I Want to be More

Over the last few weeks, my absence from this blog can be attributed to the fact that your humble author has been in the doldrums.  Whether it’s the SAD that I discussed in my last post or something else, I can’t seem to shake the feeling of despondency.  There are things that I want out of life that feel so far away… so impossible; and the feeling that those goals and aspirations are so far out of reach is driving me further and further down.  I want more.  I want to be more.

Stop!

A few posts ago, I went on a 5.5 mile hike through part of the Appalachian Trail called “Raven Rocks”.  Over this past weekend, I decided to challenge myself on a more difficult Appalachian Trail stretch.  A 9.25 mile hike with 3,000 feet of elevation gain over harsh rocky terrain.  The goal I set for myself was 4 hours.  While that may seem slow, take the rocky terrain into consideration.  This isn’t road running, and considering the 5.5 mile hike took about 3.5 hours with less elevation change, this was going to be a challenge.  In my head… almost an impossible challenge.

Time started to tick and I started to run.  With leaves piling over the trail, and most of the trail covered by rocks, there were only certain stretches where running was an option.  But every chance I got, with every ounce of strength I had in my body, I was going to push.

Similar to this, except worse rocks… and in the forest… and a less buff SharkStopper (yeah, that’s not me).

I reached the halfway point at 2 hours and 3 minutes. At that point, the reality of the situation set in. My pace was good – this COULD be done. From that point on, every time I could run, I ran. Every time I ran out of breath, I forced myself to keep going.

The last marker was positioned 0.75 miles away from the finish line with 29 minutes before the 4 hour deadline and the largest ascent still left.  I honestly can’t remember how many people I passed in that final 3/4 of a mile, but the adrenaline rush of being so close to accomplishing what I thought was impossible kept me charging forward.

Restart!

To be honest, it didn’t matter if I won or if I lost, and it didn’t matter HOW I played the game.  What mattered, is THAT I played the game.  The day you stop believing that your goals and aspirations are worth fighting for is the day that you’ve been defeated.  Nothing comes easy, especially the goals that seem so ridiculously far out of reach.  Don’t give up on it.  It’s amazing what your body can do if the mind is willing and ready.  You will see abilities that you never knew you had, and eventually, you’ll realize that there is no limit to what you can be.

Today is your opportunity to be great!  Fight for it!  Take it!  Then never look back.

Finishing Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes, 49 seconds

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Appalachian Trail Hike

A few years back, my wife and I hiked up Table Mountain during our trip to South Africa.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and, without a doubt, the most exhausting hike I’ve ever completed in my life.

We should’ve used the cable car!

Today we decided to complete part of the Appalachian Trail, so we set out for a part of the trail called “Raven Rocks”.  The hike is 2.75 miles long (5.5 miles round-trip) with some fantastic scenery and some pretty strenuous trails.  The toughest part was the elevation changes, with over 1500 feet of total elevation gain throughout the hike.  I had heard that this trail is a good test for beginners to see if their heart is really into hiking.

 

If you are looking for something fun to do where you are getting a lot of great exercise, I would highly recommend hiking.  The goal of the day, in addition to exercising, was to test myself to see if I should keep pursuing this goal or just scrap it.  Below is my test criteria, but I would encourage you to go on your own hike and rate yourself too.

 

Lower Body Strength: This part of the Appalachian is extremely rocky, so the steep ascents and descents really test the strength of your legs.  In addition, keeping your ankles stable on uneven terrain is critical.  I didn’t really help myself out by wearing normal tennis shoes.  Next time I’ll invest in better hiking boots.

Lower Body Strength Grade: B+

 

Stamina: If you are going to test yourself, test yourself with a hike that is around 100-200% of your normal long run.  Usually, I tap out on a run at 3.25 miles, so a 5.5 mile hike (170%) was a pretty good challenge.  Elevation change is what really drains your stamina; varying the elevation and terrain is a tough, but worthy trial.  To be honest, I think I held up fairly well today.  At the end of your hike, if you feel like you still have some decent energy to keep going, you did well (or you didn’t go far enough).

Stamina Grade: A

 

Upper Body Strength: Not all of hiking is with your lower body, especially if you’re carrying essential items on your back.  For me, this meant lunch for me and my wife, plenty of liquids, and my light camera equipment.  Multi-day hikes obviously come with even more essentials.  I’ve always had back problems, but my workouts in the weight room have improved my upper body strength tremendously.

Upper Body Strength Grade: B+

 

Pace: Everyone walks at their own pace, but continuing a trail walk at a strong pace can be the difference between making it to a shelter and not.  In the harsher climates and weather conditions, this is even more important.  Today was a beautiful day (60 degrees and cloudy), so weather didn’t factor into play.  We were able to walk 5.5 miles in 3 hours and 30 minutes, and if you strike a few brief pauses and 20 minutes for lunch, I think the pace was pretty solid.

Pace Grade: B+

 

Equipment: Here’s where I get docked a lot, but this is part of the learning process.  Walking poles are important.  Well-soled hiking shoes are important.  I didn’t really know this when the day started, but seeing the people out there (who knew what they were doing) shed some light on the subject.

Equipment Grade: D

 

All in all, it was a great day for hiking, and while the hike definitely put me to the test, I think I’m ready for something longer and more challenging.  My grades weren’t all A’s today and there are many ways that I can improve and get better.  But whether it be a multi-day hike or just a short day trip, if you are getting out there, exercising, and having fun, you’re already improving and getting better.