March 27, 2007. One year ago, my first post. Happy birthday "Farther Faster blog!"
Ironically, last week, I happened to discover the blog of a fellow passionate runner in Harlem, after he had made very controversial comments about ultra runners and one of my heroes in particular, Scott Jurek. A blog Lance started one day after mine, and decided to stop today after one year and 400 posts. More than one post per day, versus one a week for me, a much different pace which may explain some divergence of views between him and our ultra community! Wishing Lance to catch the ultra virus, sometime.
So, once upon a time, one year ago...
Badlands National Park, South Dakota - March 24, 2007
5,000 years? Ouch, that seems so far away and yet so close per earth's scale; indeed, an interesting place to rush to! Fortunately, as we found out from the Park Rangers, with an erosion of 1 inch per year, the experts give to the Badlands concretions another 100,000 to 500,000 years (uh, seems like a great software estimate range, no? ;-). Phew, what a relief, our children have some time. Well, that's if we protect the Earth enough in the meantime, from global warming and other pollution and degradations.
Here we are, landing in the small and clean regional airport of Rapid City, and getting to the hotel in... Wall. South Dakota. 808 souls. Wall, what a name for a marathoner! And finally a connection with our blog running theme!
Reaching Wall without hitting the wall
Saturday morning, 5:12am (4:12am Pacific, it's tough to live with an ultrarunner sometimes...), I wake Agnès up to make sure we get to the entrance of the Park before dawn. Wall being at the Eastern end of the Park, we drive all the way to the West, enter the Park as the sun rises, and Agnès drops me at the first parking... 26 miles away from... Wall. Almost the perfect distance, and enough to go for another preparation of passing the wall (between mile 17 and 19 for me) without hitting it.
Of course, no competition and race pressure, no fear of not making it as Agnès was driving through the Park, staying within a 2-mile range all the way, doing her own safari in this deserted place.
In the following picture you barely notice the road from the colorful ground layers. Now, once you have found it, look closer for the minuscule black spot in the middle of the picture, that's me! (You may want to enlarge the picture by clicking on it.)
We were not completely alone in the Park, there was some wildlife:
And what about this big one that Agnès caught running through the grass?A porcupine, playing hide and seek with a cactus!Passing the Homestead Overlook, an opportunity to remember the many Homesteaders who immigrate from Eastern Europe in particular with their dream to own a piece of land. A way too dry land, unfortunately...Fortunately, I had my water bottles with me because, even in winter, it is really dry, and I could feel how happy the cowboys could get when approaching Wall, known for its drugstore, its hot coffee and free fresh water!
And here am I, reaching Wall... without hitting it! 3h10, a good training, good long run and good sign for my 2007 edition of Boston.
Quite a Western atmosphere and setting, with good representation of both Native Americans and Cowboys:
More about the Park
"I love this Park. It's like running on Mars!" told me Scott Dunlap about Badlands, SD (hum, SD... ;-). Sincerely, I did not think of Mars back then, I must admit I don't know Mars that well. I hope to get some of Scott's fortune (and wealth! ;-) one day to get upthere (on Mars) and find out. But Scott is right, Badlands is the closest you can imagine Mars from NASA's pictures.
In terms of comparison, there are actually many others, because the Park actually features several very distinct and characteristic landscapes.
The best expression I could think of while running there is "the middle of nowhere." Especially as we only saw 2 cars in the Park for the three hours we spent there. (I bet it's a different story in summer although, it will never be crowded as it is so remote.) A very remote feeling then, with an infinite view in all directions. Nothing comparing to running in even remote mountains and forests.
When going through the Park there is some reminiscence of Bryce Canyon, my preferred National Park by far. And a resemblance with the Artists Palette in Death Valley. So many different geological features and colors within 20 miles, a concentrate a nature's beauty! See for yourself:
Definitely worth the trip. Either as a runner or a tourist, or both...
A wall for who?
The Park is surrounded by an endless plateau so the hills really appear like a wall from many miles away. A wall for the buffaloes which were chased, respectfully, by the Native Americans. A trap for the Native Americans, chased and exterminated by the US Army (see the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890). A trap for the buffalos which got decimated. A symbol for generations of Homesteaders hitting the wall in this infertile land and having to re emigrate to other places. All not good examples of sustainable development. With the erosion doing its work to eliminate ans slowly erase this dramatic and picturesque place. Naturally this time...
After Wall our tour of South Dakota turned to a real safari and ultraphotography (720 shots over two days).
Clear and sunny skies:
Pristine creeks such as the frozen French Creek (yes, French!):
And this is just a small selection of animals, shots, views, souvenirs...
A tribute to American leaders
Our trip ended with a visit to the famous, monumental and unavoidable Mount Rushmore. No way we would have missed such postcards!
400 workers, 14 years, 60-foot high portraits, tons of dynamite and rocks removed, this is really...ultra sculpture, isn't it?
To conclude this long and illustrated post, I would like to express all my gratitude to Agnès. I am always keeping in mind that, in a couple, no passion can be fully and sanely lived without the other's consent and active support. I'm grateful to Agnès for letting me put so many hours into running, training, racing and now blogging. For better or for worse as we promised each other, and never for granted!
Farther and Faster, to get this blog... further!