As I try to unlock the simultaneous calf and double quad cramps that fired up when I hit the ground following a downhill trip, I'm beginning to realize that things aren't going well. After all I'm barely 22 miles into this race, I've already gone off course a few miles after AS2 and I have a blister on my right heel. After a few minutes I manage to get up but the muscles that just cramped are so sore I'm hobbling down the hill hoping to get to the next aid station where I can cool off and change my shoes and socks.
I've literally been in steam rooms that were cooler and less humid than it was here in Pennsylvania during this race. I planned for heat but nothing prepared me for this. I was taking salt and drinking about 2 litres of fluid per hour and wasn't keeping up with my sweat rate. I was dripping wet from head to toe for the majority of the race. To make matters worse the course to this point was far more technical than I anticipated, making each mile very long. After changing my shoes at mile 25 my feet felt better but I was reduced to a short-step walk to prevent cramps. On my way to the next AS I had just peed for the first time in the race and it was quite dark so at 38 miles I decided to sit at the Aid Station for a prolonged stop to take salt, food and fluids and try to get my stuff back together. I probably stayed here for 40 minutes or more and eventually decided to walk out and make my way to the Hyner AS at mile 43, where Iuli and the kids would be. I also figured the car would be there so I had a ride back to the start/finish. I was done. Or so I thought. The first half of this section was on a powerline fully exposing us to the sun. Probably the hottest section yet. I walked. Finally I got back into the woods for a 3 mile downhill. I start jogging but the quads are aching and I'm not optimistic. All of a sudden I hear a hiss and a rattle. I look ahead 10 feet and a large black rattlesnake is on the trail and sounding pissed. I freeze. I make some noise and hope he'll move far enough off the trail so I can go by. He doesn't. Two runners come up from behind and suggest we bushwack around. 'Stay the f*// away from it' is exactly what he said. Finally I come out to a road in Hyner park and start running. As I run down this road I'm starting to feel much better. The aches are gone. I'm not feeling as cramps and I just had my second clear pee. He'll yeah. Maybe I can do this thing.
I finally see Iuli up the road and she runs me in to see the kids. They've been waiting 5 hours for me. Needless to say that I'm way off my target pace. I sit for 10 minutes and eat and drink before heading up a big climb. I'm feeling a little better and optimistic. By the time I summit at 51 mile AS I'm back where I was. Cramps. I've got alien spasms going on in my calves, very cool looking. While I'm sitting at this station, which is not quite halfway, a freak thunder storm comes in and downpours about 2 inches of rain in 10 minutes and nearly flips the whole aid station upside down. The temperature drops immediately and now I'm freezing. Go figure. Luckily I had packed my jacket despite everyone laughing at me. Who's laughing now. Not me unfortunately. The storm breaks. I've been sitting for about 30 minutes and decide to move on. As I leave and stomp through the river that the trail has become, my legs are once again too sore to run on. Once again, I quit..in my head. I did the math. My pace was like 2mph and I had 50 miles left. 25 more hours of this shit was not sounding good. No thanks. I finally make the Halfway house AS at 53.5m. Drop bags, finally. It was now like 15.5 hours, about 5 hours behind schedule and I'm wrecked. I rinse out my dirty shoes and socks and flip the socks inside out because for some reason I hadn't put any in this drop bag.
This is where Mark Frey aka 68 and I began to run together. We'd been leapfrogging each other for a few legs but as night fell we both like the idea of having company. I started tripling my salt intake from 2 tabs an hour to 6 or so. I kept taking lots of fluid and I got my cramps under control for the rest of the race. I found out later that this amount of salt intake was pretty normal among the runners who faired well. After this next aid station mark was running in front of me when he spotted another rattlesnake sticking it's head out on the trail. Mark had gone by the snake. I had not. The bushes were quite thick here and Mark indicates that there are often more. Hmm. I start stomping through the bushes hoping I don't step on or near another one. Holy crap. That freaked me out. Mark was kind enough to wait up. From here Mark and I did the brutal steady grind from AS to AS. Our feet slowly degraded. Blisters grew until we finally got a foot doc to fix us up at 84m. From 60m on we moved slow and stopped at least 15 mins in each AS but we knew that we could make it. The math wasn't pretty and the miles ticked off slowly through the night but we were making progress. My massive lights were a huge blessing as I wasn't tripping over the technical terrain. We were covering about 3 mph with our stops. My feet were on fire and when we realize we can break 30 hours we pick it up a bit. We are both suffering. The last mile is straight down. It went like this: ouch, ouch, ouch...please make it stop!! And just like that we were out on the road staring at the finish line. Easy. Yeah right.