The beginning of an adventure

So last year this guy I met at a 50K emailed a few of us and asked if we’d be interested in running the length of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Long trail races can be sort of intoxicating, and you agree to all sorts of crazy ideas. The high can last for days or weeks. Of course Anne, Jen and I jumped at the idea. We had been kicking it around for a while anyway, so it seemed perfect.

This guy, Jeremy, got us all organized and psyched for the adventure. He was primarily a road runner and just ran his 50th marathon, so it was a good time for him to realize that the trails are way better. Lesson learned.

Our crew consisted of Jen’s husband (a veteran ultramarathoner) and Jeremy’s wife, Caryn. Caryn spectated at many of Jeremy’s marathons, but had never crewed for an ultra. She was amazing. She is the person you want crewing for you during your 100 mile race. She was so on top of everything. If anyone needed anything, she put it in a memo in her phone. Total rock star.

Rock star Caryn
Rock star Caryn
Ryan
Ryan

We started at the Maryland/Pennsylvania border last Saturday. The weather was amazing! Blue skies and the temperatures weren’t too high. There was debate over which sign was at the “official” start, so we got pics at both. Poor Megan looks totally washed out in the second one. Sorry Megs!

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We ran 29.2 miles from the state line to Big Flat. The best part was that we ran about 8 feet before we got confused by the trail markers and almost had a 9 runner pile-up.

On our way!
On our way!
Fearless leader, and trail convert!
Fearless leader, and trail convert!

Much of this section of the trail was new to a lot of us. Personally I hadn’t done the first 20 miles, so that was exciting. It was hard to take in the sights because, well, you don’t look up a lot when you’re running over rocks and roots. We were keeping a pretty good pace, so we weren’t taking a lot of time to stop at take pictures. It was gorgeous, though; I can assure you of that. We did run into some guys doing some trail maintenance and chatted with them. We actually saw a guy painting the white blazes. Fun!

Last year I discovered that my strength is climbing hills. This section had several really good climbs, so I enjoyed it. I heard some whining from some of the guys (sorry) about the hills, but I knew they would get me on the downhills. And they did. By the time the finish was in sight, we were all pretty close together, though. We had to cross a road into the parking lot to finish, and Caryn was able to snap “finish line” photos. It was fun.

Cute ultra couple, Anne and John
Cute ultra couple, Anne and John – all done!

After we all finished we headed back to Jen’s house to refuel and relax. A couple of us pitched our tents in their back yard and then Ryan got a campfire going. We ate tons of food, drank a little beer, and turned in pretty early.  We had to rise pretty early for day 2.

Day 2 began at Big Flat and ended at Boiling Springs, for a total of 27.8 miles. Several of us had already run this section, which made it extra fun. It was kind of neat to play tour guide to the newbies.

Beginning of day 2
Beginning of day 2

Our first aid station was at Pine Grove Furnace. It was the perfect spot. If you run distance, you know how awesome it is to have actual toilets along the way. Woohoo! Oh yeah, and there were chips. Chips are magical.

Aid station fun
Aid station fun

We knew that the midway point of the trail was marked very well, so we were surprised when we encountered this tiny little sign. Our guess is that the trail is being temporarily rerouted somewhere, because it says that it’s the halfway mark for 2014. Does anyone know the details about this?

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Jen and Ryan are very good friends with David Horton, a pretty well known ultra-runner. He set the speed record for the Appalachian Trail in 1991. (It has since been broken.) He was passing through the area and just happened to arrive as we were coming through our aid station. We got to chat with him a bit and he paused for a photo with us.

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Here are some random photos from the rest of the route.

I get silly on the trails
I get silly on the trails

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Lots of rocks.

Random trail marker.
Random trail marker.
Center Point Knob
Center Point Knob

I was actually feeling better in the last 5 miles than I had all weekend. It was great. I know those trails pretty well, so I knew when I could just push through to the finish. I felt a little bad while doing so, but I totally chicked a guy. I just knew I was a mile from the end and that I could be sitting in the creek soon, so I “sprinted” to the end.

Finish line festivities
Finish line festivities
Not as horrible as an ice bath!
Not as horrible as an ice bath! Chilly!

So our first two days are complete. We covered 57 out of 230 miles so far, and have a lot to go. We will be running for a weekend in July, one in August and one in September. I am really excited to run the rest of the miles, but my knee disagrees. It swelled up pretty well on Monday, despite not hurting. The swelling has gone down, and now it’s slightly achy, but overall it’s fine.

Do you have an idea for a grand adventure? DO IT!

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