Monday, July 23, 2012

An Interview with Brian on Badwater 2012

Brian's pre race interview
1. You employ a unique nutrition system which is structured but not terribly calorically dense.  Describe this plan and how well you think it works for you in Death Valley, a place where everyone has to consume a large amount of water during the first 8-10 hours.

I have been working with a nutrition plan that focuses on getting the body to use fat as the main energy source instead of carbs.  I think I still have a long way to go on perfecting it.  It takes a lot of commitment outside of racing as it is a lifestyle change.  I have noticed benefits as far as weight loss and increased energy when I have really committed.  I have chosen to incorporate this diet along with the supplement Vespa ( as I have more focus and energy during the race.  This time I didn't even get tired.  And I don't have to eat as much, which means less chance of an upset stomach and better recovery times.  

Fuel replaced food during the race for Brian

2. Your two children wrote you several letters to be read along the way as part of the Recore family tradition of supporting you from home.  Describe the content and impact of these letters and how important they are to you to along the way.

They originally started this in my first big race, Brazil 135, and have continued it for each of the three Badwaters.  They always express words of love and encouragement.  The letters sometimes are more emotional and sometimes they are designed to just keep me focused on the goal.   I really enjoy them and even ask for when the next one will be during the race.  I always like to read them out loud so the crew can experience them too.  In these type of races, emotions are pretty raw and I recall a few times the letters brought tears to the entire crew.

Maya's letter for the start line
3. You paid a lot of money to do this race for the 3rd year in a row.  Does the cost of Badwater influence your interest in a return trip?  What would you do differently if you had a sponsor who gave you a $100,000 budget?

Overall I don't think I would do a lot differently.  I would treat my crew a little better.  Due to the cost, our accommodations tend to suffer to the point where we have to share rooms and people even sleep on the floor.  Sharing rooms is part of the race experience I think but I would make sure we all had rooms next to each other and all had a bed.  I would try and completely cover the crews costs and mine.  Lastly, I would give like to give more to a charity as this year I could only raise about $3,000.

Demonstrating proper crewmember sleeping position
Bring big toes to touch, eagle arms, bend knees...
4. Describe the recovery process from a 135 mile race.  How has your body dealt with the impact and duration of the effort on Monday and Tuesday.

I think by the training I have done and the supplements I use during the race and after I have a pretty fast recovery time physically.  Today is Friday (3 days post-race) and I went for a short 2.5 mile run with Blake, my daughter Maya (age 10), and our dog Jackson.  Sometimes I take a little time off from running and get a little more cross training in to help with the mental recovery.

Blake (L) and Brian (R) before the start
5. When did you experience your weakest moment and what brought you out of that state of mind?

This year I felt really focused even after my crew pushed me hard and my body was hurting.  The lowest point was probably the last 10 miles.  It took me a while but I think it just faded with the comedy encouragement from my crew.  I chose to get the last letter with 3.5 miles to go and it helped bring it on in.

Crew duties include massage
and foot care
6. How much did you think about your friends in the race with you?

Not a ton.  I do know a few people in the race that I have crewed for or they have crewed for me.  Others I have seen in different races.  It is nice to talk with them when we come in contact during the race.  I also have a friendly competition with Ray Sanchez, who I crewed for two years, so I might ask where he is.

Brian (L) and Ray (R)
7. You opted to celebrate at the bar after finishing, eating, and showering instead of sleeping.  How do you manage sleep deprivation so well.  Are there any tricks that you use that work well for you?  Do you use caffeine in any form?

I think during the race I had two 5-hr energies along with some Coke and Mtn Dew for caffeine.  After the race I don't use any caffeine.  I think the after-party is all part of the fun and something I look forward to.  I just suck it up and go out.  I can always sleep after or in the car on the way home.

Sleeping on the job
Tapping out
8. One of your crew members flew in from Japan to share this experience with you and one of your crew members had to leave early Tuesday necessitating a 4 hour drive on Sunday to shuttle his car.  A more selfish athlete might have opted for less troublesome crew members.  Why were you willing to be so flexible and did either of these two complications cause you extra stress?

It didn't cause me any extra stress at all.  We just incorporated it into the plan. I think it impacted them individually a little more.  Blake who flew in from Japan got in late which made the crew wait a little longer in leaving, resulting in us not arriving until midnight in Furnace Creek.  He also only had 15min from he arrived at my house to shower before we got on the road.  Dave had to leave early resulting in the crew to help shuttle the car and him getting up early.  I'm just thankful we all were flexible.  

Iso testing the water
9. What crew mistakes did you notice along the way?  Describe the times when your expectations were not met.  At one early exchange, you passed the car and nobody got out to check in with you.  How did that make you feel?

I didn't notice any mistakes.  I thought it was funny that you missed me that time because I was trying to get to the car faster to give you guys a hard time.  I heard you all were involved in deep conversation too.  We were going every .5 mile so it was no big deal.

It's hard to get a tan, living in Japan
10. Did you ever selfishly want your family at the finish line or in Lone Pine to share the post race emotions with?

Not really.  It is a time to celebrate as a team as completing the race is a team effort.  If I continue to do Badwater I would think about having them come for "crew support".  The role of a crew member is very demanding and I don't think it would be [fun] for all of them.  I like the idea, though, of having the kids run with me [for] a few miles on the course.

The team
11. You spoke with your wife on the phone just after the 100 mile point in the race.  Did she say something which helped you or was it just a nice break from the monotony of 135 miles on pavement?

She was glad to hear from me and know everything was ok.  She was encouraging but it was more a break from the monotony.  

The 100 mile letter
12. How different was the 3rd year than the second and the first?  What was unique and memorable other than the PR?

The biggest difference was that I had more of a plan, and I instructed the crew to enforce the plan.  I really enjoyed the party atmosphere the crew brought to things.  I know there were no issues in the car whatsoever. 

Crew chief Jason consults the plan
13. What are your plans for the future as far as racing is concerned?

I have a few races I'm thinking about for the winter but I am a both a head coach and assistant coach for the my kids soccer teams respectively.  For the past couple of years, I haven't done much racing in the fall because of the kids sports.

Assistant Coach

14. How do you use your experiences on the course as examples for the kids you coach and your own two children at home?

I try to convey than pain is experienced temporary and that pride in doing their best will last forever.

Reading the 100 mile letter
15. Did you worry about anything during the race?  How did you manage those feelings?

I didn't worry much about anything.  I was confident in my crew and our plan.
Brian isn't much of a worrier
However, I found stuff to worry about
Confident in these yahoos?  You sure?
16. How frequently did you pee and did you feel comfortable with that?  What was your average water consumption during the hot part of the day?  Would you have liked more or were you happy with what you were able to get down?

I was pretty happy with my water consumption. The plan was to consume 40-60oz of water an hour but that doesn't always happen. I would take an occasional soda or G2. When I started to get bloated I decided to take on more s caps (salt). I was happy to hear in Lone Pine that according to my weight I could even cut back on my fluids.

Peepee time
17. Were you surprised by anything this year?

Not really

I guess this is totally normal to see in the desert
18. Was there any specific performance that impressed you this year?

I was impressed by the first place runner, Mike Morton.  He almost broke the record.  When he passed me around mile 35 he ran past like he was someone just fooling around because he was running so fast.

Oswaldo, last year's champ, closes the 2 hour gap in start times
19. Do you think the conditions were in any way more favorable than prior years?  How did the heat compare to the two prior years?  How did the wind compare?

This year it was a little cooler.  I was hoping it would be warmer.  The wind was a pain in the ass.  It was really similar to last year with the wind.  It sucked just the same.

I thought it got a bit windy too
20. How much harder do you think an unsupported crossing would be?

It's doable but racing you need a great crew.

Marshall Ulrich knows a thing or two about how to do this
21. Did you ever consider hiking to the top of Whitney immediately after finishing?

I have for the past few years but haven't been able to get the permits.  I guess I haven't really tried really hard either.  I would consider it for sure but my goal is to finish under 30 hours. I think I will pay more attention to doing this extra distance when I can accomplish this goal.

14,505 feet looks intimidating to me
22. Do you feel any long term health effects from training and racing in the heat?

No, none whatsoever.

I suppose loss of fashion sense must not qualify as a long
term health effect?  Chris Kostman aka the race director.
23. You have a sauna and you have also trained with your treadmill in a room heated to 130F.  Describe how important this type of preparation is to race day performance.

It helped me sweat better and helped me communicate my needs to my crew.

Sauna time with daddy
24. You ran up Stanley Peak in a wetsuit and hoodie as part of your training.  How did that compare to race day?

I actually used a suit from  It is very wetsuit like.  I think the training with the suit helps a lot in the off season. It really kicks up the stress a level or too. Anytime I can simulate similar stressful situations like in the race the better.

Stress?  This isn't stressful...

25. How hard are the climbs in this course compared to a regular trail ultra like SD100?

I think all hills are tough.  I hate them equally.  In Badwater though the hills are much longer than most trail runs.  These hills are about 17, 11, and 13 miles long.

It's a little strange to look up to a sign that says this
26. What did you learn about yourself, or about anyone else, over the course of the 135 miles?

[coming soon]

27. If you had to steal someone else's crew to replace your own, which one would you pick?

I wouldn't steal anyone's crew.  I think it is very important that the entire crew can get along and work together while having fun.  My crew this year had a great chemistry that allowed for both a fun awesome time and focus on the goal.

[NOTE:  poorly worded question.  Re-asking as "If your entire crew died in an explosive car crash moments after leaving the start and all of the other crews offered to crew for you instead, which one would you pick?"]

28. How important is experience at this distance to reaching your goal?  How important is experience on this course to reaching your goal?

Heat training and time training are the most important mechanical methods I use to train for this experience.  The most important training tool, however, is heart - you can't train this.  This race is not about how fast you are or what place you finish; this race is about something more important - proving to yourself that you are worthy.  There is something that all Badwater Runners want to know - do I have what it takes.  Men and women in combat seek the same.  True performers and competitors want to be weighed and measured and then found worthwhile and meaningful.  The pith of a champion is knowing that your mind can concur the "disgusting pain" and continue to endure.  Badwater is our measuring stick.  At the end of the day, when we cross the line, we cross with our team and the pride of knowing that our body broke at mile 109 and we still had the moxy to persevere.  

The finish line never sucks
29. Would you approve of either of your children racing Badwater one day?

Yes I would.  I would actually encourage them to set this as one of their goals.  I would be more than happy to crew for them and see them cross the finish line.

Like father, like son

Chase, Brian, Maya
Chase and Maya become triathletes
Jackson the dog likes to run himself into the ground too

Siblings, a bond which cannot be broken
Cute doesn't seem to do this justice

Maya's first 10k
Maya's sport of choice

30. What does your wife, Danika, answer with when someone who doesn't know you very well asks her why you do this?

She says, "He is crazy"  She is great and has been very understanding.
Mother and daughter You'd smile too if you had 3 Badwater buckles

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