VS: day 2

Having learnt at least some of the lessons from day 1 I stopped at a vending machine on the outskirts of town and bought the least noxious looking drink. Apart from seeing Jan in the meat wagon, the 8 miles to Clarksburg went by without incident. However it was getting pretty hot and I needed to get more water for the 7 miles to Parkers Crossroads. Clarksburg was small and (like most of the places we went through) very spread out, so I was paranoid about walking right past the only supermarket. I even went into a gun shop and asked if they sold water. There was one benefit to my paranoia though. I’d crossed to the ‘wrong’ side of the road, to check out a potential shop, and heard aggressive barking and growling behind me and turned around to see Doug being driven into the road by a pair of dogs. Eventually the shop appeared. They didn’t seem to have individual bottles of water, so I settled for Gatorade, which left a lingering taint in my water bottle.

After a brief sit on a piece of concrete in the shade, I headed off to grind out the hot miles to Parkers Crossroads. This would have been a better place to stop and sleep than Lexington, but I didn’t think I had the charm/chutpzah to negotiate an early check-in. I did stop at the MacDonalds there for lunch. I managed most of a large portion of greasy fries but struggled with the sugary McFlurry.

The next 2 miles were probably the hottest of the week. It felt like the heat from the pavement was roasting me and the air was too hot to breathe. The sky then clouded over and the temperature dropped. Which was pleasant, until it started thundering and raining heavily. I stopped and put my waterproof poncho on. Not to keep me dry (I was already soaking wet from my sweat), but to protect the contents of my pack. For the next hour or so it alternated between heavy rain and hot sunshine, and sometime both at once, which was particularly unpleasant. It rained enough that the street flooded and my feet got soaked from paddling. Earlier on Doug and I had had a discussion about how far it was from Parkers Crossroad to Lexington: he said 5 miles, I said 10. It turns out we were both right. The city limits were 5 miles, the centre of town (and crucially my motel) were 10.

When I got to Lexington I headed straight to the Days Inn motel. It wasn’t raining (and in fact looked like it hadn’t rained at all) there, but I was keen to get out of my wet shoes and socks. I stripped off my wet clothes, washed the miscellaneous gunk (sun-cream, insect repellent, sudocrem, ...) off of myself and discovered that I hadn’t been applying sudocrem liberally enough-there was nasty chafing on both my thighs. I washed my clothes, wrung them out in towels (a tip picked up from the Vol State mailing list) and laid them out to dry by the AC before collapsing into bed. I then realised I was really quite hungry. But being completely naked with no dry underwear (I did have a dry shirt and trousers) I was limited to eating the snacks I’d been carrying since day 1. Day 2 lesson of the day: buy food before checking into motel. Before going to sleep I texted the OH and did my 7.30pm check-in a few hours early: 92 miles.

I slept for ~3 hours before relubing various body parts, retaping my foot and heading off into the early evening. First stop: a gas station for food. I grabbed some familiar food (Pringles and Ritz crackers) and then spotted what turned out to be my food discovery of the race: “Danish pastries”. Danish pastries are one of my favourite treat foods. These “Danish pastries” bear very little resemblance to proper ones (even after having eaten nearly a dozen of them I couldn’t tell you what’s actually in them). But they were a fairly palatable way of getting down a large number of calories. I ate most of my stash on the steps of the town hall before heading off towards my first goal: Chesterfield.

Chesterfield was a small place, with few facilities and none which would be open late evening. However for the last 12 years I’ve lived in the original Chesterfield (Derbyshire, UK) so I was keen to get a selfie with the road sign (I’d been carefully looking out of the bus window on the drive to the start to check that Chesterfield, TN was in fact big enough to have a road sign). Even though I was feeling pretty good, the 8 miles took quite a while. There was a bit of police activity on this stretch. First I passed a police car which had pulled a driver over, and then another car going in the opposite direction drove past me slowly and shone a spotlight at me. This unnerved me slightly and when a car pulled onto the shoulder and the driver opened the window I went round onto the road side (on the grounds that then it would be harder for the driver to drag me into the bushes...). It turned out that it was Jan in the meat wagon and she tipped me off about a nice picnic area, behind a dilapidated store with a vending machine, a few miles up the road in Darden.

Passing through Chesterfield took a while. Stopping to look at the front-side of every road sign didn’t help my progress. Finally I got to the name sign. I couldn’t get a selfie to work in the dark, so settled for a photo of just the sign instead. The next target was the vending machine in Darden. I was so fixated on looking for it I later discovered I’d walked past the road angel cooler outside the church. I found the dilapidated store. The vending machine also looked pretty derelict. It dispensed a can of drink though, and I took it down the grass bank to the picnic area, where there were more, less dodgy looking, vending machines. I wasn’t sure it had been worth the (very short) walk though. I drunk the drink and was about to use the toilet when a car pulled up. I rapidly grabbed my pack and headed back to the road, on the grounds that people who loiter around picnic grounds in the early hours of the morning are likely to be up to dodgy stuff. Looking over my shoulder what I saw was a middle-aged woman and a teenaged girl, buying drinks from the vending machine...

Chesterfield, TN

I plodded on towards Parsons. Along the way Brian passed me and mentioned that he was tired (didn’t stop him moving faster than me though...) and was aiming for a 24 hour laundromat in Parsons. I was also feeling a bit tired so joined him there and tried to sleep. The AC made it too cold though and I gave up after 5 minutes (I’m still adding “laundromat” to my list of strange places I’ve slept in however). I took advantage of the indoor toilet to relube my thighs and got some snacks from the vending machine before heading out again.

The next stretch to Linden was a long one: 19 miles. The first part had no shoulder, so it was a case of walking on the rumble strip, looking out for traffic very carefully and jumping into the verge it it didn’t look like it was going to pull out. The vast majority of drivers were very considerate, much better than in the UK and I felt a lot safer, and did a lot less verge jumping, than I did on Escape from Meriden last year. Drink/drug driving seems to be more of a thing though, so there was the potential for very bad things to happen. Staying alert was therefore crucial. In retrospect nighttime road running after only 3 hours sleep in 40+ wasn’t a great idea. After a few miles there was a motel. The reception was open, and I was tempted. But I couldn’t stop again so soon after my last break, so I settled for a 10 min power-nap on its drive instead.

A bit later Brian caught me; he’d also struggled to sleep at the laundromat. We stopped at a vending machine and he introduced me to the joys of Mountain Dew: not too sickly, 200 calories a can (300 a bottle) + caffeine. He also warned me of the danger of accidentally buying the diet version. Brian stopped to try and rest again, but caught and passed me at speed soon after. It was fairly cool and I should have been running at least some of the time, but I just didn’t have the energy. Salt and Karen also flew past me, having had a better, more conservative and sensible sleep/rest strategy on days 1 and 2.

It got misty and the road crossed the Tennessee river. As dawn came my pace slowed even more. My arms and legs got covered in small biting insects. Repeatedly spraying them with insect repellent seemed to be the only way to get rid of them. I stopped in a driveway for a wee and, mid-flow, spotted another runner on the opposite side of the road seemingly doing some stretches. I waved. A few minutes later Alex flew by me in his Luna sandles, looking like he was out for a short run. Just after dawn is often the hardest time for me on a multi-day race. But it seems like a 10 minute power-nap can fool my body into thinking that it’s had a full night’s sleep. Just when I needed it, I came across some loungers and a coolbox in a road angel’s garden. After a nap and a juicy peach I felt much better, and set off again at a decent walk at least. At the 7.30am check-in I was at 122 miles, a few miles outside Linden.