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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Start: VA 615/Laurel Creek                                  
End:  VA 608/Lickskillet Hollow
Today's Miles:                      20.2
Cumulative Miles:             592.5
"There is no satisfaction without a struggle first."
-  Marty Liquori

The first "trail magic" I've seen in almost 600 miles: six gallons of water for thirsty hikers. The sign on the garbage bag reads, "Water jugs only (bears)."  6-4-05

I had a great day on the Trail today, but not for the reasons you'd think.

There were no views of the fertile valley farms  from the ridges because the leaves obscured them, so it was a "long green tunnel" kind of day.

Heavy mist until about 9 AM meant I couldn't see anything past 300 feet from the Trail, but I could enjoy the mountain laurels, rhododendrons, flame azaleas, and wildflowers that brightened my immediate vicinity.

There were no rocky cliffs, sheer drop-offs, steep climbs, 22-times-back-and-forth-through-the-same-creek nonsense, mucky messes, ponies, cows, bears, interesting historical facts, old dilapidated buildings . . .

. . . or ROCKS or ROOTS!!!!

Well, almost none. It was a smooth-trail-all-20+ miles kind of day, so I kicked it into high gear and RAN more than half the distance for once. I don't often get that opportunity. I was even running gentle uphills two-thirds of the way. After that, it became an effort to run the flats, so I just ran downhill. (Sounds like the way I run ultras.)

It felt great!

I averaged just over 16-minute-per-mile pace (9- to 10-minute pace when running), the first I've run that fast on the Appalachian Trail. It was much nicer than 25-minute miles over rocks and 30-minute miles up steep inclines. I had a downhill mile of dirt and paved roads before, over, and after crossing I-77, which helped lower the pace. (Another freeway, but less noisy with fewer trucks than I-81.)

Four other things that made this run faster were not taking any notes during the run, taking only three photos, talking briefly to only two thru-hikers, and not stopping at either of the two shelters in this section  because they were off-trail. (Jim went down and signed for me at the one he passed near the end point.)

Total elevation gain and loss was about 5,000 feet, all of it gradual except for three or four steep descents. Glad I was headed north and not south.


As reward for my exuberance on the Trail, I now have a sore tendon on my lower center front right leg at the ankle. I'm icing it tonight. It's always something! I just had to enjoy this piece of Trail while it lasted, because tomorrow's long section to Pearisburg is "trashy," per Horton's 1991 account. (By the way, Horton began his speed record attempt on the Pacific Crest Trail this morning. Click on the Montrail link at left for his journal.)

Jim and the dogs came out about two miles to meet me at the end. He isn't particularly fond of rocky trails, either, so he was pleased to finally find a section that he could run. I called Jim about 10 AM to ask him to pick me up earlier than estimated. Now that's a switch!


Journey runners and thru-hikers talk about finally "getting their trail legs" after several weeks on a long trail like the AT. It takes the body time to adjust to the rigors of being on the trail every day. As long as there is adequate rest and no major injuries, our bodies adapt and become stronger and stronger.

For the past week, I've felt this increased strength. It took me four weeks to build up to it. I notice a difference on climbs and how I feel at the end of the day.

Now I feel ready to take it up a notch. The terrain in the second and third quarters of the AT is not easy, but it's easier than the first (southern) and fourth (northern) quarters. I'll be gradually increasing my distances, starting with almost thirty miles tomorrow, but I'll intersperse longer or harder days with easier ones.

Jim's a happy man because he's taking the camper home tomorrow while I'm running all day. It's a long way for him to keep ferrying me to the trailheads in this area the next few days, but he's willing to spend the time in order to be home longer. He needs a break from the camper, and gas for our minivan will cost less than campground fees for the next week.

OK, time for a walk around the campground now - it helps prevent soreness the next day.

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil