Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Badwater 2014: Not Just Another Hot Flash

It's hard to put so much stuff down in a single blogpost, because so much happens in the space of a few days. I want to write about the race this year because the event itself was different, it felt different, and turned out somewhat different. I have been struggling with how to put all this down, because I have a gazillion pictures of the beautiful desert and my road trip, too.

At this point I have no idea whether the original course will be back next year, and we all hope it will be, but it sounds like there might be a variation of this year's course in the works for a separate and different ultra in the future, regardless of the outcome with the original Badwater course.

This year it was a learning curve for everyone, the runners, crews, and staff. There were a lot of rookies, or first-time Badwater runners. Even the race logo was different.

The Trip Out
Since I had the time this year, I decided to drive out. I felt like I needed a good road trip to clear my mind. As it turned out I didn't do any intense thought process while driving, I just sort of zoned out looking at the scenery. Utah is a beautiful state, and there was so much to see. The drive was 16 or 17 hours each way and it really wasn't a bad drive, I broke it up by stopping in St. George Utah both ways, and that made it manageable. It was only 10 hours to St. George and then another 6 or 7 to Lone Pine. The best part about staying in all those hotels was the AC. I slept more comfortably and didn't wake up hot and pouring sweat at night.



On the way out I took my time, I stopped at a lot of roadside view areas in Utah. I planned to pick up Megan's boyfriend Ray at the Las Vegas airport Sunday morning and drive him to Lone Pine with me. Ray is a firefighter and EMT. Megan is the Badwater medical director, she's an ER physician in Albuquerque. So I got a late start out of St. George on Saturday and took my time in Las Vegas. I stopped at my favorite sushi place, Sushi Koma, and unfortunately the AC was not working when I first arrived! They had a repairman there and by the end of my lunch it was blowing somewhat cooler air. I asked them if their refrigeration for the food was working, and it was. It actually wasn't too bad sitting in there drinking ice water since it was 110 degrees outside.


I stayed on the west side of Vegas, I avoid the strip. I am not fond of downtown Vegas, or it's inhabitants, I call them the Lost Vegans. I found a quiet hotel in Summerlin and Sunday morning I went for a run before going to the airport to get Ray. Arranging to meet at the airport was a little challenging but it only took about 10 minutes and we found each other. Ray has never been to Death Valley before so it was fun to play tour guide. Except I missed the turnoff to Badwater when we went through Pahrump so he only got to see the original course from Furnace Creek north.
We made our obligatory stop in Pahrump for gas and I had a McDonald's salad, figuring that would be my staple for the next several days. Then we drove to Furnace Creek ad stopped at the store and Ray got t-shirts for his kids and I got a t-shirt for Dennis and some other junk, and we drove on.

Pre-Race

We arrived in Lone Pine late in the afternoon and we were both hungry, but we missed the general pre-race meetings and they weren't done yet, so things were fairly quiet around the Dow Villa. We checked out the new restaurant next to the Dow and it was really good! They had salads, too. I felt relieved that I wasn't going to be limited to McDonald's and the Pizza Factory the whole time.

We walked around town to stretch our legs and I showed Ray where things were, Lone Pine only has a few blocks along the main street. Then we headed back to the Dow and Megan was back from the meeting. We checked into our rooms and then had the medical team meeting. There were a few new people this year, but we had George, Eric, Dave, Megan and me for the old crew, and Marco was back for a second year but this was my first time meeting him. Then Darryl and Aaron were two emergency physicians from Albuquerque that Megan invited, and Ray was new. And of course John Vonhof and Denise Jones on foot care as always. And Chris was with us for the first time on medical but he has been on the race staff for many years.
We had room 30 again, and we set up all our stuff after Megan discussed what we'd be seeing and how we go about doing things, especially for the new people on medical. We talked about how the course was laid out and the logistics of getting medical staff out on the course throughout the day and night. Instead of the point to point original course, Lone Pine was the hub, so it was a little easier and closer to get to the runners, but since no one had ever done this route before, we had little idea how the conditions at the different times of day might look in reality. Among the things we had to consider:

It wouldn't be as hot, the hottest part of the race would be in Owens Valley in the middle of the race for those who were out there in the daylight.

The big climb came first, up to Horseshoe Meadows at 10,000 feet, so there might be some altitude issues or bashed quads from the trip down.

There's always the potential for people to underestimate hydration needs when the temperatures are cooler, or at altitude.

There was the dirt section in the middle, the 15 mile section up and down the Cerro Gordo road, that would be mostly done at night, so we might see some foot issues from that. And there was no crew access for that section, so we had to have a vehicle for a potential evacuation, and medical staff up there until all the runners passed through.

There was Darwin, at the far end of the course, where we needed to have coverage just in case.

And then there was the finish line, the long stretch from when the first runner came in until the last runner finished.

And much more...


After our medical meeting, we all went to dinner, and I walked over to the Pizza Factory with George, and found my friend Bob Becker from Florida and his crew, and George and I split a pizza and we hung out and talked with Bob's crew. Bob had the number 69, which is his age. He looked very fit. He was being crewed by Bonnie Busch, whom I know from Iowa and running Cornbelt, she is an excellent runner with lots of Badwater experience both running the race herself and crewing. I met the rest of Bob's crew and they were all experienced runners and a really together bunch of people, so things looked good.

Most of us planned to be at the starting line to weigh the runners in and the first start wave was at 6, so I set my alarm for 5.

I went back to my room, which I was sharing with Marco, and we talked for a while, he's a nurse in Palm Springs and works in neuro and trauma. We both had a lot to say about nursing, and he asked me a lot of questions about my business. He's seeing the same things in California, except they have unions there, so they are a little more protected as far as staffing. But it doesn't stop things from being completely screwed up in health care.

The Start

I got a good 7 hours of sleep and made it over to the start at 5:30, and the sunrise over Mt. Whitney was the highlight of the morning. It was strange to be starting, looking at Mt. Whitney, but in a way, it felt right.
The three start waves were only one hour apart instead of two this time, which made it a lot easier and quicker than when the pre-race weigh in extends over nearly 5 hours. Also, the starting line was only 4 blocks from the hotel, so we could walk over, and even run out to get a cup of coffee between waves. On the original course it's a long drive to Badwater from Furnace Creek.

The starting line in all 3 waves had a different feel. Not as uptight, not as nervous or tense as the usual Badwater start. It almost had kind of a trail race feel to it, much more low-key. They still did the photo ops but it was easier to keep track of the runners since they weren't all off taking pictures at the Badwater sign.

Ben was out and hanging around, I made sure I talked with him as often as I could. Last year I think I was more upset about not seeing Ben than anything else about missing the event. He had some health problems last year and we were all worried about him. He seems to have bounced back and looked good. And of course, he's still sharp and remembers everything and everyone.

After we weighed the runners in, we all met over at the Alabama Hills Café which makes the best breakfasts ever. We knew it would be a while before anyone might need us, so we used the morning to organize the medical supplies a bit more and set up the room and chairs. Eric and Chris were going to do the Cerro Gordo section, Marco was going to be the finish line person, and the rest of us would stay put in Lone Pine and switch off roving the course.
We sat in the medical room for a while looking at John's books of icky feet pictures. You think Badwater feet are bad, you should se the ones from the jungle in the Amazon! John and George both gave me some foot advice as I was asking about keeping my feet from becoming macerated in case it's really wet in Cleveland in September. John gave me some samples of different kinds of foot goop to try. Denise came over with her foot kit and we talked, she brought Nike and Turbo with her for a short visit and I caught her up on the Buffaloes.

Original vs. Extra Crispy

As the runners headed up the 22 mile climb to Horseshoe Meadows, it was sunny and cool to start. The cooler temperatures and the 22 mile descent back to Lone Pine could make for some speedy times, so we sent the first roving crew out fairly early. I stayed in Lone Pine and talked with George and the others for a while. By early afternoon we hadn't seen any business so once Megan got back I went up toward Horseshoe Meadows to rove the course. Some people were flying down the hill, others were taking it easy. Everyone looked fine, there weren't any issues yet. I generally wave and cheer on all the runners. I saw Bob coming down so I waved at him and took a few pictures as he approached and went by. His crew looked happy.

I didn't drive all the way to Horseshoe Meadows because the last runners were already on their way down, so I waited for a while at a turnout, spoke with Scotty when he stopped in his truck, and looked out over the Owens Valley across toward Death Valley and Telescope Peak. This course was my kind of course, with the climb and descent on pavement at the beginning. Somehow I didn't feel all that excited about wanting to run it, though. It's like the difference between original and extra crispy.

When the last runner went by, I started heading down. I went back to the medical room and things were quiet, the runners had been coming through Lone Pine on their way out to Cerro Gordo. There were a few minor blisters and a question or two on hydration. People looked good, though you could tell that some were starting to feel it. Bob looked fantastic. There were a couple of runners whose crews were trying to get them to eat, they weren't interested in food, so that was a problem.
I spoke with the crew of one sluggish runner, who wasn't eating. He needed some carbs and I know he would have bounced back easily. But his crew, which consisted of some experienced ultrarunners, was feeding him avocados. Time for a nutrition lesson. I told the crew, "He needs to eat something with carbohydrates in it." The crew member said, "Yeah we're giving him avocadoes." I said, "He needs something with carbs, there are no carbs in avocados." The crew member said, "Are you kidding, there's a shit ton of carbs in avocadoes!" To which I replied, "No, it's only fiber and fat. He needs something with sugar in it. Do you have anything with sugar?"

You would think that experienced ultrarunners would know better, but then...

It always blows me away that people who do these things can be so ignorant, and sometimes just plain stupid. That's why we need medical.

Megan and Ray had been out on the course and had seen a few issues with runners being out in the road instead of on the shoulder. Also, some were not running single file with their pacers. It's a narrow highway with little shoulder in some places, and cars are traveling at a good 70 mph. They aren't used to seeing runners on the roads. Around 7 pm Marco and I went out on the course to rove in my car, and drove out to the Cerro Gordo turnoff. I had to tell some of the runners and crews to turn their flashers on because it was getting hard to see. Most of the runners were on the Dolomite loop which is off the main highway for a stretch, but then rejoins the highway through Keeler to the Cerro Gordo turnoff. I didn't see too many on the highway out in the lane.
Marco and I pulled into the crew parking area at the bottom of Cerro Gordo. There were tons of cars jammed in there. Marshall found me and told me about one runner who was having problems, but it turned out they were okay. I saw Bob again and he looked great. Just cruising along with Bonnie.

When it started to get dark Marco and I headed back into town. He was waiting for the call from Chris to come up to the finish line, and I was headed back to hang out in the medical room. Marco went back to the room to get a nap and I hung out in room 30 while the others went to get food. John was getting ready to go out to Keeler to be there for foot care, and there had only been a few runners in with hydration issues. We did get some calls in the medical room, some odd ones. "Do you deliver ice?"

We did get one runner who hadn't urinated all day. You would think people would realize that's a problem a bit sooner than 16 hours into a race. He did eventually pee just a tiny bit for us, and it wasn't a bad color, but we gave him fluids and food and held him for a while.

Counting to Three

As we were finishing up with him, a crew member came to me and said he was worried about his runner, who was vomiting for 4 hours and hadn't stopped. They were at their room in town trying to get the runner to feel better. I told him to bring her in. When they drove up, I went to the door of the van to help her out of the car, and she looked wiped out, but as soon as she got out of the car, she started talking. Nonstop. In Portugese. Complete with dramatic arm gestures and eye rolling. In my head, I knew she was still okay, because she wouldn't have all that energy if she were truly in trouble. Fortunately her crew member could translate.

Her vitals weren't bad at all, but she was down by about 8 pounds. I got her started on ORS (the oral rehydration salts that we mix in a liter of fluid) and her crew went to get her some saltines, and we actually got her drinking and eating. When she tried to have some soup, that came up, but fortunately it was only the soup and the ORS stayed down. I stayed up with her until we released her to go back on the course or drop out, depending on what she wanted to do. But she gave us a Portugese lesson and she was quite lively and dramatic, so we got a lot of entertainment out of her visit. I have never heard anyone talk that fast, even my sister, and in a language you can't understand, you just sit back and listen in amazement. I did learn how to count to three in Portugese though. I kept counting in Portugese as I gave her the cups of ORS and the saltines.

She was the last runner I saw at the end of a 19 hour day and as soon as she left I went back to my room to get a few hours of sleep, and George and Dave had the medical room for the night.

Marco was awake when I got to the room and he still hadn't heard from Chris. It was almost 1 am, I was exhausted and took a shower, then crashed. The air conditioner was awesome, it was cranked to the max, what a relief after being hot and sweaty all day.

At 5:30 am I heard a knock, I jumped up because my bed was closest to the door. It was Anna looking for Marco, he was supposed to be at the finish line. The first runners had come through Lone Pine already. I looked over and he was still there. He jumped up and got his stuff together, but I couldn't go back to sleep after he left. I got up and had my instant Starbucks packets of coffee, and dragged my butt over to the medical room. George hadn't slept all night, so I told him he could use our room to shower and take a long nap. There had been some business overnight, but so far, nothing major, and no one had needed any trips to the hospital or anything. There were more DNFs, though.

Day Two

As the day unfolded, there were people in for foot care, a few more hydration issues, and a few soft tissue injuries, like calf muscles or Achilles problems, but nothing really serious. The crews and runners thanked us for our care, they were so appreciative, and they remember you. As I was out on the course I made sure to check on the runners we had treated, and it's always so satisfying to see the runners get back out on the course and finish after they've been in medical for an issue. That's the best part of doing this, and that's why I love to come back.

Harvey Lewis won for the men with Grant Maughan close behind. Alyson Venti won for the women. Other than that I really didn't pay much attention to where people placed because I was too busy with what I was doing. I usually don't pay much attention to the times, places, or stats.

There had been quite a few DNFs as the day went on. There was also some drama with traffic issues, and with runners not staying single file. I went out to rove the course in the afternoon on day two, in Owens Valley coming down from Darwin and all the way into town, I stopped so many times I can't count, to warn runners and pacers to run single file and to the left of the white line.

I saw some pacers texting as they walked behind their runner, weaving all over. I really think there should a rule against texting and using the cell phones on the road. Lots of other races do it, they specify that you have to be off the course to use your phone for anything. It wouldn't be an issue if the pacers would step off the road into the dirt so they weren't weaving out into traffic.
Then I saw one guy who was weaving all over and walking out halfway into the lane with oncoming traffic having to move across the yellow line to avoid him. I yelled at him out my window but he didn't move. Then I saw his crew vehicle ahead, so I pulled over and talked to them, except they didn't speak English. The crews are all supposed to have someone who speaks English, enough to understand the rules. It's been 35 years since I used French, so I had to dig way back in my memory for whatever words I could remember. So I said to the crew, "Au gauche du blanc! Ici! D'accord?" and pointed to the left of the white line. They understood. I went to the runner as he went by, and said the same thing. I wished my phone was working so I could use Google translate.

As I went down toward Keeler I continued reminding people to stay single file and on the shoulder. It got really old. I don't remember it being that big of a problem in past races, seemed like this year the runners and pacers were really bad about that.

I went back to town, and George was taking a nap so I stayed out of the room and just hung out at medical. People would come up and ask me how the race was going. We were only two doors down from headquarters, but they are so busy in there, I never want to bug them with questions about the race. They post things when they can, but they are usually on the radio talking to other race staff out on the course.

I went to eat lunch, and the restaurant was quiet. As I was sitting there, I heard the couple next to me marveling at the runners, they couldn't believe people looked so good after running that many miles. The woman turned around since I had my Badwater shirt on, and she started asking me about the race and about ultras. I talked to her for a while, explaining that being able to run that many miles takes a commitment. You make running and training a priority in your life. It's not necessarily THE priority, but you make a choice to take the time to put the training in and take care of your body to allow it to adapt to these distances.

Ultraendurance athletes pursue their capabilities and push past their limits to surpass what for most people is untapped potential. Most people never explore themselves to learn what they can do. I was trying to explain this to them, and they looked like they had never even thought of that before. Imagine where we could be in this world if more people would do that!!!

The rest of the day and evening, the runners continued to proceed up to the Portals and finish. We didn't get too much business except for a few people who had already finished and wanted something checked out, like their feet, or their swollen hands. Antidiuretic hormone is secreted in response to stress and it just takes time for that puffiness to go away, Rest, food, and fluids are the best thing, and ice on any particularly sore places. But it's just time, and allowing your body to recover.

I'm not sure if there were any other medical issues because during the times we're there in the room, we see people, but if we're away or out on the course we miss the things that other medical people see. But as far as I know, there were no major medical problems this year.

There were a couple of issues with cheating this year, which was unusual. The new course made it possible for people to cut some places off, and at least one, if not two, people were caught cheating, and they are banned for life from the event if that happens. It's really amazing to think that someone would cut the course, just to get a buckle to show off, or whatever their motive was.

The other thing I heard about were some groupies who were out on the course, cheering for some runners, but not officially crew. Those aren't allowed in this race, they try to minimize spectators out on the course because it is so dangerous already, between the heat and the road, but also creates more chaos for the runners and their crews. I saw a vanful of young people out on the course the second day but I couldn't tell if they were with the race, they didn't have any runner numbers on their car. And they were also out urinating in plain view of the highway, which is another thing that runners and crew don't do.

Just some weird stuff, nothing new but just weird. I spend a lot of time just talking to runners and their crews, educating them about I & O. That is intake and output. It's mostly about fueling, hydration and electrolytes, and staying cool. Most crews are pretty good about listening. Occasionally there are the completely out there, misguided, clueless people, but fortunately there aren't too many of those at Badwater.


Tuesday evening George and I started doing the inventory of supplies for next year and everyone on medical who was there pitched in and we got it done quickly. I stayed up late cleaning the equipment, and I even put the chairs in the shower to wash the grunge off of them. Things start to get really stinky and nasty after two days of sweaty runners using them. We change the sheets on the bed in between each runner, but those dirty sheets start to give the medical room a certain odor by Wednesday. Ugh.


Wrapping It Up

Tuesday night I got about 6 hours of sleep then woke up Wednesday morning feeling not too bad. Megan wrapped things up with medical, then I went out to breakfast with Bob and his crew. Bob finished in 39 hours and change, an awesome performance! He was very happy.

After breakfast I went over to the elementary school to see if they needed help setting up for the pizza party. When I got there, Don Meyer was the only one there. So I grabbed a broom and paper towels and started sweeping the floor and cleaning the tables and benches. There was no air conditioning so we had a big fan going and we had to keep people out so the room wouldn't get hot. As the runners started to arrive, I decided to become the bouncer and stop people at the door so they'd wait in line outside until the food arrived. Usually Corey and Jay do this but they were not here this year, and I think they were needed, as they are great course marshals too, among a million other things they always did to keep the race going smoothly.

I only stuck around for the very beginning of the event, I wanted to get on the road and make it to St. George so my drive on Thursday wouldn't be too long. I said goodbye to as many people as I could, and then left by noon.

Driving home I just went forward, didn't stop much except to stretch my legs. Driving back through Panamint and all the curves in the road from Father Crowley Point on down and over the pass to Stovepipe, I realize just how familiar I am with all the details of this road, and all the colors. It always blows my mind just how colorful this road is, and how much I have fallen in love with this place. Every rock, every big Joshua tree, every curve along the way carries a memory for me. I find myself smiling as I remember bits of conversations I've had with my crew, or things that happened in different places along the way.
I did one last trip to Sushi Koma when I went through Vegas, to fuel myself for the trip. I stayed in St. George again. Great AC in the hotel. But did you know that at 7:30 on a Thursday morning there is NOTHING happening in St. George. Even the breakfast places aren't open until 8. No one is out on the streets. Where was everyone? At the Temple? I had to drive to Cedar City before I could find something to eat for breakfast.
I drove all the way home Thursday, getting in before dark. The Buffaloes howled so all the neighbors would know I was home. I think Dennis was happy to see me too, once the Buffaloes let him.
I haven't had much time to process my thoughts about this year's race or what I learned, so as those things occur to me, they'll be in other posts. But that is about as short as I can make a blogpost on what is always one of the most enjoyable three day stretches of my summer.

Hell to Pay 10K

Before I can sit down and write my blogpost on Death Valley I have to announce that I want to retire from the 10K distance. I ran the Human Race 10K today, I renamed it the Hell to Pay 10K, and it reminded me of why it's been 7 years since the last time I ran a 10K. I hate that distance, and today was no different.

I used to love 10Ks, I don't know why, maybe because I was good at them? Maybe it's because it's the first race distance I ever ran and there were so many of them back in the 1980s. Now they just hurt, I can't go fast anymore, and it's prolonged torture. This morning it was cool, in the 60s, and humid. The sun never came out from behind the clouds, which was nice. The first two miles were a gradual uphill grade up Mountain Avenue, a quick trip through the cemetery, then slightly down Taft Hill Road, then a good half mile drop, then the bike path for 2 miles, and then, at mile 5, a twisty, junked up portion of the race course through the flooded area of the Poudre Trail from this spring. It was dirt, sand, rocks, and very soft. Not a fast surface at all. Then it emerged uphill from the Poudre Trail, back down Mason, and completing the loop at Civic Center Park.

When the alarm went off this morning I didn't want to get up. I need to catch up on sleep. But I got up anyway, it was 4:50 am, I had coffee and got my butt down to sign up for the race and warm up for a couple of miles. On my warmup I felt terrible, I could not move. My legs felt tired and stiff.

When the race started, I ran okay the first two miles, 7:56 and 8:06, but then when we started heading downhill, first thing that happened was my shoe came untied, so I had to bend over and tie it, a stupid thing, but I was so out of it this morning that I guess I didn't tie my shoes very well.

As we went downhill, my pace got even slower. I could not take advantage of the downhill grade, the legs simply would not turn over. I felt like I was running in concrete. I considered walking. But I kept going, kept pushing as hard as I could, I was noticing the labored breathing of people passing me while my breathing was just fine, but my legs would not move. I was averaging 8:20s or slower the rest of the way. It sucked. I just wanted to get it over with, and I pulled up to the finish in 51:53 which is a dismal, disappointing time for me. But at least it was faster than what I would have run if I just went out by myself. I did get a decent tempo run in.

Ugh. I am glad I stuck to my plan of waking up and doing the race, but I need to not worry about the time. It was definitely not a good day for me to be racing.

As it turned out I placed second in my age group and got a ceramic coaster...how convenient- for beer! I'll need a beer after that!

I am going to get to the business of writing my blogpost and taking a good nap. It's a cool, overcast day and should be great for sleeping. Check back later...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Black Raspberry Margaritas First

I know you want to hear about Badwater and I'm keeping you in suspense. I had a busy day today between unpacking, restocking the kitchen with groceries, and a business seminar, plus it took me a couple of hours just to go through the 800 or so photos I took last week. I will be working on the blogpost over the weekend though.

Tomorrow I am running the Human Race 10K. I went for a 5 mile run this morning, my first since last Sunday in Las Vegas. All the fatigue I had before my trip should be gone by now, I was a complete slug almost the entire trip, with the exception of a 7 miler in west Las Vegas with an accurate 3.2 mile at the end in 22:45. Yes, that's correct. It's an accurate course- a 5K, plus a tenth. I triple checked it. I ran the 7 miles in 54 minutes and change, the first half was uphill.

I admit the fast part was downhill. But I did mile splits of 7:27, 7:00, and 6:47 on my way down and I was nowhere near an all-out pace. I started out comfortable and picked it up gradually. It was at 3000 feet elevation, but it was also 88 degrees when I started. What I'm trying to say is that if it had been a 5K, I would have run it in the low 22s and that would be a fast time for me right now. So tomorrow, running the Human Race 10K, will give me another check on my fitness, at 5000 feet. And it's downhill only from 2.5 to 5.5 miles, the rest is a slight uphill grade, on a loop course.

We have a killer crop of raspberries and black raspberries. I picked about two pints of berries between last night and today. I threw some black raspberries in the blender and made a margarita. A little seedy, but awesome flavor.

I haven't slept well with the hot flashing and it will be another ice pack night. The margarita is cold, and maybe it will make me run faster tomorrow. After the race I meet with a client, and after that I will be blogging away so I can share the stories and photographs from this year's unique race.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Coming Home


I'm on my way home and spending the night in St. George, Utah before I drive home tomorrow. What an event this year. Talk about a learning curve for everyone: runners, crews, and race staff. The race was a success and it remains to be seen what will happen with the original course, but more on that later. I'll have 10 hours of driving to process my thoughts tomorrow, with a decent night's sleep too. 

This year,  despite all the changes, was a special one for me. It really bothered me to miss it last year, my gut told me I needed to get out and see Ben, and of course everyone else too. 

I was telling the medical team about how I couldn't come out last year because those pigf@$&*^#%$ wouldn't let me off work, so I quit! Which, looking back, is sort of true in a sense. Any job that doesn't allow you to do the things you love most is NOT worth it!!!! 

We stayed quite busy, with lots of interesting stories to tell, and some that I can't tell, but I was entertained. 

My friend Bob Becker who is RD of the Keys 100 absolutely kicked ass, wearing the number 69 to match his age. And so many more great performances, throughout the pack. The people in this race are so inspiring. 

I will write a real blogpost with the details and pictures once I get home. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Badassery...

What is Badassery?

Funny how the "Bad Ass" phrase gets tossed around by ultrarunner types. I've been seeing it a lot lately. Cat sent me a message to tell me she couldn't make my talk last night, she had a boot camp workout with her daughter and said "maybe it will make me as badass as you". Ha. She has a pretty bad ass herself, she doesn't need a boot camp class but she's doing it to be with her daughter.

Spoke at Runners' Roost last night and there was a good turnout despite the heavy downpour that happened just before 6 pm, but by the time we all left the store to go for the group run before my talk, the rain stopped. I showed my Badwater Double Slideshow, something I had to dust off. It's been 3 years since I ran it, and about a year since I last showed it to anyone. There were a lot of questions about Badwater, and I forgot how much interest that generates. I had planned to talk more specifically about ultras and preparing for them, but I let the questions guide the discussion instead. It worked out well.

I did want to talk more last night about the notion of Badassing it...people get so caught up in the achievement, the numbers, statistics, that they forget about the essence of the experience, and that is what I always want to convey. I ran across Death Valley to be a tiny dot in a landscape full of colorful rocks and stars. I wanted to be in that place, and traveling through it on foot, in those conditions, which make it that much more intense and enjoyable.

And really, it's not at all about being a bad ass.

Getting distracted by shiny objects like trophies, awards, and records takes the focus away from the real inner strength you develop as you push yourself past the limits you thought you possessed. I see it a lot, especially in young male ultrarunners, though women are also prone to this. The idolatry thing, getting all caught up in the eye-popping amazement at someone else's achievements, usually defined by some small number of hours and minutes it took the object of your mesmerization to finish a given course relative to your own finish, or by a large number of miles, vertical feet, or other statistic. Worshipping that person like they are some kind of superhuman, or a god, or some sort of divine being that you would kiss their feet should they even speak to you.

But just because someone possesses these characteristics or talents of speed, endurance, intelligence, determination, stubbornness, or luck doesn't mean their formula or anything they do will work for you. That includes shoes, gear, training plans, food, rituals, home life, you name it. Getting over the idolatry thing means you stop comparing yourself to others. Yes the people you worship are made of something different, AND YOU'RE MADE OF SOMETHING DIFFERENT TOO, that's up to you to discover on your own and it will be different from ANYONE else, that's a sure thing. But idolatry will only take the focus off of what you need to do to be your own best self.

Ultrarunners go through stages of self-discovery in which they develop and encourage badassery amongst themselves. It's like a rite of passage, testing your physical limits, and your mental limits. It's important to go through these phases because this is where you learn so much about yourself, and your potential. It's incredibly powerful and empowering. It delivers you from the idolatry phase to the self-actualization phase, where you are comfortable in your own skin and confident in what you can accomplish. This is where you become your own athlete. You pursue what appeals to you, and that is where you shine.

Someone asked me last night what I learned about myself in doing the ultras I have done, and I replied that I learned that if I set my mind to something that I decide to do, I can do anything. And the other side of that coin is that you can't fly by the seat of your pants, it takes a lot of learning, research, studying, and planning to do an endurance event.

Unfortunately along the way many new runners discover the number one rule of badassery: Stupidity always trumps badassery. So if you don't learn the lessons from the school of hard knocks, you will never make it, and might end up winning a Darwin Award along the way.

Or if you're like the Canadian guy who placed third at Hardrock this year, who got struck by lightning, shattering his headlamp on top of Handies Peak, you're just lucky enough to avoid the Darwin Award. Definitely deserves a nomination. That's not bad ass, that's stupid. The fact that he placed third doesn't make it okay. I'm glad he finished safely. But I also hope he realizes just how close he was to being dead.

My friend Kirk just finished his 20th Hardrock. That's considered badass. And Lisa Smith-Batchen just finished a quadruple crossing of Badwater. That's also considered badass. It's also something I would loved to have done, but financially I can't do it unless I made some pretty extreme sacrifices, which I'm unwilling to do. I know if wanted it bad enough, I would do it, but I guess I don't. I am happy with my road double. I'd love to just stay out there all summer and run as many roads in the park as I could and try to see everything.

But none of us who have become our own athletes do these things to be badass. That is the last thing on our minds. It's an inner effort, an inner challenge, but it contains so much positive energy and it's the essence of living, doing what you love the most. If that's badass, then I guess we're all guilty, all of us ultrarunners.

So in that sense, there's not nearly enough badassery going on. More people should find their inner badass. Finding what drives them, what they love the most, and pursuing it with their full dedication, passion, and energy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Keepin' It Sub-G

I've been wanting to get up to the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park all summer and I finally had a day to do it. Forcing myself to wake up early is not too much fun but I happened to wake up at 3 am all by myself, thanks to the hot flashes, so it was the perfect opportunity.

I wanted to get up there before sunrise so I could top out above treeline while the light was good. And it was...

Last week I took 4 days off from running because my legs were so sore and dead. I rode the bike one day and that was it. It was a good call. I ran increasing distances Friday, Saturday and Sunday, took yesterday off, and today I wanted to get a short hill workout in without pushing the pace. It's been raining a lot with thunderstorms in the afternoons but I knew if I got up early enough I could get a good workout on the Longs Peak trails.

I rarely run trails anymore because of my painful, weak ankles. I can't even hike much because of the uneven surfaces, at least not on really technical trails. But I miss it and every year I try to get up to Rocky Mountain National Park to get back on the trails I used to love so much. I can usually tolerate the well-worn trails. But there's one more problem...

I am terrible at altitude. Back in the days when I used to train for the Leadville Trail 100, my running buddies used to call me G.B., short for "Gooney Bird" because every time I got above 13,000 feet I was so hypoxic I would be goofy.

This was the first time I've been above 8,000 feet this year except for one trip to Como at 10,000 feet. And I haven't been running trails. I wanted to do this for the vertical and the scenery, to get an easy run in, with a lot of hiking on the uphills. I started out at 5:15 am and it was just light enough that I didn't need my headlamp.

As I climbed up to treeline, it looked like they did a lot of work on the trails, after last year's flooding. There were a lot more waterbars and steps cut in the trail. Those are harder to run than smooth trail, but I was powerhiking up anyway.

My ankles did well, except for a few places on the downhills where the rocks were loose.

But the goofiness started early, once I got above treeline I was a little lightheaded and nauseated. I took some gels and those helped.

First I went toward Chasm Lake to see if the columbines were out. They are, but not as many as last year at this time. They might be late with the cool, wet spring we've had. There was a huge snow drift just before the bowl below Chasm Lake and I decided to turn around there, since I was goofy and alone, and there was a good 1500 foot slide down to Peacock Lake with a lot of big rocks. I headed back up to the main trail and continued up to Granite Pass.


By the time I got up to Granite Pass at 8 am I was freezing my butt off in the wind and my hands were numb. I didn't think to take my gloves out of my pack, because I was G.B. And by then I couldn't even take my pack off because my hands wouldn't work to unfasten the buckles.

I had considered going up to the Boulderfield but decided to not go any higher, 12,000 was plenty high for me, and it would take me forever in my lightheaded, spaced out state. I knew I needed to stay below the Gooney Bird threshold.










I went down toward Boulder Brook but stopped before treeline, when I found a spot that wasn't quite so windy, just below some rock knobs. I took some photos and sat down to drink some water, put clothes on, have another gel.














On the way back up I felt great. It took me less time to climb back up to Granite Pass than it took to come down. I was freezing though. Once I got over the pass and descended a few hundred feet, the sun was intense, and I started to hot flash, absolutely pouring sweat like it was 110 degrees, except it was no more than 60 degrees up there. I stopped again to take off most of my layers. I was running but it was an awkward stride, because I was lightheaded and didn't have the best balance on those rocks.

I finally started to feel sub-gooney again when I got back in the trees and it was much easier to run without rolling on the rocks and twisting my screaming ankles. Finally made it back to the trailhead by 10 am and drove back home. It was only 11 miles, 3400 feet each of gain and descent, but just what I needed. My quads didn't feel like jello, either, so maybe I'm finally getting used to the vertical.

It was a good change of scenery and refreshing for my mind, too. Later this week I'll be at the opposite extreme in Death Valley. But first, a few more runs. Tomorrrow night I'll be speaking at Runners' Roost in Fort Collins, showing my Badwater Double slideshow and talking about ultras.

All the sore spots have pretty much gone away. My hip feels fine now, and my left knee is almost normal. I'm hoping to get a good 35 miler in on Thursday before my road trip starts. I'll have the opportunity to rest up a bit during the Badwater trip since I won't have much time to run, and when I get home, I can hit it hard for the final 7 weeks or so before the taper. This summer is going to fly by. Like a Gooney Bird.

More pictures below:


Hidden columbines.


Peacock Lake and Columbine Falls.



Looking east toward Twin Sisters.
Looking northeast toward the Mummy range.

Rock Knobs below Granite Pass.



Approaching Granite Pass from the east.