Transcript of interview with Glen Redpath during Episode 12 (July 25, 2013)
C259: Glen arrived back in New York today from sunny California. I’m sure you didn’t get sick of the sunshine during Badwater, did you Glen?
Glen: No not at all.
C259: Glen, why don’t you give us a bit of a race report. High point of the race? Low point of the race? Tell us about it.
Glen: It’s such a hike when you actually get there, and you are at the starting line, and you look around, and most of the Badwater runners are celebrities. They’ve written books, they’ve set Guinness Book of World Records, they’ve done things. Some of them are CEOs. It’s sort of a media circus right from the get-go. Early on I was running with David Goggins and I was running with Dean Karnazes and it was kind of cool, it was neat to be around there and there were a lot of people snapping photos and stuff. It’s really hyped a lot. I think that whole beginning and running with those guys is a high point, and the final high point is always the finish. When you cross that line and you are at Whitney Portal, it is just so pretty and beautiful and you are just so happy to be done.
As far as low points, you don’t realize how how hot it is until you are in to it. At ten or 15 miles, all of a sudden that heat starts baking. You feel like a roast, cooking from the inside out, it’s just insane. When we pass mile 42 at Stovepipe and we started running up to Towne’s Pass, there’s this head wind. People talked about it, but once I felt it, it literally feels like a hair dryer, one of those super huge hair dryers blowing in your face. It’s just pushing you down, and you are thinking about running and you don’t even want to walk. I pushed up that 5,000 foot climb, and when I got close to the top, one of my crew members said you should probably take in some calories because you are going to be running downhill. I quickly ate one of those Mojo Cliff Bars, popped in some salt tablets, and then he said you probably should take some caffeine now because it’s getting dark. I drank half a can of Coke. I walked away from the van and within 30 seconds it all came back. I was just wobbling on the side of the road, and was like “Oh my God, all those calories are gone.” Made it to the top and then I started running, but that was definitely a low point for me.
C259: About what mile mark was that?
Glen: Probably about 57, 58. I wasn’t even half way.
C259: It’s interesting that you were vomiting, and your concern is that you’ve lost the calories. I might be concerned that I’d keel over at the point, but it’s interesting how aware you have to be of the inputs and the outputs when you are running that thing.
Glen: You don’t want your stomach to close down on you, so I was thinking “Oh my God will I be able to take in more calories?” It became liquid calories for a long time.
C259: But you were able to keep everything down after that?
Glen: Yeah, not a problem. With the temperature going down that really helped. By the time we got to Towne’s Pass, it was close to midnight and it was about 77 degrees, so it really dropped as the sun went down and as the elevation went up.
C259: Did it ever get much colder? You had said in previous years that it had gotten into the mid-40s at some points.
Glen: Yeah, it didn’t get that low.
C259: We were surprised, we were tracking you the whole time on the website. You had talked about being an experienced ultra-marathoner and you take your time early on and that you tend to bag runners later in the race. But you went out – you were up there around 8th place at the first checkpoint?
Glen: I was just running my normal race, I wasn’t trying to race or pace, I was just running comfortably. We got to that first checkpoint and I was feeling fine. It was shortly after that that I realized my breathing, my heart rate was really spiking. I tried to slow the running down, and my pacer Ian Sharman basically said, Glen you need to walk. I was on this flat area and not really wanting to walk, but he’s telling me we should walk. I started to walk and I checked my heart rate and it was 145. It was the hottest part of the day, it was around 124 degrees, I’m walking, my heart rate is 145, and I want to slow down. I want to keep my heart rate low, and I can’t get it down.
C259: What was Ian’s cue? You say your heart rate was up, but was there something about the way you were moving or his experience that tipped him off?
Glen: I think he was listening to my breathing. I think he asked me what my heart rate was and I sort of told him.
Glen: He was just like, you are working way to hard, and it’s way to early. He kept saying over and over, “These guys are all going to come back. They are all going out way too hard.” He knew, he knew. He had been there the year before so he had an idea of what was going on. I was reluctant to do the walking but I did it and it definitely helped me later.
C259: It really paid off because you had one of the fastest if not the fastest segment at the end of the race.
Glen: Yeah. It’s funny because when I actually broke it down, I broke it into 45 mile sections, the first 45, the second 45, and the third 45. I was actually pretty even on all of them. I actually ran close to 10 hours for the first, 20 hours for the combination of the first two, and then 30 for all three. Tony [coach Tony Ruiz of Central Park Track Club] would be proud of that, the 10-10-10.
C259: So you were as high as eighth and may have been higher than that early on, then you dropped back to as low as 23rd, then you boomeranged right back and worked your way back through some legends of Badwater, including Dean Karnazes and Pam Reed. Tell us a bit about that part of the race where you started to pick people off.
Glen: Once I got over Towne’s Pass and I was running downhill and I got to the next big checkpoint at Panamint, it was nighttime and it had cooled off. It was down in the 70s, and that’s the kind of place that I like to run. The hills, I’m a climber and I actually do well in the hills. I caught most of them running up from Panamint up to Darwin, which is another 3,500 foot climb. You had asked when I passed Dean, I passed Dean in there somewhere, and he was literally chatting with a woman that he was running with, who ended up third overall, I think she was from North Carolina. I just kept on moving.
C259: So he wasn’t eating pizza, he was chatting. How aware were you of your time goal over the last several miles?
Glen: Well I hadn’t really thought about it. I just kept thinking get to the next checkpoint. When I got to Lone Pine I needed to sit down, because the second day it got hot again. Coming into Lone Pine it was 101 or 102, which seems cool compared to the 124, but it was still roasting me so I sat down and they put a 20 pound bag of ice in my lap. When I left I knew it was possible I could get under 30. When I hit the last checkpoint, they told me I had to run the last 4 miles in under an hour to break 30, and I still had a 3,000 foot climb in there, so I just put the pedal to the metal and tried to run most of it.
C259: At that stage is it some combination of exhaustion and euphoria? With just four miles left, even though it’s a big uphill, it must seem like not much when you’ve already done 131.
Glen: We’re talking three or four o’clock in the afternoon. The sun is still out, and there are people around so they can see what you are doing, but I’m pretty much locked into my head. I’m not really aware of everything else, I’m just trying to put one foot in front of another. At this point [my crew] are carrying my bottles. I’m not carrying anything. I’m just moving, trying to move as quickly as I can. I’d come around the corner and my crew would be there. I had them meet me every half mile during the daylight and when it was hot. You are out there, you are alone, and they’re your cheering support, they were spraying me with ice water, as much as I needed to keep my body cool. They had these plant sprayers, industrial sized ones, and I’d come around and they’d just squirt me on the arms, and the head, and the torso to keep me cool. That’s the only way to do it, is the ice water. No one could do this without a crew. The crew is the key component to everybody running these things.
C259: What was the biggest surprise of the race? You were spot on with your goal, you’ve done lots of long runs before, though never Badwater. Was there anything that caught you off guard or surprised you in the race?
Glen: In that one section early on, when I was walking and not having a good time, there was an Australian runner who was behind me. He caught up to me, and we chatted with him. He actually got in front of us and he stopped and he walked. We matched his stride, stride-for-stride. After a minute he started running again. I watched him and I was enamored with the fact that he had this really efficient walking stride, and he wasn’t that fast but he just really was tenacious and kept on moving. That fella [Grant Maughan] ended up running through the field as well, and he finished second. When he caught me he was probably in 15th. He was just really really efficient and tenacious and kept moving. Later I found out that even though he was an Australian runner, he was being privately coached by Lisa Smith-Batchen, who is a five or six-time finisher of Badwater, so he really got all the tips and tricks and he figured them all out way in advance. A veteran runner at Badwater has a huge advantage over the rookies, because the rookies just don’t know what they are in for.
C259: That begs the question: You did so well as a rookie, does that mean you are going to come back?
Glen: I know I could do a couple of hours faster, but it’s not my event. This was a stretch for me. I’m more of a trail ultra specialist. I don’t mind the climbs, but there was a lot of pavement. Guys, I mean 135 miles of asphalt, it was long and it was hard. I’d love to go back. I’d love to go back and pace and crew, but there are other challenges out there for me. It was a big time commitment and financial commitment as well to do Badwater. I don’t regret it, it was a great experience, but I don’t think I’m going to go back and do it again.
C259: You are not afraid of the heat, so I guess given how well you performed in the heat, a long trail run in a really hot climate would suit you just right.
Glen: There’s one in Morocco you may have heard of.
C259: Through the desert? Marathon des Sables?
Glen: Yeah, it interests me.
C259: You’ll have to come on the show before you run that one.
Glen: Would love to. You know about that one?
C259: A week long race through the desert?
Glen: Yeah, it’s a 160-mile event through the desert, in stages. You are self-sufficient, so you have to carry all your own gear.
C259: And no crew.
Glen: No crew. That’s the thing about Badwater. You rely on your crew, but they really have to love you. It’s a tough chore to ask people to come out there and be a part of. If your day is not on, and you’re doing a lot of nasty ugly things, that second day can get nasty.
C259: Well Glen we were totally inspired. Thank you for doing that race. It helped me get through two extremely hot lunch runs, it was very hot here in New York too at the time, and there was no excuse not to go out and pound the pavement for one hour, knowing that you were doing it for thirty. It was very inspirational. Gregg and I were watching, and it was an interesting experience in itself to try to track Badwater purely from the Internet.
Glen: There’s really no Internet service out there. It’s really the desert, you are nowhere near a town until mile 122, so they were trying to do different little things but it was hard, so I thank you guys for trying to follow!
C259: All in all, big picture I think it worked out alright. There were a lot of complaints because the site wasn’t updating at various stages during the race, particularly towards the end of the race, and of course people were worried sick about their loved ones because they were out in the desert running 135 miles, but all in all, given the limitations, I think the organizers did a pretty good job of keeping people in the loop. We were able to track you, and it made for one or two interesting days at work.
Glen: That’s the beauty of a Monday/Tuesday event versus a Saturday/Sunday event.
C259: When are we going to see you in practice Glen?
Glen: Next Thursday I’ll be there.
C259: Oh fantastic, look at that. How about club champs? Can you jump in the club champs?
Glen: No no no. No turnover. Five miles, that’s short. I’m as slow as a turtle.
C259: You can run it in the Badwater suit, so people will know.