Friday, July 29, 2011

Life After the AT

Living the Dream

In one way it is hard to believe that it has been only a little over 2-weeks since I finished the AT -- in another, it feels like a lifetime has past.  I knew that assimilating back into "real" life would be difficult, but I didn't bargain on how difficult it would be.  The first few days back were very hard.  I had found so much comfort in the simplicity of life on the Trail.  My only job and purpose for 71-days was to cover miles (then get up and do the same thing over and over).  I trained myself early on to forget about the life I was leaving behind and consciously ingrained the mantra of "This is who I am and this is what I do."  I truly became Gobbler, the AT thru-runner/hiker.  Turning off my AT-mentality once we returned home was difficult and not something I even wanted to do.  Only days after finishing, I yearned to be back on the Trail.  I was depressed and I wanted my simple purpose back -- even with the mosquitoes, mud, rocks, hunger, thirst, and pain.  I missed our stinky tent, eating unhealthy amounts of Little Debbies, going to bed dirty, growing a beastly beard, bathing in creeks, and living out of our car.

I can honestly say that I am finally getting back to a sense of normalcy.  It's been a slow process, but I've been thrusted back into the responsibilities of daily life -- ready or not, life as I knew it beckons.  "Normal" is not what I am seeking though as I cannot and will not forget all those priceless lessons I learned on the Appalachian Trail this summer.  I don't know that I will ever be able to completely impart what I did actually learn, but here is somewhat of a list:
  1. You can get by with much less than you think you need.
  2. You can ALWAYS do much more than you think you can.
  3. You can live on Little Debbies, pizza, and maltodextrin (I consumed 48 lbs. of the stuff) . . . but you had better be doing some serious miles.  I did not lose ANY weight after running 2,181 miles -- I think I had the fueling pretty dialed-in!
  4. Hygiene is over-rated . . . but boy does a shower feel great when you've not had one for 4/5 days!
  5. Being alone in your own thoughts for 10-14 hours a day is good for your soul.
  6. I can't believe how much my wife loves me.
  7. I can't believe how much I love my wife.
  8. People are important.  As much as I love being in nature, people and relationships are our most important natural resource.
  9. We need the Lord in our lives.  I know where my strength comes from and it is not from me.  I praise God for His protection and guidance on this adventure.
  10. A sense of purpose in life is important.  I am glad to have a job and life (along with a bed, microwave, and air-conditioning) to come back to.
So what is next?  I'm not sure for a while.  Right now I'm simply focused on surviving daily life and preparing for the 4th Cheat Mtn Moonshine Madness.  I forgot how time consuming directing a race is.

Many folks have asked if I would do it again.  The answer even surprises me a bit.  It is an emphatic, YES! . . . but I'm not sure if I'll ever have the opportunity.  I would love to do the AT again, but even more I would love to do the PCT.  It's good to have dreams, but for now I'm comfortable where I am.


  1. Excellent post/advice Adam, thanks for sharing the list!

  2. I have enjoyed each of your posts throughout your adventure. This is my favorite! Thanks for your honesty and advice.

  3. Love the top 10 Adam...I can't imagine anything quite like almost 2,200 miles of trail running to put life in perspective, huh? It's been great following along the adventure...can't wait to hear a lot more in person next time we end up in the same place!

  4. Thanks Adam for the list of learnings. They're good reminders for all of us. Hope to see you soon.

  5. Adam,
    Congrats on the AT and congrats on taking some time to reflect and share with us. Pretty amazing accomplishment and some great nuggets for the rest of us to chew on. Would love to hear more about it at Hellgate in December - or sooner if you think you will venture to the midwest before then.

  6. Hey Adam, just checking in after 6 weeks playin' in the mtns. CONGRATULATIONS on completing the AT! Wasn't it awesome?! One thing "they" don't tell ya: post-hike readjustment is the hardest part!

    AT '94

  7. What a bucket crammed full of things learned. Isn't it great to learn something along the way while having the time of your life. I know Kadra shares that same list.

  8. I was wondering how "normal" was coming along. Congrats on compiling your thoughts so efficiently!

  9. "Normal" is coming along . . . unfortunately I don't believe I was ever that good in that state. I'll settle for abnormal if running again didn't feel so hard!

    I agree with Sue's assessment completely, "One thing "they" don't tell ya: post-hike readjustment is the hardest part!"