Friday, January 11, 2013

Death Valley - Running Day 1

Badwater Basin.
At the start.
January 10 - Today I learned that the desert can be stinkin' windy. We left Pahrump, Nevada, at 5:15am for the hour and 45 minute drive to Badwater. As we drove, we realized that their was a strong wind outside as we went over Jubilee Pass and down into Death Valley. We arrived at Badwater at 7am, got out of the car and were immediately buffeted by the wind.

You've got to love pit toilets. I thought I would make use of the one there before we ran and soon ran into technical difficulty. It was so windy that when I threw my toilet paper down the hole it came right back up at me and landed on the floor. I tried again with the same result. Finally I threw it down and slammed the lid shut and that was that. 

We got our stuff together, took a few photos, and headed up the road by 7:30am. Even though it was just after daybreak, Badwater is tucked against the mountains on the eastern side of the valley so it took a long time before we actually saw the sun.

Fortunately the wind was behind us. The weather service was calling for 25-30 mile per hour sustained winds in the valley with gusts to 50mph. I believe we got it. It was nice having it behind us, but even with that it just felt like we were constantly getting beaten up. My muscles were constantly bracing against it.

The road from Badwater going north is definitely rolling with broad sweeping turns in it as it winds around the alluvial fans that come down from the mountains. There are also perfectly straight stretches that disappear into the distance. The scale of the valley is so grand that distances are very deceiving. This will be our flattest day of running but it definitely was not flat. There just aren't any steep climbs. The one climb was over two miles long but only rose a few hundred feet in elevation.

After about 17 miles we got into Furnace Creek, the first glimpse of civilization in the valley. We had been making decent time with the wind at our back, but weren't pushing it. In the distance in front of us we could see dust storms and virga (rain that doesn't reach the ground). I wasn't exactly looking forward to running through blowing dust worse than we had already run through, but what could we do? It was where we had to go. 

We stopped at Furnace Creek for about 20 minutes. There is a campground, general store, museum, park service office and some other things there. I got some iced tea in the store and we sat and ate a little food. Where we were was sheltered from the wind so it was a nice spot for a break.

It started to feel cold right before we left and as we ran off we discovered why. The wind had completely shifted 180 degrees and was now hammering us in the face. The temperature had probably dropped 10 degrees. Coming into Furnace Creek I was thinking about taking off my jacket because it was getting warm but now I wished I had gloves because I was cold.

Furnace Creek.
I have never run into wind that ferocious. The gusts were just ridiculous. At that time, I couldn't quite imagine doing that for another 17 miles. We did a lot more walking now, as it was just difficult to run when the road turned directly into the wind. Doug met us at about 21 miles and I got some Gatorade to take with me and we kept going.

Marvin's original plan had us stopping after 30 miles today. We had decided that we would probably go further, but we weren't sure how much further. I thought it was stupid to go further in that wind, but I shut up and decided I would do whatever the other two wanted to do. Doug met us again at mile 31 and we told him to meet us at the turn-off for Scotty's Castle at mile 34.

We finally got there, and after Marvin contemplated going another few miles, we finally jumped in the car and headed for our motel at Stovepipe Wells.

I feel relatively okay after one day. I thought the windburn might be worse than what it is. My hips are a little sore but it could be worse. Having said that, it will be tough to get up and do it again in the morning. I am looking forward to a good supper and turning in early.
Finally getting above sea level on the 2.5 mile climb.

Just got back from supper. The waitress put a birthday candle in my vanilla ice cream. The ice cream wasn't that good but it was still a good way to end the day.

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