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 #2:  THE PLAN, PART 1               January 20
Its the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
- Paulo Coelho

Doug Robison on McAfee Knob in VA

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 Prep4).

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 as possible.

However, Ill be honest. If Im having a terrific run and can avoid any time-consuming injuries, Ill 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 learning experiences.

Happy trails,

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

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2005  Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil