Day 33 - 42 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
It was a sad morning as we said goodbye to Justin and the Scooby Van at the start. Jen and I headed east passing through Gillette and running by the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) where we ate after day 31and received the worst service at dinner the entire Run. Upon leaving the city the fierce headwinds picked-up. Jen and I ran at least three miles right at 11:20 pace, but we worked hard to do that. No surprise that the effort to run against the wind drained us, but the running became more challenging shortly after passing through the blink-and-you-miss-it-hamlet of Rozet at mile 20 when the I-90 westbound lanes were closed and the interstate traffic was routed onto the frontage road (WY-51) we were running on most of the day. Thankfully the I-90 traffic reroute only lasted 35-40 minutes since the westbound traffic - especially the trucks - made the eastward running that much tougher. After finishing the day about five miles past Moorcroft - our home for the night at a nice local hotel - Frank and I took the trip northeast to see Devil's Tower. Frank and I slowly walked the nice paved 1.2 mile trail around the tower and enjoyed the views. I was concerned the walk could hurt my running the following day, but it didn't. Maybe the large milkshake purchase at the store at the base of the Tower assisted in the refueling effort. Does anyone want to guess what movie was playing at the store? Yes, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was playing on the store screen for the 10,000th time or so in the last 30 years.
I note that day 33 was most notable for being the day of the Run with the worst headwinds.
Day 34 - 43 miles or road, 0 miles of trail
Not much to add to the blog posts, but I note that the smoke was fairly thick around our hotel when we woke up which was definitely disconcerting. If it wasn't for the fires in the area, day 34 would have been super. It was still a great day as Frank, Jen, and I all ran well. Mike Melton also got in some good training for Vol State. We ran through the small town of Upton around mile 10. In case you didn't know, Upton claims to be the "Best Town in the World". Upton appeared to be a nice small town, but the probability that Upton is the best town in the world is near zero. The smoke didn't end up bothering us much this day, but the smoke was quite thick on the western side of Newcastle - our home for the night - which caused concern once again. Thankfully, however, as we ran to the east side of town where our hotel was located, the smoke dissipated. Day 34 was the last day of the Run that Jen and I ran faster than 12 minute mile pace, although we ran close to 12 minute pace on some additional good running days. We said goodbye to Frank - after a Pizza Hut dinner - whom we would see again after day 75 and at the finish!
Day 35 - 36 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
A shorter day, into South Dakota (state 5), a hilly route with 2000 feet of elevation gain, running just slower than 12 minute mile pace, arrival of my parents Carl and Pat Samuelson and my son Zach, Jen's first visit to Quiznos, encountering a large group of cyclists at Quiznos crossing the country from east to west, a visit to Mount Rushmore for all, the Roadrunner and my bike get a wash, simply another great day!!!
Day 36 - 34 miles of road, 6 miles of trail
It was good to start day 36 as the route commenced with six fantastic George S. Mickelson Rail Trail miles! Unfortunately, the right hamstring - which had bothered me some in the previous couple days - wasn't really happy to start the day. In hindsight, maybe if I had immediately slowed to a walk to work out the hamstring issue the day might have gone better than it did, but I didn't slow to a walk - I kept running with Jen and Mike Melton who had started the day with us. The hamstring slowly warmed up and we were running well at mile 5 with Zach - riding my bike - increasing the size of the group to four. Suddenly one of the worst POPs I have yet to experience in my running career occurred with my right hamstring. I uttered a loud and strong Oh Bother - and I slowed to a walk. The good news is that I could walk, the bad news is that I couldn't run. Would I be forced to walk the rest of the way to the Atlantic? Thankfully I only had to wait to day 37 for the answer. Jen decided to walk with me, and we walked through scenic Wind cave National Park and the old town of Hot Springs - our home for the night at yet another Super 8 - before finishing the long day about a dozen miles southeast of Hot Springs. Regrettably Jen picked up a painful rash about mile 20 and ended up walking through more pain than desired the second half of the day.
Day 37 - 45 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Our longest day yet, the 45 miles went OK - although we fought the headwinds again. My hamstring allowed me to run - yeeaahhh!!! We had transitioned out of the Black Hills late on day 36 and we were now running through the Great Prairie. I had to drop the pace and fall behind Jen around mile 17 due to the hamstring acting up some, but I worked the issue and managed to catch Jen around mile 32 after she slowed to access Facebook while walking up a moderately steep hill. We finished the day together fighting headwinds which increased significantly the last five miles. I then had my first ever Taco Johns fast-food as a dozen Taco John tacos were obtained in the nearby town of Pine Ridge for all to consume at the finish. I note I ate 4 or 5 of the yummy tacos!
Day 38 - 39 miles of road (15 were gravel), 0 miles of trail
We passed into Nebraska three miles into the day and immediately picked up a stray dog that escorted us south for three miles or so. It was a cooler morning with some nice cloud cover, and once we lost the dog it was nice running south on the NE-87 - a low trafficked highway this Friday. Mile 13 or so we meet up with the Roadrunner and see my sister and brother-in-law Kari and David Chapman. After another five miles of heading south, we turn due east onto a 15 mile long gravel road. We are essentially in the middle of Nebraska-nowhere on a barely used gravel road and a truck comes by and - I don't remember the exact conversation - the driver stops and asks Jen and I if he is headed in the right direction?! Unbelievable - but true! Six or seven miles later David joins Jen and I for three miles of slow running. A mile and a half later the three of us get rushed by two dogs and one of the dogs bites one of David's shoes. Jen and I run 3300 miles and don't get bit by any dogs (yeeaahhh to that), David runs eight miles total - three on day 38 and five on day 39 - and he gets bit! David, thanks for taking one for the team. Later, after eating dinner at the local Gordon, NE Italian restaurant, we drive around town and cross paths with Sean and Donna Edmunds and their kids in the reasontorun2012.com motor home. It is indeed a small world - crossing paths with another cross country runner in rural Nebraska.