Reach the Beach: Leg 17 – My Second Leg

I find myself at 2:45 in the morning under sparkling stars and bright moon in an open meadow at the top of a 2-mile long hill in the middle of New Hampshire.  Two thoughts quickly fly through my head: “What the hell am I doing here?” And “There’s is nowhere I’d rather be.”

I run so I can have runs like this – hard work and it’s reward experienced at once.

Janine’s run through the woods ended in the town of Meredith where I picked up the race.  The night was cool when I took off my jacket and prepared to run.  It’s disorienting starting a run a 2:22 in middle of the night after running 8 miles a few hours earlier and only a 90-minute nap.  It didn’t take long to warm up, though.

I knew what was ahead – 2 miles of uphill, a dip, and another 2 mile climb.  I started off in the flats on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee at a gallop.  I needed to buy myself some time for the climb.  It didn’t take long to reach the bottom of the hill.

I started up.  It was good it was the middle of the night.  No cars were around, no other people except for the occasional runner.  There wasn’t any reason to look up at the climb either.  I could only see what my headlamp lit and I needed to concentrate on not tripping on the sidewalk and uneven shoulder along what’s normally a busy highway.

I set in – churning up, automatic.  I leaned into the hill and pumped my arms harder to draw me forward and up.  I imagined my body floating like a balloon.  Everything about the run was new, my senses overwhelmed with the experience.  My watch beeped a mile – I glanced at an 8 something pace – then forgot about it as I climbed on.

There was a police officer at the top to watch traffic at the traffic circle where the course veered off to the right.  I offered a good evening as I made the turn and hoped it marked the end of the climb.  Not quite yet, but soon.  I passed a few runners and support vehicles, reassuring at this time of night, and strode on into the night.

Once at the top, the road flattened and the woods opened up on both sides.  Misty meadows stretched out on both sides of me and the stars and moon shone brightly overhead.  I was working so hard but my body on automatic giving my head a chance to soak in the night.  The feeling was unreal – something I haven’t felt in 10 years since Patagonia.

On the downhill, I let my body relax and gravity do the work.  Looking at the stats afterwards, my heart rate matched my elevation.

After 3.5 miles, it starts all over again – nearly a 2 mile climb followed by another nice drop – and I got to experience the whole set of emotions again but more dreamy this time through.  Hill climbing, miles passing, legs moving, breathing and breathing.

Every time I passed someone I wished them “good evening” with strength in my voice to help us both along.  It happened 8 times.  Just at mile 7 I noticed a light behind me and heard footsteps then breathing.  A southern drawl greeted me as he passed by – a runner from New Orleans ready for the hills to end.  The end was close for both of us but not before one last steep rise just to make sure we earn it.  That last press was hard but my mustachioed counterpart pulled me up with him.  I passed the bracelet on to Kathryn and finished with a “holy shit – that was hard!” and basked in endorphin-filled ecstasy.  The run was 53:55 of hard work and bliss, 7:18 miles.

To see the statistic, especially the heart rate vs. elevation charts go to Reach the Beach: Leg 17 – Details.

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