VS: day 5

The remaining miles to Shelbyville went by fairly quickly. Jeff from the previous afternoon appeared with more, much appreciated, cold water and I spotted Doug’s support crew sun-bathing by the side of the road (choosing to spend time in the Sun seemed a bit odd to me by this point). I stopped at a cafe in Shelbyville for lunch. There was nothing veg on the menu, but they did me a grilled cheese sandwich without the meat and I followed it up with a fluorescent pink pie. After a stop at a gas station for water and Mountain Dew I set off into the afternoon Sun.

Not even Mountain Dew could keep me going, and I was stopping every mile or so to rest. I spotted another gas station and remembered one of Laz’s daily updates describing someone walking along carrying a bag of ice. As I’d discovered the previous afternoon, carrying a plastic bag in your hand really slows you down. But probably not as much sitting down every mile. I bought a bag of ice, filled my bottle and bladder, stuffed it in every clothing orifice I could (hat, sleeves, bra... ) and set off again carrying the remainder. I felt so much better. Well apart from my crotch. Ice in my bra was, in retrospect, a bad idea; as it melted the water flowed straight down into my pants. I stopped a couple of times to dish out the rest of the ice. I think I was moving faster, but even if I wasn’t I felt much better.

Ice (ice, baby...)

Jan in the meat wagon stopped and told me that JBob was resting in the store at Wartrace, a couple of miles up the road. Which was surprising, I thought he’d be much further ahead. I passed Doug’s support car again, which meant he was still behind me, which was also surprising. I stopped at the store in Wartrace myself and had crisps, ice cream and (surprise!) Mountain Dew. I asked if there was a motel in town. As far as I knew there wasn’t, but earlier in the day I’d been contemplating stopping here to get out of the Sun. Indeed there wasn’t, but thanks to the ice I was feeling much better and was happy to push on to Manchester, 18 miles away. I stopped briefly in the centre of Wartrace (which was quite picturesque) to tape a small blister that had appeared on the side of my foot, and had a quick chat to Doug’s support.

The next 10 miles were (apart from some dodgy dogs) my favourite of the whole race. The route went up a long, but gentle, climb through farmland with plenty of trees. It reminded me of a less twee version of the Alps. At the top I rewarded myself with a sit-down break to eat a danish pastry. A women and a boy in a car pulled up and told me I was sitting too close to a road junction. I probably was, although at least I wasn’t lying across the junction like they told me someone did last year. They gave me a bottle of water and also thrust a packet of biscuits into my hands. I never quite got around to eating them and they’re now sat in a cupboard as a slightly unusual souvenir. In the midst of this Doug finally caught and passed me.

A few miles later my feet started hurting for the first time. A particularly annoying dog encounter didn’t help my mood. A dog came out and chased me along the road, while one of its owners nonchalantly told the other “fido (or whatever its name was) is chasing that lady who’s walking and scaring the life out of her”, but didn’t actually do anything to discourage it. Fortunately a bit later there was a road angel aid station by the side of the road with chairs. I took my shoes off for a few minutes, gave my feet a massage and took a couple of pain-killers. This was enough to ease the pain and (with the Sun beginning to get low in the sky) I started running. I stopped at 7.30pm to check in (243 miles) but otherwise ran most of the way to Manchester. My trousers had done an excellent job of keeping the Sun off my legs, and were fine for walking during the day. But as soon as I started running they got drenched in sweat and it felt like running in soaking wet sweat pants.

I also ran out of water. Manchester is a pretty big place, and there were plenty of liquor stores, but it was now dark and stopping at one of them didn’t seem like the best idea. Instead I held out until I reached a gas station. The one other customer appeared to be completely off his face (and had tears tattooed on his face). He was very friendly, and told me he had a backpack just like mine (!?). I didn’t feel unsafe at any point during this interaction, but this was somewhere where I’d need to keep an eye on what was going on around me. Passing dodgy looking motels with signs advertising weekly rates reinforced this message.

There were plenty of motels around the interstate on the far side of the city, so I hadn’t bothered booking one in advance. I kept checking the GPS app on my phone, to make sure I wasn’t wandering off route. At one point I opened my front pocket and it wasn’t there. Shit! Was I going to have to DNF because I’d lost my phone? Just as I was going to back-track in the vain hope it was still where I’d dropped it, I found it, behind the pocket. Phew. But I gave myself a bit of a talking to about being more careful.

Eventually the cluster of motels and fast food joints came into view. I wasn’t used to having this much choice. I stopped at a Subway to stock up on food and then went to the first model, a Rodeway Inn. We’d had a bad customer service experience at one on our pre-race holiday, and I briefly considered going somewhere else. But I was glad I didn’t. The guy behind the desk was really friendly and helpful. Several runners had already passed through and he gave me the discount rate that one of them had negotiated. He also showed me the self-addressed UPS envelope full of no longer needed gear that Karen (who would go on to finish 1st screwed woman) had left. I repeated my standard rest routine, apart from mistakenly trying to remove the KTtape from one of my thighs. It was firmly stuck and the skin felt like it was going to come off too. It had done an excellent job of preventing the chafing getting worse though. I initially set my alarm for 3 hours sleep, but it was restless thanks to my sore feet so when the alarm went off I set it for another hour.

I left the motel at about ~4am for the final 62 miles. Sub 6 days was looking doable. However there were two “mountains” to come. On the tour bus they hadn’t looked particularly mountainous, but going up them on feet and legs with 250+ miles on them might be a different story. Apart from my ‘tortoise and hare leapfrog game’ with Doug (he was moving significantly faster than me, but appeared to be stopping for longer and more often) the only thing I was racing was the clock. The front-pack had pulled away and there was a significant gap to the next runners behind.

The first 8 miles to Hillsboro went by quickly and I stopped there for a Mountain Dew. (I did once try its rival, Sun Drop. It was nowhere near as good.) The 7.30am check-in came a little bit down the road at 263 miles. I’d stopped at a nice driveway into a field so I nipped into the crops for a wee and then had a quick nap.