Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Badwater 2008: A Blistering Pace, Part Four: Post-Race

After the race, we were staying at one of the "other" motels in Lone Pine. Steph had tried to get rooms at the Dow Villa, where race headquarters was, but they were already sold out by the time she tried to make reservations, which was the same day I got confirmation of my entry back in February! The room in this other motel wasn't great. We did have a tub with whirlpool jets in it, but other than that, the sink didn't drain, there were ants in the room, the coffee maker was weird, and the doors stuck so that everytime someone in another room opened or closed their door, it would make a horrible squeaking noise followed by a loud SLAM! Our door did that too.

We went to the post-race pizza party from the Pizza Factory in Lone Pine. Never has pizza tasted so good! It was an opportunity to thank people who helped along the way, like Don Meyer, Gillian, John Vonhof, Ben & Denise, and to see everyone one last time before we all went our separate ways. Until next year.

I need to say some things about the crew. They went far beyond my expectations and a Badwater race does not happen without a crew. The runner needs a crew to help them through challenging, dangerous conditions. The crew helps the runner along by anticipating their needs, being aware of issues like blisters or dehydration before they develop into serious problems, and does everything in their power to keep the runner from having delays along the way that might impact their performance and ability to finish or reach a pre-set time goal.

from left: Katy, Nick, Steph, Ken, Alene

My crew did all of that and more. They were so efficient, I never lost a second through the whole race due to the crew. All of our crew stops were moving, and the only things I stopped for, other than the blister care, were for sunscreen, peeing, sleeping, and just a few short, pre-planned breaks to get out of the sun and off my feet.

Nick paced me the last 45 miles of the course along with a few other short stretches the first day. He kept a conversation going only when I wanted to, he anticipated my fluid, food, and sleep needs, and was able to allow me to go into my "zone" to escape the pain I was having. He kept track of my progress without pushing me. I didn't need to be motivated by anything outside of myself, and he recognized and respected this. All he did was encourage me and answer my quetions when I asked.

Katy paced me on the long hot tough climb out of Stovepipe Wells to the top of Townes Pass and talked with me when I wanted to talk. She was super-efficient at crewing, and she sensed my needs and always was ready for me. Her energy was so good to be around. It's not always easy to find people you can be with while you're trying to concentrate and perform at your best, who don't drain your energy. Katy was perfect for me, she was there only to help. She didn't place any demands on the energy I needed to use to focus on moving forward. And on the final climb up Whitney Portal, she was the one person guiding the crew, she kept us going when we were all so exhausted. She was exhausted too, but she got us there. She got me there, powered by red jello.

Steph was the ultimate crew boss, she took charge of the planning and organization and made sure I had all the details in order, all the paperwork, she made travel arrangements and knew what had to happen and when. She handled tense situations tactfully and knew how to divide the workload and rest periods among the crew members. She had the toughest job with the most responsibility, and she saw it through to our success. She's been with me since I first brought up the topic of Badwater, last December on our way down to Across the Years. She's still working on Badwater now, sending pictures, sorting through receipts, and compiling ideas that we'll talk about sometime soon, on ways to improve on the Badwater experience.

Ken made me laugh with his crazy comments on the state of the universe, he made countless runs for supplies along the course, he paced me in the heat of the first day when my spirits were at their lowest point. He drove almost 800 miles on the way home when my feet were so swollen and painful, all I could do was put them up on the dashboard in between icing them in the cooler. He made sure I was hydrating and eating on the way out to the race and back. He took hundreds of great pictures too.

I can't thank the crew enough for their efforts and dedication to our success. It is organized chaos, it's exhausting, sometimes thankless, and relentless beyond the finish line. They get hungry and sleep-deprived and have to somehow remember to take care of themselves. The crew continues their work even after the runner has crossed the finish line, cleaning the van, organizing the gear, and finding the owner of every piece of equipment and clothing in the crew's possession.

Nick took off Thursday morning as he had to pick up Dana at the airport in Denver. Katy climbed Mt. Whitney on Thursday with Ed Green, Dale Perry and a few guys from Florida on Bob's crew. Like me, Bob decided not to do Whitney, he was too beat up.

Steph and I used Thursday as a recovery day, we did some laundry to keep things from really getting nasty on the trip home, straightened my car, and finished separating everyone's gear to go home in the proper vehicles. I iced my feet and elevated them, making notes and writing down everything I could remember from the race. I was still pretty out of it but feeling generally good. I'll be glowing for a long time over this one.

After Katy got back we ordered pizza from the Pizza Factory again and then we sat around relaxing and went to bed early.

Early Friday morning we were carrying the last of our bags out of the rooms before we checked out. I picked up my last bag and I jumped and let out a little scream. This was what I found, exactly where if I had not placed my bags down there, at the foot of the bed, I would have stepped on it...

Ken heard me and came into the room. He put a plastic cup over the scorpion, trapping it. We left it that way. When I went to the front desk, after I paid the bill, I whispered to the clerk, cupping my hands over the sides of my mouth but mouthing my words clearly, for the dramatic effect... "By the way, there's a scorpion in our room. It's under a cup on the floor. You might want to let housekeeping know about it."

Needless to say, I'll pick a different motel next time.

Going Home
Steph and Katy left in the rental van to catch their flight from Las Vegas to Denver. Nick drove home in his car and took the new cooler plus some of my other gear which made it a lot more comfortable for us driving home in my car. At least we could adjust the seats. Ken and I drove back from Lone Pine to Green River the first day and then to Glenwood Saturday morning. Ken did all the driving until we arrived at Glenwood so I could keep my feet on ice in the small cooler between my feet. I dropped him off and drove the rest of the way home to Fort Collins and got home by mid-afternoon Saturday

The girls greeted me with their big Australian Shepherd smiles and howls. Iris threw herself at me, screaming, giving me a big hug, and Isabelle ran around in circles, stopping to lick my face on every lap. Dennis was at work for a few hours. He left me a note to call him. I called and he said he was coming home.

I spent most of Sunday sorting through gear, unpacking, and doing laundry. I finally cleared a path to the front door around noon. Then Dennis and I decided to go out to the Rio for lunch and a margarita. After that we came home and I've been blogging ever since.

Everyone on the crew made it home safely. I'm going to pick up my gear from Nick tomorrow.

I'm going to make a separate post later to discuss the things that went well, the things I would change, and what I learned in general from my first Badwater. For now, I'll wrap up with a couple of comments. I'm sure my thoughts will evolve over the next few days, weeks, and months.

I need to figure out my next race, but my legs and feet have some healing to do first. Once my feet go down to their normal size, I'll be able to put my cleats on and go for bike rides. For now, I am starting to move out of the ravenous phase where I want to eat everything in sight.

I found out that the temperature in Death Valley on the two days of the race was only 114 and 119. That's cool as most race years go. It was humid, and I think the temperature in the hottest part of the course was closer to 120 in the middle of the day. The cooler temperatures certainly made for fast times. Both the men's and women's course records were broken. Most of the field finished, and almost everyone buckled. I don't think the cooler temperatures worked to my advantage, since I rely on my strong walking pace. Under hotter conditions, I think I would have finished a lot higher in the overall places. But that doesn't matter. I took what the course gave me, I dealt with it, and I learned so much. I know I am capable of running much faster, certainly under 40 hours is within reach. I think this year I would have been capable of that had I not spent so much time off the course and being unable to run the second day as I'd planned.

That gives me a goal for next time. Everyone wants to know if I'll do it again, and the answer is ABSOLUTELY YES! I won't be able to afford to go back and race next year, but I'm going to start saving right away and I think that in two years I can pull it off. Next year I won't be able to stay away though, so I'm looking into the possibility of helping with the race, either on the race staff or crewing for someone else again. This race has given me so much, I want to give something back to it. Great ultras are like that, they become part of you, and you become part of the race. I feel this way about Across the Years, too. It's like a family.

Check back in the coming weeks. I'll be posting a lot of material related to crewing and planning for this event, what I learned, and what I think will work better next time. I'll be telling my story, times and places TBA here on the blog. I'm hoping to raise more funds for the Cancer Care Fund, too. I'll keep it going for future races, not just Badwater.

I want to thank everyone reading this for their support and enthusiasm.


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