Since the Appalachian Trail adventure ended in August, much has happened for this ol' Spice. My knee injury from months of hiking on the AT has reduced greatly over these months of rest. While it has not entirely recovered, the grating and popping has stopped and the pain is nearly all gone. My latest base-camp is a little-used hunting shack on family-owned land, which allows me plenty of space for outdoor activity and access to miles of nature trails. Returning to one piece of pristine nature every evening to watch the wildlife has allowed me a renewed appreciation for getting to know one place better. I get to see how the leaves change color with the season, eventually falling to the ground. How the migrations of waterfowl change daily and the activities of other animals are beginning to reflect the coming of winter in their actions. The white-tailed deer are beginning their usual autumn antics of rubbing velvet off antlers, making social scrapes in the dirt, and sparring amongst the bachelor groups. The bears are eating up the remaining acorns as they attempt to fatten up before returning to their dens for the winter. Turkeys scratching the soil and grasses to expose seeds and other foods, in an attempt to gain any extra nutrition they can before they are limited by the coming snow. Even my neighbors, a skunk and a few red squirrels, are much more a bustle lately. Intent to wrap up their harvesting and winterizing of their homes, as I have been too. Alas, as much as I enjoy living in one place, I am constantly striving to do something more.
In need of rebuilding savings for the coming adventures planned with Packing It Out, I recently began working as a field marketer for the Clif Bar organization. This entails going to big events such as bike races, triathlons, and marathons to sample and promote Clif food products at the associated expos and providing products during the races. This gig allows for a bit of travelling throughout the beautiful midwest and rebuilds those much needed adventure funds, as well as providing many opportunities to network about Packing It Out's goals.
Recently, with my knee healing up well, I tackled a bucket-list endeavour of running a marathon. Upon finishing one and feeling inspired by the great folks I met, I challenged myself to another just two weeks later. The first event was the Birkie Trail Run near Hayward, WI, a distance of 25.8 trail miles with ridiculous amounts of elevation gain and loss throughout the course. It was a sunny and beautiful fall day and I chose to break out the Luna Leadville Trail sandals for another distance event. After finishing up on the Appalachian Trail, I had taken a hiatus from them to let my feet heal up and just recently had begun using them on training runs for this event. The day was a success in that I completed the race, meeting many new folks along the way, and finished in fifth place for my age group (18-29). Not bad for a first timer and wearing sandals too.
The second marathon was the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon held in Luck, WI. When the time came, I felt surprisingly prepared and excited about the run. It is invigorating to come into a running event wearing the reliable Luna Leadville's once more, with my Granite Gear Hip Wing holding gels, and a daypack loaded down with Clif food products to pass out. The intent was to wander around meeting people and giving them free samples after the run. Everybody wants to meet the guy giving out free food. It makes for a fun adventure in those moments leading up to, and away from, the already exciting endeavor of participating in such an event. Finishing the run third in my age group and within 2 minutes of my goal time of 4 hours, left me thrilled, although exhausted.
Organizers and promoters of the Gandy Dancer Marathon, Eric Olson and Ben Jonjak, generously hosted me for the weekend of the event. During my stay, I learned a bit more about the area and the Gandy Dancer Trail itself. I discovered that a portion of the trail runs in conjunction with the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Following the event, it seemed only practical that I stick around and help to pack out any trash left behind on the trail. The event volunteers had done a great job of cleaning up, although we did find some trash and were glad we were there to Pack It Out.
With the new job and all the running events, life has been quite busy and I seem to have found a solid setup for building funds and networks that can benefit Packing It Out's next big adventure. Happy trails until next time! -Spice