I think this trip is a good way to close out my 60 blog. It was a test to see where I am at this particular point in time, of what I can expect on the degradation curve as I progress through my 60s. I didn't quite know what to expect. Earlier I had entertained the notion of trying to break my 36 hour time from 1999, but I stepped back to reality after looking at my running log....what few entries there were in it. Although I've had some good trips this year, probably one of the most active hiking seasons I've ever had, I also realize that to break into the realm of anything beyond fastpacking actually requires training for such, and to run the Wonderland I really needed to, well, run. So I began my trip, as usual in a condition of circadian desynchronosis ("jet lagged", having just come in from London the night before), with an open mind, but open with only 3 days of food, not knowing where I would need to stop or how much rest I would need. I figured correctly that I could do the toughest part of the trail, the first 35 miles from Longmire to Mowich Lake, on the first day. After that I hoped to capitalize on this "head start" to forge past White River on day 2, possibly stopping to rest at any number of places all the way to Nickel Creek. That would leave me well under 3 days and I could chronicle my trek in hours, not days. Wonderland Trail FKT (SD)/U•
•Wonderland Trail Fastest Known Time (Senior Division)/Unsupported...there is no such thing but, hey, why not make up and then establish your own record, even if it is tongue in cheek? This will have to wait for maybe next year and for appropriate training, the kind of training I would do were I to resume ultrarunning. But let's get beyond that and back to reality, the reality of a 60 year old trying to cover 93 miles with 22,000 feet of elevation gain and loss over 3 days maximum, or more if I wanted to be really hungry. For once I packed the appropriate amount of food with only a few bars left over. My slight stumbling block came in the form of sleep deprivation, as on day 2, from Mowich Lake to White River, I could feel the tiredness (not muscle fatigue) creeping into my very being with thoughts of sacking out next to the trail for a quick nap. At least with age should come wisdom so I recognized that I really needed to shorten my day and indeed stop at White River after only 25 miles and get as much sleep as my bod needed. Only then could I have a decent third day even if it was the "traditional" 33 miles of prior 3 day trips. And that's exactly what I did, sacking out for 8 hours of sleep and rewarded with recharged energy for the last day. It was somewhat hot at times but the best thing I could do was ignore the clock, taking plenty of time throughout this trip to stop and hydrate, eat, snap pix and generally enjoy myself. And enjoy myself I did. In 2009 I did a 3 day Wonderland but I was suffering much of the time and literally fell apart at the end, barely able to shuffle my legs and stand up. What a difference this year, where I ended my trip on decent legs, even able to still trot a bit and generally still feeling good. Not that I would have wanted to go any more, thank you.
So I managed to pull off a 3 day Wonderland without too much discomfort more than 20 years after I started doing them in my late 30s. Of course I've done so many, the trips of the past sometimes blur together, but I know exactly where I stayed and generally how long my days were. I'm happy to see that, in general, I believe I took 1 to 2 more hours per day for the same itinerary. I attribute this to decreased aerobic capacity, affecting the 22,000 feet of uphill the most.
Of course I know that age will slowly degrade my physical abilities, and even my mental capacity for grit. But I'm living proof that if you take care of yourself, don't give in to the expanding gut, do a modicum of exercise, eat fairly well, and make yourself get out and do hard things, then the "Golden Years" don't have to be spent being more sedentary. I'm already wondering if I can pull off a 3 day Wonderland when I turn 70, or if at that point to have to kick back on a 4 day. Time will tell. Cheers everyone!