Training Throwback – Pemi Loop

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I promised this would have it’s own post and I have been meaning to get to it for weeks.  This training event deserves it’s own post because it was so much more than checking off miles and elevation on the calendar.  This was redemption for me.  The one day Pemi is known as the 2nd hardest hike in America, so it’s no joke!

In 2016, I attempted a one day counterclockwise Pemi loop three weeks after my first 50K.  It was a HOT day in the Whites and I simply didn’t have it in me.  I bonked between Garfield and Lafayette and just couldn’t get it back.  In retrospect, I believe I wasn’t recovered from the 50K and failed miserably to fuel properly.  For the first time ever, I knew it was time to bail in the Whites for safety reasons.  Tony and I came down our pre-planned bailout at the Lafayette false summit (ALWAYS have one! That is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you for the unforgiving Whites) and I ended the day vowing to go back.  I squeaked out about 19 miles of the Loop that day and knew when I went into 100 training I wanted to complete the entire Loop.

I watched my training calendar click away and the Pemi got closer and closer.  Here are the pinnacle training runs last two months of 100 training looked like:

  • Pineland Farms 50 miler – May 28th
  • Stairs Mountain (11 miles) – June 3rd
  • Belknap Double Traverse (21.1 miles) – June 10th
  • One day Pemi Loop (30 miles) – June 17th
  • Mt. Israel Mountain Repeats (14.5 miles) – June 25th

I did over 29,000 feet of gain in June to prepare for Vermont.  Note the location of the Pemi on this list… I had already logged serious miles and elevation before I rolled into that day.

Tony and I camped the night before just minutes from the trailhead.  It was fantastic and allowed me to practice camping, fueling and an early start… all critical points for my 100.  We ate a good dinner and went bed early.  I did drink a celabratory Boom Sauce given to me by a good friend for finishing my 50!  We should have camped after the Pemi (lesson learned!).

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Boom Sauce and excitement!

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Campsite Creep

We were up and hitting the trail around 6:22AM.  My excitement and nervousness was palatable.  I KNEW what I was getting myself into!  Bear in mind, I am not the fastest trail runner, but have the ability to just keep pushing (recently I was dubbed the “Bulldozer”) so I knew I would be on my feet for a long day.  I had eaten well before the start (Mountain House Eggs and Bacon and an Apple) and was well hydrated.

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6:22 AM Start at Lincoln Woods!

Our packs were heavy…. and as it turned out we could have gone a LOT lighter.  The original forecast was for 50s and rain.  In the Whites, you have to plan for the 50 to mean 40.  The mountains have their own ecosystem.  In our packs was extra layers.  Instead of this forecast, we had bluebird skies and temps in the mid to high 70s.  Needless to say… I spent the day weight training!  I used my Ultimate Direction 30 pack, carried 90 oz. of water at a time and had poles and my first aid kit too.

We started in Lincoln Woods for a counterclockwise Pemi loop.  This starts with an easy, relatively flat 4.8 mile walk towards Bondcliff.  Once the climbing starts, it almost never stops for the entire day.  The day was cloudy and misty at our start, but as we broke tree line just below Bondcliff we were welcomed by a gorgeous undercast!  I started hiking in 2002 and have been waiting for an undercast like this since then!  What a treat.  We continued moving towards Galehead Hut.  I was fueling well, felt strong and was climbing well.  I used Tailwind, plain water, some natural gels (Endurance Tap!) and Fuel for Fire pouches.  We made it to Galehead Hut by the six hour mark.  I had a Chef Boyardee Ravioli cup at the hut (cold, salty and delicious!) for lunch and we refilled our water.  It was already HOT and we suspected we would need to collect more water at the Garfield tentsite to get us back to the car.  Tony and I both carry Sawyer Minis to filter water.

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That undercast!!!

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The section between Galehead Hut and Lafayette is an absolute BEAST.  It was this section that yanked the wind out of my sails last year and set me up for failure.  I’ve hiked it a number of times in both directions and it literally busts your balls every time. Despite my best effort to eat and drink like I champ, I found myself irrationally hungry.  I was working HARD on those climbs, was really hot but never have been more determined.  We grabbed more water at the tentsite and kept on moving to Garfield.  I felt a little relief when I got there and felt better than I did last year.  The section between Galehead and the Lafayette false summit took me 4 1/2 hours. There is a LOT of elevation gain and loss in this section.

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Breaking through the clouds at Bondcliff

I got to the false summit and told Tony I had to stop.  What I should have said is “I have to stop and eat” but instead I said something like “I can’t go any further.”  He got worried (like he does) as I sat down and ate another Ravioli.  He was texting Lise and expressing his concerns I wouldn’t get this done and he didn’t want to be on the ridge in the dark. He told me his concerns and said we may have to bail.  Instead I literally yelled “NO F*&KIN WAY!”  in my head.  I did not come this far to bail again at the exact same spot I did last year.  NOPE.  I finished my food, packed up and took off.  Tony was still texting Lise and didn’t realize I was gone until I was picking my way towards the summit.  Yep.  Take that dink.  I had a new life to me.  Most likely due to the food, but the motivation didn’t hurt!

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Lots of climbing between Galehead and Garfield

I hit the Lafayette summit and made my way across Franconia Ridge.  The view from here is amazing for me because I get to not only see where I came from, but the end was in sight!  There are over 10 miles left from the summit of Lafayette to the bridge we started at, but I knew we could get across the ridge in daylight.  I had that in me!  It was getting foggy as we made our way to Liberty and Flume so I stayed strong and consistent. The worst part of this section was losing my “up button” by the time I hit that last Flume climb.  Tony took the lead and “pulled” me up that peak.  We summited Flume around 7:30 PM with heavy fog but still some daylight.  As we started our descent, I started to smile huge!!!  I was in the homestretch with six miles to go!  My quads, lower legs and core stayed strong all day so that descent was not hard.  If my pack hadn’t been so heavy and bouncy I would have been able to run.  As much as i like this pack, I have never been able to tweak it to run comfortably in it and it will be replaced for future fastpacking.  It just doesn’t work for me.

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Franconia Ridge never gets old… and we had it to ourselves

We made our way back to Lincoln Woods trail in the dark and in silence.  What I didn’t know is Tony was having a tough day.  Silence between us isn’t unusual as we spend long days on the trail.  Its the comfortable silence among friends.  I was giddy with excitement and getting choked up as I marched by way down Lincoln Woods back to the bridge.  I DID IT!!!!  HOLY SHIT!!!!  PEMI LOOP!  It has been a bucket list item for me for years and I pulled it off.  I was happy, nothing hurt and I was ecstatic!  I hit the bridge, whipped around and hugged by best friend.  I was crying (as usual) and he told me later he got choked up.  I was so excited he did this with me and pushed me through.  This is why our running relationship works.  I didn’t even hold the bailout comment against him! 😉

We got back to the truck, stripped what we could of our smelling gear and clothes and started the drive home.  We got McDonalds (my favorite post hike treat… don’t judge, it’s my thing) and sang songs all the way home.  We should have camped again, but because we are dumb it never occurred to us!

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Coming down Flume!

As you know, I am a Brand Ambassador for Altra and Born Primitive.  I want to speak on two invaluable pieces of gear:

Altra Lone Peak 3.0: I absolutely love this shoe.  The pair I wore had nearly 300 miles on them that day, but my feet stayed comfortable and they are excellent on the wet and dry rocks of the Whites.  I had not foot discomfort or blisters.  I paired these with Smartwool socks for the win.  Lone Peaks are zero drop with a wide toe box (all standard on Altra shoes) and have an medium amount of cushion.   The 3.5 just came out and has just minor differences.

Born Primitive Rhapsody Bra: This is my go to running bra.  I have a number of Rhapsody Bras and I cannot say enough about their comfort.  I wore one bra for the entire fifteen hours, and while I sweat tremendously and had a heavy pack on all day, I had no rubbing or chafing issues.  My heart rate monitor fits well under them and I forget I am wearing it.  I wore the Rhapsody for the entire hundred (changed once at mile 70).  I will never wear anything else at this point!  Want to try their stuff at a discount?  Use my code LIFTNRUN15 at http://www.bornprimitive.com for 15%!  They have a complete line of athletic and leisure clothing that is to DIE for!

Thanks as always for following along my running journey!

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15 Hours Later – CCW Pemi Loop DONE!

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