Thursday, July 30, 2009

Living Large in Lemster

The strangest thing about spending the week after the Vermont 100 in a slapdash house called The Painted Bear in Lemster, NH was this: Here I had just completed my first 100, a monumental event in the life of any relatively new ultrarunner, and there was nobody (outside of Brian and the kids) I could tell.

No Internet connection, no cell phone coverage, and even the land line at the house permitted only local calls. I felt like I was swirling in a time warp; a 21 Century consciousness stuck in 1972.

Telling stories gives them life. Not telling created this aura of unreality that persisted through the week. Yes, my legs were sore. Yes, my foot swelled to the size of a small cantaloupe. Yes, my toenails were falling off in my socks. Yes, I could not sleep despite bone-gnawing exhaustion. But none of these physical symptoms added up. I had finally, after a year of nursing that monkey on my back, finished 100 miles, and I could not quite believe it was true.

Nevertheless, there was still a week to be lived through with three energetic kids and a trooper of a husband who had packed the car and shepherded the family all by himself up to New Hampshire while I was tiptoeing through the tulips in Vermont.

The first couple of days were tough. My stiff-legged hobble was slow and Frankensteinesque. To get across the living room, cluttered as it was with games and puzzles and PlayMobil horses, was to negotiate an obstacle course of mammoth dimension. Sidestepping was out of the question. The horses and games suffered any number of full frontal assaults. I left carnage in my wake.

Ben asked me to sit down on the floor help him with his Puzzle of the United States. The unfortunate child was force to watch in horror for a full five minutes while I lowered myself piecemeal to the floor and then propped my throbbing foot on the fading foam sofa.

Sitting anywhere felt like a permanent condition. The smallest request for a sandwich from a hungry child long past lunch would lead to a long staring contest with the kitchen (perhaps I could cast a spell and make a sandwich from my chair?) followed by a moaning and lumbering like you would not believe. It's a wonder the poor dears didn't starve!

We went into Sunapee for ice cream. The 50 yards from car to serving window may as well have been another 100 miles. I can only wonder what the good citizens of Sunapee must have thought as I made my stiff and meandering way across the parking lot. Surely she cannot be this far into her cups so early in the day!? And driving all those children!

By Tuesday, I was approaching normal ambulation, though I still could not get my foot in a shoe. (Are crocs shoes?) We drove up to the Montshire Museum of Science near Hanover, NH. (If you have kids between the ages of 3 and 10 and you find yourself within 100 miles of this place, GO. It's amazing.)

The kids bounced like ping pong balls from exhibit to exhibit: "Look, Mom! Come here, Mom! FASTER, Mom!" It was all hands-on and it was all fun. (Not to mention educational, but at this point I was beyond caring). I tried to bribe them to sit down: "Come on over here and sit with me and have a NICE SNACK!" But nothing doing. Up two flights, down two flights, outside to the water exhibits, in and out of the gift shop, back up, back down. Wowza! Where do these kids get the energy?

Wednesday we climbed Mt. Kearsage. It's a mile scramble up the rocks and then (God help my achy-breaky quads) a mile BACK DOWN. Going up was fun. One of our parenting goals (making the most of Brian's mountaineering genes) is to raise our children to be fearless, and my-oh-my we seem to be succeeding. They climbed every rock, jumped off or slid down, and climbed again.

My heart was in my mouth, but I was powerless to stop them. It took every ounce of energy I had to keep to the given trail. Chasing down errant climbers was going to have to be a task for another day.

The top of the mountain was lunar.

It was socked in. The lovely view was lost in fog, but the clouds and the mist were magical. I sat. And sat and sat and sat. While the kids hopped on Pop. Brian was in hog heaven.

The descent was slippery and slow. Brian (the fastest downhiller I know) was jumping out of his skin. I basically sat on my ass and slid while the kids binged and boinged around me. We were like a lithium atom moving down the mountain.

Our last two days were rainy. Here I was finally able to move around like a regular biped, and we were mostly stuck inside. I walked up and down the hill outside the house a few times (mile up, mile down) to get the blood flowing to my legs. We canoed at the lake (something I could do!) between showers, went into Keene to do laundry and found a fabulous used bookstore, and ate more ice cream than should be humanly possible.

Late one rainy afternoon we went to Sunapee State Park and had the place to ourselves. It was 65 degrees and shrieking and splashing, we all swam in the lake. Extreme family vacationing! The cold water was heaven on my broken body.

On the way home we went 2/3 of the way up Mt. Monadnock. My legs were feeling fine and I flew up the trail. Sort of. The kids once again scrambled and gambolled up the wet rocks, picking wild blueberries all the way. Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk.

We made it to Monta Rosa, just before the exposed trail to the summit and called it a day.

And now I'm home and finally telling people that I ran 100 miles. Delayed gratification, it turns out, is very sweet. It's real. I did it! Let me tell you about my long day in Vermont......


  1. You are a much stronger woman than me. I do believe I would have driven to find cell coverage just so I could tell someone.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful little recovery vacation!!

  3. Hi Pam,
    good stuff, I laughed till i cried. congratulations on your finish. wish i could have kept up with you two.
    jerry f. st. louis

  4. A nice little vacation indeed!

    Jerry! So good to hear from you. Glad you found me. Susan and I were thrilled to see that you finished in under 30. Congratulations! Keep us posted on the rest of the Slam. Best of luck to you. I'll be thinking of you and your pacer/son!

  5. oh my! you were just 15 ish minutes drive from my house, which is of course outfitted w/the fastest internet connection and wi-fi, being the social glutton that i am--had i known, i would have had you in. i had never heard of anyone vacationing in lempster, but then, it sounds like you found some other nice things to do in the area. congrats on your vt 100! perhaps i will see you there next year.
    anna thorburn
    claremont, nh


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