This is PART 3 of a Series
To Read Part 1 CLICK HERE
To Read Part 2 CLICK HERE
A Miles To Go Before I Sleep...
Not far down the road from the Epsom circle is a rest area on the right. We ran into the small parking area and I hopped back into the passenger seat for another quick 5 minute snooze. The car is so warm as Sarah has the heat blasting. So far my crew has done an exceptional job of conversing with me and trying to keep me awake. My pacers are amazing, yet their best is yet to come out. They talk to me, they talk to each other.. we laugh, we share stories... we just run. But as the night wears on it gets increasingly tougher to keep my eyes open. As we moved along my head would slump forward and I'd wake myself up. Kind of like the same nodding action one would have while sitting in their chair at home watching Sunday Football on a rainy afternoon. Sunday Football... on a rainy day is what was to come.. and I was certain by now that I'd still be out here somewhere. Somewhere traveling East on this endless road. After 5 minutes, they drag me out of the car and get me back out onto the road so I may continue the journey home.
As we continued out onto Route 4, we reveled in the splendor night can give. The trees and distant hill sides are merely shadows across the land. There was no moon which allowed the thousands of stars to glisten high above. On this stretch of road, the lack of light pollution really allows the night to be dark and the stars to shine. But my eyes are closing to the point where I really do begin to fall asleep. A few times I remember stumbling forward and waking up before I stumbled forward enough to fall on my face. Eventually, I'd fall completely asleep.. while on my right Gilly would wrap her arm under mine, and on my left Julie would do the same. Loni ran behind me to ensure I did not fall backwards.. and this is how it went. Running is a perpetual motion and at some point the brain slides into Auto-pilot. Left right repeat.. like a metronome I stagger forward down the road while the two women hold me upright and simply allow my feet to do what work they can. They try to have conversation with me but it is no use.. I'm sleep running as the miles and the time clicks on by.
As we duck into the various aid stations, I vaguely remember now how they went. We stop at the Northwood Mobil for a quick break before the long run up past Johnson's. As we make our way onto Route 4 and run past the famous Dairy Bar, wind whips across our faces and chills our bones ever so slightly. The girls continue to encourage me to keep running. I get sleepy again and Gilly comes close, "Close your eyes bud." I have complete faith in my friend as I close my eyes and allow her to lead the way. As we run into the Parking Lot at Coe-Brown, we both get into the car and sleep for another 20 minutes. I'm losing time yet time is not of the essence. I remember that this is not a race, it is a journey. Some will question me later, "Did you sleep" and the answer will have to be yes. I guess I'm not good enough anymore... I'm a chicken, a bum.. I'm letting myself down laying here in the car so many times. It's freezing outside, when the door opens I shiver again. I want to go home yet I want to go on. I sleep in shifts, I sleep when I run yet I refuse to quit... I rise once more, and the ladies lead the way. "The sun will be up soon John.. just keep going" Julie explains in a motherly voice. She was so warming and comforting. This is just what I needed at this time, and I realize as we run down the road that these 3 women are saving my life, they are saving the run.. and if I make it to the Ocean it will be mainly because of them.
I sleep-ran down route 4 for what I thought was 10 minutes. The sun rises once again and I finally snap to. I feel great, I'm moving again, smiling, joking.. I'm alive. I tell the girls, "Man that was the longest 10 minute Nap." "John.. it was more like 3 hours." I was so disappointed. I had burdened these women for 3 hours. As if running this great distance was hard enough, I troubled the greatly by trusting them with my life, my safety. Keeping me up right and out of what little traffic drove by. I felt terrible.. yet we were still moving forward.. All of a sudden a car drives by and it slows down.. it's Chris Dunn from Acidotic Racing, "Hey SJ! Way to go bud.. keep it up! We'll catch up with you," referring to his wife Karen, they turn around and head back East. I look up and see that it's a cloudy morning, I never saw the clouds move in and leave the earth overcast. I knew it happened while I was sleep running. The storm is coming.. and I'm running right into it.
Meanwhile we run into the Irving Station in Northwood and I opt for a pit stop in the bathroom. I enter the store with my can of Bag Balm and the last rubber glove. The clerk looks at us as asks, "Is this some kind of special walk? I saw you folks walking this way up the road.." I kind of smirk as I look at her, trying to calculate the best response. "Actually.. I'm running across New Hampshire for the Seacoast Science Center. I've just run here from Vermont... started yesterday at 6 am and this is Mile 90." There is a long pause and she looks at me after tilting her head, "it's only 90 miles to Vermont from here??" It was hard to not laugh at her as I walk into the bathroom. The magnitude of the run had gone completely over her head.. which is to be expected. Even the Police in Epsom had no idea.. nor understood. Such is life.. I guess it had been a kind of special walk.. and from her to the end it was about to be too. The chaffe has overtaken the run, and the level of joy physically is long gone.
The Sherpa Shuffle
We leave the Irving and continue on. The main goal right now has been broken down to, "Make it to Lee." Lee is the 100 mile mark and I'm seriously considering quitting. My achilles tendons are so tight that they no longer flex. My feet are fixed into the same position and I clop down the road like an injured horse. My quads are fine, my calves have gone numb. My feet pulsate with every heart beat. The chinese believed that the nerves in your foot are the gateway to the entire body.. I'm starting to agree. I can only muster up a "Sherpa Shuffle" as we continue down the road. The soles of my shoes are wearing down to almost nothing. These shoes that are so over used, that my toes are poking out the sides. The next few miles afford us a few downhill sections which allow me to lean forward a bit more and easily stumble ahead. I still fall asleep, and Gilly allows me to close my eyes one last time. These ladies have been nothing short of heroic, I know owe this run to them and their diligence in getting me ever forward. At Mendum's Landing, we stop and I walk to the car. I get in the passenger seat for one more 5 minute nap when a van comes driving in. A man gets out, puts his hat on and say's hello the the crew. It's my advisor from School, Michael Gass. "Resistance is futile" I explain as I crawl out of the car and barely stand outside. I have another grilled cheese sandwich and immediately engage in conversation with Mike. I now have an excuse to keep going..
As we head back out on 4 we see 2 runners coming ahead from up the road. I knew it was the Dunn's finally coming back to join us on our run. They file into the group, which once was 4 is now 7. We stick to the breakdown lane as Chris engages me in some wonderful conversation about the running club he runs and I proudly belong to, Acidotic. We talk about how the year has gone, the year to come, others on the team. We even manage to crack a few jokes, happy that if I have anything left its my sense of humor. I lost my sanity long ago. Hardly believing that I'm still moving, I listen in to the other conversations around, and try to include as many people into the ones I'm having as possible. We come to the big downhill into Lee and I push it as best I can. As we get to the Lee traffic Circle Mike exclaims, "Hey.. can we go through the center? We've gotta go in the Center!" "Why?" I say with a twinge of attitude. "Because I've never been there.." "OK Mike.. let's do it" We run into the center of the circle and as we get there we all look around. Mike exclaims, "Isn't this great?! What an adventure! What an experience!" I knew exactly what he was getting at as a huge smile gleams across my face. Yes Mike... it certainly is a great adventure. We stop traffic as we cross route 4 and head into the Dunkin' Donuts. I've run 100 Miles in 27 Hours and 50 Minutes. Not my greatest of times as I'm here 3.5 hours later than last year. But I'm still standing, and about to take stock.
While at Dunkin's I head inside to do the deed... again. I tell my crew all I want is a donut. Mike runs inside and stands in an enormous line. He buys me a Jelly donut and as I walk out of the store I delightfully stuff my face with the first new piece of food of the entire run. No chips, no soda, no soup, no grilled cheese... a JELLY DONUT and it was the most magical fat filled thing I'd ever had. The sugar lined my mouth and stuck to my facial hairs. I was happy as I clam as Sarah snapped a picture with me giving the best smile I could. Loni drops out of running with us having made it 30 tough miles. She is still recovering from an injury and I am most proud of what she's accomplished. Gilly grabs my waist pack for me and agrees to run it to Durham for me so I can have a break. This was wonderful as I'd worn it the entire 100 miles. We pick up TJ Weaver, a UNH Freshman joining in as part of his adventure for a class. We lose the Dunn's and we leave dunkin's as a group of 5.
The Oyster River Plantation
As we near the route 155 Off Ramp I start to head for the on-ramp. "I never thought of the on-ramp! Genius!." Mike says as we continue to run against traffic. "I thought we were going to cross Route 4, run down the off ramp, under the bridge... and I thought.. How stupid!" I smiled as I looked at Mike and said, "I'm one step ahead of you Mike... and I did that last year. It was stupid." We leave Route 4 and head onto 155A (Main St.) and keep rolling towards UNH. The wind has shifted and the temp has dropped a bit more. You can feel the air changing. Up ahead we see a bike with a florescent green rider on it.. it's one of my Professor's Brent Bell. I'm super psyched Brent is out here. He is no stranger to endurance having ridden his bike across America years ago. I very much treasure his friendship and guidance in my life, and him being here really inspired me to stand tall and move as best I could.. which at this point was merely a fast paced stroll into the Field House at UNH. At the Field House we lose Gilly. It starts to rain with large snowflakes mixed in. I ask for my yellow rain jacket and tell the crew to get ready for the storm. I look at Josh and he suggests that given my deteriorating condition as well as the deteriorating weather, we cut out the extra 2 miles in Durham we'd normally run. I agreed to cut it out and head right for Route 4. We're running out of time and don't want to keep the Science Center folks there for too long, I agree. I struggle with this decision for the next 3 miles.
We run through downtown Durham, past the University of New Hampshire, Past the many small shops that line Main Street. We even run past a the Congregational Church. The preacher is holding the door open for her exiting parishioners. She waves at Brent, "Brent, I saw your facebook, is this him?!" Brent replies, "Yeah.. this is Him.. he's running across the state!" She looks as me with a huge smile, a wave and a thumbs up," I smile and wave back and over the next few steps I lean towards Julie to tell her, "That's what this is all about.. seeing people smile, bringing people together.. I love this." Yet as we continue through gasoline alley back towards 4, I start thinking about the miles yet to come. I think long and hard, all ready having a hard time knowing we've cut 3 miles off of the adventure. I feel like I'm letting myself and others down, and as I lean towards Julie one more time I get this overwhelming feeling of "who gives a crap." I lean in and say, "All that matters is that I get from Vermont to the Ocean right?" She nods her head yes.. so I tell the others, "Hey guys, I'm thinking about cutting out the miles through New Castle as well. I bet it could save me about 3 or 4 miles. I'll ask the crew, but I think it's a good idea given my condition and this weather." The rain is picking up as is the winds. We run back out onto Route 4 and veer back off at the Waste Water Treatment plant. I run in and ask Josh for the Map. Together with everyone, we decide that cutting out New Castle would save another 4 miles. We could connect to the End route Via Route 1A. I am convinced that this is a good idea, and we're now down 7 miles. I grab more food, Brent now leaves us after having ridden his Bike about 3 miles and we continue out onto 4.. now as a group of 3.
Route 4 is busy for a Sunday. The shoulder gets smaller and smaller as we near the bridge that spans a small inlet to the bay. We get in line single file and finally see the salt water. We can smell the ocean air, I can smell the barn, I just have no juice left. I'm done, I'm exhausted, I'm hurting bad.. I want to be done. We arrive at the Emery Farm, the rain is now coming down in sheets, the wind is whipping out of the Northeast. The temp continues to drop. My crew is sitting in their vehicles waiting for us to arrive. As they come out to help us, you look at them as they cringer their faces and shrug their shoulders. I stop for a brief moment and thank Mike for joining us, he has to depart to do the family thing now after having run/walked the last 12 miles with us. I'm wet, I'm cold... the mental race has long since been on. I'm struggling to maintain my composure.. yet I know it'll be done soon if I only keep moving. I thank the crew and push to see them once more.. only this time at Newick's Seafood Restaurant at Dover Point. As we stop here I'm trying to take stock again, always mindful of how my body is holding up. I can finally feel the blisters on my feet. One is right on the ball of my left foot, the other on the big toe of my right. It's impossible to ignore them. It's raining in sheets.. the work is only just beginning. Yet I think to myself.. 3 more stops remain. EMS, 1A/1B, The Finish... I make this break a quick one.. and we head off down the road once more..
(To Be Continued With A Part 4.. the Final)