We cannot find a restaurant open for breakfast in Linden, so we take our chances at the grocery store. We are pleasantly surprised to find that the grocery has a full-breakfast menu in its deli, so I order up some eggs, sausage and coffee. The food is excellent. I’ll also buy a quart of chocolate milk and drink it before we leave. Eric and Dale join us just as we finish up. Eric, has a huge blister on his heel that he has been dealing with. It’s good to see other runners, but we don’t tarry long. There is a long march to Hohenwald in the heat of the morning that I am dreading, but it has to be done.
Just outside of Linden, we come upon Frank Dahl, and the three of us will spend the next 18 miles together. We stop at the last convenience store east of Linden and I down two ginger ales, which taste great, but somewhat bloat my stomach. Just as we are leaving, Laz and Carl pull up and offer a few words of discouragement (or was it advice?), smile and leave. We are surprised to learn that quite a few runners have dropped out already, maybe as many as 10 or 11.
The road to Hohenwald crosses Coon Creek numerous times and I begin looking for a way to get to the water to soak my head. John and Frank don’t mind me wasting their time and watch bemusedly as I dunk my entire face and head in the water, soak my hat, and shake off the excess before standing up and moving on. The three stops I make to do this go a long way to helping me survive the heat and sun.
We move well, but we are whipped by the time we reach Hohenwald (mile 144). We think for over an hour that the race track is just over the next hill, or around the next curve, but to no avail. We stop at a church which holds services on Saturday and rest in their shade before making one final push. No one bothers us, or appears to know we are there. We finally arrive. The convenience store that was such a blessing to Charlie T and me last year is now a huge disappointment. There is no chocolate milk; the fountain machine is broke; CNN on the tv, with a bunch of brainless chatter about leaving children locked up in cars on hot days. I make a snide remark about leaving ultrarunners out on the highways of Tennessee on hot days, but the humor is about as poor as our moods. As disappointing as the store is, the manager is actually a nice guy; he just doesn’t have much to work with.
Frank stays behind for the AC. I can’t take the tv, so John and I move on. We have come to the conclusion that we should get a motel to escape the afternoon heat. (It will reach 94°!) We make one more stop so John can get some supplies for his blistered toes and check-in. The AC feels good. I update my Facebook status. Joel immediately sends me a message asking if he can take over the room if we leave before he gets there. The owners of the motel are very accommodating of us, and they promise to let him in if he arrives.
We leave after dark, but it is still warm. We eat at McD’s, and then head towards Hampshire (mile 160). It is good to be making this stretch in the dark, as there is a lot of construction, which would mean a lot of dust and close traffic during the day hours.
We talk about so many things: insurance auditing, backpacking (no such thing as just an ounce), church history and so on. No topic is too boring. We don’t worry about being linear, or not repeating ourselves. We come back to our strategy of moving, slowing down if we have to, but moving. We do a good job of sticking to that.
The one stop we do make is by the Natchez Trace Parkway where there is a campground. The owner is a fan of our race and has set out a cooler of pop and water as well as cookies and other goodies. The cookies are wonderful, as is the Coke, but we keep our stop short. I remember getting part way out the drive and remembering that I hadn’t filled my water bladder, so John carries it all the way back and fills it from a spigot for me.
The road to Hampshire lasts forever and the moonlight is playing all kinds of tricks on my eyes, making me think the town is just beyond the next hill or curve. The blinking red lights John has also play into this, as I’m thinking there is a flashing yellow light in Hampshire (there isn’t, my memory failed me here) and sometimes the flashing light reflects as yellow off some object far ahead of us. I now see how “moonshine” got it’s name. It makes you see things that aren’t there.