Death Valley Stops Badwater From Playing in the Park

Death Valley National Park While I’ll probably never be one of the lucky/unlucky few that run the Badwater Ultra, 135 miles traditionally from Death Valley to the start of the Mt Whitney trail, I’ve always had a fascination with the race.  Maybe it’s because I really can’t really imagine running that far in those extreme conditions, but yet having a (very) small part of me wondering if it’s something I could do.  For now, I’m just in awe of anyone that attempts it…or any race of that length for that matter.

Unfortunately, because of a rather sudden change by the new superintendent of Death Valley National Park, the 2014 edition of Badwater won’t be allowed in the park, and is instead being routed to surrounding areas.  The LA Times had a good write-up on this a few days ago. AdventureCORP, the company that runs the race, also has a lot of additional detail on their website, highlighting their past safety record and positive economic impact the race has had on the area.

Death Valley ThermostatWhile I’ve never been there for the actual race, I did have the pleasure of visiting Death Valley on the way to climb Mt. Whitney last August.  We took the obligatory picture of the car thermostat (117° that day), and I was really struck at how beautiful of a setting it is.  In my mind I was expecting more of a flat and sandy landscape, but the rocky badlands were anything but that.  Had it not been for the Badwater race, I’m not sure I would have had the same curiosity to visit the park.Death Valley National Park badlands

Anyway, I can only hope that the National Park Service comes to their senses soon and lets this great race continue.  Doesn’t the government have bigger things to worry about than a race that has a flawless safety record and has brought nothing but good publicity (and $$) to the area?

If you need a primer on Badwater, here are a few good documentaries I would recommend:

  • This 2013 documentary is available on YouTube, and follows a few different ultra runners attempting their first Badwater race
  • The AdventureCORPS YouTube channel has a number of good short videos on past races
  • Running On the Sun is a great documentary of the 1999 race.  I think in the past it’s been available for Netflix streaming, but doesn’t appear so right now (just DVD).  Here’s the trailer:

 

 

Geneva Super Shuffle 5k 2014 – Race Recap

2014 Super Shuffle 5kAs somewhat of a reward for finishing the first month of my new running streak, I decided to sign up for the Geneva Super Shuffle 5k that took place on Sunday, February 2nd.  Though I’ve run 13 marathons and a number of half-marathons, I’ve actually only run two previous 5k races…I guess I like the longer distances better.  But I figured since I’d be running outside anyways on Sunday, I might as well get a free shirt out of it!

Super Shuffle 5k Start

Start Line of Super Shuffle 5k

The Course – The race took place mostly on a paved path surrounding a local grassland/park area called Peck Farm.  The area got somewhere around 5 or 6 inches of snow on Saturday, but the path was plowed for the race.  But as the race organizers repeatedly told us while at the starting line, it was only plowed, but not salted.  Translation – lots of ice and slick spots.  I saw a few people wipe out on the course, so I was glad to have on my trusty Yaktrax, I think they definitely helped navigate the course better.  I actually felt pretty comfortable running on the surface since it was very similar to what I’ve been running on for the last couple of weeks, so no surprises there.

The race started on a road leading to the local middle school, which was good since it seemed there were a quite a few people not lined up in the right pace group.  So it gave runners a good half mile or so to get better positioned (a nice little uphill on the road helped as well!) before transitioning to the narrower path.  Once on the path, all was good.

Super Shuffle 5k Finish

Finish Line

My Race – I felt pretty good in the first mile, but probably went out a bit too fast as usual – I was right at an 8 minute pace. My plan for the second mile was to just settle into a more comfortable pace and then see what I had left for the last mile.  I slowed to 8:14 for mile two, but couldn’t quite hold that pace in the third mile which started off with the race’s biggest hill, and ended up dropping to an 8:30 pace.  Since my daily runs are all closer to the 9 minute range, I felt pretty good with averaging 8:15…especially given the conditions.

I ended up finishing in 24:18 (7:51 pace), which means either my GPS watch was off, or the course was a bit short.  Either way, it was still my fastest 5k (and still would have been at the 8:15 pace)!  Ok, given that I’ve only run 2 5k’s before, a PR isn’t all that impressive.  But it does feel good to run faster than the younger 2004 version of myself, even in sloppy conditions.  My time was good for 74 out of 522 overall (top 15%!), and 7 out of 27 in my age group.  Considering I don’t typically finish even in the top half of most longer races, I’ll take it!  Maybe this running every day thing is starting to pay off…or more likely, people that run a 5k in February are just doing it for fun and to battle the elements.

imageThe Swag – The $35 entry fee (a bit pricey for a 5k in my humble opinion) included a nice hooded sweatshirt, a free drink ticket for the after party (which I didn’t end up going to), and a finisher’s medal.  I was a bit surprised at getting a medal for a 5k (is that a thing?), but I guess it makes some sense since there was some suffering involved given the weather.

Overall – It was a fun race and nice to get out with other runners in the middle of a cold and snowy winter.  Would definitely recommend!

 

Month 1 of Run Every Day 2014

Winter runningPolar vortex. Chiberia. Worst winter ever.

These are not things you want to hear in the first month of a run streak. Chicago winters are notorious for forcing people to give up all their dreams, abandon hope, and move somewhere South – and this winter thus far has lived up to that reputation and then some.  But I did manage to get out and run at least a mile every day this month even while fighting some annoying cold symptoms the first 2 weeks, which at least gives me some confidence for the rest of the year.  January runningBy the numbers:

  • 31 days – 49.1 miles (avg distance 1.58, median 1.62) Not impressive mileage for lots of people, but coming off of a zero base and never run this frequently in my life, I’ll take it. By comparison, from 2011-2013, I ran 6 marathons but only had 3 months with more than 50 miles (3 marathon months).
  • I probably surpassed my former run streak record somewhere around January 4th or 5th, so I got that going for me…which is nice.
  • Average Temp: 19.6°F
  • Average Windchill: 7.7°F
  • Coldest Day: January 6, -17°F, -40° Windchill.  That was fun.
  • Days below zero: 2 (8 with Windchill below zero)
January 2014 Daily Running Temps and Windchill

January 2014 Daily Running Temps and Windchill

…so the story this month was definitely the weather, but I’m encouraged that I made it out every day (and while I could have run on a treadmill, I really wanted to avoid it if I could in the first month).  I even came away with a few positives:

  • Snow footprintsIt was almost always better outside than it looked from the window (well, except for the aforementioned -17° day, that looked and felt bad).  My takeaway – don’t listen to the news or anybody else scaring you into not venturing outside – you’ll probably be ok if you’re dressed for it (-40° windchill not withstanding).
  • There is a very peaceful rhythm to running on a thin layer of crusty snow.  I’ll miss that sound when the weather warms up.
  • Likewise for having the first tracks after a new snowfall.  There’s just something about being the first to run through fresh powder.  Having no tracks except for the occasional rabbit or coyote tracks has a way of really connecting you with nature.

The daily run is also starting to become a bit of a routine – which is good and what I had hoped for and needed. I’ve typically been getting out the door around lunchtime, primarily since it’s a bit warmer by then. Early morning runs would have been more of a challenge not just because of the lower temps but also more ice on the roads and trails at that time of the day.

1 month down, 11 to go!

 

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Day 12: Ice Ice Baby

Ice

Dare I say I’ve gotten somewhat used to the cold?  Ok, it still kinda sucks…but not as bad as the ice.  Combine close to 20″ in cumulative snow with a sudden rise in the temps (even slightly above freezing, hooray!), and you get a lot of wet sidewalks.  All good.  But then when the temps dip at night everything freezes over again until it has a chance to melt with the midday sun.

YaktraxI’ve found that wearing Yaktrax on my shoes does help a bit, and I’ve avoided any falls thus far (well almost, I actually did fall on my driveway walking out to start my run, fortunately landed in a soft snow bank though).  But I think they work better in light snow fall than on sheer ice (at least the ‘Pro’ version I have, perhaps the ones specifically designed for ‘Running‘ might perform better – but I had these Pro ones hanging around so figured I should use them).  My running route has sometimes been a mixture of dry pavement and ice, and on the dry patches the Yaktrax are a bit distracting because they slip a bit when pushing off on dry blacktop (not a falling kind of slip, but just not as good of a push off as with a normal running shoe).  But overall, I think they’re doing the trick.

Yaktrax

Longing for the days when I’ll have dry (or at least non-ice!) footing to run on!  That’s all – now just stop, collaborate and listen.

Day 6: My First 17 Degrees Below Zero Run!

photoWhen I started my daily running streak (a mere six days ago), I knew that there would be days in the coming year when it would be challenging.  What I didn’t know was that day 6 may turn out to be the most challenging – because it was 17º BELOW ZERO (Fahrenheit)!  Windchill was somewhere around -40º.

Now, while I could have schlepped to the gym and run on a treadmill, I would have felt a bit guilty invoking the treadmill rule so early in the streak. C’mon, it’s just the first week – if I can’t get outside and run every day this week what chance would I have of running 365 days straight?  After all, how bad could it be? Well, pretty bad – but I survived.

After layering, and then layering, and layering some more, I headed out into the arctic tundra.  I couldn’t find my ski goggles so I settled on sun glasses to at least block some of the wind – but they didn’t last long since they fogged up.  So I was fully covered except for my eyes.  Surprising, it really wasn’t that bad and didn’t feel that cold.  And yes, I am completely aware of how dumb that sounds, but it’s true.  The only thing that felt cold were my eyes, as I could feel my eyelashes literally freeze – which is an odd sensation.

So I only made it a little over a mile before I decided to save myself from frostbite and live to run another day.  It can only get easier from here, right?  Maybe not, but as long as it’s warmer I’ll take it!

 

I’m Going Streaking!

Pretty similar to Old School, except the streak I’m shooting for is to run at least 1 mile each and every day of 2014 (most of which will likely be clothed). I’m usually not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I guess that’s the best way to describe this challenge. I realize for some hard-core runners this may be a relatively easy endeavor, and running every day (or at least most days) is something they just do, with or without pursuit of a “streak”.  On the farthest end of the hard-core spectrum are runners that have run every day for DECADES, there’s even an official association to keep track of these crazy people.  The longest active current streak will reach 45 years this coming May, and there are dozens of runners with streaks longer than 30 years. And at least one streaker has been able to ensure proper priorities are maintained, like this guy who ran and also drank a beer every day for over 3 years! Alas, I am not one of these hard-core runners, but just an average runner seeking some motivation to get out and run more frequently than I currently do.

So we’ll see what happens – I’m looking forward to the challenge and to see if I can actually make through the whole year…or at least a whole month.  Historically, I’ve been very, very good at finding an excuse not to run.  I’ve run 13 marathons, but have never been as disciplined in my training as I would like to be.  Just how undisciplined you ask? Read more

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