TransCon Recap: Week 3

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STATE: ARIZONA & NEW MEXICO

DAYS: 14 - 22

START: FLAGSTAFF, AZ  | END: CUBA, NM

CUMULATIVE MILES: 858.9 mi

Wow - what a week it has been. It’s been filled with so many ups and downs, which seems to be the theme out here.

Shelley and Jackie both left so the crew dwindled down to only three people, Chris, Clara and Elliott.

Leaving Flagstaff the route began to get very rural very quickly as I entered the Navajo Nation. The landscape and topography was just absolutely beautiful. The biggest spirit lifter however, was just how friendly the people and the dogs are there. I seriously think I want to come back here and adopt a Navajo puppy because the dogs are a different level of friendly. I also had some very positive and uplifting conversations with the people there and truly felt grateful that I was traveling through on foot. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I had to chat with the people like I did if I had just been passing through as a tourist. I also didn’t realize just how HUGE this sovereign nation is. It is often compared to the size of West Virginia!

 
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I’ve had some pretty low lows this last week coupled with some of my best days as well. I battled blister pain, low energy and homesickness, and then later in the week acute and sharp tendon pain in the top of my foot and outer shin that left me limping and ultimately needing to take a rest day. In contrast, I have also had some of the most energizing days and never thought it possible that after 2 plus weeks of running ultramarathons I would have some days that went just so disturbingly well.

My rest day was hard for me to accept at first. I knew I needed it, but had a hard time surrendering to it and letting go. I felt as though I might be a failure if I fell behind schedule, even though I also knew that I had planned 5 rest days in my itinerary to use as needed. Eventually I was able to let go to a certain extent and just enjoy the rest. I never thought I’d be so content just laying around and sleeping SO MUCH.

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On day 22, I tried walking. Two days prior I had to pull the plug at 14.8 miles and then took a zero mile day to rest. As I began testing the waters with walking the pain came back after only 2 miles. I wrapped the affected area in an ACE bandage and the pain suddenly felt manageable. I knew I could walk on it and it wouldn’t aggravate the injury so I figured I would just walk until dark. I’m on a pretty strict regimen of elevating and icing my leg every 5-10 miles to stay on top of the inflammation.

After about 10 miles of walking I saw three runners in the distance and felt apprehensive. I wasn’t quite ready to interact with people I didn’t know. My head and mind were still trying to figure out this whole leg pain issue and just get through the day. As the three runners got closer I was able to discern that it was Will, Gonzo and Tim! Three of my friends from Colorado! They just showed up from out of nowhere and I was completely stunned!

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These three drove 7 hours from Denver to an airbnb the day prior, then drove another hour in the morning to find me! They were super resourceful and used the Strava maps and GPS to find me. My spirits were IMMEDIATELY lifted in their company. God it just felt SO GOOD to laugh and talk with familiar people. The fact that they made such a huge effort to come out for just one day was so touching to me.

My buddies walked 30 miles with me, which allowed me to be able to cover 40 miles for the day. I feel super proud about being able to come back like that. It took me 15 hours and it was quite late when I finished the day, but man, their support and companionship just felt so good. It truly is incredible what friendship can do.

I finished the day without a limp and physically feeling so much better. I don’t know what happened or how, but things feel like they are looking up! Shelley is coming back out here with my mom in a few days and I’m so looking forward to seeing them!



Robbie Balenger