Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The GNJR Day One: Dogs and Bigfoot

The confidence, excitement, and eagerness that had been building inside me for months were all gone smashed like a wrecked ship and sunk by the rocks of pain, fear, and dread. The long-awaited Great Noxapater Journey Run was here, but my prospects for success had vanished like a thief in the night. Monday evening after a short run, I began to feel pain and soreness in my left heel. What?!?! I have had plantar fasciitis before. This meant doom, maybe months of it.
Selfie near the start on the
Yazoo River levee.


I took another short run Tuesday afternoon, felt more pain, and my anxiety level shot to a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10. I wanted to weep, my mood became somber, I became sullen and dark. For years, literally years, I had planned and trained to make this run, but injury almost always prevented me from starting. Finally, I was healthy enough to start in 2013, but went down in flames, failing on the very first day with a stress fracture. Now it was happening all over again: same song, new verse.

Wednesday I went home after work, tried to stay off my feet as much as possible, and pondered and prayed if I should even start the journey. My head told me no, don't do it, put everything on hold; but my heart pushed me out the door and at 11:58 Thursday morning on November 19th I begun what I fully believed would be another ill-fated attempt. I expected to have to be rescued on the first day, but something inside told me I had to try. Since my spirits were so low, I started with a slow walk to let my legs and feet gently warm up. It was a full three and a half miles later before I dared to switch to a slow shuffle. 

Surprisingly, everything felt good when I started running as I shuffled out Browning Road, over to the highway, and then east on the shoulder of 82. I prayed as I pounded the pavement and asked God to at least help me get to bottom of the hill. I ran to Valley Hill and then began a slow walk up the long incline while cars and eighteen wheelers whizzed by. As the mile numbers mounted, my confidence gradually rose like the temperature on a July morning.

As soon as I could, I crossed the four lanes of traffic to get to the old Highway 82, a quieter, gentler road more satisfying to my soul. When the old highway came to an end, just like I did in 2013, I opted to ambulate the longer but safer and more scenic Skating Rink Road. This year I found it just a pretty as I did twenty-three months ago, and I also found myself praying for God to give me day one, all of it.

Somewhere after the road turned gravel, I picked up two dogs who seemed determined to go the distance with me. I did nothing to encourage their company, having learned long ago that canines love to ramble with strangers. As we re-approached 82, which I would cross once more, I prayed the dogs would go home, but they seemed set to stay with me having the time of their lives. One was a large, light-tan cur-looking male of about 60 pounds; the other was a full-sized but smaller black, shaggy female of an estimated 35 pounds.

Much to my chagrin, we, the dogs and I, crossed the busy highway and spilled ourselves out onto Providence Road, a shady stretch of tree-lined gravel that leads to the old town of Carrollton. We were getting a long way from the dogs' home, and I began to worry more about them, if they could get home, would they be safe. I caught the big dog and found a phone number which I promptly called. The man who answered said he was on the other side of Eupora travelling the other way, but he would make a call to a friend in the area who maybe could pick up the dogs. 
Supper at Dixie's Cozy Kitchen.


Just before we came into Carrollton, my canine companions got into a fight with some local dogs. This caused me to worry even more because I wondered how they could possibly have the nerve to come back this way even if they knew the way home and wanted to go there. 

In Carrollton, the traffic was surprisingly heavy and the dogs were constantly in the road coming frighteningly close to being struck several times. We went past my brother-in-law's house where my niece, Cheyenne, a lass about twelve years of age, was outside holding a puppy, and the brown dog acted a little aggressive towards the innocent puppy sending my stress levels even higher. 

When we got a little farther down the road in front of Dixie's Cozy Kitchen, a woman wearing an apron ran out of the cafe and started calling the dogs by name. She was the friend the owner phoned. While we were scrambling about attempting to corral the dogs, a deputy sheriff rode up and stopped in the middle of the busy road.

"What's going on here?" he asked as if he had caught us red-handed committing a crime.

"We need some help," the woman in the apron yelled back at the office who responded by speeding away in his patrol car.

We caught the brown dog and locked him in the woman's SUV. She said she would take him home when she got off work. But the black one was still on the loose when I left about thirty-minutes later. I don't know how that story turned out. I went inside when the apron woman did and ordered a hamburger and fries, and drank three glasses of tea.

When I left the cafe, it was dark and the temperature had fallen from warm to what a Southern boy calls cold. I pulled some clothes out of my pack, put them on and began the last leg of my day's journey, the three miles to Wilson Carroll's Seldom Seen where I would sleep for the night. Since I had just eaten, I didn't attempt to run, but hiked in the dark the two plus miles to the turn and then the almost mile up the gravel road/drive.

Inside the house, I quickly shed my pack and shoes, lanced two blisters-- one on each foot-- and took a bath. I then put on my night-night clothes and went downstairs for some TV time, reflecting on the journey thus far. I left home with zero confidence in my prospects for success, but God gave me the day. I was grateful. Now I was thinking, maybe, just maybe with prayer and effort, I can pull this off.

I became groggy so I went upstairs to turn in for the night. Having come 23.1 miles, sleep should be no problem and I was in the twilight zone, fading fast, when my eyes opened wide at a startling sound.

Pop.

Pop. 

Pop.

Over and over and over and over.

It was loud, way too loud for a mouse or rat or whole heard of rats even. Something was downstairs causing chaos. And then while my heartbeat shook the soft bed I lay in, something outside let loose with what sounded like a Bigfoot call, you know how they do on the show Finding Bigfoot. "Are you kidding me?!?!?!" I thought. Then after a few seconds, the yell broke loose again.

I crept out of bed and retrieved the large folding knife I carry on long runs for protection, more concerned about what was inside the house than what was outside it. You know I felt threatened since I had the blade out. I sneaked to the door, down the hall to the stairway, and then nervously reached for the light switch afraid at the sight I was sure to see below. I expected to see something, maybe a cow having crashed through the wall and standing in the middle of the room or Bigfoot himself or a crew of thieves wearing ski masks and black gloves. But when I did flip on the switch what I saw was nothing, or nothing amiss. I could view the entire room except a small area directly under the stairs, and though I hate to admit it, I was too frightened to go down there and look under the stairs

I spent the night with my knife in my hand, the hall light on, and my face pointed towards the bedroom door. Though I yearned to roll over onto my left side, my normal sleeping position, I dared not do it.

Yeah, I'm a fraidy-cat.

The distance for the day.