"Only those who risk failing greatly can ever succeed greatly." –RFK
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Water is Life
Somebody asked about how I will calculate my need for water for a 146-mile self-contained crossing of Death Valley in July.
The answer is, I have no idea!
Ounces per hour or per mile won't work. My pace and work load will be totally unlike racing the course with a crew. Instead of 30+ hrs, my time in the relentless heat will be measured in days, probably 3-4 days. (It took Marshall 77 hours and 46 mins.) And I will be pushing a heavy cart up and down various grades. I have no experiences like this to help me calculate specifically, and I don't think it is even really possible to do.
How much water do you use for dousing when running Badwater? Who knows? I have never really thought about it while running the race; it was just always there for me. So, while I can guess, it is difficult, if not impossible, to calculate.
But I have done my homework. I spoke with Marshall Ulrich and Jeff Sauter, the only 2 to have attempted this (Marshall the only one to have completed it), and I am somewhat basing what I will carry on what worked and didn't work for them.
Marshall had enough water to drink but not enough to douse with. Jeff had enough for both. They used different carts and water-carrying methods. I require less water overall for rehydrating than either of them. I might be out there longer. I want enough to be able to douse somewhat freely. I am nowhere near as physically strong as either of them for carrying weight. Each 2.5G container of water weighs 20 pounds. Water cannot be filtered on the mountain or resupplied at any time. Water is life in the desert. Running out of water is almost a sure DNF (unless I'm 1/2 way up the mountain). Marshall's cart weighed about 225 lbs. Jeff's weighed more than that.
In general, I am erring on the side of being prepared for anything, playing it safe. The trade-off for that is the weight. But I am not going to leave my warm summit clothes back in Badwater in the likely chance I will need them on the mountain. So, no skimping for me on winter clothes, emergency gear for the summit, and emergency supplies for the cart. I'm toting it all, trying to cover all possible scenarios in the lightest possible fashion. Similarly, I would be very nervous to skimp on the water. The best question would be, how *little* water do I need for the crossing? But I don't know the answer to that. Certainly, I'm not going to put myself at risk, and I don't want to have to DNF because I wanted to do this *faster* with less weight or something.
So, with all the general numbers and information in mind (really there are no specific numbers) I'm thinking I should err on the side of a bit too much water, but not so much that I can't push the cart. That would be around eight 2.5G jugs. And maybe I will throw in one more just because I suck at gambling? I haven't decided that yet. Nine 2.5G jugs = 180 pounds. And that's just water weight! But, I can at least always douse with the extra to get rid of it and lighten the load prior to the first major pass at mile 42.
Those are my thoughts and my preliminary plans. I will be experimenting with the cart and water jugs here in the 50 degree weather that Spokane has been offering for heat training. Not a fair simulation but it's the best I can do. I'll make the best guesses I can and from there I'm just going to be praying to the Death Valley gods to allow me safe passage.
No scientific method, no concrete calculations, and a lot of vaguely educated guess work.
I am an ultra runner, physician and have been medical director of some of the toughest ultras. I tend to be a mover and a shaker and louder than my size suggests. However, my Gemini twin is gentler and contemplative, an artist, a writer, and a poet. I am a dog lover, a believer in souls, and have a special affinity for those who struggle because I have been there.
This is my crazy lovable huggable Weimaraner, Steely Dan. I call him Steely. He left us in January of this year at only 6 years from lymphoma that did not respond to chemotherapy treatments. Steely was a total goof. He loved trail running, road running, treadmill running, new experiences, making eye contact, sleeping on his back, me, kids, and liver treats. He was Zappa's best friend. We miss him dearly.
This is Stella. A rescue from the shelter. She's about 6 months old and a Border Collie. She is a joyous bundle of energy and curiosity and now also Zappa best friend. She will make a nice running partner when she grows up.
This is the now the big brother of my family - a rescued Greyhound. His name is Frank Zappa. I call him Zappa. He's 7 years old and has learned all about life beyond the track and crate from Steely when he was with us. It was very rewarding to watch his personality bloom as he settled into the family. And yes, he runs like the wind!
This is Natasha, my dearest friend. She was with me through college, medical school, residency, and she moved with me from Chicago to Spokane several years ago. She was my best running partner for 10 years. My sweet Natasha died from bone cancer in 2006. I miss her still. I hung a windchimes over the deck outside. When it chimes, I smile and think she has finally -- wherever she is now -- caught a squirrel!