Death Valley Days = Badwater Training Gut Check

DB and I at our "summer house" last week.
DB and I at our “summer house” last week.

This past weekend was the LA Marathon, and since the Clif Bar Pace Team handles the pacing chores, DB and I were out west.  What better opportunity, we thought, to add in a visit to Death Valley, and re-visit the course we’ve now played on six different times.

I’ve written before about what it’s like to run in Death Valley, specifically about the time that DB and I created our own challenge, the Badwater 17.  I’ve crewed the race three times, and run on my other visits as well.  I like to think that I know that 135 mile stretch of road reasonably well.

I do not.

Because when one approaches that road from the perspective of really, truly being the one that is going to run it this time, it looks completely different.

The heat is hotter.  100 degrees flat to be exact, in March.  At 3 pm in the afternoon, a time I will most certainly be running.

The hills are hillier.  There are only three; those three, of course, are 17 miles, 16 miles and 13 miles respectively.  With the bulk of them at an 8% grade.  Throw that on your treadmill for awhile, ’cause that’s certainly what I’ll be doing.

At the top of the first hill pass, though we only ran 8 of the 17 miles on this trip.
At the top of the first hill pass, though we only ran 8 of the 17 miles on this trip.

And the road is just … longer.  I had no doubt what I was signing up for and I certainly knew it was 135 miles.  But realizing that you still have 45 miles to go when you’re at the mile 90 checkpoint is certainly a gut-check.

Lots of gut-checks out there this past week, and I couldn’t be more excited that we went.

It didn’t change my performance or time objectives, though I’m not quite ready to release those yet.  It did, however, radically change my thoughts on training.  I had a vague plan in mind, based on what I thought I knew and what I’ve seen others do, but the bulk of it went out the window this past week.  It was too focused on heat, and not focused enough on the hills.  But honestly, I don’t know that you can focus too much on the heat.

And that’s when the realization came.  That this is going to be four months of absolute, unrelenting, 24/7 training and preparation.  Work hours will have to be carefully planned, as will training hours, as will rest hours.  Multitasking will be required.  If I’m driving for two hours, the windows are going to have to be up with the heat on high.  Lunch breaks?  Gone.  That’s become an hour a day on the treadmill, playing with run-walk ratios at an 8% grade.  Which is to say nothing of summer Sunday afternoons, which will be spent working up to 17-mile runs at an 8% grade.  In a sweatshirt and tights.  Then there are still the traditional sauna sessions (up to an hour between 180 – 200 degrees), bread-and-butter long runs, spin classes and core work.  Overwhelmed yet?  I am.

Then there’s a follow up trip to Death Valley in May, when DB and I will be running the entire climb to Towne Pass (17 miles) and run/hiking the final climb to the finish (13 miles).  That’s also going to be my best bet for testing what nutrition I can keep down or rely on in 120-degree weather.  See?  Multi-tasking!

I’m so overwhelmed, but so incredibly excited.  And I’m sharing this “before I really get started” post because I want to be transparent.  I don’t want to be the girl who just ATTACKS! and acts like it’s no big deal.  It actually is a big deal – a huge big deal – and I’m scared and nervous and overwhelmed and filled with all the anticipation that all those feelings bring.  Because this is Clove here, and you know that even though I am scared and nervous and overwhelmed, that has no bearing on the things I’m going to try to do at this race.

So no matter how you’ve come to this site or what it is that has you scared and nervous and overwhelmed, I hope you’ll join me in living fearlessly and spend this summer going after it with me.  Are you going from couch to your first 5K?  Considering your first marathon after having a baby?  Thinking about a PR at any distance after turning 30, 40 or 50?  Just trying to get back into a consistent routine?  Or something even more personal?

Let’s do it, Salties, and the only way we know how: one day, one workout, one step at a time.

Halfway up Whitney Portal Road and realizing what I've gotten myself into!
Halfway up Whitney Portal Road and realizing what I’ve gotten myself into!

Trail and adventure enthusiast. Girl who swears like a sailor but not when she's teaching Sunday School. Survived infertility without a successful pregnancy. Self-employed, primarily working for Clif Bar and Company. Thirteen 100-mile race finishes with seven top 3 placements. An original Saltine.

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  1. Yes! You got this. And thank you for the encouragement. Every run has a purpose and it is so important to take it one day at a time. Thanks, Clove!

    1. One day at a time, one workout at a time. And sometimes, one mile at a time. It’s just so important to me to recognize that everyone has a journey and everyone has a “Badwater”. We’ve all got it in us!