Friday, 18 May 2012

USA Day 14 - Revisited (14/05/2011)

I had a very uncomfortable night's sleep in the RV. I found it difficult to get a decent rest as it had been so warm overnight. My ear plugs had also fallen out during the night and I'd found it difficult to get back to sleep due to the noise of the engines in the truck stop.

I awoke to news that the charity fund for St Benedict's Hospice and The Children's Foundation was very close to £32,000. I must admit that I thought that it would have been a lot more by this point in the run across the USA. That was based on my experience on the run from John O'Groats to Lands End. That said, I never ever take people's generosity for granted and I really couldn't be disappointed to have raised that sum and still be in with a chance of hitting the £50,000 target by the time I reached New York.

Due to a change of support team crew, day 14 was to be another short day. The target was to run 15 miles and finish running by 12:00. It would be a bonus if I could do it any quicker than that. I'd need a break for food and to update the blog but it was still easily achievable.

I started running at 07:00 up a bit of a climb with Las Vegas in the far distance behind me. You can just make out the Las Vegas skyline in the image below. If you look carefully you can see the RV on the right hand side. Despite the early start the temperatures were quite high already. Another scorching Nevada day was on the cards. 

I got stopped by the local police after 3 miles. They asked me if the Ford Mustang further up was my car. I explained that it wasn't and what I was actually doing running this early on a morning. The policeman's reactions were consistent with all of the others that stopped me in the USA (there were lots!). He was full of praise and admiration. A liaison such as that was always good for putting a spring in my step for a few miles afterwards.

Once I reached the 5.5 mile point for the day it was all downhill from there. I remember passing a huge power station that morning. I later found that it was the Chuck Lenzie Generating Station, the largest generating plant in Nevada. There was a sign near the entrance stating that it had been x number of days since the last reported accident. I saw similar signs throughout the USA.

Parked on a railway line near the road was Union Pacific #4029. The trainspotter in me came out again and I took time to admire it as I ran past. 

At the 10 mile point, I passed a cyclist, who I'd seen earlier going in the same direction as me. As he rode past, we managed a spontaneous high five and he said "Keep it going Buddy". It may not sound much but, to me, it was one of those amazing defining moments in life. It was almost as if he knew how far I was running over the course of 100 days. There was definitely a feeling of mutual respect between 2 human beings and it wasn't to be the last time that this type of thing happened in the USA.

As the clock struck noon, I reached the 15 mile point. This meant that I was faced with the prospect of about 18 hours of recovery time. Absolute luxury after having run 385 miles in the previous 14 days. Unfortunately, I was a massive 49 miles behind schedule. That represented 1.5 days behind! Never mind! There was more than enough time left between Nevada and New York to make up those lost miles!

Sadly, it was Richard's time to leave the Support Team. As I've mentioned a few times already on the blog, he'd done a cracking job. Despitre all of the driving, fetching, carrying, cooking and waste dumping he'd only shouted at me on one occasion. What an achievement! 

Richard and I drove back to Las Vegas to wait for the new crew members to arrive. The rendezvous point was a Wal-Mart car park. It wasn't long before new crew members Kirsty and Jon (pictured below) found the RV. 

Richard did a bit of a handover with Jon and then we drove Richard to the airport and said our goodbyes.

I'd only ever met Jon (Cockerill) once before. He ran a mile with me on my run from John O'Groats to Lands End back in 2007. He had driven extensively in the USA prior to this trip and was a very clever and articulate man. I thought that he would be ideal for the Support Team. As I write more about his time on the trip you'll see just how right I was. For me, he was the ideal support crew member. He soon earned the nickname "Comedy Jon' as a result of his brilliant sense of humour and story telling abilities. Jon is definitely a guy you'd want with you in the trenches. His story will unfold over the next 14 or so blog posts.

Kirsty (Reid) (who also became known as "Wee Kirsty") was a recently qualified Sports Therapist. I'd never met her before but she came across very well in our many email conversations. She was another member of the support team that I was very confident would do well. 

You'll hear from Kirsty and Jon over the next few blog posts. This is what she initially had to say about joining the support team.

"I first heard of this ‘Run Geordie Run’ character after my friend, found him on good old Twitter. This was around the summer of 2010. Mark was looking for a sports therapist to support him during the USA run. 

I filled in the form and a few weeks later, there I was, a fully fledged member of the Run Geordie Run Support Team for the run across America! 

On the 13th of May 2011, I set off to Las Vegas to meet up with some random guy I’d never met and to sleep in an RV with strangers. BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE! 

I joined Mark 2 weeks into his run and was surprised with how great he was looking when I met up with the team in the Walmart car park in Las Vegas. The only thing Mark had really complained about was blisters. I was expecting to see a crumbling man in pain! 

I hadn’t thought about where we would sleep at night, I knew we were in the RV but I hadn’t thought any further than that! We were in Walmart car parks, Truck stops, at the side of the road circled by coyotes and in RV parks – It all added to the experience of the trip!".

Following a slap up McDonalds meal (pictured above) we set off to the airport to do one last pick up for the day.

The final member of the new support team, arriving later that evening, was Stephen Cook. Right from the outset, I identified his lack of experience as a potential risk to the run. However, the advantage of having Stephen on the team was that he was able to join for a whole 7 weeks. I hadn't managed to get anybody else during that time and had a couple of drop outs. He really helped fill a gap in support team duties.

Unfortunately, you'll find that I'll write many negative comments about Stephen over the coming weeks on this blog. Please bear in mind that I am eternally grateful to him for the time, effort and expense he gave to be a part of the team. I don't make a habit nor do I have any desire to bad mouth anybody on my blog. I do, however, have a desire to tell the full story (where legal to do so) about the run across the USA. My relationship and the interaction with the support team is very much part of that.

That afternoon, it had become obvious to me just how similar the current situation was to being on Big Brother. Complete strangers flung together in the confined space of the RV was going to be very interesting indeed. If Jon and Kirsty were the bog standard Big Brother contestants then Stephen was definitely the strange looking one that you normally get on that show. 

Stephen arrived at the airport in a very smart suit with black and white dreadlocks! What also surprised me was the fact that he had brought 3 suitcases. As it turned out, they were mainly full of designer clothes. Not the kind of attire I'd expect anyone to wear for 7 weeks on a support team in the parts of the  USA that we'd be venturing through. His stuff took up a lot of room in an already cramped RV. I really had a bad feeling about his appointment to the support team at this stage. 

As we drove through Las Vegas to the overnight stopping point Stephen was like a cat on hot bricks. He wouldn't sit still, poking his video camera into the drivers cabin to get a good look at the bright city lights. It was at this point that he asked about the possibility of me having a rest day tomorrow. This would allow the support team time to have a good look around Las Vegas. This was far from the attitude that I needed from someone on my support team. Stephen had been appointed by me to the team. If things happened to go wrong on the trip then I realised that I had nobody to blame but myself. Thankfully, I felt that the chances of anything going wrong, for the next 2 weeks at least, were quite slim with Jon on the team.