Saturday, December 14, 2019

Appalachian Trail: The Stories A Little Hiking Speed Chart Can Tell

I was thinking about how I was feeling while I was on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, most of my memories were positive before Harper's Ferry, WV.  I started wondering if I could link my feelings with how I felt physically.  I decided to look at a plot of my average speed figuring the better I felt physically, the faster I moved.  This, of course, is not perfect since terrain also affects hiking speed.  Below is a chart of my average speed on the AT.
The first twelve hundred miles of my hike my average remained fairly steady between 1.5 and 2.5 MPH (2.4 to 4.0 km/hr).  There is even a slight upward trend between the third week of June and the third week of July.  Then the bottom drops out.

The left blue line is when I arrive at Port Clinton, PA.  It's after port Clinton when the rocks really became bad and Rocksylvania earned it's name.  I expected this drop since the terrain really slowed me down but I never expected the drop to last.  I kept waiting for the terrain to get easier and my hiking speed to go back up.  This chart tells me it never did.

I think the left blue line is also when I started to lose my enthusiasm.  The difficulty of the terrain and the time I'd spent on the trail began wearing on me emotionally.  Several things happened in this section that hurt my morale.  I got separated from people I liked.  A reunion with someone I'd met in my first week fell through and never happened.  A reunion with a Camino friend never materialized. I began making bad decisions about where I should stop. This, combined with the damn rocks, slowed me down and made for some darker feelings.

The right blue line is when I reached Lincoln, NH.  The White Mountains caused my speed to drop once again.  This was mostly terrain but I was also feeling my body not recovering.  My legs often felt just as bad in the morning as they'd felt the night before.  I didn't expect the terrain to get better for at least one hundred and fifty miles into Maine and I doubt my speed would have ever recovered to what I was doing before Port Clinton.

So there you have it.  To the left of the left blue line I have happy memories.  To the right of the left blue line my memories grow darker and more dreary.  To the right of the right blue line my dreariness combined with a more physical breakdown.  Love what a good chart can do to explain things.

One last thing.  Below is a picture of my custom insoles.  The left is one I wore on the AT, the right one is a new one for comparison.  While the worn out insoles didn't cause me any problems, I think I should have gotten new insoles in Harper's Ferry.

AT insole on the left, new one on the right.


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