Just Keep Hiking!

Back in August I wrote about Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer’s attempt to break the speed record for a supported thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail.  I followed reports of Karl’s progress as he hiked/ran from AT’s north terminus at Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia.  There were some nail biting moments when it looked like Karl wasn’t going to be able to break the record.  Then on September 18th Karl finished in an astounding 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes.  He went through 20 pairs of running shoes and took 4.3 million steps.   Pretty amazing!

I live fairly close to the AT and had planned to camp out along the trail with the hopes of seeing Karl as he zoomed by.  It was difficult to know where he was – his team was posting updates on his progress 2 days after the fact.  I can understand why – too many people like me would be wanting to take selfies or just chat with Karl.  All that downtime would add up and then boom! There goes the speed record.  It was not surprising to me that in an interview when he finished, Karl said he was done running/hiking 50 miles a day.  It is difficult and probably not a lot of fun.  He is 48 years old now and he isn’t quite sure what he will do.  “I’ll run more 100s, probably” [as in 100-mile races].  Maybe it is just me but that doesn’t sound much like slowing down.

If Karl does want to keep hiking/running the AT, he can do it on the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), a network of trails that extend beyond Katahdin, Maine into Canada and Western Europe.  The IAT was proposed in 1994 by former Maine Governor Joseph E. Brennan.  The proposal was to extend the trail through the rest of the Appalachian Mountains into Canada.  Working with a group of hiking enthusiasts from Quebec and New Brunswick, they started working to develop an international trail.  They formed the International Appalachian Trail organization whose mission is:

“to establish a network of walking trails that extends beyond borders to all geographic regions once connected by the Appalachian-Caledonian orogen, formed more than 250 million years ago on the super-continent Pangea.  In addition to connecting people and places, the goal is to promote natural and cultural heritage, health and fitness, environmental stewardship, fellowship and understanding, cross-border cooperation, and rural economic development through eco and geo tourism.”

By 2002 the IAT was extended to Newfoundland and Labrador followed by additional sections in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  Soon hikers from Greenland, Iceland, and Western Europe were interested in developing other trail networks to add to the IAT.  Currently there are IAT walking trails in Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Wales, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco.  There are plans to continue adding trails to the IAT network, reconnecting more lands from the supercontinent Pangea.

Maybe the next person who makes an attempt at the thru-hike speed record will decide to keep going, right into Canada and beyond.  Now that would be one heck of a hike!

This CNN interview with Karl included some interesting video.   http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/sports/2016/09/21/appalachian-trail-record-karl-meltzer-intv.cnn

Outside Online published this interview with Karl.  http://www.outsideonline.com/2116366/karl-meltzer-sets-appalachian-trail-speed-record

The official site for Karl’s AT Run can be found here.  It includes interesting information about his journey, including Karl’s daily account of the ups and downs of his trail speed record.  http://atrun.redbull.com/karl-meltzer-appalachian-trail

Interested in learning more about the International AT?  Their web site includes information about the trails in each of the member countries.  http://www.iat-sia.org

I’m Back

It has been awhile since I last posted on my blog.  Recovering from my broken toe has taken longer and been more difficult than I expected.  The last 2 months have not been filled with adventure or running.  I have been on a detour along my running journey that I never want to take again.

When I broke my toe in early July, I expected after 5 or 6 weeks of rest I would be able to ride a bike or swim.  I was totally unprepared when, at my 4-week check-up, the doctor told me there were really two fractures in my toe, the second a lengthwise crack down the bone.  He was concerned that the bone would pull apart if I flexed my foot as I might while biking or swimming.  He told me that I had to continue resting my toe for 4 more weeks.

I needed some sort of physical activity for my physical and mental health.  I kept asking the doctor to suggest some activity that I could do, some way to keep moving.  My doctor just shook his head and said “sorry, I can’t let you do anything.”  I cried as he delivered the news.  After I left his office, I sat in the parking lot in my car and cried some more.  I had been a good patient for 4 weeks.  I had stayed off my foot.  I took extra calcium and Vitamin D.  I had done every thing I was told to do and it did not seem fair that I had to wait another 4 weeks until I could resume my active life.  I have to be honest.  I was depressed.

My enthusiasm for writing my blog took a big hit too.  I tried to rally and write about the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.  As is the case with every Olympics, there were stories that fascinated me and I had wanted to write about them.  Stories like Usain Bolt’s triple-triple (3 gold medals in 3 straight Olympic Games) and Mo Farah’s double-double.  Mo’s gold in the men’s 10,000 meter race was even more astounding considering he fell about halfway through the race.  (I wish I could learn his secret of falling and springing back up to finish a race.)   Or the collision of Abbey D’Agostino (USA) and Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) half way through a qualifying heat for the women’s 5000 meter race and how Abbey and Nikki helped each other to get back up and finish the race – they personified true sportsmanship.  Or that among the competitors in the women’s marathon were two sets of twins and one set of triplets.  Or that the Belgium team in the Men’s 4×400 relay race included 3 brothers – Kevin, Jonathan, and Dylan Borlee.  (It was a family affair for the Borlee’s – their sister Olivia competed in the Women’s 200 meter race.)  No matter how many times I sat down to write I just couldn’t get motivated.  If I couldn’t run, I couldn’t write about it.

I tried to think of activities I could do that would not aggravate my broken toe.  I had spent the first 4 weeks of recuperation reading and finished 9 books.  I couldn’t imagine reading anymore. I didn’t want to watch movies. I wanted to be moving. I tried to think of any activity I could do to keep my body from turning into a blob.  The only activity that I could think of was Pilates.  I signed up for private lessons 3 times a week.  The instructor listened to me explain all my physical limitations from my arm with its limited range of motion to my healing toe.  She was confident despite these challenges, I could still get a work-out.  Since I started taking Pilates, I can tell that I have gotten stronger.  If there can be a silver lining to my broken toe, it is that I discovered how  Pilates can improve my running – a stronger core and more flexible hips.  Pilates classes saved me from total despair.

Last week I was finally given the ok to resume exercising.  I started riding my bike and walking on my treadmill.   I even pushed things a bit and did a short run this week.  After 8 weeks of inactivity, my body isn’t the same as it was before my fall.  I feel like I am starting all over from square one.   But the ability to get moving again has turned my frowny face into a smiling one.  I am a living example of the positive effects of exercise on one’s mental health.

I did learn a few things during this ordeal.  I got a deeper appreciation of how much I value the ability to move.  It is a gift.  While I was unable to run for only 8 weeks, there are people who are permanently unable to move including those with more serious cases of Transverse Myelitis, MS, ALS, or spinal cord injuries.  I am fortunate to be able to lace up my shoes again to run.

I also learned how important it is to have multiple hobbies or interests.  Running is my only hobby.  When I was unable to run, I had nothing other than reading to keep me occupied.  Reading is extremely important but it was not enough to sustain me.  I need to develop other interests so my life doesn’t come to a screeching halt when I can’t run.

Despite my latest injury, I still have my goals of completing each of the 6 Major Marathons (only 3 left to run) and a full or half marathon in each of the 50 states (17 states to go).   It just might take me a bit longer to finish them.  I learned that it is all part of my running journey.