Death Valley at 3 mph: Mike Stevens
By Steve Matsuda
He lets out a primal yell, his trademark. He knows he must keep himself calm and controlled because of the challenge facing him. He’s only a few miles into the 2004 Badwater Ultramarathon but he just can’t help it.
That’s Mike Stephens, the enthusiastic 46 year-old Registered Nurse who works in the Emergency Room at the UCLA Medical Center. He’s known at work for his 28-mile runs from work to his home in Simi Valley after a 12-hour shift. No doubt he experiences his share of trauma situations at work, but as a Badwater rookie, he readily admits that this will be very, very different. He’ll rely on his experienced crewmembers Fred Preston, Craig Williams, Greg Minter and Mark Giebel.
Mike has always been fascinated by the Badwater race. He thinks it’s like Yosemite, something everyone should experience at least once in his or her life. You don’t have to run Badwater he believes, just be a part of it. Stephens plans to enjoy his experience, as he says, seeing Death Valley at 3 mph.
Stephens walked for a bit every mile but ran almost all the way to Lone Pine before steadily walking up the hill to the finish line. “I love it,” he’d yell along the way to anyone who would listen. After the race, Stephens, like all the runners, is effusive with praise for his crew. “They were great. And I listened to them. They really knew what they were doing.”
Stephens finished in 44:01. Minter, a Badwater veteran says that Stephens was pretty easy to crew for. “It was good because there was nothing bad,” said Minter. Stephens looks good after the race, except for a very hoarse voice. “That’s from about 5-600 ‘yahoos’” says Preston. Mike’s family, wife Tami and kids Melissa, Sarah and Nick were able to share the experience with Stephens by following the webcast of the race.