Day 4 - Barstow to Ludlow 50.9 Miles - When going through hell keep going

I finished today feeling pretty chuffed with myself for getting finished in a decent time and not feeling too bad at the end of it. It was at some points 44C with warm wind and some morale breaking straight roads. I managed to finish within the 12 hours needed to be able to go to the only café in town before it closes and have a huge steak and eggs. On returning to the motel I was greeted by the sad news that 3 runners had dropped out of today. It was an incredibly hot 51 miles of road running we all had to suffer today and I suffered too but it appears not as much as others.

Only 4 days into the run and it is now light when we start. I don’t know whether that is the 4 days difference or the 140 miles we have moved east but it is clear now that we are not going to be able to enjoy any more “easy cool” miles while the sun is still coming up. Today was the first time when I was beaten by my alarm to wake up, usually I was awake and buzzing before 4.30 but today I really could have done with the extra sleep. I am not sleeping that well.

We were still on the old route 66 which the romans would have been proud of because this was as straight as any I have seen. I think that was probably a good thing, I know with the sun beating down on your head you start to fear what is round the corner. My brain makes monsters out of roadside furniture.

The start was the usual. Laure (race director) asked us all what we wanted to do tomorrow in terms of start time, Tomorrow is only 28 miles and she thought we could start later and get a nicer breakfast. The majority wanted to start early and avoid the heat and miss breakfast. Only one person put food before avoiding heat exposure. Stupid Brit.

On setting off my legs were sore again but I know the first few miles are tough. Early on we went through a Marine Corps base and they even laid on a water stop for us. On emerging from that we set along down the long straight road.

I was behind Serge who is the most experienced runner here. This whole event was his doing and he has run across the 5 non-ice continents already. Normally he starts slow and takes over most along the way and normally passes me around half way. He told me off for “breaking the code” when I mentioned to a passer by that we were running to New York. On overtaking him I said I’ll see him at half way.

For the first half I didn’t really feel the heat though I knew it was there. They say that the moment you stop feeling the heat is the point where it has got you. I felt comfortable in the mid thirties.Do you reckon Westaway will bar me if I put this on the e group?

Early on there were a few abandoned gas stations where crews gathered in the shade to support their runners. Laurie mentioned that you can guess the date that the gas station closed by the price of the gas on the sign. Rainer yesterday saw one that said $1 a gallon. This one said $3 whereas now in the US it’s about $4. [In the UK it’s about $11 but at least none of our towns are more than a good days run from each other].

The people I normally run with were behind me today. Alex, Jenni and Markus seemed to be going slower. There is no reason why I should be any good in the heat given that my desert experience is only 2 races and most people hear have done months of that stuff. I didn’t do any acclimatisation and only went to one bikram yoga session before coming out here. I was a prime target for a slow roasting in the Mojave desert.

But I covered up well, put on the sun spray, drank lots, iced lots and kept up with the salts. When the sun was in front of me I felt a burning in my right eye which impaired my vision for some of the race. Today I wore long sleeves which was a great move, my skin temperature was lower than yesterday even though the temperature was higher.

I had a scare early on, what felt like shin splints on my left and metatarsal on my right started to plague me. My shoes did not feel right, they were old and worn and I have run 2 long days in them and realised that even shoes need recovery days. On swapping them for new ones that all went away. Phew.

Just before the halfway point there was the famous “Baghdad Café” which I went in and Laurie ordered me some fries. I went inside and looked around, it was wonderful, a proper retro diner in the middle of the desert. I could stay there a while.

Around half way I started to think about what I would normally be doing now. Back home I’d be going out for a short 7 mile run around the London Parks with my running club and then heading to the pub. IN fact often I don’t even bother with the run I just drink wine in the clubroom and watch peoples bags then go to the pub. I can’t remember the last time I missed a Wednesday night in the pub, it may have been Badwater a year ago. Wednesday nights are going to be a big thing I’ll miss over here.

My plan today was to go steady but not to stop if possible. I didn’t relish staying out in this anymore than is necessary and hours can be added on to your times by stopping for 10 minutes every few miles. I tried to think of the best ultra running quote ever from Winston Churchill (though he probably did not intend it to be about running, probably the opposite). “When going through hell – KEEP GOING”.

My mind wondered lots. I saw an advert for a place to rent which was basically just a shed.  I imagined trying to write an ad for it to post onto our running club message board. Cheap, cheerful and small place, ideal for cyclists who don’t like steering.

The roads looked like they were covered in water by the glare of the sun and the straightness messed with my head. Laurie would drive on 2 miles at a time and then spray me with ice cold water which gives relief for about 2 minutes before my clothes become bone dry again. She would then drive past and pull over again and I’d wonder why she pulled over so soon? Then having run for 20 minutes and saw the car get no nearer I realised that she had not pulled over too soon at all. These straight hot roads are mentally tormenting.

The rare sight of a building was usually met by the barking of a dog then then a chase. It sure can get the adrenaline going when a dog takes an interest in you. It’s clear that they are not going to bite or anything but you do wonder what you’ll be able to do in the event that it craved the juiciness of your slow roasted calfs.

I stuck to the plan well and the miles seemed to peel off quite consistently. After around 30 miles I Laurie and I were alone doing the car-runner shuffle along the desert. Rainer and Patrick were far ahead and the others were a way behind. I didn’t expect to be the 3rd placed runner for the stage and was still surprised that I seemed to be taking the heat better than the others.

11 miles to go there was a train crossing. We were always running alongside a busy interstate (the I40 I think) and a busy railroad with at least a train every 10 minutes with 50+ stock. Halfway in between crossing the railway the barriers came down, shutting me in with a train coming. They don’t mess about here, not like in the UK where the shutter goes down 5 minutes before anything is even near. It’s get out of my way in 10 seconds or become vulture food.

I managed that obviously and then headed over the interstate road where the desert looks a different shade of yellow. It was mostly downhill for the rest (the day was pretty flat) and in the distance you could see the small town of Ludlow. Around 6 miles from the end I think the heat finally got me. I was running no problem then just felt a wave of dizziness which nearly floored me. On next seeing Laurie who was driving along 2 miles at a time I had to lie down. Strange that so close to the end I’d get walloped like that but it was 44C and I had been out in it for 11 hours. Suprisingly I was still on for the sub 12 that would earn me a steak dinner.

I had to lie down for about 10 minutes and cool my head. The sun was right above us so there was no possibility of shade. I lay there with a wet cloth on my head while Laurie sprayed more water on me. I felt right as rain after that and found I could run again.

With about 2 miles to go I saw Patrick in front, I was amazed that I was anywhere near him and he appeared to be walking and his wife/crew was driving and stopping every few hundred meters. I got closer and closer and he started running again. It was not my intention to catch him as I always planned on walking the last mile anyway which I did.

Just before finishing I was passed be Anneke on the bike who is usually cycling near Jenni. She said “I have so much respect for you today” which was really nice to hear and I could not help but laugh. Jenni was unfortunately one of those who did not make it today along with 2 of the Japanese guys (whose names I should really remember). I finished in 11.40, 50 minutes to spare for steak. I was asked what drink I wanted at the end, “Budwieser or Water”? “Are they not the same thing”? I replied.

Today was always billed as the hardest of the first week. It was the longest distance and in constant heat. Tomorrow is only 28 miles and the next 2 days are about 40.  I am really pleased to report that I had a really good run, don’t feel injured or too knackered and that by noon tomorrow I should have my feet up again.

Later on I went back to the finish area after a great steak and chips to watch some of the others come through. Alex had a rough day and finished a few hours after me as did Markus who came in just before the 15 hour cut-off. The older Japanese guy (I could just go into my bag and get the book and know his name but I am exhausted) stumbled in walking sideways. Girard came in over the cut-off but is allowed to carry on regardless as today was so difficult. The desert claimed 3 victims today. There is another 10 days of this thought at least tomorrow is only 28 miles.

PS The comments I have been getting on the blog are a joy to read each morning. I am sorry that I have not replied personally to most but please keep them coming. Glad you are enjoying the blog.

Boring Stuff

Weight – Forgot again.

Consumption – DURING 2 ham and cheese sandwiches, fries from Bahgdad café, 4 hammer energy gels, 1 cliff bar, 1 can of coke, 6l Gatorade, 12l water, Some nuts. Shit not much really.

After – Melon, 2 glasses of tomato juice, large steak, eggs and home fries (burnt circles of potato), Bud, large fatty milkshake

KIT – North Face long sleeved white top, NF hat, shades, Kathmandu shorts, kooga pants, Old Newtons replaces by New Newtons, Camelpack

Injuries/Issues – Early scare with the potential shin splint but that was nothing really. Right eye hurt in the glare. Legs were sunburned. One of my hernia op keyholes burst. No blisters.