Mississippin'. Days 5-6

Blog Day 5:

After a half decent sleep till 8am, which was needed after the previous evening's farce with refuelling, I was pretty nervous about today, especially as I'm still working out whether the increasing difficulty of the first run of the day is to be expected or feared and where is the limit? How sore will I get? It's hard at the moment, but I can handle this. It's probably as hard as the business end of marathon training, but as I get to the third mile of the day, which is after the initial novelty of running again has worn off, I go into an internal conflict with my inner slacker grappling with the more positive side of my psyche. I'm trying out different strategies. Today I decided to try two initial runs of 8 miles, with smaller ones afterwards. This might have been a good idea if we'd have started at 6am, rather than 9, but it was baking hot already at that time in the morning and crossing the bridge into Biloxi was an ordeal until I met a 71 year old member named Art (I think, I'm still getting used to the Southern Drawl!) of the Gulf Coast Running Club who had a stellar marathon record of his own and wastrying to get back up to speed again. He was very interested in the charities and made me feel great about the run.

Now we found out last night that there was a Bubba Gump restaurant at the Golden Nugget Casino and after an ultimately fruitless attempt to blag a free room we checked in there and heard about the Gary Sinise Foundation and it's work. Now, as you probably know, Gary played Lieutenant Dan in the film and after he returned home alive from Vietnam after he was an unwilling participant in a rescue by Forrest, he found himself down on his luck after being let down by the system. Now regardless of your opinion on military operations going on worldwide, it is impossible to ignore the fact that a lot of brave young men and women put their lives on the line for something they believe is right (it certainly ain't for the money) and a large number of these aren't really catered for at the end of the service, many having mental health issues as a result of what they've seen. This was quite a strange turn of events as I'd only passed the Mississippi Vietnam memorial a few miles earlier and took 15 minutes to just walk around and take it ll in, noting that the contribution of the ANZACs and also Korean and Thai forces were also acknowledged. So many of the dead would have been enlisted. Guys like Bubba and Forrest, who didn't know what they were getting into and many of whom didnt come back. A lesson into thinking twice before jumping into conflict, that we are still ignoring to this day. The Gary Sinise Foundation is trying to help however they can and I'd recommend having a look at the garysinisefoundation.org website, especially if you're based in the states. Expect to see lots of photos of me in a cardboard beard…

Thoroughly cooled down, I set off again only to be boiling within about 5 minutes. It takes me about 10 minutes to get a sweat on in the UK, even in the gym. In that time here, my shorts and top are completely sodden and I'm having to dry my traineres out at the end of the day. I worked out Ineed about 150-200ml water on the run, just to keep me sane, which is up to 6 litres and I reckon I have a good few more after that. This part of the run looked gorgeous, running along the Biloxi seafront with the huge casinos of the Southern Vegas calling to me with offers of amazing air con and pure white sands with parasols that screamed at me to come on over. I nerly listened. I was pretty fuzzy when I arrived at the second meet-up point and was saved by Nads bearing a frozen Blueberry smoothie. I ate some of last nights leftover pizza, drank a few more bottles of water and resolved to do shorter runs to reduce overheating as the mercury topped 108F. I advanced towards Gulfport, weaving to get shade and sighing at the cranes that appeared never to get closer in the distance. After aborting a stopoff because I was being eaten alive by what looked like house flies (they must have had knives) and Nads informed me she was a mile or two up the road in a bar called Shaggy's. Now I was upset to see that this was not owned by my mate Nick Hart (nicknamed Shaggy) and we had to pay for our drinks, two pints of coke, two of water and a pint of Sweetwater Pineapple IPA with some sweet potato fries sorted me out.

I had some motivation up the road as Molly, also a member of the GCRC was going to come and run the last few miles with me, which we did as an amazing sunset started to form on our left with the grand old mansions of Gulfport on our right providing a contrast to the new money of Biloxi. Molly is preparing for an ultra run in Florida and I've no doubt she'll smash it – she's got a good engine, but even she said that the heat in the last few days has been worse than usual. She waved her goodbyes as she carried on her run and left me and Nads to enjoy the sunset on a beach where the sea just seemed to blend into the beach as if it was just liquid sand. We couldn't make it back to Bubba Gump for dinner as it was getting on, but pizza in our Knights Inn motel was a lot more comfortable, on time and Monday Night Football had my team on. Mississippi pulled things round big time today.

Start = Outskirts of Ocean Springs. Finish = Pass Christian. 30.54 miles


Blog Day 6:

Today was supposedly the day where we got up early and I was running by around half seven, but a late night partially caused by Day 5's monster blog ;-) meant we only left about that time. We were about 25 minutes away from the start as I planned to do a 9-10 mile stint and get back there comfortably for breakfast, a shower and a cool down, before getting the rest of the days runs in. As befits the rather chaotic nature of our start so far, we were about 100m from the start point when I realised I'd left my GPS at the hotel. Cue another round trip. By the time we started it was half eight and our hour's sneak-up on the sun had gone up in a pile of sweaty steam. I've gotten used to the unexpected so cracked on like a boss, until half a mile down the road I realised I had no water with me. Like. A. Boss. I've realised the advantage of surprise and talking quickly in a Scouse accent whilst throwing the words ice and water about in service stations has and seeing as the majority of people I've encountered in such establishments have been friendly and positive about the run, I got away with a huge insulated cup of ice to accompany me over the 2 mile bridge to Bay St. Louis and eventually our hotel. I was quite pleased I got the 9.5miles done with less quad ache than I'd been having, though a worrying pain on the ball of my left foot, was now undoubtedly a huge blister. Got to the hotel to find that all that was left for breakfast was two slices of bread. Which was nice. The reception desk implied that we were lucky to have the free breakfast, as they were under no obligation to provide one, though the fact that we'd chosen this hotel over a nicer looking one purely because they provided the breakfast didn't seem to register. Another entry into the “5/10 motel experience” list that we seem really good at finding contenders for. Nads kindly gave them up, despite my objections and soon after we headed further west. The Highway 90 in this part of the world soon becomes very straight and really quiet and when I caught up with the car, it was usually a case of finding what shade we could get and nailing water we carried with us, rather than a cold drink from a services. Handy tip: Polar Cups that you get with large/XL “soda fountains” keep ice cold in the car for a good length of time! At one point there was literally no shelter at all so I told Nads, I'd rather walk than rest and went about half a mile before I was bored and started running again. Now we'd just seen our first roadkill snake (about three foot long, fat head and black) but soon enough I topped that with what I thought was some sort of mammal skelton at the side of the road only to get closer and see it was a 'gator's! Thought about taking some sort of tooth or digit as a memento, but got a weird feeling that I shouldn't. Probably some sort of voodoo. The 'gator stayed unmolested. After continued nutritional neglect after a less than auspicious start the last few miles were a real ordeal, though I crossed some gorgeous bayous, where the sky was reflected in the black water and after finishing one run it turned out that we were only 0.7 miles from the State border with Louisiana and a slightly hairy dash aided by me looking through the screen of a GoPro over one of those cool old-style American girder bridges with no path, delivered us into Louisiana - “The Sportsman's Paradise” apparently. Should suit me fine.

Start = Pass Christian. Finish = MS/LA State Border. 26.2 miles