A blog about my life, fitness and fun! (...and maybe a few cat pictures...)

A blog about my life, fitness and fun! (...and maybe a few cat pictures...)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

18 Miles on the AT

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

On Saturday morning, I got to run 18 gorgeous, rocky, hilly, buggy, hot, knee weakening miles on the Appalachian Trail. This was a "new" section I never covered before and I was so lucky to be able to run it with several of my running friends- old and new!

Here is a little back story that I shared in Saturday's post.

A few months ago, I posted my Fitness Bucket List. Well, one of my crazy ultra-running friends particularly liked #5- Run the entire Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. And unlike me, he is actually DRIVEN to make this dream a reality for himself. He organized several weekends of trail running sections of the AT- all culminating with him completing it within about 3 months. A lot of his trail running friends are doing some or all of the weekends with him.

I am not running the entire thing, but I am going to do some of the runs. I am lucky to live within 45 minutes (or closer) to several AT trail heads. These also happen to be very run-able sections. There are certain parts of the trail I have run more times than I can count, but there are lots of other sections in Pennsylvania that I have never stepped foot on. I have run 111 miles of the AT in PA and I have 118 miles to go!

Now, onto Saturday's re-cap!

My alarm went off at 4:15 am. That is early, even for me. But I needed time to wake up and triple check my gym bag to make sure I had everything. I was so afraid of forgetting something important- like my running shoes or hydration pack!

I was on the road by 4:50 am, iced coffee in hand, headed toward Caledonia State park which is about 50 minutes south of where I live. The rest of the runners and crew were picking me up at Caledonia and hauling my ass with them to the start- Pen Mar. This is where the AT in PA begins.
Getting ready at Pen Mar! 
Bug spray, water, salt tablets... we needed it all!

The obligatory photos at the start of our run.

From left to right- 
John, Anne, Kristen, Carol, Jeremy, Melissa, Bill, Jen, Meg

Jeremy, our fearless leader, 
and his beautiful wife, Caryn, who crewed for us.

Just a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitle excited to start! 

Off we go!

I fueled up with some dry cereal and a banana about 15 minutes before we started running. I like to eat close to a run. It doesn't upset my stomach at all.

Caryn and Ryan, the spouses of two of the runners (and ultra runners themselves) were crewing for us. They parked at certain spots along our route with food, water, and cheers. We couldn't have done it without them!

I wasn't sure how my knee would handle 18 miles on the trail. Sure, it felt fine during and after Boston, but that was road. Trail is different. Well, within the first 3 miles, my knee cap hurt about and my IT band was sore, which made my knee feel weak. A weak knee on the rocky up and downs of the AT is not a good thing. But I didn't complain, and I tried not to worry about it.

For miles 1-7 I stuck with the group. The terrain had a few short climbs and downhills as well as rocks- little, ankle turning rocks. The cool thing about trail running though is that you walk up the hills and walk through the ankle twisters! Caryn and Ryan were at the Antietam Shelter (around mile 7) waiting for us with their vehicles full of goodies. I didn't eat anything but I did fill up my hydration pack. It leaks, so half my water was in my belly and half dripped down my butt. I had a very wet butt.

Antietam Creek

Antietam Creek

Antietam Shelter

When we started back on the trail, it didn't take long for me to break out on my own. I just felt like trucking. Everyone else running that day was actually running closer to 30 miles. I was only running 18 for a couple reasons. I had to be home for my piano recital at 3pm, I already ran the section of the trail north of Caledonia, and also, I wasn't going to be doing any favors for my body if I ran 30 miles! (I don't think running 18 miles is doing it any favors either, but oh well!)

So I ran out ahead by myself from about mile 8.5-13.5. This section was tough. There were several major climbs that just never stopped as well as lots of huge rocks to maneuver around. Somehow I didn't see any snakes (I'm terrified of snakes!) but the rest of the crew apparently saw a rattler after I left them at Caledonia. Oh my word, I am so glad I missed that!

I passed several through hikers and section hikers. When one of them said good morning to me, I could tell from his accent that he was not from these parts. I asked him where he was from and he told me Denmark. How cool! He said he comes over to hike sections of the trail from time to time. I thought it was neat that someone came all the way from Denmark to hike a trail that I can get to in a half hour.

Here are some pictures from this section of the trail...

The white blaze

The trail is very well marked but I still managed to take one wrong turn.

They call it Rocksylvania. I just hiked up that.

Heeeeeeere snakey snakey snakey!

"The hiiiiiiiills are aliiiiiiiiiive...."

"With the sound of muuuuuuusiiiiiiic....."

Did you notice I always wear that pink shirt? I bet it smells sooooo good.


I love this, it's like from a movie.

I started to get really hungry so when we saw our crew at 13.5, I had a 2 ingredient cookie (banana and oats) made by my friend Kristen. It was really good. I also had an Energy Bite made by Caryn. I needed a little something in my tummy to get me to Caledonia!

Crew member and ultra runner Ryan with runners Bill and Jeremy

I stuck with the group for the rest of the run. We sang songs from The Sound of Music, passed a couple who just got engaged, and started talking about food. Of course. There were trips and falls along the way, but somehow, even though I haven't run on a trail since November, I did not trip or fall. I don't know how I dodged that bullet.

We also saw an AT Conservatory member
painting a white blaze!

The rocks were hard on my IT band!

As we approached Caledonia State Park, I was still having fun but my knee, my feet, and my body were ready to be done. Running trail is a lot different from running on the road. Even though you go slower and walk the uphills, it is still a lot more difficult. I say 1 trail mile is equal to 1.5 road miles. I knew parts of my body I forgot existed were going to be sore the next day. Particularly my ankles. But it was worth it to go on an adventure and get this new section of the AT covered!

In case you were wondering what one's foot looks like after running trail for 5 hours... here you go. Warning, this is an explicit photo. Take the children out of the room, please.

Just be glad I didn't show you the foot with the blood blister.

When I got to my car, I was so excited to take off all my gear, wipe my face off, and EAT. I was a smart girl and packed a cooler. As I drove home, I devoured a grilled chicken wrap with lots of guacamole and 4 fig newtons. It was all divine. 

My IT band was screaming at me for the rest of the day and my legs were so tired. I was just spent. I went to bed really early. I was excited when I woke up the next day and had no IT band or knee pain.  But my ankles... ooh baby my ankles and quads were sore! This usually happens to me when I take a lot of time off trail running and then jump back in like no break had taken place.

I know this is a long post, so you deserve a cookie for getting this far! I hope you enjoyed my AT run re-cap. It was fun to write it all down and relive it.

This Distance Calculator for the AT is an excellent resource if you're ever planning on running or hiking any part of the AT.

Do you run trail?
Ever hike/run the AT?


  1. Wow--I am impressed! Good for you. How are you feeling a few days post run? I have never trail run but do enjoy hiking. I bet you meet so many people from around the world on the AT. We run into people from all over on Trail Ridge Road in Colorado. Way to go, Meg. I am beyond impressed. Thanks for the recap and the lovely pictures.

    1. My ankles are still really sore! I clearly went from zero trail running to 18 miles so it makes sense. It's a price I'm willing to pay!

  2. Wow! You are awesome! Those pictures are amazing. I'd really love to hike some of that trail some day. It looks so beautiful.

    1. It is! You have some gorgeous trails in Northern CA, though!

  3. I am so geekiest out right now over this post. Amazing trail, amazing pics, totally awesome. Huge congrats on knocking it out. I've had IT band issues and know it's no fun so way to tough it out and I'm glad you didn't have any pain the next day. Totally awesome post, will you be mailing that cookie to me??


    1. Does your IT band make your knee feel week? I think that is what is causing the "weakness" I feel. I won't mail you a cookie but you can make those energy bites I linked to! They are yummy :)

    2. When I was having major issues my knee would stiffen up and I couldn't bend it. Working on my foot plant and tons of stretching have helped.

      Ha I'll try the energy bites

  4. I LOVE all the pictures! What a fun morning!!

    I am sure your pink top smells as wonderful as my favorite sports bra. Hey, I can't smell it when I'm out running, so who cares?! :D But you know how sometimes someone runs past you and you get a whiff of them and they smell bad? I bet they don't know they smell bad... and I'm always concerned that's me! It's really a good thing that I rarely pass people.

    1. Yessssss usually it is guys that smell bad though, ya know? The through hikers on the trail smell rancid. You can smell them from far away. It's a whole other level of smelliness!

  5. How cool!! The views are really gorgeous, and it looks like fun! How much of this is "running" vs "hiking"? It seems so steep to run the whole thing!

    How do you use your salt tabs? And what kind of hydration pack do you have??

    1. Good questions! There were some steep climbs this section of the trail, and there were a lot of them. I can only approximate, but I would say probably 20% was hiking?? It's so hard to tell. The hiking was harder than the running. I couldn't wait to get up the hills and be able to run again. My hydration pack is not made anymore but it was a North Face Sailfin.

  6. Holy cow that sounds so amazingly hard! What gorgeous views! I'm always scared of getting lost on the trails, I know I wouldn't survive!

    1. You wouldn't get lost on the AT, it is so well marked. Just look for the white blaze! Always look for the white blaze. :)

  7. Wow, gorgeous! What a great way to spend a Saturday morning. I'm glad your knee and IT band held up okay!

  8. That is so super cool!!! I never run that kind of trail. I'm looking to buy a hydration pack. What type do you suggest?

    1. I only ever used the one I own now- a Northface Sailfin but they don't make it anymore. :( So sadly I don't know what to recommend. But you will love having one. You can do long runs without having to set out water.

  9. what an awesome run! 5 hours on a trail?!? i'm so impressed!

    how are your legs feeling now?