Karl is on his 37th day on the Appalachian Trail. A few of the big questions have been answered:
Q: Will he break the record?
A: No. A very rainy New England summer meant wet feet which led to bad blisters which 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 and eat a watermelon during a Marathon and still win.
Q: Will he quit if he can’t get the record?
A: No again. Pre-attempt speculation arose on this point, because experienced multi-day runners knew how hard it would be to nail this the first try, and since Karl is a very successful ultrarunner, would he bag it and get out of sight at first sign of failure? Karl is soldiering on, putting his head down, respecting and honoring the sport and the Trail.
Q: Is Karl tough enough?
A: You’d better believe it.
Personal notes from his Pacer/Crew, Billy:
“You wouldn’t believe how bad his feet are. This guy is suffering so much, yet everyday he gets up and walks out the door. I can hardly stand to watch.”
“He never had to take care of himself or his feet; he’d get up and hammer a 100 miler, then recover afterward. This doesn’t work in a trail this long. He’s eating well now, eating burrito’s and hamburgers during the day which really help recovery, and we’re taping up his feet. He’s gone from a size 42 La Sportiva Fireblade up to a size 45 in the Lynx.“
“People who’ve never been here don’t understand the AT. It’s rocks, rocks, rocks, up and down, up and down … the PCT is nothing compared with this; Hardrock is almost easier terrain.”
“He wants to finish this off in good style. Maybe do the Great Smokies in one day, maybe go big on the last day. He could finish the AT in 51 days 13 hrs, which would be exactly the time over the existing record that he had to take off because of the injury.”
This reminds of Leadville 2004, when Matt Carpenter was blazing the course, only to have his quads totally shut down. Rather than drop, he hiked the entire last 22 miles to the finish. One of the best mountain runners in the world was being passed by everyone, yet he put his ego on the shelf and walked it on in. Then came back the next year and killed it. Matt earned about as much respect for finishing ’04 as he did for demolishing the Course Record the next year.
I feel the same about Karl. He’s getting it done right now, going out every day for 50+ days putting one foot in front of the other, with no fame or glory waiting at the end. This is what the sport is about, and he’s showing his class.
It will be interesting to see what he shows us next year.
The Where’s Karl blog is updated a few times every day, with photos, reports, and reader comments.
Mountainrunning.com has a great summary and background on the AT Record and Trail, as well as interviews with David Horton, Flyin’ Brian, and Traildog (Andrew Thompson).