Thursday, September 6, 2012

RAAoT Final Wrap-up - Part 6 (Days 39-48)

Day 39 - 44 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
The last six miles of day 38 were our first miles on US-20. All of day 39 was also run on rural US-20. A cool front moved in and we were blessed with super weather this day - including a light rain for a small number of minutes - the first rain of the Run since day 20 I believe. With the cooler weather we ran just a few seconds slower than 12 minute miles for the day. It was good to run with David again for miles 15-20, and then it was just as good to run with Sean Edmunds from mile 20 to the finish. We ran through a total of one town this day - Merriman (population 128 in the 2010 census) - at mile 25 or so. There was a gas station in Merriman which allowed supplies to be purchased and the crew to use (thankfully) clean restrooms.

Day 40 - 41 miles of road, 1 mile of trail
I had been looking forward to day 40 for some time. The barber in Valentine did a nice job cutting my hair during the pre-Run, and my plan was to have him cut my hair after finishing day 40. It was on day 37 when I realized that day 40 was a Sunday so I wouldn't be getting a haircut on day 40 - oh well. Sean caught a ride with us to the start in the Roadrunner which allowed Donna and the kids to sleep-in. We said goodbye to Kari and David at the start this day, and then Jen, Sean, and I hit the road and continued our trek east on US-20. Another cool day with another small bit of rain was a good way to reach the halfway mark of the Run (in days, not miles). We ran through the small hamlets of Cody, Nenzel, Kilgore, and Crookston on this day with no open services. I have a good visual memory, but I admit to not being able to see any pictures in my mind of Nenzel, Kilgore, or Crookston. Prometheus was on at the theater, so we went to the movies for the only time of Run. The movie wasn't the best, but it was enjoyable.

Day 41 - 0 miles of road, 45 miles of trail
A no services no turn day all on the nice Cowboy Trail! We said goodbye to Mike Melton this morning so he could run Vol State. Zach cycled two stretches of trail with Jen, Sean, and I to crew for us where there were no crew access points. At mile three we crossed over the Niobrara River on the second longest trestle of the Run - and possibly the highest trestle.
Paralleling many rail trails are 100 plus year old telegraph and telephone poles still standing where they were installed. Many of the poles still have some of their glass insulators that were also installed many years ago. I started pointing out these old telegraph poles to Jen starting on day 6 when we were running the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Now in Nebraska we saw a number of the old Cowboy Trail telegraph poles from US-20 the previous two days. Anyway, so we are running a 12 mile section of the Cowboy Trail without access and Zach was riding his bike with us. Jen fell back a bit around mile 11 or so and it was Sean, Zach and I running ahead on the trail. My memory tells me that when Jen caught up to us she asked if I had seen the telegraph pole with all 10 insulators still in place on the pole. I hadn't see the pole, and I had been looking for this "holy grail" of telegraph poles as Jen knew. Bummer - and I don't recall ever seeing this holy grail of poles on any of the rail trails used for the Run. The best moment of this much warmer day was meeting a nice lady outside of the hamlet of Wood Lake's Post Office and seeing her donate to
Well, I didn't get my haircut in Valentine, but Ainsworth also had a barber so I head into downtown Ainsworth in search of the barber shop. I drive around a few minutes and finally find the shop with an OPEN sign hanging in the door. I park the Roadrunner, get out and start walking towards the door when I note the OPEN sign now says CLOSED. UGH. I chose not to knock on the door, essentially resigning myself to running another two days with long hair and getting a haircut in O'Neill on day 43.

Day 42 - 0 miles of road, 40 miles of trail
Day 42 started off on a sad note when Sean's right knee wouldn't allowed him to run. Jen and I continued on hoping that Sean could catch us later. Regrettably, Sean never caught back up to Jen and I and the was ended a week or so later due to non-running related medical issues. The best part of day 42 was crossing another nice trestle at the edge of the small hamlet of Long Pine (population of 305). The trestle crosses Long Pine Creek which has created a fairly deep gorge over the centuries. A small number of houses on the top of gorge had great views of the creek and chasm. Just a mile later we ran by the remnants of a drive-in theater which probably hadn't shown a movie on its screen since the 80s.  Thankfully a cool day at the start, but the day turned hot once again when the cloud cover broke.
If there hadn't been Montana fires to force us to reroute the Run we would have ended day 32 right at our hotel for the night. Well, we finally had a chance to end right at our hotel on day 42 in the small town of Stuart, NE.

Day 43 - 0 miles of road, 40 miles of trail
Another great 40 miles on the Cowboy Trail!!! Success with a haircut and super food at Tia Zia's Mexican Food Restaurant! Could life get better? Yes, cooler weather would have been nice, but no complaint.

Day 44 - 4 miles of road, 39 miles of trail
As coined by Jen, the cattle, corn, and hay tour of Nebraska continued this day. We had to detour on road for four miles to bypass a trestle destroyed by flooding, but the remaining miles were all on the Cowboy Trail. It was a hot day and about the only barely remarkable thing I can recall from the day is that there was notable roadkill in the our mile stretch we were on the road.

Day 45 - 27 miles of road, 18 miles of trail
At the 18 mile point of the day the Cowboy Trail came to an end at a park in Norfolk, NE. We made our way to US-275 and continued to head east. It was a hot and humid day from the start - a tough day for running on our longest mileage day yet on the Run. The most notable - it was the last day for crewing by Heidi, Zach, and crew dog Daphne who had excellently crewed for Jen and I since the start. Also, Steph Robinson arrived for crewing duty so that we continued on with two crew vehicles.

Day 46 - 42 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Heidi was very excited to be heading home. Just seconds after taking pictures in the hotel parking lot, Heidi, Zach and Daphne were gone. Steph, Jen, my parents, and I then headed to the start point.
Day 46 turned out to be the worst day of the Run weather wise. I didn't carry a wet bulb globe thermometer with me as I ran, but all indications are that the average feel like temperature on day 46 was higher than every other day of the Run. We headed east on NE-51 embarking on a two turn day with the only with the only services on the route being a gas station at mile 35. The temperature climbed as we ran up and down the hilly low trafficked road. As we approached the Missouri River and the bridge to cross into Iowa, the asphalt continued to get more crowded as the amount of dead raccoons on the road was quite sizable. We were about to cross into Iowa - state seven on the Run!!! But first we had to pay a toll at the toll booth and cross the Onawa-Decatur Bridge. Now I had called the city of Decatur way back in early 2009 to make sure that pedestrians were allowed to cross the bridge. Yes was the answer. Then after running the Afton Trail 50K in Minnesota on July 4th that year I drove southwest to the bridge and conversed with the toll takers. Yes, pedestrians could cross the low trafficked bridge. This answer made perfect sense since the toll booth was only on the west side of the bridge. Any runner could run over the bridge from the east and not be stopped by a toll booth. However, there was no mention of a "pedestrian" toll amount on the toll booth sign. No issue - Jen and I are both cyclists - we just weren't using our bikes at the moment. The toll for cyclists to cross the bridge is one dollar, hence I paid for us both to cross the bridge as cyclists - which really confused the toll taker (not my intention to confuse). Bottom line, we crossed the bridge, ran into Iowa, and ran another six miles to stop right at our hotel for the second time in five days - and for the second time on the Run.

Day 47 - 38 miles of road (16 of which were gravel), and 0 miles of trail
With gravel roads and plenty of hills, Iowa was the state I looked forward to running the least. However, day 47 started a little cooler than day 46 and off we went. We ran the first the first ten miles together and then Jen picks up the pace. We continued to run well minutes apart until mile 28 where we hit a "bump in the road" as our route (which I had altered since the pre-Run) included a road not passable by vehicles - and since it rained the road wasn't a good one for runners either. So after a few minutes of pouring over maps we rerouted with not too much trouble and off we went again. We were running together at mile 35 when we encountered the worst stench of our lives which I presume came from nearby animal waste ponds. Thankfully we passed through the area quickly and left the smell behind.

Day 48 - 43 miles of road (3 of which were gravel), 0 miles of road
IA -141 was our home for 35 miles this day as we continued heading east. IA-141 is an average Iowa rural highway with mostly gravel shoulders. Two words - cattle trucks. I proclaim that you haven't lived until you have experienced cattle trucks passing you - occasionally spitting microscopic and small particles your way. And the cattle truck smell should really be a popular perfume! Jen and I ran together until mile 25 at which point Jen slowed due to right calf issues. After we finished running the plan was to eat at the Denny's. We followed our Garmins that directed us to Denny's - yes we made it to Denny's - which unfortunately was a local pub/restaurant vice the Denny's "American Diner". Oh well, the Quiznos was very good again!   

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