Tuesday, September 18, 2012

LAVS 500K: Tales From the Road [ Part 2 ]

Day 2: McKenzie to Parsons.
Wherein I manage to...Run all 58 out of 50 miles; eat lunch in a nice restaurant; receive homemade granola from total strangers (and inspiration from Carl); get questioned by the police (for the first time); purchase a soda from a space machine; meet Richard Westbrook along the never-ending road of construction;

Days two and three were probably the two most memorable days of the entire run (Gee...even as I write that I wonder if it's a lie). I know I was still flying high from the overwhelming sense of adventure of just being at Vol State. I still could barely believe I was even there, amidst the company I was in. It's hard to describe the sense of absolute freedom this race gives you. It's intoxicating and empowering. I felt invincible!

I woke up Friday morning and tried to get out of the room as early as I could. What should have been a 5:00 a.m. start became a 6:00 a.m. start. I was two blocks off-course, and had to go back to the 4-way intersection to start my day. I stopped at a donut store and ordered 2 apple fritters and coffee, and marvelled at the luxury of being able to eat like this. It's practically reason enough in itself to run Vol State.

I then do an incredibly stupid thing.  I arrive at the 4-way intersection where I (purposefully) went off course the night before in order to get to the motel, and I proceed to cross the street and start running. What in god's name made me think I was going the right direction is beyond me. But I felt goood, dammit! Fueled by fritters and hitting my stride at 4 mph, I had my directions in hand, and I was lost in my own world- reliving the memories from the previous day. To my credit, I looked at my directions occassionally. But each time that I did, I found no obvious landmarks with which to verify I was on course. Imagine that.

After a while (as in an HOUR) I came to a bridge  with a fairly large creek running under it. I thought that had to be on my map. I started looking for blue on my map, anything that might show me what creek this was. Then it hit me. Oh... my.... god. What if I had gone the wrong way? Omg, omg, please say no, no, no...no...Noooooo!

Shit. I totally went the wrong way.

My thought process then went something like this:

Be cool.
Don't even think about it.
Just head back and think of nothing.
Don't even call in to Carl until you're back on course.
Consider not even telling anyone about this.

As soon as I turn back and start running, the first billboard ad I came to mocked me: "Brandon Heating & Air Conditioning in McKenzie...Just 4 Miles!!" Ha ha. Very funny. I'm sure someday this will make a great story. But for now, I am a little upset at how good I am running and how it is for absolutely nothing.

I checked my watch more frequesntly as the 7:30 a.m. call in time approached. There was no way in HELL I was calling in and saying, "I've been off course since 6:00 a.m. but hey! I should be back at my STARTING POINT any time now." That was not going to happen. So I sped up even as I vowed not to call Carl until I could say I was on course and say something vague like "leaving McKenzie".

Picture courtesy of Carl Laniak, who got a kick out of the
fact I strayed off course for 4 miles and still caught John Price
Finally, back at the 4-way intersection at 8:00 a.m. and I text Carl. I go in to the gas station and verify which way I should be running. I should have taken a left originally. Fucking-A.

 But here's another funny thing...I'm back on course for only about a mile, and I swear I see what has to be a Vol Stater up in the distance. Yes! The closer I get, the more I am SURE it's a fellow runner. Finally, I come upon John Price!

We hang out for a bit and I do tell him of my misadventure, and I'm laughing about it, so, when a few minutes later Laz and Carl appear, I go ahead and tell them I went off course for 4 miles before I called in earlier. They seemed to enjoy hearing the stories of the runners, and I was happy to oblige.

John and I ran for a while together. Ran, walked, mostly walked, and right around 11:00 am we headed into Huntingdon. He knew of a really good restaurant that most people overlooked. As we approached it, we saw it was closed but we decided to wait 15 minutes for them to open. It was so worth it!

The next 7 hours or so were fairly uneventful. I can't remember if I had blisters already or not. I think I did, and I think it was this day where I spent a fair amount of time trying to find some bandaid combo to fix them up. But in the end, I gave up and when my feel let me, I would get some good running in, and when they hurt I would walk.

I remember I was near Lexington, mile 92, as I was coming up to the 7:30 p.m. call in time. I had already decided I would push on to Parsons that night. When I texted in to Carl where I was and that I planned to keep moving, his response was awesome! He told me I was in 7th place!! He said I had covered more miles so far than he did on his first Vol State!! Holy crap!! He was cheering me on! I really felt great and I was so excited about moving on through the night.

Around 8PM I was walking through a neighborhood and this guy came out from his house and he knew I was one of the Vol State runners somehow. It was amazing! He was offering me Gatorade, or food or anything I needed. He was so polite, too! He said his wife was there so if I wanted to come in and use the bathroom or get water, it would be OK.  Then his wife came outside, carrying a bag of homemade granola and another bag of dried fruit. She gave them to me, and wished me luck in the race. It was so cool.

I stopped at a gas station next, to load up on water and food for the next stretch. This time, I looked for beer ahead of time, thinking I would really want one when I was ready to stop and there may not be a convenience store open in Parsons near the motel. So I bought a 22 oz. Heineken (not much to choose from) and it fairly took up all the room in my pack*. I didn't have a lot of other fluids as I set out. 

As I left the gas station, I knew I was passing the 100-mile mark. I ran for a little while, but the sidewalk was awful to run on, and the road was full of traffic. It got frustrating. I decided to take a break and give Charles a call to update him on the adventures of the day. It was dark now, and I sat on the curb on the side of the road to call. Just as I was talking to Charles, a cop car rolls up to me. I instinctively knew the cop thought I was homeless, or possibly waiting for my dealer. I told Charles what was happening, and that I would leave him on the phone to listen in.

Sure enough, this lady cop gets out of the car, and she has this look, like OK, let's move it along here bum lady. She's pretty aggressive and tells me to stand up and keep my hands where she can see them. She asks me if I have ID. I tell her yes, and that I'm in a 300-mile race across the state of TN. I ask her if she's seen any of the other runners come through. I show her the flag on my pack and tell her she can identify us by our U.S. flags.  As I tell her more, including how I'm in 7th place overall, she totally changes her attitude, and seems all happy for me. She tells me I'm amazing and she wishes me luck.

I move on, happily, through the night.


From: Carl Laniak [mailto:carl.laniak@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, July 13, 2012 9:31 PM
To: Volstate List; ultra List
Subject: vol state (36 hour) runner status
Through an intricate and unpredictable series of choreographed footsteps,
each of the runners has arrived at the exact spot where they should be at this point in space and time.
This 36 hour update shows a list of beauty, to those who know of these things....
NO ONE has quit yet.
Unless you count the handful of times that each of the runners has vowed, internally, that they are *definitely* quitting!
But none of them has followed through on that promise to themselves.
They are all (from the first to the last) pushing beyond the point of discomfort now.
Searching, and finding, *something* out on the roads as they head into the dark of the second night.
1) Paul Lefelhocz 107 down to sleep
2) Joshua Holmes 104 moving
3) Dan Fox 103 moving
4) Jay Dobrochewski 103 moving
5) Juli Aistars 100 moving
6) Thomas Mikkelson 96 moving
7) Psyche Wimberly 94 moving
8) Richard Westbrook 93 moving
9) Sal Coll 92 stopped
10) Jan Silverman 92 stopped
11) Sulaiman Seriki 92 stopped
12) Charlie Taylor 92 stopped
13) Abi Meadows 92 stopped
14) John Price 88 moving
15) Sherry Meador 86 moving
16) Rita Barnes 84 stopped
17) Dusty Hardman 84 stopped
18) Shannon Burke 84 stopped
19) Erika/Adam (now a relay) 83 moving
20) Fred Davis 80 moving thru clarksburg
21) Mike Melton 68 stopped
22) Diane Taylor 63 moving
23) Marvin Skagerberg 54 moving
24) Oprah 53 moving well

Around midnight, I run out of food. Then water. Then energy. I am bonking big time. I am on a road that has all this construction and I kind of remember it from the van ride down- but the construction seems like it is going on for freaking ever. It's disorienting, and time just crawls by. I try to run, but walk far more than anything else.

Up ahead I see something like a building and hope/ pray for a soda machine or some sort of vending machine. It seems many of the building along the road have them. It's not too far fetched to hope for one.

I get closer, and I see that it IS a vending machine!! I cross the street and walk over to it. It's surreal how bright and shiny it is, here in the middle of nowhere. It's like it doesn't belong here. I fumble around for money and I finally- in what seems like hours later- get a dollar bill out and insert it in to the machine. But then I can't figure out what thing you do to order a drink. It's as if I'm looking at the machine but there's a delay in what's translated to my brain. I begin to wonder why this machine looks so new and shiny, like maybe technology's been updated since I last used a machine like this, and now I don't know how they work.  Maybe it's super simple, I think, like advanced technology sometimes is. Yeah, you probably just push the giant picture of the soda you want. OMG! What if I do that and my hand goes right through the machine???? How cool would that be???  I bet I stared at the luscious pictures of Coke, Diet Coke, Aquafina, and Dr. Pepper for a very long time indeed as I contemplated just how to communicate to a Coke machine of the future.

Wait, I thought. How do you communicate to Coke machines of the past? There's probably a clue there. Aren't you supposed to push a button or something and a coke drops down to the bottom of the machine? Oh, god, I hope math isn't involved- what if I have to match up the drink labeled D2 with a button labeled D2 in order to get Dr. Pepper? Shit. I'm not sure I'm up to that.

I start laughing maniacly because on one level I'm aware I'm totally tripping on this machine, but I also know I can't do anything else but stay with it until I figure out how to get the Dr. Pepper out of the machine. I'm fairly desperate by now, so I start feeling the machine with my hands, hoping my fingers will run in to some clue. Just in case, I press down with my hands over the picture of Dr. Pepper. I half expect it to work. I marvel at how the plastic bends inward...but, alas, no drink is forthcoming. I wonder if this is how stupid people feel. I hope not. I hope they are blissfully unaware of their shortcomings.

I no longer remember how I figured out how to get the drink out of the machine, but I finally did get a drink. I was so thirsty! It's funny that I never once thought to get more than one drink. I just sat there, enjoying the hell out of the one drink I managed to score.

As if this weren't weird enough, suddenly I see someone walking across the street towards me! At first I was scared. Then I realized it has to be a Vol State runner! For a brief moment, I feel embarrassed and wonder if perhaps he's been watching me as I took the better part of the evening to purchase a soda. He gets closer, and suddenly I recognize Richard Westbrook!

I'm so out of it, I don't really know how to handle this new social situation, so I kind of wander off, leaving him to figure the machine of the future out for himself. I do chuckle to myself just a little bit at how long it seems to take him.

As we head down the road, we make small talk and this small stretch of road surprisingly contains one of the strongest memories I have from Vol State- The road we're on has a net elevation loss, and the stars are so bright against the night sky. I'm blown away by the beauty and simple pleasure of just walking down the road into the stars, with a soda and the night breeze to cool me off.  I find out Richard is from Georgia, and I mention that Charles is from Georgia, too. Then I ask if he's with GUTS.  I think I say something like, "It seems like most ultrarunners from there join GUTS." And he says, "I'm not much of a joiner." Now, it was just the way he said it. I thought it was the coolest answer ever. In that moment, I thought I knew all I ever needed to know about Richard Westbrook**.

To be continued.....

Next up- I am bested by Sonic, then it rains and my feet are destroyed. Naresh saves my race.

* For those of you wondering why I didn't just drink that 22 oz. Heineken I was carrying around, well, I tried. It was just too disgusting to drink warm Heine in the state I was in. 

** Only later did I learn what a legend Richard is. He's so legendary, he's Schick-like:))


  1. Psyche, this is so funny. Just a little chemical and sleep deprivation and we are on another planet.Great story. Long live Multiday running.

  2. Psyche,

    I so enjoy reading your "parts" :) Keep 'em coming. You are good!