Saturday, August 28, 2010

Poetry, ultra-running, and another mountain run

Some of my favorite literature is the poetry written by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, and Shelley. For me, one of the most fascinating things about these poets is that many of them knew each other. They moved in the same circles, visited the same places, and wrote about those places, and yet, each of them had a different perspective. Mont Blanc, a mountain in the French Alps, is one of the places that appears in almost all of their writings, and it takes on different meanings in the different works. (It even appears in the novel "Frankenstein", as the doctor trails his monster across glaciers in the Alps.) And this weekend, the mountain took on even more meaning for about 2,000 people who gathered to run the 100-mile North Face Trail du Mont Blanc.

The librarian part of me was excited about following this race to gain my own experience of the mountain (however far removed from it that I am). The runner part of me wanted to follow it for awe and inspiration at the amazing feat so many participants would achive by completing the race. So I was really psyched up at work yesterday when my lunch break coincided with the start of the race. Only about 2 hours after it started, however, it was cancelled due to poor weather conditions.

If I was disappointed at the cancellation, I can only imagine what the runners felt. To have trained, traveled, and already invested so much mental and physical energy into the race and have it called off in the middle must have been immensely frustrating. I decided that as a nod to their efforts, I'd run up my own mountain this weekend, so this afternoon I took another trip to Mount Tammany.

I had run 6 miles yesterday afternoon, so I was a little tired, but I took it easy and rested a few times on the way up. It was warmer than last week, and I really noticed it when the trees began to thin out and I came into the full sun.

Although I did a lot of hiking today, when I did run, I felt more confident in my ability to navigate around rocks and roots than I did last week. In fact, I felt more stable running than I did walking. It's as if the lightness and quickness of the steps got me past the point where I would trip or stumble before it had time to happen.

I brought my camera this week, so when I reached the summit, I asked one of the people already there to take a picture of me. Here it is - me after running up a mountain:

I stayed around for a few minutes to enjoy the view. A lot of other hikers were gathering there, including some of the canine type. Here's one that I almost didn't notice because he was curled up in a little puppy nest between the rocks. He was so cute, but the poor thing looked hot and exhausted.

When I started back, I felt really refreshed, and was able to run over the rocky trail that I could barely walk over on the way up. Here's a picture of the top of the ridge before the trail leads down the mountain. It's amazing how, with enough energy and focus, you can pick your way over and around the rocks. I definitely was careful about it, though. I didn't want to trip and hit my head.

The way down was fun. I took the opportunity on some of the flatter stretches to really pick up the speed, and it felt great. I noticed that my quads did not hurt like they did last week, so I suspect that I'm already benefitting a lot from the workout. After making my way down the mountain, I climbed out into the middle of Dunnfield Creek. It rained a lot in the past week, so there was more water in the falls than last week's trickle, but you can see that it wasn't much. It was still a very pleasant spot, and I felt even more energized when I continued back to my car.

So I have now completed two runs up the mountain, and I am sure that it has made a trail runner out of me. I'm thinking of visiting a different park and running some hilly, single-track bike trails as a safer alternative to the mountain for now, although I hope to reach many more summits over the course of my running career.

"Mont Blanc yet gleams on high: -- the power is there,
The still and solemn power of many sights,
And many sounds, and much of life and death."

From "Mont Blanc: Lines written in the vale of Chamouni "
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1816

No comments: