I stayed up till about 2am last night waiting for an email. I was like some loved up teenager waiting for a call. I guess with this kind of thing I am still a teenager, I don't really have the experience. In the few hours of sleep I got last night I had a strange dream that I got to the start late because my flight was delayed. I did not miss the start but I arrived 2 hours early having already been awake for more than 24 hours. Not the best preparation for a race like this though I suspect that I won't sleep that much in the days leading up to it.
Around 7am I woke up and picked up my phone. An email from "Badwater Race Office" that started with the word "Congratulations!" made me feel a bit sick. I thought about catching up on the sleep that I had missed (I took a day off work today) but I clearly was not going to get back to sleep. Plus there was some urgency to the email. I have a week to sign and send forms, pay for the race and book hotels. I don't really like having to move quickly, which is why I enter these races.
There was a competitive element to getting into this race in the first place. I like to avoid competing against others but in this case I had to just to get to the start line. I only had my past ultra running experiences to put on the form and I had no idea whether this was enough. I read into the reasons why runners get turned away and worried. Not that there was anything I could have done about it. Part of the battle of the big and hard ultras nowadays is getting onto the start line.
- In preparing your application, keep in mind the standard reasons that generally lead to some applicants not being invited:
- The applicant only just met the minimum standards.
- The applicant’s credentials are only recent, i.e., not a seasoned ultra endurance athlete with a breadth of experience.
- The applicant’s credentials are only old, i.e. all or most of the credentials are from too long ago and may not reflect current ability.
- The applicant has no experience in extreme heat or on the Badwater course as a pacer.
- The applicant didn't "prove" his or her claims (i.e., they said they paced at Badwater, but no letter of recommendation was received, or they claimed they finished or won any number of major races, but didn't provide any proof of that).
- The applicant submitted a “thin” application - not only few qualifications were listed, but not much time was put into the preparation of the application itself. (Sometimes the applicant assumed "we've already heard of him/her" and therefore didn't provide the necessary details. Applicants should never assume we’ve heard of them or have heard of the events they mention in their application.)
- There are always A LOT of applicants, all "qualified," and thus some applicants must inevitably be turned away.
I worried about my experience only being recent, and the lack of heat experience.
I discovered that Mark Wooley had made it in too, as did a couple of other Brits I have made email contact with.
My sick feeling has given way to a nervous excitement. I have a LOT of work to do, planning a crew, flights and hotels. And of course the training. I can't do that today as my toe is still (probably not) broken. I also have to sign a form that says this;
I'll be ready.
This was what I put in the application form.
Why do you want to run the Badwater Ultramarathon?
It was hearing about this race 4 years ago that got me into ultra running. I have been thinking about this race since I first got sent a link to it what seems like an age ago. I was still a young runner who was concerned with plotting my next attempt to run 26.2 miles on a flat road in a temperate climate faster than I had done previously. I did this successfully a few times and the satisfaction was small and short lived. Getting marathon PB's and not really caring about them made me wonder whether I was in the right sport. The variety and challenges of ultra-running answered that question unequivocally. Ultra-running has liberated me from judging my running on what a man at the end with a stop-watch might say. I no longer let that guy decide whether I've had a good run or not, I do it myself. Ultra-running has put the fun back into the thing that I love and has given me personal experiences that I would not trade for the world. And like I said, it was this race that inspired the start of that journey.
The last three years have been an amazing journey, from my first ultra (45 miles in 2007) through to the Grand Union Canal Race (145 miles in 2008) and more recently the Spartathlon last year. What I love most about these races (though it usually is some time after when I fully appreciate it) is the way they try to break you down and stop you finishing. Whether it is the mountains and hills, the sun or the rain or just the sheer distance of it there is always something there that is trying to stop you getting to the finish. The greatest of victories is when you are smashed to pieces and on the floor in a race and it seems all but over. Then you hold onto yourself just enough to carry on moving. When you do things seem a little easier and you remember more why you are there in the first place. These are the experiences I want to take to the grave with me.
I have written about my running in my blog for the past 3 years. I write more to preserve the memories than for anyone else but hope that you get a chance to read it.
So back to the original question in why I want to run Badwater. Aside from my 4 year obsession mentioned above I feel that this is the only "step up" for me. Having finished the Spartathlon last year I don't believe there are many more races out there that are harder to finish and hence will give me those physical and emotional breakdowns which I crave.
I am now confident that I will finish this race but am fully aware of the fact that it will take more that I have had to give before. Races like the GUCR and Spartathlon have taught me that I can rely on things that I don't even know I have at the start line. I love starting a race feeling "ready" but not entirely sure how I'm going to get through it.
People keep asking me "how will you train for something like that". Fact is I don't know. I know I can run for 40+ hours, I know I can run well over 100 miles in one go, into night and day and night and through pain. However I'm not entirely sure, after 35 miles of Death Valley when my body and brain are fried from the heat and I am struggling to remember who I am and why I am stood at the side of a molten road with 100 miles to go, how I will deal with that. But I know I'll think of something.