Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Badwater Ultramarathon (Part II)

Some more details about the Badwater Ultramarathon race:

The start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at 280’ (85m) below sea level. The race finishes at the Mt. Whitney Portals at 8360' (2533m).

The Badwater course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 13,000’ (3962m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 4,700’ (1433m) of cumulative descent. Here is the elevation profile of this race:

As if a 135 miles (217km) run is not challenging enough just by itself, the athletes are running in the Death Valley which is a very unfriendly (not to say hellish) environment in July, when this yearly competition is held. The temperatures rise up to 130F (55C).

Do not get me wrong - I do not plan to ever do it myself. I am just amazed at men and women that have guts - strength, endurance and above all unquenchable determination - to do it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Badwater Ultramarathon

I have always associated the marathon with an ultimate test of human physical and mental capabilities. Running 26 miles (42 km) without a stop, and running it fast! No wonder that the guy that did it first of all in ancient Greece collapsed and died after he ran from the town of Marathon to Athens to deliver the message about Greek victory.

No doubt marathon is very challenging and relatively few people dare to do it. But I have found out lately that it is clearly not challenging enough for certain folks. Many of the top devoted to the long-distance running athletes participate in the Badwater Ultramarathon.

The Badwater Ultramarathon is one of the most difficult running races in the world; covering 135 miles (217 km) and 13,000 feet (4,000 m) of elevation gain nonstop from the bottom of Death Valley over three mountain ranges up to the 8,500 mark on Mt. Whitney.

And even this is not a limit!
In 2005 Dean Karnazes ran 350 miles (563 km) straight, nonstop. It took him 80 hours and 44 minutes, eating on the run, no sleeping. His crew calculated that he ate something like 40,000 calories and drank nine gallons (34 liters) of liquid during these 80 hours.

In September 2006 Dean is about to run 50 marathons in each of 50 states in 50 consecutive days…

“The human body is an amazing machine; if we just can get beyond our perceived limitations, I think we can achieve more than we ever thought possible.” - Dean Karnazes

“There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is being superior to your previous self.” - Tim Twietmeyer

Saturday, June 03, 2006

X-MEN & standing out in the crowd

We watched X-MEN III today. Cool special effects, but no happy end after all :-)

There was one thing that resonated with me though in this movie. It might sound slightly funny but I found a lot in common between why folks enjoy movies like X-MEN, and why folks run marathons.

All movies about people’s super-natural powers like X-MEN or Batman or Spiderman or Superman are based on the same human weakness. Most of us want deep inside to be special, to stand out in the crowd, which is totally natural taking into consideration today’s highly-competitive environment.
There are a lot of different ways to stand out in the crowd. It might be by means of being the first and the best in something. It might be through being different from others. Or striving to be different not being able to be the first.
Here what folks buy in the movies about people with super-natural powers:
There is an ordinary guy – a student or a clerk – usually shy and in ugly glasses to emphasize his mediocrity. Just like one of us.
And all of a sudden – even for himself – he starts to speak foreign languages or show miracles of martial arts or telekinesis. He becomes mysterious and unique. And preferably – just like in X-MEN or Spiderman movies – it happens without years of every-day heavy trainings and asperity. Not the rocky road of Cinderella-man or Rocky Balboa – this is far less exciting and alluring – too much sweat.
For us – for grownup’s – such dreams might be hidden and less evident. But who did not have them when a teenager?

When it comes to martial arts, or a marathon running, or mountain biking, or … (the list might be quite long), the roots are often the same: to be unique, to stand out in the crowd, to be different and better than people around.
It is like, although I will never be able to compete with professional athletes capable to run all 26 miles at around 5:30 pace, I will be one of few people around capable to do it, or at least will be capable to do it better than many of them.
That is our motivation is more than just a sense of achievement, but rather standing out in the crowd – sometimes even more inwardly (in my mind) than in front of other people…