Dawn Patrol — Training for the PCT
This winter was one of those times when you blink your eyes and spring has sprung already. Every day was filled with work, whether I was chasing tiny humans around on skis, running around the Patagonia Outlet in Freeport, Maine, or reviewing audio for the coxswains at the University of Southern California. The only time I seemed to find for myself was at dawn, with my skis strapped to my back and the tunes flowing in a quest for first tracks.
Most mornings, I hiked alone. I embraced the solitude, even though there was a subtle flow of traffic as the mountain prepared to open. My strength and fitness improved as the days ticked by and I felt as though the mountain was mine. I awoke each morning eager to hike and quickly took on the mantra “rise and grind.” These mornings brought me back to my days as a Division I athlete, when I felt strong and capable. Here, I felt like an athlete again.
At the top, as I took off my snowshoes and switched into my ski boots, I would look around and be humbled by the expanses of Mother Nature. The morning glow transformed the trail to gold and those first turns of the day would always exude a feeling of pure bliss.
Time was flying by, but in the back of my mind I had this crazy idea: hike all eight peaks at Sunday River in one day. I didn’t even know if this was a feat I could accomplish, so I added on the two peaks at Mt. Abram for good measure. Ten peaks in one day is a lofty goal, but I was determined.
Days off this winter were hard to come by, but one eventually came along in the middle of March. Here’s a play-by-play of this sufferfest:
4:30 a.m.: Alpine start.
6 a.m.: Let the games begin. The mountain is quiet, except for the groomers. The moon and stars are still out. And did I mention that the temperature is hovering right around eight degrees (excluding the windchill).
6:45 a.m.: Summit of peak number one, just in time for a brilliant sunrise.
7 a.m.: Followed the groomer back to the base. Talk about some dreamy corduroy.
7:15 a.m.: Round two.
8:15 a.m.: First tracks again.
8:30 a.m.: Nom, nom, nom.
8:45 a.m.: Here we go again. Now it starts to get blurry. Someone skied by me and called out, “You’re going the wrong way.” Anyone I saw from ski school had words of encouragement.
1 p.m.: Sticky bun time. Officially over the hump. Now it gets really blurry. Hike, ski, eat, repeat.
4 p.m.: Summit the eighth and final peak at Sunday River, just in time for last chair. High fives all around from the patrollers. Traverse (on skis) across all eight of the peaks back to the car to find a six pack of beer waiting for me. (Thank you, kind stranger!)
5 p.m.: Arrive at Mt. Abram and bust out peak nine.
6:30 p.m.: Summit peak number ten, just in time for sunset.
7:30 p.m.: Face first in a pile of cheap Chinese food.
8 p.m.: Zzzzzzz…
Well, I did it. Ten peaks, 12,000 feet of vertical gain over 11 miles in one day. This was the confidence booster that I needed coming into the PCT. Who knows what the trail will throw at me, but the mantra “rise and grind” still echoes in my head. May is coming faster than I can comprehend, but I know when that day comes, I will be ready.
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