Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Badwater



For me, the past 48 hours were the most awe inspiring and amazing hours I can say I have ever experienced running.

I was lucky enough to be on the team to crew/pace/support the 9th place finisher, John Teeples, at the Badwater Ultramarathon.  I am sure much has been written through the years about Badwater.   So, my thoughts about the race are probably unoriginal...but I am sharing them anyways.

More about John in a second...lets get you familiar with the race.

The race is 135 miles.  It starts in Badwater, CA which is a small spec on the Mojave desert...it flows through a place aptly named Furnace Creek, through Death Valley, Stovepipe Wells, Panamint Springs, Lone Pine and then ending 8,600 feet high on Mt. McKinley. 

Heat?  Holy moly.  118 Degrees during the day on Monday.  I have never felt heat like that.  We felt like rotisserie humans...the heat came up from the ground and down from the sky in amazing intensity.  It then fell to 57 degrees at night...1/2 of the day's temperature!

Wind?  Check.  The wind was a constant.  One area of the course called "The Devil's Cornfield" felt especially bad.  Think about standing in front of a human sized blow dryer.  It had to be blowing at 20 mph almost constantly.

Hills?  Yup.  Three major climbs.  Not short climbs...nope, these are climbs that go on and on and on.  As a "middle finger finish to the racers" the course ends with the steepest climb of all...ending half way up Mt. McKinley at 8,600 feet.

John was a machine. 

He started off running 5-6 miles an hour and stayed pretty constant the entire first day...even through the worst of the heat.  The team "NASCAR pit stopped him" every two miles on day one.  It was really busy.  Ice towels, ice baths, drink bottles, food, vaseline, new socks, holes cutting into shoes, water pistol squirting etc. etc. etc.    Get him in and get him out quick. 

The pacing was harsh...and there were three of us rotating in and out.  The brutality that John endured mile after mile had us all in awe.



At night, the pattern turned into a pitstop every mile.  The temperature dropped down to 57 degrees which felt amazingly good.  I ran with John from midnight until about 3:45.  The stars were beautiful.  The moon was out and shed an eerie glow on the desertscape.  We ended up running/walking alternating..depending on the grade of the hill.  He still averaged 5ish MPH.

The best part of the night? 

Echos. 

Yup.

Echoes.

John yelled out a few times to see what the echo would be like through the canyons...it was cool to hear the sound ricochet around the hills.  It was like a cartoon echo....HELLO....HELLO....hello...hello!

We both had a good laugh...anything to take his mind off the pain he had to be enduring.

The last  12 hours of the race were amazing.  John was still running!  He cleared the 100 mile distance in 23 hours.   Which is awesome anywhere.  When you think about the 118 degrees heat he did it in, all the more impressive.

We played frogger the last 12 hours with another racer from Georgia, Jenifer Vogel, who was the number 2 female finisher. We would catch her on a break, she would leap ahead of us when we stopped John.  Jen had a viciously fast walk that amazed all of us.  13:30 miles up a steep grade at 110 miles...try doing that on a normal day!  We tried to hang with her, but it became clear that she was on a mission...we found out later that she was the number one female and was trying to get enough time to get an edge on the eventual winner who had started two hours later.   Pardon the PG language, but this woman is a bad ass and a half.



We hit Lone Pine and then began a steep 13 miles to the finish.  John jogged some of it, but we ended up walking a good portion of it.  The pacers were all huffing and puffing to keep up with John.  John, who had 125 miles under his belt looked strong and pushed himself all the way to the end. 

29 hours 46 minutes from the start, without sleep for John or a real break...

The finish was low key.  A rubber ribbon for John and the team to run through.  A picture of John getting the coveted Badwater Buckle.  Us all taking off our shoes and dipping our feet in the icy cold creek at Whitney Portal.  A round of cold beers.  100s of congratulations to John from all of us.



John simply was amazing.  Mentally.  Physically.  Attitude.  Focus.  Calm. 

He got a buckle and bragging rights about being a top 10 Badwater finisher. 

I got a lesson on how to be a better human.


2 comments:

  1. Congratulations to John, that is awesome. Good job on being a dedicated crew member Ed ;)

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  2. My comment never seemed to make here... a case of thinking I pressed 'post' and I moved on too quickly. But, major props to John for this badass endeavor.

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