Sunday, September 9, 2012

RAAoT Wrap-up - Part 7 (Days 49-58)

Day 49 - 18 miles on road, 27 miles on trail
The best day in Iowa! 27 miles on the Raccoon River Valley Trail ( - one of the finest rail trails in the country. And to boot the trail is part of the American Discovery Trail (!!! Additionally, Jen saw her first live raccoons on the trail just south of Panora! It was another hot day, but we did have some shade on the great trail for a number of miles. Local ultrarunner David Frank - who was cycling the trail - noted our running and he slowed to talk to Jen and I for a bit late in the day. It was good to talk to David. Next time your travels take you to Des Moines, IA make time to enjoy the trail!!!

Day 50 - 15 miles of road, 28 miles of trail
Super Solar Radiation Blast Batman! Another hot day - especially the afternoon - but we did have some shade on the Des Moines bike trails earlier in the day thankfully. And you have to love a trail that runs right by McDonalds! Trail users are also afforded good views of the Iowa state capital, but make sure you wear your sunblock if you are going to be out on the open trail for long on a hot summer day!

Day 51 - 45 miles of road (27 miles of gravel), 0 miles of trail
Blast Furnace! Another hot day - no surprise there. Not much of great interest to mention about the day, but Jen and I had just met with Steph and my parents who had stopped in some shade - because that is what any sane person would on this day - so we were ahead of the crew vehicles at mile 21 when we came across this bridge. I knew the bridge was there as I remember crossing the bridge on the pre-Run and noting a number of folks fishing from the bridge. What I don't recall is seeing a sign that said "Weight Limit - 3 Tons". HMMM - the Roadrunner probably weighs around three tons. I wasn't too concerned since the Roadrunner crossed the bridge safely on the pre-Run, but my mom reported that the bridge groaned mightily when the Roadrunner crossed. Four miles later we meet up with a dog that ran with us for about two miles before the dog was lured into the Roadrunner and driven back to his presumed home.

Day 52 - 46 miles of road (34 miles of gravel), 0 miles of trail
The longest day of the Run to date - and the second longest day of the Run in total - began in the middle of nowhere where we finished day 51. All indications at the start pointed to the day being Blast Furnace II - The Slightly Cooler Sequel. It was not to be. We continued running east from the start with the low sun in the sky in our eyes, but around mile 4 or so the sun was blocked by clouds. Then, more and more cloud cover appeared and the sky actually darkened. Hallelujah!!! We enjoyed near complete cloud cover for most of the day - very nice indeed. The incident of the day was Steph's SUV settling into the mud on the side of the road. Thankfully a super local farmer pulled the SUV from the muck and everyone continued on their way. We had an excellent dinner at a local restaurant (Kalona family Restaurant I believe) - huge plates of food at very inexpensive prices. Today was the third time in 11 days - and the third time on the Run - that we ended the day right at our hotel.

Day 53 - 42 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
Not much to add to the blogs posts; clouds provided relief again and Jen ran ahead of me most of the day finishing about 8 minutes before I did. Hindsight is always 20/20, but another good option for the day would have been to run 39.5 miles and finish right at the AmericInn in Muscatine.

Day 54 - 30 miles of road, 10 miles of trail
Early this day we rejoined the American Discovery Trail ( which we had left the morning of day 50. I note that the American Discovery Trail uses lots of miles of road since there is not a way to cross America on a continuous coast-to-coast trail - but maybe some day there will be!!! Additionally, if the American Discovery Trail (ADT) was interested in the shortest distance between two points the RAAoT route and the ADT route would have remained the same in eastern Iowa, but the ADT is routed to use a maximum amount of trail and a minimum amount of road, so distance is not really an issue for the ADT. We actually ran onto actual trail this fine day at mile 21. We ran a mile on the Riverfront Trail in Iowa and then crossed the mighty Mississippi River. Jen wrote in her blog, "The river was much wider than I’d expected and really impressive." According to Wikipedia, the Mighty Mississippi drains part or all of 31 states and is the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world. I have seen the "Big River" at flood stage from the bluffs of Memphis (I note that Memphis is referred to as the Bluff City) and the sight was amazing. Basically all I saw was water everywhere - with the exception of the two bridges (I-40 and I-55) that cross the Mississippi at Memphis, but I digress. Shortly after we crossed the Mississippi Jen and I jumped onto the Great River Trail for six miles, and after another section of road we joined the Hennepin Canal Parkway Trail for the final two miles of the 40 mile day.  Corky kept us in high spirits this day by surprising us with an outstanding aid station at mile 17 at the western edge of Davenport, then meeting us again at the bottom of the Centennial Bridge as we entered Illinois, meeting us three miles later with hot fried chicken, and then meeting us a fourth time as we entered her home town of East Moline. Later we all assembled for a nice dinner at Applebees. A fine day indeed!!!

Day 55 - 0 miles of road, 44 miles of trail
Another hot day, but Jen and I ran well aided by a small amount of shade provided by the trail throughout the day. The trail was great! Marty joined us for most of the day either riding his bike with Jen and I or meeting us at crew stops. Jen and I ran together until about mile 25 when I fell back to a longer crew stop. I was slowly making up ground on Jen when a blister forced me to a walk - the first blister of the Run to do so. I note that - thankfully - I didn't pick up many blisters primarily due to my use of Sport Shield every day. And for the only time in the Run I stopped at the crew vehicles to lance the offending blister while running the stage. Oh bother, I became a really cranky runner for the first time in the Run when I failed to lance the offending blister. As I continued down the trail the pain lessened and I slowly resumed running. A few miles later I reached the Hennepin Canal Vistor Center. It was good to step into the air conditioning and say HI to the great folks there. I only left a half gallon or so of sweat on the concrete floor before leaving. Yes I exaggerated - only a few ounces of sweat dripped off me while I refueled in the air conditioning before I stepped out into the heat to run the last eight miles of the day in which I finished 8 minutes behind Jen again. We saw a good amount of wildlife this day, and Jen also saw a muskrat!

Day 56 - 17 miles of road, 26 miles of trail
Unfortunately, the Hennepin Canal Towpath and the Illinois & Michigan (I & M) Towpath Trail don't connect, so Jen and I had to run some road to get from one trail to the next. We ran right about the same pace as the day before with Jen moving ahead of me at mile 30 when I stopped for aid. This was my worst day of the Run for blisters which were most assuredly caused by the high humidity. I blogged that," I was happy with how I ran fighting off blister and foot pain and the heat and humidity." We all enjoyed a Cracker Barrel dinner later - another restaurant first for Jen. This was the fourth day on the Run that we ended the day right at our hotel - which I note wasn't the best hotel of the trip, but not the worst either.

Day 57 - 0 miles of road, 41 miles of trail
The second toughest weather day of the Run took its toll on me - even with shade provided in places on the trail. I had to back off the pace at mile 24 and Jen went ahead - eventually finishing the day 12 minutes ahead of me. More great trail, but I have to admit it was tough to fully enjoy the trail on the challenging day. Karen was back with us as we ended the day just a few miles from the Doyle homestead!!! I spent my first night in a house - in fact it was the first time just stepping foot in a house - since spending the night of May 2nd or 3rd at Marty and Donna's place in Davenport, IA on the pre-Run. Super spaghetti dinner!!! Jen and I both weighed ourselves and we were both down quite a bit of weight. I don't know what my exact weight was when I left home in April, but Karen's two scales weighed me in at 161ish - hence I was down nearly 40 pounds in 100 days. I note that I just weighed myself here at home and the scale says I now weigh 176 pounds as I am still consuming plenty of calories daily three weeks after finishing the Run.

Day 58 - 14 miles of road, 27 miles of trail
Thankfully thunderstorms came through the area early this morning which dropped the temperature down significantly and provided some nice cloud  cover for most of the day. On the negative side, the humidity was near 100%, but no complaints. After finishing the last five and a half miles of the I & M Canal Trail we ran a couple miles of roads through Joliet to reach the Old Plank Road Trail, an outstanding paved rail trail. Besides being crewed excellently by Steph, Karen, and my parents, Rich Limacher (aka The Troubador) and Debbie Jones joined us for 30 miles and 20 miles respectively this day. The time passed quite quickly with new friends to talk to and before we knew it we were passing into Indiana where we ended the day for the fifth time on the Run at our hotel - this time going upscale and stopping at the Holiday Inn Express. Having stopped a little early I decided this was the day to get my second and final haircut of the Run - the haircut to get me to the finish.
As an aside, a week ago Chris Finill posted a link in the Facebook USA Crosser group to a movie made on the US crossing completed by the British duo of Chris Finill and Steve Pope in 2011. I smiled when I noted that Chris and Steve crossed into Indiana and had their picture taken in front of the same Welcome to Indiana sign at which Jen and I stopped. I smiled again when they stopped at the same Fleet Feet Sports I visited to replace my stock of Sport Shield. Chris was given a free pair of shoes by the store. I guess I should have let the store know that I was running across the country - maybe the store would have given me free Sport Shield roll-on bottles!

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