Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Training in Death Valley
(A view from Zabriskie Point last Thursday, when entering the valley, click to view full image)
Since getting that hydration cleared up, I went down to Death Valley to train on the course with 20 year old veteran Nickademus Hollon (www.nickademus.org), who set the age record for the course at 19 last year. After a series of unforunate events (revolving around repairs of absurd maintenance issues in my new condo) kept me in Utah until this past Friday, I ended up driving out to Death Valley and getting there late Friday night. After camping out in Panamint Valley (part of Death Valley's protected area and the 2nd valley of the Badwater course, from mile 60 to 90), we woke up early Saturday, spent the morning and early afternoon hiking around the valley and exploring old mines, and then went running later in the afternoon.
After having a morning of moderate physical activity, running seemed like a moderately enjoyable activity, but not like something that I was really craving. Nevertheless, I started out at the top of Towne's Pass at 4956', 60 miles into the course, and ran the first 9.5 miles down the pass solo until I met up with Nick just before mile 70 of the Badwater course. Despite it only being around 95 degrees, I had fully drained a bottle and was probably already somehwat down on water, so I grabbed a new bottle, drained it in the next 4 miles while we were running, and continued on. While it wasn't particularly hot, it was surprisingly humid for being in the desert, and it wasn't entirely comfortable to run in. When we got to Panimint Springs, 14 miles in, I took a quick bathroom break, and we were off on the neverending climb out of Panimint Valley to Darwin.
Before writing more, I should mention that shortly into the descent from Towne's Pass, I looked up and realized that I could see all the way to the mountain region marking the finish of the course, the Sierra Nevada, 75 miles in the distance. Such an idea was incredibly overwhelming, so on the way up the Panimint grade, I found myself thinking more and more about how excruciatingly painful 135 miles was going to be and it got to me mentally for a few miles around 20 miles in. Fortunately, Nick's mom Marina was there to forcefeed me with gels, m&ms, and cookies (which is always a good thing on long runs) and give me water, so I quickly bounced back.
This sort of mental low is a little uncommon in training, but it's something that ALWAYS happens in runs over 50 miles, so it was good to experience that in training on a 30 miler and now remember going into the racing season how it was just a mental low that quickly went away.
I am feeling physically prepared for the strenuous Western States 100/Badwater double I have coming up. Most importantly, I am mentally prepared for it. Western States 100 will not be easy, but I am doing my best to consider it a "warmup for Badwater" to make final mental preparations. Obviously, running 100 miles 16 days before running 135 miles is not the best physical preparation possible, but I will be looking to just barely squeak in under 24 hours to get the silver buckle without having to go any faster than possible. Yeah, yeah, my PR is only in the 22s, but I'm a lot more physically and mentally prepared than I was for any of my previous 100s. I almost had all the pieces put together for my last 100 and ran the first 75 miles on par for a PR before absolutely breaking in the last 25 despite it being a course somewhere around 5-6 hours slower than my previous 2. I know exactly which pieces were missing, however, and they have been corrected, so I am positive that I will be able to run strongly the entire way through WS100, get myself a Silver Buckle, and be fully fresh 16 days later when the race of a lifetime starts.
In the mean time, here's a nice picture from the Badwater course, taken while driving back home on Sunday.