Every year, I run in a team relay called Baker to Vegas. It's a 120 mile relay challenge pitting law enforcement agencies from all over the world. This year, 250 teams from as far as Canada, the UK, and Australia showed up to run on a little two lane road in the middle of nowhere (that's a total of 5000 cops) near Death Valley National Park. There's a reason they call it Death Valley.........
For ten years I've been running and every year I swear I'm retiring. And, every year, like the swallow's returning to Capistrano, I end up doing it. But this year was different because I meant it. And it wasn't until a mere 3 weeks before the race that I was asked to run due to injuries on the team.
Damn..... First training run felt like someone beat me with a stick. I couldn't even walk from the living room to the fridge for a beer. Then, I crashed on my bike and did no running until 3 days before the race, and that was on the treadmill in an air conditioned room with a 50" wide screen TV (1080dpi w/surround sound-no suffering in the gym!).
Race day! I drive out to the start, which is actually below sea level. I've never run this leg, but how bad can it be? It's flat; not like the mountain legs I usually run. The temps aren't too bad; 86 degrees with a light breeze. Unless it's 86 in the desert (which feels like 95) and the breeze is actually a sustained 20 mile an hour headwind which makes me think of convection ovens.
I start pretty well, leading the pack at the 1 mile mark. At about 1.5 miles I notice a desert gremlin has stuffed my mouth full of cotton, depriving me of any moisture. Smack, smack, smack. Still another 1/2 mile til I pick up my support van.... By two miles, I have a white ring of spittle around my lips (gross, let me tell you) and I'm humming Christmas carols when my van pulls up along side.
"Do you need some water?" they ask? "Nope! I'm like a camel; that hump called my ass is actually where I store my water...." Duh! I start to alternate between drinking and pouring the water down my neck.
By mile 4, there's a slight rise in the road. Oh joy...... For some reason, I can't get Barry Manilow singing "Copa Cabana" out of my head; the desert is a cruel place.... Several times I start to throw up, but manage to keep it down because the infamy would be brutal.
At mile 5, it's the one mile to go marker. Along the route folks have pulled over to cheer runner's on. One person, someone's teenage son, yells out "You're too old for this...." He's right, but I yell back a string of obscenities at him that in reality probably sounds like a I've sustained major brain trauma.
Funny thing about the desert.... I could see the finish line, but it appeared to be moving away from me. Maybe it was the salt crystalizing on my eyes. Then, finally, I was in the gate, passing the baton off to the next runner while my 'catcher' and a medical staff member checked me over. The medical person was pretty damn sexy standing there with cold water. But, at some point, I read HIS name tag and realized how hard that run really was.......
So, now I'm home and retired (I swear it!) from running in the desert.
This photo is the start of my leg, which finished at about the base of those mountains......