The Time in Between
A Note on the Time Between RunVenture Segments
The time between segments, well, it’s everything. I am finally getting around to writing this today, March 13, 2022. At this point the entire year of 2021 is a blur. We started off so naive and excited but we learned very quickly. Celia and I both have the unique skill set of solving logistical puzzles. We took the time between every segment and threw ourselves into the next segment and our families. We attempted some crazy miles ~200 miles in 5 days and ~150 miles in 2.5 days and we came up short on both attempts but we were not destroyed. In fact, we still believe that having stopped 7 miles short of each of those goals was the difference between coming home able to be ready for more versus getting home and questioning our abilities and sanity. Though, I must admit, there were moments we thought that anyways.
The year wore on us both, we felt our friendship and relationship change. We decided fairly early on that “Coach and Client” was not going to work in this partnership into the unknown. I could not truly coach an athlete through what Celia and I were doing. I could of course make recommendations and consult but there’s no plan for 140-160 mile long weekends every 2-4 weeks on the Appalachian Trail. To be able to listen to your, OUR, own bodies was the only way to try and “plan” our training and our resting. Furthermore, the relationship of a coach to a client assumes responsibilities. It doesn’t have to, but the way that my personality is and the way that Celia’s is, well, it did. Afterall I felt I had some responsibility over her performance on the trail, even though logically I would try not to, to me I was just being a friend, trying to encourage my fellow friend. For Celia, feeling some responsibility to perform for me, as her coach, even though I am sure logically, she too, knew that was unnecessary of course, would find herself pushing too hard to enjoy herself.
In short, it did not take us long to find we could not do the Appalachian Trail side by side, or we might kill one another. We found our trail relationship was similar to a marriage. Getting on the Appalachian Trail with another soul, committing to the logistics, the expenditures, the story, the hardships with someone, is very much like moving in together. We learned this over the first 3 segments and we often had to spend the time in between in “couples therapy”. We had to talk things out, we had to get uncomfy and we had to bare it all and as quickly as possible after each trek because we had very limited time in between to process, heal and grow before we had to face one another again.
This in itself was taxing. I know for certain, Celia and I are bound for life and we adore one another, nonetheless, there are aspects of each other we sure do wish didn’t have to come on the journey with us. Just like a marriage though, or any deep relationship, we bring ourselves in totality. When you’re tested in the ways the Appalachian Trail tests you, you bring your True self, not the one your social friends see, not your best self, but the one you wake up with at 4am and the one you get after tripping on rocks for 12 hours with and underlying base stressor of stepping on a copperhead! This, of course, on top of our Real Life stressors- children, jobs, etc…
Last year, 2021, my business which we had opened in 2020, was healing from its first year open with covid. 2021 was a year of growth and therefore some growing pains. The trail listened for miles and miles to my stories of this stress or that. Then, my two boys, endless stories of their growing, their challenges. The trail listened to it all. Lastly, my actual marriage.
My husband and I, we struggle with one another, we always have. I often feel I was not designed to be with another person, I am a LOT. I Iike to be in control and know about everything. I like to design my days and I do not like to share. I am through and through a second child and where I continue to learn and work on compromise, I don’t really like to. Dave is very different from me. It’s what makes us great but it has it’s challenges of course. The trail listened to many tales of trials and tribulations from my home.
Dave though, as I mentioned back in the Shenandoah’s, he loves me and he supports me as best he can, which has been the greatest gift. Support and abilities in this arena are different for everyone and it looks different in every relationship with an ultra-runner. Dave may not be trail side with signs but he has made running ultra distances with young children a reality, one that not everyone can have. He IS the reason we are even on the trail doing this project at all. He is the one that said, “Do it.” His only request from me was to not feel “guilty” while I was away. He asked that I enjoy the journey and not spend it worried about missing the kids or him. This was not an easy task, but one I have to remind myself of, like a mantra, every time I step on the trail.
The biggest issue was September, our September segment of the AT project that is. When we picked dates originally we had considered using Labor day weekend to get big miles, but as the year unfolded, the weekend was no longer available to Celia, so we did what made sense and moved it up one weekend, easy right? Well, go figure that next weekend was also 2 days into school starting for both my kids, for the first time and fall sports, oh, and also my husband’s fall semester for his MS degree program. It could not have been worse timing to take off onto the trail, but everything was set, the flights, the driving, the miles, the hostels. Celia and I went and we accomplished the goals but the real world was taking a serious toll. The time in between was getting complicated. The time, ALL the time, was getting complicated for me between work and my children’s schedules.
In October, we wanted to finish big, we had chatted for months about a 200 mile segment in 4 days. It’d be an ultra and not a fast-pack hike. We wanted it, but Celia didn’t anymore. Not to say she was disinterested, she wanted to want it, but the physical and mental stress we’d endured between the trail and the real world over the prior 1200 miles and 8 months had left us both getting fatigued. I did not struggle through PA the way Celia did. Our experience on the AT through that 230 mile section was very personal and very different. We changed the plans for October, we had to adjust.
Then, October fell apart. We did not complete our segment, we were not simply 7 miles short like the prior two times we’d stopped early, but 90 miles short. We were both crushed. We cried, we wallowed in it and then we did what we do and we planned out how to fix it.
2022 would need to look different. The logistics of the trail north of PA are progressively more complicated. Celia needs to fly from GA and me from MD and trying to get rides/ rent cars and then run and afford the time off from work and cost for extra travel. Not to mention, the weather, we’d need to start later than we had in GA. We would need to think differently.
2022 is different. It feels different. We already know what we are getting into, we are still nervous, still very excited and very ready. This year is about building ourselves for our final segment. We have been blessed to schedule 2 weeks with Warren Doyle to slack pack us and let us sleep in his van for the final 470 miles of the Appalachian Trail. That will be the adventure and because that is so daunting the remaining 330 or so miles will be divided over only 3 other segments structured as training weekends. We are going for less stress, more success!
Right now, the year is coming together very well with support and friends along the trail. We feel very blessed to be able to look at the next 5 months and feel ready to finish our goal. Along with this we are doing a big push for Soles4Souls again to try and make it a great donation to such a wonderful organization. We are well past half way to our $5000.00 donation goal!
If anything, this waiting to get on trail is the worst! I personally can’t wait for April 1st to get here. I need the mental break from the real world. It has been 5 months away from our project and it has, as we expected it would, felt like forever, long enough to feel odd, as though it wasn’t even us that had done all that. We did though and we’re ready to do more!