Saturday, May 3, 2008

Into the, Grey

With my rest week coming to its conclusion, I was excited to spend a weekend doing something other than racing. It was a great opportunity to get in a long hike. For the past few weeks, I've been wanting to make the trek up to Tuckerman's Ravine and watch the carnage brought on by skiiers flexing their muscles in the bowl's boiler-plate conditions. So, this was me weekend to go North.

I awoke slightly before 6am and quickly got myself and Byrdy ready for the trip. A glance at the Mt. Washington Observatory's site revealed the weather would be okay with precipitation holding off until the evening. Within hours, this meteorologist, ranked in terms of cycling categories, would probably be ranked a Cat. 7.

Hiking is a great way to keep your legs active and use similar muscles used when cycling. Climbing up snow covered trails over rocks and fallen trees is quite like pedaling. And, if you're like me, the workout is even better as you climb with a pack stuffed with various odds and ends I might need if I were to deviate from the trail and find myself spending a month in the Himalayas climbing Mt. Everest. So, there I was early Saturday morning following Byrdy up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Every so often, I would peak through the trees and catch sight of the Observatory. Up there, probably sipping hot cocoa, was the meteorologist I put so much faith in that morning. Temperatures in the 40s he said. No precipation until evening or Sunday he said. Never did he mention the RAIN, WIND and FREEZING temperatures would set in at 8:30am Saturday! If I were a braver, more hardy man, I would have stormed through the wind, rain, ice and snow to knock down his door and drag him out to experience the weather he failed to predict.

Anyway, regardless of the less than ideal weather, I was enjoying my hike. The trail was riddled with skiiers and snowboarders bound for the snow fields. My fitness from cycling was evident as I sped past groups of heavy breathing hikers. The air was cold, but my quick pace forced me to remove all but my base layer and gloves. Within an hour of starting my hike I arrived at Lunch Rocks ready to provide the dramatic OHs and AHs for the skiiers and boarders making an assault down the headwall.

Unfortunately, the wind blown rain was now beginning to make me shiver as I cooled down from the speed hike. Rather than the OHs and AHs, I added my complaints of how cold I was. So, within minutes of arriving to my destination, I was once again on my feet lugging my pack.

Hiking UPHILL is similar to pedaling bikes. But, hiking DOWNHILL is not. No, hiking downhill, on snow no less, is more like taking a roofing hammer and tapping your knees over, and over, and over again. The loose footing of rocks and slipping on snow and ice stresses muscles I never knew existed. The Tuckerman Trail, as it was on my ascent, was still riddled with skiiers and boarders. But, rather than climbing past them as they labored to pull in a full lung of air, I was forced to wait as they waddled up the icy steps. As I stood on the trails edge attempting to avoid falling into tree wells but looking like I'm rehearsing for a Captain Morgan commercial, my legs shook like the needles of a sewing machine. It was uncontrollable. Every step was labored. A slip here cramped my hamstring. Catching myself before falling there pulled my groin muscle. By the time I was back at the car, I felt like I had just raced Battenkill again followed by match of Thai kickboxing.

So, I'm sitting here writing my account of the day's hike and my legs are still achy. But, unlike most weekends, the aches aren't from Fiordifrutta taking away my flashlight in the pain cave. With a long race season stretching from February to October, it's crucial to get in some time away from the bike and keep the mind and legs fresh. For me hiking is an incredible way to spend time off the bike, and I'm already looking forward to my time off after Fitchburg.

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