My Thoughts: “Karl Meltzer: Made To Be Broken”

During my days as a marathoner, I often toyed with the idea of running an ultra or two, specifically ones of the 50-mile variety. But the time/effort dedication to training required when I was juggling so many other things kept me from doing so. Instead, I’ve enjoyed watching others accomplish things far greater than “mere” 50-milers on the national and world stage.

Enter Karl Meltzer and his quest to set the speed record for completing the Appalachian Trail. After two previous attempts, in 2008 and 2014, he hit the AT atop Katahdin in Maine in August 2016,  pointed himself south, started the clock at 5:00AM, and blew through the 2,188-mile trek in a record 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes, eclipsing famed ultrarunner Scott Jurek’s record set the previous year. (In a profound show of true sportsmanship, Jurek actually helped crew Meltzer’s attempt, and celebrated his competitor/friend’s accomplishment on Springer Mountain in Georgia along with Karl and the rest of the crew. Powerful stuff!)

His run at history was captured in the 2016 documentary, “Karl Meltzer: Made To Be Broken.”

The documentary, at 41 minutes, is short enough for the fidgety crowd, but long enough to give a true sense of the ups and downs of both the Trail and the effort required to complete it in such a compressed amount of time. (Note: The typical trip takes 4-6 months)

Speaking of compressed time, that was my sole complaint with the documentary. I wouldn’t have minded leaving a bit more in the film and a bit less on the cutting room floor. An additional ten or fifteen minutes of footage wouldn’t have taken much away from the pacing (no pun intended), in my opinion. But that’s just nitpicking and personal preference, to be honest. Overall, it was very well done.

If you appreciate the majesty and mystery of the AT as I do, and enjoy superhuman feats of endurance as I do, this film is well worth watching. It was funny, and serious; beautiful, and ugly (that big, deep blister!), motivating to this runner/hiker, and downright inspirational. If you hike, run, or just enjoy an intriguing documentary, check it out. If you have a Netflix subscription, it’s free. Indulge!

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Where Did A Month Go?

Slipped over here and realized that it’s been a month since my last post. Granted, lots has happened in the last month, and I did have some minor hiking-related news I could have shared, but in the interest of, well, interest (or lack thereof) I decided to skip a tedious “Look what I bought!” piece on the three-pack of 32oz. Sawyer water bottles I purchased to replace the functionally marginal 16oz. one that came with my Mini.

For regular readers: You’re welcome.

May is the most brutal month of the year for me, life-wise. Every year. So many birthdays, holidays, graduations, etc. Worse even than that torrid stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. By a long shot. Factor gearing up for a move into a new place into the equation, and May became a hiking disaster, salvaged only in part by my Lutsen 55 shake-out on the 3rd.

And here I sit, at the end of June, wondering how I can sneak in a quick trip to the AT before this month becomes July. Hikes in June so far? Zero. Again, unpacking after the move and juggling that around work and obligations has killed the hiking motivation/schedule.

And the blogging one, apparently.

At least I got a nice new storage spot for my gear:

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Maybe next Thursday I’ll grab some chips and candy bars and take a quick southbound on the AT from Thunder Ridge Overlook to see if I can drop a little spontaneous trail magic on some thru hikers…

A New “Follow”

As I’ve posted here in the past, every spring I pick out two people/couples to follow as they attempt their AT thru-hike. Or through-hike, for you language purists (When I see a “Drive-Through” at a fast food joint, I’ll change my thinking AND my spelling. Promise). On occasion I’ve had to switch “follows” as my chosen intrepid explorers meet with various trials that pull them from the trail before they even set foot in Tennessee.

This year marks a new experience for me. Now, before I comment, let me state for the record that I’m as much a believer in “Journal your own journal” as I am in “Hike your own hike.” Having said that, I’m a reader and, as such, I like to…read. And while one of the people I’m following is a wonderful journal keeper and is getting and giving so much on the trail, the other is the Cliff Notes version of “Cliff Notes for Hiking the AT.”

Seriously.

Many days he puts up nothing but miles hiked. His “long” entries are two sentences. On the practical side, he’s motivated, covering good miles and seems like he’ll have a legitimate shot at finishing.

But his journal is mind-numbingly boring. Assuming emptiness can be considered boring. Maybe he’s too focused on the mission? He seems to be very efficient in every way, which bodes well for him as a hiker. But the written record of his journey doesn’t capture the imagination of anyone outside his hiking bubble. Again, I’ll gladly defend his right to HYOH and JYOJ, but…I want to read exploits!

On my birthday (May 8th) I chatted briefly with a thru-hiker on the James River Foot Bridge, and managed to stumble across his journal yesterday quite by accident. He, like the other hiker I’m following, is a conscientious journal keeper, and I gleefully read the last two weeks of his adventures so I’d be caught up. Then, I swapped him into the fold, and the other hiker (I wish him well!) out…

So I’m still following two hikers. And I look forward to their continued success!