I've written a ton of posts for the site in the last few weeks and have discarded every one of them. In the past there's always been a direct correlation between feeling very, very bad and being very prolific in terms of music and writing. It's difficult for me to write without discomfort as a catalyst. I can't help but wonder who wants to read endless descriptions of gear coming in the mail or how many feet of elevation I climbed today. It's not satisfying to catalog the minutiae of my day to me, and it certainly can't be terribly exciting for anyone else. Maybe excitement is the key word. I've had difficulties with my memory for decades; everything from not remembering peoples names to forgetting how to play my own songs with the band. I finally decided to address the problem about 3 months ago, and after an MRI and about $500 dollars in insurance co-pays from seeing specialists it's been determined that the reason I have a difficult time remember things is because the activities of daily life don't interest me. In other words, I get bored. I did a three and a half hour neuropsychological evaluation and the doctor told me that on the difficult questions I did really well and on the easy questions I did really, really poorly. He used the word "impaired", but I know he was just being polite. The first doctor who tested me said that based solely on the test results and without looking at the person sitting in front of her, I shouldn't have the cognitive function to drive a car. That may not be funny to you, but to me? VERY, VERY FUNNY! The threshold that needs to be reached for me to feel anything is far higher than the average person. This has always been painfully obvious to me, whether it was writing nearly 30 minute long songs, trying to run 30 miles on the AT, 30 day backpacking trips, or any of the other more extreme behaviors I've exhibited over the years. Part of me wants my 500 dollars in co-pays back, but part of me realizes that I need to adapt better so that I can feel life without everything having to be amplified. This will be torture. Honestly, I don't care about you mowing the lawn this weekend, what you had for dinner last night, or any of the other endless nonsense that people spend their days discussing. It's been recommended that it might be a good exercise for me to try to focus even when I'm bored to tears in an attempt to rewire myself. I think that's why I like talking to the hikers I meet every weekend. The veneer of crap gets immediately wiped away and we talking about DOING; about pushing ourselves, doing what frightens us, doing what may help piece us back together again. So... I'll try to pay attention when you're telling me about how you did your laundry last night. If I look like I'm drifting away, just poke me.
Here's a compilation of a few of the things I've written in the last week. If you get bored as easily as I do, I apologize in advance:
So today was the maiden voyage of my new backpack, the Gregory Z65. I've worn it around the house like a dork with a little bit of weight in it, but hadn't gone on an actual hike until this morning. Things did NOT start well. I have a hate/hate relationship with hydration reservoirs, the crappy plasticy things you put your beverage of choice into when you're out in the woods. I'm pretty hard on gear and have destroyed more shoes, clothing, and watches than I can count, but I have a special knack for breaking hydration reservoirs. It's not that difficult a concept; make me a friggin' container that holds something wet and keep that wetness out of my friggin' pack. Easy? No. When I got to the trail head this morning I poured 64 oz of delicious A.M. Tropical Mango Gatorade into the reservoir, slid it into my pack, and in the 2 minutes it took me to put on some sun block the reservoir broke and Gatorade was pouring out of the bottom of my BRAND NEW PACK like it was Niagara Falls. After a quick temper tantrum and clean up I finally headed off into the woods with the Gator still dripping out of the bottom of my pack and down my ass. So that's the bad news; Camelbak Hydration Reservoir: bad. The good news, and it really is good news, is that the pack was incredibly comfortable and stable. I expected to get some hot spots where the pack grated against my skin, expected a pretty lousy backache, but neither of those things happened. The other good news, and it's also really good news, is that the waterproof dry bag I bought to keep my goodies dry did, in fact work. Nothing that was kept in there turned the the color of Tropical Mango Gatorade.
Even though this kind of stuff isn't terribly exciting for you, it's pretty exciting/important for me since I'll be stuck in the woods with this crap for 30 days. I sorted out a few more pieces of gear as well: The REI pants that convert from pants to shorts have worked really well. Since REI has a great return policy I've done my best to try to tear them, break the zippers, etc before i take them to Vermont. They've passed with flying colors. I've also decided on what socks I'll be wearing, the Dry Max Trail Runner, used by ultramrathon runners all over the world. I've run over a thousand of miles in them with barely a blister. The one downside when compared to wool? They stink like holy hell. At least you won't be stuck in the tent with me.
I have a Long Trail countdown clock on my computer and I'm down to 68 days. Now that I'm roughly in the 2 month range I'm becoming much more practical about my planning and getting myself back into shape. I've been spending time hiking northbound on the AT from Bull's Bridge in CT, trying to regain the leg strength I had before I banged up my knee a few months ago, and this section helps with that. The hike starts with a steady 1.5 mile climb that takes a little over an hour and ends up climbing almost 5,000 feet over 10 miles. To put that in perspective, the NYC Marathon climbs 885 feet over 26.2 miles. Ouch.
It's now Monday morning and I'm pretty sore. Not crippled sore, but sore. Running always seemed so much more difficult than hiking that I thought walking, even with a loaded pack, wouldn't make me hurt the way a long run always did. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. 88 degrees and sunny + loaded pack + buttloads of climbing=humbled.
Today was hike number two with my new pack. I loaded it up with a bunch of gear and headed back out to the AT in Kent. One of the most effective ways to strengthen leg muscles is to climb hills, so the hour long 1.2 miles climb heading north on the AT from Bull's Bridge is both a spirit breaker and a great workout. Today was another day where I was luck enough to run into some really cool thru hikers, particularly Boots and Melody, a guy and girl from Switzerland. I asked them the same 2 questions I've asked every thru hiker I've talked to in the last 3 weeks.; what was your worst day and what's your favorite/most valuable piece of gear? They told me they never had a bad day, there were just days when they didn't get what they expected, and that it was just a matter of adjusting their expectations. Even the fact that the US Postal Service lost every one of the packages they'd mailed to themselves along the way never arrived, they tried to view it as part of the adventure, What was far more interesting was their view on finishing/not finishing what they had set out to do. Boots told me that he thought it was unwise to not think about the possibility of failure, that there are so many things beyond our control that it was foolish to not consider how it might make me and the people supporting me feel. He told me about the philosophy that he and Melody used. Her analogy was that every day they hiked was like adding a pearl onto a necklace. It wasn't the last pearl that made it a necklace, it was all the pearls that had come before that. So yes, there's a possibility I might not finish, but I'm determined to make sure that if it does happen, it's because of physical issues and not mental. My body may fail but the quitter in my head will not win.
Let's return to some boring gear talk. I bought a Platypus 3 liter hydration reservoir yesterday and with some trepidation filled it to the top with water. At least if the thing broke it would be water running down my ass this time and not Gatorade. Then I shook the thing upside down for a good minute, spun it like a centrifuge, and then was finally convinced that it was safe to slide it into my pack. So far, so good, but I know that F'ing thing will explode at some point, probably a day when it's 20 degrees and snowing. I'll endure. I also got my sleeping pad in the mail this week. Kudos to Ian for telling me to get a bigger tent and softer sleeping pad; two things he said would make the difference between being comfortable and just surviving. Once again the pack felt great. I had just shy of 24 pounds in it and it rode like a Cadillac. No neck pain and no low back pain, two things that I just assumed were a given when carrying a pack. Those zip off pants I got from REI that I was so thrilled with? Apparently I'm allergic to something in them and as soon as I start to sweat, I develop a rash that last week I'd assumed was poison Ivy, but now know that it's something in the damn pants. WTF??? It's nice and itchy and makes me look like I have the early stages of flesh eating bacteria (which I had the misfortune of seeing when I was a student).
The skies just opened up for a good hour and I'm glad for all of the hikers out there right now. It's been so hot and dry this summer that most of the water sources dried up and finding anything to drink that hasn't been scooped up from standing water has been difficult. I hope the rain gods give them all the rain they need.
To be serious for a moment, the coverage of the Penn State sex abuse case has been somewhat difficult. Pedophiles are sick, sick people, that's a given. The people who enable them, who feed them an endless supply of children in order to protect what they deem valuable, are the most vile human beings to roam this earth. I've been a very angry man for a very long time, and one of the ways that I've been able to get better is by letting that anger go. In the last few days I've struggled with that. There is no punishment painful enough for the former president, vice president, and athletic director of Penn State, or the "beloved" football coach Joe Paterno to ever satisfy me. They worked to allow it, I walk to stop it. Enough.
On a far less serious not, I lost a dear friend today. After nearly 600 miles my La Sportiva Raptors are dead. I caught the left one on a rock and ripped the fabric by the toes from one side of the shoe to the other. I ran my first trail marathon in them, climbed in the White Mountains with them, wore them on every long Saturday run I've done in the last year, and now they're gone. I'm not sure if I should burn them or have them bronzed. Probably bronzed. A moment of silence please. All kidding aside, I really will miss them. It's pretty dumb to be attached to inanimate objects but I've completed some of my greatest accomplishments with them on my feet.
Thanks to Stacy at the Wilderness Running Company I have 2 new pair coming in the mail. Speaking of that, if you look to your right you'll see a link to my sponsors, well, sponsor. The karma train will be dumping a buttload of good karma at Stacy's door in Utah. That's right, I am officially endorsed by the Wilderness Running Company, the greatest trail running/hiking shop on the planet. Thanks, Dude!!!
I'm an obsessive proof reader and am greatly embarrassed when I spell things incorrectly, use improper grammar, and fall back on my faulty vocabulary, but I'm just going to post this. I swear I know how to read and write and that, despite my neuropsych evaluation, I do have the ability to drive a car, so I'm just going to post this and perhaps make changes later.
Thanks for caring.