Back of the Pack
By Tracy Fawns
While the front of the pack always gets their deserved fanfare, I wanted to spend time with some of the racers towards the back. By no means are these racers less capable than anyone else, but fate has dealt them the cards that place them a little further back than some of the other people. There are 60 hours to complete the race and some of these racers have the wisdom to realize that if they are not aiming for a first place finish, they should stack up some reserves so that they do not overdo things too soon in the race.
David Harper, 41, from Florida, pushed a bit too hard at the start of the race, however. He realized this mistake and soon pulled back and took a 4-hour sleep break last night. At 12:08 this afternoon, I found him running down the Townes Pass descent with his pacer in tow, looking rejuvenated and strong. David, a financial planner, has respect for the Badwater course and says that it would be a dream to be able to finish it.
At the bottom of Townes Pass, I caught up to Tim Kjenstad, 47, from Nevada. So far in his race he has had 2 medical evaluations to check problems with his renal system. As of 12:23 pm this afternoon, he was doing much better and running smoothly with his 3-person crew rotating the pacer position between them.
What can I say about Jack Denness? To even walk next to this incredible man is an honor indeed. As he approached Panamint Springs, he was glad to have his crew close and to have a frequent bath of water sprayed onto him. He looked beat, as would be expected for a runner that is 70 years old and completing a 135-mile foot race through Death Valley, albeit focused and determined.
I did not have a chance to chat with Roy Wallack, a rookie from Irvine, California, as he was taking a much deserved sleep break in Panamint Springs on a bench outside the restaurant. He did have a very dedicated crew with him (his brother Mark and father Norm), however, and I think I was able to snap a picture of him while he slept. Look for it under the photo section.
At 12:42, I came across Jean-Jacques Merienne of France. He was walking with his pacer and focused on the road ahead. This supermarket director is active in raising funds for leukemia research and would like people to be more aware of blood and platelet donation.
At 12:47, I arrived at a pullout with Mike Lynch’s crew on the climb after Panamint Springs en route to Darwin. His brother was pacing him and he took a quick break to weigh in. His vital stats have been perfect, with a blood pressure of 120/80 and a heart rate of 111. His weight has been fluctuating within 5 pounds and he was able to catch a 3-hour break in Stove Pipe. Mike’s toughest event was the JFK 50 in 2003, in which he “boinked” at mile 32 and lay on the ground for 17 minutes. His miracle cure? Salted potatoes. He completed the race and learned invaluable lessons from this race, including how to dig deep within his reserves to persevere on.
Up just a little further in the climb was 64-year-old Sigrid Eichner from Germany. She is having difficulty drinking enough fluids and eating enough, but her pace looked strong and she had good spirits as she climbed and climbed. Her crew is very tired, having only 2 crewmembers and not yet getting much sleep. Even with watching and experiencing the severe conditions of the race, her “driver” wants to complete Badwater next year.