Sunday, July 10, 2005
By Tracy Fawns
1:11 pm- Furnace Creek, California
Photo of Roy Wallack by Jim Freim
As the temperature reached towards 111, the Badwater registration took place. The Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center auditorium played host to the registration process. After each racer picks up his/her “goodie” bag, complete with some Hammer Nutrition products, a pair of Injinji socks, a Badwater t-shirt and hat and other goodies, each person was escorted through the registration process and a mug shot picture was taken.
As I walked around talking to the various racers, I got the sense that the racers were no really concerned about the heat. More so, most of the racers were concerned about redeeming past DNFs (Did Not Finish), producing a personal best, or merely just finishing.
Curt Maples, 41, of Winchester, California, is fresh from his 2004 “Baghdad Badwater”, a 135-mile solo benefit for Iraqi schoolchildren, simultaneous to the original Badwater here in Death Valley. He has his crew with him from that experience, fellow comrades in the United States Marine Corps. They are utilizing 2 vehicles and have 6 crewmembers in total. His crew states that, while he is confident about his performance this year, his biggest worry is keeping his stomach in check; keeping fluids down will be his demon this year. When I inquired with his crew if it was okay to walk with him during the race, to chat with him and see how he is doing, his crew all responded with, “You bet! He loves to have company during these long races.” So, Curt, I will see you out there. I am nervous about walking just 1 mile in this heat, though!
John Dodds, in his rookie year, from Arlington, Virginia, has his own inspiration…a 14-year-old son with cerebral palsy, entering high school this fall. John will be running for him, along with the help of his 3-person crew. On his crew, he has the help of James Moore, Joe Malinowski, and Carolyn Grenand. His training regimen has included one of the mainstays for Badwater training: “sauna training”, which for some racers include 30-minute sessions in the sauna, 2-3 times per week. He also tries to run in the afternoons in order to train in the highest heat of the day. John has a website he shared with me. Take a peek at: www.badwater64.com
As mentioned, some racers use the sauna as part of the training, while Jackie Simonsen, 43, of St. Albans, Vermont, which is about 1 hour south of Canada, utilizes a unique form of yoga called “Bikram” yoga, during which the temperature in the studio is turned up to 120 degrees. The 90-minute session is intense and she, as well as her crew, partakes in this unusual form of yoga about 2 to 3 times per week. As well as custom training, she is utilizing the Hammer Nutrition products Hammer Gel and HEED endurance drink. Ensuring Jackie’s smooth transition from a rookie to an official Badwater finisher is a 7-member crew and 2 vehicles. Her goal is to finish Badwater in less than 48 hours, gaining her a “buckle finish” and the coveted Badwater belt buckle. While running she enjoys a variety of liquids, aside from water, including cola and chicken soup. Just in case she may get a craving for some kind of food that she doesn’t already have in her vehicle, she has traveled up the course, checking out the food options at various stores, and has a good idea of what she can crave…and get.
Starting in the 6:00 am wave of starters, is Mike Lynch, a rookie from Sparta, New Jersey. He is incorporating a strict schedule of running for 5 miles and then walking for 1 mile, from the beginning of the race all of the way to the finish. He plans on finishing in 55 hours, which includes 45 hours of actual time on the road and 10 hours of sleeping time. He has a 3-person crew and, while not letting on to the “secret formula”, he states that he is fueled by Chang’aa. Mike has about 25 years of running in his legs, starting with cross-country running as a kid. He has 2 of his brother on his crew, Jim and Brian, and his friend, James. Like he should have, he has a great deal of respect for the heat of Death Valley. While the heat will be a factor, he enjoys running at night as well as running the hills. He should have plenty of reasons to be happy about, then, as there is 13,000 feet cumulative climbing within the course.
I got a general sense for the runner’s attitudes, dreams, and personalities as I chatted with racer after racer. Most often, when I asked if they would mind if I walked with them to chat during the race, the answer was a big “Yes!” It seems as if the tortuous conditions of Death Valley produce more than dehydration, fatigue, and hallucinations. Most apparent is the loneliness that they can experience.