That’s how long I was out on the road over my 29 day run. In that time I managed to run 1,140.76 miles. Here’s the long recap of the 4 week run.
It’s been just over a week since I dropped and I’ve had some time to think about everything. First off, it was a great experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Mike, Jen, and Marty are all great runners and the trip without them would have been a lonely one.
When we started the run I knew the finishing rate was about 50% and also knew that mike was going to finish, he just had that look about him. After Marty dropped on day 3 I knew that it was between Jen and me for the next DNF. Then 1st week of the race went really well, no major problems, no injuries, no getting lost for anyone. I didn’t know how my body would hold up to the 250+ miles/week pace that we had to keep, but it did really well. I only had a little calf soreness in the mornings which was gone before breakfast was over. My confidence was sky rocketing finishing each day feeling great with lots of energy and about an hour before anyone else. Katie was a big help and my recovery after each day was because she was there to take care of me and force me to do the things I didn’t want to do. After she left and we hit Moses Lake, WA I started to get injured. I think it was around day 8 or 9 that I developed tendonitis/shin splints in my left ankle. A few days later the tendonitis moved to my left hamstring when we crossed the Columbia River. Over the next few days the tendonitis got worse in both places and eventually I couldn’t bend my knee without pain or wiggle my toes. My hamstring would creak when I bent my knee (crepitus), it was red, hot and swollen enough to remove any definition from behind my knee. Taping my ankle helped a little, so did the Aleve, but every step was a painful fight. The days of effortless running were gone.
The tendonitis spread to my right ankle as well but never as bad as on the left side. I could have slowed down and walked for 3-4 days and probably calmed down the inflammation, but I always wanted to run. I tried to walk every once in a while but got bored and frustrated after about 10 min. So I ran on everyday thinking that Jen and Mike were right behind me.
Each night we reconvened to talk about the day, give a run-down of our injuries (that were mounting quickly), ice, eat, and preview the course for the next day. Weeks 2 and 3 were gorgeous running through Eastern WA, ID, and Western MT. The weather slowly changed and the rain stopped in Montana, the sun came out and brought some warmer temperatures. Marty had left us in Spokane and Adam took over Crewing duties from Spokane through to Helena, MT. Those weeks continued to go well and even with all the injuries I continued to run well, putting time on Jen and Mike every day. At this point my appetite had caught up to me and I was eating anything I could, probably about 5,500 calories a day but hadn’t lost any weight yet which was a good sign. Mike and Jen had battled their injuries, Jen recovered for the most part and even being as bold as to run without tape or NSAID’s. Mike was battling recurrent hamstring/ posterior tibial/ achilles tendon injuries but continuing to move along at a consistent pace. I continued to run day after day, slowly watching the landscape change as we moved from the pacific through the cascades and into the central plains of Washington State. The Palouse in eastern WA was amazing as was running the length of Lake Coeur d’ Alene and the Lolo national forest. Eastern Montana had many rolling hills and hayfields with a surprising number of canyons and sage brush.
Every day I thought about the same things: the daunting task of running 7-8 hrs a day, the excitement of getting a step closer to the Atlantic, looking forward to seeing my family and running strong through Indiana, thinking of Katie at home in Flag, and worrying about Tuba City. Thinking of all my patients, wondering how they are doing and feeling very guilty for making Keith work all summer alone.
The run always felt the same, and each day was routine. Waking up and taping the legs, eating breakfast and then a drive to the start. The 1st 10 miles always went by pretty effortlessly, working out the kinks and loosening up my back/knees/and ankles which took about 45 min to an hour. Miles 10-20 were always the best, getting into a good groove, moving well in the cool mornings with little traffic on the roads. Miles 20-30 always took a little more effort and felt like work, right in the middle of the day-a bit of a grind. And from about the 50K point- 31.2 miles, to the end all I could do was try and push to the finish, thinking about putting time on everyone and thinking how good it would feel to stop for the day and sit for a rest.
The 1st 2.5 hrs went by without any walking breaks except at the car for some food and water, not even looking at my watch most of the time. The slump would always come around the 3.5 to 4 hours in and would last about 1.5 to 2 hrs. I really had to work to continue moving forward during that hour and a half. I usually changed to a run 20 and walk 2 min routine, constantly checking my watch waiting for those walking breaks. These were always long sections. After about the 5.5 hour mark I would get my second wind and could usually finish pretty strong, putting together 45 min runs with short walking breaks in between with the lure of the finish around every next turn in the road.
From around stage 21 until stage 27 everything was automatic. I just woke up and from then until 9 pm I knew every event of the day, it had turned into a job, a good job, but a job. Just go out- run and eat, then recover and sleep. I knew the pain during the day and how to fight through it; I knew when I would want food, Gatorade, tums and where I would have to walk, etc. Everything was routine, no surprises.
Sometime during that week I started to develop some left knee pain and a little swelling, but I thought just add it to the list of injuries and continue on. After 3-4 days the pain was gone and it only had some mild swelling and warmth. I thought, I am still out front, pushing every day to lose sight of Jen by mile 8 (always one of the goals for the morning), then running all day like I was being chased. It worked up until day 28; Hardin to Busby, MT along US-212. Not a particularly tough day- 44 miles on rolling hills, but we were down to one crew vehicle while Margaret handed the van off to Mike Melton in Billings. The Temperature also rose that day topping out at 103, with a good 20 mph wind. We decided to all stay together at a slower pace than I was used to running. We also had more stops for water, food and aid. We saw the start of a large wildfire that afternoon, the ash creek fire which was 110,000 acres the next day. After a group consensus we cut the day short by 3-4 miles, and called it a day after 9.5 hours on the road- my longest day so far.
The next day we started in the smoke not knowing if we could run our route due the fire. About 15 miles we got our answer in the small town of Lame Deer, MT when the sheriff said 212 was closed due the fire and road destruction, but “it might be open in about 2 weeks”. Thanks. We had Mike Melton scout out a route south toward Wyoming, while we sat and recovered from the 1st part of the day. This was fine with me because about 15 minutes before I started to have some kidney issues with what looked like the start of myoglobinuria, which worried me a little. After the rest and lots of water/gatorade everything was looking better and we started off on a slow pace south to Wyoming. I lasted another 8 miles before my symptoms came back. So not wanting to but knowing I should, I stopped short for the day at mile 23 to drink and rest. Everything started to clear up again and Mike and Jen finished a hot and smoky 35ish mile day. We ended up staying in Sheridan WY that night about 90 minutes away.
That night we formed a plan that Mike Melton and I would drive back early to my stopping point and I would finish day 29 and start day 30, trying to make up as many miles as I could that day. The 1st two hours were fine, actually pretty normal, feeling good without any issues. Then the next 8 miles turned bad pretty quickly, some abdominal discomfort/pain, signs of dehydration even though I was drinking 20 oz. every 4 miles, and already had a liter of Gatorade that morning. On top of that I had some worsening sacroiliitis over the past 3 days from some unknown reason that was controlled with Aleve. But since I hadn’t taken any in 24 hours, the pain was getting worse. After those 8 miles (approx. 2 hrs) I stopped. After talking to Katie and my Father-in-law the night before, I told them that was the plan. To continue on until the symptoms came back or got worse, and they had, so I stopped. At this point we were on a dirt road 1 mile from Birney, MT I don’t know if anyone has been there before, but I doubt it. It was 1.5 hrs from anything along a dirt road or 1.5 hrs back through the fire, so we went forward to help crew for Mike and Jen making sure they were okay while I drank lots of fluids.
While we were scouting the route for the day we ended up getting a flat tire on the back roads, busting the back doors of the van open with crowbars, and changing the tire with the help of a very nice local couple. All in all it took almost 90 minutes in the sun and heat. Eventually we made it back to Sheridan around 5, just late enough to miss the clinic, but I was starting to feel better so that was a good sign. I decided to go to the clinic in Gillette the next day for lab work. Everything checked out okay. The doctor said I could actually run the next day if I wanted to.
My sacroiliitis was getting worse; Jen said that I was walking like an 80 year old man. I tried to run through the parking lot and make it about 49 feet before I had to stop and limp back to the car. We talked that night about me restarting where I stopped, trying to make up the 80 miles on foot over the next week or so, maybe biking that portion and then rejoining Mike and Jen in a day or two, but nothing worked out. I couldn’t run and catch them at my current pace, and I was running across America, not running across America except for the 80 miles I biked in Montana.
So that was it, my race was over. 29 days, 203 hours 36 minutes 2 sec, and 1140.76 miles on the road. Stuck in Southeastern Montana somewhere near Birney.
It was a good run and I wouldn’t have done it any differently. I ran like I always do, pushing until I feel like shit, and then trying to hold out to the finish. I can’t pull it back and slow down even when I know I should. Something to work on I guess, but I learned a lot about myself over the month, what I can accomplish, what I can work through and how to continue moving forward even when I don’t want to.
In the beginning I said that it was always about the experience of running across country, the goal was the Atlantic, but the adventure was the more important thing. My experience ended earlier than I wanted it to but maybe it was supposed to. So now I am home in Flagstaff with Katie, recovering and planning the next race. Maybe another attempt across America at some point in the future, straight across US-50, but probably not for a while.