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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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"Heartfelt congratulations on your stunning teamwork and impressive
achievement!  I hope that you're basking the in the satisfaction of your
accomplishment. Thanks for sharing your experience. I looked forward to following your journey on the web, and eagerly (but patiently) await your
post-event entries. I'll bet that it's great to be home again!"
- e-mail from a journal reader

Profusion of rhododendrons in NC    (5-10-05)

Azaleas blooming above the Nolichucky River in TN  (5-22-05)

Thank you so much, Harry. We appreciate all the congratulatory notes we've received from readers around the world. We never dreamed that word of the journal would spread so far and wide!

As on top of Mt. Katahdin, I'm still one mixed bag of feelings a week after finishing my long journey. One of the "post" entries I'll write will be how I'm adjusting to the return to "reality." Right now, it's too early for a retrospective, but I can work on some of the other pieces.

So far "reality" has been carrying into the house five months' worth of stuff from the camper, preparing the camper for winter storage, re-supplying the pantry at home, wading through almost three months of mail since we were home last, re-claiming the flower beds from weeds-on-steroids, and making endless lists of things to do . . .

Reality, indeed.

So bear with me patiently as I write some more entries every few days and let me know what questions you have or topics you'd like to see addressed about the AT and my experience on it.


Back in early March in Prep #9  I outlined my plan for consuming enough calories and fluids to sustain me on the Trail day after day after ,day. I had read that thru-hikers need from 5,000 to 6.000 calories per day.

That's a lot, even for an ultra runner!

I wrote a very thorough assessment of how the plan was working half-way through the run on Day 66. I'm pleased to report the plan worked pretty well the rest of the way with little or no tweaking.

I think this plan would work well for anyone else who is doing a supported run or hike on a long trail, and possibly for a backpacker or fast-packer who can re-supply at least once a week from mail drops.

In a nutshell, I ate as much breakfast as I could stomach every morning before I began running/hiking, used primarily gel and concentrated energy drink on the Trail, drank Recoverite on the way back to the camper at the end of the run, and ate a large supper in the evening.

I also had to snack before bed to keep my stomach from growling during the night or I'd have to get up in the middle of the night to get a banana, muffin, ice cream or something to quell the hunger pangs, especially farther into the trek.

The only time I felt like I was forcing food was at breakfast. I've always been fond of breakfast, but at 5 AM it was sometimes hard to eat as much as I needed. It also meant the first hour was usually walking because my stomach was too full to run.

This wasn't a major problem, however, because most times I'd be going up a mountain right off the bat anyway - and had to walk.

Layers of mountains from one of the NC balds on 5-13-05.


It was heaven on earth, being able to eat any doggone thing I wanted for almost five months!!!  And now I have to get back to a normal, healthy, much lower-calorie diet or I'll quickly gain back the ten pounds I lost on the Trail. <sigh>

Ten pounds. That's all I lost. My chiropractor said it looked like more than that. I didn't measure inches before I started, so I can't tell you how much smaller my butt is now. I can happily say my "love handles" are gone, though! I'm almost as toned as I was about eighteen years ago when I was setting road-race PRs but I sure don't have that kind of speed any more. <another sigh>

I'd love to maintain this level of fitness and muscle tone. However, my body craves rest. I'm very tired, even a week after finishing. I've stayed busy with the tasks mentioned above (and more) but I haven't run yet. I don't even want to run yet. I walked 45 minutes several days ago and I was more tired than when I climbed up and down Mt. Katahdin.

I haven't been able to sleep well in almost two weeks (since my stressful flooded river day - Post Traumatic Stress maybe?). I'm even having Trail dreams and nightmares that I never had while actually on the Trail.

Think I need a little break here????

Anyway, now I have to severely reduce the amount of ice cream, butter, and empty calories I was enjoying while "on the run."

Rats. That will be one of the harder transitions for me as I segue back to "reality."


I am very happy that I was able to keep up my energy level for nearly five months using primarily Hammergel, Perpetuem, Recoverite, and Endurolytes while on the Trail. They provided enough calories and nutritional benefits to keep me going like the Energizer Bunny and I don't think they adversely affected my health in any way. I rarely ate solid food on the Trail.

I really liked the simplicity, steady energy, and time-saving features of this plan. It made preparation fast each evening and I didn't have to stop for lunch and snack breaks along the way unless I wanted to eat a muffin or food bar on some days while enjoying a great mountain-top view.

I never had nausea or felt hungry during the day. The only time I had a carb-overload was once when I drank a soft drink left by a Trail Angel; I was light-headed for about twenty minutes from the sugar or sugar substitute in it. I never did that again during the trek.

I won't repeat everything here that I wrote on Day 66; please return to it for the details. This is just a summary.

Perpetuem was my main source of calories during the day. It contains fat and protein, as well as carbs. I mixed it up in a concentrated form and chased swigs of it with water from my Camelbak bladder. I started drinking it about two hours into each run. Drinking it every twenty to thirty minutes gave me steady energy. I loved the "creamsicle" taste and didn't get tired of it after nearly five months.

I occasionally used Sustained Energy flavored with some Hammergel but preferred the taste of Perp. I went through a huge can of Perp powder every five or six days.

I supplemented the Perpetuem with Hammergel, which I used mostly to propel myself up mountains. A slurp every fifteen or twenty minutes gave me quick energy. I called it my "secret weapon" for climbing mountains at a steady pace. Many times other hikers would notice the gel flask on my shoulder strap and ask about it. That gave me opportunities to talk a little about Hammer Nutrition products, which I think can be used successfully by traditional thru-hikers.

I mentioned a funny anecdote about Hammergel on Day 144  when I learned that some hikers thought the flask held soap! Go back and read it for a good laugh (runners who use gels will most appreciate the humor).

Perp has electrolytes in it, so I didn't need a lot of Endurolyte capsules. I averaged one per hour when it was cool, two an hour if it was hot and I was sweating more. I rarely had any problems with swelling and I don't ever remember cramping. I think I finally got the electrolyte thing down right! (I used to have problems with that in ultras.)

After most runs I'd consume a serving of Recoverite . I am totally convinced that it helped me recover faster for the next day. Jim would bring it to me in a cooler each afternoon when he picked me up and I drank it before we got "home." That held me over till supper was ready.

Since I was staying in the camper every night I had an enormous advantage over thru-hikers who weren't crewed: I could eat "normal" meals twice a day, not primarily dehydrated food as they did. I was able to have fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of protein, and lots of dairy foods. These items are difficult for thru-hikers to get unless they go into towns to eat. This is one reason I didn't lose more weight and I was able to avoid getting sick or too run down.

View of Smokies from the Trail in NC on 5-22-05

If you haven't tried any of the Hammer Nutrition products, I encourage you to go to their website and get more information. They have a terrific free 64-page booklet that explains the physiology and chemistry behind their products. You can sign up to receive their newsletters, which come automatically after you place an order. Even the catalogues have detailed information.

We're grateful to Hammer for giving us a generous discount on their products this year. We still spent quite a bit of money on these four products! The only reason I asked them for a discount was because Jim and I have successfully used their products for several years in training for and running ultras - same reason I asked Montrail for a discount on shoes.

I've tried hard not to "advertise" too much in this journal and turn readers off. But - if you order through the link on the panel at left, you'll get a 15% discount on your first order and we get a discount on our next order. It's a win-win situation. Thank you to the folks who have already ordered from Hammer - we really appreciate it and hope you like their products!

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil