Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Busy Weekend

It's been a busy weekend.
Friday. After spending the whole day packing gear for 5 separate (and exhausting) athletic activities, Michelle, Ali, Oscar, and I drove out to North Conway, NH for the 70th running of the Tuckerman's Inferno.

Saturday. I ran the Inferno. Which is to say I ran, paddled, biked, hiked, climbed, and skied the Inferno. Because that's what the Inferno is: an extreme pentathlon. The only event that didn't include steep pitches was the kayak portion... and the kayak portion presented its own set of challenges because the water was so slow that many teams didn't reach the ski portion by the cut-off time. I made it narrowly, so I was allowed to cramp-on my way up the crusty, icy Left Gully at Tuckerman's into a foggy cloudbank, then ski down over the same crust and ice. As for the event as a whole: incredible. And, I have to mention my crew. As far as I am concerned, the Inferno is not possible without a top-rate crew. And Ali, Michelle, and Oscar were amazing. Special note to Oscar: thanks for sharing that donut with me at the boat/bike transition. I didn't really want the whole thing anyway. (Picture #1: Ali's facial expression shows how she feels about peeling bananas -- a crucial energy fuel for "Tuckermen." Picture #2: getting ready to climb the mountain.) When the Inferno, which ends at the bottom of Tuckerman Ravine, is over, it's not really over. After 6 hours of constant physical activity, I still had to ski/hike off the mountain, and then we drove to Hartford, Connecticut for...

Sunday. The Baptism of my niece Abbey Grace McKain (see Picture #3 below). A shifting of gears from the mud, sweat, snow, and fog of Saturday to Sunday clothes and church. But it was great friends and family event. We enjoyed the sermon about -- appropriately -- Earth Day and the gathering afterwards. But we had to keep the socializing brief because we had to get Michelle to...

Monday. The Boston Marathon! Michelle qualified for Boston at the St George Marathon last fall, but that was in perfect weather and with no illnesses or injuries. She clawed her way to the finish Monday in a gritty race full of hills, cold wind, a sore leg, and a severely upset stomach. (Picture #4: Michelle at the Finish.) Meanwhile, Alison ran 20 miles of the course as a training run for her upcoming Vermont City Marathon. Boston is known for its "Bandits," but let it be known that Ali carried her own water the whole way and didn't take any from the water stations positioned along the course -- except when Michelle asked her to pick up some Gatorade. Even then, Ali missed the Gatorade and instead gave Michelle water. We stayed the night before with Jessie and Tom and their 14-month-old twins Nate and Zach. Here's what I learned from that experience: If you are considering having twins, you should first speak with Jessie so that you don't enter into the situation uninformed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Chin

There's no better way to usher in spring... than to go skiing! Today the Spruce side of Stowe was closed for the season. That is sad, of course, but there's an up-side to everything: dog-owners of the Adventure Center brought their dogs to work! Berkeley was there, but Fletcher had to stay home because his exuberance would render him lame for the rest of the week. Still, two dogs brought plenty of energy to the place.

We worked hard all morning, but then Oscar and I got down to business. The Gondola is closed for the season too, so I put skins on the bases of my telemark skis, and began the ascent of Perry Merrill, the long cruiser off the Gondy. Oscar loped here and there and back and forth and up and down. He is truly a snow dog. At one point, mountain officials turned the Gondola on to transport restaurant supplies down from the Cliff House. When they turned the lift off, we could -- for the first time really all season -- appreciate the silence that you have when it's just you, your dog, and the mountain.

We saw one skier on the way up -- a gal who had skied over from the Quad (the one lift still operating) on the Rimrock Trail and had herring-boned her way up to the top of the Gondola. She came swooshing down wearing a bikini top and a smile -- and she said the slog up was well worth it.

Oscar and I, though, didn't stop when we reached the Gondy house. We wanted to stand on top of Vermont. The boot-packed trail was pretty navigable, and it was just a beautiful day. Warm, no wind, and clear. It took about 30 minutes until we stood on the summit of Mount Mansfield's Chin. We could see clearly to Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England. The snow is disappearing up there, but it is certainly skiable. We made jump turns down Profanity (the chute to the right of the Hourglass) in heavy snow and cut back to the top of Chin Clip.

It was a nice long run on a beautiful day. I wore a T-shirt hiking up and a wind-breaker coming down. I wore sunblock, but still got burned. Oscar loved every minute of the journey, but is still a little tired today. And I am happy to have skied off the top of my state on April 15th.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


It's always a sad time of year when the snowmen start to melt and the sun gets stronger. This year, we are packing away all of the ski teaching tools in the Adventure Center and I am saying goodbye for the season to many of my friends at Stowe. If only winter could go on and on...

On the other hand, so much to look forward to with the new season! Walking with Ali and Oscar in the mornings (which are light now!), getting back on the road to do some running, heading up to the Lake Champlain Islands, swimming in the Winooski across from our house, climbing in Bolton... okay, put that way, I can't believe I've had to wait so long for summer!

Transitions between the seasons are always happy and sad. And busy. Wow, are they busy. Inevitably, the incoming season's activities begin before the culmination of the outgoing season (read: this has been the case since about mid-February), and sometimes I have a tendency not to sit back and reflect on the changing of the seasons. Note to self: don't forget to sit back and enjoy for a minute!

I love the fact that seasons change -- and I also like changing jobs with the seasons. Every season turns into a new chapter. And if you liked the last chapter, have no fear; winter '09-'10 will be back upon us in just a few short months. For the meantine, however, welcome spring and summer!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Like everyone else in the country (and maybe the world), I have been captivated by the unfolding events off the Somali coast where pirates hijacked an American ship, escaped on a lifeboat after taking the ship's captain hostage, and then found themselves in a tense standoff with the US Navy. At this point, the crisis has been resolved: the captain is free, three of the pirates are dead, and one would think everyone is happy.

Not so. I just heard a report on National Public Radio that talked about insurers for shipping companies being disgruntled by the way the situation was handled. The report quoted an attorney who represents shipping insurers as saying his clients are "generally uneasy" about military action against pirates. "If the military action fails," the report has this guy saying, "there could be a catastrophic loss. And that could well be greater than the more modest cost of paying the ransom."

This is just like lawyers and insurance companies. So we should have just let the guys go and then paid them a ransom? Come on, you guys, find a backbone! Here, someone finally stood up to the bully of the schoolyard (the schoolyard in this case being the ocean off the African coast). And you're already cowering in the corner? Just because you've been pushed around up till now doesn't make it right. As much as I like pirate movies, these real-life pirates are just thugs robbing boats carrying humanitarian aid to people who need it. Tell the boat insurance guys to get out here while the rest of the world stands up for itself. Sheesh!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Inferno

In one day: run 8 miles, paddle 6, and bike 18 miles up hilly Route 302 in New Hampshire. Once there, shoulder a backpack laden with skis and skiboots and hump it up the steep Tuckerman Ravine Trail. When you get to the base of the ravine, drop your pack, don your ski boots, carry your skis straight up the steepest pitch the East Coast has to offer, then ski a Giant Slalom course some lunarticks have set on the storied Headwall of Tuckerman's. The event is known as the Inferno, it's organized by a group called Friends of Tuckerman, and I'm participating next week.

Why did I decide to do it? It sounded neat at the time. How well-prepared am I? Not well. Am I going to do it anyway? You bet I am.

I'm sure it will be a hair-raising tale, so stay tuned for a blog-entry coming soon. The Inferno is coming up, and when the starter says "Go" I'll be there with the rest of the self-torture set. See you there!