Thursday, July 22, 2010

Badwater 2010

 How tall is Mt Whitney

We shall see.

My favorite time of year  Time to go back to the desert.  Time to bake in the sun and hang out with a bunch of lunatics that I aspire to emmulate. In a perfect world I would be entered in this race, but  injuries have kept me under qualified.  I still have much to learn if I want take on Death Valley. I still don't have the expendable income required  Badwater can be extremely expensive, entry fee alone is around $900.  Renting crew vehicles, hotel rooms gear food and even the amount of Ice needed will cost over $100.  Were talking thousands of dollars to run on the side of the freeway for up to 2 days in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth.

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to help my buddy Dan Westergarrd the "weiner dog" attempt to finish the worlds toughest foot race for the forth year in a row. I would love to participate someday and have the utmost respect to anyone who attempted or completed the journey from badwater to Mt. Whitney.

We arrived in Death Valley on Saturday afternoon in good spirits and full of energy. We were a little early so we went straight to the pool.  The Furnace creek pool is prettty neat.  It's one of the biggest pools I have ever been in, and it filled with natural spring water that stays a consistant 86 degrees year round.  The water is cycled through the pool system before it is used to water the Furnace Creek golf course (I played it last year after the double).  While at the pool other runners slowly trickled in.  Everyone was asking Dan if he was going to double again this year.  Dan told them he was focused on the race, and would never divulge his agenda.  We all assumed we knew what Dan was thinking but this year he would suprise even his crew. (more to come on this statement latter)

Another leisurly day in the desert.  Sunday morning started off with the "Blister Queen" as she known Denise Jones wife of the Mayer of Badwater Ben Jones coming to Dan's room to tape up his feet for the race.  She is the best in the business.  All of sudden Dan's room filled with other racers and crew that wanted to watch and learn the Blister Queen's techniques.  The room was getting crowded and I wanted to see what it was like to run is this heat in my Vibrams.  We had acouple hours till check in so I grabbed 2 hand held water bottles and decided to go run. .  Garmin Stats on run  It was around 10a.m. and the temp was around 115 and rising I was enjoying the heat from the sun, I knew my run would only last about hour till my water was gone.  I didn't wear any socks and the heat transfer from the ground through my Vibram Sprints was intense.  I got in an easy 7 miles but was happy I was done.  The asphalt in Death valley can  reach over 200 degrees. I made it back in time, took a quick dip in the pool and it was off to check in.
Jen (crew chief) Dan (runner) Me (Dumb ass) Willie (crew)

We checked in at the visitor center Dan picked up his shwag.  We did a little mingling.  Shannon Farar-Griefer (runner, sponsor and CEO of Moeben Sleeves) was signing up if front of us.  She is notorious for having a crew full of pretty girls and elite runners.  this year was no exception.  When she posed for her picture it seemed like everyone in the room turned into a paparazzi including myself.
After checking in we headed back to the hotel met up with our forth crew member Eric, and watched the end of the World Cup final (boo Spain, I was pulling for the Netherlands)We had to back to the runners meeting at 4p.m. and wanted to get there early to guarantee a seat.

Doh, we were a little late,  Jen worked some magic shimmying though the crowd procuring some good seats. We had to wait outside in the sun for awhile but luckily we were next to good company
Ultra-Running Rock star Michelle Barton and here crew Team Ink Burn.

The meeting went over pretty good.  The usual spiel about what not to do on the course.  Introduction of all the runners, and how many times they had participated.  Best part of the meeting was when my crew member Willie's good friend Lisa Bliss was Inducted into the Badwater hall of fame.  She is a former winner and a been charge of the medical team ever since.
We headed back to rooms to go over our game plan and make sure all our gear was in order.

I think I ended up eating more the food than Dan.

Van is packed and ready to go.  In years passed we had 2 mini vans with alternating 3 person crews.  This is the way most runners prefer it makes it easier to pick up supplies and ice also If the vehicle breaks down the runner does not have to quit the race.  This year Dan decided to with just 1 extra large van and a full time 4 person crew, it was a bit risky but everything worked out great.
Dan's Parents have been to just about every race Dan has ever ran.  Sadly his father passed away in May.  Dan ran the race in tribute to his father.
Pacheco 2008 winner and Nickademus the youngest to ever finish

At about 6:15 a.m. we were almost ready to go when this strange man stumbled into our room.  His name was Reza and he told us he was going to win.  Apparently Reza had spent the last 4 weeks in the desert living in a tent preparing himself mentally and physically like no other.  I thought I better get my picture with this future winner.  He was a 10 a.m. starter, I kept wondering when this Reza guy was going to pass us on the course.  He never did.  No matter how hard you train or how dedicated you are you never know what's going to happen come race day. Reza did finish and I congratulate him on that.
 On our way to the Starting line.
Tourist shots
2010 Hall of fame inductee  Lisa Bliss weighing in the competition 
What planet am I on
Figured it would be a good Idea figure out how to stay alive.
That little white spec on the mountain is the Sea Level sign.
Before the race we ran into  Anita Fromm  She currently holds the record for the fastest time to the Whitney summit from Badwater.  2 years ago Dan and Anita became good friends as they were the only one's to double in 2008.
Read the small print on the sign, 

Game on
Last year we started at 10 a.m. this time we got lucky having an 8  a.m. start this meant the sun would not be as intense at the start and that Dan would get a bit of shade from the mountains for the first mile or two.
If you think the runners are crazy check out the CHP in charge of things at the starting line.
My friend rookie Dominic Grossman jumped out to an early lead.  We would never see him again.
"Dan why are you in front of the pretty girl?"
"That's better."  My advice on how to have a successful race.  Find a pretty girl, follow her for the first 100 or so miles then charge up the mountain.  Piece of cake
Dan looking good and feeling strong through the first leg of the course.  No pacers were aloud until the 17mile mark at Furnace Creek.  Time to get some exercise. starter Jack Dennis age 75 a 12 time finisher arrives at Furnace Creek seconds after Dan.  Jack would go on to break his own record for the oldest competitor ever to finish the race.  The BBC was there to document his journey.
The weather was heating up. Last year Dan became nauseated through this portion of the course.  We hoped that with earlier start this year maybe we could beat the heat, unfortunately for Dan we were wrong.
Beware of the chair.  Our goal was to get past Stovepipe wells as quick as possible.  The heat was intense The highest I heard reported was 131 Fahrenheit (People get a little delirious and like to exaggerate).  All Dan wanted to do was puke and sit in a chair.  It's tough to see your friend suffering but he was gonna suffer in a chair or suffer on the road. Eventually we got him hurl after some EAS Myoplex  (lol I'm linking products that make people puke in hopes you press the button and buy from Amazon sadly I think may work :)

It was around this time that the elite 10 a.m. runners started to pass us
Jamie Donaldson would go to shatter the woman's course record and finish 3rd overall.  She had good chance to  shave hours off the womans record to the summit.  Apparently after finishing the race she took a brief rest and then started up Whitney.  I guess something went wrong (I'm not sure what) but she only hiked for an hour and turned back.
The first one to pass us 2008 Jorge Pacheco, he was too fast for me to get a pic but I was ready for Brazilian Marcos Farinazzo the 2009 winner when he passed us a few minutes later. Marco was using Zensah leg sleeves

I asked Dan If some devil corn would make him feel better?
  All he wanted was a little bit of smoothie and some chicken noodle soup.

For my first 10 or so miles of paceing I wore my Vibram sprints with a pair of injinji's along with a pair of  white CEP compression sleeve's.  My legs felt great but the heat transfer from the asphalt through my vibrams and socks made it feel like my feet were cooking.  My feet were soaked with sweat and I really did not want to get any blisters this early into the adventure.  I had brought with me a pair of  Barefoot Ted crafted custom Huarache Luna Sandals, before the race I thought maybe I would use them for a mile or 2 just for S**t's and giggles.  After strapping up I quickly learned that these are the perfect footwear for Badwater.  My feet were so happy.  Instead of being boiled in a sweat filled sock they could breathe once again,  I still had about the same amount of tactile feel of the ground but wit the added leather on the top of the sandal the heat transfer was almost non existant. The Huarache's would not leave my feet for the rest of the race and I ended up covering about 40 miles of pacing in them.

Hopefully I will be posting a very similar picture to this next year, and it will be my crew taking the photo. :)

As the day wore on we eventually got some cloud coverage and temperatures dropped to  a brisk 120.  Dan was able to regain his form.  The Hardest part of the race was over for him and he was ready to kick some butt.  For the rest of the day and well into the night we would be climbing Townes Pass
Map is from the back of my T-shirt
From 7 p.m. to 6a.m it is mandatory that all runners and crew wear reflective clothing and lights.  Once at the the top Townes Pass it was time to get our butts in gear.  I paced Dan for a fast 10 mile Downhill run into Paniment.  By the time we got down there it was after 2:30 in the morning.  I ended up pacing about 20 to 30 miles on day one,  I would have liked to have done more but this was Dan's race not mine.  Time for me to find a nook in the van and get a couple hours of shut eye.
Back to work a little after 5a.m. I could sure use some coffee.
While I slept Dan and the rest of the crew did a great job getting most of the way to Father Crowley Point.  Last year at this spot During Dan's double Jen and I saw fighter jets flying deep in the canyon.
Dan's kids made some good luck cards.  We decided to put them on the side of the van for inspiration

Dan's spirits were high and he found a good rhythm throughout the morning hours.
This 51 year old dude has just run about 100 miles and I got to hustle to keep up.  "Dan you are an animal."
Rookie Jimmy Dean Freeman.  Played leap from with us for awhile before ditching us for good.
Podcast interview with Jimmy and Womans winner Jamie Donaldson

Dan was able to grind his way through Darwin all the way to Lone Pine.  I could tell he had almost nothing left but somehow he manged.  During this stretch we lost crew chief Jenn he had some good Samaritan work to take care of, but we would find her just before the finishline.
We promised Dan he could have a few minutes in the chair before the final climb up the portal road to the finish line
During the first 122 miles of the race I was pretty nice to Dan. But during the final climb I didn't need to be his friend, lol. I started hollering at Dan to move. Dan felt he had nothing to prove with his finishing time although his spirits were high and his legs were gone.
I tried to be a drill sargent but all Dan could do was laugh.
The summit of Whitney is finally in our sights.
The feet held up well
Dan you better not slow down too much
Crew member Willie thought we had already reached the summit.

Dan was almost there we were about 1.5 miles from the finish line we drove up ahead to find our missing crew chief Jenn.  I was a bit concerned that we would not find her in time.
When we found Jen she looked as if she had just saw a bear!  5 minutes prior to our arrival a black bear came with in 6 feet of her as it strolled through the Mt, Whitney parking lot. All of Jenn's senses were on high alert.  She was very entertaining and exteremly wide awake although she had not slept in nearly 2 days
We met back up with Dan about 1/2 mile from the finishline the whole crew was together we joined hands and broke through the finish tape as a team.
Dan receiving his medal from the race director 30th overall 37:13

The comroderery with people at Badwater is somthing special.  Crew members out number runners at least four to one.  Unlike most Ultra's where getting in is just a matter of sending in your entry fee early enought before the race fills up. Badwater requires an application, letters of reccomendation, at least 3 100 mile races done with in the last year or so ansd prior crewing at the race itself also helps.  Only 90 are selected out of the hundreds that apply.  This selective process procures a strong field.  This year only seven people did not make it to the finish line.  Dan had done it again, finishing Badwater for the forth consecutive year.  Badwater requires an immense amount of courage, discipline and dedication.  There is no prize money and it doesn't really matter what place you get it's all about finishing.
Dan never stops amazing me.  I had a great time with my crew and already look forward to next years race.
My Garmin stats while pacing the race

The race was over but Journey for Dan had just begun.  We got off the mountain by 11 p.m. had dinner and discussed Dans plan.  In order to officially do a double Badwater runners must summit Mt Whitney.

I will write more when I get a chance.  I am heading up to NorCal for the San Fransisco Marathon early Tomorrow morning  and I have no more time to work on this blog. 

When I get back from San Fransisco I will finish my review of Whitney

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