Days 59 and 60 (Yes SIXTY)

Day 59 – Zanesville to Morristown – 55 miles

Italo woke up this morning looking more confused that usual and then broke the silence by saying “oh no, I dreamt that I had run 40 kilometers of today already and now I have to run them again”. Welcome to my world my friend, I have been doing that all race. If I could bag the miles I have run in my sleep then I would have got to New York ages ago and be half way back to LA by now.

Today was supposed to be the longest stage of the race, 58.5 miles but it was cut down to 55 and tomorrows increased by 3.5 as Laure was worried about the amount of turnings we would have to make in the latter stages. A few people have gone wrong and I think now we are not on endless straight roads anymore Laure is worried about someone ending up in Toronto.

I was my usual self, not able to eat as much in the 20 minutes I gave myself to try and wolf down as many bagels as possible. Eating enough, finding clean(ish) pants, remembering my running number all seem like too much in the morning. Only 5 days left till Gemma can help me out with some of those.

There was a surprise at breakfast (provided by the motel today, normally we have to fend for ourselves), David was back. I interrupted his conversation with Serge to give him a hug. It was great seeing him again.

The miles in the dark felt like harder work than normal and just for me for some reason. Everyone flew off leaving Alex and I at the back. Alex has been suffering with a bad shin splint for a few days and has been coming in at the back. In my and most others experience injuries have a life expectancy of about 4 days before they go away or just stop complaining, I hoped this was the case with Alex.

It was an incline which I was running and feeling OK but it would appear that everyone was wearing new shoes today because they were all in the distance. It’s impossible to see other runners from behind in the dark from more than about 50 meters so you never really know where people are.

The sunrise was the best I remember, the glowing sun sat at the end of a beautiful corridor of trees making it look like they were on fire. I have stopped taking pictures now (the humidity killed my camera phone) but that would have been a brilliant one and today generally was gorgeous.

Emily and Berangere were crewing me at the start and I no longer know what I want to drink when I get there. I just ask Emily “what do I want to drink” and she has some ideas, usually iced tea. My food box contained pringles today which I bought from a gas station the previous night. 900 calories in a little tube of easy to eat snack. That should get me through 20% of the day at least.

My energy today was generally good, only one wobble around 35 miles. I was eating small amounts constantly with the sandwiches and pringles and the occasional gel. I think the hills and scenery helped with that. I was going slower, I think the new shoes effect might have worn off though it was hilly so perhaps my pace was just as good. I just looked around and thought “I could easily cope with 12 hours of this every day for the next 12 days”.

I guy stopped to ask me for directions to Egypt Valley road, I said I had no idea about the area and he seemed a little grumpy at my response and drove off. Oh well, I used that as prompt to get my route card out of my bag and look for the next turning, half a mile, left on Egypt Valley road. I swear I’ve heard that street mentioned before.

I did pass Koshita and Ishiara though Bando was running very well and finished ahead of me. He must have got new shoes and new legs. It really is great to see him running well, I hoped to catch him to chat but he was way ahead.

Most of today was in fairly warm sunlight with trees all over and quiet roads. There was some trail too or rather gravel path. I found myself running quite well on it and thinking yet again of where this reminds me of home.

The finish was by a small motel that only Italo, myself, Jenni and Anneke were booked into as there were difficulties booking enough rooms nearby (and this was part of the reason why the distance was changed). All of the supported runners had to drive a little distance to their motels. I was relieved at just being able to stay in the place we finished and I enjoyed a prolonged stay out on the grass of the finish area just chatting and waiting for the others to arrive. We were then treated to a brilliant meal put on by the motel owners of noodle soup and pasta, really really good and I regret again not having enough time to eat it. It is hard straight after a long run, your body is screaming for food but your digestive system has gone to sleep.

Day 60 – Morristown to Washington – 50.3 miles

I had a dream last night that I had missed one of the stages and got thrown out of the race. I was trying to convince Laure that I could just catch up and run two of the stages on the same day but she was not having it. For some reason this conversation took place in Leicester. Anyway, I woke up a little relieved to find that I was still in the race and now on day 60.

In the morning Peter said that after today there are 10 stages, but the last one does not count and the 26.2 mile stage (67) does not count either so really it’s only 8 days left. Wow, 8 days left sounds much better, that’s only a week. I’m not counting my McNuggets yet but that seems really close.

Bando had a screamer yesterday. I said to him in the morning to slow down but he said “No, today I go faster, yesterday was the first day since day one with no pain”. Alex told me that Bando had been praying to every God that exists (sic) for just one day without any pain and he seemed to get that yesterday. I think he got that today too as he flew off with Rainer at the start.

We were a bit concerned about Alex who was not at the start today. He had an alarm malfunction and ended up coming 30 minutes late.

Today was an exciting one, 3 states. The milestones were 20 miles – West Virginia, 26 miles – McDonalds and 35 miles – Pennsylvania. I was expecting more of the same as yesterday which profile wise was the case but scenery wise was not. The hills were still there but instead of being off the beating track we were passing through town after town.

There was an incredible fog as the sun came up, reducing visibility to around 30 meters. It felt quite nice just to run through some towns where people were getting up to go to work in the foggy morning like I could have been running to work myself.

The miles were slow going but with the hills and intersections I was not too worried. It would be nice to get this finished under 12 to have a bit of time at the end. I ran together with Koshita for the first half and he slowed to take lots of pictures of everything. A game I like to play sometimes is “what would Koshita take a photo of?” While I am running I imagine I have a camera and that I am Koshita taking millions of photos. I don’t know how he is going to make cut-offs now we are seeing much more stuff.

West Virginia looked interesting from the start, a town called Wheeling and some huge bridges over a river. It all looked very industrial age with steel bridges. It looked really cool. Soon after there was a McDonalds (Big mac and smoothie) and then we started a long long slog uphill.

It was not that steep but anything that increases the effort you need is frustrating, particularly when all out effort still results in you going very slow. I ran most of it, getting more knackered and thirsty and just frustrated with how slowly everything was going. There were some busy sections of road where I’d get annoyed by a lorry breaking my rhythm and making me go to the side (not their fault, the road was narrow).

I saw my first live snake , quite a big black one that made me jump and he went the other way and slithered pretty quickly up an embankment. I was amazed at it’s speed and wondered whether I could have out run it if it decided to go for me. This occupied my mind for a while after.

Near the top of the long incline was the state line into Pennsylvania and with almost every mile now comes a historical marker sign describing some fort or house or refuge that helped protect the settlers from the Indians.

The last few miles were just up and down and up and down, too steep to really do anything with either. I felt my relaxation time at the end slip away as I slogged up a significant slope and then limped down the other side. This is what the next week is going to look like. I finished in 12.40, south of my “4mph” slowest ideal pace but at no point did I really hurt or suffer, it was just frustration really.

But then again, there is only a week left : )