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Day 23


Day 23 (May 23, 2000) – 52.4 miles


Today is the 23rd Day of the Journey. It is 6:12am. Ray and I got a 6:00am start, just as we planned. The sun is beginning to rise in the eastern sky. Far off in the distance, clouds have assembled, swirls of light grey, amidst the almost thoroughly empty sky. The three-quarter moon behind me is still shining brightly. Trains are going by to the north, and still, even at this hour, a significant amount of trucks are whizzing by at 70-to-80 miles-per-hour on this stretch of Route 54, heading into Oklahoma.


Our plan is to be in Oklahoma by the end of today. We want to make our pass through the Texas panhandle a swift one, and have a similarly rapid trip through the Oklahoma panhandle, and arrive in Kansas either Wednesday night, or Thursday morning.

Merlin left last evening after he dropped the water off, along with a new pair of running shoes. The running shoes were OK, but not great. I found it frustration that the two pair of shoes that have worked the best for me these past few years – the Etonic Stable Pro 3’s and New Balance 620 – were both recently discontinued. I wondered how many other runners discovered that their favorite running shoes were no longer available.


The treatment session with Dr. Weld helped tremendously. How great would it be to have a chiropractor work on me every few days? I don’t believe that it would make the Journey any easier – less painful maybe – but that is not a luxury we can afford. I still have my Egoscue menu, the yoga postures, and stretching exercises, along with the ice treatments and Don’s massages to keep me in-tact and moving forward. Yet, all that required quite a lot of time each day – up to three-hours – and took me away from any significant interaction with the crew, once we got back to the camp each day. Still, these routines are keeping me together enough to complete 1129.2 miles to date – 51.3 miles-per-day.


The early morning chill was beginning to warm gradually, as the sun continued to rise and sunlight spread throughout expansive Texas range. I soon shed my warmup bottoms, wool cap, parka, and warm-up top, and am now running in shorts, a cotton T-shirt with a polypropylene top, and my Exernet cap.


I am also wearing one polypropylene glove on my left hand, and one extra heavy ski mitten on my right. Not that I needed the mitten for the warmth, I just couldn’t fit the glove over the gauze bandage on that hand. I am committed to keeping the gauze on and changing it daily for another five or six days, or at least until the wound heals sufficiently. The wound on my right hand is still wide open – though not very painful; although I do experience some discomfort when I try to do some of the stretching postures that involve putting my palms on the ground.

The most annoying aspect of having the gauze bandages on both hands involves not being able to apply any type of lotion on my body – either sunscreen or calendula ointment. I am totally reliant on Don or Ray to help me with this for now.


There’s still a slight chill in the air, and I was thoroughly enjoying it, especially knowing that severe heat and humidity is expected later today. Each day seems to present a new challenge that must be handled successfully in order to move on to the next challenge. While the constant array of shifting trials could be overwhelming and exhausting, I was beginning to find it exciting and stimulating.


Once the goal of one’s commitment becomes clear and steadfast, any obstacles that appear along the way are opportunities to draw upon skills and resources that often lie buried within us, and don’t appear until we are challenged to come out of our comfort zone. Once one gets to the point where “no more” is not acceptable – anything is possible. It is a matter of passionately drawing from that which you already know; from the resources you haven’t tapped into yet; from the courage to enter into the unknown; and – maybe most importantly – convincing others to be a part of a mission that is bigger than you. Sometimes the initial strategies work, sometimes they don’t. The point is to always keep at it, and never give up – which is not likely to happen if you truly believe in the journey you are on.


What is clear about the Journey – and Life itself – is the constant opportunity to figure out what is working, and what is not, and making the necessary adjustments to keep moving forward.


At 10:08am, we are a little over 4 hours and 14-miles along the way – a modest 3.5-mile-per-hour pace. I’ve begun to pick the pace up a little bit. The sun is rising and the heat is starting to build. The wind is blowing. For a moment I didn’t know if I liked the wind or not – and then I realized that it didn’t matter whether I liked it or not. The conditions of the day are the givens of the day, and my task is to adjust to and deal with “what is”, in order to achieve my goal of covering as many miles as I can each day and to get to the finish line in New York City’s Central Park.


While the heat, humidity and wind are creating some interesting challenges, the vehicular traffic has added to the mix. Cars, trucks, and big semis, are barreling down the highway at over 70 miles per hour; sometimes close to 80 miles per hour. The combination of the howling wind and the speeding traffic as it passes by, often blows my hat or sunglasses off, and sometimes causes me to feel as if as if I’m about to be knocked over.


The situation with my shoes seems to be on the verge of being resolved. My friend Bill Sanders called me to let me know that he contacted New Balance on my behalf. He gave me a number to call and I was able to discuss my situation with a couple of their tech reps. They recommended a specific shoe, in this case the 828’s. The fact that Bill took some action and generated the possibility of a solution within the next three or four days was very calming. There are so many good people contributing to the Journey. I do not want to let them down. All I have to do was to keep focusing on what was most important – moving forward. The team around me has been taking care of everything else.


Today, I have been eating more than usual, perhaps because last night I was so exhausted after the run that I did not eat much at all, and opted to do the ice treatment, get a massage, and go to bed. So today, I am focusing on more frequent small feedings early in the day and letting that carry me through the afternoon heat. I’ve already consumed four rice cake sandwiches, three protein bars, and a bowl of quinoa containing broccoli, zucchini, olive oil, and Bragg’s Aminos. I plan on drinking plenty of Merlin water.


The road surface has changed. The shoulder is now divided in half. The half closest to the traffic is relatively smooth, though I did not want to run there because of the trucks. The other half of the shoulder is composed of gravel that is pressed down onto the asphalt, creating a rather rough running surface. To the extreme right of that, is an 8″ or 9″ strip of black asphalt with a light coating of what feels like tar. I ended up running on this narrow strip of asphalt, because it was smoother than the gravel. At the same time, the surface seemed to both absorb the heat and reflect it back into my body. I wondered how that would affect me later on in the day. It was just 12:22pm. The sun was almost directly overhead, and the heat was already oppressive. Trucks and cars keep whizzing by.


It is neither good nor bad. It is just what is. I am performing a constant one-foot-in-front-of-the-other dance that feels as if I am on a treadmill, going nowhere. I am the heat, and I am the wind; I am the road and I am my mission. The road stretches ahead seemingly to infinity. I am neither in the future nor in the past; I am immersed in the present, moving forward one step at a time. A white T-shirt is wrapped around my head. I am running without a utility belt, just a water bottle in my hand. I am drinking constantly, pouring water on my head and back and keeping the T-shirt on my head soaked with water, which is keeping me cool. I get into a regular routine: Sipping, dousing, moving; sipping dousing, moving; sipping, dousing, moving…


One moment flows into the next. I listen to the sound of my feet making contact with the ground, the gentle rhythmic pitter-patter of rubber-hitting-asphalt, creating a melody of movement. As the earth moves beneath my feet, I let the heat envelope me, become me. I don’t resist it; I accept it, and become part of it.


…and then it is 8:31pm. Thirteen-and-a-half hours into the run. We are at 51.5 miles from the starting line and Ray and I decide we should finish at 52.4 today – a standard double marathon. We passed through Texhoma and Goodwell, ending near Guymon, OK. A big round sunset is happening to my left, in the West; soon we will be heading due north into Kansas.


The day took an unexpected turn, that was all my fault. It happened somewhere just before the Texas-Oklahoma border. I had gotten into a nice rhythm and was moving along comfortably; running without my utility belt, listening to sports talk on a small AM/FM radio that was attached to the back of my running shorts. The motor coach then passed me on its way to find the end-of-day camping spot. I waved at Don and asked him to stop the motor coach for a few minutes so I could get out of the heat and use bathroom. I went inside to relieve myself, and proceeded to sit down on the toilet, forgetting that the radio was clipped to the back of my shorts, and it fell into the toilet. I was unable to use it from that point on. I felt like an idiot. It didn’t take long for me to get over it, but it did unsettle me for a little while.


Then, before I left the motor coach, I asked Laura to organize the bookkeeping so we could overnight it to my home in San Diego, where Mary Beth could review it and have that information ready for potential sponsors. Don overheard me make that request, and was able to immediately tell me the day-to-day operating expenses off the top of his head, which left me stunned and overwhelmed. I hadn’t even thought of how much it cost to keep an enterprise of this nature operating at this level – just the gas alone! Never mind the food, the occasional lodging, fixing the generator, making sure the crew was paid. The costs were enormous.


Between the loss of my radio, and the hearing the financial information – and the effect of having run for 14+ hours-a-day for 22 days – I found myself having a difficult time getting back into the run.


About a mile or two latter we crossed the Texas Oklahoma border. The “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign cheered me up a bit. I called my mom and dad, and had a brief conversation with them. Ray noticed how “off” and seemingly disconnected I had become. He came over to me, gave me a big hug, and helped get me back together.

I drank some water and began heading back down the road. A short time after getting started again, Russ Green, my friend from San Diego, called me. The timing couldn’t have been better. Russ told me that he was reading my book, and that it transformed the way he felt about running; that running was no longer a chore to perform, it was an experience to look forward to. He reminded me of my own words: “The movement is the reward.”


After thanking Russ for sharing that with me, I told him that I was – at the moment – experiencing some challenges. Russ then reminded me: “To focus on the objective and not the obstacle”. I felt empowered by that statement and began moving again, eventually picking up the pace to just under four-miles-an-hour – a slow but sure pace – yet still, some of my strongest running of the day.

By 8:37pm, it is cooling off, and the sense of the accomplishment is beginning to emerge. We are now poised to make our way into Kansas on the 24th day of our Journey Across America. Once again, we had a successful day on the road and we are confident that we will be make our way through the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and into Kansas in less than three days, in spite of the record setting heat.


My lesson today is that it is easy to find things in life that aren’t working and allow them to be roadblocks in your way, but – as Russ communicated to me – if you keep your focus on the outcome and not the obstacle, your dreams can still become reality.