It's never easy to get off the horse once you're bucked off. The body hurts, the pride hurts. The mind is cautious, but the heart is found wanting. Even though I wasn't back up to 100% after my stomach issues, I decided to make another go of it, and try to get two or three more segments done, re-evaluate, and make another decision.
Segment 23, 22 and 21
Starting before sunrise, I found that I had a lot more energy than I expected to have. The time off the mountain was good for me. Maybe it was the food. It could have been the altitude. Or perhaps it was the stress on the body. I had trained hard for this journey, but I'd never put a string of back to back to back 50 milers to the test. I always had the luxury of running a couple of segments and retreating to my house at the end of the day. The first three days of my run proved that while I was more than likely prepared physically, I wasn't able to deal with mental stress. In my mind, I kept thinking "just 420 miles to go, just 375 miles to go." Today, I started with a new plan - no a new attitude. I was going to break this beast down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Rather than saying "375 miles to go" I was now saying "just 12 more miles on this segment and then I'll see what's in the tank for the rest of the day.
Retooling my strategy made a huge difference in the way I attacked each segment. No longer would I eat at 5:00 a.m., noon, and 6:00 p.m. I would now eat when I was hungry. I would lead the clouds, not follow them. I was finally in control, and it felt GOOD!
The climb from Stony Pass Road, where segments 24 and 23 meet, felt easy. The stress I'd manufactured the previous three days was all but gone, and I seemed to be floating up the inclines. Had I made this mental adjustments earlier, or practiced them ahead of time, I may have been able to actually run the trail in 11 days as I had originally planned. But, it didn't matter now. I was hiking and running with a pack that felt lighter than it ever had, water was abundant and my mood was good, despite a few small blisters that were cropping up. A little tape would take care of those.
I was able to cover the 47 miles of segments 23, 22 and 21 in a little over 17 hours. I was moving at a slower pace than I previously had, but I was a lot more comfortable. Everything was clicking. I set up camp around 11:30 p.m. at night, and slept like a baby. On this night, I didn't pitch my tent because the air was warm and dry. I planned on doing a little star-gazing, but the next thing I knew, it was getting light. Another day was about to begin.
End of Day 4