Well, today wasn't a total waste.
I woke up after sleeping solidly for over nine hours and decided that even
though my knee/quad felt fine, I'd better rest it today. I didn't want a repeat
of yesterday's debacle.
Since I got done running yesterday, I've been icing and elevating my leg as
much as possible. There is no pain today, even on steps. I can't believe it
feels so good now (even last night) and was so painful less than 24 hours ago!
The weather report called for a cooler day today, which would have been nice
for running. The
early morning sun didn't last long. It turned into a steady rain all afternoon.
I don't mind running in warm rain, but it would have been a day without views so
I'm glad I rested.
We decided to drive to Fontana Dam and check out that area. It's sort of a
milestone, in a way - the entrance to one of the most difficult sections of the
AT, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It's also where the annual thru-hiker ranks are whittled down to only about
one-third of the original "starters." Although I'm not quite to the dam yet (I
still have a 28-mile section to do first), I don't plan to DNF here!
It was just starting to rain as we got to the dam. Already fog and low clouds
were settling among the mountains on the north side of the lake. Some of my fondest memories of
the mountains in the Smokies and along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
are before and after storms. The cloud patterns in the skies and valleys, and
the contrast between light and dark, can be very dramatic.
THE "FONTANA HILTON"
Half a mile up the hill from the dam is the "Fontana Hilton," the last AT
shelter before hikers enter the Smokies. It's the fanciest shelter I've seen
along the way - beautiful cedar walls, stone foundation, benches, loft sleeping
areas inside, even a water pump and fountain outside. Nice digs, as far as
shelters go. I signed the register, indicating I was still two days out from
We drove down the paved road to the visitor center and walked around. The
center was closed for renovations today, but we were able to observe the dam and
walk/drive across it. I was surprised there was absolutely no security check
here. I thought all dams were still closely guarded post-9/11.
I wanted to see where the Trail started back into the woods on the north end
of the dam. It's up 6/10 of a mile on pavement. The Smokies park sign is just
past the dam; entrance is free at all park entrances. Although dogs aren't
allowed on trails in the park, some trails are designated for horses. We saw
several folks preparing to ride on a nearby trail.
Jim got the bright idea for me to knock out the paved section today so I'd have a
little less to run on Thursday and Friday. I readily agreed. I felt good and was
champing at the bit to be out on the Trail. Although I had on my road running
shoes, I was wearing cotton shorts and the nice Wayah ("wolf")
T-shirt Lynn gave me yesterday - not the ideal outfit to run in the
drizzle that had begun, but what the heck.
So Jim dropped me off at the trailhead above the visitor center and I ran 1.5
miles on pavement down the hill, across the long dam, and up the hill to the
trailhead in the Smokies. It felt great to run nonstop and not have to watch for
roots and rocks, just uneven pavement. I'm proud of my 16-minute time,
too - the best day's pace I've had on this run so far. <grin>
The drill is this: Thursday when I run from Stecoah Gap to
Fontana Dam, I'll stop at the trailhead south of the dam where I started today's
run. It will eliminate one mile from that day's total. On Friday, when I start
the long ascent into the Smokies, I'll start just over half a mile farther in at
the trailhead where I stopped today.
As long as I cover all 2,175 miles of the AT, it doesn't matter in what order
or in which direction I go. I'll still earn the coveted "2,000-miler" award at
the end. Many thru-hikers do this sort of thing.
Sometimes I get frustrated that I'm not as physically sturdy or mentally
tough as David Horton or Regis Shivers, who have run the AT in 52 and 87 days,
respectively. They didn't need rest breaks every few days, and they stayed to their
schedules. I was off-schedule after five days!
I think I'm as mentally tough as the average ultra runner (who's probably
tougher than most of the general population, athletically-speaking), but I'm
definitely not sturdy physically. It's ironic that I've broken down in one of my
strongest areas, running downhill, and not my weakest areas. I guess this is
where my mental fortitude will take over. I don't give up easily, and I'm
usually upbeat and optimistic.
If it wasn't for Jim's willingness and enthusiasm for crewing me, I wouldn't
be doing this adventure run. I whole-heartedly thank him every day for the
support he's giving me and all the things he does to make this trek happen.
Jim has a multitude of duties: helping me prepare for each day's run,
preparing most of the meals, prompting me to drink more and keep icing my leg,
helping me clean my gear, taking me out to trailheads and picking me up when he
doesn't have a real good clue when I'll be done, meeting me out on the Trail at
the end of some days, keeping the camper in working order (harder when we don't
have hook-ups), moving it from campground to campground, paying our bills, doing
laundry, shopping for groceries and other items, walking the dogs part of the
time, etc. - and trying desperately to get in some training himself!
He has good and bad days like me. There have been problems with the camper
that he's had to fix, like the brakes and slide-out. He's had challenging
mountain roads to navigate with the camper. He's had to be creative when there
were items we should have brought, but didn't. He's had endless waiting when
I've been late, and worries about how I'm doing "out there" when we haven't had
cell phone service.
Crewing is difficult, and I'm fully aware of that. I am so grateful to Jim
for helping make my AT dream come true. Next time someone crews for you in a
race or an adventure run, be sure to thank them appropriately and do not
take their sacrifice for granted!
MY LUCKY SHORTS
I have to tell one story on both of us to illustrate how "stuff" can
go wrong when you're under pressure and stressed out.
Sunday while I was at the clinic, Jim was doing laundry nearby. He was in a
hurry with the dryers because he knew I was about done with the doctor.
While I was putting clean clothes away later that afternoon, I was keeping
out the items I wanted to wear the next day, including my favorite blue "plaid"
They weren't there! Jim couldn't figure out where they could have gone. He
knew he got everything out of the washers and dryers. He couldn't find them in
the truck. He felt so bad, I consoled him and said I guess I could live without
them. (I've had them about seven years, and wear them in all my ultras; they
really are my favorite running shorts.)
Yesterday I prevailed upon Jim to go back to the laundromat in Franklin,
about 15 miles out of his way, to see if the shorts were there. He had plenty of
time while I was running 21+ miles. I encouraged him to do other shopping, like
getting groceries and gas, so he wouldn't feel like he'd wasted his time.
He agreed to go, but I knew he thought it was a wild goose chase. He thought
those shorts had to be in the camper somewhere!
After we got back last night, I saw a whole pile of clothes on one of the
recliners in the camper, including my favorite shorts. He'd found them!! I gave
him a great big hug and thanked him profusely.
He grinned sheepishly and said, "What else do you see there?"
Upon closer inspection, I saw about six more items of clothing, both his and
mine - three sweatshirts, a couple of running shirts, a pair of his running
I looked at him quizzically, not fully comprehending.
I'd failed to notice
all these other missing clothes from the laundry! Everything was
still in the dryer Jim had been using the day before, untouched (and dry). I
can't believe someone didn't take them out and rifle through them. Thank
goodness for the honest citizens of Franklin, NC.
Just goes to show you how busy we've been that neither of us noticed all this
stuff was missing. At least we can laugh about it since it turned out well!
A BRAND NEW DAY
I'm looking forward to hitting the Trail again tomorrow. There is a lot of
uphill, so that should take some stress off my quads. I never thought I'd see
the day when I'd be thankful there was more uphill than down on a trail!
If you look on the AT map above left, you can see the dot indicating my
progress. We'll move it as needed.
It's sunny again now at 5 PM, and the smell of the chili Jim is preparing for
supper permeates the camper . . .