Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Road to Badwater–Pt 5 Furnace Creek

This is part 5 of series highlighting an ultra-marathon run by my friend Gregg Geredes
By Gregg Geerdes

Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells (17 – 42): The really hot section


When I arrived at FC Janet and Nanc met me, only one vehicle was allowed at the start so they had stayed back and relaxed at the pool saving there energy for later. It was about 12:30 when I arrived and the heat was really starting to hit hard. Janet pleaded with me to slow down. I had come into FC about 20 minutes faster than they expected. Although I felt good at the time, I knew I had nearly 120 miles to go and figured I’d better start adding a little bit more walking to my routine.

Coming out of Furnace Creek the temperature seemed even hotter. As I was running I saw something I had never seen before. I looked out across the desert and the entire desert floor was vibrating from heat waves. At this point I was really happy that my crew was there. I also noticed my stomach was cramping a little which can be a sign of not getting enough electrolytes so I had Dave increase my succeed caps from 1 every 20 minutes to 1 every 15 minutes. For the rest of the race he was like clock work giving me a succeed cap every time his 15 min alarm went off.

Things were going relatively fine, I was doing my best to stay relaxed and then at about mile 30 it happened. I over heard one of the race officials talking about the ‘Geerdes 29’ crew. Soon after Race Director Chris Kostman pulled up next to me and informed me that my crew was about to get me disqualified. He drew a red slash across my number stating that it was my first and only warning, next slash I would be out of the race. WHAT?

Photo: Notice red stripe over 29

Someone had told Chris that my crew was passing things to me from the vehicle, which is against the rules. This of course was completely incorrect, what they were doing was slowing down and yelling encouragement to me every time they passed me and in the process they were becoming a possible safety hazard. Since Badwater is run on a highway and vehicles fly by at well over 60 miles an hour (probably closer to 80 mph), having a vehicle drive slow for 5 – 10 seconds is definitely not safe. When the race official stopped my crew, Dave jumped into action and became the voice for the team and took responsibility for the situation, that’s a good crew captain, unfortunately I still received the slash.
This new twist in the race really upset me and also brought my crew down, they sure didn’t want us to be DQ’d. At the time I was pretty angry with Chris since cheering your runner wasn’t a violation in the Badwater rulebook and this could easily have been handled with a verbal warning to the crew instead of the red slash. I do understand Chris’ situation and definitely understand his need to manage the race, but I still felt the red slash wasn’t necessary and this would stick in the back of our minds for the rest of the race. It took me a few miles to shake off my anger. I knew dwelling on it wouldn’t solve the situation, but I also wanted to make sure we didn’t have any more violations.

By the time I hit mile 40 I could feel I was really overheating. I asked Gord to run with me into Stovepipe Wells and let him know that I wanted an ice bath when I arrived. Gord gave me the motivation I needed to press on and we arrived in good time, about 7 hours for the first 42 miles (avg 10 min miles).
Photo: First time in the Cooler, Best ICE bath EVER

My crew was putting together my ice bath as I arrived and I went right in. I don’t know exactly how to explain how wonderful this ice bath was, but the ice water felt like comfortable pool water. While I soaked in the cooler my crew poured ice water on me bringing my core temp down. After a few minutes I finally started to actually feel the coldness of the water, but I stayed in a little longer since it felt so refreshing.
  • Lesson: Listen to your crew, they have a different perspective and may see something you don’t
  • Lesson: Listen to yourself; if something isn’t working make a change
  • Lesson: Bad things happen, don’t dwell on them to the point of forgetting your goal
  • Lesson: Considering all the encouragement I received in the first 30 miles, the red slash was worth it, but risking my crew’s safety wasn’t
  • Lesson: You need a good captain for WHEN something happens
  • Lesson: When you need help ask for it

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