Editor's note: This is the third part in a series of stories following Granite Bay ultrarunner Greg Bomhoff's preparation for the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley on July 11.
Training for a singular race such as the Badwater Ultramarathon, 135 miles through Death Valley and into the Sierra, involves more than logging major mileage over many months, more than devising extreme and bizarre ways to acclimate to the heat, more than dealing with mundane logistical details.
You also have to do your homework.
"Hours and hours," said Greg Bomhoff, the Badwater rookie from Granite Bay. "Studying is what I like. I'm looking for specific information. I want to know what everyone's drinking. Where (on the course) they're stopping. Where the crew finds ice. I mean, it's that little stuff, too. By the time the 90th runner comes through, and everyone's buying 10 bags of ice, is there any left? Ice is your lifeline. I think about that kind of stuff."
As he should, say Sacramento-area Badwater veterans Ray Sanchez and Brian Recore. Got to read up. Got to have a plan.
And yet, the two say, there's nothing like experiencing the course to fully grasp the challenges involved. Even Sanchez, an elite ultrarunner at distances beyond 100 miles, has yet to fully solve the riddle of fueling and hydration unique in a climate that literally melts the soles of runners' shoes.
"I've had a lot of problems losing weight because of my nutrition during the race," said Sanchez, a Sacramento resident. "I've lost anywhere from 8 to 12 pounds in the first 40 miles (all three years he's raced). I'm working on getting it right this year."
Sanchez's time of 38 hours, 59 minutes last year was an hour slower than his debut in 2008, dehydration and a queasy stomach slowing him. Based on other 100-mile-plus races in which Sanchez has competed, he figured he should finish Badwater in less than 30 hours. He hopes a new fueling strategy, which will include more intake of protein, will make a difference.
Recore, who recently moved from Yuba City to San Diego, was one of Sanchez's crew members for two years before debuting last year. He learned what might work for him from watching Sanchez struggle.
"With Ray, it was either too much or too little, salts or waters, and he really pushed his exertion levels," Recore said. "When it came time to me, it was, 'OK, I got to keep to this plan and listen to my body.' Ray can push through his body in tough times. I can't. So I knew to slow down."
Pacing and drinking prudently resulted in a 39-hour, 11-minute finish for Recore a solid debut.
"I don't think it could've been better for my first (Badwater)," Recore said. "I had no problem with nutrition or hydration or the heat. It was just a matter of getting from Point A to Point B."
That is the ultimate goal, after all, for Bomhoff, who is running to raise funds for Franklin Elementary School in Loomis.
He says he welcomes all input, knows he needs to drink enough water to prevent dehydration but keep electrolyte levels high enough to avoid hypo- natremia (too much water, not enough sodium), take in enough protein and carbohydrates to "keep the muscles from cannibalizing themselves" and douse himself enough to keep his temperature in the normal range.
"I think I adapt well to the heat, because I've won four of the five races I've done when (the temperature is) 90 or above.
"I've read a ton of race reports from men and women who've won the race to get a feel for it. But you know what they say: Everyone is an experiment of one."