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Dean Karnazes, the leader in ultrarunner, writes about his recent experience with Badwater 2009, a 135 mile race across the hottest terrain in the Untied States. He makes you reflect on what is truly important in life, and what it means to live life to its full capacity.
The 2009 Badwater Ultramarathon turned out to be much different than what I’d expected. How’s the saying go: “Want to make God laugh? Tell him about your plans.”
This was to be the year I really crushed it. My plans were to head out to Death Valley a week in advance of the event to heat acclimatize, something I’d never done before. Well, a day before my scheduled departure, my father goes in for a routine procedure and discovers he needs urgent heart surgery.
So, needless to say, there goes Badwater. But no, he insists I run. He tells me it means a lot to him. You see, he crewed for me during my first Badwater and been there ever since, seven finishes later. Knowing my eventual goal is to compile ten Badwater finishes, he tells me I must do it.
Eventually, after much mental debate, I decided to not withdraw from the event as I’d originally planned. However, I still want to be will him during surgery.
After his operation, I head to the desert, just a day in advance of the race, and a total wreck. Seeing my dad, my best friend, with huge lacerations in his chest and tubes and needles coming out of his body was more emotionally devastating than I could have ever imagined.
Complicating matters, the night before the race, as I’m sitting out in the middle of the desert, I get a call from my Mom. Dad had suffered post-surgical complications. Now I’m trying to decide whether to drive back to Southern California to be with my Dad, or still run Badwater tomorrow morning? Needless to say, my head really wasn’t in the game this year.
But my crew at Badwater was awesome. Lifting my spirits even further, I see many friends (including a few regular contributors to this blog: Mike, Vicky and Hung-Kwong), and make a few new friends along the course. Still, I can’t help but being preoccupied with thoughts about my father. During the race, I wanted to quit at several points. But my incredibly supportive crew helped me through these lows, reminding me that finishing the event is what my father wanted. It wasn’t my fastest Badwater—in fact, it was my slowest—but I did it for my Pops.
After the event, I got up early the next morning and headed back to see him. With finishers buckle in hand, we reunite. The man looks great. Rehab’s going to take some time, though he is a survivor. After slogging 135 miles across the desert, I guess I now know where I get some of it from.
Sunburnt but smiling,
For more information on Dean Karnazes go to: Dean's Blog