Monday, March 28, 2011

Rouge Orleans 126.2 mile run -

Rouge Orleans 126.2 Mile Race Recap

Pre-Race –

After picking Tammy up at the New Orleans Airport we started the rainy drive back to Baton Rouge. It sure was a lot faster to drive it then it was to run it – and a lot drier too as I would come to find out. After making a few stops for a couple last minute things we decided to hijack a booth at the local IHOP for a late breakfast and a map cramming session. 126.2 miles split over 30 legs in 42 hours – as I was going into uncharted waters here (pardon the pun) I thought that it would be best to try to have some sort of a game plan and to try to figure out which legs I would like to have Tammy ready and waiting at to provide me with more water and snacks and from the looks of things – some dry clothes, shoes & socks.

After doing so, and leaving a nice tip to the waitress for blocking up one of her tables for so long, we headed over near the starting line to find a place to park and get ready. Luckily I was able to find a free parking space about ½ a mile from the start and about 1/10th of a mile from the world’s most pristine porta-potty – I mean this thing looked like it had just come from the porta-potty factory! Anyways…within minutes of arriving, the pitter patter of raindrops started pelting the windshield once again – sort of as a reminder that mother nature was coming in to watch over the race as well.

After taping up (KT Tape) my knees, shins, IT Bands, and hips and putting on a few toe band-aids, blister band-aids and some moleskin, I made use of the porta-potty (as Superman would use a phone booth) to transform into my Forest Gump persona and my running gear of course and then told Tammy that it was game time! With that we head over to the starting line area for the packet pickup. On the way over, we took a few photos of the dark and ominous skies and then got our first real glimpse of the mighty lady that had forged the path that I was about to embark out on for the next 42 hours to come. She was beautiful, a bit choppy, but yet so alluring. Quickly the evening sky darken all around us and the glow of bridge lights, barges, and the USS Kidd Battleship attempted to illuminate the area the best that they could.

Slowly but surely the rest of the Wave 1 runners started trickling in. You could see the excitement and uncertainty in their eyes for none of use truly new what to expect or what was going to happen out there in the darkness…was the weather going to hold up? Or what of our bodies - would we be able to hold up as well? There were a lot of unanswered questions in the air and some that were better off left that way for now…but one that I needed to ask was…hey…what is that smell??? It was overpowering as it pushed its way directly into my nostrils and started to draw me in towards it. Jambalaya! Fresh, hot and FREE for all of the runners!!! What a special treat for me as I could not partake in the free bud light that was making its rounds throughout the crowd. MMMMMMMMMMMM that hit the spot!!!! The crowd continued to grow as some of the other Wave Starters, mainly the relay team runners and their crews had come out to the starting area for the festivities and to see us off!

As time started drawing closer to the launch of the race, my bladder began to remind me that I hadn’t properly christened the new porta-potty so I started to look for something in the area. Surely the USS Kidd museum would have a restroom, and that they did, however the boy scouts had the building on lockdown as they were having a slumber party at the museum and wouldn’t let anyone in. I wanted to cry so bad as I really had to go and all of those little guys were just running around having a blast…I felt as if they all just stopped and pointed at me and laughed their heads off when they saw me standing defeated outside the glass door. I felt like I wanted to do my best Charlton Heston impression from the Planet of the Apes when he raised his first to the air and yelled out “Damn you dirty apes!!!” But just then, prior to embarrassing myself any further, I heard someone say, “you can go around to the back of the casino to the restaurant via the levee entrance and use theirs”. And so I did. AHHHHHHHH…..much better.

After this averted disaster we headed back over to the party stage and caught the singing of the National Anthem and the Mayor’s speech, followed by a touching tribute to the troops and veterans that were running in the race. It was awesome to hear the round of applause that was given to them.

Finally, the time had come to make our way upto the starting line. Darkness had set in, the rain was falling steadily, and I was all set to go to the bathroom once again…damn pre-race nerves. Well I guess that I needed a quick warm-up run for this upcoming 126.2 mile sprint…haha…so I ran over to the Casino restroom one last time and took care of business one last time. Finally, I was ready and so was everyone else. Most of the 31 solo runners, out of the 34 that had signed up, toed the line along with 1 or 2 of the first wave relay teams. All we needed now was for the starter’s gun to sound…which in this case was set to be the firing of the main cannons of the USS Kidd Battleship. As such, Jeffery Beck, one of the race directors, made the call and told the officers on board the ship that we were ready to roll and without any further delay (and without even a 10 second countdown) the night’s silence was shattered as the roar of the cannon exploded and shook the ground beneath our feet. I can only imagine what the people in the arena across the street watching Friday Night Smackdown (World Wrestling Entertainment – WWE) thought as the sound of the thunderous boom echoed repeatedly and for what seemed to be an eternity. Tammy later told me that it had scared the crap out of her and the others that were there watching us start the race. It must have scared the lot of us as well as it seemed to catch us all off guard because it caused a brief delay in our realization that the race had officially started. Moments later however that recognition came to light as we all took off into the darkness and our journey had begun.

As I had previously told one of my best friends and running family member, Pat Richert, I had hoped to have my first marathon distance in about 4 ½ to 5 hours and then my second marathon distance in about another 5 to 5 ½ hours so that within the first 9 ½ to10 ½ hours (quite possibly 11 hours in more of a realistic view – as I had never completed  a 50 miler in under 12 hours [12 hours and 7 minutes] in the past) I could be close to being halfway done in the first 12 hours and then have the next 30 hours, if needed, to finish up the final 60 to 70 miles. How wrong this desired game plan would turn out to be…

Leg 1 – 4.1 miles

According to the map, as supplied by the race directors, the first 2 miles of this leg were paved and it was noted that there was a chance that another 1.5 miles of the leg would be paved prior to the race. To be honest, I really don’t know how long the pavement lasted, but when it ended I sure did miss it as the levee trail was not exactly what I had expected. As described in the “race bible” the terrain was listed as being flat with a mixture of dirt, gravel and rocks. As such I was thinking that it would be similar to that of running on the canals here in Phoenix, but boy was I wrong as it felt as if I was running on cobblestone and I could feel every single one of the rocks as if I were not wearing any shoes at all. I knew that it was going to be a long and painful night….

The rain began to intensify as I crossed my first of many cattle guards and made my way toward the end of the first leg of the course. Other than being in the lead of the race (and no I didn’t go out too fast…I know what you are thinking Lori!), nothing too exciting occurred at this point in the race. Tammy was set to meet me at the end of Leg #4 (18.2 miles into the race).

Leg 2 – 4.4 miles (miles 4.1 to 8.5)

According to the map, runners were to be on the lookout for cows toward the end of this leg and shortly after the start of leg 3. Again, other then the rain and still managing to stay out in the lead of the race, nothing eventful happened during this leg of the race as well. I was feeling good, a bit cold from being soaked through to the bone already, but other then that all was well. Slowly but surely I was progressing along well, even though my feet were really starting to feel each and every one of the rocks beneath me. And so far so good…no cows.

Leg 3 – 4.1 miles (miles 8.5 to 12.6)

As previously mentioned, runners were warned to be on the lookout for cows during the first mile of this leg. We were also told that this would be one of the first instances in which were would have to come down off of the levee and run on River Road for a bit before returning back onto the levee. As it would turn out, there were many areas of the levee that had gas pipes that came up out of the river and crossed the levee thus making it impassable. In addition, bridges, conveyer pipes, and other obstacles were also present at different points along the way that would cause us to come down off of the levee and run in the road for a bit. This instance went off without a hitch as I was able to climb down off of the levee (which was about a 10 foot drop down a hill to the road) and then make my way past the obstacle and then climb back up onto the levee on the other side.

During the pre-race meeting we had also been told that in certain instances, should we run into an animal (a cow, a bull, or what-have-you), we could also come down off of the levee and go out onto the River Road for our safety. In fact, the “race bible” also states the following: “The Mississippi River Levee passes through both private and public land. There WILL be instances in which animals will be on the course. For the most part this will be limited to cows. We will have a vehicle drive the course to try and move any cattle from the levee. In the event that you encounter a herd of cattle use your best judgment.”

Again, I somehow remained in the lead of the race at this point. Now granted I knew that this wouldn’t last, especially since a few of the solo runners had yet to start - they were the speedsters that were set to start in Wave 2 (3 AM) and Wave 3 (8 AM). Additionally, the rain continued to pour down on us throughout this leg of the race, but luckily, not a cow was in sight and smooth but slow sailing continued on the horizon to the end of this leg.

Leg 4 – 5.6 miles (miles 12.6 to 18.2)

As I started into this leg of the race I could sense a more rural feeling to the surrounding as I continued down the levee. I also knew that Tammy would be waiting at the end of this leg to supply me with drink refills and snacks, or whatever else I would need. So far my headlamp light was working well but the darkness just seemed to engulf me and everything around me. I had done a few night runs before (the Javelina 12 hour night run, the TATUR Midnight Madness 50 Miler, and the Javelina Jundred, part of which was overnight), but none of those races took me out into such nothingness, such vast areas of emptiness. I was in the pitch black of the night and it was like nothing I had ever done before.

Besides the darkness, the silence was deafening, sure I could hear the constant sound of the rain and the crickets and frogs, as well as the occasional bird and owl, but other than that, there was nothing. Then, out of nowhere I started to hear some movement around me. I wasn’t sure which side of me it was on (the levee was actually like a blockade between the river and the surrounding lands – I was literally running on top of a hill that climbed about 10 feet up from the river banks to my right and the farm lands and roads on the left) and I really wasn’t sure what it was. The website had shown a video of a “mad” bull that chased one of the runners off of the levee on a training run. Additionally, the website joked of alligators being the course sweepers and the possibility of dogs and cows being out on the course. Then I heard it, a sound that will forever stay with me. A sound that I had heard many times before in my life, but never so close and never in such conditions. I heard the full bellied belting of a moo from what I hoped was a cow and not a bull, but I couldn’t be sure. Then I heard it again, this time however it sounded much closer and I could tell that it was on the left of me. And then again and again. I quickly realized that I was not alone and that there was more than one cow or bull around me, but I had yet to see anything. I will be man enough to admit it, I didn’t feel comfortable, I just wanted to keep going and hoped that I would just be able to sneak through the area and make my way to the end of the leg without any issues. Well, that wasn’t meant to be as out of the darkness I started to see a glow of eyes in front of me on top of the levee as my headlamp light shined directly into the eyes of a beast. This thing was huge and it wasn’t alone as suddenly 2, 3, 4, 5, 12 or more pairs of eyes appeared directly in front of me. They were all different shapes and sizes and they were blocking my path. The pure evil glow of their eyes freaked me out and I literally stopped in my tracks.

As I said there were various sizes of animals in front of me, which to me immediately meant that some of the animals might be calves and if this city boy learned one thing from watching tv, mommas always protect their young and just as I thought this my worst dreams, or nightmares I should say, came true as a momma cow charged at me and baby cow was right by her side. Without a moment of hesitation I flew down off of the levee toward the
River Road
but was met by a barb-wire fence which blocked my path to freedom. I then looked back up toward the top of the levee and that is when I really got my first inkling of just what a herd of cattle looked like. I knew that I wasn’t heading my way back up there any time soon. So, I thought that since I couldn’t make my way out onto the road I could make my way along the inside of the fence and hopefully maneuver my way past them from the bottom of the levee. Slowly but surely I inched my way forward but as I moved so to did the herd. It was as if they were strategically flanking me. So much for big, stupid cows...these things were battle tested and ready to protect their turf. As they started to close in on me I decided to take my chances with the fence as the barbwire barbs seemed to be few and far between. But what I failed to notice was the little fence in front of the barbwire and little did I know that it was electrified. Immediately my toes curled in my shoes as I touched the wire. To say it was a shocking experience was more than just a bad pun. What made it even worse was that in that very instance I could swear that I heard the cows laughing at me, if they could laugh that is.

Ok, I was in a pickle. I couldn’t go back up onto the levee. I couldn’t get out to the road. I didn’t know what to do and those damn cows sure were not cooperating. Luckily I had my cell phone with me for situations just like this. Well, I honestly didn’t think that this was going to be one of the reasons that I was going to have to use it for, but I sure am glad I had it. I called Tammy and the first words out of my mouth were “We got cows!” I nearly died laughing in rethinking about what I have just said, and I think it took Tammy a second to have it register for her as well. Then I went through my whole ordeal with her and we tried to figure out what to do. I wasn’t sure just how far into the leg I was but I thought that maybe if she wasn’t too far off she could come back through and maybe the car would scare the cows away. I didn’t know, but it was worth a shot.

As it turns out Tammy was just under a mile away, but it sure did seem to take forever for her to arrive and as luck would have it the moment she started coming back the road toward me the lead truck came driving up from the other direction and they both got to me at about the same time. Immediately I heard in unison – are you alright? As Tammy already knew what was going on I explained to the truck driver and his buddy what had happened and driver said, “ah, you must be the lead runner, sorry we hadn’t made it out this far yet to check things out,” and then he looked up onto the levee and saw exactly what the problem was as the headlights from both vehicles finally showed the full size of the herd to me for the first time. I was shocked as there were a lot more than I had realized. There were literally 25 cows surrounding me. Immediately the driver said, that I should go ahead and go back up onto the levee and that he would turn on his emergency rooftop flasher lights and try to scare the cows away as I continued on in my run. I was extremely hesitant but then Tammy told me how close I was to the end of the leg so I thought that it was worth a shot and if anything were to happen the guys in the truck wouldn’t be too far of and I was all prepared to scream like a little girl if I had too!

So, off I went, back up onto the levee, I was nervous as all hell but I had to go on as, from what I could figure I had wasted about 30 to 40 minutes in this ordeal and the whole time I was out in the cold rain without making any further progress. Tammy headed back to the exchange point to wait for me and the truck started off slowly down the road with its lights a flashing. And I, well I took a deep breathe and started back into a little jog. Just as I had started off I saw the truck come to a screeching halt and the guy in the passenger’s seat hopped out of the truck and ran toward the barbwire fence. In a flash he was through the fence and heading up the levee toward me as he had found a gate and decided that he had better join me for a bit as the cows were not cooperating and getting scared off from the lights. We ran for about a 10th of a mile and he taught me how to literally run at the cows and yell at them – saying, of all things…”get cows, come on now, get cows, get, get, get cows” It worked, I couldn’t believe it as long as we kept running and yelling at the cows they would stare at you for a second and then take off running. The only problem was, when one would start taking off the whole bunch of them would take off and you could literally feel the ground shake as the stampede was on. Ok , well the second problem was that the cows seemed to be running in the same direction that we were heading and once they got clear of us they would stop and turn toward us again and the moment we came up on them again we would have to shoo them off again. Slowly but surely we progressed to a point where it finally thinned out a bit as the cows finally seemed to be staying off to the sides of the levee and out of my way. It was a small victory but it felt good as this city boy conquered those scary beasts…I mean cows and was rolling through the rain again without a care in the world. Just then however my new running partner and cattle rustling instructor asked if I would be alright to go now as he had gotten enough of a workout for this point in time as he was sure that he was going to have to run with some others throughout the rest of the night. And before I could even utter the words “sure and thanks” he was down off of the levee and heading out another gate to the
River Road
and the awaiting lead truck.

I was on my own again. I knew that I had to be close to the end of the leg, it couldn’t be more than ½ mile or so. The rain was still coming down but my confidence was soaring again. I was ready for anything! Yep you guessed it, I was about to get my chance to test my newly acquired cattle wrangling skills as I came across another herd of cows. I murmured “oh lord, here we go” and just kept on running…. “get cow, get! Get cow, get!” I yelled as I plowed right through that blockade. It seemed like an eternity, but I was having a blast. Cows were no match for me now! Ok, so I was nervous as all hell, but my adrenaline was pumping and I felt invincible, or atleast that is what I had to tell myself to make it through this. And then finally I came to a clearing and crossed over a cattle guard. With a sigh of relief this adventure had come to a close. I had reached the end of the leg and I could see the van waiting just over in the distance.

Leg 5 – 4.6 miles (Miles 18.2 through 22.8)

After a quick break to refill my water bottles and to let my heart rate settle down a bit, I took another quick glance at this leg’s map and read the ominous words “be on the lookout for cows, especially towards the last mile of the leg.” “Great” I thought, as I just shook my head and let out a big sigh and headed out toward on the levee again.

Tammy and I hadn’t planned on meeting up again at the end of this leg as the end of the next leg (leg 6) would bring with it the first official aid station of the race. However given what I had just read about this leg and been through in the last leg we agreed that she would just head to the end of this leg and wait for me once again just in case I would have another close encounter of the beefy-kind!

As I started back out I noticed that I could feel my toes still tingling a bit from the run in with the electrical fence and I felt like I was running with a bad case of hammertoe. Additionally I could still feel a bit of a pins & needles feeling in both my hands. I thought to myself, boy I sure am glad that no one was here to witness that. I had had a few run-ins with barbwire fences in the past, most notably at the JJ100 when Lori Hickernell, my pacer, almost had a heart attack as I ran straight into and bounced off of a barbwire fence near the end of my 5th or 6th lap of that race. After a brief snicker in remembering that past race and sort of laughing at what I had already gone through in this race so far I was snapped back into reality real fast as I heard the sounds of a shuffle coming up behind me. Not wanting to look, as I was sure it was another cow or the infamous “mad levee bull”, I just tried to ignore it and kept running but it didn’t work as the sound continued to get closer and closer. Finally I whipped my head around to take a peek and I was relieved to see that it was only another runner coming up from behind. Not only was I relieved that it wasn’t another animal, but with it being a runner that meant that he/she could take the lead (because I just don’t feel right being in the lead of races yet) and in turn he/she could have the first run-ins with the cows, bulls, or alligators that still might be lurking in the darkness in the miles ahead.

Soon enough the runner caught up to me and slowed down for a minute so we could chat. The first words out of his mouth were, “how’s it going?” to which I just laughed and thought to myself, “if you only knew” before replying, “not bad.” The runner then asked if I was a solo or relay. He was amazed to discover I was a solo runner being out that far already and he congratulated me and told me to keep it up. As it turns out he was a part of a 2 man relay team and he had just took over for his partner at the start of Leg 4, so he was running on fresh legs and had easily caught up to me after their exchange. After exchanging best wishes he took off into the darkness and now I had the best of both worlds as I was still in the lead, as far as the solo runners where concerned, and now I also had a lead blocker to take out the cows for me along the way. I immediately felt a little pick up return to my pace as I continued on.

A few minutes later I got a call from Tammy wondering where I was as I “had been out there for awhile” and she didn’t know what was taking me so long. I sort of laughed and said that I didn’t think it was taking that long and that I must have been running slower than I thought. As those who know me well know, I don’t run with a watch or Garmin on so I really had no clue what time it was or how fast/slow I was going. Maybe I should start for cases such as this, but I am just too cheap and I think that if I did start to wear one I would even up killing myself as I would get too competitive with myself. Anyways, I have the clock on my phone, but I never remember about that during my runs. Either way I left her know that I had been past by a relay guy and that I could just see his little butt blinker off in the distance in front of me, so when she saw him she would know that I wasn’t too far back. And just then she saw him coming. His crew van had apparently pulled in by Tammy not too much earlier so she knew that some of the other runners must be starting to catch up to me…I guess Tammy’s competitive juices were starting to kick in a bit too…but she will never admit to it.

I told her that I was good to go on drinks and stuff so I would just see her at the next one then. And with that she was off and I finished up Leg #5 and started into #6.

Leg 6 – 4.6 miles (Miles 22.8 through 27.4)

As I started into the leg I got a text from Tammy stating that I needed to be on the lookout for some more of my new friends during the first mile of the leg, which I immediately knew what she mean as I crossed over another cattle guard (which really get slick in the rain I should note). She also mentioned that I would be coming across my first two plants during this leg of the race at miles 2 and 4.5. By plants, we were told that we would be running by a lot of various refineries and other similar factories, so I also knew what she meant in this regard as well. I also then realized that I would be able to use these plants as landmarks to let myself know were I was at during the run and know approximately how much further I had to go until the aid station and the porta-potties, which I was really looking forward to! Yes I enjoy the little things! Hey, it meant that I would be able to get out of the rain for a few minutes anyways.

As I continued on I could start to see the glow of the first plant off in the distance. The rain was still coming down in sheets but I was focused on that plant now and didn’t seem to notice the rain as much. I was actually trying to incorporate some of the things that I had learned in my Chi-Running Class into this run at various points, when I wasn’t being chased by cows that is. I had really been focusing in trying to maintain a mid-foot strike and opening my stride out to the back (a higher leg kick) and now I found myself trying to use my skills to become one with the road and use the energy from the plant to pull me forward. Well I could definitely “feel” the road beneath me as each and every rock just seemed to push directly into the bottom of my feet as if I wasn’t even wearing any shoes. It was actually starting to get painful and I still had about 100 miles to go, 80 of which would be on this pleasant surface.

As I got closer to the plant I was able to notice that the levee was getting closer to the river on my right and I could see various barges floating down the river almost right alongside me. The lights from the plant really helped to illuminate the area a bit and I was able to see a few cows done off of the levee to my left, but luckily they had no interest in me and so I just kept on trucking. Right before getting to the plant I crossed over a second cattle guard which marked the end of my cow adventures for this leg.

This plant was a very small refinery from the looks of it and it actually looked out of place out there in the middle of nowhere but I didn’t care, it was neat and it broke up the monotony of the darkness. In what seemed like a split second I was through the first plant and heading back out into the darkness. It didn’t take long for the lights to dim on the path as I ran further away from it. Soon enough however I could see the next set of lights marking the next plant that lay up ahead.

This was fun! Yeah I was soaked, my feet hurt, and I was running alone in the darkness, but none of that seemed to matter because I was doing what I loved to do and I was at peace. Just then I got a text for the devil, I mean Tammy, who must have known or sensed my peace and sought out to destroy it with just two simple words… “No restrooms” My head dropped and my heart sank as those two little words just burst my bubble and sent my body into a state of chaos as I got the chills (goosebumps if you will) and my stomach literally started growling at me and my stride seemed to instance turn into a butt-cheek clenching waddle. Yeah I know, too much info, but my body was about to go on strike from the news it had just received. “What?” I shouted out in disgust as I texted the same back to Tammy. Upon receipt of my response Tammy called me and said that she had looked all around and didn’t see any of the porta-potties that were scheduled to be at the aid station area and that I should give her a call when I got to the 2nd plant so that she could meet me at the levee and walk up to the aid station with me. Just then I arrived at the 2nd plant, so I was only about a 10th of a mile from the first aid station and 1/5 of the way done with the race.

When I arrived at the other side of the plant Tammy was there waiting and walked me up to the aid station. When we got there I partook in a nice warm cup of chicken broth and noodles, even though my eyeballs where already floating. Additionally, I got on the scale for the first official weigh in of the night. The race directors were sort of unofficially keeping track of our weight loss at each of the aid stations just to see what effect such a race would have on us and to sort of monitor us at that point in time as well.

The wind really started to pick up upon my arrival to the aid station as well and it just seemed to intensify my goosebumps quite a bit. Besides being upset about learning of no restrooms I also took my first glimpse at the clock and noticed that I was already an hour behind schedule as my 4.5 to 5 hour plan was shot as it was already 1:45 AM. I knew that it wasn’t going to get any better any time soon weather wise and rock wise so I sort of said the hell with my plan and just told myself that I was going to finish and that was all that mattered. It really did matter to me, but I wasn’t going to let it dampen my spirits anymore at this point in the race. So, after getting my drink bottles changed out I was off. I still had to go to the bathroom but had grabbed a wad of toilet paper from the van and planned to make my own a short bit further down the levee.

Leg 7 – 2.2 miles (Miles 27.4 through 29.6)

 “Short and Sweet. Stay on the levee as you pass the plants. Exchange 7 is located at a plant.” – was the race bibles little blub about this leg of the race and sweet it was as a ¼ mile down the levee just beyond the aid station’s view was the porta-potty that had been promised. As I would learn after the race the Race Director had it put there so that it would only be used by the runners and not by the crews. Other than a big sigh of relief and the rain letting up a bit, this leg was over just as quickly as it had started. Of note, I was passed by a few more people while I was in the potty, but to be honest I didn’t seem to care. My goal from this point on was just to finish and finish I would, or so I hoped.

Leg 8 – 7.3 miles (Miles 29.6 through 36.9)

This was one of the most anticipated legs of the race for me as it was dubbed as “the most haunted leg of the race.” I am not much of a believer in ghosts and all that, but I religiously watch Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International each week and I have heard stories from far too many people to just blow it off – so I have an open mind about things. Anyways this leg was also the longest and the “quietest” leg of the race as we, the runners, would be left all alone on this leg as the crew vans had to detour away from the
River Road
to get to the next exchange point. Oh yeah and did I mention that we were going to have to run by two prisons and the Carville Leper Colony which was the only mainland leper colony that, until a decade ago, still housed people with Leprosy. The race bible also added that there was a slim chance that we might encounter some cows and dogs – not just cows…cows and dogs…

The rain had died down significantly as I started into this leg of the race – granted it was still raining, but not as bad. But with what came next I think that I might have actually preferred the heavy rain, as in the darkness, this cold bitter darkness, an eerie mist came rolling in off of the river and blanketed the entire area in a pea soup thick swathe of fog. It was almost as if it was acting on cue, as if it knew that I was there invading its territory and it wanted to make its presence known fast. I can’t recall ever seeing a bank of fog move in that fast before in my lifetime but it was certainly not going anywhere now that it had come ashore.

Immediately my pace again slowed as I could barely see 2 to 3 feet in front of me and my headlamp seemed to be useless in the mist. I figured that I had better call Tammy and let her know that I would be taking awhile on this leg as my pace was now limited to a fast walk or a slow jog at best as the levee had been beaten up from all of the rain. Puddles and mud were everywhere on top of the levee and the grass on the brim was slick and hard to trudge through as it was on a downslope on each side of the levee, thus making it more dangerous and difficult than running on the stones in the dark and fog. Anyways, Tammy told me that the fog had packed in at the exchange station as well and she could barely see anything. One thing that she could see however was the other vans that had made it there to the exchange point ahead of her. Yes that meant that either quiet a few people had passed me awhile back or that they were coming up fast behind me – which would make sense as the start of leg 7 had been a key exchange point for the 2 man and 3 man teams that had started with me and the teams again had a fresh set of legs out there going against me. What this also meant was that Tammy wouldn’t be out in the night alone for any extended period of time, which was a good thing especially in this fog. One less thing for me to worry about as I now felt better knowing that she had some company out there, even if they were “strangers” so to speak. If there is one thing that I love the most about the running community it is the fact that I knew that these “strangers” were either runners or runner’s family and friends and that meant that they were part of an extended family of ours as well!

Mile 2 of the leg brought with it another cattle guard and symbolized my crossing over into one of the most remote and freaky sections of any race course that I have ever run (now granted I haven’t been running for that long, but that is beside the point). I saw things in the fog, orbs of light, which I could easily try to debunk by saying that it was my headlamp bouncing off of the fog or a light from a barge in the river, or maybe even the headlamp of a runner coming up from behind me (even though that would not happen on this leg of the course). Noises were all around me. Sounds of things falling and/or moving in the water, sudden warm spots and then icy cold spots (a good 20 to 30 degree temperature differences), the feeling of being watched (everywhere) and the hairs standing up on the back of my neck where just a few of the things that I encountered. But the biggest thing that I ran across that I never expected was the sound of a lady crying – literally sobbing. At first I tried to ignore it by just dismissing it, but after hearing it repeatedly for nearly 5 minutes I couldn’t. I stopped dead in my tracks and just stood there listening and I immediately thought of what my friend Sandra told me about some frogs around the Nardini Manor in Buckeye that eerily sounded like someone crying. Was that what I was hearing, I honestly don’t know and I honestly don’t think so. This was so distinct and so real that I actually yelled out to see if there was someone there and asked if I could help them out in anyway. Just then the sobbing stopped, and  I swear what I heard next scared the crap out of me as I heard, and you can believe me or not, was, “Just go! Just go!” And then the sobbing returned. This was my “what the frig” moment! Was this voice telling me to get out of there? I sure thought it was and I was not about to argue with it. So I did. I literally started running through the fog as fast as I could given the conditions and I never looked back, nor did I want to.

Before I knew it I was crossing over the last cattle guard of the leg (just past mile 6). My heart rate was still elevated and I was still freaked out to say the least. But that all quickly fell to the background as I passed an old farm house and what I can only call the “Hounds of the Leper Colony” attacked. Immediately from the left side of the levee I could hear these dogs a barking and they were getting closer and closer. I didn’t know exactly how many of them there were and I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to find out. Just then, as they had been my saving grace with the cows, the lead truck came driving out of the fog with its emergency roof light flashing – apparently some of the other runners had had a run it with the dogs as well and the truck was coming back through to check it out just at the right time. Immediately the truck’s horn started honking and it immediately scared off the hounds. I yelled out thanks as I continued on, but I am not sure if they heard me or not. Needless to say, this could have been ugly and I was just so glad that it worked out for the best as I was literally mentally spent from this leg and the past run in with the cows and this was just the break I needed.

Minutes later I found myself at the exchange point and found Tammy snoozing on the job. Busted! I tapped on the window to wake her and then opened up the back of the van. I needed a little break so I decided that this was as good a time as any to change my shoes and socks. Tammy, still visibly half asleep, got out of the driver’s seat and made her way to the back of the van and asked how I was doing. The first words out of my mouth were “that was the freakiest thing I have ever done” and I left it at that. Tammy response was merely an “ooook…” and I told her that I would tell her about it later just know that it was freaky! As I rested up a bit and got my dry socks and shoes on a few more runners came into the exchange point and you could hear them mumbling about the fog and the dogs and several other undistinguishable items. I wondered how many of them had experienced what I had but I was not about to ask – atleast not at that point in time.

Leg 9 – 3.4 miles (miles 36.9 through 40.3)

This short leg was described as an easy run past the town of Carville and it was just what I was hoping for. I could see that Tammy needed a bit of a rest so we agreed that I would meet her at the end of Leg 10 as it was only an additional 2.7 miles after this leg, so, at a minimum by driving straight there she could kick back for atleast an hour and maybe catch a cat nap. So, having gotten a fresh pair of shoes and socks, and what I hoped would be a fog destroying secret weapon I headed out into the mist and attacked. I had purchased a headlamp light with some night vision and some high amp output. I wasn’t sure exactly how bright it was going to be so I only turned the light onto low as I headed out, so as not to blind anyone, but as soon as I cleared the exchange I turned that bad boy up on high and engaged the night vision. It was amazing! I could now literally see 10-15 feet in front of me as that lamp blasted through the fog and cleared a path for me to run! And run I did, or atleast it felt like I was running which was a good start to getting going once again. I had lost so much time over the past few legs that all of my plans had been thrown out the window and I could only hope to make up some time here and there.

As I approached the second mile of this leg I could see the town of Carville to the left of me. It almost looked like the residential portion of a military base. All of the houses looked uniform and not too many businesses could be seen. The street lamps of the little town also aided in illuminating the area a bit. Before I knew it I had reached the end of the leg and it had been uneventful, which was a welcome change.

Leg 10 – 2.7 miles (Miles 40.3 through 43)

Just like the last leg, this one turned out to be a nice change from the chaos of the past legs as I ran through a couple small plants and employed the use of my night vision headlamp. Yes the fog was still thick and the rain was still coming down, but other than being a little tired, things were ok. The night has a way of dragging out however and taking its toll on you. One key thing I learned from some prior races was to try to keep my mind going as an effort to avoid turning into a “zombie” along the way. Tammy once asked me what I think about there on my long runs and I replied, “I don’t know, nothing really and lots of stuff actually…” It probably really wasn’t the answer she was looking for but it was the best I could give her as I really just think about whatever pops into my head at the moment. It could be something that I have seen out on the course or something that happened in the past. Hell it could just be as simple as repeating a mantra such as “relentless forward progress” or “time to nut up or shut up”. This night I was into doing math at various points in time. I was breaking the race down into how many miles I had left to go, or how many 5Ks or marathons I had left, how much time I thought I had left and what pace I would need to maintain just to finish. In addition to this I was definitely thinking about what I night I have had up until this point in the race. Just like the last leg, before I knew it I had reached the end of the leg.
Leg 11 – 5.8 miles (Miles 43 through 48.8)

Originally we had planned that this leg would be one in which I would have Tammy bypass the exchange point and travel right to the end of Leg 12, the second aid station in the race, however I knew that I would need to get something more to drink at the end of this leg as I had started to notice that my water bottles were running near empty at the end of each leg so I knew that I would not be able to make it 11.8 miles without needing more to drink.

Under normal circumstances and in a normal race, if there is such a thing, I would expect that a 5.8 mile run would take me about an hour, give or take. However, these were far from normal circumstances and this was anything close to being a normal race, so I knew that at this point in time one hour would be out of the question and that more like an hour and a half, or more, would be more like it. As the morning hours approached and with it the dawn my pace was slowing and I knew it, but I was still more than determined to finish and I had plenty of time left. Anyways, to make a long story short (I know…too late), I told Tammy that I would probably take about an hour and a half or so until I got there so if she wanted to take another short nap I would wake her when I got there.

This leg was more of the same, painful rocks, falling rain and thick fog. It was nice to know that this leg didn’t have any cattle guards, which meant no cows, so I was happy about that. What I wasn’t happy about was that this leg had a ton of puddles and I seemed to manage to step in every last one of them. Yes my headlamp was still working great but most of the puddles seemed to traverse across the entire levee top so there was no way around them except to run through the wet grass which wasn’t much better. So, needless to say my shoes and socks were soaked again. Which kinda sucked because I knew that it would be awhile until I would be able to change my shoes out again as I had only brought 3 pairs with me and I didn’t know if/when the first pair that I had taken off would dry. Granted I had brought a ton of socks, but putting dry socks on in wet shoes didn’t really appeal to me, but if that was what I would have to do, I would do it.

After passing through a couple of plants I found my way, with empty water bottles in tow, to the end of the leg. I sure was glad that we had changed plans as I had actually run out about a mile earlier.

Leg 12 – 6 miles (Miles 48.8 through 54.8)

This approximate 10k leg of the race was a nice change of pace as the night sky finally started to give way to the dawn of a new day. Granted the fog was still hanging around, but it was finally starting to lift a bit and there were actually a few spots where it was breaking up altogether. This was nice because this leg also brought with it the opportunity for me to see some of the State’s most popular plantations. They were amazing! It was like I had been transported back in time. I actually wished that I would have had my camera with me because I love old building and these plantations were literally the white columned mansions like you see in the old movies! Taking a tour of these beauties is definitely something that I will do some day!

In getting back to the mission at hand, as I crossed by the town of Darrow I reached the mid-point of the leg and with it knew that I had official broke the 50 mile mark (51.8 miles to be more exact). As sort of a reward the rain actually started to let up a bit and the fog continued to disappear. After passing beyond the boundaries of the little town I returned to running back past a few more plantations and even got to run through a few horse pastures with some horses. Unlike the cows, these horses had no interest in me whatsoever, which was probably a good thing.

As I got closer to the end of the leg, about mile 4.5 to 5 miles, the wind started roaring and it felt like my face was literally being sandblasted. Moments later Tammy called me and let me know that she had heard on the radio that there were so tornado warnings in the area. Not being familiar with the area she wasn’t sure what parish they were in and what parish we were in, so she just told me to be on the lookout for the twisters and to be careful. A few minutes later Tammy called me back again and told me that the aid station wasn’t there. Jokingly I said, “What? Did it blow away?” but she wasn’t sure and said that she would see what she could find out..

I was a bit worried as I really had hoped to use the porta-potty one again and I was looking forward to changing my clothes and my rib wrap. I had brought three main shirts with me (along with a bunch of backups) that I wanted to wear in the race and at certain points in the race. The first was my Team Inkburn 2011 membership shirt was the shirt I had started the race in. Next I had a Team Inkburn Single Track Mind 50 shirt which to me was only fitting to be worn after reaching 50 miles. The final shirt was my Team Inkburn Single Track Mind 100 shirt which means so much to me as I bought that from Charlie Nickell at the Javelina Jundred, my first 100 miler, which of course I planned to wear after breaking the 100 mile point in the race.

A few minutes later Tammy called me back and let me know that one of the other runner’s crew vans had just returned to the end of the leg and let her know that the aid station was about a mile down the road. Apparently it had been put in the wrong spot. While I was relieved to get this information, I knew that I wouldn’t truly be “relieved” until I got to use that porta-potty. Another thing I was looking forward to was getting some warm food in me, which was one of the added bonuses of the 4 aid stations. Needless to say all of this was going to have to wait and so I just told Tammy to meet me at the aid station as there was no sense in having her wait for me here and then go a mile down the road and wait for me again.

Leg 13 – 4 miles (Miles 54.8 through 58.8)

Having blown past the end of leg 12 (well, blown past is a bit of a stretch) I made my way to the aid station. The wind was still whipping wildly and my cheeks were feeling sun burnt and sand blasted, but at that point in time none of that mattered because I had to go bad. When I emerged from the thrown a refreshed and relieved man, I noticed that Jeffery Beck, one of the race directors, was there. After weighing in and getting a quick drink, Jeffery approached me to see how things were going. He was so pumped and excited for us that it was just what I needed to perk myself up a bit as well and the warm Jambalaya didn’t hurt in regards to helping perk me up a bit too.

After eating a bit I headed down to the van and started to get changed. When I took my shirt off and started to unwrap my ace bandage from my ribs, it was like the whole world came to a stop and all the eyes of everyone at the aid station immediately fixed upon me. Within an instant two of the other runner’s crew members came over to see if everything was alright and to find out what had happened. Tammy immediately regaled them with the tale of how I had fallen and fractured my rib at the San Tan Scramble 50k a few weeks earlier. Jaws literally hit the ground as they couldn’t believe that I was running with a broken rib; but then when they realized that I was doing it solo they just shook their heads in astonishment and started to throw out words of praise and offers to help get me anything that I needed and even to help wrap me up in my new ace bandage. I assured them that I was and would be fine and thanked then for the offer. Then, with a “well if you need anything just let us know” they headed back up to the aid station. Tammy laughed as she noticed the two pointing down to our van and talking to a bunch of the aid station workers and some of their other crew members. As I would come to find out throughout the rest of the race, the word of my efforts with my rib injury quickly made the rounds even beyond this particular aid station. It was a bit embarrassing.

I took a little bit of extra time in getting changed, as sort of a little break, and then headed back up to the aid station and revisited the potty once again. After this I talked to Tammy about just going straight ahead to the end of Leg 14 as the current leg only had about 3 miles left to go and Leg 14 was only 2.8 miles long.

As I headed back out on the levee the winds continued to batter me and soon thereafter the rain joined in on the assault once again. Although we had found out that the tornados were not close at the moment it sure felt like it they were going to drop down right on top of us. The headwinds were intense and slowed me down once again. It was like I was trying to run in a wind tunnel. Despite this latest obstacle I made it to the end of the leg and continued on toward the mid-point of the race.

Leg 14 – 2.8 miles (Miles 58.8 through 61.6)

This leg brought with it yet another interesting challenge as Mother Nature had one more trick up her sleeve for me – lightening. As most of you know, lightening has the tendency to strike at the highest point and that water is a good conductor of electricity. Well, in this case, I was near the mother of all conductors and running across the highest point in the area. Not a good combination in my eyes. I could literally feel the ground shaking below my feet with each strike. Tammy called me with great concern in her voice as she wondered if I was ok because the storm had literally slowed me to a crawling pace as sheets of rain pelted me repeatedly. I told her in a hurry, as I really didn’t want to be talking on the phone at this particular point in time, that I was slowly making it along the way and that this was going to take me awhile but that I would be ok.

Slowly but surly I made it to the end of the leg but I was drenched to the bone and I was freezing. I was literally shivering uncontrollably and I needed to get changed once again. I just wanted to say the hell with it and get in and sit down in front of the heater but first I needed to get out of those soaked clothes or I knew that I would never be able to stop shivering and that I would end up getting sick. Being cold and wet was bad enough but this dampness just reeked havoc on my ribs as the chill made them hurt even worse. So there I was shaking like a mad man while I tried to peel off my wet clothes while standing outside under the hatch of the van. Tammy began shivering as well as she tried to help me get changed as fast as I could, but the old saying two hands are better than one does not apply in situations such as this so I just told her to get back in the van and try to warm up a bit. Eventually I was able to get changed and even managed to find one of the emergency rain ponchos that I had bought for just such an occasion. After filling up my bottles and grabbing a couple more shot blocks and cough drops I closed up the hatch and walked up to the passenger side of the van and hopped in for a little warm-up break. I was literally soaked again in that short jaunt from the rear of the van and was getting water all over the place in the front of the van, but to be honest I really didn’t care at the moment. Tammy cranked the heater up and I sat there trying to get dried once again and to try to warm up the best that I could.

I really didn’t plan on sitting there that long, but I figured that the little bit of time that I did sit there might just help me out in the end, in other words, the rest might do me some good. To this point in the race I hadn’t actually taken an actual break so to speak and I hopes that while I sat there the storm might roll through and move on a bit, but that wasn’t happening as it only continued to get worse as the thunder and lightening shook the van.

Slowly I managed to warm up a bit but 45 minutes had already passed and the storm wasn’t going away so I made the decision that I was going to have to get back out there soon. So I waited another 15 minutes and then got ready to roll once again. As I took another look over the maps I realized that I wasn’t the only one taking refuge from the storm as 2 other runners made their minds up to head back out into the squall.

Leg 15 – 4.9 miles (Miles 61.6 through 66.5)

As I started out of the van, although the rest had done me some good, I had stiffened up a quite a bit from sitting for about an hour and I had a very noticeable limp as I took off. Finally after about a ¼ to a ½ mile of literally dragging one leg behind me and loosened up again and was able to return to a slow jog.

The 4.9 miles of trudging through the storm took me a lot longer then I had hoped but slow forward progress is still forward progress in my books and at this point in time each step was a small victory that would assure my success, or atleast I hoped it would. With each step that I took as well I could see that I was making it closer to New Orleans as more and more urban areas were popping up along the way. Additionally it seemed as if the little towns correlated to the plants in the area - the larger the plant the larger the little town that popped up around it. I know, I know, it takes real genius to figure that one out, but I was just trying to keep my mind occupied as much as possible at this point in time.

Nothing too exciting happened during this leg and I finally met up with Tammy about an hour and a half or so after I had ventured back out into the storm. Once again my water bottles were empty and I was in desperate need of a refill. That old saying “water water everywhere but not a drop to drink” really fit as I had the river to the right of me, rain falling all around me, and puddles all over the place, but yet with my bottles empty I couldn’t find a drop to drink.

Leg 16 – 5.1 miles (Miles 66.5 through 71.6)

This leg started out in the pouring rain once again. The thunder and lightening did finally die down quite a bit and the wind, while still blowing significantly, had lessened some what as well. I was hoping that this was a sign of good things to come. I really needed a change it luck to happen as it was already early-afternoon and time was really starting to fly by now. In fact this was the first time that I started to have a bit of concern over my time. I knew that at 8 pm I would be 24 hours into the race and that would leave only 18 more to go after that. I knew that the end of leg 18 would bring with it the 3rd aid station of the race and mark the 80 mile point in the race meaning that I would only have 46.2 more miles to go after that, so if I could get to that point before 8pm I would be very happy. Small goals – I would take what I could get.

About 3 miles into the leg the rain started to die down some more and actually turned into a slight drizzle – another good sign; but with the good comes the bad and this bad came in the form of a very upset stomach and the dire need to go to the restroom once again. The only problem was that end of leg 18 was still a ways off and I wasn’t sure if there would be a porta-potty at the aid station or not – I knew that the race bible had said that there would be one there but that was besides the point.

Clinching like my life depended on it I rolled on. By mile 4 however I knew that I wasn’t going to make it. So I called Tammy in to the rescue. Minutes later she arrived with some toilet paper and over the levee I went down toward the banks of the river and took care of some business. What a relief! Having a good crew with all of the needed supplies is key!

Since Tammy was here I figured that it didn’t make any sense to have her go back to the end of the leg and wait for me to arrive so I filled up my bottles once again and told her to go ahead and go on to the end of Leg 17 which was only an extra 3.2 miles away from the end of this leg.

As I continued on I came out of what I can only describe as a backwoods area and into a little swamp land trailer park area which was the end of the leg. I almost expected to see Larry the Cable Guy come wondering out of one of the trailers and cheering me on with a “Get’er Done!” but instead I met the Trailer Park Trio, 3 swamp dogs with an attitude and they didn’t like that I was on their turf. I was surrounding in a heartbeat and this was no joke as they meant business and they looked very mean and very hungry! I was encircled by the dogs on top of the levee and I didn’t know what I was going to do as every step that I took toward one the other two would close in on me from behind. I was hoping that their bark was truly worse than their bite, but I thought that I would soon have to find out the hard way, but just then a half naked man came running out of one of the trailers carrying a huge stick and chased the dogs away from me. It actually took a few minutes for the dogs to start to listen to the bag as he continued to scream at the dogs and whacked the stick onto the ground in front of the dogs in an attempt to spook them away. Finally I was able to get away far enough so that the dogs lost interest in me, which was a good thing as I really didn’t feel like being dog chow at that point in time or any time for that matter.

As it turns out it was a good thing that I nearly crapped my pants a mile earlier as had I not had to call Tammy back to meet me she might have been the one surrounded by the dogs as she would have been standing out on the levee waiting for me and the dogs surely would have taken interest in her as well.

Leg 17 – 3.2 miles (Miles 71.6 through 74.8)

After the excitement of the last leg and when I felt as if I had gone far enough away from the Mississippi River Mutts, I called Tammy and let her know what had happened and told her just how lucky she had gotten that she wasn’t the one that had to contend with them. Tammy joked that she would have pounded those dogs a good one if they would have come after her, and I actually believed that she would have too! As a continued on I wondered what this adventure had in store for me next, but whatever it was it wasn’t going to occur on this leg as these 3.2 miles were relatively easy ones – a nice change of pace! Just what I needed.

Leg 18 – 4.9 miles (Miles 74.8 through 79.7)

According to the Race Bible this leg was officially the starting point of the race in which “the route begins to get more residential” in nature. In addition, as I had previously mentioned, Aid Station #3 was located at the end of this leg. I was well on track to make it to the aid station before the 24 hour period that I hoped for as it was now about 4pm but I was really getting tired as all of the events of the prior 20 hours had taken their toll on me. The first 2 miles of this leg seemed to take forever as I continued to trek along at a slow pace. As I got to mile 3 however I started to run by the town of Paulina on the left side of the levee. It was a quaint little town and helped me to take my mind off of things and to help pass the time as I enjoyed seeing all of the old buildings and the townspeople cheering as I passed by.

Then, with about a mile and a half left to go in the leg I realized that I had my cell phone with me. Yes I actually knew that I had it this whole time, but what I meant was that I realized that I could send my good friend Shayna a Happy Birthday text! I had wished her an early Happy Birthday a few days earlier as I thought that I wouldn’t be able to tell it to her during my race. But thanks to the marvels of modern technology and a good cell phone service (thanks Verizon!) I was able to do it!

Things were going good. Yes I was really going slow, but I didn’t care. I was having the time of my life. I am so blessed to be able to do things such as this now that I have a second chance at life. I owe it all to so many people. Life is too precious to waste and I don’t plan on wasting a second of it. Just as I was thinking about this I came across a surreal sight that just seemed to burn a hole right into my brain to be forever ingrained in my mind. As I continued to pass by the town of Paulina on the left, a clearing opened up in the marshland on the right hand side of the levee. In this clearing were about 30 trees with white crosses nailed on them. It was freaky and sad at the same time. I didn’t know if it was some Bayou Voodoo thing that I had come across or if this was some sort of a sign for a remembrance of a tragic accident that occurred here. Immediately I thought about the floods but I wasn’t sure if they had reached this far. Or maybe it was due to a shipping accident that occurred in the river. I wasn’t sure, but like I said it was freaky and said at the same time and it was weird how I came across it just as I was thinking about how good life was.

Finally I made it to the end of the leg. I was so relieved and so thirsty! Yes I had run out of water once again. I was so thirsty but I had to make use of the porta-potty that was calling my name! As I entered the aid station I was greeted by Tammy and the two aid station workers Brandon Williams and Mark “Coyote Two Moon” Wieneke who asked if I wanted to have a seat and take a quick break to rest up before heading back out. I turned them down as I just wanted to go have a seat on the thrown at the moment. Which is exactly were I was heading, but got waylaid for a second as I had to hop on the scale for my weigh-in. After hopping off the scale I grabbed a cup of chicken broth and went to take a quick drink before finally heading to the bathroom. But just as I put the cup to my lips and felt the warmth of the broth on my face I started to feel a bit funky. I immediately turned to Tammy and uttered the words “here hold this” as I handed her the cup and I grabbed ahold of her upper arm and added “something isn’t right.” Just then I started going down. Tammy said I had a death grip on her arm and she was glad that Mark and Brandon were right there to help her out as my knees had buckled and I was about to take her down with me. I was only unconscious for a split second as I felt the two buys grab ahold of me and say “let’s get him into the chair.” Immediately a came to and told them that I was alright and they knew it as I jokingly said, “that damn chair was determined to get me one way or another.” I was immediately handed to S-caps by Mark and told to sit back and enjoy my broth.

I immediately started trying to convince Tammy that I was alright and that I would be ok to continue as I figured that she would be freaking out from seeing me go down for a second, but I was amazed that she was as calm as could be. I was also glad that Mark and Brandon were there because they knew all about the riggers of ultra running and the stubbornness, grit and determination that came with it as well. As it turns out I was suffering from Water Intoxication, which is what happens from taking in too much water and having the sodium levels in your system drop or dilute too much. Within minutes I was feeling great and ready to go once again. But I took a few more minutes of a break as I finally managed to work my way over to the potty! 

As I started back out I gave everyone a final thank you and told them I was good to go! Mark gave me a few extra S-caps to take with me and wished me well. I ended up making two great friends at that aid station and look forward to running in the Coyote Two Moons 100 some day soon. Additionally, Brandon and I became facebook friends as well!

Leg 19 – 5.2 miles (Miles 79.7 through 84.9)

With that new experience behind me I walked out of the aid station and began Leg 19 of the race. Only 26.3 miles to go until the final aid station of the race and then another 20.2 miles to go after that! I was getting close now! Well, I still had a long, long way too go but I was going to make it one way or another! I told myself that I was going to take it easy on this leg as an added precaution and just walk most of it if needed.

The race bible described this leg as “kind of a tricky section.” Just what I needed after that last adventure….NOT! But as it turns out it really wasn’t that bad. The tricky parts were that, “located just before mile 1 you will come down off of the levee and on to
River Road
for about 200 yards (due to pipes).” Then, “at mile 1.5, runners will have to run underneath a low pipe while on the levee.” Next, “at mile 1.75 the levee will bring runners down near the road for a few yards.” Just a matter of following the signs and everything would be alright.

Tammy checked in with me a few times and I even got a call from Giri to see how things were going. I didn’t tell him what had happened at the last stop as he would have freaked out more than Tammy and would have worried about me for the rest of the race. So you could say that I really didn’t lie to him as I was doing well when he called! Shortly thereafter I got a text from Pat Reichart as well and told her that things were going well as well.

After about what seemed like 2 hours I finished the 5.2 miles and met up with Tammy at the exchange point. I immediately noticed that my water bottle wasn’t empty so my sodium level must have been on the rise again, which was a good thing. Additionally, the rain had finally let up some more and was just drizzling at the moment, which was another good thing! The bad thing was that the night was coming again and it was going to be another cold, wet, and dark evening. I was tired as it was, but this was only going to increase it quiet a bit. In other words, zombie mode would be kicking in really soon.

Leg 20 – 3.0 miles (Miles 84.9 through 87.9)

I started this leg off with the return of my sexy reflective vest, headlamp, and butt light as darkness had finally overtaken the night sky. I was now beyond the 24 hour mark and still going. With each step that I took I was getting closer to reaching my goal and also to reaching the point of my virgin territory because this was only my 3rd 100 mile or beyond race. The first was the JJ100 and the second was the ATY 48 hour run in which I had went 108 miles. Granted each race was immensely different from each other but both had worked to get me ready for this new challenge and darkness be damned, I wasn’t giving up any time soon or ever as far as that goes! Not even the two skunks that crossed my path were going to deter me!!!! Although had they sprayed me…nah…not even that would have mattered at this point!

Leg 21 – 4.0 miles (Mile 87.9 through 91.9)

Under 40 miles to go………under 40 miles to go…….under 40 miles to go… what I kept telling myself over and over again as I continued on into the night. The temperature was dropping quickly, or atleast it seemed as if it was, as it really hadn’t warmed up much during the day. I had grabbed a container of mac & cheese at the van at the start of the leg and enjoyed a leisurely stroll as I dined in the moonlight along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, this truly is the life! Just a few short years ago I would have been sitting on the couch with that mac & cheese, only the bowl would have been about 20X larger and that would have just been the appetizer. 20 minute miles and beyond was the stage that I was in at the moment but none of that mattered. Granted I was getting passed occasionally by some of the team relay runners, but I expected that, especially at this point in the race now that all of the waves had started and the 6 man teams were in the running and you could tell exactly who they were as the blew by. But they too could tell who we were by the slow pace that we were going at and it never failed that as they blew by they would always yell out words of encouragement and praise. “I can’t believe you are doing this!” “You are amazing!” “Solo….I don’t know how you guys do it.” – were just a few of the things that I herd. But the most amazing thing that really blew my mind was the respect and praise I was getting from some of the soldiers that were running in the race – the “Sir, I am truly impressed.” and the “Sir, you inspire me.” – I was just in a state of bewilderment as I heard these words coming from those who give their lives to protect us. They are the ones that inspire me, not the other way around, but yet I get these words and a salute as they pass by. Truly an honor to get such a chance to run with them. Truly an honor.

Leg 22 – 3.3 miles (Mile 91.9 through 95.2)

Despite going slow I was feeling good. I could see that Tammy was exhausted however, so I told her to hurry ahead to the next stop and get things ready and then try to catch a few winks. Although it was only a short leg I ended up taking a bit longer than I expected as I got a few texts of encouragement from some friends and ended up losing one of my gloves in the process as I had to keep taking them off to type…they are a bit bulky but I love them as they are the ones that I got at the ATY race a few months earlier. Additionally the rain had started back up again and it sure was a bit chilly.

Anyways, like I said, I had taken a bit longer to get to the van stop then I had planned but I figured that maybe the little bit of extra time will have done Tammy some good…allowed her a few more winks if you would…and sure enough when I got there…Tammy was a snoozing away. So I tapped on the window and woke her up so that she could open up/unlock the hatch for me. To my surprise when I opened up the back nothing was ready. I was flabbergasted and then she laid it on me… “you’re late.” Wow….. I couldn’t believe it…did Tammy actually just tell me that I was late but my drinks and stuff wasn’t ready? Wow. I snapped right back, “yeah and now I am going to be even later thank you!” It was at that very moment that I first let it be known that I was going to be pushing it as far as having enough time to finish the race. And with that I finished making my stuff myself and took off without saying another word about it. She knew that I was upset, but she also knew that I would get over it…so long as I was able to finish the race…

Leg 23 – 3.2 miles (Mile 95.2 through 98.4)

Leg 23 had more of a backwoods kind of a feel to it once again as we left the little urban area that we had gotten use to running in and returned to more of a rural setting. There were a couple of small refinery areas along the way but none of the little towns that went along so well with the others. It did give rise to seeing the moon shining off of the water and the stars peeking through the clouds as if they were little beacons of light made just for me to help illuminate the path for me. Speaking of the path, my feet were numb from the constant and sharp yet dull pain of the rocks on the path but I knew that I was getting ever so close to being by the paved path once again, although I knew deep down that this switch would hurt so bad as well.

As I neared the end of the leg (mile 3) I had to run down off of the levee and onto the River Road for about 200 yards, as this was a part of the course, and I got a feel for just how much joy that payment was going to bring me  coming up really soon.

As I got to the end of the leg Tammy was wide awake and had my drinks ready and the rain had stopped.

Leg 24 – 3.6 miles (Miles 98.4 through 102)

At the end of the last leg, which amazingly was the beginning of this leg, I had managed to catch up to a lot of the other runners that had past me what seemed like an eternity ago. Now granted I knew that a lot of them had been there for quite some time and were just taking a break, but it was a good feeling to see so many of the other runners. It was like party central…only everyone was tired and no one was partying. Zombies were everywhere.

Tammy got a bit of a reprieve as she discovered that she was not the only one who had fallen asleep on her runner as we were approach by one of my fellow running mates, a relay runner, and his teammate was snoozing away in his van and it was his turn to run. The runner asked if he could borrow a cell phone to try to wake the other guy up…it took a few calls, but it worked. We were also able to supply a bit of medical aid to an ailing runner that couldn’t keep anything down…we supplied him with some Pepto Bismol…it pays to be prepared.

Since I was now over the 100 mile mark I changed into my last Team Inkburn shirt, my favorite (the one I got at my first 100 miler!) and I was ready to roll!

The start of this leg had about a 20 foot hill immediately upon leaving the exchange area which seemed like a mountain this far into the race. One nice thing was that it was all dirt so it was a nice change from running on the levee. At the crest of the mountain the path turned to pavement as we had to run in the street for about a 1 mile along with the cars leaving the exchange point. This area of the leg was called the Boone Carre Spillway. As I would come to find out, this spillway is a flood control operation in the Lower Mississippi Valley that is located in St. Charles Parish which is about 12 miles (19 km) west of New Orleans. This spillway allows floodwaters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain and thence into the Gulf of Mexico. It was pretty cool to be able to run through this area.

Running in this area was a bit tricky as we had to find our way back onto the levee in the dark and I almost got lost a few times as it was hard to follow the other runners as the road twisted and turned and ended up going through a refinery area. I called Tammy a few times to see if she could see me or tell which way some of the other runners had gone. Eventually I managed to end up going in the right direction, but the uncertainty cost me some precious minutes as the morning’s break was just around the corner. Luckily the rest of the leg went smoothly and without any further events.

Leg 25 – 4 miles (Miles 102 through 106)

According to the Race Bible, “runners will stay on the levee until they reach exchange 25 – this is the 4th and final Aid station…starting now, the levee will be paved until the finish – this is a good time to switch shoes if you have an extra pair.” When I originally read this I thought that it meant that the pavement would not arrive until the end of the leg, so I would be good to go with changing my shoes then. Well, if you can’t tell by now with the way that things had gone for me in this race so far, this would not be the case, as I will explain in a bit.

With the rising of the sun came a spectacular view of the river on the right and some more plantation homes on the left. The views on both sides were astounding and I wish that I would have had my camera with me, but had I had, I wouldn’t even have made it half this far in this length of time as I would have gone photo happy. Well actually I probably would have killed the battery off in the camera shortly after starting the race, so I probably would have been ok.

Although this was only a 4 mile stretch it seemed to go on forever, especially when the cobblestone rocks path suddenly turned into pavement about 1 to 1 ½ miles into the leg. As I said, I hadn’t changed my shoes as I didn’t expect this until the end of the leg. Well, needless to say, my feet did not like this one bit as my trail shoes did not like the pavement one bit and it hurt like hell! So much for being All-Terrain Trail shoes…anyways, this really slowed me down once again. I know that I hadn’t seen a sub-20 minute mile in quite some time now, but this one really, really felt slow. I called Tammy and let her know that I was hurting and to make sure to have my stuff ready for me because I was going to have to do a quick change, use the bathroom, and take care of the weighing and then be on my way as I was really losing time now and running up against a rapidly approaching finishing time with quite a few miles left to go.

A lot of the team runners that had started in the later waves were again catching up to me and passing me like I was standing still, but the words of encouragement seemed to give me exactly what I needed to bet closer and closer to the aid station. Tammy called me when I was still about a ½ mile out to see how I was progressing, as she too had gotten to see all of the runners that had passed by me come and go through the aid station without a sign of me in sight. She too was starting to get the sense, for the first time I believe, that I was in serious trouble of not being able to make it, although she never said that too me.

Finally I made it to the aid station under the bridge overpass. I was exhausted and immediately took a seat to change out my shoes. My feet were killing me. My legs and ankles were a bit swollen, but not too bad, so I was able to change into my street shoes without too much difficultly. I was in good spirits, or so I was told by the aid station crew. Tammy looked exhausted, but she was hanging in there with me and tried to provide words of encouragement, but I could see in her eyes that she was worried that I wasn’t going to make it.

It was now 7:30 AM, which meant that I had to go the final 20.2 miles in the next 6 1/2 hours or less, which seems like a cake walk as that averages out to a 19 ½ minute mile, but like I had said before, I hadn’t seen a sub-20 minute mile in hours. As I was about to approach uncharted territory (beyond 108 miles) it did not look good.

Leg 26 – 3.5 miles (Miles 106 through 109.5)

As I started this milestone leg I immediately began to run calculations in my head again as to what it would take to get through this madness, even though I had just done the same thing as I changed my shoes. I was a bit punchy and just wanted to make sure that I had figured my calculations out properly before. In doing so, I took it easy out of the gate and allowed my feet a bit of time to adjust to the new shoes on the pavement as I started out.

Despite this slow start, I knew that I had to try to force myself to run when I could and to keep pushing it as fast as I could when I couldn’t run. In other words, I would have to really depend on my power walk for the bulk of the rest of the race if I were going to have a chance. This was sort of my secret weapon, or atleast I hoped that I would be able to pull it out of my bag of tricks when I needed it. As it would turn out, I wasn’t able to count on it in this leg as I was only able to muster a 22 minute per mile average when I reached the end of the leg, but even so, this was a lot faster then any of my previous few legs. So even though I was speeding up a bit I was still falling behind even further.

Along the way however I did reach my milestone of 108 miles and 1 step as I crossed
Oaklawn Drive
. Since the day I had signed up for the race I had burned the name of this street into the back on my mind as I knew that once I reached this point in the race, every step that I took beyond this Drive would be a new personal best for me and if nothing else, this would be my little victory no matter what, even though I knew deep done that I would not be able to live with myself if I failed now, which is exactly what I told Tammy at the end of the leg. I had never DNF’ed in the past and I was going to die trying to make sure it wouldn’t happen on this day and Tammy knew it. She understands that when I set my mind to something I will do it even if it kills me.

At this point in the race I was dying a slow death and I knew it. But I still had some fight left in me, I just needed to find it.

Leg 27 – 3.2 miles (Miles 109.5 through 112.7)

Starting this leg with my back against the wall and no room for error, something had to change and change fast. Having reached my new distance PR in the last leg along with the combination of not wanting to fail, must have made something kick in as I somehow manager to run this leg in only 38 minutes, just under a 12 minute per mile pace. I think that I literally shocked Tammy as she didn’t expect to see me that quickly and hadn’t been at the exchange point for too long as she had went to find a bathroom to use before I got there. I had also asked her to find me a cup of coffee somewhere as I needed a change of pace from all of the water and energy drinks, as they just were not kicking it anymore.

I honestly do not recall much of this leg other than the fact that when I crossed into the St. Rose area I thought about the movie The Postman staring Kevin Costner as this was the name of the town in Oregon in which The Postman’s daughter, Hope, attends a tribute to her late father’s achievements. Additionally, I was now permanently in rural settings as I was in the outskirts of New Orleans now, the suburbs if you will. With this came a bit more crowded levee area too as there were some local runners/joggers out for their morning stroll and a ton of bike riders. It was interesting to get more cheers and encouragement from the bikers then the fellow runners, but it actually makes sense I guess as they are more up on races/events.

Leg 28 – 6.5 miles (Miles 112.7 through 119.2)

This was the longest remaining leg of the race and it could be either the breaking point or the turning point of the race for me. By the time I had gotten my supplies for this leg and had made another deposit on the lower banks of the Mississippi it was now 9:45 AM which meant that I only had 4 hours and 15 minutes left and 13.5 miles remaining to be run, which worked out to just about a 19 minute per mile pace. As I was figuring this out in my head, Pat texted me again to see how I was doing. She encouraged me to get it done and stated that I had plenty of time to do it; little did she know just how little I had left. Or maybe she did know and was just trying to make light of it to keep my mind off of things. Friends are always there when you need them!

This leg of the levee was absolutely beautiful as it passed through some of the wealthier neighborhoods in the area. Million dollar houses with guest houses that were bigger than my entire house, hell, some were even twice as big as my house. And of course, with fancy dancy houses come the Country Clubs, which in this case marked the end of the leg as we passed the pristine Golf Course on the left.

During the leg however, as I continued past/through Millionaire’s row, I struggled mightily to keep moving. My legs were dead. My mind was racing in a million directions. My determination was still there, but I just couldn’t get my body to cooperate. I felt as if I was going to let so many people down if I didn’t make it – Tammy, Phil, Karen, Pat, and a few others. Then I thought of the others that would be the “I told you so”-ers, the ones who think that I will fail in these crazy races and are actually looking forward to that day happening (which granted one day it will). I thought of so many things and yet again there were times that I thought of nothing at all. I had done so well in the past leg that I feared that I might have actually done too well and did myself in. The thought of a boxer punching himself out came to mind or was it that I was finally just hitting the proverbial wall that everyone always talks about. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good and it couldn’t have come at any worse of a time. I was so close yet so far away from the finish.

Somehow I made it through to the end of the leg, even though it ended up taking me 2 hours to do so. Yes it was a small victory at under 19 minutes per mile but I still needed to do better. The pressure was building as time was running out.

Leg 29 – 2.5 miles (Miles 119.2 through 121.7)

After taking a brief break to recharge my batteries so to speak, I headed out for the next to last leg of the race. It is amazing how things can change in an instant. In this case I am not talking about me, instead I am referring to the scenery or backdrop if you will. In the last leg I traveled through the land of the rich and famous, but in a heartbeat, literally within a 1/10th of a mile past the start of the leg I crossed over into the land of the not so rich and famous. Immediately I felt as it I had crossed over into a gang land or a war zone. There was tagging all over the place, broken windows, chain linked fences and pit bulls everywhere. As I took another look and continued on further I noticed that the houses looked beaten and tattered and that they were even up on stilts. I wasn’t sure if this was part of the damage that remained after the floods after the hurricane a few years ago and people still had to live in these conditions or if this was just a very, very poor and crime ridden part of town that was build to try to survive such floods. In a way it was a shame to think about how it reminded me of south Phoenix and a lot of the other cities around the country in which the airport is located right in that same area and the flight patterns go right over top of these poor people’s homes. As if you couldn’t tell, I was dam near getting blown off of the levee from the many, many planes that were coming in for a landing. It felt as if I could literally reach up and touch them.

The slight distraction of seeing these poor conditions that people had to live in literally took my mind off of my current problems and made them seem insignificant to say the least and before I knew it I was done with this leg.

Leg 30 – 4.4 miles (Miles 121.7 through 126.1 [Actual distance 126.2])

At the start of this the last leg of the race, I felt like some of the worn and battered homes that I had just been witness to. Tammy was waiting for me at the start of the leg and told me that there was no turning back now and that there was no failing now. She said that I was so close that no matter what I would finish it, if would just be a matter of finishing in the allotted time or not. In a way she unknowingly pissed me off and yet inspired me at the same time when she said that if I didn’t get it done this year I could always try it again next year. I couldn’t believe it…was seen telling me that it was ok to fail or that she didn’t think that I had enough left in the tank to get it done? I wasn’t sure. Maybe I was just taking it the wrong way at that point in time. Who knows. Did I have enough left? I myself wasn’t sure and I knew it but it was time to take a stand. It was time to try to do the impossible. It was time to nut up or shut up. It was time to face all of my critics, the worst one being myself and show them just what I was made of. It was time to do or die trying. 4.4 miles stood in my way of a moment of success or failure and I had 1 hour and 15 minutes to make that stand – 17 minutes per mile is what it was going to take to get it done. It was going to take everything that I could muster. I was extremely emotionally charged. I was ready.

As it was Mardi Gras weekend and tons of events were going on in the city so Tammy had to hurry off to the finish line parking area at the zoo and then find her way over to the finishing area. Granted there was a reserved lot for race participants and crew vans, but I knew that I was going to be one of the last to arrive so there might not be many parking spots left for Tammy. And so with that I was left to do my best.

The leg continued on the levee for the first 4 miles as we traversed through a small park with some tiny rolling hills and into the Orleans Parish area and the official end of the levee. I was exhausted, both mentally and physically but I was still going as strong as I could to the very end. As I finally reached the end of the levee I had to come down into the city and find
Magazine Street
which would lead me to the finish line in Audubon Park. It sounded easy enough and it was stated that there would be plenty of signs to follow. But all I saw was a giant corridor leading to a bunch of buildings at the end. By corridor I mean that I had the river on one side of me and a train on the other. I called Tammy to ask her when the finish line was and she told me to follow the signs, but there were none to be seen. I then asked her if the park was on this side of the tracks (by the river) or on the other side of the tracks in the small town/building area…she didn’t know. As it would turn out there were a couple of other runners there with me that had no clue were to go either. Time was quickly running out and we had no clue where to go. We all headed down toward the buildings and started asking people were the zoo was. Some didn’t know as they were there for the party and parades and others gave very different directions. It was like an episode of the Amazing Race when everyone is scrambling to get to the check-in point so that they are not the last to arrive and risk getting eliminated.

Finally we all found out that we had to get onto the other side of the tracks but here was the big stupid train blocking the way. I called Tammy and told her that I didn’t think that I was going to make it because of this train. I couldn’t believe it. I literally felt as if I was going to break down and cry if I didn’t make it because of this dam train. I had come too far and been through way too much to let it end like this. I was literally defeated mentally because of this. I honestly felt like trying to find a way to get across the slow moving train, but I just didn’t have enough energy left to try such a move….but I had certainly thought about it. Just then, in the darkest hour of my life I heard one of the other runners shout out “finally!” as the end of the train could now be seen. Moments later we all scrambled across the tracks behind the caboose and came to the next obstacle, crossing through all of the traffic in the streets and finding our way to the zoo. Everyone scrambled off into different directions. I just started walking in the same general direction in hopes that someone would find the correct path/route. In the meantime I called Tammy and asked her to find out the street name or the cross streets. Just then as she went to ask I saw one of the arrow signs and felt an immediate bit of relief. What I didn’t know however was how far I had to go yet and how much time I had left. Tammy told me to just keep coming and that when it felt like I had gone too far that I would have to keep going and that I would eventually see the finish line area. It was only suppose to be about ½ of a mile to the finish line after getting off of the levee so I knew that I actually had to be closer than I realized and I was as Tammy yelled out (over the phone) “I see you! Turn into the park and come on home!” I slowly worked my way into a finish line victory waddle and crossed over with 14 minutes to spare. I was done. I had made. Some way, some how, my 126.2 mile race had come to an end. I had finished. I had won my age division,  but I felt as if the course had beaten me – I immediately thought of what I could have done differently and what I would plan to do differently next year. Yes, that is right, I am going to do it again in 2012. Now the only question left to ask is…who is going to go me?

Thank you to everyone for getting me to the finish line and for waiting for me to finish writing this. I know that it is way too long but so much happened and I couldn’t express myself in any less of a way. Thank you once again and sorry for my bad grammar and spelling…


  1. EPIC! Truly EPIC! This is why we do this stuff Brother Man.... Loved the story. I was right there running beside you as I read along. Even with the Cows and the Dogs and the Rain and Cobblestone - I was right there... That is until you heard "Just Go Just GO" then I left you to go change my underwear! :) Thanks Mark... May just have to think about this one...

  2. Wow, what an amazing experience! You really rocked this one and you are so blessed to have had Tammy there for you every step of the way!

  3. Wow - really amazing! I enjoyed the read and felt like I was there with you. Way to persevere and make it in time!

    I'm proud of you, little brother! Good job being a one woman team, Tammy!

    Now to read the next one!