Running across Delmarva

  
I jumped off the plane from Montreal and began walking down the terminal in Philadelpia. I knew I had three hours to kill. Three hours that I could have used at home preparing for the next day. I was just about to walk to the food court when I glanced up at the departure flights and noticed there was an earlier flight to Salisbury and that it left in forty-five minutes. What?!?! I could get home earlier! 

I had no real good excuse to change my flight. What was I going to tell the lady at customer service… “Uh I am running nearly sixty miles across Delmarva tomorrow, so could you change my flight and let me get in at 7:30pm instead of 9:30pm, so maybe I can get somewhat prepared and a few hours of sleep” – That might have worked. Instead I decided to just tell the truth. “Hi. I have no good reason to change my flight. I just want to get home earlier and see my dog and my yard needs mowing.” Change fee waived. Flight changed. Forget food. I bought the largest bottle of water available and I sat for thirty minutes waiting and calling to get a ride from the airport. 

Demone was waiting for me at the terminal. He and his son took the time to come out and pick me up, which was awesome and a lifesaver. My parents were coming into town but not until much later. Chris Demone’s son a big reason I am running this insane distance. He is a cancer survivor and half of the money raised for this charity run is going to John Hopkin’s pediatric oncology ward. We pulled into my driveway….

I had to do everything quick. Most of the preparation was completed before I left with my family to Vermont to visit my sister and to Montreal to visit my wife’s family, but there was still lots to do. The lawn was a mess. It was so bad my neighbor decided to mow the front of my yard. What a blessing that was since it shaved off half of the mowing time. As I mowed I reviewed the route across Delmarva in my head… Cove, Jester, muddy hole, whitehaven, nanticoke, pemberton, fitzwater, main…. And that was just the first twenty miles. I wanted to have the entire course memorized for my security, sanity, and confidence. 

Walmart run. I had to get water. Lots of water. I bought the huge three gallon container, a box of peanut butter and strawberry jelly crustables, bagels, soft cookies, hot tamales (candy), and Gatorade. Was there any food item missing? I wasn’t sure. This run was going to be 22 miles further than my longest run. I packed the the cooler when I arrived home with the food and a few small towels. I mixed the Gatorade and filled up my Orange Mud hydration vest water bottles. I then packed my backpack with an extra running kit and clothes for after then run as well as a few extra pairs of socks and an additional tech shirt. I also threw in Vaseline, medical tape, a handful of energy gels. By this time it was around 9:30pm and my parents along with my brother Travis were on their way from The Baltimore Airport. It was time to sleep.

I couldn’t sleep.

I have run five marathons, two ultras and countless other races and I never had trouble sleeping. I was nervous. I never get nervous. Never. I am constantly on the edge of exhaustion and so normally when I get in bed I am asleep within minutes. Not tonight. The pressure to run across the Delmarva was there whether I wanted to admit it or not. I rolled around from 10pm until midnight. At midnight my parents and Travis rolled into the driveway. Thinking I was sleeping they walked in the door and I scared them. They thought I was crazy for being up…. And I was. We went over final logistics and then I finally crashed. 

4am. After a little over three hours of sleep my alarm went off. I sprung out of bed like a mad man. My clothes were set out the night before. I was wearing an Athletes Serving Athletes tech shirt, grey shirts, and Saucony road shoes. It was rainy and in the low 70s, which was a blessing since the beginning of the week saw temperatures in the high 80s. The rain was a welcomed addiction. I had a threshold for heat for this run. I decided week before that if the temperature was forecasted to be over 85 I would reschedule the run. I was the only one that knew this and maybe that was so no one would worry or maybe it was so I wouldn’t have to follow my own counsel. “Get up Travis!” Actually Travis was pretty much up. We packed the car and then realized… “Where is Dad?” I forgot to wake him up. We quickly woke him up and he was ready within minutes. 

Our plan was to pick up Jose Luis at 4:30am, but that ended up being 4:40 and put us at The Cove at 5:10. We wasted no time once arriving. I quickly went to the water and touched it with my hand. The bay. One side of The Delmarva Peninsula. My Dad and Travis took pictures of us taking off. I don’t think we said much. We kind of took off right away. No sense in hanging out in the rain.

  
 “Jose…. No matter what don’t let me run faster than a ten minute per mile pace” – The entire run I relied on those running with me to keep my pace. The gaol was not a time but rather to complete the run before dark. I felt good about the goal and knew it was for a few good causes. I was pretty confident I could cross Delmarva before dark, but just in case I didn’t I packed my headlamp. This run had to be finished in a day. That was the fundraising message. I was prepared to run until 5:00am the next morning if I had to, but that wasn’t the plan. 

It was just Jose Luis and I. We had run hundreds of times before together but this was a little different. This time we knew that we could go as slow as we wanted. We talked a lot about the route and the blessing it was to get rained on for hours. What we didn’t expect or plan on were two pests that were about to torment us: dogs and greenhead flies. I get chased by dogs on occasion while running or biking. Today I was numb and when this huge dog came running across the street I just stared at it. I wasn’t quite awake yet. Jose Luis Luckily was wide awake. He quickly pulled out a water bottle and began spraying the dog… Then a smaller dog flew across the street. This one was smaller but was a pit bull. I kept running, not any faster but with increased focus. Jose Luis squirted the second dog and we were safe. Safe for maybe a mile. 

Why had I not thought of the flies?

  
The flies tormented us for the entire length of Muddy Hole Road Or about three miles. It was terrible and they were relentless. Wearing hats helped a little and we spend a lot of time swatting flies off each other’s backs. I laughed. What a great story I thought. We were thirty minutes into this run and we are getting eaten alive. Let me emphasize it was miserable. At the end of Muddy Hole Road Travis and Dad were waiting. We had planned to have them waiting about every five to six miles during the course. They had a little rental car with a hatch back that lifted right up for access to the cooler and the backpack. It was perfect. 

The night before I put a set of running clothes on the floor and running shoes out for Travis. He goes to the gym throughout the week, but I was hoping to make him a runner. As we slowed down for our first water break Travis ends up running the last part with us. He would continue to run parts of the transdelmarva run throughout the day. He and my parents were a sight for sore eyes quite a few times during the day. 

Twelve miles in and Jose and I were peeling off miles. It was awesome to run with Jose Luis. The furthest he had ever run before this day was thirteen miles and at around the 12th mile he says he going to do fifteen miles with me. I was super happy. I thought there would be a few miles where I’d be running solo before hooking up with Jim Chaney at Jeff’s house. I was wrong for several reasons. All of a sudden at around the half marathon mark Ivan drives by with his son Benny. Ivan and his family moved two hours west of us last year, but this morning he surprised me and said he came out to run with me. I was shocked and very pleasantly surprised. He also offered to relieve me of my hydration vest. I thought about disqualifying myself from my own run for taking help, but decided against it. From that movement on at around mile 15 until the end I never once carried my own hydration vest. Those running with me carried my water and fuel. I had Sherpas! And they were amazing. 

  
It kept raining and the rain kept it cool. Delmarva in July can be hot and very humid. We eliminated the extreme heat but the humidity was with us today. At mile 15 my parents took Jose Luis home and I continued  running with Ivan as Benny rode his bike along side us. Three miles later we pull up to Jeff Roger’s home where we picked up Jim Chaney. Jim was preparing for a ultra the following week and wanted to log some miles with me and so the four of us kept putting one foot in front of another down Pemberton a Drive towards downtown Salisbury. 

 I grew up in Salisbury. I was on the cross country team in high school… As the equipment manager. Yes you read that right I wasn’t Good enough to be a runner on the cross country team so I took care of their stuff. I ran with Ivan, Jim, and Benny through downtown Salisbury and actually had a few people come out to see me run like high school friend Christy, my new buddy Roy and his family, and Brian Perez and his kids. I told a group of runners that I would be arriving into the park at 10am and I was right in time (that wouldn’t happen the rest if the day…smiles). Running towards the park I could see a group of running waiting for me near the bridge and my family at the top of the park. It was an amazing feeling to have put twenty-three miles behind me. I felt great.

I thanked Ivan and Benny for the dozen plus miles they ran with me and the four plus hours they traveled round trip to be part of my journey. This day I would witness over and over the overwhelming expression of support, concern, and love from friends and family. 

The new support crew consisted of another Jim (Jim Veal), Michelle, Kelley, Jake and Jill. This group was all in some way connected to ASA and they were ready to put in some serious miles. The excitement could be seen on their faces. Jill’s kids would be following our progress in a van and supporting us along with my family. 

  

It was shaping up to be an amazing day to run…. Not because of the weather but because of those who came out to join me and support the cause. We ran past the park and the zoo and I have to say I was a little tempted to run on the trails around the zoo. I was now a marathon distance into the run and I realized that adding a little trail work in would not be a good idea. It was at this point that I exclaimed to my fellow runners “I just ran my slowest marathon ever…awesome”. Today was not about speed. It was about enduring the distance, the rain, the heat, and the day. A little before 11am we were running along Johnson Road when I told everyone I had a surprise for them and I turned down a small road. It was pool time. I set up three locations with kiddie pools along the route when I was expecting temperatures in the mid 80s, but with the lower temperatures and the rain I had canceled two of them. I forgot to notify The Bailey Family… So I took a dip. 

  
We were just about to continue our journey when the Bailey family arrived and showed me some motivational posters they had created for me. The Perez family had also created and displayed posters cheering me on and this gave me encouragement and motivation. There were now seven of us running together and before long Brian began running with us pushing his daughter with his son along side him riding his bike. We were an army of ten pushing towards the airport. We were close to thirty miles in and at this point the skies were starting to clear up and the rain was dying off. The sun wasn’t planning to come out, but we were happy to dry off a bit. I was beginning to cramp up a little at the top of both of my calves. Jim Chaney suggested I take Tums in case of cramps and luckily we had picked some up at The Bailey home. That would be the last time I felt cramps the entire run… But not the last of my suffering. The suffering was just beginning. Chaney is an experience ultra runner and so I was picking his brain as we ran. I was also catching up with the other running and getting to know Jake for the first time. I had met Jake briefly weeks ago when my friends Joey, Gabe and I came blazing out of a trail onto a road where Michelle and Jake were running. I think we may have scared him… Since that time he ran his first half marathon and today he was going to for more miles. 

We refueled at the airport and Brian said he would meet me at the end. Jim Chaney said he would come back if I needed him and headed running back. In the end Jim would log in over twenty four miles that day. 

  
Jill is one of the cofounders of the ASA chapter on the Eastern Shore and I have talked with her several times at The YMCA and participated in group classes there with her, but this was our first time running together. Her dedication and energy to ASA is inspiring and addictive. She was full of fun uplifting stories and helped keep my spirits high. Michelle is a running machine and wakes up several times a week to meet with other runners at five in the morning to put in often double digit runs. She is also a very kind encouraging person that pushes others to go further by her example. Kelley I met for the first time going to see the Iron Cowboy in Cambridge. He is full of life and seems to know something about everything we pass along on the road. He wouldn’t say there is a flower he would tell us the type, why it was there, and what was surrounding it. He is also always putting other needs before his own. He was a wealth of knowledge in this run. Jim Veal ran with us through Salisbury and through to Johnson road. He came to support us and his being with us meant so much because he had a family member in the hospital, but didn’t want to miss being a part of this experience. He is a very positive, focused individual that I look forward to running with more. I was honored to have so many people out supporting this run. 

Just south of the airport is Fook road that turns into a dirt road. My feet and knees were happy. The soft dirt below my shoes felt heavenly. I was tired of the constant pounding of the road beneath me. It was getting to a point that each time my foot landed I felt the impact throughout all my muscles. I should not have become to happy. The dirt road would only last three miles and the other runners around me were getting eaten by Mosquitos. At this point I was probably too stinky to attract any insects. They may have thought I was already dead. My wet shirt and shorts were beginning to cause problems.

Chaffing. Ouch.

I had to text my dad. I packed a few changes of clothes and now we were on Wango road and need of a change out of these wet clothes that were causing discomfort and making running difficult. My wingmen showed up quickly and I changed right there. Yes in the middle of the road. Good thing we have empty country roads out here. 

  
I was back in the business. Fresh, clean clothes and some cold Gatorade gave me renewed energy and determination. It was now nearly one in the afternoon and we were headed towards Powellville. We were able to get into a steady pace and moved forward talking about how every began to run and who or what influenced them. Everyone was relentlessly moving forward. It was then that I found out Jake and Jill both had distance personal records of thirteen miles. I knew at that moment that I wanted them to surpass that…. But did they? When I told them that if they ran to Powellville they would pass 15 miles of running that day they were eager to complete the challenge. They were strong and pushed toward the park in Powellville. The goal was to make it to Powellville by two in the afternoon and we arrived at 2:10pm. It felt great. We were met by my family and Cathy. Cathy was planning to run to Berlin with me or about ten miles. The plan was for the others to taper off, but Jake, Jill, and kelley wanted to go further. Jake and Jill would complete another mile before Jill’s kids picked them up. They bought were able to run a record 16 miles! Kelley continued with Cathy and I. Michelle would leave, but return a short time later. 

The sky was beautiful. It was warming up to the upper 70s. We saw deer racing across breathtaking fields. These roads barely saw any traffic. It was a very relaxing time of the day to be running. Kelley talked about his experience running The JFK 50 miler and his love for running. Cathy shared how her training for The Marine Corp marathon were going. It wasn’t long before Michelle met back up with us and Chris Demone began searching for us. We were on autopilot… If for a brief time. 

My legs were heavy and I was hungry. I stayed positive. I never thought about stopping, but I was craving pizza. Delicious cheese pizza with thick tomato sauce… My parents thought I was crazy. “I want some hot pizza and we can just eat it on the side of the road.” This was further than I had ever run in my life. We were at mile 43 and my parents hooked us up. The pizza came and although it was delicious I knew not to have more than one slice. We didn’t have the time and I would have jacked up my stomach…. I actually did a little bit afterward anyway. Pepperoni is a bad idea 🙂 A few miles later I felt that pizza juggling around in my belly. I laughed. 

  

Only seventeen miles left I thought to myself. Then I reminded myself that that is still a lot of miles and I was getting pretty darn tired. One foot in front of the other I kept thinking. Having new blood in Chris Demone helped. The conversation swayed into injuries and he thankfully changed the subject to what to wear on a run and how he wears dress socks when he runs. I had no clue. By this time I was quiet. I was getting depleted. The heat was bearing down. I kept drinking a ton of water. Everyone around me was so positive and understanding. I never stopped moving. I never sat down when I stopped to drink. I had to think forward and more forward. We crossed through Berlin just south of the center of town and Chris wanted us to go through the town to stop by and check my vitals at Rite Aid…. That wasn’t happening. Later I found out they wanted a medical professional on the run for my safety. That was probably a good idea. At this point I wanted to cross route 113 and get closer to Assateague. Chris and I have known each other since high school and we have run so many epic runs together including his first marathon and ultra. I was glad he was there. He is like a brother to me. I had lots of brothers and sisters today. 

I downed some Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies. So good. And another crustable. My fueling and hydration seemed to be on target..minus the pizza. 

As we were almost all the way through Berlin with eight miles to go I saw someone running towards us. “Is that Melissa?!?” Or was I seeing things? Melissa was suppose to be running the hills of Patapsco. What is she doing? Talk about a sight for sore legs. It was her and she full of fire. She was spunky and ready to lead us to the end. Chris had to peel off with five miles to go to get to a gig he had to play at. So we now had Kelley, Michelle, Melissa and I. Melissa hand me handful of chomps for energy… I also gulped down a very sweet drink handed to me from Brian and pressed on. 

I was struggling. I was moving forward slowly. Wanting to finish. My dad was sending group texts to my family to let them know my status… Little did he know I was on that group text and was reading some of them as I ran… And at the second to last water stop I read a text from my mom:

“He seems to be doing ‘ok’. Sweating a lot and is very quiet. Still moving”

I guess I needed to motivate myself and so I took the ‘ok’ as a challenge. I felt better than ok. I felt awesome… As I was barely running. I was moving slowly at a now 13 plus minute pace, but I decided to run past the Last water/aid station.. Let’s see what they say now…

  
Dad: “Not even stopping!! 3-4 miles to go!!” 

I had Michelle, Melissa, Cathy and Kelley feeding me every word I needed to hear to push me along. They are all experienced runners and know how to keep me going. Friends were sending them messages to relay to me. My friend Martin said something to the effect of “this is what you trained for!”… I thought of that and kept going. 

My legs were on fire. Everything hurt. Even my shoulders! 

Blisters we forming on my little toes… 

I was exhausted. 

Depleted.

Spent. 

Earlier in the day I said “there is no ‘I’ in quit” after which someone responded “yes there is”… I quickly responded “Well there is no ‘u’ in quit” – “huh Trent  there is…we just won’t remind you of that”…. I kept thinking of that exchange of words at this point of the run and laughed to myself. I was probably talking to myself as well. I was pretty zoned out and zoned in on finishing. 

When I turned the corner and saw the Verrazano bridge I felt so fired up. I had no energy to put that fire to use, but I kept running. I ran past Jose and his family. I saw Brian and Santi join me going up the bridge.
One mile to go. 

One little mile. I hated that mile. I loved that mile. 

When we arrived at the Assateague State Park sign my Dad wanted a picture… I wanted to keep going but I knew this meant a lot to many people not just me.. My parent flew out to be a part of this experience. My father And brother woke up the same time I did and along with my mom navigated the roads of Delmarva to support me the entire day. They sacrificed time, money and lots of sleep to be a part of this special day and I love them for it.

 So I stopped… But not for long. 

  
This was a team effort and as we ran by friends and family members at the beach bath house I felt alive and so extremely happy. As I crossed the sand dunes I thought of the kids at ASA and the kids at John Hopkins. I went straight to the water. Shoes and everything. I handed my phone to Jose Luis and jumped in. It was over. 

I floated in the water. The Atlantic Ocean felt better than ever. 

In ran 59.7 miles from bay to beach 

13 friends ran with me totaling over 163 miles with me

I burned 11,600 calories

I showered and stumbled to a bonfire set up to celebrate. It was great to be with friends and family and know that I was done running for the day. 

My run ended a little after 8:30pm, but I will remember it forever. 

Maybe I really have gone from lazy to crazy. 

PRC! 

  
  

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2 thoughts on “Running across Delmarva

  1. Travis Swanson

    Great run report! Meticulous. I hope that you will remember this site (or you at least kept a document) to remember this run decades from now. You will want to look back on these accomplishments, and friendships you made. Glad I could be there to witness history! You are an example to me and all lazy (and not so lazy) people everywhere.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Chasing a Rabbit: The 2016 Pemberton Half Marathon - Blue Serge Suit

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