The Fellowship of Suffering – The Race: Day 1

Day 1

I spend the ferry ride taking pics, meeting new runners, and chatting with friends I met last year. I am so much more relaxed, so much less introspective. The air is cool, and it’s triggering my bladder, but the line to the port-a-potty is long, so I wait until we land on the Missouri side of the river.

If one didn't know better, one would think there was a prerace prayer meeting going on.  :-)

If one didn’t know better, one would think there was a prerace prayer meeting going on. 🙂

I make it back in time to see Laz light his cigarette, and off we run to the ferry, where we float back across the river. The clock is running now, but Laz has assured us that this is probably the fastest we will move the entire race – LOL.
Another of those random, coincidental, or “prepared-in-advance” events was my conversation with Abi during the bus ride from the finish line to Union City. She had been sitting up front, but decided to come to the back where she could stretch out and sleep. Unfortunately for Abi, if there is somebody nearby to talk to, she is going to talk to them, so I don’t know if she ever got any much needed rest or not. However, I got some advice I actually decided to listen to.

I have trouble eating during long events, and that leads to early tiring and a lot of walking. Abi advised me to “trick” my body by walking the first 20 minutes. Abi’s a nurse, and she threw out a lot of terminology like “sympathic” and “para-sympathetic,” but though I couldn’t remember which system did what, I understood the gist of what she was saying: when I start out running, I’m telling my body that I am fleeing something, so the body shuts down unnecessary functions like digestion, making it difficult for me to handle food for several hours into an ultra. By walking 20 minutes, the body is no longer thinking it’s in “flight” mode, so the digestive system remains much closer to normal.

The other thing Abi told me was that eating fat would help my stomach by triggering the body to release lipase, the benefits of which I couldn’t recall.

I begin my journey by walking, checking my watch to insure that I walk the full 20 minutes Abi recommended. I chat briefly with Yogi, and then hook up with Joel who listens to me try to recount all that physiological information that Abi had given me. The time goes quickly, and soon we are approaching the lookout, where we decide to “run” for the benefit of the photo-op.

Our 20 minutes of walking were over.  Time to look impressive for the photo ;-) .

Our 20 minutes of walking were over. Time to look impressive for the photo 😉 .

Once on the edge of town, I begin running the downhills and walking the ups. There doesn’t seem to be much flat, a situation that will persist for the next 300+ miles. I get almost to the Tennessee line when I catch up with Dusty. Dusty looks at me and asks me if I have a leak, or if I’m just sweating that much already. My running shorts are pretty much soaked! It’s about then I realize that I’m not getting any water from my bladder tube. This requires several stops to fix: one to pull out and reattach the tube, one to turn the bladder around so the tube insert isn’t poking me in the back, another to check to see if things are right, as I still feel something poking me in the back. My last stop to fix that bladder was at a picnic table in Woodland Mills, just inside the Tennessee line (mile 10). It is here I propped my dog trainer (a fiberglass cb antenna I found near my home in Indiana and planned on carrying across Tennessee) up against a post while I fixed my hydration bladder and emptied my personal bladder. I reshouldered my pack and left, forgetting my dog trainer. I was bummed, but there was no way I was going back for it.

The wet shorts concern me. Shannon had to drop early last year due to chafing from getting too wet. I know enough to soak only my head whenever the lure of cold water is available. Maybe I could find a place where I could take off my shorts and let them dry in the sun. The idea of sitting mostly naked is neither enticing nor negative, I just don’t want to invest the time it will take for the shorts to dry. But I seriously consider this option for almost a mile, looking left and right for a place where I can hide and accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

Finally, another idea emerges: “Don’t you have a spare pair of running shorts in your pack?” (It had been quite the debate on the VS list as to whether carrying spare clothes was a good idea or not. I did so the year before and my only regret had been losing them the last 14 miles of the race, so indeed I carried another set with me this year.) I quickly find a corn field, duck in, change, clothespin the wet shorts to the back of my pack, and rejoin the race.

Dusty is gone. The last encounter or memory I have of her is hearing “Tennessee Jed” by the Grateful Dead from her headphones as I walk by.

I stop for something to drink as I enter Union City (mile 17), hook up with John Sands and Garry Price to find our way through town, and then head on alone as they stop at Subway. I find half a sub on the sidewalk in front of the hospital that must have fallen from somebody’s pack, and though it is tempting, I throw it in a wastebasket.

The road to Martin was hot last year. It is again this year, and I am walking it alone. I see runners ahead of me, but I can’t catch them at the pace I’m going, and I’m not willing to run in the heat to make it happen. I stop at a gun/hunting store along the route to drink a Dr. Pepper and sit in their air-conditioning, but Ted Cruz is on the tv and I can only stand so much before deciding that returning to the heat is a better option.

On arriving in Martin, I spy a fruit stand and wait my turn to buy a couple of peaches. The lady ahead of me asks me what all of us are doing and I explain as best I can. She then insists on buying my peaches for me.

I graciously accept the gift and carry them across the street to McDonald’s. Just like last year, Jeff McGonnell is enjoying some AC and sit-down time. Unlike last year, I do not order a large Coke. I remember Abi’s advice to eat food high in fat, so I order a small dish of ice cream, an order of fries, and a small coffee. It goes down quite easily, and as I prepare to leave, a gentlemen throws five dollar bills on my table and says “maybe it will help you get to the next town.” He doesn’t want any attention, or argument, so I offer my thanks and stunned appreciation and head back out for the long hike to Dresden.

There’s a little fun spot for kids in the center of Martin (mile 31), where several geysers of water shoot out of the ground. I ask a mom if big kids are allowed to play too, and she just shrugs her head like she doesn’t know. I soak my head and shake it off to the amusement of some of the kids. It feels good, and I will continue to soak my head as often as possible during the race.

I stop one more time on the edge of Martin for a grape drink which probably wasn’t a great idea, but I don’t get sick, just uncomfortable.

The road to Dresden is long and hot. The sun is out in force, though temps only reach 87°. I maintain a steady walking pace, and again, alone, though other runners are often in sight ahead of me. Just before the turn unto Main St, I see a runner who has sought refuge from the sun behind two plastic garbage cans! It looks hot and uncomfortable, but we do what we think we need to do out here.

Once in Dresden (mile 40), I stop at the pizza place I’ve heard/read so many bad things about. The young man running the place allows me to have a glass of ice water and sit in one his booths. I’m just not hungry enough to order anything. Dan and Rita are there, as are John Hanson and Marcio from Brazil. Dan and Rita offer me a slice of their pizza, and though it looks great, I can only manage a couple of bites. Marcio insists I refill my water glass with Sprite from the two-liter he has bought, not just once, but twice. John sits and waits patiently for his pizza to be delivered. Marcio and I leave together, and before we get out of town, we have been blessed by yet another Road Angel who is handing out water, oranges, cookies and other goodies from the back of his car, with the assistance of his children. There are several of us gathered around: John Sands, Caleb Nolan, and some others I’m forgetting.

I tell everyone my plans to rest briefly at the pavilion south of town. John and Caleb join me, John downing a few Gatorades from the machine, Caleb using the bathrooms. I take off my shoes and socks and apply more 2Toms to my feet. There is some discomfort, but I don’t notice anything bad happening yet. I am able to call home and chat with Laura. My news is good: I am at least 10 miles ahead of where I was at by this time last year.

Caleb Nolan later in the race.  He will suffer an attack from two dogs that will lead him to seek medical treatment to stop the bleeding.  It set his race back several hours, but it did not stop him!

Caleb Nolan later in the race. He will suffer an attack from two dogs that will lead him to seek medical treatment to stop the bleeding. It set his race back several hours, but it did not stop him!

Caleb Nolan later in the race. He will suffer an attack from two dogs that will lead him to seek medical treatment to stop the bleeding. It set his race back several hours, but it did not stop him!

John and Caleb head off and that is the incentive I need to get moving. It doesn’t hurt that the grass, though short, appears to have bugs I can’t see, and I just can’t get comfortable. I catch Caleb quickly as he stops to deal with some potential chafing issues; I don’t catch John for a few miles.

When I catch John, we hook up, running the downhills, walking the rest, passing several runners through the night. We enter Gleason (mile 48) before dark, greeted by the Gleasonites, more Road Angels who are handing out water, candy, nature bars, and other goodies. There are several runners sitting on a porch there. I ask if Laz has called a meeting and forgotten to invite me? I’m in a great mood, and John and I leave town heading towards McKenzie.

By the time we reach the McDonald’s in McKenzie (mile 56), we have hooked up with Joel and Marcio. Marcio is amazing: he has come to the US to run across Tennessee and knows no English! There is one other runner who knows Portugese, but Marcio has moved on head of him to take his chances alone. Joel is trying to fix his feet, as a mis-sized insert has created havoc for his little toe.

I order my ice cream, fries and coffee, but the fries don’t settle as well this time. I also finally think to check my left foot, which has been sending me some pretty discordant vibes. Something is going on. Laura sent some moleskin along with me so I cut a piece and apply it straight on the trouble spot. John tells me as we leave that maybe I should have applied it around the the spot, and is even willing to take time to help me fix it, but I decline. I pick a very bad time to not listen to advice…

We move towards Huntingdon in the dark, one hill after another. Along the way, the four of us stop along the highway so John can properly apply the moleskin to my blister. He doesn’t like moleskin, in part because it doesn’t stick well. Also, the kinesio tape Laz had given has gotten wet with sweat, so it isn’t working as it should either. I attach a couple of long strips to the back of my pack so they can air dry.

In Huntingdon (mile 67), we climb up on the courthouse steps and take a lay-down. Marcio is very tired, and he will stay there. Joel, John and I leave town, but I stop at the police station to tell them about Marcio and that he knows no English and that he is one of us runners, hoping they’ll let him sleep.

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One Response to The Fellowship of Suffering – The Race: Day 1

  1. Pingback: Renaissance Musings Table of Contents | Renaissance Musings

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