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Valeria waits for a heart donor
Team Dean with Elizabeth Wood
David Mehran, Liver Recipient

 

2003 ARTICLES

THE RELAY 2003
by "Team Dean" Karnazes, October 2003
View The Relay: Minus the Baton by Dean Karnazes, October 1995
View Confessions of an All-night Runner by Dean Karnazes, October 2002

"We shall not cease from exploration."
T.S. Elliot

Running is about exploration and expansion. Unfortunately, so is a prostate exam. "Whoa!" I squealed as my urologist began the inaugural journey. "You know," he said, "you really ought to cut back on this crazy running stuff, you're not a kid any more." "Listen doc," I squirmed, "I'll do anything you say, just get this over with quickly."

This "crazy running stuff" he referred to was the upcoming Relay, the 199-mile, twelve person relay run that I, for lack of better sense, had completed solo on five previous occasions.

My plan for the 2003 event was even more excessive. I intended to run from my home city of San Francisco to the start of The Relay in Calistoga, tacking on an additional 101 miles to the race, making the total journey one of 300 miles.

Why I sought the services of a urologist, as opposed to a psychiatrist, is not understood. The brain can only take you so far. Running 300 miles nonstop would require a different body part.

"Everything's fine," he concluded, removing the rubber glove, "though running that far doesn't seem humanly possible." He rubbed his chin. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" "What do you mean, do I know what I'm doing?" I replied. "Of course I don't know what I'm doing. I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. That's the fun of it."

Last year it had taken 46 hours and 17 minutes to cover the 199 miles. Beyond that would be a trip into the unknown. . .a journey into uncharted territory. There was no telling what would happen, which greatly appealed to my lack of better judgment.

There was another compelling reason to try something even bolder this go around. Her name was Valeria Casterjon-Sanchez. The Relay is a benefit for organ donation, and in previous years I had dedicated my efforts to two young children, Elizabeth Wood and David Mehran. Both were less than a year old and both had failing livers. The odds against them were discouraging. Yet, somewhat miraculously, both received the gift of life less than a week after the finish of The Relay.

Valeria and her family faced even tougher odds. She was only one month old and in need of a new heart. If they could show courage in the face of such adversity, then I could certainly tack on a few extra miles to The Relay.

********

Can the human body run 300 miles without rest? Documentation of people covering great distances on foot exists, but most involve timed track runs in relatively controlled environments. The Relay is notoriously hilly. There's also the issue of traffic and headwinds, compounding the difficulties. The other issue is the heat. Heat is a runner's enemy, sapping energy and straining the physiological systems that keep everything together.

For me, heat is particularly insidious. Living in San Francisco limits one's exposure to heat (hypothermia is a more likely concern). Plus, I'm too bulky. Active muscles produce heat. Since I'm into a variety of outdoor sports-surfing, mountain biking, windsurfing, to mention a few, my upper body is fairly well developed. This is not a good quality for a runner, but some things in life are worth the sacrifice.

Temperatures were unseasonably cool the week prior to the event. On race day however, the running gods decided to crank up the thermometer. Nevertheless, the threat of an impending heat wave wasn't enough to detract from the glory of the departure. Young David Mehran and his mother Jeanie were there to see me off. At this time last year, David was in the intensive care unit. Today he is a healthy and vibrant young child running around chasing the birds.

Adding to the splendor, accompanying me for the first mile across the Golden Gate Bridge were two truly heroic athletes, Steve Fratus and Greg Osterman. Both were accomplished runners and organ recipients. Greg holds the world record for completing seven marathons after receiving a heart transplant in 1992. With Femi Sonuga, a Nigerian runner and Assistant Relay Race Director, and David Jacobs, a former triathlete waiting for a kidney, taking photos and video, Lieutenants Lisa and Mike Locotti, Golden Gate Bridge staff and 2003 Relay participants, sounded the start gun. As the Blue Angles circled above, my eyes watered and the journey began.

If only the next hundred miles could have been so ceremonious. Much of the distance was covered at night, and it was mighty lonely. I followed The Relay route, but in reverse. About the only things that stirred the silence were the occasional hoot of an owl and the periodic banter of my crew, which, after five previous solo Relays, was down to one. . .my dear old dad.

"Hey Pops," I mumbled as he drove alongside, "I thought this leg was rated Easy, all downhill. I've been doing nothing but climbing." "That's what it says," he defended, "I'm looking at the map, Leg 9, Easy." "One slight problem," I noted. "We're going in the opposite direction."

We were doing the course in reverse and there was no rating system established for running the route backwards. A leg that was all downhill in the normal direction was all uphill going the opposite way. This was a minor oversight on our behalf (and it wouldn't be our last). The good news was that despite our slight misinterpretation of the rating system, progress remained steady. I'd covered the first 101 miles roughly on schedule in 21 hours and 48 minutes. The bad news was that the sun had come up and it was getting hot.

At the turnaround in Calistoga, the site of the official race start the next day, my wrist thermometer read 93 degrees F. Turning back down Silverado Trail and beginning the return journey, the heat was stifling. Not only did the blazing sun zap my energy, it took its toll on my morale.

By the time I got back to Napa, the sun finally dipped below the horizon but the effects of dehydration were beginning to manifest. It didn't seem to matter how much fluid I put into the system, my electrolytes were out of balance. Of course, fresh pumpkin pie can go a long way toward fixing most aliments.

"Hey Pops," I yelled to him through the van window, "see that Marie Callender's over there. . .want to grab some pumpkin pie?" "Sure, son. You want a slice of pumpkin pie?" "No," I yowled, "I want the whole damn thing." It's amazing what one pumpkin pie, washed down with a double latte, can get a guy through. The moon was beginning its descent as we advanced into Petaluma. We'd maintained a consistent cadence straight through the wee hours.

Despite the lift from the pumpkin pie and latte, that second nigh of running came at a price. I had previously run through two nights during past Relay escapades, but the gravitational pull of the finish line at mile 199 had helped to keep my focus. After two nights of running, the finish was usually about 30 miles away. In my current predicament, there were still 135 miles left. The challenge seemed monumental, if not insurmountable. More caffeine was in order.

As the sun began its ascent on Saturday morning, things went surprisingly right. My energy and demeanor improved and I cruised through the day. By the time I reached the 200-mile mark, some 48 hours into the endeavor, I felt strangely rejuvenated. Perhaps I was overdosing on endorphins, because I felt strangely coherent, almost peppy.

Seeing my entire family certainly provided a lift. They met me in Marin and that's when the fun began. My mom ran with me for a stretch. My two kids ran along with me. Even my wife Julie, who typically doesn't run unless being chased, joined in the adventure. And finally, my father got a well needed break from piloting the crew vehicle (which he promptly filled not by resting, but by lacing up his shoes and running across the Golden Gate Bridge with me!). In the world of Team Dean, it doesn't get any better. Then why did I stop running after only one more marathon? Some of the answers are rational. Some are not.

By the time I'd crossed the Great Highway and started up Skyline Boulevard, many things had changed since that glorious moment crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. It had taken an inordinate amount of time to cover a very short distance. Friends were there to greet me, so I stopped to chat. The children ran with me, which slowed progress considerably (but was worth ever second of delay). Perhaps this reduced pace, I rationalized, would allow me to conserve energy and reconstitute for the remaining journey. Just the opposite proved true.

Running up Skyline Boulevard and into the third night, malfunctions began surfacing. Perhaps the biggest concern was my swerving all across the road, incapable of staying inside the shoulder of the highway. Cars whizzed by honking and flashing their brights. The kids had long since fallen asleep, and my crew was plainly battered. This was a dangerous stretch of roadway; it was important to remain alert. We were anything but. How far was I willing to take this?

When I announced my intention to retire at mile 226.2, there wasn't much argument. For once, I was acquiescing to the side of sanity. Every stride beyond mile 199 had been a step into the unknown, an intrepid adventure into the limits of self. The journey was now ending, gratefully, with all parties intact.

The final hurrah was a stop at Mel's Drive-In for dinner. Midnight at Mel's, after having run 226.2 miles, was tonic for the soul. There weren't a lot of other joggers in the place. In fact, there were none. That didn't matter. The setting and the food were absolutely perfect.

********

The nagging question remains, could I have gone farther? Perhaps if conditions had been different it would have been possible. Perhaps if it hadn't been so hot. Perhaps if we had discovered kryptonite along the roadside! It seems almost pointless to ponder whether I could have kept going, because I didn't.

After stopping and sleeping, I awoke with plenty of fight. But the idea was to run continuously, not in stages. Stopping and sleeping were not part of the game plan. Starting at 7:00 AM, rather than 2:00 PM, would have been a good thing. With a 7:00 AM start I would have been running shortly after waking, and I would have covered more miles before the ravages of sleep deprivation took hold. With my 2:00 PM, start I had already been awake for eight hours standing idle. This was wasted wake time that I could have put to good use, running.

Within the context of The Relay, which is the real story, an early morning start was impractical. Given my projected finishing time, I wanted to reach Santa Cruz at roughly the same time as the teams so as to not disrupt the main event in any way. My little exploits were really just tangential to the official race. I'm a somewhat entertaining sideshow in a much grander affair. My act is little more than a supporting role, and my actions, in every regard, are intended to support The Relay, its fearless participants, and the heroic cause it supports.
Next year, however, I'm starting at 7:00 AM.

********

Yet it was hard thinking about next year when the biggest concern from this year still loomed large, Valeria. She remained on life-support, and each passing day diminished her probability of survival. She was racing the clock. A week passed since the finish of the Relay. No change. Two weeks passed, still nothing. Three weeks, only despair. The magic that had astonished us in past years seemed all but gone. Valeria was slipping away.

Still, her family refused to give in. They knew she would survive. There was no hearing that things didn't look good. There was no willingness to accept the situation as hopeless. In the face of insurmountable odds, they displayed unwavering courage.

Possibly, courage emerges when facing life-threatening illness. Sixty-year-old Grant Fullerton, who waited for a liver transplant for two years, was admitted to the intensive care unit. Grant's family volunteered the entire weekend of The Relay spreading the message of organ donation. Grant's wife, Donna, asked if I would run a few miles for her dying husband. The magic of Team Dean faced its most difficult challenge.

Four weeks after the Relay, Grant received a liver. Two days later, Valeria received a new heart from a three-day-old infant. Both had run the races of their lives, and won.

The events of the past three years continue to amaze me. Three children. Horrific odds. Three saved lives. I feel so fortunate to bear witness to these remarkable triumphs.

But I harbor a hidden agenda that few are aware of. If we can keep this incredible string of success going for eight more years, I'll have my Relay team complete! There are already three ringers on board: Elizabeth, David and Valerie. All we need are eight more little runners and we'll have a force to be reckoned with.

One thing I will insist upon, however, is that I take the starting position in the team lineup. Not that I selfishly want to be the lead runner, but because whoever gets Leg 1 has the easiest three legs of the course. If the resolve these three troopers have displayed is any indication of how our team will shape up, I'll be the weakest link anyway.


Dean Karnazes is president of EnergyWell Natural Foods in San Francisco. Watch for his upcoming book, "Confessions of an All-Night Runner" by Penguin Books.

Note: On December 8, 2003, Gordon Gillmouth, nine-time Relay captain of "Just Watering Your Flowers, Ma'am," contributed $226.20 to Organs 'R' Us in honor of Dean's run.

Fuel Epilogue

One of the most frequent questions I'm asked after running for days is, "What do you eat?" So this year I thought it would be fun to keep track.

Usually my diet is extremely disciplined. I've followed a controlled-carb regime for the past ten years, eliminating refined sugar entirely from my diet. I eat only good fats (i.e., no trans-fats and little saturated fat). I don't eat junk food, except during these long runs! I find it difficult to consume enough calories eating healthy foods as illustrated in the food log kept during my 226.2-mile run.

In summary, I consumed a whopping 26,498 calories over the course of 57 hours and 53 minutes. While that seems enormous, consider that I was burning roughly 600 calories an hour. Thus the total caloric expenditure was approximately 34,800 kcal's, leaving a deficit of about 7,500 calories (which I simply couldn't fit into my stomach).

Healthy foods are typically less calorie-dense, because natural fibers are left in place. Given this additional bulk, it would be impossible to consume 26,498 calories of healthy food. The girth of such a mass would bloat a hippopotamus! Therefore, I rely on highly refined, greasy and richly sweetened foods. The more calorie packed, the better. Burgers, fries, donuts, chips. Bring it on!

Item Kcal No. Total
PowerBar ProteinPlus Chocolate/Peanut Butter 290 8 2,320
PowerBar ProteinPlus Choccolate Carmel Nut 220 5 1,100
PowerBites Peanut Butter 210 2 420
Payday Bar (large) 480 4 1,920
Sourdough Grilled Chicken Club 520 2 1,040
Doritos (large bag) 1,120 1 1,120
Pumpkin pie 2,367 1 2,367
Chocolate Chip cookie (large) 268 3 804
Onion Rings 340 1 340
Egg McMuffin 300 3 900
Burrito (large beef) 524 3 1572
Smoothie (large protein) 425 1 425
Potato chips (large bag) 1,120 1 1,120
Wrap (Thai chicken) 840 1 840
Chocolate Malt (large) 1,150 1 1,150
Ice cream sandwich 410 1 410
Tortilla chips (large bag) 1,050 1 1,050
Good & Plenty (large box) 180 4 720
Doughnuts (chocolate) 190 2 380
Guacamole burger 680 1 680
French Fries (large) 440 1 440
Mocha Frappaccino 580 1 580
Electrolyte replacement beverage (6 gallons) 50 96 4,800
Total 26,498
 
   
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