I stand over my Bible, reading the three verses I have been rehearsing to myself. Hebrews 12:1-3. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…"
The coffee's ready. I pour it into a to-go mug. One scoop of sugar. Some creamer. I drink as fast as I can in between bites. I zip up my my suitcase. Use the bathroom. When Lia's is ready, I roll the suitcases to the car. She's making her coffee in the kitchen.
We say our good-bye's to our hosts for the night. And we are gone by 6:00am.
Lia drives. She's not a great mountain driver. And she's still half asleep. I'm antsy to get to the starting line. But keep my mouth shut. Opening it is counter productive. I finish eating and drinking. I find the profile maps for today's run and jot down notes for Lia.
We pull into yesterday's end point. Open the car door. Open the trunk and lather up on Vasoline. Sunscreen. Finish the water I've been nursing. Loosen up. Get the blood flowing. Stretch. Find a tree. Ask Lia about her plan. She's going to watch the sunrise and journal. Then go for a hike once there's enough light. I kiss her and walk out to the road.
Take a deep breath and go.
The mornings are my favorite. Just me and the road. Today there's a small breeze, but right now I'm sheltered in the trees.
I start out singing. Today, it's Morning Has Broken - a song I learned from Cat Stevens. Miles crawl by. It's all uphill these first 10 or so. But gradual, so I can run. It feels good to be moving.
Milepost 306 - Almonds and Gatorade
I start with almonds because they pack the most punch. And they also sit longer in my stomach. They don't taste as good later in the day. The sweet Gatorade is a fine counteractive to the lightly salted nuts. I dump them in my pocket and trickle them in my mouth three at a time. Alternating swigs until both are gone.
I'm making good time. I pee on the side of the road.
I have a person I'm run for each day. Sometimes I talk to them. Usually when I'm about to do something I know is going to hurt…
I read a sign that says No Pedestrians on the Viaduct.
I run right through. I imagine the park ranger pulling me over. I smile at the quizzical look I imagine on his face.
I'm dazzled by the views.
Milepost 299 - Gu and Water
I do Gu's on downhills. It's the only food I feel comfortable eating on the run. I'm on a long down hill now. My right knee and left ankle hurt. It's not fun knowing there is a mile more of punishment awaiting me.
Milepost 294 - Snickers and Water
A driver asks me if I'm the running guy. I smile. "I guess I am," I say.
No matter what the elevation change, I try to stay above a 4mph pace. This requires running every tern minutes or so. Even on uphills like this one. 5 miles up to Doughton Park. I know from there a long downhill awaits.
Downhills present other problems, namely pain.
Milepost 290 - We meet up - I eat a tortilla and peanut butter and honey sandwich. Chug a Gatorade. I reapply a healthy amount of Vasoline. Lather on sunscreen.
I stretch. Try not to sit down for too long. Stay as loose as I can. Put a Gu in my pocket. Kiss Lia and go.
Milepost 286 - Pretzels and Gatorade
The last seven miles have mostly been downhill. I've made decent time. My knee kills. I'm almost glad the uphills are approaching.
There is this razor thin line I've been balancing on. Go too fast and you might not be able to run tomorrow - run too slow and you won't finish the goal for the day. In terms of numbers - I generally stay between 4-6mph. If it's a gentle downhill, I might stretch out my legs. I ran sub sevens in Asheville. Felt so good to actually run. But for the most part I stick to the plan.
The harder threshold is the 4mph. By now, I can't walk 4mph. I can walk a solid 3.5, but not 4. Not on these uphills. So I'll walk 12 minutes and jog 3. Walk 10 and jog 5…depending on the terrain.
I don't remember these roads in Blowing Rock being so steep!
Milepost 282 - Water
I've got one more push until I see Lia. A surprise friend is awaiting me. She won't tell me who it is.
James and I chat awhile. Chug a water. Eat some potato chips and honey mustard pretzels. Drink some more water. Vasoline reapplication. Go to the bathroom.
Say good-bye to friends. Kiss Lia.
Milepost 272 - Gu and Water
Up and down. Up and down. Try to stay above 4mph. I average 5.5mph the last ten miles. Faster than planned. I'm feeling good. Cross over 421.
Milepost 268 - Snickers and Gatorade.
The crux for the day. Big time uphill. Lia has left me my trekking poles. Don't know how much they help. But they do have a positive placebo effect.
Milepost 264 - Almonds and Water.
Keep on trucking.
Milepost 260 - Jumping Off Rocks Overlook. Day is complete.
Get in the car. Strip off the shoes and elevate. Bend my toes. Flex my ankles. Keep moving. The car is the worst. I am so stiff by the time we reach our next destination. I'm grumpy. I'm never grumpy. But I'm grumpy right now.
We arrive. Greet our hosts for the evening. Roll in our suitcases. Jump in the shower. Keep moving. Loosen up. Stretch. Loosen up. Stretch.
Ice my legs. Eat dinner with my feet in buckets.
Write an update. Try to move my legs, but I'm stiff, I'm sore. I want to sleep. I've got 52 more tomorrow. I hit the pillow, unsure how my legs will respond in the morning. I'm asleep in seconds.