My plan is to treat each day on the trail like a long
training run, wearing a light hydration pack with the fluids, food, clothing,
and other supplies I need for only one day on the trail. At night, I will have
the luxury of sleeping in our camper, the "Hitch Hiker Hilton."
That's where my indispensable crew person comes in -- Jim
will drive me to each day's trail head, maybe see me once or twice during the
day if there is road access, and run in to meet me on the trail each afternoon
from that day's end point.
Then I repeat this almost daily from Springer Mountain in
Georgia until I get to Mt. Katahdin in Maine!
To add some more fun to the trek, Jim and I also plan to
run the Vermont 100-mile trail race in July. We'll be close by, and I should be
in about the best shape of my running life by then.
What's another 100 miles??
My two-year-old ultra Lab, Cody, will accompany me as much
as he wants and is allowed (there are places like the Smokies where he isn't
allowed on the trails, and other places that are too rocky or dangerous for
him). Our older Lab, Tater, has arthritis and hip dysplasia but is still able to
run for a couple hours with us on trails. She will accompany Jim on some of his
runs to meet me on the trail.
That's the "MO" in a nutshell.
Some women in their 50s and 60s have hiked the Trail with
full packs in four to five months, so I'm hoping to finish the trek in four
months or less by running as much of it as possible and walking
the uphill and numerous gnarly sections (more details about the Trail in
My goal time is a little longer than the current women's
"speed record." The AT Conference doesn't like to keep speed records, but
they told me the fastest woman they're aware of did it in 103 days, which is
just over three months.
I have little interest in a speed record. Not only am I
too slow, but I also want to enjoy the journey as much as possible, take time to rest
adequately, and let any possible injuries heal. I want this adventure to be as much FUN
However, I’ll be honest. If I’m having a terrific run and
can avoid any time-consuming injuries, I’ll get as close to that record as I
can or try to improve on it! I still have a competitive drive.
Traditional thru-hikers – and maybe some studly ultra
runners – may think this is sure a "weenie way" to do the Trail. At
the risk of sounding defensive, this is my response:
I still have to deal with approximately one million feet of
elevation gain and loss, the vagaries of the weather and the Trail over
countless mountains, and run/walk the same five-plus million steps a back-packer
does over often-rocky terrain that tries the sole AND soul.
Let those numbers digest for a bit, OK?
I have never back-packed in my life, and I have no interest
in doing it now. My passion is running, not hiking. I have arthritis, so sleeping on the ground or a hard shelter floor is not my idea of fun.
Since I'm not intentionally going for a record of any kind, being totally supported with some
conveniences along the way does not lessen the magnitude of the experience for
me. I will be mighty satisfied when I make it all the way to Katahdin.
Also, I'm not "trying to find myself,"
what many traditional thru-hikers seek by being as self-sufficient as possible
for half a year in the wilderness. I've already been through my mid-life crisis
and I'm quite happy with my life as it is, thank you!
I DO expect to come back to my “real life” after this trek
with a new appreciation for that life, however, and I'm always open to new