Crushing The Book: Four Hours On The Airline

Tom and Riley Climbing Mt. Adams in the White Mountains

My Life Has Changed.

The weird part is there was no single reason. No job change, family milestone, or graduation caused it. The kids have been around for a few years now, so it’s not that. This just kind of crept up on me, where I’ve become this person who wakes up at the crack of dawn to go running. And lifting, and whatever else it takes to get rid of the extra 50 lbs I’ve picked up.

But I’m not part of the fitness community or anything like that.

Here we are high up on the Durand Ridge of Mt. Adams in New Hampshire, heading along what they call the Knife Edge (I’ve been on Katahdin’s Knife Edge, and there is no comparison – I’d never take one of my kids on Katahdin’s, while Rye is hiking the Durand Ridge on her own). Except for the hour we spent on that ridge, I cruised to the junction of the Airline and Chemin de Dames trails in a little over two hours, where I let Rye hike (which is kinda the point), then powered up the rest of the way in a half hour after Rye got back in the pack. That’s 65 lbs total on my back, and I didn’t just beat the guidebook time, I crushed it.

Four hours is only 25 minutes better than the book, but Rye took an hour on a section that would have taken me 20 minutes. I would have done the Airline in 3:20 easy.

Climbing Mt. Madison in the White Mountains

A group of hikers, who were in the parking lot about when I left, probably thought the guy with a child in a backpack was just going to visit some of the pretty cascades a mile from the road. They never expected to meet me on the summit of Mt. Adams, and certainly not ahead of them. My trips with the kids make for some great conversation. We’ve hiked quite a lot, and I think we all love it.

But I’m not part of the hiking community. Unless you count the blackflies.

Not A Joiner

I run. A lot. Between 25 and 30 miles a week. I take part in races, and have even been on a running team, but I’m not part of the running community. I’ve been skiing since I was a kid, but I never joined a community. The closest I ever came was boating, where I joined friends regularly to paddle whitewater rivers in kayaks and share drinks and grilled meats afterwards, but I wasn’t known to many paddlers outside the group, really. Never a member of any community.

So it’s not that.

Riley climbs Mt. Madison in the Presidential Range

Music was once a passion of mine. I have a music degree, so it better have been. But since then I’ve discovered a plain truth: music is HARD. It’s hard to get into a band, hard to get on stage anywhere, hard to get a job in it, and hard to be really good at it. Even while I was trying, I never really joined a ‘scene’ or knew anything about it, so I gave that up.

A Tale Of Two Years

The 2011 was pretty chock full of hiking trips. We hiked 26 4,000 footers in New Hampshire, a handful of Acadia peaks, and some other peaks around New Hampshire and Maine. What I found was that I couldn’t run between the weekend hikes. I was just in too much pain.

This year, now that I’ve trained for a marathon and adopted a new running technique, I’m better than ever. I can run 5 miles the day after a hike. A big hike. You know those sudden lockups when you curl your toes the wrong way while lying in bed? I’ve had them, but not in a few years. The hikes are bigger, too. I did a 12-miler on Washington two weeks ago with Connor, who is heavier than Riley, and crossed the Alpine Garden before reaching the summit, then took the Boott Spur Trail down. That’s an insane trip even without carrying 65 lbs.

Tom and Riley on Mt. Madison in the White Mountains

The Boott Spur Trail destroyed my legs for three days, like the Boston Marathon did. But there was a clear and obvious reason: I didn’t drink nearly enough or bring any energy gels. On the Mt. Adams trip one week later, I choked down three energy gels during the hike, and imbibed four liters of electrolyte-charged water. I also wore the calf-socks, which compress the calf slightly and encourage blood flow, increasing warmth, fighting lactic acid buildup, thus improving stamina. Do you think I knew about this kind of thing a few years ago?

Not The Weight Loss Community Either

It was all in the name of weight loss. I hated what I saw in the mirror. I’m amazed at people who can maintain their workout regimen when they have small children. For me, when the kids were between birth and age three, they didn’t reliably sleep through the night, which wrecked any plans I had to get up early and go work out.  So a three-year hiatus from exercise, combined with sloppy nutritional intake, added 50 lbs to my frame that didn’t belong there.

A couple of years ago another boater looked at me and patted his belly, indicating that I’d packed on some pounds. Maybe it was that moment, or maybe it was the sharp pain in my ribcage one morning while shoveling snow that did it. I decided I needed to get back in shape. And not just any regular shape – a serious shape. I wanted to do some stuff with my kids that few parents do. I wanted to climb playgrounds with them, run with them, hike with them, swim with them, boat with them, ski with them, carry them and bounce with them.

Am I Special? No.

I claim no particular superiority at parenthood or anything else. I just want to be me, but more so. I want to push the envelope, and not just at running, or hiking, but at BEING. A better person, a better husband, a better father, a better marketing flack.

I don’t want to just beat book time, I want to crush it.

The Gulfside Trail in the Presidential Range

So after spending some time on the Adams summit, Rye and I headed down to Thunderstorm Junction. She hiked this part, then got in the pack and I hoofed on over to the AMC’s Madison Spring Hut in about twenty minutes. To be honest, I stopped caring about book time at this point because if you reach Adams at 10AM, and get to the hut to tank up on water by 11. You’ve got what we call TIME. The day is yours. We hung out for awhile, summitted Mt. Madison, then came back and hung out again. Rye played with some other kids, none of whom were under age ten, then we headed down the Valley Way to the car.

In Two Hours.

I’m not here to inspire anyone. I’m just saying I like running faster, hiking with the kids, climbing playground elements, and seeing my belt again. I will keep running marathons, and will do some longer, more strenuous hikes, and will introduce the kids to some truly awesome experiences.

They are the only ‘community’ I need. Let’s go crush some book.

6 thoughts on “Crushing The Book: Four Hours On The Airline

  1. Love it! So glad you are finding good changes in your life, and that they are making you happy. We should definitely do coffee soon and catch up =)

  2. Welcome to “the 42 club” Tom. We just hit that one (and the 4 before it) last week with the Wildcats and Carters. I simply can’t fathom doing your recent hikes with 65 pounds on my back. Amazing! Good for you for getting the kids out there with you. Have you got you finish panned yet? More lists on the horizon?

    Happy trails.


    • Mark, we’re down to the Franconia Range, Bondcliff, Carrigain & Jefferson. Definitely saved some great trips for last! After the 48 I’m thinking 67, considering we’ve done a couple in Maine.


  3. Great telling of a great day! I look forward to taking these two on as well; was wondering if they could be done in one day; obviously they can!

    • They absolutely can, Erik. In fact a lot of people do the whole Presi range. From one car, though, I figure Jefferson can be added using The Randolph Path and back over the summits, or via the Great Gulf to Six Husbands and back by Gulfside & Osgood. Both are on the wish list when the kids are older.


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