When you get to the point in your running pursuit where one day of double-digit mileage isn’t enough, you have two choices: you can either check yourself into the nearest rehab facility OR you can do back-to-back long runs! Peter and I did back-to-back’s for awhile when we were training for our first 50-miler 3 years ago, but after that race I swore off them, and the years passed happily without the slightest desire to attempt such insanity ever again. THEN, we found ourselves in a position where we needed to prepare for a 6-day stage race (no idea how THAT happened! ), which would involve six. days. straight. of double-digit miles, so we decided that it was time to start doing some multi-day runs to figure out what stage racing is all about.
In an effort to simulate the stage race experience, this past weekend we embarked on our first overnight trip with back-to-back double-digits. What that actually translated to was running 29 miles on Saturday, staying overnight in a 3-sided shelter on the trail, and then running 14 miles on Sunday. The trail we chose for our trip was the Sunapee-Monadnock Greenway, which spans the 50 miles between Mount Sunapee and Mount Monadnock. It took some pretty elaborate planning to figure out how we were going to make this work without carrying our overnight gear while we ran or having someone shuttle us to and fro both days, but we came up with a solution that worked out pretty well. We drove to the trail on Saturday morning and parked our car at the trailhead nearest the shelter we would be staying at, then ran an out-and-back route to the north of the shelter on the first day, followed by an out-and-back to the south on the second day. This unfortunately meant that we couldn’t do the whole length of the trail as a point-to-point run, but we were able to cover the southern half from Pitcher Mtn. to Mt. Monadnock (we did the northern half two years ago).
Our run on Saturday turned out to be on a fairly easy section of the trail with no mountain summits and only one named hill, so we were able to take it really easy and still make good time. Here are some of the sights we saw along the way:
We started near Stone Pond in Dublin, NH on a cool, overcast morning. Perfect running weather!
A beautiful hillside field of wildflowers!
The trail took us through this tunnel to cross under a highway.
The myrtle covering the forest floor looked so luxurious that we had to stop and rest our legs for a bit here.
Running through the Andorra Forest was my favorite part of the whole run!
It’s official–fall is here!
We stopped to rest and eat at the base of Pitcher Mtn. before heading back the way we came.
The closest we got to a vista on this run.
More of the beautiful Andorra Forest
We ran in the pouring rain for at least the last two hours. :/ We were all drenched and cold by the time we finished!
We finished the 28.5 miles in 7 hours exactly, then quickly changed into dry clothes and donned ponchos to keep them dry while we cooked our dinner. We had a deliciously hot and hearty meal of spaghetti with meat sauce, which we ate in the car with the heat on full blast.
After dinner my parents came to pick up Lucky because he had had his fill of running and rain and didn’t want to stay for part 2 of the great adventure anymore. The rest of us carried on with our original plan and hiked out to the shelter where we would spend the night. It was about three quarters of a mile to the shelter, which was not an easy trek to make in the dark while carrying our sleeping bags and pillows. Though we were warm and dry in our shelter, it continued to rain hard all night and none of us got much sleep. I was really, really, really dreading another day of running in the rain, so I was extremely relieved to wake up on Sunday morning and see the sun streaming through the trees!
We had to trek back to the car first with our sleeping gear and then we enjoyed a hot breakfast of egg, bacon and cheese sandwiches before getting started on our second run. This run was shorter, but would include summiting Mt. Monadnock, which is steep and rocky. The first 4 or so miles were on mostly flat forest trails that were easy on our tired legs and similar in scenery to the Andorra Forest from the day before (though I guess I was too tired to remember to take pictures at this point :/ ). After that we started the ascent up Mt. Monadnock, which was gradual at first, but quickly became a rock climbing expedition.
We were having flashbacks to the Pemi Loop while climbing this section!
From the top we took a couple quick pictures of the view and then turned around because it was super cold and windy above the treeline!
We finished our 13 miles in 4 hours, which was a much slower pace than the day before, but that was due to the 30-minute miles we did on the rocks of Mt. Monadnock. :/ Overall, we were surprised by how good we felt both before and after our run on Day 2. After logging 43 miles in 2 days, both my achilles were a little sore, one peroneal tendon was tight, and my feet were rubbed pretty raw from the many hours of running in wet shoes (I didn’t think to bring an extra pair for our second day), but other than that, I had no complaints! I think our first overnight trip with back-to-back double-digit mileage was a big success!