I had a great day on the Trail today, but not for the reasons you'd think.
There were no views of the fertile valley farms from the ridges because the
leaves obscured them, so it was a "long green tunnel" kind of day.
Heavy mist until about 9 AM meant I couldn't see anything past 300
feet from the Trail, but I could enjoy the mountain laurels, rhododendrons,
flame azaleas, and wildflowers that brightened my immediate vicinity.
There were no rocky cliffs, sheer drop-offs, steep climbs,
22-times-back-and-forth-through-the-same-creek nonsense, mucky messes, ponies, cows,
bears, interesting historical facts, old dilapidated buildings . . .
. . . or ROCKS or ROOTS!!!!
Well, almost none. It was a smooth-trail-all-20+ miles kind of day, so I
kicked it into high gear and RAN more than half the distance for once. I don't
often get that opportunity. I was even running gentle uphills two-thirds of the
way. After that, it became an effort to run the flats, so I just ran downhill.
(Sounds like the way I run ultras.)
It felt great!
I averaged just over 16-minute-per-mile pace (9- to 10-minute pace when running),
the first I've run that fast on the Appalachian Trail. It was much nicer than
25-minute miles over rocks and 30-minute miles up steep inclines. I had a downhill mile of dirt and paved roads
before, over, and after crossing I-77, which helped lower the pace. (Another
freeway, but less noisy with fewer trucks than I-81.)
Four other things that made this run faster were not taking any notes during
the run, taking only three photos, talking briefly to only two thru-hikers,
and not stopping at either of the two shelters in this section because
they were off-trail. (Jim went down and signed for me at the one he passed near
the end point.)
Total elevation gain and loss was about 5,000 feet, all of it gradual except
for three or four steep descents. Glad I was headed north and not south.
As reward for my exuberance on the Trail, I now have a sore tendon on my
lower center front right leg at the ankle. I'm icing it
tonight. It's always something!
I just had to enjoy this piece of Trail while it lasted, because
tomorrow's long section to Pearisburg is "trashy," per Horton's 1991
account. (By the way, Horton began his speed record attempt on the Pacific Crest
Trail this morning. Click on the Montrail link at left for his journal.)
Jim and the dogs came out about two miles to meet me at the end. He isn't
particularly fond of rocky trails, either, so he was pleased to finally find a
section that he could run. I called Jim about 10 AM to ask him
to pick me up earlier than estimated. Now that's a switch!
Journey runners and thru-hikers talk about finally "getting their trail legs"
after several weeks on a long trail like the AT. It takes the body time to
adjust to the rigors of being on the trail every day. As long as there is
adequate rest and no major injuries, our bodies adapt and become stronger and
For the past week, I've felt this increased strength. It took me four weeks to
build up to it. I notice a difference on climbs and how I feel at the end of the
Now I feel ready to take it up a notch. The terrain in the second and third
quarters of the AT is not easy, but it's easier than the first (southern) and
fourth (northern) quarters. I'll be gradually increasing my distances, starting
with almost thirty miles tomorrow, but I'll intersperse longer or harder days
with easier ones.
Jim's a happy man because he's taking the camper home tomorrow while I'm
running all day. It's a long way for him to keep ferrying me to the trailheads
in this area the next few days, but he's willing to spend the time in order to
be home longer. He needs a break from the camper, and gas for our minivan will
cost less than campground fees for the next week.
OK, time for a walk around the campground now - it helps prevent soreness the next day.