Category Archives: Run Across America

Day 4 – Zero Punches Thrown

But I think it was close. Ok, not really. We actually have done pretty well working together so far. 10 people, no sleep, bad nutrition, close quarters… pretty much a recipe for a bench brawl. While everyone was getting pretty crispy by day 4, we still managed to get along. Charles assembled a pretty good team.

We’d already discussed moving the aid station to 5 mile increments rather than the 3 we had been doing. Connie felt like we were all up in her face nonstop, which we were. Everyone was so excited to help that they’d all get out of the cars to offer her stuff. So every 28 minutes she’s got 6-8 people shoving crap at her “just as she’d gotten into a rhythm”. So, day 4 we decided we’d leave her alone to do her thing. We filled up her tote with her things and we’d have ONE person take it out to her, and just let her look through it to see if she wanted anything. She even told us to leave it down so she could bend down to get it and stretch her legs, rather than just hold it out to her. I can’t even get my car key off my shoe after I run 12 miles. I’m 100% sure that if you cut her legs open, it would look like this:

Incidentally, do not ever include the word “dissect” when you do a Google search. Trust me.

We kept one person on the road with her, just had them stay WAY back. Her other complaint was that she was having trouble staying on her own pace due to the sounds of other people’s foot steps. With it being a busy road with lots of fast cars and us being up to 5 miles away from her, everyone felt more comfortable having someone else out there with eyes on her in case something happened.

ANYWAY (ADD much? 10 minutes went by since I finished that last sentence. No lie.), she got on the road just before 6 and was off and running. Shortly thereafter, it started to rain. Of course, no big deal for her, but now we were tasked with the decision of sticking with the 5 miles we agreed on, or stopping in at 3 to offer her rain gear. We split the difference at 4 and just kinda hoped she wouldn’t know. She did elect to change clothes and she was off again.

Not as much to report for the first part of the day, since we barely saw her. But when we did, she looked great. Here she is just as the rain was starting to let up. She had about a 50k left to go at this point, I believe.

Next stop, she’d have less than a marathon to go, which is a big moment for her. The equivalent of “the finish line is just around this corner” for the rest of us mortals. We knew once she found that out, she’d pick up the pace for the homestretch. You know, the homestretch of only a marathon to go. Nothing weird about that.

She was taking mostly only water and gels, which was quite different from what she’d done the other 3 days, but it seemed to be working for her. No real stomach issues other than almost puking from one of them. She said that it wasn’t funny, but I said “I’m still laughing”. No wonder she’s so successful. Supportive friends.

Once she got to the edge of downtown Cincinnati, she got her final police escort, all the way to the finish. Charles jumped in to run the last 10 with her, and she also had a couple local runners who’d popped in along that stretch. Charles said his favorite part of that last 10 mile run was the 1 mile uphill climb. If you believe that, you haven’t run a mile uphill with her.

I tried to yell out the window to the people on the streets of the city what she was doing/had done to get them to give her a shout out, but this was a colorful bunch to say the least. I got “the long way?” as a response, a guy who busted out laughing, a guy who pointed a leaf blower at her, a pimp, a dude that looked like he was running from our police escort… you get the idea. Ahhh Cincinnati was a fun place.

This police escort was not as on point as the one through Delaware, and the people of Cincinnati weren’t on the ball, so we kept getting stuck behind cars and all sorts of nonsense. But, of course, Connie Gardner doesn’t wait for cars or police. They wait for her. A few times, they passed us.

Notice that she’s smiling in every picture while you remember she’s run 240+ miles to get to this point.  Also, look at her legs.  Damn.

With 5k to go, her smile increased even more.  The vehicle I was in pulled ahead so the girls could set up a finish line for her to cross, which was SO CUTE.  She came around the corner and saw that, and picked it up even more.  In fact, the second she saw it, she made a beeline for it, to the point that she looks like she’s not running the same direction as Charles in the only picture I was able to get before they about plowed me over.

I was hoping there would be a few people / news / something at the finish to greet her other than us, but what can you do. We made it as grand for her as we could, and we had Gwen, which is all she really ever needs.

A couple group pics (too many cameras in the kitchen) with the Humvee and she was off to shower and then a big meal and then home.

In typical Connie fashion, she tucked herself into the back of the photo like she was just a face in the crowd, and not like the one who just ran 246+ miles across the state of Ohio in 4 days.

We can’t be sure what her actual running pace is, since she stopped at the aid stations for 1-10 minutes, had bathroom breaks, and so on and so forth. Given the data that we do have, I can say for sure it was sub-10 minute miles, and quite possibly closer to 9:30. Her last 10 miles I think were in the 8:40 average range, and her last mile was definitely sub-8.

So, she did it. Her test run for Run Across America is complete. She looked strong literally every step of the way, and there’s not much doubt in anyone’s mind that she won’t be able to set a World Record next June when she attempts to run from San Fransisco to NYC in less than 47 days.

And, she’s doing all of this for charity. To raise money so that wounded vets can get back on their feet and exercise again. If you haven’t already, please consider making a donation to Patriot Runners. If you donate just $.25 for every mile she ran, that $61 could put a pair of running shoes on someone who wasn’t sure they’d ever walk again, let alone run. If you can’t manage $61, donate $10. Or $5. Every dollar will help. Running across Ohio is a challenge, but it’s not nearly the challenge of going to fight for our country and then trying to put your life back together after losing a limb in doing so. We owe it to these brave men and women who sacrifice their lives every day so that we can enjoy ours.

On a personal side note: I could live 100 lifetimes, and never again meet another person like Connie. I say that not because of her accomplishments, which are staggering, but because of who she is. You will not find more humbled and caring person. If she saw a child, she stopped to say hello, or hug them, or shake their hand. She spent more time worrying about the crew than the crew did worrying about her. When someone asked her if she did this run for charity or as a personal challenge, she answered “for charity” without a single moment of hesitation, when you know this had to be a challenge – even for the mighty Connie Gardner. She took time out of every day to ask us how WE were doing and were we sleeping ok and eating ok and did we feel ok. She made running 65 miles a day seem like going out to check the mail. She was smiling, laughing, and telling stories every step of the way. Most of us can’t get through a few miles without complaint, and she did it for 246. The only thing I heard her complain about, besides us bugging the shit out of her, was that her knees hurt at night, and it made it tough to sleep. I’ve never been a part of anything even remotely close to this, and I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to do it. It was worth every bit of lost sleep, the near heart attack I had when I tried to run 3 miles with her, and the condition of my backside after 130+ miles on my cheapo bike just to be able to see her do what she did. She makes us all better people, and better runners, just by being her. Every single person in her life considers it an honor to be there, and I am no exception. I look forward to helping her set her world record, and sitting in the car or on a bike while she does it will be the accomplishment of MY lifetime.

Day 3 – Cars? What Cars?

Day 3 started mostly uneventful. The weather has steadily improved each day to the point that 40s seemed downright balmy. Connie was running as strong as ever and the miles were ticking away seemingly fast. Well, at least for me, but I wasn’t the one running them.

About 15-20 miles in (or it might have been 3 or 40, who knows, it all starts to run together eventually) we got to the mobile aid station and she asked Mark to do another section with her. It was just as she was departing, and we’ve quickly learned that if she’s ahead of you, don’t bother trying to catch up. If you stop to pee, you’ll be chasing her for a half hour before you catch up, and that’s if you survive a 30 minute sprint. So anyway, Mark took off running with her, and they packed up the cars and moved down to the next stop. Only to realize they’d left her car behind as Mark was driving it. And it was running. With the door open. That would be the 2nd time we left Connie’s car behind with the keys in it. The first time was my fault, just so it doesn’t seem like I’m shirking my responsibility. I’m just waiting for the moment that we leave a PERSON behind. Maybe tomorrow.

There isn’t a whole lot to look at in this part of Ohio. Farms, farms, and the occasional farm. Vacant houses scattered about. We saw this particularly haunting looking one.

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As we ran by, Connie said “Have you ever been in a house like that?” to which I replied “you could go in that one, it’s wide open”. She said “yes! Lets do it”, so we jogged back and checked it out. Nothing better to do while running 240+ miles across Ohio, right? Not like we have anywhere to be.

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She thought it would be funny to take a picture of her coming out as if she’d just had a nap. She’s too much. Who is in this good of a mood after 150+ miles?

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One of the big reasons she went north to south instead of the other way, was that Roy assured us that the wind would be at her back going south. Naturally, she’s had a headwind for 3 days. She’s barely complained about it, but in this small town, she turned back to me and said “Angie, look at that flag. See it? I want you to take a picture of that, and then show it to Roy.”

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At one point of our trek down 42 South, we realized there was a bike path running parallel to us, so we moved up there. Which of course made the aid station almost miss us going by. We were looking for them, though.

She loved the endless line of telephone poles (she’s odd).

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At the next intersection we saw a guy who told us to stay to the right because he had a prototype car of some type on the path that could get 1,000 miles to the gallon.
He assured me it was ok for us to not only look at it, but to take photos as well. So, here it is…

Connie looked at it and said “well of course it gets 1,000 miles to the gallon, it’s being pulled by a bike. You go back and tell that guy that I am more efficient than his stupid car”.

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I don’t know if I mentioned previously, but she swears that the secret to ultra running is a spoonful of peanut butter every few miles. She says it has to be Skippy. Just to drive home how much peanut butter, this is what her jar looked like at the end of day 3. That’s a lot of peanut butter!

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She told us late in the day that she finally felt like she was getting into her groove and that the aid station being every 3 miles was disruptive. Just getting into her grove about 150 miles across Ohio.

As we were nearing dark, she was nearing 200, so we were all pretty sure that was the goal she had in her head. However, she’d also mentioned wanting to try to get in 70 miles on day 3, which was still roughly 8 miles out. On day 2, we almost had to drag her off the road kicking and screaming because she felt good and wanted to go “another 15 minutes, another 15 minutes” and it was too dangerous. Small shoulder, fast traffic, just dangerous. So we just kept trying to sell her on the idea of hitting 200 and wrapping it up. We parked the beacon of hope exactly at the 200 mile mark and sent Gwen out to the road to tell her it was time to stop. Gwen is a great last line of defense because her mom won’t say no to her.

Surprisingly, she came off willingly. 200 miles done in 3 days with a smile on her face. When she got in the car she said “I’m feeling a bit under the weather today, so I’m glad that I was still able to run today.” and “I physically can’t run any slower than I did today”. For the record, she was moving at a sub-10 minute pace the entire day. She had a sub-11 minute average for the day, including breaks and bathroom issues and so on.

We loaded in the cars and headed over to Charles’ mother’s house for a delicious pasta meal and dessert and a foot rub for Connie. Incidentally, her feet look perfect, you can’t tell she’s run a single block.

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One sleep left. Roughly 45ish miles to go.

Day 1 – 65 miles – No Deaths

As much as I’d love to go into every detail of the 12 hours we spent on the road today, I’m cold tired and smelly. And hungry. So, here’s the long and short of it, without the long.

Our plan to leave at 5:00 sharp was of course derailed due to the number of people we were coordinating. The news guys covering the start didn’t seem super excited about this, but they waited for us, and we got moving around 5:20. A couple bathroom breaks later (aren’t you glad I’m sparing the details?) and it was smooth sailing.

It was fun to run through the towns we are familiar with and have a good idea of where we were the whole time. The sun came up around Parma (sounds like a song) and warmed us quite a bit. Connie had set it up so that her special ed swim class would run a mile with her from the high school to the square, and she was pretty anxious about getting there on time. She’d need a 5 hour 50k, which isn’t hard for her necessarily, but it did mean we couldn’t dilly dally much. She was moving along well ahead of schedule, but wouldn’t slow down because she felt fine and was on a mission.

We picked up a couple runners along the way, which was very Forrest Gumpesque and quite amusing from my perspective on the bike.

We got to Medina right on time, if not a bit early. Unbeknownst to us, Roy had arranged for the whole of Fenn Elementary to come out and cheer her on. This made me cry, because I am an idiot. Plus, one of my kids was in the crowd. He had no idea what I was doing today, so he was surprised to see me.

We picked up her students, which was another pretty emotional experience, and headed up to the rally at the square.

Connie meeted and greeted and interviewed with all who needed it, skipped home for a quick bit, mopped up the dog pee in her bathroom, and off we went. What? Doesn’t everyone mop up dog pee in the middle of a 65 mile run? I know I do.

Not a lot exciting going on along Route 42 south of town. Still, her spirits were good, she was fueling well, and running faster than we wanted her to.

As we were rolling along I happened to mention that I had to blog all this tonight, and just as I was about to say “nothing exciting has happened…” we heard scratch scratch scratch and a door slam. And here came 2 dogs. Of course they went straight for Connie. None of us were too sure what to do, so luckily once we stopped and they saw we weren’t a threat, they calmed down a bit and returned to their very frazzled and apologetic owner. That was exciting. Of course, historian that I am, the first thing I said was “damn it, I should have taken a picture”.

We carried on uneventfully for the remainder of the day. Even tacked on a few miles at the end to put us in a better spot to start tomorrow. Thanks to a wonderful support staff, she had someone running with her at all times, aside from me on the bike carrying the gear. Side note: next time get a donkey instead of a bike. Just as effective, less work.

So that’s a wrap. Day 1 complete, 3 to go. 65/247 miles done. See you tomorrow. If my knees still work. And OMG my buttocks.

Run Across Ohio – A Grand Adventure Begins Tomorrow

So I have this crazy ass friend. Sorry for the language, but when I tell you about her, I think you’ll agree the terminology was correct.

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Her name is Connie Gardner and she runs. A.LOT. She wins races and sets records all over the place. And I don’t mean at your local 5k, either. I’m talking about ultra marathons. 50 miles, 100 miles, MORE. All told, she’s won 12 National Championships in ultra distances, and set an American Record in the 24 hour race. Yes, girlfriend runs for 24 hours straight.  Ok, she does stop for SOME things.

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She also really really likes beating records. Like, really.

I also have this other friend, Charles Elkins. He does crazy stuff like run a marathon through a desert sandstorm wearing some heavy ass weighted backpack.

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In his spare time between running a business, and carrying sand around, Charles started a charity. The Patriot Runners is an amazing organization with a fairly simple mission. They help combat-wounded veterans get back into sports. They raise money to help with therapy, prosthetics, training, and so on. This service is invaluable to our American heroes who are suffering from PTSD, brain injuries, and more. Please consider donating, it really is a phenomenal cause.

But something has happened. Someone let Connie and Charles be in the same room together. And the scheme they cooked up will have you shaking your head…

Connie is now the “Championed Runner” for The Patriot Runners. What does this mean, you ask?

Well, even if you didn’t ask…

Connie is going to do some amazing things to help raise awareness as well as money for The Patriot Runners.

Starting tomorrow, she will attempt to Run Across Ohio in just 4 days. We will leave Cleveland at 5am Thursday (from Browns Stadium) and arrive in Cincinnati (at Paul Brown Stadium) Sunday around 2pm. She will need to run around 60 miles a day to meet this goal. 60.Miles.A.Day, people. If I ran 60 miles in a WEEK, you’d have to come feed me and wipe my butt.

Oh and, I’m not just writing this for Informational Purposes. I’m going with her. Not on foot, though, I can’t keep up with her from here to the mailbox. But on my bike. I’ll be making sure she’s fed and watered and dry and whatever else she needs, and she’ll probably just be mean to me. She’s not super cuddly after 50-60 miles. But I can take it. She’s small.

I’m also the Official Blogger for Run Across Ohio (I totally just made that title up). Or at least I was. They might read this where I talk about my butt and change their minds quickly. I will be blogging each night about the day’s events. I’ll also be Live Tweeting when possible, ie: not while I’m on my bike. I can barely stay upright without having my phone in my hand. So follow me @Angie4b1g and Connie @UltraConnie for the shenanigans.

Oh, by the way… she’s doing this not only to raise money and awareness for the cause, but this is also serving as a “trial run” for the next big event. You sitting down?

Run Across America 2013

America. The whole thing. In World Record Time. 44 days. 70+ miles a day. In June. Sentence fragments optional.

Yep, that’s the goal. To run from San Fransisco to NYC in 44 days.

Any questions?