Monday, July 30, 2012

Week in Review: 22-28 July 2012, and Speedgoat 50K Race Report

For the first time in a while, a list of dates and mileage:

22 July: 11 miles (77 minutes) on a soupy-hot morning, across Baltimore and back, west-to-east

23 July: 10 miles (70 minutes), in and around Patterson Park

24 July: off

25 July: 10 miles (70 minutes), in and around Patterson Park

26 July: off

27 July: 1+ mile (12 minutes), in the morning, running with bags to catch a train at Penn Station in Baltimore, to kick off this wacky weekend. 3-ish miles (33 minutes) evening at White Pine (8,000-ish feet altitude) to shake out before Speedgoat

28 July: Speedgoat 50K (444 minutes, 31+ miles), 7:23:17, 39th overall

Total time: 706 minutes

Total distance: 66+ miles

And now, the Speedgoat 50K:
The 2012 Speedgoat 50K course (photo credit: Tetsuro Ogata)
I'm putting the picture first, because that's the most unequivocally beautiful thing about Speedgoat. A 50K that, with 11,000+ feet of gain/loss (this year, with the course changes, it was probably over 12,000), all at altitudes above 8,000 feet, going as high as 11,000 feet, with nasty, steep, rocky climbs that will haunt your dreams, runs more like a 50-mile race, is not exactly the easiest sell. But it's that way on purpose; as the t-shirt tag line goes, the course is "A Meltzer-Designed Nightmare."

Taking on this monster just 10 days after Badwater, without the benefit of altitude or mountain training, seemed like a a terrible idea. But it also seemed like an exciting challenge. I had been signed up for the race since January, just after Bandera, where my performance there inspired me to raise the bar once more in a competitive field. Still, I didn't know how I was going to feel after Badwater, but after a few days of "normal" running earlier this week, I felt ready for the challenge. As I saw it, it was a great opportunity to

(1) get a "Wasatch 100 preview" (i.e. determine how likely I am to die on the mountains during that race)

(2) compete against a strong field

(3) have a fun day in the mountains (probably)

So the "exciting challenge" assessment won out. Tina helped me make travel plans just a few day before the race, and on Friday, I scrambled through three trains, a bus, two planes, and a baggage-loaded run to Penn Station to make it to Salt Lake City at around 6 pm, just about 12 hours before the start of the race. Collin picked me up at the airport, and we went about the business of picking up supplies for the race, and heading up the mountains towards Snowbird for pre-race camping and shake-out run. After our shake-out run, I was a little worried about dying on the mountain. While I wasn't exactly gasping for breath, my legs were still feeling a little tired from Badwater, and the thin air was just making me feel . . . slow. Collin was moving along much better than I was, and, for the first time in my life, I felt severely disadvantaged for living at sea level.

But whatever, the race was happening, either way, so by the next morning, when I was dressed and ready to run, all of that was in the back of my mind . . . at least until the gun went off. Within about ten minutes, maybe a fifth of the way up the first climb, I was probably in about 100th place. Everybody seemed to be charging up the mountain with reckless abandon, while my poor tired legs were screaming at me to slow down so they could suck down the paltry amount of oxygen that my lungs were delivering to them from the disturbingly-thin air. It occurred to me that maybe this should have gone into the "terrible idea" bin instead. But here I was, out on a beautiful, sunny, 70-degree day, climbing some awesome mountains, and taking in some awesome views (sadly, sans-cell-phone, which I had forgotten in my rush to the starting line - otherwise, there would be more pictures here), so I figured I may as well soldier on.

By the time I hit the steep, rocky climb to Hidden Peak (mile 8+ into the race), my place had stabilized a bit, and I was getting into a little better rhythm on the climbs. I tagged the top at 1 hour, 58 minutes, and hauled down the backside of the mountain with reckless abandon, smiling and laughing as I skidded down an alarmingly steep drop over loose dirt and rocks, overjoyed to finally have gravity in my favor, and to be passing people.

The next climb and descent came and went without too much fanfare, except to say that the descent was over a pretty significant loose-ish rock-pile, reminiscent of a descent at MMT, but not quite as long, and over rocks with a bit less permanence in the landscape. This took me to the 15-ish mile aid station, the "turn-around" point, and I could see runners coming out of the aid station towards me, many not looking so great. At 4 hours and 27 minutes into the race at the "turn-around" aid station, it was around 11 a.m., and with the sun high, and the elevation "low" (as in, slightly under 8000 feet here), and 100-degree F temperatures predicted in the valley, conditions were starting to take their toll on the runners. I heard one runner say to another on the downhill, "I'm so wiped out from all of the climbing - I can't even bomb this downhill." Considering that I was still keeping a steady pace, and not feeling catastrophically bad, I began feeling optimistic about the remainder of the race.

On the way out of the turn-around aid station, fortified by an orange popsicle and an unexpected cold-water-dousing that nearly gave me a heart attack, I caught up to Collin, and we stuck together for a little while up the next climb, a long, wide service-road style, Hellgate-like ascent (except at higher altitudes). I settled into a brisk hike, and soon was passing people on my way to the top . . . which involved a very cruel left turn up a steep (but mercifully short) rocky hill, where there wasn't a trail so much as a series of flags to follow, all of which had me crawling on hands and feet to get to the top. After passing a few more people, a merciful downhill into the next aid station followed . . .

But mercy was not to be the case from there on. Not quite three miles to the next aid station, 3100 feet of climb, and a few hundred feet of drop, for good measure. When we started running downhill out of the aid station, I knew something was "wrong." Sure enough, when we reached the base of Baldy, we turned right, up a rocky, steep, arbitrarily-marked nearly-vertical grade. This was the lowest point of the race for me, as I struggled on hands and feet, stopping several times, before I finally reached the top. Once I was over the top, I gradually settled into a running rhythm again, but not before several people who were recovering much more quickly than I was managed to pass me and keep going.

And from there, it got worse. From the tunnel to the top of Hidden Peak, the last aid station, there was another descent, followed by a prolonged, nasty climb. I was with another runner for most of this climb, but I was still dragging myself through, and slowing him down for most of it, since, with a little over a mile to go, he went ahead and kept on going. At this point, being at nearly 11,000 feet altitude, climbing up a stupid-steep slope, 25 miles into the race, my non-mountain sea-level disadvantage became most painfully apparent. Fortunately, at the top, 6 hours, 30 minutes into the race, there were cheers for "Baltimore!" (I was wearing my red Falls Road Racing singlet), and promise of a 5-mile downhill to the finish line.

The next 5 miles were the happiest downhill miles of my life, even with the nasty rocks for the first mile or so. In addition to gravity in my favor, the air thickened as I followed the winding trail to the finish line. I was solidly in whatever place I was in at that point (which turned out to be 39th), so there was no need to push too hard (although at the very end, a runner did come close to me, prompting a bit of a finishing sprint). Instead, I kept a steady pace, enjoyed the scenery, and felt a sense of gratitude for accomplishing what I had accomplished in the race, in spite of circumstances.
Sweet Speedgoat swag - no fluff, all useful running stuff. (yellow is men's shirt, pink is women's shirt)
Collin came in about 20 minutes later, and we spent a little time after the race drinking UltraGen recovery drink and soda, hanging around the finish line and socializing, and watching the awards ceremony. Kilian recorded the fastest time, but was barred from prize money because he cut switchbacks on his way to the win, which is allowed in European mountain racing and skyrunning, but not in this particular race (which was a part of the skyrunning series, so that was perhaps the source of the confusion). He was still recognized alongside Rickey Gates, who took second, as the fastest runner of the day. Anna Frost took the win on the women's side. And for what it's worth, it was a lot of fun to be part of such a deep, fast race.

7:23:17, 39th overall, and the first non-mountain, sea-level competitor to cross the line, and still shaking off Badwater fatigue - I'd say that's a pretty solid result. There were definitely some steep climbs where I lost a good bit of time, and there is lots of room for improvment in my mountain-running ability, so this result has me curious to see how I could do in a mountain race with some actual specific mountain-specific training at altitude.  But that's for another time and place - for now, considering that I don't feel completely crippled after this run (just generally tired), I'm excited about my next round of races and training in August and September . . . more and better-prepared (but still most likely full of awesome surprises) adventures soon to come!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Badwater 2012 Race Report: Dark of the Moon


Two days later, it’s still difficult to process this race.  135 miles on brutal, shadeless roads, through day and night, in temperatures as high as 115 degrees, and as low as 50 degrees, up three significant climbs . . . for the third year in a row, six hours faster than previous years, finishing eighth against some of the stiffest competition ever to undertake the deathmarch from the Badwater Basin to Whitney Portal.  But here’s my best shot at it . . .

I was a little nervous about this race for a few reasons.  One, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, I was back-sliding into it, since my training over the past month has been mediocre at best.  Two, I would have an “all-rookie” crew, in contrast to the veterans that I had last year, which would mean that I’d have to do more to direct them. Three, well, it’s Badwater.  It’s a huge race that a lot of people are watching, and given the prior two points, I couldn’t help feeling that I hadn’t taken preparation as “seriously” as I should have.  (Also, my mom said that she was concerned about this, which is usually a bad omen.  Then again, Meg D said that I would do awesome, so that at least somewhat canceled it out, right?)

But sometimes, things just sort of come together, and this was one of those times.  I landed in Las Vegas early Thursday morning, checked in at the Stratosphere, and wandered the strip for a while until it was time to pick Shannon up.  Chris and Jackie came in the next day, which gave us all day Saturday to pick up provisions for the race and go over strategy -  not to mention appreciate the awesome view from the 108th floor of the Stratosphere tower.  Meanwhile, Falls Road Running mailed me a pair of Altra Instinct shoes, courtesy of company president and founder Golden Harper, along with some other goodies.  By the time we set out for Death Valley on Sunday morning, Team Caliente (Like a Boss) was ready to rock.

The view of Las Vegas from the Stratosphere Tower - storm a'brewin', indeed . . .
Check-in and the pre-race meeting was the usual hectic scene – photographers everywhere, people posting to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram . . . with all of that commotion, it’s easy to forget that you’re getting ready to run a race.  Mostly, I remember eating a pint of ice cream from the general store in Furnace Creek, and unexpectedly seeing Dr. J, in her role as Brooks rep, while I was jamming chocolate chip ice cream in my mouth. That, and sitting near the front of the pre-race meeting for the “elite” 10 am starting wave, near the Fruitarian, Dean, Sumie, and Mike Morton (and Eric Clifton, one of his crew members), and feeling like this whole experience was beyond surreal.

Jackie and I, escaping the check-in pandemonium at Furnace Creek Resort.
Fortunately, we had a very relaxing night before the race, and all woke up well-rested and in good spirits for this epic journey.  The mood was light as we followed the line of cars to the Badwater basin; stuck behind Mike Morton’s support vehicle, we joked that he should be disqualified because his rear window was partially blocked with luggage. 

After weigh-in, the national anthem, and a few words, we counted down the start, and then we were off.  Mike Morton picked up speed quickly and got pretty far ahead of the pack in no time; meanwhile, I hung back near Oswaldo Lopez, Zach Gingerich, and The Fruitarian.  In the amusing things that runners say to other runners category, Zach proudly told the Fruitarian that he ate “a lot of bacon” this morning. (Then modified his statement to say that all that bacon wasn’t sitting so well on his stomach. “Ugh, bacon,” he concluded, dejectedly.) Gradually, Morton’s push at the front started dragging people along, so I “hung back” with Oswaldo, who commented that the pace (currently around 8 minutes/mile) was “easy” . . . as the temperature climbed to 110 degrees and the road undulated relentlessly.  It didn’t feel that bad, actually – it was okay enough that Oswaldo and I chattered a bit in Spanish before he started pulling away, with the rest of the leaders, who were gradually getting sucked in to Morton’s pace.

And . . . we're off!
Before I knew it, I was at mile 17, Furnace Creek, the first time station – in 2 hours, 8 minutes.  Definitely way faster than I’ve run this section of the race before, but I wasn’t feeling bad at all, and I had really enjoyed rocking through the first part of the race at that pace, not to mention the drive-by sponging/misting support that I was getting from Farinazzo’s crew, and from Coach Nudelman of the Navy Marathon team, who was crewing another runner.  Plus, even at that pace, I was still getting passed by a lot of runners – as I said, extremely competitive field.  My crew had gotten into a pretty good rhythm of frequently stopping to cold-mist me, put new ice in my hat and my bandana, sponge me, swap out my Gatorade bottles, and pass me food . . . when they weren’t taking photos, texting, or tweeting.  Between Chris, the driver and “the IT guy,” and Jackie, whose prolific Facebooking earned her the title of “social media expert,” no part of this epic journey was going undocumented.  Meanwhile, Shannon was organizing/coordinating/herding the crew stops.  All systems were decidedly “go.”
Shannon and Jackie, keeping me hydrated and cool on the way to Furnace Creek - that's Oswaldo Lopez, just ahead of me.
Predictably, the section from Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells got a little rough.  The temperature was climbing, and the fast early pace was taking its toll.  I started slowing, and reached the point, around the 50K mark, where I stopped, leaned over, and dry-heaved several times.  No big deal.  I backed off the pace a little bit, and kept moving forward, per my strategy this year to make constant forward progress at just about any cost.  I had intermittent pacing help from Shannon here, packing a water gun to keep me cool in between mistings.  I told them that my goal was to make it to Stovepipe Wells, the 42-mile mark, (a) within 7 hours, and (b) feeling reasonably good.  As I rolled through Stovepipe Wells about 10-15 minutes ahead of my 7-hour schedule, I felt good about my progress.

Holding it together in the heat on the way to Stovepipe Wells.

Then came Townes Pass.  I knew this was going to be a tough, brutal grind, but I hadn’t anticipated just how bad the headwind was going to be.  (Maybe the tailwind at the beginning of the race should have given me a clue . . .)  Fortunately, our crew had matching sunglasses for the day, and clear glasses for the night, so at least dry eyes weren’t going to be a problem.  But this was by far the stiffest, most suffocating wind in this part of the course that I had ever faced.  (It also didn’t need to include Collin shouting “Falls Road sucks!” from his crew vehicle as they passed me, but that’s another story.)  It was bad enough that I stopped a couple of times on the way up, for about 20-25 minutes total, to collect myself before going on.  Some people passed me here, but I wasn’t terribly worried, because I knew I had a long downhill coming, and plenty of legs to catch people on the downhill.  Plus, Jackie was serenading me on the way up, with songs like "You Are The Wind Beneath My Wings," which, silly as it was, did lift my spirits a bit.

Marching up Townes Pass, crew in tow.
And sure enough, on the backside of the pass, I was motoring along, happy to let gravity work for me for a change, and passing people with reckless abandon.  Before I knew it, I was at Panamint Springs, terrible place that it is, about 14.5 hours into the race, with another 63 miles to the finish.  As I said a few times about last year’s race, if I could just put two good “halves” of the race together, I could have an awesome finishing time.  But in this case, that would mean dropping a 14-hour run from there to the finish, just as I did last year, right after pushing hard enough to get there that fast in the first place.  I was a little nervous . . .

Blazing down the backside of Townes Pass, into Panamint Springs - long-exposure, light-speed style.
Because, recall from previous years that Panamint Springs had been the site of my lowest points.  I was determined not to let that happen this year, so I told my crew we were not stopping there for any period of time if we could help it, and I kept chugging through.  They soon caught up to me, and while I was less aggressive on the road to Darwin this year, I kept making progress.  At this point, it was solidly night, and COLD.  As in, 50-ish degrees.  But also moonless, which made the stars even more visible, much to Chris’s delight – he got some awesome night-sky pictures, which may have made up for the fact that, for once, it was too dark when I passed Father Crowley overlook to get any good pictures there.

There are stars over Death Valley, too.
I was doing my best to take advantage of the cool temperature and darkness and pick up the pace (also, moving fast enough so as not to freeze was sort of a factor), and gradually, I started passing people.  By the time I reached Darwin, the 90-mile mark, I was in 17th place (by some report, anyway).  I felt mostly disheartened by this news.  Here I was, on track for a mid-28-hour finish (if I could pull off the second half of the race that I thought I could), and I was still that far back.  But then again, my primary goal was to finish under 30 hours, and I could at least achieve that. So I decided to focus on that.

As I headed from Darwin to Lone Pine, a 32-mile trek, the sun came up, the temperature became briefly pleasant (on its way to being brutally hot again), and Jackie Choi (aka “Jackie Joy”) started hopping out of the car to pace me.  Jackie is always sunny and smiley, and the rhythm of her footsteps behind me kept me locked in to a comfortable running pace. In this section, I told both her and Shannon as they paced me that this was the section of the race where magical things can happen, since everybody is getting tired, and by making slow, steady progress, and being patient, you can gradually pass a lot of people.

And sure enough, patience and persistence paid off.  At this point, the only runners ahead of me were from the 10 am wave, so every pass moved me up a place.  And wouldn’t you know it, Dean Karnazes was just ahead as we were nearing the 100-mile mark.  Jackie hopped out to pace, wearing a sweater (still complaining of being cold), and carrying her cell phone, to both photo-document and play Deadmau5 to spur me on, while Shannon told me that Dean was dying, and I could take him down. I couldn’t have planned it better – we passed Dean, and his decidedly more serious-looking pacer, just as we crossed the 100-mile mark on the road, at around 20 hours and 40 minutes, a solid 100-mile race time itself, and Dean said to us “35 miles to go,” in a tone that suggested that we were stupid to have done what we just did.  But considering that I kept putting distance on him, I’d say it was a great move, and Jackie sure got a kick out of it.

Things of note, right to left: Dean Karnazes, his pacer, me, Jackie, 100-mile mark on the road.
We kept up the steady pace, and by the time we reached Lone Pine, we had passed several other runners, including the Fruitarian (who was on his back on a mat with his legs up on the rear bumper of his crew vehicle when we passed him).  I unofficially broke my PR for most miles run in 24 hours (I reached 118 miles just as my watch turned over to triple-zeros; previous best was 111).  In another nod to Jackie, I passed Sumie, the eventual first female finisher, ahead of Pam Reed, just before we reached the Lone Pine time station.  I had to go a little faster than I would have liked to make that last pass, but considering how patiently and effectively Jackie had been pacing me, even though we had already passed Dean together, I felt like I owed her another one.  At the Lone Pine time station, one of the volunteers actually recognized my Falls Road Racing jersey, and asked if I was from Baltimore, and I had my very brief moment of proudly representing, before I jay-ran, Baltimore-style, across Main Street and onto Portal Road, just to make sure that Sumie stayed behind me.

Then, the climb to Whitney Portal – 13 miles, lots of elevation gain, and, this time around, since I was finishing so fast, it was noticeably hotter than usual.  Normally, this is where I take off and do awesome things, but with the heat and all of the running I had done in the previous section, I felt totally flat on the climb.  All of Shannon’s water-gunning in the back and Jackie’s cheer wasn’t really helping, except to ensure that I had no excuse not to grit my teeth and resolve to put one foot in front of the other until I reached the top.  By the time I got to the 131-mile mark, the last time station, the temperature had dropped, and I had been marching up the climb for long enough that I actually felt as though I had fallen into a semblance of a rhythm.  And, with just a 4-mile “fun run” to cross off on the car (we had been crossing off each half-marathon as we passed the half-marathon marks), my mood improved significantly.  I was chatty, cheery, and coherent as I fell into a rhythm much more evocative of this section of the climb last year, and, with cell phones finally working again, I was feeding off of not only my crew’s excitement, but the excitement of the people at home.

Finally starting to smile in the final stretch of the climb to Whitney Portal .
And so, 28 hours, 31 minutes, and 50 seconds after I started this epic journey, replicating last year’s 14-hour Panamint-to-the-finish ending, I crossed the finish line with my crew, very pleasantly exhausted.  8th place overall, an amusing finishing place, considering that I wore an Aberdeen Ironbirds hat the entire time, and Cal Ripken, the owner of the Ironbirds, wore number 8 in his playing days with the Baltimore Orioles (and I make it a point to touch the number 8 Cal Ripken statue in front of Camden Yards every time I run there).  But most importantly, a sub-30-hour finish, and a top-10 finish – both of my admittedly lofty goals for the race achieved.  Everybody commented on how coherent and capable of moving under my own power I seemed, compared to the people who finished near me, which probably means that there is room for improvement (isn’t there always?), but all I wanted at that point was to use a real bathroom, put on dry clothes, lay down for a while, and somehow fix the contact lens that rolled back into my eye (as I type this, it’s still back there, somewhere). Little things. J

Heaven on earth. (Also, as I was later informed, an excuse for others to take "dirty" pictures of us in our compromised position.)
My crew and I hung around the finish line for what seemed like a very short time to me, but was actually several hours, sunning ourselves on rocks, eating the remaining junk food that we bought for the race (who knew that we had that much beef jerky?), and cheering for the finishers that came in behind me.  I felt a little too dazed to be useful. Eventually, we headed back down the mountain into Lone Pine, to tend to the cuts, scratches, blisters, and general filth that we had accumulated during our adventure.  I barely remember the Mexican food that I ate for dinner at the food cart in front of our hotel, but I’m pretty sure it was awesome (and now that my appetite is returning, I wish that I had some more).  It was definitely awesome that they gave me a free pineapple Jarritos for running the race.

Even after writing all of that, and having a day to think about everything, this is all still unbelievable to me.  Obviously, I’ve trained hard for a long time, and I knew that I was capable of this performance, but to finally have everything come together, and to make it happen, is a totally different thing.  Most of all, I’m overwhelmed by all of the support and well-wishing from family and friends, and I am beyond thankful for all of it.  I can’t possibly thank everybody here, but I do want to mention a few – my awesome crew for this race, of course (Chris, Shannon, and Jackie), my crew from the previous two years (Andrew, Sara, and Jason), without which I wouldn’t have had the experience to do what I did at this race this year, all of the people who donated to CAF, whose names/slogans were on the back of my jersey the entire race (and didn’t run a bit, even with the constant misting, thanks to the magic of fabric markers), Meg H for dutifully watching my cats, Meg D and Pete at the Falls Road Running Store for overnighting me the sweet kicks for my race, Golden Harper, founder of Altra, for the shoes, my beautiful girlfriend Tina for her unwavering emotional support, and my mom, dad, and sisters, for always being there for me.  And if I didn’t list you here and you feel slighted, feel free to call me out on it – there’s just so much to process right now (including, amusingly enough, 135 text messages on my cell phone after the race, once I got service back) that I’m not even sure that this 3000-word essay covers it.

But the last thing I will say, before I move on (to some sort of food, most likely), is that everybody I’m thanking here and elsewhere is a motivation, inspiration, and source of energy for me to run the way I run.  Keep it coming – I’m determined to keep on raising the bar!

EPILOGUE:  Our crew’s sleep-deprived post-race trip back to Las Vegas is practically a blog post in and of itself.  But the short version is that after many, many photo stops between Lone Pine and Las Vegas, and one very clutch In-N-Out stop, we arrived at the Vdara in Las Vegas with our baggage jumble, only to find that our bathroom reeked of cigarette smoke – in a supposedly smoke-free hotel.  Naturally, we complained, and asked for an upgrade, and the next room that they gave us . . . reeked of marijuana smoke.  One more complaint and one round of uncontrollable laughter later, we were in an excessively awesome room, with a view of the Bellagio fountain, a stainless-steel refrigerator and dishwasher, and robes for maximum enjoyment of lounging, champagne-toasting, and re-living the experience.  An appropriately surreal end to a delightfully surreal experience.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Catching Up - Badwater Preview

Yes, it's been pretty quiet in my little corner of the blogosphere this past month, ostensibly as I prepare for Badwater.  So what's been up?  (A question more for myself than for you, although if you have something to share, feel free to comment . . .)

In spite of a "weak" June (316 miles, 100 of which were accumulated during the Old Dominion 100), I reached the more-or-less-halfway point of 2012 (30 June) with 2,269 miles logged, averaging 84.04 miles per week, or just slightly over 12 miles per day.  Which is sort of neat-o, considering that in 2011, for the entire year, I averaged a little over 11 miles per day.  So if that were a goal of mine, I'm more or less on track, despite the recent decline.

That said, if you trace back 33 weeks (more or less the beginning of November 2011), the average actually goes up, to around 89 miles per week (after which it declines a bit).  Perhaps it's fair to say that after an extended period of pretty high volume, my body has been looking for an extended taper, which is essentially what the month of June was.

But that's all training numbers, for whatever they're worth (which is sometimes not much).  Both MMT and Old Dominion went far better for me this year than they did last year (9 hours better, and an hour and a half better, respectively), probably in part due to increased fitness, but also in part due to better race strategy.  And since race strategy has been my weakness in my previous two runs at Badwater, if lessons learned from previous years, and recent strategic success in 100-mile races this year, mean anything at all, I'm in far better shape this year than I have been previously.

But all of the above is talk - come race day, anything can (and very well may) happen.  The bottom line, then, is that, all of the above aside, I'm excited to take another shot at this monster, and hopefully continue with the momentum that I had at the end of last year's race.

With that, you can follow me on the Badwater website (http://www.badwater.com/) - they'll be tracking everybody on race day.  And there's still time to donate to CAF in support of my run at Badwater, in recognition of which I will write your name, or whatever you want, in the Sharpie color of your choice, on the shirt that I'll wear during the race.  Donate here:

http://adventurecorps2012.kintera.org/davidploskonka

. . . and stay tuned for the more-exciting-than-it-probably-should-be conclusion!