The Perfect Storm
The three of us walked up the slight incline of the old General Sullivan Bridge. The rush of the Route 16 traffic flies by on the newer bridges to our left. Turbulent salt water continues to fill the Bay. When this process occurs, it creates a current so fast that you can only find a current so strong in 2 other places on earth, or so it is reported. The process repeats itself as the tides flush out. The wind whips out of the North East now, my face is weathered, beet red, drenched and cold. Snow mixes with the rain more frequently now. I’m done drinking, I’m done eating, I’m nauseas I’m tired yet I’m still moving forward. As we run across the bridge it’s easy to glance down to the ocean below as we run over the connecting pieces. It’s scary yet the bridge is big enough to allow us safe passage. Usually birds perch upon the green steel, but as the wind howls today, there are none.
As we make our way through Newington towards Portsmouth, I couldn’t help but sink into a trance. The chaffe is so bad that it’s been bleeding.. since Northwood some 24 miles ago. It stings, burns and is just overall killing me slowly. I shuffle my feet ever forward, knowing that the rubber soles of my shoes are all but gone on my heels and I’m now rubbing off the foam base of the footbed. I slip into a trance, concentrating intensely on putting the pain out of my mind, the discomfort, the chiling rain and snow when all of a sudden I start seeing a light fog rolling across the road. I’m hallucinating, losing it, finally going out of my mind. My equilibrium is thrown off and I stumble a bit and feel like I’m missing steps as my mind lunges forward down the road at a speed my body cannot possibly follow. And then, I hear a voice, “Hey Kid.. you OK?” I look to my right and see a female figure running beside me. My initial thought is, “Who the hell is this?” and then I realize it’s Julie. Julie who has been running with me since Epsom. “Yeah.. .well, no. I’m losing it. I’m going out of my mind Julie. I’m all out of sorts. Hallucinating and all kinds of crap.” She replies, “Yeah.. my equilibrium is off.. we’re almost done though.” As she herself starts to fall into a rough patch, she is mindful enough to keep pushing us down those final miles, with TJ quietly in tow.
We avoid the puddles when we can as we run down Woodbury Ave and then I lead us behind the Shaws to a lesser known trail. We walk silently through the woods and when we emerge we see Eastern Mountain Sports Portsmouth. We notice the crew waits under the canopy for us to appear from the other direction. They’ve no idea I’ve taken the run this way. I see no need to have gone to the light then backtracked. We arrive at the store front where I drop my pack, they turn around and though surprised, jump right into action. “Soup, Grilled Cheese, Drinks, Soda? What do ya need?” Josh asks once more. I’m so tired of the question, more tired of the choices yet I marvel in the amazing job he continues to do, all smiles, awake.. and willing to help these runners get to the ocean. A reporter from Foster’s Daily Democrat saunters over and begins asking me a series of questions. You can read his work by CLICKING HERE.
I gaze around at all those who have assembled. The crew is here still bringing me hot chocolate in last ditch efforts to keep me fueled and warm. My co-workers come out of the store to give me a hug and congratulate me for making it this far in such terrible weather. My vision is blurred and foggy. I feel distant, not here. People ask me how I’m doing and I reply, “I am really losing my mind now.. I’m out of it. It’s time to finish this and go home.” The crew agrees as we munch on banana’s, sip hot cocoa and entertain the reporter some more. It turns out the reporter, Geoff, is a fellow team-mate of mine on Acidotic Racing. He was very friendly, professional and I admired him all ready. He went ahead to find a location for some good action shots for his story. I told the crew to saddle up, asked Maggie if she was ready to join us, and a party of 4 runners walked from the EMS parking lot on the way to completing the last 6 miles of a very long journey.
When we reach Portsmouth I try playing out in my head which way to go through town. It’s different trying to negotiate these streets when you’re used to seeing them by car. “You ever been to Portsmouth Julie?” “Never..” “Lot’s of History here.. pretty old school, Enjoy.” We wind our way through the tight downtown streets of Portsmouth still decorated with colonial trim and colors. We run past dozens of shops, bars, restaurants. Many people are out milling around under umbrella’s, bundled up, having no clue who we are or where we’ve come from. The coffee shop in Market Square is jam packed, as it always is, with people pressing their faces to their laptop computers sipping caffeine and otherwise continuing the traditions of an artificial life. I’m so happy to be out here.. in the cold wet world shuffling along down the brick lined sidewalks of a 400 year old city. Then suddenly, we’re lost.
I knew where we were, had an idea of where to go but given my level of mental awareness I really had no idea if I was right or not. I began to worry and process it all out in my head. I see the Police Station and city hall up on a hill. I feel like thats where I want to be, but I’m so unsure. I feel lost and I begin to panic. I call the crew and ask for directions, I hear them whip out a map and try to guide me in to them. I’m moving so slowly that I feel like I’m not making any progress. My throat swells and my eyes well up with tears. I’m so frustrated, so spent, and yet I find out that I am indeed where we need to be.. only we took a longer way to get here adding 2 miles back onto the journey.
We approach the mobil that sits at the intersection of Routes 1B and 1A. The crew is here waiting for us. They’ve parked under the Gas Pump Canopy, trying to stay dry. The wind comes down in sheets, it’s been pouring for awhile now, the wind whips, the snow mixes in and the temp continues to drop. I take off my yellow Jacket and Sarah hands me a clean Team Sherpa Shirt, the same one I’ve worn at every race for the last 2 years. I keep my North Face Flight Series jacket on and pull my shirt down over it. I feel like Clark Kent, I’m me again, I’m whole. I put my hat back on, my gloves.. everything is simply soaked, even my feet. I look over and see Loni suited up again, “What are you doing?” I ask her.. “I’m going to run the last 2 with you.” I’m super excited that she’s decided to come on out for this and now we’re back to a group of 5 and head out onto the road one last time.
So here we were running down one last stretch of road. The heavens openned as the rains and snow continued to fall to the earth. The winds pummeled us from all directions, swirling about. As cars drove by they kicked up a frigid spray complete with road grime and miscelaneous particles. I started to look back on this adventure and try if I may in these final moments put it all into perspective. What started out as a frigid run on a chilly autumn morning, evolved into a journey through a Kalaeidescope of color underneath a veil of bright blue, sparkling space and humbling grays. I had run across an entire state and experienced a part of both its humble yet meager beginnings and it’s bold and brazen futures. I’d experienced it’s people once more, heard their good tidings, reveled in their laughter and scowled in their tough exteriors. Yet above all else, I came face to face with the part of this state that always is terbulent, it’s weather and waters; and as I ran towards the shore I reminded myself how the beast reared his ugly head for many many miles yet I still soldered on, fearless to the inevitable and yet possible and sought the finish line.
I had no idea what to expect in running across New Hampshire this year. I only decided to do this 3 weeks prior, and with little to no preparation, just faith in my inherent an acuired abilities through the years, I stepped to the pavement on a frigid October morning with a mission to simply run East. I struggled with the idea of making this 125 Mile adventure into a mere 118.5 yet I cared no in the end. As I ran these final miles, I kept in perspective what the ultimate goal had been; to experience the state, it’s land, it’s people and to carry the river to the sea. I had no waist bag through these final strides, I had what I needed in my left hand and as I swung my arms up and down to help propell me down the leaf covered, ran slick road. I had that tiny vial of water I filled at the Connecicut River over 34 hours ago and I had run it all the way to the Gulf of Maine.
The biggest thing that I experienced this weekend which towers above all comparable thoughts, is the thought of the people whom came out to enjoy this journey with me. In the end over 30 people had come out to cheer us on at some point during this run, a respectable number providing the humble grassroot nature of the journey. I watched as they appeard hand in hand, arm in arm.. together, smiling, laughing, intrigued and helpful towards the mission. From bringing soup or cocoa to an extra blanket. To provding a smile a hello or just to share a few miles. To provide company, conversation or to give a lift. To hold me up and guide the way, to say hello to those driving the same distance in support.. or simply to just exist vicariously through the adventure, it is hard to not humble one’s soul.
As I near the bridge at Odiorne I get hard on myself. Disappointed that I’d cut miles off the adventure. Upset at how much I’d actually walked to get here when this was supposed to be a run. Angry at how long it took me in the end. At a point in time when I was supposed to be victorious, I was defeated. We cross the bridge and up ahead I see a figure running towards us. “That must be Gilly” I say and soon enough, I see that it is. With a huge smile she comes running towards us, “Hey buddy.. you made it!” I give her the best answer I could, “I suppose I did” with every bit of disappointment that I could muster into the sentence. In the background I could hear a rushing noise and I thought, “Where is the river around here?” I looked out across the Salt Marsh and see only the rain and snow continue to come down in sheets. The wind falls silent, I slip back into a trance as my eyes focus on simply whats ahead of my feet.
I kick it into gear and painfully fall into one last sprint. I run as fast as as hard as I could. I can hear the others with me trying their best to keep up with me. I have no idea how close or far behind they are.. I’m zoned in on being done. We take the turn up the driveway when I notice I’m ahead by about 10-20 yards and I kick it in even more. As I crest the tiny hill and run past the front gates of the State Park I glance into the parking lot to see virtually no one. Just me, the 5 with me, a huge area of pavement and 4 cars. In the distance I see the crew jumping in the air and waving their arms. They jump and wave and yell, “Yeah John! Wooo hooo!” I can hear them, but how come I don’t feel the Woo Hoo? I look left and see a small group walking out of the Seacoast Science Center and as I focus in on the bright orqange jacket on the bearded young man.. I realize it’s more of my friends from the Outdoor Education Department. My sails had been blown out and once again.. my ship had come in. I was psyched to see them.. such a surprise.
I walked slowly down the parking lot, waiting for them to join us near the beach. I car comes driving by and Karen, Marketing Director for the Center steps out with a camera. She snaps a few shots and congratulates me. I cross past the gate and hug Sarah.. the crowd follows me as I wave them towards the sea. I walk down the trail to see a Finish Sign erected amongst the rocks. I cross out onto the jumble of stones. The tide is out yet huge waves continue to crash against rocks and walls in the distances. That rushing “river” I had heard was actually the turbulent waters of the Atlantic, stirred by the force of the Nor’Easter. I stepped to the top of the small hill, raised my arms into the air and yelled on the top of my lungs “Yeahhhhhhh!!!!!” We did it… we made it again. Across the entire state of New Hampshire, one painful step at a time. And in that moment, I took the vial from my left hand, unscrewed it’s top and turned it upside down, releasing the river into the Gulf of Maine. Mission accomplished… again.
“He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end. ” ~Harry Emerson Fosdick
Sarah gave me her coat and after a few photos with friends, we head inside the Seacoast Science Center to a small reception theyv’e assemlbed for us. I sit gingerly into a chair, eat Apple pie and sip Apple Cider from a mug. They thank me for helping them during this journey, a show of gratitude to which I know not what to say. To date we’ve raised over $500 for the Center and I ask those of you reading her to consider donating still. You can do so by CLICKING HERE I hope you will. They service in education that they provide our young children is important. It is my hope that through this journey and through their journey we all can learn to teach our children what possible is rather than what is IMpossible.
Huge thanks to the 30+ individuals who came out to support the run. I really could not have done it with out you. Thanks to Nate for his friendship and guidance through those early miles. Thanks to the ladies for guiding me through the night. Thanks to Julie for hanging tough during the worst of times and special thanks to the crew.. who remained awake for longer then I did in ensuring we make it to the ocean once more. Many times in this report I mention my lack of motivation to accomplish the task at hand.. I hope in the coming months, with my new set of goals, my desire to run, dream and achieve will help dispell the demons of depression that still live within my soul. I didn’t have to run across New Hampshire again.. but deep down within my heart.. I wanted to. Not for me.. but for the people and the relationships akin.
~”Sherpa” John Lacroix