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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
 
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POST #23:   WHAT'S NEXT??
       
DECEMBER  18
 
 
"So, how do you top this for something to do next??"
- our retired friends MJ and Dan in Montana, who run and are active in many sports we haven't even tried
 
"What are your future goals?"
- Jenny in Ontario, who dreams of a similar AT thru-hike someday
 
"So tell me, you two, what is the next challenge?"
- Tread Well, runner and speed hiker/light packer training for his first trail 50K (one of the folks on whom I was a bad influence!)
 
 


Sue, Jim, and Cody on the summit of Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado (over 14,000 feet) in August of 2004.  Mt. Elbert is near Leadville.

Several folks have written variations of the Big Question, "What's next?" 

By now you should know I'm not simply going to "rest on my laurels." I mentioned in the last post that the AT Adventure Run was the highlight of my running career "so far."

I'm nowhere near done having adventures yet! I warned Jim he'd better hang on for the ride.

That said, there are lots of athletic adventures I'm considering in the future but it's Jim's turn to select races and special places to run in 2006. It's my turn to "hang on" and support his goals next year.

[An aside I neglected to include in the crewing entries: You've seen what wonderful support and encouragement Jim gave me during my AT quest-of-a-lifetime. You saw that he sacrificed doing some things he loved to help me reach my goal. Loving relationships are like that. Mature people do everything they reasonably can to help their loved ones - spouse, kids, etc. - do their best and achieve what is important to them. A happy marriage or family requires each person to bring out the best in others, not criticize, belittle, discourage, or thwart their dreams and ambitions.]

Plan A was for Jim to run the Grand Slam, which consists of four of the first hundred-mile races in the United States (Western States, Vermont, Leadville, and Wasatch). Unfortunately, his name was not drawn in the  recent Western States lottery, which had the lowest odds (only 37%) in years. He lucked out in 2001 and 2004 by getting in through the lottery. Not this year.

PLAN "B" SOUNDS FUN!

He isn't bummed about it though. He's too busy working on Plan B, which should mean less pressure and more fun since he can choose almost any races he wants.

Right now his choices for hundred-milers are Big Horn (WY) in mid-June and Leadville (CO) in late August. We'll probably just stay out West all summer to avoid driving across the country and back two times. We did that in 2004 and it wore us down almost as much as the AT trek this year.

I'll work my own race schedule around the ultras Jim most wants to run. We'll do several eastern 50Ks and 50-milers from January to May in preparation for Big Horn, where I'll probably run the 52-miler again (it's my favorite scenery in any race I've ever run anywhere). I'm toying with the idea of the 100-miler there if my training is really going well.

After Big Horn we plan to head to Nevada to visit one of Jim's sons and his family on our way to Western States in nearby Squaw Valley, CA. We have submitted our names as volunteers at an aid station during the race, which is the week after Big Horn. We enjoy the pre-race seminars and other activities that take place for several days prior to the race and it will be great fun to see lots of friends. This is one of the largest 100-milers in the country with about 400 entrants.

Unless we decide to do one or two races in other states before the Leadville race, we'll probably spend most of July and August in Colorado so we can acclimate to altitude and enjoy the beautiful mountains.

In early July we plan to attend the three-day training weekend in Leadville (lots of fun!) and volunteer and/or pace someone at the Hardrock Hundred in the San Juan Mountains. We did that several years ago and loved it.

I would like to run a mountainous 100-miler in 2006 that will qualify me for Hardrock in 2007 or 2008. Only certain races are difficult enough to use as qualifiers. Finishing one of them is probably the easiest part of getting into the prestigious Hardrock race with its elaborate entry "lottery." (Volunteering at the race also increases the odds of getting in.) If I don't do Big Horn, I'll probably run Leadville Trail again as a Hardrock qualifier. I'm 0 for 2 at LT100 but haven't given up hope of finishing it!

Speaking of "hope," this is a photo of Jim and 5-month-old Cody on Hope Pass (12,600 feet in elevation) during a training run in August of 2003. Hope Pass is the literal and figurative "high point" on the Leadville course. Runners get to go over it twice during the race if they're fast enough to make the cut-offs.

Another possibility to pass the time next summer is for me to run the Colorado Trail with Jim's crewing assistance. It's about 468 miles long and I wouldn't have to do it continuously or in any certain number of days.

The CT is mostly at altitude (averages about 11,000 feet, I believe) but the surface is generally more runnable than the Appalachian Trail.

I've found a niche - journey running/long trials - that I enjoy. Running part or all of the Colorado Trail would also be good training if I do Leadville. It will be fun to research it more thoroughly this winter.

Despite the funk I've been in during December, I'm really looking forward to our plans for next year. I think we're going to have a lot of fun again. That's certainly our goal.

BEYOND 2006

As far as my long-term "adventures," there are several things I've had on my wish list for a while:

  • running a marathon or ultra in all fifty states and D.C. (Jim and I are each up to about thirty states);
  • attempting some other interesting mountainous 100-milers that I haven't run yet, like Big Horn, Wasatch, Angeles Crest, and Hardrock;
  • climbing the highest peaks in all fifty states;
  • climbing all the 14ers in Colorado;
  • running other long trails;
  • and doing adventurous runs such as the rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon.

In the back of my mind, I think how cool it would be to do the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Hikers who have done those - and the Appalachian Trail - are said to have completed the "Triple Crown."

I'm not sure my body can handle another long trail. I still have some residual fatigue almost three months after completing the AT. These other trails are about 2,650 and 3,000 miles long, respectively - even longer than the AT. Jim may never consent to crewing so long again. These trails have less access than the AT, so staying on the trail overnight sometimes would be necessary (I've never backpacked before and sleeping on the hard ground wouldn't be good for my arthritic body). And neither trail is nearly as well marked at the AT - could I stay on them?

Still . . . they are certainly appealing to me!

Other sports beckon me, too. I'd like to resume road cycling and learn how to mountain bike. We have several good trails to ride in the Roanoke area. Rafting, canoeing, and kayaking also appeal to me. We live near a large lake and there are whitewater streams within a few hours that would be fun to explore. And I'd like to gain some real climbing skills that would help me reach the goals I listed above.

Then there are the "fantasy" goals, like running through various mountains in Central and South America, New Zealand, Europe, and Asia . . . No, the Arctic and Antarctic don't appeal to me! I doubt we'll ever have the funds to do that, though.

Fortunately, we have great adventure books, exciting movies/videos, and now the internet to travel vicariously to places such as these.

I have other life goals that are non-athletic in nature, but those are best listed in another type of journal.

Speaking of another journal . . . we'll be recording our 2006 adventures in a different but similar journal on this website, so check back after the first of the year for our training plans, race reports, and stories from the roads and trails. We have recently gotten heart rate monitors and are starting a new training plan to help us race closer to our potential next year. We're tired of DNFs at hundred-milers!

We'll let you know our progress and, as always, we're open to questions from our readers.

There will be at least two more entries in this journal in the next few days re: whether I plan to "write a book" and kudos to the folks who made this AT Adventure Run possible and/or a lot more fun.

And since I haven't gotten around to putting lots of other AT photos we took on our Webshots pages, I'll probably do some "photo essays" in this journal on various topics. They will be heavy on photos you haven't seen yet and lighter on text (promise!).

Back atcha soon,

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

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil