Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lord of the Hike: Part 2: The Two Aid Stations

I want to thank everyone who’s been following this blog, including my #1 fan: Debra Moore. THANK YOU SO MUCH.  And I'm trying to get this blog published quicker... so look for part 2.5 on Thursday, October 10.

When we last left our brave hikers, several small groups had started their ascent into the misty mountains —and the Fellowship of the Hike had been broken. 31-miles of “Lots of Dumb Rocks” awaited…

Atop Lots of Dumb Rocks
Bez's pack- a reminder of why we hike

 Mile 1:  The first mile was a moderately steep climb to the top of the ridge.  In the daylight it might have been a nice easy ascent, but the darkness slowed me down considerably.  On the other hand, Marlene and Jean found these conditions perfect for running.  As they darted past us, I secretly (or not so secretly, if you could hear the words under my breath) hoped their first hike would end in tears at Mile 10 —instead, they finished five hours before me.  Rumor has it that Marlene had time to throw back four beers at the second rest stop.  No joke.  I’m still jealous. Bravo ladies, bravo.

Having a party at Mile 21. I hate you.

Mile 2: We found Eric on the side of the path, waiting to guide a group to the first station at Mile 8.  “Corey wants you to pick up the pace,” Eric said.  “We’re only at Mile 2,” I replied.  I was starting to question whether my “slow and steady” strategy would get us to the finish line before dark. 

Miles 3- 6: When one of your senses is impaired, other senses compensate for this loss.  Without light, my hearing became sensitized to the only two sounds I heard in the woods: Di complaining about her headlamp and zombies.  I could recount our numerous conversations about the headlamps, but I value my marriage way too much to make this mistake.  So I’ll cut her some slack—headlamps are uncomfortable.  As for the zombies?  Absolutely horrifying.  For at least a mile, we heard them moaning from the valley below—it sounded as if they were climbing up the hills, and as their moans became louder I could make out what they were saying.  It wasn’t “Braaaaains.” It was more like, “Moooooo.”  Yes, the zombies mooed.  Dear Stephen King, I’ve found the subject of your next novel: mountain cows.

I think Phil finished before sunrise

 Mile 7: Eric was still hiking with Dr. Dana Marie, Di, and myself—and was still telling us to pick up the pace.  At this point, I tapped into a new fuel source: urine.  I had to relieve my bladder pressure so incredibly bad, but I didn’t want to slow the group down.  It’s amazing how fast you can walk/hike when you really have to go.  It was a long mile, but Corey should’ve been proud of my pace (of course, he wasn’t).  
Corey wondering why people are so slow

 Mile 8: Finally hit the aid station at dawn. I switched out my toe socks and refueled with a PB&J sandwich, a giant-size Rice Krispy Treat, and a shot of Jack-- the breakfast of champions.

Enjoying breakfast
 As I was loading my pack full of PB&J sandwiches and bananas (note: bananas shouldn’t be shoved into a pack), Corey came over and warned me: “You’re hiking into the dark, pick up the pace.”  This would be a consistent theme for the rest of the day. 

Gavin & Sam: Happy VDOT workers in love
Laura LOVES hiking! Big smiles!

Elizabeth loves hiking too! Woo hoo!
Chris has the munchies
Dana Marie thinks hiking is awesome!!

Why is everyone so damn happy?!?!
Mary hopped up on "energy beans"*

 (unconfirmed rumor: Mary may have passed out performance-enhancing "energy beans" to the hikers shown above.  I feel like such a narc.  Might as well rat-out Meg too...)

Meg on her 4th hour of 5-Hour Energy
I started doing calculations in my head like Rain Man—it would definitely take us 13 hours. Definitely.  We had finished the first 8 miles in four hours.  Why was he so worried? Maybe he wanted us to speed up so we could have more time to party at the finish?  
Then I had a flashback to something Corey told us at dinner the night before—when he was blazing the trail, it took him FOUR hours to hike the first 21 miles, and FIVE hours to hike the final 10 miles.  WTF!?  It didn’t take a math major to figure out that we were in big trouble.  

I followed Di and Dr. Dana Marie back onto the trail—and we added a new friend to our group.  Some random dude with a beard had been admiring the view of the valley, and started hiking with us as we passed by.  Di and Dr. Dana Marie knew who he was (bearded dudes= GUIDES), but I had no idea what this guy’s deal was for at least another three miles.  I just assumed he was one of those “DC people.”  Jamie (the bearded guide) was hiking between Di and myself, and he was just bouncing along as if we were on a nature walk at the local park. In hindsight, he was probably going a little slower than the rest of us because he was carrying 40lbs of water... just in case.

Jamie prepping for his nature stroll
 Meanwhile, I was absolutely freaking out about our time.  Corey told us at the rest area that we could make up some time by increasing our pace over the next four miles, and this stroll wasn’t cutting it.  After 100 yards or so, I pushed past Jamie unapologetically and told him I had to go hike with my wife who was about three feet in front of us.  Once I got out in front of our group, I had every intention of speeding the pace up…but I had one small problem: I'm SLOW.  Instead, I led us on a moderately faster nature walk straight into the ankle-breaking hell known as Bullsh*t Ridge. 

View from Bullsh*t Ridge

View from the finish: Roger & Shawn finished in 10.5 hours

To be continued in Part 2.5 ...

Note: Di wants everyone to know that the headlamp left a bump on her head that may have caused permanent damage to her skull.

And if you'd like to support our fight against cystic fibrosis and make a small donation--click on the box below.  October 31 is the official end of our fundraising.

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