Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Badwater /^\ retawdaB

Time for my annual pilgrimage to  Death valley.  I spend the whole year frying my brain in the sauna in anticipation for the trip.  I go with high hopes of weather in in the high 120's.  I am still to poor and not quite ambishish enough to commit to my own crossing of the Badwater course thus I experience the race vicariously through my best friend Danny Westergaard as part of his crew.

Last summer I was stuck working for the fed's after crewing the race and  climbing Mt. Whitney I had to return home.  I knew that Dan was gonna "double" (run back to the starting line all 135 miles he's ran least that far the last 4years) and I was pretty bummed to miss out.  Little did I know that Dan would go on to run the course a historic 6 times consecutively over 20 days (the first person to accomplish such a feat!) Now crewing the race is a good time but  when I crewed the double 2 years ago you start to get a little loopy (I'm already a little loopy)  and that is where the real fun begins and I did not want to miss out this year.

I've been seeing a lot of my best friend Danny Westergaard  so far this year we crossed paths at the SuperBowl 10k, the L.A. Marathon, Ragnar Relay, the Hermosa 24, and the Fire Cracker 5k.  You would think I'd be sick of the dude but I eagerly awaited joining up with Dan and the rest of his crew

Day 1 Friday?

Maybe I was a little too excited about the trip although I was an Angel game until late the night before I got to Dan's house bright and early at about 7:45 a.m. . I thought he might be upset that I was 15 minutes late.  When I arrived there was no van in the driveway. (strange) It turns out I wasn't late at all?  I was in fact 23 hours and 45 mins early (whoops).  "See you tomorrow Dan I'm headed to the beach."

Day 1 Saturday 
(Once again)

This time the van was waiting in the driveway loaded up ans ready to go. The crew Jen, Stuart, William and  I along with Dan set froth to the Valley of Death.

After about a 6 hour drive from Los Angeles  we arrived at Furnace Creek
Get me to the pool asap.

One of my all time favorite pools
Where are all the ladies?  We needed Dan's help to flush them out.  (sorry Jen on this trip your one of dudes)

Dan Strutting for all the European broads at the pool.  I couldn't tell what the heck they were saying most likely probably something along the lines of "what a studly American."
The thermometer read -30  after all that sauna training Dan and Jen needed to find some wrmth
The imaginary fire did the job nicely
How can you not love a resort that has coyotes sprawled out in the courtyard

Dan and I decided to loosen up with a little frisbee action
while outside I ran into a couple friends from the Copper canyons Kermit and Carlos
Just before leaving to Badwater I picked up a bunch of ale Stone.  Since drinking is against the rules during the race I had to get it in while I could.

Day 2 Sunday
Dan is a really thoughtful caring guy, knowing that Stuart may be missing his wife he offered his service as a snuggle buddy.  (I was very thankful I had decided not to sleep in)

While Blister Queen Denise Jones (wife of Ben Jones) taped up Dan's feet Stuart and I decided to go for a run.
Stuart had never ran in Luna sandals before I loaned him a pair and he was hooked.  When he returned home from Badwater one of the first things he did was order his own pair of custom Original Luna's.

I've said it before and I'll say it again Luna Sandals are the absolute perfect shoe for Badwater.  Your feet breath in the heat and sweat is able to evaporate before causing blisters.

Our run wasn't to long the weather was warm and we each carried two bottles and decided to run till we finished are first one and use the second for the return trip.  We had to back relatively quick so that we could go with Dan to check in.
In years past check in and race briefing  was held at the Death Valley visitor center but this year it was under remodeling so this year pre race shnangans were held the high end winter time Death valley resort.
Lucky Dan, posing with the beautiful and talented Shannon Farar-Griefer the CEO of Moeben.  Both Dan and her had ran Western States two weeks prior and were both running in Badwater.  Shannon is a little more bad ass than Dan and ran the Vermont 100 four days after Badwater on her quest to complete the grand slam
At check in I ran into former Badwater winner and local running legend Jorge Pacheco.  Jorge is a really nice humble guy, he was not running this year and was there as crew member for his wife whom had run the race the last few years.
It was getting stuffy inside I wandered outside and found myself chatting with some random dude who turned out to be Ian Sherman who recently blew the 100mile trail record away by running a 12:44:33 at Rocky Raccoon this year.  He seemed to be a real nice guy and was out there to crew Micheal Wardian (a 2:17 marathoner) who was one of the favorites to win this years race.
While outside up strolled one of my favorite People Ben Jones along with the last years winner of the race Zach Gingerich.  Zack was excited that since that since he had no sponsors he could run without a shirt when the weather got hot.  (way to look on the bright side)

Badwater 2011 group photo
I even got to meet up with Luis Escobar whom was also running in the race.  I tried to convince Luis to run in Luna's but he had some prior commitments to Montrail and Teva

Day 3 Monday
(Race Day)

(Crew Chief) Jen, (Runner) Dan (Climber) Stuart (Technician) William (Dumb ass)  Pat
Happy, Dopey, Grumpy, Doc, and Sleepy
Through out the race we earned our alter egos.
Happy = Jen, she was always laughing (mostly at her own words :).  Dopey = Dan, during the race he earned the nickname "Stupid Dan" spoken in a endearing tone. You have to be a little dopey to run 135 miles in Death Valley. Grumpy = Stuart, I think he just needed some beauty sleep and was upset about not having Dan to snuggle with during the race.  Doc = William, always ready to go with the flow and provide positivity. Sleepy = Me, every chance I got I was sprawled out in the van fast asleep.

"So you bought these magic beans and crawled down the beanstalk to Badwater?"

Doesnt it look like the tall dude in the lederhosen could eat Stuart if he wanted to?

Of course the press immediately ran up to Dan for an interview.  Sadly the mic wasn't plugged in and the camera was off. 

"Luna" sandals

It felt like I was walking on the moon

I figured I could use a few Electrolytes if I was gonna be in the sun all day.

At the starting line I ran into Brian Recore check out his jersey (sweet) I think wore it the whole race and finished in a respectable 33 hours
It's important that everybody gets weighed in before the race.
I met Connie at Badwater last year she was back to do it again. What a stud.

Dan found this last year I think during his fourth crossing I hope It does it's job in helping Dan's fortune during the race.

Time for the 8:00 a.m. runners to begin
Runner's on your marks

At this point in the morning all I wanted to do but for the first 17 miles of the race until you get to Furnace Creek  pacing is not allowed.
Dan hurry up and get to Furnace creek I'm getting board.
Dan and I flying down the side of the road.
The thermometer was exaggerating

The section of the race between furnace creek and the top of  towns pace is the hottest part of the course. The last two years Dan had got nauseous during this stretch. We had had speculated that this was from too much protein during the heat.  This year we hardly gave Dan any protein during the day and he made it too the top of Towns Pass without losing a single drop of vomit.  Way to go Dan.

Getting passed by last years champ.

I know what your thinking. "Wow Pat you look really cool but there is something missing to complete your ensemble, if you wanna look like world class runner."

I totally forgot about the sunglasses.  What was I thinking?

Sometime during the night Dan made it to the top of Towns Pass and I had the privilege of running down the other side of it with him about 9 miles.
"Wake up Pat, time to run"
 It was nice t get to spin the legs for an extended period of time.  Once we got to the bottom I crawled back into the van for little nap.

Day 4 Tuesday  
(The race goes on.)

But"But mom I don't wanna go to school." "wait a second your not my mom."  "Where am I?"

After a few minutes I of groggyness I was ready to go

Who want's to race?
I got way more sleep than anyone else on the crew and it showed the next morning

I was feeling great however the race was taking it's toll on Dan.  His right ankle had swollen up forcing him into a death march for much of the last 35 miles and all of the climb up Mt. Whitney.
Whitney had record snow this year and you could tell by the level of water in the stream that there was still must be a ton of snow and ice on the mountain.
Dan was having some serious problems with his ankle as trudged up the Whitney Portal. 
We kept trucking and although Dan was realy hurting he kept real positive attitude.
Concraulations Dude we should do this again sometime.  Hmm how bout in 2 days.
Good job Dan and good job crew.

I ended up running somewhere between 50 and 55 miles with Dan.  My sandals felt great on my feet and wish I could have ran even more.  I tried to keep track of my miles on my gps but I kept forgetting to turn in on anyway here's the stats from my Garmin.

As for Dan he finished in 37:13 in 30th place

The last two years we had hiked Mt whitney the next morning after finishing the race.  Before the race conditions on the mountain were pretty dicey we had got mixed reports about needing Ice axes and crampons.  Both Stuart and William are experienced mountaineers.  Stuart was in charge and thought the climb would be too dangerous.  Dan's ankle was not doing to good so we temporarily called off plans for the hike. 

Day 5

The day after the race they have a pizza party slash awards ceremony. It was nice to go to it for a change.
Dan, Denise and Jen
Winner in the center
My camera sucks indoors so this is all you get.

Me posing with the 2009 winner Marcos Farrinazzo one of only 4 people to run the course in under 24 hours

Stuart and William had to go back home to catch a flight. It was pleasure crewing with them and I was sorry to see them go.  If Dan was gonna climb Whitney I would have to be his Sherpa.  We decided that since the weather was getting better everyday we would give it a go without axes or crampons.  Maybe not the smartest decision but if things got too difficult we could always turn back. 

To run an official double Dan must climb this stupid mountain. 

Day 6
Mt. Whitney
At 2:30 a.m. Dan and I begin our hike.
I was very thankful for the extra day of rest.  It really made the 22 mile hike much more enjoyable
Along the way I found a chopstick on the ground and then about 6 miles from the first one I found it's match (what are the odd's?)

If you slip in the snow.  YOU ARE DEAD! We took it extra slow and were fine.
I was worried that the cable section may be difficult but it was piece of cake.
 I love the flowers that grow up here at about 12,000 ft elevation

first view of the other side.
 Last year's pic there was a lot less snow
It got cold up at the top. Although the sun was intense the wind was brisk and forecast was for 40 degrees.

 Along they way up we were passed by George Velasco and Marshall Ulrich. At the top they posed with Dan for a picture.
Marshall had run Badwater as well and although he summited before us he also started the race a 6 a.m. therefore Dan just beat him out time wise for the 146 mile unofficial race.

Me doing my best to imitate the Westergaard strut
Let's get off this mountain.
The last 2 years we summited around sunset (dangerous) This year because we started so damn early we were on are way back down just after noon.
Slow we go that is the tempo.
Last year we didn't pack enough water and were a mess.  This time we packed so much we were able to share with other hikers making a lot of friends along the way.

We both made is safely across the last treacherous section.
Back down to about 12,000 the air is getting thicker and I felt good.

Giant Bonzai
Because of the record snow that plant life was amazing
It may have took about 18 hours but everything went pretty smooth.  Dan's ankle kept him moving slow but he was steady.  Dan had his Poker face on and wouldn't reveal to us till the next morning whether he would attempt the double or not.

 Day 7 back to Badwater
Jen thought it was only about a 10% chance he would attempt the double. She should have known better.

  At 8:48 friday morning Dan started his run down from the portal
This time the crew was just Jen I (she did the final 5 legs of Dan's trek alone last year) Dan warned us that it would be a long haul and that he may walk most of the way.  Surprisingly the swelling in his ankle had gone down.

Dan made better time than expected and by early afternoon we were out passed Lone Pine
Really? I've never seen a single freaking cow in the desert.

Burning hot soft sand "My favorite" I felt like I was back at home
What a beautiful day for a little stroll down the 190
Dan keep on shufflin along
I decided to go barefoot for awile
That is until I found some tire along the side of the road.
About 10 minutes later I had a custom pair of Badwater sandals
100 miles to go

Even after a 170 plus miles Dan still hadn't lost his strut
By this time I was getting pretty thirsty. I checked to see if there was a sip left, but all got was sand. :(
I like the nightlife baby.
Throughout the night Jennifer and I would take shifts driveing a mile sleep and sleep for 20 mins while the other person paced Dan keeping him awake

Day 8 still going
We hit Panamint springs around dawn
I made a friend
Dan's feet had held up pretty well.  The only problem he had was on his little toe.  Jen thought that rubbing a little ear wax between the toes might make things better.
It was a long hike up to Towne Pass but Dan persevered and that was last hill he would have to climb.
Me"Yo Dan If you run down this mountain  we will get you a Popsicle at Stovepipe wells."
Dan "MMM Popsicle."
Me "That doesn't mean you have to ditch me.  ahh screw it I'm riding down in the van."
Stovepipe wells

I decided to baptize myself in the Stovepipe swimming pool.   Their were a bunch of cute European girls swimming. I could read their minds "How the hell does this homeless barefoot dude survive in the desert, and why am I so attracted to him? " lol

While I was swimming another runner attempting an unofficial Badwater crossed our path. rumor had it that there was something  on the top of their van but we didn't have a chance to find out what it was.
Well Dan got his Popsicle and got some shivers.  Usually its hotter Hell in the evening time a Stovepipe. On this particular day it barely felt over 100
Might as well play a little Frisbee to warm up
Standing on invisible ground
2 hands?  Any self respecting disc player only uses one.

Dan charged it pretty good on day 2 and if he kept up this pace he would have a chance of going sub 48 hours.

Day 9 the home stretch

I took a nap every chance I could. 
Some time in the middle of the night we ran into another runner who just completed her double without climbing Whitney.
Just 17 miles to go.  Dan would have to average about a 15 minute mile to beat the 48 hour mark
Dan was moving good as he grinded through the final miles.
Go Dan!

My camera died as Dan crossed the finishline in around 47:30.  For finishing the race I presented him with a one of kind hand crafted medal and for finishing under 48 hours he received the exquisite glittery blue g belt buckle.  

Dan became the first person to double Badwater 5 years in a row. 

Well done my friend.  Dan is pleasure to crew for and his cousin Jen is about as awesome as it gets.  I had a great time crewing the double.  All in all I got about 100 miles in on my Luna Sandals and my body felt great. Perhaps next year I will run the race myself.

Time to head home

Along the way we caught up with that other runner
Good thing he had those gaiters on to keep stuff out of his shoes.

Dan decided to find out what was on their van
I should have known.

My souvenir from the desert.
Yes I know it has nothing to do with Death Valley but I will always remember where I purchased it from.  How could possible resist such a beautiful piece of art?