Bradley's View

Bradley's View

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Process of Trail and Error

My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.”    -Mahatma Ghandi

First off, I am fully aware that I spelled "trial" incorrectly- it is a poor effort at a play on words.  
     My first fast packing excursion- I did not accomplish my objective, but I cannot consider the trip a failure.  I learned a lot about my bod and about how I can plan and prepare differently for future trials such as this.  
   Melissa watched me start running down the Appalachian Trail from Davenport Gap at 9:26 AM on Friday.  I unfortunately started later than intended due to conflicts with reserving space in shelters.  My first obstacle arose before I even started running.  Since I didn't think to make reservations before the morning of I was unable to assure sleeping room at my intended checkpoints.  I settled for running only 21 miles on day one and I would feel out the situation from there.  
      I had a backpack on my back which weighed about 2... 2 much!  But seriously- it weighed close to twenty pounds when I started at Davenport Gap.  What follows comes from a journal that I took with me on the excursion, it doesn't say much; but I don't feel that I have much to say on the experience at this point.  

     "Upon topping this rock, my body was momentarily stunned by the landscape before me.  I was faced with no choice but to pause.  Speed is less of an issue today as I've been informed my desired shelter will be full.  I have roughly another 8 hours to cover less than 15 miles- I will shoot to do it in 3.    Made it to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter, roughly the 15 mile mark.  I've been moving pretty well, especially since the first six miles were an uphill battle.  The elapsed time at my arrival was 4 hours and 17 minutes making this easily the slowest half-maraton I've ever run.  Its nice to sit; unfortunately, when standing comes again in about 30(once my water is purified) I will likely be aware of every sore spot on my body.  I can foresee that those will include the following: 1)Big toes, running downhill takes its toll; 2) Heels, not as calused as I wish I was, but the blisters will subside; 3) Shoulders, I can safely say I overpacked- it feels like someone is giving me a deep tissue massage but never relieving the pressure.  The first thing I remember that I had forgotten is Ibuprofen.  I reckon waking up tomorrow will be difficult.  
    Seven more miles remain today.  I wish I had reserved my desired shelters in advance- its really thrown me a curveball.  Judging by how my body feels now, I'm not sure that I'll complete my goal on this outing.  I won't say I've given up hope, because I haven't, but I would rather preserve my body- train a bit more- and try to tackle it another time than attempt to knock out 36 miles tomorrow. 
    Fun night with the folks in the shelter.  Laughter, stories, jokes.  They thought I was stupid to attempt 36 miles tomorrow.  I thought they were right.  So now you may say I'm "loli-gagging".  I've already run an extra 2 miles today raking the false trail away from the Peck's Corner Shelter.  I reckon I'll be at Newfound gap in about 3 hours, maybe more, its 11 miles.  
    Arrived at Newfound Gap, alas.  Pretty wretched blisters to prove it.  From Peck's Corner my elapsed time was 2:48.  Delightful.  My wonderful sister-in-law, Brittany, and friend, Alex, will be picking me up on their way home from Gatlinburg.
    The amount of cars and humans here at Newfound is obscene.  People hop out of their cars, read a sign or two, take a picture and leave.  "Its just a bunch of hills", they probably think, with expectations of the Grand Canyon or something.  Unfortunately, from the roads they can't recognize the grandeur of the park.  After speeding through 32 miles and witnessing its many, many layers I have found a new appreciation for Great Smoky Mountain National Park and now have a burning desire to share it with everyone I can."

A series of haikus(better called Hike-kus) that came to me during my run:

Fall colors appear 
Below, the valley enchants
 Legs must keep moving  

Trail winds, blisters swell 
Trees beckon me to push on 
Panoramic views
Ruffed Grouse taking off
Reminds me of helicopters
Lovely mountain home  

Now I can see it 
Distant mountain, next victim
Blessed with two strong legs

Trails always hide surprises
Whats ahead excites

Isaiah Forty
Verse thirty-one never fails
Always gives me hope
   *Isaiah 40:31 reads:
 "Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint"

Friday, October 8, 2010

Preparation For The First Fast Packing Endeavor

     With the arrival of my fall break I was granted a couple of extra leisure days.  I knew this would be a great opportunity to get some running in, but just how much- and where, I hadn't get figured out.  Unfortunately, my partner in crime/wife, Melissa, is tied down with work leaving me to embark on an adventure alone.  I decided my next best bet would probably be Axel.  Axel is a pup recently famed in an article in this month's Blue Ridge Outdoors for his running prowess and the passion and audacity he possesses in the woods.

    I had a vision for the weekend, a couple of days of running 20+ miles, beautiful scenery,  and close to home, and all it took was mentioning it to a friend, Adam Hill, and a plan was laid out.  The original suggestion was a 43 mile loop in Pisgah National Forest starting at the Davidson River Campground that I would knock out over the course of two days.
    This plan was quickly thwarted once I started thumbing through Ken Burn's The National Parks: America's Best Idea for the first time in a while.  Seeing pictures of the Smokies' Chimney-Tops and a stunning sunrise seen from atop of Clingman's Dome two things happened:
        1) I reprimanded myself for still-- after living in North Carolina for more than fifteen years-- never having visited Great Smoky Mountain National Park,
       2)  I decided I would keep the theme of my adventure but change the venue.

   After discussion with Adam, he confirmed the Smokies as a fantastic option for my first fast packing endeavor.  I have a projected start time of roughly Saturday at 10:00 AM.  The starting point is at Davenport Gap and, after just over 71 miles of running, I will end at Fontana Dam.

    How blessed I am to have a wonderful wife who is willing to drop me off in the wilderness for my half-witted, wholly distorted ideas of fun!  Either she is secretly trying to get rid of me, or she is the perfect wife.  I'm fully convinced that its the later.
     Anyways, I'm mostly packed.  I have food, a flashlight, a sleeping bag, a couple of legs, a journal, a bible, and a whole lot of heart.  The forecast projects nothing but sun and chilly nights.  All systems are 'go'.

    So here is my goal: to run the 72 miles across Great Smoky Mountain National Park (North to South) by way of the Appalachian Trail in under 55 hours.  The only drawback of this plan is that dogs are not permitted in the park meaning I'll be flying solo- with the exception of thousands of leaf-peepers and about 1600 black bears.