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I drove up to the Appalachian Trail on Sunday to bang out my usual 20.

Ha! Hubris! After a bunch of zeroes (like… 240), the first day back on the Trail is always BRUTAL. And I always forget. I’d happily convinced myself otherwise because, hey, I’ve lost weight, I’m eating right, I’m running (lumbering), I’m in better shape than I was when I started the Sierra. But… BRUTAL.

The Trail itself was magical, as always. It took my breath away, the spirituality of it, of being out there in the breathing trees, the mud. But that long mile uphill at the beginning, the one that seems like a hop-skip after I’ve been hiking for a while, was tough. I stopped a lot.

I turned back after only 5 miles (to get a total of 10, rather than 20) — mostly, honestly, because of boredom, and because the Trail was crowded. It was a beautiful, not-too-hot Sunday in July. Lots of people, lots of unleashed dogs (which is fine, except dogs don’t always like trekking poles, so they sniff and maybe growl a little, which makes me nervous, and the dogs, I think, smell the nervous, which makes them more aggressive about me and the poles).

I did manage a 10 × 10, so that’s good. Excellent, in fact — although that section is surely one of the easiest on the whole AT.

Lessons (relearned, mostly):

  • I need a better uphill strategy.
  • I need to get some tips to preserve phone battery. And I won’t need some of the phone gizmos I thought I’d need.
  • The thing I need to train most is my intention: the point is forward motion, always. Jog a little, run a little, go a little farther and a little longer — keep the intention first and foremost. Last time, I strolled too much, and it cost me. The job is forward, forward, always forward. Overcome the fear and the excuses. (Stopping after 5 is an example of the excuses.)
  • If I’m going to succeed, then everything has to be in service to that. For instance, my hips were brutalized after only 10 miles. That always happens. I always forget. It’s the long downhill, I think. So clearly, running and weight management aren’t going to cut it. If I’m going to succeed, I have to suck up the fact that I need to spend the time and money going up there every single week, if I can manage it. Every week. It costs money (turnpike tolls, not inconsiderable), it costs me time, it takes me away from work when I most need to be earning cash… but I have to be willing to do it anyway. That’s the price of success. I have to commit the money, time, and energy, now and every single day on the actual Trail. No excuses. I need to strengthen that intention muscle.

My feet were great, my shoulders were great. Those are good things. Excellent things. The pack was light (15 pounds or so), but it’s been a while since I carried one. And the feet normally would have been burning, so the running/lumbering is good for that part.

I wish I could go up there every day! I wish I could leave now!