this has been a crazy weather year at vol state.
on the bright side,
it has yet to settle into one of those multiple days long spells of ever intensifying heat and humidity
that make every minute of the race like running shrouded in a hot, wet wool blanket.
on the other hand,
the humidity has been outrageous
and the dew points insane.
after the huge lines of thunderstorms that battered most of the field the first night
the runners have been treated to what they call “pop-up” thunderstorms.
as a result the conditions have varied according to where you are.
some runners have spent most of the days being baked by a sun that feels like a nuclear weapon
others have been hammered by heavy thunderstorms repeatedly.
temperatures have varied wildly.
while carl and i were at parkers crossroads yesterday
it started out in the low 90’s with a scorching sun and heat index over 100.
10 minutes later a huge black cloud had rolled over
and it was 79 with pouring rain and wind.
by vol state standards this is a good weather year.
with two and a half days on the road under their belt,
the 91 surviving runners are all in their own personal hells.
blisters, sunburn, fatigue, hunger, thirst, painful feet…
there are a variety of issues
and each runner has their own personalized package of ailments and problems to deal with.
that is topped off with the growing cost of the various errors made along the way.
by following the 12 hour updates you can track the trajectories.
this runner was far to the front
running huge totals for the first day or day and a half.
now he is tumbling back thru the field
searching desperately for reserves that had not been used up during a too ambitious start.
trying desperately to patch self inflicted injuries and find a way to recover the magic
others are climbing steadily
having run within themselves,
and gaining strength from each place they move up in the standings.
with some you can see the struggles to stay afloat in painful detail.
9 miles in 12 hours does not tell the story of someone who is coasting.
it tells you of a runner that was suffering from major problems.
mute evidence of their strength and resilience is given
when they come up with more than 20 miles in the next 12 hours.
sometimes, instead, their journey comes to a premature end.
they make the call to pull the plug
and have a long ride in the meat wagon to ponder their mistakes.
while most of the field faces their own personal hells
a very different story is unfolding up front.
we thought bob had a rough first 12 hours in day 3.
he was lucky enough to be crossing thru a section of intense heat and merciless sun.
(a thunderstorm would have been a welcome relief, but the fickle tennessee weather distributed them elsewhere)
it was also a section with very little in the way of supplies available.
the canopy tents and coolers dried up
the stores were far apart.
a couple of times spontaneous offers of water bottles from passing vehicles came just at the moment he had to have help.
and he was able to keep up his gallant charge.
those miracles were enough to carry him into shelbyville
where he holed up for several hours to cool down and recover.
we thought he had a bad day,
but at the check-in he had cut his deficit on the overall record pace from 6 miles to 4.
even record setting efforts come with bad spells.
heading into the third night,
it is coming into the time to look at how he closes out the race
bob has 74 miles to go.
last night he got 51 miles during the overnight shift.
if he gets only 48 tonight
he will need a 7 hour marathon tomorrow to get the overall record.
(and only a 14 hour marathon to beat the screwed)
it sure sounds doable sitting here at the keyboard
out there in the dark
on the lonely road
battered and sleep deprived
with no real clue as to where he will find his next drink
we have no clue what bob is thinking.
is he chasing the records?
or is he just trying to survive?
i know he has seen the updated standings,
because he has been watching them
and has to realize that his lead is almost insurmountable…
unless his phone has died.
and he knows nothing!
(but, surely… hopefully… he was able to recharge it during his break in shelbyville.)
we know he has shown everything it takes to be a great screwed runner.
the physical ability and toughness were unquestioned coming in.
but it takes a lot more than that.
it takes resilience,
the ability to think on your feet even in a state of extreme fatigue and sleep deprivation.
the ability to adapt a plan continuously to the circumstances as they arise.
and sometimes it requires the ability to rely on providence.
bob seems to have the total package.
it will be hard to wait and see where he is at morning check-in.
if he can pull this off it will be a legendary performance.
almost overshadowed is bev abbs.
41 miles behind bob
she is well on the way to obliterating her own women’s screwed record.
when bob’s story is told,
we will immediately have bev’s closing to focus on!!
what a privilege it is to be able to witness athletes of this calibre
up against one of the most challenging events in ultrarunning.