Blog Subtitle

Reverse-engineering the Ultramarathon

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Call of the Open Road

One Year Later - A Look Back at the Vol State

Somewhere along a road in Tennessee, July 2014
(Photo credit - Donald Brown)
It is hot - really hot - as I work my way through my "J-D Hilly Loop" running route - about six miles, some of which traverses the grounds of the Jamesville-Dewitt High School. It's 2:00 in the afternoon, near the peak heat of a hot day, and it is humid too. I feel the heat saturating me and beginning to radiate into the environment - not quickly enough - as I trot the bigger climbs.

Why am I out here doing this now, when I could have waited for the relative cool of evening? It's because of my Vol State brothers and sisters who are on the open road in Tennessee at this very same hour, in the heat of the fourth day of their race. I have been where they are, and I want to feel that kinship in a tangible way.

My run ended, I return to the house. The sweat is just pouring off me and I am dying for a cold shower to take the edge off. I pick up my phone to check the current weather stats: it says 80 degrees and I laugh! It is probably at least a few degrees hotter out there in reality, but it isn't the assumed inaccuracy that amuses me. It's the width of the vast gulf that separates my sincere attempt at 'solidarity' from the reality of what my brothers and sisters are experiencing!

Each day this year in Tennessee has reached the mid-90's and the dew points have been in the mid-70's. As someone pointed out on the ultra list, those numbers combine to produce heat indices (the 'feels like' temperatures that the weather services report) higher than in Death Valley, California. Eighty people started the race this year and as I write these lines sixty-six are left - and that, my friends, may well be the closest thing to a miracle that human beings are capable of creating.