The Long Trail: Epilogue

It was back to work today after a shave and a haircut.  This experience was truly amazing, and I’m so thankful to have shared it with so many people.

I want to first thank my wife Amy.  Without her, none of this would have been possible.  She’s been standing by my side, and helping me “Go” since long before we ever headed to VT.  She always gives her best, and she is an inspiration.  We often talk about letting each other be “All the Kevin or Amy we can be”, and that often means putting yourself second.  She’s way better at it than I am, and I am so lucky to have her.

To all my friends and family, your constant support and encouragement played a big part in this run.  It’s a great feeling to know that people are rooting for you.  It’s humbling to have a cheering section, and I thrived on every message that you sent.  Your words meant so much, and I want to thank you for everything you did and continue to do.  I don’t think I would have made it without your help.  Besides supporting me, you also helped us raise $6,300 for a great cause.  Each of the three dental clinics in VT will be receiving $2100.  That is an amazing contribution and I know they are going to be floored.  I hope your generosity brings a big smile to your face.

So what did I learn?

Everything worthwhile is hard.  This is not a new thought, but it’s also not something you can just read and understand.  It’s OK if running or strenuous activity isn’t your thing.  If  there is something out there that you really want, and you are willing to work for it, then it is within reach.  The only thing stopping you, is you.  I’ve been successful in other areas of my life, but this was different.  I didn’t have to do this, and could have stopped at any time without much recourse.  There is something very powerful about setting a goal and giving it everything you have, win or lose.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.  Feeling the pure joy of pushing beyond perceived limits is something I’ll continue to chase.

The grass is not greener on the other side.  Like a lot of people, I complain about work and dream of greener pastures.  We’ve all heard the saying, “If you do something you’re passionate about, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I don’t think it’s true.  If you are giving your time and energy to a task, it’s going to be work, it’s going to be hard, and it’s not always going to be fun.  I realized this after 40 hours of running, 40 hours of doing what I’ve been daydreaming about for a year, 40 hours of doing what I’m passionate about (right now at least).  I turned to Amy and said, “This isn’t any better than being at the office, I could certainly find things to complain about, and there are problems, just different ones.”  Enjoy what you have and take chances to enjoy other things, but try not to spend your life wishing you were in someone else’s.  That life is full of it’s own issues.

Facing adversity breeds confidence which breeds responsibility.  I’ll take from this run not only more confidence in my running ability, but also confidence in being able to go after what I want.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be on the other side of the threshold that separates being good enough and being great.  With that comes the responsibility to give that effort in everything that I do.  Why bother with any task if you’re not going to give it your all?  I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and one accomplishment doesn’t make me a life expert, but knowledge is power.  I know that sense of pride can exist in everything that you put your heart into.

I may not have finished all 272 miles of The Long Trail, but I had nothing else to give and nothing left in the tank.  Technically, I fell short of my goal, but I did my very best, which is all anyone ever asks for.

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Day 10: Kevin’s Version

Finally, after 9 long days and over 180 miles we arrived at the final drop zone. Yesterday was long and painful. I was in bad shape when we went to bed last night and I was nervous about finishing. I woke up feeling surprisingly OK. I think the adrenaline was already going. Vanessa had had enough early wake up calls and was nearly unconscious when we got started. The first stretch was 11 miles to the final road crossing before the MA/VT border. It would be 3 more to the border, and then a soul crushing 3 back to the bus.

I started off feeling OK and then a few miles in I ran into a pack of scouts. Their leader called for them to move left to make room for me. Unprompted, and as if they knew what I was on the verge of accomplishing, they started cheering me on. I ran past in a full stride, high-fiving all the way down the line. Their shouts echoed behind me as I flew past with a big smile on my face. Cool.

I made it to the Seth Warner Shelter, and the reality of 17 miles on sore, blistered feet had set it. I was pretty much on fumes as I climbed the final hill to the sign. I looked around, snapped a pic, leaned over, and turned back. The skies opened up for my 3 mile “cool down” and I thanked my lucky stars I didn’t have to run in the famous VT mud.

Amy and Vanessa were waiting at the bus with Chariots of Fire playing and a nice sign. I almost fell with 20 yards to go, but made it safely to my girls.

I promised myself (and Amy) I’d take off the rest of August, anyone think I can?

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Day 10: Amy’s Version

The end of the road! I will let these 2 videos speak for themselves:

After this 10 day experience, there’s a few things left to be said in closing. First and foremost, is how proud I am of Kevin, and how much I respect him for being able to see this through. It made it easy to do whatever it took to support Kev when I saw how much he was willing to endure to meet his goal.

Second, thank you to friends and especially family for all of your support. It was so encouraging and rejuvenating to know that you were there with us, there in spirit, or reading along as we went mile by mile through Vermont. You kept us both going, and that is more important than you can know.

And lastly, thank you to everyone who donated to the dental clinics that Kev is supporting with this run. You’ve made a difference in a LOT of people’s lives. They may never thank you, but we do. From the bottom of our hearts.

And so, stay tuned, because I have no doubt that there are more, bigger and better adventures to come.

Day 9: Kevin’s Version

If you’re a runner or have heard runners talk about hitting the wall, that was today. About a half mile into a 22.6 straight shot, I crashed and had nothing left to give. The result was seven more hours of torture. There wasn’t much to look at, it wasn’t exciting, and it wasn’t fun. Today hurt worse than any of the previous days. I’m breaking down and the pain is searching for new, deeper areas to affect. I’m nervous about being able to finish the last 17 tomorrow.

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Day 9: Vanessa’s Version

I felt so bad to see my daddy have to go up mountains for 8 hours with no break. I didn’t want him to go but I knew he had to.

In the meantime my day consisted of painting pieces of cardboard and watching mini salamanders swim around. That was fun but I had a painting accident. The cup of paint was on the cardboard and the wind blew it all over my shirt. But lucky for me, Amy is an expert at a lot of things, so she got it out. A few minutes later a lady walked up and was like, “Can I see what your painting?” So Amy said sure. She came over, blah blah. Then she goes, “Did you rent this RV?” (our RV says 1-800-RV4rent in big red letters on the side) Haha. Good times.

When dad came back he limped up the path and I knew it wasn’t fun for him. I asked him to describe in three words how today felt. Long, pain, torture. He sat on the stairs and Amy and I kinda stared at him while he ate a peach. It made funny noises.

The rest if the day was quiet until we came up with disposable underwear. They are called Dispose-a-Pair, so daddy looked it up and found out that they already exist. They are called Onederwear. Bummer.

Day 9: Amy’s Version

Today, Kev had to run a 22 mile stretch, and there was no way for me to get to him. The biggest concern this morning was that he have enough food and drink with him for what could potentially be an 8 hour run. He filled up his camelback, which holds a little over a gallon, with his pink carb drink, as well as an extra plastic water bottle to use during the first hour or two and then get rid of. Here’s what the food looked like:

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Vanessa and I had a relatively uneventful day…had breakfast with Kev’s parents, did a little painting, and checked out the salamanders in the pond by our campsite. Since the pickup point was just down the road from where we were staying, we were able to spend most of the day “home”.

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Kev was hurting pretty bad when we got him. We’ve been nursing him back to health, and hopefully he’ll be able to rally for the final 17 tomorrow. It’s been an incredible experience to be here and to be a part of such a challenging endeavor, but I know that we are both looking forward to eating normal dinners, seeing our dog, and sleeping on a level surface.

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Day 8: Kevin’s Story

Yesterday my parents and Vanessa Came up to join our adventure. It was a huge mental boost to have my family come up and support us, and Vanessa’s constant running commentary is a great distraction. I had to explain to her this morning the theory of grease lightning where I cover myself in Vermont’s own Bag Balm, in order to reduce friction on areas likely to chafe and blister. She’s fun to have on the bus.

Today however, was about unlikely heroes. Whenever a championship team makes a deep run in the playoffs, there is always an unsung hero who steps up big in a clutch spot. Sometimes it’s an unknown bench player, or maybe it’s a crafty veteran. Either way, they are in it for the team and prepared to sacrifice anything for a chance at glory. After a quick 5 mile section this morning, my blisters on my Achilles had had enough. Every step was torture, and I thought the last 60 miles would be in doubt without a solution.

One of the last items I loaded onto the RV before we left was the shoes I trained in. They were put into service back in April and got me through my 1st ultra. They carried me over 400 miles and served me well, but had seen better days. They were considered past their prime and didn’t expect to see any action on this trip but they had all the experience, and they remained ready down at the end of the bench should they get the call.

Wouldn’t you know it, after 130+ miles in two pairs of new shoes, that call finally came in. Before a 17 mile afternoon session, I called down to the bullpen and at the same time called for the scissors. I handed both to Doc (Amy) and told her to make them work. Doc sliced open the backs and cut away enough space for my blisters to breathe. I laced them up and took them for a quick spin. I felt like Lt. Dan when he got his new legs! The afternoon session up and over Stratton mountain went well and I can smell the finish.

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