Photos and videos

Sorry it’s taken a while to get these off the camera, but here is a collection of images and videos (careful of the one where I’m performing my own surgery) from the run.  

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More to come and keep those inspirational stories coming!!

More Inspiration- People I met on the road

Marcia Rasmussen

I first knew of Marcia when she sent me a message through the blog: “Nervous yet?” she asked me on June 29.  I confess, I had been so wrapped up in my preparation, that I’d done little research on the different forums and sites run about Badwater.  She found out about my solo attempt and had contacted me out of the blue.  After a few trade messages, she mentioned that she might come out to see me on my run. I thought it a bit strange, but was quickly learning how supportive the ultra community is, so I was looking forward to meeting her.

We were starting on a Monday, and she had mentioned that she would be driving to Lone Pine (at the base of Mt Whitney and at about mile 122) and would come out to see me on Tuesday. She and her husband, John, meet us at about noon. She’s dressed to run, and offers to pace me “for a while”. Her hand is in a cast due to a recent surgery (“it throws me off when I run and frustrates me” she tells me), but she then proceeds to pace me for the next 12 hours!  This allows my crew to rest for the push up the mountain, and I get to meet an incredible woman.

Marcia and I on the road

She’s completed what I was attempting three times and runs basically every day. She and her husband (who’s also completed Badwater with a record time of 1,088 hours) drove 6 hours to Lone Pine, are camping overnight, and will also pace me up the Portal Road to the 135 mile ‘finish’ line. After that, they’re driving home. On top of that, on finishing the 135, she presents me with a finishers belt buckle she’s had made. It’s unbelievably humbling.

I learned a lot about looking out for others and sacrifice, as well as a few interesting stories that Marcia told me from her experience. On that desolate road in the desert, she kept me engaged and moving forward on one of the more mentally challenging parts of the course.

One story she didn’t tell me, though, was about her escape from death the year before. Below is a link to the story that ran at the time, and if you subscribe to the ultralist, she’s published her story there as well. I can’t do it justice, but suffice to say, if you are at all inspired by what I had to go through, you’ll be floored by her courage and determination.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/06/sequoia-rescue-hiker-hiking-trails-national-park-snow-franklin-creek-snow-bridge.html?cid=6a00d8341c630a53ef01538f565d56970b

I’m honored to say I know and spent time with her, and more importantly, that she thought enough to spend time with me.

Marcia and I at the finish

Run Recap- Day three

July 4  We “sleep in” for 3 hours to celebrate the 4th (I’m guessing) and get started at about 6:30 AM.  The crew has had a chance to rest, and I’ve doubled the sleep I’ve had in the past few days to 6 hours.  Importantly, I can still move, my stomach feels good, my feet feel a lot better and we’re only 13 miles from the Whitney Portal, then end of the first part of the run.

As I run down the road, my thoughts go back to the kids and the parallels between their barriers and my own. What I’ve had to overcome is so small and most importantly the consequences of my failure are so minuscule compared to them, that I almost feel ridiculous even making the comparison, but it doesn’t stop me:

  • Before coming to SouthSide, many don’t know their strengths and development needs.
  • Once at SouthSide, they are assessed, and put on a customized program to help them succeed.
  • The great staff, their “support crew”, then works with them to make sure they not only make it, but succeed
  • Along the way, some will surge ahead and some will fall behind, but there’s always someone there to keep inspiring them, educating them, and encouraging them
  • The new school is really going to create a great environment

I break out of my reverie in enough time to realize I need to make a left turn on the Whitney Portal Road.  It’s a little after 7AM and time for what’s been called the toughest climb in an ultramarathon- 11 miles and over 4600 feet of gain.  Some sections have a 10 degree incline.  Average time is over 5 ½ hours to make this “final” climb.  We’ve got a little bit of work to do.

After about a mile, I’m joined again by Marcia Rasmussen!  Both she and Suzanne Kenyon pace me the first 8 miles to the switchbacks.  I’m actually using trekking poles at this stage to make sure I keep my momentum going.  Turkey wraps are still the food of the day and I eat one every hour, drinking my 22 ounces of water to wash it down.  I’m asked if I want to stop to rest, but the only thing I can think of is: “If I’m not moving, I’m not getting any closer to the finish!”  Keep moving.

Now the switchbacks.  The last 3 miles, but definitely not the most fun.  David Stores and Scott Weber become my pacers as we slooowly climb the last few miles.  I come up over the last rise, see the toilet paper finish line stretched out (note: I’ve never broken the tape at a race, but I don’t believe toilet paper is generally what is used), cross it at almost exactly 12 noon and collapse into a waiting chair.  Marcia presents me with a Badwater Solo belt buckle that she’s taken upon herself to make, and I enjoy a few minutes of strange stares from German hikers and the celebrations of my team.  We’ve come a long way and finished the 135 miles in 56 hours 49 minutes.  We had planned on 60-63 hours and can’t go up the mountain until tomorrow, so we have some down time before the next climb.  Time for a cheeseburger.  Tomorrow we go up the mountain proper….

A Recap of the Run- Day One

Over the next few days, I’ll try to take you through the run, pulling what I can from my sleep deprived memory. :)

July 2, 3:00 AM local time. Didn’t get much sleep the night before, maybe a few hours, but there’s not a lot of time to think about that now.  We’re getting ready to go.  On the drive from Furnace Creek to the start line, we saw a baby coyote cross the road.  A good luck sign? Hopefully, but we won’t know until later.

We chose a “night start” to try to avoid some of the 118+ degree temperatures we expected to encounter in the “Death Zone,”  the first 42 miles of the run, stretching from Badwater to Stovepipe Wells.  The kids and all my supporters were on my mind that morning.  I had come a long way in a fairly short amount of time and I was not going to let them down.  I was not going to take myself off the course.  If I could physically continue, I would.

The moon was up and almost full as we started at 3:10 AM, the temperature was a relatively mild 90 degrees and the first goal was to get back to Furnace Creek (17 miles) in about 4 hours.  Taking it slow, saving energy I knew I’d need later.  I set a pattern of 3 minutes running and then 3 minutes walking to regulate my pace. We arrived ahead of schedule in about 3 hours 25 minutes.  The moon had set and the sun was starting to make it’s appearance.  We rested a bit in Furnace Creek, then began the journey in earnest through the hottest part of the course

The next 25 miles were eerily uneventful.  It continued to get hotter, the temperature climbing to 118 degrees, but regular spraying (my crew was wetting my sun protection shirt and scrub pants down every mile), hatfuls of ice (at every mile my hat was filled with ice, which would melt completely in about 10-12 minutes), water, electrolytes and nutrition kept me going.  I also changed shoes every 10 or so miles just to change the wear pattern on my feet. I felt so good, that we again, arrived at our checkpoint, Stovepipe Wells, ahead of schedule.  The original plan was to rest here for a couple of hours, cool down and spend some time out of the ridiculous temperatures.  However, we couldn’t check in to the Stovepipe Wells Hotel until 2.  We had covered the first 42 miles in under 10 hours and it was only 1 o’clock.  We decided to take on some of the climb called Townes Pass and then come back to Stovepipe for a rest.

From Stovepipe Wells to Townes Pass we climb 4900 feet in 16 miles.  It’s about a 6% incline on average, so if you want to follow along, set your treadmill to 6% and let’s go for a 16 mile jog.  We had stopped for 4 hours at Stovepipe. My coach knew what we would have to face and tried to get me to relax.  I was impatient, wanted to keep going, and only slept about 45 minutes.  It was my first big mistake.

We started again at 6:15 pm, and I was averaging just under 19 minute miles up Townes Pass-way too fast (my second big mistake).  The reasons this was a such a big mistake were that 1- I had only slept 45 minutes and was not off my feet during the rest phase for as long as I should have been, 2- It was still 115 degrees when we started and although it was getting cooler, my body was still generating and retaining a lot of heat (which causes muscles and in extreme cases organs to shut down), and 3- We were walking into a 20 mph headwind that increased the effort and dried us out much quicker than otherwise.  In short, I should have been closer to a 25-30 minute pace, allowed myself to relax a bit more, and listened to my coach and crew.  The first sign I was in trouble happened at about 10:30 pm.  Just about everything I had been eating and drinking for the past two hours (carbohydrate gels and liquid nutrition) came up.  Now, in addition to being tired and overworked, I was in danger of becoming dehydrated.  We kept going to the top of Townes Pass, taking occasional sips of water, but not able to hold anything else in my stomach.  At the top, we called a rest break just after midnight.  I still couldn’t hold anything down, and my crew discussed what the next steps were.  The decision was made that we’d rest here and try to get me to hold something down.  I’d run over two marathons in the past 21 hours, but if I couldn’t keep anything in my stomach, they’d have to pull me off the course and my run could be over. My thoughts were on my family and the kids.  I didn’t want to disappoint them and I started to worry that something I hadn’t even thought of before, my stomach, was what could end things.  I could use another baby coyote right about now.

Day Two coming soon…

This is it!

I am overwhelmed by the support everyone has shown and want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your donations, words of encouragement, and for holding back on how you really feel about me taking on this ridiculous challenge! The kids at SouthSide are going to enjoy a nurturing educational environment for decades because of what you’ve done. THANK YOU!

I wanted to take you through the course (you can click on the map in Column 3 for a visual depiction) and my schedule. This is a very conservative schedule and we could go faster (or slower) depending on conditions. So, here it is:

Monday, July 2
0300 – 2000

42 miles- Badwater to Stovepipe Wells
Conditions- Flat and HOT!
Notes- Most drop outs in the race happen in this section because runners push themselves too hard. We will be extra cautious here.

July 2-3
2000 – 1000

30 miles- Stovepipe Wells to Panamint Springs
Conditions- Hilly and hot at first, but cooling off to about 100 at night
Notes- First 17 miles, straight up in the DARK (5000 feet). Then 6 miles straight down (those same 5,000 feet). Last 7 miles across the Panamint Valley (hopefully not too hot!)

1000 – 2400

28 Miles- Panamint Springs to Owens Lake (First 100 miles done!)
Conditions- Pleasant? Hopefully, should stay below 100
Notes- 8 miles again, straight up 3,000 feet, then a meandering downhill section over the next 20 miles

July 4         No running- Independence Day! (just kidding)
2400 – 1000

22 Miles- Owens Lake to Lone Pine
Conditions- Dark for most of the time
Notes- “Easiest” part of the course, except for the fact that we’ve already run 100 miles.

1000 – 1800

13 Miles- Lone Pine to Mt. Whitney Trail head
Conditions- Hopefully only in the 90s (I will guard against hypothermia)
Notes- After the easiest, the hardest climb on the road (great). 13 miles…wait for it…straight up (about another 5,000 feet). Then we rest. Because we have to have a permit for the final 6,000 feet to the summit, we have to wait until 0400 on July 5 to start that section.

July 5
0400 – 2100

22 Miles- Up the Mountain, Down the Mountain
Conditions- Even cooler. In fact, downright cold is possible going to 14,500 feet
Notes- This will be the hardest climb (but after a rest). 11 miles, up 6,000 feet, hang out at the summit, then 11 miles down. That’s it!

This will be my last blog entry before the run. I will be tweeting between then and now and will be able to tweet from time to time from the course. Also, you can follow my progress via one of two GPS linked maps here: SPOT TRACKER

and here:

TRACKING THE WORLD (this one relies on the cellular network to transmit to the map, so if I appear to be stopped for a long period of time, don’t worry!)

Thank you again, especially to my wife for putting up with all the crazy hours of training I’ve done to prepare myself for this. I wouldn’t be here without you!

Look forward to hearing from everyone on “the Twitter” (if it doesn’t crash again).

Here’s how the fundraising is going so far!

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Perspective on Challenges

This guy runs into the desert….

I did my first and only Death Valley training run this weekend, and I gained a bit of perspective. Here’s what I learned: With the temperature at 118 degrees, when you step out of your car, you don’t feel the heat as much as bathe in it.  Then the wind starts and the heat rolls over you like a boiling wave and you know if you don’t pay attention, something is going to go terribly wrong.  So, you wear the appropriate clothing, with little regard for fashion as evidenced here, wet it down, take a drink of water, put a full cup of ice in your hat and set off down the road.  A mile later, you meet your crew, and do it all again.  At certain intervals, you suck down a carbohydrate gel pack or take a salt tablet, but that’s pretty much it, mile after mile.  We started the training run at noon, so a month from now, with a 6 am start, it should be a bit cooler in the beginning (only about 110), but the wave will be waiting for us later that afternoon.

18 miles and four hours later, I was feeling the heat and started to wonder about the challenge I had taken on.  Was it too difficult?  Am I too much of an idiot?  Is that lizard laughing at me?  After the third question, I knew it was time to take a break.  I sat down in the car, ate some ice, drank a bit more, and generally cooled down.  My coach had seen this before and knew what to do, and in about 15 minutes, I was up and running again, and finished another 4 miles.  On the second day, during my second 9 mile, 4000 foot climb of the day, my coach drove by (slowly, I was walking at the time) and said: “Why don’t you try to run a bit?”  I bit back my first response, and simply asked “Why?”  (I was making OK time, and not trying to set a record). “How do you know where your limits are if you don’t test them?” he answered.  So, I started running for 20 breaths and then walking for 20 breaths up an 8 degree incline. Yes, the 20 breaths running was a shorter distance, but I did something that I hadn’t even thought was possible at that point of the training.

Those 15 minutes and 4 miles on day one and the 3 miles I ran/walked on day two answered a lot of questions for me (unfortunately not the one about the lizard).  I can make this.  It will be difficult, but with the right support, we’ll be successful.  I don’t have to draw the parallels to our kids and their parents’ struggles for you, because I think you can consider your own challenges and make the connection.  At the end of the day, the end isn’t even what’s important.  What’s important is that after taking on a challenge and breaking through a barrier, you get better and things improve.  Maybe they improve for you, maybe (and hopefully in this case) they’ll improve for others as well.

How was your week?

Now with the run only about 5 weeks away, my preparation is as much about heat training as it is mileage.  Luckily, it’s getting hot here in St. Louis.  A question I get more and more is: How are you training for a run like this?  Do you have to run a million miles a week? Not quite…

While I don’t do the same thing every week, this past week is as close to “typical” as I’ll get.  Going forward, the mileage will probably taper off a bit (although I’m going out to Death Valley this coming weekend to run different sections for a total of 40-50 miles) as we get closer, and I’ll focus on just being in a heated environment to round out my training.  So far this year, I’ve run over 860 miles, and knock on wood, my body is still holding up!

Sunday- Double duty today because I had to go out of town for a conference. So, I ran 8 miles in the morning with no heat load (basically running like everyone else out there).  I was lucky that the hotel I was staying in had a dry sauna, so I spent an hour in a 150 degree sauna.  I took breaks (to go out and get water) totaling 1 min 30 sec, so stayed in the extra 1:30 at the end to get a full 60 in the heat.  Oh, and I read a few articles and did 100 crunches while I was in there (you’d be surprised how boring sitting in a sauna for an hour can be).

Monday- Usually it’s a “rest” day, and the conference was sponsoring a 2 mile fun run, so I did that and not much else.

Tuesday- A more serious day than Mondays in general.  My goal was to do 10 miles with a “medium” heat load (basically a long sleeve running shirt and sweatpants inside).  I gave myself credit for the 2 miles from the previous day, so did 8, but was sweating quite a bit, so felt like I had done what I needed to do.  The only problem was that the conference started at 7:30 eastern time, so to get it done I had to get up about 3:30 local time.  I’ve seen 5 hour, but do they sell 15 hour energy?

Wednesday- Max heat load day.  10 miles starting at a 1% grade for mile 1, 2% for mile 2, etc. up to the halfway point and 5% at mile 5, then dropping by 1% down to mile 10.  Total elevation gain- 1320 feet.  For this, I was in my wetsuit pants, thermal top, silver pvc suit, thermal gloves and thermal hat. I got the room up to 85 degrees and got going. Gloves and hat lasted the first three miles, then I had to get rid of them. After 6 miles, i had to take off the silver top and stop the heater, but kept everything else on. After 8 miles, I turned the heater back on and put the silver pvc top back on for the last 2 miles. I took three 2-3 minute breaks during the time, but stayed in the room.  Overall, it took me 2 hours 46 minutes to do 10 miles.  Hot and slow…

That’s meant to be a smile!

Thursday- Light head load, 10 miler.  Because of time constraints, I had to break it up into a 6 mile run in the morning and 4 miles at night.  Strangely, I felt much better running today than yesterday!  So much so that I ran my fastest 6 miles ever taking just over 48 minutes for an 8:04 pace.  4 miles on the treadmill at a 9:15 pace finished the day.Friday- Sauna again.  160 degrees, no crunches, just getting through it.  Brought in a book- The Heart and the Fist.  Great story about a guy from St. Louis and his experiences before and after becoming a Navy Seal.

Saturday- 20 miles.  Half outside with no heat load, half inside with medium heat load, but a bit of a climb…Did the first 10 running through the Loop and Clayton.  Then back home for 2 miles at no incline, and then 8 miles at an 8 degree incline to simulate the climb to Father Crowley Point.  The climb starts at mile 72.3 and 1,970 feet and goes to mile 80.2 and 4,000 feet.  I ramped the heat up to 91 degrees, full nylon sweatsuit and gritted it out.  The 8 mile climb I did at an 18 min/mile average.  A combination of running and walking (oh and sweating a bit too)

Sunday- Tomorrow, I have a 10 mile run in the heat of the day.  It’s supposed to be 96 tomorrow, so no worries about getting enough heat!

So, technically that’s 8 days, but hopefully you get the idea.  It seems like a lot, but I keep reminding myself that the kids have a real struggle, mine’s manufactured.  It keeps me moving forward.

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