Where’s Karl?

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Karl Meltzer has let go of his AT Record attempt (for now) and is waiting for his injured shin to heal before continuing. I received this update from him this morning:

Well Buzz we have some issues. My Tendentious is coming around, and I hope to get back on the trail by Saturday or Sunday. This (trip) really is intense, nothing like going every day all day. It’s my next new step into the world of adventure running. I’m chalking this one up to a learning experience and it’s important to get it done no matter how long it takes, mostly to learn logistics for the 2009 assault number 2. I’m excited to start over next year already.

Thanks so much for the shoes too! I really liked the way the Fireblades ran on the tough terrain.

After looking back at the first 14 days on the trail, there is no reason I can’t really crush it here. It just has to all click. Trenchfoot caught me by surprise, that one i overlooked. It was absolutely impossible to keep feet dry the first 10 days. Even after that, i still got them wet with a few mandatory water crossings. I am hoping Saturday is my first day out. Going over Stratton Mountain and Cheryl is gonna go with me to make sure I’m Ok. I’ll take poles too, to be a bit safer. It’s a mandatory 17 miles, so I’ll take it real easy, start real early so i make it in before dark. That day will be the real tester…we’ll see.

Thanks again for everything, perhaps Cheryl and I will stop in for a beer on our way back sometime in early
October.

Ciou for now, Karl

Karl is doing great. His attitude is perfect: he does all he can do, and chills about what he can’t do. He’s not going to nab the AT Record this year … you can’t proceed with Anterior Tibialis Tendonitis; it’s a common injury (I got the exact same thing when I did the Colorado Trail), and if one runs or walks with it, one risks a stress fracture (“shin splint”). And a New Englander told me a few days after Karl started his Attempt, “There is no way anyone can set a record on the AT this year. There’s been too much rain. It’s a sea of mud back there.”

So there it is. Karl did great, got stopped by poor conditions which led to a common injury, and he’s already gearing up for next year even as he hopes to finish the route this year. If the AT Record was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing!

Karl continued with a phone call this morning:

I‘m hanging in there, but I’m not going to hurt myself. I feel good, I’m motivated to get out there, but gotta wait for the leg to come around. I’ve let go of the Record – it’s out the door – but kind of like to get it done. See every bit of it, so I can learn for next year. One thing bums me out: the injury is bad, but the rest of me is bomber; I’ve been eating a ton … eggs, sausage, you name it, my stomach is good, and I never lost energy and motivation.

I just couldn’t keep the feet dry. In Maine we would hit a mud bog, and there’s no way around it; Matt and I would just wade in up to our shins. Did that like every half mile. We’d get up before dawn, come to a river, and couldn’t see the bottom, so we’d stop and say, “what’s up with this?”, then just wade in; we always made it across, but it was tiring.

The Fireblades were terrific on wet rock; I was really surprised. They were a huge help. Mahoosuc Notch, it was just retarded, couldn’t believe it, over and under huge wet boulders. We’d do days of 15,000′ vert; it was like Hardrock but more technical. Western States is a hiway compared with this.

I can’t wait to get back out there. We’d encounter hikers on the Trail, and 1/3 of them knew who I was and what i was doing; they are really tuned in. They’d say “Go, go!

Backcountry.com is the primary sponsor of Karl’s Attempt, and they have really stepped up. The primary website is whereskarl.com; a very thorough blog. The people at Backcountry.com not only provided financial and logistical support, but they have personally become very involved; many individual employees are with Karl back East, offering full personal as well as professional support, and they are really walking their talk!

In closing, there is a good reason it took Andrew 3 tries to set the current record – the AT is the real deal, and as Rick Trujillo is fond of saying, “The mountains don’t care”. They are bigger than we are, which is why we value so much testing ourselves in their kingdom. Karl is a self-proclaimed “mountain runner”, not a road runner, and so to encounter tough conditions is part of this great game. He brings honor to himself and this Trail with his excellent attempt, his exemplary attitude, and my guess is, with his return next year.

(small Photo Gallery here; all AT pix courtesy bc.com)

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5 Responses to “Where’s Karl?”

  1. George Z Says:

    You don’t know your limits until you find them. And when you find them, you will have new limits to find.

  2. Derrick Says:

    Great report Buzz and fantastic job Karl! It puts it all in perspective reading about the conditions and comparisons to other trails/races. That much mud and rain is bound to take it’s toll on you. I am so impressed with Karl’s attitude about continuing and learning about the trail this year for a future attempt. It’s as much, if not more, impressive than if he’d breezed through it and gotten the record on the first time. Congrats Karl on a great attempt, wonderful adventure and positive outlook!

  3. Buzz Says:

    August 28 Update: Karl is halfway done in terms of projected days. He has 1,395 miles to cover in 23.5 days to break the record, which would be 59.3 MPD. He is really putting his head down now, moving forward, in spite of a significant shin injury and that the Record appears to be un-doable due to the 4 days off. I agree strongly with Derrick above; he is exhibiting a fantastic attitude, showing his love and dedication to the sport.

  4. Mark Tanaka Says:

    It’s probably easier to do this when the record’s in sight. Right attitude, truly inspiring. I think a lot of us are drawing on his determined example as we tackle our shorter, smaller endurance challenges this summer and fall.

  5. Karl Meltzer - AT « Adventure Running Says:

    […] caused him to favor one leg which contributed to an Anterior Tibialus injury which necessitated a 4 day layoff to let it heal. This is not a soft record; one can no more take a 4 day break and still get it than one can stop […]

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