I crewed Badwater for the third time, and for the third time, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the desert. For the second year running, I was on Meredith Murphy’s crew – she kindly let me copy and paste her race report for SoFarFromNormal. I will add my own thoughts in a different post another day.
It’s a good one. Enjoy!
Badwater 135, 2012 – Meredith Murphy
So, I finished my second Badwater ultra marathon. How can i even attempt to put the journey into words? From the start, this year was different than last year. I knew what i was getting myself into and that was probably the hardest part, i think some of my naivety the year before was good, ignorance truly is bliss. I also felt like there was more pressure on me. I did it once, now I had to prove it was not a fluke. Last year if I did not finish, I could just say, well, it IS one of the hardest races on earth, so I did my best. My training was so much better this year and my mileage was easily double what it was last year. I also decided to go with a four person crew instead of two crews of three. I also was better prepared on what I needed to buy food and supply wise. I was going with the same everything else from last year-- socks (Injinji), shoes (Hoka), clothes, taping, etc.
We arrived in Las Vegas early Friday morning and set off to procure our supplies. The first Walmart was pretty cleaned out of coolers after a heatwave, so it took a few different Walmarts over 2 days to get all our supplies, as well as a trip to a natural food store for the rest of my food. The other shock was that is was 80 and rainy when we arrived in Vegas, not quite the heat acclimation I was hoping for. On Saturday driving out to Death Valley, our thermometer read 73F while traveling through the Red Rock Canyons. I was very nervous that it would not be hot at Badwater or it would be really muggy, but only time would tell and in the end i had no control over it.
Prerace everything seemed to happen pretty fast and before I knew it, it was time to wake up for the big dance. I could barely sleep and woke up probably an hour before my alarm clock. I was all ready to go and antsy and ended up waking up my crew before their alarm. We got to watch the sunrise as we drove to Badwater Basin which is always spectacular. We arrived in good time and i weighed in, made the rounds seeing people and hit the bathroom. We did the official prerace pictures and headed up to the road for the start of the race. Last year i was beyond petrified at the start, but this year I felt good and not as nervous. I was still nervous, but not terrified.
And then we were off. I just followed my own pace, as I did last year, and let people go ahead down the road. I ran a little with Eric Gelber and just enjoyed the desert. I love this section of the race and the beauty is just unrivaled. I enjoy the 6am start especially since we get the shade of the mountain for about an hour and you get to watch the 8am and 10am runners drive by. It is great to get the waves, honks and cheers as they head to their race start.
I made it to Furnace Creek in good time and got my requisite ice pop. I continued on from there without a pacer. Last year I had a pacer from Furnace Creek to the finish, but this year, i was just enjoying the alone time and did not need one. The temps started to rise and it was a little irritating to hear from everyone along the course how "cool" it was, because yeah, it was not as hot as last year, but it is still hot and the sun is still strong! We saw the highest reading at 117F this year. I also was having so much fun. I do not think I ever had as much fun at a race as I did in the first 30-35 miles of Badwater this year.
I was doing really well with hydration and eating and just moving along at a good clip. I saw a crew car fly off the highway right ahead of me and it freaked me out. I was pissed that they did that and then pissed that the rubberneckers were driving dangerously as well around all the runners. The 8am runners started to catch me after a few hours past Furnace Creek and the closer I got to StovePipe Wells, the more 10am runners I saw as well. It is really neat to be up close to all the top runners and everyone is always so friendly. I just love the family that is the Badwater Ultramarathon. Almost every crew you pass cheers for you, sprays you with water, etc.
Towards Stove Pipe Wells, I started to feel a little short of breath and it continued to get worse. I was trying to keep distracted by the fighter jets I saw in the sky, but around mile 38 I just felt like I could not breath very well and headed over to the van. This was the point in the race last year that I started with tummy troubles and I was just not happy about having to admit i was not feeling great. Jim, who was also on my crew last year, immediately realized that I was overheating and my crew worked on cooling me down. I took ice packs and put them in my hat, bra and down my pants. Jim came out on the course and sprayed me down as he paced behind me. It felt like forever to get to the sand dunes, but it was just a couple miles. Once we hit them, it was a short 2 miles to Stove Pipe Wells, where I would get to use the bathroom and have some more ice pops and see my family.
I was just about at the same time as last year, a little past 11 hours, into Stove Pipe Wells and was feeling good about my pace and glad I was having no tummy issues yet, however, I dreaded the next section, the 16 mile climb up Towne Pass. Last year we had 30-40 mph headwinds that started around the sand dunes and lasted to the top of Towne Pass. Jim was going to pace me on this section and I really wanted him to experience this climb. The sun was also starting to set, but not fast enough. I was hot and just looking forward to the relief nightfall would bring. And then it started. The winds. And they were unrelenting and soul sucking and shockingly worse than last year, with gusts up to 50mph i am told.
It took forever to get up that climb. The craziest part about going up Towne Pass is that while going forward it looks like you are going flat or downhill, but you are really going uphill. It is such a mind teaser. But then it gets dark and I just needed to focus on one foot in front of the other. When I finally got to the top, i was so exhausted i needed to take a short nap before my descent. I felt rejuvenated after my cat nap and Jim started with me down the mountain towards Panamint. I was running a good clip, but after a few miles, decided to power walk as my quads were starting to burn up. My fast walk was still pretty darn fast and Jim had to jog a little to keep up. Iliana took over pacing duties on my way to Panamaint. I was a little slower into Panamint than last year, but I think that was due to the winds just being worse this year. There were no smoothies at the gas stations, but my crew got me a slushy which was almost as good.
Mandy paced me up this section and I felt great and felt a lot stronger than last year. Last year I also thought Father Crowley was the peak of the mountain, but this year knew it was not and that i had several more miles to go. It was still long once we got past Father Crowley. I also saw my second scorpion of the race, but this one was dead. It was great to spend this time with Mandy and we were really just had a good time hiking and chatting.
The next check point is Darwin at mile 90. I tried to take a short nap, but the nap was too short and i was probably only asleep a minute or two. I could have used about 5 more, but it was what it was. Jessi paced me on this section and as we were going down the road, we heard an awful sound, i was so scared at what was coming down the highway behind us and just was frozen there waiting for a monster of some sort. It was not a monster, but a very low flying jet plane!! it whipped right by us, super low, and then whipped around the mountain and out of sight.
It seemed like forever between mile 90 and 100, but eventually I made it and was once again really happy at how much stomach was holding up. Last year mile 100 was where it went downhill very fast for me. I started puking last year right at 100 miles and did not eat anything for the rest of the race. I did not want to jinx it, but i was glad to have beat that boogie man. We could see Mt Whitney for a long time, but this year was weird, there was no snow on the top of the mountain. It just really shows how weird the weather was this year. Heading towards Lone Pine I was feeling great and right past Keeler, I entered a few miles of a sandstorm. It was just horrible. It was just miles of sand whipping around and i felt like i was choking on the sand. I tried to cough some up and gagged and started to dry heave. I knew what was coming next. I hustled over to the van and Jim did not want me to sit, but i was like, outta my way!!! and i started to puke. However, i was not too upset over it. I knew it was not due to upset stomach, but just a freak thing with the sand. I felt fine and kept on going. A mile or two later i tried to eat a fruit cup and puked it right up, i do not even think it made it to my stomach! I decided I was fine to do the last 20 miles on no food, heck, i did 35 miles on no food last year.
My crew left Mandy and I heading to Lone Pine as they went real quick to grab some food in Lone Pine. The sun was going down on the second day and things started to get really weird really fast. With the setting sun, the desert plants along the road took on shapes of their own. I saw dinosaurs, mannequins, voluptuous women, polar bears, and so much more. Mandy, who was just as sleep deprived, was seeing stuff too. It was fun for about 10 minutes, then it was just really really annoying. The white line on the road was floating and looking like a pipe or a snake or something. It was totally alive. When the crew came back I knew I needed a nap to reset my brain. I also knew I had more than enough time to make it to the finish before the cutoff.
Jim took over pacing and once I made the turn into Lone Pine, I felt rejuvenated. i made it to the check point so fast, my crew was snoozing in the van. I just wanted to tackle the mountain. I know the people at the check point were a little concerned about me making it in time, but knowing how I felt last year vs this year, I had no concerns at all and knew it was just a matter of time before I crossed the finish line. It was a really good feeling and I could smell the barn, so to speak.
I love getting into Lone Pine in the dark because you can see the trail of cars up the mountain. (though i will admit, it would be nice to finish in the daylight!) It is a sight to behold for sure. Last year, I was dragging so much at this point that my first mile up Mt Whitney was 36 or 38 minutes long. This year, I had none of that and really enjoyed my climb up the mountain for the most part. And I started to get really hungry. I ate some bread and then a few miles later I tossed the bread aside for some Milano cookies. After a few miles, Jessi took over for a few miles and then with 6 or 7 to go, Mandy took over for the final haul. I forgot how steep that section was towards the end but i felt a million times better than last year. Also, there were a lot of runners on the mountain this year when last year we saw none. I liked the company.
After roasting in the desert for two days, i was cold and had a sweatshirt on. Rumor was it was 45F up at the finish line. I would get hot going up the steeper climbs, but we were definitely not in Death Valley!! The altitude was hard on me again this year, being a flat lander, but Mandy and I just kept trudging forward and I huffed and puffed. She had her iPod playing some Cure for us and we had a good, quiet time. Finally we told the crew to meet us at the finish as we knew we were getting close. We were almost there, smelling the pines and listening to the water, when we took a slight turn towards what we thought was the finish line. There were all these people, a canopy and lights. It really looked liked the finish line. But a park ranger told us it was not, it was a camping area. He offered to drive us to the finish, but we said no thank you and turned around. Luckily, he drove up to the finish to tell them that we were lost and a race official came down to find us. At this point, we were questioning if we were going the right away or not. Mandy felt bad, but it was an honest mistake and we both thought it was the right way to go. We were both very sleep deprived and it really did look like the finish down there!
FINALLY we saw our crew and I knew we were close. We crossed the finish line and Chris Kostman the RD told me that i woke him up from his nap and he only napped 5 minutes. I told him if i had not gotten lost, he would have gotten no nap at all. I finished in 47:08 and was the final female finisher and it turns out, the final finisher. I was told if it was the Comrades marathon, that i would have been more popular than the first place finisher, but alas, it was not. I was so happy to get my buckle, medal, and finisher's shirt and celebrate with my crew at the finish line. I had such a great race compared to last year that it is unfortunate that my finish time did not reflect how well my race went. My crew was not as efficient as last year with the crew stops, but my main goal was to finish and we did and I am really happy with that. If my family and Chris Kostman will let me come back, you know I will be back to Death Valley and Badwater. I love my desert family and I love the Badwater Ultramarathon. Why? I cannot exactly say, but I love everything about it, well, everything maybe except Towne Pass!!! I was happy that my stomach held up, i was happy with my climb up Mt Whitney and i was happy my feet were in great shape again this year in a race that is historically malicious to runner's feet. Words can not describe what it feels like to cross that finish line and finish Badwater. I can only hope I can do it again one day.