How long have you been running and what got you into ultra running?
Been running since I was about 12. It was mostly just to get out of the house and suburban Ohio in the 80′s was quite boring. That and I enjoyed the dynamic aspect of swimming so much when I was younger; running offered a dryer and more social alternative.
Tell me about your experience at the Copper Canyon race with the Tarahumara runners?
That was one of the more epic of my adventure explorations. It was unique to be an obvious minority among one of the most interesting, and peaceful, cultures I’ve ever experiences. Similar to the Indians of ‘back woods’ Costa Rica I met during The Coastal Challenge.
The Tarahumara and Raramuri really honor the concept of ‘korima’ which is essentially karma. They’ll give and give and be extraordinarily polite, expecting nothing in return, but knowing it will come back to them if they are in need.
Quite a concept that I haven’t witnessed anywhere else in my global treks and certainly diametric to the standard in developed countries.
I hear that the Tarahumara runners use the mythical Chia seed, have you used it?
Yes, Chia seed is the same as the Cha- Cha- Cha- Chia pets we all (or was it just me) had when we were younger. It’s quite high in essential oils like Omega 3, and also contains a lot of energy in form of those oil and carbohydrate. They are quite high in vitamins and minerals.
How does one qualify to Badwater?
There is an entry form in which you basically qualify in one of a few ways. The most common is having a lengthy background in endurance sports and also more specifically one has to finish 3 100 miles runs, one within the same year as Badwater. There is still no guarantee you will get in as there is a committee that selects you. Doing ok, like top 10, in those 100 mile races will increase the likelihood of acceptance.
Tell me about your fitness routine and how you prepare for the Badwater race.
It’s dynamic throughout the year. Running is my staple as you need the volume and nothing can replace that. I also through in quite a bit of swimming, Bikram yoga, cross-fit and cycling. Cross training is essential and keeps things interesting. I’ve found that just running can be boring.
What kind of supplements do you take during an ultra race?
Primarily only Vitargo. It is the ONLY University proven effective fueling and recovery fuel. It is quite superior to any form of maltodextrin or simple sugars (mono or di sacharides). Once I was introduced to it I use nothing else.
What time are you going for this race?
I’d sorta like to finish before midnight of Day 2 but I’ll take 2 am on Day 3 as that is 40 hours.
What motivated you to start running ultras?
I got bored and burnt out with the monotony of triathlons. Ultra’s offer miles and miles of exploring far off and secluded trails that most people don’t get to see, including mountains, swamps, beaches and even rainforests.
What keeps you going at mile 92?
I don’t know, probably just something inside that says keep going. I mean if one isn’t severely injured, only a real woose would drop due to plain ole fatigue, because they’re not winning or some similarly lame excuse. If you start something, finish it.
Please share you best and worst experiences during a race
Worst experience was around mile 38 when it was 125 degrees, I thought I was on another planet and reports have it people were asking me questions like what I wanted to drink and I answered in numbers like “oh, 6:30″. I also couldn’t fathom 100 or so more miles but figured I’d get there someday. Time really really slowed down and it felt like I ran those few miles over few days.
Best experience was cresting Towns pass and not only have a down hill but also a temp drop of 30 degrees. It was literally night and day and my mile pace went down nearly 80%. Both my pacer Jamil and I were maxed out doing nearly sub 6′s. That feeling lasted nearly 30 miles so we also ran the whole way up Father Crowly grade.
Another low point was going up the Whitney portal road. For some reason I thought I had 8 or so people a 1/4 mile behind me (they were over an hour) and I kept swearing and running! That paranoia probably cut a mile off my pace as I only walked when I absolutely couldn’t run. My pacer Dean ‘reminded’ me that I was walking every time I stopped running which was another motivating (if not irritating) factor, but that’s what pacers are for. Like a verbal cattle prod.
Finishing was an insane feeling of accomplishment, looking out east over the desert and that long black strip of pavement we traversed for 135 miles and just under 28 hours.
Best race you’ve run?
I’ve had a few good triathlons and stage races but I’d have to say this was my most grueling and well executed race of my life. It will never be forgotten. My crew was a big, if not THE most integral part of that experience!
At 135 miles with 120 plus degree heat and 20,000 ft elevation gain, why Badwater?
It doesn’t get any harder. I mean really, what’s next?
Editors note: This was Marks 1st time racing Badwater. He completed the race in the very fast time of 27 hours 48 minutes, and finished in 6th place. Crewing Badwater has exposed to me the awesome power of the human spirit and our ability to accomplish unfathomable acts of athleticism. When there is a will, there is a way!!