By Anna Bentley
Four Leaves of Luck
Throughout a sea of leafy green vegetation, the chances of finding a four leaf clover are about 1 in 10,000. Such rarity has been marketed to the world as a symbol of luck. The chances of finding six four leaf clovers must be 1 in 60,000. Then our luck has been more than many experienced in a lifetime. With the Monadnock Girl’s Team, having six athletes that are all hard-working, fast, and fun is a concept not many are able to see. It truly is a fascination of nature.
The air has taken a turn, bringing a cold, brisk feel to Swanzey, New Hampshire. The trees are beginning to have hints of gold and orange, while the daytime has begun to shorten. Who knew that the sun was setting at 7 pm these days? Clearly not us. Then again, I only speak for myself. The first week of September was riveting for all of us. After going back to school and the entirety of the team coming to practices, it was truly beginning to feel like fall had come. Our normal routine was being set in place, and a feel for the season hung in the air. Mondays have now become our long run, starting out each week with quite a bang. Thankfully, the ones that had ran the half marathon the day before were graciously given the option to bike beside the others. Gray clouds floated above us, and a mist settled between the runners. Drops of rain moistened our faces and clothes, along with the effort. Our girl’s went out for a 70 minute run with a progression back. A few shortened the run to fifty minutes, but all around our legs felt energized and ready for the following workouts.
Tuesday’s run made up for the dismal day beforehand with sunshine and a gentle breeze that carried us along. We went for a 45 minute recovery jog around Whitcomb Road (a personal favorite), admiring the festive pumpkins and leaves that were scattered along the road. It’s mesmerizing how quickly the trees can dissolve from vibrant green to amber and gold. Afterwards we were instructed to do a few 200 meter sprints on the track and then finished the day off with some routine core and stretch. The next workout came much too quickly, as we were off to Death Hill. It is easy to guess why such a hill is nicknamed this. The .3 mile run goes up a steep incline, and then right when the top is near, there is practically a wall that must be conquered. The journey to Death Hill is two miles by rail trail, so we jogged over as our warm up. Once we were there, we ducked under the low hanging branches into another world. Outside the trail everything was colorful and alive, yet once inside, the trees looked sickly and bare. Along with this, the trail itself was covered in slippery leaves and moss covered rocks. We ran to the un-scenic crest three times, and on the third challenged our coach to join the fun-filled repeat. Surprisingly, we all beat him by about a minute, but he was a good sport. The way back was a mixture of race pace and tempo over to Simeau Lane for more hill sprints. We have very much been utilizing our resources around the
town. Even some roads roll their eyes when they see us coming.
Thursday and Friday were in preparation for the one and only White Mountain’s Invitational. Both days were easy and meant to recover our fatigued legs for our first full race of the season. Up to this point, we had only raced two miles, and the nerves were beginning to build. This didn’t last long, for we had little time to sleep before waking to be on the bus on time. Saturday was a balmy morning, with fog as thick as chocolate milk. We all gathered in the faux leather seats, wrapped in our blankets and looking droopy as any teenager would at 6 am. The three and a half hour ride was full of music, snacks and blanket forts. It was awe inspiring when we finally saw the majestic mountains above us as we pulled into Great Glen. The location is spectacular, and the view never disappoints. As we all got off in our hoodies and pants, we realized that it was actually a whopping 80 degrees with full sun. This was shocking as it is always cooler up at Mt. Washington.
Our girls did a little shakeout, talking of our hopes and goals for the race. After the warm-up, we realized the start was delayed slightly, and our anxious legs were bouncing up and down. At the starting line, we were a little frightened, gazing around at some teams we wouldn’t realize would be there. When the gun went off, this melted into a fury for the finish. We all devoured the hilly terrain with satisfaction and excitement as we filtered through the finish. In angst of the awards, our entire team journeyed across a fearsome brook, over a steep climb and through a dark tunnel in barefeet or socks. In the end, the girl’s team took 2nd place to Hanover, and we were quite excited with the result, and believe it is promising for the rest of the season.
We packed up the tent, saying goodbye to the mountains, and headed over to swim in a mysterious river. Not knowing what to expect, we saw a beautiful sight with water that cascaded down smooth stones and into a deep basin. Above this was a large cliff that ran vertically into the clear water. A few of our teammates were brave enough to jump off and into the shining pool. The fresh spring was as cold as ice, but rejuvenated us for the ride back. The next three hours were visiting a Circle K and listening to some memorable childhood show theme songs. By the end of the day, we were sleepy but had a great time that will be remembered in our hearts for many years to come.
Then the routine started all over again. After a long week of hard work, it can be frustrating to have it all erased, but it gives a new chance for the coming days. Monday was cloudy and sticky, having us break out the tank tops for hopefully one of the last times. We went for an 80 minute run around the scenic town that we call our home. We took the rail trail down towards Christian Hill Road, running up and down a segment we rarely get to challenge. Unfortunately, I miscalculated how long it would take us to get back. This led to us doing seven extra minutes that we weren’t supposed to do. Yet, perhaps my mistake just gave us the opportunity to go
above and beyond expectations.
Tuesday and Wednesday are a bit of a blur, for I was unable to attend practice due to a cold I obtained. Sickness is going around everywhere, and it was bound to hit us at some point. Thankfully, I was feeling much better Thursday and was able to join the team again. The air was crisp and cold, allowing us to wear hoodies for the first time since the spring. We went on a nice thirty minute pre-race run at the base of Mt. Caesar. This even allowed us to explore a new trail that we’d never seen before. A few striders were ordered and some core as we talked of miscellaneous topics with our brand new assistant coach.
Due to our small numbers, we were unable to score at the race the next day. It was slightly disappointing, for we were excited to see how we stacked up at Mascenic’s Homecoming Race. Neither us or the boys had the athletes to qualify, and were given the small white van that smelled of fish and had scratchy seats. Two of our fastest athletes were asked to pair up with the other two to push us during the race. They willingly accepted, putting others before their own time, ready to help the team close the gap between us. It was a beautiful day, and all four of us raced exceptionally well. It was thrilling to feel successful and ready for the Manchester Invitational next weekend. On the way back, we stopped at classic Kimball’s Ice Cream for a little post race celebration. After taking a picture with the rusted tractor and full stomachs, we piled back in the stinky van to ride back to the high school. September is a very special time of year full of stunning weather and beautiful sights. Though it is early on, our team is reaching new goals and PRs with every week that goes by. Despite our small numbers, we have never been closer and all share similar goals. We are lucky to have each other.