A full three weeks have passed without me making regular trips up Green Mt. This week, thankfully, my knee has been allowing me to make myself a familiar figure up there once again.
Yesterday I arrived back home in Boulder after nearly 12 hours of travel from Connecticut where I was attending a meeting with the kind folks at New Balance. In the morning I'd put in a leisurely nine miles exploring the hills and hollows of the Thames River, but after sitting on an airplane for most of the day I knew I needed to get out and stretch the legs.
Off to Green Mt. then.
In those intervening, largely Green-less weeks, the mountain had become much more aligned with its name. Finally, the last vestiges of snow are gone and the foliage is in full force. I felt a surprising bounce in my legs as I made my way through the two miles of streets to Chautauqua, so I decided it was time to see if my fitness has been eroding or not with the lowered mileage. A focused effort of Green's frontside route would fit the bill.
My legs felt in control as I cranked my way up the almost dishearteningly steep steps of the Amphitheater trail, but my stomach was off as a result of three days of travel, odd meals, and irregular hours. Even so, I came through the Saddle Rock junction in 6:05, 15 seconds under my previous best time for that stretch of trail. Above here I focused on getting into an efficient rhythm and not wasting unnecessary energy by trying to go too fast through sections of exceedingly technical trail. For much of this winter, this route was mostly a perfectly-packed trench of snow with the abundant rocks and roots smoothed out and filled in. Now, with the snow gone, trying to run it fast is a much different experience. What one gains in marginally-improved traction (Microspikes do an amazingly good job during the winter) is almost certainly lost in having to keep a constant tension in one's leg muscles just to stay upright on the variable terrain.
I passed the Flatiron Turn-off in 11:50--30 seconds under PR pace--and then was sure to not overdo it on the very steep section leading up to the overlook. After an almost-not-there downhill, I reached the Greenman Trail junction in 17:55. From here, the trail becomes much more forgiving for about two minutes. There are almost no rocks and even a short downhill section on which you can catch your breath before hopping over a spring and beginning the struggle through endless talus and rock and log steps that define the final 10 minutes of this mountain.
The last three minutes on this route are always a signifier of what kind of effort you've put in. If you've been sand-bagging up until this point, you can draw on your abundant energy reserves to dance through the rocks with exhilerating aplomb. If, however, you've been operating on a razor's edge for the majority of the climb, this final section will likely send you over the brink and you'll probably trip, stumble, even turn an ankle, and feel mostly like a hypoxic, bumbling idiot as you struggle towards the summit. Which is probably what Green has temporarily turned you into.
Thankfully, my stomach woes had forced me to keep the effort slightly conservative up until this point, and I was able to sprint to the top nearly as quickly as when snow has smoothed it into a more uniform surface. I reached the summit in 31:29, a satisfactory 50 seconds faster than my previous best, clocked this winter.
Sitting on the summit rock I was rewarded with a most outstanding sunset: storm clouds were beginning to swirl over the Indian Peaks as the last rays of light shone through, creating a breathtaking (no pun intended) natural light show. What's more, it was nearly eight o'clock at night and I was on the summit with nothing more than a pair of shorts and a pair of shoes. No shirt or headlamp needed. And later, running barefoot on Kittredge Field in near complete darkness, the air still held plenty of warmth to keep me comfortable. Man, I love summer.