My journey to start the 26.3 mile hike

I need to address my 26.3 mile hike for the Alabama Make-A-Wish Foundation experience. There was so much going on that I really haven’t had time.  I first need to address the few days leading up to the hike.

I was on a work trip to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.  Because of the flight time and layovers, I was scheduled to leave early Thursday morning and arriving at home late Thursday afternoon.  This would allow me time to recover from traveling, see the family, re-pack, rest, and then make my way down to the hike Friday afternoon.  Well, that was the plan….

When I got to the airport Thursday morning, it was a zoo!  The airport on St Croix is rather small and several flights were leaving around the same time.  I quickly turned in my rental car and walked over to the airline check in line. The lines were long to check in to check in and drop off your checked bag.  Once inside the airport, I had to go through Passport Control (another long line), TSA ID check (yes, another long line), and baggage and personal security screening (another very long and slow line).  I finally made it to the gate area as my flight was scheduled to begin boarding.

People were just standing around…. No one was getting on the plane.  That was interesting.  As we continued to stand and sit around, I saw the pilot on the phone at the check in desk.  That was not a good sign.  He was supposed to be on the plane getting it ready to take off.  After several minutes, he made the announcement.  We were delayed due to a mechanical issue.

Initially, that wasn’t a big deal.  I had a 3 hour layover in Miami, so I was good.  Then he continued…. The part needed to repair this issue was not on site.  They would have to fly it in from somewhere else.  It would be awhile – several hours.  I still waited somewhat patiently…  Finally they announced a part was located in Miami and would be inbound.  On the next inbound flight at 4 pm.  Crap. I quickly got on the phone with the airline.  I would not be able to make it home that day. After waking up early and getting just a few hours of sleep, I now had about 7 hours to kill in the airport.  If you have ever been to the St. Croix airport, you know there’s not much there. I informed work and family of the delay and plan B.

Once the part arrived on the next flight, our plane was repaired and test and we began boarding.  The 3 hour flight to Miami was uneventful.  Once we landed in Miami, I stood in the customer service line for several hours to print my new boarding passes, got meal vouchers, etc., then went to find my luggage for a much needed change of clothes and shower.  Once I got to baggage claim, my luggage was nowhere to be found.  I got to wait in another line only to find out my luggage was on the plane I was flying on the next day.  Yay.

I finally found the shuttle to the hotel and checked in around 10 pm.  A much needed shower was in order, but I had to put my dirty clothes back on the next day.  My flight departed at 6 am. Once again, another couple hours of sleep and back up to make it through airport security.  I boarded my flight to Miami and was happy to be on the way home.  We landed in Charlotte, and I had 20 minutes to go from E terminal to B terminal to catch my next flight.  Of course, I made it and was headed home.  I finally landed around 1030 am on Friday after leaving for the St Croix airport at 5 am the previous day.

I drove home and got to visit the family for a couple of hours before driving down Friday afternoon for the hike.  I left my large suitcase after pulling out the essentials and just packed the smaller overnight bag for the things I needed the next few days. I didn’t even have time to pack my backpack for the hike.  I just threw everything in the car and decided I would pack it once I got there. 

Around 5 pm I finally made it to the hotel and checked in.  I took my luggage and hiking stuff to the room (after initially leaving it in the parking lot). There was a scheduled dinner at 6 pm. I attended the dinner in the same clothes I left St. Croix in the previous day.  I knew once I took another shower I would be unable to stay awake much longer.  After a bit of food and visiting with fellow hikers, I headed to the room for a shower, fresh clothes, and sleep.

For the third day in a row, wake up was early.  Check in for the hike was at 4 pm.  I was up by 3 am to take another shower, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and double checking all of my gear.  I checked in, we loaded the vans, and was headed off to hike shortly after 4 am Saturday morning.

 

To be continued….. 

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Lessons learned during my 26.3 mile Trailblaze Challenge Hike for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

I completed the 26.3 mile hike for the Alabama Make-A-Wish Foundation this past Saturday, May 5th, 2018. I started at approximately 5:15 am and crossed the finish line at 4:13 pm.  There were aid stations/resupply points at miles 8.49, 13.44, and 22.21.  

Shoes/socks: I had great luck with my new shoes and socks.  I hike in the Altra Lonepeak 3.5 and Darn Tough Crew Hike socks.  I ended up with one small blister on the bottom of one toe that I didn’t even realize I had until I got back to the hotel.  This included multiple water crossings (wet shoes/socks) for several miles, tough terrain, and lots of miles. That is a win to me. I may try sock liners in the future. Find the socks and shoes that work for you and put lots of miles on them.  You can’t hike if you can’t walk.

Liquids: I carried a 2 liter water bladder to make drinking easier/faster.  It performed quite well, but the one issue I have with a bladder is it’s difficult to tell how much water you are consuming. Too much? Enough? This is especially important when resupply points are far apart and it’s warm outside. I actually ran out of water at one point but luckily I was about half a mile from the next aid station.  I also carried a quart of Gatorade in my side pouch.  This proved to be a smart move.  Sometimes I was just tired of warm water and wanted something different – plus the Gatorade provided things water didn’t.

Food: I didn’t eat enough on the trail and that’s my fault. I had snacks/food with me and I did eat at the aid stations, but I found myself running out of energy between resupply points.  I didn’t have time/didn’t want to take the time to stop, take off my backpack, get food out, and eat, but planned on snacking as I went. I should have packaged/carried easy to eat things in my pockets so I could grab and go. Although there was a time limit that I was well below to complete the hike, I had a personal goal and was trying to make it.  I just barely did.  I also should have included some type of electrolyte/energy gel because I was sweating so much. I’ll plan/pack differently for my next long distance hike. Most importantly, I will force myself to snack more because I know I’ll feel better/have more energy if I do.

Misc. gear: I was happy with the performance of my hiking pants, T-Shirt, hiking poles, and all of the other gear I took.  I probably won’t change too much if anything.  I’ll post a full list of what I took in another post. I am glad I wore thin hiking pants as the trail was overgrown in parts (including poison ivy) and I was glad I had the leg protection.

Prep: Because of my work schedule, I didn’t train enough.  The distance didn’t bother me as much as the elevation.  I needed more elevation in my training hikes.  Toward the end of the hike I REALLY dreaded any hills and there were a bunch of them. I could hike flat for miles, but the elevation REALLY put a strain on my already tired body – specifically my hamstrings.

Things I would include/change next time: I’ve already addressed the nutrition issue, but I should have included a way to distract myself when the going got tough.  Music (or the right music) would have done the trick.  I will have a way to rock out on the rocks next time. I may consider hiking with others also.  I was alone most of the hike and having others around (even if their pace is a bit slower) would have helped. I would have included some wet wipes to at least clean the funk off a bit or even a dry T-Shirt. Although I did change socks three times, I was drenched in sweat the whole time and a dry shirt/underwear would have been a huge mental boost. At one point I got almost TOO hot late in the afternoon (the highs were in the low 80s).  I should have slowed down but pushed through to the next aid station where I had to spend 30 minutes cooling down in the creek.  It almost cost me completing the hike.  Next time I will slow down and cool down.  I may even take a “cooling towel” to help.

These are the major points, but there may be others.  What changes have you made/lessons learned on long hikes?

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Basic information from the 26.3 mile hike

This is the first of several posts about my experience of the Trailblaze Challenge for the Make-A-Wish foundation. There’s so much information, I will try to organize my thoughts and post in a somewhat logical fashion.

Here’s the basis informations for my Trailblaze Challenge hike:
Distance: 26.3 miles
Minimum Elevation: 884 ft
Maximum Elevation: 2002 ft
Total elevation Gain: 8598 ft
Total elevation Loss: 8252 ft
Total time elapsed: 10 hours 54 minutes
Total moving hiking (Not at aid station) 9 hours 54 minutes
Average moving speed: 2.6 mph
Water consumed: over 1 gallon
Gatorade consumed: 1.25 gallons
Pre-hike biscuits consumed: 0
Calories consumed during hike: not enough
Blisters: 1
Sock changes: 3
Times I wanted to quit: 2
Wildlife seen not including gnats: 1 (turkey)
Gnats seen: 100,000,000,000,000
Rocks seen/walked on: Do numbers go that high?

More to follow…..

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I fought the biscuit and the biscuit won…

The lyrics of the song by The Clash “I Fought the Law” were shamelessly stolen and edited for this post. Just how does a biscuit win? You may ask. I’ll get there, but to appreciate it you have to know the whole story.

I hike a lot. That’s pretty obvious from my previous posts on this blog and anyone that knows me. It’s my happy place. Most of my hiking is in Bankhead National Forest, specifically the Sipsey Wilderness. Most of my hikes are in the 10-12 mile range, so long distance hiking is new to me.

You are probably also aware I’ve been training for the Trailblaze Challenge (26.3 mile day hike) to raise awareness and money for the Alabama Make-A-Wish Foundation. In order to prepare us, the foundation has training hikes similar to the elevation and distance of the “real” hike. Since I do hike quite a bit, I have done some hikes on my own, but haven’t participated in many of the official training hikes until recently. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of the official training hikes have been in the rain or just after a rain in the mud and slop. That’s just not fun hiking. BUT through this experience, I have found shoes and socks that work for me (18 miles in the rain without blisters), rain gear that keeps me dryish (but warm), and MY natural hiking pace among other things. I was feeling pretty confident.

This past weekend was the last training hike close to my house and it had been clear all week. I was looking forward to hiking long distance (20 mile range) in better conditions. All was well. My stuff was packed. I got up and headed to the trailhead, but stopped on the way at a gas station close to the house and picked up a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit to eat on the way. And so entered the evil that was to plague me for the next few hours….

The delicious and hot sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit was tasty as I ate it on my way to the trailhead, yet seemed a bit different from usual. I thought it was because it was hot and fresh instead of sitting in the warmer a few hours before eating. That should have been my first clue.

I arrived at the trailhead a few minutes before anyone else and I parked my car and was going to relax and eat the last bite or two of the biscuit before getting out. By this time, the evil and foul sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit had hit my stomach and started the revolt. Uh oh…

I had no time to react. I barely made it out of the car and into the grass before reenacting the famous scene from “The Exorcist.” I could swear my head was spinning around as I decorated the grass in front of my car.

I was light headed, incoherent, and barely able to move. I slowly made it back to my car and set down before the revolt in my stomach called in reinforcements. Once again, I ran for the grass (making it to the bathroom was out of the question) and felt like someone was forcing their hand down my throat and trying to pull my toenails out from the inside.

By this time, other hikers had begun to arrive and check on me. It hurt to blink or breathe and I could barely talk but managed to say “bad biscuit.” There continued to be pockets of resistance in my stomach fighting their way out for the next hour. In pain, sick, and unable to move I appeared to the casual observer to be a passed out, homeless man laid out on the curb talking unintelligibly and having the dry heaves.  It was not a pretty sight.

The hike leader verified that I had something to drink, a cell phone, and would be ok before they left for the hike. I felt like I was on an old western movie saying “Go on without me” as I laid there and died. As they walked off in the clear weather, I hugged the curb like a sick drunk hugs the toilet after a long night of celebrating. The cool concrete had the same calming effect of the porcelain (or so I’ve heard).

I was surprised the people living across the street did not call the cops on me. About an hour later I was able to get off the ground and move to the car where I slept for another hour or so. I finally made my way home about lunch. So yeah, the biscuit won that round and I don’t wish to fight again….

Here’s my version of the song:
Hiking in the rain – no sun
I fought the biscuit and it won
I needed mileage ’cause I had none
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
Up came the biscuit and it feels so bad
Guess my hike is done
The worst feeling that I ever had
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and the
Laid in the gutter like a homeless bum
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
I lost my lunch and I lost my fun
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
Up came the biscuit and it feels so bad
Guess my hike is done
The worst feeling that I ever had
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it won
I fought the biscuit and it

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Almost there!

I have recommitted (saying I will pay the difference between the minimum goal and amount raised) to the Trailblaze Challenge to raise awareness and money for the Alabama Make-A-Wish Foundation.  I am currently $126 away from my goal!  I am so humbled and honored at the support people have given me up to this point.

However, I still have a small amount left to raise and I can ALWAYS go above my goal.   I still have travel/backpacking First Aid Kits to sell.  The post describing them is here: https://wordpress.com/post/jnunniv.blog/1347

They will cover the most basic of backcountry/travel needs and are $20 each.  All proceeds go to my fundraising effort. If you purchase two or more, I will mail them for no additional cost in the continental United States!

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So close but yet so far…

Are you similar to me where I sometimes keep meaning to do something but also keep forgetting? If so, and you have been meaning to donate to Make-A-Wish, let today be the day! I’m $541 from my goal and have 17 days to go! THANK YOU so much to those that have already supported me. Your one time donation over $5 matters!

http://www.alabamatrailblaze.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1176876&lis=1&kntae1176876=D8F76A8AF07645E0B6150B0D370D62D8&supId=442543020

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Dirty Girl Gaiters

All quotes are from https://dirtygirlgaiters.com/

I finally gave in to peer pressure and purchased a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters to wear when I’m hiking. For the unknowing, Dirty Girl Gaiters are lightweight gaiters that fit from just above your ankle and cover the opening on your shoes to prevent rocks, dirt, and other objects from entering. They give every disclaimer possible on the website, but just understand these are lightweight “four-way stretch spandex fabric similar to the fabrics used in bathing suits and lightweight running tights.” These are for maintained trails only! They are not meant to be worn if you expect to be “trekking through overgrown vegetation, bushwacking, or coming into contact with sharp objects.”

With the disclaimers out of the way, I decided to get a pair for three reasons… 1) I will be doing lots of hiking in the next few months. 2) My new trail shoes (Altra Lone Peaks 3.5) come with hook and loop tab allowing for strapless gaiter attachment without any modifications. 3) I HATE having to stop and get objects that have gotten in my shoes.

Here’s just a few notes about the product I found interesting. They are made in Green Valley, Arizona and have a pattern or theme for just about everyone and everything! If you are looking for mundane and boring hiking gaiters, you will probably have sensory overload on their website. I had a difficult time finding one I would wear without going plain solid which is too boring. I selected an American Flag theme. They are VERY affordable at $20 to $24 a pair and shipped the same day as I purchased them. Make sure you read the sizing information before ordering.

Here’s what comes in the package:

The contents of the Ziploc bag: Two gaiters, Velcro, and instructions.

Slip on your sock, the gaiter, then your shoe. The hook fits nicely of the front attachment point (or your bottom lace).

My shoes have a Velcro Tab built in the back. If your shoe does not come with this, they send a strip of Velcro and instructions with the gaiters.

Gaiters on my shoes:

I’m looking forward to trying these out on the trail in the next week or two!

Do you have a set of Dirty Girls?

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