Creeping up Halcott

Everything was going swimmingly — until the third 400-meter interval at the track, and then a twinge on the left edge of the left foot.  I cut things short and took an easy day (frustrating), returned to the track the following day and had a fine workout with five timed miles (couldn’t be more pleased) and the next day six miles around the park – all good, until the next morning, walking home along the river, and now the left foot is hurting for real.  At 4.25 miles I wave down a taxi.  This aborted walk gets recorded in the training log as code red:  injury.  It might be a stress fracture.  I might soon be thumping around in boot or wheeling about on a knee scooter.  The Grid for June and July is threatened, and not to mention a trip out west I’d just started planning.

I take five days off, during which time I sink into a funk:  sleep late, mope around, watch bad movies, find myself driving below the speed limit.  Perhaps I should scrap all my plans to run and hike and go back to the corporate world and get a job, as I’m bored out of my mind.  But then I come up with some contingency plans:  renew gym membership and swim in the pool, sign up to go bird watching, get back to work on the job hunt, see the Doctor and get an x-ray…

Then an even better idea occurs:  Try the foot out on a short bushwhack in the Catskills where the forest floor is covered in leaves and dirt, a soft and forgiving surface, not the relentless cement which made the foot hurt walking home in the city.  And since force is proportional to speed, I can limit impact by moving very slowly, which would not be hard to do since bushwhacks in the Catskills are always slow — suppose I target a 0.5 MPH pace:  how much damage could that do?

Halcott Mountain comes to mind: it’s just a little over a mile to the summit.  An interesting strategy to clarify my situation.  In one scenario, the bushwhack goes fine, the X-ray comes back negative, and we’re off to the races again with another June peak scratched off the list.  In the other scenario, things don’t go so well – in which case, the summer’s screwed anyhow, so what’s the difference.

“Now bid me run,” says Ligarius in Julius Caesar, “and I will strive with things impossible, yea get the better of them.”

And so with a shout for my loyal page Odysseus the Labradoodle, I lower my visor, level my lance, and ride into battle, to strive with things impossible and perhaps pointless and possibly even ridiculous, but so be it, this is my war, and I shall not give up quite yet….

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Creeping up Halcott

Balsam and Eagle (for the last time!)

The mission was to climb Balsam and Eagle as part of the Catskills Grid, which is a project that entails ascending each of the thirty-five High Peaks in each month of the year.  I didn’t realize it until I returned and checked the spreadsheet, but this was the 12th time I’ve climbed these two mountains, which means that with respect to the Grid, they’re done.  (Although I will surely return in the future just for fun.)  In terms of overall progress, I’ve now completed 350 out of the required 420 peak-month ascents, leaving 70 to go.  And while there’s no time limit to complete the Grid, for such an important project I feel a sense of urgency to finish it this year.

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Balsam and Eagle (for the last time!)

A Long Day

Slowly whittling away the remaining peaks for April, the warmer weather finally making things at little easier — and not just for me, but birds everywhere calling and singing and flitting about from branch to branch or circling overhead.  I started out this hike in high spirits, but well before the half-way point it was turning out to be more difficult than anticipated….

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A Long Day

Winter Still Reigns

The forecast kept me out of the mountains, I just didn’t have the heart to face freezing rain.  Where was Spring?

The next day dawned sunny, if not warm, so it was into the car and off to the north, time to get back to work on the Grid.  Along the way I noticed the sky was clear overhead, but cloudy along the horizon — upon reflection, it seemed this must always be the case, because when you look at a low angle, you see the mass of all those clouds and not the gaps between them.

Good spirits lasted for a little while until when cresting a rise on the highway, suddenly there were the Catskills right in front, with Plateau Mountain in particular stretching out as if with open arms to welcome, embrace, and crush me to pieces against its frosty white chest.  White not being the color of clear slopes and clean trails, like I’d been hoping for, but hardly a surprise, either, since the mountains create their own weather.

Pulling into the trailhead now, the valley socked in with a high cloud layer and snow dappling the ground…

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Winter Still Reigns

Searching for Spring

Spring!

Saturday started out balmy and clear, but on the drive north a line of dark clouds appeared above the horizon, looking like a coven of ravens frozen in mid-flight.  By the time I reached the Thacher Park Visitor Center outside Albany, the temperature had fallen into the 40s, a cold wind was whipping out of the north, and banks of gray clouds were massing overhead…

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Searching for Spring

Finishing March

March started out on a difficult note with four different snowstorms — which left me slogging through deep drifts, sinking up to the knees in fresh powder, toiling upwards one step at a time — just miserable hard work.  On one hike, I’d set out to climb four peaks but completed only one, which put me behind schedule.  As month-end began to draw near, there were seven peaks left — a feasible load — but then conference calls and meetings popped up unplanned for, and time started to get tight.  Now there would be little room for error, especially when the longest, toughest hike was left for the last day of the month….

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Finishing March

Back to the Cats: Completing the February Grid

“There’s no rush.”  Wise people counsel patience when I explain I’m trying to complete the Grid for the Catskill High Peaks, an obscure project that entails climbing the thirty-five peaks in each calendar month.  But the project is important to me, and I feel a sense of urgency to get it done.

February has been weighing on my mind.  To start with, it’s a month of challenging conditions — and not surprisingly, my log shows I’ve tended to steer clear of the Catskills during February:  only fifteen of the high peaks are complete, which means there are twenty to go.  That would be a lot for a full month, but with a trip to New Zealand scheduled for the first half of February, those twenty peaks will need to be climbed when I return, that is, within a two-week period, of which, after subtracting various commitments and appointments, only a handful of days is available.

Some nights I lie awake, reviewing different approaches for each of the twenty peaks, trying to devise the most efficient routes to get them done in the available time.  Be safe, I remind myself, it’d be fine to finish off February next year — but then I go back to calculating how to pull this off — and wondering whether I have the strength to do so —  and feeling vaguely uneasy.

And now the plane from New Zealand is touching down at JFK, and here I am back in New York…

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Back to the Cats: Completing the February Grid