While I was crawling through Mahousic Notch this summer on two shin splints that felt like broken legs, I met a wonderful thru-hiker. This young man was friendly, out-going, and I’ll be honest I was thrilled to see any sign of life in this portion of trail that resembles the bowels of the underworld.

He immediately inquired about my bandaged legs. “What’s wrong with your legs? Are you okay?” He asked.

I’m not sure if it was my red swollen shins that tipped him off, or the grimace on my face that revealed the pain. “I think I have some really bad shin splints.” I replied.

“But you are going after the record! You have a trainer or doctor with you that can help you, right?”

I laughed. “No. I have the same thing all the other thru-hikers have.”

“What’s that?” He asked.

WebMD.” I replied.

Thru-hiking forces you to self-diagnosis your ailments, come up with a creative treatment plan - that often does not include rest, and monitor your body to make sure that things don’t get worse. Taking a wilderness first responder course helped expand my medical knowledge. Still, I have done a lot of over the phone (thank you Katie and Emily) and computer diagnosis over the years. I usually carry prescriptions that I can begin taking immediately if something goes wrong in the backcountry. And in general I follow the rule: If it gets better - keep hiking. If it stays the same - keep hiking. If it gets worse - keep hiking, until you can get to a doctor.

I say this, not to discourage people from seeking medical attention, but to listen to their bodies as part of the process. I have been amazed in throughout all my hiking and running injuries and ailments at the body’s resiliency and ability to heal itself.

Now post trail, I am pretty sure that I have something called Athletic Heart Syndrome. Looking back, I believe that I experienced the same condition after my 57 day AT hike in 2008. I’m not that worried about it, because my symptoms are getting better and I am allowing my body to truly rest and heal this fall before doing any intense hiking or running (that can wait until next spring). But in the meantime I’ll probably go get it checked out. After all, having a correct self-diagnosis is always very gratifying.