Get Winter Wild with Uphilling, New England!

I wrote about embracing winter in my first post this year. You know, the post where I mentioned signing up for New England Winter Wild (Winter Wild) and adding microspikes to my running wardrobe. There’s more to the story so let me explain why there’s no better way to embrace winter than by “uphilling” with Winter Wild!

Photo by Gianina Lindsey and SNAPacidotic taken just after the start of Winter Wild at Wachusett Mountain on January 4, 2014.

Photo by Gianina Lindsey and SNAPacidotic taken just after the start of Winter Wild at Wachusett Mountain on January 4, 2014.

Winter Wild is a series of events introduced by Team AMP (Athletes Multisport Partnership), an adventure organization based in Hanover, New Hampshire. The series is award winning, recognized by the NH Governor’s Council on Physical Activity and Health for contributing toward healthy lifestyles and the NH Recreation and Park  Association for excellence in programming. According to NEWinterWild.com, “uphilling is a hearty winter workout, where participants ascend a ski slope using either snowshoes, skis with climbing ‘skins,’ or running shoes with ‘microspikes.’” The website explains the series as, “an uphill series with a twist, the finish is at the bottom so you get to come back down too.” Five of the eight races in the series take place in New Hampshire.

Jeremy Merritt sporting an ice beard. Photo by Gianina Lindsey and SNAPacidotic.

Jeremy Merritt sporting an ice beard. Photo by Gianina Lindsey and SNAPacidotic.

Let’s be honest. When I first heard of NE Winter Wild, it did not appeal to me for a few reasons. First, the running straight uphill for a prolonged period of time part. Second, the early start time. Third, the cold and frosty temperatures. After all, I assembled the Upper Valley Running Club (UVRC)’s 2013 year-in-review slideshow and visions of teammates with icicles for facial hair emblazon my memory.

So how did I go from being leery of this series to proclaiming it best for embracing winter? It started on a cold, dark, snowy December evening at the Salt Hill Pub in Hanover. Upper Valley Running Club gathered to host its annual Jingle Bell Run. Participants gathered to socialize afterward and to win great raffle prizes, the most coveted being entry and registration into the Winter Wild series. You know where this is leading. I won!

Pegging me amongst the softest, slowest UVRC runners, a board member (with sincere determination that this prize not go to waste) gently suggested two other guys really hoped to win and I may consider gifting or bartering with them. My easy out! After all, I only wanted a UVRC pint glass. Then it occurred to me that, given my current state of underemployment, I should use this stroke of good luck to stay in shape through winter on a budget. From that moment on I was steadfast in my commitment . . .

. . . until the day before the race came. The forecast called for sub zero temperatures. I fretted over what to wear. Carrying my skis uphill was out of the question, but I had no microspikes. I panicked as I recalled a recent, less-than-stellar performance climbing a hill with Upper Valley Trail Runners. I was unprepared. Even my husband gently advised I should probably stay home. Hearing this jumpstarted my “I’ll show you” and “if others can, so can I” mentality.  That night we headed out to Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) in West Lebanon and invested in a pair of Kahtoola microspikes. Problem solved.

Me just before finishing my first Winter Wild race. Photo by Gianina Lindsey and SNAPacidotic.

Me just before finishing my first Winter Wild race. Photo by Gianina Lindsey and SNAPacidotic.

I still went to bed anxious. My alarm went off around 3 a.m. I met up with my carpool at 4 a.m. By 6 a.m. we arrived. The room buzzed with energy and excitement. Friendly UVRC faces put me at ease. Slightly before 7 a.m. we headed toward the start where we received our last minute instructions from the race director. The moment I fretted over was finally here.

We took off and in only moments of uphilling I gasped for air. Trying to regain my calm, I counted breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. We reached a plateau of relief. I hoped it was downhill from here, but a little voice inside my head repeated the race director’s words about the wall you hit before coming down. I dreaded that wall and it appeared too quickly. Others around me fell going up. Forward motion became a battle. I felt like turning around, falling down, and possibly making a snow angel if I regained enough energy. Thanks to a teammate I spotted, I was able to snap out of it as I focused on and tried to mimic her machine-like ascent.

The top of the hill finally came. The moment I worked toward. It was downhill from here. As soon as I caught my breath again I was able to appreciate the beautiful landscape revealing itself with the rising sun. It stopped me in my tracks, leaving me wanting a picture. Two women  I passed earlier in the descent caught up to me and stopped to take the picture with me in it. The picture does not do justice to the beauty surrounding me in that moment, but it preserves the memory. I continued down and finished with a smile.

I felt empowered. Accomplished. This underemployed, “trailing spouse” felt at peace being right where she was at this point in her life. I carried the pain of sore muscles with me like an internal badge of honor throughout the next week.

My next race in the series was Ragged Mountain. I ascended the mountain more gracefully this time around. The gasping for air set in a little later. I counted paces between the towers of the chairlift when I tired. The uphill climb was difficult, but I was stronger from my first experience. I descended the mountain with more energy. I was surprised to finish with an abundance of energy. I needed it. A full day of skiing with my husband awaited.

My husband, Troy, and I on top of Ragged Mountain. Many races include discounts on day of event ski passes!

My husband, Troy, and I on top of Ragged Mountain. Many races include discounts on day of event ski passes!

Despite many topics I’d like to write about this year, I had to cover this one first. Why? With three races left in the series there’s still time for YOU to join me! So how about it? Use this link to register for Mount Sunapee and pay only $15 using the code “wintermotivation.” Embrace winter through the Winter Wild series!

You can learn more about Winter Wild and other events by liking Team AMP on facebook and following Team AMP on Twitter @TeamAMPllc.

Bonus! You may want to use this list of gear I wore as a checklist to plan and prepare for your first Winter Wild experience:

  • Microspikes
  • Running shoes, and because mine are not gortex I added the next item:
  • Plastic shopping bags (courtesy of EMS) to keep my feet dry
  • Ski socks
  • Running socks*
  • Long underwear
  • Winter running pants
  • Mock-neck running shirt
  • Jacket
  • Glove liners
  • Face mask*
  • Beanie
  • Ski goggles*
  • Change of dry clothes

* Denotes items omitted my second time.

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