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River to Sea Recap– Wayne Carlson

Our R2C18 team was called “92 Miles Just For Pizza” and the members were: John Harvey Jr., Fernando Padilla, Wayne Carlson, Elsa Slater, Randi Cohen, Oriana Tejada, and Naomi G. We are all West Essex Trail runners.

As we arrived at Fernando’s at 4 AM, John and I were amazed at how warm and thick the air was already! This would be the first sign of many surprises to come that day. Our most memorable moments and images were the following: the morning fog hanging over the countryside on the way to Frenchtown and seeing the other teams assembled in the parking lot.

Then we were off. Stages 1 thru 3 went well with  John, Oriana, and Randi putting in great performances with cloud cover. However, we did notice a runner who wasn’t running straight already in Stage 2. Stage 4-The Beast – was mine. I thought the hills didn’t start till at least a mile in but I was rudely awakened to that error as it started at about a half-mile in. I took the hills in short, steady strides and surged after each leveled off. Many runners were walking the hills but I was feeling great every time I crested one. I passed 15 runners and only 2 young runners passed me in the last 2-3 miles which was a downgrade. In the last stretch, a third came up on my shoulder and we sprinted all out to the end finishing together. At that point , I felt spent and was glad my second leg would be the last stage and a short one with plenty of time to recover. That would also be a surprise and need to be changed later.Stage 5- Naomi ran great and Stage 6 was Fernando’s.

Stage 6 we will all never forget. All I have to say is the sun came out and the cake(Fernando) was in the oven. This turned the relay into a pressure-cooker with devastating results to many. In Fernando’s words: “I was receiving great support from my team at every mile…however, I was feeling very uncomfortable with my pace, but I didn’t consider it much different from other races that I have done, so I tried to maintain that pace a bit longer. After mile 6, I remember a hill….very long…fully exposed to the sun…I concentrated on maintaining my distance from other runners or even better closing the gap, but then the lights went out. I woke up in a hospital”. Fortunately, Fernando collapsed when Randi and Naomi were right there to catch him. John also told him he wasn’t going anywhere because in his delerious, semi -conscious state , he wanted to go on. He had severe heat stroke but do to the quick actions of his supporting crew and the quick response of the ambulance, he recovered in a few hours after treatment with ice to get his core temperature down and IV fluids.

However , the heart of our team had been ripped out . We continued on after we knew he was in good hands and had everything he needed as well as calling his wife who came down immediately. More surprises- later, while I was taking over Stage 12 about a mile from the exchange point , my support crew told me to stop as we had been disqualified. It turned out we weren’t but they thought we couldn’t finish on time due to our emergency. After sorting that out, we started again . At this point everything was a mess and Naomi and I decided to run the last leg together and finish-unofficial as that may be. John ,Naomi, and I jumped into the ocean. It was cold and felt soooo gooooood. It really helped us recoup from a long, hot ordeal of a relay.

As we pulled up to Fernando’s house around 11PM, we all felt a sigh of relief . Fernando and his wife ,Carmen, came out to talk to us. It was great to see him back to his old, friendly, witty, and humorous self. While talking, we had looked up to the sky and had an appropriate climax to a day chock full of them. All I can say is I’m glad I had fellow witnesses because people would think I was still seeing floaters in my eyes like a did after my second leg. There were these glowing ,orange balls traveling south to north in formations of 5-7 and then 3 in succession at the speed of a jet and when they got overhead, the lights went out. We all looked at each other in amazement. The end or is it?  I looked on the internet the next day and all I found was UFOs were spotted down the shore during the day but nothing mentioned about that night. What a day and night this was!

Just wanted to say thanks to all team members for their great spirit throughout the relay as well as thanking John Harvey,Jr. and Randi Cohen for volunteering the use of their vehicles.

As far as team members individual experiences, I can only recount the people that were supported by the vehicle I was in. See their individual accounts to come in the newsletter or the website. I have to note Elsa’s concern and wish to accompany Fernando to the hospital. We came to the decision that he would want us to continue on , he wouldn’t even be conscious of us and there wasn’t anything else we could do , and his wife was on her way there with him in good hands. I’ve seen heat stroke before and knew once they got fluid in him and his core temperature down, he would be alright. We kept in touch by phone with his wife and would have rushed there if there were any complications. The support of all our team members made the difference how this day turned out with a happy conclusion.

Wayne Carlson


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