I definitely woke up with a slight hangover. 4.15am is very early for town! My gear took ages to meddle with (somehow my bladder was leaking) but I eventually got going. Bleurgh! Running in town at 4.30am in the dark is no fun. It took me lots of sorting out to get Happy. My bag was SO heavy and it was SO cold! I was power hiking and just could not find my rhythm.
I could feel my gut shifting. I thought I could hold on until I was in the mountains but then I definitely could not. Luckily McDonald’s was a mile away and I ran there quickly! I picked up a large coffee which definitely helped. I feel like I was so tired in town and a bit dazed that I didn’t eat properly and now find myself completely starving, four miles into the next 150 mile stretch…On I pushed. It was comforting being on the same route as before. Once I hit A Mountain it was fun! I got to go in the opposite direction to last time. I wasn’t quite in the running zone yet but I felt ok. A little bit off. I bumped into a trail runner who turned and said ‘are you Ella?’ It was Pete who works wth the Southern New Mexico Trail Alliance (http://snmta.org) and had been following my journey! We ran together and I heard about a race they put on in the Sierra Vista trail. It’s a 100k in March and although I was feeling down on running I am tempted! I made a wrong turn and started accidentally heading UPHILL but we corrected. We said goodbye as I took off towards the Sierra Vista trail, but it was so great to meet him. I have loved getting to know these cyclists but it’s always special connecting with someone else pounding their joints into the ground. The SNMTA has been a great resource for me planning this trip and I am hugely appreciative of people who put their efforts into looking after this land!
I still couldn’t get into the swing of running along the road towards the hills. I wasn’t too worried as my legs are often sluggish leaving town and I was more excited about saving my energy to run on the Sierra vista trail! Hayley had told me how wonderful it is to run on and I was very excited. I took a beautiful turn onto it and then I was good to go! It was absolutely stunning, some of my favourite trail to date. It was the first time really of being on a set trail and it was great. However my left ankle was badly niggling and I just couldn’t make myself run. Eventually I shook myself and told myself to just do it. However, after about two minutes I was ready to faint from the pain. I stopped, walked, calmed myself, started again. This time it only took a minute for the dizziness to set in. Huh. On this entire trip I have said that running is better than biking because so much can go wrong with your bike and a body can always go…. I was hoping my arrogance wasn’t coming back to bite me. Was I seriously going to have issues running? I told myself not to panic, to just get to the water as slowly as I needed to and see what was up there. I power hiked steadily, realizing that the pain was there even walking. I occasionally would manage to reassure myself it was all in my head and start running again in the delusional belief something would be different. Is the definition of madness trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?
I eventually made it to the water, which is a cool tank maintained to water the local wildlife. I started gingerly stretching foot out. Stretching provided absolutely no relief and was in fact very painful. I thought it was a lower shin splint but wasn’t sure. Flexing my foot in any direction was extremely painful. Hmmmm!
Brad showed up and gave me some duct tape. I sort of taped it up tightly, housed some more ibuprofen, and started to hobble off. The trail was quite incredible, the mountains rising sharply above us. I descended down into the flatlands and started urgently texting my amazing aunt and grandpa. They have been incredibly tolerant over the years in trying to diagnose me from 3000 miles away with various VERY URGENT and VERY NON SPECIFIC ailments. Sarah warned me that continuing on was likely to be very painful and that this clearly was an overuse injury of some sort. Likely tendinitis. Ouch! Oh well. I continued on well enough. It was staggeringly pretty even as we pulled away from the Sierra Vista Trail onto a power line road. Eventually Brad caught up and we walked together a little. He took off as he had a fair amount of sand coming up and that did slow him down a fair bit. I was actually able to move a bit faster watching him move off into the distance which was good. The pain was pretty terrible. I chewed on endless pieces of ginger as I knew I would puke anything else up immediately. We had a slight ascent up to Anthony Gap which was truly lovely. The sun was just setting and the sand smelt beautiful.
We had planned to stop just 10 miles short of Vinton or so so even as it got dark I knew there were only a few miles to go. It was slow progress and the dark does fall suddenly, but I was very lucky to be on such a set trail.
The moon was not quite as clear as it has been previously and my headlamp struggled to illuminate even the smallest ruts so it was stumble progress. I could see the road bright. It was fun being on the other side of the mountains, and I was looking forward to going to Texas the next morning. At this point the pain had been so consistent for so many hours this is just what life was like. The stars were beautiful and even though it felt so late it was barely 7pm by the time I found Brad stopped for camp. I ate painkillers and bedtime it was.
Low: the specific moment I realized that my foot was actually in trouble, I wasn’t just imagining it
High: Sierra Vista trail, bumping into Pete on A Mountain