I awoke on Day 4 very focused. Though neither my wife Heather nor Ashley knew it, I planned on doing 50 miles today. Before the relay started I had realized that on the night of my fourth day there would be a full moon. I love running by moonlight. How amazing would it be, I had thought, to run through the silent, black stillness of the desert by moonlight alone. But now, standing in front of the post office with the early morning sun shining on my face, I was just focused on covering miles.
I started out, heading east on route 66 as I had for the last 3 days. After about 6 miles I saw it, finally a new road. For the first time since mile 4 of the relay I would have to make a turn! Just before getting to the turn there was a sign. It read simply “Kelso 34.” And so it was. I would finish in Kelso for 40 miles and then do another 10 by moonlight that night. As I clambered onto the RV to refill my water I told Ashley I was going to Kelso. I later learned that she didn’t know where the heck Kelso was. My decision to do the extra miles today was lost on her.
But the road turned north into the Mojave National Preserve and I followed it, the desert pulling me forward along my mission. Something special happened out there in the desert, something deeply moving and magical. Whatever it was, it was deep inside me. If the words existed to share it, I would. But sadly I don’t have them. As trite as it is, all I can say is that I felt alive, more alive than I have in a while. I felt like I was doing something authentic and real.
And thus “ultra-mode” slipped over me. It seems incredibly ironic, but I find that doing ultras requires me to be absolutely in-the-moment. Every need and sensation is acutely felt and tended to. It feels as though my mind is blank even though it is closer to the opposite. It is an odd feeling, but I love it.
And so the miles passed quickly. The heat, though intense, never really bothered me. And before I knew it I was rolling into Kelso, a nothing little town smack dab in the middle of the Mojave desert. It was 40 miles from where I had started in Amboy that morning. It had been a few hours, but felt like days before. As a beautiful reward from the universe, a random man saw our MS Run the US RV in Kelso and, after talking to Ashley, handed us a $50 check for the cause.
We decided to drive ahead to a camping spot 20 miles up the road. We set up camp in the middle of the desert, surrounded by Joshua trees, completely alone with only glorious desolation and beer as company. Once the sun had set, my daughter was asleep and dinner was eaten, I headed out with Ashley to finish my days miles. Sometime around 10:30 at night she dropped me off in Kelso, now completely abandoned for the night, with instructions to drive 10 miles up the road and wait for me. I was now truly alone…in the desert…at night…with nothing but moonlight to guide me. It was eerie but wonderful. I had been imagining this moment, this moonlight run, for months. And here I was running up the road as Kelso faded behind me. It was magical and I tried to savor it.
And so it was that I did my third 50 mile day ever, after 3 days of running and walking, after two marathons and a 29 mile day. Back injury, blisters and tendonitis be damned. I had answered the call. I went out there and did what I had to do for my mom and for all of those living with MS. It was a truly magical day for which I will never find the words, but which I will never forget.