Saturday, October 15 marked the third time I have attempted to run across the length of NH at its widest point. The first time, in 2008 I ended up stopping about 70 miles in as a result of a stress fracture. Although I had decided that trying to 124 miles of pavement was stupid I was there again in 2009 to try again. This time I bailed about 65 miles in knowing that I was headed down the same road towards another stress fracture.
|First year, trying to fix what eventually became a stress fracture.|
In 2010 my friend Sherpa John decided that he was going to attempt it through rugged mt trails and I just was to busy to attempt it with him.
Originally the "Potentially Painful Summer" was going to be an attempt to run 4 100 mile races in 4 months. Shortly after conceiving the idea I decided that it would be the icing on top of the cake to finally complete a run across NH. I knew that it would be hard but that is why I decided to attempt it. Little did I know what my body and mind would feel like by the time I got to that point in the year. Good thing I didn't have a clue.
The one thing that I was never crazy about for the RANH (Run Across New Hampshire) was the route. It has always gone from Route 9 in Brattleboro to Route 4 to the final destination at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye NH. It is basically a highway. A few weeks before the run I decided that I was going to change the route to reflect more what I hoped to see for this journey. From the start John and I had talked about this run as an opportunity to see NH from a different perspective than what you would see in a car. That sounds so much better to me! So I plugged in the starting point and the ending point into google maps, clicked the "walk" button and it came up with a route of back roads and routes that I have never seen. It even incorporated 24 miles of the Rockingham Rail trail, which I have run once in the winter.
View Larger Map
In the week before the race Amy and I drove the first 45 miles of the route and I even marked the road with arrows so I wouldn't get lost. Once I saw where I was going to be running I became even more excited. It was as good as I hoped it would be. Many of the roads were deep back roads and some were even dirt. A lot of them ran along rivers and streams and the fall foliage is in full bloom.
One of the biggest obstacles to doing a run like this is figuring out how I am going to get support. When you run all day and night there are certain things that you need to keep going. Like food and drink. For long runs like this I need to consume 300-500 calories an hour. That's not easy to take care of without good support (or a HUGE backpack...) You also need somebody to help you get through the many possible problems that can happen like fixing blisters and changing shoes/clothing. Months before the run I was at my friend Sherpa Johns going away party. I was seated with Josh, Loni and Leah, also known as Team Robert.
I had just posted about my idea for the Potentially Painful Summer and they had read that I was going to once again try the RANH. They told me that they were absolutely on board with helping me out and wouldn't miss it for the world. I didn't even ask them, they volunteered.
I was blown away at their reaching out to help me. I have become friends with all three over the years, but still was humbled by their willingness to give up a weekend to help a cranky guy run 110 miles of pavement. When the time came to help they were a huge positive influence on the run. Also helping out would be my friend Adam and of course my biggest fans, my family. The plan was for Adam to start, hand me off to Amy for the majority of Saturday and Team Robert to take me through to the end.
On Saturday morning Adam and I left the house at 3:45 and drove to the bridge at the NH/VT border in Brattleboro. At 5:02 I took off. The plan was for Adam to drive up 5 miles and wait. The weather was excellent and my body felt great. I worked extra hard to go slowly. The plan was to conserve as much energy as possible so that I could have as much energy at the end. The plan was also to not tax myself like I would do if it was a race. I was determined to go against my normal tendencies and just enjoy the day. It took me exactly an hour to catch up with Adam the first time. There are some pretty big hills in that first 5 miles and I walked them even though I didn't need to. I was already starting to wonder why it took me so long and I caught myself and let it all go. Pace just didn't matter and I was determined to not let it be so.
I drank a Boost and headed out again. As I watched the sun rise over the fog laden hills I was very happy to be finally running in this final installment of my Potentially Painful Summer (PPS). I ran alone, thinking about that moment that I decided to do these runs and what I was hoping to accomplish. For today I would enjoy simply putting one foot in front of the other. As I ran through Keene I got excited that I didn't have to take that left turn onto Route 9 to run the 50 miles of boringness into Concord. Instead I stayed strait and knew that I was only about 5 miles from seeing the family for the first time today. When I got into Marlboro, around mile 20 it was a little before 9am. I was just starting to worry that I would be there before Amy would because I told here it would be at least 9 before I got there. Luckily she had just got there and was ready for the hand off. i was starting to get tired, but also excited for this section. This is where the real back roads started. The sun was now coming up, the leaves were bursting with color and I was starting to explore a part of NH that I had never seen.
As I was walking up a steep dirt road I pulled out my phone to take a picture. I had brought my camera, but I had left the memory card in my computer. As I snapped a pic, John texted me from Colorado to see how I was doing. I sent him the picture of the beautiful back road and felt very happy to be traveling this route.
At one of the stops Amy had taken the memory card from her camera and put it in the one I was carrying. I started taking pictures as I passed through Harrisville.
Amy continued on as Adam had with supporting me every 4 or 5 miles. I remember asking her to go a little bit shorter distance because my ankle was already hurting and I wanted to make sure that I could work on it if things got worse. At 10:35am I had traveled 28 miles. I hit the 50k (31 miles) at 6 hours 15 minutes into the day. Considering that I was taking lengthy stops to eat and just chat with the family I felt like I was moving along just fine. I was enjoying being alone on the back roads of NH enjoying the day. It sounds corny, but I was very grateful to be alive and in good health.
At 35 miles I was heading through Hancock NH. I posted on twitter that I was slowing down a bit and my shin was sore. The good news was that it was staying at the same level of pain and wasn't getting worse. Amy fed me turkey/avocado wrap which was delicious and kept my spirits up by reminding me to not worry about my shin and just stay in the moment. Many of the roads ran along streams and there was almost zero traffic in these areas.
Even though the pavement was taking it's toll already, I still found many things to keep my mind occupied. I laughed out loud at this witch whom had run into a tree.
In all the years I've lived in NH I've never seen a sign like these:
Are there really that many bobcats in NH that there is an entire sanctuary dedicated to them? I had no idea! The signs scared Izzy and she was on the lookout for big game when she drove through the area. Of course, no tour of NH would be complete without a covered bridge. This one is in Greenfield, about 40 miles into the run.
As I toddled along I really was enjoying the scenery. It was so nice just going out for an all day (and night hopefully) run with friends and family along to cheer me and support me. There was no pressure like at a 100 mile race. I had purposely blown off all the publicity that was available. A group of radio stations had wanted to follow me across the state and give live updates on where I was all weekend. Months ago the plan had been to do it as a fundraiser, but by the time the last few weeks had rolled around I didn't think that we could do it and raise a substantial amount of money. So instead I just decided to run for me. And now I had all the time in the world, which felt incredible. As I ran I took more pictures.
There were many houses with big fields and ponds in beautiful settings. Someday I am going to live in a location like this.
I hit the 44 mile mark at 2:17pm and tweeted that my shin was achy, but the scenery was beautiful. At 4:20 I posted that I was in New Boston, 52 miles in and that "I hate pavement". My mood was turning a bit as I was getting frustrated with my shin. I was also succumbing to my natural tendencies to worry about time. 11 hours to go 50 miles is very slow to me. And even though it wasn't that long ago that I was not concerned about time, now it bugged me that I was traveling so slowly. Sometimes being "Type A" isn't a good thing when it comes to endurance running.
But I was getting close to the point where Amy and the kids would hand me off to Team Robert. As a ran along a particularity sucky section of Route 13 (almost no shoulder and lots of traffic), I was shaken out of my funk by my friend Ron and Meredith who pulled over, jumped out of the car and ran at me with a brown paper bag!
I had posted on Facebook a couple nights earlier that I was really craving a Greek Gyro sandwich and it kind of turned into a bit joke. Of course, they had brought me a Gyro. Although I wasn't sure it was the best idea I ate the entire thing. It was completely delicious. I was sure it was going to make me shit my pants later, but I really didn't care. This was the kind of thing that made the day so fun. So, at mile 57 I ate supper by the side of the road.
|I wonder if GU will come out with a lamb and feta cheese flavor...|
Three miles later at 6:02 I was at the beginning of the Goffstown rail trail where Josh, Leah, Loni and Grant. Amy had been awesome and she kept my spirits up all day. It never escapes me how much she does for me and how supportive my family is. I am very thankful for them. So it was now 13 hours into my run, the sun is starting to fade and I've gone 60 miles. Oh yeah, and my shin really hurts....
Part II - Continued HERE.