Trying not to blow up. Days 106-108

I didn't feel as brave this morning in terms of my interstate brazenness so it was lucky that a path led from our drop off point last night to a dirt track to the side of it, which I mostly stuck to on the long 16 mile drag back to where we'd stayed the previous night. I had a harrowing text message from basecamp that the promised free pastries at the campsite had not materialised and I made do with a Twix and a Gatorade from a local services to console myself once my cross country adventure had finished. Such is life. The weather was at least dry, though still a bit on the chilly side, unlike my mood which had taken a turn for the better, helped in no small part by the messages of encouragement we had received over the last day and in the latter part of the run by a steady downhill to breakfast and then into Las Cruces itself. There, I met up with Steve Ramirez, a reporter from the Las Cruces Sun, who was a big runner a few years ago, with many marathons under his belt and also a real thing for Forrest Gump. He has THREE pairs of the original Nike Cortez, his nickname is Bubba and get this – he is four hours older than Tom Hanks. He knew all the quotes and I haven't had such back and forth quote banter since I was at university and Anchorman was out. We could run like the wind blows. In the limited time I had before Nads sent out a search party, I popped in at Run Culture, the local specialist running shop to meet Carlos and an enthusiastic customer and then it was lunchtime! I swear all I do is run and eat...and chat. Nads had an eye on visiting a local free space museum, set up by a chap who just loved space and wanted it to be free for all. Isn't that nice? I had an eye on a big old mountain that would take me out of Las Cruces, for the time being and down towards the White Sands National Monument. More on that later. It was a slog, but I seemed to fly up it, probably too quickly with my need for self-preservation and once at the top I was informed that I was now in White Sands Missile Range, not to take any photos and keep my beak out of any areas not on the road. OK. Off I went, down the road, merrily taking photos...I mean errr…not taking photos of the lovely snow peaked mountains, vast plains, mock-ups of rockets… Anyways, I digress. I'd kinda forgotten it was Valentine's Day, which to be fair is a bit of a sham anyway, but it was an excuse to go out for the night. We went to the High Desert Brewing Company (of course) where I only had four beers, all brewed on site (Oktoberfest, IPA, Brown ale and Black IPA) and a huge dinner (Nads took half of hers home for tomorrow!), but I definitely felt for the good of the run it was time to go home on slightly wobbly legs. This was after that Luke, our man for the night had presented Nads with a heart-shaped cheesecake on the house! Who says romance is dead?

Start: US Border Patrol Checkpoint nr. I-10. Finish: Jct of US-70 with County Road 213. 44.0 miles

Day 106 Tune of the Day: Bloc Party – This Modern Love. One for Valentines Day! I remember this putting all the hairs on my body on edge walking towards the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury when this was on a few years back – here it is! Look at the mud! Look how quickly they played it!

Super tired. So tired in fact I'd be dreaming about bed all day. The good points though were ace weather, a nice road to run on and a pretty flat expanse, laid out in front of me. Though we were already in the White Sands Missile Range, we were pointed in the direction of the White Sands National Monument, a huge expanse of pure white sand dunes, made of gypsum and not usual sand, which have the peculiar quality of not absorbing the sun's energy, so it's possible to walk barefoot on them in the height of summer. The closest I'd get, of course was a glimpse of them to the side of the road. I had a nice encounter at the White Sands Visitor Centre, in lieu of not being able to go and get amongst the dunes, due to time marching on and all that. I'd been recently overtaken by an RV, that I recognised in the car park, parked next to Jenny. A family was getting out and they were looking around...maybe at me? I said hi, in the way you would as a courtesy to someone going past, as I'm not self-important enough to assume they'd actually want to speak to my dishevelled mess of a man, but they did. “So then...where did you start?”. These guys were off on a big adventure themselves and dad was a bit of a runner so they were used to both living in a small space and smelly men! They felt Nads' pain! A few photos later and a lot of smiles, I headed in for lunch. It was a couple of standard runs to the park and one of the staff at the Holloman Air Base stopped for a photo on the way to work, grabbing it from the window of his car as he slowed right down, leaving with a cheery wave.

I had the luxury of third shower in consecutive days (a welcome and rare occurrence) and plonked myself down in a Lay-Z-Boy recliner in the clubhouse. Bliss. Watching a big widescreen telly, it felt like someone had just let me take over their house and I have a sense I may have done to an extent, when I met Wes, the proprietor, who was a great fella and K let him know just how welcome this luxury was. Dreams were soon to become reality and I retreated to bed, willing the replenishment of mind and body for the 24 mile climb that awaited tomorrow afternoon.

Start: Jct of US-70 with County Road 213. Finish: Desert Paradise RV Park, Alamogordo. 42.8 miles. Day 107 Tune of the Day: Sleeper – Inbetweener. Hearing the news of a reunion of one of my favourite teenage bands tinged with sadness as I won't likely be in the UK to see it.

Wes had let me know that we were on the flat to “Tulie”, AKA Tularosa, then it was 24 miles of an uphill grind. Not particularly steep, but enough to let you know it was always there – eating away at your stamina. This would take us to the highest altitude yet of the trip and I was trying to work out if it was the highest I'd ever been, not in a plane! Most of what I saw of Alamogordo was they typical fast-food chains and shops as I was on the main commercial drag, but it did reveal some of its eccentricities which I was grateful for – its posters and signs for the local Fighting Tigers sports teams, a toy train museum, the second largest roadrunner I've ever seen (Fort Stockton still in the lead!) and the coup de grace – the world's biggest pistachio (To go alongside Las Cruces' chilli)! Tularosa wasn't to be outdone, with two huge water tanks highlighting the success of the 2005 National team ropers and the State-conquering Widlcats who had a particularly fruitful 90's! School sport here is awesome. I love it. Another interesting footnote for the day was that Tularosa was less than 50 miles from the site of the first ever atomic bomb detonation, at the Trinity Site in the White Sands Missile Range. They used one for real three weeks later. That's just mind boggling.

Without further ado, the road started to curve upwards and soon enough the mighty Sierra Blanca mountain was looming – 80 miles in the distance. While I wouldn't have to get to the 12,00 foot high peak, I would have to get over the range, which ran through the middle of the Mescalero Apache tribe. The Mescaleros are obviously a very proud people, with street art depicting famous warriors, messages to treasure your life, family and people and messages of hope. I stuffed a few of them, figuratively into my back pocket and hoped they'd carry me up that hill. Head down, count out the miles, cheeky look around every now and again (i.e. unscheduled rest break) and the end will come. What did come was the cold. Looking through the trees you'd occasionally get a glimpse of snow and these glimpses were becoming more frequent. I saw Jenny parked about a half mile away and there was snow all around. I was warned on my approach that that snowball had better not come any where near Nads, so over my head it went. Maybe I was a bit giddy as we were at Apache Summit, 7,591 feet above sea level and beating my previous altitude record on this trip by about 1,700 feet. That'll do for today. The 6 miles or so to our rest stop just wasn't on my running radar. Jenny could run those miles.

Start: Desert Paradise RV Park, Alamogordo. Finish: Apache Summit, US-70. 40.77 miles. Day 108 Tune of the Day: Blondie – Atomic. Still can't get my head around the fact I ran past an actual atomic blast site. Blondie will cheer me up.

Total: 3405.69 miles