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20 April

Run In The Sun: Day 20 – FINISHED!!

Day 20:

31.5 miles

Astor to Ormond Beach (just north of Daytona Beach)

It has been a long journey in so many ways within the parameters of three short weeks. Before getting started this morning, Kevin and I paused for a hug and a roadside prayer. Given that, at some point every single day, we have had to flail our arms and wave stupid drivers out of the shoulder – aiming for us head-on – we know extra prayers for safety can’t hurt. We also prayed in gratitude of having made it this far, and I prayed very specifically that my Achilles tendonitis pain would either go away or be manageable.

An early-morning start meant a sweatshirt, and we had our third consecutive day of cloudy weather. It drizzled rain on and off most of the day. So much for “Run In The Sun,” right? 😉

I experienced pain with every step. I endured my every-day usual of at least 15-30 minutes of excruciating blister pain as I fight my intuition and mechanically force myself to place all my weight where it hurts the most, step after step until a passive numbness sets in. Next, I focus on managing my Achilles pain; today it involved a limp of heel-striking and minimal knee bending on my right, and a healthy toe-strike bounce on my left. This kept pain below “excruciating” levels, merely “very” painful. Although a manageable gait, it was only a matter of time before my left calf and left quad began cramping and straining from having to compensate. And so went the rest of the day.

But, none of it was unmanageable. I cried only a few tears from the pain. I was able to actually run (not walk) all of today’s 31.5 miles, whereas I have usually walked spurts here and there on the other days. I honestly don’t know how I did it, but I was able to run every bit of the last day of this journey, albeit slowly. Answered prayer.

Leaving so early in the morning, we had eaten only a very minimal breakfast, until we stopped for breakfast sandwiches at Subway many miles into our day. I think this helped the day go by quickly… mentally, at least.

Last night, I had looked ahead at our route and pieced together five 6-mile chunks that would form our run today. That is, after all, the golden ticket to big accomplishments: breaking them down into bite-size chunks. Six miles is five 15-minute chunks; 15 minutes is merely not looking at my watch until I think I’ve gone over a mile. And the 8 hours of running today went extremely fast because of the mantra on which we runners have come to rely: Relentless forward progress.

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A blip in the otherwise-steady day was a moment when I was lost in thought and a car came up very close to us from behind, passing another car on the 2-lane road. It approached so quickly, so loudly, felt so close in proximity, and we could not see it coming from behind us. I was scared by this car so badly that I screamed, flailed my limbs, dashed off the road and began sobbing and struggling to breathe, in a panic attack. This went on for a minute or two before I was able to regain composure to just breathe normally. Anger set in, and then the gut-level feeling of relief that comes after a “good cry,” although it was anything but good. I have certainly never been so scared in my life. But, I was safe. Answered prayer. [And… I readily admit that this sealed my so-far, broad-brush judgment of Florida drivers — that they rival my experience of Texans when it comes to being horrible drivers, but so it goes… and I am safe.]

First sign for Ormond Beach, our ending locale:

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The milestone right before the last  6-mile-chunk of the journey was the crossing of Interstate 95. We reveled in how well this intersection met our nutritional needs; we spent an entire half-hour savoring our lunch of Taco Bell, huge Cokes, Magnum ice cream, and Krispy Kreme donuts.

Sitting for a half-hour in the cold when I have already run 25 miles that day and 460 miles in the preceding days means totally stiffening up by the time I need to run again. As Kevin rolled out my muscles one last time, the pressure of the roller stick nearly knocked me over. I had noticed my waning stature over the course of the trip, but had mostly noticed how much weaker I felt each day, especially in this last week. So, things like rolling out my muscles nearly knocks me over, and I don’t have as much body mass to resist it inertially. Kevin, always good on the spot, said, “If you had pockets, I’d put rocks in them so you wouldn’t blow away.” Well, this made us both laugh, which is good for the soul on a physically painful day.

As we approached and crossed the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, tears welled up.
I cried softly as I limped beachward in the process of trying to comprehend all that we had just done; thoughts flooded with recent memories of such intense pain, daunting challenges, dire stresses, and peerless joys in this mind-over-matter journey. I breathed deep in the crisp ocean air that brought me back to three weeks prior, when my legs were fresh and our route hugged the white-sand beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Mentally and emotionally, I attempted to process all that I had endured physically to arrive in this moment.

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Once across the bridge, the ocean water and beach access point was in sight and awaiting my footfall. As I focused my sight on the sidewalk between my goal and me, I saw a man with a camera facing me, expectingly. Excitement overcame me further as I realized this was, in fact, my dear Uncle Milton, who had come to pick us up in time to watch the official arrival. It took self-restraint to not stop and give him a bear hug, as he motioned that I just keep going onto the beach.

By this time, the sun had finally made its debut for the day, in time to grace our photos. Kevin rode ahead on his bike and double-fisted the camera phones – one for video and one for photos – to capture the terminus of this arduous journey. Once on the sand, I pushed aside the gear stroller, now known as “Cartums,” and quickened my pace across the flat, packed sand into the delightfully cool water: therapeutic for my legs and feet, and relieving for my heart and mind. From here on out, it is comfort and enjoyment all day every day… and a hard-earned accomplishment that will be mine for always and outlast my physical body.

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Photos, hugs, kisses. A re-entry into the ocean for reveling and refreshment.
Introductions: Milt, meet Kevin. More hugs.

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Uncle Milton, although he does not claim to be an adventurer, was helpful in exceptionally adventurous ways, involving adventures of his Buick’s trunk. Did you know you can fit a huge beach cruiser AND a large gear stroller into the back of a Buick trunk? Oh, and note this fitting parking spot for Cartums I found by default when hobbling to sit on the nearby bench.

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We loaded up and drove to Daytona Beach to meet up with my cousin Jocelyn and her son Jalen for an Easter buffet. When we were planning this trip, I had no idea I would be ending the journey on Easter, but as it turned out, I got to spend Easter with family; I would not have known to wish for such great fortune. They’re such a wonderful lot. 🙂

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Later on tonight, I realized that I have only occasional, fleeting moments in which I have flashes of comprehension of the accomplishment, usually when I think about how I will be in Kentucky for leisure time in two days, or I don’t have to do anything but a few errands, EAT, and hang out with wonderful people tomorrow here in Florida.

I also realized how much my legs and ankles were going to swell from the continued use of injured Achilles tendons….
(normally, I have so-called “sharp” Achilles, but they are full and rounded now)

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I can’t say THANK YOU enough to all the support of those who followed the journey, shared encouraging words, and laughed alongside the many misadventures. Thanks also to Panama Jack and KEEN for their awesome products and tangible support of this journey!

The overall (and entertaining) trip statistics will be posted soon in a separate blog post. Stay tuned!

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3 responses to “Run In The Sun: Day 20 – FINISHED!!”

  1. Mom says:

    YAAAAAAAAY!

  2. auntier says:

    Congratulations! Rest!

  3. Panama Jack says:

    Congratulations Gracie! We so proud of you and Kevin, and we’re thankful to have been a part of your amazing adventure!

    All our best,
    Panama Jack

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