“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
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
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"