Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I stepped out of my hotel Sunday morning and decided to go do a short run. I had on my BAR shoes and headed out in the direction of StovePipe Wells. The sun was out and it was certainly warm – but no way as hot as the last time I had been at Furnace Creek when temps were already 115. I did a nice easy 2 mile jog to the Borax works driveway and then jogged back.

On my way back to the hotel room I came across Jonathan Gunderson. “Gundy” was here to get his 3rd straight BW buckle. He and I had exchanged a lot of e-mails and did our last training run together – a 20 miler out on the Sawyer Camp Trail a week earlier. Gundy and I chatted a bit and I met his crew – a super friendly and fun group. I also saw Ray Sanchez and we chatted for a bit too.

After a quick shower, I headed back outside and started the final preparations on my support van. My sister and her husband (who had volunteered to crew for me but due to a last minute work conflict had to postpone it….till next year hopefully) had generously loaned me their van. In the back I had this awesome rack/storage system designed and built by my friend Willy Nevin who had completed the Furnace Creek 508 (a 508 mile bike race in Death Valley).

In this I had coolers, boxes of supplies (more junk food than even Oprah could eat), a scale, thermometer and running clothes and other supplies. On the side I pasted my race numbers – as designed by Chihping Fu! Around these were “Runner on Road” placards and 3 pictures drawn by my 3 sons each wishing me luck in the race.

After finishing I strolled for a bit and came across Gundy again. We decided to head over to the check-in as I still needed to get my park pass. Once there, we found ourselves first in line for check-in. I still hadn’t seen my crew, but knew that they would be there soon enough.

While waiting in line, I saw familiar faces over and over. First was Jack and Meg Denness – the couple portrayed in Running on the Sun where, in one of my favourite shots, she hangs a can of beer on the back of their vehicle as a kind of “carrot” for Jack to chase to the finish line. Soon, I saw some big names – Akos was there as was Jorge Pacheco and David Goggins. I saw some of Lisa Smith-Batchen’s crew but not her. I saw Don and Gillian from ZombieRunners. They had provided an hour of pre-race coaching to me (which they generously extended well beyond 2 hours).

I also saw Georganna from Florida who was there to crew Bill Andrews. Bill and his girlfriend joined Rajeev and me for dinner the night before American River at Norm and Helen Klein’s house. Bill was running the BW race – all his crew had matching t-shirts stating that they needed counselling. I also spotted Bob Becker and Jared Knapp (co-race directors for the Florida Keys Ultramarathons) and one of their crew Nattu who was a 2 time BW finisher.

Finally the door opened and in we went. Check-in was very fast and smooth. I dropped off the forms and proceeded to the “mug shot” (each racer had a mug shot like photo taken). Then Meg and Jack gave me my goodie-bag and posed for a photo with me. Jack is the only 70 year old to finish BW and is a member of the BW Hall of Fame. I spent a few bucks at the merchandise table and left the building. On the way out I collected my large Coleman cooler (donated to each runner by Coleman).

I realized I had forgotten my waterbottle so went back to the door to grab it and came across Anita Fromm and her crew. Anita is an awesome runner who (plot spoiler here) not only completed the 2008 BW run (faster than me), she then summated Whitney setting a woman’s BW to Summit record, then went all the way back to BW setting yet another record (women’s BW double) while fighting 130 degree heat and 30mph headwind. I joked with her that I was presenting my cooler to her and grabbed my water bottle and walked back to the room.

Soon, I met Rajeev and Carilyn who had driven in together from Vegas. Carilyn Johnson is an awesome runner (far above and beyond my league) who will be representing the US in Korea at the World’s 100km race! After a bit we headed back to the check-in area for the pre-race mandatory meeting.

The room was packed with runners and crew. I managed to find an empty chair so that I could save my legs. Chris Kostman, RD, gave a solid and informative speech. But the show was stolen by the park ranger who gave helpful hints amid very humorous statements. Then all runners were brought on stage to wear “I’m On Don’s Team” t-shirts in recognition of Don Fallis who had finished BW but was now fighting a bigger challenge: colon cancer.

At the meeting there was discussion about a possible route closure or re-routing due to the flash floods. So we left the meeting not knowing if we were to run the “authentic” Badwater course to the Whitney Portal.

After that photo I saw that Martin, Nicole and Lisa had joined Raj and Carilyn. We decided to drive one car out to StovePipe Wells and leave it there. That worked well as once there we decided to have dinner at the town’s restaurant where I was able to get my standard pre-race meal of pasta in a red sauce.

At the same restaurant were other runners including Bob Becker and his crew. As I stood up, I was grabbed from behind and given a big hug by Lisa Smith-Batchen. She was there with her crew. We chatted a bit and I learned that the day before she had actually run the 150 miles from Las Vegas to Badwater!!! This was all part of a fundraising effort she was doing to raise money for children orphaned due to AIDS.

After dinner, my crew and I worked on some final pre-race details and headed back to the hotel. I had volunteered to take part in a medical study on endurance athletes. This required me give blood and urine samples before, during and after the race; repeated weigh-ins; swallowing these small encapsulated thermometers/transponder along with heavy water; and wearing some monitoring devices on my waist and wrist. Carilyn stated that while she was happy to be a crew member, if the thermometers had to be recovered after passing through my system (they did not) that I was on my own!

I tried to soak my legs in an ice bath (but I am a wimp and couldn’t keep my legs in that long). I was fighting a headache too and was glad it was time to turn in. I didn’t know if I could sleep – but actually fell into a deep sleep.


Chisholm Deupree said...

Congratulations on a fine race. I regret not running alongside of you and sharing the road and a laugh. Best regards,

Sean Lang said...

Great job Alan! Hope you have some time to rest and recover cause you definitely deserve it!