I guess one double-marathon simply was not enough.
Fence and I had been waiting around for two days. We mostly slept and ate. That is, until we realized how much food we were plowing through.
Then, finally, Dan showed up with Cheese, Baggins and Choop in tow. I had only hiked 37 miles in three days, which made me itch to do something stupid, something big. Now that I knew Dan was safe and caught up, I somehow had the desire to go and just keep going. We were at mile 1453.
I left camp at 7 p.m. and walked all through the night, which can be a tricky thing when there is no moon and you are in dense forest. Still, I found a rhythm and was able to get by without kicking too many rocks and roots. By 4 A.M. I had reached McCloud River, mile 1476. After putting my pack down I cleaned my feet off, ate a snack and got a bit of rest. By rest I mean I leaned against my pack in the dirt at the end of the bridge for an hour.
Having rested a single hour, I got back up and kept hiking, but this time in a state of delirium. I met a new hiker, Free Refill, shortly after getting back on my feet. What a cool guy. He's a middle aged German engineer with one helluva sense of humor. This fact, however, I would not learn until a bit later. Free Refill was just warming up for the morning, and I needed to get my blood flowing so I didn't pass out on the trail. I pressed on at an unusually quick pace for that time of the morning.
At certain points I could feel the proverbial wheels start to come off, but I hung in there. With enough caffeine, food, Ibuprofen and water you can do just about anything. Willpower doesn't hurt either. The miles kept rolling by. I saw a few other hiker friends, but mostly I kept my pace steady and powered on. The goal was Interstate-5 where I could hitch into town. By 2 P.M. or so I had reached mile 1500. WOOHOO! I still like the feeling of passing each hundred mile mark written in stones in the dirt.
By 4 P.M. I had finally reached my mark, mile 1507. After 21 hours my 54 miles were complete. 54 miles! That included 12,000 feet of climbing and and 18,000 feet of down. I felt accomplished. Also, I felt wrecked. My body had nothing left. Trail magic always makes everything better though. A couple and their daughter showed up with fresh watermelon, giant muffins and freshly baked cookies that were still warm. It felt like a pretty good reward for my day's trek.
About an hour and a half later Free Refill showed up. I had not yet moved from the spot where I stopped walking. He asked about my day and so I told him of my my distance record.
"Yeah, but you didn't do it in one day," he said.
"Maybe not in one calendar day, but I did it in 24 hours," I retorted.
"So, it still wasn't in one day."
This day was not Free Refill-approved.
Two weeks later, having passed Ashland, OR (and all of its magic), I was hiking with Ms. Frizzle, a bad-ass with an equally insatiable desire for doing stupid stuff as I do. Now that we were in the flattest section of the trail, we felt like we could do anything. Having told the tale of my first 50+ day, Ms. Frizzle wanted get on the bandwagon. Let's be real here, it's not like I was ever going to turn down another opportunity to do a crazy big day with another cool hiker.
And so on the 107th day of our journey on this Pacific Crest Trail, Frizzle and I awoke at 4:30 to embark on a double marathon. Mostly, the day went off without much incident. Frizzle likes to hike hard, which means that if you manage to hike in step with her the miles start to fly by. By mid-afternoon we hit some pretty crazy lava fields, but the actual trail through said lava rock was like a magic carpet, smooth as can be.
Sometime between 4 and 5 P.M. we heard cars. A road! We were 32 miles deep and while I didn't feel bad, it had already been a sizable day.
"Pray for magic, pray for magic, pray for magic," I muttered to Frizzle.
Awaiting us at the other side of the road were a couple of tail angels doling out tons of food to a group of hiker trash. There were grilled cheese sandwiches, beers, orange juice, coffee, ibuprofen, fruit snacks and more. I can scarcely think of anything that would have made that moment better than the grilled cheese sandwich brought to me upon reaching the other side of that highway. Oh, did I mention chairs? It turns out that chairs are, in fact, a pretty sweet invention.
We spent 45 minutes hanging with our fellow hiker trash and the generous angels who were passing out magic galore before Frizzle and I nodded to one another that we needed to get back out on the trail. We still had 20 miles to go, after all.
Things really started getting rough as the sun went down. The batteries in my headlamp had worn down to the point of making the light barely useful. My body was already fairly depleted of all resources and the almost-constant tripping did not help the situation. I doubled-up on lights, adding my iPhone's LED as a secondary. We pushed on into the night. And pushed. And pushed.
The last few of those 52.4 miles felt eerily similar to the last few of the first time I ran 26.2 miles. Everything hurt. The voice in my head kept saying "Please, just let this be over with." I conjured what willpower I had and forced myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other until, at 11:10 P.M. Frizzle and I had reached our double-marathon mark.
A few days later Frizzle and I met back up with Free Refill and told him our tale.
"This time I did it in one day," I exclaimed.
"OK, now you can tell people it was approved by a German engineer."