Day 23 - Somewhere to somewhere else - 46.9 miles - Back in Black

YES. More days like that please. That would be wonderful. Yesterday we were warned about today being “very difficult” and I can understand why, the mileage was just over average at 46.9 but the whole lot was uphill. Our weary legs were going to make slow work of this, mine too. The cut off times only reflect the distance and not the terrain or heat and so it would be possible that I’d be sailing close to the 13.30 hours that were given, not that it matters too much if it is missed.

It was uphill from go, just slightly so you think you could be running on the flat but just enough to trick you into thinking that you are a lot more tired than you are. I did not feel tired at all, I had a reasonable sleep, managed to do a bit of justice to the all you can eat buffet last night and this morning I produced my first solid for 5 days. Today could be glorious.

The first 10 miles or so were along a river, gently trickling down. The sound was so very soothing though it was interrupted by the morning traffic.

Since I have been coming in each day near the back I have stopped wearing my watch. I don’t really want to know how fast I am going any more. The green mile markers on every major US road are too tempting to do all the calculations with. Now I don’t look at the time and just be thankful when I see one. I know a little more has been done. When going through the bad times the minutes feel like hours, good times the hours can feel like minutes. It does not matter to me what the exact time is now just so long as it feels fast.

I love to look at the river. The first time we saw water a couple of days ago I just had to stop and look down at it for a few moments. There are a number of things I want to do more when I am done with this. One is to just sit by a river and listen to it. Another is to just lie down under the shade of a tree on a sunny day and not have to worry about going anywhere. There better be some sun in London when I get back.

Around half way we were promised a spectacular view and we sure did get one, a massive open panorama of a gorge and mountains. I really should have taken photos but I think my phone has stopped charging and am conserving the battery. I hope there are some good photos on the website as it was stunning.

I just felt mentally much better today. I was laughing at things in my head, such as the video of Alex commenting on my burger eating. My crew today were David and Rene. Yesterday David and Bertrand were really looking after me, making be yoghurt and banana mixes and making sure that I drank enough but did not drink anything too cold (apparently it is bad for the stomach). We joked that Bertrand was “Mon Pere” and David was “Ma Mere”. Bertrand, David and Anne are leaving in a few days and it will be really gutting to see them go, it’s like losing a crew again. They have been amazing.

Rene will still be here though which is fantastic. We have invented a new drink which goes down really well, it’s half sprite half water. It is quite refreshing slightly fizzy slightly sweet water. We have named this cocktail “Budweiser”.

Gemma texted me to say that she will come to the States in a week. I asked her to come a few days ago when on my way to hospital. I am so excited by this and have missed her so much. I’ve been thinking a lot about the “47 day to New York” but more about the “42 days till I see Gemma”. For some reason the latter feels longer. I can’t believe I didn’t involve her more in this from the start. 5 more days..

I managed to stick quite close to Jenni for the first 30 miles until we turned up onto a mountain road that would contain most of the elevation of the day. She shot off like a natural hill runner whereas I plodded, but ran nonetheless and was really pleased that I could do that.

The scenery changed dramatically. I was surrounded by trees, the sun was behind clouds and the whole place just felt very oxygenated. I have suffered in altitude and hills before (I was climbing up to the highest point of the race (2900m)) but having breathed nothing but dry air and rock of r 3 weeks this felt like a shot of oxygen. It was tricky with the cars on the narrow road and no shoulder but I loved it, it was so green, birds singing, groundhogs scuttling around, lots of little houses that look like they have been built by the owners. I said hello to everyone I saw and they said hello back, it was quite an idyllic 16 mile street.

I could still run up hills, I considered walking to save energy but preferred to run. It rained for about half an hour (like the dogs here the clouds bark a lot but rarely bite). It was cool and breezy and I loved it, I was no longer in the dust. I was where life was.

I reflected on a job well done in many respects. I ran most of the day albeit slowly, I did not stop in the van too much (except to eat when ma Mere told me too) and I was full of positive thoughts all day. No injuries either except that near the end I had an unbelievable itch on my left foot. Is an itchy left foot a good enough reason to pull out from the race?

Just under 12 hours for the 47 miles, I was pleased with that. 1000 miles covered too. This was always going to be a “long” day and if the long days can work out like that I may even start to put silly jokes in my blogs again. Must go, there is a great spread of pasta and chicken here and ice cream. We are staying in a basketball court. There is a treadmill here. Might bang out a few more miles.

Postscript from the last few days

A few things I forgot when I hastily got the blog out for the last few days, before I forget cos these will probably go into the book.

Rene and Anne were wonderful in my darkest days. They do not speak a lot of English and could not understand a huge amount of what I was saying or could think of much to say but there presence was comforting. I tried to hide my own personal despair from them but they knew. Sometimes when leaving the van I’d just pump my fist in the air in defiance. “Allez James, Allez”.

On day 21 at 20k I was a mess. Bando caught up with me and later he said I looked dead. He is suffering badly himself with injuries, a lot worse than I was and still gets through it with a grin on his face. When he caught me he said “come on, lets go to New York together”. He carries a spray which he was dancing around me spraying me with to cool me and then started to sing “the long and winding road” as we hobbled together down the long and winding road. He asked if I wanted him to sing another Beatles song. I suggested “I get by with a little help from my friends”. He did not know the tune so I sang it (if you see the you tube of my finish you’ll see how bad I am at singing”. He then just started to sing without really knowing the words or the tune of that song. I think I simultaneously laughed and wept. That could have been one of the most significant moments of this race so far. Thank-you Bando and the Japanese support teams for giving me all that juice along the way.

When Laure suggested I went to the hospital I thought my race was over. What if they told me it was bad? She was so great at taking me to the emergency place and even offered to translate my terrible English for the American gentleman on reception. I will always remember just lying on the hospital bed trying to make good light of the situation while Laure would just smile and say “Sleep James, Sleep”. While I was hooked up to that saline drip I dozed for about 30 minutes again, just like under that parasol I thought about absolutely nothing. I was somewhere else again.

And finally the morning after I had gone to hospital there was an even greater air of sympathy for me. Alex and his crew always looked concerned and said they missed me each day as we are normally running close and have a laugh. Rainer has been brilliant in giving me some milk and banana drinks from his blender which have really helped the recovery. Probably the best one though was when Serge just came up to me and hugged me. He has probably been in a lot worse places in his trans-everywhere runs but it just felt nice that I think someone realised what was going on with me.

Next week I am looking forward to a lot more hugs.