Scatter my ashes here...

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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

End Needless Suffering in the Heat

Why is this runner sitting down?

This is called competitive advantage. Click here to read my guest post on John Vonhof's blog:

John Vonhof's latest blogpost

If you're a runner or just spend a lot of time outdoors on your feet, the biggest favor you could do for yourself right now is to get yourself a copy of John's book, Fixing Your Feet, 5th edition.

Yesterday I watched a good-sized group of runners doing a low-key, ultra "fun run" locally here. The temperatures reached the mid-90s. I rode my bike up to watch for about an hour. It was noon and getting hotter by the minute. Many of the runners in this group are new to ultras, and they were challenging themselves to this event. I went up to cheer for a few people I know, and was observing as the runners came down the hill to their turnaround point.

I heard the runners commenting about how hot it was and how they'd just like to chew on some ice, but none of them were wearing ice on their necks or heads, a few were not carrying enough water, and some didn't have hats on. I suggested these things to a few of them, and at their aid station I saw some wisely take breaks to sit in the shade in between repeats of the hill they were running.

I saw a few who were obviously feeling pretty miserable. Running is supposed to be fun, especially in an event like this, but being unprepared for what were predictable conditions was the number one mistake these few made.

It's a good thing to challenge yourself, and when you get a group of young, new ultrarunners together they push each other to see who can be the "craziest", but some common sense and sanity are in order here.

The problem is that heat exhaustion can rapidly progress to something more serious, and when you don't routinely run in those conditions, it's even more dangerous. Being prepared can save your life, or someone else's. Be careful out there.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Food for Thought

How can reading a blog help you with your running?

The problem for people who insist on paying tuition to the School of Hard Knocks is that they never seem to graduate. Meanwhile, those who take advantage of a freely offered public education keep moving forward, and gaining ground.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's a Crazy Smart...

I've been asked several times in the past week, what's next? How do you feel? How's the recovery going?

Over the past week I've been taking the girls for daily walks, now I'm up to over 2 miles without my feet complaining at all. I have been on my mountain bike, doing some 20ish mile rides, easy. I plan to get in the pool and do a little deep water running to stay fit, and I'll get back to running soon enough. I won't be doing any serious workouts for another few weeks.

I am not sure if I'll be signing up for any races the rest of this year. I'm going to get my tendinitis evaluated next week and see what's going on in there, and start some sort of rehab for it, most likely physical therapy. I'd like to be able to do some faster running, eventually, but I need to heal this thing first. I miss being able to run trails, too, and right now uneven surfaces are not an option.

My feet still are missing a couple of large chunks of skin and they itch a lot, needing lotion. They are dry and the outer layer of skin feels like it wants to come off. Got my thyroid labs done yesterday and they were all perfect, with my medication tweaks I got things just right in time for my race, TSH of 1.

I feel good. My energy is good, especially now that I've taken 2-3 hour naps most afternoons since I got back from Death Valley. I'm getting my life organized and making plans for this fall. I miss running already, all my friends are out doing group runs and I wish I could join them, but I know better, and I also know it won't be long until I'm out there again.

My friend Connie teases me about the runs I do being crazy but she's really not serious. She tells me I'm smart about getting some rest. Like a dry heat, it's a "crazy smart".

Today I got a new pair of bike shoes, my old ones were too narrow and short and were hurting my feet. I am psyched to get on my cyclocross bike again, and start doing some long road rides as the weather gets nice this fall.

The past few days I've been having fun riding my ancient mountain bike, the 1986 Fat Chance with prehistoric shifters, elliptical chainrings, toeclips, and all the original components from my Crested Butte Bad Bikin Betty days in the 80s. I might even do a century on my mountain bike, just for fun, knobby tires and all, just like the old days.

What's next? I don't know, I'll figure it out. I'd like to go to Florida next spring and run one of my friend Bob's races, I'd like to do a few low key 100s, and possibly a multiday race toward the end of next year. I'm not planning anything until late this year or early next year. For now, I'll be running with Buffaloes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Badwater Double 2011: The Return

No Monkeying Around
I woke up around 7 Thursday morning after sleeping well all night. Ed went on a coffee and breakfast run to McDonald's and brought it back to Steph and I in our room. I retaped my feet and Felix drove Ed and I up the Portal Road to drop us off so Ed could crew me on foot in the cooler temperatures. From there, Felix would go back to town, and he and Steph would get groceries, ice, and reorganize the van for the return trip.

On our way driving up the road, we passed Karen Bonnett who was running up the road. We figured we would see her on our way down. She was done crewing for Terri in the race, and she and Nattu were going back toward Badwater to meet up with Dale and the rest of his solo crew.

Felix dropped us off at the exact spot where we had stopped on Wednesday morning after the race finish. It was 9:33 am when we got started, a little late, but I wasn't about to rush and I wanted us to be unstressed on the way back.

Soon we ran into Karen and she joined us most of the way down the portal road, until Nattu picked her up in their vehicle. I made great time going to town, and we met Steph and Felix at the McDonald's, where I got a salad and a chocolate shake.


After using a real bathroom, I started out again. Ed felt like running and it was nice to have the company. He kept me laughing the whole time. Going back across the Owens dry lake bed was hot and dusty.

There was a crosswind that picked up dust and deposited it in my teeth, and as we approached Keeler, the flies were thick in the bushes at the side of the road. I wrapped my orange sarong around my head hijab-style, and that helped keep the grit and flies out of my eyes and teeth.

Steph and Felix showed up in the van soon after that, proudly announcing that they had completely reorganized the van and knew where everything was! I said, "Did you find the monkey?"

"No monkey."

When I asked for my first yogurt, they couldn't find the plastic spoons. We bought a box of 100 at WalMart. All they could find was a fork, so I ate my yogurt with a fork.

Later I needed the baby wipes. I asked for those.

"Can't find 'em"

Ed seemed irritated. I laughed. "They're 3 for 3. They were so proud of knowing where everything was, but so far they haven't been able to find anything I asked for."

"I'll just take some paper towels with water on them." They found that.

Soon a big white pickup came down the road and stopped, it was Chris Frost and his friend. I've worked with Chris on race staff before and he has run the race many times, we were running close together for a long time on the course when we both ran in 2008. They wanted to say good-bye and good luck on their way back home. Chris had a lot of cold drinks, snacks, and plastic spoons left over from the race, so he gave them to us. He had whole wheat fig newtons, which tasted so much better than the regular ones. I asked the crew to save those for me. He also had a few cold beers. Ed sucked one down.

Later when I asked for some whole wheat fig newtons, they brought me regular ones. I said, "Where are the whole wheat ones Chris gave us?"

"We can't find them."

There must have been a black hole sucking things out of the back of the van.

As the day progressed, I was making good time. I wanted to get to the Park Boundary, which was 51 miles from where we started at the Portal Road. I was hoping I'd feel good enough to get as far as Father Crowley. Fifty miles a day would allow us time to climb Telescope Peak.

That evening the sunset over the Sierras was spectacular and I got to watch it from my chair (throne) while eating another slice of pizza from the Pizza Factory, which Felix and Steph made a run to get.

As we passed landmarks on the course, we were still making good time, but as we approached Darwin, it seemed like it was taking forever! I knew there were utility poles and I had a good idea of what the landscape looked like up there, but for about 10 miles approaching Darwin, everything looked the same. Steph and Felix went ahead a few miles so they could nap in the van.

As the air got cooler, I adjusted my electrolyte mix again and had trouble with swelling. My hands started to get puffy and I could feel my feet screaming. I took a break to look at my feet, and I could see why they were hurting. I knew I had a larger pair of shoes if I needed them, but the swelling went down in a few hours, and I never needed those bigger shoes.

The temperatures were cooler, and Ed and I both started to feel cold the higher we got. It seemed like forever before we reached the van again. Soon after we met up with them in the van, Ed took a break and Felix came out to the road with a drink for me. I was walking along the road and saw something stretched out from the white line, quite a ways into the asphalt. I realized it was probably a snake, and as we got closer, it was a large mojave rattler.

Felix ran to get his camera out of the van, and came back to me. I said,"Let's not piss this guy off, they can be aggressive." I went around to the other side of the road, stepping very quietly, and gave it lots of room. The snake didn't seem fazed.

It was so cool outside that the road had to be hotter, so I began looking out more cautiously ahead of me and on the shoulder. That was the only snake we saw, though, other than a dead baby snake not much further ahead.

At one point Felix pulled up next to me in the van and said, "Hey Alene. Why did the rattlesnake cross the road?"

I said, "I don't know, Felix, why?"

"Bye." He drove off.

Next time I caught up to the van, I said, "Bye". And motored ahead.

Next time I said, "Felix, how many times have I told you don't expect me to have all the answers."

He said, "Bye." and took off.

Then we had knock knock jokes, and why did Spongebob cross the road jokes. Same answers.

There was no traffic on the road for hours, we had bright moonlight, and I was still feeling good, just wondering why it was taking so long to get to Darwin. The landscape was awesome, and even with the moonlight, a lot of stars were visible. Steph and Felix drove ahead and waited for us at Darwin. By the time we got there, we were exhausted, and decided 46 miles was good enough for the day, and we would drive into Panamint to sleep in the room there, then drive back up to Darwin in the morning to resume.

I got in the back of the van, which was a mistake. On the curves going down into Panamint, I got nauseous. I still felt queasy when we checked into the room. I was so tired, I didn't bother to take a shower, I just fell into bed. It was 3:30 a.m. There were 3 beds, and they gave me my own. I should have showered though, because I felt so sticky and sweaty, it took a while to fall asleep, plus Felix was snoring like a freight train. Ed was laughing at Felix.

RPB Makes an Appearance
We were all up 3 hours later. Ed got breakfast from the buffet and brought it back to the room. I took a shower with plastic bags taped around my ankles so my tape wouldn't get wet. I didn't feel like retaping, and the tape looked good. Steph and Felix prepared the van.

Felix took us up to Darwin again. I was concerned that Ed was pacing too much, but he said he felt fine. I kept reminding him to stay back a bit, I don't like to feel like someone is clipping my heels, and I wanted to be able to focus. I was having a hard time focusing though. I knew I didn't get much sleep, and I could feel it.

Soon Karen came along on her bike, she was riding to Stovepipe Wells that day, training for the Kona Ironman. We talked with her for a while, then she took off.

Soon we got a treat, the airshow from the F-16s again, screaming by overhead then diving down into the canyon toward Panamint Valley.

I ran well on the descent to Panamint. Ed stayed in the van for part of it, and I had some alone time. I felt great. I was dancing out there with my music, making the crew laugh. I wasn't having any further issues with blistering. My feet were sore, but getting off them every few hours was helping. Once we got past Panamint Ed rejoined me, and there was a strong headwind. Again I was fighting dust in my eyes and teeth. When I woke up that morning my eyes were swollen and they were tearing and itching all day from all the sand. Once we got past the Panamint Lake Bed and headed up Towne Pass again, the wind wasn't so bad.

About halfway up Towne Pass we got a special visit from Dale Perry and his crew, who were on their way into Panamint to get pizza the night before Dale started his solo run. It was awesome to see all of them and gave me a huge boost. This is a special group of people. We all share a sense of mutual admiration and respect for each other. It was so nice to have all these people we know, supporting all of us, all in one place, but far from home. It was very cool that Dale was doing his solo at the same time as we were headed back.
(Left to Right: Paul Grimm, Steph, Dale Perry, Vince Gerber, Nattu Nattraj, me, Ed, Karen Bonnett)

(Left to Right: Nattu, Paul, Vince, Karen, Phil Rosenstein, me, Ken Grimm, Ed)

Ed and I continued up the 9% grade toward the top of the pass. I knew we weren't making as much progress as we had the day before, and I told Steph that I had made the decision that it was okay to not do Telescope Peak, that I was happy with just finishing the double. But I wanted to keep it open as a possibility, if time allowed.

By the time we reached the Towne Pass summit, the sun was setting, and Steph took Felix back to Stovepipe Wells so he could sleep, and she picked up dinner for Ed and I to bring back to us on the pass. Ed and I took a little sitdown break at the summit, and soon after we started descending, Steph showed up with the food. We got in the van and sat there to eat.

As soon as I got back on the road, I didn't realize it but I was getting inefficient and slow. I still had it in my head that I was going to get past Stovepipe Wells that night, I wanted us to get 50 miles so we could do Telescope. I don't know how much time passed, but we hadn't gone very far over the pass. I told Ed I felt like I needed a little nap. He got in the van with Steph at one point, and I just kept going. I wasn't paying attention to what they were doing. Apparently they were discussing what they should do about me since I was barely moving. I didn't know this, though.

They drove back up to me. I said, "I just need a 15 minute nap."

Ed said,"No, you need to go into Stovepipe and get some sleep. You've had enough for one day. You're doing hour and 15 minute miles. Get in the van, let's go into Stovepipe."

We'd only gone 34 miles that day and I was pissed.

"Ed, you're full of SHIT! I am not doing hour and 15 minute miles. That's BULLSHIT! I'm going!"

And I started marching down the road, then started to run. Ed and Steph looked totally shocked and bewildered. They followed me in the van.

About 20 yards of running later, I stopped cold. "Okay," I said.

"Okay?" Ed asked me.

"Okay, let's get in the van and go to Stovepipe."

I saw Ed and Steph look at each other with a look of total amusement on their faces. I had turned into a two year old in front of their eyes.

We located a marker where I stopped that we could remember in the morning. They drove me down the pass, and I was out. When we got to Stovepipe Wells, I woke up from my little nap in the van. We startled Felix in the room, waking him up. He didn't expect them to bring me with them.

Ed started giving me a hard time. "So I'm full of shit?"

"Yes, you are, Ed. You're full of shit."

We laughed our butts off about that one.

We all showered and fell asleep, and I got a solid 7 hours of sleep. In the morning they all told me I was the snorer that night.

A Little Pain Never Hurt Anyone
I was retaping my feet for what I hoped would be the last time, and Mimi Anderson's crew stopped by the room. They were carrying Mimi. They wanted to wish me good luck on the rest of my double. Mimi had finished hers, including a Whitney climb. She was having a hard time walking, her feet were trashed. But she was happy, and she and her crew were obviously pleased with the outcome.

We talked for few minutes and then I got my stuff together. Felix drove Ed and I up the pass again to where we'd stopped the night before. There was no way, at that point that we were going to have time for Telescope Peak, and I let it go. I was happy to finish the double crossing. Telescope Peak would be there, I could climb it next summer.

Felix took Ed with him after I did a few miles, I was managing to run 10-12 minute miles downhill on the way into Stovepipe, so I was hauling. Ed rejoined me close to Stovepipe and I came into the gas station where they were parked and had my chair set up for me to take a cooldown. Felix ran in and got me ice cream again, and I ate some yogurt, too.

While I was sitting there with the iced towels on me, a Canadian couple came up to ask us about Badwater, the didn't know if the race was going on, or what we were doing. Apparently they had seen Dan coming in the direction of Badwater the day before. That was how I knew he decided to do a double, he must have given himself an extra rest day. I hoped I would get a chance to see him before I left, so I could thank him again.

The Canadians were runners and engaged the crew in conversation about half marathons and such, which I didn't have time for. I needed to get my ice and get going. I felt good in the heat, and it was windy and dusty again, so I wrapped my hat flap around my face. My lips had sunburned really badly the day before and this helped cover them, too.

I ran some of the way through the Devil's Cornfield and we stopped for my first cooldown at the bottom of the hill before Scotty's Junction. While I was sitting there with my feet up, Mimi's crew stopped by one more time on their way out of town to wish me the best. They were so nice. Congratulations, Mimi!

On the curves before the hill, a car pulled over, and Paul Grimm, his brother Ken, and Vince got out. They said Dale wasn't far ahead and he was doing well. I kept going. I felt good, the 7 hours of sleep made a huge difference. I knew I had 56 miles to cover before I finished, but I felt like I could do that in a day, feeling so much more refreshed.

I was running over a hill before Salt Creek and as I started to descend, I saw the white van with "Richard Cranium" and "Sasquatch" written in blue painter's tape. I could see Dale down the hill, he was coming up with Karen. I sprinted down toward them, and we all hugged and talked for a few minutes. Dale looked great- he didn't seem to be bothered by the heat, and he was in good spirits.

Soon I went on, and Ed started running behind me again. I needed to put my feet up, they were getting sore. We asked Felix to go up about a half mile from Salt Creek because I didn't want to stop in the bottom- it was too hot. The tops of the hills were cooler then the low points. He went a short distance ahead, and stopped just past the bottom of Salt Creek. When we got there, Ed told him we wanted to be up higher, because it was hot down there. Felix took off and drove much further than we intended. Either everyone was brain dead or there was just poor communication, or both.

By the time Felix stopped, Ed was pissed off and they got into a tiff. I couldn't believe it. It was the last day, and they're arguing about where to stop on the road. I just wanted to stop and put my feet up. It wasn't like I was dying of hyperthermia. Ed was making a big deal out of it, and I couldn't tell what Felix was doing, but I just rolled my eyes to myself and hope they settled things before I reached them.

I took my break, and started out again. We had only come 12 miles since Stovepipe Wells, but I felt like I was ready to be alone. Ed had paced me way too much, and I needed my alone time.

Then I asked him to come up toward me on the road. I let him know that I was not happy about what happened, and that I wanted the last 30 miles of the trip to be as fun as the first 240 miles. I needed him to settle things with Felix. I didn't want any tension out there between the crew, and I was feeling tense.

Ed had also begun to develop a blister on his foot, and was dehydrated. I asked him to show me his foot. It was all macerated. I told him he needed to dry it out."Hang it out the window." I said.

I asked him how long it had been since he peed. He said, "Not since this morning."

I told him to drink.

Then I told Steph I was done having a pacer. Ed didn't argue.

The next several hours I kept asking him if he peed every time I got the van. It wasn't until nearly Furnace Creek that he said he did. I asked him what color was it. He said, "Dark." "Not Guinness, but Coors Light." I said, "Drink more!"

Felix called Dennis as soon as we got a cell phone signal close to Furnace Creek and let him know how I was doing.

The boys seemed to be getting along much better on the way into Furnace Creek. The wind had died down, and it turned into a brilliant late afternoon over the most beautiful part of the course. Then the sunset was a blazing orange ball followed by deep pink and purples over Stovepipe Wells. I stood there on the road for a while at sunset, looking back and watching the sky change colors.

I passed Harmony Borax Works as it got dark and strolled into Furnace Creek, where they set up on the grass and had dinner waiting for me. Felix brought me an ice cream sandwich and a fruit bar after dinner. My feet hurt, but I told the crew, "A little pain never hurt anyone." I couldn't wait to get going. It was only another 17 miles. Other than my feet being sore, which I was getting used to, I felt great.

I marched up the hill to the junction of Highways 190 and 178, fruit bar in hand. I made the turn toward Badwater, and soon after that the van caught me. I asked Steph to go with me for a few miles, I'd been missing her company. We did about 5 miles together as the moon came up.

Going down the valley in the moonlight, I could see the outline of the mountains above Badwater, and the rock formations by Devil's Golf Course. The colors in the rocks were different shades of black and white in the darkness, and I knew if I hadn't slept the night before, I'd be hallucinating again.

The salt pan was lit up all the way across the valley under Telescope Peak. I'm going to climb that next summer.

Once Steph got back in the van, I started thinking about the journey, and whether I'd do it again. Absolutely. I can't imagine doing Badwater again without a double, it'stoo much fun and there's too much to see. The longer you stay, Death Valley has a way of putting all the pieces of the puzzle back together, in their correct order.

I feel like this run changed me in some ways. First, it took me to another level in my running. I've never gone this far or this long before. I love it. I don't feel at all burned out from my training and preparation. I don't know what will be next, but there will be something, some new challenge, some new journey. I'll figure it out.

And I have so many truly caring, supportive, and genuine friends surrounding me. I truly am blessed to have such richness in my life.

There are so many people I want to thank who supported me before and during this journey, I was thinking of individuals the whole way. I tried responding to some e-mails when I was able to, but know that even if you didn't hear from me, you were in my thoughts, I am grateful for your support and I will be in touch.

Around 260 miles I came back to reality from my introspective time, and Felix pulled up next to me in the van. "Alene, why did Spongebob cross the road?"

"I don't know, Felix, why?"


When I caught up the van again, I told Felix I needed Steph to come out, there was something I needed to tell her.

Steph got out of the van and crossed the road to me. "What is it?"

I said,"I know who the patron saint of the desert is!"

She said, "Really?! Who?"


I can't imagine who else it could be.

On one of my foot breaks, Ed and Steph decided to get a snake's eye view of the star-filled sky.

Next time I passed the van, Felix must have been asleep in the driver's seat, because I came up and he sounded really surprised. He said,"Oh, hi!"

I said, "WooHoo. Bye."

After the turnoff to the Devil's Golf Course, a car came along., It was after 1 am and we hadn't seen another vehicle in hours. It was a Hummer, and it pulled up next to me. A guy said,"Are you okay?"

He sort of woke me up out of my world, and I said, "I'm fine!" in a surprised, sarcastic way, even though I didn't mean for it to come out that forcefully.

I must have scared him. He said quietly,"Okay, just checking."

I said, "Thank you." and he drove off across the valley on the Devil's Golf Course road.

The van was just ahead. They heard the whole conversation. Ed said,"Are you okay?"

"I'm FINE! And you're full of shit!"

The next time I caught the van, I said, "Hey Felix, what time is it?"

"About a quarter to two."

"No, what time is it? What is it time for?" I asked again.

"I don't know." Felix was stumped.

I said, "It's RPB hour."

"RPB hour? What's that?" Ed echoed him in the van.

I said,"Random Perimenopausal Bitch Hour, right, Ed?"

The last few miles I was getting a little sleepy. I cranked the volume up on my tunes and tried dancing around under the moon. Electronic Persian music, appropriate for the occasion. Soon the desert princess would have to start doing things for herself again.

I could barely see the van around the last curve, I knew I'd see the moonlight reflecting on the bathroom roof at the Badwater parking lot.

Then I saw the van, and the lights, and Felix in his reflective vest coming toward me with the camera.

Steph and Ed had some sort of rope rigged up as a finish line for me at the race start site. Woohoo! It was 3:48 am.

I hugged Steph, then Ed and Felix. We took pictures, then went down to the Badwater sign for pictures. Then we headed back to Furnace Creek in the van.

Just before the junction of 190 and 178, we saw a white van parked on the side of the road. It was Dan Westergaard's crew, they were waiting for him. We stopped and talked with them, and soon Dan came running down the hill He stopped and asked how it went. I thanked him for his advice, and I told him how much I enjoyed it.

Dan and I both see the double crossing in a similar way, we both love the race, and we also like being able to appreciate the valley and enjoy it without the hype of the race.

Dan got on his way and we went to our rooms in Furnace Creek, I showered and crashed on the bed. My feet didn't look bad at all.

Culture Shock
Sunday morning we cleaned out the van and gave most of our extra stuff to the housekeeping employees at the hotel. One of them came up with a golf cart to load up the stuff. As I was talking with her, she told me she is a cancer survivor. I told her about my run and how I was supporting the building of a cancer center.

We packed up the coolers with the remaining equipment so we could ship it back from Las Vegas. We checked out and headed for Pahrump. A giant blue monkey stood on the corner across the street from McDonald's. After a salad and shake stop, we went into Las Vegas.

We stopped by a UPS store and mailed the coolers back, and then were off to the airport. We returned the rental van. We never found the monkey.

My guess is that Spongebob ate him, or he ran away because it smelled so bad in the van. Maybe he took steroids, moved to Pahrump, painted himself blue, and got a job selling used cars on a corner lot.

The Las Vegas airport looks like a giant WalMart shoppers convention. It was a scary segment of the human population. Lots of high heels, exposed flesh, and long hair, jewelry, and animal prints on not very attractive people. Our flight was only delayed 45 minutes this time. On the flight, I slept.

We said our good-byes at the parking shuttle island and Felix and I went to get my car. He drove us back to Fort Collins, where he shot a video of the girls and Dennis greeting me in the driveway. After a few minutes, Felix took off on his motorcycle, and I officially arrived back in the real world, which really isn't bad at all.

photo credits: Felix Wong, Ed Green