Saturday, May 12, 2021
Start: Rising Corner Rd, Southwick
End: Lake Wyola State Park
Elevation gain: 14,003′
I started out from the CT/MA border at 4am on Saturday. It was around 55-60 degrees when I started. I made very good time over the first 6 miles, and arrived at the Westfield River around 5:15-5:30am. I quickly changed out of my running clothes, put them into my pack, swung my shoes around my neck, and put on a pair of shorts and socks I’d brought solely for this purpose. I carefully waded across the river, following the route I’d determined to be the most shallow from my pre-trip recognizance. The water level had dropped by a few inches over the past few days, and the water only went up to my mid thighs. As I stood on the opposite bank and quickly changed back into my running clothes, ankle braces, and shoes, it began to pour. I dropped the shorts and socks in the trash can at the car wash in the parking lot and then headed across the road. It continued to rain for the next 6 hours, as I headed north. The rain ended sometime around 11am and the sun came out, just in time for me to arrive at the long road run to get around the CT River. It took me from 11:30am-2pm for the 10+ mile road run in the blazing hot sun, including two planned stops for water and one desperately unplanned stop to use a farm’s portapotty. It was ~85 in the sun and I sweat very heavily during my road section; I also got significant sunburn on my arms, where I was too sweaty for sunscreen to stick. My wet shorts had started chafing the fronts of my thighs, and I lathered myself with body glide and kept pushing forward.
I arrived at my first food drop, hidden at the Mt Holyoke Cabin, at 2pm. I integrated the food into my pack and consumed the apple sauce and small soda I’d included. I was feeling very sick to my stomach, and so I didn’t want to eat much of anything. I refilled on water at the Summit House, and threw out my trash – which included a PB&J sandwich I’d included in my drop that I just couldn’t stomach. I pushed on, completing the 7 Sisters, descending to the Notch, refilling my water at the ravine nearby, and then heading up Norwottuck and Bare Mountains, down to the Horse Caves, and over to Long Mountain, all without eating anything. At the summit of Long Mountain, around mile 45, sick to my stomach, chafed on my sides, thighs, and ankles and my feet blistered, I called Toby, thinking about quitting. I sat on a rock and cried as I talked to him. He helped talk me through eating something, and refocusing on the very next road crossing, rather than getting lost in all the miles I still had to do. We kept chatting as I kept hiking, heading towards a long road walk and more prolific water sources. He was on the phone with me when an 80lb Doberman mix charged me, stopping 30 feet away to bark at me; I scared the dog off by clacking my trekking poles together. Toby and I made a plan and I pushed on for a few more hours, stopping by Scarboro Brook and the mill pond to change into a dry pair of socks and tape my blisters and chafe – which was too little too late. There was blood on my socks from large chafed areas on both feet.
I called Toby around 10pm and we made a plan; I really wanted to do more miles than I’d ever done before, but I didn’t think that 110 miles was going to happen. I thought perhaps a 100k would be a nice consolation prize. In my fuzzy-headed calculations, I misremembered a 50k as 37 miles rather than 31, so I aimed for what I thought was 100k/74 miles total – Lake Wyola. Toby went to sleep, and I hiked on through the night, listening to podcasts.
Overnight, I saw a deer in a field that bounded away, and two young foxes on Cooleyville Rd curiously followed me for a few minutes as I hobbled along. The narrowing of my perspective at night to only my headlamp was helpful. And the temperature dropped and water was readily available, which allowed me to catch up on my hydration. My muscles and joints all felt pretty good; my skin was just falling apart under the perpetual moisture. My shirt and shorts never came close to drying, and my right side had an area larger than a dollar bill completely rubbed raw. I kept hobbling along, but the body chafe was getting worse and my feet were getting more and more blistered and raw.
At 4am, Toby and I had a phone call; I was very lucky to have cell service where I was, on Jennison Rd heading towards Lake Wyola. He quickly packed up and headed out to meet me at the lake. I arrived there around 4:45am and he arrived around 5am.
In retrospect, as soon as it rained for a few hours, I should have called Toby and asked to move to a fully supported effort so I could have dry shoes and a complete change of clothes. I should have planned that as a contingency so it would be a ready option. Without the chafing and blisters, I would have been determined to push onward, despite the other aspects (like the relentless mosquitoes all day until the sun went down, and getting very stomach sick partway through the day). My body’s condition at mile 75 was a testament to my training plan working well for me – I wasn’t injured in any way, beyond the skin damage. In the 3-4 days following this 25-hour effort, my lower legs swelled up quite painfully, but with time off my feet and some compression socks, my legs were in much better shape.