Thursday, December 30, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
I flew down with friends Tony, Emmy and Marge and we met Lynne in Atlanta and then Meredith, Eddie and Zoe later that evening. Our north east contingency made up about 15% of the participants at this small event. Also running was Lane (his wife Jen crewed for him) who I met earlier this year while crewing at Badwater.
The race, 18 loops. Soooooooooooooooooo painfully monotonous to say, and even more so to run. Therefore I will not bore you, or myself (again) with the details. What I really want to focus on is the meat, not just of this race but all races. In my experience there is always a moment or series of moments, often quite lengthy in every ultra when I question what I am doing. Whether its, total exhaustion, incredible pain, hallucinations, disappointment or just an overall sense of being totally beaten down mentally and physically, these are the times when endurance athletes really have to dig down. These are the moments when we see what we are made of, what is possible.
First a couple of quick highlights.
Race begins at 8am on Saturday. It was a beautiful morning and day, mostly sunny with a temperature of 35 eventually rising to near 60
I ran the first 5 loops with Lynne and we had a blast. Congrats to Lynne on her 100k finish and good luck at the Brazil 135.
Tony lapped us and when he caught up I ran the next 70 miles with him until he finished. An awesome sub 22 hour, 4th place finish for Tony who is preparing to run the entire Caminho Da Fe in Brazil next month, 350 miles.
Now the meat. I recently wrote about my struggles at Javelina 8 weeks ago with serious dehydration issues. That was the meat for me at Javelina. Once again at Bartram there was a long rough patch, different but tough none the less. Around 1am, after 17 hours of running it had once again grown cold, and now it was raining. And not just a light sprinkle, a total down pour. I have heard the Forrrest Gump reference many times but this reminded me of the scene where he describes the rain:
One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain...and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night...
After a couple hours of this torturous torrent, I was becoming very weary. I was so tired and so cold for so long, struggling to move or even just to keep my eyes open. I actually fell asleep on my feet, having come to a complete stop. Fortunately, two new friends Chuck and Jason had come out in the middle of the night to run with me and Tony. A big help for sure, not to mention if it had not been for Chuck waking me up I may have just tipped over on my face. The conversation is short, matter of fact and kind of comical if you can picture me standing, head down with a hooded rain jacket, wet muddy and sleeping. Chuck tapped me on my shoulder and said almost in a whisper "Hey Eric! Are you sleeping?" I tiredly replied "Yeah". Chuck then said "Well stop it and get moving" and I simply said "OK" and started walking. So crazy it makes me laugh every time I think about it.
Thanks to Jason and Chuck for coming out to run with us. It was unexpected and so awesome that they just showed up in the middle of the night to help a couple of strangers while gaining some insight for their first 100 miler coming this spring. They picked a perfect moment to show up as things got nasty during those cold wet early morning hours.After 17 loops and about 70 miles with Tony, he was done in around 21:58. Awesome job Tony and I will never forget those many hours. The laughs, the pain, the struggles and of course pushing through it all and helping each other when the we were down. With just one loop left I moved right through the aid station and Jason was there to pace me. I told him my goal was to get done with this ASAP a not spend one more minute out there than we had too. I was so sick of this loop by now. We ran that last 5.56 miles like it was my first, about 69 minutes walking the hills and running everything else. 23 hours 9 minutes and as I said to some friends after, 7th place overall but I feel like I won.
It is amazing how my overall state went from a blurry and hazy crawl where everything seemed like it was in slow motion to clear as day in an instant. This is where I pose the question. What is it that motivates us to push through moments, often very long moments, hours upon hours of pain, discomfort, exhaustion and disappointment? I had made a plan and stuck with it. I focused on pace, nutrition and hydration with the goal of avoiding the physical breakdown I had at Javelina. I was feeling great for 17 hours running in a beautiful place on a perfect day with lots of great people. Then out of nowhere I was smacked in the face, with cold, wind and rain that completely sapped my energy and will, making it incredibly difficult to move forward. I wonder each time how this happens so quickly, one moment all is perfect, the next swallowed up by exhaustion. But yet, somehow I and many others keep pushing forward, even if its a slow zombie like walk. I assume every endurance athlete has these moments when continuing seems nearly impossible. But why is there no quitting? Although I bitch and complain during these moments, not for one second do actually tell myself to just quit? But why? It would be so easy to stop. And who could blame me right? Well it just doesn't work that way. I keep telling myself or others struggling to just keep moving and it will pass. I don't always believe my own BS but I say it and do it and then without warning it's as if the sun has risen and I have woken up from a good nights sleep. Obviously that's a load of crap. Still tired and in pain of course, but it becomes easier to ignore as suddenly everything looks, sound, and smells crisp again.
Anyway, I would love to hear other thoughts on the meat:) I for one can't wait to be in it again. As always, I must thank Tani for all her support. Totally impossible without her. Enjoy the slide show.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
My Father is a prostate cancer survivor. Not only was I inspired by his courage through surgery and treatment but I have watched him put others before himself my entire life. We don't do it the same way but I can only hope I am as generous as my Dad.
And then of course there is Anita. A sweet, loving family friend who has shown incredible courage and strength as she continues living her life with an unwavering spirit and positive energy while battling Multiple Myeloma which has no cure.
When I first began fundraising I never imagined the outpouring of support I would receive. In less than 4 years we have raised more than $50,000 for multiple myeloma research. By the way, the actual dollar that got us over that goal came from Anita:)
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The Bartram is a short 5.25 mile loop which must be completed 19 times with a .25 mile of something else at the start. My current plan is to run the first loop just to see the lay of the land. If there are any hills that I would normally walk, great, and if not I intend on being disciplined and run 10 minutes and walk 2 starting lap 2. My goal as always, to finish (although a sub 24 would be nice:).
I will be heading down to Atlanta, GA next Friday with Tony Portera and several other running friends. Noticeably missing from my crew will be Tani. This is the toughest part for me as she has been at every race I have run. We thought this quick trip with the baby would be too much and although I know she will be with me in spirit, this, hopefully is the first and last race she will miss, right Babe?
I look forward to sharing the experience of another new adventure with you all when I am done.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Maybe it's watching a friend complete their first marathon...
Or as difficult as watching a friend or loved one fearlessly battle a life threatening disease.
Some of you have already called me to congratulate me and even called me an inspiration. I am very appreciative of the attention and humbled that I could inspire you. But I did want to say that I won't accept any gratitude of inspiration if you don't take some positive action in your life that I help motivate you to do. Otherwise it's just my story. If I have truly inspired you then its OUR story.
If you are inspired do something positive. That will be the greatest gift you can give those who have inspired you.
I do feel a sense of inspiration from many different things. But my leading inspiration is my wife. For those of you who know her, no words are needed. For those who don't, simply put, Tani is unconditionally kind and supportive to all (with her Javelina Jundred buckle below). Let's give back to Tani and be kind to someone today.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Last Sunday the 2010 ING NYC Marathon was held and the MMRF and all its runners were out there pushing and fighting in honor and memory. The NYC Marathon is a truly special day for New York and the many charities that are able to raise money through it. In total more than $30 million dollars was raised for the many charities represented. I am pleased to say the MMRF raised $550,000 this year in NYC alone.
Congratulations to all runners but of course I need to give a special shout out to the MMRF runners. You all rock and we raised a ton of money. Awesome!
Thanks to everyone who donated to my runs and all the other MMRF runners this year.
And as always, a very special thank you to Alicia O'Neill and Jane Hoffmann. They head up the Endurance Program at MMRF and do an incredible job.
Slide show follows of course. Peace!
Sunday, October 31, 2010
I arrived in Phoenix with Tani and Isla 2 days prior to relax a little and enjoy some local hospitality in Scottsdale (Isla's first plane flight went perfectly. She was a champ). We went to race check in Friday afternoon. I could tell immediately this was a friendly, well organized and super fun race. Runners and crews were camping out all around the Start/Finish area which was buzzing with excitement with the race set to begin the following morning. Set in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, this desert course is beautiful. Surrounded by mountains the route follows the Pemberton Trail on a 15.4 mile loop completed 6 times in opposite directions (washing machine loops) with one final modified loop of 9 miles for a total of 101.4 miles. There is an incredible variety of vegetation and wildlife throughout the loop adding to the cool scenery with little surprises jumping around at every turn. After picking up my number, chip and schwag which included a TNF JJ100 tech shirt and JJ100 gear bag, we went out for an early dinner. I was sleeping by 9:30 after watching the Yankees disappointing loss to Texas.
Alarm clocks were ringing at 3:30am and by 4 I was off to meet up with Tony Portera and Rick Gaston before heading over to the race together. We arrived a little after 5am for the 6am start which was plenty of time to get settled. The atmosphere was festive, with many runners dressed in costume for this party run. Pre-dawn temperatures were in the low 60s but forecasted to be in the upper 70s in nearby Fountain Hills. Finally, after much anticipation, the race began and I was off into the desert dawn with 270 other runners. Although this was only my 2nd 100 miler I had set what I think was a fairly ambitious goal (with a couple of fall back positions as resetting goals is often required). Although finishing was primary, I thought a 22 hour finish was within reach. Oh silly me! As the hours and miles ticked away I would see my 22 hour goal fade due to an 18 hour pace (oops) and then my new sub-24 goal turn into a potential DNF as concern over my deteriorating physical condition grew. The first 30 miles felt good. No, they felt great. I was not only moving well, but well beyond my target pace (mistake #1). Loop 1 split 2:43:04 and my loop 2 split 2:53:40; 5:36:44 first 30.8 miles.
About a mile and a half into loop 3 I came upon Tony and Roger who were all of a sudden struggling a bit. I spent a few moments with them trying to encourage them to keep it up before I continued on at my pace. Tony and I do quite a bit of training together and deep down I knew if I went ahead he would get moving and catch up to me soon. I was beginning to slow when he caught up to me about a mile later. It was now early afternoon. The heat, which felt like it reached the mid 80s was starting to work its sneaky wicked magic. I was now taking more time between aid stations and with only 1 bottle (mistake #2) I was running out of water with 2 to 3 miles to go before reaching the next AS. Tony did help out by giving me some of his when I ran out but it was not enough. Starting to feel the effects of mistakes 1 & 2 loop 3 split was 3:18:48 (8:55:32 at mile 46.2). This would have been a more intelligent choice of pace for me at the start. I recall Tony saying how we ran that loop smart and I responded with "We are running smart not by choice but because we chose to run stupid first".
I picked up a 2nd bottle at the turn around for loop 4 and was attempting to catch up but it was a little too late. As we slogged through the next 15.4 miles Tony and I kept each other going with some good laughs and had a hysterical stretch with a friend who shall remain nameless as she had us dying with hysterical tales of bad dates, with bad sex and bad boyfriends. We lost our funny friend and all sunlight with 3 miles left in this loop. With no light, as the moon had yet to rise it took a few extra minutes, carefully negotiating one of the few rocky sections of this course. At last we had reached the start/finish area with nearly 62 miles complete in 12:41:45 (loop 4 split 3:41:13). We decided to take a 20 minute break on Rick Gaston's advise as we were way ahead on pace an could probably use the rest. I rested my legs, drank and ate some soup. I was beginning to feel weary at this point and getting nervous about my hydration. I had not gone to the bathroom in more than 8 hours. I knew this was a very bad sign.
After our break we headed out into the now cooler night air with Rick Gaston. Rick was in town to pace Tony again. Tony and I had agreed to try and stay together which gave me the benefit of running with a ton of experience. Although all of my mistakes including not taking any salt the last 8 plus hours (mistake #3) were all coming back to haunt me no matter who I was with. I was hopeful the lower evening temperature would help me begin to feel better, which it did. Until about 3 or 4 miles in to loop 5. My desent began slowly...first I stopped talking as I tried so hard to focus on keeping pace. After another 30 minutes or so it became obvious to Rick and Tony that I was struggling. They decided to put me in the middle and try to push and pull me along. I was now getting very frustrated not only for me but I was upset that I may be costing Tony his race. And then there was hope. I had to pee. After nearly 10 hours my efforts to rehydrate were finally going to pay off. That is if you consider urinating fire paying off. Thick, dark, fire is what came out. I had never experienced this before and to add to it I was now having lower back pain on both sides. These were very bad signs of dehydration and possible kidney distress. To top it all off despite my brief moment of hope my pace had slowed to a pitiful display of walking with more than 4 miles to go to the start/finish. I kept pleading with Tony and Rick to get on with their race but of course they refused to leave me. Not sure if they were concerned about me or getting their asses kicked by my wife if they left me (appreciated either way). Or maybe it was the 2 horses I pointed at that turned out to be 2 runners heading towards us, very freaky. This did concern me because I knew I may be even worse than I thought if they were refusing to leave me. I worked hard to keep their walking pace the last couple miles, unsuccessfully but we got there. Loop 5 split 4:20:12 (17:01:57). I sat down and immediately discussed what I was feeling with medical personnel. Tony and Rick made sure I was in their hands and I was happy to see them get on with it.
The medical guys did not seem overly concerned but agreed resting and hydrating was in my best interest. I was about as low as I have ever been at this moment. Cold, hungry, uncomfortable, wickedly chaffed in every imaginable area between my legs and full of self pity, frustration and disappointment. The one thing I told myself was do not quit. It seemed all to easy to walk 10 feet and turn in my timing chip. "Whats the difference if I do it now or 8 hours from now, right?". I did not think it was possible but what if I decided to continue later and had already quit (which I had never done before). After sitting by the fire for a while, eating some soup and drinking about 60 ounces of water I was feeling no better. In fact the longer I sat the easier it seemed for me to justify a DNF. How could anyone blame me after all I had been through? Not to mention what it would take to finish the final 24.4 miles alone through the rest of the night and then having to bare the heat again the next day. This self pitying crap was really getting on my nerves. After sending the following plea for sympathy to Tani, I went to sleep.
Taking a break after 77. Really low right now. Not sure I want to continue. Got my ass kicked
When I woke up 2.5 hours later the following response was waiting for me.
I know you can do it. Fight back and if you have to, walk or crawl. I love you.
Once again my all time greatest supporter knew exactly what to say. I did not hesitate for a moment. I was up, layers off, bottles filled and heading out for whatever lay ahead within minutes. My last text was.
Going back out. This may take a while.Nearly 4 hours after completing loop 5 I was out for loop 6 just as Tony and Rick were arriving. I tried to give them a smile with thumbs up but I knew this was going to suck. I actually managed to slowly jog most of the first mile or so but that energy burst was short lived. The next 5 miles was a long slow up hill walk, not steep but up none the less. About 1/2 way up I began to realize I was actually passing other runners. This gave me a huge mental boost. By the time I got to the top of this hill I was not great physically but the mind is a beautiful thing. I had my music cranked up and convinced myself how good I was feeling as I flew by all these others struggling through the night. 17 minute pace or so was flying:) I do want to point out one of the things I love about the ultra community. I had a conversation, no matter how brief, with every runner I passed or that passed me during those early morning hours. We all made sure the other was OK and encouraged each other to keep it up. What other racing community sincerely encourages others to keep going like that. I hope there are others, I just don't know them. Approximately 4hrs 25min later I completed loop 6, split 8:07:16 (25:09:13).
The sun was up and the heat was coming back but I had endured the night alone and was going to finish this. I walked most of the next 5 miles and ran nearly all of the last 4 with a final emotionally charged burst (27:48:20). When I saw the finish I could not believe it was over as hours earlier I thought it would never end.
I now know it never will as these moments will stay with me forever. I would give up my sub 24 for this experience any day. This experience confirmed to me that there is much good in people, willing to sacrifice their own goals to help me. It showed me once again that the human spirit is capable of so much. Don't over react, take your time to think about whats next and proceed accordingly. It may take longer, but success is there.
Tony was at the finish to give me a high five and Tani my rock and Isla were there with a smile and a hug. Amazing.
Many thanks to all the volunteers and medical at the JJ100. Awesome event.
Tony and Rick, thanks for sticking with me and congrats on your sub 23 (good things come to those who wait:)
Thank you Tani for believing in me.
Monday, October 18, 2010
What I am certain of is the positive impact all of these miles continue to have on my life. I consistently meet great people, grow more confident, want to be more charitable and have a greater appreciation for my family. Life is great and keeps getting better.
I must mention my charitable cause the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. They are doing incredible things to significantly prolong life and find a cure. The MMRF and all those fighting cancer inspire me with their commitment and courage. I want to thank all those who supported my running with donations to the MMRF this year. We raised over $10,000 for the MMRF bringing our 4 year total to over $48,000. We are making a difference. If you are interested it is never too late to give, JUST CLICK HERE.
Lastly anyone wishing to follow the race there will be a live webcast at this link.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
There are many versions but you can pick up a cheap reflective vest for around $10. That is the minimum you should have but there is more. You can also pick up a flashing red light for about $10. Last, get a head lamp. For about $25 or $30 you can see and be seen. For as little as $10 you have safety gear and for about $50 you will be lit up like a Christmas tree. My gear is in the photo (I wear all 3 all the time).
Please be safe on the roads. If you don't have safety gear don't run roads in the dark, go to the track. BE LOUD, BE BRIGHT, BE SAFE!
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Ever since I've known him (we met in 1999).
When did he start doing ultra distances?
Are you a runner too?
I run, but I do not consider myself a "runner" right now. I was a runner before I was pregnant with my daughter (born 2/5/10). I am slowly getting back into it....
What is the biggest difference for you since Eric's distances and number of races have increased?
My days and own workout schedule revolve around Eric's training schedule.
What do you enjoy most about his running?
A lot of things, but I will only name a few......Running gives Eric freedom. Freedom to open his mind, and freedom to push himself to see how far he can go. Running gives Eric an excuse to buy new sneakers every month. It also gives him time for himself which WE ALL NEED. Lastly, Eric runs for a cause. He runs hundreds of miles to raise money to help find a cure for cancer. He's making a difference in the world and that is truly inspirational.
What do you enjoy least?
I would have to say the early morning (before sunrise) training runs on the road. Even though he wears a bright colored vest, headlamp and flashing light on his hat, I still worry about drivers not seeing him. Oh, and the smelly, smelly clothes after a long run!
What is the coolest experience you have had together with running?
Traveling for Eric's races and watching him cross that finish line is always cool! Meeting Dean Karnazes for the first time in 2008 was pretty cool too.
What is the worst or most frustrating experience you have had together with running?
Eric's big toe injury in the Stone Cat Marathon. After the race, we drove to Boston to meet friends for dinner. I was very pregnant at the time and had to help Eric out of the car and to our hotel room. He could not put his shoe on over his swollen toe and could barely walk. I left Eric at the hotel while I walked around downtown Boston searching for a pair of shoes that could actually fit over his foot. We were a pathetic sight that night as Eric hobbled and I waddled into the Mandarin Oriental to meet our friends. We laughed at ourselves that weekend....unfortunately, the laughs stopped once we learned days later that Eric needed to have surgery on the toe. Recovery was tough! Eric could not run for 6 weeks. These weeks felt like months and being in my third trimester, a month felt like a year. Eric went through PT and tried his hardest to speed up the recovery process. It was definitely a frustrating time for both of us.
Has your relationship with Eric changed since he began running and if so how?
Definitely. Our relationship is stronger and has brought us even closer. Though running ultras is an individual sport (with the help of pacers and crew), Eric has come up with a way to make it a family affair. Eric always discusses race options with me and together, we decide what is best for our family. We are true life partners.
Is there anything that turns you off about running?
The wear and tear it can do to a body.
What turns you on about it?
For me, the first mile is always rough. I question why I'm even running, but then it just happens....I find my groove, start feeling good and that rush just comes over me. It's such a great feeling!
Sum up running and what it means to you!
Running is a way for me to stay fit, clear my head and is just another thing I can share with my husband :)
If you have a questions for either of us please ask and we will answer. Peace
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Tony Portera and I joined them as they began their journey along with crew members Brendan and Joe. We had a blast running the first 26 miles. I can only imagine the stories that will come out of this.
Today I heard that unfortunately Sam will not be able to complete all of the miles due to injury. Here is what I love the most about this. Despite this being Sam's idea and goal he is 100% committed to helping get Chris to the end. He will still push to run half the daily mileage and Brendan and Joe will be there as well the entire way. They are all in it together. The selflessness of this and other "Ultra Journeys" brings a smile to my face.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
To be faster I thought, "be stronger on the hills". So during the past few months, I began incorporating hill work into my runs again. This included hill repeats once a week and no more walking....well almost none. For the most part I decided to run hills during all workouts and run them hard. I also began increasing my general pace, no longer settling for slower long runs. Don't get me wrong they are still slow but about 5-10% faster on average. I attribute most of this to running rather than walking the hills.
Last week I went to the track with a friend of mine. It was the first time I had been to a track in over 5 months.
1.5 mile warm up
6 x 1/2 mile repeats with 1/4 mile easy between each
1 mile cool down
What do you do to build strength and speed? Please share your secrets.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Today my friend Howard and I went on a little 3 hour adventure at Bear Mountain. We covered just over 14 miles with almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain and had a blast.
The original plan was to cover the half marathon course set by The North Face as part of TNF's Endurance Challenge held at Bear Mountain. Personally I think we would have succeeded if Howard did not keep wandering off to look for something???
Actually, as usual, I got lost. But for me that's part of the adventure. Nothing wrong with missing a turn in paradise and prolonging my return to the parking lot.
On a side note this was Howard's a.k.a "Howie" first time at Bear Mountain or any other technical track. I think he plans to join me in the fall...perhaps another one hooked? Peace
Saturday, August 7, 2010
"To someone who understands, no explanation necessary. To someone who does not understand, no amount of explanation will suffice."
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
On the surface, crewing for someone may sound simple. All you need to do is give them food and water and occasionally run with them right? Although I had never crewed before I knew going in it was much more than that especially when the race is 135 miles through the desert. The goal is to finish and most importantly finish safely and here is how we did it.
Course description from Badwater website: "Covering 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA, the Badwater Ultramarathon is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet. The start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at 280’ (85m) below sea level. The race finishes at the Mt. Whitney Portals at nearly 8,300’ (2530m). The Badwater course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 13,000’ (3962m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 4,700’ (1433m) of cumulative descent. The Portals are the trail head to the Mt. Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Competitors travel through places or landmarks with names like Mushroom Rock, Furnace Creek, Salt Creek, Devil’s Cornfield, Devil’s Golf Course, Stovepipe Wells, Keeler and Lone Pine."
Running on the Sun
The Distance of Truth
Training Information on Badwater.com
Tony's experience from 2009 (I asked him a million questions)
Prior to leaving I put together my own gear for the trip. I am just a crew member so what could I possibly need? I won't list it all but the photo looks more like I was actually running the race.
Tony and I flew to Vegas together Friday morning. The race would begin on Monday at 6am.Pre-race highlights:
Upon our arrival we met Steve at the the car rental place and our work began. First it was a quick trip to Wal-Mart where we spent 3 hours, making 2 trips inside filling up 6 carts of stuff. You would think we were going camping for a month. While this years experience taught me we over shopped, I must admit it was nice knowing we were fully stocked. We then made our way out to Stovepipe Wells which would be base camp for the next several days.
Saturday morning I managed to get in a nice run to The Dunes and back while we were waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive (Tony & Steve joined for a bit). We then decided to drive the course from Stove Pipe to Lone Pine (about 80 miles). I'm glad we did this as I was apprehensive about the mountain passes. I had heard turnouts were rare and a bit tight, with narrow spaces on the edge of big drops. Everyone has their own perspective and I was relieved that mine told me there were plenty of opportunities to park without going too far and there appeared to be ample room on the edge of these turnouts. The crew arrived late afternoon and after a few introductions, a few beers and dinner it was early to bed.
We arrived back at the hotel after 6pm where we had a quick dinner and loaded up all the non-food gear in the van. I think I finally got to bed around 11pm as I could not stop organizing and reorganizing. I may have over done it a bit and probably elevated the stress level amongst some of the crew but I felt a huge sense of responsibility for Tony's success and safety. Needless to say I spent most of the next 4 plus hours staring at the ceiling in anticipation of what I knew would be an amazing happening in my life.
First Crew Shift (Meredith, Herb and Me) July 12 at 3:30am: Monday Morning arrives and we are up at 3:30am to eat a quick bite, load the van and drive the 42 miles to the start where we needed to be by 5:30am for Tony's weigh-in. I have been following this event for several years now and I could not believe I was standing there at the start with the likes of Ulrich, Dennis and Webb to name a few. The star gazing was short lived as the anthem was sung and the gun went off. The first wave of about 30 entrants in the 6am start began their individual journeys together. I jumped in the van along with Meredith and Herb to get to our first stop at mile one (the plan was to keep all stops at 1 mile intervals unless there was a need to shorten them).
Each stop would involve keeping Tony hydrated, fed and cool. Other than a couple of minor glitches the first 17 miles went well. (1)Left my water bottle on top of the car mile one so lost that. (2)Got pulled over by the Popo at mile 4 for quote "having my head down". Perhaps he thought I was texting in the middle of the desert where there is no cell service. After 10 minutes of discussing I was not given a ticket or a complete explanation for the stop, but no matter. (3)We drove down the road for about a mile with the hatchback open. Fortunately nothing fell out and we had a good laugh with the event staff who pulled in behind us to flag us down.
Tony arrived in at the Furnace Creek time station in 3hrs 1min. This was way ahead of the plan we had discussed which included taking it easy until mile 42. So much for that...TONY WAS LEADING THE RACE which was fun to see but this would come back to bite him. We tried to encourage him to slow down but he was enjoying his race to Furnace Creek with his friend Brian. There was nothing we could do now except prepare for the carnage that was sure to come:)
The 25 miles from Furnace Creek to Stovepipe are relentlessly brutal. Not because of the terrain (that's next) but because it is fully exposed to the burning sun with not one moment of shade. The full force of its power was upon us and it had no mercy as Tony was forced to walk. That too became a struggle as we worked tirelessly to keep him cool for the next 7 plus hours. This includes hydration (lots of ice in his fluids), cold spray bottle which can be used while walking to mist the runner, cold towel ice packs which tony held to his chest while walking and ice cold head baths every mile or 2. We also managed to get about 300 calories per hour into him primarily with Perpetuem and Gu.
With the temperature peaking around 128 degrees even walking became a struggle and Tony became quite dizzy at mile 37. We were taking no chances as I knew Tony had passed out in 2009 after feeling dizzy. We put him on the van floor, legs up, ice packs on his chest and the AC on full blast for about 30 minutes. He seemed revived and we agreed to complete the final 5 miles to Stovepipe before taking another 30 minute break in our room to cool him down.
While Tony was being attended to in the room Steve and I ran to the store to restock the ice and beverage supply. By the time we returned Tony looked noticeably better and he was up and ready for the 18 mile climb up to Townes Pass. Or so we thought!
Second Crew Shift (Chris, Eddie and Steve) July 12 at 4pm: I would only see bits and pieces over the next 5 or 6 hours as I went to check and resupply the crew twice. What I saw reinforced what I had learned earlier. The heat can suck the life right out of you, no matter who you are. It is the great equalizer in Death Valley. I saw many runners of all abilities sprawled out heading up to Townes Pass looking as if there was little chance they would continue. Tony unfortunately, was one of them making very slow progress and his confidence was severely damaged as he began to doubt his ability to keep moving. The 2 visits I made over the next 6 hours found Tony in a chair. His progress had slowed to less than 2 miles an hour. This 18 mile climb to 5,000 feet is tough under any circumstance. Imagine tackling this ascent after 42 miles in 128 degree heat with night upon you and temperatures still around 100...unfathomable. Somehow, no matter how slowly, Tony and most others summoned the courage to take one more step, over and over and over. He was truly amazing to watch the human spirit endure.
Third Crew Shift, July 13 at 2am: We were so happy to find Tony and crew had made it over the pass and had started the descent to Panamint Valley. After my debrief with Chris, it was clear Tony was still down on himself and still struggling. After a few miles of our routine with Meredith pacing, Tony was quite somber and his mood continued to decline to a point of near indifference. Something needed to happen, so as I walked to Tony and Meredith at the next van stop, I raised my voice a little, and asked him if he was a f****ng p***y. He looked at me funny and I said it again. "Are you a f****ng p***y?" Meredith and Herb picked right up and joined in on it as we let loose with a barrage of insults. We could tell it was getting to him so we kept going despite his orders for us to shut up. Then something snapped in him and he took off running to get away from our onslaught. By the way, we were all laughing hysterically during this little episode.
I picked up the pacing duties here while Meredith and Herb stayed with the van. Tony and I ran/walked until sunrise making great time to Panamint Springs Resort. When we arrived there Meredith and Herb a giant fruit smoothie waiting for us. I could tell this gave Tony a boost. We continued to walk/run for another few hours up another serious climb back up to 5000 feet when Herb relieved me of my pacing duties a few miles before Darwin. Shortly after the switch we realized one of the real dangers of this race. I am not talking about the rattle snakes we encountered but the ahole who came from behind Meredith, Herb and Tony in a huge SUV at well over the speed limit passing several other cars and missing them by only inches. All this guy had to do was wait 10 seconds to safely pass. These incidents happened several times out there so watch out behind you even though you are going into traffic. Tony was doing so well and completely distracted by the near miss that Meredith and I decided to start extending our miles a bit and stretched each mile to 1.25. We did this for a couple hours until the next shift change without one word from Tony.
Fourth Crew Shift, July 13, 12pm: Tony was definitely getting tired and deservedly so as we had covered around 30 miles the last 10 hours. Tony fought hard all morning. His spirits were still good and we made a smooth shift change as I quickly debriefed Eddie on the day while Chris kept Tony moving. I did stop back a couple hours later to bring more supplies and took this video at the 100 mile mark.
Fifth Crew Shift, July 13, 8pm:Our runner was seriously struggling when we showed up. The next several hours would be a serious mental battle. Not just within Tony, but between the two of us. Our crew decided I would pace for Tony as far as possible and then Meredith would take over at some point up Whitney. We also asked Chris to stay on as his medical background gave Tony comfort. Tony had come to rely on this which was good because Tony believed everything Chris told him. As darkness fell upon us Tony was begging to take a nap and I am sure he could have used one. He began to fall asleep, literally while walking. However, I felt strongly that this would pass and we needed to keep him going. Our concern was that if he napped it would be hours not minutes and the 48 hour goal would be gone. I kept telling Tony that we would discuss it again at the next stop which we had shortened to every half mile. Each time I managed to convince him to go one more stop he grew more agitated with me until he wanted Chris's opinion. I told him we would do whatever Chris said and Tony agreed. When Tony told Chris he wanted to nap we were about 6 miles from Lone Pine and Chris told him he thought it was a bad idea. Tony kept walking but was now really upset with me. He told me that I was going to ruin the entire race and if I did not let him nap he would probably not finish at all.
I must admit at this moment I was doubting myself. Tony had much more experience than me and I certainly did not want to be responsible for failure. I was however put in this position because Tony had confidence I would make good decisions at tough times. I thought about the situation and saw no benefit to napping. We had about 8 hours to make the 48 hour buckle. I basically told him tough s**t. "There is only one way to find out if I am wrong." I said. "We are not going to discuss naps again until you finish." Man was he pissed at me. We did not talk for a while and he even put his head phones on and began role playing Rocky on a training run. It lasted only a few minutes as he quickly came back to earth, but it was hysterical to watch this delirious lunatic boxing his way down a desert highway. As I discussed in my post "Badwater Opens My Mind" this is also when Tony received a call from Charlie Engel. I wont elaborate again but I encourage you to read the post. This was wonderful moment.