Days 40-46: A Week of Wild Weather

Due to a lack of internet access recently, I have been unable to post anything.  This has caused a large backlog of posts and so I am going to split them up into two longer posts.

In the past week I have experienced more extreme weather than in the previous 22 years of my life. We travelled from Socorro, New Mexico to Brownfield, Texas, seemingly desert-ish areas but experienced snow and sub-freezing temperatures for over a week straight. We did not see the sun for over a week, and being from California, I noticed its absence. This week we were in Roswell, stayed for three nights in a hotel and another two in a middle school gym. We arrived in Roswell on the 24th of February, and I was immediately struck by how the city really embraced the alien theme. Almost every window had an alien sticker or an alien looking out at the street and every other store was an alien/UFO souvenir shop.

The next day, most of the group went to the UFO Museum that had so much information about the different theories of what happened in 1947 in Roswell. There were also many displays about other conspiracy theories and UFOs and IFOs (identified flying objects) and alien stories going back to ancient civilizations. It was a very unique place and I learned so much about alien-lore and what many people believe to be true about our universe. After spending some time in the museum, my boys (Bryce, Rob, and Alex) were hungry and so we went to Buffalo Wild Wings to pick up some grub for them. While waiting for the food, Bryce offered to buy me a beer as thanks for driving them around all day. However, when I was asked for my ID, the bartender claimed they could not accept it because it is a vertical ID and in New Mexico those only belong to people under 21. Even after speaking with a manager and showing how obvious it was that I was turning 23 in a few days, they continued to refuse to serve me, stating a New Mexico Buffalo Wild Wings policy. Needless to say, that was my first and last time ever in a Buffalo Wild Wings.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015 dawned very cold. Freezing rain pummeled the runners all 26 miles, immediately forming sheets of ice on the fronts their jackets and pants. Several runners had to stop for at least 20 minutes in the truck to warm up enough to prevent any hypothermia from developing. It was incredible to watch them all finally finish, beating the elements and rightfully looking extremely proud of tackling the weather head on and coming out very successfully.

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Fortunately, that night we were still staying in the Holiday Inn Roswell and when we got back to the hotel the runners all made a beeline for the hot tub. That night was colder than the previous day, turning the precipitation into snow, which filled up the empty bed of the truck. Unfortunately, we also had to pack up that morning, so I was out at six in the morning shoveling snow out of the truck bed with my little cooking pot. That was not really how I expected to spend the beginning of my first snow day ever. The runners ran through Roswell that day and were supposed to have a huge school visit with up to a couple thousand elementary age kids, but they had a snow day, unlike us. With the fresh powder blanketing every road and Roswell not being very prepared for the snow, I quickly learned how to drive over snow and ice. Fortunately, Bryce, who rides shotgun, is from Michigan and offered much great advice and felt very free to let me know whenever he thought I was doing something wrong (which I appreciated). After my morning shoveling snow in the 15 degree cold, I was very disenchanted with it and didn’t really want to enjoy it, but aid station one was located at a very large parking lot covered in a few inches of untouched beauty. I had the time of my life running around, spinning in circles, making snowballs and generally romping around in the snow. Although it wasn’t more than 20 degrees, I was sweating after 15 minutes. It was really truly incredible. Unfortunately, because of the amount of snowfall and how quickly it turned to ice on the roads, HWY 380 (the road we are on for about 400 miles) was closed from Roswell to the New Mexico/Texas border. The road was closed at about mile 19 for that day and in the end, the race director decided the best decision was to call it at mile 19 and make up the remaining 7 miles in the consecutive days. At this point, it was 7 degrees with the windchill and I saw many cars sliding around on the ice. Rob said he saw a truck try to pass another car and spin out into a ditch only about 100 yards in front of him. I was driving very slowly and very cautiously, don’t worry Robin, your truck is in great hands! Because the day was called early, there was more time that afternoon to explore and Garrett, Andrea and I went into downtown and discovered an awesome game shop where you can test play board games before you decide to buy them. We also visited a very homey café, Stellar Café that was recommended to us by some friends, Shacky and Vanessa Runs. They are crewing for Pat and Jup, who began the run with us but then decided to continue their journey independently. Anyways, Stellar Café was so cozy with great couches to relax on and I had a wonderful mocha. Garrett was also delighted to find an acoustic guitar he could play.

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The next morning, we awoke to continued road closures at the New Mexico Department of Transportation worked to salt the roads enough to melt the large amounts of ice that had refrozen over night. Adding to that, race director Sandy and Darren Van Soye’s car had been broken into with a rock thrown through the window. Nothing of major value was taken, but two windows were broken adding another burden to an already frustrating day. Eventually they were able to get the windows covered and the roads opened up at 12:30 so the runners were able to get in another 19 miles that day.

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With only two days remaining in New Mexico, the runners now needed to complete 60 miles. These miles were split amongst the two days, essentially creating two 50ks to finish off New Mexico. The first day was March 1st. As usual, I was in charge of aid station 2 and decided to give the runners a little distraction to take their mind off of the distance for a few minutes. Because there was still an enormous amount of snow on the side of the road, I spent about half an hour making snowballs and I found an empty water bottle to place on top of a fence that was about 30 yards off the road. Each runner was given five snowballs to knock the water bottle off the fence. If they were successful, I would make them any baked good of their choice. I also found a bucket on the side of the road and added to the game an option to throw a snowball into the bucket placed across the road. At the end of the day, the impressive shooters turned out to be Newton and Jessica, who both made snowballs into the bucket. No one hit the water bottle off the fence (other than me) and Bryce hit the fence pole on his first try, but he came through my aid station before I had created the water bottle game.

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March 2nd, the last day in New Mexico, was also my birthday! Another 30-mile day for the runners, but with a rest day in sight to ease the distance. There was a wind, but it was a tailwind, helping the runners but still freezing the support team. I was honored with the chance to wear the birthday boa and tiara that Nancy had gotten for her birthday in February. The tiara was made for a small child and there was no way it was fitting on my head, but I wore the boa while assisting the runners at aid station 2. The wind caused it to blow every which way, but it brought a smile to the runners’ faces as they came through mile 14 of 30, which I am always ecstatic to be able to accomplish.

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Since it was the last day of New Mexico, the core team went to dinner to celebrate the state as well as my birthday. I had the opportunity to pick the restaurant, although there are not many choices in Brownfield, Texas. We ended up going to a place called Italian Garden that had good pasta and awesome garlic rolls. At the end of dinner, my family surprised me with a cake that Andrea had helped coordinate the purchase of for them. It was a wonderful surprise and reminded me how lucky I am to have my family. This was also my first birthday away from my entire family; I’ve always at least had either my mom or my sister Montana in Los Angeles with me. So this cake was a nice reminder of the incredible and loving family I have back in California. Therefore I would like to end this post with a shout out to them, thank you mom, Mo and Cody for supporting me through this adventure and for being there for me when I need you. I really appreciate you guys.

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Day 32-39: New Mexico and My First Snow!

Today is a rest day; much needed after eight straight days of marathons from the runners.  Especially after yesterday’s stage where an unexpected snow storm hit in the first few miles, prompting the runners to contact us, the support, for more layers.  Bryce in particular reached out to me and I delivered the much needed clothes.  When he came into the first aid station, several miles later, he immediately ran up to me, gave me a big hug, and called me his savior.  It pleases me to know and see that I am really helping these incredible runners on their journey.

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Barefoot Alex, the Abominable Snowman

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This week we were joined by the amazing David Warady, winner of the 1992 Transcontinental Race, and the awesome Jesse Riley, who directed the ’92 transcon along with many others. They came out for four days to offer support to the runners during the stages and to offer advice to every member of the team, including us support staff. It was a great experience getting to hang out with them and hear their stories and absorb as much of their wisdom as possible. Their support has been invaluable thus far and I am honored to have them as a resource should I have any questions or concerns down the road. I also know that for the runners it was so wonderful to have two more faces cheering them on. Jesse and David’s enthusiasm really helped them through some mentally tough New Mexico stages where there was not much aesthetically to look at and boredom spread like the plague. New faces along the route really helped to counter that boredom.

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David Warady and Me

This past week has also been full of weather that this Cali girl is not used to. Each morning we wake up to freezing temperatures and I am constantly grateful to be sleeping inside (we have been staying in a middle school gym for the past five nights). One morning we arrived at the start line to notice the cars were saying it was fifteen degrees Fahrenheit.  Which was lower than anything I had ever experienced before.  Yesterday was additional weather that I was unaccustomed to.  At the start line, it was 28 degrees and clear, but within a few minutes of starting, the snow began to fall.  At first, I was unsure what to make of this new precipitation and I pretty much just stared at it in wonder and awe.  Then I became more excited and animated in exploring this beautiful part of Mother Nature.  Fortunately it did not stick to the ground, which would have made the road more precarious for the runners, but it did require a little more bundling.  After a few more miles, the snow stopped  but the wind picked up, with a seventeen degree windchill biting through all of my layers.  At the finish the 30 mph headwind forced all of the runners to persevere through the toughest conditions thus far and the looks of triumph and self-pride when they finished were so awesome to witness.  Fortunately that rough stage was the last before a rest day and so today they are taking it easy, giving their bodies some much needed rest.

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Garrett and Me, Keeping Warm

So, we find ourselves hanging out in a splendid little coffee shop, M Mountain, listening to Garrett play guitar, drinking great coffee, and utilizing wifi, which is becoming more difficult to come across as we continue through small, rural areas.  Tomorrow, we will travel to Roswell, New Mexico and I am excited to see the UFO Museum and other alien artifacts.  I have also heard that there is a tribute to Robert Goddard in the area, and as an Aerospace Engineer, he is epic.  I will definitely be taking a lot of pictures.  I have begun to use my DSLR more and have had a lot of fun playing around with it will at the different aid stations. I hope to continue to learn more from it and take interesting pictures to forever document this incredible experience!

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Barefoot Alex is a VLA

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VLA: Very Large Array

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Happy Finishers Bryce and Linda

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Marathon Man UK AKA Robert Young

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Did Lightning Strike this Tree?

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Crossing the Rio Grande

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Us Assistants Like to Run Too

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Crossing the Continental Divide!

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Days 23-31: Through Arizona and Beyond

We have finally made it out of Arizona and into New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment”. We spent our last four nights in the small border town of Springerville, Arizona and will be spending tonight in the even smaller town of Quemado, New Mexico. The second half of Arizona went much smoother than the first, with the new, smaller team settling into a new rhythm. However, it seems that although several people have left the team and most people have sent stuff home, my truck continues to be packed to the brim with duffels and backpacks. Somehow, I believe that everyone’s stuff is growing.

The coolest part of Arizona was definitely the last stage. Because of the distance across the state, the last day was only 7.8 miles, which did not require any aid stations. This gave Andrea, Garrett and me the chance to run with the runners! It was such an incredible experience (and at about 8 miles, just the right distance for me). I had the opportunity to run with four of the core team at various points in the stage, which was such an honor. (Garrett made a phenomenal video of the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpNl1OPyiUY&feature=youtu.be) Additionally, the three of us got bibs and my number was 213 and we ran the stage on February 13th! To top off a great day, when we arrived back at the hotel that we stayed at, we found roses from Ted Bennett, the amazing husband of core runner Nancy Bennett. It was so lovely to come back to such a beautiful gesture!

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Today is the second stage of New Mexico and we will be finishing these 26.2 miles in Pie Town! And yes, they do have pie. Normally the shops are not open during the winter, but Race Director Sandy called ahead weeks in advance to ensure that one of the shops could be open for us to get a taste of the local delicacies. It will be such a special treat for the runners, especially because the finish line is right at the door of this shop, so they won’t even have to wait before enjoying the fresh pies.

Tomorrow we will be crossing the Continental Divide in the first ten miles at an altitude of about 7900 ft (we have been cruising between 6800 and 7600 for the past week).  Andrea, Garrett and I are hoping to get a chance to hike part of the Continental Divide trail. I am also looking forward to a change in scenery because (with the exception of the Mongollan Rim) we have in in deserts and plains for far too long. I’m excited to see some forests, which we are supposed to be traveling through soon.

Beyond the Continental Divide, I do not know what awaits us. New Mexico marks the first of many states I have not been to before and I am thrilled to be seeing new places and new cultures. Although this is technically the Southwest, we are traveling through many small towns that are mostly south. All of the bars/sports bars we have been to have been one of the following: total honkytonks where karaoke consists of old school country songs, and me not being a country fan I cannot name any examples off the top of my head. The other bars have been saloon-style dives with mechanical bulls and trucks that make my Tacoma look like a child’s toy lined up outside. However, at each of these places I have had the opportunity to work on my pool and darts game. I have to say there is the possibility for me to become decent at pool with a lot of practice, but darts is a hopeless cause. I fail to even make the darts stick into the board nine times out of ten.

We had a celebratory dinner for completing Arizona at one of these places, the Waterhole, in Springerville. It had been recommended as the best barbecue joint in Arizona and I have to believe that is correct. I have never had better brisket and the pulled pork was melt-in-your-mouth divine. As a huge meat fan, I am an absolute lover of barbecue. Which is why the southern route we are taking is going to be awesome. I’m going to get SO MUCH BARBECUE! I’m believe I’m going to end up having an unplanned barbecue tour as well. Maybe it will go better than the coffee tour for which I have only been to one local shop. It was in Springerville and was a part of a stove shop. I ordered a Kona Mocha Frappuccino that was more of a coffee flavored mocha than the typical chocolate. It was absolutely wonderful and a fantastic mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

The beer tour has gone a bit better. While in Arizona, I tried several local breweries including Four Peaks, Grand Canyon Brewery and San Tan Brewery. All had beers that I really enjoyed; the Grand Canyon beer stood out to me, however. It was an IPA but it additionally had a hop bomb inside of it, which was a small container of hops to enhance the flavor and hoppiness. This extra pop was phenomenal.

New Mexico is going to be a whole new experience and, if Pie Town was any indication, I think it’s going to be quite interesting. We continue heading into more desolate areas and drive further without seeing cars or towns, and the towns we do see are growing smaller and more remote.  The town we are in today, Quemado, only has one location with free wifi.  As you can imagine, most of the team is currently here, utilizing the bandwidth to connect with friends, family and, in some cases, the multitudes of adoring fans.  I worry for the next time I will have access to wifi, and I am starting to see my cell service disappear more frequently.  Yes, New Mexico is going to be quite the adventure.

Days 15-22: A Week of Madness

What a week…The Race Across USA has experienced many ups and downs in Arizona, and not just because of the elevation changes.  As we entered Arizona, we lost core team member Steve Cooper, who needed to return to work for six weeks.  He works with SpaceX and Tesla so I can forgive him for leaving.  Shortly thereafter, we had a string of losses due to differences in personal beliefs and other personal matters. After leaving the Race Across USA, Patrick Sweeney and Jup Brown are both continuing to run across this nation, independently of our group.  While the loss of them has deeply saddened me (and has prevented me from writing a post in the past week) I know that they will forever be close friends and I wish them nothing but the best of luck on their journey.  We also lost the “Irish Goat”, Chris Knodel. His wry humor and quick comebacks will be greatly missed by myself and the rest of the team.  Now, the core team consists of 8 runners and 4 support staff and the team is closer than ever.  It is wonderful to see people coming together and becoming stronger more united through tough times.  Despite the losses we have experienced and the fatigue of this experience setting in, people continue to laugh and have fun, while always jumping to offer a helping hand to anyone in need.  For example, last week, one of the runners, Jessica, was struggling with very bad blisters.  When several of the fastest guys had finished and heard that Jessica was in a lot of pain, they immediately offered to walk the last four miles with her, after they had already ran 26 miles.

At the end of the day we are all out here for one reason: to raise awareness for children’s health and to inspire a generation to lead more active lifestyles and that passion is incredibly inspiring.  It is inspiring the runners to stay positive, inspiring kids to be more active and inspiring me to live healthier, with every day filled with more positivity, laughter and remembering to work towards goals, one step at a time, no matter how small the steps and how large the goals are.

On Wednesday, February 4th, the runners had a rest day.  Garrett, Andrea and I took the day to do some site-seeing: drove three and a half hours to the Grand Canyon! Andrea and I had never been there before and despite the long drive, after my first look into the canyon I knew we had made the right decision in coming.  Every look took my breath away, even after being there for eight hours it never ceased to amaze me.  I brought my nice camera and took about 350 pictures and I am very grateful that Garrett and Andrea put up with my continuous stopping to snap a picture with different lighting or from a different angle.  We walked along the South Rim of the canyon for a while and also had the chance to hike 2000 feet down into the canyon via the Bright Angel Trail.  It was so amazing to see the canyon walls at our eye level change as we hit different layers of sediment during our descent.  Although it was only a three mile hike down, hiking back up was incredibly challenging.  Garrett was a little speed demon and charged ahead up the trail, but Andrea and I took our time making the big climb.  That evening we watched the sunset from the edge of a cliff that overlooked the canyon on both sides of us.  We were able to see so many different colors of light as the afternoon turned into dusk.  It felt like being surrounded by a dream of pastels and I have never experienced anything similar.  I have only posted a few of the pictures up here but I can post more if there is an interest.

We are currently staying in a church in Payson, Arizona, a small town about 70 miles northeast of Phoenix.  We are staying here for three nights which is wonderful because 1) we are in the same place for three nights so we don’t have to pack up each morning and 2) we are inside, which is always preferable to being outside in the cold.  In fact, we will be staying inside until Dallas because of how cold it gets in the high desert of eastern Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas.  Also, there are a few of us who have begun to create little tours for us to participate in while we are traveling.  Several of us enjoy beers and are interested in doing a beer tour, trying different local breweries in the towns we go through. There are also a few big coffee fans in the group who are interested in finding cute and unique coffee houses across the country.  I heard about a brewery located just north of Payson called “That Brewery” and I am hoping that I will be able to go tomorrow night with whoever enjoys beer from the group. It should be a great time!

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To follow us across the country or donate to our cause: http://www.raceacrossusa.org

Day 12-14: SARA’s Crack and More

Tuesday morning dawned with beautifully clear, post-rains skies.  It rained all through the night leaving the ground a muddy, thick mess that no one could escape sinking into.  Because it was a rest day, most people slept in, but I woke up around 7:15 and made my coffee with my travel mug french press to start my day off properly.  I enjoyed it, standing outside, taking in the fresh air and absorbing the positivity of the universe.  (Alex Ramsey, you are beginning to rub off on me). Later in the morning, most of the non-runners, fellow assistants Garrett and Andrea and friends of Patrick, Shacky and Vanessa Runs, and Alex, who is assisting runner Chris Knodel, went for a hike at SARA’s Crack.  This is a beautiful slot canyon near Lake Havasu that becomes rather narrow at points and has a natural 7-foot slide that someone installed a rope to help descend.  Because of the previous night’s rain, portions of the canyon filled with water and actually made the canyon impossible to pass through without wading through waist-high pools.

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Eventually, we decided to not get wet and walked to the lake via a ridge path. When we arrived at the lake after several miles of backtracking, the view was breathtaking. The water was beautifully blue-green and was so calm it was instantly relaxing just taking it in.

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After the hike, we travelled a few miles further to Lake Havasu to see the original London Bridge. As the story goes, when London was redoing its bridge, an overly wealthy American bought it and had each brick labeled, moved to Arizona, and rebuilt. You can still see the numbers on some of the bricks. It was really interesting to see something that looks so old and historic in Lake Havasu, which is typically known as a college student Spring Break destination.

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Wednesday and today consisted of 52 miles along narrow Arizona two-lane highways.  There were few places for the support vehicles to pull over onto the shoulder because of the brush growing alongside the road.  There was an even smaller amount of space for the runners to run along the side of the road.  Because it is a two-lane highway, there are frequently cars passing other cars/semis at very high speeds. When they are going that fast, they don’t have much regard for the runners and have come within inches of hitting runners.  Fortunately, today there was a trail running parallel to the highway for a significant part of the course that the runners could use and stay off of the dangerous road.  I cannot imagine the feeling they must experience each time a car races by or each time a semi roars by creating a vicious vortex of air that would blow over anyone not as strong as these incredible athletes.  I admire their courage to run these roads despite these drivers who barrel down the road as fast as they can, just trying to get from one place to the next in as little time as possible.  Being a few minutes late is so much better than endangering yourself or someone else and so many drivers disregard this. I know that from this experience, hearing from the runners, I will forever be conscious of the risk I am creating for myself, or others, with my driving.

To follow us or to donate to our cause: http://www.raceacrossusa.org

Day 10/11: Welcome to Arizona

We have finally reached the Arizona border after ten marathons. In addition to the 12 runners traveling the whole country, we had 5 runners running across California. So last night we had a farewell dinner for them, to celebrate all that they have accomplished. Not having even run a single marathon, these state runners are just as inspirational as the core team. One of them, Jack, sustained an ankle injury early on and then an infected blister, yet he persevered each day and seeing his face at the finish line today was amazing. I was so happy for him and there are no words to describe his look of relief and pride in being done.

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Finishing California today means a rest day tomorrow, and the runner’s are so thrilled to have a day off. Since there are no school visits planned, Andrea, Garrett and I are thinking of finding somewhere along the Colorado River to hike. Last night, Andrea and I went for a run along the river at around sunset and boy was it gorgeous! I have never taken so many pictures of a sunset before and I must post a couple.

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In addition to running, we did our daily push-ups and sit-ups. Jup, the kiwi, has made a program for anyone to follow: for the first ten days do 10 push-ups and sit-ups and then each day after that add one of each. So by the time we get to day 140, we will (in theory) be doing 140 push-ups and sit-ups. Today was day 11 so this morning Andrea, Jessica, Linda and I all did our 11 in our Quality Inn room.

I am currently sitting in McDonald’s with a post-marathon Newton, where I watched him down a double quarter pounder and fries and a large chocolate shake and he just bought a second large chocolate shake for the road. He is a beast. He also had his typical chug of milk after the race.

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It has also been raining on and off all day which meant I got to wear my new rain jacket! It was a Christmas present from my wonderful boyfriend, Edward Kay, for this trip and I was so excited to use it. As expected, it worked wonderfully and I am so grateful for it!

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Tonight I am looking forward to sitting back and relaxing, and not waking up at 5:30. It will be a great chance to hang out with these amazing people and hear a bit more of their stories.

To follow us or donate: http://raceacrossusa.org or follow Race Across USA on Facebook and Instagram.

Day 9: The Breakfast Club

As we travel further through the desert of California, each morning we drive further to get to the start line.  Today, we drove the length of a marathon to the start line from our accommodations.  Tomorrow we will drive 52.  Each drive we pass a sign that says “No Services Next 100 Miles”.  Tomorrow we will pass the halfway threshold and will continue through to the other side of the desert, to the Arizona border.

This morning Garrett, Andrea and I had a little breakfast party at the aid station.  We all made our oatmeal on our little stoves on the back of my truck.  We have decided to form our own little breakfast club and, whenever possible, convene at the first aid station to cook breakfast.  Unfortunately, it was a bit windy and making oatmeal was a challenge, especially as I was afraid of my pot blowing off of my Pocket Rocket.

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The course today was more beautiful than the last and more desolate as well.  It’s invigorating seeing the number of cars on the road decrease.  Other than heading further to nowhere, today was a pretty uneventful day.  Which was refreshing after all of my recent incidents.

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Above: Pat and Alex chill out after killing today’s stage.  These guys continue to amaze me every day.

To follow us/make a donation to help fight childhood obesity: http://raceacrossusa.org

Day 8: 26.2 Miles of Beauty

Today was the 7th marathon for the runners and I believe the exhaustion is starting to set in.  At least several of the runners in my car (Rob and Newton) dozed off on the way to the campsite, and I heard from Garrett and Andrea that the same happened in their cars.  We are currently staying at 29 Palms Resort, which has a pool and a jacuzzi (!) that everyone took full advantage of.

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This morning was a brisk one, with brilliantly clear skies that opened up for a spectacular sunrise.  My car was on top of breaking down camp and we had the truck packed on time and we were not the last car to leave, as has been the case (Pat high-fived me for that). And although I think he was just trying to win my heart, Alex today said that unofficially he would reduce his on how often I will be pulled over. But that’s still just unofficially.

However, I had a slight, car-related accident at the first aid station. I had not previously noticed that the shoulders of the road were soft sand and since this aid station was just on the side of the road, I pulled off as usual.  Only, this time, because the bed was so heavy from all the camping gear, my tires sunk just enough to get stuck.  Momentarily panicking, I just sat there in shock, having no idea what to do.  But after a little while, I decided to try to get unstuck and gave the car some gas bit by bit.  And surely enough, a little bit at a time, the car began to move, until after a couple of pain-staking minutes I came free.  I have learned that lesson very well: do not pull over in a heavy car (no matter how strong it is) if the terrain is soft; it will never end well for me.

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The route today was beautiful, and tomorrow promises to be even better, heading further into the middle of nowhere towards Arizona.  it was not uncommon to go several minutes without seeing any cars, which I found extremely refreshing in contrast to the bustle of Los Angeles.  The road was so desolate that, at the finish line, Andrea and I made coffee on the side of the road.  We actually had our coffee brewing on the shoulder. We also did a little exploring and found a tire graveyard just off the road, which I thought was a poor joke given my tire incident earlier.

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This evening, Andrea and I were again inspired to go for a run.  I chose the loop and on my map it appeared to be about four miles, which was perfect for the forty minutes of sunlight we had left.  After going out 1.5 miles and not turning once, I realized my measurements were wayy off and the loop was closer to 8 or 9 miles.  Instead of doing a loop we went out and back, 2-miles each way and watched the sunset and the dusk take over the sky, rooting for the Bruins with its blue and gold colors.

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I have also decided that I am gong to do a piece on each of the core runners, one at a time, and in no particular order.  Tonight, I am going to begin with:

Alex Ramsey!

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Alex is one of the most positive people I have ever met.  No matter the situation, he always has an infectious smile on his face and a witty joke on his tongue. He listens to reggae and is vegan about 30% of the time. Most impressive about Alex is that, while he is running across the country, he is doing it barefoot (or in Luna sandals when the trails get too rough). I have seen him complete seven marathons in this fashion so far, and despite his cut up toes and stepping in glass one time, he always come through the finish line with the biggest smile.  So, today I would like to ask us all to try to be a bit more like Alex and smile more.  Such a small thing can have such a huge impact on your general positivity and outlook as well as those of the people around you.  I already know that Alex’s infectious grins have affected me.

Day 6/7: The First Rest Day

Wednesday was the runners’ first rest day after five back to back marathons. The runners had the opportunity to go to different schools and talk about their stories and inspire the kids to be more active. I had the opportunity to go to a Starbucks (for the free wifi) and catch up on some research; I am here to do research after all. It was wonderful having access to the Internet after a few days of spotty cell service and no wifi, although there are guaranteed to be longer stretches where we will have nothing..some of the places we will be stopping are described as “the middle of nowhere”.

Wednesday was also incredibly windy at our campground. Rob, the Englishman, took this as a great chance to test out his tent’s kiting abilities. He roped Jup, the Kiwi, into his plans and soon they had the tent up in the air, although it was too heavy to fly very high.

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Yesterday was stage 6 of California, and most were feeling the benefits of the day off. Many of the runners posted their best times so far, with Bryce finishing first with a speedy time of 3:57!

I also got to try a date shake yesterday, which is a milkshake made with dates! It was so sweet and there were actual pieces of dates in it. Andrea and I were told that this is the date capital of the world and had spent some time trying to find these shakes and were so stoked when we finally got the chance to try them.

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After the day’s stage we drove to Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, where we camped that evening. Our campground was surrounded by boulders, so as soon as Andrea and I had set up our tents we took off up the side of the rocky formations and five minutes later found ourselves a ways up looking down on the miniaturized campground. From our vantage point we could see for miles out across the desert and since the sun was starting to set, the sky was filled with wonderful colors. Unfortunately, I did not bring my phone with me and, thus, did not get any pictures but Andrea has so kindly lent me a selfie to use of us overlooking the campsite!

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That night, Garrett, Andrea and I went for a night hike (with headlamps of course) and wandered through a small portion of the desert. At several points, we saw little eyes staring back at us, but we were always too far to see what kind of animal it was, however they all seemed pretty small and catlike or foxlike.

We didn’t see any coyotes but last night, I was awoken at around 4 am to the sound of a group of them close to our campsite. They seemed to be wailing to each other but I am no expert in coyote calls.

So far we are three nights in on a five night camping stretch and I am quickly growing accustomed to the routine of setting up camp in the afternoon and breaking it down quickly in the morning. It will be cool to see my efficiency increase as I have more and more practice setting up and taking down my tent. At the end of the day, however, I am just excited to be here and have this incredible opportunity to travel across the country with these athletes. I am still humbled by my selection to this team and know I am going to learn so much from every person on this journey.

To learn more about this journey, visit: http://raceacrossusa.org

Day 5: Journey Through the Windfarms

As with most days, on Tuesday I was manning the first aid station, at mile 6.1. As Andrea, my fellow research assistant, and I were waiting for some of the runners we spotted a dog about ten yards away. Since it did not have a collar and we did not know if it was friendly or not, obviously we approached it. He was a beautiful russet colored mutt who ended up being very friendly. A few minutes later, we spotted several more dogs down the road and soon enough one of them, a smaller, Maltese-looking dog joined us. As a few of the runners came through, they stopped and spent a few minutes with the friendly canines. Andrea and I wanted to keep the russet one as a team dog and I went so far as to decide I wanted to name it Nomad. But as with all wanderers, he soon continued on his way, traveling off through the windmill farm.

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Later in the afternoon, I was at the finish line, collecting runners’ times. I had left the windows of the truck rolled down to keep it cool and apparently nature decided to tell me exactly what it thought of me. My pillow had been sitting in the passenger seat and as I went to find something in the car, I noticed a little stain on the pillow. Somehow, a bird had pooped on my pillow, through the open window. I have no idea how this is even possible, but it happened and I spent the better part of ten minutes scrubbing my pillow with Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.

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Last night, we camped in Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground, which is in the outskirts of the desert. I am so excited to continue traveling into more remote places, because the sunset was spectacular and the stars were awe-inspiring, and were reminiscent of Exploratorium viewings and pictures in star books. And as we continue into more desolate places, the skies are going to become more and more incredible. One of the runners, Jup (from New Zealand), brought his SLR and tripod on the trip and was using it to take long exposure shots of the sky and it worked beautifully (I will try to obtain some from him to show how incredible his pictures are). Since the long exposure worked so well, we decided to attempt to write things in the sky with a flashlight. I was the “artist” and after many tries of techniques involving turning the flashlight off after each part of a letter and jumping around like a maniac and breaking a sweat, the results were stunning. I will definitely post some of those, especially because we made them to support the Race Across USA (I wrote RAUSA) and the 100-Mile Club (100MC).

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Ironically, though we are in the desert, at about 9pm it began to sprinkle and there was a mad dash to move anything of value in the truck bed to the inside of the truck, which is now crammed with suitcases and bags and random boxes of food. With the rain came the wind and I struggled to stay asleep because of the window rustling all of the tents. At around 2am I woke up to this rustling and looking around I saw this silhouette outside of my tent but inside of my extended rainfly (for reference I have a REI Half Dome 2 Plus). Immediately I thought it was a coyote eating something/trying to get out of the rain. I laid there for about five minutes debating flashing my light on it to scare it away but I was worried I would frighten it into attacking me. Finally, I gained the courage to flash my light on it. When I did, I saw that not only was it not a coyote, but it was in fact the tarp under my tent blowing up in the wind. I felt so stupid because my heart was pounding and I was legitimately scared of a tarp attacking me..

As the sun came up this morning, the wind did not leave with the night. It has been progressively getting stronger and has a little bit of a biting chill to it. It has even been strong enough to partially uproot one of the tents in our little community, which required some fast action of re-staking it securely. Today is a rest day for the runners, which means a later start to the day and also some school visits to inspire America’s youth to be more active. I am very excited to see the kids’ faces as they learn more about this incredible journey. And as the Founder of the 100-Mile Club, Kara Lubin, has said: If one child is inspired to make a change and to lead a healthier life, then these incredible runners have already made an enormous difference.

For more information or to follow our progress: http://raceacrossusa.org

For information on the 100-Mile Club: http://100mileclub.com