The Journey to Badwater: Chronicales from the Sauna

In addition to the long hours on the road, the hill training, quad pounding, strength training, and PT, training for Badwater has also involved countless hours in the sauna. Most days, this is an innocuous experience. I go to a large gym in the suburbs, frequented mostly by stay-at-home moms and business professionals. When I enter the sauna, I’m often greeted by name by people who want to know how my training is going or, most recently, how my injuries are healing. We don’t talk for long, but we recognize each other as the normal ones who come to the gym with a purpose and then go home to eat dinner, sleep, and start the day again tomorrow. These are not the people you will read about below. The people you will read about below are the ones who make you ask “What. The Fu*k?”

The Honey Latherer: This woman is one of the most high-maintenance people I have ever encountered. Ever. Before entering the sauna, she places her large tote of cosmetics on the ledge outside the sauna. She then enters, spreads out as though on a beach, and proceeds to lather herself in honey. She then assumes the fetal position and moans sporadically for the remainder of the time.

The Cell Phone Talker: This person is a multitasker and uses the time spent in the sauna to catch up with family and friends on the phone…on speaker…

The Couple: There is always a couple. They lift weights together. They do cardio together. They take group fitness classes together. They go to the sauna together. Togetherness is great. In fact, if you can find a partner who enjoys the same things you do and whose presence helps motivate you to stay on track with your fitness goals, all the better. However, I have never loved someone so much that I’ve wanted to cuddle with that person at 190 degrees, and swapping bodily fluids as your body purges them isn’t okay.

The Blindfolded Boxer: This man’s sauna attire consists of sweatpants and a wife beater. No criticism from me there. If you’re able to wear sweats in the sauna without wanting to kill yourself or someone else, more power to you. He then wraps a towel around his eyes and remains blindfolded while he paces back and forth and shadow boxes. Once he missed the shadow and hit me.

The Toucher: This is the man with no boundaries. The one who sits right next to you when the room is completely empty. On one occasion, one of these men sat next to me and put his hand on my knee. This was not a wise decision at 190 degrees.

The D-Bag: There are so many versions of this man. He normally enters the sauna when it’s crowded, spreads out everything he owns as though the large gym doesn’t have an equally large locker room, and lies down, devoid of consideration for the packed room of individuals waiting to sit down.

The Truckers: One afternoon, I had the pleasure of sharing the sauna with two truck drivers who were passing through town. I quietly stretched as they shared their political beliefs and common animosity toward the government for trying to take away their gun rights. They then moved on to talking about their recent trips to Canada and compared notes on where they could get “the best young ass for the best price.” One of the men glanced up at me: “Excuse my French.” Dude, of all the things you’ve said in the last 10 minutes, your use of the word “ass” was the least offensive.

The Porn Watcher: On one very special occasion, a man sat down next to me in an otherwise empty sauna and benignly appeared to be listening to music on his phone. A few minutes later, I heard him breathing heavily, which caught my attention. He was clearly in poor physical health and I was concerned that the heat was having a negative effect. Then he started to moan and my concern increased. I glanced over at him, his face glued to the screen of his phone. He looked okay. Then I glanced down at the screen only to realize he was watching porn.

The Reader: Many people pass the time in the sauna reading. If I weren’t such a profuse sweater, I might do the same. One day, as I jogged in place in a far corner, staring at the wall, contemplating my stupidity and wondering when exactly my heart was going to explode, a woman asked: “Are you going to be doing that long? It’s really distracting me from reading the paper.” I caught my breath and waited for my heart rate to drop to an “I probably won’t slap you” rate before responding: “It’s a gym, and I’m here to train, so yeah,” and I continued jogging. She stormed out.