THE JOURNEY ACROSS AMERICA – AGAIN
Day 16 (May 16, 2000) – 52.5 miles
It is now 6:26am. I have been out on the run for the past twenty minutes. I was hoping to be out by 6:00, so we were pretty much on schedule. I had no journal entries once we finished yesterday. For the first time after finishing the run for the day, I felt weak and dizzy, and needed to sit down. I was ready to go to sleep. We all met immediately after the run and discussed what we had accomplished over the first fifteen days, and where we were headed now. There was definitely a sense that many things were about to change.
The weather was changing. The sky was overcast, the winds were blowing, and the temperature was dropping. Given that we were anticipating the arrival of Ivan and Dr. Herb Ross, our team was expanding. We discussed how best to integrate the new arrivals into our community, so we could continue operating as an as efficiently as possible. Finally, we talked about how best to handle the increasing media attention we were generating. We didn’t want to lose sight that our day-to-day objectives was to continue moving the Journey forward and generating media attention so we could raise funds for the children’s charities we represented.
We decided that if anyone from the media wanted to talk with me during the day, they would have to do so while I was running. Otherwise, they must wait until the end of the day when I could talk while in the Jeep, as we were driving back to the campsite; or while I was exiting the Jeep and walking towards the motor coach; or for a short time while standing in front of the motor coach just prior to my breaking down for the night.
This morning I was having a difficult time getting started. My energy was low. I fell asleep last night around 11:30. I didn’t have any significant inflamed or tender areas; just an overall fatigue. We decided to forgo the ice therapy, and I immediately fell asleep after the massage. I still managed to do about 45 min of Egoscue stretching and yoga after completing the day’s the run, and once we had our meeting immediately. I ate while the crew was completing their chores, preparing the budgets, and projecting operating expenses so they could provide that information the following day to Ivan. Ray, Larry, Monea, Laura, and Don discussed the press releases they had put together during the day. I was a bit “out-of-it” and was not able to join the crew as they figure out how best to get ready for Day 16.
I found myself overwhelmed with fatigue and drowsiness. Perhaps it was the result of over-doing it the past two-days. I wondered if the mileage increases of the past two days – 54.5 on Day 15, and 52.5 today – after nine days in a row of 50-miles-per-day played a part in affecting my energy level.
The truth is, I never really felt I pushed myself beyond what I could handle; the entire time I was moving at the end of Day 15, I was feeling good, and definitely wasn’t struggling. I did manage to run over 14 straight hours and generate the highest mileage total of the Journey this far. I remember finishing at a high point looking down on Magdalena, about nine miles out. Magdalena was where the motor coach was camped, and we decided to call it a day at 8:03pm. It was a magnificent run considering the day before. It also helped me mentally with the notion that I could stretch it out past 50 if I wanted to. Now shooting for 50 seemed much easier mentally, knowing that I had done close to 55.
The temperature was milder that night. I slept with the windows open for the first time since we entered the mountains on Friday. I had a comfortable night’s sleep. I do not remember waking up at all during the night. I slept from 11:30 to about 4:30 and did my stretching routine till approximately 5:45. Ray and I were fairly efficient this morning. We organized what we needed to take with us for Day 16, and then drove out to the starting point at 5:53am.
At 9:14am, three-hours-and-54-minutes into the run, the wind has finally died down for the first time in about 24 hours. Perhaps, it is because we are on the side of a mountain that is protecting us from the wind. For the time being – and the for the first time in quite a while – it is quiet. The morning sluggishness and fatigue has worn off and I am cruising along more comfortably than the day before. It seems the only minor annoyance is – once again – the gravel getting into my shoes.
This is a problem we have not been able to solve as of yet. Larry is still working on that right now. He has attempted to fix the spats he created a couple days ago. Once Larry can figure that out, my runs will be less interrupted by a regular stream of having to stop and remove the grit from my shoes. Still, now that my energy seems to have returned, and I am feeling good.
What seemed almost comical, at the time, were the conversations I had with Mary Beth about arriving into New York City too soon. The fear was that we might reach New York on the Fourth of July weekend when most of our major media contacts would probably be out of town – in the Hamptons, out on the Long Island or New Jersey beaches. I tried to reassure her not to worry about that yet. We still have two major issues to resolve: 1) The expected possibility of significant weather issues up ahead; and 2) Our funding was running out.
Because of the increase in our daily mileage, we were now on pace to move into Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Missouri (aka: Tornado Alley) by the end of May rather than in June. The question of the how best to handle a major weather “issues” up ahead, concerned all of us. The second issue we had to deal with was how to generate the funds necessary keep the crew together.
I spent most of the early morning run with Larry, who has joined Ray in overseeing and managing the crew. Larry let me know what our current operating expenses were, so we could put together a proposal for Ivan, who was due to arrive later that day. Later, Ray switched places with Larry, and we talked about what specific requirements needed to be addressed in order to ensure that the Journey could complete its mission.
All the while this was happening, I had been nursing a blister on my right foot that seemed to be opening up significantly. After telling Ray about this, he suggested we cover the open wound with moleskin. We also discussed making adjustments to our food strategy. Ray felt that I wasn’t eating enough. Perhaps that is why I felt dizzy at the end of the yesterday’s run. I had lost a considerable amount of weight, and my body fat was extremely low. We decided to increase the frequency of the feedings, while keeping the size of the feedings small.
So, on Day 16, after running for three-hours-and-forty minutes, I already had consumed six rice cakes with almond butter and three protein bars – a small feeding nearly every 20 – 30 minutes. The plan moving forward was to have a feeding of rice and vegetables within the next three miles, and figure things out from there. I am finding it much more pleasurable to have smaller bits of food that I can hold in my hand and continue on rather than to stop and walk in order to eat. While all this was happening, the sky was remained completely overcast, the sun barely shining through the gray veneer, while the temperature remained pleasant.
As I made my way around the mountain, the wind began picking up again. The combination of the overcast sky and the gentle breeze made running rather enjoyable. What a difference from the days in the California desert and the mountain running in Arizona, which occurred under the clear bright blue skies and significant sun. The terrain was still expansive plains, with mountains in the background. The roads were fairly straight and extended out as far as the eye could see, with no real signs of towns or civilization. Other that the few cars that went by, and the power lines and telephone poles that popped up now-and-again that accompanying me along the way, there was not much to look at.
At 10:33am, I am 4 hours-and-26 minutes into the run. I just had a conversation with Irv Gikofsky – aka Mr. “G” – a dear friend, and the weather broadcaster for WCB FM radio and the WB television network affiliate in New York City. The conversation with “G” made me think of New York and how great it will feel when we finally arrive there. Still, New York City seemed so far away, with so many more challenges ahead.
As soon as I got off the phone with “G”, I looked down at something lying on the road. Thankfully, I stopped instantly. It was a 4-and-a-half-foot long rattlesnake. Its tongue was slithering out. At first, I thought it was dead, but soon realized that it was definitely alive. I went clear across to the other side of the road in order to get around it. Ray saw me dart to the side of the road and immediately drove up beside me and asked if everything was all right. I just relayed to him that I had seen my first live rattlesnake – and it wasn’t the last one I would see that day.
When I was talking to Mr. “G”. I told him that last night was the first night I had a dream about food; I dreamed I was eating heaping piles of chocolate mocha mousse. We both thought that was funny. I haven’t thought much about food for the past 16 days. Most of the time what I craved was an opportunity to stretch and relieve the tension in my muscles. But now that that the tension in my muscles seemed to be diminishing, I thought more and more about food.
After I was able to crack my neck the other day, and release most of the tension in my hip, my running was becoming more fluid and natural. While there was slight pull in my groin today, I thought that it was a byproduct of all the stretching and body work we were doing. My range of motion was increasing and structurally I felt more aligned as a result. My theory was that these positive changes were causing my movements to include certain muscles that may not have previously been engaged in my running motion. As a greater totality of my muscles were now being put to use – and my range of motion was increasing – it seemed logical that I might be experiencing some new “sensations” as my body was adjusting to all the different terrains and road surfaces on which I been running these past couple of weeks. While I once thought that I was in great running shape, it paled in comparison to how I felt now.
By running shape, I didn’t mean in terms of having increased my l0K, marathon – or even ultramarathon performance times. I meant it in terms of how connected I felt to my body. Borrowing a phrase I learned from my first martial arts instructor – Steve Backus – I felt as if “I was Being Everywhere my Body was”. My body was adapting to a Journey congruent with what the ancient Greek couriers – the Hemerodrome – might have encountered, as they delivered messages between the ancient Greek city states. I felt part of, and connected to, the magnificent tradition of the these “day runners”. This is the heritage of which I feel I am a part.
It is now 2:38pm, eight-hours-and-thirty-two minutes into the run. My state has changed once again, and now I feel as if I am running with a flak jacket and ankle weights on. I keep saying to myself – “It could be worse”: It could be cold; It could be raining; I could be injured. I found myself focusing on just keeping one foot moving in front of the other. I am constantly doing an inventory of my body, and am still amazed at how little muscle soreness I am experiencing – or even joint discomfort. I’m just going through what the great American Ultra-Runner, Ted Corbitt used to call a “bad patch” – when everything seems to slow down, energy seems to disappear, and only the will to continue moving forward can get you through it.
As my energy starts to return, I begin the appreciate how each part of the country we enter seems to reveal to us its own unique personality, reflective of the essence of what the region is known for: From the soothing beaches of north county San Diego; to the torrid heat of the southern California desert on our way to the Mexican border; to the dust, winds, and treacherous roads of Arizona, and onward over the challenging mountains of New Mexico, which would soon bring us to the dreaded tornado alley of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Missouri.
Right now, the only area of my body that seems to be an annoyance are my feet. My left middle toe has a fungal growth that is very painful to the touch. For the past few days, we’ve been trying to numb it by swabbing it with Campho Phenique. I thought I was developing an ingrown toe nail on the left big toe, but that problem was due to the pebbles and rocks that were getting into my shoes, and accumulating up front by my big toe, causing it to get irritated. Larry did tell me that he believes he’s got the spats redesigned to prevent the debris from getting into my running shoes, but he doesn’t want to put them on my old, worn out ones. Larry told me that Ivan and Herb would soon be landing in the Albuquerque airport, bringing along with them a new batch of running shoes.
That afternoon, Megan Newman from Harper Collins called me, which really lifted my spirits. She told me that my book had just been released and that they planned to display the book in the front windows of as many book stores as possible – especially along the Journey’s route. I was very pleased; I couldn’t ask for more support from Harper Collins. I’m sure I’ll get an opportunity to talk abound my book “Slow Burn” many times throughout the trip. In reality, I often refer to it myself, when I am in need of some inspiration to get through this event.
It was still relatively breezy, though not as noticeable as before. The sky was gray and dull. I’m wondering, as we are now heading in a more northerly direction towards Socorro, if we are picking up the outer layer smoke from the big fire in Los Alamos – which we later found out destroyed 400 homes, 160,000 acres of forest, and caused over $1 billion in damages.
Presently, other than the on-again-and-off-again wind gusts, and the constant irritation of grit getting in my shoes, things are going very well. I am looking forward to Herb Ross’s arrival, and the interviews this afternoon with the radio stations. We had interview request from three radio stations for later today.
One interview I am particularly excited about is with a major sports talk radio station called the Sports Animal, which has agreed to carry interviews live every day while we travel through New Mexico. This will definitely get the message out about the Journey Across America’s Crusade for Kids. By 3:00pm, I finished the last entry in my daily journal and put the tape recorder back in my utility belt, and turned on the radio to listen to the station I will be on for the first interview.
Just as I tuned in the station, I was heard a promo for the afternoon talk show that will feature an interview with the guy who is running from San Diego to New York. “Is he crazy? We’ll find out.” I guess that’s the way they chose to promote us – still, I am looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the wind has picked up significantly, and I am concerned whether I can do the interview while I am running – and I certainly do not want to stop. I guess we’ll soon find out.
It is now 3:25pm, and I am nine-hours-and-eighteen-minutes into the run. We must now be in Socorro. I know this because I just passed the Socorro High School. Ray informs me that we have to go on the interstate for a while. I have a feeling that they were keeping this information from me. One thing that I definitely do not enjoy is going on the Interstate – especially without a permit.
Larry then tells me that his friend Bill Sweet knows someone in the New Mexico highway patrol who has given verbal commitment to let us go on the Interstate without a permit. Bill supposedly gave Larry a number to call if we get stopped by a patrolman. Apparently, permits are issued to larger groups, but not a solitary runner, though I was assured that we would be okay.
The combination of the high winds, the impending radio interviews, entering the interstate without a permit, and the arrival of Dr. Ross and Ivan have all combined to unsettle me a little bit. The comforting routine that had set in over the past couple of days is now, by necessity, forced to change. For the Journey’s sake, I must make the appropriate adjustments and just deal with it.
At 3:50pm, we are 9-hours-and-44-minutes into the run. We’re entering downtown Socorro, about a mile-and-a-half from the entrance to the interstate. Soon, we’ll be heading north to Albuquerque, and as fortune would have it, I’ll be doing all my interviews on Interstate, where I’ll be running for the rest of the day. Larry and Ray were very aware of how apprehensive I was regarding these developments.
Larry then went to the state highway patrol station and spoke to the captain about what we were doing, and received permission to remain on the Interstate; which was a tremendous relief. The only challenge that remained is how to handle the three media interviews while running on the interstate, in the middle of this wind event.
Onward and upward, then we shall go…At 6:21pm, and 12-hours and 15-minutes into the run, the wind is still blowing and I’m still on the Interstate, after having completed the interviews, which were quite interesting.
The first interview was with somebody from an FM station, who didn’t seem particularly interested in what we were doing. We had a brief conversation over the phone, he asked me if I knew that the governor of New Mexico was a triathlete. I said, “That’s great”, and suggested he might want to join us and run with me for a few miles. Afterall. “It’s for the kids”, I said. He laughed. I told him where I was and he said, “Oh, you’ll probably pick up some weather up there.” That wasn’t exactly what I was hoping to hear.
After that conversation I realized two things. Number one: I should not wait for person interviewing me to ask me about the Journey; I really must just go for it, speak my mind, and get the message out; talk about the website, the 800 number, and the charities that will be receiving the funds we’re generating. Second was the increasing concern regarding where we were headed and what did the first radio show host mean when he said: “”Oh, you’ll probably pick up some weather up there.”
After the first interview, I handed the phone back to Larry. and mentioned to him that the conversation had ended with a comment about probable weather issues ahead. I threw out the possibility of shifting to a more southerly route. Larry was adamant. He said, “No. No. You don’t want to go through the heart of Texas. Stay with the plan. Stay with the plan,” he insisted. So, at this point in time, we were committed to following Larry’s advice and keep with the route that will take us briefly through the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, and then traverse the entire states of Kansas and Missouri in late May.
The other two interviews went very well. One was with the top news talk station – 770 AM, which I had been listening to on and off throughout the day. It was actually the first station I heard when we came over the mountains past the Continental Divide. We picked it up out of the national forest.
The host was very interested in finding out about the Journey. We had a great conversation. The guy’s name was Jim Villanucci. Prior to the interview, we listened to the station and were impressed how often the announcers promoted the Journey. What seemed to be the main points of focus, were the number of miles-per-day we had traveled already, and the fund raising we were doing on behalf of the children’s charities with which we were affiliated.
The next interview was to be with the Sports Animal, which I had been listening to on-and-off throughout the day. After the first two interviews, I was feeling much more comfortable. It had been quite a while since I was interviewed while on-the-run. Back in the 1983, during the NYRRC 6-Day Race, I had been interviewed on four consecutive nights by Ted Koppel on his ABC News Nightline show. That series of interviews was a huge breakthrough for my career, and catapulted me into a four-year stint as National Spokesman for Gatorade.
By the time the Sports Animal interview began, I was comfortable to get right into talking about my commitment to kids, and how we must be willing to go the extra mile when it comes to standing for the health and vitality of America’s youth. Once again, I felt the host was very enrolled in what we’re doing. The proof was that the station kept promoting the Journey long after the interview ended. I was confident that momentum was building. All three stations asked us to keep in touch, so they could keep tracking us as we travelled eastward towards Kansas.
At 6:54pm, 12-hours-and-38-minutes into the run, I was still running along Interstate 25 when it was time to say goodbye to Larry and his family. I waved to them as they began their drive back to their home in Colorado. The sun was beginning to set, as I continuing running on the Interstate. Billy Joel started playing in my headset – “A Matter of Trust.” Ray is now talking with Ivan about taking over Larry’s spot in the escort Jeep. I’m going to miss Larry. His presence was powerful, and I’m going to do all I can to get him back on the Journey once we leave New Mexico.
Mr. G called me again to update me on his efforts to raising awareness of the Journey through his media contacts, and – hopefully – which could help us generate more sponsorship interest. I am grateful for Mr. G’s friendship and support.
At 7:29pm, 13-hours-and-22 minutes into the run, I’m still on Interstate 25. The day is winding down. We are about 30 minutes away from completing today’s run. The sky above us is overcast, though there are breaks in the clouds where the pre-sunset sun has broken through, bathing the earth in sunshine underneath the cloud cover for the last time today. It is a magnificent sight, and a wonderful visual treat to end the day. The wind is absolutely quiet for the first time today, making the final impression of the day one of beauty and solemnity, calm and connection.
I am grateful for getting through another day. I am happy that Herb and Ivan have arrived and will be here for a few days. I especially look forward getting a treatment from Dr. Ross. It will be my first chiropractic adjustment since we left Safford and Dr. Boren four days ago. We are expecting a similar kind of day tomorrow, perhaps a little cooler, making it even more conducive to running. I’m looking forward to the next interview with 770 AM, and to joining the crew for our evening meal, and catching up with Herb and Ivan, who will be staying with us until Thursday. It was sad to see Larry and his family depart. His presence was amazing; his contribution extensive. He gave us only a taste of the importance he was to have when he finally did return at a point not too distant in the future…