Day 5 - Ludlow to Amboy 28.3 miles - Half Day

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the pioneers who first come through the Mojave desert. There is nothing here and that includes the small town of Ludlow. I feel so cut off from the world in a place that has no internet and did not even have a phone line until 1988. There is a café open till 6pm, a gas station and a Dairy Queen which does the best milkshakes in the USA apparently. I can’t see any houses here, the motel is very basic. This is basically a truck stop between more interesting places 100s of miles away.

The route description today was almost not worth it, there were no turns in the whole 28 miles. I always thought a fast marathon course would be one with no corners (though oddly one would not count for a world record under AIMS standards as the max distance between the start and the finish must be 16 miles). I asked Rainer whether he was going for a 3 hour marathon today.

We were again warned that there is nothing between the start and the finish. Essentially now we are running from gas station to gas station. There is an occasional railroad crossing but really just vast miles of nothing.

The first part of my day was consumed with trying to contact Orange about unlocking my phone so I can use a USA sim card. I spoke to someone who didn’t seem to understand that I had already paid for it to be done over 2 weeks ago and it was supposed to have been done by now. Early on in the race I got a call from someone asking what I wanted again and suggested I contact someone else. I screamed at him to contact them for me and he put me on hold while I was trying to run. It still has not been resolved and I am paying stupid amounts for US call charges. I don’t want to moan as it brings me down from an otherwise fantastic experience but if anyone from Orange is out there reading this, you suck.

It was clear from the start that those who struggled yesterday were going to suffer again today. Alex, Markus, Jenni (who did not finish yesterday but will continue anyhow) and Bando started slowly whereas Serge, Italo (who consumed 28 cans of coke yesterday, counted by the organisers), Patrick and I formed the lead group. Rainer as always stuck around for a couple of miles then shot off.

It was hotter than at the same times yesterday, even 7am felt stifling. Yesterday at sunset as we were watching the last runners come in the mercury was still at 39. It was clear that it was going to go over what we had yesterday but at least we were not going to be out in it much. The road gets very bumpy at points which is hard to run on but with so little traffic on it you can run in the middle most times. There is no reason for coming down this road anymore other than for nostalgia.

I was feeling good again with no injuries and making good progress. I was determined not to sit down and faff around at any point today, just move forward at a sustainable pace and get it done in time have a proper lunch. Most of the first half I was running near Patrick and worried I might be going too fast. Then I caught up with Rainer and thought I really must be going too fast but he looked like he was suffering today more than any other. Not that I know as he’s usually showered, changed and eaten before I finish each day.

Rainer was sat on the back of his crew’s van and I joined him for a minute and chatted. His supporter June takes millions of photos of everything and was getting the rare photo of Rainer next to another runner.

Rainer and I ran together for a bit, I was happy to walk more using others as a benchmark as to how fast I should be going. Patrick disappeared into the distance as Rainer and I walked up to a thing such as a bridge or a tree (yes there was a tree) and started running again. With about 10k to go he decided to walk again and I ran on instead.

Somehow I managed to miss a massive geographical feature. The road book said 24.4 miles there was a sign to the Amboy crater but I missed it. It was only when we were driving back that I saw the sign to the Ambrose crater, pointing to a f****g enormous crater.

Serge caught me up with about 2 miles to go, I complained that he was late and he should have been here 10 miles ago. We laughed and agreed to finish together and spoke about how the race was unfolding.

I’m not sure why a pasty white Brit who lives in rainy London seems to be handling the weather better than most. Since we have started my finish positions have been 9, 7, 5, 3, 2. I feel more tired and achy each day and feel myself going a little slower and taking it easier but it seems that others are flagging more. There is still a long long way to go though. 5 days into 70 does not mean a lot.

The finish in Amboy was under the town’s only tree next to the town’s only café which was closed. Laure had a cooler and asked whether I’d like the “American water” as she handed me a Bud. The finish area is always a great gathering of organisers and support crew of other finishers racing around to tend to your every need. There were guys spraying me with cold water, Laure giving me beer, Anneke handing me crisps (chips) and Laurie putting a wet towel on my head. I felt like an F1 driver in a pit stop.

While I have a bit of time today I thought I’d write a bit about how all this “works”.

Each morning we usually leave from the motel where the start line is (sometimes there is travel involved). At 5.15 there is a race briefing where Laure will remind us of some of the rules that may have been infringed yesterday and to warn us of any particular hazards of today such as lack of sidewalks or snakes.

At 5.30 we all head off and each runner for now has a support car. Most runner have only one supporter, others have more and a couple have 1 between them. In the hellish temperatures of the desert the car will drive on about a mile and stop and spray the runner and give them drink/food etc.

Gas stations here sell ice which is used to fill ice chests so that cold drinks can be carried in the car. A bag of ice for me lasts about 12 hours in these temperatures. I put it into my camelpack, on my head and in some drinks.

Everyone helps each other and as the runners spread out so do the crew. All crews always offer to spray anyone with water and give them anything they need to get through the day.

Crew will typically go to any turnings (I can’t even remember the last corner I saw) so that their runner does not get lost. Phone signal is generally ok (AT&T give better reception in the middle of the desert than Orange do in Ealing. Sorry I said I’ll stop moaning), and most runners will carry a phone with them.

It is essential for the crew person to try and force the runner to do the correct things. The heat suppresses ones appetite and you need to be reminded, and then forced to eat something.

At the end of the stage Laurie will get my “daybag” which has the stuff I need for the next few hours such as changes of clothes, laptop etc. At some point Laurie will go out for a run for about an hour in the hot temperature of wherever we are.

Later in the day we eat wherever and however is possible (some places have nothing) and faff around with what is needed for the next day. I rinse my clothes out and hang them outside where they take about 5 minutes to dry and get the clothes I need for the next day. I spend about an hour blogging and faffing around on facebook. Normally I try to be in bed by 8.30 so to get 8 hours of lying down at least.

Then I spend hours lying back and thinking about running along very hot straight roads. Living the dream..

Boring Stuff Patrick, Serge and I

Start weight 82.5kg finish weight 81.1kg

Consuption During – Ham and cheese sandwich, 1 cliff car, 2 hammer gels, some nuts, 6l Gatorade, 6l water AFTER – Large ice cream, Bud, Coke, ham and chips, iced tea, burger and fries, 2l water.

Kit – Newtons, NF hat, shades, Gore undershorts, Kathmandu shorts, NF white longsleeves (this is a perfect top for this kind of running), camelpack, kalenji socks.

Injuries – None. Embarassing really.