Sunday, July 15, 2012

Many Paths to the Summit

I often think of the Buddhist phrase "Many Paths to the Summit" when running in the mountains. In the case of the Tour De Virginia that wasn't the case. The rules stated "entrants must run past every AT paint blaze from the VA/TN border to Harper's Ferry." I couldn't blaze my own path, had to follow the AT the entire length of Virginia. After running the Over the Top run with Eric Grossman and the Iron Mountain Trail Runners crowd on 12/31/11... I got the following text message from Eric on 1/1/12 at 9:22 a.m. "Would you dare to try the AT thru VA in 15 days?" My response? "Tell me more... Sounds like my kinda adventure." So it began... soon I received a facebook event request. I looked at the invitee list and was immediately intimidated. Karl Meltzer (all time 100 mile winner), Dave Mackey, Anne and Mark Lundblad, Troy Shellhamer, among others... a who's who of elite ultra runners. I quickly asked my employer if I could spend 2 weeks on vacation and didn't even ask my wife and family. Sara just shook her head and said "you are so gonna do this".... I was in from the moment I got Eric's text. The weeks and months leading up to the TDV were full of planning, gathering gear, picking shoes, spending long hours hiking and running. So many details to think about, from work plans for my extended absence, plans for the family, fueling on the run, what gear to bring, new tent, hydration packs... I write this on the day after my 54th birthday. To cut to the end of the story, I planned on spending my birthday moving on foot into Harper's Ferry after 560 miles on the AT. It wasn't to be... An achilles injury forced me out after Stage 6. It's been a really hard week for me.... 2nd guessing, beating myself up over not trying it one more day, thinking of things I could have done differently, following the others on their successful trek. It's been tough, but I'm also proud of what I did accomplish. Over the course of 6 days I "ran" for 68 hours and 48 minutes.
My ankle on Saturday 7/7/12 when I decided to head home
Sexy legs from my time on the AT Since the TDV ended yesterday with 3 runners completing the adventure in Harper's Ferry, I finally feel able to put down some of my thoughts and feelings down in my blog. Initially, I couldn't think of much to write other then I started but didn't complete the event. I've never DNF'd a race so this has been difficult. Maybe make me stronger in the end? I'll have to write this in installments, so stay tuned.


  1. French,

    I wonder whether this experience will change your perspective on shorter races. Even 100's.

    You accomplished a lot and I'm proud of you for thinking big.

    Take care,


    P.S. How's the injury?

  2. Lyle-

    I think I have slowly gotten a different perspective on shorter ultras as time has gone by. But running for 10-14 hours a day for six straight days makes everything seem different. Amazing what your body is able to do if you just keep moving.

    Achilles is getting better each day and everything seems to be healing up. I'll write more soon.

    Your transition from former runner,to runner once again, to ultra runner, to 100 miler has been an inspiration. I may have been destined to end up doing trail ultras but you helped get me there when we re-connected.