Days 42 and 43

Day 42 - Conway to St Robert - 51.7 miles

The day started as usual except this time I was a little more worried to start running. Yesterday ended a bit disappointingly with a tweak to my ankle that seemed to get worse after the finish. Each day starts with a walk, I think everyone wants to space out a bit before they start running. Sometimes I am not convinced I actually am capable of running until I finally start shuffling my feet. There you go, you can still run. Game on.

But today there was a lot more apprehension about taking those first steps, like checking a bank balance. I know I need to look at it but I am scared of what it will say. Perhaps if I just don’t look then it will just go away. After about a mile I started to run. And it was absolutely fine.

This morning it was my right knee and hamstring that seemed to be sore but as long as the injuries moved around my body I am happy that no serious damage is being done. I had an early confrontation with a skunk, it was just wandering across the road in the dark and so I moved to the other side so to not disturb it, it looked at me and arched it’s back like a cat ready to pounce. I moved further away and it continues alongside me and did the arching thing again. Yeah come on sunshine, I can probably out-stink you right now.

Around 7am I passed some Jehovahs Witness building and was tempted to go banging on their door at this unjehovahly hour and tell them to come out running with me. It looked like too much of a trek though.

It’s too easy to think (and say) things like “ooooh, it’s not as warm as it was at this time yesterday” but it really is pointless as the weather here can turn on a sixpence. It did feel a little cooler at 8am and it’s tempting to think that the whole day will be cooler. However it depends on so many things, how many clouds there are, how high, how many trees, wind etc. At 8am I was looking forward to a cooler day, by 9am I was suffocating again.

We are starting to go through some bigger towns and cities now which is great for people who like to fuel of random crap they can buy from shops and fast food places on the way. Around 16 miles in we entered a place called Lebanon which was quite a big place compared to where we have been and I was hopeful of a place to have a breakfast sandwich. On being disappointed that the McDonalds we’d pass was on the other side of the interstate and so I could not get to it. I staggered in the heat through Lebanon looking for a place but everything was closed. Eventually I found a “Casey’s” store and bought 2 egg and sausage biscuits (which are kind of muffin things here). Phew.

The temperature soared again as I exited the town (towns feel so much hotter) and tried to get an ice cream from a gas station but they had nothing, the lady in there seemed really interested in the race and so I bought a couple of drinks in there.

After Lebanon there was a hilly section of quiet  road alongside the I-44. There are not many cars at all but as it’s hilly and twisty you have to be careful. It’s hard to be careful when you are choking on humidity though. The camber of the road makes it look like you are running drunk, a slight change in gradient and you wobble off to one side. On the plus side it looks really nice.

And there was a little lift today in the form of a milestone, or kilometerstone. 3000 kilometres, or rather to but it more succinctly 3 megametres. Only about 2 megametres to go.

After several hours of the usual choking there was hope, the sky started to fill with clouds, grey clouds. There had been thunderstorm warnings in the state and I really hoped we’d get to run in one. The clouds started to rumble and the sky flashed, we were going to get it. I yelled at the sky as I passed the Italian support car to come down on us hard. And it did.

This was proper rain, coming in sideways and heavy. The noise was deafening, you could hear it crack to the left and then roll round right behind us like we were in a theatre. Alex said “you need to moderate your powers” as if it really was me that called the rain. I said “come on Alex, let’s do some British running” and we ran through the storm.

It lasted about an hour, we were all drenched. I even started to feel cold. That’s a sensation I have not felt for a while, certainly not when running. All feet were soaked which meant many were worried by blisters but I just loved the rain.

It stopped, not suddenly it drizzled for a while. There was about 12 miles left and we feared what was coming next. As Simone said the last time it happened “yes the rain was good but now you must pay”. The Sun would start it’s evil work, sucking back the water and saturating the air. I looked at the ground, willing it to take in all the water before the Sun could claim it back.

But it never came out again, today the clouds finally won. It stayed overcast and cool for the remainder of the day. It was wonderful. There was lots of climbing to be done at the end and our final stop in St Robert was quite high. The last few miles my feet ached more than they have done so far, probably softened up by the rain. 13.40 is probably the longest day yet for me as I passed through the finish line with Alex.

I lay down in the grass and drank the American Water and contemplated nothing more than eating and sleeping. I ordered a delivery to my room from a great Greek restaurant, getting a chicken souvlaki and a pizza. The pizza was mostly for breakfast and the next day.


Day 43 – St Robert to St James – 41.4 miles

Italo told me last night that today was going to be 77k. I was disappointed as I thought it was shorter and this played on my mind a little. In fact I had my first white line dream for a couple of weeks. I thought I was passed worrying about how many miles each day brings. Clearly not.

However it was not 77 but 67, or 41.5 miles just as I thought. The next 3 days were going to add up to less than 100 miles which would feel like a holiday. I signed in on the sheet today, a new sheet to denote that it is now week 7. I have been running now every day for 6 weeks and only have 4 left.

We were along the road next to the I-44 for the first few miles and then down a more isolated one (I don’t even know whether it is R66 or not). I spoke to Serge early on about his next run, crossing 5 continents in 18 months, covering 40000Km (or 40Mm). He mentioned that he used to be a trader and started running to get some stress relief. He also said that he believes everyone still in the race will make it to New York and that it’s the first 10 days that sorts everyone out.

I said I feel physically weaker but mentally stronger since starting this race. I ache lots and I am slowing down and faffing at stops and in shops much more but I worry less and let less things get to me. That’s what is going to get me to New York. If I can finish the day inside the cut off and not dying then I have done my job.

I felt pretty good and the scenery was great, trees everywhere though it was very foggy at day break. I had not seen fog in a while too, I could be back in England again.

The roads were quiet and surrounded by trees so closely that you sometimes got shade from them. If only all of Missouri were like this.

I watched the weather channel last night, just because it’s the default on the TV. The place we were running through today was forecast 100F with 99% humidity and 97 dewpoints. I don’t really know what dewpoints are (nor really what 99% humidity means, is it the maximum amount of water the air can hold at a given temperature?). Anyhoo it’s bloody hard work with all of the above and while I have spent a long time “hoping” it will ease off it did occur to me that I’ve done 43 days of this now and there is no reason I can’t do the other 27. At least it can’t get any worse.

I didn’t just write that out loud did I?

And so the humidity kicked in again and I responded in the usual way, to find an ice cream shop. I went into a gas station and they had none (note to self, Phillips 66 stations do not sell ice lollies). I then went into a large supermarket, wandered around in their lovely cool aisles and found that they only sell ice cream in buckets. Doh. A mile further I founds a “Casey’s” again and in their freezer were ice poles : ) I bought 2 again and spent a while just wondering down the very undulating road of the town of Rolla chomping on chemically coloured ice (this time I had purple and red).

There were quite a lot of us running near each other today. Myself, Koshita (who has now taken over 6000 photos), Markus, Ishiara, Alex and Bando. Alex has been suffering a bit recently, feeling a lack of energy. He mentioned yesterday his crew think it might be an iron deficiency.  The next 2 days of less than 50k are really going to help us all recover and rest. Having time to have 2 meals in a day rather than trying to stuff as many calories down us at the end of each day will be nice.

Today I ate mostly left over pizza. The crew are quite cool in pretending to be Gemma and frowning at me if I eat crap. Berangere likes to wag her finger at me if I don’t eat right and say “Gemma” at me. Emily just likes to take photos of me eating crap, like yesterday when I stopped in the shop to buy pringles.

Laure sent a special message to me during the stage to say that the finish motel had a pool and a McDonalds opposite. I don’t know how I got this reputation for fast food.

There were a few miles on trails towards the end and then another undulating road (this will be a theme for the rest of the race I think). Then into St James’ and as soon as I saw the golden arches I knew I had finished. I didn’t hang about at the finish, I ran straight in and had one of those lovely smoothies.

So, another day done, nothing dropped off. Good day.