Category: Badwater University

Water Turnover & Body Temperature-Science Study

Measures of water turnover, body temperature, activity and heat strain during the Badwater ultramarathon

SCIENCE STUDY SEEKS PARTICIPANTS
The Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism (Montana WPEM) is conducting an exciting research project at the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon. You have been there done that as far as ultras go. However, here is a chance to put some physiological bragging rights behind your 2008 race. Just how much water does the human body turn over in 135 miles? How does your hydration strategy stack up and protect you from overheating? Have you ever seen a mobile physiological lab in the form of a Airstream trailer? If you want to know – we want you in our project. We have done Western States, now we want to see how Badwater stacks up as we encroach towards the human ceiling for energy expenditure and hydration demands.

We are limited to studying 12 racers. Also, we are only able to use racers from the western part of the U.S. for reasons mentioned in the attached brochure. If you are interested, please contact Brent Ruby at the email below and reference the attached Pdf document.

Background
This proposed research would evaluate the effects of environmental stress on measures of hydration, total body water turnover, core temperature, and heat shock protein response during the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon.

Water turnover offers a dynamic measure of hydration demands by quantifying the magnitude of total body water loss coupled with partial or complete replacement over a given period of time. The unique measure of water turnover is not simply a measure of how much water is consumed and how much water is lost, it is an all inclusive measure of water flux through the human system. A 75 kg reference man contains about 45 L of water (~60% of total body weight). During some of our previous field investigations with wildland fire fighters, Air Force Combat controllers, and Ironman athletes our laboratory has demonstrated 12-24hr water turnover values in the range of 6-18 L (up to 40% of total water volume). Even with this data we have no indication that these activities have stressed the human hydration system to its full capacity. Further research, as proposed here, is needed to determine the human ceiling for water turnover in order to further characterize the hydration needs for extended work in hostile environments.

Because these types of events may capture the human ceiling for extended muscle work in the heat, these data will provide valuable insight towards the cellular protection associated with a change in heat shock protein response patterns. Moreover, this approach will assist in determining human factors that limit or sustain performance during an extended period of activity. The data collection we are planning for Badwater 2008 will extend our past research because of the unique environment and duration of the event.

Contact
Brent C. Ruby, Ph.D., FACSM
Director, Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism (Montana WPEM)
Email: brent.ruby”at”mso.umt.edu

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Dear Badwater ‘Joggernauts’:

You are my inspiration, all of you. It is difficult for me to appreciate the level of potential that exists in the 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon. Amazing: the 30th anniversary of my epic “run” on August 6, 1977. Today, it is removed from my reality, that is, until Chris Kostman blows his horn for the annual 135-mile race. Those of you that respond have committed themselves to the ultimate demands of “physical and mental excellence required” in the pursuit of human “curiosity” that will explore the unknown. My solo trek was an experience of unusual unknowns and consequences that kept everything exciting. Cal-Trans road repair crews were closing the road at Panamint Springs, for six hours of demolition throughout the Panamint Valley. I had no choice but to grab a gallon of water and head into the Panamint Desert which eventually led me into deep canyons that emerged just below the winding roads near Father Crowley Point. Invincible, that was my state-of-mind, as I left my crew, not realizing that they had “left me.” I was on top of Inyo Mountains, heading to to Lone Pine. I had forgoten that I was “mortal.” Unfortunately, while nearing Keeler, an alert, and rare, passing vehicle stopped and assisted me with water AND information: I had a “problem” with my support team. On foot, I turned around and headed back to Crowley Point. After “re-organizing the crew”, not something that I had anticipated, I headed back into the quest: the Summit of Mt Whitney. The total distance was at least 200 miles by the time I finished. 84 hours, my total elapsed time was, in-it-self, a miracle. I am so fortunate to be of that small band of “Dare Devils,” trekking Death Valley, without mass vehicular traffic. Those days are gone BUT, the mind is an excellent “cave” in which to escape the horde. I urge all of you to take the opportunity in allowing the trodden footsteps, sweat and toil of years past, to blend with the beauty of all that surrounds the depth of the Badwater Ultramarathon. I predict that, for the first time, sub-24 hours will become the new record, by more than one runner. These runners will have poured out their hearts and guts. They will have surpassed the old level of human endurance barriers. Both runners will be from the West Coast. Who knows what memories they will carry, only time will tell. Meanwhile, “back-at-the-ranch,” the rest of you have the privilege of re-tracing the slowest and the fastest Death Valley Joggernaut, ever! Good Luck and may you all finish with pride and in good health. I will miss you all. And, thanks to you, Eberhard, I’m becoming my own “ROCKY!”

Hormonal Control-Science Study

Hormonal Control of Hydration and Sodium Balance during the Badwater Ultramarathon

Researchers: Jeff Lynn, Ph.D. Slippery Rock University, Lisa S. Bliss MD, and Jim Roberts, Ph.D. Edinboro University

At the 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon we conducted a follow-up investigation to the research we completed at the 2006 race. In 2006, we studied 4 runners and found that their body weights remained stable (<2% change) and their serum sodium concentrations remained within the normal range. However, we observed marked decreases in sweat sodium concentration and increases in urine sodium levels as the race progressed. Therefore, the principle aim of the study at the 2007 race was to gain a better understanding of how hormones that control fluid balance and sodium fluctuate during the race.

We recruited 12 race participants (8 men, 4 women) to take part in a study investigating the hormonal control of hydration and sodium balance. We asked the runners and their crews to record all food, beverage, and supplement intake to the best of their ability throughout the race so that we could assess fluid and sodium intake. We measured body weight, serum sodium, sweat sodium, urine sodium, urine volume, and urine specific gravity. We also measured the following hormones in the blood, which are known to influence hydration and sodium balance in the body: Arginine Vasopressin (AVP), Aldosterone, and Atrial Natriuretic Peptide (ANP). Data were collected at 3 times: 1) before the start, 2) Stovepipe Wells (SPW), and 3) the finish line.

Eleven of the study participants finished the race. We were unable to gather complete data in all 11 finishers due to challenges implicit in this type of field research. Data analyses are ongoing. Based on the data collected and analyzed, we can report the following observations:

  • Fluid and sodium intake varied greatly between participants.
  • Body weights tended to decrease between the start and SPW, but then trended slightly upward from that point to the finish. The changes in weight were all 5% or less.
  • Serum sodium concentrations were normal for all participants at the start line, but tended to decrease between the start and SPW. At that point, 2 runners (both women) were slightly hyponatremic (Na,130-134). There was no trend in serum sodium concentrations from SPW to the finish, but 3 runners were slightly hyponatremic at the finish line (all 3 were women). None of the participants needed medical treatment.
  • Sweat sodium concentration decreased in each participant as the race progressed.
  • No consistent trend was observed in urine sodium concentrations as the race progressed.
  • Arginine Vasopressin (AVP) appeared to increase as body weight decreased and vice-versa (as expected).
  • Neither Aldosterone nor ANP levels were consistently what would be expected considering the hydration status of the runners at the time they were measured. We are continuing to investigate this finding.

The studies over the past 2 years demonstrate that runners maintain near normal hydration and serum sodium levels across a great range of sodium and fluid intakes.  Although it is still not clear how the hydration hormones are acting during the extreme challenge of running the Badwater Ultramarathon, we have some interesting data that we will continue to analyze and gain a better understanding of how the body responds to survive during this remarkable challenge. The next step is to combine what we’ve learned from the Badwater Ultramarathon studies in 2006 and 2007 and publish our findings.

The 30th Annivesary Race in 2007

Hello fellow Ultras. Welcome to Badwater 2007.

Time Range Calculation:

24 hrs – (10:39.96/mile),
30 hrs – (13:19.8/mile),
36 hrs – (16:00.00/mile),
42 hrs – (18:39.96/mile),
48 hrs – (21:19.8/mile),
54 hrs – (24:00.00/mile),
60 hrs – (26:39.96/mile),
72 hrs – (32:00.00/mile)

These calculations are the choreography of the annual Badwater 135 Mile ULTRA Marathon. It’s all there, from the mythical sub-24-hour finisher to the 60-hour official finishers. From start to finish, it’s a “Grand Parade” of the best and toughest distance runners in the world – from around the vast stretches of our Planet Earth, they merge for the Death Valley Challenge.

It’s hype and glory of human endurance against this unpredictable sanctuary of Mother Nature. Will She be kind and forgiving or will She unleash Her power of vengeance upon those mortals who dare enter this domain of pain, agony, and sometimes more? Let it be understood, by all, veteran or novice: tread lightly and ALWAYS with respect. Each athlete and crew member must never forget that, as a guest of Death Valley National Park, you must obey the Park’s and the Race Organizers’ rules and regulations at ALL times.

The purpose and goal of every team member is the ultimate conclusion of a safe and gratifying performance. Any participant’s failure to honor these guidelines may result in the disqualification from all future Badwater Ultras. Honor and respect is a unique consideration in these types of events, in that there are many miles and hours of which to gain a life-long appreciation of the course and its participants. Fair and courteous involvement is the rule.

This is the “Main Event” – don’t spoil it by doing any of those things that erode the value and beauty of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be encouraged by, and absorb, the energy of thousands of footsteps past. Let your quest, be it seemingly slow, remain steady as you trod patiently, while enduring the tremendous and unrelenting heat, through the bowels of Hell.

It is normal, especially as Ultramarathoners, to possess, and exercise, that natural competitive desire to excel. But, in Death Valley, this “drive” does not guarantee the best result. To ultra is to venture into the unknown. Caution should be exercised as we enter within this “Cave of the Unknown.”

I urge all of you, especially the crew members, to recognize what is natural and within your “limits”. Many miles and hours stretch out before you… before ALL of you. There is NO reason why any athlete or crew member should fail, IF you abide by reason and common sense!

One of the most serious miscalculations of marathon running is dehydration. In the desert, at ALL times, stay covered. It is the retained moisture on your body surface that keeps you cool. Bare skin is a direct path to failure and injury. Do not become over-hydrated with salt or sugar: either will promote being hypotonic, a sure invitation of “problems.”

Don’t be “cute” as this event is serious business: your life will depend on it. If, as you train for this 135 mile “trek,” you can: (1) walk 50 miles each day, for three days while being mindful of proper foot-care, (2) tolerate high temperatures by exercising respect, caution, and proven techniques, then you have no excuse for failing to finish this torturous trek safely and as an Official Badwater Ultramarathon Finisher :)) Good Luck!

Finally, enjoy your every step by “gliding” the 135 miles as an adventure rather than as combat. You will never beat this race course; you can only traverse it smoothly or “uncomfortably.” The choice is yours. Look at my calculations above and select a reasonable and safe “time-range” BEFORE the race. Stay comfortable and enjoy your adventure. Your elapsed time will be better than you predicted and so will your experience.

Guidelines for Helping Chris Kostman Run out of Badwater Buckles

Now, a bit of ‘BW-135’ UNSOLICITED advice;

  1.  HEAT is the main nemesis, acclimate your body NOW!! Start using a sauna ……. on your EXPOSED body. Do not wear any protective clothing.
  2. ENDURANCE is very slow to develop. Set a target of being able to WALK, ONLY, at 20 to 30 minute per mile (LSD) pace, NON STOP (NO SLEEP) for 24-30 hours. Do not exceed this pace, nor train (LSD) more often than once a week.
  3. Leg speed must also be developed. Adapt an easy target of being able to run a 10K in 43-45 minutes. Try this on the following day of the endurance workout. This is a training goal only, NOT COMPETITION!
  4. Initiate a strict program of increasing your range of motion (flexibility). Long, loose, and supple body mechanics reduce fatigue.
  5.  Increase your oxygen up-take. The best way to measure this is by your recovery rate. I find the quickest, and most successful, is fast interval work-out on a Stationary Bike. Longer anaerobic periods with shorter recovery time is the best indicator of having a strong heart and lungs.

Seriously, regarding the “Badwater-135,” give my simple guidelines some thought. Even the most accomplished athlete should review her/his training proposals. I’m not telling most of you anything new. BUT, I am reminding you of the basics. IF, you follow these training guidelines, one thing is for sure: you WILL “feel your body” … as it really is. No fantasy, but reality. This program will take about six weeks for your system to accept this type of training AND another three to four months for conditioning: mentally and physically. Good luck and start IMMEDIATELY you should “peak-out” as you’re following the “Long White Line”:)

The Meaning of Support Crews

 

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My success at Badwater was entirely due to the fact that I was surrounded by high quality, dedicated people who genuinely wanted to help me be successful. Badwater was not an individual achievement but rather a team effort. A group of four Badwater virgins somehow entered Death Valley and managed to traverse 135 miles through the steaming, hot desert and come home with the coveted sub 48 hour buckle.

There were challenges along the way that I’ve never encountered in any ultra running event I’ve participated in but they were overcome because of the strength of the team.

While no one other than me had a particular role at the start each acquired their own identity as the race progressed. The lone female member of our team was the leader and took control when I needed her most. I leaned on her hard and she never once let me down. My friend from Wisconsin was the silent strength of the team. He could relate to the suffering I was experiencing as he too has suffered and persevered through grueling events.While he communicated in a different way than my other two crew members I was able to understand and benefit. My third crew member and my best friend and confidant experienced my worst moments with me. He could very well have left me in the desert whining to myself but what he did instead was listen. I was walking death between miles 115-122 as we looked for Lone Pine. I relied on my best friend to be my life support system and somehow he kept me moving forward.

Badwater was a success not only because of the finish but also because of what I learned about others. I had two total strangers enter my life on those 3 days and they stood by my side until the bitter end. My one good friend who went into the valley of Hell with me showed me that indeed he is the best friend I’ve ever had. I learned that I have two very good friends that live far away but despite the distance we will always be friends and I can always count on them to be a positive influence in my life. I learned that it is okay to lean on others once in awhile and that true friends will indeed come through for me under any and all circumstances. Badwater is indeed a team event and without a strong group of people surrounding the runner success would be impossible.

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Are You Giving Your Skin Enough Love?

Download this article as PDF – Reprint in your running club newsletter!

Gracia Walker of Kiehl’s poses with just some of the fine skin care products given to all Badwater entrants and staff in 2005.

An interesting thought struck me while lecturing to a group of hard-core triathletes recently. Yes, they are fit, yes they are intense, and yes, they are amazingly motivated people, I thought. But gosh, the ones who have been doing this for a while look a bit weather-beaten.

I kept this thought in mind when I was at a local road race in New York. Again, many of the runners who had been out doing their thing for a number of years looked a bit leathery.

Following this realization, I began an informal survey in my office. “How do you take care of your skin?”, I began asking. Much to my surprise, many of my patients did little more than apply sunscreen once on their face briefly at the start of their exercise regimen. (This was, in fact, so interesting to me that I am currently doing a study on this issue.)

The facts on skin-related injury are staggering. It is now estimated that one in 50 Caucasians will develop a form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Rates among people with pigmented skin are increasing as well. This is a substantial increase, especially in the past 15 years. According to Dr. Barney Kennet, a dermatologist based in New York, “the numbers of people coming into my office with sun damaged skin and sun-related cancers has grown tremendously in the past ten years.”

What are the factors that lead to sun-damaged skin and skin cancers? With a thinning ozone layer, increased time in the sun leads to increased skin damage.

Who is at greatest risk? Genetics play a role and skin pigmentation and a family history of skin cancer are both important. But even more important is a history of deep sunburn. Repeated, deep, painful sun damage has been strongly linked to pre-cancerous skin lesions.

The key to prevention is avoiding these repeated burns. As Dr. Amy Knopper, a dermatologist from Kansas City told me, “You can’t pick your skin pigment, but you can sure pick what you do to with what you’ve got. Take good care!”

Ok—so that sounds good, but let’s get real, triathlons and other endurance events are run during the middle of the day. Personally, I can recall the sun beating down on my back in Kona during the Ironman Triathlon, thinking to myself, “I’m sorry skin, I’m sorry.” Much to my dismay, by the way, there is a residual burn on my back from that day, despite my efforts at sunblock use.

Are triathletes and other endurance athletes taking skin protection seriously enough? The hydration message seems to have gotten through, as has the threat of hyponatremia and the benefits of stretching and weight training. But is the sunburn prevention message resonating? Unfortunately, I’d say, not yet. Yes, there are some aid stations along the course of some races that have sunblock, but often, these are few and far between.

Until we arrive at the day when skin care and sunburn prevention are taken as seriously as they should be, the onus, my friends, is on you. If you are involved in outdoor endurance sports, you must protect your skin. This means consistent use of waterproof sun block. SPF (sun protection factor) means the relative time it will take for you to burn your skin. For example, if you might burn in 10 minutes normally, then an SPF of 15 enables you stay in the sun for 150 minutes without burning. Of course, these numbers have different ramifications for everyone, so being vigilant is key. For me, I try to find a product that stays on when wet and is at least a SPF 30.

Throughout race day, take the extra time to apply a bit more sunblock, even if it “costs you” a few minutes. Likewise, when you are training, load up on skin protection. Slop it on, all over yourself, and make sure to bring some for later. Also, make sure to use adequate head protection to prevent burns to your face, ears, and the top of your head.

And what about getting a tan? As many members (especially female ones) of my triathlon team tell me during our long bike rides, “It’s OK to fake it; we all do!” Meaning, if you want to be darker and it’s important to you, use fake tan. Even if it doesn’t offer sun protection, it’s much safer than a real suntan.

And lastly, if there are any new or funny looking moles or patches on your skin, speak to your doctor or dermatologist. (They can be very small, by the way.) All types of skin cancer are treated more easily when they are caught early.

As we spend hours making ourselves faster, fitter, and healthier, let’s be sure to remember that our skin needs love. Protect it—unless you are a lizard or a snake, you only get one coat!

Jordan D. Metzl, MD, is a nationally recognized sports medicine specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Metzl is a 25-time marathon runner and four-time Ironman finisher.

Sodium Balance-Science Study

Sodium Balance Study Research Results: Badwater Ultramarathon 2006

Researchers: Jeff Lynn, PhD, Lisa S. Bliss, MD, Joe Chorley, MD

At the Badwater Ultramarathon in 2006, we conducted a descriptive study investigating sodium balance. We recruited four race participants, 2 men and 2 women, and measured body weight, serum sodium concentration, urine sodium concentration, sweat sodium concentration, and urine specific gravity at 4 collection points: 1) before the race, 2) at Furnace Creek, 3) at Stove Pipe Wells, and 4) at the finish line. The subjects crews collected and recorded additional information to the best of their ability, including sodium intake from food, supplements, and electrolyte drinks, as well as amount of urine output.

Sweat patches were applied at each collection point and removed 20 minutes later and stored for later analysis at a hospital lab. Serum sodium was analyzed immediately with iSTAT point of care analyzers (Abbott Labs). Urine was collected in urinals and analyzed by the researchers at each collection point for specific gravity (which assesses hydration status) and urine sodium concentration. Weight was taken with calibrated scales.

All four runners completed the race and none required medical attention at any point. Although we were unable to gather complete data for all runners due to the challenges implicit in a field study of this type, we observed some trends in the data that we were able to collect. The trends were as follows:

  • Those who reported the most heat acclimatization training prior to the race had a lower sweat sodium concentration at the start
  • Sweat sodium concentration decreased in each subject as the race progressed.
  • Urine sodium concentration increased in each subject as the race progressed.
  • Serum sodium concentration remained normal in all subjects throughout the race.
  • Weight changes during the race fluctuated between 0 and 2% for each subject.

Other observations:

  • Sodium intake between subjects varied tremendously.
  • Sodium balance homeostasis was maintained despite extraordinarily challenging conditions and bodily stress.

Future Plans:

  • We will be submitting these data for publication.
  • We will be conducting additional studies to investigate the physiological mechanisms responsible for these trends.

The Solitude of the Race Course

“How time flies! My running adventures are almost like looking in a rear-view mirror; while driving down the road, eventually they slip out of view. But, those memories will never fade. My most fond recollection of Death Valley was the beauty of its solitude. That, in-it-self, is more than worth the many hours of training. Unfortunately, some ULTRA runners may abuse the sanctuary of the desert while in their quest to win. It will be difficult to recover what they have “lost.” The beauty of being the pioneer, in 1977, of Badwater to the summit of Mt Whitney, was the solitude. “Water wagons” and “intense” crew members are unnatural to the environmental beauty of the Badwater Ultramarathon. Most runners will recognize and feel, in their hearts, this solitude. It is not a bad thing to feel alone in this hostile environment. Absorb every impact of your body and observe as you stride forward, ever forward: 135 miles of natural wonder. Each entrant has made a personal commitment to BW135 by competing in the world’s toughest endurance running event. Some of you will remember the “presence” of their adventure. On the other hand, a few entrants possess the ability to accomplish amazing feats. Performance versus solitude: acclaim and cherish. Both are winners within the same event, yet worlds apart. So, my ULTRA friends, take your time, stay smart, obey the Race Rules and enjoy the “beauty of solitude”. You can be in a crowd and, at the same moment, an individual. Rear-view mirrors can only “reflect” for so long and then it’s gone. But, if it is truly in your heart Badwater 2006 will be with you forever. Good luck, stay safe and respect the course and the ‘Event’ itself.” – AL

Blending with the Environment

THE RAT TALE’ all started about 35 years ago. I was working in San Francisco at the time, long slow distance running became my “refuge”. Eventually, all ULTRA runners “lose their senses” as to their conscious awareness and beyond. But, this wasn’t the case while pounding the hard surfaces, darting between the dark and cold surface below the granite canyons of tall buildings lining the commercial districts of San Francisco. The solace of my daily runs was constantly being inundated with loud, and unfriendly blasts of insidious outrage!  Automobiles with irritated drivers were, it seemed, at every intersection just waiting to thwart my peaceful intentions of being “different”, fit and enjoying the conquest of just being able to put one foot in front of another, forever! The challenge of survival was indeed powerful; my life depended upon it.

Alas, peace of mind was not to be had. It was time to find that place where I could mentally disappear, that private place, while just placing one foot in front of another. It was during this phase of transition that I started to train for my Death Valley venture AND, to have Peace of Mind.

Coincidentally, I relocated to Walnut Creek, California and soon became an advocate of a beautiful site, right in my own “backyard”: Mount Diablo. Click here and here for some photos of the mountain.

It was on this Mountain that I would enjoy many years of “Adventure Roving” with peace of mind and solitude. I soon became part of a new individuality of being “aware and apart” simultaneously. I seemed to be protective of my whereabouts and the surrounding challenges, but, at the same time, moving “forever forward.” Thus ‘The Rat’, one of many wonderful and personal experiences while traversing the spiritual slopes of this 4000′ ancient fossil encrusted sea-bed.

Training, for me, has always focused on its environment. I wouldn’t allow too much non-environment time in preparation. Rather than jog through city streets, on my way to my “metaphysical cave,” I would drive to Juniper Camp, two miles below the summit of Mount Diablo. The next 25 miles was an invasion of the “past”. I would become an extension of its history.

Drought and exceptional high temperatures were the norm for California during the 70’s. Mitchell Canyon, during July, is an extension of the struggles for survival, in any of life’s form.

The ‘Badwater 135’ is such an environment. As on Mount Diablo, areas do exist that provide comfort, but once you leave those “safe areas”, you’re on your own. If life’s form is not prepared for the risk, then it should not be taken. That is the basic rule. Failure is the ultimate consequence.

Years of arduous training had disciplined my training options. It was all a consideration of a “risk factor.” After all, when an ULTRA athlete decides to go it alone, alone is what it is!

The power of being “above it all” eventually consumes the lonely runner. Every venture has the potential of beauty and horror. This is a tale of beauty.

I had been on the trails for many hours and there was no refuge from the blazing heat of the mid-afternoon sun. I had left a hidden spring/oasis a few miles below me. Everywhere, signs of parched bones of the unfortunate: plants and small creatures of the mountain. It was a risky venture for man or beast. But, that’s being a survivalist. It was an ULTRA’S ideal training camp, especially for running through Death Valley. It never ceases to amaze me as to the balance of knowing where you’re jogging, yet, hours disappear without any recollection of those footsteps left behind. That is, unless the unexpected alerts your hidden safeguards. The sudden, yet faint, movement of the hot and dusty trail directly in front of my pathway was one of those precious moments.

As I examined the area VERY closely, I spotted the parched and almost fur-less hide of a giant rat, with it’s glaring eyes darting helplessly. Crazy as it may seem, I spent a few moments “talking to” this pitiful looking creature.

Eventually I sensed a “communication” and gradually coaxed this nearly dead inhabitant to slither its Godforsaken body on to the safety of a dried up branch. I couldn’t distinguish the better: the branch or the rat. Slowly, I removed my new found “friend” from it’s potential gravesite and, while “talking” in a reassuring rat manner, I portaged

“hairless” nearly three miles down to my hidden spring. It was quite an exchange of body language between Mr. Rat and myself.

Eventually the rat became aware of its coming salvation. That scraggly looking rat tail really went into motion. Reaching the cool shade and flowing spring water was too much for my branch passenger. He wanted off! I gently placed the branch at water’s edge and watched a very grateful creature begin a new life. I hope it was a long and wiser one. I paid homage to its peaceful and thankful body language. A few hours later, I passed by the point of our “meeting” and I said: “Not this time!” – AL