Friday, July 24, 2009

Training, week of 7-13-09, Badwater report

This is like way behind, so my bad if anyone was actually curious to read this...

7-13-09: 33 miles: pacing at Badwater (from mile 26 to 63 with 4 miles off at one point)

7-14-09: 29 miles: pacing at Badwater (from somewhere around 76-82 and 100-123)

7-15-09: off

7-16-09: off

7-17-09: 20 miles: 2 5 mile runs, somewhat long-ish trail routes to and from campus in the morning, 10 miles in PM, also, 20 minutes in sauna

7-18-09: 16 miles: 2x4 to and from campus, more direct route than previous day, 8 miles in PM, running with fuel belt, which TOTALLY sucks since it bounces everywhere unless you tighten it so much that it's basically cutting off all circulation, 22 minutes in sauna

7-19-09: 2 miles: laaaaaazy after sauna, ran just enough to get to 100 miles for the week, basically just down to the end of the street, slightly farther, and back... hahah..., 23 minutes in sauna

Weekly total: 100 miles.

Anyway, about Badwater:
I've told this story like x-million times now, probably anyone that actually cares to hear it, so I'll be brief. haha...

I went out to crew for Pierre Ostor. 1 hour before the race, we found out that another French guy, Alain Prost-Dumont, was missing 1 crew member due to something happening with customs (I'm not really sure what...). You can only run if you have 2 crew members or more and he was down to one, but there were 4 of us with Pierre and Pierre said it would be ok, so I offered to switch, which was obviously very good news for Alain and his only crew member Theo, who had spent some insane amount of money to get there (plane tickets for both of them and the other crew guy, rental van for 5 or 6 days, $795 entry fee, food, insane amounts of water, etc). I'm not sure how much they had total in supplies, but when Pierre and crew went out to buy supplies, he ended up with 25 gallons of water and 100 pounds of ice (ice being refilled during the trip, probably over 200 pounds total). Anyway, I ended up officially switching 10 minutes pre-race. In case you're wondering, Alain and Theo spoke nearly no English and I haven't spoken French since high school. I was fairly good at speaking it then, but it's been 5 or 6 years since my last class and it took awhile for it to come back. During the race, my vocabulary improved substantially just because I was forced to dig back into my memory so much, so I was a lot better by the end of the race, but still by no means fluent or even close. Anyway, Alain started off at 8 AM monday and ran pretty well with no problems for about the first 26 miles. Around 26, he threw up a bit (probably just because he was pushing a little too hard in the heat) and started to complain about his stomach, the heat, and his left leg. He really wasn't taking very much salt (no S!-caps or anything, just the electrolytes in one of his French sports drinks, which I was pretty sure wasn't close to enough). I decided around 26 to go and run with him for awhile. From 26 to around 36, things were ok, but he really started to cramp around 36 (which I suspected to be from the lack of sodium). 36 to 42 was incredibly slow, almost all walking, and he was in a lot of pain, so I just did my best to try to convince him to take more sodium, as well as giving him mental support through my poor French. The cramps got to their worst around mile 40, right around Devil's Cornfield, where the temperatures swelled to a sweltering 130 degrees or so. Being out there pacing with him, I was very thankful to have good sunglasses and an OR-brand SPF-30 hat with a long floppy face and neck cover, which shielded me from the intense 130 degree headwind, which literally felt like running into a hairdryer on at full power. At this point Theo and I finally said something like, "look, there is no alternative, you have to take the S!-caps", or in French, "Regardes, il n'ya pas d'alternative, c'est necessaire que tue prends les S!-caps". haha... Anyway, we got him taking them and he made it to mile 42's time station in Stovepipe Wells. At 42, at which point it was starting to get dark out, I ran into the convenience store, bought a ton of good food (milk, chocolate, yogurt, gatorade, 5-hour energy, which doesn't work for more than an hour by the way... total lie in the name..., etc) and called my family just to let them know of the change of plans and that I'd probably be up for at least 48 hours straight pacing/crewing if the pace didn't increase much. Anyway, by the time I got back in the car with Theo and drove down the road to find Alain, he had already made it 2 miles and was no longer cramping, thanks, I presume, to the 341 mg of sodium/s-cap we'd given him. I jumped out with a pleasantly full stomach and continued pacing him. Mile 42 to 60 was an 18 mile, 5000', climb up to Towne's Pass, the top of a mountain, but his pace was significantly improved from what it had been before. The only problem during this section was that he tended to break longer than other runners, so there was a lot of cat-and-mouse going on where we'd pass other people then take too long of a break, during which time they'd re-pass us, and then we'd go back out and repass them, etc. etc. I took a 25 minute nap in here while he was doing a mile and a half or 2 miles at one point, just to make sure i'd be nice and totally rested for the next day. Yeah, i'm kidding... It did nothing for me... Anyway, by 60, he'd passed a few people and he picked it up a lot on the descent, and by a lot, I mean, probably so much that it could've potentially messed up his quads. I ran with him from 60 to 63 and then said, all right, you're doing ok now and i've paced 33 of the past 37 miles, so I went back to the car to help Theo with the crewing. I ended up getting the better part of an hour of sleep at some point around mile 65 and when I woke up, it was just starting to get light out. He made it to the station at mile 72 in Panamint Springs by 7 AM I believe. The general prediction for the race is that the amount of time it takes to get from 0 to 72 is about equivalent to the amount of time it takes to get from 72 to 135 since there are 2 huge climbs in the last 63, but only 1 in the first 72, so we expected somewhere around 46 hours at this point. 60 to 72 had been almost entirely a descent from Towne's Pass down to 1000', so at 72, he had another long climb, which nearly leveled off somewhere in the low-80s, but still continued gradually uphill until the Darwin checkpoint at mile 90. I ran 6 miles from somewhere around 76 to 82 just to keep him going at this point and then helped Theo with crewing again until about 100. At the 100 mile mark, I got back out and ran until mile 123 in Lone Pine. This section was really where Alain started to pick up the pace. He was taking a good amount of sodium, his legs were doing ok, and he was running a fair amount, probably more than he was walking. The course was mostly downhill from 90 to 123, dropping from 5000' at Darwin to 3000' in Lone Pine, before the last major mountainous uphill, so I just went along with him right on the side of the road and everytime I thought that he was walking for a little too long, I'd say "Est-ce-que tu peux courir?", French for "Can you run?" and he'd start going again. We did really well about not letting him take many breaks in this section, so he made up a lot of time and passed a fair amount of runners. We ended up cathing up to Pierre around 110 or 115 and he was feeling pretty trashed, so we wished him luck and continued on. By mile 123, Alain was slowing down again and I decided to crew in the car rather than stay out for another number of hours on the course, mostly due to my horrible shoes and socks and the big blister I was developing on the inside my pinky toe on my right foot. I quickly grabbed some McDonald's at mile 123 and hopped in the car. I dozed off for about 10 minutes at one point while we were waiting on the side of the road for Alain, but that was it for sleep: a total of maybe an hour and a half during the entire race. Around mile 128, someone mentioned that there was a massive fire at the finish, so there was a new finish only about 1 mile ahead. Unfortunately, that person was clearly not a runner because we told this to Alain and continued to the finish to meet him there, which happened to be more like 3 miles ahead. 129 vs 131 might not sound like a big difference, but when you've gone 128 miles already, there's a huge difference between 1 more and 3 more. Anyway, Alain eventually made it up to the top and asked us to run across the line together as a team, which we did, and that was it. Alain finished in 40 1/2 hours or so, got his sub-48 buckle (which was switched to a sub-46 buckle due to the shortened course), his medal, and his finisher's t-shirt. I sat around and waited about 1 more hour, at which point Pierre finished and I got to go back to a nice spacious motel with him and his crew for a few hours of semi-restful sleep. Anyway, I obviously cut out some details, but I don't feel like writing more and it's already pretty long. I'm very much hoping that I'll be able to run it myself next year, so hopefully a year from now you'll be able to read my very own race report. They only let in 90 or so runners from a few thousand applicants every year, but having paced should help my application, which I feel is already reasonably strong. I have a few more very difficult races coming up in the remainder of the year that I think should help prove my worth and I'm leaning towards running Badwater's sister race, the Arrowhead 135, a 135-mile trek across frozen northern Minnesota in early February, to help cement my place in next year's event. That's all for now...


  1. And you wonder why your workout didn't go well - this stuff tires you out a lot more than you can even recognize or are willing to!

    Sounds pretty miserable. One, what French person doesn't speak English? Unless MAYBE he lives in the country somewhere. But seriously, every French person I've ever met speaks English. And you certainly wouldn't come to America with two people that don't.

    Two, I'm surprised French/Euros would even do stuff like this. They are so afraid of endurance sports. They are afraid to even go to the gym without energy (calories) - they won't go work out until after they've eaten a full meal (which is really like a alfalfa sandwich cause they eat like girls). And they bring food to the gym with them cause they're afraid they'll run out of energy and die.

    They are so weird.

  2. Haha, yeah, the no English thing surprised me too. There were a lot of internationals at the race, actually. The Brazilians and Mexicans were all like ridiculously hardcore and all finished really well, but yeah, the French didn't fare very well this year (4/6 dropped).