Kiehl's Employee Vacations in Death Valley

By Greg Minter, July 23, 2003

By early Wednesday morning, projected winner Pam Reed had caught up to early leader Christopher Bergland at roughly the 100 mile mark. As she passed him, she said "You're crazy. You do those ironmans and triple ironmans." They shared a good laugh, shook hands, and she kept running

Christopher is a Kiehl's Customer Representative at the original Kiehl's store in New York City, located at the same address since 1851. It was Christopher who suggested sponsorship of the race to Kiehl's management. A three-time triple ironman winner, Christopher had been projected as top-finisher prospect. He's traveled the world, competing in over a dozen Ironman distance triathlons including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Denmark, Lake Placid and the Hawaii World Championships 4 times.

I drove out with Abbie Schiller, V.P. of P.R. for Kiehl's to check on Christopher. At 12:22pm, Abbie called the crew, and heard that the medics were checking him for heat problems. Apparently he'd been OK'd to continue.

"Our entire company is looking at the website every hour for updates to Christopher's status," said Schiller. "It's quite an emotional thing." When we spotted Christopher, we was walking along highway 190 at about mile 116. His sister Renee was moving alongside him spraying him down to keep the heat at bay. He had not used pacers of any kind prior to this point in the race.

"How hot is it?" Renee asked.

"About 92f," I replied. The entire Owens Valley had a light cloud cover, with the top of the Sierras encircled with roiling clouds of gray, blue and white. The moisture which had produced the spectacular storm of the previous night, seemed to have parked over the valley, making things a little humid but cooler.

I walked for a while behind Christopher, pointing out landmarks for the remainder of the course to him. His spirits had bounced back in the last mile or so, and his sister Renee made mental notes on the path as it had been described. Christopher pointed ahead, picking out the landmarks ahead.

Bobby, a friend of Christopher's, was also crewing. "He looked cadaverous for a minute." He was consolidating ice and equipment from a chaotic collection in the back of his pickup truck, handing off trash and trying to keep up with the demands of supporting someone's every need for 30 hours.

"I bounce right back," Christopher said. "I come back fast," and indeed he was moving along with a strong and steady walk. Even the strongest and most experienced runners are reduced to a walk. And with that, he was moving out down the road once again.