Sue, Jim & Cody on the 14,433' summit of MT Elbert, CO - The highest peak in the Rocky Mountains


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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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PREP #16:  GETTING ANXIOUS     March 21
ďWhat was I THINKING??!!Ē

View of mountain ridges from Tinker Cliffs in VA

This is one of Jimís favorite sayings, usually verbalized around mile 70 in a 100-mile trail race!

The more of these preparation notes Iíve written and the closer our day of departure looms, the more nervous Iím getting about this adventure run.

I have to admit that my confidence wanes sometimes. Itís a monumental task Iím undertaking. Almost 2,200 miles, over five million steps, about a million feet of elevation change.

Yikes. What was I thinking, indeed!

The first time I read David Hortonís book about his 1991 AT speed record, ďA Quest for Adventure,Ē  I was surprised that this very talented ultra runner expressed so much fear of the distance the first few days of his run. He had a very ambitious schedule since he wanted to set a new record.

He naturally gained confidence the farther he got. So did all the thru-hikers whose journals Iíve been reading.

I assume I will, too.


Several nights ago I had trouble getting to sleep. Iíve never had a panic attack, but itís how I would guess one of those feels Ė tight chest, shallow rapid breathing, a feeling of doom.

I knew what was causing it, too. It was my first real serious DOUBT regarding this trek. It hit me suddenly.

The next morning, I was more optimistic about my ability to complete this odyssey. I realized Iíve got to take it one day at a time. Iím training and planning the best I can, being the obsessive-compulsive person that I still am (less O-C than several years ago, though).

Veteran ultra runners often advise folks who are running their first 50- or 100-milers to not get overwhelmed thinking about the entire distance, but to break it down into manageable segments. That way of thinking has helped me get through many ultras. I focus more on getting to each aid station, e.g., than getting to the finish.

I can wrap my mind around those smaller increments so the whole task is less daunting.

ONE STATE (!) AT A TIME . . . 

I have to do the same with the AT Adventure Run Ė take it a day, a week, a state at a time. Relish the milestones along the way Ė passing each 100-mile increment, finishing up one state and beginning the next, reaching the half way point.

Soon Iíll have run more miles than are still left.

And I felt better when I realized that if I cannot finish the whole Trail this year because of a bad injury or a family emergency, Iíll just finish the remaining miles another year.

My goal is to complete the trail this year in one segment, but if it has to be in two or ten, Iíll get the job done. No matter how long it takes thru-hikers to complete every mile of the Trail, they still get the coveted ď2,000-milerĒ patch.

Iíve DNFíd ultras before with good reason, and it wonít kill me if it happens on this Adventure Run. Of course, Iíll be very disappointed. But if Iíve done my very best to reach my goal, Iíll be proud of what I have accomplished, and make plans to get back out there and finish the job.

Iím going to hang up a large map of the AT in the camper and mark off the miles each day, like those barometers fund-raisers use to graphically show their progress toward a monetary goal.

After I start the trek, periodically look at the AT map on each journal page and watch my progress toward Katahdin.  Jim found a way to mark it.

Happy trails,

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

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© 2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil