Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Road to Badwater-Pt 9 The Looooong Section

This is part 9 of a series highlighting an ultra-marathon run by my friend Gregg270_badwater[1] Geredes.  Gregg came in 5th place and was th 1st rookie to finish!  135 miles: 28:28:29.
This achievement was done to raise money for the Diplomatic Security Foundation. Click here to find out more.
100 mile to Lone Pine (100 – 122) The loooooooonnnngggg section
Cal was my primary pacer for much of the run to Lone Pine. He continued to keep up a constant chatter as he was still working off the Red Bulls. We watched as the sun came across the desert and felt the temperatures rise again. The day before the race someone had told me this was a rough section, you’ve just completed 100 miles and now you need to run a marathon to Lone Pine, which you can see the entire time, but somehow just can’t reach. Well he was right; it seemed like no matter how much we ran we still weren’t reaching Lone Pine. Mike did his share of the pacing during this long section and Gord, now feeling better, even was able to come back and pace a few miles.
Photo: Crew in action, Cal pacing, Dave spraying and talking to me, Gord with a new water bottle. They did this every mile for 135 miles.
At around mile 110, my left hip started to hurt. 4 weeks prior to the race my left hip started to hurt and there was significant swelling in the area. My doctor quickly scheduled me for an MRI. From his best judgment of the MRI he determined that my I.T. Band was torn vertically – the race was over. You have no idea how devastating this news was to me. I had so much invested in this race too include all those who had donated to my charity I knew that I had to run no matter what, but I would be risking tearing my I.T.B. further.
My doctor wasn’t 100% positive on his diagnosis so he personally took it upon himself to set up an appointment for me with another specialist. The other doctor determined that it wasn’t a tear, but was a fluid pocket developing on my hip. We discussed the situation and with two weeks from the race we agreed upon a cortisone shot to see if it would at least reduce the inflammation, however the odds of me being able to run at Badwater were dwindling. (By the way this was all happening while studying for my Chinese final exam – fun times).
The cortisone shot did reduce the swelling, but the fluid pocket remained and was of serious concern to me and now at mile 110 it was starting to cause irritation. My biggest concern was my hip would ‘go out’ or the inflammation would throw off my stride and reduce me to a crawl the rest of the way to the finish. Thankfully neither happened, but it did mean I had another area of pain to deal with the rest of the race.
We finally came into the outer limits of Lone Pine, but even then you still have over one miserable mile before you hit the Lone Pine checkpoint. At the Lone Pine check point I went in my 4th and final ice bath. I was feeling wore out from the run to LP and I wanted to bring my core temp down before I made the final push up to Whitney Portal. While in the bath I was interviewed by the webcast guy and got to say hello to my children - Nathaniel, Shannon and Jonathan. That was awesome. Reaching LP was a significant milestone.
Photo: Lone Pine Checkpoint
Although I still had 4 hours left of climbing, I knew I was going to finish with a good time and place. I could feel my crew was also excited, they were excited about our effort and they knew we were going to be done soon.
  • Lesson: Sometimes it’s a long, long road, keep going
  • Lesson: It’s not over till it’s over
  • Lesson: Be aware of your weaknesses, but don’t quit because of them
  • Lesson: Doing something for others will often motivate you to do more
  • Lesson: Prepare yourself for the final push
  • Lesson: Don’t forget your kids

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Road to Badwater–Pt 8 Darwin - 100 Mile Mark

This is part 8 of a series highlighting an ultra-marathon run by my friend Gregg Geredes.  Gregg came in 5th place and was th 1st rookie to fi270_badwater[1]nish!  135 miles: 28:28:29.
This achievement was done to raise money for the Diplomatic Security Foundation. Click here to find out more.

Darwin to 100 mile mark (90 – 100) – feeling the distance
I started out the next down hill a little less aggressive than the previous one. I was getting pretty tired by now and asked for my I-shuffle to give me some extra motivation. I have a 135-mile playlist on my I-shuffle, about 12 hours of songs, this was the first time I used my I-shuffle. Mike was the lucky one to suffer through my singing (screaming) while we ran through the desert at a 7:30 – 8:30 pace, not quite as fast as the last downhill, but still a good pace.

This was a difficult time for me. It was before dawn and your mind is making its last attempt to get you to sleep before the sunrise. At 6:00 a.m. I reached the 100-mile mark and was slowing down considerably, both physically and mentally exhausted. My crew sensing my ‘funk’ turned up the motivation level another notch. As you come up to the 100-mile mark (a white line on the road) there are rock cliffs on either side about 20 feet up. My crew climbed up either side and cheered me on. This is another one of the many times they were proving their personal investment in this race. From the beginning they had maintained a winning attitude – How do we get OUR runner to run his best race.

Photo: Coming up to 100 mile-mark, crew on top of cliffs

At the 100-mile mark I stopped by our van and shoved my head into the ice bath cooler. I had been doing this anytime I was starting to get run down and/or tired, and it really helped, somehow by just sticking my head in, it helped me release tension and fatigue. However by now the cooler was getting a little nasty from my ice baths and from crew members soaking there feet – Yah I didn’t find out that fact until after the race, ‘thanks team’ – didn’t matter. It came to be known as the ‘Bad’ water cooler.
I had reached the 100-mile mark in 20 hours exactly. This was good; I figured that as long as the wheels didn’t come completely off the wagon I should be able to break 30 hours. Only 35 miles to go, but this was all new territory for me.

Janet sensed my mental situation was rough and told Dave to offer me some meds. I took two Bayer aspirin. They would be the only meds I took during the entire race. I don’t know if the pills helped at all, but the placebo effect was everything. I have a Great wife, who knows her husband.
  • Lesson: Music is a wonderful gift
  • Lesson: A good crew will help you finish; a great crew will do everything to make sure the team finishes beyond expectations
  • Lesson: We all sometimes need to put our head in ice
  • Lesson: Reaching your milestones is a good feeling, but maintain your distant goal
  • Lesson: Life is about exploring new territory
  • Lesson: Behind every great man is a better woman

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Road to Badwater–Pt 7 Panamint Springs

This is part 7 of a series highlighting an ultra-marathon run by my friend Gregg Geredes.  Gregg came in 5th place and was th 1st rookie to fi270_badwater[1]nish!  135 miles: 28:28:29.
This achievement was done to raise money for the Diplomatic Security Foundation.  Click here to find out more.

By Gregg Geerdes
Townes Pass to Panamint Springs (59-72) – fastest section

I was more than happy to finally have a downhill to run down and I took advantage of it. With Mike in tow we blazed down the mountain. After about 4-5 miles Cal switched in as my pacer and we continued our fast decent. Cal was wearing his Garmin and asked if I really wanted to run this section at a 6:15 / mile pace. I said as long as I feel good let’s roll, so we did.

We continued knocking down the miles gradually slowing to a more reasonable pace as we neared Panamint Springs. We were running in the darkness of the desert now. We could see the lights of Panamint Springs all the way down the mountain and it seemed it was so close but took forever to get there. (Note: Because the race is run on the road from the hours of 7:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m. you need to wear reflective vests and have flashy lights on back and front.)
  • Lesson: Use the downhills
  • Lesson: Sometime things are further away than they appear, keep going
Panamint Springs to Darwin (72 – 90) Another Climb

We reached Panamint Springs just before midnight and I went back in the ice bath. The temps weren’t that hot, but I was tired and needed to be revived, additionally the fast running had brought my core temp up again. It was now time to start the 2nd climb. This climb wasn’t quite as long as the first, and it wasn’t in the heat of the day, but it was still over 4,000 ft of ascent over the course of 15+ miles. By now all I was drinking was a mixture of Ultra and Coke and eating Pringles whenever I could. My stomach wasn’t bad, but nothing sounded appetizing and eating was a chore. As long as I wasn’t losing energy I could stick with this routine. Besides, the coke gave me extra calories and the caffeine helped. (Note: Experts say that during hard physical exertion you can only absorb about 300 – 400 calories per hour, even though you might be burning up to 1,000 per hour. To make up the difference your body first burns your glycogen reserves, about 2,000 calories, and then needs to turn to burning fat, over 200,000 calories there– enough to run Badwater 10 times.)

During this section Cal did a majority of my pacing. When I picked him up as my pacer I noticed he was acting a little different from the previous section. I found out he had taken it upon himself to keep me motivated at ALL costs and sacrificed his own health and sanity by drinking 2 red bulls.
Photo: Post-race photo of the ultimate sacrifice

It worked and will go down in history as one of my favorite runs of all-time. I even drank my first of three red bulls during the race so that I could get in the same mind set as Cal. It felt like we were college students as our minds randomly jumped from one topic to the next. As we climbed we came across another runner, whose pacer was carrying a radio. I commented on the music and before I knew it my pacer was singing to me, and then we were both singing.
Around mile 75 - 80 we caught the last of the 6:00 a.m. wave, Dan Jensen a 61-year old Vietnam veteran amputee, who was absolutely crushing the course this year. He ended up with a time of 36:14 his fastest time to date, 6 hours faster than his previous PR. Absolutely amazing.

The last 10 miles to Darwin are on curvy roads. My goal was to reach Darwin before dawn and due to my crews efforts we were way ahead of schedule. Mike and Cal kept me moving as I ran/walked this section and watched for falling stars. I saw a total of 9 falling stars during the course of the night.
This night section was actually quite amazing. The night air was cool, my energy was still up and so was my crew. My pacers kept me going and my crew kept cheering me on. I can specifically remember Janet and Nanc’s excitement, as they were more involved during this section. Their cheering and comments kept things lively during the night. Everyone was buzzing with excitement.
  • Lesson: The crew needs full buy in or they won’t give you everything they have
  • Lesson: I never knew it, but I’m rather fond of a good serenade while I’m running through the night in Death Valley
  • Lesson: You can stay focused and still appreciate the beauty around you

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Road to Badwater–Pt 6 Stovepipe Wells

This is part 6 of a series highlighting an ultra-marathon run by my friend Gregg Geredes
By Gregg Geerdes

Stovepipe wells to Townes Pass (42 – 59) - Uphill and into the wind

Coming out of Stovepipe I was a new man, but the continuous uphill and brutal hot wind of this section quickly beat me back down. From here on out I would have a pacer to keep me company. Cal, Gord and Mike were my primary pacers. They each switched off with me on my way up the mountain and throughout the rest of the race. Each of them would run over a marathon in addition to all their additional duties as crew. Having a pacer gives you that comfort feeling that you’re not going into battle alone, and that is a good feeling. (Note: pacers are allowed after the 17 mile mark, but must stay behind the runner, I had opted to run alone up to this point, since I knew I really would need them for the next 95 miles.)

Photo: Uphill and into the wind with Mike

Dave was doing his best to keep me eating. I had eaten an almond butter and jelly wrap during the last section and now he was trying to get me to eat a humus wrap. He talked it up as the greatest humus sandwich EVER. I didn’t have an appetite, but Dave was talking up the sandwich so much I had to have it for his sake. That is an important part of crewing, knowing how to motivate your runner to eat. By the way the humus wrap was horrible, Dave had poured have a shaker of salt on it. It hurt his feelings a little when I spit it out, but he made me another wrap and we were buddies again.
While hiking up with Cal (I said hiking, since my general strategy is walking uphills, running downhills and running as much as I can on the flats) some small clouds came out. It was a great relief to finally have the sun off me, even if for only a few seconds. The temps were still very high and so those moments were golden. At about 3,000 ft elevation, I went back in the ice bath. In retrospect I should have had my first ice bath at around mile 25 – 27, but since I waited till mile 42, I needed this 2nd dunk on the way up the mountain. During the climb Gord asked me what I needed, I yelled back that I needed him to get me to the top of this miserable mountain and he did, but it cost him dearly.

Gord had been pushing himself extremely hard for the past month at work and with his new baby. He was beat down coming into this and in giving me everything he had to get me up the mountain ended up putting him down. Cal and Mike would need to carry me through the night. (Note: my crew didn’t let me know this happened until a couple hours later, possibly hoping he would come out of it. When I found out I asked him to rest, because I knew I needed him to be strong for the finish.) Nanc took Gord for a rest at Panamint springs. She became the caretaker for the team. Whenever they needed rest, physical or spiritual, she was there. A blessing I didn’t even think of.
  • Lesson: Two are better than one
  • Lesson: There are some really tough hills out there
  • Lesson: Having people who really know you and your needs is vital
  • Lesson: If you make a mistake, learn from it
  • Lesson: You need a strong crew who will not only take care of you, but also take care of each other