Read PART I
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Into The Darkness
Josh and I ran off into the night while first negotiating this overpopulated portion of New Hampshire known as Concord. As we made our way down the rest of Route 9, we passed by a bar on the right side of the road. As we ran by a woman approached us from the bars parking lot and asked us if we were “Running Across New Hampshire?” We told her that yes we were and she explained to us that the folks she was smoking cigarettes with near the front door were wondering why two guys were running down the road with head lamps on and she told them it was us and she had read about us in the paper. Never mind the fact that it COULD be possible that two guys are out running at night to simply exercise. As a former cigarette smoker myself, (long ago) I understand their lack of thought though only slightly. The woman wishes us well on our adventure and Josh and I talk about how awkward that kind of felt. “Yeah man… you have to be Nate now.” It was a sad thought because now everyone we ran into was thinking that Josh was Nate. I don;t know who I felt worse for.. Nate who was now laying in bed at home, or Josh who was out here working to see me through.
We ran across Route 106 in Loudon and over Route 4, rounded the bend and there was Horse Rd alongside the garden center. Loni had the Subaru Outback Impreza all lit up for us to see. As we approached the vehicle we noticed another figure standing with her. A woman had shown up and was standing along side our aid vehicle with her arms extended and a camera at the end. “Oh my god! Good for you guys! I’ve been following you all day and wanted to catch you.. Good Luck!” Ok, now things were starting to get rather creepy. Its about 11:30pm (or later) and the creeps are starting to come out. First the bar, and now a random woman taking our picture. I’m glad she left because pictures of what I did next would not have been impressive. I’ve been dealing with severe chaffe during long runs for quite some time now, and I’ve thought long and hard about possible solutions. Everytime I thought, if I could only just cut the liner out of these shorts. Tonight, the thought didn’t just end with a thought. Right in the middle of the road, I dropped my shorts and took out the scissors from my medical kit and began cutting the liner out of my running shorts. I twisted and turned, I spun around trying to see what I was doing. I was getting tired, anxious and out of sorts and holding scissors so close to my private areas was one of the dumbest of ideas. Josh looked over at me trying to figure out what I was doing when I heard, “huh… wha… DUDE!” “Sorry man.. I gotta cut this thing out.” As I cut the last snip of fabric, the liner was gone from my shorts and I had found a temporary fix to a major problem and a painful one at that. We thanked Loni for her help and were off onto the long climb into Epsom.
Route 4 At Last
We made our way around the bend and finally onto Route 4. Route 9 was done and I was exciting in knowing that this long stretch of unrelenting pavement would lead me to the ocean along New Hampshire’s seacoast. As we climbed the hill towards Epsom, we heard rustling in the tall grass along the side of the road. Josh and I turned our heads to shine a light onto the area in question to which we were surprised to see a few sets of eyes staring back at us. We watched as 2 or 3 White tail Deer hopped back into the thick woods along the roadside. As we crested the hill we saw Loni Stopped at the Hess Station. I hunkered down into the camp chair, tilted my head back and enjoyed a moment of rest. I ate more Ramen before we took off back into the darkness.
Its funny how I don’t remember much about the night time and as many of you have read throughout this report, I do tend to have a good memory. This night was especially tough for me. It was longer than any other night I’ve run through, with over 12 hours of darkness. As we ran further down Route 4, we stopped at Wendy’s where Josh was set to order a Spicy Chicken Sandwich. No such luck, as the lights were off and the restaurant closed for the evening all ready. I went into the Dunkin’ Donuts to use the facilities. On my way out the workers stopped me. “Is that your vehicle out there? Looks like you guys are celebrating Christmas!” “No, I’m running across the state..” Of course this spiraled into the usual conversation about how long it’s going to take, how many miles I’ve run, when will I sleep, etc. But as I walked out the door, the kind workers gave up ONE Dollar from their tip jar as a donation to Make-A-Wish. I felt privileged to be accepting their tip money as the woman continued to tell me how she usually purchases 8 angles around Christmas Time. Nice! I made my way back outside and put on my fleece pants. It was much colder now and trying to stay warm was becoming quite the chore.
As Josh and I crossed the Epsom Circle, we continued down Route 4 meeting up with Loni not far after at the Epsom Rest Area. She decided to start keeping the lights off so as to not draw attention to herself given the very real probability of creeps on the prowl. We left her again and was making our way through the downtown area of Epsom when a Police Officer drove by, turned around and came at us with his Blue’s on. We walked up to the passenger side window at which point he did not roll it down. He stepped out of the car with his huge and insanely bright flashlight. He asked if we were ok and we told him what we were doing. He stopped, told us he thought that it was next weekend until realizing he had the date wrong, wished us well and took off in the other direction. As he left I wondered if it was REALLY that weird to see two runners running through the night on route 4. I mean… what if it WASN’T because we were running across NH. Would he stop any and all runners trotting down the road at 1am? Is it really hard to believe that two second-shift workers might be out for a run late at night because its the only time they have?
The night is cold and lonely. Josh is doing his best to keep me company but I realize quickly that I’m starting to fade. We run through Northwood, past where the July tornado ripped the trees, homes and earth to shreds at the beginning of its long destructive journey. Loni was stopped again at the local gun shop/convenient store parking lot. We ran in and I took some Up Time and Red Bull. We took off again making our way up the hill past Johnson’s Dairy Bar. The restaurant sits on a hill surrounded by fields on all directions. The chilly wind was whipping through here, causing me to break into a slight shiver. I couldn’t move fast enough across this traverse, my muscles began to tense up from the cold air, and my eyes continued to get heavy. Up ahead we could see Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, the schools parking lot would be our next stop on our tour. As we rolled into the lot, I immediately made my way to the back of the car, where I circled around like a cat, and curled up on the gravel parking lot for a quick nap. After 5 minutes, Josh shook me and we were moving again. Amazing how a 5 minute cat nap works in these events… but the thing that makes it interesting is that its not even really sleep… I can hear everything going on around me, yet my eyes are closed and I breathe heavily. Its almost more like a catatonic state of mind.
We continue through Northwood to the top of the Hill. Loni was waiting at the Irving which I thought would have been open 24 hours. It wasn’t. I got into the parking lot and laid down on the cold pavement in an attempt to catch a few more precious seconds of comatose sleep. Josh gave me 10 minutes before shaking me and dragging me to continue on into the night. I ate more chips and asked them to put some Amino in my drink. They did this for me and we started moving pretty quickly out of the gate from here. I felt like I had much more energy after taking another uptime and adding Amino to my potion. It was all downhill from here into Lee and Josh and I had a good trot going on. We were now around 85-90 miles into the run and despite feeling sleepy, I felt great. Yeah.. feeling sleepy. As we ran along Josh started running the White line. He did his best to keep me in conversation, but he knew I was slipping away. Pretty soon I was sleep running. Josh would watch my headlamp’s spot sink from ahead of us to down near my feet. Josh would clap, yell, do anything to not only keep himself awake but try to keep me awake. He ran the white line on the side of the road and each time I’d sleep run, and drift towards the road, he’d bounce me back into the shoulder. Soon we made it to Loni again, where she had parked on a side street. We ran to the car and I immediately crashed to the ground and fell asleep. They let my lay there for 10 more minutes before waking me up and shoving more ramen noodle soup down my throat. It was a delicate process, a battle with sleep deprivation that I was losing and it was starting to turn the run into a death march. The sun couldn’t come up any sooner.
We started to run the final lengths of Route 4 between Concord and Lee. We were amazed at how few cars had actually came by us during the night hours. I expected Route 4 to be as busy at night as it is during the day. We could have counted the cars on our hands, or so it seemed. In the distance we heard one rushing along and we awaited its arrival. Amazing to see a car go flying by at 80 mph in a 45 mph zone.. and being so close to the action. As we ran down into towns like Barrington and Nottingham, things started to get a bit interesting. We ran by a house with a series of white tents set up in the front yard. Under the tents were large coolers and a sign that read “Free Bait – 24 Hours.” Now I have no idea what kind of bait that it was, but the sign was flippin’ hilarious. As the suns first rays finally began to emerge above the darkened landscape, we heard a rooster’s call from the backyard of a local farm. In the distance I could see the lights of Portsmouth illuminating the earth. We crested a final hill and could see the Lee Traffic circle a few miles away up ahead. The sun was finally back and we knew that company awaited. I was still sleep running and a bit delusional. As we neared the traffic circle, Josh was trying to jazz me up for the fact that some of my classmates were out to run with me. And then I had a hallucination. Out of a nearby storm drain I saw a bunch of black butterflies. Thank God the Night is over. I ran into the Lee Dunkin’ Donuts where my friends awaited. 98.9 miles Down in 24 Hours 45 Minutes. I could conceivably run 100 miles in one day thus far. Regardless, I had 25.5 Miles to run and I was a tired, chafed mess.
I went into the Dunkin’ Donuts to clean myself up a bit before staggering back out into the parking lot and readying myself to run the less than marathon I had to go. Sarah had returned to the crew and my mom had now shown up to assist as well. Josh and Loni were zonked. Josh removed his running gear and opted to grab some rest while we made our way to the seacoast. I saw my mom and she asked how I was doing, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this mom..” she replied with “With sheer will and determination thats how.” I looked up at her and saw this proud look on her face as tears welled up slightly in her eyes. Immediately I was inspired and knew what she meant. Relentless forward progression, never give up.. you can do anything you put your mind to. Sarah handed me my red Mountain Hardware jacket I was craving during the frigid 30 degree late night hours, now was just as well as then. As I finally began to warm up, I refilled my bottles, looked at my classmates and noticed an older gentleman as well. It was Steve. Steve ran his first ultra- just last month, and recently returned from his honeymoon in Africa. I was surprised to see him here, in Lee, ready to run a marathon. Apparently I had gotten through to him about his own potential. I smiled at the group, thanked my crew and we were back on the road, heading east down Route 4.
We headed down Route 4 as my friends started to ask questions. “How is it going John?” The sun is up and I’m feeling better now. The leaves are vibrant again, and the world is starting to fill with life. “This is absolutely awful” I respond as I start to get in tune with the chafe and the pain in the bottoms of my feet. My feet feel bruised and beaten. As we exit Route 4 and head down onto 155A, I am over 100 miles into this run. My feet have been pummeled by 100 miles of pavement, my knees and IT Bands are killing me and my calves are the tightest and sorest they’ve ever been. This really is awful, but I find some solitude in the amount I am enjoying it. We make our way down Old Concord Turnpike which turns into Main St. Durham and 155. Up ahead I see a biker coming down the hill from The University of NH. A man on a ten speed wearing florescent yellow, I knew right away it was one of my professors, Dr. Brent Bell. I was beyond excited that he decided to come out. We made our way past the horse barns which stank of the stench of fresh silage. Fog rises from the fields lining the outskirts of campus. I feel like I’m back at home. We pull into the field-house where the crews are anxiously waiting our arrival. The stop was quick as I introduced Brent to my mom and the rest of the crew. I drank a boost and was ready to roll on. We headed back out onto the main road.
As we crossed the railroad tracks and New Hampshire Hall, where I have most of my classes, another one of our classmates joined us, Kat. It was immediately evident to me that just up ahead, in a few short moments, when we cross the front steps of Thompson Hall, I will pass the 102 mile mark, the longest I have ever run. As we ran past, I made no big deal about it but Kat remembered and she made short mention of the idea. I was internally excited but still focused on what needed to be done today. I still had 22 miles to run and nothing was going to stop me. We made our way through the small downtown area of Durham, past the many shops and rounded the turn at the post office, running onto Madbury Rd (aka. Frat Row). Durham is a ghost town. Hard to believe that umpteen thousand students live here. But then again, many of them are late sleepers or hung over from the night before. Me? I’m still running, as I had all through the night. Before we reached the end of Madbury, Kat said farewell seeing as she wasn’t dressed to go too far. I was very much appreciative of her coming out to say hello. The rest of us continued running through the quiet streets of Durham, where last nights wind had shook more leaves from their colorful perch upon the trees. They were lining the streets now as we shuffled on by. We turned back onto Route 4 after having added a few miles necessary to make this run 200K. Route 4 was getting busy as our group made its way to our next stop.
My feet are killing me and as we make it to the support vehicle I lay down on the pavement. Brent mentions getting me a chair and mom acts quickly. They set it up and I sit down, anxious to stay off of my feet. They are beyond sore. It feels like someone is digging a knife into my plantar fascia. “This is indeed awful” I keep repeating, but there is nothing I’d rather be doing today. I sat in the chair and ask for some chips. I hear that the triathletes eat them to keep their feet form hurting. I’ve been eating chips off and on for over 26 or 27 hours now.. and I can honestly tell you that I think they are all full of crap!
Every time I sit down and get back up, I have to start the process over. I get up and begin to walk gingerly down the road, pick up the pace to a brisk walk, work it into a trot and find a way to start running again. As we reach the Route 4/108 intersection, Brent leaves us and heads home to retrieve his family. I was in great spirits, mainly in knowing that my professor took the time to come out and be with me on my adventure. I’m certain he has very little idea what I am going through physically, but I know full well he understands what I am going through mentally. I’m inspired by Brent. I’m inspired by my classmates and friends. We continue to push on. Along the sides of the highway are many fertile fields, used for hundreds of years to gather hay for livestock. I am amazed how different the farms are here as opposed to the western portion of our state. There the farms are rockier and more rugged. Here, farms rise up along the salt marsh shores and Hay is rolled up into giant wheels and left in the fields for retrieval. We make our way into Emery Hill Farm which is right across the street from Wagon HIll Farm. You can’t miss either of these places while driving down Route 4. I sit down on the back of the vehicle and ask for a PB&J. As I begin to eat it I feel sick to my stomach. Nothing tastes even remotely good anymore, and the PB&J wants nothing more than to come back up. I do my best to swallow it as I know I need the energy. Nothing about this run is getting any easier. Only the fact that the end is getting closer, not many steps left to run.
My crew is being very supportive. They are in amazement that as the sun came up on this day, I am still running on this pavement. The further along we get the more I can feel the pull of the end. I’m still running at a good clip, maintaining a comfortable speed and haven;t lost much speed at all since leaving Concord. I feel solid, sore, but solid. My quads feel no fatigue. My chest and ribs hurt from the shaking they receive with each pounding of a footstep. I am not sweating, exhausted but no longer sleepy. I’m just running. We run over bridges and see the waters of the Great Bay shimmer in the sunlight. Trees line the shores and their colorful reflections make for a perfect seaside scene. I really feel like I’ve seen everything New Hampshire has to offer at this point. Lakes, rivers, streams, foliage, mountains, the ocean, crazy drivers, farms, and even a few massholes. My friends appear to be getting a bit tired, but they have been reluctant to complain in knowing how far I’ve run to this point. We run into Newick’s Restaurant, a local staple of fine seafood. The girls visit the bushes and I take another break to get off my feet. I sit on the back of the vehicle again and strike up conversation with my crew. Josh asks, “What do you need?” “Nothing” “Then lets go, get up and out of here!” They were right of course. I rose to my feet and we continued on our journey. The wind was whipping across the bay as we made our way over the Old Route 4 Bridge.
Once we crossed the bay we turned down and ran through the industrial section of Newington, NH. Just beyond the trees are where huge barges ride up the bay to unload huge shipments of various cargo. We run past the Newington Energy Plant, Westinghouse and then there they were. Brent had returned with his family and they were on a tandem bicycle. Brent and his wife Beth peddled along while their son got a free ride in a small tow behind carrier. We make our way out onto Woodbury Ave and the traffic is almost overwhelming. It was ok when I was out on Route 9 and the cars came whizzing by, but after the night alone on Route 4, the quiet streets of Durham.. the hustle and bustle of Portsmouth was starting to make me a bit anxious. Just as we had to make it to EMS in Concord last night.. I needed to make it to EMS in Portsmouth this morning for sometime after 10am. We rolled into the parking lot to a mighty fine round of applause as I blasted ahead of my running partners at a clip that i’m sure made them wonder how I did it. 114.4 miles into this run and I’ve still got plenty left in the tank. “You’re flying!” Josh said. People snapped photos and I noticed new runners were ready to join our party. My manager Jason came out and shook my hand. The store was collecting donations for us from those looking to run, and they had set up a make-shift aid station complete with Water and Gels. I ate a banana and entertained those that had come out to see us. As I got up close to my fellow co-workers and started answering questions, I noticed that my vision was starting to get blurry and a bit clouded. My speech was becoming slightly slurred and exhaustion was beginning to really sink in. I’ve never been here before, it felt weird but I knew what task lay ahead. I was beyond happy to see that Nate had come back out to cheer me on. It was weird seeing him and knowing that he’s not running this anymore. But he knows what I’ve been through if anyone here does. We joke around and pick right back up where we left off. I knew he was disappointed, but I was so glad he came out to help me get the job done. I have 9.89 Miles left to run… and my journey across NH was to be complete.
(Continue to the final Part 3)