Days 32-34 - Never forget Oklahoma

Some fairly short ones about some hard days. It’s ok as I have delegated blog writing to Gemma this week

Well, I wouldn’t want to be accused of running across America on an “easy” year. It is international news now that America is gripped in a heatwave. The locals in Oklahoma look in disbelief as they see a line of runners running past, “I would never run in Oklahoma in the summer, let alone this summer”.

The heated days are taking their toll. It does not matter whether it’s 40 or 55 miles, the heat will have it’s way with you. I remember the Mojave being quite fun, spanking hot but manageable and quite funny that some Brit who lives in the cold wet climate of London should somehow fair well there. But this heat was not part of the deal, it was supposed to have cooled down by now. These days were supposed to be for running and finishing in good time to relax and recover.

My days go like this. I try to go to bed about 8.30 as I will have to get up at 4 for the 5am start (they are earlier now because of this heat). I have a good sleep till about 1 and then for me the day starts. I start running miles in my head, trying not to but being tortured by my own brain. I want to think of something else but I can’t. Then at 4 I get grumpy at the fact that none of the miles I have run run in my head matter at all, I still have to run the 40-55 miles presented to me. I feel cheated as I have done so much of the work. I get grumpy that I am not going to have much time at the end of the day to relax or visit a pool or eat much.

This grumpiness lasts for a few hours into the run where it is already hot even though the sun has yet to rise. The first few miles are hard, my body aches more now. I perk up a bit when I have had lots of food and drink and during the morning I am ok. Then when the heat kicks in my enthusiasm wanes and is replaced by paranoia. I feel so far from todays finish let alone New York and I am once again grumpy. Eventually I will get the job done and slump into a chair at the end, have a beer and pretend that I am OK with everything. Then I am in no rush to do all the things I wanted to do in the time I have and soon enough it’s bedtime again.

This is how the last 3 days have been.

Day 32 was 45 miles, an “average” day but it did not feel that way at all. We were all struggling with it. We know it’s going to be hot, that’s a given and the miles are a given too. The other variables that make these days harder (or easier) are the wind, the number of big trucks (and size of the shoulder) and the amount of cloud cover.

There were no clouds on day 32 to carry us along just a few meters at a time away from the harsh glare of the sun. The shoulders were narrow and the traffic heavy meaning we have to jump out of the road regularly. It’s not just that though. When there is wind you just want to get your head down and get on with it but putting your head down is not an option, you have to look ahead for trucks. Some dozy bint towards the end of the stage hit Mr Koshita (he is ok and still in the race).

By the end of that day I was ruined. I just lied down under the shade of a tree and asked Gemma to get some takeaway as I said as soon as I get to the motel I am not going to want to leave.

Day 33, at 52 miles was actually a little easier as there were better roads and less wind. Little cloud though. It was quite funny how I spotted some turtles in a creek (the first creeks I have seen that actually have water in them), on telling Gemma this she ditched me to go and try and catch them. I think she was going to recruit one to pace me.

Today felt quite low though even though I think it went better than yesterday. My mind would get poisoned again by the things that don’t matter like the evenings sleeping arrangements or food. I tried to bring it back – James you can still run quite well, nothing really hurts, after a month you should be really thankful of that. Nothing else matters at all so long as you can put one foot in front of the other.

For days in a row now I have been approached by people from local papers who only find out what we are doing when they see us running and come and ask. Inevitably they will ask one of the people who does not speak English and I will head in there to save the day. Today a lady came to take my picture but her camera was out of power, I gave her the details anyway and said to her “we are almost half way”. It felt good to hear that out loud.

The end of yesterday was at a fire station where a fantastic spread of food was put on for us.

Day 34 was “only” 42 miles but I know better now than to think that any day here is easy. There was some light today though, a McDonalds at around 22 miles in a town called Blackwell. It’s been a long time since we have run through towns and it used to be nice but now they are traffic filled cauldrons. Today as soon as we entered it was like someone had cranked the temperature up massively and it did not go down again.

Jenni and I were running near each other for most of the day and she was struggling too, probably more than I was. Gemma would stop every 3 miles and as much as I say to people “don’t sit in the chair” I slump down in the chair every time, guzzle about a liter of fluid, put ice in my pack, ice in my hat, moan a bit about how I think this is only 32.4 miles instead of 34.6 miles and hence I am going to take hours more and then hobble off.

The last 5 miles of today were horrific, really strong wind right in my face, hot so that the ice in my hat melted after minutes. Today more than most I was pleased to get indoors.

I changed my shoes halfway through today, I have been wearing Newtons for the whole race but they are wearing thin. I put on some Brooks and they just feel alien to me, so much cushioning I can’t feel my feet. I think the Newtons are the best kit decision I have made and Russell has managed to get me another couple of pairs and I am extremely grateful for that. Thanks Russell.

I feel frustrated that I can not write as much of this as I would like. I want to write for my own memories as much as putting in the blog but this is just a 30 minute blast before I fall asleep in anticipation of another hard day tomorrow. Apologies it’s a bit lame.

It has also occurred to me that I have no idea what is going on in the world. I like to keep track of the news normally and feel so out of touch. I don’t like that. I think the first think I’ll do when I get back to the UK is to buy a copy of the New of the World. That should get me up to speed.