For anyone who knows me, one of my favorite things to do is to go running trails in the mountains. If I don’t get in a good trail run at least every other week, I start to go a little crazy. Sometimes I do a short 4- or 5-mile run while other times I go much, much further. A few summers ago, my good friend Blake and I were trying to figure out an adventure in the mountains that we could do together that would provide us with a good challenge. Blake is a seasoned ultra trail runner who can easily run 100 miles at a clip, and I am always looking to take on what seems like the next impossible outdoor adventure.
Scott Jurek’s Incredible Journey
Both of us had been captivated with Scott Jurek’s record-breaking run on the Appalachian Trail (AT). Jurek who is arguably the greatest ultrarunner in history is also known for his New York Times Bestselling book Eat & Run. Starting on Springer Mountain in Georgia and finishing on the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine, Jurek hiked, climbed, and ran nearly 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail through 14 states in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes breaking the previous record by just 3 hours and 13 minutes. This means he averaged 50 miles per day through some times rugged mountainous terrain. Blake and I were keen on creating our own mini version of Jurek’s miraculous journey.
Run & Hike the Appalachian Trail
I had been on the Appalachian Trail a few times in my life but never for more than a short hike or run. We knew we wanted our adventure to be on the Trail and whatever we decided to do we would want to complete in one day. Blake suggested we trail run Connecticut. At first I thought he meant a portion of the Connecticut section of the Appalachian Trail but after further clarification he wanted to do the whole state in one day. The Connecticut section is 52 miles long and one of the most diverse but beautiful of the entire Appalachian Trail. Personally, I had never before hiked or ran more than 20 miles in the mountains in one day so this would be a challenge for me. Eventually after a little debate we scaled it back to 33 miles. This would later prove to be a wise and potentially life-saving decision.
Our plan was to start in the city of Kent, CT and head north to Salisbury, CT. We targeted 7:00 AM as the start time for the adventure which would mean we would need to meet at 6:00 AM at Salisbury, leave one car there, and drive to the trail entry point at Kent to park the second car before beginning the adventure.
It is important to note: I am a preparation freak!!! I am always overly prepared for each time I head into the mountains. I know that the unexpected can and usually does happen.
I actually wrote a guide on “How to Prepare for an Outdoor Adventure” that you can download HERE on my Blog page!
The Adventure Begins
When we hit the trail entry point, we were excited to embark on our adventure. Even though I had never done this length of mileage before, I didn’t have any concerns because I knew that I was fit enough to handle it. The plan was we would run on flat and downhill terrain and walk when the grade was uphill. This strategy can really save your legs in the mountains.
The trail was serene and absolutely beautiful. We were instantly transported to a different world from what I am used to from living in Manhattan. The canopy that the trees created overhead provided much needed shade on this hot August day. We moved quickly along the trail and encountered very diverse terrain. From light rock scrambles to open meadows to mountain running to rushing rivers, we were in a state of pure bliss.
Blake and I were stopping every 30 minutes or so to take in water, solids, and gels. I was trying to average 200 calories an hour because I knew that had worked well for me in the past. I also was sipping a quarter of a liter of water on each break to stay hydrated. When we ran out of water, we would refill our bottles at streams and other water sources that were situated approximately every 3 miles along the route. I would always treat my water with the Steripen that has never failed me in the past. I had brought along electrolyte tablets but for some reason on this day I neglected to use them. Our pace held steady as we neared the final ¼ leg of the trip, and aside from some light foot pain I felt very physically strong.
The Turn of Events
As we neared mile 28 I started to feel “off”. It began with a slight headache, then I felt dizzy and lethargic. At first I had no idea what was going on. I was hydrating; taking solids and sugars… then it hit me. I had not taken a single one of my electrolyte tablets. It was 90 degrees and I had not realized how much I was sweating. I reached into my pack and had barely a sip of water left in my bottle. I needed to find water and take my electrolyte tabs.
For the first time in my life, I was scared that I wouldn’t make it out of the mountains. I began to really deteriorate from this point on. Laboring to walk, my words weren’t coming out right. Blake noticed and asked me if I was ok but from his experience he already knew what was happening. We needed to find water and find it quick. The AT trail map said it was 3 miles to the nearest water source. I told Blake I didn’t think I could make it three miles. I began to debate on whether I would need to activate the SOS button on my Delorme InReach Satellite Communicator.
We decided to keep moving forward and ½ mile down the road we ran into two hikers. They said there was a stream a little over 1 mile north of our position. We pressed forward and first hit a smaller one ½ mile away that was dried out and contained no drinking water. At that moment I got worse and entered into a very bad state. However, with Blake’s encouragment and the faith that water was near, we kept pushing forward.
Back to Life
We finally reached the stream. Barely able to function, I took out my 2 empty bottles, filled them up and began treating the water. Once my Steripen said that the water was safe to drink, I threw 2 electrolyte tablets in each bottle and started to sip slowly. I sat there for 5 minutes and took in half a liter. Then we got up and started to walk. Within 10 minutes, it was like a miracle, my body slowly but surely began to come back alive. While I didn’t feel 100%, I was strong enough to finish out the remaining miles and reach our car in Salisbury.
My head hurt for 5 days after our outdoor adventure on the Appalachian Trail. I knew that I was lucky that things did not turn out worse and I was fortunate to have Blake helping to push me forward. While I was so mad at myself for not taking the electrolytes throughout the trip, I had learned a valuable lesson that day, one that I will never forget. Whether hiking the AT or any other trail, I will never let myself or anyone with me get in that position again.
Blake are always talking about our next big adventure. Perhaps, we will give the whole 52 miles a shot one day! Thanks to some major lessons learned, I know that whichever trail runs we decide in the future to do that I will be smarter and better prepared.
I look forward to seeing you on the trail.
P.S. Want to learn more about our adventures click HERE or if you have had a scary moment in the mountains we would love to hear about it just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gear & Supply List
For this adventure we had the following gear and supplies:
- Counter Assault Bear Spray
- A Compass
- Delorme InReach Satellite Communicator
- Emergency First Aid Kit
- Bivy Sac
- Sun Screen
- Bug Spray
- Head Lamp
- Two Nalgene Bottles
- Steripin Adventurer Water Purifier
- Water Purification Tablets
- Backup Batteries
- Appalachian Trail Map
- Honey Stinger Gels
- Peanut Butter & Rice Cakes
- GU Brew Electrolyte Tablets