Saturday, June 21, 2008

DEATH VALLEY TRAINING RUN



Last Friday I did a 50km training run in prep for my Badwater 135 attempt. I had wanted to start at 8:00am but for various reasons, started at almost 9:30. I had arrived in Los Angeles the day before. My legs were pretty tired after some long miles and, more so, after some fast (for me) training runs. I did a short jog Thursday and my legs just felt dead. Hopefully they would feel better. (note: all photos can be enlarged for full detail by clicking on them)


My friend Daryl and I arrived at Badwater in the Death Valley basin. After snapping a few photos, I started to get ready.



The sun was very bright and it was certainly warm - already cracking the 100 degree mark. I filled my two water bottles (one with water and the other with Gu2O). I put on my sunglasses and desert hat. I was wearing my brand new BAR running shoes that were complimentary to all Badwater runners. The BAR company was awesome - they actually overnighted the shoes to me in Los Angeles so that I would have them for my training run.

After covering myself with suntan lotion, I downed some salt tablets and started running. I had forgotten my Kool Off bandanna so decided to roll ice into a small towel and wrap that around my neck - it seemed to work fairly well.

My legs still felt tired, but a little better than the day before. I seemed to have trouble getting a comfortable breathing pattern too. But I kept going forward. The heat was very strong but not unbearable.....yet.


Daryl and I agreed that he would drive ahead 1.5 to 2 miles and wait for me. I would stop and refill the bottles, down some water melon and other food and sometimes enter the car to cool down.


I was running around 9 to 10 minute miles, drinking a lot and peeing routinely (about 1 to 2 times an hour). Every now and then cars would pass by with drivers giving me a thumbs up, shaking their head in disbelief and the occasional short honk followed by words of encouragement. One car slowed and the driver asked if I wanted some water. During the whole run, drivers took photos of me at least 5 times.

The roads sometimes seemed to go on forever.


The scenery is amazing. Complete desolation - but beautiful too. The colors of the mountains and the erosion all around were spectacular. But after awhile the heat made me forget about the scenery.


Early on I passed the Devils Gold Course - a golf course with no grass, just a wide open patch of desert. My legs were covered in high SPF lotion, but they felt as if there was a large magnifying glass on them. At one stop I decided to don a pair of long white pants I had brought along. I got these on clearance from REI - they were SPF 55 and actually sold as long underwear. The material was very thin - almost identical to my shirt. After putting these on I started running and it felt as if the temps had dropped by at least 5 to 10 degrees....but still hot.

The road was not flat but had constant uphills and downhills. As I climbed one long stretch around 17 miles into my run, I saw a building in the distance. It was the Furnace Creek Resort.


I thought we were to stop there for ice and water refills, but that is actually about 0.5 mile before Furnace Creek itself. I ran down hill to Furnace Creek and Daryl and I went into the general store. It was full with at least 40 German tourists.


There we picked up more bags of ice, water and some food. We also paid the day fee for being in the park and got gas. For anyone else doing Badwater - be sure to budget for the fuel costs. At Shoshone (entrance to Death Valley) all 3 gas grades were in the $5 to $5.75 per gallon range. By Furnace Creek the low grade was in the high $5 range. And by Panamint Springs all 3 grades were $6 or higher per gallon with premium almost hitting $7.

I started running again along a nice path next to the road. Here the road climbed a bit. I was feeling a bit better after cooling myself off in the air conditioned car at Furnace Creek. But by about mile 21 the heat was at 120 degrees and the wind coming off the desert plains were even hotter.


I was drenching myself in ice water and trying to drink. I was religious about taking electrolyte tablets. But the frequency of my urination was slowing and I was finding myself getting nauseous again. My stops in the car were getting longer as I was cooling my body and by mile 27 I had the dry heaves.

I continued on though - "enjoying" my training run. I had originally wanted to do at least 30 miles with the goal of doing a 50km or 35 mile run. But as I had to get to the airport that evening and the run was taking longer than I had hoped, I decided to stop at 50km. It had taking me 7 hours and 5 minutes to do that 50km (including all stops in the car, Furnace Creek, etc.) Definitely my slowest and hardest 50km.

But it was a valuable training run. I was able to experience the high heat of Death Valley. I also tested the SPF "pants" and they worked great. Also, I tested my new pair of BAR shoes - I will post a full review of these shoes, but in summary they were great. I did the whole 31 miles in the pair I received the day before and they were super comfortable. I am also grateful that my official start time at Badwater will be 6:00am - allowing me slightly more than 3 additional hours to get my butt out of the valley.

All in all, it gave me some confidence about Badwater now that I know what to expect, that I have good shoes and sun protection and get to start 3 hours earlier. But I am also very nervous. That was one tough run....and over 100 miles shorter than the actual race that will include substantial climbing. I still need to address my stomach issues too. Hopefully I have not bitten off more than I can chew with regard to Badwater 135.

12 comments:

Baldwyn said...

Nice job, Alan! After I completed my first marathon, I decided that day to make doing Western States a goal in my life. But I said I wouldn't do Death Valley, that's too crazy. Watching you work towards this goal, really gets me excited for you. It's so crazy and awesome at the same time (I guess that's true of this whole sport)! I can't wait to see your report about the race itself.

By the way, I was very amused to read about the gas prices. I made a similar comment in 2002 about the Panamint Springs gas price in a motorcycle trip report. I went and looked it up! HAAAAAA!

Alan said...

Baldwyn:

After that training run, I hope my Badwater report does not contain the letters "DNF". Man it was brutally hot. I also swore that I would never do Badwater, but I guess I am too dumb or crazy for my own good :)

I wish gas prices were closer to that you cited in your report :)

Rajeev said...

Alan,

I bet it was harder than you made it out to be. You are a very tough athlete. Here is to wishing you luck for the race. You will have fun and there will be no DNF next to your name!

Rajeev

Michael Kanning said...

What a beast! I thought it was hot here in San Antonio. Keep training hard and you will do great.

Alan said...

Raj:

Really? I thought I described it as pretty damned hard :) I am trying to learn a lot from taht run and will definitely be aiming for that finish line (hopefully in less than 48 hours).

Michael:

I was lucky I didn't do it the following day, temps were 1 to 2 degrees hotter! Have fun in Texas.

Jean Pommier said...

104 more miles, that leaves me speechless... But you will be ready by d-day, with all the right adrenaline!

Good luck with the final stretch of physical and mental training, then some tapering.

Jean.
Farther Faster

Ian said...

Alan

Great report, very nice. Got me excited about being there in less than 3 weeks. Hopefully I'll get to meet you and your crew as you and my runner have same start time.

See you soon
Ian, IL

Alan said...

Jean:

Thanks - I hope to be. Spending more time on the road and in the sauna :)

Ian:

Thanks for the post - I will look for you at Badwater.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Man, Alan, you badass. For the big thing, just go slower and have your crew do the spray bottle thing. If ginger works for you for nausea bring that too. I have confidence you CAN do this.

Your blog photos looked so surreal, all in white.

Alan said...

Thanks Mark:

"The Badwater Badass" :) OK, I can accept that.

I will try ginger...and tums and pepto, etc.

I am torn between taking it slower or actually picking up the pace a bit and trying to get out of teh valley as soon as possible to minimize my time in the extreme heat. Hmmmmm........

Douglas said...

Alan,

This just confirms what I've known about you since law school days: you're one crazy m'fer! Good call on the leggings; you might consider opting for long sleeves too. It's the rage in cycling these days. Keeping the sun off your skin will be key.

Keep picking them up and putting them down.

Secret weapon: wasabi

Alan said...

Thanks Doug - I do have along sleeve too, plus the race is giving each runner a set of Moeben arm covers which I will try. Have to think about the wasabi though.