Day 7: Cone Country. A Brief Reprieve.

I woke up choking on a huge amount of my own blood. I was having a MAJOR nosebleed, like the Trevi fountain levels of blood. I miraculously managed not to get too much blood anywhere and in another level of low, found my pee rag and wiped my face as best as I could with that. There was SO much blood dripping everywhere, but it eventually calmed down. I am sure it’s unrelated but I can’t help but think it’s linked to the sudden huge intake of ibuprofen in my body. Exciting start!

I felt a bit of promise, for the first time in a while. Yes, my foot was not fixed, in fact it felt as functional to walk on as a ziplock bag full of mashed potato. Yes, my right hip had started to twang a bit from my overcompensating limp. But, today I had the privilege of taking the old Monumental Loop. One of the BEST things about this route is the fact it is a constant work in progress, and getting to imagine what prompted M&P to make certain route decisions (it’s almost always the pursuit of pain). However, in this instance they had made a reroute to take bikers away from a wilderness study area. Pedestrians are still fully able to travel through this spot. So I was going through, whereas Brad was going around on bike. This would save me a few miles, and also help me avoid 15 miles of running on a highway which I had learned was really not my strength. 

I got up and began my ceremonial hobble down the road. These initial moments of warming my ankle up…I feel like my body begins to start breaking itself down during those 8 hours of rest in the night, and I need to find a way to communicate NO! No healing or rest just yet! Hold on for 100 more miles! I do start to warm up as the ibuprofen kicks in, and now I have aspirin and tylenol as well and am able to keep a fairly steady rotation of pills in my body.

Brad caught up and again pushed his bike with me until it came time for us to part ways. He zoomed off down the road and I turned onto a ‘trail’. It was SO COOL, if a little rugged and overgrown. I was walking through chunks of lava. Route finding was tough but I eventually hit an ATV track that worked well.

After a few hours I heard a strange grumbling. It had been SILENT so far so was definitely a bit odd. It got louder and louder and then before I knew it I was surrounded by four ATVs. It was border patrol, looking very intimidating. They are extremely well funded and present around here. They were extremely polite, asked what I was doing, seemed skeptical when I said I wasn’t alone, and asked if I needed anything. They gave me the number of their base and said to call if I ran into any trouble. 

I had a super interesting conversation with Angelica Rubio, the State Representative in Las Cruces, about identity in the outdoors. Clearly my Patagonia gear and white skin marks me out as someone they want to help rather than bother, but even when they hear my accent there’s no issue at all, nobody asking to see my papers. It really comes down to being the ‘right’ kind of visitor. It was kind of then to ask if I was OK but the encounter left me feeling confused. I was thinking about this topic a lot. We never really escape into the wilderness. It is always human in nature – who is allowed to walk free and assisted in this part of the world has already been decided. I get very frustrated when told to leave politics out of my accounts of the outdoors. Our prejudices and problems don’t automatically shed the minute we step onto a trail!

On I went. The pain then started to kick in again and I was getting curious about water. We hadn’t had any water since pre Kilbourne Hole yesterday, and I was doing pretty well on conserving it but was definitely getting thirsty!

I just kept moving forward, completely in awe of the hills and volcanic landscape around me. This was some of the best country I have ever traversed. The volcanic rock was a bit tough on my foot and after a particularly nasty twist I just could not stop the tears even though I felt cheerful. It felt like every bone was being put through a bone-grade paper shredder. I have listened to very little music on this trip but at this point the pain was bad enough that I listened to the entire Hamilton sound track. Lin-Manuel Miranda you are my hero! ‘

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I am walking along contemplating just how much the ‘only take ibuprofen every 4 hours’ is a guideline rather than a steady rule (I was already way above this) when I hear a light gurgling. Aha! The hose taking water to a cattle tank was slightly dripping. Amazing! It was hard to get full water from it but I did manage it, and it barely tasted of anything. Delicious. Before I knew it I was at the spot where Brad’s route connected with mine. 2.30 in the afternoon. Amazing! I took the opportunity to have a rest.

It’s a bit weird as the rest of my body really feels underworked and is ready to go. My leg muscles feel like they’re atrophying from lack of use, which is funny as I’m still getting in 40 miles on them every day. But most of my body is responding well to this kind of movement and craves more, and to go faster. Oh well!

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Poor quality photo of thigh callus

Just as the sun sets and I crawl into my sleeping bag to keep warm, Brad shows up. I quickly pack up my stuff (annoyingly my bladder is having issues. How?! I have had three hours to sort it out!) and we walk for a bit. He’s had a lot of pushing his bike through the sand and a not very scenic day. I feel guilty as my day was perfect. We talk about going further and agree to get the 7 miles to water so we can have filter this evening and go a tiny bit further, then just go tomorrow. 

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I am in pain but I remember Thursday evening is my classic run evening with Fleet Feet in Seattle. I imagine running with Stacey and Rae and sort of am able to just go for it. I hate running solo as it gets darker and am motivated by the thought of hitting camp at 7pm rather than 8.30! It’s quite fun and very easy sandy road running. Brad points out water when I arrive (it’s disgusting) then I follow his headlamp a ways down the road to camp. We collapse, even though I can already tell I will be cold forever. 

Low: being scared

High: powering through the fear to not be a complete coward and just running in the dark

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