100 miles in 47 hours!!!
After two unsuccessful attempts at hiking 100 miles in under 50 hours I was determined more than ever to finish the A-100 this year.
On the afternoon of June 10th I traveled down to the North Country Trail head near Marienville, PA with Chris LeForce and Dave Huffman. Chris and Dave had come in the previous evening from Vermont. We were bound and determined to make our way to the NYS border near Willow Bay. Of course we weren’t the only daring souls that were intending to make it to Willow Bay. This year 113 of the 134 individuals who registered showed up to try to hike 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles in 50 hours or less.
The Start Evening:
After some formalities from the 2016 chair Jeff Manelick and a group photo, the 100 milers all assembled at the trail head eager and full of excitement.
As the hounds (hikers) were released it became very obvious which hikers were going unsupported compared to those that were fully supported or self supported. The intention of the A-100 is for hikers to complete their chosen length in under 50 hours without being supported.
Let me explain the difference here.
- Unsupported hikers carry all their food, gear and water for the entire length of their trip. To be unsupported means that you are not accepting handouts or trail magic.
- Fully Supported is Scott Jurek and his record setting time on the Appalachian Trail last year. Scott could count on the help from his crew at each road crossing. He only needed to carry water and snacks and resupplied at toad crossings. Over the past several years I have witnessed hikers sleeping in the family minivan, on blowup beds and being handed food and water at road crossings.
- Self-supporting your hike is done by caching food and water near road crossings. This year 6 miles into the challenge one hiker arrived at the road and blurted out to his hiking partner, “Do you need water?”. He promptly ran across the road and pulled a gallon jug of water out of the weeds.
I can hear some of you muttering this under your breath, “Hike Your Own Hike“. I completely agree with that statement, but I do not agree with claiming that you have done something that you haven’t.
Friday evening weather was perfect and we made great time passing hikers and being passed ourselves. The condition of the trail was exceptional compared to the previous two years and the miles went by quickly. As night-time approached the trail began to take on a whole new atmosphere and the hike began to feel like you are inside of a black tunnel. Negotiating terrain at night becomes a challenge and your pace begins to slow. Patience, persistence, water and calories are key to keep yourself moving forward. Tripping on roots and rocks was more of a rule than the exception throughout the evening.
At about 4:30 am we made it to a shelter for our extended rest period of approximately 2 hours. There were lifeless bodies strewn about the area and we ended up sleeping up above the shelter in a stand of trees. A quick change into dry clothes, took in some food and water and it was time for some sleep. With low humidity, sleep came much easier this year.
Time Duration: 10:54’02.0
Distance: about 31 miles
Saturday’s hike started by 7:30 am and I was anxious to start pounding out the miles. Almost three hours of sleep and fueled up I was ready to roll. I knew Saturday was an important day to pound the mileage out. I knew in the back of my mind that if I didn’t get near the 75 mile mark by the time I slept that finishing was potentially going to be out of my reach. I bolted out before the others, stopped for a nature call and transfixed my mind on the day.
Much to my surprise my feet and legs weren’t bothering me like last year. I fully expected to be sore and fatigued, but that wasn’t the case this year. I know full well that my neck surgery has left me feeling physically better than I have in years. The fact that I didn’t have any issues at this point set the tone for the rest of the challenge.
The heat of the day was certainly a factor and I stopped to get water and fuel up quite often throughout the day.
At mile 50 we stopped briefly for a photo and moved on dreading the upcoming hill climb. We pushed through to Cherry Run 3.5 miles past the 50 mile mark and took an hour siesta.
At this point Chris called it a day. The hike just wasn’t enjoyable for him at this point. Dave and I decided to move on with the goal of making it to the 75 mile mark before our rest.
After our Cherry Run siesta we made great time and I was feeling confident that we could reach our goal mileage. But as the miles continued it was obvious that my legs were tiring and my feet were beginning to blister. I had changed my shoes out with another pair I was carrying, but I neglected to tend to a couple hot spots. The blisters that were forming weren’t slowing me down but I knew that there was a chance they could be an issue.
As we walked into darkness my lazy, fatigued legs were causing me to stub my toes on the rocks. In PA there are Rock Gnomes that come out in the evenings to sharpen the rocks to try to screw with you.
About 10:30 pm we were treated with the most unexpected kind of trail magic, not food or drinks as you would expect. As we came up on a road crossing around mile 65, Anne and Chris were by the road greeting us with words of support. Heck, we only had 35 miles left! We can do this!!! What a great boost and surprise!
After a short visit we pushed on and blew out some more miles before Dave mentioned that getting to 70 would be a pretty good goal. It was getting late and we had been hiking for 14+ hours. Hey, a 40 mile day isn’t that bad. Our pace had slowed and we were tired. Was it really worth pushing on the extra 5 miles if I got hurt? NO! I am hard headed and would have pushed on and probably hurt myself in the process. I was physically fatigued and careless on a rocky trail and twisting my ankle was a certainty. I need to thank Dave for the suggestion. Thanks DAVE!
Just past the 70 mile mark we made our camp. Making camp entailed stumbling off the trail several feet and sleeping. A quick change of clothing and I was ready to sleep. My sleep was not what I wanted. My chosen spot under a hemlock was littered with roots and I was too tired to move to a better spot. At some point I awoke from my slumber and ate a few thousand calories and slugged down a liter of water.
Time Duration: 17:55’46.1
Time Duration: 10:44
Overall the hike was an amazing experience. The ability to push through pain and fatigue is at times difficult, but a necessity to finish. Success of the A-100 challenge is different for each person. Whether you hike 25 or 100, being part of the challenge and pushing yourself is admirable. Congrats to all that reached their goals.