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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 139:  THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15
 
Start: Northern Outdoors CG/The Forks, Maine     
End:  Same - rain delay
Today's Miles:                       -0-
Cumulative Miles:         2.035.6
Miles to go:                       139.3
   
 
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things
that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
 
 - Mark Twain
 


Mist in the morning over a Maine creek

Hint of fall, Pierce Pond Stream      9-05

Thank you to everyone who sends me quotes - I appreciate it! This one is from Tim, one of our Roanoke running club buddies.

So close and yet so far. Only 139 miles to go, but these last miles seem interminable and forbidding.

I let the weather spook me again today and now I regret it.

You see, rain woke me up before the alarm clock did - kinda like the wind a few days ago. I'm already concerned about the next section because there are high-water warnings in the AT guide and map at not one, not two, but THREE of the rivers and creeks I have to cross.

Of less concern is rock-topped Moxie Bald; at least there is a bad-weather route around it. So far I've followed the white blazes up and over and around and under every rock and nook and cranny where they've directed me, but on a foggy, rainy day I can legitimately follow a bad-weather route if I need to for safety reasons.

However, the creeks and rivers are another matter. Most of the big ones south of Maine and New Hampshire have decent bridges. Up here, a "bridge" might be three widely-spaced, crooked, 6" diameter pine logs strung ten feet above a creek gorge. IF you're lucky! When I encountered one of those a couple days ago I went downstream and found a way through the water - for me, that was safer than slipping off the logs.

Currently (pun intended), it's Baker Stream and the east and west branches of the Piscataquis ("at the river branch") Rivers that have me spooked. One is at the beginning of the section and one is near the end; Jim can be there to watch me cross safely at those. One is in too far so I'm completely on my own at that crossing.

I suppose about two inches of rain fell at our campground today. Who knows how much fell in the mountains. I'm kicking myself now for not going out there today because tomorrow the water may be higher as it works its way down from the mountains. "Bear" at The Cabin said it's usually safer to be on the Trail while it's raining than a day or two afterwards.

I will force myself to get out on the Trail tomorrow, despite my fears. I will be careful. If I cannot cross a stream where the Trail goes, I'll search up or down stream to find another way. If it's too risky, I'll turn around. Problem is, there is no road access for eighteen-plus miles, so that could mean a lot of back-tracking.

When I listed safety issues in one of my prep pieces months ago this was not something I thought I had to worry about much. I can guarantee any prospective AT runner/hiker that there is more risk from slick rocks and high water on this Trail than from any two- or four-legged critters!

THINKING LIKE AN ULTRA RUNNER

Even after four-plus months on the Appalachian Trail, mingling with all the backpackers and crewed hikers, I still think of this adventure as an extended ultra marathon. We share the same footway and views and weather, but our mindsets are different. For example:

Aid stations vs. shelters:

I still find myself referring to shelters as aid stations even though there are no volunteers, crews, food, or drink there (only a creek or spring). I use shelters for two reasons - to mark my progress in miles elapsed and to record when I was there. Of course, this ultra is measured in months and days, not hours and minutes like in a race.

Course:

When I'm talking about a section of the AT, I think of it like a race course or training course. Obviously that would sound silly when I do my reports, er, entries, each day (see, there's another ultra-ism).

Pace:

I measure my pace per mile, not miles per hour like backpackers do. Since I'm doing more walking than running - even more than I would in a 100-miler - I'm still frustrated by the slow pace on the AT and have pretty much stopped recording it.

Crew/pacer:

Although some of the hikers slack-pack when given the opportunity by folks at the hostels and B&B's where they sometimes stay in towns, and some of the hikers crew themselves by using one or two vehicles, I haven't met very many who have a spouse or other person crewing for them on a daily basis. For Jim and me, this is like a very extended 100-miler where we crew for one another during the race. Jim doesn't usually meet me during the day part way through the sections but he does sometimes "pace" me at the end.

Gear and clothing:

These are definitely trail running items - running clothes (although occasionally I wear zip-leg pants), trail shoes (which many back-packers are now wearing), light hydration pack, and all the other gear I'd use in an ultra or long training run.

Food and water:

These are also based on years of ultra running and racing. I seldom eat a food bar or muffin or other "real food" during my run/hike. I eat a large breakfast and supper, then rely almost exclusively on Hammergel and Perpetuem or Sustained Energy drink while on the Trail. They give me more even energy and save a lot of time by not having to stop for lunch and snack breaks like the backpackers do.

I also carry the water I'll need for all day. I usually have plenty left over, but three or four experiences running out of water compel me to keep carrying extra. Although I carry chemicals to treat water, it's time-consuming to stop to find and treat water along the way. I'd rather carry the extra weight and have all I need.

Solo running/walking:

Although I sometimes walk with a hiker for a few minutes, 99% of the time on the Trail I am alone. This is also true during training runs (because Jim is faster than me) and most ultras. Some backpackers do the Trail solo, but many pair up or find compatible groups in the first few states and continue on up the Trail with their buddies. Although they may not hike together all day, they often stay at the same shelter or hostel at night.

I did fine running and hiking alone until I got to New Hampshire and Maine. I love the solitude but because of the rugged, remote trails here, I wish I had a running/hiking partner for safety purposes.

Reflections in a pool of water, below:

I'm probably forgetting some categories here, but you get the idea. My mindset is still totally "trail ultra runner." And almost all of the backpackers are receptive to my way of doing the AT. They ask good questions and most are very friendly and talkative, especially the ones closer to my age. Many of them have met Jim and appreciate all he does for them (goodies, rides, information, encouragement, laundry soap, etc.).

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil