"I always start these events with very lofty goals, like I'm going to do something special, and after a point of body deterioration and the goals get evaluated down, the best I can hope for is to avoid throwing up on my shoes."
- Ephrain Romesberg (65 miles into the Badwater Ultramarathon)
I'll say this - these feats and events of endurance just keep coming like a runaway train this summer. I get so jacked up watching, reading about, and following these events. This blog should be a reflection of MY experiences of training and racing, but it is endurance that drives me and that sucks me towards these events like a black hole. Over the years, it became a part of what defines me. It is one of the areas my mind wanders to when it wanders to areas my mind wanders to. Back several years ago when I was doing 24 hour runs and racking up 100+ miles at a time, I had an inner strength that I felt was virtually indomitable. That's not to sound braggish. It was just that I knew any race I began, I had trained myself into a pretty good position to finish it. That feeling was built through hard miles in training and smaller races leading up to the main event. It was a confidence of knowing who I was, and what I was capable of enduring. Didn't always hit my goals, but I was usually in the ballpark. Just because you age (like me), or just because your anatomical mechanics hit a snag (me again), that causes you to physically take yourself off the Endurance Interstate onto the Service Road of running, the mind doesn't give in so easy. The bucket of my Bucket List gets smaller by the week, but all these endurance events going on get me so fired up. Let's see what's going on...
Belgium's Marino Vanhoenacker set the fastest time ever recorded in an IronMan event, when he produced an extra-ordinary 7:45.28 performance at the Ironman Austria. It came thanks to a 46:49 swim(1.2 miles), a 4:15:24 bike leg of 112 miles (that's over 25 MPH) and a marathon time of 2:39:24 (how 'bout 6:05/mile?). He beat the 14-year-old previous best mark by nearly four and a half minutes. I've never attempted even a kid's mini baby triathlon, but I tried to do biking followed by running once and I felt like my legs were a foreign attachment to my torso. I'll never understand how triathlete's ever find time to train, nevermind compete.
Next going on is the Tour De France. Every summer, for decades it seems, I get wrapped up for three weeks in this 3000 mile trek across France. Stage after stage of 100 mountainous miles or more, day after day, 198 riders (22 teams of 9), battle it out, but not necessarily just against each other. The team battle is just about as big as the individual race. Each team member has a specific job in the pecking order to take care of the head honcho rider of his team. And his position is displayed for the world to see on his bib number - i.e. #87 would be the 7th rider of the #8 team. There is a ton of internal racing etiquette, many races within the big race ( general points, points for sprint races DURING the stage, and mountain leaders), and of course the race for the Yellow Jersey (the big fromage). I read that these riders will burn 6000-8000 calories per day, but they consume at least half that during the ride! It's interesting that the illegal drugs you hear about being connected to bike racing has to do with increasing their ability to recover quickly, NOT race faster! I start whining when I run 3 days in a row! I ran The Pikes Peak Marathon in 2004 and I think I'm still recovering!
Finally, is the one that really makes me break out into a sweat..The Badwater 135. This race begins on Monday (July 11th) when roughly 90 runners line up in the desert of Death Valley (the lowest point in the United States - 282 feet below sea level) and run through the desert to the portal of Mt Whitney (the highest mountain in the 48 contiguous states). That's 135 miles of being exposed to constant sun and temperatures up to 130 degrees!! You might think this is a fairly flat course - nah, this ain't no sissy race. You traverse 3 mountain ranges and there is a total elevation gain of over 13,000 feet. If you finish under 48 hours, you get a Belt Buckle!! I just don't get these races that give out Belt Buckles. Anyway, there is a 60 Hour cutoff (AND you earn a medal!). Several runners, after they finish (and rest a while for sure) continue their unofficial trek another 11 miles to the summit of Mt Whitney (adding another 6000 feet of elevation). I remember when this race used to be the Badwater 146 and finished on the summit, but the Park Service put the quash on that. Some non-running bureaucrat said something about red tape stuff. I've read two excellent books about Badwater - Just finished "A Few Degrees From Hell" by Scott Ludwig, and "To The Edge" by Kirk Johnson. If you're in the Birmingham area and ever thought about the mechanics of doing this race, give Prince Whatley a call. He crewed a couple of years ago for his friend, Sarah Powell.
OK guys, I'm getting winded just writing about these events. I guess in the past few years my fascination has elevated to another level with the ability to follow them instantly on Twitter, Facebook, or the race's website. I remember the days when you'd run a marathon and the results would be mailed to you 2-3 weeks later. If any of you remember that, drop me a comment. Or drop me a comment anyway, or follow me on twitter @ runningwithal47. I'm not crazy about Facebook, so let's stay away from there to keep in touch. Hope you all have a good week and I'll see you on the roads - AL
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