Hiking the AT is like running a marathon …
- AT is approximately 84 marathons long
- Average male hiker expends more than 5,000 calories per day
- My through hike will be at least 150 days long
- Average marathon runner expends 2,600 calories per race
While I don’t consider myself a good runner, I’ve run a fair number of marathons in my day. This hike is beginning to remind me of the Marine Corps Marathon I ran in the early 90’s. I was a grad student at the time and had run the Marine Corps Marathon a few times already. My goal was to run under 3:30, not great but respectable. Up to this point, I had always come in just over my target time. So I decided to train in earnest. Working on both speed and endurance. As the day of the race approached, I was in the best running shape of my life. I had done a 21 mile training run at a pace 30 seconds per mile faster than what I needed to break the 3:30 mark. I was ready. Just before the race, I had an equipment failure. My Nike running shoes, which had air bladders in the soles, ruptured 3 days before I was to depart for Washington DC. I went out to buy a replacement pair but they only had the shoe in 1/2 size smaller than I had been using. They were a little snug, but I thought they’d be ok.
On the day of the race I went to the starting line, confident I would set my PR. As it was late October, it was a little cold and the forecast called for rain. No worries, I’d trained in the rain, I got this. Before the starting cannon sounded, the rain was coming down pretty hard. By the time I had reached the 3rd mile, I was splashing my way around DC in what had to be at least 2-3 inches of water. My shoes, being new, a 1/2 size too small and now wet, weren’t feeling that great on the feet. I was determined to achieve my goal nonetheless. After all, “pain is just weakness leaving the body” according to the shirt of the pretty blonde who had just passed me.
When I reached mile 8, still on pace to achieve my goal, I found myself running next to Oprah (Yes that Oprah). My first thought was, how the heck was she in front of me all this time? Then I thought, she looks pretty fit and is running comfortably (not so much her body guard). I now had two goals – beat 3:30 and Oprah. I pushed forward, confident I would soon achieve my objective. By mile 13, my feet were feeling pretty sore. I looked down and noticed that with every stride, little puffs of red water were emanating from my saturated shoes. By mile 15 I had to stop running and walk a bit. Not too much later Oprah ran past me! No way was that going to happen. I sucked it up and took off and soon had Oprah safely behind me. This game went on for the next 7 miles. I’d stop to walk, Oprah would pass me, I’d run until she was safely behind, then I’d stop to walk again. By mile 23 Oprah passed me for the last time. I couldn’t find it in me to chase her down. She ended up beating me by 20 minutes. I failed at both my goals.
So why the long, humiliating story of a past marathon failure? Because right now I feel like I am at mile 17 of that race. I am hitting the wall. My body is literally consuming itself and my feet hurt everyday. On top of that I am approaching the AT’s equivalent of heartbreak hill – The Whites of New Hampshire. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned. Dash and I have been putting in a lot of 20 mile days. The miles are taking a toll. I think with the couple hundred miles we have before reaching New Hampshire we will start dialing back a little on the miles and taking a rest day (zero) every now and then. I think we’ve had only 2 zeros in the last 1000 miles. I’m struggling with balancing wanting to complete this journey and not being uncomfortable every day.
Since my last report, we have finished PA, NJ, NY and CT. Pennsylvania was brutal on the feet and shoes. While melting my first set of trail runners was entirely my fault, the second pair will have lasted a little more than 3 weeks! I have super glued the soles back on the shoes 3 or 4 times. The razor sharp rocks cut the shoes right off your feet. My new pair arrive tomorrow – not a moment too soon. Let’s hope these can last a little longer.
New Jersey started out as a mini PA. Not quite as bad but not really the reprieve I was hoping for. Fortunately, about halfway through the state the trail mellowed and we were able to walk with a little less caution.
New York started hard with some rock scrambles and light bouldering but it too wasn’t so bad. Connecticut has been the kindest to the feet as of late. This makes me hope that Massachusetts and Vermont will give us the opportunity to heal and recover a bit before we tackle, arguably, the toughest two states – New Hampshire and Maine.
As spring is now here – the AT has really become the “green tunnel” you hear about. The tree canopy is full and everything takes on an eerie green hue. The bugs are also out in force. I’m constantly slapping at things dropping out of the trees or flying in my ears, eyes and nose. Lovely. I have pulled two ticks off my body now. Neither of which were implanted too long. Ah – the great outdoors. We have encountered many snakes, both venomous and non-venomous. The good news I’ve seen them before stepping on them (mostly).
I’m sorry if this report is a little more depressing. As I said, I’m in those middle miles of the marathon where you keep your head down and keep moving forward. The novelty of the start has worn off and the excitement of seeing the possibility of finishing is still too far off.
To end on a positive note – the trail continues to bring new and interesting people across our path. My brother Skip will soon be joining me for a brief section. I look forward to his company. The views from the mountain vistas continue to amaze. Our country is so beautiful and, for the most part, the people we have engaged have been great. It’s just been a long time and there is still so much left to do. Please keep me in your prayers. I ask for diminished body aches and a refreshing of the mind. While the goal remains the same – Mt Katahdin, I don’t want to limp across the finish line – although I’d take that too!
Meditation – Hebrews 12
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
- Passed 1500 mile marker
- Hiked through a cool little zoo
- Finished GA, NC, TN, VA, WV, MD, PA, NJ, NY, and CT
- Fall count holding steady at 7
Never Been Closer,
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