Thursday, September 13, 2012

RAAoT Final Wrap-up - Part 10 (Days 71-80)

I fully expect this post to be the last post for the Run Across America on Trail. Thanks for reading.

Finally, an additional thanks to everyone who crewed for Jen, Justin, Marty, and I during the course of the Run!!!

Day 71 - 0 miles of road, 44 miles of trail
I really looked forward to reaching the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) - - since that meant five straight days of running on trail! At mile 30 another runner joined Jen and I for a bit who asked a number of questions about the Run which helped to pass the time on the trail. We finished the day literally at the end of the road south of Connellsville. There is only one road in or out to the finish location and workers were conducting some construction at the entrance to the road. We only experienced a construction delay, but one had to wonder would there be an issue the next morning getting back to the start point? For only the second time on the Run we spent a night at a home vice hotel. Retired Navy buddy Dave and Jane Gates treated us to a fantastic dinner and place to stay. Dave and Jane's unbelievable and unparalleled hospitality was greatly appreciated!!!

Day 72 - 0 miles of road, 38 miles of trail
Day 72 was planned to be 44 miles, but a huge thunderstorm hit us at mile 33 and actually froze us to the bone for a few miles - in the middle of summer no less - so we stopped at the next road crossing in Markleton a good hour after being hit by the storm. It was tough to stop early knowing that the next day would be 48 instead of 42 miles, but it was the correct decision to make. The day was a quick one as John rode my bike and muled food and water for Jen and I the first 23 miles of the day as there was just one road crossing in this long stretch trail. The lone road crossing was at the scenic tourist town of Ohiopyle which is the start location for the Laurel Highlands Trail races - the main race being the one which covers the entire length of the Laurel Highlands Trail - 70.5 miles. If you are looking for a challenging and fantastic race in PA keep the Laurel Highlands race ( in mind. This day did start with a little trepidation however. When we reached the road to our start point there was the dreaded orange "Road Closed" sign at the end of the road two miles from the trail. Well, my dad just drove past the sign and John followed. I am not sure the construction workers were too happy with us, but there were no barrier stopping us from driving on the road. At the start Jen, John (on bike) and I hit the trail not knowing if my parents would be able to drive back through the construction zone to provide aid to us later. Thankfully it was not a problem to "escape" the construction zone. At the end of the day we said our goodbyes to John with the hope of seeing him at the finish. Later that night Jen's parents Peter and Eileen Bradley arrived. It was great to meet Pete and Eileen who commenced crewing duties just hours later.

Day 73 - 0 miles of road, 48 miles of trail
Jen wrote in her blog, "Today was a really great day." I wrote, "WOW - a super day!!!" I wrote that day 14 was "probably the best day of the Run - at least for me", but day 73 was just as fantastic. Great weather - the best weather day in weeks. We both ran well - assisted by the weather of course. We ran over the 1908 foot long Salisbury Viaduct - taking in super views a hundred feet above the Casselman River Valley. A few miles later we ran over the Bollman Truss Bridge - one of the two remaining cast-iron truss bridges in North America. Another mile later we ran over the Keystone Viaduct (trestle). Pete (cycling) and Eileen (running) joined Jen and I for an eight mile section of trail starting from the Eastern Continental Divide. This scenic section of trail passed through the 3294.6 foot long Big Savage Tunnel and then crossed the Mason-Dixon Line (the Pennsylvania-Maryland border for anyone who might not know). It was great to have Pete (muling food and water for us) and Eileen join Jen and I on this section of trail! We saw a rattlesnake, and six miles later we saw a beaver-like small animal that didn't run away from us when we walked up to this most likely older animal. This animal encounter is one of the best animal encounters I have ever experienced. The GAP is one of the best trails out there!!! Puccini Hometown Grille ( was the dinner location for the night in Cumberland. This Italian food restaurant is absolutely superb! The pizza and spaghetti are absolutely delicious!

Day 74 - 0 miles of road, 45 miles of trail
Another great day, but once again the left foot was flapping at the start of the day. After running the last mile on the GAP we transitioned to the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath in downtown Cumberland. Pete cycled 19 miles with Jen and I and Eileen ran six miles with us. We ran through the 3118 foot long Paw Paw Tunnel, the only the tunnel on the C&O Canal and the only tunnel that required use of a flashlight or torch. We finished the day in the middle of nowhere at Little Orleans, MD, but just because we finished in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean there weren't any people around. Yes, this August Saturday was one of the days of the Sturgis East Coast MotorCycle Rally ( I had no idea there was a Sturgis East - nor did I know that a motorcycle rally would be held at Little Orleans the same time we were to arrive. No issue except that our departure from the finish point back to the hotel was a little slower than it would have been. Also, that night close to the hotel quite a lengthy firewroks display was held. Some organization payed big bucks to put on that show. We ended up getting our hotel room for half off since we didn't have hot water and the fridge, microwave, and TV didn't work - and to access the internet we had to go to the hotel lobby. Not my best hotel experience.

Day 75 - 1 mile or road, 42 miles of trail
For the seventh and last time on the Run we finished at our hotel following a mile of road to end the day. It was another good day on nice towpath trail. We passed a number of historical spots to include Fort Frederick (​fortfrederick.asp) and McCoy's Ferry/McCoy's Landing (​mccoy's_​ferry.htm). We ran past more canal locks which I still enjoy seeing even after running and cycling past hundreds of canal locks in the past 14 months. Trees once again provided nice shade for many miles. Pete cycled with Jen and I for the last time on the Run - 13 miles - since this was the end of the trail except for the last mile at the Atlantic. Eileen also ran with us for three miles.

Day 76 - 46 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
This was a better day than expected. There were some miles with high traffic volume, but it could have been worse. We were treated to a good amount of cloud cover early in the morning, and then we were treated to some shade when running through the Catoctin Mountain Park ( I enjoyed crossing the Appalachian Trail. I have often thought about doing an Appalachian Trail (AT) thru hike, but that won't happen unless I hire someone to be my crew for the 60 days or so an AT thru hike would take. Eileen continued her streak as she ran with Jen and I for four miles near the end of the day.

Day 77 - 40 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
The day started in light rain and shortly after we commenced running the rain intensified and we were quickly soaked. The rain ended in an hour or so and we were blessed with cloud cover for another  three hours or so before the heat started to be felt. There were plenty of turns on day 77 as we transitioned from back-roads to highways several times. Miles 24-27 were run on a hilly rural road (Blue Mountain Rd) just east of Gunpowder Falls State Park. That was the second nicest stretch of road to run that day - although the hills took their toll on our legs. The best miles of the day were run through Rocks State Park ( at the end of the day which included about another mile of gravel road (oops - I previously reported that the last miles of gravel road were on day 69 - error). The day ended with a great Mexican Food meal with Will Campbell who has been involved with TRANSAMs since 1992. Later that night Margaret returned to the Run to continue with us to the finish!

Day 78 - 39 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
As you know there are only so many bridges that span the hundreds of rivers that run through the United States. With that in mind it is not a surprise that there is a limited number of bridges that cross the Susquehanna River - the I-95 bridge, the US-40 bridge, the US-1 route over the Conowingo Dam, and the PA-372/Holtwood Rd route up in Pennsylvania. The US-40 and I-95 bridges over the Susquehanna River aren't an option for cyclists or pedestrians. The US-1 route over the Conowingo Dam is actually part of a signed bike route, but the "shoulder" of the road is only about 18 inches wide at most which buts up against a five foot high concrete barrier. Bottom line, the US-1 route isn't a desirable place to run. The PA-372 bridge has a slightly wider shoulder - definitely a good thing. Two choices then for the Run route - run the PA-372 bridge and seven miles to the Run route, or run the US-1 route and run seven less miles. The original plan was to run the longer route, but when the Run dropped down to two and Jen and I ran similar paces it made sense to run the shorter route with the undesirable shoulder. So Jen and I are running towards the dam - which is about mile 14 of the day - when we receive word that there is construction on the dam with flagmen allowing only one direction of traffic to pass at a time. Great?! After worrying about the work zone for a few mile we arrive at the dam and the shoulder looks awfully small (ouch). There isn't much choice - we run the dam, or we run a whole lot more miles than planned. We start running the bridge heading east facing traffic when the flagman motions us to move to the other side of the bridge and run with the traffic. Bottom line, the flagman lets us past and we are headed to the eastern side of the bridge - success! However, less than two miles later a turn mileage point was wrong on the route directions combined with a road sign that didn't correlate with the route directions caused us to run an additional hilly up and down mile to the route. (I note that googlemaps shows the road name used on the route directions, but mapquest shows the road named as actually signed - interesting.) Well, as one might expect, the adding the additional mile to the route didn't improve our outlook on the day, but continue we did. Eileen once again ran about five miles with us.

Day 79 - 38 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
The final state - Delaware - was reached shortly before mile 9! No welcome sign to greet us, but that is the way it goes. Once again I changed the route for days 79 and 80 from the original plan. The original route kept us away from the four lane roads of US-13 on day 70 and US-1 on day 80 but was six miles longer than the route used which included a number of miles on US-13 and US-1. The only remarkable comment to make about day 79 is that the route was flat. Heidi and my sister Karla Loser arrived at our hotel for the night just a minute before my parents, Margaret and myself. It was great to see them - my crew for the final day of the Run!

Day 80 - 39 miles of road, 1 mile of trail
The day commenced with pictures and then Jen and I started our watches one last time. We ran five miles of two lane road before turning onto US-1 for 26 miles. US-1 isn't the best road for runners - in fact twice it appeared like we were running onto controlled access highway sections which included running a not-so-great bridge for runners or cyclists - but we continued on down the highway. Before we knew it we were at Cape Henlopen State Park and the last mile of bike path. Minutes later we finished at the eastern terminus of the American Discovery Trail with family and friends rooting us on those last 100 yards with noise makers, posters, and banners!!!
Frank Dembia (with wife Elvire) and John Price returned to the Run to witness the finish along with everyone who was already there: Heidi, parents Carl/Pat and Peter/Eileen, Margaret, and Karla.
After the emotional finish and walk to the Atlantic Ocean it was off to Da Vinci's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant for an outstanding celebratory dinner. I especially like picture 97 of 97 of the Smilebox album Heidi put together at
If you give the smilebox a minute to load you can then easily hit the back button to see picture 97.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

RAAoT Final Wrap-up - Part 9 (Days 65-70)

Day 65 - 18 miles of road, 23 miles of trail
Day 65 would have been a better day if there hadn't been a break in the North Coast Inland Trail (NCIT), but the break exists and one has to work with that. The way through the break included 14 miles on busy US-20. Anyway, just like on day 60 as soon as Jen and I started to run my feet registered great unhappiness. I am not sure why I experienced the unexpected pain, but thankfully it did mostly dissipate. At about mile four Jen let me know she was having issues so we walked to the finish point of the day which was the eastern end of the NCIT in Elyria. At mile 34 the NCIT went right past a McDonalds. This was the second time of the Run for a trail to pass immediately adjacent to a McDonalds.

Day 66 - 21 miles of road, 23 miles of trail
I wrote nothing in the blog for days 66-68 except finish times due to a lack of time on the Run. I note that Jen later gave me grief for failing to write anything... Anyway we started day 66 walking. At mile 10 or so John Price arrives! It was super to see John - a super runner who crossed the country in 2011! At mile 15 we joined the Valley Parkway Trail and shortly thereafter I moved ahead of Jen and commenced jogging. The jogging was quite painful at first, but the legs - primarily the left leg - finally came around. I was happy to reach mile 34 and join the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail! The Towpath is an outstanding crushed stone trail that is heavily used by local residents. A portion of the trail is used for the Burning River 100 which is one of the finest 100 mile runs in the country! After finishing for the day it was great to eat dinner with Navy buddy Gerry Wright!

Day 67 - 1 mile of road, 43 miles of trail
The route this day was the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath with two small breaks on road. The first short break was in downtown Akron. Since this was a Saturday I didn't expect to see many people near downtown Akron, but the place was absolutely deserted - WOW!  Jen and I ran some at the start this day, but Jen's issues continued and we dropped to a walk. At mile 13 I returned to jogging and pushed ahead of Jen. Bottom line, we both enjoyed our day on the Towpath.
As an aside, I look forward to making it back to the Burning River 100 and to run the Towpath Marathon some year. Don't let life pass you by. If you enjoy rail and canal trails, put the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail on your To Do list.

Day 68 - 20 miles of road, 26 miles of trail
The day started out cool with complete overcast skies. Later we were rained on several times which included some heavy rain. The first 10 miles of the route were the southern end of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. After a couple miles of road we returned to trail on the Zoar Valley Trail which I note includes nearly three miles of the old Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath with more nice canal locks to enjoy passing. Miles 15-18 of the day on the Zoar Valley Trail were some of the very few single-track trail miles used on the entire route.  At mile 19 we ran over a historic bridge - the only Fink Truss bridge still in existence. You can read about and see a picture of the interesting bridge at
We then passed through a few small towns via highway enroute to the scenic Connotton Creek (Rail) Trail for the last ten miles of the day. While on the road around mile 28 a pair of local ultrarunners rolled along in their van talking with me about the Run. The short conversation pumped me up for a few miles!

Day 69 - 31 miles of road, 13 miles of trail
The drive to the start this day was done in foggy conditions - yes, keep that sun away. The sun didn't stay away for long though. The left leg and foot were in bad shape from the start. Only a quarter mile into the day I fell behind Jen and didn't catch her until mile 13 or so when she walked a bit. Miles 6-8 were run on the last gravel road of the Run until the final quarter mile at the Atlantic. No car passed me when running on this gravel road. The route had an upward bias until mile 24 and then we ran "down to the river" in order to cross the Ohio River and run into the panhandle of West Virginia - The Mountain State - state 11 of the Run. We then ran up and down for the next six miles until we reached the Panhandle Trail. You might think we enjoyed running downhill, but both of us (especially me) lost the ability (probably due to loss of some muscle mass) to run well downhill - especially on steeper road - weeks prior to day 69. The steepest up and down roads of the route were in these six miles of road through West Virginia. After a steep downhill that took a lot out of the leg muscles we reached the Panhandle (Rail) Trail - another crushed stone trail. Jen picked up the pace shortly after reaching the trail and moved ahead of me, but I caught her with about a mile to go for the day when she was once again beset with issues, and we finished together. We entered our 12th state of the Run - Pennsylvania - the Keystone State - at mile 37 when running the Panhandle Trail. A surprising event that occurred this day was with my GPS Watch - a Garmin Forerunner 310XT. My watch didn't like the foggy conditions and somehow moisture seeped into the watch on this fine day. The watch died at some point late in the run. The captured moisture is easily seen when looking at the face of the watch. Just yesterday I arranged to send the watch back to Garmin for an exchange since the watch is less than a year old and under warranty. I had a back-up watch with me, and I note my Forerunner 305 preformed just fine for the remainder of the Run.
As an aside, until the Civil War the area of the United States currently known as the state of West Virginia was actually part of Virginia. Shortly after the Civil War commenced the western counties of the state of Virginia seceded from Virginia and in 1863 became the state of West Virginia.

Day 70 - 13 miles of road, 31 miles of trail
Another cool start, and my recollection is that my left foot once again was flapping vice gracefully running. We ran about ten more miles on the Panhandle Trail before transitioning to another crushed stone rail trail, the Montour Trail. The Montour Trail is a superb trail on the edge of the Pittsburgh metroplex. I note that there are still some road gaps in this trail hence there was several times this day we left the trail and transitioned to road for a short time before returning to the trail. We passed through two tunnels on the trail this day - our first tunnels of the trip since we bypassed the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota due to the fire reroute, and I didn't know the Snoqualmie Pass Tunnel was open back in Washington. Jen was running about 50 yards ahead of me when we passed through the first tunnel, and as I headed out of the tunnel Jen (and I) could clearly hear the tremendous difference in sound between my left and right footfalls. UGH. I note that I write this blog entry five weeks after day 70. regrettably I report that my lower left leg is still giving me problems, but I am confident that the issues will resolve themselves in the near future.
Since the pizza shop we initially went to for dinner that night didn't have chairs, we ate at Boston Market for dinner - another restaurant first for Jen. I note we had a fine dinner so maybe I won't wait another ten years before my next visit to a Boston Market.

Monday, September 10, 2012

RAAoT Final Wrap-up - Part 8 (Days 59-64)

Day 59 - 26 miles of road, 19 miles of trail
Ultrarunner Chad Wooley and his dog Diamond joined Jen and I as we passed right by his house on our journey to the Atlantic. It was good to talk to Chad. Regrettably I had to drop to a walk at mile 11 or so as my left foot felt like it did when I had my left foot fourth metatarsal stress fracture. Definitely can't say I was happy with those feelings. The foot issue actually started with about five miles to go on day 58 so in hindsight if I had applied KT Tape to my left foot that night maybe I wouldn't have walked as many miles (15 miles before shifting to a run/walk) as I did that day. Anyway the route today included the paved trail miles of the Oak Savannah and Prairie Duneland Rail Trails. These two trails utilize the same old roadbed, there is just a break between the two trails. Maybe the trails will connect someday. At mile 20 the Prairie Duneland Trail crossed Samuelson Rd at a small park named for a Samuelson family that donated the land for the park. It is unknown if I am related to those Indiana Samuelsons. After leaving the trails we ran some nice rural road miles to get to La Porte, IN our finish point for day 59.

Day 60 - 46 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
I couldn't help but be concerned about my left foot as we started day 60, but it is what it is. The left foot actually felt better after I didn't pick it up high enough at about mile 27 and I caught the foot on something and almost fell to the pavement. At about 5 miles I had to drop to a walk. What was going on with my foot? Well, when I ran it felt like pressure was building up in the foot - presumably from the pounding. When I stopped running - sometimes just for seconds and sometimes for a minute or two - and adjusted to a walk the pressure I was feeling in the foot would subside allowing me to commence running again for a couple more minutes. It was like this for the rest of the day - run, walk, run walk, repeat. I mostly kept Jen in sight ahead of me until the marathon mark this day until she moved too far ahead and finally finishing 14 minutes ahead of me. Three interesting points for the day. We were stopped by a train at mile 12. As one might suspect, I might not have seen Jen the rest of the day if the train had not stopped her. Jen had probably been stopped by the train for 8-10 minutes when I got there. I note that we stopped our watches until we could get past the train - the second train to stop Jen on the Run and first one for me. The wait - which was at least done in the shade - was a little frustrating as we could see the end of the train maybe 50 yards away. There was just no way to safely walk around the end of the train to get to the other side. Then just minutes after the train moved so that we could continue running we passed an old closed school on the road. The school stuck out as it was out of place in the middle of Indiana nowhere. With all the high weeds on the grounds and the old playground equipment still in place the school property was actually a little eerie. I note that the school is for sale - anyone interested? Then just a few minutes later we made our last turn of the day at mile 14 and headed due east for 32 miles on another nice rural road. As many of you know, in the American Heartland the roads are set up in one mile by one mile grids so almost 100% of the time on these Heartland rural roads that head due east one passes a north-south road every mile. I am running along and I note that I am passing Fir Rd. A mile later I note that I am passing Elm Rd, and a mile after that I note that I was passing Dogwod Rd. Having run almost 2500 miles across the country and reading hundreds of street names naming the next three streets before reaching them was a piece of cake, a slam dunk, a no brainer, childs play... The next three streets were named Cedar, Beech, and Ash. I note that Birch was a low percentage possible road name instead of Beech, but I digress. I fully admit that I should have recognized the street names pattern after passing Elm, but I was tired after running 30 plus miles. Yes, bring out the violins.

Day 61 - 43 miles of road, 2 miles of trail
Day 61 was the worst day of the Run for me. We passed into the eastern time zone at some point on day 60 so we got an hour less rest than we otherwise would have. On the other hand it was cool at the start - yes! Basically both feet hurt this cool morning, Jen wasn't feeling that great either. My mom asked me how I felt when meeting the crew at mile 12 and I answered that I had descended into hell. Thankfully the day did improve as Jen told a good story at the 17 mile mark or so that got me laughing, and some Advil probably started taking affect. It was another day on rural roads including a number of miles of gravel roads through Amish country.

Day 62 - 44 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Another bunch of miles on rural roads this day. My left foot felt a little better - yes! Jen and I crossed into Ohio and had our picture taken with the Ohio Delorme Atlas & Gazetteer vice an Ohio sign since there wasn't an Ohio sign on the rural road which we were running. The crew got McDonalds for lunch since we passed just south of Montpelier, OH at lunch time. Yes, it is sometimes the small things in life.

Day 63 - 20 miles of road, 24 miles of trail
It is always tough to say goodbye, but it was time for Steph to leave the Run and return to earning money. Steph saw us through parts of five states - WOW!!! On this sixth day in a row with the temperature not reaching 90 degrees we ran 22 miles on the Wabash Cannonball Trail. At mile 40 I didn't pick up my left foot again and I fell onto the asphalt road shoulder near the cars traveling towards us on busy US-20. Thankfully I suffered no injuries! We even had a small amount of rain early in the morning!

Day 64 - 18 miles of road, 23 miles of trail
The North Coast Inland Trail was the trail today. We passed through some nice Ohio towns before finishing at our hotel in Bellevue - the sixth time we finished the day right at our hotel!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

RAAoT Wrap-up - Part 7 (Days 49-58)

Day 49 - 18 miles on road, 27 miles on trail
The best day in Iowa! 27 miles on the Raccoon River Valley Trail ( - one of the finest rail trails in the country. And to boot the trail is part of the American Discovery Trail (!!! Additionally, Jen saw her first live raccoons on the trail just south of Panora! It was another hot day, but we did have some shade on the great trail for a number of miles. Local ultrarunner David Frank - who was cycling the trail - noted our running and he slowed to talk to Jen and I for a bit late in the day. It was good to talk to David. Next time your travels take you to Des Moines, IA make time to enjoy the trail!!!

Day 50 - 15 miles of road, 28 miles of trail
Super Solar Radiation Blast Batman! Another hot day - especially the afternoon - but we did have some shade on the Des Moines bike trails earlier in the day thankfully. And you have to love a trail that runs right by McDonalds! Trail users are also afforded good views of the Iowa state capital, but make sure you wear your sunblock if you are going to be out on the open trail for long on a hot summer day!

Day 51 - 45 miles of road (27 miles of gravel), 0 miles of trail
Blast Furnace! Another hot day - no surprise there. Not much of great interest to mention about the day, but Jen and I had just met with Steph and my parents who had stopped in some shade - because that is what any sane person would on this day - so we were ahead of the crew vehicles at mile 21 when we came across this bridge. I knew the bridge was there as I remember crossing the bridge on the pre-Run and noting a number of folks fishing from the bridge. What I don't recall is seeing a sign that said "Weight Limit - 3 Tons". HMMM - the Roadrunner probably weighs around three tons. I wasn't too concerned since the Roadrunner crossed the bridge safely on the pre-Run, but my mom reported that the bridge groaned mightily when the Roadrunner crossed. Four miles later we meet up with a dog that ran with us for about two miles before the dog was lured into the Roadrunner and driven back to his presumed home.

Day 52 - 46 miles of road (34 miles of gravel), 0 miles of trail
The longest day of the Run to date - and the second longest day of the Run in total - began in the middle of nowhere where we finished day 51. All indications at the start pointed to the day being Blast Furnace II - The Slightly Cooler Sequel. It was not to be. We continued running east from the start with the low sun in the sky in our eyes, but around mile 4 or so the sun was blocked by clouds. Then, more and more cloud cover appeared and the sky actually darkened. Hallelujah!!! We enjoyed near complete cloud cover for most of the day - very nice indeed. The incident of the day was Steph's SUV settling into the mud on the side of the road. Thankfully a super local farmer pulled the SUV from the muck and everyone continued on their way. We had an excellent dinner at a local restaurant (Kalona family Restaurant I believe) - huge plates of food at very inexpensive prices. Today was the third time in 11 days - and the third time on the Run - that we ended the day right at our hotel.

Day 53 - 42 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Not much to add to the blogs posts; clouds provided relief again and Jen ran ahead of me most of the day finishing about 8 minutes before I did. Hindsight is always 20/20, but another good option for the day would have been to run 39.5 miles and finish right at the AmericInn in Muscatine.

Day 54 - 30 miles of road, 10 miles of trail
Early this day we rejoined the American Discovery Trail ( which we had left the morning of day 50. I note that the American Discovery Trail uses lots of miles of road since there is not a way to cross America on a continuous coast-to-coast trail - but maybe some day there will be!!! Additionally, if the American Discovery Trail (ADT) was interested in the shortest distance between two points the RAAoT route and the ADT route would have remained the same in eastern Iowa, but the ADT is routed to use a maximum amount of trail and a minimum amount of road, so distance is not really an issue for the ADT. We actually ran onto actual trail this fine day at mile 21. We ran a mile on the Riverfront Trail in Iowa and then crossed the mighty Mississippi River. Jen wrote in her blog, "The river was much wider than I’d expected and really impressive." According to Wikipedia, the Mighty Mississippi drains part or all of 31 states and is the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world. I have seen the "Big River" at flood stage from the bluffs of Memphis (I note that Memphis is referred to as the Bluff City) and the sight was amazing. Basically all I saw was water everywhere - with the exception of the two bridges (I-40 and I-55) that cross the Mississippi at Memphis, but I digress. Shortly after we crossed the Mississippi Jen and I jumped onto the Great River Trail for six miles, and after another section of road we joined the Hennepin Canal Parkway Trail for the final two miles of the 40 mile day.  Corky kept us in high spirits this day by surprising us with an outstanding aid station at mile 17 at the western edge of Davenport, then meeting us again at the bottom of the Centennial Bridge as we entered Illinois, meeting us three miles later with hot fried chicken, and then meeting us a fourth time as we entered her home town of East Moline. Later we all assembled for a nice dinner at Applebees. A fine day indeed!!!

Day 55 - 0 miles of road, 44 miles of trail
Another hot day, but Jen and I ran well aided by a small amount of shade provided by the trail throughout the day. The trail was great! Marty joined us for most of the day either riding his bike with Jen and I or meeting us at crew stops. Jen and I ran together until about mile 25 when I fell back to a longer crew stop. I was slowly making up ground on Jen when a blister forced me to a walk - the first blister of the Run to do so. I note that - thankfully - I didn't pick up many blisters primarily due to my use of Sport Shield every day. And for the only time in the Run I stopped at the crew vehicles to lance the offending blister while running the stage. Oh bother, I became a really cranky runner for the first time in the Run when I failed to lance the offending blister. As I continued down the trail the pain lessened and I slowly resumed running. A few miles later I reached the Hennepin Canal Vistor Center. It was good to step into the air conditioning and say HI to the great folks there. I only left a half gallon or so of sweat on the concrete floor before leaving. Yes I exaggerated - only a few ounces of sweat dripped off me while I refueled in the air conditioning before I stepped out into the heat to run the last eight miles of the day in which I finished 8 minutes behind Jen again. We saw a good amount of wildlife this day, and Jen also saw a muskrat!

Day 56 - 17 miles of road, 26 miles of trail
Unfortunately, the Hennepin Canal Towpath and the Illinois & Michigan (I & M) Towpath Trail don't connect, so Jen and I had to run some road to get from one trail to the next. We ran right about the same pace as the day before with Jen moving ahead of me at mile 30 when I stopped for aid. This was my worst day of the Run for blisters which were most assuredly caused by the high humidity. I blogged that," I was happy with how I ran fighting off blister and foot pain and the heat and humidity." We all enjoyed a Cracker Barrel dinner later - another restaurant first for Jen. This was the fourth day on the Run that we ended the day right at our hotel - which I note wasn't the best hotel of the trip, but not the worst either.

Day 57 - 0 miles of road, 41 miles of trail
The second toughest weather day of the Run took its toll on me - even with shade provided in places on the trail. I had to back off the pace at mile 24 and Jen went ahead - eventually finishing the day 12 minutes ahead of me. More great trail, but I have to admit it was tough to fully enjoy the trail on the challenging day. Karen was back with us as we ended the day just a few miles from the Doyle homestead!!! I spent my first night in a house - in fact it was the first time just stepping foot in a house - since spending the night of May 2nd or 3rd at Marty and Donna's place in Davenport, IA on the pre-Run. Super spaghetti dinner!!! Jen and I both weighed ourselves and we were both down quite a bit of weight. I don't know what my exact weight was when I left home in April, but Karen's two scales weighed me in at 161ish - hence I was down nearly 40 pounds in 100 days. I note that I just weighed myself here at home and the scale says I now weigh 176 pounds as I am still consuming plenty of calories daily three weeks after finishing the Run.

Day 58 - 14 miles of road, 27 miles of trail
Thankfully thunderstorms came through the area early this morning which dropped the temperature down significantly and provided some nice cloud  cover for most of the day. On the negative side, the humidity was near 100%, but no complaints. After finishing the last five and a half miles of the I & M Canal Trail we ran a couple miles of roads through Joliet to reach the Old Plank Road Trail, an outstanding paved rail trail. Besides being crewed excellently by Steph, Karen, and my parents, Rich Limacher (aka The Troubador) and Debbie Jones joined us for 30 miles and 20 miles respectively this day. The time passed quite quickly with new friends to talk to and before we knew it we were passing into Indiana where we ended the day for the fifth time on the Run at our hotel - this time going upscale and stopping at the Holiday Inn Express. Having stopped a little early I decided this was the day to get my second and final haircut of the Run - the haircut to get me to the finish.
As an aside, a week ago Chris Finill posted a link in the Facebook USA Crosser group to a movie made on the US crossing completed by the British duo of Chris Finill and Steve Pope in 2011. I smiled when I noted that Chris and Steve crossed into Indiana and had their picture taken in front of the same Welcome to Indiana sign at which Jen and I stopped. I smiled again when they stopped at the same Fleet Feet Sports I visited to replace my stock of Sport Shield. Chris was given a free pair of shoes by the store. I guess I should have let the store know that I was running across the country - maybe the store would have given me free Sport Shield roll-on bottles!

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!   

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

RAAoT Wrap-up - Part 5 (Days 33-38)

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 motor home. It is indeed a small world - crossing paths with another cross country runner in rural Nebraska.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

RAAoT Wrap-up - Part 4

Day 25 - 42 miles of Montana highways, 0 miles trail
We knew our luck had run out and the temperatures were going to get into the 80s finally. No one could complain about running 24 days without seeing the thermometer reach 80 degrees, but as all runners know it is much easier to run a decent pace with the temps in the 50s. Our finish times for the day indicate that none of us had a great day of running, but the day started out well with all three of us running a good pace. The day got better when I picked up two quarters about the 7.75 mile mark, and even better when Heidi told me there were a dozen cyclists riding across the country just a few miles back. As I climbed a hill on the road the cyclists starting passing me. It was super to see and share a few words with our fellow crossers. Just a mile later it was great to visit a few more minutes with the cyclists who had taken a break at the same place Heidi had parked the Roadrunner. And just a mile or so later I took my only two pictures on the Run of a heavily damaged trestle of the Old Milwaukee Road which joined the road again for several miles. Life was good even with the temperature moving higher and higher. However, stuff happens. Up ahead of me Jen makes a misstep to avoid a dead vulture and ends of straining her back. Regrettably Jen's back bothered her now and again all the way to the Atlantic after this misstep. About the same place Jen encountered the dead vulture my left hamstring started giving me problems and forced me to a walk for 6-7 miles. I enjoyed traveling through the small town of Lavina (population 187 in the 2010 census) at mile 26 as I was just starting to return to jogging as advil had helped with the troubling hamstring. Another old Post Office brought a smile to my face. I started to run more and more and when I approached the Roadrunner at about mile 36 I noted that Jennifer wasn't far ahead. I felt confident I could catch Jen before we reached the finished for the day, but it wasn't to be.

Day 26 - 37 miles of road, 2 miles of trail
We passed 1000 miles on this first day running in the heat of 90 degree temps!!! It was a tough day for the three of us as we all ran out of water between crew stops on this hot day. Regrettably Justin ran a few extra miles due to a confusing intersection. We went over the route at Fuddruckers the night before, but sometimes I wonder if I could have a done a better job discussing the route. Did the extra few miles Justin ran in the heat on day 26 possibly lead to his issues a few days later that forced him from the Run? It is a valid question, but there is no way to know the answer. Speaking of Fuddruckers, I mentioned to the cyclists that Billings had a Fuddruckers (actually there is more than one Fuddruckers in Billings) and I read that the cross country cyclists also ate at Fuddruckers - although we didn't see them there.

Day 27 - 41 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
This day was the buggiest day of the Run. For about 20 miles the bugs attacked, and no one had fun. This one turn day was a slightly down elevation day through the plains of southeastern Montana. There were no services on the route until reaching the town of Hardin at the end of the day. At about mile 11 we (Jen and I running together) saw our largest dead carcass of the Run. We smelled the dead cow before seeing it, but there it was a few feet from the road. At mile 38 I passed a freshly dead skunk in the middle of the road on the outskirts of Hardin. I wish the skunk hadn't been hit, but I knew that Jen would finally have a chance to smell a freshly dead skunk - another first for Jen. I note that there are no skunks - and many other common US animals like raccoons - in Britain. I had no idea that many common American animals don't live in Britain until Jen informed me of that fact. I asked Justin after finishing if he had seen the dead skunk and he hadn't, hence there wasn't much doubt that the skunk was freshly dead.

Day 28 - 39 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
We said goodbye to Margaret - who was taking the Scooby Van to the Billings Airport in order to transfer it to Mike Melton before flying home - and headed out to the start. There were five of us in the Roadrunner - Heidi, Crew Dog Daphne, Jen, Justin, and myself. Heidi and Daphne were going to take care of the three of us until Mike Melton arrived in the Scooby Van. With one crew vehicle we stayed together and made good time to mile 12 where we turned onto US-12 - our planned running home for the next 200 miles - just yards away from the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Memorial, aka Custer's Last Stand. Regrettably I was already wiped out on this day which would see the temperature climb past 100, but the three of us continued on into the land of no service for the rest of the day. A few miles later the wind picked-up - a fierce cross wind that made the tough day that much more challenging, and the three of us decided to cut four miles from the route today with the hope we could run those miles in cooler temperatures over the next few days. Mike Melton finally arrived bringing a wonderful Dairy Queen vanilla milkshake. I am a milkshake snob so I didn't think I would like the shake, but I loved it and ended up consuming many Dairy Queen milkshakes during the rest of the Run!!! Mike's arrival improved our outlook just a bit, and the final miles of the day passed OK but ominously as we could see smoke ahead on our intended route eastward.

Day 29 - 36 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Can temperatures really drop 50 degrees in 13 hours? Yes, the high winds brought cool air into southeastern Montana overnight and when we loaded the vehicles early morning day 29 we were actually feeling slightly chilled in the low 50s for the early morning. Unfortunately, the ominous signs couldn't be missed. When I checked out the hotel clerk told me there were evacuations underway around the small town of Ashland which was around mile 35 of our route this day. HMMM. Minutes later when we turned off the interstate onto US-12 to head to the start point there was one of the road construction message signs with the message flashing something like US-12 open to local traffic only. HMMM. Well, the sign didn't stop us, and for 15 miles the three of us ran fairly well in the cooler temps as we watched the traffic heading west pass us. The fact that there was traffic coming from the east appeared to be good news, but it was not to be. Upon reaching the small town of Lame Deer Heidi informed the three of us - who were running just minutes apart - that the road (US-12) was closed due to fire destroying the road. Thankfully we stopped right at a four way intersection which allowed us the choice of either heading north or south from this point in order to continue heading to the Atlantic. Regrettably fires happen. Jen said it best in her blog, "So we stopped our watches (for the first time mid-run) and had a conference in the Roadrunner to decide what to do and where to go. Mike M drove down one route to see if it was open and Mike S was pouring over the map. ... Mike M came back with good news – we could head south and not be stopped by the fire." So we headed south or a surprisingly scenic road with little idea of what lay ahead in the near future. Eight miles later Justin stopped for the day due to runner issues. Jen and I were concerned about Justin but hoped the issue was just a temporary one that would allow him to return to running the next day. Another 13 scenic - and smokey - miles later Jen and I finished the day at the edge of the reservation - in the middle of nowhere. Ninety plus minutes later we arrived in Sheridan and met my great friend Frank Dembia who had flown in to crew and run with us. I jumped onto the internet as quickly as possible to determine our detour route back to the original RAAoT route. I note that I made a good decision to not take the shortest route through rural Montana/Wyoming as a number of the "small" roads on this "shortest" route turned out to be ranch roads that probably would have caused us trouble had we taken them, so in hindsight I ended up planning just about the best detour route possible. I didn't know that at the time, however, and I had to worry each day if I was leading us on a route that wouldn't work and lead to extra miles via forced backtracking or be longer than needed due to not using a road that actually would have allowed us to run a shorter route.

Day 30 - 31 miles of gravel road in the middle of nowhere, 0 miles of trail
It was great to have Frank run with Jen and I as we started the day in the middle of nowhere - and we were encouraged by Mike Melton's report that Justin had started the day off running well - but the positive feelings took an awful shot in the arm when the Scooby Van pulled up to the three of us around mile 12 or so with Justin in the van. Justin continued to have issues so he decided he needed to drop from the Run. I felt sad for Justin that he wasn't going to complete the Run, and I knew he would be missed by Jen and I and all who followed the Run. This was definitely a very low point of the Run, but Jen and I continued on running in the middle of nowhere - a very scenic middle of nowhere I must add - with Frank on a clear day that could easily have been smoke filled if the wind had been working against us. We ended the day at a place "closer to somewhere" only an hour from Sheridan. Jen and I had hopes of getting our hair cut upon returning to Sheridan, but no luck on that front.

Day 31 - 40 miles on road (36 miles of which were gravel), 0 miles trail
After starting the day at "closer to somewhere" Frank drove his rental car ahead to the 10 mile point to see if we could take a "smaller road" which would cut two miles off the "less smaller gravel road" route. Frank reported we could - and should - take the shorter route, so we did. Shortly after the Roadrunner and rental car passed Jen and I we saw a sign that appeared to indicate that the road was a private road - ouch. Was the owner of the house we just passed - the only house we had seen so far this day - going to tell us to get of his property??? A mile or so later we pass a road sign that northwest bound cars would see. I turned around and read something like "Welcome to Powder River County" which meant only one thing, we had passed out of Montana and into Wyoming - state four reached! Another milestone! We met Frank on the road shortly before the two roads converged and letting us know that he had just met the local rancher who asked what the cars were doing parked near what we presume was the gate to his property. The rancher was amazed to hear about the Run across the country. Jen and I passed the rancher a mile later or so and I believe he wished us well as we passed - only the second car we passed that morning. About six miles later I took my first fall of the Run - a fall that caused no injuries, just some scrapes. Another 4-5 miles later we turn off the road we had been on and there was a large sign that appeared to indicate the road we were just on was owned by some corporation - great. No wonder we only passed two cars and two houses in 25 miles. At mile 36 we returned to paved road at the very, very small hamlet of Leiter, WY (population 29). The building at the turn housed - yes, you guessed it - the small Leiter Post Office!!!

Day 32 - 44 miles on road, 0 miles on trail
Frank started the day with Jen and I and the three of us all ran well!!! Thanks to Heidi (and later Frank) and Justin for crewing!!! Frank ran 27 miles this day - his first run past the marathon in many years! The route was a good one - all rural road except the final 1.5 miles on this no-services-on-the-route-gain-800-feet-of-elevation-day. The interesting encounter of the day occurred about mile 16 when a pick-up truck pulled up behind me and stopped. The exact conversation escapes me, but the brief encounter went like this:
Rancher: Whatcha doing - running?
Mike: Yes.
Rancher: Where are you going?
Mike: Delaware
The rancher then puts his truck in reverse and heads back down the road in the other direction.
Bottom line, day 32 was one of my favorite days of the Run!

Monday, September 3, 2012

RAAoT Wrap up - Part 3

Day 17 - 41 miles road, 0 miles trail
No much but minutia to add to the blog posts and FB entries for this scenic day on the road. I remember running through the little town of Dixon (population 203 in the 2010 census) around mile 25 and noting the only services there was the Post Office. Yes, I notice post offices, and yes, we were running rural highways this day. This was the first day of the Run in which every mile was on state highway (caveat - there was some sidewalk to run at our one turn and near the day's end at Arlee to get us off the highway shoulder). Even though we were on rural highways, plenty of cars past us at high speed. Justin ended up running 100 yards past the day 17 end point since there is a Jocko Rd access from the highway south of the Jocko Rd stopping point. If you input the 47.15263, 114.06831 GPS point into you can see an access road to Jocko Rd which is where cars heading south on MT-200/US-93 can turn in order to get to Jocko Rd. When I finished I was surprised not to see Heidi at the finish stop sign - but she too also stopped at the Jocko Rd access and waited for my arrival. Thankfully I only had to wait 10 minutes or so before Heidi found me. After Heidi picked me up we obtained Subway for Jen who watched Daphne while Heidi and I went out to Fuddruckers - one of the best burger chains in the country. Yes, minutia.

Day 18 - 36 miles dirt road with near zero cars, 0 miles trail
By far the worst day of the Run for the two hours or so Jen and I were lost in remote Montana, but all turned out well in the end. I note that I had left my maps of the day 18 route in the hotel room. ARRGGHH. I can't say with certainty that I wouldn't have led Jen and I down the wrong road at mile 9 or so if I had the maps with me, but we probably wouldn't have ended up being lost. Instead we would have probably simply run a few extra miles or so. Justin was also affected by Jen and I being lost in that he was stuck at the day 18 finish point for an hour or so until Adam could get to Justin.

Day 19 - 39 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Jen and Justin ran well on this good weather running day. I started the day concerned about my left Achilles - although in hindsight my issue was the left foot posterior tibial tendon. Justin and Jen were out of sight ahead of me on the curvy highway in short order. At mile 6 I tripped on a nail hammered into the asphalt causing the left foot to land poorly. The tibial tendon told me it was not happy and I dropped to a walk for the next 33 miles to close out the day. Copying from my blog post, " Not fun, but I felt this (walking) was the correct action to take." 
The scariest moment of the Run for me came when I was about a third of a mile from the finish point on this two turn day. I was walking downhill against traffic on highway MT-141 which had near zero road shoulder and only about a 6 inch gravel shoulder in this section. There was a significant crosswind coming from the west which nearly blew me off the road several times in the previous five miles. As one would expect it is tough to hear car noise over the sound of the wind. Anyway, I had moved off of the asphalt onto the gravel shoulder to keep out of the way of a car heading north towards me, and before I could move back to the asphalt for easier walking a car passed another car heading south - like I was -  on the road. Most of the time when a car passes another car behind you and heading in your direction one can hear it, but I didn't hear any engine noise whatsoever to indicate this car passing was taking place. I only knew the car passing was taking place when I noted the car inches from my right hand. That was a close one!!!

Day 20 - 42 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Not much to add to the existing blog posts. Jen and Justin ran well again on another good running weather day, and my outlook on life improved tremendously when I started to jog again decently at mile 6. We ran through great Big Sky country all day! I especially enjoyed the views from miles 15-20 or so. Maybe I was just happy to be running, but I doubt it as Jen wrote is her blog the "scenery was stunning again". Finally, my memory tells me that Justin beat the rain up MacDonald Pass (the highest point of the Run at 6325 feet), but Jen and I didn't beat the rain and we both were freezing as we neared the top. Jen obtained some relief from the biting rain, wind, and cold by calling Justin and Adam and having them deliver her a coat for the last miles, but I wasn't so fortunate. I was so cold I didn't even stop to pick up a quarter in the road shoulder about a quarter mile from the top of the pass - probably the only quarter I passed by on the Run that I didn't pick-up. I note that mostly later in the Run I passed by a number of dimes, nickels, and pennies without picking them up, but my initial plan for the Run was to pick up all coins that I saw that weren't in the roadway or too close to a highway with too many cars on the road. Thanks to Heidi and Daphne for taking care of me!!!

Day 21 - 42 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Adam departed and Margaret arrived to drive the Scooby Van. I didn't get to see much of Adam since I was so far behind Justin every day. I trust Adam has fond memories of the trip though. Justin, Jen, and I all ran well this day - a downhill with the wind running day with good temps and a fair amount of cloud cover. We stayed the night in Townsend, MT (population 1,878 in the 2010 census). We ran by the hotel and through Townsend on day 22 and I wrote in my blog, " if you are considering moving to a small city in Montana, make sure you check out Townsend - just 35 miles from the state capitol of Helena." I recommend the Wood Family Grill as a place to eat. 
Unlike most places, I note that the high temperature of the day is often reached at 5:00 PM or even later in Montana, so we are often off the road before the high temp for the day is reached. Yes!

Day 22 - 40 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
We encountered one of the largest deer roadkills of the Run around mile 14 this day. At mile six we crossed the Missouri River which we cross again on day 46. The fantastic scenery continued as we all three ran OK as we battled muscle and tendon issues. In White Sulpher Springs where we stayed for the night we drove by an old mansion built as a castle which now serves as the Meagher County Museum. Jen pointed out that the castle really wasn't old - otherwise Jen's flat built in 1904 would have to be considered old!!!

Day 23 - 42 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Due to stomach issues, Justin walked a mile with me to start the cool-which-would-turn-into-a-very-warm-day (high 70s). We both started jogging slowly thereafter, but my jogging was slower than Justin's and by the time I reached mile 4 I couldn't see Justin in front on me through the haze. As reported in the blogs, Jen and Justin ran close to each other the rest of the day to finish in just over 8 hours for the 42 miles. I finished about 90 minutes back fighting off a right quad issue I picked up from all the downhill running. Heidi snapped two outstanding pictures of the Old Milwaukee Road railbed which paralleled the nearly forgotten highway which we ran on for most of the day. Those two pictures are two of my favorite scenery shots of the Run. I note these pictures can be seen on the Facebook page. We ate pizza and calzones from Jailhouse Pizza in Harlowton where we stayed two nights. Jen had a super calzone which was so good that she had another the following night. Jen would recall the super calzones from time to time when we ran. 

Day 24 - 38 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Not much to add to the existing blog and Facebook posts. One thing to note is that when we left our motel and headed about 20 miles west to get back to our start point there was construction work in progress on the MT-191 - the road that intercepted US-12 at our hotel - but there was no construciton on US-12. When I reach our hotel at the 20 mile mark heading east on US-12 I now have to run through another construction zone (a short one at least) on US-12 right in front of our hotel. I had to laugh and shake my head in disbelief that the road was being dug up on the day we were running it. Anyway, later on it was a great relief to get through the nine mile construction zone on this zero turn day. Additionally, the forecast heat was kept in check by cloud cover that broke after we finished running for the day! Unlike most places, I note that the high temperature of the day is often reached at 5:00 PM or even later in Montana, so we are often off the road before the high temp for the day is reached. Yes!