Experience the Extraordinary

I’m a little behind the eight ball today – a sure sign of enjoying the long weekend. I slept in (past 9am) for the first time in who knows how long. When in training, I find extra sleep to be a true luxury.

On Saturday, with the long weekend ahead, I drove up to Tennessee to spend some time in the Great Smoky Mountains. Surrounded by endless miles of singletrack and nice weather, my running shoes were itching to be used, and my body was developing a nervous tick only remedied by covering some training time.

Mile 3 - Making my way to Clingman's Dome along the AT.

Mile 3 - Making my way to Clingman's Dome along the AT.

I decided to do something a bit different – a run/hike along the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Clingman’s Dome and back – 16 miles roundtrip of some rolling but mostly technical terrain. Somewhat of a lofty goal with a 4.5 hr (self-imposed) time limit and almost 2000 ft of climbing elevation (Clingman’s Dome is the highest point on the entire AT). But I think we all need a little adventure every now and then, so I grabbed my hydration pack and some snacks and off I went.

The opportunity to conquer a new milestone, to accomplish something we weren’t sure we could handle, is always a source of supreme motivation and joy. It acts as fire beneath our feet (or maybe that was just my hotspots and blisters). I think every once in awhile, the best thing we can do for ourselves is something off the beaten path. Immerse ourselves in the extraordinary. It gives us a chance to align our focus, to reignite a passion for life. After all, isn’t this why we run? We run because in some existential way it allows us to experience life. Which is to say, running is an avenue for our spirit to become fully alive, or it is a way for us to improve our physical health.

Halfway through the run and on top of the world - Clingman's Dome @ 6,643 ft

Halfway through the run and on top of the world - Clingman's Dome @ 6,643 ft

Testing myself over that terrain was completely joyful. And I won’t lie, a bit hurtful – my knees are swollen and screaming today. But what I reaped from the experience goes far beyond mileage in my training log. I took a lot out of my legs, but taking in the panoramic view at 6,643 ft (and knowing I got myself to this height) is a spectacular site worth a little suffering. And let me never forget to be humble in my pursuits. During my adventure I passed a 4 pack of runners doing an ultra training run – covering the entire length of the AT in the Smokies in one day - a mere 73 miles.

Each of us, in our own ways, need to find ways to stretch ourselves every once in awhile. We should find ways to liven up the doldrums of our training, to breathe new life into our pursuits for health and happiness. For some it may be a special 5k run/walk with friends – a fun affair that sets the adrenaline going and leads to a sense of satisfaction in finishing. For others it may be a long traverse through the woods.

What’s your epic adventure? How do you experience the extraordinary?

CDview

5 comments Add your comment

Gen Neyland

June 1st, 2010
7:53 am

Agree whole-heartedly with statement we need to expand our running horizons on occassion. For that reason alone, after nearly 20 years on roads, I’ve signed up for my first real off road adventure race (not counting the Dahlonega Ranger Run which I’ve done 3 times now). Looking forward to the event but I habor a twinge of apprehension regarding my ability to slop through slop with the ‘rabbits’…

LaurenD

June 1st, 2010
8:49 am

I’ve found that getting dirty via trail runs is a purifying experience. My hunch is that you’ll quickly forget the rabbits (concentrating on NOT tripping over roots and rocks will take most of your mental stamina!) and have an absolute blast. What other elements are in that race – paddling, orienteering, obstacles? The best part of adventure races is all the surprises they throw at you!

Gen Neyland

June 1st, 2010
1:45 pm

Probably considered a mild-medium event by an expert off roader. It has a mile run segment through a creek, river crossing, rope pull up some hills and a lot of single track from what I hear. A 10 miler. At 56, I wonder if I bit off more than I can chew. Most imortant, I’m shoed up and ready to go. A friend of mine does alot of trail runs in Minnesota. He did roads for years but now favors some of the long endurance trail runs. I figure if he can do it then I can try…

Lauren Dieterich

June 1st, 2010
3:36 pm

That sounds great! Creek crossings always add a sense of “Lewis and Clark” adventure for those of us who typically call the asphalt jungle home. I love em. Tips – keep your toes pointed up (prevents dragging/catching on roots/logs/rocks) and shorten your stride/take short steps. I wouldn’t worry about it – if you can do 10 miles on the road, you can handle 10 trail miles. Trails are much easier and more forgiving on your joints.

Age is just a number, right? Bravo to you!

Gen Neyland

June 1st, 2010
7:06 pm

Age is just a number..! Allow me a snicker here. I’ve read that in the 5th decade of life the foundation is laid for the years ahead and the cost is paid for the years behind…As my 80 year old Pa-n-law has said, ‘If I knew I was gonna live this long I’d have taken better care of myelf.’ On to the PRR and best of luck to you…