“On one level,” Diane Van Deren yelled into the howling wind and rain this morning, “this is very interesting. I have always been curious about what a tropical storm would feel like. We don’t have these in Colorado.”
Some might see a tropical storm with winds in excess of 35 miles per hour and torrential rains as a nightmare, especially if you plan to spend the day running in it. But elite ultra runner Diane Van Deren, who is closing in on her goal of breaking the speed record for crossing the nearly 1,000 mile statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail, sees as a new adventure.
Van Deren started today at 3:30 a.m. — after just two hours sleep. She had to in order to cover the 36 miles separating her from the Cedar Island Ferry and the 2 1/4-hour crossing to Ocracoke. Miss it and she’d have to wait three and a half hours for the next ferry. Three and a half hours she doesn’t feel she can afford this close to the end.
“Anticipating rain for the start, we were surprised by only heavy winds,” reports Chuck Millsaps, expedition coordinator and one of three trail guides who rotated watches with Van Deren. “But by sunrise the storms cells were hammering us relentlessly.” Bridges were especially bad, reports Millsaps, exposing them to “heavy winds that felt like sandblasting instead of rain.”
Added Van Deren, “I thought the snowstorms on Pikes Peak were wild.”
“The 5-mile section from the end of Monroe Gaskill Memorial Bridge was the most difficult stretch of running I have ever endured,” Millsaps says. Still, Van Deren wasn’t about to stop. And, again, she’d never run in a tropical storm before.
At 12:20 p.m., the crew realized they still had 4 miles to go to reach the 1 o’clock ferry. Van Deren picked up the pace, running sub 10-minute miles — in a driving rain, after already running more than 800 miles in 21 days.
“We made it with 10 minutes to spare,” reports Millsaps.
Van Deren continued up Ocracoke Island with the goal of making the Hatteras Ferry before it shuts down for the evening at midnight.
Van Deren is sponsored by The North Face, which over the weekend landed a team atop Mount Everest. Tomorrow, Van Deren hopes to plant another flag for The North Face, this one atop the sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge.
“We have 83 miles left ‘til we top out at Jockey’s Ridge,” Millsaps said after catching the Ocracoke Ferry . “Hoping to celebrate Friday morning.”