Marathon du Mont Blanc: the other huge ultra running party in Chamonix - 6 races, 65 nations represented, 7,000 trail runners, what an ultra party! And it was this weekend, and I was in Chamonix, what a great opportunity! Yet I ...
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The alarm went off at around 4:30 in the morning. I was in the 6:00am wave and needed to be at the starting line no later than 5:30. After a quick shower and shave I got into my race gear. For the pre-dawn hours it was simple. I wore my BAR shoes, Kool-Off bandana, sunglasses, REI SPF 55 shirt and shorts. I met Raj, Martin and Carilyn and off we went. Nicole and Lisa were to stay behind and get ahead on their sleep since Raj and Lisa would have to take off after the first 24 hours.
Raj drove us to the starting line – we noted that the ice in the chest/coolers were melting already and would need to be replaced at the mile 17.5 point )Furnace Creek). Once there, I downed some HammerGel and a PowerBar. We posed for a few photos around Badwater. It was really neat to stand at Badwater itself and look over 250 feet up the mountain to see the “Sea Level” sign.
Chris called all the 6:00 am runners over. He gave a few last minute instructions and the Star Spangled Banner was played.
Don and Gillian had coached me that, if I listened to nothing else, to heed their words and walk the first 2 miles. I did – along side me was Bill Andrews and we immediately realized we had the same coaches. We walked a bit with a British runner too. It was so hard to walk – all the other runners were fading away in the distance. But I kept telling myself that this was not my “race” – I wanted that buckle. That meant going sub-48 hours. So, I listed to the ZombieRunner words and walked with Bill through the top of a small hill at mile 2.2 and then broke into an easy jog.
Soon I came up to my support van. Raj and Lisa and Martin jumped out and we re-filled the water bottles (I was doing 1 bottle water, 1 bottle Gu2O). Then I was off again at my easy jog. The van would drive ahead between 1.5 and 2 miles at a time and I would continue my easy jog. I was feeling really good – the sun was still behind the mountain tops and the temps were only around 90 degrees.
Soon though the sun came out from behind the mountain tops and I could feel the radiation. At a support van stop, I grabbed my OR sun hat and had an extra layer of sun protector sprayed on. After 2 miles, I decided that the hat actually was too hot as the sun kept peaking in and out of cloud cover. But by about the 10km point, I put the hat on for good. Soon, I added the SPF “long johns” I found on clearance at REI. The funny thing is that I came across these light weight “pants” that were on sale. They were perfect – loose fitting, very light and a high SPF rating. I don’t know who wears spf 55 long underwear, but it works for Badwater! Right before the race I learned that Gundy had been in REI walking around and came across the same item – so he and I were to be the Badwater Long John Team.
My crew kept their routine up – stopping every 2 miles or so. Pretty soon I could see Furnace Creek in the distance I passed my crew at the side of the road around Mile 15 – they were standing by the side of the van. I don’t recall for sure, but I want to say I entered FC at around 4 hours. Once there, my crew were once again on the side of the van. I walked over and they told me that the side door had popped off the track earlier when they hit the remote open button. I struggled with it for awhile - me in my long johns trying to pick this door back up on the tracks as runners passed by. My crew kept telling me to go, but I stayed trying to get the door fixed. I was worried as I wanted to get the van back to my sister and brother-in-law in the same condition as I received it, not to mention I had to drive it back to the Bay Area. But my crew finally persuaded me to go – I hit the road but stopped at the Furnace Creek Chevron station and asked the mechanic if they could give my crew a hand.
At Furnace Creek, I could now have pacers. I opted to pass on them for awhile, just running at my own pace. Soon, the van came by – the door was back on (some solid repair bills to follow I am sure, but it was closed). Then Raj decided to join me. We worked out a pretty good pattern – run 5 minutes, walk 4 minutes. I really wanted to run longer but Raj has this very persuasive way of reminding me not to be stupid. So we followed that pattern. All the while, Raj entertaining me and giving me positive thoughts and reinforcement.
After about 10 or so miles, Carilyn took over and joined me for the run. We stayed true to Raj’s pattern – somewhat. We ended up following the topography more. We ran downhills, jogged flats and uphills and walked some uphills. We were having a very solid stretch. My legs were feeling good and Carilyn kept and great conversation.
The scenery was amazing – long open desert plains, mountains that had every hue from a palette of browns and greys. I noticed that we were slowly passing other runners, but at the same time other runners were passing us. It became obvious that most of these were the competitive runners from later waves.
One of the first to fly by was Shanna Armstrong, a triathlete turned ultrarunner. She and her pacer were very upbeat and even offered us some food. Then, as I knew it would happen, came Gundy. He had started two hours before me – but by 50km he had caught me looking fresh and relaxed.
We chatted a bit and he took off. Soon I came back on him however – he was the side of the road about to soak in a ice bath! I laughed with his crew (his uncles are hilarious) and then took off again (he passed me once again a short while later).
As we approached the sand dunes before Stove Pipe Wells, the sun was very bright. Soon, Bill Andrews caught up with me. He was looking very string and as I stepped behind a shrub to collect a urine sample, disappeared around a bend. Carilyn was still with me – she had decided to run into Stove Pipe Wells with me – the 42 mile check point. She kept my spirits up – telling me her daughters’ favorite jokes. It turned out that of my team, I have twin boys, Carilyn has twin girls and Lisa has twins a boy and a girl. We were like the Team Twin!
Soon a truck drives by and honks at us – Martin and Nicole lean out and smile. I didn’t know who was driving but I realized it was Joe – my 6th crew member who drove 1000 miles from Colorado to join my crew! By now I had also added my complimentary Moeben arm sleeves to protect me from the hot sun.
As I went up the final climb to Stove Pipe Wells, Jorge came flying by me. He was smoking! Starting 4 hours after me and he made up 40 miles! He was all smiles as he passed. Only a few minutes later came Akos – also flying by. These guys with the natural genetic ability makes it look so easy – almost a weightless glide above the road (although I know that in reality they were working).
I enter Stove Pipe Wells and Don and Gillian pull over and snap some photos. I am feeling great and smiling and joking. Raj leads me over to the medical study tent where I gave more samples. Then I have John V check a small blister on my foot. At this point, Lisa swaps out for Carilyn and the two of us start up the long Townes Pass. This is the first major test of the course.
Very early I begin to think that I spent too much time at the stop. I was there almost 30 minutes. My legs didn’t feel as fresh anymore plus, at this point where the race starts the climb, the sun was at its strongest. I decide to walk a bit and soon I come up to Dan Jensen. Lisa and I start to pass, but I say “Wait! This is like meeting a movie star” so we slow and chat with Dan and his daughter. They are so nice – we exchanged a few words and then wished each other luck.
A short while later Lisa and I were walking up a tough section. Lisa was doing a great job – verbally moving me along. We discussed races and she tells me how she made it to Western States (again) only to be disappointed by the firs. She, like Raj, were doing the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 the following weekend. I kept worrying that their pacing me was to interfere with their TRT run – but they both tell me not to worry and that it was a good “warm up”. So we continue.
Behind me comes Alicia Springman, the woman who took 1st overall at the Keys Ultra. We all chat for a bit but she (like at the Keys) soon leaves me behind. I am not feeling good now – my energy has dropped and my stomach was feeling a bit sour. Finally, about 1/3 of the way up Townes I tell my crew that I need to recharge. I climb in the van – they drive my stake in the ground to mark the spot. They turn up the air conditioner and let me sleep for about 10 minutes. I exit feeling better – not great, but better.
Then as I am starting to run again, a race car stops and Chris Kostman jumps out. He wanted to make sure we had heard the “news”…we had not. He explains that a storm had hit around the 100 mile mark completely washing out the roads. The roads would be closed for at least 48 hours so the course was changed. No Whitney Portal, no Lone Pine, but a downhill finish back to Panamint Springs after a turn-around at around mile 100. I was very disappointed – that was not the Badwater course I wanted (my tired legs and stomach however were secretly smiling).
Lisa and I continued up Townes Pass – my energy was returning and I began moving, I caught Alicia again and after a few words passed by. Then, all the sudden it started raining. Winds that were non-existent were whipping by at high speeds. To our left was a beautiful rainbow. Near the top, Lisa and Joe switch out – Joe has decided to pace me over the Townes Pass summit and into Panamint. Then another race car comes back and a race official tells us “The original course is back on!” So while my body was less than pleased, I was relieved to hear that my race would not be an alternate course.
I start chatting with Joe – he is a great pacer. Very upbeat and engaging. Next thing I know, we are at nearing the top of Townes Pass. I get a second wind and start running – leaving my crew behind. Soon we hit the final summit parking lot area. I had decided to take a nap here – but I was feeling so strong, I opted for some miso soup with my legs elevated on a wheel well. Then Joe and I took off again. It was now solidly at night with stars in the sky and a very bright moon. I love night running and was feeling very good at this stage. Joe and I were in our night vests and had our lights to see the road.
For as much as I had struggled up Townes, after awhile I really did not enjoy the downhill to Panamint. It was steep and it was tough not to “fly” down the hill and burn out my quads. At the same time, the downward grade was causing my ankles to hurt. Joe kept pointing to the distance saying we were close to the flats.
After a long downward walk/jog we made it. The usually dry Panamint valley was now a lake – the moon clearly reflecting off the surface. Panamint Springs was visible in the distance. Joe and I kept running and we were passing some people. As I passed one runner he said “Hi Alan”. I turned and found out it was Gundy. He had a bad time on Townes and actually staked out and went into Panamint to rest. But now he had recovered and was looking really strong – he had a GPS unit and gave Joe and me the correct distance to Panamint and then he disappeared in the distance ahead of me.
The road passed through the now-wet lake bed. The humidity rose rapidly and sweat poured out of us. Soon, after 4 miles of running in what felt like a sauna, Joe and I entered Panamint Springs.
This was a “time check” so I checked in with Jack and Meg Dennis. Meg asked if I was stopping. I misunderstood her and thought she meant “Was I quitting.” I replied “No – the race was far from over.” But she explained that they have two cottages there for use of runners and crew. She offered to lead me to one (with Jack warning her to keep her hands off of me). I decided that I would take a quick shower and a 20 minute nap. I tell Nicole to wake me up in 20 minutes and, after my shower, crash on a couch in a room with other runners.
I wake up and check my watch – a little over 30 minutes had passed and it was around 2:00 am. I jump up and grab my gear and run out to the van. There I learn that Raj and Carilyn has left for their long drive back to Vegas (without allowing me to thank them over and over and over for all their help and support). Nicole confides that Raj had tried to convince the crew to let me sleep for an hour – they had comprised at 45 minutes. I was glad I woke up after 30 minutes though – as I did not want to lose that buckle.
Martin joined me and we started up the steep ascent out of Panamint towards Father Crowley overlook. The skies were unbelievable – darker black with brighter stars and planets visible. Every now and then Martin and I would see shooting stars burning up.
We kept climbing. Here, I need to mention how perfect my crew performed. I told them in advance that I am really bad about forcing food into my system during ultras. They made sure I kept putting calories in. Two suggestions by my coaches worked great: chocolate milk and tuna fish sandwiches (sounds gross, smelled gross to my crew, but they were wonderful!). Also, the delicacy that I discovered above all others was a small piece of soy cheese between two saltines. WOW! The food of the gods!
So up we went, Martin and I climbing until the sun appeared over the mountain tops for the second time. In the early morning dawn, we saw a few bats flying around. Soon we entered Crowley overlook and there saw Dan Marinsik – a local Bay Area runner going for his 6th BW finish. We chat a bit with Dan, but soon I discover a second wind we Martin and I start our descent down the hill.
The views were again, absolutely amazing. Some of the rock formations looked like a Hollywood sci-fi set. Now, the temps were again starting to climb and I found myself donning my hot weather gear again. Martin kept telling me my splits and how I was well within range for a bet buckle. I just could never get confident – feeling that a late melt down would make me miss the buckle.
So, we kept running and soon hit the plains and exited the Death Valley national park. Here, Martin gave the pacer duties back to Lisa while Joe crewed the vehicle. I don’t know why, but Lisa seemed to get stuck with me in some of the hardest parts. This stretch seemed to go on and on and on. At one point I said, “Wow, we must be around mile 100.” only to learn I was still at around mile 94. Ouch – that hurts. So we went on – I tried to run as much as possible, but there was a lot of walking. Lisa developed a game where we tried to watch for and count the number of lizards who ran from our path. Soon we reached the Darwin turn-off.
I walked a bit more and soon was reunited with Dan Jansen and his pacer. We chatted some more and discussed pace and goal (we were both going for the buckle). I did some math in my head and thought that I was running out of time, so I started running more. Soon Lisa and I were cresting a hill and a Naval jet came roaring overhead on a training flight. That marked the crossing over the 100 mile marker! I put on foot over the line at 30 hours 17 minutes. Not bad I thought as I finished my 4th 100 mile distance (the difference being is that I still had 35 more to go in this one).
As we crested the hill, we noticed storm clouds behind us – no doubt people behind us were getting wet. We kept running and soon I saw a patch of green in the distance. I told Lisa “That must be Lone Pine” (the 122 mile mark). But later, when she switched with Joe, I learned that it was Keeler – around mile 108…..a patch of green FAR OUT IN THE DISTANCE was Lone Pine. Man – I could not believe how far away it looked.
Joe and I kept running, at times I would get some bursts and pick up the pace, other times I would slow to a nice walk. Once I realized that the van had pulled about 2 miles ahead – a thought that worried me at that moment as the toilet paper was in the van and I suddenly needed it. Joe, the pacer extradonaire, pulls out a baggie with toilet paper from his running vest. I disappear over a ridge and deposit two medical study magnets in the Death Valley sands.
When I return, I noticed that two runners had passed by. Soon I come up along side one of the runners. It was Anita Fromm and her pacer. We chatted a bit – discussed the BAR shoes and then I was off.
As we approach Keeler (which I pronounced Keebler only to be told by Joe that no cookie-making elves lived there) Joe switched out and Nicole started pacing me. Martin took over the driving and we passed by the town. By now, clouds were forming and a ranger drove by and told us that if it started raining to head for high grounds.
I have no idea why, but all the sudden I had this burst of energy. I started running and didn’t stop. Nicole, my pacer, couldn’t keep up and had to be picked up by Martin who exchanged places. I kept running. Soon a car pulls up and Gillian jumps out – she shouted to Don “Hurry – take his picture! He is running the uphills!” Don jumps out and snaps a few shots. I come up to him and tell him that I am chasing the buckle. He shakes his head and tells me “It is in the bag.” and asks how I feel. I tell him my legs are a little tired and the soles of my feet hurt – he gives me a look of mock sympathy and tells me to get going. I do.
Soon I pass the other runner who had passed me earlier – he was from Germany. I kept going. But after awhile, my second burst slowed and I was walking more. Nicole joined me again and we started the long stretch to Lone Pine. Here, my energy waned yet again and at around mile 115 I told them that I needed another rest. I climbed in the van and slept for 5 minutes. Then, Nicole and I started again.
Finally, after a long time, we entered Lone Pine. It was about 2 miles to the time check. As we passed a nice green lawn, Nicole started going straight but I altered my path to the left and sat down on the lawn in the shade. Nicole joined me and we rested for a few minutes. Then we were up and running again and finally saw the 122 mile time check in the distance. I was 22 miles further than I had ever run before, I still had 13 more long and steep miles to go – but at this point, I ran without stopping.
I entered the time check and met with the full crew again. We chatted and Lisa breaks out two pizzas. Marshall Ulrich then enters the station and I try to grab a camera to get a photo with this legend….but he disappears without stopping. I quickly down two slices of cheese pizza. My plan was to sleep in Lone Pine for 30 minutes to an hour. But after discussion with my crew we decided to keep going. So we make the left turn and enter the road leading to the Whitney Portal. Only a half marathon between me and my BW buckle!
At this point, Joe takes over pacing duties. We begin to climb. There are wonderful rock formations and even a small stream running past us. I get another burst of energy and start running, passing a few runners. Joe has a good laugh at my pain. Now, it is getting late and the sun sets. With about 10 miles to go Joe and I don our night clothes and lights. The road kept going up and it was amazing how much the soles of my feet hurt. I fell into the van multiple times just to rest my feet. At one point, Joe suggested that I run one wrap of tape around the balls of my feet – and that helped a lot (for a few miles).
Once it got dark, the road really started to climb. At this stage, Martin takes over for the final pacing leg. We approach a series of switchbacks. We kept hitting them and I was feeling a bit stronger. Soon, we get to a long winding road and I am thinking that the end must be near – Martin corrects me that we are still a couple miles away. But then the van pulls along side and says “Final mile!” I couldn’t believe it was almost over – I start trying to jog and Martin joins me. Then the van returns and they said “ Oops….2 miles to go. Sorry.” Ouch!
So we went around another corner to see another switch back. We climb it and I think the end must be near. As we turn a corner we see….yet another switchback. Staring at this switchback, 134.5 miles behind me, with about half a mile to go in the race, I turn to Martin and say “F--- it! Let’s just go back.” He laughs and we continue.
Finally we round a corner and see the crew. They join us and the 5 of us run towards the finish line. We cross through the banner. 135 miles done. Time 41 Hours 47 Minutes 17 seconds. (photo by AdventureCorps) Chris Kostman congratulated me and hung my finishers medal around my neck and gave me my official finishers shirt. Then he gave me what I had been dreamin of the past 135 miles – my belt buckle!
Looking back, I can honestly say that this was one of the best endurance events in which I have ever participated. I certainly didn’t set any records (37th finisher out of 80 starters) – but ended up with my buckle, met my goals and took 3rd place overall from the 6:00 am starting wave (proving that walking the first 2 miles will not set a runner too far back). My crew was amazing! Even more so because except for Rajeev, the first time I met anyone on my crew was the day before the race. They were AWESOME!!!!! My only regret in hindsight was to waste my summit permit – I had decided that me feet hurt too much and my legs were empty. But I really wish I had tried to sleep for 3 hours and then attempt the Whitny summit. Oh well, next time – and next time I will try to race this course if I get in (well, race for me – meaning I will shoot for around 36 hours).
In a book, Into Thin Air, the author discusses climbing Mt. Everest. He states that no one climbs the mountain – but that one lays siege to the mountain. In a lesser way, Badwater is similar. One doesn’t just race it – one lays siege to it. From a fully outfitted and supplied support vehicle; to a crew of devoted and experienced runners; to the strategies and plans that are developed; to overcoming various hard ships and twists. It is more than a race – it is truly an experience.
CONCLUSION: CHRIS – WHAT AN AWESOME RACE! LISA, RAJ, MARTIN, CARILYN, NICOLE, AND JOE – MORE THANKS THAN I CAN EVER EXPRESS!
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.
Badwater started on Monday the 14th. I decided to hit the road Saturday around noon and drive down. My crew was to meet me there Sunday. Of course, running around and getting all last minute ítems, I left the house later than planned. Since I had never driven to Death Valley before, I decided to use MapQuest to plot my route. I entered my starting destination and ending destination (Furnace Creek, CA) and it plotted out a quick map. I grabbed it and exited the door. Badwater here I come.
Well, I knew that the drive would take me about 7 hours and that is exactly what MapQuest said. But soon I found myself past TwainHeart and heading towards the Sonora Pass. While it was beautiful, I was thinking that this was not the quickest way to get to Death Valley, but decided that MapQuest must have routed me over the northern edge, with a tiny trek into Nevada and then entering from the east. So, since I had nothing better to do I just cruised. The mountains were beautiful with some snow in the higher elevations and the Stanislaus river flowing below. Soon I came across Mono Lake.
Soon I descended into a valley and found myself at the foothills of the mountains in Nevada. I saw the remants of the Crater Fire.
As I followed direction I reached my final MapQuest turn – which took me past something called Fish Lake, Nevada. Per MapQuest, 35 miles further and I would enter Furnace Creek.
But something was very wrong – this was nothing like a desert. The temps were only 65 degrees. As I approached the final MapQuest mile I realized that I was actually still in Nevada. After consulting a vehicle GPS unit, I realized that where MapQuest declares that I have arrived at Furnace Creek, California….I was actually in the middle of nowhere Nevada. So a quick re-routing and I discovered that I still had 150 mile to go!
Oh well….I figured it was better to get all my bad luck out of the way now so that I would only have good luck during the race. I set off driving – flying down country roads that took me back into California, back into Nevada, and then back into California. Finally about 11:00pm I entered the town of Beatty which was about 25 miles from Furnace Creek.
I was flying down the desert road when all the sudden it disappeared. Where there was once road there was nothing but sand, rocks, plants and other debris. It appeared that the strong rain earlier that day resulted in flash floods. So I ended up crawling at around 10mph to cross over repeated road blockage. Finally, at about midnight I came to the main road to Furnace Creek – only to find it barricaded.
Well, I decided, enough was enough – there was no way I was turning back. So I drove around the barricade and finally made it to Furnace Creek….where I was informed that rather than having my two rooms available for me and my crew, there as only one! Boy…..I better only have good luck during the race! Anyway, the next morning the hotel had it all straightened out and a second room was available – and I standing right next to me was Dan Jensen, the challenged athlete portrayed so well in Running on the Sun. He was here to bag his second Badwater finish.
Now – off to check-in, find my crew and meet other Badwater runners.
Friday, July 11, 2008
INTRODUCING MY 2008 BADWATER 135 MILE ENDURANCE RUN CREW
RAJEEV PATEL (with me prior to American River 50):
LISA HUERTA (receiving her 100km winner's award from Ruth Anderson Ultra RD Rajeev Patel):
NICOLE WHITING (volunteering at Ruth Anderson Ultras along with that ever present Rajeev):
JOE JUDD (with his Heartland 100 Miler finisher buckle at the post-race awards):
CARILYN JOHNSON (receiving her 50 mile winners award from Ruth Anderson RD Rajeev....goosh, that guy gets in every photo!):
MARTIN CASADO (cresting the hill at the American River 50 Miler):
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Well, it is really only about 3 days to go until I toe the line at Badwater. I remember less than a year ago at dinner the night before the Rio Del Lago 100 miler, I was speaking with Nattu Natraj, a two time Badwater finisher. He talked about his prep and the race and I remember admiring his accomplishment but clearly stating "That is one race I will never do." Well, fast forward and here I am.
I have been picking up supplies and some gear for Badwater (man do those nickles and dimes for every little item add up!) I grabbed a 5 gallon water cylinder water cooler today. I get the support van from my sister and her husband tomorrow. My buddy Willy is going to outfit the back with a special custom-made storage/work-station he built for his Furnace Creek 508 race. Then I head down to Death Valley Saturday.
My crew is now set as follows: I have Rajeev Patel and Carilyn Johnson for all of the day 1 (Rajeev is the Rd for the Ruth Anderson Ultras and an accomplished ultra runner, Carilyn won this year's Ruth Anderson 50 mile event). For all three days, I also have Martin Casado, Nicole Whiting, Joe Judd and Lisa Huerta. (Lisa won the 100km at Ruth Anderson; Nicole volunteered at Ruth Anderson and is a fine ultra runner; Martin ran some of the American River 50 miler this year with Rajeev - they both finished; and Joe ran some of the Lean Horse 100 with Raj last year). It is amazing how small and close of a world it is in the Ultra community.
A few days ago I did a 3:30 20 miler with fellow Badwater runner Jonathan Gunderson ("Gundy"). He gave me some good pointers. Then yesterday I met with Don and Gillian of ZombieRunners for a couple of hours for some awesome Badwater advice (they are both Badwater finishers).
Yesterday was my final sauna day - I will now try to hydrate and get to Badwater ready to go. I did a nice run in the warm sun today with my friend Diego (a collegue from Spain via Switzerland). It was very warm - but nothing, I thought, compared to what is coming up.
So, I think I am ready. My goal - to finish. My secondary goal - to get the belt buckle (sub-48 hours). My third goal - to go between 40 and 45 hours. Other than having fun, living every moment of the race experience(no matter how painful), enjoying the scenery, and having a great time with my crew - I have no other goals. I am not "racing" Badwater. Maybe a future year. This year - it is only the finish and a possible buckle.....and maybe Whitney's summit on my birthday Wednesday.
Thank you all who donated to my fundraising efforts for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. To date, we raised over $7500!! If you still want to contribute, please go here: Alan's CAF Page.
Stay tuned: pre-race reports from Death Valley to follow as the countdown to Badwater continues.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Not exactly an endurance post, but found this thought provoking, or interesting at least.
Don Henley, who was one of the founding members of the Eagles, co-wrote and sang a song called The Boys of Summer. In it he has a great line: "Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac." It is a line about the changing times and a bit of hypocrisy.
Well, I was driving home yesterday and this shiny new black Porsche Boxster passed me.
I took a look at the personalized plate and had to snap a couple photos.
I don't think that is what Sid had in mind.