When thunder roars, go indoors!

I was talking to my friend Pablo the other night and he asked me about adventures in Nebraska. I didn’t know what to say. Nebraska has really exceeded my expectations (which were quite honestly pretty low) but there have been no grizzly bear warnings or mountain passes. I haven’t even been stopped by the police. Running across the north of the state, just miles from South Dakota, Nebraska has entertained me with actual trees, wetlands, beautiful horses, nice people, tiny towns, and gentle hills. The corn crop is looking good!

I thought about telling Pablo about the two days of rain that soaked me and froze me, much of it getting inside my rain gear thanks to huge amounts of spray from tractor trailers.  Four miles into one of these days something felt ‘wrong’, it turned out that under many of my layers was a pair of inside-out running shorts. Changing in a cattle tunnel under the highway left my teeth chattering and my rain pants covered in mud (and hopefully not much else) but my shorts were no longer bunched up.  Trust me, running 30+ miles with bunched up shorts under running pants under rain pants is not something anyone should experience. But, all of these were adventures in relative misery, so I told Pablo how I had followed his advice and bought a plant sprayer/mister for the really hot days and how, even though there had been only one hot day since the purchase, strapping it to the top of the jogger and running with a gentle mist through a moving rainbow made that day a joy. And I’m sure there will be more hot days to come. Thanks Pablo!

I felt like a troll under the bridge

What I didn’t know was that the real adrenaline in Nebraska would start the next day. Other than a tornado (knock wood), one of my biggest fears has always been being caught out in the open in a lightening storm. The forecast was ‘80% chance of rain and thunder'; but what is a guy to do except run and hope for the best? I guess I didn’t hope hard enough. After about 12 miles of running the storm clouds caught up with me. Maybe you’ve experienced it – thunder so loud that all of your reflexes scream at you to find shelter? I was running on the ‘Cowboy Trail’ which parallels route 20 and is a benefactor of the rails to trails program. My shelter ended up being under a small trestle I had just crossed. With the jogger pushed far away, I sat on my ensolite sleeping pad, turned off all my electronics, and willed myself to be a non-conductor. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, I studied all the metal bolts in the space above me, and chastised myself for not knowing more about being safe in lightning storms. When the storm seemed to move away, I got up and started running. It caught up to me without much effort. This time I ran to a tractor in a nearby field, reasoning the cab and the tires would protect me like a car protects its passengers. Only the cab was locked, so I sat on top of one of the huge 6 foot tires while it started hailing. Watching nearby fields get their serving of white lightning, I realized that even though I was sitting on rubber, I was also 1/2 foot away from the metal chassis of tallest object within sight. Another bad choice! I jumped down, ran 100 feet, and crouched on my ensolite pad in the middle of the field. Things got a little religious at that point in time. The storm finally moved away, I made it into the next town (flanked by new storms) and decided to celebrate life with a shorter day and a nice motel room. I had also been running/camping for three days and I was overdue for a hot bath. Later, I read up on lightning safety; shallow depressions and tractors are big no-no’s. I was right to crouch on the pad, but should have kept my feet together to avoid current going up one leg and down the other. Things to remember. If you travel in the back country, please consider refreshing yourself with  ‘NOLS Lightning Safety Guidelines‘. This also looks like a good resource, it is the source of the title for this blog post: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/

That’s my update. Really, Nebraska has been great! Much thanks to everyone who has donated for the two causes I’m running for (nursing research on managing symptoms for patients with cancer, and a Sherpa student fund). Getting the email alerts about the donations during the day is awesome. I’ve raised about $1500 so far between the two causes, my goal is $4000.
I’ll be in Sioux City in a couple days and then it is across Iowa and Indiana. I’m hoping for Chicago in ~20 days.  My best pictures from Nebraska are in a public picasa album. Some selected ones are below including a bad video. I have a lot more of these bad videos, let me know if you want them!
It’s pouring as I write this, thank you Hillside Motel in Osmond, NE for the free room! Completely unexpected. See? Good things do happen in life. ~Seth  6/1/2012.

P.S. – I’m more than halfway!

Nebraska – soft curves and big shoulders, and trees!
A poor choice for a short cut

Please let me know if the video below does not work for you. I’m still playing with settings…

The great leap forward
Whatever
I’m going to learn to ride when I get back
Sunset on the great plains
…are what you make of them…

Miles dreaming to date: 1755
Days on the road: 58
Rest days: 2
Average miles per day: 1755/58 = 30.3
Average miles per running day: 1755/56 = 31.3

2 Responses to “When thunder roars, go indoors!

  • great job seth! i really enjoy your posts. all the lightning stuff “thunder so loud that all of your reflexes scream at you to find shelter” reminds me of a day when thru-hiking the appalachian trail. i was in new hampshire, in the whites(a mountain range famous for it’s dangerous weather) in mid july– primetime for storms! me and buddy lobstrilla had just started for the day from one of the high huts. we would be on a wide exposed ridge for miles with nothing bigger than us in sight. there were storm clouds on the horizon but for some reason i figured they wouldn’t head our way. i was wrong. the storm came upon us fast and carrying our backpacks we began to run as fast as we could to try to get down off the top of the ridge. lightning was striking all around us and the thunder was deafening. as i ran i got the feeling lob wasn’t right behind me any more– he had actually stopped running(we wasn’t a runner like me). i had to plead with him to keep running. i thought we could die at any moment. we ran more and eventually we got to where i thought we’d be safe, rather safer, and we threw our tarps over our heads to keep the rain and hail off and we waited… seemingly forever for the storm to pass. we survived without a scratch but we later found out that further up on the mountain a handful of folks got hit indirectly.

    moments like those you never forget. you also never forget the kindness of strangers, like the free hotel room you got after surviving that whole ordeal. ah adventure! roll on seth. roll on!

  • Great story Seth; I’ve been hit with sudden hail while hiking in the Cascades but never that close to lightning! Love the photos; beautiful. Thanks for the fund raising, we will put it to good use. Run on Seth!
    Donna

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