All Appalachian Trail thru-hikers measure their day not by the amazing views or wonders of nature they enjoyed, but by miles hiked. I remember the pride I felt when I broke that magic 20-mile mark and managed to push myself 21.6 miles. If you were to eves drop on thru-hikers at night, you would hear terms like, “that was a killer 16 today” or “tomorrow should be an easy 7 into town” instead of, “did you see that view from Saddleback?”.
The most satisfying day for a thru-hiker is a zero-day. No hiking, zero miles walked…a zero-day. Often zero days were a reward for persevering through bad terrain or weather. Often they were taken in towns when there was hot coffee or cold chocolate milk available. Sometimes you took a zero-day if you found a shelter or campsite with a good water source and your pack had extra food.
For most thru-hikers, zero days are special. They are an occasional retreat from brutal grind of hiking 20-mile days for 6-days in a row, week after week. Month after month.
The past few months have been an “off trail” brutal grind. As an escape, I had been running 3 to 4 times a week through the dark winter. Rising at 4:30 am to get a run in.
I treated myself with a few zero days this past month. 30 to be exact. Zero running miles in the month of April. It is the longest stretch in over a year that I have gone without running. I have no shame in taking a break, because the key to success and staying committed to something is knowing when to push yourself and when to give yourself a break. April was a well deserved zero day…and now I’m ready to get back to it.
This weekend I ran in the Mohonk Preserve Pflaz Point Trail Challenge in New Paltz. It’s a 10-mile trail race through the preserve. Thanks to my running partner, seen below in hazard yellow, I finished in a vertical position in 1:46.49 and had some fun while doing it.
The second of my summer running books was Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run. Once again, the author successfully managed to motivate me to make a change in my life. Eat & Run challenged me to rethink my approach to eating and running. Jurek highlights his success in transforming his diet and mindset to take better care of himself mentally and physically and subsequently improve his performance.
Throughout Eat & Run the author describes the circumstances of his life and how he came to achieve the unparalleled success as an ultra marathoner through becoming a vegan and overcoming the mental challenges he faces as an ultra runner. In spite of routinely accomplishing super human feats by running 100-miles in a race as if it was a walk in the park, Jurek shows that he is human after all. Throughout the book, he describes the sad but courageous fight his mother had with MS and the impact that her life had on his. He also recounts the lasting lessons his strict and unwavering father taught him, like “Sometimes you just do things!”.
I was surprised how Jurek, one of the most decorated long distance runners, has the same thoughts I do when I run my mortal 6-miles in the morning. Scott does a great job speaking to the reader no matter if they are new to running or an experienced marathoner.
Again, the greatest compliment I can give the author is that because of his book, I was motivated to improve my diet. Eat & Run does not preach my way or the highway…merely that these techniques work for me and maybe some of them can work for you. Scott also peppers the book with some of his favorite vegan recipes and some training words of wisdom that all runners should heed.