Day 39 - Miami to Carthage - 48.7 miles

The nightmares about the road have stopped. I’m actually sleeping quite well. Each day I get up with little more than a feeling that I have a job to do. I’ve stopped spending so much time worrying about the things I can’t control such as where we stay at night, how much down time I get, what there will be to eat at the end, phone reception, internet connections even money. I can always make more money, I can’t run across the USA very often.

Actually last night I got a couple of things off my mind. The hospital finally sent the bill for my 3 hours in the emergency ward ($2400 though oddly discounted to $1600). I hope my insurance settles that and Gemma is on to the case. I also looked at my bank balance last night too, not too bad. I have not really been keeping a handle on what I spend and worried that the pot would have dwindled a lot. Most of the costs of the race have been incurred now and I feel like I will have a little breathing space at the end. I won’t have to sleep in a bus shelter when I return to the UK (though that sounds nicer than the motel from a couple of days ago).

So now it’s just that, running, covering the distance each day and if there is time to blog or eat nice food or chat or call Gemma  at the end of each day then that’s a bonus. Bed by 8.30 latest, up at 4, just do the job each day. I feel like I am getting used to it now, like this is normal. Dare I say it’s getting easier…

Today was going to be a great day, we were leaving the state that tried so hard to kill us all. Just another 13 miles of this and we were in Kansas (if only for 9 miles and then into Missouri). “Lets get the hell out of Oklahoma” I said at the beginning of the day.

It was Patrick’s birthday today, not sure which one but he said he hopes not to run like an older man today. HE was presented with a book on the 1928 running across America. There were calls for him not to read it as it would give him silly ideas. He was already more than half way through that silly idea and smashing it.

The first 13 miles were the standard. I was told there were 3 Mcdonalds on the route today and I was intent on hitting them all. The first was just a mile into Kansas (Bye bye Oklahoma) and I stopped for a breakfast bagel and a smoothie. It was my first McDonalds smoothie and I had no idea just how good they were. It was starting to get a little hot and the ice cold fruit was amazing.

The 9 miles of Kansas was fairly uneventful, the “Pray for rain” signs were now “pray for America”. Bando found a wallet full of cash and cards and handed it to his crew who passed it onto the police. There was no sign for entering Missouri but I think it was when we crossed a main road and headed into one of those lovely tree surrounded windy roads that nearly killed me the other day.

In fact it was really nice, I did not feel the temperature more than other days but was icing my hat and pack as usual. Around half way we entered Joplin, a town devastated by a tornado in May.

The first glance at Joplin looked like there had been some damage but nothing too much. Houses were missing roofs, a gas station was closed as it had been shattered. The other side of the street looked fine though, all the houses and buildings in perfect condition. I thought that this was not as big as expected and headed through the town and took a right turn onto another busy street.

The view from then was an upsetting shock. Miles and miles of rubble on each side. The town had been razed. There were still random buildings in perfect condition but most of it was wood and brick just piled on the ground. From a distance it looks like any disaster scene you will see on the news from time to time, a bit anonymous. When we got up close to the buildings it was awful, there were shoes and teddy bears and clothes and toasters and all manner of peoples personal possessions buried under mortar. One of the runners was told about a boy who was swept up in the tornado and not found for 20 days, dead in a lake, dead in a lake I just ran past thinking “that’s a lovely lake”.

I was running with Alex at the time and he just said “Look at how your life can change”, pointing to the nice house with the car and the boat on the left and then pointing to the pile of rubble and belongings on the right. I think everyone’s lives must have changed that day, 200 of them ended.

With that harrowing few miles everything else seem to fade. All of a sudden minor pains in my legs didn’t really matter anymore. I walked through most of the town but started running again as soon as I got out.

The temperature really kicked up again but it didn’t register with me too much, it was only when I saw a sign that said 111F and then seeing Alex looking quite dazed in the shade. I was feeling OK probably because of McDonalds stop no 2 where I just had the smoothie.

The last 10 miles were really nice. A quiet road with a couple of towns passed. I think I like Missouri already. There was the third and final McDonalds a mile from the finish, it would be rude not to make the hat-trick wouldn’t it? Again , the same wild berry smoothie while someone in there suggesting this wasn’t the weather for biking. I’m not biking, I’m running.

Right, it’s past my bedtime. I think tomorrow is about 53 miles. Night night x.


Day 38 - Big Cabin to Miami - 40.9 miles

Day 38

“Another one like yesterday please” was the request from most of the runners. The mileage was not much different, 41 instead of 38. However when you look up you could see stars and the moon which meant little cloud. Still it was a much cooler start and yesterday was good for resting and sleeping.

The race briefing Laure said that tomorrow we will still be in Oklahoma (I got it wrong yesterday) but that we will be entering Missouri after 10 miles of tomorrow. She actually pronounces the state “Misery”, the same way I pronounce “New Mexico”.

On starting in the dark I had a look up at the moon. I have now seen all the shapes the moon has to offer during this race and will see them all again. I love running under a clear sky and a full moon normally when back at home, switch off the head torch and let the moonlight guide you. Now I just thought that if I can see the moon then soon I’ll be able to see the Sun.

It’s hard in the dark to tell whether you are going uphill or down. It’s hard anyway on these roads but the first few miles are a gauge of how knackered you feel and if you are going uphill without knowing then you feel like you are more screwed than maybe you are. But I should know better now than to believe what my legs are telling me in the first few miles, they are bastard liars.

8 miles we ran through a large town that had a McDonalds, Breakfast it is then. I stopped and bought a egg and bacon “griddle” which looked nice but is on a sweet bread which I am not really a fan of. I should stick to the muffins next time.

Shortly after on running up a busy road two guys in a car leaned out to yell “RUN FAT BOY RUN” at me. I thought it was a little harsh from two guys who were clearly not shy of the doughnuts themselves. Perhaps I should go back on the diarrhoea diet, I managed to lose a few pounds then.

And then, as if that could not be topped, I got to the top of a hill and saw a chicken crossing a road. Why did it do that? I have no idea. I wanted to run ahead and tell Alex about it but I am not sure whether he would understand.

The support today were great again and I was behind Jenni and Italu so they had to come back to feed me. Gemma has them well versed with what I need, sandwiches (and apparently apple sauce after a sandwich). I insisted that I had just had a McDonalds and was therefore perfectly healthy.

At 23 miles we passed through another little town where some food and drink was put on for us by the owners of a museum. I stopped for a little while and bought an ice cream from a nearby gas station (fudge lolly for $1.40). I think I get silly when I have ice cream cos I then nearly missed a turning.

I started running over a creek then onwards along the road thinking that the next turn was 4 miles, when I looked at the instructions I realised that it was actually one mile. Shit. Have I gone a mile since that creek? I had no idea, I have no watch or anything. I looked around and could see no support cars or runners around so re-traced my steps. I walked almost back to the creek and could not find this road, I then walked back the other way and found the road, about 100m forward of where I was. Doh.

I was then on some old gravel track that is really part of R66 but has been preserved in it’s original state. It is quite nice to have the variety but sometimes stones can just be annoying, especially when you are only lifting your legs millimetres. It was very hot again, by 10am I saw a sign saying 95F, it got to more than 100F (around 40C) during the day. I had ice from the team but not as much as from Gemma. I felt good and could run as long as ice was touching my head but when it dried I felt too hot again and had to slow down or walk.

After this section we were on a highway, I was catching up to Jenni and when I caught up with her she said she was dropping out as her legs and arms had swollen. Her legs really did look swollen as did her left hand. I think she really needs a couple of days rest and to get her electrolytes sorted.

Serge looked strong behind me today, he has had a terrible few days with an internal blister or blood clot or something in his foot that makes every step excruciating. He has spent a few days near the back and looks like he is getting over it. His support butler made me laugh this morning, came over to me just after a turn and said “have you seen Serge?” I think he lost him somehow.

With only 3 miles to go I was thinking of the finish and easing down when a familiar car parked in front of me. It was Russ and Claire, I just can’t shake these guys off : ) Russ handed me a milkshake and promised a Subway at the end (and called Gemma to ask how I liked it). Those two really are awesome people. I think Russ is hooked on this race, he should have done it.

I ran through the town of Miami to the motel that we are staying in, I used the crossings and lack of side walk as an excuse to walk most of the last 2 miles.

So 41 miles done in 10.15, that’s 4mph which sounds like walking but it isn’t really. I was quite pleased that today felt easy. I said to Russ that I like to day the short days even easier as there is no rush to finish. On a 14 hour day every minute you save can be used in recovery, today that’s not so important.

Gemma told me that my little brother had gone to talk about me in my old school and now there is a link about this on their website. This was really nice to see and brought back memories. Especially of the “sponsored walk” we’d do every year at that place where we would walk 15 laps of the school (prob about 8 miles). I hated it and usually cheated and cut corners. What's the point of doing all that on foot?

Day 37 - Oloogah to Big Cabin - 37.9 miles

Today started under a cloud in both a real and a metaphorical sense. On leaving the motel to start the drive back to Oloogah we noticed that it had been raining in the night as well and the sky was cloudy. This would be very good news if it held up.

The bad news however was that Gemma was leaving as soon as the stage would start today to fly back to the UK and continue real life. With the long day yesterday and the drive either way, the early start today I felt like I had no time to spend with her. Time is so precious now and some days I have none of it. It’s a shame that happened on her last day.

And so the start was quite emotional, I did not listen to a word of the race briefing which could have been a disaster as there were a lot of turns and complications today. As Laure set everyone off to start I hugged Gemma goodbye as she told me she’ll be back soon and “you can do this”. A little later than everyone else I started walking the stage.

I walked perhaps the first mile, as many do but for me it was just out of reflection. I don’t think my legs wanted to run yet. I did eventually break into a jog only to find than everything seemed to hurt. I stuttered in and out of walking worried again about pains in shins and thighs and hips until the penny finally dropped “Yes this is how it has felt for every one of the last 36 days, it goes away, just fucking get on with it”.

It was quite hilly at the start and I am in no mood to run up hills so I took it easy, jogging and walking up hills. I felt a bit sick and lacking in energy but assumed that to be more mental than physical. I had a few sandwiches for breakfast made from the huge portion of meat left over from yesterdays dinner. Pulled pork and beef were really quite good. Rene and Berangere (I have certainly mis-spelled that, even phonetically) were my support crew for today. They were awesome as usually.

After 16 miles we passed the statue of Andy Payne, winner of the first Trans USA race in 1928. If you have not read the book I highly recommend “The Bunion Derby”, a brilliant account of all the runners in 1928. Route 66 had “just” been built, in fact half of it had and others were work in progress. However a showman called CC Pyle (people thought the CC stood for “Cash and Carry”) decided to organise “the greatest show on earth” and stage a footrace across the States.

199 men entered with the hope of winning the $25000 prize. Pyle did this to make money out of the towns they would pass through rather than any interest in running. The pace some of these guys ran at was astonishing, imagine the shoes they were wearing, complete lack of endurance nutrition and having to sleep in real bad conditions. Most of the runners were poor and without support, they were not provided with enough food or any medication, they could barely sleep. The black runners were threatened in some of the mid states and had to sleep separately from the white runners.

Despite that these guys were phenomenal and I wont spoil the story as to who made it and who didn’t (though I just gave the winner away) it is a great read.

In comparison to those guys I have it easy. They had the prospect of not being able to eat at the end of a stage whereas I will always have food and a bed and ice and water and all the things I need. Compared to the original Bunioneers I am J-Lo’ing it across America. I have it easy.

I had my photo taken by the statue and moved on, the sky still full of cloud and pleasantly cool. First thing this morning the temp was in the low 20Cs. I think when the sun finally broke through the cloud around mid-day it went up to about 35C. There was no need for constant icing or cold cold water though I did not pass up the opportunity to get an ice lolly (I had a mega-rocket for $1.41). That was nice.

Rene and Berangere were insisting that I ate sandwiches and ate fruit. They later revealed that they had quite detailed written instructions from Gemma as to what to give me. That made me laugh, felt like she was there, felt like I could not get away with anything even though she is on a plane.

We were back on route 66 today for the first time in weeks which felt great. I was running close to Alex again and got confused when I saw him staggering about like a drunk about 50m in front of me, then I realised that was not Alex but Mr Tanaka who has such a laboured running stagger it’s unbelievable. The last few miles were on a lovely trail which was hilly and warm but bearable. I really hope this weather holds out a little.

I finished with Alex, knocking off the 38 miles in 9.20. I felt no rush today and just let the miles float by me again.

By the end of the day both sets of clouds had lifted, it got a little warm on my walk to the gas station to find something to eat but that’s ok. Looks like it will cool down a little at least.

I have now run for nearly 400 hours. I am more than 100 hours behind Rainer, somehow I don’t think I am going to win. I will have to email Mr Fetch to ask him (again) to extend the maximum number of hours you can put for a race. I think it’s 75 now (after I asked him a few years ago because of a 60 hour race I did). I think this one will come in around 800. I will at least try to keep it under 1000 so he does not need 4 digits for the hours : )

And tomorrow I enter a new state – Missouri. I wonder if that one will try to kill me too.

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....



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.

Deb and Dave's crewing adventure - Arizona days 9-13 I think.

LA-NY Footrace Log – Temporary Crew Edition

Day 1

San Diego to Truxton

We (my life partner Scout and I – “life partner” sounds so much more contemporary than “The woman who has tolerated me since the Carter Administration) drive from the domestic pleasures of our fabulous new home in San Diego to something called Truxton, Arizona. Why? The answer is obvious to any man who’s been married 30 years: because I was told to do so. After this many years of wedded bliss (translation: servitude), the rational man follows orders and keeps his mouth shut.

Why Truxton? A friend there – an acquaintance, really; actually an acquaintance of an acquaintance and a foreigner to boot – is running something call the LANY Footrace Across America, the victims of which start in Los Angeles and, after 70 days of suffering horrible agonies and a lot of bad, bad food, slog into New York City, where they will be mugged and derided as rubes.  (Note to all non-New Yorkers: anyone not from New York City is a “rube,” or a “hick,” a person of no sophistication or cultural attainment. Please be aware of this as you traverse NYC’s many areas awash in sewage, human excrement and unburied corpses.)

Scout and I will again provide an extremely modest – trivial, really - amount of assistance for a few days to James Adams, a Brit who looks a little like the American actor David Birney once did back in the day when he was starring in second-rate TV shows and was in a second-rate marriage to American actress Meredith Baxter.  To us (i.e. elderly strangers) James is a quiet, low-maintenance guy who probably finds the intrusion of a “crew” a bloody nuisance imposed by the race directors. True, there is the minor matter of needing to consume gallon after gallon of Gatorade during day after day under a blazing sun, but, one feels James would prefer that America had drinking fountains every few miles. Don’t we all.

The David Birney element may explain why the few women involved on the LANY trek are quick to ask us: “How is Zhames? Please, tell us about how is ze Zhames?” While this may simply be that the European women might like to see what it’s like on the other side of “The Channel” as it were, it also says something else about “Zhames.” While he is probably emotionally open and loads of fun among (younger, open and fun) friends, it’s “I’m all right, Jack!” when discussing the abuse his body takes during day after day of long mileage. This is good for us, since we have no skills with which to mitigate the aches and pains. (Our motto is: “You want ice? You want ibuprofen? You don’t want ice or ibuprofen, then shut your festering gob.”)

Ah, Truxton. There may have once been a reason for there to be a Truxton, but now…not so much. All that remains is a few dilapidated buildings around a dilapidated motel consisting of seven rooms. Baking heat, sand, and a few scrubby plants that have chosen the terribly bad option of desert for a habitat. As we pull in, James waits in the parking lot in his Robinson Crusoe look – and what appear to be fuzzy slippers. Obviously the latest thing in post-run wear for the ultra crowd, and I didn’t actually see bunny ears on them.   James is very James-y. Only admitted to a little concern that the throbbing pain in his shins could be a problem. But maybe not. It might get better. If it moved to his ankles or knees or feet, that would be a good sign that the issue was a generalized, free-floating agony rather than a specific one. We agree that stress fractures are a bad thing, especially so early in the race. Running on broken bones in Ohio or West Virginia would be preferable to running on them in California and Arizona. Given that I have a history of withdrawing from races due to hangnails, chapped lips, and occasional feelings of “bad karma,” James’ attitude is completely foreign. More to the point, his revelation that his legs are troubling him is something – for him - akin to a screaming, thrashing nervous breakdown; not very James-y at all.

We stare at his legs for awhile, then at the room the three of us will share tonight. Like most dumpy motels in the U.S., Truxton’s has a “window unit” air conditioner, which generates a tremendous amount of noise, but not much cool air. James shrugs.  (Later in the night as I lie awake dripping with sweat, I realize that the B-52 engine noise I hear isn’t the A/C: it’s James’ snoring. ) The room is a doozy, cluttered with James’ belongings, with food and water provided by the race organizers and with things that Laurie and another crew have provided – things similar to the ones we have brought. A quick look around leads one to conclude that we should have rented a van. This was an issue at Badwater last year, too, with mountains of stuff from which we were seldom able to extract the necessary items at the necessary time. James would say “Maybe at the next stop,” and run off while we accused each other of letting him down. But we learned from it and yet somehow brought an even smaller vehicle. Hm.

Chief among the pleasures of Truxton was…how can I put this?… the smell. Faced with the challenge of running for 70 days, James has opted for the time-honored guy approach of wearing the same stuff until it stinks too much to endure, then moving on to another set of togs. (He will later state that he packed 30 running tops.) There is loose talk about rinsing things out in the sink, but we doubt that this has often occurred. Given the odor and the lack of results from the A/C, it is well that James leaves his door open -even in the heat of Truxton. 

As a modern man, James has a blog to post and will sacrifice sleep to update it once the old folks have toddled off to bed. We do so, but in the back of our minds we wonder: Why has James left a pair of European-looking (i.e., skimpy) underpants on the floor of his room? Why would he change out of his smelly running clothes into “ball-hugger” shorts and then – evidently later in the same evening – discard them? Ah, the British.

Day 2

Truxton to Seligman

We awaken at 4:30 am and begin to argue about how best to pack the car. The race organizers have provided participants with supplies for a breakfast of coffee, bread and jam, the perfect way to start off a 6,000 calorie day. James shrugs when asked how his aching legs are doing. We decide to “let him have his privacy” (i.e., ignore the problem) and hope for the best during today’s 46 mile mad-dog run to Seligman, a virtual metropolis after Truxton. As the runners hobble out of the, uh, town, we learn that the mystery panties did not belong to James and were on the floor when he checked in. Ewww.

Yeah, you do wonder: Who checks into a room which has clothing on the floor from a previous tenant? But this is life in carefree (and hygiene-free) Truxton – and among these ultra-est of ultra runners. None of these folks are likely to be dissuaded by a surprise on the floor unless it makes noise louder than the A/C.

Ignoring left-over panties is, in a way, characteristic of ultra runners. Like James, all of the participants in the LANY have extensive resumes from other races and other challenges. These are people who say things like “I anticipate that the pain will ease up after Ohio.” The only remaining woman here dropped out of a trans-Asia race due to pelvic fractures. Yeah, those can be a bummer. Six of the original 14 race entrants have dropped out but most are still here and running every day, having recovered from whatever incapacitated them – or having decided to keep on going despite injuries. This is a far, far different mindset than those of us who bitch and moan because it was too hot during our Fourth of July 15K in San Diego.

The daily program is as follows: after the runners hobble out of town, we drive two miles, then open the trunk and offer James water or Gatorade and/or various high energy snacks when he reaches us. Usually he just wants Gatorade. He eats a few of the turkey sandwiches we made in advance, but it’s hard to tell if this is nutrition or just good manners. Later, he’ll want a “Monster” or two, one of those high caffeine, high sugar drinks that probably cause brain cancer. Chug-a-lug, buddy!

The route from Truxton to Seligman is along “Historic Route 66,” a section of U.S. highway only “historic” because there was once a TV show named “Route 66”  - even it was a fantasy about how these two cool guys bumped into towns along the road and had adventures, met girls, etc. There was a song, too, about a road from Chicago to LA,  but the interstate system came along and bypassed most of the little towns along Route 66 so that it long ago became a relic. Towns along the old road (the “Mother Road” according to some) hype their attachment to manufactured nostalgia. It’s a teensy-weensy copy of what one sees in Egypt with the pyramids and in Mongolia with Genghis Khan: Hey! Look at us! We were cool once!  Before we were born, but what the hell!

Still, Route 66 passes through an America that someone visiting Broadway or Disneyland would never know exists. For better or worse, folks here (and in Texas, Iowa, etc) are a face of America, too. Not surprisingly, they often feel neglected by the ever-more-urban U.S. of A and many of them are angry.

Many of them are also fat, yet another U.S. characteristic, and one that probably has, in some way, something to do with that sense of being passed by,  of being unimportant. Uh-oh, Dave has drifted into one of his “lost America” reveries. Quick! Get him a Monster…or a swift kick.

We pass out Gatorade and, as the day drags on, hope that James is feeling better (translation: We hope he’ll hurry up so we can finish!). Remarkably, James, now a Londoner, does better in the desert heat than some of the others though no one is exactly sprinting.  It’s hot and even the many charms of Seligman are only a modest incentive.  James wants to lie on the asphalt in the motel parking lot with his bad (worse?) ankle up on a chair with ice on it while he sips a beer. This is the happiest he’s been all day. Gee. Wonder why.

Dinner is a Subway sandwich, chips and a soft drink. Somewhere in the back of my nutrition-ignorant mind is the thought that he ought to be eating a high-fiber, high-vitamin, high-everything concoction to help him face the next day. Probably true, but he wants a Subway Italian BMT. What the hell.

Wind has been an issue and James has struggled to wear the floppy sun hat he brought, eventually going bare-headed. Since Scout’s family crest has “Ach! You’ll get skin canceh!” on it, I think of this often as I struggle to keep my own sun hat in place. The wind – often in the runner’s faces – is a damned nuisance.

On the plus side, James has arranged for us to have our own room in Seligman, perhaps because of our snoring and night-farting.  Better still, the A/C works and the floor is free of residue from previous occupants. Also, we can have sex without having to say to James “Turn your back for a minute, will you? This won’t take long.”

In Seligman, we also meet a few of the other participants/crew/organization people. One of the runners is French; his wife is honcho of the six-person organization team. A few of them speak passable English; no one seems to know much French. The organizers had limited entrants to 30, but only 14 signed up. At $6,500 (U.S.) entry fee, the organizers were looking at about $200,000 front money. With a far smaller field, one has to wonder if any corners have had to be cut. Who knows? Runners get a supply of water (70 ½ liter bottles), Coca Cola (24 12 oz. cans), a few gels, a few energy bars, and a loaf of bread every five days. Organizers clearly state that this is not enough to sustain the runners.  No kidding. Even so, wrestling with waters, the Coca Cola, and ice has been a chore for us.

Two of the participants are Dutch: One, the woman who had pelvic fractures in Asia, is accompanied now by her sister and brother-in-law and by Annike, a friend who carries water/Gatorade, etc. on a bike.  The runner (Jenni/ “Yenni”) has had to drop out from the “official” competition due to injury, but runs with the participants daily and looks strong and steady. Her sister teaches ice-skating in Friesland, in the northern part of Holland. Her brother-in-law Theo gives us a bit of ribbon with the Friesland flag on it. As with everyone else we’ve met, these people are sweet and generous and, like us, a little amazed to be participating – even on a crew – in such a demanding undertaking. Like us, the Dutch say that they “only” do marathons; like us, they recognize that what we both think of as a big and demanding achievement isn’t even a day’s journey here. We all feel like pussies.

Like us, Theo and his wife will drop out after a few days and go home. Jenni and Annike will continue.

The race front runner is Rainier Koch, a German, who seems to have the best – and most disarming – organization. Rainier, 30, is a runner; his racing partner Peter, 69, operates a “kick bike,” which is a glorified skateboard with bike wheels. Peter pushes off with one foot for a moment or two, then switches to the other. He used to be a runner, but gave it up. Too tough, he says. Now he’s “kicking” his way across America.

Rainier and Peter room together with June, a young Korean woman who met Rainier two years ago at a trans-European race. June was there with a Korean entrant who got hurt and dropped out. She decided to stay on; two years later when Rainier contacted her about crewing for the two men, she said yes. She says she hopes her next adventure will be a race across Australia, either with Rainier or with someone else she meets on this race. I hesitate to say “groupie,” but June seems like she wants to leverage these events into trips to foreign countries. She’s certainly seeing the U.S. in a way the average visitor never would. To be fair, her work day starts before 5:30 (when the day’s “race” begins) and probably includes tending to the two men for hours after their day ends. Despite the long hours, she is genuinely sweet and kind and funny. We have no idea if there is any “relationship” linkage between her and either of the men and no idea about how costs are allocated, but this has to be a huge commitment on her part, as well as on theirs; June is in it for the long haul.

One last Rainier story: As the race nears The Grand Canyon, Rainier has planned to hike the canyon during his “free time,” that is to say, after he has run the 30 or so miles from Ashfork to Williams. Gotta say, if you’ve never seen the Grand Canyon, go see it.  If you’re running 40 or so miles a day for 70 consecutive days…buy a postcard.

We reach Seligman and, blissfully, sleep in our own room. Having crewed for James at Badwater, we don’t question him a lot about what hurts some and what hurts a lot. If he wants to tell us, he will and, considering how little we can help, what’s the point of dwelling on it? While this may seem cavalier, we sense that James has no interest in spilling his guts to relative strangers. His blog is more candid about highs and lows; still, what can we do?  Say “Atta Boy”?

Day 3

Seligman to Ashfork. This is “only” a 30 mile day and James has hoped it is a chance for him to rest his aches and pains. We hit town…and immediately drive on to Williams, a larger town with a better motel. We’re supposed to sleep in James’ room here, too, but opt for – and pay for – our own. Typically, a runner pays for crew lodging and food as well as his own. James anticipates that the total cost of this challenge will run near $12,000 U.S. We hope not, but, 70 nights of lodging, plus dinners, plus supplies, etc., etc., and the tally adds up quickly. This is no game for cheapskates. The participants may be low maintenance, but the costs are substantial. Subway sandwiches for three (including drinks and chips) = $30 U.S.

Annike, the Dutch biker, walks by, telling me she wants to see the sights of Ashcroft. I’m pretty sure she’s kidding.  Once we hit Williams, we find a ribs place. James opts for chicken, a safer choice, but then, he has to run tomorrow. This is America, too: restaurant food in small towns, each with its own idea of what “ribs” or anything else tastes like.  MacDonald’s and Starbucks may pride themselves on the consistency of their product, but ribs taste different in El Paso than in Williams. There really is such a thing a “local flavor.”

Day 4

Ashfork to Williams. We drive James back to Ashfork, get ice, and are on the road again. We dole out the drinks and the occasional snack and hope we’re doing the right thing for our guy. He agrees that we should urge him to eat more during the day  (hint: try the four day old turkey sandwiches), but he generally does not want to eat during the day and nagging seems like dirty pool considering what he’s going through. There are times when he seems a bit lower than others, but saying stupid things like “Buck up, you’re doing great!”  seems so empty when the road ahead is so long. Perhaps there should be a manual for this.

James has volunteered us to assist Italo, an Italian runner who has no crew. Italo is, like James, low maintenance. If anything,  Italo is lower maintenance; he drinks little and eats less. We try to get him to eat one of the pre-ptomaine turkey sandwiches; he eats half. “I am a little man,” he says. True, but strong and, if one had to guess, one would think he’ll still be in the race at the end.

We reach Williams and get James a Big Mac, fries, and a strawberry shake, a meal composed almost entirely of poisons and carcinogens. Later, we all go with Italo to a “pizza” place, the quotation marks in honor of Italo’s heritage. Like anyone from another country who sees the American version of a product from their native land, he smiles a little to see what the U.S. has done to the food he knew. Still, we all dig in and the boys even take the leftovers back to their room for breakfast tomorrow. James is moving better – if not exactly comfortably – after the usual ankle icing at the end of the day.  This seems like one dynamic for these runners: they know they aren’t going to feel or move well until this is over so they just accept the way things are. The departure each morning is almost painful to watch, each participant slowly finding a way to run/walk into the morning sun.

The road has been gradually uphill since the second day, “gradually” being a more operative word for those of us driving with an elevation map in our lap. For the runners, it’s a never-ending series of long climbs. We try saying things like “Most of the climb is in the first 20 miles,” but there are hills in every part of each day and, like almost anything else we think of to say, out topographical observations are gibberish. On the plus side, the low, scraggly shrubs have given way to mesquite and eventually to pines. At least decent cover to empty one’s self behind.

Life is simple for the crew: if there’s enough ice, we’re okay. We get a bit ahead of the guys, stop and read a few pages of our books and wait to see them in the rearview mirrors. I’m reading a book about a photographer in the 1930s; Scout is reading about a Chinese study that supported the hypothesis that meat-based diet is bad. Did I mention we had pizza last night? Sausage made from snouts, intestine,s and anuses?

We try to provide updates on the route, but most of it is straight forward and the conversation is a little silly. “Tough hill. You guys are rockin.” No one wants to discuss the Greek debt crisis or why the U.S. is fighting for the Afghans, who despise us, but not for the Libyans, who are begging for help. It’s a disservice to ask a runner to enter into a real conversation; they may welcome a distraction – and a rest – but they need to get back on the road.

We haven’t run ourselves since Sunday and so try to go for an hour after James and Italo have settled down in Williams. Unhappily, at 7,000 ft elevation, we are even more pathetic than we had feared and hobble down a little piece of the same road that the guys hobbled…only we hadn’t been running huge distances for 12 straight days.  James is gracious – as always – when we tell him about this. Even as we try to make it into a funny anecdote, the contrast between our little jog and the weight of what the guys are doing is hard to ignore.  I’m guessing the guys aren’t really interested in hearing about how difficult the task before them is. “Shut your festering gob!”

Day 5

Williams to Flagstaff. After a 46 miler and two 30s, this is a 40. James is still icing, but says his legs are better. The shin splints are better and the ankle, if still swelling, seems less of an issue – or at least seems to be something he’s able to live with. We hope so.

After days of tough climbs and hot temperatures, this day has a little less of each. As this is our last day, James has approached the race organizers about support for the rest of the race. Tough love from the French. He has to discard some of his clothing, food, and peripherals to get down to the minimum he can carry. Again, I wonder if the shortage of entrants has resulted in a shortage of flexibility in this area. The race rules only require two weeks of crew support. What did the organizers think was going to happen then?   We take a few of his things so he doesn’t have to throw them away; still, it feels disloyal to be “abandoning” him, especially with his injury (Or two? Five?). Still, this is what we signed up for and we’re looking forward to getting home.

We watch the other runners. They are unfailingly friendly and, even as their energy flags,  have a little wave or a word for anyone who offers encouragement. Most speak some English. The Germans, Dutch, French, and Italians seem a bit more comfortable in English than the Japanese. Based on watching the support crews drive rented cars in Williams, I’d say the Italians and Japanese struggled with American signs and roads the most. Stop signs seem to especially baffle to Italians.

We part ways in Flagstaff, James with a Jumbo Jack, fries, and a strawberry shake in hand; us with a nine hour drive back home. He told us at one point that he hadn’t wanted his girlfriend to come along on this trek. It makes sense: someone with too close of a personal tie also has too much emotional weight. A racer owes that person more personal attention and warmth than the racer can pay out during so demanding an endeavor. In that way, perhaps Laurie and Scout and I were more useful than a loved one would be because of our emotional neutrality. On the other hand, someone close could offer a deeper kind of emotional support at times when a runner’s spirits get low. Who knows? We did the best we could with what we had.

I was interviewed on camera one day and asked about the race and the racers. At the time, I thought I had a pretty good handle on how remarkable their mental toughness was, their resilience, their drive to push through despite the fatigue and the injuries.  In retrospect, I think my perception only touched a small part of the surface. Deeper than the obvious issues like fatigue and injuries is the emotional toll. Those of us watching from the sidelines, even the ones handing out bottles of drink, cannot grasp how much determination it takes to face that. We can only marvel.  Rock on James.


Days 28 - 31 - Sorry but the sun has been spanking me

Day 28 – Boise City to Guymon – 56.6 miles

The longest yet but I was not worried as today was going to be a very good day. Gemma had flown in to Tulsa and as I set out she was going to drive out and meet me. Today the 56 miles was just circumstantial.

Still, it was going to be very hard work, with the clocks going forward again we all lost an hour and I lost another hour waiting for a burger and fries in a so called “fast food” place, Dairy Queen. It was the second time in two days that happened after our hour wait at pizza hut the previous night. Despite the size of some of the people here they don’t seem to do food very fast.

Today I was joined again by Russ and Claire who were fantastic. They took turns running with me and we spoke about a lot of stuff. Russ had run the Trans-Europe last year and knows a thing or two about this kind of thing. He was great to talk to and gave me a brief history of Oklahoma, which is basically that displaced natives from New Mexico, Texas and Florida were sent there from their homelands as the settlers wanted that land. After gruelling journeys where many died they arrived at what is essentially a barren place except that not long after they had been given property rights of the state they found a lot of oil.

I was not sure what time Gemma was going to get here, I guessed around midday and I had no idea what car she was driving. Russ and Claire left to take Jenni to the finish as the heat had taken it’s toll again. Soon after I saw her walking down from a white car.

I did not really know what to do or say but I just ran up to her and hugged her, I missed her so much and have craved for her presence since I have been here. I thought I could do this on my own but that is clearly not the case. There was suncream in both of our eyes.

Blimey this story has everything. succeeding against all odds, action, comedy, Love,  romance, Diarrhoea. It really should be made into a film. I will get Colin Farrell to play me (though he will have to prove his beard growing capabilities), Gemma wants to be played by Katw Winslet. I think Italu will have to be Benicio Del Toro (Yeah I know, Spanish, Sardinian), Alex will be played by Brian Blessed.

ANyhoo the run. Despite all the nice distractions today seemed to drag quite a bit. When I got to the 23 mile point I thought “is that all?”. Still, nothing was hurting so I tried to put the drag out of my mind.

I requested a sandwich from Gemma who drove to the finish to bring me a Subway, great first job at crewing. I was still being crewed by the organisation but tomorrow it will be Gemma’s turn to try it. She even got all the salad correct.

Oklahoma weather is very predictable right now. There has been no rain for 2 months and it is in the 40s every day. Each day starts warm in the dark and gets hotter and hotter though in the morning there is a nice cool breeze sometimes. Then in the afternoon some clouds offer protection for the runners as the temperature goes over 40. The problem is that the wind always picks up and becomes hot and in todays case was right in my face. Passing trucks blasting me with dead animal air does not help.

It was a long day, 13.30 hours for the 56. I was pleased with that and the fact that there was a pool outside though it was dirty.

Day 29 – Guymon to Balko – 48.8 miles

I joked about 45 miles being a “rest day”. In fact it is the average number of miles and so can’t be considered a rest day. I slept OK last night but was not prepared for today to be so tough.

We started at the usual 5.30 running through the streets of Guymon. Russ and Claire were there early as they were staying in a hotel a few miles into the run. It was already warm before the sun came up and my legs felt like lead. I got hot and sweaty right from the start and worried a little as to what the day would bring. Still, it was “only” 45 miles today.

I have a place in the Luton Marathon later this year, I reckon after running through Oklahoma that place will look like a magical paradise. There really is nothing here. I can’t remember the last time I saw an RV which suggests that mobile Americans choose to avoid this place. There really should be signs on the bushes, “next bush not for 15 miles” like they do for service stations on motorways.

I am starting to crap normally now, well apart from it being in open fields with truck drivers watching. My drinks preferences had changed over the 4 weeks so far. The first 2 weeks I was drinking buckets of Gatorade and monster energy drink, the next week I changed to cokes and sprites and now I mainly drink iced tea, diluted apple juice and obviously my own concoction of Budwater. I still reckon Russell is going to steal my drink idea and make bzillions before I get to New York.. It was on this blog first..

This was the first full day that Gemma was supporting me and she did an incredible job. I was running close to Alex, Jenni and Serge again, we seem to all be close nowadays. The heat picked up in the second half of the day and I think got to me more than I realised. When I finished I was pretty worn out, ready for sleep though we had a half hour drive to a place called Beaver to go to our motel.

Beaver was probably the shittest place we have been to so far, everywhere was closed. We ended up having to eat at a burger van. Both of us were pretty grumpy having been spanked by the sun quite a lot. The room we stayed in was still boiling hot, I had to shower and get into bed wet just to cool down a bit. Really tough day and a tougher one tomorrow.

Day 30 Balko to Laverne – 51.8 miles

Another long day, 6 in a row now of more than 45 miles and it’s taking it’s toll on people. I spoke to Serge early in the race who has slowed down a bit in recent days and he says it’s just tiredness rather than any specific problem with injury. Now at the start everyone starts walking and we look for the first person to “break” and start running. Usually it is Koshita who takes a camcorder out with him and runs out in front to film us all. Thus far I think he has taken 3000 photos. He certainly has an endurance challenge at the end of this race when he gets home.

Before the start of the stage we are presented with the rankings from the previous day and overall.  I don’t normally look at them too much except I did have a look today and in had my cumulative time, 308 hours. 300+ HOURS??? That’s nearly 2 weeks of solid running, in only 4 weeks.

I was tired from the start and it showed. I spent the first hour rueing my decision to only have a 6 inch subway for breakfast. I felt more wobbly than usual, taking me back to the diarrhoea days. Luckily I perked up a bit and by about 12 miles I felt normal again, well as normal as you can in these circumstances. At 12 miles we passed the only gas station on the route and Gemma managed to snaffle the shops last coffee, much to the dismay of the Italians.

It was hot again and nothing to see. I saw a building where the flag of Oklahoma was flying. It has green leaves on it, that makes as much sense as a Jordan doll having a hymen. Perhaps it is greener in the south but I was having no luck.

There was a tree in a field with lots of cows under it. I wondered how large animals like that can survive, about 30 of them under the one tree in a field with lots more scattered about.

Day 31 Laverne to a Picnic Table – 32 miles

Today was an “easy” day, 32 miles which was welcome after the last 6 days of high mileage. Last night we all squeezed into a small motel who’s owners were lovely, giving us a really good meal of pasta, potatoes and chicken. It’s nice to finish where you stay and start there the next day rather than have to drive out to someplace. I like to just roll out of bed and start.

It was a faster start than usual, people seemed keen on getting the job done before it got too hot. I felt warm again early on in the town of Laverne though got a little cooler as I got out of town.

Today Oklahoma got pretty for a while, around 10 miles in we were running along a hilly twisty road with lots of coloured sand to look at. There were even some trees too, I retract my terrible joke about the flag.

Today seemed to be going well, I was downing a lot of fluid and having the occasional sandwich, walking when I needed when it got hot and after 24 miles we entered the town of buffalo where we would run out of but return later. As soon as we hit the town it got a lot warmer, the temperature said 100F at it was only 10.30. I was with Alex and Jenni and Anneke at the time and said it will cool down again when we left the town. It didn’t.

The surprising thing was that it got so hot so quickly, like someone had just cranked it right up. It was like a blast that slowed us all right down. The humidity was high and this was the first time it has hit us.

Half way through the town I got snapped by a local journalist and tomorrow will be on the cover of the Buffalo Herald. FAME at last :)

What was supposed to be an “easy” day was becoming a hellish one. Gemma made it better by getting me a Subway at the gas station at 24 miles which I slowly ate and then tried to return to a jog but it was exhausting. In my head I knew there was only 7 miles to go, 6 miles to go, 5 miles etc but the thought of tomorrow played on my mind, 47 miles of this, potentially another 3 or 4 hours out in this humidity.

That thought disappeared as soon as I spotted Badger Creek which made me laugh and it was only a mile from the end. The finish was at a picnic spot under tree cover, they are such tempting looking places when you are running past them, the nice seat in the shade. It was really nice to be able to sit down in one with nothing more to do, well not for today anyway.

Laure said to us a few days ago that we will probably remember Oklahoma as the hardest state. I can understand that already though today in a restaurant I was told that the humidity has not even started yet..



Blog from Lesley who was awesome (as was Dave) in the two days they crewed me (days 7 and 8 I think)

Friday morning I was at my desk having a full blown meltdown.  Since we’d agreed to help Binks he’d had no internet and I had no phone number for him. All I knew was that we were leaving after work for Needles which is about 4 hrs away if you break all of the speed limits. My stomach was doing back flips “What did he expect from us? “ ‘What if we fucked up?” He’s a complete stranger and really famous in Fetch land!!! A couple of texts from Flip who told me “to calm the fuck down, he’s no diva, now fuck off and have fun” After almost 30 yrs he’s still such a sensible bastard when I need it. 

Finally I got a hold of Laurie who had been doing his support for the previous few days. “Stop every 2 miles, give him Gatorade, spray him then soak him when he gets too hot and make sure he eats” OK any moron should be able to do that. Then I had a text from Binks to wake him up at 4am and that thankfully he supported Leicester and not Newcastle (or frankly the deal would have been off!)

A couple of days later the French race organizers asked what “Route” meant as most of the race goes along historic Route 66. They were the roads that criss crossed the US, families would leisurely drive around the country enjoying all of the towns along the way, hotels and restaurants boomed. Now unfortunately the once glamorous RT 66 is hit and miss. Once they blasted through the mountains and paved the deserts with 6 lanes of traffic for the motorway system a lot of those towns fell by the wayside. Needles California our destination was one such place. Think Radiator Springs in the film “Cars” only with stray dogs and non stop thundering of trains.

We pulled in the hotel about 10.30pm. God that place was rough. Groups of drinking toothless locals with wandering dogs were sitting outside the lobby. Thankfully Yank Dave is a big burly biker type so he’s the one who usually does the scaring. We put the Union Jack in the front window and went to our rooms! I didn’t dare take my flip flops off, there was a faint smell of pee, and it sounded like we were in a wind tunnel beside King Cross. I bet YD was glad I’d insisted we bring our own pillows.

Sleep was non existent and at 2.30am we gave up and just lay there. We started getting organized about 3am. There was a petrol station across the way where we could get ice and some supplies. When we went upstairs to wake Binks his door was already open and the heat was pouring out and he was already dripping in sweat. He hadn’t been able to get the a/c to work properly. 

A kind of hug/handshake combo later and we were hauling all of his stuff downstairs. It was all boiling hot. We put it in the coffin sized cooler we’d brought and dumped 40lbs of ice over it, with another 20lbs in the back up cooler in the boot. Binks grabbed a dead petrol station sandwich and a coke for his breakfast (so that’s where my running fuel has been going wrong) and off we set for the 40 mile drive to Fenner, where the next leg would start. 42 miles to be run today in the absolute middle of nowhere.

The start was a petrol station in the middle of nowhere. We just hung around feeling awkward as everyone knew one another and already had a morning routine. We were introduced as Bink’s new crew and listened to the race brief as there were some route changes. YD just looked at me with that “It’s your turn to pay attention as you know I have a mind like a sieve” then all of a sudden they were off. We drove 2 miles and pulled over so we could actually organize everything. It was a relatively cool morning and we’d finally relaxed. I had no idea how long 2 miles would take each time we stopped so we’d just settle in and see. I opened up the boot and started searching for his Gatorade powder so we could pre mix drinks. I searched the entire car twice and the only thing to be found was a can of powdered “Tang” which is orange crap from the 70’s that they once sent into space with the astronauts. If that’s what the USA used to represent the wonders and knowledge of Earth culture no wonder the aliens never made a public visit.

Fuck, fuck, fuck we shoved everything into the car and as YD would say “hauled ass” back to the petrol station. Poor Binks probably thought we were ditching him. I had no idea how much time we had before he reached the 2 miles mark and we’d look like really stupid bastards if we weren’t there to meet him.

You know it’s a bad omen when the shop has a sign saying “Don’t bitch at our prices you’re in the middle of frigging nowhere “We grabbed the last 6 bottles of Gatorade $8 a piece!! and hauled ass back along the road. By the time Binks came plodding up you’d never know we’d even had any bother. 

We settled into a nice steady routine and the morning really was quite pleasant. The road was just a never ending desolate ugly stretch that had a constant stream of trains with half a miles of cars behind it. Each time we pulled out the umbrella and chairs to cheer on the other runners and wave to the other vehicles. They’d shout out and ask if we were having “tea and a picnic” After a couple of hours the sun was getting stronger. Binks had put his hat on; we were doing light water spraying and had slathered him in sun block. The Sardinian Italo had gone by with an Arizona license plate strapped to his back shouting “Look at me I’m an American car “ Binks had taken over the Japanese guy Bando who had started out too fast and was about 5th. No bad for someone they continually called “stocky” for r a runner.

After 26 miles we finally made a right hand turn and headed down to the motorway where he would be running 6 miles. We had to let him get a head start and we could stop once. We had to look out for a wider shoulder where it would be safe. The wind has picked up and it was just plain fucking hot. By now we were soaking down his hat and shirt with ice water. After a quick pit stop we headed away to meet him once he got off the motorway. There were lots of truck and I was really quite nervous for him.

We sat and waited. Serge’s driver was parked in front of us and it was hysterical to watch. He looked like a butler with all of his stuff in a plastic container which he held on the palm of his hand. Serge never stopped, his guy walked along side him for about 1/10th mile handing out stuff and then turned around and came back to the car. No ice dousing and necking a bottle of Gatorade from him. No surprise really considering he’s run across every continent.

Now I needed to pee! I don’t camp; run ultras and when we run in the state parks there are regular toilets. I went outside and the heat and wind took my breath away. I instantly got a blister on my top lip from the heat and trying to find somewhere with no obvious snake/critter holes was rather challenging to say the least. 

After that ordeal we set off on the last stretch back to the hotel. How the fuck could he keep on running and still be pleasant and say thank you at every stop? We pulled in at The Bates Motel grabbed a couple of beers and the Union Jack to wave him in. Everyone cheered and clapped and then he collapsed in the shade in a chair with his “American water” they handed out……..Budweiser! 

As a former psychologist this whole ultra thing just fascinates me what are you like after that kind of ordeal? Tired and spacey is the answer. You could tell that he was having a hard time getting his brain and mouth to smoothly coordinate. He was still having problems with his UK phone so Wine Legs called him on mine and he went to rest before dinner.

We got everything unpacked and sorted. We had gone through all 60lbs of ice as his stuff had been so hot. We re iced everything for overnight, took a quick shower and a group of us had dinner. Half way through dinner I had that sick feeling you get when you know the heat has gotten the best of you. I felt pretty ill. Back in the room I sat in front of the a/c, drank more fluids and was so tired I actually let my bare feet touch that minging carpet as I fell into bed.

Despite being completely knackered the wind tunnel/Kings Cross environment had us awake again at 2.30am. OMG how can anyone deal with this for 70 days. Real hotels have soft towels and little fridges never mind going without even a microwave for that long. YD was thankful again for my over packing as I‘d brought huge fluffy bath towels. We packed up our crap and by 4.30 am the car park was a hive of activity. Italo, the Sardinian was trying to negotiate with the Japanese to carry some supplies for him as today was a tough uphill climb 51.3 miles and wasn’t really getting anywhere with them. We mentioned that we had seen him within 5 minutes of Binks all day yesterday and would carry some stuff for him. We were here for Binks and would stop every 2 miles so he decided to run with him and take advantage of the offer. The car was jam packed; thankfully it’s pretty big so there was still room for me. 

When Binks came downstairs he was doing a good John Wayne impersonation…apparently chaffing. PL’s over packing genius strikes again. I had seen in his FB photos a tub of Sudocrem and a silly comment about never travelling without it again. There was a tub under one of the bathroom sinks from when the family was here last and I’d grabbed it on the way out of the front door. It was very gratefully received.

The race briefing talked about how tough it would be and that on the steep hill roads we would have to use care in choosing places to pull over. YD was actually grinning. He’s a Top gear nut and loves all those crazy winding roads whenever we’re home and we have tons of them in Arizona. One of the runners Marcus had missed the cut off last night due to illness and all of the runners had agreed that one bad day was allowed for everyone. And then off they went. As everything was still cold from last night we went ahead with just 40lbs of new ice this time.

Just a short way down the road we turned a corner and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Right next to the flea bag, pee stinking Bates Motel were huge houses with boat docks, man made beaches and the sparkling Colorado River! We crossed the Arizona state line and things were instantly greener and prettier ( I may be a little biased) We put on the cd I got from my Fetch Secret Santa which was full of running tunes and cheered everyone on. It was the first and last chance we got to see the lead runner Rainier. We had dinner in his company last night and he’s a really cool funny guy. He ran Sparta when he was 19. The University he works for had let him take 2yrs holiday so that he could do this race. Binks came by just as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” came on. 

Our plan for today was to stay in the car as much as possible and just surface when the guys were in sight. Italo stayed close to Binks and was either with him or just behind. We started a climb and the terrain became more familiar. The desert really is beautiful and has its own seasons. As much as I hate not being beside the sea you can’t beat a desert sun rise/sunset. Binks was walking uphill so we decided to whizz a head and scout out the mining town of Oatman.

We saw a sign and I couldn’t help but think of Flip. “No beer for 5600ft “ 
 When we got to the town it was just amazing. It looked like something from the set of a western complete with the wooden paths raised off the ground to keep your feet clean. And there were donkeys just wandering everywhere LOOSE!!! YD was taking video and one just stuck its head in the car window and we were stuck. Eventually we got turned around and went back to meet Binks. There was real food and toilets here but all they wanted was ice cream, something fruity not creamy and a little something for Wine Legs. We got ice cream in the saloon and when they came running in spent a little time taking tourist pics. Italo was hugging the donkeys and chatting like crazy. As the main street ended the climb got steeper and we would eventually pass a gold mine. YD had bought one of those super soaker water guns that shot out 5 stream of spiraling water so he lay in wait for Binks. Boys and their toys!! He also obliged in cooling down Serge, Patrick and Italo.

The benefit of climbing was that it was a little cooler and there was an actual kind breeze. The scenery is just stunning and when you think of how hard it must have been back in the day to blast all of this rock and create a road its mindboggling. We were also passing lots of motorbikes coming in the opposite direction into Oatman. I could see YD getting that grin on his face that bike riding brings and before he opened his mouth I nodded and mouthed “Not till the winter” 

More picture taking at the highest point and Alex and his crew were camped out here. He has a huge entourage and is sponsored by Jeep. He was sitting in the shade with his feet in an ice bath having a bowl of pasta with some cut up fruit beside him. He has this big bushy beard which I think is the inspiration for that hairy mess that Binks was growing. To be honest I was just glad that Alex had normal running gear on as yesterday he was wrapped in this see through white bandage thing with tin black knickers underneath and I found it very distracting. 

Speaking of food. Binks had not really eaten enough yesterday and Italo had been getting harassed also by the race director. When the end of the world finally comes and the only thing left on the planet are the cockroaches they will be feasting on the rubber bologna and plastic cheese that Binks was eating on his sandwiches. Italo was trying to soften salty rock hard noodle packets with warmish water and saying “Mmmmm Special Chinese noodles”, while trying not to break a filling. But at least they were eating.

As we hit the switch backs on the downhill Binks sped ahead of Italo and we even did a little video interview as he was running. The next pace we stopped was this little stone museum/shop in the middle of nowhere called Cool Springs. We grabbed some cold drinks and a piece of authentic Route 66 stone and a Route 66 passport which we put in Bink’s bag in the car. Suddenly the scenery was over and all that stretched out ahead of us was 10 miles of flat hot desert with occasional houses in the middle of nowhere.

It was miserable and hot again. Italo stopped to change his sock and we cooled down his feet. We were all tired, hot and pretty miserable at this point. Suddenly he farted! He looked up and said “It’s ok just noise, no sheets” We just cracked up. 

Binks knew we’d make the cut off but the goal now was just to “fucking get this over and finish sometime” We had to cross both the on and off ramp of the motorway to get to the side road leading into Kingman. There was also no shoulder so I walked them across and reminded them to be careful. Ahead was a huge sign for a McDonalds and Binks asked for a Big Mac, chips and strawberry milkshake when he finished. We passed a truck stop that had a strip club in the back of it. The American do like to multi task.

Two miles from the hotel we soaked them down and watered them for the last time. I must say they really know how to pick these hotels. This one was a lot nicer, but situated next to a Juvenile Detention centre. Beers opened and Union Jack waving we sat and waited for them to come in. YD had got some blowy noise things which the French thought were highly amusing. Binks and Italo ran in hand in hand. This time he was just so knackered. He did perk up when YD appeared with his food and he had some decent beer instead of the usual American water.

As we were getting ready to unload everything Italo turned to Binks in such a serious tone and said “James are you lonely tonight?” I spat my beer out. Turns out the room had 2 beds and he was asking to share and split the cost. Of course they’d given him a room on the 1st floor! YD and I just rolled our eyes and started heaving everything upstairs. There was tons of water and stuff leftover so we just put it in the smaller cooler and left it there as a present for the race. We’d mixed up Gatorade and roughly tidied up his stuff but nowhere near what he really needed. But we still had a 4hr drive home. 

I kid you not I hadn’t set foot on the 1st stair when this stench came wafting down. It was his stinking feet. He joked that he’d stepped in some bog of doom last week and couldn’t get rid of the smell now. One of those fish pedicures might work but he wasn’t sure how many he'd kill before the funk was gone. We had emptied out the last of the ice from the coffin and Binks was sitting in it while Italo took photos of his feet. Lots of hugs and Italo gave me his Sardinian bandana as a thank you.

We crawled into the car. We were absolutely knackered and all we’d done was jump in and out of the car for 2 days. YD loaded up on Mountain Dew and 5 hr energy drinks and we made it to Phoenix at midnight. It was 41C at that time of night.

Getting up at 5am was just ugly and YD accidently locked the fluff ball Duncan Hardmoors in the laundry room all day in the chaos of getting ready for work. I still can’t quite fathom the strength and bloody determination needed to get up day and day out and do what he’s doing. And when I read his blog about breaking down in the restaurant I cried and was so mad that we could have done just a little bit more before we left. 

It was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives and it was a pleasure Mr. Binks. 

Day 27 - Claytown to A red barn in the middle of nowhere - 49 miles

4.30 AM felt like a lie in this morning. After a few days of getting up even earlier I was welcoming the lack of rushing in the morning. Relatively speaking anyway. I got my stuff together, had 2 slices of cold pizza and was ready for an “easier” day of 49 miles, still 4 over the average but now the miles are kicking up to make up for all the 30 mile fun runs we had over the last few weeks.

Today at 12 miles we were to cross into Oklahoma, our 4th state. It was quite exciting. As we approached the “leaving New Mexico” sign my bowels just made a big noise, as if to say “oh, go on. One last time in New Mexico?” And so I did, behind the biggest bush I could find which was about as big as a hedgehog. Bye Bye New Mexico, sorry I had to defecate on you so much.

Hello Oklahoma and Hello Russell and Claire. These guys know a lot of the runners already (Rainer, Jenni, Anneke) from the Trans  Europe race last year and have been in contact with myself and Gemma over the past few days. I liked their presence immediately and am really looking forward to them being around for the next 3 days. I asked Russell why he didn’t do this race. “Well I was on the list but I just thought it would be too hot”. Doh.

The weather forecast for Oklahoma is easy to remember, 100F for all the time we are there. There is a breeze though which sometimes helps, sometimes not. I have yet to experience this “humidity” they talk about.

I worried about the lack of trees in Oklahoma and the boredom but the first few miles looked ok. They no longer have the mile signs (perhaps they look too much like trees?) so it’s hard to know how far you have gone, however the miles seemed to roll off again nicely and I got to half way (described in the turn sheet as a place with some houses) in what felt like no time.

I reckon if you look closely you can see Missouri from the beginning of Oklahoma, the roads are as straight as I have seen. There is lots of farmland around which I find quite interesting to look at and the noises of machines feels like running through where stuff is happening. This is the place that feeds America.

The long roads can screw with your mind though (I will probably think about them when trying to sleep tonight unless I can think of something else like counting trees). I saw a farm with some large silos ahead which I knew to be 35 miles and thought I was close, then an hour later I still was not there and the silos did not seem to get any bigger. It’s torture. I’d like to just put my head down and ignore it but you can’t as there is no shoulder and the road has big trucks on. You always have to be looking ahead at the long long road.

It got hot again but there was some cloud cover. I watched for the shadows of clouds in the road as they cruised over me like a low flying plane. I’d sometimes look back to see how much of this shadow I have to cool me down and then watch them speed off up the road. Some of them would just disappear.

It is unusually dry here, churches have slogans outside saying “pray for rain”. I think the governor of Oklahoma has issued a request that everyone pray for rain. Can’t see any floors in that plan…

Today was a sad day as it is the last time Bertrand and David will be crewing us. They have jobs back in France and have to return but I was delighted to hear that they will be returning to watch us enter New York. David and Bertrand, thank-you so much for all the support and laughs over these 4 weeks. I will really miss the two of you.

Today was a little longer than planned and we ran (or rather I walked) past the motel we were staying in and did another 5 miles up the road to a barn in the middle of nowhere.  I felt a bit giddy towards the end and walked the last few miles, I was still in good time so was in no rush except that tonight we lose another hour with the clocks going forward. And tomorrow is about 56 miles, the longest yet.

But tomorrow I will see Gemma somewhere out there, something to look forward to. It will be great the first time I see here, even though I’ll be an hours run away from her. 

Day 26 - A pink house to Clayton - 54.8 miles

Today is the kind of day that made me wish I had taken up golf to get my excitement quota. There was not a lot of it in the plains just short of Oklahoma. Long straight roads, wobbling up and down slightly so that you can not see more than a couple of miles ahead. You kind of hope as you approach each crest that something exciting would be behind it. A castle? A beautiful Lake? Herds of charging buffalo? Oh FFS I’d accept a tree, just a tree. I’d trade my right shoe just to see a tree. But no.

Well, I can’t really complain. If the days go without too much excitement and drama then at least New York is getting closer. There are trees in New York right? We were actually told that this has been the driest summer here for over 100 years. All this yellow is normally green, honest. I managed to get my phone to charge again and so was ready to take pictures but I just could not find anything to point it at.

Today I think was the longest so far, 54.8 miles. It was supposed to be 4 miles longer but we did those yesterday. The next 4 days are all over 50 miles too making this a very hard week, however the terrain lends itself to dramaless running and so it’s probably a good idea to get lots of miles done here.

It was an early start again as we had to drive 30 miles to the place we left off yesterday. 5am in the starlight we plodded on, all hopeful that today was going to be fairly “easy” like yesterday, despite the distance.

Early on we were treated to a little café that would be serving breakfast and coffee. I decided not to stay there but to go in and have a look. I hoped there might be somewhere to buy an ice cream later but alas no.

I chatted a lot more to runners today, I normally like to run alone and look at things and keep to myself but today conversation was welcome. I ran a few miles with Markus

It has been a while since it felt “too big”. Today was a big day but I know if I just take those green mile signs one at a time then the days will pass. Then as the days pass New York will come to me. In my times of despair I sent two distress flares. One was a text to Gemma to tell her to come out here. The other was an email to Bob Brown.

Bob is a legendary runner who won the last running of this race in 2004. I have met him a couple of times in races this year and he is a lovely guy. I just wanted to know from him whether it felt too big and overwhelming. He replied that yes it did feel like that a lot and at times he was in bits. I did not want advice on how to deal with it or anything like that, I just wanted to know that others who do this have felt the same. I know now that what I have gone through (and will potentially go through) is “normal” for running across the states.

His email really cheered me up and I am feeling more positive by the day. The days seem to get longer but I am coping with the miles and the time constraints. I still really want to keep this blog up, it’s hard sometimes when I just want to lie down. When I feel good the miles go faster and my worries about “other things” like room bookings, evening meals, kit, sleep etc are reduced.

It felt quite warm today, there were a few times where I’d walk a little to avoid overheating but the heat usually abated to let a nice breeze through. Oklahoma promises to be hot. People are already talking about it, “it’ll be much worse than the Mojave”.

I ran later near Alex, Serge and Koshita. My crew (today Anne and David) were brilliant once more and have become great at making the Budweisers which are going down a treat. I may have to open my own cocktail bar when I get back to London. Half a can of Sprite mixed with water? That’ll be £7.50 please.

Later in the day my legs started to hurt a bit. I guess it’s normal and usually if this is near the end of the race I’d try and keep up the pace but in this case there is little point, I slowed quite a bit near the end. It’s nice when on a 55 mile stage you get to the 50 mile point. I say “you know that thing you had to do 11 times today, well now you only have to do it once more”.

Well once more I did the 5 miles and ended in a Best Western that I forgot to book and had to pay the high rate for. Doh. 55 miles in 12.30 hours, no complaints.

Am really looking forward to tomorrow. AM told that after 23.5 miles there is a tree. 

Days 24 and 25 - Back in it

Day 24 Velarde - Palo Flechado Pass – 37.1 miles

Today was nice and easy once more though that will not last. This lovely down hill stretch and an stage of only 37 miles. I thought I’d enjoy this one while it lasted.

We started at the highest point of the race which in theory means it’s now downhill to New York. A pleasant thought but not one that anyone would take seriously.

Everyone seemed to go fast today, The usual ones at the front did their own thing and Koshita and Bando set off ahead of me too. I don’t think I was going particularly slowly today, at least in comparison to other days of the past week.

The first miles were downhill in the lovely forest that we climbed into yesterday, within a few we were back out on the plains of a down called Angel Fire, a ski resort with not a lot happening in the summer. This section of road was a little boring and busy with traffic but then we hit upon a small town called Angel Creek which seemed quite lively.

There are so many RV’s here, makes me want to live in one. There are RV parks and dealers all over the place here, everyone just likes to carry their house around with them and park by lakes and trees and live there. It’s so nice now, instead of baren desert where water and ice have to be artificially transported from miles away there is natural running water surrounded by life.

I ran quite a bit of today with Koshita who has a slow but sure running gait. I looked at that near the start and thought it was not much faster than walking and now here I am trying to hammer it and I am going at the same pace. Koshita is a veteran of this stuff though, he did the RAM in 2002 and has a T-Shirt from some race from Paris to Tokyo. There is no doubting his endurance.

Not a lot happened today really, we were told to enjoy one of the last “nice days” we’ll have for a while. The next two days will be nearly 110 miles in total with driving to the start and finishes so there will be little rest. Then we have more than a week in Oklahoma, which is basically a big field. Might make me yearn for Rotherham again.

Day 25 Palo Flechado Pass – A pink House – 53.6 miles

Today was made longer, from 49 to 53.6 miles because of difficulties finding accommodation in places. I no longer really know what distance we have to cover day by day, I just get the turn sheet at the start of the leg and then I know. I call it a turn sheet, more often than not there are no turns on them.

So today was 53.6, tomorrow will be about 55. It’s not the distance so much but the anticipation of time lost recovering. I think with 12 hours being the very optimistic end of running time, half an hour at the finish, half an hour to drive to the motel, half an hour to shower and change etc. Does not leave much time before I have to get up early and do it all again.

That said the more long days we have the quicker we get to New York. 37 mile days are fine for a “rest” but ultimately they don’t get us much closer to the finish. It was such a pain last night having all that time and no internet access though.

Today I just ran as comfortably as I thought I could sustain and sustain it I did. I still do not wear the watch again and I just ate up the green mile signs like pac-man.

Most of the first 20 were down, there was a turning at 19 which just jumped up on me, I though we’d done about 17. It felt like a bonus 2 miles just being given to me which always feels good, the miles seem to be going faster again. And as we were near an Interstate I put my phone on to see if there was reception, YES. I called Gemma to chat for a bit while walking along a quiet road next to the interstate. It’s so hard having no way to tell her whether I have finished a stage or not.

For the first time in 2 weeks I wore a new top. I’ve been wearing the same 2 long sleeved white ones for so long now that dogs bark at me from 6 miles. I wore the one with the badgers on it and Bertrand and David got excited (and still a little confused as to what a Badger is. Do they not have them in France?) and took photos.

Half way we went through a town called Springer. I don’t think I have had an ice-cream since Lesley and Dave bought me one about 2 weeks ago. I went into the Gas station and bought some strawberry cheesecake thing for $1.85. It was lovely as I wandered through this town that we will be staying in later.

I turned another corner, saw a steep uphill as it was getting quite warm and thought I should walk it. Then I saw another shop and figured it would be rude not to buy another ice-cream and eat it while sauntering up the hill? I dived in and bought a Jolly Rancher (89c), it was an amazing treat in the hot day.

I ran most of the day near Serge (who was having some stomach problems now) and Alex and Marcus. Normally I am quite close to Alex and so being near him was good as it means I might be back to normal. Alex is a true gentleman which he proved as he wandered into the middle of the road to fart rather than do it in my direction. I have a little chaffing from spending the past week pulling my pants down every 5 minutes (perhaps I should ask Jordan for advice about that?) but other than that I had no problems.

EXCEPT – My quads were a bit sore and my calves. It’s as if I have been doing a lot of running. The initial fear of “oh shit this is bad” was immediately washed away with “well what did you expect after 1100 miles you stupid idiot?” My legs hurt and I liked it.

The second half was mostly uphill and it got windy as the day went on. Previous days I would have walked when the wind got high but today I was determined to run more. I had to stop a little to use the bushes. Well, I say that there were no bushes for miles now. Now that I am only shitting in single digits each day I am a lot more discerning as to where I go. I don’t think there is going to be much choice in Oklahoma other than doing it in front of the cows.

It didn’t get hot today either, something I would expect from being high up and on the plains but am told that we are going to hit 40c again in Oklahoma. I am glad Gemma will be here for that.

I think I did the distance in just a shade under 12. Not too sure but it is comforting to know that after all this so far I can still run a comrades time. I think about the total time this will take and the total miles and someone will say “didn’t you just walk across America?”  The running feels like walking sometimes but then walking now feels like stopping.

Tomorrow is another one of those.

Day 23 - Somewhere to somewhere else - 46.9 miles - Back in Black

YES. More days like that please. That would be wonderful. Yesterday we were warned about today being “very difficult” and I can understand why, the mileage was just over average at 46.9 but the whole lot was uphill. Our weary legs were going to make slow work of this, mine too. The cut off times only reflect the distance and not the terrain or heat and so it would be possible that I’d be sailing close to the 13.30 hours that were given, not that it matters too much if it is missed.

It was uphill from go, just slightly so you think you could be running on the flat but just enough to trick you into thinking that you are a lot more tired than you are. I did not feel tired at all, I had a reasonable sleep, managed to do a bit of justice to the all you can eat buffet last night and this morning I produced my first solid for 5 days. Today could be glorious.

The first 10 miles or so were along a river, gently trickling down. The sound was so very soothing though it was interrupted by the morning traffic.

Since I have been coming in each day near the back I have stopped wearing my watch. I don’t really want to know how fast I am going any more. The green mile markers on every major US road are too tempting to do all the calculations with. Now I don’t look at the time and just be thankful when I see one. I know a little more has been done. When going through the bad times the minutes feel like hours, good times the hours can feel like minutes. It does not matter to me what the exact time is now just so long as it feels fast.

I love to look at the river. The first time we saw water a couple of days ago I just had to stop and look down at it for a few moments. There are a number of things I want to do more when I am done with this. One is to just sit by a river and listen to it. Another is to just lie down under the shade of a tree on a sunny day and not have to worry about going anywhere. There better be some sun in London when I get back.

Around half way we were promised a spectacular view and we sure did get one, a massive open panorama of a gorge and mountains. I really should have taken photos but I think my phone has stopped charging and am conserving the battery. I hope there are some good photos on the website as it was stunning.

I just felt mentally much better today. I was laughing at things in my head, such as the video of Alex commenting on my burger eating. My crew today were David and Rene. Yesterday David and Bertrand were really looking after me, making be yoghurt and banana mixes and making sure that I drank enough but did not drink anything too cold (apparently it is bad for the stomach). We joked that Bertrand was “Mon Pere” and David was “Ma Mere”. Bertrand, David and Anne are leaving in a few days and it will be really gutting to see them go, it’s like losing a crew again. They have been amazing.

Rene will still be here though which is fantastic. We have invented a new drink which goes down really well, it’s half sprite half water. It is quite refreshing slightly fizzy slightly sweet water. We have named this cocktail “Budweiser”.

Gemma texted me to say that she will come to the States in a week. I asked her to come a few days ago when on my way to hospital. I am so excited by this and have missed her so much. I’ve been thinking a lot about the “47 day to New York” but more about the “42 days till I see Gemma”. For some reason the latter feels longer. I can’t believe I didn’t involve her more in this from the start. 5 more days..

I managed to stick quite close to Jenni for the first 30 miles until we turned up onto a mountain road that would contain most of the elevation of the day. She shot off like a natural hill runner whereas I plodded, but ran nonetheless and was really pleased that I could do that.

The scenery changed dramatically. I was surrounded by trees, the sun was behind clouds and the whole place just felt very oxygenated. I have suffered in altitude and hills before (I was climbing up to the highest point of the race (2900m)) but having breathed nothing but dry air and rock of r 3 weeks this felt like a shot of oxygen. It was tricky with the cars on the narrow road and no shoulder but I loved it, it was so green, birds singing, groundhogs scuttling around, lots of little houses that look like they have been built by the owners. I said hello to everyone I saw and they said hello back, it was quite an idyllic 16 mile street.

I could still run up hills, I considered walking to save energy but preferred to run. It rained for about half an hour (like the dogs here the clouds bark a lot but rarely bite). It was cool and breezy and I loved it, I was no longer in the dust. I was where life was.

I reflected on a job well done in many respects. I ran most of the day albeit slowly, I did not stop in the van too much (except to eat when ma Mere told me too) and I was full of positive thoughts all day. No injuries either except that near the end I had an unbelievable itch on my left foot. Is an itchy left foot a good enough reason to pull out from the race?

Just under 12 hours for the 47 miles, I was pleased with that. 1000 miles covered too. This was always going to be a “long” day and if the long days can work out like that I may even start to put silly jokes in my blogs again. Must go, there is a great spread of pasta and chicken here and ice cream. We are staying in a basketball court. There is a treadmill here. Might bang out a few more miles.

Postscript from the last few days

A few things I forgot when I hastily got the blog out for the last few days, before I forget cos these will probably go into the book.

Rene and Anne were wonderful in my darkest days. They do not speak a lot of English and could not understand a huge amount of what I was saying or could think of much to say but there presence was comforting. I tried to hide my own personal despair from them but they knew. Sometimes when leaving the van I’d just pump my fist in the air in defiance. “Allez James, Allez”.

On day 21 at 20k I was a mess. Bando caught up with me and later he said I looked dead. He is suffering badly himself with injuries, a lot worse than I was and still gets through it with a grin on his face. When he caught me he said “come on, lets go to New York together”. He carries a spray which he was dancing around me spraying me with to cool me and then started to sing “the long and winding road” as we hobbled together down the long and winding road. He asked if I wanted him to sing another Beatles song. I suggested “I get by with a little help from my friends”. He did not know the tune so I sang it (if you see the you tube of my finish you’ll see how bad I am at singing”. He then just started to sing without really knowing the words or the tune of that song. I think I simultaneously laughed and wept. That could have been one of the most significant moments of this race so far. Thank-you Bando and the Japanese support teams for giving me all that juice along the way.

When Laure suggested I went to the hospital I thought my race was over. What if they told me it was bad? She was so great at taking me to the emergency place and even offered to translate my terrible English for the American gentleman on reception. I will always remember just lying on the hospital bed trying to make good light of the situation while Laure would just smile and say “Sleep James, Sleep”. While I was hooked up to that saline drip I dozed for about 30 minutes again, just like under that parasol I thought about absolutely nothing. I was somewhere else again.

And finally the morning after I had gone to hospital there was an even greater air of sympathy for me. Alex and his crew always looked concerned and said they missed me each day as we are normally running close and have a laugh. Rainer has been brilliant in giving me some milk and banana drinks from his blender which have really helped the recovery. Probably the best one though was when Serge just came up to me and hugged me. He has probably been in a lot worse places in his trans-everywhere runs but it just felt nice that I think someone realised what was going on with me.

Next week I am looking forward to a lot more hugs.


Days 18-22 - 200+ miles running empty

Well sorry for the lack of blathering for the past few days, I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch (That made the whole shin splint thing feel like a broken finger nail). I have had diarrhoea for 5 days now after the vomiting episode. Last night Laure insisted that I went to the hospital to have it checked out to see if it was bacterial, it isn’t. I am starting to recover now.

Below is a blog I wrote about the first day with the shits, day 18 where I had no sleep and had to walk 42 miles. Day 19 was a bit better, I finished under the cut off time but then 20 and 21 were just too hard. 54.4 miles then 51.4 without being able to eat anything or keep liquid inside me. The other days I will have to do from memory when all this is finished. I won’t be forgetting this for a while.

Each of those days went the same, I’d try to eat whenever I could at night and in the morning but my saliva glands had just packed in. I could not chew anything. Each morning I’d start running but within a few miles my legs would start wobbling and then by about 10 they would struggle to hold me up.

My plan each day was to beast myself enough so I can get to a point where I can just stagger to the finish within the cut-off time. It was horrible.

I always slept quite well (apart from the night it first happened). The first half of each day I was falling asleep still, probably a consequence of the lack of energy. I would try to convince myself that I could “fuel up” as I went along but it rarely happened.

The support teams and all the others have been fantastic to me in this time. Bertrand, David, Rene and Anne have been brilliant in keeping me going and being there when I crashed several times. The support van would be there about every 2 miles and I’d just crawl into the back and moan about the lack of activity in my legs. I craved cold soft drinks but whenever I drank them they spewed back out of me.

And then there was the stopping every half a mile to piss out of my arse. I Don’t know how much fluid went through me in 2 days. The sun gets to me more too, I feel feverish at 30 degrees whereas I was bounding along in 40+ a couple of weeks back.

On the end of stage 21 I felt a bit more optimistic because I was hungry for food. When I arrived I got stuck into the buffet and thought tomorrow might be great again as I had something to eat. Then Laure told me that she was going to take me to hospital to check it was not that serious as it has been 4 days. I really wanted sleep.

We got there about 8 and got to see someone about 9 it was quite quick. I sat in a hospital bed and had a drip and some blood tests. The doctor seemed quite sympathetic to my need to get rid of this illness as I had to run across the country.

While there I went to the toilet and looked in the mirror. I did not recognise what looked back. My eyeballs looked too big for my head, like it’s been squashed inwards in a vice. I have lost 8kg since I have started. I could release a weight loss DVD. I have also not taken any photos for 4 days. It also is really annoying that there is no phone reception in any of the places we run or stay in New Mexico. Maybe it’s just this place, as soon as I entered it I had to defecate and have done so another 500 times. Perhaps Oklahoma will be better?

Anyhoo, today went much better, I ate lots during the run and took it easy and felt comfortable though still weak and feeling the sun a lot worse. I have just eaten a load at the buffet here, hoping to be on the mend now.

Right then, off to bed. Big day tomorrow.

Day 18

For the record it was not the McDonalds that did it. I felt a bit queezy after eating too much food but it was some steak thing I had later on that I left out for a while that did it. As soon as I had it I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Not that I am rushing to eat fast food again anyway.

The night’s sleep was probably the worst since I have been here. I just lay there and watched milesof tarmac road and white line unroll in my head over and over. In a semi daze I’d snap out of it and say “stop it, don’t do the miles in your head, they don’t count. Do them on the road tomorrow. Think of something else”.  I just could not seem to think of anything else except of course when I got punched in the stomach again.

4.30AM, Italo and I were awake, he was already getting his stuff ready for the day. He seems to have a lot more to do than I do, I just put on my clothes, brush my teeth, eat whatever is lying around and head out. He started talking about energy gels, saying that the organisers had given him mine too and was not sure what flavour I wanted so it was OK to swap if needed. I interrupted him to say “Italo, No. I just can’t talk or listen now”. He asked what was the matter and I said I have diarrhoea, I am sick and I did not sleep.

In the car park outside El Rancho (I really wish I got to spend more time there as it was a great place) we assembled to get a lift to the start about 15 miles away. I really need to specify on my reservations that I want a ground room floor as lugging my bags up and down just pisses me off now. I had spent the last night trying to drink as much fluid as I could including 2l of lemonade, just before we got into the cars that all came gushing out in front of everyone.

Anne (who normally gets all the runners to sign in each morning) asked if I was OK to run. Whether I am OK or not is of little consequence, I’ll run. On getting into the car I was presented with plastic bags from about 3 different people. I made the car journey without being sick.

There was some confusion at the start about the distance. 41.2 miles was the advertised but a mistake in an instruction meant it could be 2 miles less. Alas no, normally those 2 miles are nothing, but today they would be at least half an hour of sleep, or rest, or eating or anything but running.

The first 2 miles went OK, I only had 1 shit. I ran very slowly and watched everyone else pull away. Very soon it occurred to me that I was not going to be doing much running today at all. I was pretty much walking from the start.

The cut off is 3.5 miles an hour, which is a brisk walk. It’s easy to say that you can walk that fast when doing a couple of miles at home but for 41 miles when you have to stop and eat and shit and with hills and heat. It definitely does not feel comfortable.

I was timing the miles from the start, pleased when I’d do one in 14 minutes (there are mile markers on the roads, not from the organisation but as part of the road), and then beating myself up when one came up as 17. I’d say to myself that maybe because it was because I stopped to have a shit but I knew that this now only took 5 seconds at a time and that this will be a feature of most miles today.

Within 5 miles everyone was out of sight. There was a long waving section of road which must have stretched 10 miles and though I could not see anyone on it I imagined everyone dotted along there somewhere.

My knees were weak and wobbling, a combination of the tiredness and lack of energy. Sometimes I just could not pick my legs up to even walk, I was all over the place and I had not even done a quarter of the stage yet. Several times I just felt like falling into the sand and lying there. I needed to sleep.

This was the first time so far I have pictured myself getting carried out of the race and to the finish. If I fall down now I am done, the car will come, pick me up take me to the end, I’ll rest a few days then start again. But then I’ll become a “stage runner”, put in a separate list from those still in with a chance of getting a ranking for getting to New York.

Half way took a lifetime to get to. No amount of coke or energy drink would kick me awake. Rene and Anne were doing an amazing job of crewing for me, right out at the back when they also had to attend to Italu (near the front) and Jenni who was neat the back too but not nearly as far back as me. At 23 miles they put out a chair and a parasol and asked me to sleep. I sat down in the chair, covered from the sun by Anne and the parasol while Rene drove on to deliver another aid stop for the others.

It was beautiful. I just sat there, cool relaxed and for a while I had no care in the world. The breeze and my own rhythmic breaking calmed me not quite to sleep but into a meditative state. I thought I would only take 10 minutes but I took half an hour. I was not asleep but I was somewhere else.

From then on it got better. I woke up. I was still crapping a lot (up to twice a mile now) but I felt I had a little more energy to get the job done. Rene and Anne said not to worry about the cut-offs as today would be my “bad day” and tomorrow would be better. With about 12 miles to go I threw my watch into the van and Rene and Anne laughed. Time does not matter anymore. I’ll get to the end when I get to the end, not before, not after.

With about 10 to go I started counting the hours until I can go to sleep, like a little kid waiting for Christmas or something. Rene had to leave with the jeep and Bertrand replaced him in the Toyota as Rene had to drive those who had already finished back to El Rancho which was now an hours drive away. I felt a bit bad for being the slow one who messes up the plan but Bertrand and Anne would have none of it. “COURAGE JAMES. COURAGE”.

It got quite hilly in the end as Anne walked with me and I pointed at things and asked what they were in French. I was getting into a manageable distance from the finish now, not long from sleep.

The finish again is in the middle of nowhere, I walked over the line, my legs aching from all that walking. I was about 25 minutes over the cut-off of 11.45 but that does not matter here. I sat and had a sprite, the first I kept down all day as David took down the finish flags. I got into the van and slept for the entire journey home.

Laure said to me on my arrival at El Rancho to not do any blogging tonight, just sleep. That was fine by me. I had a shower, had some rice that Laure bought for me then hit the sack. Today was by far the worst day. So far.

Day 17 - Kinlichee to Nowhere really - 44.5 miles

Today was a frustrating day, no reason but it felt harder than normal. We had to run a little further than we thought, 44.5 miles instead of 42. No big deal I guess.

The first 12 miles were horrid though, we started at 6 as the road was too dangerous to run in the dark. It was a busy road with no shoulder and we were told to stop when cars came and step into the side. It was uphill (again) too and the uneven surface of the ground just off the road was making it a real hard slog.

Run – walk – skip – run – step – run – stop. It was horrible. The cars would give plenty of space but my mind wandered and thought about what would happen if their cargo just fell off the back and into me, or if a lorry just jack-knifed and batted me back like a cricket ball.

I think I was more tired than normal, I need more sleep. I can’t get it though. After the 12 there was a great few miles of downhill with a large shoulder to get the legs moving a bit. They just did not want to move.

I ate a lot yesterday but not a lot this morning. My stomach does not tell me anymore when I am hungry. The only signal I get now is when my bones ache, telling me I am too hungry. I try to force feed myself at nights but it does not give me much energy.

Today though at half way there was a McDonalds and I thought it would be rude not to, Jenni stopped there too. Bigmac and fries and a drink that went into my camelpack. I have eaten in McDonalds in the UK plenty of times when in the middle of a long run but I forgot that the BigMacs over there are snack sized whereas here they are much larger. I tried to force it down but have spent the rest of the day feeling sick. I had to walk for many miles after that and I don’t really think I recovered. I saw a dead fox which nearly made me spew.

Anyway this blog is going to have to be short because I am struggling to stay awake and I feel sick again. The sun got to me today and I am paying for it. I finished the stage in about 10.30 which is not horrific but not great. I had a bad day, does not mean that tomorrow must be one too.

I am in El Rancho now where I stay for 2 nights which is good as I don’t have to faff with bags tomorrow. I really should try to get more ground floor rooms though. I fit in nicely here, with a beard and a look like I am about to fall over.

[In writing this in the lobby I just had to run to the toilet to be sick. I was actually sat down on the toilet and puked into the bin. It seems to have knocked the tiredness on the head for a minute and I don’t feel sick anymore but need to be careful tomorrow as I will now be quite calorie deficient. – Laure is here telling me to write a shorter blog and go to bed which I will do.]

Good Night x

Day 16 - Indian Wells to Kinlichee - 47.9 miles - Not so big

Today was a strange day. Proper up and down (apart from the elevation which seemed to go up again). I think I slept OK but can not be sure. Last night was a sleeping bag and mat on the floor affair and as usual I sweat like a Brit in the Mojave but on the whole I think I got enough sleep. My leg felt even better, almost gone. I only really feel it when I move sideways on my leg such as trying to pick up a bag or something. I had a good meal last night and a good breakfast this morning. I had a good run yesterday and was ready to have another good one today.

Strange then that I should feel so depressed?

We started in darkness again setting out and I immediately realised that I had forgotten my running number. There is a penalty for that and I did not care too much for that I just got angry at my own stupidity. I felt fine running but after about 5 miles it all just became “too big” again.

I spoke to Gemma (on IM) last night about how much we are missing each other. This is the longest I have ever been out of the UK now and probably the longest I have been from her. It does not help that there has been no phone coverage for 2 days now. We spoke about the possibility of her coming over in the middle of the run. I am not too sure. It would be great to have her here but then her having to leave would be too hard. It hurt each time a support team left me and it would be many times worse with her. I don’t know what the answer to that is.

I miss home a lot too, the early morning start with the faffing and trying to find something to eat and clothes to wear and drinks to fill the camelpack with and then cramming everything into 2 bags and taking it to the truck. It’s so much harder and more frustrating that I thought it would be. When the sun rose above the mountains I went to put on my sun glasses and realised I had forgotten them too. I felt so fucking useless and then the tears came again.

I was near the back at this point and let the others go past and disappear into the sun. For a good mile or so I just sobbed at where I was and what I have to do. Sometimes it just feels too big. Even 48 miles today which I have run many times before felt like a job that could not be done. 54 more days of this didn’t bear thinking about.

I’ve known ultrarunning take you to the extreme of your emotions. Euphoria, depression, anger, pride etc. Within a race you may hit several peaks of various emotions. I think I am in for 2 more months of these euphoric highs and crippling lows. I am not entirely looking forward to it.

I tried to kick myself out of it. Just watch the miles go past and the days will take care of themselves. I actually thought more about my leg today than normal, trying to get a feeling out of it and trying to take comfort out of the fact that it is rock solid, like I could kick down these telegraph poles with it. Yeah.

I think a lot about what others think about this and that helps me through. I know people think I am “crazy” for doing such a thing but I know deep down they all want to be doing it too. I have a chance to do something everyone wants to do which is pretty special.

And so I broke out of it. I could use the “suncream in my eyes” excuse for anyone who saw me. Without much thought 12 miles had gone already, that’s a quarter of the day gone without even thinking about it. I might be able to get through today after all.

I passed Alex and Bando and settled into a grove and was determined not to care about time again and keep looking at my watch. I enjoyed the spectacular scenery around me as well as looking at the floor to see how many grasshoppers I stood on. I don’t quite get why live grasshoppers are always trying to pick up dead ones? What would they do with them.

After around 15 miles I had a massive breakthrough. I actually got a photo of a lizard. I see loads of them just jumping out of the bushes, scuttling along the road a bit then jumping back in. This one was just sat there. Long enough for me to get the camera out to take the picture. I was really pleased with that, this could be an awesome day.

Around 20 miles in there was a guy with a table selling trainers. It was the weirdest thing I had seen that day, how many people would want to buy new trainers in the middle of the desert. Well, if he did not sell any today he should just give up.

On the subject of shoes most runners now have cut the toes of theirs. Some runners are getting blisters and swelling and performing surgery on shoes seems to fix it.  I have yet to suffer with blisters (aside from that one little one on the first day). Another reason to be cheerful?

After 30 miles we headed onto a dirt track which was quite nice to run on and there were loads of little buildings around. I passed Dan and he held up the toilet roll but I did not need it today, my bowels felt fine. I wished him a happy Independence Day, he is the only American in the whole event.

It was warm as usual and every hour or so I’d get sprayed with cold water by Anne and Rene (who’s birthday it was today). They were brilliant as usual, I can’t believe I felt so alone earlier when the support here is so fantastic.

While on the trail there were spots of water falling out of the sky. I would not call it rain but when every single one hit my skin it was beautiful. Thunder boomed in the distance and I yelled at it to come over and soak me. There was a short lived shower but it was wonderful.

Alex’s support crew were playing Frisbee. I tried to join in but they are really bad at it and I ended up having to climb into the sand to retrieve it.

About 6 miles to go we were back on the road and quite a busy one with no shoulder. Laure had told us to be very careful and stop is cars come past too close, it was not easy to run on. On seeing Rene and Anna again next to a sign for McDonalds I made the request “Big Mac  et frites sil vous plait” – I know the important things in French. Seriously I was so excited about this guy

The finish was just on the road in the middle of nowhere but it was one of the nicest so far. Music was playing and Laure was dancing around with the American flag. We sat at the back of the lorry and had a beer. Jenni, Anneke, Markus, Alex and I finished within a few minutes of each other.

Laure mentioned that she has read my blog and it makes her laugh which made me feel quite good. Perhaps she can actually understand my English after all. I better be careful what I write here now..

The motel is nice and I went to Dennys for the first time ever. Laurie described them as “they do everything but do it badly”. I had a huge plate of nachos to start and a t-bone steak. It was great hanging out with Rainer, Italu, Peter and June. The funniest moment of the day came after Peter (German) and Italu (Sardinian) ordered the fajitas and then about 10 minutes later were presented with the flour wraps. They just both looked so confused as Rainer and I said “Bon appetite”. Peter went to the next table to see if they had got his order and Italu said “It’s not like in the picture”. Finally the sizzling meat came. Perhaps you had to be there  but I had not laughed that loud for a while.

With moments like that I may just survive the summer.

Boring Stuff

Weight – Forgot

Consumed Breakfast/During – Noodles, 2 pepparamis, energy bar, 4l Gatorade, 2 cokes, 2 fruit punches (0% fruit), 2 sprites, some jelly beans AFTER – American water, sprite, nachos, milkshake, tbone steak, mashed potato, fried shrimp

Kit – Newtons, Serpie yellow top then nf long sleeved, Kathmandu shorts, kooga pants, nf hat, camelpack, socks

Day 15 - Birdsprings to Indian Wells - 41.4 miles - Mimbling

The clocks went forward last night meaning we had less rest after a long day yesterday. I woke up long before the new 4.30 feeling more awake than usual though. The pain had subsided further and the 41 miles today felt like it was going to be comfortable.

The earlier start mean we got to start in starlight which was amazing. With no clouds and light you can see all the stars. We had to wear our lights and hi vis jacket (my reverse Serpie top was fine for this) in the early stages as we were running on roads. It felt like a much different start to the other 14 so far.

We are now deep in the Navajo desert which is a native American area in Northern Arizona. There are some impressive rock formations and what look like volcanoes. Each one is isolated and looks great on it’s own, some are really cubic and from a distance you could think it was part of a city skyline. It’s not as hot as the Mojave desert but it’s more beautiful. It didn’t matter to me that the roads were straight as there was always a wonderful panorama to enjoy.

My mind was in a really good place again today and I let it wander off as usual. I was determined not to clock watch or calculate as I did yesterday and just appreciate every mile as they passed. Early on when I was near everyone I thought about the very different styles each support team has with their runner. I never see June who crews for Rainer as they are always too far ahead. I imagine she takes about a million photos of every stage though.

Patrick’s wife sticks quite close to him in the car, he manages to keep on running when she comes to him with refreshments and it’s obviously working as he’s having a great time here. Serge’s support guy makes me laugh. I walks like a butler and holds out a tray in an outstretched palm at a perfect 90 degrees. I really want him to wear a bow-tie one of the stages.

Alex’s team are like a Ferrari pit-stop. He walks along, has his bottles changed, pictures taken, beard trimmed and anything else all within about 10 seconds. They are very slick. Dan who supports Markus is very laid back and parks the car and sits down for a while and watches the world go by. He has become my preferred supplier of toilet roll in recent days. The Japanese crews will take lots of photos and when not tending to their runner they can be seen washing their hire cars.

Philippe’s guy is quite funny too. He gets out of the car, runs half a mile to meet Philippe, jogs along and past the car for about another half mile then back to the car to meet him in 2 miles. Now correct me if I am wrong but this guy seems to be covering the same distance as Philippe?

Half way seemed to come in a breeze, the road was undulating and I felt no shame in walking up the inclines. It got a little warm but the heat was not so dry and I could actually feel the sweat on my skin.

Today at around the marathon mark we passed the 621 mile point for the race so far. It did not mean a lot to me but the Europeans went crazy for it for some reason. My support were great again, seeing me every hour though I made the mistake twice of drinking my camelpack dry. I did not drink as much today as perhaps I should but on two occasions I ran out and at this point I walked. Actually I did not feel I needed any excuse to walk, I walked a lot today, treating the whole thing like a day out. Sometimes walking just felt nicer. There was no phone reception for the whole time today which cut off one of my usual distractions but there was enough around to keep me occupied.

The finish is in a school in a very small town with a cow guarding it. I worried about having to outsprint a cow (which I know I could not do even if I was not knackered) and then have to cross a cattle guard (there have been loads of these in the recent stages and they are hard work to stumble across).

Today just felt a little too easy. My time was still within my “plan” of doing around 45 miles in 10 hours so 41 in 8.55 was actually pushing it a bit, not that I felt like I was pushing it at all. Would it be too much to ask for 55 more days like this?

It has just started to rain outside. That’s the first rain I have seen for 2 weeks. Could make tomorrow interesting. Tomorrow is independence day and I have a US flag but just been told that this would be the worst place to wave it.


I have just discovered that there is a LANYFOOTRACE channel on You Tube with most of the stages so far. I’ve only looked at one so far and it has footage of me walking and later of me eating a burger. Pretty representative so far.  I hope to get a better look at them when I have a better internet connection.

Boring Stuff

Weight before – 79.5 after 79.5

Food – 2 cliff bars, 5l Gatorade, 2 monsters, 2 cokes, After – 2 american waters, sprite, water, noodles, beef jerky, cheese sandwich, pasta, sardines, 2 more sprites, 2 iced teas

Kit – newtons, Kathmandu shorts, kooga pants, socks, nf hat, nf long top, 

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.

Day 13 - Williams to Flagstaff - 40.3 miles

Another strange dream started today, perhaps subconsciously they are telling me something. I was in the street and an old lady had fallen over, looked quite hurt and no one would help. I went to her aid and decided to call an ambulance. Before the ambulance arrived she just got up and walked away. Then everyone else just laughed at me saying “yeah that’s old miss whatshername, she always does that”. When the ambulance arrived and the victim had fled  I was made to look like an idiot. At least this one did not wake me.

The day started with the usual disappointment of putting my foot on the floor and feeling the pain. I wasn’t sure whether it was an improvement on yesterday though and in my head that meant it was better.

It was very chilly at the start, I was wearing short sleeves but the first few miles felt very fresh. Again we seemed to just go up and up, we finished yesterday at 2100 meters but think we went up to about 2400m today. Deb and Dave mentioned that they felt the altitude on their runs in the evening. I am not sure whether it affects me or is hidden in everything else such as the heat, the tiredness, the running 540 miles in 12 days. I have felt altidude when I have run the Davos ultra before (2500m?) and then at the end of Badwater where it climbs to nearly 4000m. All I know is going up makes it feel like more of a slog.

We were on and off the trail today, we were warned that today would be “incredibly difficult” – that there is a stony path with lots of side paths and we are to be careful not to get lost as our crew will not be there for this. She made it sound like a death labyrinth. There was plenty of nice and easy trail though which I enjoyed and Laure said to enjoy it while it lasted because the days of long straight roads would be back soon.

I prefer running on the trail but it is harder work and there is no white line to follow. One advantage of running on the road is that you can keep your head down and go in a straight line. On trail I am wobbling all over the place. We were bunched up near the start and I noticed that Alex made 2 kit changes in the first 6 miles. “You are just like Lady Ga Ga” I said, though obviously not with the ambiguous gender issues, his beard is quite manly.

Italo stuck with me again and he was running without his compression gear for the first time for a while as a sign that his shin problems were near the end. Today I felt progress, where as I found it painful to walk yesterday it felt ok today (running was always better). It meant I could powerwalk up the steep hills of which there seemed to be many again.

The miles just seemed to roll off today, I felt like I was at half way in no time even though there was lots of climb. Shortly before the death labyrinth there was a service station with a McDonalds that I did not go into. Then on the trail Dan (Markus’ support) jumped out of the car and asked if I had gone to McDonalds and could not believe that I didn’t. Actually I did not eat an awful lot today, I felt a bit sick.

The death labyrinth was actually just a few miles of bumpy ground. I walked most of it as I did not want to risk anything but it’s nothing harder than you’d get on say the South Downs Way. I think the almost certain death was overhyped.

The trails today were beautiful, pine trees and people out there camping. Made me want to just come out here and live here for a few months in the wilderness. There was plenty of shade today though I got a bit sick from the sun as I did not cover up properly.

This was the last day with Deb and Dave which made me sad as I finished as they have been so great in all this. Organising all my stuff, being there every 2 miles with something fun to say or just a smile and a “you’re doin great” has really helped me through these difficult 4 days. I’m going to miss you guys.

I finished in 9.20, a good way south of the cut-off of 12 hours and I am seeing more daylight between those times. Deb and Dave got me a burger, fries and milkshake at the end (Jack in the Box) which I enjoyed with a beer while I iced my foot. My ankle swelled a little today but I did not feel it.

Tonight was the first time I am now properly “solo” along with Italu, Jenni and Anneke. Laure had mentioned that I have too much stuff and last night we purged it, getting rid of all the things I have accumulated over the past 2 weeks as well as ditching lots of the clothes I brought originally. I have just about managed to squeeze it into the 2 bags, I am using a lot less clothes than I thought.

Flagstaff is a proper big town, shame I have pretty much slept since I finished. I used the pool again. The next few days are back to the same, start – run 53 miles in a straight line – arrive at finish. Glorious.

Boring Stuff

Weight Before – 80.1kg, after forgot

Kit, Newtons, Kathmandu shorts, kooga pants, socks, Columbia top, nf hat (partially), calf guard, camelpack

Consumption – During 1 slice pizza, 2 cliff bars, 1 energy gel, 5l Gatorade, 1l water, 1 monster, 2 cokes AFTER – American water, milkshake, burger, fries, chicken steak, fries, CARROTS AND SALAD, 2 iced teas.

Injuries – Right shin – getting better.

Day 12 - Ash Fork to Williams - 30.3 miles - 500 miles in

I had a strange dream last night. I was finishing one of the stages in a small town in the middle of nowhere and in checking into the hotel I was told I’d have to find somewhere else for my horse and cow. Luckily just across the road there was a stable which took my animals for $6 per night (I have no idea whether that was a good price or not). I did wake up around 1am panicking about what I am going to do with my horse and cow today while I am running. It took a while to realise that I had no horse and cow, there was a little relief at that. I am sure it’s not the most ridiculous thing that will make me wake in the night and panic, it wins so far though.

When I wake up every morning I am hopefully that any damage from the previous day has just magically disappeared in the night. It happened with the groin on night 1, the chaffing on night 6 and the left shin on night 8. When I roll out of bed and put my foot on the floor it is the moment of truth, am I going to have a pain free day or is it going to be a struggle again. I winced as my foot hit the floor. Struggle it is then.

We stayed in a nice motel at the finish line for today and had a 30 mile drive to the start. I thought I got enough sleep but was still quite sleepy though I woke up a little when I saw a road sign that said “LOS ANGELES 464 MILES”. I brought home briefly just how far I have gone so far, in 11 days I have run further than I would normally do in 2 months. In only 1 month ever have I run more than 500 miles. Today’s 30 would take the total to 500 miles which sounded like a great mile stone at the time but then I got those annoying Scottish people singing in my head.

The start felt the same as yesterday, a few turns then a bit of road heading gradually upwards. Today we were going to be treated to a large section of nice running trail. It wasn’t long before we were on the trail and it was lovely though the majority of today was uphill. This was going to be good for my shin, no long sections on down might give it a chance to recover.

This was the second of my “recovery” days where I hope to finish in time to relax a lot, ice, use the pool and generally stay off my feet for the majority of the day. 7 hours running means I get to spend twice as much time off my feet as on, in future days of over 50 miles I may well be spending more time on my feet than off. Some of the future days where 50+ milers are stacked right next to each other don’t bear thinking about right now.

I ran with Italo again as I think he wanted to go slow and heal himself. It is nice to have the company and he likes to wish me “good luck” when I have to go into the bushes. Must be a Sardinian thing. This time the toilet paper was not provided by the Japanese.

Bando (the Japanese guy who often leathers it at the start) seemed to be having a really great run today. He was just in front of us for the whole run and keeping a steady pace. He looked in bits at the start line a few days ago and it is a great morale boost for everyone to see that someone can come back from looking a mess and then run well. Markus after spending a few days resting ran today as did the two Japanese guys who had dropped out and Jenni and Philippe also. 13 out of the 14 runners who started were out here today and the two on bikes, it felt like a big group again.

I was most pleased with my own constant pacing. I ran for most of it, not the steep uphills. I found my leg hurt more when I walked and hurt more after I stopped for a while so I just knew the key was to keep running. Sometimes the nagging would just go away, perhaps because I felt in a much better place mentally today, my mind did not wander into negative thoughts at all. It was such a lovely route too, a large trail with lots of smaller trails out to the sides, some beautiful blue lakes, grass covering the ground like I had not seen since I have been here. It was not too warm (I guess max about 30C but with a refreshing breeze). Even in a headwind it felt good. Would have been perfect for a horse. I can’t believe I left him in the stable.

The trail ended with about 3 miles to go and then there was a gradual descent into Williams. It was on the road again but my leg felt fine so long as I keep it moving. I was wearing the calf guard again and today it did not cause any swelling in my ankle. There was a great sign coming into Williams, it had “Everything you need” as it’s header and underneath were signs for McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell, Comfort Inn and the Grand Canyon. 3 fast food outlets, a motel and a grand canyon, I can’t think of anything else a town needs?

As we made it to the finish like I pointed out the McDonalds to Italo. He they pointed to the other side of the road at the finish flags. He said “It’s funny when we see the finish line all you see is the McDonalds”. I had been thinking about it for a while though and Dave drove down and had to guess what I’d like. 3 out of 3 Dave, awesome effort. Big Mac, Large fries, strawberry milkshake.

I have started to make a priority of snoozing after the run now. The first week or so I’ve just tried to stay awake until in gets dark (around 8pm) then try to sleep but too often I am still wide awake at 11. Now I try to shower then snooze for an hour or two after the run so that I can feel a little fresher for the rest of the day and hopefully be able to sleep better later. It’s good to get off my feet and it’s good to switch off from the run that day.

I am going to call today a really good day. I moved constantly throughout, felt minimal pain (without any drugs today), had great scenery, Italo was fun and Deb and Dave were brilliant as usual. Tomorrow is 42 miles and I am told it will be a “hard” 42 miles.

Boring Stuff

Weight before 80.6kg after 80.4kg

Consumption During – 2 turkey sandwiches, cliff bar, 6l Gatorade, 2l water After McDonalds big mac, fries, milkshake, Lots of pizza, 2 raspberry iced teas (getting addicted to that stuff)

Kit – Kathmandu shorts, kooga pants, Columbia short sleeved top, newtons, shades, camelpack, socks

Injuries – Right shin still sore but better than yesterday

Day 11 - Seligman to Ash Fork - 30.7 miles - Getting Greener

Today just started to sound different. As soon as we left Seligman and turned a rare corner we climbed up (I think we are still 2 days from the highest point) along a tolerable section of straight road. Then after just a few miles there was another turning (two before noon, we were really being spoiled) and then a vast but very different and very beautiful landscape unfurled.

It had flowers and trees, the barren and beige rock and plants were now wonderful  scatterings of green on brown and gold. The soundscape was so different too, the constant droning chainsaw noise of bugs in the deserts were now of singing birds. I would get occasional shade from the trees and even, wait what’s that? Clouds? I have not seen any of you for over a week. I could have been running through the English countryside in the summer. Trees and shade

I ran with Italo again who had a stonking run yesterday despite suffering the same things as I am. He asked if he could be supported by my crew today as he was going to take it slow. Italo is great to have around, I can’t understand his English much but he knows a lot about running and offers advice often. Early on when going up in a headwind he offered his drafting services, or rather he said “I can run OK, you stay behind and keep from wind like on a bicycle”. There is not really much of him to draft and on such a quiet road I just ran alongside him.

It was not long before the pain subsided in my shin and seemed to go down to my ankle. This was good news, it was moving around and therefore not permanent. If I can just get 70 different injuries in 70 days I’ll be happy. My ankle was quite swollen at the end of yesterday and at the start of today and Italo gave me a pill from his bag and made some pointing gestures, I don’t know what the international gesture is for “reduces inflammation” but it seemed to work a treat.

I said at the start of this I wanted to avoid taking drugs. So many stories of people doping themselves into a stupor to get through the miles. I don’t want to become reliant on them but getting the ankle down a bit was probably a good idea. Today was going to be a “recovery run” where I’d still go slow but have plenty of time to rest. Italo said in almost perfect English “Your job today is to finish without the leg hurting any more and then you have time to fix the leg”. That was a perfect description of today.

Three times now having had an urgent call of nature I have been passing the Japanese support van and had to ask for tissue. They must laugh every time they see me running towards them now “Hey, here is Mr Shitter, asking us if he can go for another shit”. Would not surprise me at all if there was a brand of toilet paper in Japan called Mr Shitter.

Between miles 6 and 14 I felt really good, for the first time in a few days I felt like I was doing some proper running and was trying to hold myself back from going any faster and hurting myself. Stick to the plan.

I did not eat much today and didn’t really feel much point for just 30 miles though on weighing myself this morning I have lost 4kg since being here. I have run for 100 hours and 440 miles. Extrapolating that for 70 days is 28kg of weight loss, or about 4 stone. Lucky there is a McDonalds at the end of today. Italo

AT the 22 mile point we turned onto an off road trail which is still part of the old Route 66. There were a few miles of pretty broken up road before then which cars can still drive down but then it turned into a dirt path which was difficult to run on with a gammy ankle. It seemed all uphill again and in a head wind. Not far into this stretch there were some very enthusiastic dogs. I could hear them barking in the distance and in all other times they just stand at the end of their owners property and bark a lot. On looking out for the barking I saw these 2 large dogs bounding along at high speed and they did not stop before the trail, they got right around me. There was no biting, just some nudging for a few meters before they stayed and retreated back to their home, only to come bounding back again for Italo. I’d like to think they were just trying to encourage me along.

Funniest Joke Ever

A dog walks into a telegram office and say’s “Woof woof woof, woof woof woof woof, woof woof woof” and the lady at the counter says “there are only 13 woofs here, you could add another woof for the same price” and then dog replies “But that just wouldn’t make any sense”

I keep thinking we are running on prairies now but a quick look on Wikipedia says not. I can look forward to those in New Mexico and Oklahoma but I don’t really know what these are in Arizona. We are always quite high up now (around 5000ft) and the wind is refreshing and sometimes even chilling and often annoying. Today I did not run with a hat, I liked the liberating feeling of the wind and sun on my head though I did get a bit of sunburn today.

Today is Wednesday and is my club run night. It is the last Wednesday of the month which means it’s also wine and cheese night. As I entered the last 7.2 miles of the run or as I always reference it “three parks to go” I thought about running 3 parks with the other Serpies. Andy DuBois sent me an email today about shin splints and how to deal with pain mentally. He suggested I retreat to a place I like in my mind and try and shut out the pain. Today my “happy place” was a small room in the basement of a leisure centre in London crammed with sweaty runners and cheese. I miss Wednesdays.

The last few miles were downhill and with a tailwind. I finished with Italo in around 7.20, not the slowest 50k I have done but I am pleased with the continual forward motion and that currently I can still hold it back quite a lot and still get in comfortably under the cut-off times. As soon as I finished I asked for the two most important things, for ice to be put on my leg and for a beer to be put in my hand.

The finish line was in Ash Fork, a small town with 2 gas stations and one very small motel. Laure suggested that some of the runners may want to stay in the Comfort Inn in Williams where we will be running to tomorrow as it is only 30 miles away. I thought this was a great idea too, a nicer motel with a pool, coffee in the room, comfy bed, internet and shower gel (I’ve showered a few days in just water as I can’t be bothered finding mine in my bag). I lay down for about an hour then headed out of something to eat.

Williams is a great little town on Route 66. It’s the gateway to the Grand Canyon which is only about 50 miles from here. There is talk of a trip there tomorrow, I’ll see how I feel.

We headed into town and saw a place called “The Singing Pig”. The lady there Kathy was amazing and friendly and on hearing that I was from London she got excited and invited me to put a pin on the map on the wall. Then she asked “so what brings you to Arizona?” Then she got a whole lot more excited and said something I didn’t expect “We MUST get you on our facebook page”.

I had my photo taken with Deb and Dave outside the restaurant and she uploaded it immediately and asked me lots of questions about the race. It was great to feel like I was in America with Americans in a restaurant, it felt for the first time in a while that I could just be on a holiday. Tomorrow I will get a similar amount of time to relax and hope to go back to the same place. I would say that was the best restaurant experience I have had so far, it felt so nice just to be outside in the early evening chatting and eating.

Tomorrow is only 30 again, more climbing. I am looking forward to it once more.

Boring Stuff

Weight before 80.5 after 80.5kg

Food During – Half a subway left over from last night, 1 turkey sandwich, 1 clif bar, 5l Gatorade, 3l water, 1 coke, cliff blocks, anti-inflammatorys AFTER – Turkey sandwich, 2 cokes, 2 iced teas, ½ chicken and fries, dairy queen milkshake (blueberry), large bag of crisps

Kit – Newtons, Columbia short sleeved (the long sleeved one is now on strike), Kathmandu shorts (these are getting incinerated at flagstaff as I have worn them from the start), shades, socks, 1 calf guard (removed after about 20 because of swollen ankle), kooga pants

Injuries – Right shin still sore, ankle swollen and sore, bit of sunburn on face.