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Sunset Fields to James River Footbridge

We ran the route from Sunset Fields to James River Footbridge. And back. 35 miles. Over 8,000 feet of climbing.

“You’re walking like you just had a really good time.”

Oh cool. Not only did I not just have “a really good time.” Now I’m also walking like a whore. That’s excellent.

It’s fine. It’s not like I can date anyway. With my body in the condition it’s in. You can’t explain to a non-runner the chafing he’s going to see in places.

When we started this run from Sunset Fields. Before sunrise. I figured I’d just turn around at 10 or 12 miles in. And be content with 22 miles.

So I wasn’t super concerned about the rain and storms rolling through.

It was fine that we were soaked through almost immediately.

I was only gonna be out there a few hours.

The problem is. This route lulls you into a false sense of security.

On the way out, the trails are beautiful. And smooth. And there is some climbing.

So you keep saying, this isn’t going to be bad coming back. We’re going to get lots of recovery breaks between climbs.

And you keep joking about turning back early. But you’re feeling really good.

And before you know it, you’re 17 miles in. And feeing confident.

Fucking confidence.

Tiny Brazilian was excited. Just so freaking excited. To see the James River.

“It’s so beautiful! Isn’t it beautiful, Sunshine??”

It’s ok.

“You don’t love it??”

Just shhhh. I’m just trying to manage my anxiety right now.

And Beautiful Beastie said we’d just go the little bit further to see the ‘largest foot bridge across a body of water on the Appalachian Trail.’

Because normal people get excited about shit like that.

I just try to go to my happy place and pretend it isn’t there.

Large structure next to James River Foot Bridge

I didn’t take a picture. Because meh. But also, it’s shit like that thing spanning the water that raises my terror level.

And despite being soaked just all the way through.

Because this is what we were running in…

I’d run through my entire 2 liters of water on the way down.

So I refilled my pack with the water running off the side of the mountain.

Because I’m one with nature.

Ate my uncrustable.

And we started the climb back out.

And this is where shit starts to fall just all the way apart.

Because all of those recovery spots? Of downhills I was anticipating? Those were gone. I’m not sure what I climbed up on the way out. But I wasn’t going down at any point on the way back.

And the smooth, blissful trails we ran on the way out? Nope. While we were screwing around at that damn bridge. Some asshole had brought in just a shit ton of rock. And thrown it all over every piece of the AT.

Sunset Fields to James River Foot Bridge and back on a rainy day

By mile 20, my back was becoming unreasonably angry about climbing.

By mile 22, it was full on spasming under my left shoulder blade.

But mile 24, tiny shards of glass had taken over my shoes.

And a rock. There was a rock in my shoe that I spent a solid 10 miles trying to move around with my toes. So it would stop cutting into me.

And yes. I could have stopped. And gotten it out.

But I was 25 miles into a 35 mile run. And I was running on shards of glass. If I had taken off my shoe to get out a rock. There was almost no way I would have had the emotional strength to put the shoe back on.

So I lived with it.

Approximately every mile. I said, Why. In fuck. Am I still climbing.

With about 8 miles to go. My back was in full revolt.

I found a giant downed tree. And just laid myself over it. To stretch out my back.

And my god the bliss.

If I wasn’t on the verge of starvation. I probably would have just stayed there. For two or three days.

But supplies were running low. And I was desperate to be not wearing shoes anymore.

So I continued climbing.

And the bliss my back had felt on that log almost immediately disappeared.

And I was getting really fucking angry at this trail.

Like, just why. Why are we still fucking climbing????

And my feet.

If I could have stabbed someone in the throat. So they could have experienced the pain with me. I absolutely would have.

Or I would have just held the knife to their throat while making them carry me out of this bullshit.

With five miles to go I was completely out of water. Again.

I drank four entire liters of water on that run. And didn’t pee once.

With four miles to go, I’d eaten my last food provision.

So when I got to the parkway. To cross over and finish up the last couple of miles. I was about a quarter of a mile into the trail on the other side. When my brain said, hey dumbass. Why don’t you get off this rock covered trail and just take the fucking parkway back.

So I turned around.

Because I’m compliant.

And forced myself to run. Actually run. The last two miles to my car.

And it hurt. But at least I didn’t have rocks tearing into the shards of glass already fully embedded in my feet. And there was zero climbing. So my back could calm the fuck down.

And this sight y’all.

Blue Ridge Parkway at Sunset Fields

That was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in all of my life.

And when I finally made it. To that tiny orange speck.

I took off my shoes. I downed the bottle of water I brought. And I tore into these.

Work Boyfriend put those in my birthday bag on Friday. Because she’s a fucking genius.

And by some miracle. I actually put them in my car.

And they were the most delicious food I’ve ever had in my life.

And today I’m endlessly thankful to be working from home.

Because walking is almost an impossibility.

And I’m legitimately concerned about cross country practice tonight.

Because shoes are not an option.

And also because fuck running.

And I’m definitely gonna need more neosporin. With the pain reliever in it. Just a giant Costco case of pain relieving neosporin.

We’re gonna do the route again. This winter.

Y’all should come.

Because I’m gonna need extra snacks.

And someone to carry me out the last 10 miles.


Just reading and writing and running and looking for my happy place.


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