Have you ever thought about doing something new and just thought, “I can’t do that!”? I think all of us have talked ourselves out of a new experience because it seems daunting or you just don’t know where to start. Two years ago, I learned about the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) Trail Challenge. This challenge is either 50 or 25 kilometers (your choice) on trails in Lancaster county in Pennsylvania. I saw 25K (15.5 miles) and thought, “NO WAY! I can’t do that”. I was used to hiking, but a lot less miles in one day. Still, many of the other women I hiked with at the time were signing up for this event. That got me thinking, “Well, if they can do this, maybe I can too.”
So, I did a little more research on the event. I’d have up to ten hours to complete the 25K course and they had checkpoints with water and food available along the way. If you got to a checkpoint and you were injured or it was after the cutoff time, they would transport you to the finish line. All these safety features really convinced me to at least try.
I signed up for the event and started training. I hiked sections of the planned race course and I started hiking longer hikes. I didn’t get up to 15 miles in one day before the race, but I did get to the point where I could hike a mile with a heavy day pack in 20-30 minutes – depending on terrain. If I could maintain that pace throughout the race, it would take me just under eight hours to finish.
The morning of the race, I was nervous – mostly because I’ve never done a timed event this long before. Meeting up with my friends at the start of the race helped me to settle down though. We started out as a group, but we all agreed that if anyone wanted to hike faster or slower, we would do our own hike. The trails they picked for the race were challenging for sure (everyone knows the “green monster”) but there was a lot of beautiful scenery along the way. We hiked past streams, waterfalls, overlooks, farmlands ,and then we finished at a campground. I was tired at the end, but I was so happy I stepped out of my comfort zone for this! I crossed the finish line at five hours and 26 minutes. I made it!
I loved the trails in the race so much that I still hike them today. I was really surprised at how well I did and I discovered that I LOVE doing events like this. I don’t do them to win, but to challenge myself. I signed up for a few events last year, but I had to do them virtually due to the pandemic. I also planned to sign up for the KTA again, but they had to cancel it last year. They’re planning to have it this year though and I’m going to sign up and see if I can beat my time from 2019!