Back in February of 2009, I made the long drive down to Florida to run the Iron Horse 100 miler. As it turned out, I went on to register the all-time worst 'driving miles' to 'race miles' ratio at that race as a pre-existing injury I was hoping to hide forced me to stop after just 3 miles. Round trip, it ended up being 1400 miles of driving for 3 miles of running. As they say in the hallowed halls of the Oxford library: That ain't no good!
It wasn't all bad news, however. After I dropped from the race I spent the rest of the day volunteering at the main aid station and meeting lots of great people. Two of those great people were Chris and Erin Roman. Chris was running the 100 miler, and Erin was doing her best to keep from gagging every time Chris came by and asked for help with his blisters. I think I may have offered the advice of switching to bigger shoes and Drymax socks (or possibly suggested basket-weaving as a better hobby choice), but whatever I said we ended up chatting for a bit and continued our conversations online in the following days. Chris mentioned one of his major goals was to run Badwater (a 135 mile race from the lowest point in the U.S., across Death Valley, to the end of the road that leads to the highest point in the U.S. at Mt. Whitney). The race is a world-wide spectacle*, and I told him I'd love to be part of his crew if he ever got into the race.
*Lots of movies and news clips have come out about Badwater over the years, and most recently the BBC followed my friend (and 3-time Badwater Champion/Course Record-Holder!) Jamie Donaldson as part of their show "Inside the Human Body". You can see the part about Jamie starting here at the 12:37 mark, and then finishing up here. There was also a popular 60 Minutes story about the race a few years back that you can watch here.
Fast forward to the present, after a couple years of taking all the right steps to gain entry into the race (serving as another runners crew in a previous year, running another 135 mile race, etc etc), Chris is now less than one week away from the starting line in Death Valley. That fact, of course, means I'm now the same amount of time from getting my own first-hand experience of running right behind him in 120+ degree heat while spraying him with ice water. Naturally, I can't wait!
Since this race has no aid stations (just a couple timing check-points), each runner must spend the months prior to the race convincing 5 or 6 of their friends that it would be a good idea to drive a couple cargo vans full of ice very slowly through the desert while saying things out the window like, "Stop complaining, it's a dry heat...". Lucky for Chris, he's a great guy, and he's got a stellar line-up of folks ready to help him get to that finish line next week. Since I'll be doing lots and lots of running with Chris to gently encourage his forward progress through the day and night (read: This means yelling. Lots and lots of yelling.), I too have spent the past few weeks preparing my body to handle the heat. Post-run sauna time has become a nice routine for me recently as I do my best to heat-acclimate. Here's how my thought process goes every time I sit down in that cedar box and it heats up to its max temp:
5 mins, 120 degrees: This isn't so bad, I can definitely run in this.
10 mins, 180 degrees: Ok, this is definitely hot, but the race won't get this hot, so this is just good training.
15 mins, 210 degrees: Hmm, what if the door to this thing somehow became locked and I couldn't get out...
25 mins, 240 degrees: Ok, I'm outta here. Time to see if there's still room in that basket-weaving class at the Rec Center.
The good news is, between my sauna sessions and my daily running in the DC heat, I'm brilliantly heat-trained right now and in great shape to help Chris reach the finish line. Chris, as you can imagine, is also in great shape, but he hasn't been wasting all his time on training for this race. Chris has been working just as hard to use the platform of this race to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. I've been humbled by the fact that many of you followed the donation link I posted here a few weeks back, and to date Chris has raised $7,000 for this excellent cause through the generosity of folks like you. He's a winner already in my book!
In terms of race coverage, anyone wanting to follow along at home/work can find all they need on the official race site, with photos, videos, twitter updates from the course, etc. etc.. There will be 88 runners in the race who will be begin running on Monday morning in three separate waves of start times (6am for the slowest runners, 8am for mid-packers, and 10am for the speedy folks). Chris is in the 10am wave (that's Pacific time, btw). From what I understand there isn't much in terms of cell coverage out there in the desert, but I'll do my best to take some photos and videos and post them to this blog when I can. It'll be a spectacle out there for sure, and I'll do my best to share the shoe-melting fun with everyone!
Who: My buddy Chris Roman
What: The Badwater 135 mile race (coverage here)
When: Starts Monday, 10am (PCT)
Where: Death Valley, CA
Why: I have no idea.
How: One step at a time!