Saturday, January 5, 2019

Create Your Own Adventure - Solo - Appalachian Trail within the borders of The Great Smoky Mountains


In early June Chris asked me if I would like to go back to the Smoky Mountains for our 30th Anniversary.

Any question about going to the Smoky Mountains is always answered with a YES!

The plan was to run from North to South, 75 miles over 2 days.
From Davenport Gap in the north to Newfound Gap in the "middle" is approximately 32 miles.  This is to be done in one day.  The second day is from Newfound Gap to Fontana Dam, approximately 42 miles which includes Clingmans Dome and Rocky Top.

I spent the summer climbing, treadmill hiking and doing hill repeats to get ready.  My goal was to climb 10,000' a week in training.  I still needed to maintain my mileage to prepare for the Arkansas Traveller 100 in October.  The purpose of this adventure beyond the adventure itself was to get me ready for The Traveller (Oct 6-7, 2018)

August 25th got here quicker than wanted and it was time to take the daylong trek across TN to get to Gatlinburg, TN and make the last preperations for the beginning of this adventure.

10:00 PM bedtime, 1:30 AM wake up to be ready to step on the trail at 3:00AM, That all went according to plan.  I stepped onto the trail at 3:00 AM.  Not bad.

The excitement was very intense as was the anxiety about all the "what ifs".

Day 1:  AUGUST 26, 2018 @ 3:00 AM

Stepping on the trail at Davenport Gap


AT by headlamp

It would be easy to be afraid of the dark.  I have spent four years running alone, at night, in the dark, in the mountains.  I'm okay with the dark.  Starting at 3 AM, one knows when it is going to get light and the wait for daylight wouldn't be that long.  So I put down miles waiting for daylight.

This part of the adventure, the northern part of the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mount is like a fairyland.  If fairies and unicorns would have appeared on the trail it wouldn't have surprised me, this place is so magical. 

Part of the magical moments on the AT in the Smokys

This trail beckons one to come play


First morning light


My goal was to finish this section quicker than I did the last time, three years before.  That adventure was run from south to north, this would be from north to south.  I did not make this goal which didn't detract from the badassness nor the adventure.

A week before this event I had a 70 mile weekend.  I still felt the fatigue from that run when starting this one.

I had asked friend and mentor, Chrissy Ferguson, about the timing of this adventure two weeks before my next 50 miler and six weeks before my fourth attempt at AT100 (one successful finish).  She said it would be okay as long as I didn’t race it and took care of myself.  I decided to take pictures and engage any hikers I saw as a way to add enjoyment and keep myself at an easy pace.

I met Nathan from Israel, John and crew from England, Critter from all over and a nice couple from New York.  The time and miles spent visiting added enjoyment to the adventure.  

I have been on this part of the trail before, in late July.  This time around it was too late in the summer to witness the explosion of color that accompanies the flora in bloom.  Most of the flowers and bushes that were in bloom were white, with a few yellow flowers.

The northern half of the park has more moisture throughout the summer, it is much more wet, mossy and green.  

I LOVE this section of the trail!  Every time I started to feel tired, the fatigue of the week before, I would turn the corner and their was more trail beckoning me to come play.  I would get a silly, goofy grin on my face and answer the call of the mountains to come enjoy its blessed glory!

The trail whispers, "come play" 

Fairies could appear and it wouldn't be surprising
Its so magical out there! 


Day 2
AUGUST 27, 2018 @ 3:12 AM

I should have stayed in bed!  
I spent the early morning hour before heading for the trail secretly wishing Chris would just ask me to stay in bed.  It was August 27th, our 30th wedding anniversary after all.  Chris was to drop me off at the trail head and the spend the day fishing.  Little did I know he wanted to ask me to stay in bed but he also didn’t want to be the one to keep me from achieving my goal.  So completely wiped out and tired, exhausted really, at 3:12 AM I stepped out of the car and on to the trail at Newfound Gap.  
Stepping into the darkness with the world restricted to what is visible in your headlamp, truly alone, is both a bit scary and thrilling!



I want to see a bear in the wild!  My daughter and husband see a bear every time they have gone to the Smoky Mountains.  I want to see one too.  At early dark:30 there might be a chance to hear a bear. I did not listen to podcast or music.  I wanted to hear what was around me...... no bear heard, no bear sighted.



The orange warm early glow started back lighting branches and moss.  I think I have mentioned that with the rising of the sun there is a rising of the spirits, a lightening, a gladness that comes with the morning light.  This time of day fills me with gratitude for everything! 

Alma 30:44 - Book of Mormon
...... and all things denote there is a God;  yea, even the earth and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and it’s motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

My only chance to bail on this 42 mile section would be in 9 miles at Clingmans Dome, the highest elevation on the Appalachian Trail at 6,640'.

It was after sunrise when I got to Clingmans Dome.  







Even the downhills seemed uphill on this second day.  I didn't feel like I had accomplished much after visiting Clingmans Dome, the fatigue of the last two weeks were really starting to be felt.

The next big challenge was the miles between Clingmans Dome and Rocky Top.  I knew getting over Rocky Top would be a gargantuan milestone in this challenge.  Rocky Top is 5,527' with Thunderhead Mountain a bit higher than that.  I remember while hiking, looking up and seeing a mountain "way up there" and knowing I was going to go up and over it.  My thinking was okay about that challenge, I just thought, "let's get going, if there is a challenge to tackle get going".


Rocky Top or Thunderhead Mountain
I don't remember which

I didn't get rained on but did get wet with this fog

After coming down off Rocky Top I started to recognize my surroundings.  We had hiked this area, me and my family, a few years ago.  It is a lovely, magical space.  It wasn't long before I came near the shelter in which I stayed with my family, Spence Field.  The shelter was closed because of bear activity.


Spence Field Shelter to Russell Field Shelter was a trail runner's dream terrain with the perfect mix of technical trail, soft single track and nice forested areas.  Shortly after Russell Field Shelter things went very wrong.  I was jogging down the trail, using trekking poles when I tripped over the smallest root, on a flat section of trail, falling in slow motion or so it seemed.  I remember thinking, "I shouldn't be falling because I'm using trekking poles".  As soon as I hit the ground I knew I had broken my left wrist.  A few years ago I broke some bones higher up in the right hand, falling in exactly the same way minus the trekking poles so I know what that dreadful feeling was.  A million thoughts raced through my mind all in slow motion but racing if that makes any sense at all.  "Oh shit!" yes, I did swear.  I sat there a moment, stunned, looking around, assessing the situation.  I had about 13 miles left to this adventure (thinking I had 15 miles left)... that would take me 7 hours if things went well.  How can things go well with what just happened???  I didn't panic, I didn't lose my crap, I took care of business.  Still sitting there dazed I looked around, gathered all my supplies to me, took my pack off, looked at what I had to help myself.  I took my bandanna and my sweat towel off, found a nearby heavy stick and made a splint.
Channeling Inner MacGyver

I had some pain killer on me, ibuprofin, turmeric, BC Powder, I took some of each, but not too much.  I ate a food bar or something, I don't remember what I ate at that point.  Then I put everything back in my pack, got up and started moving forward.  I held the trekking pole in that hand to support the hand only, because it hurt to have it down at my side.  I couldn't really grip it and definitely couldn't use it to balance or pull. 

I kept my mind about me, breathing deeply and thinking of all the Amazon strong women in my life and in my linage.  My ancestors were Mormon settlers.  They were chased out of Missouri in the middle of the winter.  They lived at Winter Quarters and then pushed handcarts to Salt Lake City.  They bore children on the way and sent husbands off on missions leaving them to get their families to Salt Lake and get settled alone.  I had 13-15 miles to go, I could do this.

There was no early off the trail.  Chris would be waiting at Fontana Dam.  I could hope for a cell phone signal to let him know what happened and hope he could find a closer place for me to get off the trail, but coordinating all of that would be risky at best.  The best thing to do would be to bravely hike on to the finish line, Fontana Dam.

When I did get a signal I thought about not letting Chris know what happened.  He could do nothing for me and their was no need for him to be worried for the 7+ hours it would take for me to get off the trail.  I then thought he could go to a drug store and get me a real brace, so I called him, told him what happened and asked him to get me a brace, ice and pain killer and I would meet him at Fontana Dam.

Providence was with me for sure! I'll tell you why, I was coming upon Mollies Ridge Shelter just as it was getting dark.  There was a bit over 10 and a half miles left.  There was two men sitting in the shelter organizing their supplies for the next day.  When one of them saw me, my hand and my condition he asked me how he could help.  I told him what happened and what I had left to do before I could rest.  He said he was an emergency room doctor and if I would allow it he would very much like to help me.  I gratefully accepted his help.  He made a soft cast with my bandanna and towel and some duct tape that he had.  He reviewed the pain meds I had taken and what I had eaten since the fall.  He asked if he could give me some more over the counter meds to make sure I wouldn't run out and he gave me a schedule on when to take what.  He wanted me to stay in the shelter that night and continue in daylight.  I told him my situation with Chris waiting at the end and I wouldn't rest anyway with the pain so I should just continue on.
Dr Ahmed, my trail angel, and his companion filled my water with their filtered water, took my garbage, helped me move my supplies from the back of my pack to the front of my pack so I wouldn't have to wrestle with my pack one handed when I needed something throughout the remainder of this journey.  We said our goodbye's and I expressed my deep gratitude and continued on down the trail.

I had to fight the feelings of the forever.  This will take forever, I will never get off the trail, all those kinds of thoughts and feelings.  I kept telling myself this too would pass, I had a finish line and my Super Man would be waiting for me there.

Dr Ahmed's handy work 
 The world was back to what I could see in my headlamp, just a thin slice of the world shining brightly in front of me.  The dew on the bottom sides of leaves and mushrooms glows florescent in the headlamp.  It has a magical quality to it.




Even after seeing Fontana Dam the trail still goes on and on and on and on.  I'm sure the circumstances added days to the seemed length of this journey.

I can't tell you of any amazing stories of hallucinations, maybe a few passive images right at the corner of my eye.  I would glance sideways to see what had caught my attention and their was nothing to see but the underside of a leaf, or the odd shadow of a tree.  I was scared to look while walking because I was terrified to trip and fall down.  Stopping to examine my surroundings would slow me down so the examination of hallucinations would just have to wait for another adventure.   

Fontana Dam


I didn't see any snakes, any bears, I saw small critters and a wild boar.  I think I heard a large animal crashing through the woods, I can imagine it was a bear.

At last, at last I saw the parking area and the car!  I saw my finish line!  with Super Man waiting!
This second day took me 23 hours 53 minutes and 22 seconds.

Chris had the needed supplies, several gallon jugs of water and a change of clothes.  I took a car shower, dried off, changed, and then iced my hand and putting the new brace on it.  I think I cried, but I don't remember.  I know I didn't lose my crap.

The total adventure was over 2 days with three hours sleep in between (also time too and from hotel, shower, arrange gear for the next day)
Total miles: 74.54 Miles
Time on the Trail: 39 Hours 18 minutes and 19 seconds
Total elevation gain: 17,530 '





This t-shirt is my "race shirt" as it has the course on it (though wrong)
and yes I know I didn't take the size sticker off! LOL
I wasn't going to wear it if I didn't finish the whole adventure
After leaving Fontana Dam area it took several hours to drive back to our hotel down a very windy road.  We got to the hotel about 6 AM.  We slept till 10AM.  I didn't see any reason to find an emergency clinic in Gatlinburg.  While we drove home I made an appointment with our family doctor for the next day.




This is a non-displaced fracture.  Okay, a brace, time, I would be good to go.  I was given the go ahead to run Do-Wacka-Do 50 Miler on the 8th of September and the Arkansas Traveller 100 on the 6th of October.  


While at Do-Wacka-Do 50 Miler I ruptured one of the tendons for my left thumb.  This is a rare injury but when it does happen it is usually a few weeks to a few months after this kind of  break.  The tendon had rubbed over the rough area of the break for a few weeks until it wore through and broke.  Due to pain, stomach pain, diarrhea, dehydration, time sitting at an aid station (1 hour and 30 minutes) and Frankenstein mud my 50 miler became the slowest 50 K of my life.

I did not finish the Arkansas Traveller.  I missed the cut-off at the Powerline Aid Station (Mile 48)
I was doing very well, but then as I got tired I refused to run downhill because I was scared of falling.  I was too tired to force the uphills, thus too slow.

On October 10, 2018 I had surgery on my hand to repair the tendon.  They re-routed a tendon from my index finger which had two, to my thumb.  I spent 6 weeks in a soft cast and then another 6-7 weeks in physical therapy.  I think I will be released from physical therapy at my next doctor visit Monday January 7, 2019.


It has been a long and winding journey since deciding upon creating my own Smoky Mountain/AT adventure.  Many tears cried, goals not achieved and heartbreaks glued back together through the love of my husband and my dear friends.

I'm pleased that when things went crazy on the trail I was able to take exquisite care of myself, keep calm and think.  I had the proper supplies on me (with the exception of bubble wrap).  It is a joy to report that for the most part I can use my left hand.  It isn't at 100% but I think as the years go by,  and as I stay active and actively use it, it will get stronger and more range of motion will be restored.

It is also a thrill to know that for the most part, for this year anyway, I have figured out the blister thing.  Superfeet Insoles.  These things saved my life!

I do not regret this adventure.  I'm stronger in mind, body and spirit because of it.

Remember those books, way back in the day, you picked your own adventure as you read along.  Well, that is kind of how this was.  I'm so glad I picked this adventure.

Yes I want to do it again.

I want to share this magical place with friends.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Full Moon 50K - 21 July 2018


Thomas Jefferson, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."


This great finish was a very long time in the coming!
I have three 25K finishes, three 50K finishes of five attempts before this night.  (This finish makes four)

After not finishing the Traveller AGAIN last year I knew if I wanted different results I needed to do things differently.  So this year has been about starting over.  Different diet, different training philosophy, different body care, different focuses, keeping what did and does work, of course

Diet - Ketogenic
Training - Heart Rate (180 - age (52) = 128) keeping my heart rate in this range as much as possible except for targeted runs.
Body Care - Fascia Blaster and Fascia Yoga
Focuses - Prayer, Scripture, Meditation/Self-Hypnosis/Breathing Exercises (These are the things that do work that I kept from years past)

Chris offered an adventure for our annual anniversary trip.  In July 2015 I ran half of the Appalachian Trail that is within The Smoky Mountain National Park.  He suggested that it is time to do it again, but the whole thing.  This idea scares the ever-living everything out of me!  But I said "sure"
So now the training.  Starting mid-June I started doing at least 10,000 ft of climb a week, usually mostly on the treadmill staying in my desired heart rate zone.  It has been slow going some miles as slow as 2 MPH, but the climbing has been done.  I have been working hard to keep up with the miles even with the extended time needed for the climbing.  I have been staying close to the designated miles in my training plan.  
I have been running 90% of my runs in a fasted state.  I'm using intermittent fasting along with a ketogenic diet to get things under control with my weight and eating issues.  Its working.
I have been allowing carbs on my long run days.
I have been using the Fasciablaster as directed at least twice a week throughout this training cycle.  My feet do not hurt!  Yes you read that right, my feet do not hurt! 

So along comes race week.  I didn't taper on my miles.  I did taper on my climbing.  Every mile was on the flat.

My plan was to do an experiment.  I wanted to see what it would feel like running at least the first 1/2 without taking in any carbs.  If it was working I could keep it up, if it wasn't I could add carbs on the second half.  I made a beef/fat food item called Pemmican to have as a food source along with some bacon and pepperoni.  

In my hydration pack was water.  I had a 17 oz Ultimate Direction Body Bottle with a full Nuun tablet dissolved a pocket of the hydration pack.  I had a dropper bottle of Sole' Water in another pocket.  The Nuun and the Sole' Water (salt water) were to take care of my hydration needs.

My plan: keep at my desired heart rate for the outbound.  Walk the hills as fast as I can and run the flats and the downhills.  I have been extending my heart rate runs so I can run longer and longer at that desired heart rate, this race would test the training.  



Chris Beason, Krista Buck, Susan Beckwith, Emily Riecker, Shauna Veazey, Lisa Gunnoe 

I live so far away from my running friends.  It is always good to see them at the start/finish.  I wish I could run with them more often.
Lisa Gunnoe, Elaine Gimblet
Elaine is my hero.  I want to be like Elaine when I grow up!  
Race Start
When the starter goes off, I walk!  There is no reason for me to expend the energy running uphill from the start.  Fast hiking training is for this very purpose.
Right before first aid station
Photo Credit - Yoni Fiser Johnson
There is a huge hill before the first aid station.  Fast hiking with trekking polls serves me well.  I do need to be more fit to be able to fast hike for the Traveller, this was a good confidence builder. 

First Aid Station - Jeff Beason and Friends
Aid stations are little oasis of love out in the forest.  Many races have more volunteers than runners.  The races wouldn't happen without the volunteers that is for sure! 

25K Turn Around Aid Station (Second Aid Station)
Christine Melroney was going to be at the second aid station.  She gave me a great pep-talk before the race about attitude, gratitude and how it makes the difference.  She challenged me to be grateful for the hills, every challenge is a reason to be grateful.  I promised her I would consider it.  She was right!  It was great to see her at this aid station out and back. 

  I was tired and I wanted carbs.  I had two dill pickle slices and some V8 Juice (17g of carbs).  I was maintaining my pace and effort. 

50K Turn Around Aid Station
Its was relief to see this 50K turn around aid station.  You know you are half way there! 
By the time I got there I was tired.  I wasn't bonking, it was a slow down not a crash.  I wasn't pouting in my head or in a dark place or anything.  I just didn't have energy and I was tired.  I chose to partake of carbs.  I had a Cutie, a small bit of watermelon and some Mt Dew.  I set my timer for 6 minutes and sat down.  I didn't have enough time to do a mini-self hypnosis session so I did 6 minutes of 7/11 breathing (7 seconds in breath/11 seconds out breath).  When the alarm went off I got up and left.  I felt revived and my stomach was dealing with the carbs and the Mt Dew very well.  It was time to get on down the road toward the finish line.
Back to the 25K Turn Around Aid Station
Right before the 25K Turn Around Aid Station there is a hill, a very big hill.  It is easy to dread and think about this hill during the whole race, I know because I have.  Well, it's a better race day strategy to distract myself from the hard climbs when I start thinking about them, dreading them before getting to them.  That mental energy spend on that hard thing up ahead is wasted energy that won't be there when I need it.  So when I would start thinking about the hills I purposely started thinking about the conversation Christine and I had pre-race.  I would start listing the people I know who would love to be running that hill right at that time, (or their equivalent like cycling, playing with grand-kids, getting out of bed without pain).  This changed my mindset to preserve that energy so I would have it when needed.   I was able to climb the hill just fine and maintain a good attitude. 

Last Aid Station Less Then 5 Miles To The Finish Line - Jeff Beason
Photo Credit - Yoni Fiser Johnson
It is always I mean always so great to see this last aid station.  Jeff Beason has been the aid station captain there for a number of years and he knows just how to help one get on down the road toward the finish line.  Thank you Jeff! and Friends & Family for such a great pit stop on the way to finish.
By the time I got to this aid station they were out of soda.  I was in need of some caffeine so I accepted the offer of diet soda.  I never, never, never drink diet soda.  Well, I paid for it.  With maybe 2 miles left my stomach went full on revolt!  Just wow, I wish I could have puked it would have felt better, but nothing happened in that direction.  I just couldn't run any more.  I walked 30 steps, jogged 10 - 30 steps to the finish.  I watched my goal time of 8:30 come and go, but the race overall went so well I wasn't upset by it.  It was all lessons learned in managing a race.

My second half of the race was about the same time as my first half.  That is a win meaning I didn't go out too fast.  My stomach was in the game up till I poisoned it with diet soda, that is a win.  With needing less carbs, even though I did need carbs, I have less chance of stomach upset, that is a win.  Not needing to eat as many calories during the run means less chance of stomach upset, that is a win.

PR on this course by 10 minutes

Post race:
That upset tummy stuck around through Monday.  Monday night I felt a head cold and a sore throat settling in.  So today is Wednesday and I haven't run a step or worked out.  I'm trying to rest this cold out of my body.  I might go for a slog tonight and just see how it goes.

I'm still scared to death of the AT/Smoky Mountain Adventure, but it sure does feel good to have a well managed race in the books. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"I Wish You Could Run It With Me" - Arkansas Traveller 100, October 6, 2018


May 1, 2018

I really buckle down to training, I have to be ready to pace Chris Beason at the AT100, 2018.  I'm committed so I need to be up to the challenge.  It feels differently than training for myself.
Eddy, Shea and I went out to the Bald Knob Wildlife Refuge for a training run.  

Me, Shea & Eddy

Eddy & Shea - very flat Balk Knob Wildlife Refuge

Beautiful Views Bald Knob Wildlife Refuge

Eddy & Shea - very flat Balk Knob Wildlife Refuge

Done! 

Running is so much more fun with friends.  We don't get to run together too much, life keeps getting in the way.

When I got home Chris Beason and I started texting back and forth. 
Let me back up 6 months:
After not finishing the Arkansas Traveller 100 again in 2017 I told my husband, Chris I would give him a year break from my 100 mile training.  I told Chris Beason I would do whatever she needed, pace, crew, whatever needed to get her to the finish line of the Arkansas Traveller 2018.
We talked about her running it in 2018 with my help.  Then we would both run it in 2019 together.  We talked about how to do that and each be free to go on and finish the race if something happened to the other.

So back to May 1, 2018 after I got home from the run with Eddy and Shea Chris Beason and I started texting.  She said something like "I wish you could run the whole thing with me this year".
Well crap!  So after much back and forth with Chris Beason and much back and forth with husband, Chris Gunnoe, this happened:
Tripped over my computer keyboard and this happened! 
I will do my long runs during the weeks so husband Chris and I have weekends together.  I will have to take one of those weekends each month to run with Chris B.

So fast forward its June 6, 2018.

I have gone through every emotion imaginable between May 1 and now.  I feel like this has more reason and purpose than it has had in years, that is a good thing.
Someone I care about deeply dropped an emotional bomb on me, this has shattered two weeks of my training plan.  Its hard to get up and run when getting out of bed is almost impossible.

Monday June 4th, is my first day back on track.  While goofing and not training I still hit my miles, but I didn't train consistently for those two weeks and I didn't stick to my strict keto diet.

So now I'm back on track training again.  Its Wednesday and my workouts, runs and cross-training are up to date.  Since last Friday I have stuck to the strict under 20g carbs keto diet and since Saturday night, intermittent fasting (no food for 16 hours, eat only to full in the 8 hour window, maintaining under 20g carbs).
My weight loss is on track and comparable to 2015.  I'm doing my work and feeling strong.

Two days ago husband Chris suggested another Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains adventure this year, maybe August!  I'm so stinking excited!  Hill work is needed for sure!  LOL

So this is mid week of 18 Weeks Till Traveller!

Happy Training!