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Day 136: A Marathon Finish

Posted by on September 17, 2015

September 13, 2015
Junction of Two Creeks past Cathedral Pass (2450.8) to Steven’s Pass – Skykomish (2476.0)
25.2 PCT miles
2510.6 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 5,712 ft, – 6,957 ft

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Throughout this hike I’ve appreciated the contrast and comparison of hiking the PCT to running a marathon. Since the PCT is about 2,600 miles, and a marathon is about 26 miles, this particular comparison has worked well. I’ve only run one full marathon in my life, the Chicago Marathon back in 2008, and I can’t say I ran it particularly well. But my body and mind went through certain stages that I haven’t forgotten to this day, and to some extent, they have mirrored quite well the sensations I’ve experienced on the PCT. Being around mile 2450 on the PCT feels remarkably similar to being on mile 24.5 of a marathon. Of course, if this were a marathon the bizarre physical and mental sensations we’re experiencing would last for another 15 minutes or so, but out here we get to experience them for another 10 days. If you love running marathons but are looking for something more, might I suggest a 5 month thru-hike of the PCT.

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For some reason, denial perhaps, we woke this morning feeling oddly positive about how manageable today was going to feel. We somehow rationed that the 4 “climbs” we had were all significantly milder than the previous day’s climbs and that today was in fact “rolling” and nothing more. We began this morning with a nice long ascent up what I thought was Deception Pass, but now appears to be called Piper Pass on my maps. Here is the first parallel between the end of a marathon and our current state. As I try to think back on our day and the various passes, as they turned out to be, that we went over, everything is a blur. I can barely think straight enough to write a full sentence, let alone remember the details of our day. Suffice it to say that each of the day’s climbs were significant and not at all “easy”. We made it to Mama Bear’s car at the bottom of Steven’s Pass ski resort, but I was limping and delusional and stressed out over the idea of hiking back out tomorrow for another 5 day stretch, this time with rain.

Image 7Image 4Rather than spend hours trying to remember the details of today’s hike, let me go back to the marathon comparison. There is a video on the internet that you can look up of a woman finishing a race and her body just completely gives out on her. She tries to stand multiple times, and even tries to crawl to the finish line, but even though her mind wants to finish, her body is done. I keep thinking about that woman, and my own last couple miles of the Chicago marathon, and thinking how well I can currently relate. I know I will make it to Canada, but my body is only going to arrive there kicking and screaming. I’m sure not everyone feels this way at the end of their thru-hike, in fact Pickles is in a much healthier state, but this is my experience.

Image 11Image 10Today my feet ached, my stomach hurt, my body had trouble regulating its temperature, I had less of an appetite, and I had to keep from crying at the very thought of rain. I know these are probably all signs that I should throw in the towel and stop hiking, but I truly do not see that as an option. After how far we’ve come, I’ll do anything to get to the end. Instead, we are going to re-work our plan for the final 200 miles. Perhaps a bit more rest and shorter days will get me there in one piece. As long as this marathon metaphor holds true, the end of this hike just might be the greatest high I will ever experience in my entire life.

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13 Responses to Day 136: A Marathon Finish

  1. brewella deville

    You’ve come so far. You can do this. This stranger believes in you.

  2. Wes

    Hang in there! You and Pickles make a great team. I’ve been impressed with your organization, planning, and positive attitude as I’ve been binge reading your PCT blog the last couple of weeks and loving every word of it. You’re writing is very easy to read, which doesn’t mean simple. You pack in great descriptions of sights, terrain, conditions and emotions into very few words. I feel like you’re sitting there at your campsite telling me about your day (which I guess you are as you write it!). I’m contemplating a thru hike someday, although I wish I was young and unencumbered, which would make it much more possible. Just remember, you’re Living the Dream (for many of us, too!), and are amidst beautiful wilderness that many will never get to experience. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other!.

    • Rochelle

      Thank you for your kind words, and we’re so happy to hear you’ve been enjoying the blog. These days, it is just as therapeutic for me to write it as it is for others to read. All we gotta do is walk!

  3. kelli

    This blog broke my heart. I told your Mama that I just want to get on a plane, fly to where you are, pick you up and carry you the rest of the way! It’s okay to add a day or two if you need to. Be good to yourself. I can feel how you are feeling and it rattles my core.

    The birth of your first child will be the highest of all the highs you will ever experience in your lifetime. Nothing will ever surpass my highest of highs, the day you were born.

    I Love you and I know you’re in good hands with Don.


  4. Dick Schulze

    I’ve run 12 marathons but nothing like what you’re doing now. Awesome!

  5. Claire Kennedy

    Oh dear. Here it is the 21st with no new post from you since the 17th (for the 13th). So worried about you, your health, your spirits; your frustration and sadness is palpable. You’ve come so fa;r but you really must do what is best for your poor feet. Funny that Kelli commented on wanting to carry you the rest of the way; for a moment I thought “I wonder if Pickles could just carry her piggyback!” Silly, I know; but we all want you to be able to cross that finish line, not for us, but for you and your months of “blood sweat and tears”. Whatever happens you are my new heroes!

    Chicago Marathon! Yes! I can identify! (ran it back in ’86 when it was still called America’s Marathon). What I cannot fathom is doing It nearly everyday for 5 months! It has been a long summer for you. I’m sure when you look back on it, some parts “seem like only yesterday” and other parts seem “a lifetime ago”.

    Hope all is well.

    • Rochelle

      Hi Claire, so sorry for the dramatic pause in blog postings! We had NO reception or wifi in any of Northern Washington. Anyway, all is well and I hope you enjoy the coming blogs. Thanks again for all the support!

  6. LD

    The “Bear” office is pulling for you. Stay strong and safe!

  7. Juli

    This is your first post I’ve read….ever. I will go back and read more for sure. But, I really resonated with the marathon metaphor. I am 53 yo and last month, in 2 weeks time, my husband and I ran 2 marathons and backpacked 11 days in between. I know your pain…but I also know what it’s like at the finish. I don’t know you, and I do…what I do know is, you can do this! Make that be your mantra…I can do this! I AM doing this! And you will. Yes, you may have to slow it down a bit, but why not! Pretty soon, you will be looking back on your days on the trail and missing them. You’re perseverance is an inspiration….even when you feel,weak and want to quit, you have kept going, and now you are so close! You can do this! You’ve been doing this, you are doing this, and you’ll finish! See you at the finish line! Juli

    • Rochelle

      Your comment just got me so pumped up, haha! Thanks for the motivating words…and you’re right, we can, we are, and we will 🙂 Ejoy the rest of the blog!

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