For whatever reason, my legs were under the impression they were carrying an extra 30 pounds around. It may have had something to do with the Camelpak on my back, but, sheesh... I did not find myself running with the typical fleet-footedness and ease that I have come to expect during the first hour and a half of the run. Heavy legs combined with stomach cramps led to a flood of frustration that, without the company of Adam early on, may well have washed away my ambition of summiting Mitchell that day.
After Adam turned back an hour and fifteen minutes in, I continued on carefully controlling consumption of fluids in hopes of keeping my stomach from lashing out at me once again.
Once I reached the Buncombe Horse Trail at the foot of Mt. Mitchell State Park I felt a sense of relief knowing that most of the uphill was over. Camp Alice Trail was a rude re-awakening for my quads featuring little short steps for a steep mile with the shady areas covered in ice and snow. Alas, I reached the summit! I was one of few people there. I stood out like a sore thumb in that I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt while everyone else wore scarves and jackets reminiscent of marshmallows. Here I rested and soaked up the view for about 20 minutes before beginning the return trip.
|A stunning photo taken and sent to me by a nice man from Lancaster, PA|
Upon arriving at the top of Appalachian Way again, I began running down in hopes of pushing through the pain in my feet. I felt as if I was left with no choice but to succumb to the cries of my feet. I elected to remove my shoes and continue down the mountain wishing all the while I would stumble upon a bicycle or vacant golf cart to expedite my descent.
All in all, I had a fantastic adventure. The pain was part of the process. In running for nearly 6 hours, nearly twice as long as I had previously, I realized the pent up potential that my body holds with regards to running. In covering somewhere between 28 and 30 miles, between 8 and 10 more than I had previously run, I was elated in anticipation of the magnificent stretches of trails I could watch pass beneath my feet in years to come.
Being in nature one is left with no choice but to marvel at creation. Be it vast flatlands, rugged mountain tops, or a simple stream snaking its way down a mountain, it is sure to inspire awe in even the hardest of hearts. Despite this, I truly believe that the finest of all God's creations lies in the mind of man. One can shatter a rock with the proper hammer, dam any river with enough concrete, burn any forest in conducive conditions, but the will of man is something far harder to shake.