Aug 112011

Maine’s one hundred mile wilderness is a stretch of the Appalachian Trail which starts in Monson, and finishes in Millinocket at Abol Bridge. I’ve hiked a few sections of the AT, mostly in the White Mountain range, but running what is considered an isolated section was far from my mind when I was asked by fellow Trail Monsters if I wanted to give it a go. We were running it from North to South as had a few others in the past.

Abol Bridge

We woke at 3:30 and my crew Alison Eads and Bulldogge, Francesca helped me on my way. I clearly remember trepidation as I crawled out of the tent, which quickly turned to excitement as the java flowed. Twelve of us started, and morning sleepiness as well as pre-run jitters were apparent as I shook everyone’s hand and mumbled, “good luck, have fun.” The pace was nice and easy on the first section of runnable trail, but it turned nasty real quick. Pine needle footing was replaced by moist roots with muddy, cavernous spaces in between that threatened to bear trap a misplaced foot. Rocks dotted the trail in sections, while mossy-slick wooden planks made for careful movement over quagmired areas.

Ian, Emma, Joe, Julian, Roger and I ran together for a bit then mostly just Emma, Ian and I. Gorgeous sections of fun meandering trails with mellow ups and downs and pretty views of Rainbow Lakes, Ledges, Lean-to’s and Campsites. On one section, I’m assuming close to the Pollywog Gorge, Emma let out a blood curdling scream and jumped back a few feet with Ian and I looking for the Sasquatch that attacked her. A pretty bird fluttered off the ground and in to the air, and laughter followed. We were not even close to fatigue or any sort of deprivation, but the mental break was fun, at least for Ian and I.

At the Gorge Mindy and Pete tended to Ian and Emma, and Alison worked like a Nascar pit crew to refill my bladder, stuff my pack with more goodies and hug me on my way.

Pollywog Gorge, 20 miles

Nesuntabunt Mountain, our first real climb and a reminder this was no joke. We were still moving pretty well at this point and feeling good starting to get in to a groove. I had a bit of a headache and my lower legs had been hurting a bit more than I would have liked for the first bunch of miles. I didn’t give either any energy though and knew it was just the kinks working out. We refilled out bladders somewhere along Nahmakanta Stream and continued on strong until a sand beach at Jo-Mary Lake. We could not resist a quick refresh in the welcoming water and gorgeous views.

On the way back up the trail we saw Mindy and were delighted to have company, fresh talk, and a report on the rest of the runners. Mindy let us know it was about 5.7 to the transition area and she passed the rest of the runners on the way to us. This absolutely elated us, and for some reason we thought we’d be seeing our crew, and the rest of the runners shortly. I didn’t quite contemplate that we actually had a good hour and a half of run time. Even though the terrain was quite runnable on this section, the effects of fatigue were creeping in.

Jo-Mary Road, 40.9 miles

At the transition Alison had java love waiting for me and a fatty tuna fish, cucumber and potato chip sandwich! Love her. Change of clothes, and shoes, bit of Body Glide and we were good to go. Now I started feeling better and in-the-game. Our conversations flowed, we were running well and hitting the nice and slight incline to the next transition. We met up with Joe and Julian at a Spring shortly after Little Boardman Mountain and I took this opportunity to drop some ballast in the woods before filling my other bladder. Everyone was in good spirits and trudging on through, enjoying the moments until the tail end of the leg. With night ensuing, we donned headlamps and focused on spotting blazes while the incline wore me down. On and on, up and up the trail went until finally we saw glow sticks hung from trees signalling our crew, and home base.

Logan Brook Road, 54.7 miles

Longest, most difficult 15 miles of my life!

OK, here we go. Some soup, some pep talk, and our very own glow sticks on the back of our packs and we were off in good spirits. At this point I was tuckered and a bit fatigued, but very determined to finish this thing. Our expert crew watched as we meandered our way up White Cap Mountain like glow worms inching their way up an outstretched slinky. The humidity, which was thick in the morning, and had abated during the day, was back as night mist.

Over the exposed and windy White Cap, over Hay Mountain, West Peak and on to the moist brush of Gulf Hagas Mountain where the glorious red sun began to rise. During those ups and downs, we experienced ups and downs, at least I did. Extreme fatigue and tired legs made the range quite interesting. At a few points we all sat and laid down on the trail and fell asleep for a few minutes. Emma woke to me snoring, and Ian woke to ants biting his ass. At this point my body was not happy with me and I remember lightly trying to talk Ian in to stopping for another quick snooze. He was quite right when he stated we probably wouldn’t get back up again if we stopped any more.

On the way down the relentless final 2000 plus foot drop the sinking feeling crept in that this was it for me. I was quite sad about the prospect, but knew the section ahead of us was worse (or better, depending on your perspective) than this one and very dangerous to try and get out safely should one of us get injured. Positive thoughts, positive thoughts Jeremy… No luck. Hours of conversing with the mind, body and spirit leave you only so much wiggle room for bartering. Time to stop. The message crawled off my lips like a 4 year old heading for a root canal. I voiced it, “I think I’m done up here guys. I don’t mean to sound defeatist, or give energy to the thought, but I’m done.” Another long slog downhill on weak legs and an upset stomach led us to a rather runnable couple of sections as the day grew warmer. I definitely thought strong about making sure it was the right decision to stop, and waiting until the next transition to make the final decision. It was real hard to contemplate asking Alison to crew for me again on such an adventure, so I truly thought it was now or never.

We finally reached Gulf Hagas and were greeted by the Pleasant River and all its gloriously cool, flushing, rushing water. Sitting down on submerged rocks, we all bathed in the finalized feelings, letting the sun warm our faces. Alison and Pete appeared out of the woods, packs filled with rations, and a happy bulldogge splashed toward us. With smiling faces and happy hearts we all stated our intentions.

I really want to state just how fantastic this event was and sharing it with Ian and Emma was very rewarding. Those two are impressive athletes with great endurance, attitude, and passion. Adam, Ryan, Hogan and Joe that completed this run are definitely heroic, as are all who managed any part of the trail. I am also incredibly grateful for Alison and Francesca for their excellent crewing abilities, warm smiles and intuitive actions.

efficiency: Switched out the Mudclaw 272’s after 40 for the Mudroc 290’s as they fit more snug. Later in the run I was peeing every 20 minutes which tells me the three salt pills I took as well as the minimal Nuun used and minimal salt in my food was still too much and made me retain water early on. Very minimal blisters, ordinary chaffing.

duration: 28:00:00
distance: 69.5
pace: 24:11

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