Days 35-36 - Livin on a Prayer

Day 35 - 45 miles

I did not sleep very well last night. I did not even get the 4 hours from 9 till 1 that I usually rely on to give me some rest before the nightmares of the road start. I was waking up all the time, not sure why but I woke quite tired.

The stages now all start at 5am because of this heatwave, to give us an extra half an hour out of the suns evil glare. We woke at 4.15 and in what seemed like 5 minutes it was 4.45 and we were late for the race briefing.

We managed to lock ourselves out of the motel room as I dashed to the start area to get underway, Gemma had to get back in and go to the Walmart, a vast store bigger than most of the towns we have been to so far.

Ponca city looks interesting in the night. There is a huge industrial site with lights all over so you might think it was a big city skyline at night. I had a belly full of an all you can eat chinese buffet last night which was certainly less than the average belly full in that place. The closer you get to the middle of America the more middle the people have.

On that subject, today was day 35 out of 70. We are as Rainer said “at half-time not half way”. Half way comes tomorrow but I think I’ll be half way there after today. The early starts, getting ready, slowly starting the plod and getting the job finished each day time 70 seems to be the challenge rather than the number of miles. “Half-way” is sometime tomorrow.

The sun seemed to rise quicker today which at first I thought was a bad thing but a little later at 7am, 2 hours into the run I was surprised that so much time had elapsed already. Today seems to be going faster, in terms of miles and minutes it’s pretty much the same as yesterday but it just seems to be going fast. That is good.

Russell was around again to see us off before heading home. He has been brilliant for so many of us/ Gemma yesterday referred to him as our “shopping bitch”. He has got me a couple of pairs of Newtons (apparently all my others are knackered, Gemma thinks so but I am not sure, my feet were not touching the tarmac yet). He also got Jenni some shoes and electrolytes and Rainer a Garmin (as if he needs to know how ridiculously fast he is running). He also gave me a copy of his book on his Trans Europe race last year which I said at the time is the last thing I want to read right now but will definitely do so when this is all over. Thanks so much for all your help and fantastic company Russ and glad to hear you are back in the UK quite a lot. You will have to come along on a Serpie Wednesday night run while you are in London.

It was not long until 5 hours had passed. Well, it was 5 hours I guess but it just felt like 2. I really didn’t feel like I had been running that long but then all of a sudden I was halfway through the 45.1 miles and actually feeling pretty good. Todays job might not feel like such a grind.

As usual I was running close to Alex and he told me his crew had a surplus of doughnuts. This day just gets better. Jenni unfortunately had to drop from today as the heat was taking it out of her again. She is such a strong runner who hates to walk at all but the heat really makes her suffer a lot.

With about 15 miles to go I was bounding, feeling really good when running and running lots. Every now and then I would just burst into flames and have to walk to cool down and hose myself with cold water (sounds disgusting but I suck the cold water out of my camelpack and spit it on myself. I don’t see the problem, elephants do it). Large amounts of ice were going into my pack and my hat every 3 miles when I saw Gemma. The sandwich option changed today too, it was beef and cheese rather than ham and cheese, a welcome change. She also pours olive oil into the bread to get more calories into me. For drinks I usually have apple juice and raspberry iced tea (an instant powder version that seems to do the trick). I’ll have a coke if I want a kick up the arse (normally about twice a day now) and when it gets hot I chug down the Sprite and waters (Budwaters).

Today there was a little breeze, a great wide shoulder, not too much traffic and the occasional cloud. The variables that can make a day really hard made today quite pleasant. It was still way over 40C (42C in the shade at the end) and you have to be careful but today more than I have done for a while I felt like having a go at it.

Alex who is usually ahead of me when I flag in the last 15 miles was behind today and his team were trying to distract me with doughnuts. I said I’ll have one at the end (I did it was great). For most of the last 15 apart from about 4 blow ups which I walked off in half a mile or so I felt great. I ran to the end, stopping only to look in a couple of creeks to see if there was any wildlife. These creeks still have water but not much and occasionally you’ll see a very large fish in not much water, it’s quite sad.

The great day ended with a little downer as we are staying in a motel that I would describe as “worse than needles”. I’ll let Gemma go into detail on her blog.

So, great day, half time, things are looking good. Hopefully I will sleep better tonight though if I end up thinking of the road I might consider that a nice dream now rather than a nightmare.

Day 36 - 50 miles

Earlier on in this adventure I’d look at things like course profiles before the run but now I only look at the distance, usually in the morning of the run. Makes no difference worrying about how high or low you have to go, you still have to do it whatever.

Today was exactly 50 miles, nice round number hey Biggus. Assuming intolerable heat and little cloud cover  I thought somewhere between 12-13 hours for todays job would be ok.

We left the worst motel (so far) in the USA promptly at 5 and headed out through the town with a display saying it was already 85F at 5am. It never cools down here.

Bit for some reason I felt a little cooler in the first couple of hours, usually I break a sweat straight away but today felt cooler. A couple of us dared to say it, “it seems cooler today”.

There were plenty of turns and twisty roads today, not too busy with traffic, that’s one variable in our favour. Around 17 miles in we passed through a town where Gemma bought me an ice cream which was the messiest thing I have ever eaten though Gemma says that’s just me. I started to get warm and had to take walking breaks to cool off.

22 miles we turned into a lovely quiet road. It was a dream to look at. Surrounded on either side by trees, no traffic and a beautiful winding road with ups and down that was a joy for anyone to travel down whatever their mode of transport. Running, Bike, Motorbike, Car, anyone could have enjoyed this stunning section of tarmac. But it was a trap.

The moment we descended into the valley the road cut through it became apparent that we were in an oven. There was no wind, the humidity was high and the Sun was as mean as ever. I was choking on the heat, struggling at times to even walk without wobbling. Any slight distortion in the road would push me around like some annoying bully. I had no power to overcome little inconsistencies in the road and I was reducded to hobbling forward in a Brownian motion (different from my Brownian motion in New Mexico).

Alex and Jenni were close to me at this point and we’d take turns to collapse into our respective support cars. I would walk along and pass Jenni slumped on the back of the organisers support car then Alex sat down by his Jeep. Then when I saw Gemma I would lie down in the shade on some grass, drink lots, ice lots and watch Jenni and Alex stagger by again. No one seemed to manage more than 2 miles without having to keel over. I used my inhaler lots during this time.

Around 10 miles into this I was walking with Alex and noted the number of houses that were around. I said “you know we have passed 2 towns and a load of houses today and not seen a single person outside. Why do you think that is?”

The valley only lasted those 10 miles and then we had a 5 mile section of interstate where we’d climb out of that low point. As soon as we hit it I felt the pressure drop massively. It got cooler, darker and to my right there were grey clouds making noise. The anticipation was incredible, something is going to happen here.

I put a facebook update to face that this would be a contender for the hardest day so far but there are rain clouds close by. I yelled at them to come.

I felt cooler possibly with the goosebumps of expectation of a rain shower and then I heard the distinct noise of water hitting the floor, and then again, and then a drop hit me in the face. It was going to happen, for the first time in a month we were going to get proper rain. And then the heavens opened, it properly pissed it down. For the first time in weeks I wasn’t worrying about how much cold water or ice I had on me, I was getting rained on, getting soaked and it was wonderful. I pranced around like I was in a Westlife video.

The highway was not too busy and I bounded up the hill and passed the Italian support crew and said “I am in London”. It stopped after just 15 minutes but the effect was tremendous. Finally a break in the weather, maybe the next few days there will be rain? Or coolness?

As soon as the rain stopped the evil sun came back out and mopped up the floor making it uncomfortably humid again for about 20 minutes but then on turning into a nice quiet road again it seemed fine. It was still 100F+ but it felt bearable.

Russell joined us again towards the end, he is always great to see. Yesterday Gemma called him our “shopping bitch”, later today when he left she referred to him as “an unexpected amazing person”. He has been amazing to us and the other runners while he has been here and hearing him say “you are looking very well mate” when running is always great to hear.

The last few miles seem to breeze by again, at the half way stage when I was struggling to draw breath I thought there is no way this will get done in under 13 hours. IN the end it was about 12.15. I would say the first 32 of that were as tough as I have had so far (excluding the illness days). I was really pleased with how today ended.

Tomorrow is an early start (and a 30 minute drive) for what is “only” 37 miles. I would look forward to it more if Gemma were not leaving tomorrow. She has been incredible over the last 9 days and they seem to have flown by. I was a mess before she came and now I am back in the swing of it, over half way and closer to New York than to Los Angeles. My weight has stabilised to around 75kg. I am in a great place right now thanks to her support. It’s only 4 weeks till she comes back out to see me run the last week of this race.

It is time....