Many of you run on trails, some faster, some slower, some shorter, some longer, some ultra long. We all appreciate the same closeness to nature, the elements and the outdoors. Recently one very active CAT member, Jen Lebendig, decided to section hike/run the AT in Shenandoah National Park …
4.6 miles to Pinefield Gap, read the familiar AT sign post.
What? I thought. I was 2 miles into what I had estimated was a short and easy 4.5ish mile section of the AT. I did the math … Almost 7 miles. Good job, Jen. Ah, well, it is what it is.
The two miles had already taken longer than I intended due to tired hamstrings and a bear sighting.
My husband, Marc, was running and hiking toward me from our car at my destination of Pinefield Gap, having dropped me off at the section’s start point atop Big Flat Mountain. When he finally reached me at the halfway point he had traveled 3 1/2 miles and was worried …
Over the past few weeks I had worked my way north on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. A nagging knee injury had flared up in the spring causing an abrupt halt to my already paltry mileage as a trail runner. I had spent the summer slowly working out the knee issues while at the same time losing fitness and packing on pounds. By the end of August, with a straighter and stronger knee, I decided I needed a challenge to get my fitness and speed back up to its usual turtle pace.
I decided I would section hike the AT within the Shenandoah National Park boundaries. If fellow CAT friends could run the 101 miles over a 3-day weekend, I could certainly hike the distance over the course of three months. I hatched a plan to start at Rockfish Gap in the south and slowly work my way north. The thinking was I would start with small sections while I was unfit and relatively close to home then increase my mileage as my fitness increased as well as the drive to the trailhead.
I sent an email to the CAT list and posted on Facebook asking if anyone would like to join. Lady Heller and a few others replied and on September 14th I began my hike with the section from Rockfish Gap to Beagle Gap. (More about these new-found friends in upcoming posts.)
Twenty-five AT miles and twelve days later my husband came upon me on the 4 1/2-turned-7 mile section.
“I was getting worried about you,” he said, a bit breathless from the uphill climb.
“My mileage estimation was WAY off, I’m sorry. But I’m fine — just slow.”
As I write this I am taking a few days off to recover. My hamstrings and glutes have been yelling at me despite the slow pace and low mileage. I am always learning how to listen to my body and to give myself breaks even when every other runner I know (and I do mean EVERY) would be able to push on with little difficulty. However, these speedsters are my greatest supporters and have become some of my best friends. So I will continue to hike my own hike, and run my own run, and drink in the beauty of the outdoors with the support of friends and family.
I will be back soon with another installment talking about my journey up the AT. If you’d like to join me on the trail please let me know — I’d love the company!