APPALACHIAN TRAIL ADVENTURE RUN

   
       
Jim, Sue, Cody, and Tater at Springer Mtn., start of the Appalachian Trail Adventure Run

 

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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
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DAY 128:  SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
 
Start: Hanover, ME/Stony Brook CG                    
End:  Rest Day
Today's Miles:                       -0-
Cumulative Miles:          1,908.1
Miles to go:                       266.8
   
 
" That climb yesterday reminded me of the stair stepper at the YMCA, only there I could hit the stop button and walk away."
 
- Jim, recalling yesterday's 2,685-foot climb up Old Speck
 


Tasty dinner offered by Stony Brook Campground owners to celebrate the end of summer.    9-4-05

Speck Pond in late afternoon on 9-3-05.

There was no question in Jim's or my mind that today would be a rest day. Although my mileage was pretty low this week, two of the four days I ran/hiked were grueling 14-15 hour grinds, each  with over 15,000 feet of elevation change across formidable terrain. After yesterday's romp in the Mahoosuc Range, I was one whipped puppy. Even Jim was tired after doing twelve miles of that section.

I feel like I've been run over by a truck. After tough ultra races, especially 100-milers, Jim and I often joke and ask, "Did you get the number on that truck?" That's how we feel today.

My knees are both very sore; I've been icing them. Wearing my knee braces yesterday helped some, but couldn't completely mitigate the severe strain from all the steep climbs up and down and the bouldering I had to do. My right upper arm and shoulder hurt from days of keeping a death grip on my trekking pole, grabbing onto trees on steep ups and downs, and hoisting myself up rocks.

It is an effort to stay awake this sunny Sunday afternoon, even after a ten-hour stretch in bed last night. Deep sleep doesn't come easily after such strenuous exercise.

We awoke to rain this morning. Where did that come from? Certainly not from the weather reports out of Portland, Maine, south of here. It quit about 9 AM, however, and the day turned sunny with white puffy clouds.

We both are fully aware of the dangers of hiking in this area in the rain. I'd have been on the Trail even longer yesterday if those rock slabs had been wet. The "suicide slabs" high up on Old Speck would have been even more treacherous than they were. (Sure glad I didn't have to go down them; on his way to meet me, Jim carefully went down those steep slabs backwards on all fours - and the rocks were dry.)

And I simply could not have made it through the Mahoosuc Notch if the boulders had been wet. Some people have done it in the rain, but I don't see how. It's hard enough to "get a grip" on those boulders when they are dry. I saw in the register at the Full Goose shelter yesterday that "Painfully Slow," a middle-aged female SOBO thru-hiker, went through the Notch in the rain, "very slowly." I'm impressed.

TASTY DINNER

Jim moved the camper yesterday morning to a spacious campground near Hanover, Maine: Stony Brook Recreation. It's one of the nicer private campgrounds we've found. The Good Sam rate is low and it's conveniently located for the next couple trail heads.

The campground owners have generously provided special meals to all the guests to celebrate the holidays this summer. For Labor Day they invited everyone to dine on turkey, roast beef, gravy, two kinds of baked beans, chili, and salad. From our site we could see them cooking the food in big pots all morning. It was fun to talk with some of the campground hosts, staff, and other campers. All were our age or older, and were amazed that a woman my age was hiking the whole AT.

Sometimes I amaze myself! Jim was very proud of me for completing yesterday's hike. Other hikers were amazed that I'd tackle nineteen miles in the Mahoosucs in one day (I didn't tell them about the bonus mileage to get up to the AT).

On the way up Old Speck to meet me yesterday, Jim ran into "Charlie Brown" and "Steady Eddie." They were doing ten miles a day in that section and couldn't believe I was attempting double that. They just shook their heads, Jim said.

I talked with "Shatter," caretaker for several miles on either side of the NH/ME border, near the Full Goose shelter yesterday. Jim and I met him at Gentian Pond on Wednesday. I was still a mile or more from the Mahoosuc Notch, with a good ways to go. He said he's never known anyone to get that far in one day.

He's obviously never heard of David Horton or Andrew Thompson, who both did 'way more than I did in that section (and everywhere else).

GAINING A NEW PERSPECTIVE

The whole time I've been on the AT, I've been comparing my mileage and speed to Horton, Palmer, Shivers, and Thompson, the only ultra runners I know who've run the AT. They are all so much faster than me, so much stronger. And I've felt pretty pathetic in comparison.

Yesterday I achieved a major milestone regarding perspective, finally after four months on the Trail. I realized clearly in my mind how utterly futile (and stupid) that comparison is. Just because I'm an ultra runner doesn't mean I have to run or hike ultra distances every day on the AT. Just because I'm an ultra runner doesn't mean I have to run when it's dangerous for me to do so. Just because I'm an ultra runner doesn't mean I have to achieve three or four mile-per-hour paces in difficult terrain.

Hike your own hike. Run your own run. Stop comparing yourself to impossible standards!

Compared to most thru-hikers, the tough ones still out here on the Trail after 1,900 miles, what I accomplished yesterday is almost incomprehensible. Everyone I talked to thought it was crazy to attempt that distance on that section of the Mahoosucs.

But I did it, a 56-year-old woman with arthritis who's already covered 1,900 miles on this difficult trail this summer. And I'm very proud of it, despite feeling like a truck ran over me!

Below, photo Jim took yesterday afternoon looking southwest from Old Speck Mountain toward Success Pond:

I told Jim last night that if I'd known how tough the Whites and Mahoosucs were, I probably never would have attempted this adventure run. I thought I had researched the Trail pretty thoroughly before starting out. But until experiencing the difficult terrain in person, other people's descriptions lacked perspective. What's hard for one hiker or runner is easy for another. My comparisons of "difficult" were based on years of running ultras in mountainous terrain all over the West and Southeast, but not in the Northeast.

Who would have thought that trails in New Hampshire and Maine could be so tough? Lemme tell ya, the trail designers here have made even 3,000 to 4,000 foot mountains as difficult to run - or walk - as anything Jim and I have seen in the western United States at elevations of up to and over 14,000 feet.

I'm glad Jim experienced the tough terrain on Old Speck and Mahoosuc Arm yesterday. Too bad he missed the Notch! Even though it will slow us down, he fully understands the need for me to keep my mileage lower until the terrain eases up (about another hundred miles) and the necessity to avoid running/hiking on rainy days. We both want to go home as soon as possible, but safety is paramount. I can't realize my dream if I get hurt or die in the attempt!

In light of that, tomorrow's segment over two Baldpate peaks and Success Mountain will be only 10.3 miles. It includes 3,000 feet of gain in several steep ascents, 3,250 feet of loss in several steep descents, and another notch that may be full of boulders (the description in the guide is vague). This may translate into a ten-hour trek but I'll try to do it faster.

OUT OF TOUCH IN THE MAINE WILDS

We have no internet connection anywhere close to this campground. We understand that cell phone reception and internet access is pretty limited in western Maine, so our journal entries and access to e-mail messages will be intermittent the next couple weeks. I'll keep writing journal entries and we'll keep responding to e-mail. Jim will upload/send them when possible.

Don't stop writing! Your support and encouragement mean a lot, especially now when the going is especially tough for both of us.

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil