Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lunatics like Badwater

(when did I get so short)

A little over four years ago I got all intrigued with idea of running Badwater .  I didn't really know much about the event other than it was held in Death Valley and it was hot.  I rented the movie "Running on the Sun" and then decided I had go out there and check it out.
(I'm way too dumb to stay away)

Thinking I may want to run the race someday I found the badwater website put my name on a list offering to crew and by chance got stuck with Danny Westergarrd. and now 4 years  later I'm still crewing the dude and the dude who won Badwater  the year running Running on the sun was filmed is now a good friend.
Extreme heat meets the Extreme Machine 
Danny trying out Luna Sandals for the first time

Year after year Danny makes it look easy (it's not even easy to crew!) yet this unassuming humble old man shuffles his way from start to finish and then keeps on going. (up to the top of Whitney and back to the starting line) He never boasts of his achievements, (that's my job) Dan really nice guy, and it's been my pleasure to crew for him.

I will run the course someday (probably an unofficial crossing).  I love the event but I don't wear a belt and spending $995 (badwater entry fee) on a buckle  ????
 too rich for my blood.  But if someone want to sponsor me I would jump at the opportunity.

Badwaters best crew chief
4 years ago we had 2 vans 6 person crew,   we then downgraded to one van 5 crew members but our van had too much gas for 5 people (mostly me).  This year  decided to to downgrade to a three person (1 Squirrel crew?)

Over the last 4 years our crew chief Jen has been a part of 12 Badwater crossing (w/Dan) and been the crew chief  for 8 of them she knows whats she doing and could crew Dan by herself if need be  (she did that for 5 crossings in 2010 when Dan did his sextuple) I think she was gypsy in a past life.

They say
 "Any idiot can run a marathon" BUT "It takes a special kind of idiot run and Ultra."

What kind of Idiot does it take to crew Badwater?
If you have ever been to this blog before you know what kind of buffoonery I'm capable of
but Jen and I still needed a third

Preferably someone in sandals?

Welcome the CEO of Luna Sandals Bookis
And his little buddy Sqilio
Bookis was almost a part of the crew last year and flipped head over heels at this opportunity
Luna Mono Prototypes
(available very soon)
Badwater is where I first fell in love with Luna Sandals and the reason I race in them today. 2 years ago I had just received my very first pair of Luna Originals and thought of them as kind of a novelty.  I brought them out to the desert for shits and giggles and thinking maybe I would run in them for a mile or two.
(My first pair of Luna's back before I came up with the Sweeney tying method)

I quickly learned that they are the perfect shoe for Badwater and 40 miles later they were stiull on my feet and have been my #1 choice of footwear ever since.

On to Death Valley

Well Luna provided the crew wish some new sandals and we were all itching to to test them out.  A few minutes after arriving at Furnace Creek Death Valley  Bookis and I were off and running.
The weather was maybe around 110 (pretty tame)we decided to   run up to the Borax mine a few miles away
Man in would suck to work out here.

Wearing the new Mono sandals I felt like I had Hoka's on my feet.  The material is thicker than my Originals and is super soft.  As I ran I was seeking out the sharpest rocks to step on and each time the sandal absorbed  the impact. It's not a sandal I would want to race fast in but for cruising a ton of slow miles pacing Dan they would be perfect.
 Prices tend to get a little inflated Death valley.  a 7lb back of Ice cost $5  
At least gas was cheaper than it was back in 2008
 TIme for a swim.

Somthing you may not know about Death Valley?

The place is swarming with white people wearing funny bathing suits and speaking in foreign tongues.  In the one week I spend in Death Valley I see more Europeans than in the rest of the year combined. 
This should mean topless girls at the pool right? 
I told my crew chief  Jen  that I thought That at least one would show up every day and that I must have just them.
She thought I was crazy.
In the last 4 years I had seen zero but I remained optimistic.
A pleasent suprise this year was the addition of shuffle board and bochi.  We were the ones stupid enough to play during the heat of the day.  
Bookis and I ran out Steam and it's thing so did this train. ( about 100 years ago)
Sorry I got sidetracked.

Day before the Race

 THe Blister Queen Denise Jones taping up Dan's feet. as our very own Blister princess Jen assists in the process.
Here's a link to a youtube video of the whole ordeal if your into that kind of thing.

I did my best not to pay attention (in case Dan's felt melted I wouldn't be responsible) Instead got to listen to some cool stories from the "Mayor of Badwater" Badwater Ben Jones  This dude is high on my list of favorite people.

I guess it's time to go socialize with other runners


The race breifing and group photo was held at higher end Furnace creek in that is only open for business during the wintertime
Fabrice, his beautiful wife and  Vinnie.
I had completly forgot Fabtrice was runing in the event.  He's kind of wild card, tons of talent yet unproven at this distance he won the Avalon 50 early in this year and if he had a good day in Death Valley he would have chance at winning.
Mas Loco Mike Miller and I. 
I last saw Mike at the Born to Run Ultra where he won the 100km.  
Left to right
Dan (only person to sextuple) TUtu guy (runs Badwater every year in a tutu and kicks ass Art web 70 years old and wil go on to kick some serious ass) random old dude that didn't qualify this year (the dude had just finished a 500mile run)
Posing with Mr. Mustache Terry Sentinella.  (spoilier alert later I would pose as him?)
Bookis and I found us another Mas Loco our boy
He also happens to be Lunatic

Two of the Coury bros from Arizona showed up to Crew.  Nick shown here would be pacing for the 2010 champ Zack Gigerich while is brother Nate paced the Frutarian Mike Arnstein
Team Jester helped us remember to have fun
I dig the running skirts.
1999 winner Eric Clifton .
A few months prior to the event Eric asked If I wanted to join him in crewing Mike Morton whom he said would be going for the course record? I would have jumped at the opportunity if I hadn't already promised Westergaard
(mike would go on to win the race and just miss the course record by less than 2 minutes)
2012 Badwater competitors
2012 Badwater paparazzi (crew)
Date trees
Although I had brought a couple pounds of dates with me to death valley it didn't stop Bookis and I from trying the local flavor.
Oasis in the desert
Life is tough,  Time for lunch
In case your wondering what our runner Dan would be eating during the race.  I made this meal of vegi taco's from our race food  (minus the Stone ale)
Over the last few months Dan had switched to a vegan diet and I was excited to see if this would help his performance.
Can you guess who this van belongs to?

Badwater has three different starting times. 6:00 a.m. (mostly rookies) 8:00 (fast rookies and Veterans) and 10:00 (people trying to win)

Dan had a rough race last year finishing in 38 hours which put him in the 8:00 a.m. slot for this years race.  
Obligatory tourist shot of Dan with his crew.
"Lunar?" Sandals
 Is Dan really gonna run in Luna's?
Maybe next year?
8 a.m. Racers
Badwater Fanboys 

It was about that time for the race to begin
Might as well get in a few last second electrolytes
 Pinch it off Bookis we gotta get going.

Good Luck Dan aka "Weiner Dog"
Over the years we have really got our van dialed in.  If you want to be efficient I recoomend the back of your van look like this.

Mushroom rock. 
In my fouth year at Badwater I finally found the famous Mushroom rock.  It's not very hard to find I'm just bad a remembering to look for it.

Through Furnace creek Dan looked strong.

Just before we got to Stovepipe Wells (about 40 miles in) the Elite runners from the 10:00 a.m. start began to pass us.  I was pacing Dan when Mike Morton passed us followed by Zack Gingerich seen above.
 Temperature wise this was the coolest year I had experienced in Death Valley (highest reported temp during the race I heard was 117F). It was still hot but by no means did it feel extreme.  What was extreme were the giant whirling dervishes full of dust. Some of them were easily over 200 feet tall.
Even on a cool day you need a lot of fluids
In years passed Dan has had a tough time during this stretch but because of the cooler weather and his new plant based diet he was able to mosey his way up Towns Pass feeling good.
The sun began to set on day one.
Bookis and I sporting our mandatory Badwater atire

Sometime before midnight we hit the top of Towne Pas s.I then joined Dan for the next 13 miles into Paniment Springs.   The first 9 miles were down hill and Dan was moving great.  This is also where I really began to like my "Mono Luna sandals". Each step it felt like I was landing on Marshmallows as we coasted down to the bottom

Once at Paniment I took a nap while Dan kept going
   Good morning Jen 
You look like you just won a beauty contest

Dan hit the 100 mile mark in just over 24 hours

After Miles and miles of pacing Bookis started to get the hang of Dan's trademarked "Westergaard Shuffle."
1,000's of people came out to cheer for Dan as he shuffled his way through Lonepine.
(well maybe I exaggerated a bit)
All that was left now was 13 miles up the portal road to Mt. Whitney
ALmost there
Congrats to Dan Westergaard on another successful badwater finish 26th place 33:22
What are those on your feet?
Good job team

What a bunch of Lunatics.

Dan did a great job but his journey was far from over.  It was about 5:30 p.m. when Dan crossed the finish line and he has always  dreamed of going straight up from the portal to very top of Mt. Whitney. 

 Woohoo another buckle for Dan's closet
 Obligatory finishline shot

A few minutes after finishing Dan when back to the Van to gather his thoughts.  I had already gathered most of my hiking supplies together in case we would be heading up the mountain.

The hike up Whitney is 22 round trip with an elevation gain of about 6,000' and although the weather was nice at the Portal if may be bone chilling up at the top especially if we left now and got up there ain the wee hours of the morning.

It was time to hug some friends, congratulate the runners who had finished and cheer on the ones who were about to.
Congrats to Brian Recore shaving 2 hours off last years finishig time
 Congrats to Mike Miller  on his first Badwater crossing
(I think his crew member Lori was jealous his arm was around me.)
 Viva La Mexico.
This dude came all the way from Mexico city to race.  Due to some miss communication with his crew they left at that bottom of the portal road with no support and 1 pacer???  I don't know what they hell they were thinking! We gave him support phoned up to the finish line and got the race director to send his crew back down the mountain before he would have to drop out.
Would we be going straight up?

When I got back to the van Dan was sitting there shivering.  Going up at this time of day would have been a stupid idea if we were all rested.  We already had a hotel room waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain so we decided to regroup and maybe go up the next morning
On the way down the mountain it was fun to cheer on all the runners still going up
surprisingly most of them had smiles on there faces.

After some beer and a cheese-less pizza (with avocado I snuck into the restaurant) we decided that we would in fact climb the mountain the next morning.  we got some of our stuff together and went to bed before 11:00 with the alarm set for 3:30 a.m. (which was kind of late considering we still needed to finish packing our stuff and drive back up the portal.

Dan is not known for resting.  At 1:30a.m. he woke us up saying that he was ready to go.  I bet he slept less than an hour.
Start of the climb 3:00 a.m.
 Although the sun had yet to rise the first few miles of the climb were real easy and the weather was very tame
 Every time you come around a bend there is another amazing view.
 As we continued to climb we ran into about 7 other groups of people heading down the mountain.  Most of them were better equipt  for cold weather than we were.  All of them had headed up the mountain the afternoon or night before and none of them were able to summit do to strong winds and freezing temperatures.

There was no chance we would made it if we had left the night before.
Dan was moving okay. he didn't seem broken in any way but we were taking it real slow.

 Bookis was sporting a pair of "OSO" Luna  prototypes that handled the terrain remarkably well
 While I wore a Pair of Leadcats traditionally laced which also preformed well
(although I was jealous of the tread on Bookis's sandal)

 When we got up to the switchback's about 1/2 way. the weather dropped about 25 degrees.  In years passed I have taken my shirt off during this stretch but now I was wearing every layer of clothing I had and wished I had more

 Along the way we stopped for a couple 15 minute naps
 Top of the switchbacks and the crest of mountain
 The wind really picked up once we got to the other side

Usually this stretch is covered with snow?
Almost there.
Mountain men?
Yeah right!
Room with a view.

 Where will your Luna Sandals take you?
It took us a whopping 10 hours to get up the mountain.
 A zipline back down to Lone Pine would be really nice right about now.

Time to head back down

Dan was moving a little better on the way down but after awhile it became pretty agonizing.
About an hour after the sun set the sky lit up with pink clouds and I quickly forgot about my misery
This was the first time in my life I have ever worn a vest.  What are the odds that I saw 3 other hikers wearing the same exact outfit?

 At the end of the hike I planned on getting a pic of my Luna's but I was so happy to get down the mountain I had forgot until I had already taken one off
My feet felt great.
 10 hours up an hour at the top and 8 hours down after 2.5 hours of sleep.  It was a long day.
Time to get our first good nights sleep since before the race started.

Dan will never admit that he plans on doing the double until the day he wants to start it. As in years passed Dan woke up feeling good and asked if we wanted join him as he ran back to the starting line.

While we had hiked up the mountain the day before Crew chief Jen had cleaned the van and readied it for the return voyage
We had a nice breakfast with Badwater Ben sharing stories about the race
 After Dan proformed a little surgery on his big toenail we were ready to head back
I O didn't have to worry about anything like that because I don't have big toenails thanks to the
Hermosa 24

 Mono and OSO sandals after the first crossing
Bookis had some business to do so Jen and I headed up the mountain to get Dan started on his double

Thats a van
Rock formations along the portal road

Finally we were gonna get some heat 
 Crewing the double is so much more fun.
 Time to reflect tell fart jokes and cruise down the side of the highway

I was even able to get in a little soft sand running

 Bookis and I out some different terrains in our Luna sandals
 Bookis got a little carried away and ran off into the sunset
Along the way we were passed by Cheryl Zwarkowski who was on her way to completing a triple.
What coincedence that the ghosts who wander the desert of death valley at night also wear 
"Keeler CA"
(The seiel killer capital of the world
 As Dan shuffled his way along the highway we decided to do some sightseeing

 If you ever have seen the movie "The Hills have eyes>" I think those people came from Keeler
 We thought about going for a swim but it seems the local pool closed down about 50 years ago.

 In the middle of the night we crossed back into Death Valley

Double, Day 2
At Dawn Dan became very hungry
Wait Dan don't eat that snake I got an Idea.
(actually we corroborated on this one)

Dan put the snake in small baggie he had in his pocket

 I snuck it into the snack drawer in the back of the van when out crew chief wasn't looking.

 "Hey Jen can you get me pretzels?"
 AHHHHH! You *%&*#!
 Dan then got slugged by his cousin but it didn't wipe the smile off his face
 Nice feet dude.
 I found me some sweet glasslesses

 On the way back I reverted to wearing my Original Luna's

On the way back the weather was much warmer and I decided I could use a little air flow with the help of my Sport Kilt

 I found me another pair of shades as we passed through Paniment springs
 After a long hike up to the top of Towne Pass it was time stroll the 18 mile down into Stovepipe Wells
Dan was moving great.
 After awhile Bookis and I got board and decided to play a game of Death Valley Chicken.

Just before dark we had Dan comb all the snakes out of his hair.

After spending so much time out in the desert it's easy to Hallucinate.
 Is that a giant turtle on the side of the road?

We got into Stove pipe at about 10 p.m. and sat down at their bar just before the kitchen closed up.  It felt strange to back sitting in an air conditioned room.  After a nice Spaghetti dinner Dan sat down for a 15 min nap while Bookis and I snuck into the pool.

Did I find me a beautiful topless European Chick?
but I did find me a naked old German grandpa drying off his balls

Double Day 3

After we left Stove pipe Dan picked of the pace a conquered a ton of miles throughout the night.  It was a good thing too because the next day would be the hottest one of the trip with temperatures soaring into the mid 120's

After as quick Pit stop at Furnace creek for a breakfast Icee Dan only had 17 miles left to complete the double
This time Mushroom rock was a lot easier to find.
Words of wisdom after 280 miles
 With about 5 miles to go we ran into Marshall Ulrich who was just beginning a 400 mile self supported circumnavigation of Death Valley.  Until 2010 Marshall was the only person ever to do a quadruple Badwater crossing.  That year Dan ran the course 6 times.

 Dan's Journey was almost over.
 "Go Wiener dog!"
 Congratulations Dan
Each year I like to make Dan a one of kind medal out of debris found along the highway
 Way better than some stupid shiny belt buckle
I feel very fortunate not only to crew such an awesome runner but to be able to do it with such great people.  Although I only get to see Jen once a year you feel like a sister to me I know I give give you a lot of grief and thanks for putting up with all my crap.  You are a really special person and there will always be a place in my heart for you.
 Dan immediately fell in love with having Bookis on the crew,  the dude is such a genuinely nice easy going guy it's hard not to have a good time when he is around. The world could use a few more Bookis'es
Seconds after getting in the van after finishing the double.

What Can I say about Dan.  The dude is stud.  Never does he complain. He always up beat and positive to both his crew and the other runners.
Thanks for being my friend!


The teperature was scorching
 perfect for a little Bochi
A few minutes before we were to leave I took a gander over at the pool and Low and behold?
for the first time in 4 years at Badwater?

There was my topless European chick?

With a smile on my face It was now time to head home.

 A few miles from Furnace creek we ran into Cheryl again.  Who looked amazingly strong
On her crew I ran into my friend Mieko

Doing my best Terry Sentinella impersonation.
(Who knew you could have so much fun with a dead snake?)

Good bye Bad water See you next year.

Bonus coverage:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, very enjoyable reading. I was trying to get a sense of how much running you did in the sandals, pavement or dirt, day or night--the side trip your blog just took me on was totally entertaining. It has been just over three years since out last trip through the warm part of the U.S., good memory stirring. Thank you. John Morelock, Coupeville, Washingto