46 Days, 11 Hours, 20 Minutes - Page 2
When I arrived at the base of Killington Peak, I looked up at my loving, caring, sympathetic husband with puppy-dog eyes.
“Honey, (I decided to soften him up with a sweet moniker) I don’t think I can do this.” I said. “My body is rejecting the challenge. It just feels like I am physically falling apart.”
Then Brew, who believed in a life with balance and hikes that included naps and meditation, looked into my weepy eyes and said, “You can’t quit. Not now.” He kept going, and I heard what he was saying, but I couldn’t get past the first three words.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I had expected Brew to coddle and comfort me, not to tell me to keep hiking. It was so contrary to his personality and demeanor that it made me realize how much he believed in me. Brew knew how much this opportunity meant to me, and even though we were 1700 miles away from Springer Mountain, the end of the trail heading south, and I was suffering from shin splints and diarrhea, he still believed that I could set the record.
I left the road and slowly, painfully, made my way toward the top of Killington Peak. Once I reached the other side of the mountain, there was no looking back. Brew’s belief had rekindled my desire to set the record. The trail had taken away any sense of pride or false notion that I could do this on my own. I knew that I could not be successful without Brew, and we would only achieve our goal with the help of others.
Just south of Vermont, the terrain and weather became more agreeable and my shin splints finally started to subside, though it took over 1000 miles for the pain to fully go away.
Our daily routine consisted of waking up at 4:45 a.m., begin hiking at 5 a.m. and then continue hiking for the next 16 to 17 hours. My intermittent breaks came at the road crossings where I met Brew. However, it was not a time to relax. Instead, it was my job to ingest as many calories as possible, bandage any problem blisters, ice my shins, and then get back on the trail as soon as possible. I would continue hiking until 9 or 10 p.m. when I came to a good camping site or road crossing. There I would quickly try to eat dinner, wipe down my limbs with Wet Ones, and then crawl into my sleeping bag for six hours of sleep. And sometimes those six hours were too much.
Brew woke up one night to find me pawing at the door of the tent.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I gotta find the trail.” I said. Then I continued to try and escape.
Brew put his hand on my and started shaking me, “Where are you going? It’s night time, it’s not time to hike.”
Finally, I awoke from my dream , a dream where I was trying desperately to find the trail. After that, I was never allowed to take a nighttime bathroom visit without an inquisition.
From the very beginning, the numbers were overwhelming. Talk of “miles per hour” and “daily averages” psyched me out. We occasionally talked about where Andrew Thompson (the former AT record-holder) would be relative to our location, but that didn’t motivate me either. Andrew is a great person and amazing athlete, worthy of a trail record. Even when I tried to vilify him in my mind, it still didn’t inspire me. The trail record wasn’t about numbers or about beating Andrew Thompson; it was about doing my best. That became our mantra. Whenever I left the car at a road crossing, Brew would yell after me, “just do your best.”
Brew and I worked together as one unit, and I have never in my life trusted someone so completely. We also benefited from the invaluable support of numerous friends that assisted us along the trail: some provided food, others helped with logistics, and some hiked with me and “muled” for me (aka, carried my pack).