I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves - those tiny seeds of doubt planted deep inside my cerebral cortex at such an early hour, destined to grow and blossom into a vast web of self-pity. As I slowly make my way toward the Rock Pile, those seeds are beginning to grow at an alarming rate. There seems to be a direct correlation between the arc of the sun and the declining state of my well being. Surely the mercury has not yet hit its high point of 85 degrees, but I already feel the lack of sodium intake is contributing to my loss of appetite and the dull pounding in my skull. 79 miles to go.
"Just make it to The Rock Pile."
As I plod onward I am passed by runners in the opposite direction, some looking like a million bucks and others ready to throw in the towel. As I walk up Hauck Hill Road I am reminded of my last training run on this part of the course, getting eaten alive by black flies in 90 degree heat. The flies appear to be satiated today. At least that's something positive I can dwell on for now.
I reach the end of the road and make my way through the winding singletrack to the Rock Pile aid station at mile 25. My head is still pounding and I my confidence quickly diminishing. As the orange blazed path snakes its way deep into the heart of Kennedy State Forrest, staked heads and severed limbs are exchanged for magazines. Yes! First one, then dozens of copies of Ultrarunner Magazine