Day 8 - Needles to Kingman - 51.3 miles

“Sleep don’t visit, so I choke on sun and the days burn in to one” – Radical Face

I can’t remember the last time I slept and thought about something that didn’t involve following a white line or making sure I have enough ice. Sometimes I will nod off and then wake thinking that someone has left my beef jerky in the sunshine. I am no sleeping well. I might have a go tonight. So this might not be too long.

I had hideous chaffing after the run yesterday, the 200m walk to the pizza place made me look like I was from Needles and so did not really look out of place but it was bad. I spent the night covering every square millimetre of my moving parts with Sudacrem, thoughtfully brought by Lesley.

I was worried about the chaffing. No more running like a Kenyan, looks like the Penguin would appear after all.

Today was always going to be hard, the longest day so far and the most climbing. It was also going to be the first time we’d cross a state from California into Arizona. My legs feel fresher every morning though, I hardly even stretch anymore, I just roll out of bed and get going.

That crossing came within the first mile as we said good riddance to Needles and crossed the Colorado river. Arizona looked different already, a long straight road but with trees alongside that shielded us from the early morning glare. There were even a few intersections with crossings that I so fondly recall from days 1 and 2. I passed lots of those ugly advertising boards that all busy roads are full of. So many posters of guys who look like Dr Nick Riviera from the Simpsons suggesting that you try to sue more people. “Your local injury lawyer”.  Makes it sound like a butchers or something.

9 miles in we turned up towards the climb where we got to look at the intimidatingly beautiful Arizonan landscape. Needles is so called because of the sharp pointy rocks that surround it. I remember from the book that the climb is long but could not quite remember where it started. After about 4 miles of running up I realised it started a while back.

Today Dave and Lesley adopted Italu to support too as he has come here with no support crew and is relying on others to take his drinks. We have been running similar times so far and he said he will stick with me today. I was not going to go slower or faster on someone elses behalf as that is very dangerous but we stuck close for the whole thing. Early on he asked “take my picture, take my picture” and gave me just the front bit of a camera he found off the floor. I laughed a lot, I guess you had to be there. Little giggles like that make the day go faster.

Bandu the Japanese guy did again what he has done every day so far, set out like a whippet only be be passed my me and others before half way and inevitably finish hours after us. I am not sure how long he can sustain burning himself every day for.

For the early part of the race I was trying to get updates on the Western States 100 results. Well done to Jez and Ian for their top 10 finishes and to Mel Ross for getting it done too. Most special congrats to James Elson who finished in a great time despite so many injury setbacks this year. It really pleased me to hear that you finished James, Brilliant.

I ran most of the climb from 10-20 miles as it was not too hot. The roads are deceptive as usual. After about 24 miles we entered a town called Oatman that was fantastic. It was a proper wild west town with a saloon and all sorts. I could have stayed there for a long time just looking around, there were loads of tourists there. It was the first time for a while I felt like I was somewhere where others wanted to be too. There were donkey roaming around the street. Lesley and Dave bought me and Italo an ice-cream and we hiked on up the rest of the pass.

A guy pulled up and said “do you speak English?” I said yeah and he said “What the hell is all this about?” I explained and he asked why and I asked “why not” as I was running up a hill and could only do short answers. I need a business card.

From here we were treated to a visual explosion, the Arizona rocks are awesome. Everywhere you look there is a panoramic view of the stunning rocks and mountains. You hear cars and bikes chugging painfully up the steep passes as you just gape at the sights. I took so many photos I lost track of time, distance, reason for being here and everything.

It was like for those couple of hours or so I was not in a race but on a sightseeing trek. I barely remembered to continually move forward and certainly forgot that I was in a race. Serge passed me at the Gold Mine (like I said, proper wild west) and serged (he he) up the hills.

The decent was just as spectacular, the backgrounds and foregrounds moved faster as I jogged down much quicker than I plodded up. I saw burnt out cars in the ravines and grave stones that could have been 100 years old. The contrast of rocks was amazing. Have a look at the photos as I can’t do it justice.

The chaffing problem never really materialised, however a shin problem did. My left shin was sore going down the hill and this started panic mode. I was distracted by all the stuff to see like the Route 66 museum (where Lesley and Dave bought me a root beer and a bit of the road), the old shacks and mailboxes with no house near them. At around 35 miles I was down at the bottom again, getting a little warm for the first time and then looking ahead at another  very straight road.

I imagine this is what it feels like to be in prison, to have freedom for a day and then get put back inside. The previous few hours were a morale boosting break from the straight lines on roads, running around curves not knowing what is around the corner but knowing it will be spectacular. Now here I was again with the road. It was torture.

And with the injury I could only think negatively. It did not hurt too much but I was thinking what would it be like tomorrow, and the next day and on day 43. 62 days and 2900 miles is a long way to run on shin splints. There was no scenery to distract me and I even tried sodcasting (playing music on my phone, popular on buses in the UK where our no good youth like to play loud rappity-hop through a tin can). A few tracks into the Killers and my phone was a molten piece of steel.

Lesley and Dave did their best to humour me as I was put back into the droning of the straight roads. Early on they blasted “born to run” from the car (at least it wasn’t “Fog on the Tyne”) and in the middle of the day Dave attacked me with a very large water pistol. He got Italu and Serge too.

I am amazed that they came out to support me and I owe them so much. The fun, the dragging all my stuff around, making sure everything was cold. I am sure they put Gemma’s mind at ease too and have taken some great photos. Laurie, Lesley and Dave have made this challenge much easier for me so far and tomorrow I have no crew and will see what it is like to have no one. I am not looking forward to it.

Without blathering on about a 15 mile boring climb other than to say that it felt like it took days and days. My moment of joy was on hearing that Kingman has a McDonalds and that Dave was more than happy to drive there and get me a big mac, fries and milkshake. That was a perfect end to a race. I cross the line with Italu in 12.14. My “Optimistic” time was 12 so I should not be too sad about that. It felt really hard at the end of the day today though.

Thank-you Lesley and Dave again. Now that you are gone I can say my favourite Geordie joke…

A Geordie goes into a hairdressers and says “I’d like a perm please” and the hairdresser replies “I wondered lonely as a cloud…”

Boring Stuff

Weight before 83.4 after – forgot

Consumption During – Half a pizza from last night for breakfast, ham and cheese sandwich, pringles, 8l water, 6l Gatorade, 2 monsters, 1 coke, nuts, 4 energy gels, 1 cliff bar, 1 ice cream, 1 root beer AFTER Mcdonalds Big mac, fries, milkshake, proper beer, further burger and fries, 2 cokes, 2 lemonades, water.

Kit – Newtons, NF long sleeve, NF hat, socks, Nike underpants (tighter I thought they might help with the chaffing and they did), kathmadu shorts (getting holes in now, will discard when they become truly obscene) Camelpack, water pistol

Injuries – Chaffing not too bad, shin splint potential on left.

Orange update – Didn’t even bother, have no time