Friday, March 02, 2007

Badwater Thoughts

The trek that I made from Badwater to Mt. Whitney in July of this past year in many ways left me enlightened. The impact of my participation in the event has been mighty and affected all facets of my life. First and foremost I came out of this race with the belief that with some effort there is nothing that any of us can not overcome. Secondly I learned that patience and perseverance are the keys to success in everything that challenges us along our path in life. Finally I learned that it’s important to stop, take a look around and enjoy what is happening now rather than waiting for something bigger and better to happen in the future.

The race itself is quite a spectacle. The hype leading up to the event is in no way misleading. The organization is second to none and the media coverage can only be compared to that of the Boston Marathon. There are some that are turned off by the publicity but those that enter must know prior to doing so that the fanfare is part of the experience. As with any big time event criticism is bound to come along but in no way did I find any of the criticisms to be true. Those that organized the event worked diligently to assure that the participants followed the rules, which were put in place for their own safety and the safety of those around them. Badwater is a serious event with intense competitors in an environment that is not conducive to human life under normal circumstances. That being said those that enforced the rules put in as much effort if not more than the competitors and crew themselves. The staff worked day and night for 60 straight hours and did so while also having to care for their own well being. That fact alone indicates that the motives of those that organize Badwater are not out there for self-promotion. Everyone involved, participants, crew, organizers and medical staff work hard toward achieving the same goal, to reach Mt. Whitney and the finish line safely.

The event is such an eye opening experience because of the many challenges involved. The distance, elements, and physical and mental breakdowns are only a few. I made reference to the Boston Marathon above but other than the hype, organization and the media coverage there are no other similarities between the two races. This is not a marathon and a person with only marathon experience should not consider doing this race until he or she gains some experience in longer distances. In fact one of the most impressive things about Badwater is the finishing rate amongst the runners. Last year an amazing 75% of the runners successfully completed the 135-mile journey through the desert. The finish rate can only be attributed to the grueling task of selecting runners who have proven ability and experience in ultra events. I say grueling because I’m certain that each year many runners from around the world submit impressive resumes but only 90 are chosen to compete. The criteria the committee uses in the selection process certainly includes more than just speed and endurance although I’m certain both look very nice on a resume. Badwater is about survival, knowledge of your body and how to react, and more importantly it’s about teamwork.

Those that are about to encounter their first experience in Death Valley should most certainly take the time to research the race thoroughly. I found the video “Running under the Sun” to be the best way for me to prepare. The accounts can be quite horrifying at times but very accurate. There is no sugar coating this event, as it is what it’s promoted to be. Be aware that people die in Death Valley and you can too if not prepared. Choose your crew wisely for they too will be exposed to the deadly elements that the desert provides. Each crew person should be experienced and be willing to sacrifice their energies in order for you to be successful. They should be dedicated, organized and enthusiastic. Identify the strong points of each of your crew and assign duties that make best use of their best quality. You need a leader, you need a motivator and you need a worker. If you can find three separate people that each have one of these qualities you’re well on your way to success. By the way I had the best crew that could have ever been assembled help us to our successful finish. Finally enjoy the nighttime sky of the desert. The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life are the million bright stars that Death Valley provides. I joked with my crew afterwards that the only reason I went so slow in my race was so that I didn’t deprive each of them two spectacular nights.

Dave B.


Blogger Lauren said...

Great comments. I sent this to the RD of Badwater :)

11:38 AM  
Blogger leigh said...

and i am sending it to my friend who is running the double this year. i am looking forward to crewing for her.

you can teach us all about perserverance. i for one am listening!

1:18 PM  

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