Sunday, June 18, 2017

Day 8: St. Charles to Machens (12.2 miles)

Day 8: Victory Lap

This truly was a victory lap. After reaching St. Charles the previous afternoon I emotionally felt like the journey was complete. Lizzy took my pack, so all I had with me was a water bottle, and I decided to run as much as I could. It felt really good to just go for a run as opposed to strategizing my fuel, run/walk intervals, weather contingencies, etc ...

The section from Machens to St. Charles is very pretty and was pretty deserted, but it was the middle of a week day. The lowest point of the Katy Trail occurs in this section, and this presented the only small wrinkle of the day. The previous week had been a bit rainy, and a low section of the trail had flooded over the weekend. There were signs announcing the trail was closed. I decided to just ignore the sign for several reasons. I would have had to go really far out of my way to bypass the closed section. Also, detouring or going back would have added up to an hour, and I didn't have a phone to let anyone know I would be late. I also really didn't want to have to turn around at this point. I decided to push on, and turn around if there was deep standing water or moving water. Luckily it was just muddy and I made it through and then on to the end!

Lizzy set up a finishing shoot and finish line and had signs for cheering. It was awesome.

Katy Trail, you were awesome and challenging! We'll be back and next time both of us will finish!

Day 7: Dutzow to St. Charles (35.5 miles)

Part 1: Runners and Bikers and People, Oh My!

After the Dutzow trailhead, the scenery changes abruptly from Missouri river bluffs to gorgeous, open farmland, and the trail itself is lined with wildflowers. I saw a few non-through bikers and runners. The first segment of the day was gorgeous and one of my favorite pieces of the entire trip.

Part 2: Why is Water so Heavy?

Interestingly, as you get closer to St. Louis, fewer and fewer trailheads have water. For most people going out for the day this probably isn't an issue, but I knew today was going to be ~interesting~ water-wise. My first stop of the day was at the Augusta trail-head. I was early so no businesses were open. Luckily, there were some people out doing yard work who let me fill up from their pump. I filled up my whole 3-litre bladder because I knew I might not have water access for the rest of the day.

Part 3: Trail Friends!

I stopped again in Matson, and again there was no water at the trailhead. Again a random person let me fill up at their pump. Hooray! I saw my trail friends for the last time during this run. It was pretty fun - they stopped and walked with me and we chatted for a little while.

Part 4: Maybe not the pain cave, but definitely the moderate discomfort grotto

By this point I still felt pretty good physically, but mentally it was hard to know I was SO CLOSE to the end of the journey. It was an interesting flip flop between being really motivated to finish and being really tired and ready to lay down on the side of the trail. Also, by this point the trail goes through suburban areas and it was a nice weekend day so there were TONS of people out on the trail. It's not other people's fault, but after being essentially alone for 5 days I was SUPER ANNOYED AT EVERYONE. Also, people stared at me a lot which was annoying. Yes I know I smell and have a giant pack, just leave me alone.

I think this was the worst leg of the trip, but it was also the last. The mileage markers on the trail follow the old railroad, rather than the trail itself. In St. Charles, the Katy Trail has to veer around the Family Arena, adding some not insignificant mileage to what's stated on maps and mileage charts. At the tail end of the trip, the extra mileage made me grumpy. Also, there's not a ton of interesting scenery here so the run itself is pretty boring. But, guess what? I finished it! I got in to Frontier Park in St. Charles, cried, and then got some woman to take my picture.

Lizzy came to meet me and stay over in the B&B (Lady B's Bed and Breakfast), and our parents also came to take us out to dinner.

Day 6: Bluffton to Dutzow (36.9 miles)

Part 1: Feeling Last Night's 'Sprint' to Beat the Rain

During the day's first miles I could DEFINITELY tell I didn't eat enough the previous day. Looking back now, I think this was the crappiest I felt physically. I made it to Rhineland, MO and had several cups of coffee and a gigantic ham and cheese omelet.

Part 2: Coffee and Calories is the Cure for Self-Pity

I felt SO much better after having a big breakfast. I think if I ever do something like this again, eating later in the morning is the way to go. I was never hungry first thing in the morning, and even though these morning miles were rough, when I was ready to eat I was able to get a TON of food down.

Part 3: Five-Mile Chunks are Feeling Mentally and Physically Do-Able Today, but Not Much More at One Time

I was really feeling the previous night's fast miles to beat the rain, and thinking about the fact that I needed to run 37 miles was overwhelming. I thought about one five mile chunk at a time and ticked off the miles that way.

My Colorado and Arizona trail friends passed me here. Yay!

Part 4: Kamikaze Butterflies
Part 5: Today's Theme is Eat and Eat Some More

If you do a mega running adventure like this seriously eat as much as you can. Any time your stomach can handle food eat as much as you can!

Part 6: Still Enjoying Myself, but the Closer You Get to the End, the More You're Ready to be Done

By this point, something clicked in my head and I knew that I would make it through the day and I knew that I would make it to the end of the Katy Trail. This was a happy thought, and I was grateful for the miles I'd already run and the miles I had yet to run, but I was starting to feel more and more ready to be done.

Day 5: North Jefferson to Bluffton (32.3 miles)

Part 0: MORE PLANS MORE FUN but Don't Panic if Everything Doesn't go Exactly to Plan

Lizzy and I are both big planners so our joking/not-joking motto about this trip and life in general is 'more plans, more fun,' and today it seemed that all of my carefully laid plans might be shattered. Cue panic and anxiety.

I decided to mail my tent back home because I knew I wouldn't be able to make it the rest of the trip with such a heavy pack, but the post office didn't open until 8, so my plans of getting an early start to the day to avoid afternoon thunderstorms were out the window.

I planned to catch a cab from the post office to the trail head, but when I called the cab company there was a 45 minute wait. It would be faster to walk, so I set off. I definitely called both Lizzy and my boyfriend panicking about plans. My boyfriend reassured me that I was capable of making on-the-fly decisions, and Lizzy listened carefully and helped me make about 1,000 contingency plans. Thanks guys.

Part 1: What Cruel God Created Mosquitos?

When I checked the weather in the morning, there were thunderstorms predicted to start at 3pm and last all afternoon and evening. After seeing tons of downed trees from previous storms, I decided I didn't want to be out on the trail during a thunderstorm and risk getting squished like a bug. Unfortunately, there weren't many lodging options along this stretch of trail. I could either finish the planned 32 miles and stay in Bluffton or only finish 12 miles and stay in Tebbetts.  Knowing this, I decided to take the section from North Jefferson to Tebbetts in a single shot and then check the weather again and decide whether or not to push on. Luckily, by the time I got to Tebbetts, thunderstorms were predicted to hold off until 6pm. I'd be pushing it, but I thought I could get to Bluffton or at least very close to Bluffton before the storms rolled in.

This leg of the trip was exciting because I met more trail friends! I met a couple from Arizona biking the trail, and a family from Colorado also biking the trail. They had both started a day after Lizzy and I, but their agendas for the remainder of their trips had them doing approximately the same mileage I was doing for the rest of my trip. It was really fun to leapfrog them the rest of the week.

Even though I was next to the river for most of the previous day, mosquitoes weren't a big issue, but with the previous night's thunderstorms and rain there was standing water along either side of the trail. Mosquito heaven. When I was running they wouldn't bother me, but I got eaten alive while I was walking.

Part 2: A Burger as Big as Your Head

I had planned to stop in Mokane to buy some groceries for the rest of the trip, and decided to stop for a big lunch while I was there because I was worried about having time to stop for dinner with potential thunderstorms. I stopped at the Mokane Bar and Grill and ordered an absolutely humongous burger. I was only able to stomach about half of it, but half was still a lot of food. I headed over to the Mokane Market to buy supplies. This place has gotten some bad reviews, but the guy working that day was incredibly friendly and fun to talk to. He shared a bit about the history of the town and had pictures of some awesome cars he had fixed up. I picked up a gazillion more Payday bars, a bag of hamburger buns (in lieu of more tortillas) and some ace bandages.

The Katy Trail is crested in the middle for drainage, and during the first few days I kept to the right of trail which meant I was running on a slanted surface. By the fourth day I was starting to feel this unevenness manifest itself in a twinge in my right ankle. Running in the dead center of the trail seemed to help. Also, there were so few bikes that it was easy to get out of their way if need be. I wrapped each ankle in an ace bandage for some added stability and was good to go!

Part 3: Seriously Though, DEATH TO ALL MOSQUITOS

Not much interesting during this segment. The mosquitoes were still bad, and I was still making pretty good time against the forecast. I had originally planned to stop in Portland for a dinner, but by the time I got there, I had five miles left to Bluffton and only an hour before Thunderstorms were predicted to start so I decided to roll on through, and just worry about dinner once I got to Bluffton.

Part 4: Distant Thunder is a Really Good Motivator

If you click through the link, you'll see that I averaged 10:05 min/mile for this segment. I knew I would have to run most of it to make it in before the thunderstorms. There were plenty of downed trees as motivation not to get stuck on the trail. In mile 2 I started hearing distant thunder. In mile 3 a gentle rain started, the wind picked up, and the thunder began to feel closer. About 200 yards before Bluffton the skies opened and I sprinted in.

I stayed with Doug at the Bluffton Barn and he was the most gracious host ever.  He shared his food with me since I didn't have a chance to eat dinner in Portland and we had a lovely chat over dinner and a glass of wine. The barn itself is also awesome. 

Day 4: Rocheport to North Jefferson (35.1 miles)

Part 1: Away, I'm bound away 'cross the wide Missouri

I let myself sleep in a bit this morning and woke up feeling sad, but not as absolutely gutted as I was the previous night. Also, the trail scenery changes drastically after Rocheport. Previously, the trail was surrounded by plains and farmland, but after Rocheport, you quickly hit the Missouri River, and you are in view of the river on one side and tall bluffs on your other most of the way to Jefferson City. The change in scenery was a big emotional boost. I was getting sick of running under the beating sun, and new scenery made it feel less like I was continuing on without Lizzy and more like a new trip. Also, it's quite peaceful to kind of flow along the trail and the river flows along next to you.

I made it to the turn-off to Columbia, Missouri, the point where I gave myself the option to bow out, but my spirits had lifted enough that I decided to continue on.

I lumped the next two parts together because they were pretty similar: I had awesome views of the Missouri River and was feeling pretty good physically. With Lizzy there, it was mentally pretty easy to run for two full miles, but I was finding that hard to do on my own, so I settled into a rhythm of walking one mile and running one mile. Every 4-5 miles I would stop for a five-minute sit down/snack break, and every 8-10 miles I would stop for a longer break. Because I was walking more, my running miles started to get a lot faster. It felt good to just let go and run instead of trying to hold back. I was now carrying a two-person tent and all of my food, so the pack was heavier and I was definitely feeling it.

Part 4: Channeling Mall-Walking Grannies. Getting My Power-walk On

Once I hit the last five miles of the day I was completely drained. These miles were completely unshaded, and I think this was also the hottest day of the trip. I was also starting to feel the heavier pack. I couldn't convince my legs to run during the last five miles, so instead I power-walked them as fast as I could. It was great motivation to suddenly see the state capitol dome come into sight and have a visual marker of how much further I had to travel.


Lizzy and I originally planned to camp, but there were thunderstorms in the forecast and I was pretty worried about getting wet and getting too cold during the night. The previous night we camped we were bearably chilly, but without another persons body heat and with the chance of getting wet I knew I would be straight-up cold. Instead of camping I caught a cab in to Jefferson City and stayed at a hotel. I ordered Imo's Pizza (4th pizza of the trip!). As a true St. Louisan, there is nothing I love more than Imo's Pizza.

Total recorded mileage: 35.3 miles

Day 3: Pilot Grove to Rocheport (25 miles)

Part 1: Confederate Flags Ahoy

After Lizzy's knee was acting up at the end of the day yesterday, we started out at a walk and pretty much stayed there the rest of the morning. We tried running a few times, but Lizzy's knee wasn't having it, and her achilles was starting to bother her too. She had to decide whether she would try to finish out the day, and I had to decide whether I would continue on solo if Lizzy decided to stop.

We actually missed a small segment of trail here because we decided to go to the Wal-Mart in Boonville for a resupply, so we left the trail before the Boonville trail head to shorten the walk to Wal-Mart.

Lizzy decided to not to continue on, before her knee pain turned into an injury that would leave her unable to run for months, and I decided to keep going.

Part 2: Tears at the Boonslick Bridge

This was definitely the low point of the trip for me. I always envisioned that Lizzy and I would finish the Katy Trail together, so it felt weird and sad to be continuing on by myself. If you run, you're probably familiar with the 'anger run.' Something in your life isn't quite going to plan or something upsetting has happened, so you push the pace a little too hard so that maybe you can exhaust all of you emotions out. Well, did you know it's possible to sustain that for 13.3 miles in the middle of a 240 mile journey? I covered these miles in a haze of tears and anger, and then cried some more when I got Rocheport.

I stayed at the Katy Trail B&B, which is a 'self-serve' bed and breakfast; you let yourself in with a code and help yourself to continental breakfast in the morning. I was very glad I didn't have to interact with humans that night.

I resolved that I would at least make the ~8 miles trek to Columbia, MO the next morning, and if I was still feeling miserable, I would head in to Columbia and catch a bus home.

Total recorded mileage: 22.3 (we walked ~3 miles we didn't record)

Day 2: Sedalia to Pilot Grove (25.7 miles)

Part 0: Time for Brekkie

After feeling so completely wiped out last night, Lizzy and I had no idea how we would feel when we woke up. Would we be stiff? Sore? Unable to move? Luckily, we felt a little tired and stiff, but not particularly sore, and absolutely ready to start the day. We headed into Sedalia and got breakfast at McDonald's trying to eat as much as we possibly could. It was pretty hard to eat this early in the morning, and I nailed down a much better breakfast routine later in the week.

Part 1: Rolling Hills of Sedalia

This segment of the trail was fun. Part of the trail follows roads through Sedalia, and it was interesting to see the houses as well as the remnants and reminders of the history of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad. We also saw some super cute puppies. By this point, we settled into a run-2/walk-1 pattern which worked well for us the remainder of the time we were together. We kept trying to hold back the pace on the running segments, but after having completed the trail, I don't think that's something we actually needed to worry about. I felt best just running at whatever pace my body wanted to run at whether or not my mind thought that pace was too fast or too slow.

Part 2: Still Feeling Pretty Good

After a short snack break, we finished out the 7-ish miles to get to the trail head at Clifton City. Clifton City is the only trail head between Sedalia and Pilot grove, and it does not have water. A 25-mile stretch without water is probably do-able for cyclists, but it's quite a long stretch for those on foot. If we do this again, we'll need to figure out how to get some water during this stretch because ran out during the last hour of the day. We were fine, but this could definitely be an issue on a hotter day. We also met some through-bikers at Clifton City that we bumped into a few more times along the trail. Our first trail friends!

Part 3: We're Tough!

When we told the park ranger at the Missouri state fairgrounds that we were running the whole trail, he responded with, "Wow! You girls are tough!" I don't remember much about this segment other than that it was hot, we kept on rolling, and we definitely dipped into our reserves of toughness ad stubbornness.

Part 4: Easy Hike During the Hottest Part of the Day

It was in the high 80s and sunny, Lizzy was starting to feel some knee pain from an old injury, and we were mostly out of water so we decided to hike the rest of the way to Pilot Grove instead of trying to force any running which would hurt Lizzy's knee and possibly leave us overheated without a way to get water.

In Pilot Grove, we camped out in the city park. Once we found the park and took a little recovery break, we walked over to the Casey's gas station, and got our third pizza of the trip. After that, it was 'lights-out' a 7pm with our alarms set for 4:30 the next morning.

Total recorded mileage: 26.8