No Pain, No Gain, No Maine!
Kitvision Ambassador Max has been in touch updating us on the beginning of her journey attempting the Appalachian Trail! We can’t wait to hear more.
When we considered and then planned to walk 2,180 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine, we knew to expect some pains along the way. Obviously blisters and aching knees, of course tight muscles and inflamed tendons (a big one on the AT), but nothing can prepare you for the mental endurance of such an epic mission.
Sometimes we’re doing 4 consecutive days of 17+ miles, resupplying our food and then going again, and it’s exhausting physically, but for the most part we’re fine and we recover quickly. It’s amazing how quickly the body can adapt and get fit. You’d hope so after 530 miles!
Simply put, really all we do is eat, walk, and sleep. It’s when we are over-tired, have new aches and pains, and are facing the unpredictability of living outside 99% of the time that our mental strength is truly tested.
Whether it’s a thunderstorm, a tough section of trail, or an injury getting in the way, sometimes plans on the AT have to change. This was a hard lesson. Patience is a tough thing to learn when in ‘real life’ everything is ‘fast, instant or express’.
They say the first 35 miles are the hardest, not just because of the epic climbs, but because your body is being conditioned. Your legs have gone from sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day to walking for 8 hours a day – this is not normal!
On one of those first days I suffered from foot pain like never before. It felt as though I’d walked 30 miles but we had only just started the day and I knew that we still had 10 miles to go. That was a tough lesson. In ‘real life’ you can just stop, say “enough is enough” when you have pain, rest when you’re tired, but out here if you want to get any miles under your belt you have to accept a level of discomfort sometimes. That day felt like 4, just thinking of how sore my feet where for hours and hours, thinking about how much time must have passed, and wishing every mile away. That was not fun, but luckily your feet DO get used to walking every day and that was just one of many lessons we’d have the great pleasure of learning.
Rain can also be one of the biggest tests. Not actually walking in the rain, this generally isn’t so bad, walking keeps you warm, and the rain ensures you don’t get too hot. It’s the needing to stop in the rain that really sucks. Whether it’s a toilet break, quick snack, lunch, or to set up camp, you get cold quickly and everything you touch is wet or will be soon enough. Then there’s having to put on soaking shoes the next day when you know they will inevitably give you a blister or two, and having to wait patiently whilst the soggy stinky socks you attached to your bag (far too close to your nose) dry naturally, and preferably before the stench kills you.
It’s during these moments when we’re cold, wet, hungry (always), tired, and in pain that it can get too much, and sometimes you can see how easy it would be to quit. To return to the comforts of a solid home, a flush toilet, a fridge (with no bears or chipmunks trying to get in), and a shower more than once a week. But that would be too easy!
We’ve learned that when things get tough, the most important thing is not to make any big decisions whilst your head is out of the game, because you will regret it. The good times will come back around, you just have to roll with whatever the trail throws at you, and it will throw a lot of things at you. Don’t stress, have a little moan if you need, cry, shout, have your worst tantrum because you’re cold and wet, (I did) but then eventually you have to come back down to Earth, realise it will get better again, and that it really isn’t that bad, it’s just totally outside of the comforts of normal home life that we’ve become accustomed to.
We love that the AT is not just a physical challenge, but that every day our mental strength is being pushed to the limits.
In the ‘real world’ we have it so easy; water comes from a tap, animals do not threaten to eat our food, and warmth is easy to find. So if anything, the mental challenges we face on the AT humble us, keep us grounded, and always ensure that we live in the moment, and make the most of every day. They remind us that even the simple comforts we enjoy on the trail are more than some may ever imagine in a lifetime.
And so, we’re grateful for the opportunity to walk such an awesome trail, meet such awesome people, to feel totally uncomfortable and out of our depth at times, and to make unforgettable memories, all while knowing that some of our best memories will come from those rockiest and most unpredictable moments. When we look down at our tired, aching, and extremely human modes of transport every morning we’re reminded that this is a marathon not a sprint, so every step must count.
So, I dare everyone to say yes to a new adventure, whatever it is, and take a few steps out of your comfort zone – it’s never as scary and hard as you think it’s going to be, but if it is, it won’t last long, so stick it out, and trust it’ll be back to awesome in no time!