Tag Archives: pacing

2013/05/25: Nanny Goat 12/24/100 (race report)

Short version:  Nanny Goat was supposed to be my 4th 100-miler (all taking place in a span of 16 weeks), and I planned for a PR.  However, knee pain prompted me to drop at mile 63.  I have no regrets.  After resting for about 8 hours, my knee felt quite a bit better and I actually went out to pace some other people at the end of their 100-mile races.  Total mileage with pacing was about 74 miles.  I would have liked another buckle, but it wasn’t worth risking injury.  This also enabled me to go out and help some friends with their races.  While the event turned out totally different than I had anticipated, it was a very rewarding experience.

Much longer version:

I completed my first 100-mile race at the beginning of February, followed by another one 6 weeks later, another one 5 weeks later, and then Nanny Goat 100 planned for last weekend.  I had high hopes for this race.  I’ve learned a lot in each one of my ultras, but 100-milers in particular intrigue me because so much can happen in the last 30 miles or so.  But this is part of what I love about them.  If it was easy and races went perfectly, they wouldn’t be appealing.  As much as I want things to go well, I love challenges.

My PR going into the race was 24:53 set on a similar flat loop course a couple months prior.  I had trained well, peaking at a 90-mile week which included a 47-mile weekend.  I felt great and went into the race seeking a PR.  I’ve put less emphasis on even pacing in ultras recently because I feel like it drags me down and makes racing not as enjoyable.  I’ve always been a very analytic runner.  I love numbers, and I love my Garmin.  But I’ve tried to get away from that.  I greatly attribute my attitude shift to Eric Clifton.

Eric was the second well-known ultrarunner I ever learned about, but for 4 years, I only knew about him from what I’d read (and later watching “Running on the Sun,” which chronicled the 1999 Badwater 135 race, which he won).  Eric’s a heart runner.  He runs as hard as he can for as long as he can.  This has resulted in some huge successes, including records that stood 15+ years.  As one might expect, this strategy has also led to some equally epic failures.  Eric and his outlook on running (and life in general) intrigue me.  I could talk to him for hours and not get tired of hearing what he has to say (and I have had the opportunity to do that).

Eric encouraged me in my second 100-miler in March to take a risk and not run conservatively.  I ran by feel and got a PR by almost 4.5 hours.  In my third 100-miler last month, I committed to it just in time to start my taper, so I ran it somewhat conservatively.  But going into Nanny Goat, I wanted to try his strategy again.  Of course I knew that doing this would lead to a huge PR or crashing and burning, but I’ve discovered that I love racing in the moment and am much happier running by feel and risking a meltdown than I am focusing on numbers and running “smartly.”  I’m not saying this is the “better” way, but I am saying that it’s becoming my preferred way of approaching ultras.

I looked forward to Nanny Goat as I knew a handful of people who would be there.  I was carpooling with my friend Colleen who I met at my second 100-miler (and who also ran my third 100-miler), as she lives relatively nearby.  Our 4-hour trip to southern California was uneventful, and we arrived at the race site in the early afternoon the day prior to the race.

The course is a 1-mile loop that starts/finishes in a barn.  (This is not nearly as torturous as people assume.)  There were about a dozen stalls in the barn that groups of people could claim.  A group of us had chatted a few days prior, so by the time Colleen and I arrived, someone had already claimed our stall and all of our names were written on it.  I smiled because I already felt at home.  Other “room mates” besides Colleen were Mitch, Josh, Eric, and Jeff.  Mitch and I cross paths at a lot of races, and I first met him at a 12-hour race I did last summer.  He was also at my 100-miler last month.  I met Josh at my second 100-miler (and again at my third 100-miler); coincidentally, his first 100-miler a few years ago was at Rocky Raccoon, which was where I ran my first one this year.  Josh is also the founder of the Run It Fast club, which is a community of people who encourage each other to push beyond their personal limits.  (FYI, “fast” is relative, as evidenced by the fact I’m one of the newest members of the club.)  I met Eric at my 100-miler last month; he’d been at my second 100-miler too, but I don’t recall seeing him there.  I had never met Jeff in person, but we’d chatted a bit online leading up to this race.

At the race site, I ran into a ton of people I knew and got introduced to a bunch of others.  There were many hugs and goofy poses.  Colleen is very photogenic, and she has a certain pose she does.  I won’t try to explain it.  Just look at the photos and you’ll see her doing it and the rest of us–why?  Because it was fun.  I also got to meet the race director, Steve.  He’s hilarious.

A couple group photos; I knew most of the people in them already (I’m in the jeans and red shirt):

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Colleen and me with the race director:

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I walked a loop of the course to see what it was like.  It was essentially flat.  The “worst” part of the course was a .15-mile or so section where there was grass that was uneven and had lots of potholes.  I knew the novelty would wear off of this area during the race.  My favorite part was a straightaway section (about .1-mile) that was shaded by orange trees; at the end of it, runners ran partially around a goat pen (yes, a literal goat pen) and then through the barn, around a curve, and a gradual downhill for another .1-.15 mile.  There was an out-and-back section that I didn’t care for, particularly the hairpin turn at the end of it.

Colleen and I discovered our stall was barren, unlike the other ones, so we made a trip to the dollar store to shop for some Hawaiian themed decorations.  We came back and quickly decorated before heading to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with over a dozen other runners.  Not everyone who went to the dinner knew everyone else, but it seemed like everyone quickly got acquainted, and I don’t think anyone felt left out.

Our barren stall:

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After our trip to the dollar store:

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From dinner:

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After dinner, Colleen and I drove to the home of Evelein and Sebastiaan, two runners we didn’t know.  Ed (the Jester) had seen one of us mention looking for a place to stay the night before the race, and he put us in touch with that couple who belonged to his running club and were interested in hosting out-of-town runners.  They were really nice.  They’d actually offered to make us dinner, even though we decided to go out with the group; we invited them, but they declined.

Saturday morning, Colleen and I went to the race site at 6:30 for an 8am start.  All check-ins were done on race day, so there was a decent line when we got there, but we quickly got our bibs and swag.  Timing was done by a bracelet that contained a timing device; there was a sensor we passed each lap that read the bracelet and displayed our name, time, and mileage each loop on the barn wall.

“Room mates”: Mitch, me, Josh, Colleen, and Jeff (Eric was missing):

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Some more pre-race group photos:

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Colleen and me in front of the live streaming web cam (where we smiled and waved at all 4 viewers, haha):

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Outside of the barn, doing the “Colleen pose” before the race:

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One of the most memorable people pre-race was my friend Tony, Endorphin Dude to some who know him.  He ran the race last year and had a pretty epic meltdown and stopped at mile 88.  He came back this year for redemption.  As a result, he didn’t bring his notorious cape, decided not to take photos during the race, and opted not to do any of the other silly stuff that he normally does.  I will point out that since Nanny Goat last year, Tony’s completed 2 100-milers; I was at his second one and accompanied him on his last loop.  This year at Nanny Goat, Tony declared he was “all business.”

Me with Eric and Tony pre-race:

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Just me:

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Me with Josh:

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With Eric and Jeff:

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I had to laugh when all nearly 200 of us gathered in the goat pen and the announcement was made for people who “weren’t very fast” to move to the back, and about 90% of people moved back.  Someone sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, and then we were off.

The race started out with some cloud cover which was really nice.  It was a bit crowded the first couple loops before people spread out, but it wasn’t too bad.  I was just enjoying the opportunity to be surrounded by so many friends.  At the very first out-and-back, as I was approaching it, my friend Brady who was coming back from it sprayed me with his water bottle.  I figured it was going to be a fun day!  I didn’t run with anyone in particular, but there were so many runners (and walkers) out there that there was always someone to talk to if I wanted.  The out-and-back section was nice in the respect that you got to cross lots of people going to and from the turnaround point.  I tried to always say something to the people whose names I knew.

Early on, I was making myself walk part of the grassy area (one minute each lap) as I felt like I was expending more effort than necessary when I ran it.  I was running the rest.  My average pace (including walking) was consistently 10-something minute miles, and I felt fine.  A 9-something minute mile slipped in there somewhere, but only once.  Everyone seemed to be moving at really good paces.

At mile 18, I noticed a hotspot and chose to deal with it ASAP.  When I went into the stall, Eric was there.  He had knee issues and was trying to remedy his situation with tape or something to get back out.  I didn’t have tape or know how to use tape, but I gave him an alcohol towellette to at least clean the area so the tape would hopefully stick.  After I fixed my foot and did what I thought I could to help him, I got back out on the course.  It’s funny because I thought I would have been frustrated to have to stop so early to take care of my own issue, let alone taking additional time to help someone else, but that wasn’t the case.  The day was young, and I wanted to stay out there as long as possible; I also wanted my friends to be out there as long as possible too.

My average pace, not including stops, stayed at 10-something minute miles for quite a while.  As the clouds burned off, it got warmer.  It wasn’t “hot,” but the weather change was noticeably slowing people down.  I normally don’t have any stomach issues, but I started to feel a bit nauseous around the marathon point.  I kept going, expecting the feeling to pass.  By the time I got to 30 miles, I’d still been keeping my moving pace under an 11:00 pace, but I wasn’t feeling better, so I opted to slow down more.  My running pace (or effort, as I was only looking at mile splits, never instantaneous pace) remained the same, but I walked more.  Another issue I had was the amount of dirt in the air.  I have asthma, and stuff in the air irritates my breathing.  I always develop a cough when I run, but in ultras, I can normally stave it off for many hours due to the lower effort level early on.  But I developed it in this race earlier than I’d hoped.  It wasn’t a big deal, but it was annoying and did slow me down.

There were a handful of photos taken of me mid-race; here are a few:

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The warmer weather seemed to affect a lot of people.  The smarter people resorted to walking a lot more to save their energy for when it got cooler.  There were a lot of people throwing up and not being able to keep food down.  I was forcing myself to eat, but my stomach continued to feel terrible.  One older man, who was 81, actually collapsed on the course and was taken away by ambulance.  I think it made everyone else pay a little more attention to what they were doing and ensure they weren’t pushing themselves too much.  (The only “perk” of the warmer weather was that people started taking their shirts off, and half-clothed fit people aren’t too hard to look at.)

At mile 40, I still wasn’t feeling well, but I was running a bit with my friend Chris and new friend Andrea.  All three of us were at the exact same point; those two both went on to run over 100 miles in 24 hours.  At mile 41, I got a popsicle, which is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten in a race.  I felt a bit better after eating that, but that was short-lived.  I was retreating to the stall more than I wanted.  But I had more hotspots to deal with and just felt sick.  At one point, 4 out of the 6 of us assigned to the stall were in there in various stages of brokenness.  I knew my issues didn’t set me apart as there were people feeling worse than I was.  I discovered this when I tried to get the other 3 to come out with me for a walking loop (any forward motion is better than none), and no one wanted to go, so I went out alone.

I wasn’t having a good race.  I don’t mean that I didn’t like my time (as ultras in particular are defined by so much more than that); I mean that I felt pretty awful.  And I’d begun having some issues with my right knee, which is a knee I’d previously had some problems with about a year and a half ago that knocked me out of running for a full month.  I remember my friend Brady catching up to me and exclaiming, “I finally caught you after chasing you for 48 miles!” That made me laugh; I was a mile or two ahead of him at that point.  We ran together a bit before parting ways.  Somewhere around this point, I met a guy named Geoff who I stayed with for about a mile.  He was running Badwater this year, and got accepted in spite of the fact he’d never crewed there before.  Since I crewed one of my friends there last year and had written about my experiences and lessons learned, I told him I would send him the link to that in the eent he wanted to pass it on to his crew.  I noted that he must be having a bad day too as he was just a couple miles ahead of me at that point.

I made it to 50 miles in 11:13.  I can typically get to the 50-mile point in races quicker, but considering all of my breaks, I was surprised it hadn’t taken me longer.  I continued to feel sick.  One nice lady shared some ginger chews with me, which helped a little bit.

Shortly before the 12-hour point, I found myself walking with a new friend, Leon.  He’d been flying around the course early in the race but was now moving at my pace.  This was not just his first 100-miler but his first ultra.  He wasn’t feeling well and said he was considering downgrading to the 12-hour.  He was well over 60 miles by that point.  I told him that even if he kept moving at the pace he was currently going, he could still break 24 hours for the 100.  It seemed like he felt pressured to make a quick decision since the 12-hour point was approaching.  (People could freely switch between the 12-hour, 24-hour, and 100-miler midrace.  If you stopped under 12 hours, you were included in the 12-hour results.  If you kept going past 12 hours, you were included in the 24-hour.  If you reached 100 miles before 24 hours, you got included in the 100-mile and 24-hour results and had the option to continue to 24 hours.  If you reached at least 86 miles by 24 hours, you could keep going to 100 miles and had 4 additional hours to get there.)  I told him not to base his decision on the 12-hour point because he was probably just in a low point that would pass.  I encouraged him to keep going and if he still felt like stopping later on, he could stop then; the only difference would be that his results would show up in the 24-hour instead of the 12-hour, which was a minor technicality.

My knee continued to bother me, which troubled me.  Ultras hurt, and my knees always hurt eventually from the constant pounding, but this is always both knees.  Pain in just one knee was concerning to me.  When the pain eventually moved to a different part of my left knee as a result of compensating for pain in my knee, I was also concerned but kept moving.  My friend Josh, who’s an awesome runner, dropped down to the 12-hour.  One of his deciding factors was that he’d taken 2 pain pills and his knees didn’t feel like they should have after taking that medication; I kept this in mind.  I was bummed about him dropping down because I really like Josh and he’s always encouraging out on the course, but I understood his decision as I secretly wondered if I faced the same fate.

I continued to move forward and took two pain pills.  An hour later, I took two more.  Not only did they not seem to mask the pain at all (as they should have), but I started to develop pain in my right IT band.  I went back to the stall and talked to Josh and Eric.  Josh had already dropped and tried to encourage me to go back out, as I would expect any good friend would.  But it just wasn’t worth the risk of injury to me.  Eric had knee issues too, and after reiterating to him multiple times throughout the day that a single race was not worth seriously injuring himself, I realized that I needed to listen to what I was sincerely telling him (and a couple other people).

At that point, Eric was at 47 miles and I was at 60.  He wanted to get to 50 miles and I realized 100k didn’t sound too bad for me.  We went out and slowly did a loop together before grabbing a beer for two final “beer loops.”  We chatted a lot.  Eric had dropped out his last 100-miler too (my third 100) after not being able to keep food down, so it was sad to see him not reach his goal again, but I knew he’d made the right decision.  We spent the last couple loops encouraging others and eventually made it back to our stall.

While sitting in the stall, I was a bit torn between being silent and not drawing attention to the fact I’d dropped and continuing to cheer others on.  This isn’t likely for the reason it seems.  I was at peace with my decision and I didn’t have a problem with people knowing.  However, there were quite a few people dropping and I didn’t want this to unintentionally provide someone going through a low point justification to drop unnecessarily.  I picked up on this when I told Colleen and she hinted that maybe she should stop too.  She’d had knee issues too, but said she was feeling okay; I told her to keep going and to do her own race.

There was a period of time where I tried to sleep in a chair with my legs over the edge, somewhat elevated.  My knees ached so much just sitting there.  Sitting there, I was confident I could have kept going and gotten to 100 miles in less than 28 hours, but it just wasn’t worth the price it would cost me.  I’m determined, but I wasn’t willing to risk seriously injuring myself for that race.  Had it been a different race, like my first 100-miler, I might have made a different decision; I had a finish-at-almost-all-costs mentality in that race.  But now, I have nothing to prove to anyone, including myself.  I think I slept about an hour.

My dad, who lives just a couple hours from the race, wanted to come see me finish.  I called him late the night before and told him about my decision to drop.  He said he understood, and I was glad he still decided to make the drive to pay me a visit.  He showed up early, around 6am.  Even though I wasn’t running, I was happy to see him and I was also glad he got to see part of the race.  He stayed about an hour before heading back home.

About 8 hours after doing my 63rd loop, I decided to officially get my timing band cut off.  I’d laughed at Eric a couple hours earlier when he’d gotten too close to the sensor, registered an extra lap, and went back out to make his actual laps register the number of registered laps.  As Steve was cutting my band off, Eric started laughing and I looked up at the barn wall to see it registered another lap for me.  Steve said it was no big deal and there would just be a one lap discrepancy.  I was sure I could talk to the timing people to get that one deleted, but instead, I went back out to walk a lap.  I ran into my friend Vanessa who was also walking, so we did the lap together.  My knee felt quite a bit better.  However, I don’t think it could have handled being out there for 28 hours non-stop, at least without injury.

After my 64th loop, I was just hanging out in the barn cheering for people coming through.  Seriously, if you want to witness triumphs of the human spirit and see just how far people can push themselves, come to the finish line of a 100-miler (or work an aid station near the end).  I was so proud of everyone who had been out there all night and continued to move forward, now close to the 24-hour mark.

I never intended to go back out on the course, but it just sort of happened.  I’d been trying to get things for runners when they came through (pain pills, coffee, batteries, gels, ramen noodles, etc.) when my friend Brady came through and asked for a gel.  There weren’t any out at the aid station, so I went to get some from my private stash.  By the time I got a selection (I wanted him to have a few options), he was already out on the course, so I went back out to catch up with him.  After I caught up with him, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to keep him company for a loop.

I really like Brady.  I just met him in person the week prior, but we’d been Facebook friends for a couple months.  My first knowledge of his family came last year when I crewed for my friend Karla at Badwater.  Ed the Jester, who had hooked Karla and me up, had very colorful attire, and I noticed the day prior to the race that there was a “mini-Jester” accompanying Ed and his pacers.  The kid was named Colby, and Brady is his dad.  I read a report Colby had written after Badwater and continued this kid’s progress is races… his first marathon late last year, his first ultra at the beginning of this year, his first 100k in March, and then I saw him and his parents at my second 100-miler.  I didn’t get to meet Brady, but I met his wife Shawna and saw all three of them a lot on the course.  A week prior to Nanny Goat, Colby (at the age of 12!) became the youngest known 100-mile trail race finisher.  I had the awesome opportunity to spend the final 7 miles with him and a few others (including Ed and Brady).

Brady’s a Marine.  There was a woman out on the course carrying a flag for 24 hours to raise money for a military charity.  Brady insisted on catching up to her when she was within sight of us.  She was just walking but had a good walking pace, and Brady paced off of her.  While I don’t think we ever mentioned it during the race, I knew Brady and I both realized it was Memorial Day weekend.  Being in the Air Force, Memorial Day causes me to reflect on friends who have died in combat.  Two in particular always come to mind.  The 4-year anniversary of my friend Roz Schulte’s death just passed a few days prior.  Roz was my first friend ever killed in action.  She was an intel officer deployed to Afghanistan; she was a strong, confident woman who was also incredibly compassionate.  Her life was cut short when her vehicle hit an IED.  The other person I always think about is Nate Nylander.  Just over two year ago, when an Afghan military member opened fire in a briefing room, Nate, who was in an adjacent area, ran toward the sound of gunfire in an effort to help others.  In his efforts, he thought he incapacitated the gunman, but this wasn’t the case and led to a shootout.  Unfortunately, Nate’s gun jammed and he was killed.  However, his actions prevented further loss of lives as others were able to escape unharmed.  I also did not realize until after the race when I looked at his Facebook page that Brady had dedicated his final 50 miles at Nanny Goat to a fallen hero: Marine Sgt Trevor Johnson.

After doing the first loop with Brady, I decided to stay with him for a couple more.  He wasn’t quite to 90 miles, so I didn’t plan to stay with him the rest of the time as I didn’t think my knee could handle it, but I wanted to keep him company while I could.  I refilled his water bottle, got him gels and oranges, kept him company, and tried to encourage him to run when he probably didn’t want to.  I tried to stay positive for his sake.  Late in a race like that, I know (from seeing others and from personal experience) that people’s moods are very unstable and that mental lows are more easily triggered than mental highs, so while I joked around, I tried to remain cognizant of what I was saying.

At one point, I reminded Brady that the weekend before, Colby had broken down his race into 5-mile segments, so I told him he only had about two “Colby segments” left.  Colby and Shawna were supposed to get to the race near the time he was finishing, but it was dependent on flights as they were returning from a trip.  I think it’s so neat that Brady and Shawna have set a positive example for their kids and that Colby had a 100-miler under his belt (and a buckle ON his belt) and that even his 6-year-old sister Mimi loved running, including a difficult 10k trail run the week prior.

I thought it was funny that I completed three more loops within the 24 hours than I’d gotten credit for.  I’m assuming I could have brought it up at the time and maybe gotten credit, even though I’d removed my timing bracelet, but it wasn’t important.  In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter whether I got credit for 64 or 67 miles.  My race was over and the experience wasn’t about me.  However, I did take a break after 4 loops of pacing Brady; I didn’t want to leave him by himself, but our mutual friend Ryan had come out to help out and he stayed with him a few miles.  Ryan actually paced a handful of people throughout the race.

During the break, I rested my knee, drank some water, and ate a quesadilla.  I also cheered as runners continued to go through the barn, some finishing their 100-milers and others with a few miles still left.  My friend Mark came back, after doing something terrible to his knee the previous day, to cheer runners on.  He even kept Brady company for part of a loop.  His beautiful new bride Sharill also came back out; she had walked 20 miles the previous day.

Tony was pacing runners on their last laps, and when a finisher was coming through, he’d announce it and everyone would get up and yell and cheer (more than usual) and take photos.  He was really in his element.  Oh, you’re probably wondering about Tony’s own “redemption” race… It didn’t really happen.

Tony struggled a lot early on with keeping food down.  He’d put a ton of pressure on himself and did not seem to be enjoying himself in the ways he normally does.  He got as far as mile 43 before having a meltdown of sorts.  He ended up making it to mile 50.  Through some heart-to-heart talks with friends, he had an epiphany.  He had been concerned about what people might think, but he realized that his true friends would still love him regardless and that a buckle from this particular race wasn’t going to change anything.  Once he let go of the burden of not reaching 100 miles last year, the old Tony returned.  Watching him out on the course in the morning encouraging other people, taking care of their every need (including feeding Colleen pancakes off a plate while walking), and celebrating their accomplishments really made me happy.  Tony’s a great person, and helping other people reach their goals in spite of not doing what he had been dwelling on for over a year showed real growth in my opinion.  There was no doubt he was genuinely happy being out there.

When I took over for Ryan at mile 96, I was surprised how fast Brady was moving.  As we ran down to the grassy area, we were easily under a 10-minute pace.  I was glad when he chose to walk at the grass, haha.  We continued chatting and I kept reminding him to drink water (de ja vu of what I remembered him telling Colby to do just a week prior).  He seemed happy when I pointed out that we had less than a Colby segment left.  He also looked at me at one point and said something to the effect of, “Wow, you are really filthy.”  I told him I knew this, to which he responded, “No, I mean, I’ve never seen a white shirt that dirty!”  Thanks, dude.

I loved seeing the runners who were still out on the course, all less than a couple hours from finishing their 100-milers.  I tried to cheer for everyone and remembered that same point in my own races—so much distance covered, but still feeling like the finish line was so far away.  Some of the people out there looked pretty beat up, but it was inspiring.  I loved seeing Ed out there well past the 24-hour point and the completion of his own race.  That’s what I love about the ultra community—people truly care about one another.

There was a woman named Danni who, with about 5 hours left, was on the very edge of being able to make the cutoff and get to 100 miles.  The concern was that people tend to slow down late in a race and she actually needed to pick up the pace by about 2 minutes per mile to finish the 100 miles before the cutoff.  So what happened?  Ed sacrificed his own standings to ensure she made the 86 miles in 24 hours and then completed the 100 miles.  Ed completed 108 miles in 24 hours, a mere 3 miles behind 3rd place, but this didn’t seem to matter to him.  Seeing Ed out there in the final hours helping Danni was heart-warming.  Ed is continuously a beacon of hope in these kinds of races.  At one point, I counted no fewer than 8 people around him in the final several hours.  Why?  People know if they stick with him, they will finish.

I discovered my friend Colleen was on her final loop when we passed her on the out-and-back section.  Tony had paced her a handful of miles then went to take care of Jeff who was in greater need of support at the time, so she was by herself.  I got Brady through that loop and then told him I would catch back up but that I wanted to accompany Colleen at the end of her loop.  I ran back to where she was to walk with her.  She was in a lot of pain, but I was so proud of her.  I wished I could have accompanied her more, but I realized it was impossible for me to be in multiple places at one time.  I know she could have finished the race on her own, but I’ve found that company is really nice to have during long races.  I encouraged her to run at the very end and she did.  It was a beautiful sight to see when I announced there was a 100-mile finisher coming through and the barn erupted in cheers.  I let her run through the finish area while I hung back a bit and walked around the side—it was her moment.  I hugged her and then went back out on the course to catch up with Brady.

Colleen’s finish:

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Hugging Colleen:

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While running to catch up with Brady, I felt the blister on one of my baby toes pop under the pressure of the toe next to it.  I felt the skin slide down as my now-raw baby toe constantly rubbed against the toe next to it.  Had this been my own race, I am quite sure I would have stopped to assess it, but this wasn’t my race, so I quickly put it out of my mind.  I had to focus on Brady, especially since there were only a few miles to go.

Brady’s friend Tanya also spent some time pacing him, including in the final few miles, so I got to talk to her a bit.  As time went on and Brady’s family hadn’t arrived, I began to get concerned they wouldn’t make it by the time he finished.  I tried calling his wife Shawna and then texted her.  I figured she was still in the air (an accurate assumption, it turned out).  I also texted her to tell her he was doing well, where he was mileage-wise, and that people had been with him non-stop for at least 15 miles (including Tanya and me at that point).

Pacing Brady with less than 4 miles to go:

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Out of the blue, Brady hit a low point, but luckily this particular one wasn’t until almost mile 98.  I recall an exchange where I asked him if he needed anything—Gu, water, etc.  He said he “felt like goo.”  I had to ask clarification whether he felt like he wanted some Gu or whether he felt like he was goo.  He confirmed it was the latter.  Brady still had plenty of time to make the cutoff, but I wanted to keep him moving at a decent pace and still running in some parts because I knew he could do it.  At the end of the final loop, in the last .1 mile, Tanya called Shawna so he could leave a voicemail.  I had wished his family would be there for his finish, but that voicemail was the next best thing and I thought it was a very sweet gesture.  I really admire how close his family members are to one another.

Brady ran after hanging up the phone.  Once again, I got to announce there was a 100-miler finisher coming in.  I seriously don’t think I could ever get tired of doing that.  And again, I stayed back a bit and let him get his buckle, take photos, etc. without getting in the way.  When he went over and sat down, I asked if he needed anything.  He smiled, held out his arms, and said, “A hug?”  Of course.  Have I mentioned how much I truly love my ultra family?  Honestly, I’m closer to a lot of ultrarunners than I am many members of my own family.  Running long distances bonds people together.  Some of my closest friends were once strangers I met mid-race when we were both in low places.

Brady’s finish:

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Brady with his buckle:

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As I rested a bit, I saw Mitch and Jeff pass through the barn.  For some reason, I thought both of them still had two laps to go.  I got antsy just sitting around, so I took a shortcut to backtrack on the course to find Jeff who looked like he was in really bad shape; Tony was with him so I knew he was in good hands, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have more company.  Luckily I chose to go out when I did as he was actually on his final loop.

Jeff was moving slowly, leaning to one side, and not very responsive, but his young son was right next to him showering him with praise.  It was precious to witness.  At one point, Jeff told him to go ahead, but he refused and said, “No.  I want to finish it with you.  Together: father and son.”  His son was walking right next to him with his arm tightly around his waist and his head against his chest, practically holding him up.  I felt so privileged to be there to see this very special moment.  As we got to the barn, Tony announced Jeff was finishing and once again, the barn erupted in cheers.

This is one of my favorite photos from the entire race.  It shows Jeff and his son, his wife off to the right, and Tony and me off to the left.  This was about 15 feet from Jeff’s first 100-mile finish:

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Unfortunately, I realized around this point that Mitch was already done and had finished just 10 minutes before Jeff (when I’d thought he had another loop).  I was happy to learn Ryan had been with him at the end, though.  Next, a woman named Elsie finished (her second Nanny Goat finish), then everyone waited for Danni to come in.  With seven minutes to spare, Danni crossed with finish line with Ed and a few other people, including her husband.  This was so neat to see.

I know I won’t remember everyone (please forgive me), but some other notable things that I know happened at the race: My friend Kristin (who I met at my second 100-miler) completed her first 100k.  Lynne, who had been the photographer at my second 100-miler, signed up for this race with the intent to do 20 miles, but she completed 50.  Diana also completed 50 miles for the first time.  Lots of people set distance PRs.  It’s really sort of irrelevant what the numbers are—it’s just incredible to see people go farther (and in some cases WAY farther) than they ever had before.  My friend Giovanni completed the 100-miler after completing his last one just a week prior.  My new friend Leon, who considered stopping at 12 hours, kept going and not only finished 100 miles but did so in under 24 hours… and he’d never done an ultra before.

If you want to talk numbers, more impressive to me than the 24-hour winner (121 miles) is the guy who got second place in the 24-hour (and third place in the 100-miler)—Kent ran almost exact even splits in the 100-miler, with the last 50 miles being mere seconds quicker than the first 50.  Additionally, he managed to cover significantly more miles in the last 12 hours than in the first 12 (for a total of 119 miles).  Events like this give people an opportunity to test their limits, and many of them do far better than they ever thought they could do.

After the race, I took down our decorations and snuck in a shower.  There was a single shower in the vicinity, and since people took showers at different times, there wasn’t a line.  I was also surprised at how clean it was considering how many dozen dirty runners had been in there before me.

After showering; I was clean, but I managed to lose my hairbrush so my hair was a mess, haha.  With Colleen and Tony:

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Over a dozen of us went to lunch together, including some more friends who hadn’t made it to the race as well as Brady’s family who had finally arrived.  I told Shawna that after spending 7 miles with Colby and then 8 miles with Brady just 7 days later, she was next on my pacing list.  Lunch was fun.

This isn’t a very good photo, but this is Brady and Colby.  Colby was proudly wearing his shirt and 100-mile buckle from the previous weekend.

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Then Colleen and I made our way to our friend Eric’s house.  He was in the process of moving and had no furniture, but we were just grateful for a place to sleep for free.  He had his 4-year-old son there and I played with him a while upstairs.  That kid had a lot of energy; I wish I would have had more energy to play with him more.

Monday morning, Colleen and I had breakfast with our friend Paul.  Paul had attempted the 100-miler at Nanny Goat but dropped due to back pain.  He had been at my second 100-miler, but I did not meet him until this race.  After breakfast, Colleen and I headed back to Las Vegas.  Luckily, the majority of traffic was heading in the opposite direction, so our drive wasn’t bad.

Paul, Colleen, and me at breakfast:

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Looking back at Nanny Goat, I don’t have any regrets about the “running by feel” strategy I approached the race with.  Even if I had tried to run more even splits, I don’t think this would have prevented my knee issues.  And in future races?  I plan to use the same strategy, at least for the time being.  I know it sounds ridiculous, as this is a new realization for me too, but I would rather enjoy myself and crash and burn than to conservatively and safely run more even splits.  I’ve discovered that even when I crash and burn, assuming I don’t have serious physical problems, it’s temporary and if I keep going, I’ll get a second (and third) wind.

I also have no regrets about stopping when I did.  As I already said, I don’t have anything to prove to anyone.  I erred on the side of caution instead of potentially injuring myself.  I would have liked another buckle, but it wasn’t worth the risks I would need to face to get it.  There will be other races.  Also, if I had stayed out there the entire time doing my own race, I would have missed out on the opportunities I had to help other people in their own journeys.  It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

The ultrarunning community is very selfless and giving, and the people in it motivate me to be a better person.  Through the current time, I feel like I have gotten so much more from others than I have given.   I truly appreciate chances I have to give back, in any capacity.  I doubt anyone would have dropped out if I had not been there, but I hope that in some small way, I was able to make their journey a little brighter.  I try to embrace the concept of doing what I can with what I have wherever I am.  At Nanny Goat, I was capable of going out and keeping some other people company, so in my mind, there was no reason not to do this.  Likewise, it took virtually no effort to offer words of encouragement to others on the course.  I aim to never get too wrapped up in the things I can’t do that I forget to take advantage of the things I can do, however small they may seem at the time.

Katrina

Badwater 135 Crewing Report (July 2012)

*Originally posted on Runners World forum in July 2012, before I had a blog. 37 lessons I learned at Badwater will also be re-posted in the next post.*

DISCLAIMER: This is a LONG report, but I put lots of photos in it to hopefully keep it somewhat interesting. Also, a lot of the course blended together to me and I don’t necessarily remember what happened during each specific segment; I’ll try my best, but some things may be out of order. This report is going to be more people-oriented as opposed to race-centric. People are what ultras are all about, so the most memorable parts of the Badwater experience to me didn’t concern the course but instead how people conquered the course and pushed their own limits.

ALSO: If you don’t have hours to read this whole thing, that’s okay.  Don’t feel guilty if you just scroll through the pics. 😉

I never thought I would be involved in the Badwater Ultramarathon in any capacity. Each year, 90-something people from around the world are selected from thousands of entries to compete in this extreme race. It is 135 miles in length and goes from Badwater Basin in Death Valley (282 feet below sea level) to the Mount Whitney Portal (8,360 feet above sea level). Since there are no aid stations, each runner is allowed up to six crewmembers and two vehicles. The runners are allowed to be paced after 17 miles by one person at a time; the first vehicle leapfrogs the runner every mile or so while the second vehicle, if there is one, leapfrogs ahead at least five miles and is used as a backup and/or to run errands (i.e. to get more ice) if necessary.

A few months ago, my running coach Ian, who is a well-known ultrarunner recommended that I look for an opportunity to crew for one of the runners. He’d crewed for a runner previously and said it was a memorable experience. I was hesitant, primarily because it seemed way beyond something I’d be able to do and I did not want to screw up anyone’s journey to the finish line due to my cluelessness. Ian assured me that there would be enough other crewmembers who would be able to provide me guidance and that I’d learn a lot.  That was partially right. 😉

I decided I wanted to crew, but I didn’t know where to find a runner since there were fewer than 100 people running it. I answered a request someone posted online requesting a pacer; of the requests I saw, his seemed the least intimidating. As it turned out, that person, John, already had found a crew but was very appreciative of my offer to help. It’s funny because that “least intimidating” person was actually a Barkley finisher; if you don’t know what the Barkley Marathon is, look it up (hint: it’s not a marathon and most years, there are zero finishers). In other words, his post asking for assistance had been very modest, to say the least. 😉

Since John had a crew, I chose to seek a runner on the Marathon Maniacs Facebook page. I’d previously seen that several Maniacs were running Badwater and posted a message with my running experiences (so people knew how qualified, or unqualified, I was). Someone posted and said a guy named Ed may still be looking for some crewmembers. I’d seen Ed at my 50-miler in April; he’d been doing the 100-miler and was dressed crazily with bright colors and a jester hat.  We also exchanged hih fives many times during that race (since it consisted of multiple out-and-backs and the 50-miler and 100-miler were on the same course).  Ed already had a full crew but sent a very helpful message back to me mentioning a few people’s names and saying he really thought I’d be a good match for a lady named Karla who lives in Las Vegas (where I live too). He even told me that if I was still unable to find a runner to let him know and he’d see what else he could do to help.

I’d seen Karla at a few local races, although I’d never talked to her. I messaged her on Facebook and she said she’d be interested in running with me sometime since she was still looking for another pacer. We went for an 8-mile run a couple months ago in 95 degree weather and we had a good time talking with each other, so I joined her crew. Since I live in Las Vegas, I was lucky that I had access to hot weather to get used to it. I still really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, though…

Running was going fine for me the last couple months until two weeks ago. I’d suspected I had exercise-induced asthma for quite a few years but never got it checked out. I always assumed I was out of breath and coughed when I ran because I was out of shape. Just recently I had an epiphany that I’m not out of shape (anymore), which is what pushed me to get tested. Two weeks ago, I had a methacholine test and I had an adverse reaction and needed an inhaler. I was told symptoms would only last a couple hours. The next day, I went for a 15-mile run with Karla and I had the worst cardio experience of my life. I literally couldn’t breathe. Even walking wasn’t allowing me to get my breath back. I felt better later in the day but my breathing was labored the rest of the weekend. This freaked me out not just for my own health but because Badwater was only a week away and I knew there wasn’t time for Karla to find another pacer. The following Monday, I went to the hospital and was given an inhaler and sent away. I used it in the following days and I felt a bit better.

I’m a little bit OCD about knowing what’s going on and planning out the details of things. For this reason, I felt like I was going a little bit crazy because Karla is not really a big planner. With the exception of the two runs we’d done and meeting one other time with the rest of her crew, we didn’t have our “logistics” meeting until last Friday (when we were leaving town two days later). As it turned out, we never really talked about specific details, so I just let go of trying to know what was going to happen and I felt a little better…sort of. One thing I did not realize until pretty close to the race is that Death Valley isn’t flat, haha. Granted, I’d never really analyzed the Badwater course, as I had no reason to do so, but it actually consists of two 17-mile inclines before getting to Mount Whitney.

Here is the elevation profile for the course:
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Karla’s crew consisted of four people: her husband Z (who was not a runner), her friend M (who was not a distance runner), J (who was a runner with comparable long-distance races to me, although he’s a lot faster), and me. I was a bit concerned about the crew because we didn’t have anyone seasoned who knew anything about Badwater, and two of the four had no real running (let alone ultrarunning) experience. We had two vehicles.

These were the vehicles and how we had them organized (I use the word “organized” very loosely):
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The runner check-in and mandatory race meeting both occurred at the hotel where almost all of the runners and crews were staying; if you’ve ever been to Furnace Creek, you know there’s not much there. While I was chatting with the other people on Karla’s crew, Ian recognized me and came up to say hello. He’s encouraged me and guided my running in so many ways over the last nine months. I already knew he’d be there crewing someone too, but it was exciting to finally meet him in person. I gave him a hug and then got a photo with him.

Ian (definitely not a chore to look at, haha) and me:
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This is the race director, Chris Kostman, and Lisa Smith-Batchen, who is a well-known ultrarunner:
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All of the runners got together for a group photo:
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As I was walking to go find Karla after the photo, I ran into my friend Tammy who I first met at North Coast 24 last year:
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We had a little bit of an adventure in the parking lot a little later on: J, Karla, and I were in the vehicle with M in the driver’s seat when M decided to get some water from the back of the vehicle. She got out and forgot a minor detail: She put the vehicle in neutral instead of park and we started rolling backward. We got the vehicle stopped, but of course it had to have happened within the sight of someone else. One of the other runners who none of us had previously met came over and started a conversation with us. His name was Chris Moon. He asked which one of us was running and thought it was me, which I found hilarious since I’m nowhere near the caliber of the other runners there, but then decided to share some advice with our very rookie team. He told us his crew rules, which we thought were good: 1) Everyone will f ck up, so when it happens, just move on without dwelling on it, 2) no negativity, 3) leave the egos behind—the crew is no more important than the runner and the runner is no more important than the crew, and 4) have fun.  M said, “Oh, well, that was my f ck up.”  To which he said, “No, that wasn’t a f ck up… That was entertainment!”

Honestly, I didn’t notice it when Chris first came up to us, but eventually I gained some situational awareness and realized he was missing an arm and a leg! He’d lost them almost 20 years ago while doing charity work clearing mines. He mentioned he’d run Badwater before but it had been over 10 years and that he was testing out some new prosthetic technology this year. The fact he’d done the race before and was doing it again in spite of missing limbs was inspiring, but beyond that, there was something very special about him. The ultra community as a whole is very down to earth, but even in that group, he stood out. He was genuine, kind, and just seemed to exude warmth. There was something about him that is impossible to explain and could only really been felt. We took a few photos with him and parted ways.

Chris and me:
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Karla, Chris, and me:
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M, Z, J, and I went to an informal crewing question and answer session that evening. It had some good info, but we’d already read through all of the official rules out loud as a team to ensure everyone understood them, so we didn’t learn anything vital.

From the crewing meeting:
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Dinner the night before the race consisted of pasta we made in our hotel room with a jar of tomato sauce. We couldn’t find the plastic utensils, so we used chopsticks. Beer was the beverage of choice for all of us.

Dinner:
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Our pre-race cooler:
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We decided to take some goofy pictures in the room, some with one of the magnetic vehicle signs:
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The hotel we stayed at was beautiful, very unlike most places I’ve seen in the U.S.

Here are some views of/from the hotel:
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We only had one room for the five of us, so J slept in the car, Z slept on the floor, Karla and M shared a bed, and I got my own bed (the smallest adult bed I’ve ever seen). I don’t think anyone slept too well the night before the race. We didn’t even lie down until after 11pm and we were all awake before the alarm went off at 6am.

Badwater starts in three waves of a little over 30 runners in each one, at 6am, 8am, and 10am. All of the faster runners start in the latest wave with the slower ones in the earlier two waves. The course has a 48-hour cut-off based on each wave’s respective start time. Karla was in the 8am wave, and driving out to the start line was interesting because the 6am runners were already on the course and running toward us.

Here are some photos of the 6am runners:
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The parking lot at the start line was pretty packed with cars; it was no wonder why only one vehicle per runner was allowed at the start. The race begins at Badwater Basin.

Start area:
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The bad water in Badwater Basin:
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Just for reference, the little horizontal white line on the hill at the upper right indicates where sea level is:
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The sign at Badwater showing an elevation of -282 is a popular place for photos.

Out whole team (J, me, Z, M, and Karla):
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Karla and her husband Z:
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All of the 8am runners:
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There was a mandatory weigh-in prior to the start of the race.

Karla getting weighed and J not trying to be very discreet in trying to see the number on the scale:
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Karla was interviewed by one of the Badwater staff members:
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Runners lining up at the start:
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Here are a couple photos of some of the runners, including Karla:
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Since cars were leapfrogging their respective runners, there was a constant line of cars along the course. The cars got more spread out over time, but since there were three waves, there were always other cars within about a mile. As expected, the 10am runners began to overtake the 8am runners before the 8am runners began to overtake the 6am runners.

View of crew vehicles along the right side of the road:
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For the first 17 miles, since Karla couldn’t have a pacer, we’d just walk across the road and swap out water bottle, ice hats and bandanas (one hat with ice and one bandana filled with ice was always in one of our coolers while another one was always on her head). After 17 miles, J and I began pacing her. We’d stay with her for two or three miles at a time before swapping with each other. Once one of us was running with her, when we could see the crew vehicle ahead, we’d start talking about what she needed/wanted so we could run ahead and get it, making it unnecessary for her to stop. Whoever was in the car at the time was keeping track of the total mileage, time, temperature, calorie/fluid intake, electrolyte cap intake, and other notes like when she peed. The log became very important, particularly for the electrolyte caps and gels she was taking because they were on a certain interval and time was going by quicker than it seemed. If we’d just gone by what it seemed, she would have been not getting stuff as regularly as she needed. The whole thing was mainly an experiment because she’d never done that long of a race in high temps. The temperature wasn’t at hot as it normally gets in Death Valley due to a storm a few days earlier. This meant it *only* got up to 118 degrees. 😉

There are large gaps where I didn’t take any photos because I was either pacing Karla or tending to other crew matters.

After pacing Karla the first two times, for a grand total of about three miles, I wondered how I would keep doing that over and over again for nearly two days. I was able to keep up with Karla, but she was still running quicker than I thought she’d be running at that point. When I first ran with her, she’s already run 17 miles and was still ticking off 10-something minute miles. I really wondered what I’d gotten myself into!

Here is a photo of Karla and I sometime between miles 17 and 41:
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Here are a few photos of Karla and J, as well as photos of the course (note that it’s a bit hilly in places), and some dust devils. These were taken just prior to Stovepipe Wells, which was the 41-mile point:
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Somewhere in this segment, Ed, who had started at 10am, caught up to and passed Karla. I thought his outfit was photo-worthy.

Ed is known as the Jester—any idea why?? And yes, he’s wearing a skirt…and so was his entire crew…and yes, they were all males 😉
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There was a pool at Stovepipe Wells that was open to runners. Karla opted not to utilize that, although she did rest briefly so Z could massage her legs (again) and I could put some BodyGlide under her bra strap where she’d begun to chafe from the bra getting wet. I told her that if it got any worse that she’d need to swap bras, but it didn’t get to that point, thankfully.

Evidently I didn’t take any photos between Stovepipe Wells and Panamint Springs at mile 72. Between these points was one of the 17-mile long inclines followed by about 8 miles of downhill. On the uphill section, everyone I saw was walking. Somewhere on that stretch, Ian and the guy he was pacing, David, caught up to us and we chatted a bit. I introduced myself to David and told him that his pacer was the person who put the crazy idea of crewing into my head; David seemed amused by this but thought the idea was brilliant, not crazy. 😉 This uphill section was tough not just because of the elevation gain but it was very windy the entire time. At some time, Karla and I passed David and Ian; we also passed quite a few other people as Karla’s walking pace is pretty quick. Passing people was a boost to Karla. David went through a rough spot but ended up doing really well later on and ended up easily breaking the Australian record for the course.

Karla ran most of the downhill section after the long uphill portion, albeit slowly. We were still passing people, although it turned into leapfrogging because runners kept stopping at their crew vehicles, meaning they’d pass other runners, stop, get passed, then start going again and pass the runners who had just passed them.

At some point during this stretch, I had the job of driving the secondary vehicle, which was the job none of us really liked because it took us out of being directly involved, since we’d drive it up five miles, wait, and then drive it up the same amount again. I attempted to sleep, but with the emergency flashers of that car and other vehicles, it was impossible. Plus, I just didn’t feel like sleeping. Instead, I chose to gaze up at the stars, which were brighter than I ever see with the lights of Vegas. I also cheered on runners who were so far ahead of Karla that I hadn’t seen in a while (since the only runners I’d see frequently pacing or being with the primary crew vehicle were ones that were within a mile of her). I loved cheering for all of the runners. There were a few in particular I looked for, including Ed and Chris. Chris was doing awesome, and if I had not been looking for his distinct silhouette, judging by the speed at which he was moving, I would not have been able to tell he was disabled in any way. He always had a very kind response to my words of encouragement, as did most of the other runners.

The only runner I had a bad, or rather less-than-positive, experience with was Pam Reed. Admittedly, I went into the experience having the perception she was arrogant. I based this off of her autobiography I read, which was by far my least favorite ultra-related book I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a few). On more than one occasion, I tried telling her “good job” and instead of saying “thanks,” nodding, smiling, looking, or even ignoring me, she chose to gave me a dirty look. I was personally a bit amused but at the same time a bit saddened because everyone else seemed so down to earth, regardless of how awesome they were.

Gas in Panamint Springs, the 71-mile point, was pricey:
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This sign is just a few miles beyond the halfway point of the course, considering Furnace Creek was about 17 miles from the start line and Lone Pine is about 13 miles from the finish line:
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Karla took a quick break:
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After passing through Panamint Springs, there was another 17-mile long climb. By this point, it had been dark for a few hours and Karla was getting very tired. Chris had mentioned that a nap of less than 45 minutes is best so the body doesn’t go into a deep sleep. Karla had never taken a nap in a race before, and we discussed the positive and negative consequences of taking a nap and the best time (when it was still dark or once it got light) if she did take a nap. This was foreign territory for both of us, so she opted to take a nap in the back of the main vehicle. 25 minutes after lying down, Karla woke up refreshed. Perfect!

We had another funny incident around this point. While Karla was sleeping, I had opted to try to sleep and did fall asleep. I was woken up about an hour later due to feeling the vehicle make a U-turn. Z was driving and it was just the two of us in the car. Evidently, Karla had woken up from her nap and took off with M, Z had driven a mile ahead, and then he too fell asleep. When he woke up, he realized Karla and M should have already passed by us, so he thought something had happened and turned around to backtrack on the course. After a mile, he realized they weren’t behind us, so he turned around again, which is when I woke up. After over three miles, we caught up to M and Karla who were waiting with J at the secondary vehicle. M freaked out and started yelling because she thought we’d driven off the road (since the mountain was steep and missing a guardrail in some spots). Karla said she thought maybe that had happened too and kept discreetly looking over the edge. Somehow, not only had Z and I both fallen asleep, but Karla and J passed by our vehicle without realizing it. In retrospect, it was very funny. 😉

Driving along just as it started to get light outside, I noted that the runners I saw looked like complete zombies. The crews of the different runners would exchange words whenever we’d cross paths, and it was pretty common to be parked and waiting for your runner right near where another crew was waiting for their runner.  I made the comment that we’d passed some runners that looked like zombies, to which one of the crewmembers on another team responded, “Oh, you must have seen our runner then!”  Even though Badwater is a race, everyone is very friendly with one another.  Whenever crews see one another, they ask about the other runner, particularly if they looked a little down the last time they’d been seen.  This is what I really love about ultras.

Once the sun actually came out, people started to look more alive. Starting on the second day, Z and M started pacing certain parts of the race; by this time, Karla was primarily walking.

Here are some photos taken between miles 71 and 90, including one of M and Karla, one of Karla and me shadows, J and Karla, some beautiful scenery, and the sign marking the boundary of Death Valley at mile 85:
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The Darwin time station was located at mile 90 and was very minimalist.  They did have some medical people here, though, and J got one of his blistered tended to.

Darwin:
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The post on the left marks the 100-mile point of the course:
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There was some pretty scenery over the next section of the course:
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It was around this point J started to become… difficult to tolerate. He was tired, irritated, overly dramatic, and I really just wanted him to be quiet. He was sitting in the front seat of the car moaning and saying how much he was hurting. I was way too busy ensuring Karla was taken care of to have to watch after him too. I kept an eye on him to ensure he was eating and drinking, but beyond that, I couldn’t afford to put any more of my resources toward him. I understood he was tired, but I’d only slept an hour and really just wanted to ensure Karla made it to the finish line. It was very strange, but I felt fresh the entire time, well after the first couple times I paced where I felt in over my head. I wasn’t sore, I had no problems breathing, I wasn’t chafing, and I had no blisters. I think part of this was mental (well, I didn’t have chafing of blisters, but regarding being sore or overly drained). On every one of my races and everyday runs, the experience is all about me, but during Badwater, my focus was almost solely on Karla. Any emphasis I did put on myself was to indirectly help Karla (i.e. if I get too dehydrated to pace, Karla is in big trouble).

There was a long section before getting to the town of Lone Pine (at the base of Mount Whitney) that seemed to go on forever with seemingly no progress. This section was also windy and sandy. Luckily, Z and M started pacing some more. Through talking to M, I realized she runs sometimes on a treadmill and had a very false perception of how fast she thought Karla was running. I recommended that M do a segment with her, even if it’d entail a little bit of slow running. I knew M wouldn’t have any problems keeping up, and I told her that if for some reason she did to not worry and just tell Karla to go ahead; then we’d wait for her after Karla went by. After M paced her first section with any running, she was exciting because she said that was her first time ever running outside. I was shocked by this, but she said she’d always thought it would be too hard so she’d never tried. First time running outside being at Badwater? Awesome for her. 🙂

Here are a couple photos from that section:
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Another thing worth mentioning is that Karla had felt okay the entire time but had no desire to eat any solid foods for almost the entire second day. This made the nutrition element interesting because I was trying to get her calories in her water bottle without overdoing it and also trying to fit in electrolyte/salt caps too. How this all worked okay was a miracle because I was just experimenting and was the sole person besides her who was responsible for what she consumed (scary, right?)

Getting to Lone Pine at the 122-mile point was exciting because the only thing left was getting up Mount Whitney to the Portal. Z had mentioned he’d make some soup going up the mountain, and I remembered we didn’t have any utensils. I took a quick detour, running across the street and into a McDonald’s (the first fast food place I’d seen since leaving Las Vegas) and asked for some forks and spoons. The guy behind the counter gave me a really weird look (don’t blame him, haha) but complied and I ran back out and caught up to Karla. Somewhere in Lone Pine, there was a funny point where we passed a billboard for Carls Jr. that had a picture of a huge burger and a caption that said, “Running on empty?” Karla looked at it and said, “Uh, yeah!” It made me laugh. I stayed with Karla from about 4.5 miles before the base of Mount Whitney. At that point, everyone except J decided it’d be best to switch off every half mile or mile.

M in action taking photos:
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A few views before it got dark:
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There was a runner from Japan who had a crew (we kept seeing his crew vehicle), but he didn’t have a pacer the entire time on the mountain for some reason. We always cheered for him when we saw him and he always smiled. When he saw M and I take our cameras out, he decided to pose for us. Over the next few hours (the climb takes a long time, even though it’s only about 11 miles), he started hobbling quite a bit, we suspected due to blisters. But he still kept moving forward and he still kept smiling when we told him “good job.”

The photo is blurry, but since he went through the effort of posing for it, I opted to post it:
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About six miles from the end, there was a bit of a “discussion” that occurred among Z, J, and me. Karla had said prior to the race that her goal was 40 hours. As the race went on, she said she’d be happy even if she did it in 41 or 42 hours since the 40-hour goal wasn’t based on concrete evidence. Even though she slowed as time went on, at about 129 miles, J was convinced she could go sub-40 hours. Z and I disagreed, based on the pace she was going; when it had gotten dark, she’d also gone into a low spot mentally. J insisted that we tell her to speed up and run 100 meters at a time. Z laughed at the ludicrousness as everyone was at a slow hobble at that point and Karla wasn’t in a place she could run. J said we should feel obligated to tell her she could make her original goal and refused to listen to me when I said she’d told me that going sub-40 was not important. Karla’s smart. She knew the time and the rough distance she had left; I knew she could do the math if she wanted since she was still quite alert mentally.

By this point, I was also getting cranky.  I’m normally pretty calm, but J was getting on my nerves more than anyone typically gets on my nerves.  I was quite irritable, and I felt bad about this, especially since I’m used to being the mediator, not the arguer.  Everyone was sleep-deprived, though, which really didn’t help since there was no “voice of reason” anymore. 😉  Luckily Karla wasn’t too far from the finish by then, so I knew the end was near and I could soon go to sleep!

Even at the pace she was going, she was passing people, which I think boosted her spirits a little bit. However, she was also a bit discouraged seeing vehicles driving down from the mountain as she knew all of those people were already done. Looking up ahead, there was a broken path of blinking lights of runners and vehicles that indicated where we were headed. However, looking behind us, we could see lights way down below, showing all of the people still behind us. Seeing all of the lights coming up to our point seemed to surprise Karla.

The climb seemed to go on forever, and it was very difficult to judge how much distance was left. In the official booklet, there was a chart that showed which landmarks lined up with which miles, but even these didn’t seem right. Also, it wasn’t as relevant early on, but the chart went up to 134.4 miles, not 135, and there was a note saying the official distance is 135 miles but that odometers vary so it’s possible to get different distances, as evidenced by the official chart. .6 miles early in the race equated to practically nothing, but toward the end, it means a lot more. The last time station was at 3.8 miles from the end, and to give a reference point, the fastest anyone covered that distance was 57 minutes (and the winner actually took an hour and 15 minutes for that distance).

Z was with Karla the last 4 or so miles of the course, which was good for the two of them to experience it together and also because she’d resorted to only speaking Czech. While she lives in Vegas, she’s a Czech citizen, and when she got tired, her mind fell back to the language she was most comfortable with.

The last little segment of the course is very steep (160 feet of climb in .1 miles!), but we met her right before the finish line and as is the tradition, we all crossed the line together. She was able to speed up to a very slow shuffle at the end. 🙂

Here are some photos from the finish line and then right afterward and all of us posing for the official photo:
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She finished in just after midnight on Wednesday in 40:24, which she was happy about, as she interpreted this as meeting her goal (she’d wanted to finish in 40 hours and her time was 40:something).

The stars looked so bright from the Portal.  The stars actually looked closer than all of the lights coming up the mountain.  We didn’t stay up there very long, though, as it felt very cold (40s I’d guess).

Driving back down the mountain was a moving experience because we went past dozens of runners still making their way up the mountain. They looked physically pretty broken, but even though they still had hours until they’d finish, they continued to move forward. Every single person who made it to the mountain road crossed the finish line. As a matter of fact, every runner who made it to 90 miles finished. This is impressive considering everything that can happen over the span of 45 miles.

Of the 96 runners who toed the start line, 89 of them finished, which is an extremely high finish rate. The race staff is very picky about who they allow to even enter the race, but even so, only 7 people not finishing is amazing to me. And for the record, the first male finished in 22:52 (a mere minute off of the course record), the first female finished in 29:53, and the last runner finished in 47:08 (well under the 48-hour cutoff).

There was a post-race pizza party at noon after the race. It also doubled as a recognition ceremony as every runner was recognized by time and stood at the front of the room. They also showed a video with highlights from the race, which was great considering the race had just officially ended two hours prior.

Here are some photos from the party/ceremony:
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Chris came up to us after the party and we chatted some more. I didn’t realize it until I got home and looked it up, but this year at the age of 50, he’d cut almost 12 HOURS off of his time from when he ran it over 10 years ago. He had one of his sons with him (I think he was 13), so that was neat. His son said he wanted to run the race when he was old enough. His son had a very similar demeanor to him; they were both very enjoyable to be around. I told Chris I’d seen him a couple of times the first night and that it looked like he’d been moving along really well; I let him know I cheered for him (well, and everyone else), and he said how much that meant to him and then he apologized for only be able to acknowledge it with a wave and a “thanks” because he was tired. I couldn’t believe he was actually apologizing because I would not have expected any more; like I said before, I’m okay if someone even ignores me…just don’t give me a mean look (especially since mean looks take as much effort as a nicer look, haha). 😉 I got two hugs and kisses on the cheek from Chris before we parted ways. I still say he’s one of the most genuinely beautiful people I’ve met.

Chris and me afterward (photo courtesy of M):
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I got to meet Dean Karnazes after the party. I wasn’t really sure what to expect because I had a preconceived notion that he might be a jerk. However, unlike my interactions with Pam Reed, I was very pleasantly surprised. I’d actually brought two books for him to sign—one for me and one for a friend. I have a friend named Josh who I met when I was deployed last year, and at the time, he let me borrow one of Dean’s book; I’d accidentally bent the cover of the book, which Josh said was okay, but I felt bad about it. Josh is a great runner himself and runs a sub-3 hour marathon; I keep trying to convince him to get into ultras, but so far he’s declined. To pay him back for the bent book, I decided to give him a book signed by Dean. 🙂 I relayed that whole story to Dean, and in Josh’s book, part of what he wrote was, “Listen to Katrina and start running ultras.” 🙂 Dean also signed the other book to me and also thanked me for my service (since I’d mentioned I met Josh on a deployment).

Dean and me:
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I also ran into Marshall Ulrich afterward and got a photo with him. Karla was actually leapfrogging him for a significant portion of the second day. It was surreal because I’m in the process of reading one of his books at the moment. Of course I didn’t think to bring it with me to get it signed by him.

Marshall and me:
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Leaving the party, I crossed paths with Ed the Jester. While I didn’t know him beyond seeing him at my 50-miler earlier this year and exchanging a couple Facebook messages with him a few months ago, I still wanted to say hello. I reminded him of the message he sent me and thanked him for recommending I contact Karla to see if she needed another crewmember. He’s an incredibly kind person and he seemed genuinely happy that it had worked out for Karla and me.

The Jester and me (photo courtesy of M):
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Meeting, crossing paths with, and interacting with all of the runners before, during, and after the race was exciting.  Some of the people I’d only read about in books or seen on t.v. so it was very surreal.  At times, I felt like I’d been swooped up and dropped into one of my books.  Strange, but ridiculously awesome!

Before leaving Lone Pine, I took this photo to give some reference. The peak just to the right of the tree is Mount Whitney, and the finish line was about halfway up it. It looks a long way away from the vantage point of where I took the photo. However, by the time runners got to that point in the race, they’d already run 122 miles (and then they STILL needed to go all of the way up there!):
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To get back to Las Vegas, we had to backtrack about 100 miles of the course. Driving it seemed to take a long time and it was crazy to think that Karla had covered it all (plus more) on foot.

These were random photos I took along the course from the car on the way back to Vegas:
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Looking back at my experiences with Badwater, I am so grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of it in any capacity. I am so proud of Karla! I can’t say I have any desire to ever actually run the race myself, but I would love to be a part of it in other ways in future years. It’s one of the most eye-opening and memorable experiences I’ve ever had.

One of Badwater race reports I read yesterday broke my heart and also inspired me. It was written by John, the guy I talked to via email when I was looking for a runner to crew. To give a little background information: I never got to meet him at the race, and I was never able to confirm which runner he was at the beginning when he was still in the vicinity of Karla. After a couple hours, I never saw him or his crew vehicle again… until many, many hours later when Karla and I ran past his crew vehicle with him sitting behind it. I knew something had to have happened because it made no sense why he was suddenly behind us. As soon as we ran past, he got up and got back on the road with his pacer, but they were just walking. I pointed out to Karla that she’d just passed the Barkley finisher, but I was secretly concerned and knew something was wrong with him. At some point when I was likely in the car, he passed us and I never saw him again, but at the time stations, he was one of a few names I would constantly look up to check that he was still on the course.

John’s race report was painful to read. He got some kind of stomach bug that was wreaked havoc on his gastrointestinal system in the days leading up to the race, and logically, he should not have even started. He continued to have problems and had very intense stomach pains. At mile 30, the medical vehicle approached and recommended he be driven ahead to the next time station that had medical care. (A runner is allowed to seek out medical attention and leave the course to do so, but prior to leaving, they pound a wooden stake with their number into the ground so they can be brought back to the exact same point.) He was in incredible pain and went to the medical area. He lost 2 hours of time but felt a little better, although things got worse again. Someone recommended that he drink some Coke, and he strangely felt a lot better after that. To make a long story short, he finished. The entire time I was reading his report, I couldn’t figure out how he did what he did. Of course it can easily be argued that he should not have even started the race, but to realize that he had to will himself forward under extreme pain ever step for over 38 hours is amazing. His story reaffirmed that the human mind is powerful and that we’re capable of way more than we think they are. It also serves to inspire me the next time I debate not running because I don’t feel quite right. Again, I don’t necessarily advocate his decision to do what he did, but I have the utmost respect for what he did.

Badwater changed me. I’ve been feeling increasingly restless over the past year or so, and the things I experienced and witnessed there have only fueled that. Going back to work on Thursday made me feel like I wasn’t where I belong. There is so much more to life than the monotony of doing the same things every day ad nauseum. While at Badwater, I saw people pushing themselves to the breaking point and then continuing through sheer determination in pursuit of accomplishing their goal of finishing the race. There was something incredibly beautiful seeing people stripped of all of the normal comforts of daily life and truly living way beyond their comfort zones doing things logic says are not possible. I was in complete awe of the feats I saw performed, and while not everyone may want to run 135 miles, I can’t help but think that there is way more out there to experience than the nice, safe cookie-cutter life so many people, including me, have become accustomed to. While I’d heard the quote before, it never had at much meaning before; now I can really relate to it: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” (Neale Donald Walsch)

Random little fact I wasn’t sure where to put elsewhere in the report: I paced a total of 43.5 miles of the course, in segments ranging from 1.2 to 5.4 miles. Ian told me not to do more than 25 or 30. I texted him afterward and told him “sorry.” 😉

Katrina

37 Lessons Learned from Crewing and Pacing at Badwater 135 (July 2012)

*Originally posted on Runners World forum in July 2012, before I had a blog. Full (LONG) crewing/pacing report has been re-posted in the previous post.*

It’s taken longer than I’d planned to compile this list of lessons learned, but I did it.  Keep in mind these lessons are specific to crewing at Badwater, but some of them are still relevant to crewing at other ultras (or maybe even preparing to run ultras):

1.  Learn to enjoy the little things and focus on them.  Yes, you may be in pain, but the sand dunes, mountains, and especially stars are still beautiful.

2.  Think about the race in segments; it may be very hard to imagine the race as a whole.  I remember standing near the start line and realizing my mind was incapable of grasping the fact I’d be doing the same thing for the rest of that day (another 16 hours), the ENTIRE next day, and potentially a little bit of the ay after that.  Break it up into whatever segments you can comprehend.

3.  Know your runner’s history, not just the races they’ve run and their finishing times but any particular issues they had or things that went really well.  Every race is different, but there is no need to reinvent the wheel and try to learn everything from scratch; it helps to at least have a starting point.

4.  Keep a log to track what’s going on.  Each time we stopped (every mile or so), we’d write down the time, elapsed distance, calories taken in, if there was an electrolyte cap given, how the runner was feeling, and any other things that took place (replaced water bottle, new hat filled with ice, leg massage, etc.).  The most important element of this for us was the last time she took an electrolyte cap, which she was taking every hour the first day and slightly less often the second day since she was drinking more electrolytes then.  Time was going by quicker than it seemed, so I was constantly telling her to take another cap in spite of the fact I felt like I’d just given her one and she thought she’d just taken one.  Without the log, the caps would have been given significantly less frequently.  Keeping the log could also come in handy in the event the runner’s condition starts to degrade so the recent actions can be reviewed and a logical “recovery” plan can be devised; if you don’t know where things could have gone wrong, you’ll have no idea how to fix it.

5.  Be prepared to put a positive spin on negativity from the runner.  For example, if the runner seems discouraged after being passed by someone, you could potentially point out that the person who did the passing is someone who started in the earlier wave, meaning they’d technically been running longer and therefore moving at a slower race.  Or you could point out the number of people still behind your runner.

6.  Lie to your runner.  This seems terribly deceptive, but it can be in your runner’s best interest.  For example, don’t bring up any crew issues; the runner has their own worries-everything with the rest of the crew is always fine.  Don’t point out vehicle problems; deal with them, but don’t let on to the runner.  At the crewing meeting prior to the race, one of the guys pointed out that he crewed one year during which the only vehicle had a slow tire leak the entire time; 7 cans of Fix-A-Flat were used, but the runner never knew.  However, lying to the runner must not go overboard, and it must not involve things the runner is already aware of as you don’t want the runner to become distrustful.  It is important to keep in mind the intent of the lying-to protect the runner from things they can’t control anyway; it is always done for the benefit of the runner.

7.  Avoid taking medications.  I can’t cite the sources, but there have been some recent studies showing the negative impacts of even OTC pain meds.  I don’t think the issue is necessarily taking the meds one time but instead taking them at the onset of some kind of pain and then again every few hours; over the course of 30, 40, or more hours, that’s a lot of drugs (way over the daily maximum dosage) in a body that’s already over-stressed and particularly bad for the liver.

8.  If the runner must take a nap, it should be no more than 45 minutes (and some people say 25),  After approximately this period of time, the body can slip into REM, which will make the person more groggy and miserable than when they began the nap.

9.  Bring foods that are familiar to the runner, and particularly foods that have worked well in previous long-distance races.

10.  Bring a variety of foods and flavors of those foods because different things may appeal to the runner at different times.  They could develop food aversions.  At one point, my runner developed a hatred for a certain flavor of Powerade; luckily we had a variety, but this could have been problematic otherwise.  It also doesn’t hurt to bring some foods that the runner typically doesn’t eat during long runs, in the event that all else fails; this is sort of counterintuitive, but sometimes I think something new helps.

11.  Have a plan for how things should go, but stay flexible.  Don’t develop such a rigid plan that the smallest issue will derail the entire thing.  However, having no plan at all isn’t any better.

12.  Do your best to anticipate what’s going to happen (while keeping an open mind since that thing might not happen in the way you expect, or at all).  For example, if the runner is requesting a new iced hat every second stop, it’d be good to have one ready every second stop.  Or if the runner walks inclines and typically eats only when walking, be prepared to see if they’re hungry and what they want to eat when you see there is a long hill come up.

13.  Keep track of any issues the runner mentions, even in passing.  Runners may try to hide issues either to not inconvenience their crew or because they think they can work through them.  In a shorter race, a hotspot may be tolerated for the rest of the distance (even if it develops into a blister), but when there are still over 24 hours ahead, it must be dealt with at the soonest opportunity.  Likewise, if the runner is beginning to feel overheated and get a headache, request that they sit down for a couple minutes at the next vehicle stop; this short rest is an investment for their well-being for the rest of the race.

14.  Don’t let the runner dwell on the negative.  Even if the runner is fatigued or in pain (assuming the crew can’t do anything further to manage it, like providing a massage), acknowledge what they’re saying, particularly to note any increases in severity, but try to distract the runner by talking about non-running topics, telling jokes, singing, or anything else.

15.  Know the strengths and weaknesses of the runner but also the other crewmembers.  This may not always known in advance, but it helps crewmembers find their niches on the team and it allows the crew to know which area may be particularly difficult or less challenging for the runner.  If the runner has a habit of reaching very low points when the sun goes down, for example, have ideas of how to deal with this in the future, or at least be aware that this behavior is normal and temporary.

16.  Always be as kind as possible to everyone around you.  However, know that everyone is sleep-deprived and likely very stressed out, so don’t take harsh words personally.  Remember your role, do the best you can, and don’t dwell on anything negative that’s been done or said that has no bearing on the rest of the race.  This is especially important to make newer crewmembers aware of so they don’t feel unnecessarily attacked by someone who has no idea what they’re even saying or how their words are coming across.

17.  Don’t ignore your personal needs as a crewmember.  It may seem selfish to take the time to take a nap, not pace for a segment, eat food that belongs to the runner (assuming there is plenty), etc., but it is really in the best interest of the runner.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you could become worthless to the runner later.  For example, if you can’t find the time to deal with a blister you feel developing and you become unable to run later on, this is bad for you and is not in the best interest of the runner.

18.  Keep situational awareness of the distance that has been covered, the time it has taken to do that, and what is ahead on the course.  The runner will ask these types of questions and you should be able to give them a decent response.

19.  Know the runner’s goals for the race and have an idea of when they expect to get to certain landmarks along the course.  Early on, the emphasis is typically on ensuring the runner is not going too quickly.  However, this is a double-edged sword as you don’t want the runner to go out too quickly and burn themselves out, but depending on the course, temperatures, etc., it may be logical to try to bank some miles earlier.  Discuss these things with your runner so you know what they intend to do.  Also, be aware of the overall course cutoff and any cutoffs along the way.  It doesn’t need to be reassessed constantly, but the crew should have an idea of where the runner is at a given distance compared to their goals and any course cutoffs.

20.  Know what is expected of you in advance so you can train and plan accordingly.  Just because you are a crewmember, that doesn’t mean you won’t be covering parts of the course on foot, and depending on what your runner wants, it could be longer segments than you think.  This shows how important open communication with the runner is in advance.  Or, for example, a crewmember unfamiliar with such races may not realize there are almost no bathrooms along the course; this is good to tell them in advance.

21.  Bring different styles of clothing.  This applies to the crew but especially to the runner.  It’s possible that a blister or chafing may start but can be easily mitigated by putting on a different shoe, sports bra, etc., that doesn’t rub in the same spot.  However, if you just bring duplicate sets of the same style of clothing, it may be more difficult to prevent issues once they’ve started.

22.  Share info about the runner’s condition and any of their intentions with the rest of the crew.  While it may seem like a good idea to safeguard that information, it typically isn’t.  For example, if a runner mentions a chafing issue to you and then the same chafing issue to another crewmember an hour later, it’d be easy for both crewmembers to think it’s a temporary thing, not something that’s persisting and in need of addressing.  Or, if the runner notes that they’ll want a gel in an hour, tell other people because you might forget.

23.  Reapply sunscreen.  I don’t know of any sunscreen that lasts for over a day, particularly in extreme conditions with lots of sweating.

24.  Spray the runner with water, if they want that, however, be careful when you spray their legs because the water can very easily get into their shoes.  Wet shoes tends to equate to messed up feet, which can very easily result in race-jeopardizing problems.  If feet get wet, change socks and shoes as soon as feasible.

25.  Have a way of remembering to take any necessary daily medications.  This is relevant for the runner and the crew.  In a race that spans over 24 hours, the perception of time is skewed and therefore medications that are taken every morning are easy to forget since the concept of morning typically follows sleep, which may or may not have occurred.  My runner, who was very alert the entire time, told me at one point to reminder her husband to take his meds.  That reminded me I also had neglected to take my daily “med”; I don’t say what “daily med” I take, but I will say we joked that if I had a kid 9 months later that its initials would be BW.

26.  Clearly organize supplies in the car in a way that everyone understands.  Ensure that things that will be used more frequently or that are more important are easier to access.  And don’t be afraid to modify the organization as times goes on if a more logical way becomes apparent.

27.  Ensure the runner begins eating earlier in the race than they become super hungry.  It is possible that a runner’s body will, for whatever reason, reject food intake later on, so it helps if at least a few calories were bale to be banked earlier on.  Of course the runner is in some state of depletion nearly the entire race as they’re burning more calories than their bodies are processing, but there’s no reason to aggravate this situation.

28.  Determine in advance what situations would warrant dropping from the race by discussing the topic with the runner.  Justifiable reasons tend to only be linked to physical problems as it is understood that mental commitment may wane at times.  However, if the runner has a recurring injury that may flare up, determine if that is good grounds for quitting (or perhaps only if it occurs before a certain point).  It is important to hold the runner accountable to what they said prior to being put into the extreme conditions of the race.  At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that there are some instances in which quitting is in the best long-term interest of the runner; finishing at any cost can be foolish.  But don’t let a runner off the hook easily if they make excuses for why they don’t want to continue.

29.  Try to prevent the runner from throwing up.  There are some instances in which this is the best solution to expel whatever is causing issues, but if the runner is only experiencing slight nausea, try to mitigate this as early as possible.  When the runner pukes, you now have zero idea of what is still in their body and what’s not there anymore.  This can turn into a huge guessing game of figuring out how to replenish their body when you don’t know what’s missing, let alone the time schedule on which that should be done.

30.  Phrase recommendations in such a way that the runner thinks it’s their idea.  This is especially important when your runner is stubborn and doesn’t like to be told what to do.  Build the stage for them to choose what you want to tell them to do.

31.  Know your runner’s preferences for talking and silence, which may change over time.  You don’t want your good intentions to make your runner mad.

32.  Know all of the official rules for the race,  Not reading them in advance is no excuse for not following them.  After your runner has worked so hard to get to the race, you don’t want your own ignorance to be the reason the runner is disqualified.  We actually sat in the hotel room the night before the race and read through every rule out loud and discussed it.  We also took the list of rules with us for reference.

33.  Have separate containers of ice for consumption and non-consumption.  This may not be relevant to many other races, but at Badwater, ice is not just something you put in your drinks.  However, it is paramount to not be soaking feet or putting dirty hands into the same ice/water people are going to be consuming.  And never touch the for-consumption ice with bare hands, as despite your best intentions, your hands are not clean and could make everyone sick.

34.  Ensure everyone knows how to operate all of the vehicles.  Just because you’re designated as a pacer doesn’t mean you’ll never drive one of the vehicles.  For example, pulling out of the start area is not the time to discover that you don’t know how to reset the trip meter, nor is the middle of the night when you should realize you don’t know how to turn on the headlights.  Also, even if your personal vehicle doesn’t lock automatically when you shut the door, the vehicle you rented may behave differently.  There are quite a few stories of people locking themselves out of their crew vehicles with the engine running.

35.  Don’t give your runner options when it doesn’t really matter.  It may seem helpful to have them choose between 25 flavors of gel, but in many instances, they don’t care and the decision is overwhelming, plus it wastes time unnecessarily.  Sometimes choices are good, but keep them limited to a max of 2 or 3.  Most of the time, if your runner doesn’t want something you offer to them, they’ll tell you; over time, you’ll develop an idea for what your runner does and doesn’t prefer.

36.  Consider the climate of the entire race and plan accordingly.  All of us fell into the trap of not equating Badwater with anything “cold.”  At night in Death Valley when the temps dropped to the 80s or so, it felt cold.  Also, the Mount Whitney Portal at midnight was in the 40s.  In normal conditions, this would seem cold.  However, after a high temp of 118 during the day and being more susceptible to cold due to being tired and moving slower, it seemed ridiculously cold.

37.  Remember you are there by choice, whether you are the runner or a crewmember.  Things will get tough and you may go through phases of varying lengths where you wonder how you ended up there, but the fact remains that you are there, because of a decision you made, and you need to make the best of it.  No one made you sign up or help out.  By being there, you’re pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, which is good.  You will learn a lot about others and yourself.  Enjoy the moment.

Katrina