Our main hikes:
- Charlies Bunion
- Mount LeConte
- Rocky Top & Thunderhead Mountain
- Chestnut Top
Enough complaining on my part...the trip was extremely fun and I did get in some excellent base aerobic work with a good dose of hill climbing. While my compatriots were huffing & puffing during several extended climbs, I was enjoying the leisurely pace while eating Clif bars and taking pictures. The whole experience gave me a renewed sense of confidence in my current training and conditioning. I'm not quite the aerobic monster I want to be...but I am getting there! A couple of months of higher base mileage with judicious additions of tempo runs and uphill treadmill running and I'll be ready for the Death Race. The Gnaw Bone 50K on May 15 will be my first real test of my abilities. It'll be here soon and I'm feeling good.
Appalachian Trail. Two of our hikes brought us to sections of the famed trail. To the left is Gregg running down a portion of the AT. Since we were there in late April, we ran into many AT through hikers that had started at Springer Mountain in Georgia in early April and were headed to Mount Katahdin in Maine...a total trip distance of 2178 miles! Those are some serious adventurers. It was awesome to be able to stop and chat with 25-30 of these fine hikers who'll be on the trail for 5-6 months. While the entire trail never gets that high (highest point of the AT is Clingmans Dome on the border of TN and NC at 6,643 feet), it goes up and down a LOT and ends up with a total elevation CHANGE of 475,000 feet. That's impressive. Plus, some sections of the AT are fairly technical and filled with rocks and roots. I'd like to hike other sections of the AT. I doubt I'll ever try for a full through hike...or even section hike the entire trail, but I'd certainly like to try a few other parts. I felt humbled and honored to be on the AT.
I knew this trip would teach me a few things. Here are a few lessons learned about myself and my running:
1. I need to practice running with my running backpack (GoLite Rush pack). My shoulders would ache after a 20 mile hike with a full running pack--water, food, clothes, supplies--that load adds up quickly. Unfortunately, I'll need that full pack at the Canadian Death Race.
2. When taking pictures, make sure the settings are correct. I had too many photos with the focus on the foreground rather than the background mountains which were my main target.
3. Vegetarian food is less available the farther you get from civilization. Small rural towns are not veggie-friendly. How do you "run out of" veggie burgers if they are on your menu?
4. My friends are in good shape...I'm in better shape. I doubt a couch potato could do the hikes we did. While I might make fun of the "mountains" we hiked, there was a significant amount of elevation change and climbing. I'm proud of myself and my fellow hikers. We did alright!
5. I'm a runner, not a hiker. When David Horton ran the full Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), he didn't walk it with a huge backpack...he ran it with a small pack and crew to resupply him along the way. He's a runner. That's why the DVD documenting his PCT adventure is called "The Runner." Very cool DVD. I respect hikers, but I'm a runner.
6. I learned to have patience and accept what the trail and friends allow. If the trail is rocky and full of roots...slow down and enjoy it. If my friends are going slowly, hang with them and enjoy their companionship. I often get frustrated with slower runners and trails that prevent real running (too muddy, rocky, rooty, steep, etc). I'm getting better at "going with the flow."
NOTE: For those that are interested in seeing more pictures from this trip, click here for a link to my Picasa photo site.