Monday, 7 May 2012

USA Day 5 - Revisited (05/05/2011)

It wasn't quite the 0630 start I'd hoped for, but 0730 wasn't too bad. The start point on day 5 was a street called Morning Glory, which tickled the support team and me. The good thing about an earlier start was a cooler start than usual. Only just cooler though!

The aim was to get 12 miles done before lunch time. It wasn't going to be easy given the fact that the temperature started to rise fairly quickly. All the signs were that this was going to be another scorching hot day. It was unusually warm for the time of year. That was just typical of the run across the USA. If something could be at an extreme, it usually was.

This was my 3rd day on Route 66. It was a fascinating place at times. I got the impression that each town I ran through would have been quite prosperous in a bye gone day. Since the introduction of the Interstate roads, this was no longer the case. That was just my impression though. It may differ from reality.

I stopped to take photos of an unusual piece of "art". It was a load of bottle trees near Ore Grande. I later found that these were the work of Elmer Long. I've since seen them on a couple of TV shows including Billy Connolly's Route 66 and An Idiot Abroad.

I actually managed 14 miles before lunch and finished the morning session in sweltering heat. The temperature had hit 35 Degrees Celsius with only 4% humidity. Not that I needed much reminding, but I knew I was going to have to fight very hard to get through each dat as I moved further into the Mojave Desert. 

As per usual, the trains were always a delightful sight. Counting the number of carriages was now a daily hobby of mine. The surrounding terrain was very much how I remember old Cowboy and Indian movies.

After one of Richard's pasta dishes and a bit of a rest it was time to start the afternoon session. The heat seemed a lot more intense in the afternoon and reached 37 Degrees Celsius and only 7% humidity. Richard quipped "It's cooling off nicely out there!". Funny guy!

This was the first time on the run that I really had to dig in. I'd put considerable effort in during the previous 4 days but running and surviving at that temperature required a level of effort that I'd never experienced before. 

In the few months leading up to the start of the run across the USA, I'd ran in the heat chamber at Northumbria University. It was only now that I started to realise just how important that aspect of my training had been. 

Of course, I'd be running in far higher temperatures later on in the USA. Looking back, it was a tremendous test of human endurance. Pushing myself to the limits is a major part of the kinds of runs that I do. Putting up with the suffering that goes with it is one of my greatest assets. I might not be the greatest athlete but overcoming these kinds of difficult tests is the closest I'll ever come to athletic glory. 

I took time to assess the damage my body had suffered during those first 5 days writing a "damage report" piece on my blog. It was at this point that my blisters were causing slight concern. That said, Richard was continuing to do a very good job with them. They would have been a lot worse without his attention. 

I was pleasantly surprised that I hand't suffered and inflammation in my shins. This had plagued me throughout training.  Precautionary daily ice treatment seemed to be working. I'd go to sleep with ice packs taped to my shins! The worst part was tearing the tape off the following morning!

I recall feeling physically strong during the first 5 days. However, I had terribly swollen feet and this was slowing me down. Minor muscular twinges would come and go. Cherry Active was playing a major part in the daily recovery process. I was able to get out each morning with very few aches and pains in my legs. Overall, I was very pleased with how my body was holding up to running so far in such difficult conditions.

The apparent threat of dogs continued on a daily basis. I would hear numerous loud barks, as I ran past each ranch (like the one picture below). The routine was a well practiced one by this point:
  • Assess the pitch of the barks and guess how big/fast/vicious the dogs were.
  • Confirm the above if the dogs come into sight.
  • Assess the property to see if there any gaps in the surrounding fence.
  • If there is a gap or, indeed, no fence at all then run away very quickly.
  • If the dog/dogs is/are no longer giving chase stop sprinting and resume at normal pace!

I reached Barstow in the dark and stopped running after 29.7 miles. The next 4 miles on Interstate 40 would have to wait until the following day. It was too dark and dangerous to start running on that kind of road. 

Thanks to a 5 mile shortcut, found by Richard, I was only 8 miles behind schedule at the end of day 5.

Day 5 was easily the hardest so far in the run across the USA. Unseasonal high temperatures, vicious dogs, nasty blisters, swollen feet, drug busts, "weirdo's" on Route 66 and unidentified mountain beasts  over 147.1 tough miles were all making it one heck of a tough run. The fund for St Benedict's Hospice and The Children's Foundation was just over £31,000 though! It was well worth it.