Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dual Book Review

A Walk in the Woods-Bill Bryson

Read this on recommendation from a friend due to the recent AT hike. Bill Bryson had me laughing literally out loud (LOL for rillz) on average 40-50% of the time I was reading. He sounds like an incredibly average person and he makes everything that happens to him relatable. The characters he describes on the trail are people that I have met. His reactions to various mishaps, my reactions. The history of areas around the trail was unexpectedly eye-opening. Such as a town on fire in Pennsylvania. The craziness of Mt. Washington. Very entertaining, really captures the feel of the Appalachian Trail.

Eat & Run-Scott Jurek

Like most people, I first became aware of Scott Jurek after reading Born to Run. Since that time, I have followed his career along with the ultrarunning scene in general. I'd watched some interviews and he seemed like a down-to-earth guy. Which is why I was surprised when the first few chapters were hard to read. The writing was pretty dang terrible and self-indulgent. Kind of like this blog, actually. Knowing that there was more to the story than terrible writing, I pressed on and flew through the chapters were he actually started talking about running. Knowing his background, I ate up these chapters and the details of his training. He is clearly someone who was/is completely dedicated to running at the expense of almost everything else. He is also a vegan and includes recipes throughout the book and how his diet has helped him run. I've resolved to have a "vegan Thursday" weekly tradition partially because of this. His descriptions of the transcendent, mystical aspects of running probably sound completely ridiculous to many readers. While I was aware of this and wanted to ridicule those passages, I couldn't help but relate. Running is downright spiritual sometimes. I think most runners know this and enjoy hearing about someone else who has experienced an unexpected endorphin rush at the pinnacle of despair or reveled in the beauty of their surroundings amidst great physical anguish. For me this book helped solidify my vision of why I run and has helped me enjoy every moment more, including the excruciating ones. Worth reading, don't expect a literary masterpiece.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Appalachian Trail Nolichucky River to Allen Gap 50 miles of moisture

I've had a week to contemplate the happenings of this year's AT 50 mile hike w/ the Boy Scouts. Conditions were significantly different from last year's sweat-a-thon. It was cold and rainy every day, with a few bouts of borderline hypothermia thanks to the wind. To boot, I contracted a lively strain of norovirus that had me expelling my crunchy, undercooked rice dinner shortly after a feble, febrile attempt to feed myself. I read a book by Andrew Skurka entitled "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide" prior to this trip that described such adventures as "type 2 fun," meaning the fun is primarily in the discussion and reflection afterwards. This was definitely the case here, because the hike was almost entirely miserable for the whole week. And yet I was scouring backpacking blogs and scheming new adventures the same day of my return home.

Briefly, some gear choices:

Grand Trunk Ultralight Backpacking Hammock-first experience sleeping in a hammock. I figured I would sleep at least as bad as on the ground, at best, slightly more comfortable. It did end up being pretty comfy, but hanging a hammock is an art, along with setting up a tarp for windbreak and ranfly purposes. I plan to use hammocks in the future, although I may invest in a slightly larger hammock.

Dahlgren Alpaca/Merino Wool socks-I have a lot of wicking socks for running, so I wanted to try something different to contrast. I have to say wool seems to be the way to go for hiking. These seemed to perform better while wet (soaking).

New Balance MT110-Best hiking/trail running shoes I have used to date. Light and quick to dry (a relative dry for this particular trip). The rock plate was appreciated for the long trip.

The only pix I took during a break in the rain:

Sadly, I didn't come home with the superhuman levels of endurance I experienced last year. Between cold wet misery and illness, there was not much room for conditioning. The two runs since have been mellow due to lack of energy and some early shin splints I felt on the trail.

Prior to this trip I did a long run on Hutchinson Island where I became well acquainted w/ poison ivy. I found some new areas of the island, an old railroad bridge that crossed over to South Carolina, some toxic-looking evaporation ponds owned by a paper mill, and the worst bugs I've ever encountered here.