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The Insights of a Joggernaut, Al Arnold
On the photo above: "That is the most inspiring photo ever taken of me: 362 days earlier I was in Wilcox Hospital, Maui. I was told: 'Maybe, in one year, and using a walker, you might be able to take a few steps.' 362 days later, I jogged a 100 mile loop which included some side-trails and the full circle around Lake Tahoe. That photo is at the intersection of Hwy 89 & Hwy 50 at about 19 hours. I get very emotional every time I see that photo." - Al Arnold
"I Was My Own Persoal Lab Rat," May 24, 2012
Hello ULTRAS of the world. Yes, it's me again. :-) And, as long as I'm still here I will, on occasion, give my "two cents worth." So, dear participants of Badwater 135 2012, I'm sharing the final six week training schedule for my 1977 200 mile Death Valley (and all points in between) - Mt Whitney Summit "adventure". Remember, I had no scientific data to benefit my preparations. I was a single "Research Lab" while on the run. But... it worked! My "old stuff" applies equally, today. I hope that you benefit from my past.
1) HEAT: Acclimating for extended periods of extreme heat was my highest training priority. I found success by riding a stationary bike or walking, in place, while using a dry sauna. The temperatures were very high: 165F for a maximum period of 10 hours to a maximum of 245F for one hour. Yes, 245 for one hour: For that one, I trained four years. My core temperature dropped two degrees, to 96.7F. It has changed slightly over the past 35 years. Remember... clothing protects the skin! So, stay skimpy. But, during the actual Badwater Ultra, ALWAYS wear full clothing while in the Ultra desert areas!! The cumulative effect of the elements will be your most formidable adversary.
(Note: For current thinking on use of a sauna for heat acclimation, click here.)
2) ENDURANCE: Once EVERY week, I would trek 100 continuous miles on Mt. Diablo at a VERY SLOW pace of 20 minutes/mile or slower. Yes, slower is better because of the lack of momentum. It's sheer power. And, if you're weak, it won't take long to recognize that issue! Your endurance will never be in doubt. Why? Because at that pace it is strictly mental. But, as I stated, if the body aches, it's because it's weak: (see #3 below).
3) STRENGTH: I'm an advocate of weight training! It is essential to attain a powerfully balance between mind and body. A strong/powerful body assures the brain that you "can do it." I was a 225 pound, 50 year old, and some would say, "nut case!" The "standards" of that era labeled me as an ancient body that was trying to commit suicide! But, I knew that I would be entering an extended period of many unknowns. You might conclude that I overtrained. But, as an "Ultra Scientist" I was covering many questions yet to be asked.
4) FLEXIBILITY: An efficient and active body requires that all muscles and ligaments posses their maximum range of motion. So, AFTER every workout, while my ancient body was still warm, I would finish with a passive but extensive stretching routine.
5) RECOVERY: I developed a method of recovery and HIGH ALTITUDE acclimation. It was simple: during my daily endurance training of rowing, exercise bike in the sauna or trekking Mt Diablo, I would challenge these workouts by exhausting the air in my lungs. Eventually, I began to sustain longer workout periods with less oxygen. Sounds crazy but that's what happens when you're at high altitudes or becoming anaerobic. There I was, 84 hours & 200 miles later ... standing atop Mt. Whitney at 14,5000 ft. It worked! All of these training features were accomplished during my final six weeks. Needless to say, it was with me as it is for you: this can work ONLY if you're already in shape.
My final comment: Stay within your limits, avoid the hype ... there shouldn't be ANY DNF's!!!!!
Good luck to you all.
"Stay Focused," July 8, 2011
Hello all you crazy people:) I wish I were running with you. But, as Chris knows, I'm too old and toooooooooo slow!! Simply put: I miss being able to disappear into the shadows of solitude which graced the landscapes that engulfed my legs. They sure wandered during those endless miles of long slow trekking: mind and body, as one. But, always focused on "Death Valley Days" - a very powerful motivation that loomed significantly in the abyss of my mind and eventually to Badwater.
Twice I failed! In 1974 I almost killed my running partner, Dave Gabor. He collapsed at Furnace Creek. I continued on to 'The Oasis' when I stopped. I couldn't stop worrying about his safety. I lost my focus. It was over. It took him a year to recover. By the way, the temperature at Stovepipe Wells was 121 F - AT MIDNIGHT! The mid-70's were drought years. Just perfect to challenge the desert at its worst. Yes, I'm still alive:) David's collapse was because of an intolerance to heat. I failed because I couldn't stay focused. My second attempt was in 1975. Everything was fine until Towne Pass, at which point my left knee would not support downhill running. On my way to Stovepipe Wells I had gotten cute and tried running across Devil's Golf Course. The crust couldn't support my 225 pounds and so I hyper-extended my left knee. Again, I lost focus.
So my friends, old and new: Stay focused AND within your God-given capacity. There will always be "the back-of-the-pack." There is no shame in that. You're here because your guru, Chris Kostman, has decided to see just how tough you are. The new cut-off time of 48 hours tells me that Chris will expect only a stellar performance from each of you. Considering that, every team-participant has been a part of each runner's total effort with the over-all logistics of the training/financial process. With this commitment behind you, then it's time for NO DNF's:) The formula, for all this is very simple: exercise PRUDENCE and don't lose focus. :-)
This "Adventure" into the bowels of Death Valley and beyond has many strange love attractions. So, as Cole Porter wrote, in 1929: "What Is This Thing Called Love?" The Badwater Ultramarathon is our alluring "love affair." It has no competition. Each year we are drawn from all corners of our ever-changing world, for one purpose: competing in the World's Toughest Foot Race. That being the case: Why is it so difficult to participate without any DNF's? Each Ultra Athlete accepted into the race was required to submitted their "Ultra History" and yet the personal carnage still exists. Failure to follow common sense, while being swept up in the hype of the event, results in poor judgment of focus. This is no picnic: people die in the desert!!! The forty-eight hour cut-off is in line with he purpose of this year's Badwater Ultramarathon. Serious Ultra competitors have progressed their athleticism, from the "Covered Wagon" to the levels of unimaginable performances: The Boston Marathon's almost sub two hours, Badwater 135 with multi sub-24 hour finishs AND, Ten-Time Badwater finishers. It's almost too fantastic to believe. Yet, in spite of the advance of training and sheer mind-power, failure still exists. This year's Badwater will have the higher race demands than in previous events. So, why would you wish to quit? Do you train to fail, or is it that you have forgotten the power of being focused on the reason why you're here? The excitement and emotion of the fanfare of the race can work for, as well as against, you. So, my fellow Ultras, please set reasonable and achievable goals while you're on the course. Pre-race strategies are too often forgotten, especially so, once the action begins. And, of course, there will always be those amazing ten-time finishers who will make it look so smooth and easy. What can I say?
Here's quote from one of the world's greatest scientists and humanitarians: "Impossible missions are usually those that succeed." (Jacques Cousteau)
Have a great Adventure!
"Stay on Track," July 7, 2010
My message to ALL and I mean ALL: Stay hydrated and, for most of you, trek within a 150 mile capability: 20 minutes per mile. This should be your standard.
Badwater has ALWAYS devoured some of those who have dared the challenge. Why? Because of being caught up in the hype and losing focus of purpose, which is to to finish, respectfully. Trek smartly and success will follow. Remember: much time and energy precedes each accepted entrant.
Finally: as a guests of the Death Valley National Park Service, you are expected to obey their rules and regulations. One foolish act or display of disrespect could put this special monument of courage and camaraderie in jeopardy.
"Trading Places," July 1, 2009
Welcome to another year of Badwater 135. I hope the temperatures hover above 130F during the day and 120+ at night (my conditions in 1977). You guys have had it too soft (cool) over the past few years. It's been hotter in Lone Pine than in Death Valley. But, I do wish all of you good health and a successful completion of this year's 'BW-135' 2009.
In less than 24 hours you will ascend the balance between: mind, body, spirit AND the unknown. To each participant, I ask of you .......... for YOURSELVES: acknowledge, appreciate and respect these powerful God-given individual strengths. Use them effectively, placing one foot in front of another as you follow the "long, white line". Never take these wonderful assets for granted"'They" are gifts and will be the "pillars" of your life as an Ultra Athlete and beyond.
Very few athletes have the ongoing insight to recognize the marvels of their personal achievements. Abilities, too often, are taken for granted. Not 'bragging-rights," nor egos. Unfortunately, it wasn't until AFTER my neck injury that I became aware of my "loss," so I use my own experience to stress this issue. It seems only like yesterday, but 30+ years ago I was invincible, not the best, but still invincible. In a matter of seconds, in a surfing accident, my life changed, not for the worse, but it did change ... forever. I had severed half of my spinal cord. But, my determination has increased tremendously, helping individuals recognize the value and beauty of your God-given mind and body.
I wonder how many of you can do the following? Standing on one foot, change your socks/shoes or put on a pair of slacks? How about scratching your ear with your little finger? Have you ever had the fear that you won't be able to get off the toilet seat? How about falling down, you're not hurt, BUT unable to get up? Have you ever given thought to the beauty of just being able to stand? These are simple basics of motor-skills that few of us acknowledge. Now, we discuses the super-human achievements just as a matter of course.
60 years ago, July 1949, I jogged, solo, from Manitu Springs Colo. to the Pike's Peak Summit. Of course, by today's standard, you guys would consider that an easy training run:)) I was at 50km and 14,000 feet elevation. The rangers at the summit, not believing I had gotten there on foot by myself, said that I probably got a ride, most of the way:))
I mention these personal vignettes because they are the source of my strength. This is not a woeful tale of Al Arnold, the "old man of bygone years," but a determined Ultra Athlete who continues to express little tolerance for wimps! I remind all of you: before you quit, think about the time, the money and the "media-BS" just to get to the Badwater starting line. And, what about all that awaits your return after finishing the race? My feeling is: YOU START, YOU FINISH!!!!! Nothing else!
40 years ago I would do long distance ocean swimming until I was tired, then I would return to shore. It was not a smart way to train but it was a mental exercise. I knew that if I couldn't make it back, I would die! You too, can die. Know your limits, stay hydrated and LISTEN to your support team. It's going to be tough on everyone, so do not become argumentative. And, as you venture forth, veteran and novice alike: respect and appreciate each and every step. From start to finish, I would gladly trade places with any of you, even if what you may feel is the "end-of-the-line" And as you may have guessed, I'm not giving up on any of you: "If there is a will, there is a way!"
Most importantly, as guests of Death Valley National Park, please obey all regulations! Finally, please consider Chris Kostman's position as in trying to be your friend and the Director of the race. For 72 hours he is, in fact, running an "Adult Day-Care-center"!!!!!!! Give Chris a break:)) So, put your fame and egos aside! Don't be difficult. Thank you, God bless you and good luck. And, as Monica says: "HAPPY FEET". AL
"DNF" is a Dirty Word (actually, three of them), July 13, 2008
Hello everyone. I would like to remind, ALL OF YOU, why you are "in-the-running." As individuals it is imperative that you Finish What You Start! Being a member of the Application Review Committee, I have evaluated hundreds of BW applications and have never seen any Badwater Ultramarathon where ALL of the participants finished the event. To enter this event I expect that all of you are capable of a respectful elapsed time of 60 hours or less. But, when you fail to finish ........ this IS NOT acceptable!! In '02 (when I was at the race in person) I was shocked to see all of the "In need of medical treatment or sleep" at Stovepipe Wells What was that all about? It's only @40 miles. That's not even a third of the way. This Ultra event invites only the toughest because that 'Long White Line' is supposed to be a realistic challenge for the hardy. If you feel that you're not up-to-the-task ........ do yourself a favor: STAY AWAY from the starting line.
Remember 'Forest Gump': "Stupid is as stupid does". IF you manage your crew and yourself, you will finish this race. With a few exceptions, this Ultra is not about your finishing time BUT, it is about your being able to finish. Either you have "heart" or you don't! Statistics will predict the recording of "DNF's". Collectively, EVERYONE should start putting pressure on this concept. I guarantee that ANYONE that is recorded as a DNF (unless you get run-over by a 'blue lizard'), will be be very unhappy with my ranking of a ZERO on a future application. That could receive my recommendation of 'one year's probation'. That, my friends, is "tough love"! If you're tough, then PROVE IT! Not to me but to yourself. So, IF you all pull-together then BW 135 will have demonstrated that, not just a few, but the entire field is a great success. Who, after all those hours and miles of training, wants to return home with a DNF!?
How can I be so adamant, you might say, when I DNF'd in '74 and '75? My crew member almost died of intense heat in '74. He wasn't even past Furnace Creek. In '75 I had just passed Towne's Pass .... in 10 hours. That was it: too heavy, too fast & "Stupid is as stupid does". No one here tonight is stupid. Think smart, be smart.
"Looking Back, Looking Forward," July 11, 2007
Dear Badwater 'Joggernaut'. You are my inspiration, all of you. It is difficult for me to appreciate the level of potential that exists in the 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon. Amazing: the 30th anniversary of my epic "run" on August 6, 1977. Today, it is removed from my reality, that is, until Chris Kostman blows his horn for the annual 135-mile race. Those of you that respond have committed themselves to the ultimate demands of "physical and mental excellence required" in the pursuit of human "curiosity" that will explore the unknown. My solo trek was an experience of unusual unknowns and consequences that kept everything exciting. Cal-Trans road repair crews were closing the road at Panamint Springs, for six hours of demolition throughout the Panamint Valley. I had no choice but to grab a gallon of water and head into the Panamint Desert which eventually led me into deep canyons that emerged just below the winding roads near Father Crowley Point. Invincible, that was my state-of-mind, as I left my crew, not realizing that they had "left me." I was on top of Inyo Mountains, heading to to Lone Pine. I had forgoten that I was "mortal." Unfortunately, while nearing Keeler, an alert, and rare, passing vehicle stopped and assisted me with water AND information: I had a "problem" with my support team. On foot, I turned around and headed back to Crowley Point. After "re-organizing the crew", not something that I had anticipated, I headed back into the quest: the Summit of Mt Whitney. The total distance was at least 200 miles by the time I finished. 84 hours, my total elapsed time was, in-it-self, a miracle. I am so fortunate to be of that small band of "Dare Devils," trekking Death Valley, without mass vehicular traffic. Those days are gone BUT, the mind is an excellent "cave" in which to escape the horde. I urge all of you to take the opportunity in allowing the trodden footsteps, sweat and toil of years past, to blend with the beauty of all that surrounds the depth of the Badwater Ultramarathon. I predict that, for the first time, sub-24 hours will become the new record, by more than one runner. These runners will have poured out their hearts and guts. They will have surpassed the old level of human endurance barriers. Both runners will be from the West Coast. Who knows what memories they will carry, only time will tell. Meanwhile, "back-at-the-ranch," the rest of you have the privilege of re-tracing the slowest and the fastest Death Valley Joggernaut, ever! Good Luck and may you all finish with pride and in good health. I will miss you all. And, thanks to you, Eberhard, I'm becoming my own "ROCKY!"
"The 30th Annivesary Race in 2007," May 27, 2007
Hello fellow Ultras. Welcome to Badwater 2007.
Time Range Calculation:
24 hrs - (10:39.96/mile),
30 hrs - (13:19.8/mile),
36 hrs - (16:00.00/mile),
42 hrs - (18:39.96/mile),
48 hrs - (21:19.8/mile),
54 hrs - (24:00.00/mile),
60 hrs - (26:39.96/mile),
72 hrs - (32:00.00/mile)
These calculations are the choreography of the annual Badwater 135 Mile ULTRA Marathon. It's all there, from the mythical sub-24-hour finisher to the 60-hour official finishers. From start to finish, it’s a “Grand Parade” of the best and toughest distance runners in the world - from around the vast stretches of our Planet Earth, they merge for the Death Valley Challenge.
It’s hype and glory of human endurance against this unpredictable sanctuary of Mother Nature. Will She be kind and forgiving or will She unleash Her power of vengeance upon those mortals who dare enter this domain of pain, agony, and sometimes more? Let it be understood, by all, veteran or novice: tread lightly and ALWAYS with respect. Each athlete and crew member must never forget that, as a guest of Death Valley National Park, you must obey the Park's and the Race Organizers’ rules and regulations at ALL times.
The purpose and goal of every team member is the ultimate conclusion of a safe and gratifying performance. Any participant's failure to honor these guidelines may result in the disqualification from all future Badwater Ultras. Honor and respect is a unique consideration in these types of events, in that there are many miles and hours of which to gain a life-long appreciation of the course and its participants. Fair and courteous involvement is the rule.
This is the “Main Event” - don't spoil it by doing any of those things that erode the value and beauty of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be encouraged by, and absorb, the energy of thousands of footsteps past. Let your quest, be it seemingly slow, remain steady as you trod patiently, while enduring the tremendous and unrelenting heat, through the bowels of Hell.
It is normal, especially as Ultramarathoners, to possess, and exercise, that natural competitive desire to excel. But, in Death Valley, this "drive" does not guarantee the best result. To ultra is to venture into the unknown. Caution should be exercised as we enter within this "Cave of the Unknown.”
I urge all of you, especially the crew members, to recognize what is natural and within your "limits". Many miles and hours stretch out before you... before ALL of you. There is NO reason why any athlete or crew member should fail, IF you abide by reason and common sense!
One of the most serious miscalculations of marathon running is dehydration. In the desert, at ALL times, stay covered. It is the retained moisture on your body surface that keeps you cool. Bare skin is a direct path to failure and injury. Do not become over-hydrated with salt or sugar: either will promote being hypotonic, a sure invitation of "problems."
Don't be "cute" as this event is serious business: your life will depend on it. If, as you train for this 135 mile "trek," you can: (1) walk 50 miles each day, for three days while being mindful of proper foot-care, (2) tolerate high temperatures by exercising respect, caution, and proven techniques, then you have no excuse for failing to finish this torturous trek safely and as an Official Badwater Ultramarathon Finisher :)) Good Luck!
Finally, enjoy your every step by "gliding" the 135 miles as an adventure rather than as combat. You will never beat this race course; you can only traverse it smoothly or "uncomfortably." The choice is yours. Look at my calculations above and select a reasonable and safe “time-range” BEFORE the race. Stay comfortable and enjoy your adventure. Your elapsed time will be better than you predicted and so will your experience.
"Guidelines for Helping Chris Kostman Run out of Badwater Buckles," February 29, 2007
Now, a bit of 'BW-135' UNSOLICITED advice;
(1) - HEAT is the main nemesis, acclimate your body NOW!! Start using a sauna ....... on your EXPOSED body. Do not wear any protective clothing.
(2) - ENDURANCE is very slow to develop. Set a target of being able to WALK, ONLY, at 20 to 30 minute per mile (LSD) pace, NON STOP (NO SLEEP) for 24-30 hours. Do not exceed this pace, nor train (LSD) more often than once a week.
(3) Leg speed must also be developed. Adapt an easy target of being able to run a 10K in 43-45 minutes. Try this on the following day of the endurance workout. This is a training goal only, NOT COMPETITION!
(4) Initiate a strict program of increasing your range of motion (flexibility). Long, loose, and supple body mechanics reduce fatigue.
(5) Increase your oxygen up-take. The best way to measure this is by your recovery rate. I find the quickest, and most successful, is fast interval work-out on a Stationary Bike. Longer anaerobic periods with shorter recovery time is the best indicator of having a strong heart and lungs.
Seriously, regarding the "Badwater-135," give my simple guidelines some thought. Even the most accomplished athlete should review her/his training proposals. I'm not telling most of you anything new. BUT, I am reminding you of the basics. IF, you follow these training guidelines, one thing is for sure: you WILL "feel your body" ... as it really is. No fantasy, but reality. This program will take about six weeks for your system to accept this type of training AND another three to four months for conditioning: mentally and physically. Good luck and start IMMEDIATELY you should "peak-out" as you're following the "Long White Line":)
"The Solitude of the Race Course," June 8, 2006
"How time flies! My running adventures are almost like looking in a rear-view mirror; while driving down the road, eventually they slip out of view. But, those memories will never fade. My most fond recollection of Death Valley was the beauty of its solitude. That, in-it-self, is more than worth the many hours of training. Unfortunately, some ULTRA runners may abuse the sanctuary of the desert while in their quest to win. It will be difficult to recover what they have "lost." The beauty of being the pioneer, in 1977, of Badwater to the summit of Mt Whitney, was the solitude. "Water wagons" and "intense" crew members are unnatural to the environmental beauty of the Badwater Ultramarathon. Most runners will recognize and feel, in their hearts, this solitude. It is not a bad thing to feel alone in this hostile environment. Absorb every impact of your body and observe as you stride forward, ever forward: 135 miles of natural wonder. Each entrant has made a personal commitment to BW135 by competing in the world's toughest endurance running event. Some of you will remember the "presence" of their adventure. On the other hand, a few entrants possess the ability to accomplish amazing feats. Performance versus solitude: acclaim and cherish. Both are winners within the same event, yet worlds apart. So, my ULTRA friends, take your time, stay smart, obey the Race Rules and enjoy the "beauty of solitude". You can be in a crowd and, at the same moment, an individual. Rear-view mirrors can only "reflect" for so long and then it's gone. But, if it is truly in your heart Badwater 2006 will be with you forever. Good luck, stay safe and respect the course and the 'Event' itself." - AL
"Blending with the Environment," December 19, 2005
THE RAT TALE' all started about 35 years ago. I was working in San Francisco at the time, long slow distance running became my "refuge". Eventually, all ULTRA runners "lose their senses" as to their conscious awareness and beyond. But, this wasn't the case while pounding the hard surfaces, darting between the dark and cold surface below the granite canyons of tall buildings lining the commercial districts of San Francisco. The solace of my daily runs was constantly being inundated with loud, and unfriendly blasts of insidious outrage! Automobiles with irritated drivers were, it seemed, at every intersection just waiting to thwart my peaceful intentions of being "different", fit and enjoying the conquest of just being able to put one foot in front of another, forever! The challenge of survival was indeed powerful; my life depended upon it.
Alas, peace of mind was not to be had. It was time to find that place where I could mentally disappear, that private place, while just placing one foot in front of another. It was during this phase of transition that I started to train for my Death Valley venture AND, to have Peace of Mind.
Coincidentally, I relocated to Walnut Creek, California and soon became an advocate of a beautiful site, right in my own "backyard": Mount Diablo. Click here and here for some photos of the mountain.
It was on this Mountain that I would enjoy many years of "Adventure Roving" with peace of mind and solitude. I soon became part of a new individuality of being "aware and apart" simultaneously. I seemed to be protective of my whereabouts and the surrounding challenges, but, at the same time, moving "forever forward." Thus 'The Rat', one of many wonderful and personal experiences while traversing the spiritual slopes of this 4000' ancient fossil encrusted sea-bed.
Training, for me, has always focused on its environment. I wouldn't allow too much non-environment time in preparation. Rather than jog through city streets, on my way to my "metaphysical cave," I would drive to Juniper Camp, two miles below the summit of Mount Diablo. The next 25 miles was an invasion of the "past". I would become an extension of its history.
Drought and exceptional high temperatures were the norm for California during the 70's. Mitchell Canyon, during July, is an extension of the struggles for survival, in any of life's form.
The 'Badwater 135' is such an environment. As on Mount Diablo, areas do exist that provide comfort, but once you leave those "safe areas", you're on your own. If life's form is not prepared for the risk, then it should not be taken. That is the basic rule. Failure is the ultimate consequence.
Years of arduous training had disciplined my training options. It was all a consideration of a "risk factor." After all, when an ULTRA athlete decides to go it alone, alone is what it is!
The power of being "above it all" eventually consumes the lonely runner. Every venture has the potential of beauty and horror. This is a tale of beauty.
I had been on the trails for many hours and there was no refuge from the blazing heat of the mid-afternoon sun. I had left a hidden spring/oasis a few miles below me. Everywhere, signs of parched bones of the unfortunate: plants and small creatures of the mountain. It was a risky venture for man or beast. But, that's being a survivalist. It was an ULTRA'S ideal training camp, especially for running through Death Valley. It never ceases to amaze me as to the balance of knowing where you’re jogging, yet, hours disappear without any recollection of those footsteps left behind. That is, unless the unexpected alerts your hidden safeguards. The sudden, yet faint, movement of the hot and dusty trail directly in front of my pathway was one of those precious moments.
As I examined the area VERY closely, I spotted the parched and almost fur-less hide of a giant rat, with it's glaring eyes darting helplessly. Crazy as it may seem, I spent a few moments "talking to” this pitiful looking creature.
Eventually I sensed a "communication" and gradually coaxed this nearly dead inhabitant to slither its Godforsaken body on to the safety of a dried up branch. I couldn't distinguish the better: the branch or the rat. Slowly, I removed my new found "friend" from it's potential gravesite and, while "talking" in a reassuring rat manner, I portaged
"hairless" nearly three miles down to my hidden spring. It was quite an exchange of body language between Mr. Rat and myself.
Eventually the rat became aware of its coming salvation. That scraggly looking rat tail really went into motion. Reaching the cool shade and flowing spring water was too much for my branch passenger. He wanted off! I gently placed the branch at water’s edge and watched a very grateful creature begin a new life. I hope it was a long and wiser one. I paid homage to its peaceful and thankful body language. A few hours later, I passed by the point of our "meeting" and I said: “Not this time!” - AL
"The True Spirit of the Race," July 23, 2005
Let's be honest, unselfish nor vindictive. It's time to heal ALL wounds and open our resources for the successful continuance of ULTRA Sports, specifically, in Death Valley. It takes a great deal of time and "know-how" to promote, successfully, these ULTRA event, such as the 'Badwater 135'. It is not in the best interest of 'The Sport' that "mature" individuals should allow themselves to be swept-up in a "fire-storm" of misinformation". It would appear, that the sole purpose, of such wasted energy, is to discredit and destroy "common grounds". What a shame. Too many harsh and un-savory words have been assailed. I would like to let it rest, there is nothing to gain in harboring ill will!!!. I'm sure that the "last word" is out there, somewhere. Here is mine. I know that it is rather long but I feel that I should be heard, Hopefully some will concur:)) My being recognized as the 'First BW to Whitney Summit' then I will be the first to say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! The future of "The Sport", depends upon it! I have NO special interest involvement, other than the continuing of ULTRA events in DVNP. But, with the highest level of cooperation, integrity and fierce competition. Every individual involved should think: "Fair and common to ALL". Thank you, in advance, for your friendship and continued support.
First and most important: I am stating, emphatically, that Chris Kostman is not the "culprit/bad-guy"! It is important to recognize and accept the fact: Race Directors/Officials will always be criticized, especially when enforcing the "Rules of Engagement": written, implied, or otherwise. It usually erupts when a "special interest" is denied the continuance of "procedures" favoring a specific team, and in conflict with the other competitors. This practice is very common but does not warrant being accepted, It is the duty and responsibilities of the Race Officials to maintain the "primary purpose" of the event. The personalities and conduct, of these individuals, destroy the basic, but waining, concept of fair-play. Unfortunately: "winning is the only thing" has eroded ideals of being a "good-sport". The violators, themselves, are the real losers. It's to the environment, of which they are competing and "altering", to their advantage and not other runners, is, in-itself, a different contest! Not a good idea. This is not to say that the mechanics of "putting one foot in front of another", over such arduous conditions, is not recognized. But, it is important that these elite, established, and outstanding athletes, recognize and understand their responsibilities of maintaining a "Level Playing Field". These same participants must also NOT challenge the authority and judgement of any Race Official's action. Right or wrong! There is NO "Instant Replay" and, if such were available, the "call" would have remained the same: DISALLOWED!
All Athletic Teams must NEVER forget that they are the guests of the 'Event". And as such, their entry fee does not allow the abuse of the Course, or its purpose. At the discretion of the Event's Officials, judgements, to "challenges" may occur, sometimes in conflict with the entrant and Organizer. The condemnation, in the recent BW135 (Chris Kostman/Race Director) was, in my "ancient philosophical approach", appropriate but too lenient. I would have given a Full Refund, on the spot, disqualified the "team" and notified the DVNP as to my actions. For the record, that team would have been listed as a: NO SHOW!! Not pleasant, but that's the way I operate, if you don't like tough management, (and Chris Kostman is a tough organizer) then you have other options but not better challenges.
The BW 135 is a TOUGH race, and tough "direction", only the very best, of heart, dare apply. Not every applicant will be accepted, it's a logistics nightmare. The entrant space is limited. It is only natural, desiring to be part of these great events. And, equally so, to demand of all parties, the utmost of fair-play. Mother Nature sets the stage, don't try and "alter" it. Do it right or don't do it at all! Anyone that attempts to cross Death Valley, in an organized event, MUST direct and comply their "procedures" so as to be consistent and common to ALL athletic teams. Remember, endorsement by the Race Officials, depends upon your cooperation, ONLY!. As old as I am, I'm quite sure that: given a Refrigerated Water Truck, Beautiful Ladies holding an Umbrella over this decrepit body and, NO time limit: I could (probably) make it today. It's important to recognize and understand, while accepting the purpose, intent and value in preserving a "natural environment" compliance. Mother Nature's "Child": Death Valley, will have it NO other way. Make it HOT, DANGEROUS and UNWELCOMED!! Needless to say. being foolish and unprepared could place your name as just another statistic in the ledger of Inyo County Coroner, "Badwater Mayor", BW ULTRA ledger/veteran, Ben Jones, MD. Sorry, but I prefer not to have him or anyone else, looking down at my toes before "my time"!
Elite athlete or not, the circumventing of the Race Director's "management" that defeat the very purpose of meeting, head on, the notorious and hostile environment of Death Valley, should NEVER be permitted. In 1974, on my first attempt to the "Challenge", we (Me and, my long time friend, Dave Gabor) ATTACKED the"course". Dave almost died, it was a year before he recovered. I learned quickly: Gently "fold" my way through this treacherous and untested, environment. I accepted Her guidelines, the rest is a matter of record. But, in today's (24:36) it is a whole different world: Everyone wants a better performance. But, back in '74-'77, it never occurred to me of being anything other than: "an extension of the ENVIRONMENT!" As ULTRAS grow in number and continually confront and accepts the challenge, in its true nature, Death Valley National Park, and beyond, will, forever, be the "Remarkable Quest". The ultimate reward is the achievement of the "Quest": 135 miles of interesting conflicts, most of which are within ourselves. Many individuals have died on these desert floors, and I'm sure that it wasn't an easy way to die!! All ULTRAS that dare accept the challenge of traversing these hazards, of Mother Nature, do so within Her "natural guidelines". These elements are protected and supported by the Race Officials. Their judgement and management is vital for the safety and success of these events. Therefore, fair-play and compliance guidelines, that are common to all participants, is essential! Anything else is unacceptable! Water tankers, large or small, is not natural nor common to all. The Officials' responsibilities are broad and undefined. Every day of our lives, we make on the spot decisions. I'm sure that some were wrong. The Race Director's decision was not improper! "Conduct" favorable to any particular runner, especially a Super Star, is understandingly noted but, not acceptable. The "Natural hostilities of the environment", in-it-self, preclude "altering its' (DVNP) position: DEFIANCE!!! The desert is not a friendly / forgiving arena. Obviously, SAFETY is of the utmost concern. The 'BW 135' is an amateur Ultra running event, NOT a Meg-$$-Corporate Challenge. The true challenger is that individual, that has trained: mentally, physically and spiritually, AND ready to accept the risks of their "Quest". Gadgets are NOT WELCOME, in concept or reality. How lucky, it was for me, @30 years ago, to "try again and again", not to have any adversarial conflicts! Other than good old Mother Nature. She spanked me very hard! Today, I'm wiser and thrilled that so many others have followed my BW to Whitney "Mystics". Anything other than "Natural", is in violation of "THE TRUE SPIRIT". AL
"Blending with the Landscape," July 5, 2005
Between 1974 - 1977, while training for my Death Valley run, I had ventured many miles and hours on Mt Diablo (a 4000' mountain in "our back yard"). This was during a period of extensive heat, dry spells and prolonged drought conditions. Only the wild animals sensed and executed their abilities of survival. I became one of those animals. And, as such, I "marked my territory". It was during this "primitive period" I had encountered many "nature experiences". This is one, "The Cougar and me". Keep in mind that I was a tall, tanned, muscular, talkative, and singing "Mountain Man." I wouldn't "surprise" anyone or anything. I slowly developed my own style of an acceptance personality, or better yet, a type of wilderness defense. After a few years of this style of "entering" the natural habitat of "critter-world," I was able to do amazing things with the natural world. The following experience, alone, is worth all the "challenges." One particular event was the day that I jogged through an area on Mt Diablo. This area was parched and, to the untrained, devoid of moisture. The winds were sweeping up the slopes of the Mountain, and of seemingly hurricane force (ripe condition for a catastrophic fire ---- always a threat). I had started running down the side of the mountain, in and around huge boulders. These hot winds were roaring into my sweaty body. I loved it; the conditions were perfect. Except: I didn't see the cougar, standing on the fire trail, just around the bend. It hadn't sensed my coming presence either. That is, until I physically ran into its right hind-quarters. Boy, were WE surprised! It quickly sprinted up the side of the mountain. I just stood there, in disbelief! My first experience, and contact, with the rough and coarse hide of a real live predatory animal. (Other than some dogs I've encountered while jogging.) That was it ......... for then. The next day, while in the same area, I had stopped at a hidden spring, charted as "Big Springs." Remember the environment and weather conditions. AND, my purpose on the Mountain. Refreshing myself, in the cool shade surrounding this oasis, I soon "sensed" that I wasn't alone. So, I stood tall and started yakking loudy. Slowly turning around I acknowledged and greeted my fellow guest: the cougar, standing not mare than a few feet away. After sending friendly vibes .. no fear, I slowly encouraged an exchange of "positions." It was amazing; I sat on an elevated rock and just spent about an hour with my fellow traveler (their territory covers at least 35 miles). Eventually it was time for me to depart; always standing tall and yakking, I proceeded to climb a very long and steep trail. My new "associate" came over to the trail, sat down and watched me slip over the summit. I never saw my "friend" again. But, I'm sure that cougar was aware of my every moveent, night and day.
This story has been shared, around campsites, many many times. It is the absolute truth!
"On the new Jay Birmingham Website Section," June 23, 2005
Hi Chris. You really are a gift to the world of ULTRAS. Just when the accolades start pouring in, re: your Official Badwater site, you make it even better. The DV/BW trek wouldn't have had its grand success without Chris Kostman. I'm very pleased that Jay is being featured. It is, with all due respect, long over-due. Thank you, many times over. Jay isn't just another name or the second Death Valley-Mt Whitney trekker, he is truly an accomplished ULTRA. Look at the history of his amazing distant running. Jay and I are so different in our involvement: He stays active and helps in the development and support of the Ultra tradition. That requires a great deal of personal sacrifice and open commitment to the sport. He is there in the public's eye, as to whom and what he is/has done. I couldn't do that; I'm too selfish and a real loner. I love people but enjoy and seek my "cave." It's easy to prepare and endure your own personal demands as you search for the Holy Grail, but quite different when you're exposed. No one to witness failure or share in the solace of the euphoria of success. Even in victory, the legacy of 1977, depicted in the photos, are isolated and my own. The photographers, Eric and Glen and the 'POL' writer, Roger, have left me behind, RIP. So, there are no consequences; it was meant to be. I yield to the younger and stronger ULTRA, Jay. My best to everyone, AL
"On Scientific Research at Badwater," April 2, 2005
During the extended training/DV attempts, I rode a stationary bike at very high temps, hours at a time. My runs, on Mt Diablo, were in a box-canyon where temps were always above 100 degrees. NASA had contacted me and was interested in doing a research project of my training routine and the actual run itself. I remember an Exercise Physiologist (I believe his last name was Snell) wanted to put a "scientific" instrument into my intestinal tract. The purpose was to measure stress and 'core body temperature'. They later scrapped the idea because they felt that it was too dangerous and that it could be fatal. I did get some preliminary results, as a 'base point'. In 1974 a similar recording was taken and it was determined that my initial core temperature was 98.7. In 1977 the same measurement showed that my 'core body temp' was now 96.4, it has never changed. When I go for a check-up the medical staff will always ask m: "have you always had a 'sub-normal body temp?" During Worlw War II, the US Army was training soldiers in the Mojave Desert. They were being acclimated to heat for the African Desert. But, because of Japan's invasion of the remote islands off Alaska, these desert-trained troops were sent to the frigid cold of Alaska. To the surprise of all, they were very comfortable: because their 'body core temp' had dropped a few degrees. I found the same response when the weather turned cold. Just thought you might find this info rather interesting. Take care, AL
"On Long-Term Health and Fitness, March 12, 2005"
Feb 4, 1967, my 39th birthday. My age, now, being 77+, that's almost a lifetime ago. I had just left an extensive physical, by the University of California team physician, Thomas Barber MD. His last words to me, and I have repeated them many times, over the years. "Al, my friend, unless you make a commitment to, and establish a constructive style of nutrition and exercise: the next time I examine your body it will have a tag on your one of your toes!" Not a pleasant diagnostic evaluation. You often say "there are NO coincidences" but, on that same day, I received an invitation from David Pain (an attorney in San Diego) to compete in the first US Masters Track and Field Championships, for men 40 and older, to be held in San Diego on July 4, 1968. I had 18 months to turn around my "lifestyle" IF I wanted to be included. AND, of couse, to stay alive. At that time, I weighed almost 300 pounds!! I won't bore you with anymore but I will say that I met ALL my goals. This photo is a DECADE LATER. Your friend, AL