Hello! My name is Sue Norwood AKA "Runtrails."
As I age (and hopefully mature), it becomes increasingly
important to live my life with intention. There are so many things that
I still want to do in the second half of my life!
I'm learning to live each day "as if this is all there is."
Fortunately, I'm married to a man (Jim O'Neil) who has the same
philosophy. It is important to us to stay healthy, fit, and young at
heart so we can pursue our dreams and active lifestyle for many more of
our "retirement" years. We may have retired from our careers, but we
haven't retired from LIVING.
This journal will chronicle our ultra running and other adventures during the summer of 2006.
The plan isn't as grand as last year's (whew!), but we're excited about
it. We begin in less than a week.
Briefly, we are going to spend three
months running trails in some of Wyoming and Colorado’s
most beautiful mountain ranges, often at high altitude. Sandwiched
between two 100-mile ultra marathons –
in Wyoming (June 16-17) and
Leadville in Colorado (August 19-20) – Sue, and maybe also
Jim, will be running the 483-mile long
between Denver and Durango. There will be other adventures we’ll share
along the way, such as a 50-mile race on the way to Wyoming from our
home in Virginia, and volunteer work at the
100-miler in Silverton, Colorado.
A little history is in order for
readers who may not have read the journal we wrote last year. If you
did read it, this is an update.
With Jim’s able crewing assistance,
in 2005 I was able to achieve one of my life dreams: to run and
hike the entire 2,175-mile long
Appalachian Trail (AT) in the eastern
United States. It was the trip of a lifetime for me, and whetted my
appetite to do more “journey runs” in this beautiful country of ours.
Not only are there several other established long trails, such as the
John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, it is also possible to
piece together one or more existing trails around the country to make up
your own unique journey runs.
Jim and I are both “ultra” runners.
Ultra marathons are races longer than the standard marathon distance of
26.2 miles. Most races are a fixed distance (such as 50K, 50
miles, or 100 miles) or a fixed time (e.g., 12 hours, 48 hours,
six days). Venues include tracks, roads, and trails. Jim and I train and
run races primarily on trails, preferably hilly or mountainous ones.
I’ve been running long distances since 1980 (Jim since
1978). I have never
backpacked and had no intention of starting at age 56 when I began the
Appalachian Trail Adventure Run last year. I have arthritis and need a
decent bed each night, not a sleeping bag on a hard surface in a shelter
or tent. Carrying a 25- to 40-pound pack wasn’t my idea of fun, either,
and would have prevented me from running.
A few other ultra runners have actually run the
A.T. (well, as much as you can run that mountainous, rock-intensive
trail system – even the record-setters have to do a lot of speed
hiking). These men set the precedent for me.
(Note: I tried to find out before
and after my thru-run/hike if any other women have tried to run the
entire AT. Several women have hiked it faster than me, but as far as I know, I
may be the first woman to have completed a thru run. If another
has done it, please let me know.)
Instead of the traditional method of backpacking and
camping along the Trail most nights, I treated each day like a long
training run. I thought like an ultra runner, dressed like an ultra
runner, ate and drank like an ultra runner, and carried the same
supplies I’d carry on a long training run or race. Jim took me to the
trailhead each morning and picked me up at our designated rendezvous
spot each afternoon. I ran and hiked from Point A to Point B, admiring
the scenery, taking photos and notes, and meeting lots of interesting
people along the way. Then I got to take a shower, eat a good meal Jim
had prepared for me, and sleep in the camper each night!
Now that’s fun!
However, some folks think that’s a downright sinful
way to hike the Appalachian Trail, or any other long trail. Well, I
betcha they don't have arthritis in every joint of their bodies!
Not only did we meet several older hikers who were
crewed or crewed themselves along the AT, even some younger folks find
this way of trekking appealing. We received (and continue to receive)
very positive responses to our web journal, and many of the thru-hikers
I met on the Trail were interested and encouraging to me.
There is more than one way to enjoy our nation’s
incredible trail systems, get some great exercise, and respect the
environment. Figure out what way is best for you and JUST DO IT!
You can spend a few minutes or a few weeks
reading about our AT adventure and browsing hundreds of photos we took
along the way. Click on the “AT Adventure Run” link on our home page for
the introduction to that journey, or go directly to the
NOW, OUR NEWEST ADVENTURE
I know I had more fun last summer than Jim did. He was
busier and more stressed out from crewing for me than I was running and
hiking each day I was on the AT.
Jim had an unbelievable range of duties, some less fun
than others, to keep “Runtrails & Company” moving up the Trail. He had
his own adventures and misadventures with our truck, camper, two big
dogs, and logistics. His responsibilities included finding illusive
trailheads, moving our camper every couple days, dealing with traffic
problems, buying food and supplies, fixing meals, doing laundry, helping
me with my equipment and supplies, etc., etc., ad infinitum. He didn’t
have the time or energy to run as much as he wanted, and he sacrificed
his own races and volunteer work with the local fire department and
rescue squad for almost five months to help me reach my dream.
Not fun. So how could I
possibly ask him to crew me yet again this summer on another long
Well, time dulls bad memories somewhat – including
mine! The AT was tough on both of us (to say nothing of what it did to
our savings account balance), so I didn’t even consider doing a
multi-month trek this soon on a really long trail like the Pacific
Crest, Continental Divide, or, god forbid, the American Discovery Trail
(a 7,000+ mile east-west route across the U.S.). Instead, I honed in on
a shorter trail that has been on my radar screen for several years: the
Colorado Trail (CT).
It really didn’t take any bargaining for Jim to agree
to crew for me again. Here are some reasons why:
- The Colorado Trail sounds pretty short to us after
spending over four months doing the Appalachian Trail.
- It is already conveniently divided into
twenty-eight segments with vehicle access, so we don’t have to bother
as much with planning how far to go each day.
- Parts of it are located close to two of our
favorite hundred-mile trail races: Leadville (which Jim plans
to run this year) and Hardrock (where we are volunteering).
- And we love being in the Rockies! The photo below
is from 2004 when we summitted Mt. Elbert, the highest mountain in
Colorado's string of fifty-four "14'ers." The CT flanks the
eastern side of Mt. Elbert, but many of its hikers go on up to the
top. Those are the Twin Lakes in the background, right.
Although the Colorado Trail is only 22% as long as the Appalachian
Trail, it is no "piece of cake." This rugged trail covers a lot of
high-altitude ground between Denver and Durango as it crosses eight
mountain ranges, seven national forests, six wilderness areas, and five
river systems. We'll be above the tree line considerably more than on
Our plans for running the Colorado
Trail are similar to the way we did the AT, but even more flexible. I
won’t be doing each segment in order from either north to south (the
preferred direction of most CT hikers) or south to north. I’ll cover
nearby segments when we are in each area of the trail for the races we
plan to run and work in Colorado this summer between the end of June and
the end of August. That translates into several northern sections first,
the southern sections next, and the middle sections last. I’ll go into
more details about that later.
Even though there
are significant differences between the two trails, our “MO” (modus
operandi) will be the same this year: I’ll run as much of the CT as I
can, carrying a light pack with the supplies needed for that day. I’ll
sleep in the camper each night. Since I have approximately two months in
which to run the trail, I can take more time off to rest and enjoy other
Jim will crew, and
hopefully be able to run more of the trail himself this time. We’ll try
going opposite directions on the same segment the same day, using our
truck to crew ourselves. That’s not as fun as running it together, but
the only way we can each go point-to-point on a section and not do a
repetitious out-and-back. If that works, maybe Jim can do the entire
Here's another Colorado photo to pique your interest. This is
Lake Creek, just north of Twin Lakes. Runners in the
Leadville Trail 100-miler cross this (sometimes very wide) creek twice
in the shadow of Hope Pass, the literal and figurative "high point" in
the race. The Colorado Trail passes the south end of the adjoining
ABOUT THIS JOURNAL
I will be writing most of the
journal again. If I can cajole Jim into writing any entries, his by-line
will be prominent! We will both take photos along the way – probably a
LOT of photos, like we did last year on the Appalachian Trail. Jim is
still the primary web master but I’m learning the ropes.
Last summer I was pretty fanatic
about editing photos/writing the journal every night and getting it
on-line after being on the Trail all day. I lost a lot of sleep doing
that. I don't regret it; I'm proud of the AT journal and pleased that so many
readers wrote to thank us for all the information and inspiration. The
more I think about it now, months afterwards, the more amazed I am that
I had that much energy!
Jim made me promise I won’t do that
this time. This trek is shorter, much less intense, and in more remote
areas that often won’t have cell phone coverage so we can get on-line
with our laptop computer. (In fact, we may not even have adequate power
to run the laptop some days, let alone get on-line with it.) We’ll aim
for two or three journal posts per week.
I’m not sure how much the “look” of
this journal will morph. We liked the format for the AT journal and so
far have only tinkered with the colors, maps, and links for this one.
We’ll do further modifications, if needed, to suit this summer’s variety
There is a
topics page, which
is like a table of contents. If you want to follow along, we recommend
you bookmark that page rather than the introduction so it’s easier to
find what’s been posted most recently and to find a particular topic.
There will be a few “preparation” pages, three months worth of
journal pages (listed by the date, topic, CT section, etc.), and
maybe some “post” pieces and photo essays again.
I’ll probably be just as verbose as I was in the AT
journal! I enjoyed inserting quotes, so I’m
likely to do that pretty often again. And there will be more photos in
the journal entries this time. Hopefully we'll also have time to
add more photos to our
photo-sharing pages (link in the green
strip at the top left side of each journal page). There are two albums
of photos there now from our 2004 trip to Leadville.
Shortly before the AT run last year I
got the bright idea to ask two companies whose products we were already
using to give us discounts for the run. They were intrigued and
confident enough in us to agree to substantial discounts for our shoes (Montrail)
and nutritional products (Hammer Nutrition). We put their logos on each
journal page and I occasionally mentioned how well their products were
doing, hopefully without being too blatant to annoy our readers from
around the world but often enough to generate some business for the
companies (it did).
We are indeed grateful that both
Hammer Nutrition have kept us on again in 2006 as
“sponsored athletes.” Their logos will also be displayed in the dark
green strip near the top of each journal page. It’s a “win-win” deal for us and for them, too.
I’ll talk more about all of the gear and supplies we’re using in one of the
Please join us again, this time for
some armchair adventures in the stunning mountains of Wyoming and
Colorado. We’d love to inspire some more folks to follow their dreams
and remain physically and mentally active no matter how old they are –
or feel. We’re both 57 now and often have to remind ourselves that we
“aren’t 35 any more.”
That fact was brought home quite
bluntly recently when Jim’s oldest son reminded us that even HE “isn’t
35 any more.”
We’d love to hear from you as we
travel and run. If you want to contact us, there is a link at the bottom
of each page.