TransCon Recap: Week 8

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States: Missouri, Illinois, & Indiana

Days: 49 – 55

Start: Ashley, MO

End: Groveland, IN
Cumulative miles: 2,345.6

Day 49 (Friday):

Today I said goodbye to Missouri. Once again this journey surprised me; I never knew Missouri would be so beautiful.

The morning was overcast and I found myself in a similar headspace, grey and gloomy. I wouldn’t say I was feeling bad for myself, just less appreciative of the experience and adventure I am currently on.

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At mile 20 I found my crew waiting for me in a gravel driveway on a rural road near Frankfort Missouri. Not long after arriving at the stop a kind woman approached us from the driveway we were parking in to ask if she could tell us a story. We obliged and as she began to tell us she became quite emotional.

On March 22nd of this year, a young man named Kaleo Dade was killed in a car accident while trying to avoid a deer on the road. The accident had occurred less than I mile back on the road I had been running on, I had seen some flowers and a cross set as a memorial.

She told us about Kaleo. He was a fine young man, and an amazing athlete at the local high school. He had a bright future ahead of him.

She asked if I would wear a memorial bracelet with me for the rest of my run and take his memory with me to New York. Of course, I accepted her request. From here on out, a portion of this run will be to honor the life of Kaleo.

I’m going to use this experience to remember not to take my days for granted and cherish those I love. Nothing is guaranteed and everyday is a gift.

Day 50 (Saturday):

I crossed the Mississippi River today! That was a rush. There has been so much rain that the banks were completed flooded. It was a pretty big milestone for me. Big geographical markers are huge psychological motivators. As of today, I am also 2/3 of the way done with this run! One third of 75 days is still a lot of damn days, though.

Milestones keep me going. One step at a time, one 5-mile segment at a time, one day at a time, one week, one month, and so on. Problems arise and we adapt and continue. All while keeping our eye on the end game: NYC on my 75th day of running.

This run has been such a metaphor for life. Things can get overwhelming if you look at the big picture of all the things you have going on. So take it day by day, or just hour by hour. Make whatever adjustments are needed, and continue forward.

Day 51 (Sunday):

So many cornfields in Southern Illinois! They just go on and on and on. All the fields are empty now, but I imagine they will start planting soon.

Shelley got in last night and put in 24 miles with me today. It’s so nice to have her around, but it definitely makes me miss home more than usual. I just want to sit on the couch in my living room and drink a cup of coffee while my dog and two cats cuddle up.

We were supposed to have thunderstorms, but never got a drop of rain. It was sunny most of the day, actually, and I started dragging just simply due to the heat. Elliott made me some mashed potatoes (with coconut milk added) in an attempt to help boost my carb intake as I have essentially no desire to eat bread or tortillas anymore. They hit the spot. Hopefully I don’t get tired of them any time soon.

Today was Kelsey and Parker’s last full day out here! I’m so thankful that they spent so much time out of their lives to come join my crew. I got nice and caught up on the happenings in the restaurant scene in Austin.

Day 52 (Monday):

Had a hard time waking up this morning. I shouldn’t say it was hard to wake up, as the sun was shining directly into the van, it was merely hard to get out of bed. I slept well last night.

My neighbor back home in Denver sent up 10 lbs of coffee from his roastery Logan House Coffee Co. Wow, what a treat! Thanks, André! This is definitely an improvement upon the instant coffee I had been drinking up until now.

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TRIPPE DAVIS showed up today. Guys, this is my buddy from childhood. We became good friends after we graduated from high school and moved away, and I just love this guy to death. His energy is so huge for me right now!

I ran the first 20 miles by myself today while the crew was busy doing errands like filling the fresh water tank in the camper and doing a big grocery shopping trip. No sooner had Shelley joined me running than we saw the crew coming back towards us to say that the road ahead was closed due to flooding. We backtracked for just a minute, and without thinking much, scurried down the side of the overpass we were on to get on the shoulder of an interstate. We only needed to go two miles before we could exit off the interstate and join back up with our route, all without losing or gaining any total miles for the day. Of course a cop immediately pulled us over and told us that he had to give us a ride off the interstate. This caused some problems because now we had skipped running miles and needed to find a way to make them up. There was a THIRD option of getting back to our original route (option 1: flooded road, option 2: I-72), but we would need to wait for the crew to drive us around to get there. They showed up as we were getting out of the cop car, picked us back up, dropped us off an an intersection before the flooded/closed road, and we corrected for the skipped miles on this other back road. The whole debacle rattled me a little bit, as my tolerance for unpredictability in general is low.

But then Trippe joined me for the last 10 miles of my day and I really cheered up! We ended the day in Illiopolis before sundown. All-in-all, it was a good day and I actually finished today’s miles faster than yesterday, despite putting in a little extra mileage!

Day 53 (Tuesday):

We slept in the parking lot of a gas station last night in Illiopolis. I was pretty sure this was going to be the day where I just succumbed to the sleep. It was extremely hard for me to get out of bed this morning. Trippe and Elliott said they thought I might never come out of the van, and they were exactly right.

But when I got going, I found a small groove and kept it. Elliott ran some miles with me earlier in the day, and Trippe and I ran the last 10 miles together (and by the way, he had never run 10 miles before coming out on the Transcon… and then did it two days in a row!). Shelley took a day off from running today and reorganized the van a little bit.

I ran through Tuscola, IL today and it was the most charming little town I had run through in a while. The crew picked up four new pairs of Hoka Bondi 6’s for me that had been sent to the Fleet Feet store in Tuscola. I’ve been putting about 400 miles on each pair of shoes, so these four pairs of shoes should definitely carry me all the way to NYC. I thought I could at least finish out the day in the pair of shoes I was wearing, but after another 5-mile segment, I stopped to switch shoes. Nothing like NEW SHOE DAY.

We somehow avoided rain yet again today. There were supposed to be thunderstorms from Saturday thru Wednesday, but each day the storms just keep getting pushed back. Thankful for that! It’s been sunny, but not uncomfortably hot yet. It seemed like a storm was blowing in near the end of my day, and by the time Trippe and I finished up, the temp was dropping quickly. We spent the night in Garrett, IL, next to Cody’s gravel pit. I took a hot shower and did everything I could to stay up and hang out in the camper with Trippe, Elliott, and Shelley, but I could only last like 20 minutes until I had to go to the van and sleep.

Day 54 (Wednesday):

I had three runners join me for the first 5 miles of my day today. I was shocked to see Ryan wearing a NadaMoo hat when he showed up at my start point – he must have gotten the last one! These guys were all in good shape, so I had a faster than usual start to my running day.

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I faced strong headwinds all day long. Wind can just tear you up. It wasn’t slowing me down that much though, and in fact, I was making really good time for my miles. The sun came out in full force, and yet again, we avoided the imminent thunderstorms.

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Shelley and Trippe each got to run some miles with me before they had to leave the Transcon for Indianapolis. It was obviously really hard to see them go. This was Shelley’s third trip to see me on the Transcon in two months and with each visit she brings a type of anticipation for her arrival that keeps me extra motivated. Now, I have started the countdown for NYC, which is where she will be next. She has been such a rock for me throughout this whole thing.

I just want to say a few more things about Trippe. This guy holds such a special place in my heart. Our friendship really hit its stride after we had both moved away from our hometown. In our early 20’s, we were both working bar scenes, riding fixed gear bikes, and doing our best to be outright hooligans in our respective cities. Trippe was living in Portland, OR and I was in Austin, TX. On a whim I packed up my bike and caught a flight up to Portland for a long weekend vacation. Trippe and I met up for a beer and quickly decided that we did in fact like each other enough to hang out. It also just so happened to be his birthday weekend and we proceeded to ride bikes and raise total hell for the remainder of my stay. It was so amazing to befriend someone who shared a common place of origin yet had moved on and was trying to find his own way in a city far far from where we grew up. The parallels between our lives are quite comforting, and I know I have found a friend for life in Trippe.

Now over a decade later, we’re both a little more grown up and have found much healthier ways to live and express ourselves. This friendship still means as much to me as ever, though. I’m super proud of Trippe for the choices he’s made and the intentional life he leads. He’s also one hell of a photographer! I recommend giving his page a look (@trippedavis), you won’t regret it.

Trippe, thanks for taking time out of your life to be a part of this journey. It’s been amazing getting to spend some miles and time with you.

After saying goodbye, I had to get right back to fighting the wind. For several hours, it was just me and Elliott: I was running, and Elliott was doing everything else! My original crew reunited later this evening (Chris, Clara, Jackie, and Elliott) and I think mentally this will help me to see that the end is near. Chris and Clara flew into St. Louis, and Jackie drove up from Austin to pick them up in their car. I had fun hanging out in the camper after I finished running, catching them all up on the last month’s stories.

I ended the day in Raven, Illinois about 1.5 miles from the Indiana border.

Day 55 (Thursday):

Early this morning I entered into Indiana! Once again, I am just shocked that every time I cross a state line, everything changes. Topography changes completely! We went from cornfields yesterday to rolling hills and hardwood trees. Having more interesting and varied scenery helps a lot psychologically, as I’ve probably mentioned before. It’s also really damn nice to be one state closer to NYC.

Elliott ran 10 miles with me this afternoon, and then Jackie finished up the last 15 with me. We had avoided thunderstorms up until today… the weather for the last 4 miles of the day was on par with some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever run in. Jackie and I were completely soaked. It hasn’t stopped raining yet and I’m about to go to sleep.

Tomorrow, we will run through Indianapolis in the afternoon and it will be the first time I’ve been in a major city since I left Los Angeles. There are some runners who are interested in meeting up with me, and I hope they make it out!

We changed time zones today, so I am going to get to bed as soon as I can to help the adjustment to an earlier wake-up call tomorrow.

Robbie Balenger