard run is very different from walking them, you almost experience the ground under a microscope. Your vision gets narrowed and you focus on the next few steps in front of you in close detail. Minor changes in steepness and footing take on a whole new meaning that I never got at a walking pace. Unlike some people, I won't try to say that any one pace is superior to another, they're just different. Sometimes I like to hike, sometimes I like to run, and sometimes I like to run as fast as I can.

I tagged the summit cairn in 36:25 and immediately turned around to begin the descent. Running this kind of technical downhill is always fun and stimulating. It's a challenge to scan the ground ahead, planning out the next few foot placements and trying to ride the line between speed and control. I was wearing a new pair of New Balance MT1010s and was happy to find that they grip wet rock marvelously and still offer just enough underfoot protection for this kind of terrain while still being light and flexible. As the trail leveled out near the bottom I stole a glance at my watch and saw that things were going to be close if I wanted to go under an hour. Splashing through the stream crossings, I picked up speed and popped out of the woods and back onto the pavement, stopping my watch at the trailhead sign in 59:05.

Thirsty, sweaty, and satisfied, I got in my car to head home. A couch-free evening well spent.