It is a hectic 2014 such that I have no time to update my blog. But it is timely to do so now to "record" my preparation for Badwater 135. So what is Badwater 135? Well, Badwater is branded as the world's toughest foot race: it starts at Death Valley, 282 feet below sea level and ends at the Mount Whitney Portal, about 8,360 feet high. Runners have 48 hours to complete the 135 miles (approximately 217km) race non-stop, with temperatures sometimes as hot as 55 degree celsius! It is indeed the most demanding and extreme running race that I could find - a great challenge for myself as I dislike running even in a relatively "cool" place like Singapore. For this year, as a result of unjustified, unprecedented, and unnecessary closing of the Death Valley National Park to sports events in 2014 by the current leadership at the park, the Badwater 135 race will take place on a new Lone Pine-based route. But make no mistake! This doesn't mean the race is any easier. And although the temperature may be a shade cooler as I was told, runners have to cover 17,000 feet of accumulative ascent and 12,700 feet of accumulative descent as compared to 13,000 feet of accumulative ascent and 4,700 feet of accumulative descent!
In order to ensure I prepare myself sufficiently, I signed up for more road races - Pistol Ultramarathon 100 Miles (4~5 Jan), 2XU Marathon (2 Mar), Kawasan Falls Marathon (23 Mar), Paris Marathon (6 Apr) and Sundown Marathon (31 May), though most of these races were signed up even before I applied and subsequently got invited for the Badwater race. In between, I also signed up for TNF Thailand 100km, Lantau 100km, Eco Trail de Paris 50 Miles, Great Wall Marathon and the Xreid 123km. Unfortunately, I tore my entire right ankle ligament (okie, maybe not all but almost) after I fell in Lantau 100km, just 8km into the race, sometime in mid March. It put me off running for 6 weeks. Even after resting for 6 weeks, I didn't feel 100% right as I could feel some kind of pain whenever I walked down steps. After the trip to Great Wall (where I took photos instead of running), I got more depressed as I knew I needed at least another couple of weeks off from running. This meant that I had 10 weeks to train properly for Badwater! :(
The Swollen Right Ankle After Lantau!
Luckily, I listened to my feet and was able to slowly rake up my mileage. But while my ankle did not suffer any adverse effect, I hurt my back so bad that I couldn't run for more than 10km without feeling sore. It was a feeling that I never had before. I decided to pay a visit to Joan (sports massage therapist) to get my weekly massage. Every week, I would visit Joan after my weekend training and she would work wonders. I also visited Elise (a qualified TCM master) who acupunctured my back and right feet to encourage better blood circulation. I managed to complete the Sundown Marathon though I could sense the back pain that came after 24km. Subsequently, Alice (physiotherapist) and Wen Yen (podiatrist) diagnosed the main problem that caused my back tightness - a "shorter" left leg. I was given a pair of orthotics which lifted my left foot. An appointment was made with NUH Spine Specialist where the doctor referred me to their physio department. There, I re-learnt the right way to sleep, sit, as well as carry my back pack!
I used the orthotics for Ocho Ocho 220km where Cheryl was my Chief Crew. It was a great experience for both of us as Cheryl would also be crewing for me in Badwater. Cheryl was meticulous and she was able to give me the support and encouragement I needed. All I needed to do is to concentrate on the race. The orthotics also worked wonderfully and I didn't have any back pain during the race. I had 3 goals for Ocho Ocho 200km: (1) to complete the 1st loop 115km within the 24 hour cut-off time, (2) to complete 72km (45 Miles) within 13 hours, and (3) to complete 108km (67 Miles) within 20 hours. The 2nd and 3rd goals were significant as they were the cut-off times required from that of the same distances in Badwater. This race was able to simulate an almost similar elevation and incline. I managed to achieve completing 72km (one of the check-points) in 10hrs 55mins and completing the 1st loop which was 119km instead of 115km in 22hrs 26mins. I wasn't sure if I managed to cross 108km mark within 20hrs but working back, I thought I should. On the whole, it was a great success even if I stopped after one loop as it was never my intention to complete the race. There were so many pluses to take away, especially: the support from Cheryl, the understanding between us, the effectiveness of my orthotics, and the water and food fuel intake. :)
Test Run During Ocho Ocho 220km 1st Loop!
Coming back from Ocho Ocho, I was in high spirit. Mileage wise, I was prepared. I just had to continue my other training regime: more heat training by running in the afternoon sun, more sauna training sessions to make myself comfortable under the heat, as well as more power-walking up a 14% incline on treadmill. Sauna training was great. It gave me confidence about learning to love staying in the heat. Power-walking on treadmill was excellent as well, although I knew walking on actual 14% incline mountain would be very different. However, I was only able to complete a single session of running under the hot sun with Tee Lee when the weather finally co-operated on the last Sunday before I flew to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, I also got fitted out by X-Bionic from body to toe: the state-of-the-art Fennec® shirt and running pants, Spyker Patriot Edition Calf Compressors and the Marathon Socks! I tried on the Fennec® shirt and running pants during my last run with Tee Lee and it felt like I was wearing an air-conditioner! (More of the gear review next time!)
The Fennec® Shirt & Running Pants (Top Left); Patriot Edition Calf Compressors (Bottom Left); Marathon Socks (Right)!
For logistics side, there were some challenges due to unforeseen circumstances, which left me with 2 support crew: Sam (logistics) and Cheryl (pacer). I managed to get some positive responses after sending last minute emails as well as postings in the Badwater Facebook chat group. Joe, whom I met in the Canadian Death Race a few years back, recommended his friend Stuart and Stephanie responded! In addition, Stephanie also contacted Christina, an ultra runner based in Long Beach, California, who was keen to crew for a Badwater runner! Stephanie helped to make a few calls in the USA to ensure all were in order, including the ordering and collection of car decal, renting of car and booking of accommodation. I was back in business, just 1 1/2 weeks away from flying out for the race. :) Even then, I still had a few anxious moments when I learned that Christina was hospitalised for dehydration after her 268 miles run over 10 days, as well as Cheryl's flight cancellation due to Typhoon Rammasun striking Philippines. Despite all these, Christina recovered in time and Cheryl even managed to arrive earlier than expected due to her direct flight from Narita to Los Angeles! All went so smoothly that Team Ripley Runs eventually met up in LA on 17 Jul for their journey to Lone Pine! Hip hip hurray! :)
Back Row: Stuart and Sam! Front Row: Christina, Stephanie and Cheryl!
17 Jul - This day was spent buying drink and food supply for the race. It was also the day Team Ripley Runs drove from Los Angeles to Lone Pine in 2 different cars. It was a very long day and we managed to arrive in Lone Pine only at around 9:00pm. After checking-in, we went out and found a Chinese restaurant opened by a lady chef from Taiwan! Sam and I couldn't resist trying the food and Sam managed to order beef soup noodle for all, which was not even available on the menu. He also ordered a plate of steamed dumplings. Christina as usual, was eating her home-packed salad, which was super ultra healthy. :)
Supplies for Badwater (Top Left); Arrival @ Lone Pine (Bottom Left); Dinner Time (Right)!
18 Jul - It was recce day where we would drive the whole course. This would give everyone a glimpse of what the whole course looked like. Stuart had the honour of driving while I sat in the vehicle commander seat for a better view. After a hearty breakfast, we embarked on our journey to Horseshoe Meadows. The view on the way up was uneventful but once we reached the top and cast our eyes towards Lone Pine, the view was magnificent! The climb looked manageable though, it was still a big climb from 3,700 feet to 9,900 feet! We took a short break at the top to appreciate the scenery before driving the same way down to Lone Pine. Then, we took Highway 136 towards the direction of Darwin. At the small town of Keeler, we took a left turn towards the Cerro Gordo Ghost Town. This section of the gravel road was rough and steep just as I calculated. But I also knew that if I could make the cut-off here, I should be able to complete the race within 48 hours. At the top of the mountain, there stood the old American Hotel as indicated in the event book! The caretaker of the hotel brought us around and shared with us the history of Cerro Gordo. It was an insightful visit. After an hour or so, we made our way down, where the drive was even more exhilarating! We continued towards Darwin before making a u-turn and back to Lone Pine. Then, we drove up to Mount Whitney, the finishing. The recce gave me a good view of what to expect during the race and I could work on the timings I needed at the various time stations in order to complete the race. :)
On The Way Up Horseshoe Meadows!
Way Up To Cerro Gordo (Top Left); At American Hotel (Bottom Left & Top Right); Way Down From Cerro Gordo (Bottom Right)!
Road To Darwin (Left); At Mount Whitney (Top Right); Cheryl's Getting Ready (Bottom Right)!
19 Jul - I didn't set any alarm for the day and was surprised to see the rest of the team at 10am. Cheryl and I learnt that they managed the permit to summit Mount Whitney on Sunday. Hmmm. It seemed like a strange decision to summit Mount Whitney just a day prior to Badwater. The same day where we needed to attend race briefing and crew training session. I heard of people going to the summit after the race but not before. Nevertheless, I had more important things to worry. I told Cheryl, who had by then assumed the role of my Chief Crew, that she needed to be more assertive as Chief Crew as my success would depend on how she rallied and managed the team. It was important for the team to go through the rules and regulations so that everyone would be on the same page. Cheryl informed everyone and Team Ripley Runs decided to go for brunch to talk through the rules and regulations. It was a fruitful session as we asked and clarified the rules among ourselves, while noting down the questions that needed clarification during the briefing. After brunch, it was free and easy, and I worked on my split times required and nutritional needs while Cheryl started to prepare the stuff for the race. I learned that Stephanie had decided not to join the rest as she wanted to be fresh for the briefing and race. Stuart, Sam and Christina also agreed that they would set off at midnight and be back for the race check-in at 10:30am. :)
Temperature @ Lone Pine (Top Left); Timing Targets (Bottom Left); Socialising (Right)!
20 Jul - Cheryl, Stephanie and I went for breakfast and met a race volunteer there. It was a cool morning as it rained overnight. By 10:15am, we decided to walk over to the School for the race check-in, instead of waiting for the rest. There we met up with fellow runners from Singapore, Mr Lim Nghee Huat and Reuben Cheang. They both looked relax! We chatted a while while waiting for the commencement of race check-in. Meanwhile, Christina called and told us that she and Sam had hitched a ride back to Lone Pine as Stuart was holding the car key and still on his way down from the summit. Back in the School, Cheryl, Stephanie and I managed to submit all the various forms, as well as had our mandatory gear checked. We then collected the race pack and went back to the hotel to put the stuff as it was still early for the race briefing at 1:30pm. We also met up with Christina and Sam and heard their encounter with snow, lightning and hail storm. Luckily, they were alright. Christina apologised for taking such a big risk prior to Badwater and we were all good as long as no one was hurt. :) Stuart eventually arrived back in Lone Pine safely as well. After resting, Team Ripley Runs attended the race briefing which was very useful. Subsequently, I were on my own to prepare my race while the rest of the team prepared the vehicle and supplies. Here we come - 2014 Badwater 135!
Breakfast with Cheryl & Stephanie (Top Left), The Badwater Participants from Singapore (Bottom Left); Race Check-In (Top Right); Team Ripley Runs Official Photo (Bottom Right)!
With Andre (Top Left); With Team Ripley Runs (Bottom Left); Race Volunteers (Top Right); 2014 Badwater Participants (Bottom Right)!
Team Ripley Runs Preparing The Support Vehicle & Supplies!