Flashback to a few years ago when Lisa first heard about Badwater (135 miles on foot through Death Valley in August) - she knew she had to do that race. I had the complete opposite reaction - never (and I do not want to find out what crow tastes like!). In November, Lisa put the bug in my ear about the Salton Sea race in May - "only" 81 miles from Salton Sea, 234ft below sea level, to the top of Palomar Mountain at 5500ft above sea level. This race had many aspects I typically avoid - mainly, a focus on marketing and branding, road running, and "being extreme." Running 81 miles is extreme (and stupid!) enough - why does it need to be more extreme? But what I loved about the race was the team format - teams of 2 or 3 run together (not a relay) for the whole race and both have to finish for each to get an "official" finish. What sold me on the race was the opportunity to run with Lisa and help her achieve her goal of getting into Badwater. So...what's a few road miles, mild dehydration, sand storms, and sunburn amongst friends? The Dixie Chicks were in!
We signed up in January and put together training schedules - in 4 months, we only had 2 weekends we could run together. Not a problem - Lisa started out by completing a tough 50 miler on the beach at Destin and the following week we both ran the Dirty Spokes Thrill in the Hills race at Fort Yargo (half-marathon for Lisa and full-marathon for me). It was "only" a marathon and not super-fast, but it was one of the best executed races I've ever run - I had a runner's high most of the race. whee! It was also the longest race I'd run in well-over a year. In 2015 I did not start a single ultra and only ran 2 trail races and a road marathon. I struggled - was I still an ultrarunner if I didn't run ultras? Many of us in this crazy sport have dealt with this - I just hoped I'd come out the other side happy and healthy.
I ran the following 2 weekends at Mt Mitchell in NC (shortened to a marathon from the 40 mile challenge due to weather) and the Old Pueblo 50 miler in AZ. Moderation is hard! :-) Surprisingly, my body and mind did OK - I think I missed playing with friends on trails and the challenge of racing. The primary goal is always to run smart and therefore not die. Mission accomplished!
|John, Cash and I before 50-ish fun miles near Soniora, AZ. John was an excellent host! Despite our bundled up appearance, it got quick warm during the race - my best opportunity for heat training...|
|My friend Lisa (different Lisa!) before the start of Blind Pig 100. So happy to share some miles with her and see her cross the finish line of her first 100 miler. We've come along way from crit racing! :-)|
Finally - we were looking forward to running together. We had put together a nice route that would take us from the Hiker's Hostel to Turner's corner, up Neels, across the AT to Woody Gap and back down hill to the hostel. Seemed like a great run to prepare us for Salton Sea. We encountered a couple of challenges - first, it was cold and windy. We expect wind in CA but temps to be 40 - 50 degrees warmer than they were that day! Second, Lisa was dealing with her dad's recent cancer diagnosis. It was not the news she was expecting during her parents' visit. We chatted about life, our families and her friends who would be crewing us - and will still have plenty to talk about during Salton Sea.
|Lisa (Salton Sea teammate) and I at my namesake trail. Spectacular day to be outside - thankful to be running a race with someone whom I get along with so well...wondering what hallucinations we'll have at night... ;-)|
I had the privilege of meeting Lisa's parents that following Wednesday - a last minute cancellation meant I was able to rearrange my schedule and a party of 25 at Ted's Montana Grill meant that Bob and Janice were still waiting on their food when I arrived. Sometimes it's easy to say that things happen for a reason. I will always remember that evening. Lisa is vegetarian, but didn't hesitate to make sure her dad enjoyed a good steak dinner. He asked Lisa and I about the upcoming race and why in the world I wanted to work in Uganda. I explained I like challenges and diversity and I love my work - he listened intently and replied "follow your heart."
So that's what Lisa and I are doing - running this race with our hearts. My heart is also with Lisa and her family and her heart will be with her dad as we click off the miles. I'm not sure who wants Lisa to finish this race more, her or her dad. He is her biggest fan!