Mental Marathon

So. I’ve been gone awhile in terms of writing. I spent some time on some book improvements and then hit a really rough patch of hiking. All my writing is in hindsight. The times to write and rest have been scarce. Nonetheless, plenty to tell.

I’ll start two days after Easter. Two days after a nice little recharge spent with my fantastic mother. Two days after I switched my boots out for a pair of UnderArmor trail runners. Those two days could possibly be my last two days hiking in comfort.

 

Trail runners are to boots what Nike Free’s are to basketball shoes. A lighter version made with less durability but increased comfort. My trail runners, however, wouldn’t qualify under any of the previous descriptors.

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The first day, my foot began to hurt. A section underneath the outside of my left ankle felt like it was pulling. Like something was wound too tight. It would light up whenever I pushed off my toes, especially during uphills. It really bothered me throughout the day and into the evening, as I’ve never felt pain in this particular area before.

The next day, April 20th, coincidentally, it didn’t hurt so bad.

This morning, just as the sun comes up, two people hiked in and made in breakfast at the shelter. Their names were Sherpa and Kanga, and they were actually three people. Perched up high in Kanga’s pack, their one year old daughter, Roo (Ellie), sat in her throne with a huge smile on her face. While they made breakfast, Roo scooted around camp in her dirt proof onsie, living the dream. We talked for a little while and took a picture. They’re kinda Trail famous, so here’s a picture.

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On the morning of the 21st, we woke up early with the intention of doing some pretty big miles. A cloud developed amongst us and we hiked through fog and mist for about 10 straight miles. My foots on fire. It warms up after about an hour but locks up immediately during breaks.

We ascend through the clouds into sunlight and stopped for lunch with a few guys we see a fair bit.

First, is Stryder. He’s coming from Washington, DC, where he spent a couple years working in politics. He’s an extremely bright guy and a great conversation. We’ve spoken a fair bit about writing, including a really well written Trail testimonial he intended to use for a blog.

There’s also a hiker named Pyro. He genuinely loves fire. He’s an interesting kid. I like to talk to interesting people. He’s not a big talker, so our relationship is complicated. Just recently, I heard him ask somebody if North Carolina won the NCAA basketball championship. Our conversation went exactly like this:

Me: So are you UNC basketball fan?

Pyro: I like South Carolina, and I only like baseball.

Me: 0 for 2 then, ok. So did you play baseball?

Pyro: Yes

Me: What position?

Before I could even finish the question, Pyro, with a full pack on his back, ran away from me. The trail ahead was pretty open, so I must have seen him running for about .2 or .3 miles until I was out of sight. Sorry? I don’t know. Anyway.

There’s DeadEye. He’s a Texan with a strong emphasis on the negative stereotypes, and GD proud of it. He’s built like a house and he has one of those faces that looks like he wants to punch you in yours at all times. During one convo, he finished up a story and before I could even formulate a negative thought about Texans, I felt his stare and saw his bottom lip curl under his top teeth as if an anticipatory “Fuck you” sat on his lips. I met his Dad, who looks like he sits at the U.S. border with a sniper rifle and punches immigrants tickets, and he assured me DeadEye was no tough guy, but I think I’ll avoid him all the same.

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The clouds caught up so I carried on, leaving the group behind. Around mile 18 on the day, I stumbled upon what had to be a mirage. I looked off trail between a thin crease in the bushes and found a man standing at a grill. I walked through the crease and the aroma hit me, burgers and dogs. I looked left. A grown man dressed like a cowboy/pirate threw a small sword at a dart board, missing tragically. He turned to me and said “Oi Oi!”, so I knew I wasn’t dreaming, cause I could never make that shit up.

We stayed for 2 hours while it poured rain. Like a freshman in college counting his beers, I wrote down my food consumption. Burger, Hot Dog, 4 donuts, 2 bananas, several oatmeal raisin cookies, 1 Root Beer, 2 PBR’s, and 3 bags of Dorito’s. Thank you to Badger and his friends, he Thru-Hiked last year, and held a really impressive Trail Magic that must have fed 75 or so hikers, maybe more.

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From there we hiked 8 more miles into Erwin, TN. A 26 mile day and my longest day of the trip so far. I needed the miles. I had my first food casualty. A mouse chewed through my food bag and nibbled on a group of tortillas with peanut butter, snickers, and peanut butter m&m’s all rolled into one. They were meant to be my lunches for the next 5 days. We resupplied in Erwin, and I left my next 4 days of lunches behind. 9 straight days of shitty lunches, gone.

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I spent the next 3 days wet. It didn’t necessarily rain the whole time, but there was no sun. I either walked through the cloud itself or under it and got the rain. Any idea just how horrid it is to put on a wet shirt that’s been hanging in a 40 degree cloud all night? I’d rather shit in my hands and clap.

Hiking through all the mud really made my new injury flare up. Eventually, I couldn’t push off my left toes at all, essentially shutting off any push off my calve (calf? Dunno, they both look wrong.) The cold wind and rain made my muscles even tighter, and before long, that front muscle over your shin that absolutely nobody knows the name of, yeah, that was fried.

 

As I type this, I’ve already had an X-ray and a Dr. appointment. I have a mix of tendinitis and early arthritis from my surgery, and shin splints. Thankfully nothing is broken, it just hurts like hell.

The seven days leading into my stay at the cabin and our own Trail Magic, more on this later, was a mental marathon. I had to distract myself from the pain, but also get the mileage over with so I could get it looked at. I started to get lost in the dark recesses of my mind, places I didn’t like to venture until recently.

My senior year in college, on senior night, somebody ran over one of our guys and he fell back into my knee. I’d just landed and my leg was locked straight. The impact caused it to buckle a little. No major ligament damage. It was a sprain, but the trainer wasn’t sure about my meniscus.

Anyway, the last two weeks of basketball was torture. Every step hurt. I had to play with tape, a band, a brace, and a compression sleeve. All on one knee. I ran with such a pronounced limp, I remember my mom crying as she watched me grimace up and down the floor. That and my Coach, Jim Boone, who also doubles as a huge sack of shit, would not leave the injury alone. He made announcements during team meetings that after watching the injury on film, it was just a bruise and I needed to stop limping around. To get over myself. He made the team run all because it took the trainer close to an hour just to get my knee ready for practice. I hope Boone reads this during an afternoon walk. I hope the walk takes him by a park. I hope it rained heavily the night before and a group of kids playing baseball foul tip an extremely waterlogged ball and it plunks Jim right on the top of his head.

So, the whole point of that? Something I loved was now miserable. I dreaded getting to practice an hour early and still being late. It made me sick that I was the scapegoat despite discovering new limits of my own pain tolerance in each subsequent drill. I’d bottle it up and throw punches into my mattress or shower wall when I got home. I didn’t dare think of quitting, but I hated basketball.

I’ve learned more than one thing from these people, but I like to label one major lesson from different male influences in my life. My brother, Casey, is a living example of work ethic. Coach Jeff Price had me as a baby, my freshman year. He also had me at my peak of arrogance, a D1 to D2 transfer. He taught me to “Shut up and get it done”, something I needed to hear often.

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Coach Charlton Young taught me how to be a professional/man off the court. How to present yourself. That there is a life after sports to not just prepare for, but handle with your chin up. He handled some real bullshit from me. Sorry Coach.

The lesson I hold to the utmost, I learned from my Dad. It’s not just because it’s him either. He not only taught me, but made me promise when he was sick to simply have fun. Maybe that will explain my general demeanor and outlook on life to people.

I guess I can now label my lesson from that shithead Boone. He taught me to endure.

For the first time in my life, I thought kindly of those two weeks. I used the experience to prevent feeling sorry for myself. So as I hike in pain, I know I’ll be fine. It’ll pass. So for that, thank you.

I still wanna go 3 rounds with you in the Octagon though you old, bitter puddle of dumpster juice.

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Notice I haven’t mentioned much about my surroundings. I’ve spent the last 15 days in the most beautiful areas. Unfortunately, with a bum leg, you’ve really gotta keep your eyes glued to the path. A fall would be tragic. So while I remember the setting, my head first and foremost recalls the struggle.

So we get to Roan Mountain, TN. My friend Lana, picked me up and bought me dinner and margaritas. Thank you!

Beach Party and I got to the cabin and I posted a Facebook status asking for money to help with the Trail Magic. Within 3 hours, $393.23 were sent to me. Incredible. Seriously.

Between the two days, we handed out hundreds of snacks and a couple hundred beers and sodas, mostly beers. Beach Party supplied the tunes, Gnarwhal provided the vibes, and I took care of everything from greeter to lap dancer. Jack of all trades, right?

The pictures tell the story best. Usually, hikers will stop for a snack and carry on with their plans for the day. We literally ruined hikers plans. People stayed for hours, and we made around four separate resupply runs to keep feeding hikers. We spent every penny sent in, including some of our own money.

So now, I’m in a coffee shop in Damascus, VA. My fourth state. I’ll be in VA for awhile, there are around five hundred trail miles in Virginia alone. I have some things to look forward to though! My cousin Megan is going to try and meet up. My lifelong homie Reid is meeting me up towards the DC area for some Off Trail adventures. Can’t wait. Then I hope to stay with some college friends in Harper’s Ferry. Some good times ahead.

I’m gonna go ahead and answer some of the most common questions I hear from home!

Average Miles per day? I’m on day 45, and around Mile 469. So still averaging around 10 miles per day. I also lead the entire Trail in zero days with 13 or so, cause beer.

How much weight have I lost? The day I left the cabin, I weighed in at 211. My last recorded weight, 6 days ago, was 185. So down 26ish lbs total.

Have I seen a bear? Nope.

What does a day’s worth of food look like? I’ll go through an average day. Breakfast – Pop Tart, Protein Bar, Trail Mix and/or Snickers Bar with a liter of Water with Mio in it. Snack – Candy Bar or Cliff Bar. Lunch – Pepperoni and cheese OR Peanut Butter in a tortilla, Beef Jerky, Protein Bar. Same Snack. Dinner – 2 packs of Ramen with pepperoni’s cooked in and as much candy as possible after.

Most days without a shower? 9. I average about 5-6 days between showers.

How’s my butt? Supple, but tight, like a young, Fight Club Brad Pitt.

That’s it! Next post won’t take so long. I’ve started writing each night now that I’m getting more comfortable with a routine.

Also, if anybody would like to ask me anything at all, email me a question or two to Colby.wohlleb@gmail.com and I promise to answer 100% truthfully, despite the fact my mother and grandmother both read this. Could be fun.

Cya when I cya!

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