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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"No dreamer is ever too small. No dream is ever too big."
- Unknown

It's been a muddy spring!  Six pairs of our trail shoes drying off after getting a bath.  Early March, 2005

Some days I think I'm crazy for thinking I can actually run (and walk) for 2,175 miles across a range of mountains for three or four months.

Other days I think, "Well, why not? Other people have accomplished athletic goals that were a lot tougher than that!"

I need to "keep the faith" in my abilities - not just my physical abilities, but my mental strengths as well. Three main things have occurred in the last couple weeks that have strengthened my faith in my ability to reach this goal.


First, I can feel a difference in my body as I'm gaining fitness. I'm not at that stage yet where I feel like I'm floating along the trail, but I'm getting there. I'm able to run up hills that I couldn't run several weeks ago. I won't be doing  much running UP mountains during the trek, but it's a good way to build strength in my legs now.

And although the scales don't show that I've lost any weight recently, I can tell a difference in how my pants fit and I can see more definition in my leg muscles. This is good!

My longest run so far has been the 27-miler I wrote about in my last entry. Except for two trail dives, it felt great. I did it faster than I'll do on the Appalachian Trail (13 minutes per mile average pace, including walking) because the terrain was easier.

It was a confidence-booster since I haven't run that far since last May. In the interim, I've had a major foot injury, surgery, recovery time, and rebuilding my base mileage.

I feel like I'm finally back on track (er, trail).

This weekend I plan to do double long runs, then a 30-miler about ten days later.

I could do the nearby Promise Land 50K on April 23 with Jim, but I decided I'd just lose training time (tapering and recovering) very close to the start of the trek. (We plan to start a few days after that race.) So I'll do a short training run on the AT during the race, and help Horton at the finish line when the runners start coming in.

Last week I ran 70 miles, and I'm on track for about the same this week. That's major weekly mileage for this gal. The last time I ran that much in training was three years ago, during training for a 100-miler (that I dnf'd at 77 miles three weeks later). I have to go back in my training logs to the year 2000 for another training week of 70 miles or more.

I projected 225 miles for March, and I ended up running 227.5 miles, another three-year high.

I felt really good at the end of the 70-mile week on Sunday, but my butt's been draggin' a bit this week! I want to string together two high-mileage weeks, then I'll take it easier next week. To compensate for the fatigue I'm feeling, I'm walking up the hills I ran last week. May as well. I'll be doing a lot more walking during the adventure run than I have been in training.


I used to believe that only elite athletes were able to score sponsorships. The closest I've ever come was getting free race entries, transportation, lodging, meals, and coaching when I was a member of the Atlanta Track Club's women's race team from 1986 to the mid-90s.

I've never, ever requested a discount or any type of sponsorship from a running-related company before. However, a few days ago I decided since I've been using Hammer Nutrition's and Montrail's products for so long, maybe they'd give me a discount to help defray some of the expenses for this adventure run.

I figured, even if I'm just an average athlete, what I'm attempting is pretty extraordinary. Wouldn't it be great publicity for them if a 56-year-old woman successfully runs/walks 2,175 miles on the Appalachian Trail using their products?

I sent off two e-mails, gave them our web address so they could see exactly what I plan to do, crossed my fingers, and waited to hear back from them.

I'm happy to report that today I learned both companies have enough faith in me to offer substantial discounts on the nutrition products and shoes I want to use during the trek (the same products Jim and I have been using for several years, and some new ones). Jim benefits, too.

My promise to readers of this journal is that I will be as objective as I can possibly be when I mention how those products are working. I wouldn't be using them now if they hadn't worked for me previously in training and racing.

But using them day after day after day for three or four months should be a good test. Even though we are all "experiments of one," I hope my experiences will be helpful for other ultra runners and long-trail hikers.

I'll also let you know how all the other gear and supplies I use work for me. Most of them are listed in Preps 9 and 10.


Finally, the positive feedback I'm getting from friends and relatives who have been reading this journal has been very gratifying. That also helps give me strength and determination to reach my goal. Thank you for the encouraging words! Now it's time to notify larger groups in which we're involved, such as the internet ultra list and local organizations.

Our closest ultra running friends in Roanoke are planning a "going away" party before we leave for Georgia, and I hope they'll share some miles with me on the Trail when I get up into Virginia (although they are all faster than me). These folks are a big reason we moved to the Roanoke area in the first place. They made us feel right at home before we even decided to move here!

My old running buddies in the Atlanta area haven't forgotten me, either. At least one plans to run one or more days with me from Springer Mountain, and possibly some others will join us since we've decided to start on a weekend.

The projected starting date is April 29 or 30 - a scant three weeks, considering the 36 years I've been waiting for this!

Keep the encouragement coming from now until I've finished my little run in the mountains, OK?  Thanks!

Happy trails,

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

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  2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil