Day 14 - Flagstaff to Birdsprings - 53.1 miles


Well I had no weird dreams last night, at least none that I can remember. I think the dream was saved for the day. Today was 53 miles of road and back into the desert. It was going to be a real test of my improving shin and ankle as much of this was downhill. Laure warned us at the start that this was going to be long and boring. She was half right.

53 miles – 12 hours was at the optimistic end of expectations, 3 hours under cut-off. That would be enough for me to be confident of more days of this.

The first few miles were in the beautiful pine tree surrounded town of Williams, along a winding road gradually descending. The first few miles as always it likes to make it’s strain known but over the past few days I have learned better to ignore it and carry on. I think I am mentally beating it now after a few days of letting it poison me.

I spoke to Alex about his changes of kit again (only 1 change in first 5 miles). He asked me what kind of food I eat when doing this. I said that I eat burgers and fries and anything available. He says he loves pasta and has brought loads with him to get him through the race. Pasta and chicken? What kind of running food is that? I said that I should probably eat better and Alex said “but you need to satisfy your mind too”. Spot on, burger and chips is proper brain food for me.

I asked him what he ate on his epic solo rows across oceans and he said dried foods, olive oils and fresh fish. I almost asked him “where did you get fresh fish from” before I stopped myself being stupid.

Italu had gone up ahead with Patrick, Rainer was doing his own thing and Markus and Bando had set out fast. I was running near Alex, Jenni, Anneke (on bike) and Serge for much of the first half and we seemed to be near the back. The priority today was to get to the end in reasonable time and lie down as we were losing an hour recovery with the clocks moving forward.

It’s so easy to get distracted by numbers early on. 53 miles is a long days work and too often I get to 5 and say “well that’s 10% done in 1 hour which means 10 hours if I keep up this pace which I won’t”, then you get to 11 miles and say “well that’s a fifth of it done in much less than a fifth of 12 hours therefore I am doing ok”. This stuff buzzes through your head like an uninvited guest. It gets worse, then you find that you have done a third of the race in less than 4 hours and calculate the pace you need to finish under cut-off. For me it was about 4mph which is not a lot less than the overall cut-off pace and therefore I must be doing shit. You go from doing well to doing shit based on a different calculation of the same thing.

And if you don’t stop it that kind of shit just messes with your head for the whole race and never makes you feel any better. I was reading a book called “Adventures in Numberland” by Alex someone who spoke about isolated tribes. Some of them don’t really have a concept of “53” or even numbers above 5 or 6. Many have 1,2,3,4 then more than 4 or “many”. There is no use in having a number 53 as it’s not that different from 52 or even 27, it’s just “many”. Some of them don’t even know how many kids they have, they just have “many”. I wish I could think like that. I don’t have 53 miles to do I just have “many” miles to do.

But my head was in a better place today and I was thinking about happier things and being nearer other runners today was quite motivating. When I got to 16 miles I thought “Shit I still have 37 to go, this is never going to end”. By staying more positive and ignoring my watch as much as possible the miles just went and all of a sudden I had done a marathon.

The view today was quite stunning. We were back in the desert again but it looked more volcanic today. There was little on the road other than the vast landscape of the Indian territory. I saw a wigwam as soon as I entered but no casinos.

Around 30 miles in I just had a spurt, feeling quite good and pushed the pace a bit. I passed Alex, Markus, Bando, Jenni and ran with Serge in sight for the rest of the day. It got a little warm, around 35C I would guess. As I passed Jenni she commented “nice view isn’t it?” I agreed and then looked up again to see Markus having a piss. “You don’t mean Markus do you?”. “No”.

I felt like a runner again, looking down at my shadow in front of me watching the rhythmic swinging of my arms and legs. Mr shin was hardly making a noise at all. It’s a good job that there were no dolphin in the desert cos they would have been deafened by the sonic booming of my pace. I must have been running 10 minute miles at some stage.

Today was the first day of my proper “unsupported” time, something that I’ll have to get used to. It was much better than I expected. The guys were awesome in catching me every hour and giving me a spray, drinks and food. Laure came up to me at the end of the day and gave me a list of all the times that I had been given support and what I took. She was a little concerned that I only ate 2 cliff bars during the whole run. Most of my calories are liquid. Today and for the rest of it I think I switched my camelpack from water to Gatorade.

The wind picked up as we were told at the end to head for a “big igloo”. It was quite prominent in the small town of Birdspings.

I finished in 11.05, an hour better than my best expectations and with no injuries. I was really chuffed with that. The sleeping quarters tonight are some sort of town hall (in an igloo) with sleeping mats and a solar shower. It was nice as we all get to hang out with each other and eat together, something I thought we’d do lots of while we are here but the bone aching and tiredness just gets in the way of all that.

I got to see lots more of people tonight. The guys putting their feet in ice, Serge attaching himself to some electrodes, Patrick getting massaged by his wife. Everyone seems to have rituals. I thought when I’d finish a stage I’d be walking around, chatting and stretching whereas in reality I am just looking to get off my feet as soon as possible.

I think everyone did OK today, no one pushed the cut-off I think. In summary for myself this was a fucking good day J

Boring Stuff

Weight – Before 80.5, After 79.5kg

Kit – Newtons, NF hat, Kathmandu Shorts, Columbia Top, kooga pants, shades, socks

Food breakfast/During – 3 cliff bars, 6l Gatorade, 3 monsters, 3 cokes, 1l water AFTER – American water, 2 sprites, 2 iced teas, water, 2 noodle snacks, beef jerky, 2 chicken bits (dunno what bits), rice, cheese.

Injury – An ever quieter right shin. Probably will pay for speaking too soon.