May 18, 2012

On the first two days of the MST Endurance Run, Diane Van Deren covered more than 110 miles. Then, the relentlessly technical trail and rainy weather started taking its toll on her feet. At the end of day Thursday, after especially wet weather through Linville Gorge and the Wilson Creek area, her support crew was trying to persuade the Colorado ultra runner to see a doctor. Van Deren, a veteran of multiple 100-mile races and the 430-mile Yukon Arctic Ultra, declined.

She emerged late yesterday from Wilson Creek back to the somewhat friendlier terrain along the Blue Ridge, only to be greeted by another inch and a half of rain over night; not looking good for her feet. Before sending her down the trail this morning, her support crew knew they’d have to get creative in dealing with Van Deren’s blisters.

“We patched Di’s foot this morning with a new ‘system’ on her blisters and sent her off for an 8-mile stretch of soggy terrain,” reports support crew chief Amy Hamm.

“We told her we would check in after 8 miles to see how the new blister patch was working and determine what today would look like,” Hamm continued. “Meaning: Do we need to contact a doctor? How many miles should we shoot for? What’s the weather threatening to do?”

Despite the uncertainty, Van Deren was optimistic as ever.

“This morning her spirits are amazing,” reported expedition coordinator Chuck Millsaps. “There’s such a contrast between between what she’s feeling physically and what she’s experiencing, and yet what an inspiration she continues to be.”

Hamm was pensive as she waiting for Van Deren at the 8-mile mark. And then, a huge sigh of relief.

“Di’s first words to me were. ‘I feel great, I really feel great. I’m about to cry,’” Hamm said. “She said this 8-mile morning stretch was very emotional because her feet were dry, she could feel the terrain changing for the better, and she wasn’t feeling nearly the pain from the blister that she has been feeling. The new blister patch system is effective!”

Millsaps said, under the conditions, the support crew was hoping for a  20- to 25-mile day. “She was thinking more along the lines of hitting Horse Gap or Laurel Springs.”

That would be a 40+ mile day, and likely have Van Deren leaving the mountains for good tomorrow at the Devil’s Garden Overlook, where the Mountains-to-Sea Trail descends into Stone Mountain State Park and the Piedmont beyond.