(To Read Part 1 CLICK HERE)
On The Road Again
Nate and I slowly staggered back out onto the sidewalk and gingerly continued our journey down Main St. in Hillsboro. Every time I stopped my hamstrings tightened up. I left every aid station walking.. funny.. yet walking. Eventually I could get it up to a nice little trot, comfortable, just letting the miles click by under my feet. My feet which were aching but not as bad as they have in the past. Of course, as soon as we left the aid station, we both had to pee again. I guess this is the better of the two evils when it comes to relieving ones self during these runs. I’d rather pee and pee clear then pee red or not at all. We ran past the Cumberland Farms we visited at 4:30 am to get breakfast. We chuckled again at what the cashier had asked us earlier, “You guys goin’ skiing?” We told him what we were doing, we walked out, and he chose to interrogate Leah. A rather funny conversation given the truth to what we were doing. Nate’s shin was starting to tighten up a bit, we thought he’d work through it for sure so we carried on.
We left the cozy confines of Hillsboro and headed for Henniker. This stretch of road is one of the worst. You look up and all you see is the pavement. The road goes straight for 2 or so miles, banks a right.. and when you get there.. it goes on again. Every time you think you’re there, you’re not. The miles click by but you don’t get any closer. It was all we could do but to put our heads down and just chug along, ignoring the view and just getting there. And then I ran over something, I stopped.. backed up and picked it up. Nate asked, “What the hell is it?” I replied, “It’s a man with no arms!” Nate chokes on his drink as he half spits it out in laughter. I put the tiny action figure, it resembles the man in the yellow hat on Curious George, and marvel that he has no arms. “I’m sure I can find something better for this guy to do.. with no arms and all.” (He is sitting above the stove as we speak). We continue on down the road, head down, marching along when I run over something else. I stop, back up.. and pick it up. Its a plastic frog about the size of a tennis ball. I spot two sensors on the bottom of the frog, when you touch them both, the frog ::rib bets:: and lights up red. $3.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond.. I just found the Beyond. I put him in my waist pack as well and continued running with my souvenirs.
As we reach Henniker Nate calls his wife Amy to tell her of our progress. His toe is still bothering him, that blister.. and his shin. I head off into the woods for yet another bio break. As I step off the road towards the side, I step into swampy marshy water. My foot fills with water and when I take it out, it smells and is orange-brown. YUCK! I’m pissed.. and when I get to the Restaurant at the turn, I head inside once more. A wedding party waited outside, the bride walking her dog, (oh brother) as an older patron followed me inside. I was walking into the restaurant, doing the “Sherpa Shuffle,” carrying a tin of Bag Balm and a Purple Rubber Glove. “Looks like you’re hurtin” she says, “Oh yeah.. if you only knew.” As I came back outside, Nate tended to his feet once more, popping that blister, letting me know that we were gonna have to walk slowly down into Henniker Downtown. I had no problems with that. I grabbed some Gummi’s, refilled my bottles, and snagged a PB&J Sandwhich. We thanked our crew and started walking. I ate as I walked, tired from the run into town, knowing another less then exciting run lay ahead towards Hopkinton. As we walk down into the center of Henniker I hear a voice, “Hey, where you walkin’ to?” It’s my mom, and she’s come to help. We tell her to drive ahead and see us at the park just a mile and a half ahead. I was on the phone with Sarah, her family singing me happy birthday. It was chaos and I wanted to escape all ready. The main thing that makes this run so great is that it gives me the opportunity to take a break from life.. and to think about ONE THING… Left Right Repeat.. nothing else. Nothing.. yet as night began to fall, I felt the dynamic changing.
At Amey Brook park we stroll in in front of a setting sun. It’s getting dark now as we don our headlamps and reflective clothing once more, “We were further down the road last year by this time huh?” Yes… yes we were as Nate asked. We are about an hour and a half slower at this point this year but doing ok. Nate’s shin hurts, my chaffe is atomic, my feet ache.. I all ready am dreaming about bed. We sit on the tailgate of the truck and eat some of Mom’s Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, a well received “peace offering” which was followed up by a cup of hot cocoa. A runner came running down the street at 8 minute pace.. Nate and I looked with out jaws open “Where the hell is he going?” We chuckled and as he returned we welcomed him to join us on our journey to the ocean. Something tells me he didn’t believe thats where we planned to go. The weather updates start flowing in from crew, I got aggravated by this. I didn’t care. The bottom line was that I had every piece of clothing I owned to combat the elements. I was ready, willing and able to continue on in adverse conditions.. whatever it took to get to the beach I was getting there. We get ourselves together and once again slowly walk from another pit stop.
Concord or Bust
Back out onto Busy Route 9 we work our way East as traffic zips past at speeds that would flatten us if hit. Cars travel in excess of 60-70 mph on this stretch of road. As we plod down the street it’s hard not to notice the varieties of roadkill that we pass. Skunk, racoon, mouse.. no humans.. Yet. There were a few times where cars were drifting into the breakdown lane as we ran. It was a scary show, never knowing if your last step would be your last. We stroll into the Dunkin Donuts and see two new faces, Jim Graham and Peter Larson, from Concord, had shown up to run a few miles with us. I finally emptied my pockets of the man with no arms and the frog, I went inside dunkins.. yet again… and came out a new man. I cursed the spaghetti sauce Sarah bought this past week.. it cursed me. People marvel at the decor of the crew vehicle, unaware of what we were doing. They saw a truck covered in lights, raised a questioning eyebrow and then headed on their way. We leave here quickly and continue on towards Concord.
Back out on Route 9 we travel over the bridge that spans Elm Brook and its subsequent ponds. We peer south over the open water and distant trees, now nothing more than shadows, as we watch fireworks lift into the sky and burst in the distance. We had no idea what town or place had fireworks tonight, but it was a beautiful sight. We only saw them explode, we heard no sound, just the rushing of cars. We exit Route 9 and finally get onto the quiet roads of Hopkinton, NH. As we travel under the underpass we see our crew vehicle. Nate is slowing down, worried about his shin. Other than that he feels great. I really knew Nate was going to make it across the state this time. In the best shape of his life, chipper, happy, just enjoying himself. I was still very much enjoying his company but my achilles tendon was acting up on my right leg. I felt a few muscle cramps in my left hamstring earlier and can only think I was being protective by overcompensating. We speculated the same with Nate’s shin, over compensating for that blister he had. We stayed in the station a bit longer than normal, leaning against the truck. After 59 miles of running, nothing tasted good anymore or sounded appetizing. We asked for real food at Concord EMS, refilled our bottles and headed out up the next hill. As we made our way back out onto the road, we see two headlamps come bobbing towards us, Jim and Peter were finally here.
And 2 Makes 4
We continue running through the quiet town of Hopkinton. As we look around we see homes settling for the night. Lights off or dim inside, the real glow coming from the glistening of a variety of Halloween Decorations. The boys were great company, fresh faces always help. They ask us typical questions of people who just join an ultra-runner. How do you feel? What does this do to your body? What have you eaten? Etc.. We pass Jim’s car parked at the Cracker Barrel store in town. He stops to grab a drink and drop gear off. When Jim returns to us he tells me a story about how he told his kids he was coming out to run with me, and they responded, “Wow, across the whole entire state?!” This story actually really touched me.. and in these moments, early in the night when I am thinking of returning home early for a warm bed.. it keeps me going. A truck drives toward us dangerously close to the curb.. high beams on. Jim stumbles and hurts his toe. He urges us to go on. and we do as he keeps pace just fine with a slight hobble.
As we continue on towards Concord, we can see the lights of Concord Heights, the blinking towers of Epsom and Northwood. A clear sky allows for the world to cool a bit faster this evening as a light breeze remains after the days brisk winds. Flurries begin to fall from the sky “It’s friggin snowing… great.” I watch as tiny whisps of white fall in front of my headlamp. We stop one more time at St. Paul’s school. Nates wife has all ready come and gone when I get there. Nate, despite being in minimal discomfort is running much better than I. As he should.. he has 1500 miles on me for the year, a testament to his dedication to training. Me? I’m a slug. Slinking along.. feeling bad for holding the gang back. I still don’t think I have any business being out here and I start thinking about going home for the night. Nate and Peter surge ahead while Jim gets stuck running in the back with me. My feet ache, my hamstrings are tight, my achilles hurts. The chaffe is getting to the point of unbearable.. and as we head down the hill through downtown, I’m starting to weigh my options. As we run into downtown, us boys are sharing stories as boys do, Jim tells us an exceptional one and we even run by the location where it happened. It’s times like this where I need a god laugh the most and the boys are doing well. We turn the corner onto Concord’s Main street and as we run in front of the State House, I snap a photo. A mentally ill woman yells at Peter, “I’m not gonna move out of the way for you pal!” I got a kick out of it, I turned back and said, “Peace love and harmony babe”… thats when Jim told me of her condition.. I felt terrible. Ugh..
We arrived at the Concord EMS, walking as a group into the parking lot. My dad and step mother were there, my mother and step father. Sarah was now in attendance, Gilly was there with her boyfriend David. Loni was ready to run.. and I was ready to sit down. I sat down in a chair as Josh fed me some more chicken noodle soup and some hot chocolate. I looked over and saw a Fast Lane sign on my Dad’s car, I still have no idea what that was about but it was funny. I thought as I looked at it there the fast lane is no longer existent. After 67 miles of moving through the day, and with it being 10pm or so.. I was moving rather slowly. I went over to the truck and had Sarah help me make a clothing change. I took off my fleece lined tights, which by now have rubbed me raw, and put on the old pair of running shorts from this same run last year. Those shorts are the ones I cut the liner out of at mile 73. I slipped on a pair of fleece pants, changed jackets, and got ready to head off into the night. Last year we ran 1 mile in the parking lot here, this year I decided it was no necessary. I give Sarah a hug, she’s so warm and happy. I whisper into her ear that all I want is to go home and she replies, “Whenever you’re ready.”
The 124 mile run was now down to 123. After another short break, I rose from the chair, thanked everyone and asked Nate if he was ready. He came over to me and put a hand on my shoulder, “It stops here for me my friend.” We looked at each other square in the eyes, and smiled. “Yeah… good choice bud.” “I promised Amy I wouldn’t hurt myself. I had a great time, a great time running with you.. I’m cool.” I can’t say that I wasn’t jealous. I wanted to go home, to a nice warm bed.. but I was out here.. about to run through the frigid night. I was so proud that Nate had come out. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have made it to the Ocean and then some. He is quite the amazing athlete these days, but only he knows the costs he is willing to pay. I respect Nate so much for making the decision that he made, we needed not talk about it more than it was worth. I said good night, thanked my best friend, told Loni and Gilly, “Let’s Go!” and we headed off into the Night once more. This is the essence of Ultra-running. To be down and out, not wanting to continue, hurting, tired, hungry, sore… and still you rise to your feet and continue the struggle forward.
Where The Wild Things Are
We walked slowly up the hill towards the Heights. Gilly is a ball of fire. She talks and talks. Her excitement is hard to contain. She means well, she has no idea what kind of condition I’m really in. I wondered if she forgot how she felt at the Vermont 100K when her pacer jumped in to help her. It’s easy to lose sight of perspective. At Dunkins I walk into the bathroom.. again. I walk out with my can of Bag Balm. Some customers notice what I’m carrying, you should have seen the stares. I walk back outside a bit emotional. I’m so tired of my bowel issues, the chaffe.. having to even deal with it. It’s making things miserable. I can barely run and I feel walking is faster. We continue our slog up through the heights. We stop at Shaws where the crew waits again and then we push ahead towards Horse Barn Rd. I’m getting really cranky, tired.. drowsy. At Horse Barn I have to stop. I walk over to Sarah’s car and get in. I ask for 5 minutes and I get my wish as I take a nap.
Things in my memory start to get hazy, I’m nodding off as we continue on down the road. Route 9 is now behind me as I walk out onto 4 with the speed of herd of racing turtles. As we climb out of Loudon towards the top of Chichester, we pass a cop. His door is slightly open, it looks like he wants to ask a few questions. He never does. I hear something in the woods and assume it’s a deer. We continue our climb, the cop has moved, I never saw him go by, he’s up the road waiting again. I can only assume that he is in a way helping us out. Making sure traffic moves slowly coming down the hill at us. I’m thankful for this subtle gesture. As we reach the Hess station at the top of the hill, I can barely keep my eyes open. I immediately walk over to Sarah’s car again. I drop my waist pack and stagger to the passenger side door. I hear my mom saying good night, I’m not responding. I slump down into the car and tell Sarah I want 10 minutes. I fall asleep quickly and am awoken by Sarah. The cold air rushes into the super warmed car. I start shivering and ask for 5 more. She closes the door and 5 is what I get. They drag me out of the car, attach my waist pack back on me and the 3 of us head down the road again.
We leave Hess and cruise downhill towards the swamps before being forced to walk up hill once more. The hills here in this section are long and cold. As we make it towards the Epsom Circle, I see the crew in the Wendy’s Parking lot. We round the corner and head in. Julie (Rawveganrunner) is there. She’s made the drive from Western Mass and has been waiting long enough. I walk in wanting in another nap, but I couldn’t bare the thought of making her wait any longer. I promised her should could run with me, except I’m not really doing much running. Julie starts telling us about her run in with the Police. They ask why she was parked there and she told them. They tell her that the run across New Hampshire was a few weeks ago and assume she is lying or crazy. The police, I know, were referring to the Reach The Beach Relay, a 200 mile relay run from Cannon Mountain to Hampton. Maybe the thought of someone running from Vermont, alone, is beyond them. But then again, this was the same place last year that a cop stopped Josh and I from running down route 4 because we looked “distressed.” Either way, the cops in Epsom need a huge chill-pill! I make a quick change in clothes, get warm once again and thank Julie for coming. She’s dressed in pink, her hair in pig tails.. smiling. I’m not a man with 3 women and a long way to run.
We slowly walk out onto Route 4 and into the Epsom circle. We run around and exit off onto 4 East. Ahead of us lies the rest of the inherent darkness. I dread what lies ahead. I’m tired, sore and shuffling along as best I can. I’m very much doubting I’ll make it to the ocean. I’m all ready thinking about quitting at Lee… 100 Miles. And as we continue on down the street, my head falls down as I continue to fight the sleepies. I question my sanity. I question why I am willing to go through this pain. I think about those who are counting on me, those who have come out to support me.. I have no idea what to do.. and then I remind myself that there is only one thing too do.. Left Right Repeat… through the night..
(Continue to Part 3 CLICK HERE)