Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells
Monday, July 11, 2005
Okay, so it’s hot. REALLY hot. I mean, really, really hot. It’s hard to imagine the actual heat these runners are experiencing until actually putting yourself into their world, albeit just a glimpse of their world, and running or walking along side of the racer.
For Ranier Lösch, heat is not too much of an issue. As I walked next to him and chatted with him briefly at about 24 miles into the race, I struggled to keep my heart rate down and to keep up the brisk walk that Ranier held. It’s really unbelievable. Being my first ultra running race, I am having a hard time fathoming the rigors of the race and the extreme athleticism that these racers are demonstrating. For those of you out there in cyber land, let me tell you a little about the heat in Death Valley.
First, “they” say that it isn’t as hot this year as it has been in years pass. Alright. Are they messing with my head or just trying to convince me that it’s only as hot as you think it is. My body and mind say, “It’s just plain hot!” At 11:13 am this morning, the first day of the race, the temperature had already soared to 104. At 12:13, it climbed to 108. At 1:20…yeah, hotter….116. My nose is cracking inside from being so dry from the air conditioning in the car. Geez, tough life it is as part of the webcast, eh?
At around 12:15 pm today, the same time that I noticed that it was already 108 degrees, I stopped to chat with Andrew Elder, 34, who was taking a quick cool-down break, complete with a sun umbrella, Hammer Gel, fresh water and ice, and a water sponge to drip on his skin. So far, things are going smoothly and as planned for Andrew. The only problem he is thus far experiencing is that his feet are “really hot from the hot tarmac” With temperatures around 108 degrees at that point, the road surface gets so hot that runners try to stick to running on the white line on the side of the road, where it is a bit cooler than the black surface.
Also on the course, I found Miles Hilton-Barber. Miles is blind and has a guide running with him. His guide, John, is running the entire race with Miles and is not even an entrant. He is running the race just for Miles, to see that he gets to the finish line safely. I’m not sure if a crewmember has ever run the entire race with his/her racer, but I think this is a first. John will be awarded “Best crewmember” in my book!
At around 12:37, I had a chance to watch Bernhard Sesterheim for a bit. With a small shuffle-like stride, he is propelling himself amazingly. He is completely covered up in a white sun-protecting suit and his crew is routinely using a wet towel over his head to keep him cool.
While there are those that are wilting from the heat, there are others that are yelling, “Bring it on!” to the sun gods. One of those racers is Jackie Simonsen. Talking with part of her crew at Furnace Creek at around 2:45 pm, they told me that she is demonstrating a perfect 5 MPH running pace, never walking, and is looking forward to Stove Pipe Wells, where temperatures are climbing up to reach almost 120 degrees.
At the back of the race is Curt Maples, always a favorite son of Badwater. At 2:30 pm, he had yet to reach Furnace Creek. Apparently the heat was not being favorable to Curt this year and he was having a difficult time keeping food and fluids down. After frequent trips inside the van, and frequent vomiting, he had part of the Badwater medic team meet him on the course to assess him. As I type, he is in a cooled room at the Furnace Creek Ranch Inn and being evaluated by the medic team. Apparently he is hoping to recover quickly and get back out on the course. As per the race rules, he put a wooden stake, with his race number written on it, into the ground where he left the course. After being taken care of by the medical team, he hopes to get back out on the course and continue on. If his crew’s motivation and enthusiasm is any indication for his continuation in this race, he should be back out on the course and progressing forward as soon as he is able.