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A Badwater Folly

A folly, a silliness.

Wednesday evening, a friend had been hit by a drunk driver while out on an easy bike ride. Hours later, I watched as life support was removed and she quickly died.

“When do you leave for Badwater?” asked several people, trying to find something “normal” to talk about in the midst of such insanity.

Badwater? It seemed so silly to me now. Running 135 miles across Death Valley. What was the point? Folly.

But I went through the motions, as many of us do in the midst of tragedy. Thursday morning I watched Nancy die. Friday morning I was at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International, waiting for my flight to Vegas. Leaving one surreal situation for another. Golf courses in the desert.

I continued with the motions. There was no enthusiasm for the race, but I knew that if the tables were reversed I’d be mad at Nancy if she had changed her plans. Inertia in one life does not bring back another. And so I wandered through Walmart, getting a head-start on the massive supply shopping before my crew arrived. The oddest things would bring tears to my eyes. A pizza oven on sale. Garden items. There was no logic. Logic took a vacation before I took mine.

Friday night, the first of my crew arrived. By noon on Saturday, the whole gang of four was in Vegas and ready to get to work. I had lost a good friend but was surrounded by so many others. They took charge of the mountains of supplies, turning them into an organized chaos.

The weeping was replaced by laughter; a lot of laughter. One life was gone but so much in life was continuing. Badwater still seemed like a folly to me but perhaps a good folly was what I needed.

Van and car packed, we drove to Death Valley. Three of the crew were veterans, both as competitors and as crew people: Nikki Seger, Bonnie Busch and Scott Jacaway. he fourth was a veteran of ultras but a virgin at Badwater: Stephanie Astell.

I was continuing a tradition. Three years earlier, Jay Hodde asked me to join his crew. Badwater had never been on my radar but, presented with the opportunity, I was curious about it and was glad to experience the race first-hand. Little did I know that I was to be indoctrinated into the Badwater family. Welcome to the family, Stephanie!

Our first stop was Dante’s View. To Stephanie we pointed out the thin ribbon of road that the race would follow. From above, it looks as though someone had just run his finger through the salt and sand to connect the dots between Badwater and Furnace Creek, the first check-point on the course.

We headed to race check-in at Furnace Creek. More friends. Lots of hugs, lots of pictures. Lots of pent-up energy waiting to explode. Runners were ready to run. But first, the paperwork and meeting. We learned more about the impact of recent rains. The desert normally doesn’t host much moisture. When the rain comes to visit, Death Valley simply doesn’t know how to make it feel welcome. Like unruly teens coming home from college, the water spread itself wherever it pleased. Instead of knocking down lamps and leaving food and dirty laundry strewn about the house, the rain moved the house itself — sand poured across roads, making them unpassable. Just the night before, the race route had been closed in several spots. In an area with few roads, there are few possibilities for re-routing. When the main road is closed, the most practical option is to simply wait until road crews can re-open it.

On race morning, it looked like the entire route would be open. But Mother Nature can be a fickle woman and her whims are impossible to predict. Hours into the event thunderstorms caused the course to be re-routed to a partial out-and-back. But road crews working overtime returned the race to its traditional route through the Whitney Portal finish.

We knew we were lucky. Bulldozers and road graders are nothing compared to Mother Nature’s tool box. We would cross the desert and head to Mt. Whitney, but only if she allowed it.

Sunday night. The crew did more sorting and more organizing as I enjoyed the quiet of my own room. I felt a bit over-pampered but sometimes it’s good to be the queen. Nancy’s death was still very much with me, but the rawness of the loss was being tempered by the excitement of the race. Badwater still continued to be a folly to me, a silliness, but I was finally beginning to look forward to it. I was anxious to just get out and RUN.

Monday morning. As we headed down Badwater Road to the start of the 8 a.m. wave, we cheered the 6 a.m. runners already out on the course. I couldn’t wait to join them. I felt like the bucking bronco held in the pen, waiting for the gate to be lifted, waiting for the chance to be let free and GO.

Friends. Many friends. Some new, some very familiar. Hugs and cheers as we greeted each other and headed to the start line. Life is a river. A bucket of water can be removed from it, but the river continues to flow. The energy of life, of friends, continues to flow.

Off we go. FINALLY, bottled energy is set free. Tears turn to smiles, to giggles, to joy. I’m flying. I’m so happy to be a part of the Badwater family, so happy to be a runner this year, so happy to go, go, go…

My crew reminded me that perhaps I was being a bit TOO happy. Running felt so easy, but they reminded me of the many miles I had ahead of me. “Let’s try to slow things down a bit,” I heard over and over. “That’s a hill Mary, you should be walking… why aren’t you walking… WALK!!!”

I got to Furnace Creek a bit quicker than planned. Seventeen miles into the race and it seemed so easy, so relaxing. The temps were warming but they were mild by Death Valley standards. Decked out in my desert best, I looked like a Bedouin midget bouncing along under the sun. Pacers began to join me. It was a delight to hear about the race as it was being experienced by our BW virgin, Stephanie. She was practically reciting my script from 2006. “I never realized how beautiful it is here; this is so incredible; I’m so glad to be here.”

With the heat of the day settling in I began to get a better sense of my pace. Well ahead of even my best hoped-for schedule, I knew that I had to back off. I walked more, taking note of various landmarks, such as the incredible sand dunes that one sees prior to Stovepipe Wells, the second major check-point. At Stovepipe my plan was to jump in the pool and cool off before slipping into new togs for the evening. I checked in, crossed the road, tossed off my shoes and then jumped into the pool, fully clothed. Oh did it feel good. I was like a child at play swimming around with surprised tourists. Stephanie and I made faces underwater as Nikki tried to capture our photos with her waterproof camera.

A bit of nutrition, a change of clothes, and off I headed for the 17-mile climb up to Towne Pass. I knew that it would primarily be a walk for me and I looked forward to just taking it easy and relaxing. No sense fighting with gravity. But it was during the relaxing hike that my monkey first climbed on my back. We all have monkeys in long events. For some it is a cranky knee or ankle. For others, it’s the stomach. Me? My monkey was fatigue. Not a yawn-I-am-bored-at-a-meeting-fatigue, but debilitating, I-have-to-be-prone-right-now fatigue.

Halfway up the pass I laid down on the cot for the first time. Ten minutes off of my feet and I figured I’d be good to go. The rest helped, but the monkey was still riding my back. I thought back to my days in college, remembering that I could never do the all-nighters either academically or around the keg. My tolerance for sleep deprivation has always been low.

Before cresting the summit I took one more break on the cot and then down we ran toward Panamint Valley. The reverse course of gravity perked me up and the monkey slid of my back for a bit. A persistent fellow though, he maintained his pace and stayed with me. I didn’t notice how close he remained until we were near to the valley floor. When I stopped for a moment to change my socks the monkey had his chance. He jumped back on and grabbed hold much more tightly than before. he next time I tried to move he wrestled me down. Literally. I was on the ground with my eyes shut. There is some dispute as to what exactly happened. My crew believes that I either momentarily passed out, or I simply fell asleep on my feet.

But I knew what happened. The monkey had me in a headlock and was holding me down. I was losing this match but knew there would be others in the miles ahead. I gave in to the monkey and laid down on the cot. It was the best sleep I had had in days — about two hours total under the pre-dawn stars of Panamint Valley.

The monkey was satisfied for awhile and so I got up. The first few steps were tentative. Would my legs be stiff? Could I run again?

The legs loosened, but there wasn’t a lot of running to be done after that match with the monkey. I moved through the Panamint check-in and up the next climb — about 13 miles. The sun came up and I was in good spirits again. Coming down the other side I hit the 100-mile mark. I was now venturing into unknown territory, going further in a race than ever before. And the monkey jogged alongside me, every once in awhile, reminding me of his presence — especially when I’d try to run.

Once I was able to knock him down.

Tuesday afternoon, a summer day in the desert, and I was caught in a hail storm. It was cold. Out came the turtleneck and jacket. “Dammit! It’s July in the desert, what the f*ck is this all about?” And then it wasn’t just the hail, but everything in life that didn’t make sense, including friends struck down in the prime of their lives. I was cold, I was tired and I was mad. “What the f*ck, what the f*ck, what the f*ck?!?!?!?!?!”

The monkey was so startled he fell off his back and landed smack on his a**. I ran like I hadn’t in hours. My pacer tried to say nice things, the right things, to perk me up. But there was to be no perking. I was in my own bubble of anger and planned to stay there. I ran and I ran and I ran.

And then the monkey caught up and jumped on again. The hail stopped. The rain stopped. The anger stopped. I remembered all that made sense, the good friends who were with me. The good friends back home who were thinking of me.

I embraced the monkey, made peace with it and wandered down the road to the race end. Occasionally, the monkey still had to be appeased with short naps, but we seemed to be working well together. I was moving with a fatigue that I had never felt before, but I was still moving.

Close to Lone Pine the crew brought out the cell phone and I talked with Dave, my husband — my home crew. A well-insulated man, he knew that the heat of Death Valley wouldn’t be a good match for him. But the race crew stayed in touch with him and he was well aware of how the race was transpiring. It was good to hear his voice. I talked to him again at the Lone Pine check-in. I was enthusiastic. We still had a 13-mile climb straight up to the finish at the Whitney Portal (the trail that takes one to the top of the mountain), but I was near that end and knew that soon the race would be done.

We moved up the hill well. At least the first few miles. And then the monkey wanted to have one last wrestling match. I couldn’t keep my eyes open I couldn’t stay on my feet. A short nap about four miles from the top and I was still struggling. “Suggestions?” I yelled to the crew. They loaded me with caffeine pills and Coke. The gave me caffeine-filled gels. But what finally worked? What finally got the monkey to loosen his grip?

Song. Singing songs. Camp songs, Christmas songs, dirty songs with lots of naughty words. My pacers were incredibly good sports doing their best to join me in some of the worst ditties I could muster.

But it worked. Our final song was “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!” And we did, running across the finish line, clapping and laughing. The anticipated tears were replaced by hysterical laughter. Even the monkey was laughing. And I’m sure that somewhere in that land of the newly deceased, Nancy was too. She always laughed at me — at me and with me.

I finished my race just before 6 a.m. on Wednesday. At 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, I was back at the Portal Trail with my crew, and two other friends — Lisa and Tim. After visiting the basement of North America, it was time to take a look at the attic of the Lower 48. We were headed for the 11-mile climb to the top of Mt. Whitney. It would be about 22 miles up-and-back. Thirteen hours.

Amazingly, my legs weren’t too bad. Breathing was slow. But I could keep the feet moving as long as I kept my usual chatter to a minimal level. Up we went past the tree line, up though the raindrops, and up to the top where snow flurries greeted us. I stayed long enough to sign the book, noting “Hi Nancy, wish you were here!” and then headed back down.

A bucket of water is removed from a river, but the river moves on, flowing with life.

I enjoyed a lot of life in the midst of Death Valley. And I am grateful to the many friends who journeyed with me through the desert, both physically and in my heart.

2008 Badwater Ultramarathon Crew Report

Crew person for 2008 finisher Phil Rosenstein

I returned to Death Valley again this year not knowing if it was love that brought me there or if was it there that I found life. This is where I learned to believe that things don’t have to be seen to be true. It’s where I found the strength to open up my heart and trust those around me. It was here in the desert where I realized how precious life is and how to live each moment for what it is.

This year I was given an opportunity to take the hands of those around me to share a wonderful experience. Together we would bond to guide one runner 135 miles through the desert so that he too could experience the life changing affects of a Badwater finish.

Though ability and mental toughness are needed to complete a race of this type emotional support and guidance are just as critical. Phil selected an outstanding crew of which I was flattered to be a member.

It was not the athletic background of the crew members that allowed us to bond but instead it was the human element that brought us together as one.

Elizabeth Carrion, the only female member of Phil’s crew, played the role of mentor and motivator. She was commonly referred to as “the other girl” or her.” These nicknames were bestowed upon her by Dave Yeakel who for some reason could never remember her name. Elizabeth advised Phil on the importance of nutrition amongst other things. She certainly demonstrated the ability to convey a message authoritatively but also compassionately. Phil is quite a stubborn guy so though he listened I doubt that he learned much, however, her presence certainly seemed to motivate him in times of need.

Ted McMahon the “normal” one of the group was a very calming influence. I was concerned that he would feel out of place but in fact he fit in very well. His calming demeanor brought tranquility to an otherwise brutal arena. Ted, the perfect gentlemen, kept our group composed even through the most difficult circumstances.

Dave Yeakel, one of Phil’s closest friends, played the role of comic relief. His meticulous though gentle personality left him an easy target in our group. His passion is running but it was his love of food that left him with the name of “Subway” Dave. His role was that of communicator and organizer. He spoke the raw truth to Phil and was able to manage the emotions associated with a negative outcome. Though he knew that he could be a target of Phil’s frustration Dave was never afraid to communicate his feelings because he was confident that in the end it would be helpful.

Me? Well I was deemed the crew leader by Phil. I have to admit that I had no problem fulfilling the duties associated with that title but I certainly felt uncomfortable being labeled as such. It was not the role that bothered me but instead it was how the others would react to the title itself. Leaders in general do not need official recognition but instead they just lead. Phil felt it necessary to announce to the group that I was the leader and that they were to take direction from me. This announcement made me feel very uncomfortable for it is not one person who leads the runner to the mountain but instead it is the strengths of the entire group who do so. I took Phil’s announcement in stride but later I told the rest of the crew how I felt. I assured them that I would certainly give guidance if needed but equally together we would lead as a group.

Phil Rosenstein is as tough as they come so I had no doubt that he would finish, however, I was just as certain that he would experience challenges that he never before faced. You see in March of ’08 Phil contracted pneumonia which became complicated by and infection requiring a thoracotomy to drain fluid from his lungs. As the days to the race neared and others trained hard he laid in bed wondering if he would ever run again. Months behind his peers he did his best to prepare and amazingly enough at 8 a.m. on July 14, 2008 Phil Rosenstein confidently stood at the start line of the Badwater Ultramarathon.

The night before the race Elizabeth, Dave, Ted and I held a meeting to develop a plan of action. The first order of business was to determine a time that we should leave our hotel and the second order of business was to discuss crew assignments. I expressed how important it would be for us to arrive early so that we could implement our crewing strategy without a hitch. I emphasized how critical it would be to gain a front row parking spot so that we could not only see the start but also have immediate access to our vehicle. This would give us the extra time to stage ourselves exactly one mile away so that we could prepare for Phil’s arrival. A good parking spot would allow us an easy exit so that we could get properly staged to assume our duties as crew without mass confusion. The duties that needed to be addressed were driver, water bottle attendant and ice bandanna manager. The plan that we developed included staging one person 20 yards from the van to greet Phil with a fresh water bottle while a second person stood parallel to the van ready to replace his ice bandanna and a third would then offer food and spray him down with water. The fourth person of the group would be expected to drive the vehicle and document consumption. I suggested that we not deviate from our assigned tasks until we reached Furnace Creek. I felt this would help us get into a nice rhythm so that things would flow smoothly from there.

Phil arrived at the starting line very upbeat and anxious to run. The first thing that he did was to seek out the University of Montana research team. As a participant of their study Phil was required to weigh in, give blood, and swallow a pill that would be used to measure heat transfer in his body. We were aware of these requirements prior to the race and planned accordingly to allow time.

While Phil checked in I noticed a race official observing the signage attached to our vehicle. We were certainly in compliance with the requirements as far as the dimensions of the lettering but the race officials were not completely satisfied with the visibility of the lettering. I understood why we were flagged because our markings were not consistent with that of the other participants. There were several methods being used by the others to identify the vehicles with the most popular being shelf paper or magnets. Phil, mirroring my mistake in 2006, chose to mark his vehicles with poster board. I can relate to Phil’s difficulty in nailing down the small details of this race as I too was injured right up until the day that I ran Badwater in 2006. As it turns out he was just as lucky as well because he too had a crew who reacted without any undo stress to him.

Using poster board to identify the vehicles is fine however clean-up afterwards can be quite difficult. My crew in ’06 found that the duct tape used to attach the signs can and will melt in the extreme desert heat. In order to avoid this kind of a messy clean-up “Subway” and I came up with an alternative approach. Our first choice was to use shoe polish to write Phil’s name and number on the vans but when that couldn’t be found we opted for a bar of soap. We wrote clearly using large letters but they were deemed not visible by the race official who inspected our vehicle. Since Dave and I had left the poster board signs in the van it was an easy fix and in the end the clean-up was easier than expected.

The unseasonably cool temperatures along the banks of the salt slicks may have fooled those in the group in to believing that this would be an easy run. Soon, however, they would find that there is nothing easy about Badwater. What this day may have lacked in heat it would make up in other unknown challenges along the 135 mile course.

The 30 or so runners that stood at the start line could have possibly been considered the bravest people on Earth. The scenery on the right included nothing more than a mountain with a sign indicating that they stood 282 feet below sea level while on the left was the lonely desert and directly ahead was an endless road.

The pre-race ceremonies included a group photo, a lively talk by Chris Kostman and the National Anthem. Some have found the pageantry associated with the race objectionable but personally I find it quite exciting and deserving of a World Class event. Despite all of the pomp and circumstance leading up to the race the actual start was unpretentious. The group counted down from ten and when they reached zero the race began.

Phil started out running in the lead pack and looked strong. While I have no doubt that the cool temperature and the breeze dictated the early pace I’m just as certain that the emotion buried deep inside of his heart contributed as well. There are photos of Phil at the starting line looking into the sky while attempting to hold back tears. Though I never asked and never will I can’t help but wonder what his thoughts were at that very moment.

I’m usually an advocate of allowing emotions to flow freely during a run but in Death Valley it might be best for the runner to keep them in check. The Valley is a living Hell and the Devil is waiting to capitalize on any mistake that a runner might make. This particular day Phil went out fast and furious while confidently pushing hard. The Devil saw a naïve young man and tricked him by including high humidity with the low temps. The elements took an early toll and before Phil realized what was going on the Devil had already threw his first knockout punch.

Our strategy of meeting Phil at every mile was working well but as his condition deteriorated we scrambled to help him survive. We as a crew knew Phil’s background well and because of that we never panicked when he dropped to both knees at mile 10. The Valley threw a hard punch but like any good fighter Phil rose to his feet and asked for another.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t shocked to see him take a knockout blow so quickly. It turned out to be a wake-up call to all involved that this would be a battle from mile one until the very end.

At the 10 mile mark Phil stopped, bent over, and released the contents of his stomach while falling to the ground. Ted and I reached down to help him to his feet and lead him to the air conditioned vehicle where he sat quietly for a moment. Phil never once looked concerned but instead he seemed to take it in stride. He sat for only a short time before stubbornly rising to his feet to return to the road. His mind was sharp but the Valley’s first assault had left a mark on his body. I pleaded with him to stay in the vehicle for a few more minutes but he refused.

He was stubborn but he was stubborn for a reason, a reason which he never explained until later in the race. Some people gain motivation from family, religion, childhood memories (both good and bad) and even heartbreak but Phil was motivated by a dream a dream that he believed would be out of reach if he sat for even a moment’s time. I have no doubt that this dream occurred as he lay in a hospital bed all alone for several weeks in the early spring. I can’t possibly begin to understand what his thoughts were as he lay in that bed but what I can understand is the internal drive to satisfy a deep need to prove something not just to himself but to those who did not believe in him. It was because of this that a finish would not be acceptable unless he did so within a certain time period.

Before allowing him to leave the vehicle I appealed to his good senses by providing a definition of heat exhaustion. Since his mind was sharp I had hoped that he would understand the consequences that he could suffer if he continued. He stared at me as I spoke so I knew that he heard my words but I was just as certain that because he was so focused he did not comprehend the message that I tried to convey. As soon as the last word left my mouth Phil was on the road again. When he left Elizabeth observed his movements and quickly brought it to our attention that his running form looked unstable. Before I could even look back Phil had already stopped running and started to double up in pain. When we retrieved this time we insisted that he sit in the car for at least 15-20 minutes. I then personally tried my best to convince him that what he was suffering from heat exhaustion and that when he cooled down his body would start processing fluid instead of rejecting it. Instead of placing trust in me he complained about the period of rest that was forced upon him.

While he sat we increased the intensity of the air conditioner and placed ice around his neck. I had hoped that this would be enough to lower his core body temperature and bring him back to life. I had no way of knowing that this scenario would be indicative of what our days would be like and actually I’m thankful that I didn’t.

Before Phil left I tried to redirect his thoughts. I wanted him to focus on time instead of mileage. I stressed the importance of taking it easy during the day so that his body could begin to function as it should. I reminded him how cool it would be at night and how much better he would feel which would allow him to give a better effort. The message that I sent was for him to focus on the night as he ran slowly through the day.

I believed in what I told him but I wasn’t sure that Phil would ever be willing to trust me enough to relinquish control. The battle between Phil and Death Valley had just begun and now it was evident that it would be complicated by the battle that was going on between Phil and his own mind.

The last direction that we gave Phil prior to allowing him to return to the course was to move forward slowly. This would be the only way that he could gain ground while recovering from the effects of the elements and the early fast pace.

Dave, Elizabeth, Ted and I were so in sync that there was no need for a group discussion as to how we should proceed. We observed his movements as he met us at each mile and we asked simple questions that would help us to determine his condition. It was crucial that we remain patient and wait for marked improvement before offering solid food. At 131 pounds with very little body fat it was critical that Phil start eating to gain energy to fuel his body. Battle number three came in the form of persuading Phil to eat.

Phil confessed his distaste for food well in advance of the race but for some reason I never realized that this could be a problem. I did, however, have some concerns when he explained to us how he planned to maintain his energy level. We doubted that he could survive off of a steady diet of Perpeteum and gel but he knew his body best so we had to trust him. His microscopic pre-race meal also raised some concern but again we had to trust that he knew what he was doing.

It became clear by the third mile that Phil was not going to concern himself with nutrition so eventually we would have to step in. The bottle of Perpeteum, which was handed to him at the two mile mark, was barely touched through ten miles. This most certainly contributed to his rapidly failing condition. Though I was concerned and even frustrated that Phil was not eating I understood why. I honestly believe that he was so focused on running that he literally forgot to eat. I understand how this could have happened because I too have experienced similar emotions resulting in irrational decisions. The power of the mind can trick the body into believing it can conquer anything with little help. That’s why it is good to have a support team or crew to care for your needs.

Phil started looking better at the thirteen mile mark so it was at that time that we made our first attempt at offering food. We were hopeful that his body would now start processing some light food and fluids. His main complaint about the food was that it was dry and hard to swallow. Despite his complaints we began by offering him solid food such as ‘Nilla Wafers, Doritos, and his early favorite baby smoothies. Every small bite was a success and as such I praised him highly. I was hopeful that the positive reinforcement would result in him asking for more food. It was probably deceitful of me to try to get him to respond in a certain way to a particular stimulus but I was looking for anything that would work.

I laugh now as I look back because our interactions were quite similar to that of what we would have with a little child. First we would offer the food and with a disgusting look upon his face he would shake his head no. Once convinced to take the food he sometimes swallowed and sometimes spit it right back out. Finally, when we were certain that he consumed even the smallest amount, we offered praise in hopes that the stimulation would provoke him into asking for more.

I was thrilled as Phil began to respond and seemed to comprehend the message that we had been trying to send. He slowed dramatically yet moved forward consistently while accepting and even requesting food.

Phil is a very direct person who speaks most times in a monotone, authoritative voice. His requests could have been considered demanding yet I thought it was funny when he yelled “I would like two spoonfuls of mashed potatoes. Not three, not four but two.” Personally if it were me I would just grab the spoon and push down as much as I wanted but Phil wanted exactly two. You will begin to understand as the story develops that Phil thought that he could function as a robot and still survive Death Valley.

Mile by mile Phil progressed slowly toward Furnace Creek which was the first checkpoint seventeen miles into the run. Although I never revealed my feelings to the others I was now genuinely concerned about Phil’s condition. I looked forward to reaching the check point for it would be here that I could gain confirmation as to whether we had reacted appropriately to his symptoms. Upon our arrival at Furnace Creek I quickly sought out the help of a professional to evaluate Phil’s condition. The medical staff first wanted to establish that his lungs were functioning prior to addressing any other issue. You see they were not immediately made aware of Phil’s spring hospital stay until literally hours before the event, however, by the time he reached Furnace Creek four hours into the race the news had already circulated through the entire staff.

At no time did I ever feel that Phil’s breathing was erratic but I understood when Dr. Lisa Bliss suggested that she may issue a warning if she detected a problem. While Phil rested Dr. Bliss left to retrieve a device that she would use to determine if Phil was breathing as he should. I didn’t think that it was necessary to tell Phil that he may receive a warning because I didn’t want to bring on any unnecessary stress but instead I stood by his side and waited patiently for Dr. Bliss to return.

Furnace Creek is a quaint little town where obviously very few people live but many do visit. The small village in the middle of Hell was most certainly constructed to accommodate visitors as opposed to permanent residents. There is a hotel, two nice restaurants and a corner store for just such a purpose. While Phil rested we paid a visit to the corner store to replenish our supplies. In this harsh environment ice was clearly a number one priority at all times for every team involved. That being said the corner store was completely out of ice by the time we arrived. The character of the crew was challenged early on by this news but as would be throughout they met the challenge head on. Instead of panicking someone asked if ice could be found somewhere else close by. The clerk directed us a quarter of a mile down the road where ice was sold in bulk and readily available. After we sorted out this problem Dr. Bliss performed the test and was satisfied by the results however she us direction to monitor his condition and warned that he would be pulled if things digressed.

As part of my preparation as crew I had promised myself that Phil and the entire crew would arrive safely at Mt. Whitney. I was confident when I assured Lisa that Phil would be okay.

In our pre-race discussion we concluded that it would be best for Elizabeth to be the first to pace Phil out of Furnace Creek. In retrospect we should have discussed this further and developed an alternate plan considering all possible scenarios. Phil obviously struggled through the first seventeen miles of the race so what he needed now was the calming influence of Ted. However the crew was operating like a well oiled machine with each member executing flawlessly and as such Elizabeth immediately assumed her duties as pacer.

The purpose of the crew was to support Phil so we agreed that it would be best to limit pacing duties to three mile stretches. This would allow each of us to stay fresh physically and sharp mentally so that we could make the best possible decisions in times of crisis. Though it may be cool to come home and tell your family that you ran fifty miles in the desert would it be okay to do that at the expense of your friend? That was the question that had to be asked.

Elizabeth had a knack for brightening Phil’s spirits while pushing him to his limits. The energy that she exudes is contagious and clearly Phil became a victim of the disease. His facial features were now of a man intensely running with a purpose. It was still very early in the day and Phil did not seem confused by his actions so I did not intervene. I did, however, believe that his level of activity would certainly have some adverse effects. I decided early on that it would be best to allow Phil to suffer at his attempt at consistency so that when we took over later in the race he would be cooperative. As he ran I resumed my duties as water boy while Ted took charge of the food and ice bandannas and Dave drove.

Phil’s stint with Elizabeth ended with him smiling and feeling lively. His mood and energy level were on the up rise but still I wondered if the effort put forth was too much too soon. The answer came quickly in the form of Phil doubled up in pain as he and Dave arrived at the twenty-one mile mark. He had been thrashed around like a rag doll all day by the heat, humidity and stress associated with the event. A tactical error was definitely made by assigning Elizabeth as the first pacer but the effects of our mistake could have possibly been minimized or even eliminated by deviating from our plan. I started to question if the strategy we had employed was also a contributing factor to his early struggle. I recognized the change in Phil’s mood while in Elizabeth’s presence but I remained committed to our plan. I quickly resolved this conflict in my own mind because I sincerely believed that over the long haul our plan was best. Our plan being to regularly rotate pacers in and out every three miles so that each would remain physically and mentally sharp all of the way to the finish.

Dave Yeakel and I evaluated the rotation of the pacers as Phil rested at the twenty one mile mark. We both believed that it would be important to identify the strengths of the crew so that they could be best utilized in times of need. Elizabeth’s strength was her contagious energy level so she would be best used when Phil was feeling good and not too worn down. My initial feelings were that she should join him on the down hills especially the nine mile stretch into the Panamint Valley and also up the mountain to the finish line.

Ted was someone who could stimulate him intellectually bringing sense to every reason as to why he was there. He would be best used in times of doubt and struggle.

Dave was a person with whom Phil could rely upon to share his real feelings of doubt and pain. While conversations like these in normal races can drain energy stores it is important in a race of this distance for to have an outlet for those feelings. It would not be good to allow Dave to pace during a death march but certainly he could step in and contribute at any other time.

My strong point is creating an environment where the other person becomes aware of his or her contributions and accomplishments. It is human nature to look at other people and focus on what he or she has done while never considering what you have done. Communicating effectively would help him to recognize his own strong points resulting in improved self esteem and a higher level of confidence both of which generate positive energy. I would best be used when Phil was down and out or upon his request.

We had the good fortune of being visited several times by the medical staff in the miles leading from Furnace Creek to Stove-Pipe Wells. I was comforted by the fact that they were there to support us, however, I felt uncomfortable when they stopped to question us. The drive-bys were simple as I could nod and confidently wave but when they stopped I felt as though I were a suspect being interrogated by the police. Though flustered I was confident in my ability to reassure the staff that Phil was okay. In fact Phil never suffered from anything that anyone else wasn’t suffering from in the Valley. The purpose of the routine visits was not to make sure Phil wasn’t throwing up or that his feet weren’t blistering but instead the purpose was to gain reassurance that his ailments were not complicated by an inability to breathe. I was amazed by the amount of attention that Phil received but later it became clear why when I found that he was expected to be an early drop. As I look back upon the race I can’t help but cringe because I never once considered his respiratory issue to be a major concern. I was aware and I observed but never once was I concerned and maybe I should have been.

The desert setting leading to Stove-Pipe Wells was not much different to that of the first seventeen miles. In my heart I see the beauty of the area but my mind recognizes the brown, ugly foliage and rough dirty sand that personifies the suffering experienced by the runners. In the distance on both sides mountains can be seen but directly ahead lay a long, flat road with seemingly no end.

The desert sky was covered with clouds a sure indication that the weather in the area could change at any moment. In fact, unknown to us at the time, a severe storm was pounding the little town of Darwin destroying the only road leading into Lone Pine. The resulting destruction led to a devastating decision to reroute the race course. In late June Mother Nature had taken it upon herself to rob over three hundred runners of an opportunity to race through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and now she threatened to steal the Mt. Whitney finish from over eighty Badwater Ultramarathon participants. Since the road leading into Lone Pine was inaccessible the race director had no other choice but to reroute the runners back to Panamint. It was only an incredible response by the highway clean-up crew that his decision was reversed allowing the race to continue on through Lone Pine and up Mt. Whitney to finish without a hitch.

Phil was not made aware of the medical visits or the troubles in Darwin. It was our job to manage the burdens on the outside and his to manage the burdens on the road. Though I never believed that he was in serious trouble he continued to struggle in several ways. He refused to eat and moderate his pace, and was unwilling to stop for even the shortest period of time. I failed in my attempt to get him to recognize how important it was for him to regulate his body temperature and what the consequences could be if he continued to fail. I’m certain that his refusal to eat was no indication of his regular habits but instead it was the result of heat exhaustion. He complained of sloshing in his stomach and was convinced that it was due to lack of salt but again I could not convince him that this symptom was the result of overheating. His decisions were poor both generally and strategically. The power struggle continued but I was not as willing to allow him to gain control as I was earlier in the day. The early knockout blow was shocking but the fact that he refused to reevaluate and respond made it frustrating as well.

Phil’s kind heart was revealed in the miles leading to Stovepipe Wells when he demanded that we address the needs of a struggling runner directly behind. Once we tended to Phil’s needs we turned our attention to the lone runner which Phil made mention. He was moving slowly without a crew vehicle in sight and there was no doubt that he was suffering. He looked disoriented and was sweating profusely. I tried communicating with him but found that he did not speak English but through some hand motions and gestures I was able to offer him a couple of Succeed tablets. Phil pointed out that he had symptoms consistent with a lack of salt and after observing his movements I agreed. He took the two tablets that I offered and then pointed ahead as if directing me to his crew. Sure enough his crew vehicle came in full view as we moved forward. When we reached his support team I found a person that could speak English and I told her what I had given her runner and offered her a couple of more tablets for later. They were thankful for our help and later took photos of our group as a way to fondly remember us. I found out later that Erhard Weiss went on to finish Badwater in a time of 50:26:24.

Those who don’t know Phil can come to some early conclusions which may not necessarily be true. He is certainly a person who is very independent and as a result may find it hard to trust those around him. His tone of voice and the way he expresses himself are not indicative of what is in his heart. I believe his independent nature has found him alone for long periods of time seeking attention and that there may be times that he deliberately searches for the spotlight. Ultrarunning is a sport where mental toughness rises above athletic ability and completion of a race is just as impressive as winning. He thrives in this arena because his physical ability is only average amongst the best but he is tougher than most. An ultra long distance run provides a place where Phil feels most comfortable and a place where he can be a leader amongst his peers and gain the admiration that he seeks.

I took the last 3 mile leg into Stovepipe Wells with Phil as the others traveled into town to get ready for his arrival. Stovepipe would be a place where Phil planned to take a long deserved break in order to prepare for the night time hours. Several times he had expressed a desire to take a refreshing dip in the pool and as we came closer he became more excited.

When Phil got to Stovepipe the first thing that he did was fulfill his duties as a participant of the University of Montana research study. While I escorted him to the medical area the others prepared food and retrieved clean, dry clothes for him to change into. When he was done I led him to the pool where he stripped down and jumped in. While standing there I started a conversation with a photographer that I observed taking pictures of those in the pool. In our conversation I found that he was employed by the LA Times and thought that Phil would be excited to have an opportunity to be photographed by a person representing a major publication. Prior to introducing the two I gave the photographer a quick summary of Phil’s background and told him what his quest was for the day. It was my role to find ways to generate energy from any source possible and I had no doubt that an exciting visit with an LA Times photographer would certainly contribute to his energy stores.

The relaxing spell in the pool relieved his sore muscles and troubled mind but it also ruined the tape that had been applied to his feet to prevent blisters. “Subway” Dave was well prepared for just such an event as he was ready to re-tape Phil’s feet upon demand. Dave, though lighthearted, really took this assignment seriously which gave him some unnecessary stress. Proper tape application is critical for if not done properly it can actually be the cause of blisters instead of a way to prevent them. Dave was very meticulous in applying the tape and as such it took a very long time to do so. He did a very good job and was rewarded with gaining the first opportunity to take some time off to rest.

It was critical that each of us take a turn at resting for at least two hours. Resting was not negotiable as it was a way for us to remain sharp both in our decision making skills and our ability to function safely. Everyone was given an opportunity to select a slot with the first to begin at 8 p.m. I was certain that the first slot would be hard to pawn off because no one really wanted to leave. As a way to avoid conflict I volunteered to take the first shift but “Subway” volunteered to take the slot instead.

After taking a long rest break at the hotel Phil was back on the road by 8:30 and was joined by Elizabeth as they began the trek up to Townes Pass. It would be a slow, grinding 18 mile, 5000’ foot climb to the top of the mountain. Though we were surrounded by darkness the temperature still hovered above 100°. I had promised Phil that the night time skies would bring relief but the Devil had other plans. A headwind forced the heat off of the asphalt directly into Phil’s face mimicking the effect of a blow dryer. Phil complained but I refused to listen. I felt that I had to allow him to overcome this minor challenge on his own for if I stepped in than he would lose the drive to overcome the more difficult challenges later on.

Phil promised the crew a beautiful night time view of the sky but unlike our travels on this same road in “06” the skies were not clear. I made an attempt to provide a description of the seemingly million stars that are so close that you could reach up and grab one. The shadow of the moon in the distance with the reflection of several shooting stars was something to be desired but not found on this night. The conversation passed time but the miles still went by very slowly.

Phil’s pace slowed and his body responded by functioning the way that it should. He became hungry and asked for food for the first time. We gladly responded by offering him everything under the sun. Though we had a large variety of food his favorite was instant mashed potatoes. The food that he requested most was that which was cold and took little effort to swallow. As far as fluids were concerned he consumed mostly water but occasionally he would accept soda and used Pedialyte as his only source of liquid electrolyte replacement. When he was tossing his cookies earlier in the day I’m certain that it was the Pedialyte that saved him.

In the darkness he functioned well but still we continued to weigh him as we did throughout the day. His weight was 131 lbs at the start and remained consistent even through those tough early miles. The darkness seemed to change his demeanor from that of suffering to that of hope. My hope was that it would be an easy, uneventful night.

As “Subway” slept Elizabeth and Ted took turns pacing Phil while I continued to service him at each stop. After a couple of hours and eight miles of progress “Subway” returned. It was now my turn to disappear for awhile. The agreed upon rest times of 8, 10, 12 and 2 had to be modified since we had a late start getting out of Stovepipe. By the time “Subway” got back it was already close to 11 p.m. this left me enough time to get to the hotel, grab a shower, drink an entire pitcher of ice cold water and lay on the bed with my eyes open for a few moments. I also spent some time in the infirmary speaking with a few crew members whose runners were not as lucky as ours. I was going stir crazy about an hour and a half so I jumped in the van and headed back. I figured that Phil was probably moving at about 4 miles an hour so the group would be about 14 miles away. I arrived in less than twenty minutes only to find Phil suffering through another down period.

I relieved Elizabeth so that she could take her break and then I made my way to see how Phil was doing. As soon as he realized that I was back he requested my presence so that he could share a private moment with me. I changed into my night time gear and then made my way out to chat with him. I knew that it was serious because when we met he immediately grabbed my hand and held it tight. What he was about to tell me was not shocking but it certainly challenged my ability to make a good decision. There was no direct eye contact as he spoke and fear was easily recognizable in the tone of his voice. It became evident that for the first time ever Phil feared failure. He didn’t fear injury or death but instead pure failure. I was certain that this was not a physical challenge but instead another battle within his mind. He was accompanied by friends yet he felt alone questioning whether his body would cooperate with his mind. I personally don’t pay too much attention to the mind because it’s the heart and soul of a person that leads him or her to a finish. As long as both are intact the race is still on.

I listened intently as he told me quietly about his recent ailment. Though healed he was left with a body that was scarred that could certainly fail if pushed too far. His purpose for speaking with me was not to tell me he was ready to quit but instead it was to be sure that I understood and that I would not panic if and when his body failed. The bottom line is that he wanted to be sure that I would be fair in my assessment of his condition and allow him to suffer without pulling him from the race. My response to Phil was this; “You are not going to experience the effects that you describe because I will not allow you too.” I gave him direction to slow down so that his breathing pattern would remain stable so that he could regain strength both mentally and physically. I reminded him that we had sixty hours and assured him that I had no where to go so if need be could expend the entire limit. I was certain that Phil was looking way too far ahead causing him to have a mental breakdown. Right now he had a job to do and that was to make it the last few yards to the top of the hill and not to worry about the rest until it happens. Not surprisingly when Phil reached the top of the mountain the crisis was over. It was now time for him to begin his descent into the Panamint Valley below.

The winding road could be seen for miles twisting and turning down into the valley and then again as it ascended into Panamint. As he started the steep nine mile descent I asked Phil to take it slow but he started to run immediately. He explained that it took little effort as it was the force of gravity leading him down the mountain. I had a feeling that running down this section was in his plan all along and because he looked better I felt it was best not to interfere. The only thing that I did do was to point out the spectacular views in hopes that the distraction would help him to regulate his pace. He was strong now but ten minutes prior he was suffering. I wanted to put a stop the yoyo pattern of running that he had been doing all day long. I thought that it would be wise for him to take his time to allow his body to recover before pushing too hard again. Nope it didn’t happen as he ran all of the way down into the Panamint Valley below. I joined him for the first three miles of the descent and then turned over the reigns to one of the other crew members and returned to my duties as water boy/taxi driver.

Elizabeth arrived back in camp as Phil was about half-way down and then relieved Ted so that he could nap in the van for a couple of hours. Ted took one for the team because he was the only member who didn’t have an opportunity to rest in a real bed. It didn’t make a lot of sense for him to travel an hour back and forth to the hotel in Stove Pipe just to grab a nap so instead he made his way to Panamint. Ted easily grabbed a couple of hours of rest in the resort town before meeting us there for breakfast when we arrived.

Phil expressed his joy of running down this long hilly road by yelling out loud “the old Phil is back, the old Phil is back.” It was nice to hear him in good spirits but with more than half the race left and another hot day yet ahead there were still many challenges left to meet.

After reaching the bottom of the hill there was still three miles of flat road to travel before reaching the little town of Panamint. Despite Elizabeth’s suggestion that he take it easy Phil continued to push forward even on the flat. He claimed that the road was still going down and neither Elizabeth nor I felt the need to fight him on this one. Our suggestions were based on the yoyo effect that we did not want to see repeated on the second day but being so close to Panamint we let him get away with this one.

He did finally slow his pace to that of a walk as we came within a mile of the town. When he stopped he started to complain of a blister on his left toe that had been bothering him for some time. I suggested that he change into his Bar shoes but he refused saying that he could not endorse the use of a brand other than that of his sponsor. I have to admit that I was a little irritated by that comment. Phil temporarily forgot that the purpose of Badwater is to finish the race safely while demonstrating the mental and physical toughness that it takes to do so. I was irritated but also concerned that his head was not on straight. He endured several knock-out blows over the twenty something hours that he had spent in the desert so his thoughts should have been about how am I going to change this thing around instead of the brand of shoes he is wearing. Though somewhat aggravated by his comment I humored him by offering to place duct tape over the brand name so that no one would be able to identify the shoes. He agreed and I followed through so when we reached Panamint they were readily available to Phil.

When we reached the town Phil’s first action was to locate a medic to work on his feet. Luckily for him Dr. Jon Vonhoff just happened to be stationed at the resort when we arrived. Phil being Phil seemed to find it necessary to announce to the entire town of Panamint Dr. Vonhoff’s presence. Just before sitting in the chair Phil loudly proclaimed in a monotone voice, “This is Dr. Jon Vonhoff the best foot care specialist around!” When he was done I felt obligated to applaud but refrained so that I did not embarrass the good doctor. It was about at this time that I questioned Phil’s reasoning for even being a part of this event. Is it fame that brings you here or is it here that you dig deep down to find the person that you really are?

We grabbed a bite to eat, refueled the vehicles and soon found ourselves on the road again. The fifteen mile, three thousand foot climb to the top of Father Crowley would test even the fittest of athletes. The sun, not yet at full force, was rising in the east as Phil began the trek up the mountain. Despite his troubles the previous day he followed the same pattern of pushing hard right from the start. He had absolutely no clue how to regulate his pace to conserve energy so that his body would not become overheated. I was still recovering from the previous day’s struggles so I did not immediately respond to his actions. Instead Elizabeth and I drove back to the general store in town to purchase more water. We had already made a pit stop at this store to refuel and get ice but somehow we didn’t recognize that we were low on water. Just before entering the store we had the good fortune of meeting two ladies from Scott Weber’s crew. I said something that they thought was funny as I went by and before I knew it the ladies offered me one of their coolers. I thought for a moment and then accepted their offer. The extra cooler would allow us to use both vehicles as support for Phil. My idea was to use the first van for full service support and the second to supply fluids only. We could then piggy back vehicles which would allow us to provide for Phil with less stress.

When we returned I found Phil chatting with a lady named Alene. She was walking at a fast pace so it was not long before she left him. I give Phil credit because he didn’t continue to try to keep up with her but their time together did take a toll. Maybe it was pride, I don’t know, but when Alene left he started to hammer his way around the switchbacks while firing on all cylinders. By the time he reached the top he was completely spent and ready to throw up once again. It was eerily familiar to the prior day and something that I could not allow to happen again. There would be no more reasoning with Phil as it was time to take total control because he could not.

I sat him in the car and gave him no other option but to rest in the air conditioned van for at least twenty minutes. When he refused I asked the other members of the crew to allow us some privacy. I believed that Phil selected me to be a part of his crew because he trusted me and respected my opinion. It was because of this that I spoke to him nicely but authoritatively hoping that the tone of my voice would help him understand the urgency of the situation. He seemed very disappointed in my reaction as he assumed my past history would indicate that I would let him gut this out. Gutting it out was okay with me as long as his body and mind were functioning properly but at this point neither was. If someone says I will die before I quit than that person should be observed closely by good friends who will make rational decisions. While I had no intentions of ever pulling Phil from the race I took full responsibility for his physical well being. He continued to disagree with my assessment and stubbornly refused to sit it out for a period of time. In our conversation I told him that there are four very capable people who care deeply for him all of whom agree that it is time for a rest. I basically filibustered until I felt that he had cooled down enough to run again. I gained the outcome that I wanted from the discussion but I wondered if that outcome was worth a lost friendship and the heartache that we had just both suffered.

I had to be confident in my decision because if not it would certainly affect my ability to make decisions later. I felt awkward when meeting back up with the other crew members because I wasn’t sure if they supported my decision and I knew that the intervention with Phil could affect their relationship with him as well. It was because of this that I made it clear to each of them that it would be okay to side with Phil and make me the scapegoat. If I had to be the scapegoat then so be it as long as he made it to the finish line safely. What I found was that the other members of the crew were in agreement with me and assured me that I made the right call. If nothing else Phil knew right then and there that our goal was to finish but our goal was to finish safely and each of us was on board.

Phil seemed to use the emotion to push forward but this time he did so intelligently. When we finally reached the top Whitney could be seen off in the distance. I knew that Phil was frustrated and possibly angry but still I made it a point to bring this to his attention. When I did the race in 2006 this was a milestone moment for me because I could finally smell the finish but it didn’t seem to have the same effect on Phil.

Phil didn’t come prepared to deal with the desert elements but he certainly seemed to have a race plan. Just as he ran the entire nine mile stretch into the Panamint Valley he was focused on running the long downhill section that started at Darwin. He was confident that he would gain ground on those in front as he continued running the rolling hills that would lead to Keeler. He claimed that by the time he reached this part of the course that no one would have the legs to run with him. I was taken aback by this statement because he had been suffering through some personal struggles and by this point he should have learned that this is a battle against a very tough course and not a battle against people. He was in a battle of a lifetime and though he was winning he was only doing so by the skin of his teeth. A good crew person listens and manages emotions while giving 100% at all times. Each of Phil’s crew members did this well including I.

As we approached the ninety mile mark we were thrilled to see a fighter jet doing routine maneuvers in the desert. It was a wish fulfilled for Phil and one of the most exciting moments of the race.

The end of Death Valley is reached just before Darwin and is a major landmark for the runners as the destination is now Lone Pine and Mt. Whitney. When we reached the sign indicating the end Elizabeth, Ted and I took the time for a few photo opps before resuming our duties.

As we approached Darwin Phil was again suffering from blisters. He employed a walk/run strategy until we reached the checkpoint where he could get some assistance. If nothing else Phil was a lucky guy when it came to foot care. First he lucked out with Dr.John Vonhoff in Panamint and now foot care specialist Gillian Robinson just happened to be located in Darwin.

We recognized that we were low on supplies so as we neared Darwin a decision was made that I would go into Lone Pine. I honestly did not want to leave but the difference of opinion between Phil and I was still fresh and the time away could settle things down. When we reached Darwin I took food orders and off I went into Lone Pine.

The trip into town would take about thirty minutes and then a few more minutes to locate the stores that I needed to visit. The drive out revealed the result of the large storm that hit the area the day before. The eight foot mounds of dirt on either side of the road in Keeler were a good indication that the road was impassable at one time. The California road gang that did the clean-up certainly deserves kudos for such a quick response to a critical situation.

When I got to Lone Pine the first stop was McDonalds where I bought six cheeseburgers and six large fries for the guys and a chicken sandwich for Elizabeth. It was then off to the grocery store to buy more ice, baby smoothies, ice pops and other foodstuffs for Phil.

I returned through a rain storm which pounded a very small area of the course. In fact it was so small that people within a two mile radius did not even get wet. My runner, however, was not so lucky. The rain changed the concern from heat exhaustion to hypothermia. I wasn’t there when the rains hit but from what I understand Phil did not take cover but instead wrapped up in warm, dry clothing and continued on. I believe that the storm was a blessing from above as it cooled the area and left Phil feeling refreshed and ready to run the last 40 miles.

When I returned I made mention of the fact that there were several people just ahead. Based on Phil’s earlier commentary I was certain that the mere mention of a few targets directly ahead would brighten his spirits. In fact he did become more motivated. He made a request to change out of the Bar shoes that he had been wearing into a pair of Brooks open toed shoes so that he could run more freely. It wasn’t long before a runner did come into view. I had hoped that Phil would piggy back this runner for a while as a way to feed off of her energy but instead he gained steadily and within moments went by. The move seemed to sap a lot of energy from Phil and without a target directly ahead there was little motivation to move fast. Phil reached the 100 mile mark in about 33 hours which left him with 15 hours to travel the last 35 miles to buckle.

It was 5 p.m. and Phil was traveling the rolling hills leading into the town of Keeler when he asked me when the sun would set. The heat of the day was still upon us in an area where Phil was exposed to the direct sunlight. Death Valley continued to battle away taking one more shot at a knockout blow that could ruin Phil’s chances. As tough a fighter as the Valley is Phil proved to be a worthy foe as he battled the elements while battling the doubts in his own mind. When we reached Keeler at 107 miles Phil began to ask himself why? Why should I even try? He was certain, barring major catastrophe, that a sub-48 was in the bag so what were the reasons to push forward. Those thoughts sucked the energy right out of him and reduced his strong walking pace to that of a snail. The mental struggle intensified which in turn impacted how he felt physically. The methods that we used earlier to brighten his spirits were to no avail as he continued to question his own ability. In fact, Phil, tired of our speeches decided that he wanted to be with the person with whom he felt the most comfortable. He requested that we allow him to run with Elizabeth as much as possible all of the way to the finish. He was just as aware as we were that she had a knack for finding ways to motivate him. He had hoped that she could light a spark under his butt one more time to get him running again. A message like this could be very deflating to the others but it is part of the job and it must be taken in stride. When I made the announcement it was obvious that more than one person was affected but we were there for him and we managed our feelings well. In fact as it turned out, Phil failed to respond so our rotation continued.

Just prior to darkness Dr. Lisa Bliss and Tim Englund paid us a visit. They expressed some concern over our condition (crew) as we were well on our way to spending a second night in the desert. I was feeling okay and mistakenly answered for the entire crew. I had not taken into account that the others might feel differently. It was certainly my responsibility to make sure the other crew members had their needs satisfied as well. As soon as Lisa and Tim left I asked everyone on the crew how they felt and assured them that it would be okay if they needed to rest for awhile. It took a few moments but finally Ted agreed to head into town to get some rest. By checking into the hotel early Phil would have a place to go immediately to rest without dealing with this business.

In the distance we could see some buildings on the horizon that certainly looked like the town of Lone Pine but without actually driving out there and back we had no idea how far away it was. I had a sick feeling in my stomach recalling a similar experience that I had at this very same point of the run in 2006. A silhouette of the town could be seen along with lights leading up a long hill which I assumed to be Mt. Whitney. Though we moved forward it never seemed to get any closer. I screamed and whined in the darkness wondering if we would ever make it there. This time around there was no screaming or whining on Phil’s part but still the scene seemed to be replaying itself.

Phil was taking about 20 minutes to travel one mile so we decided that we would drive into town to drop Ted off while also gauging the distance. As we traveled we found that the lights leading up the long hill were not Whitney but in fact it was just a long hill on the road leading into town. We were also shocked to find that Phil had over 6 miles to travel before making it into Lone Pine. At his current pace it could take him well over 2 hours and potentially 12 more hours before he finished. When Elizabeth realized this I think that her heart sunk but when we returned to find that Phil had picked up the pace her spirits brightened once again. Somehow, while we were gone, “Subway” had found a way to motivate Phil to walk faster. I give credit to Phil as well because he never once allowed that silhouette to affect his mood. Based on the current pace I revised the once projected 2 a.m. arrival into town to somewhere between 11:30 and midnight.

The immediate goal was to reach Lone Pine but Phil knew to focus on the intersection that would lead him off of this road and onto the main street that leads into Lone Pine. The pace was so quick that it wasn’t long before we could see the landmark stop sign that indicated 50 more yards to the intersection. Phil traveled those last couple of miles with Elizabeth as “Subway” and I started to transfer supplies from one van to the other. The plan was to eliminate all of the unnecessary supplies from the van that we would use to support Phil up Whitney. The strategy that we would employ required little in the form of solid food but instead we would focus on feeding him things that would give bursts of energy. The amount of fluids that we would allow him to consume would have to be determined by his weight when we reached Lone Pine. Though we did a very good job of maintaining his weight throughout it did shoot up 3 lbs the last time we weighed him in Keeler. Any more weight gain would mean that we would have to limit his fluid intake the rest of the way. That being said we still needed to have fluids on board with the candy, and other high sugar items.

Dave and I hustled to get the vans ready and then rushed out to the intersection to find Phil and Elizabeth. Phil wanted me to be with him on the last mile so that we could discuss the plan that we would use to get him up the mountain. When we reached town the lights exposed a battered and beaten body along with swelling in his fingers and joints. The darkness led to cooler temps that stopped him from sweating but still he continued to take fluids. The weight gain was sudden and of concern but something we could certainly reverse. I asked him a few general questions just to make sure his mind was clear. Though obviously exhausted he was mentally sharp and not suffering any severe consequences from what I feared was hyponatremia. When we reached Lone Pine at 11:30 p.m I checked him in with the race organizers and guided him to the hotel where we could convene as a group. Phil desperately needed a place to lay his head and also he needed some food. Ted was no where to be found when we arrived so Phil and I went into the lobby where he promptly collapsed on a sofa that looked as if it were worth a couple of thousand dollars. I tried to divert the attention of the clerk in hopes that she wouldn’t see him and at the same time hoped one of our crew would arrive to take him away. Thankfully Elizabeth and Dave found us in the lobby and lead us up to the room where Ted was waiting.

We sat in the room and talked amongst ourselves. Though everyone was aware of the plan I took the time to remind them once again. I tried to dig into Phil’s heart to find a way to fire him up. I told him that it could take anywhere between 4-10 hours to get up the mountain and that the time it took would be determined by what he had in his heart. I had done my best up to this point to hide my own intensity but with 13 miles to go I let it loose and gave it all to Phil.

It was at this time that I revealed who would assume what duties amongst the crew. I believed that Phil needed a calming presence to start him off so I asked Ted to start as pacer. “Subway” had shown excellent driving skills throughout so he would assume the duties of driver. Elizabeth would tend to his needs upon his arrival and give him a moral boost when needed and I would calculate his mile splits. “Subway” assured Phil that he only needed to maintain a 35 minute mile in order to gain the sub-48 hour buckle but I made it clear that it was best to try to attain a buffer because the course would get harder as it continued up.

I left the hotel room first followed closely by Elizabeth and Dave. Ted and Phil left shortly thereafter not to be seen again until they were well on the course. We jumped in the van and went 75 yards before making a left on to the Portal Road. When we turned we saw Phil and Ted already traveling down the road but doing so very slowly. I looked at the page in the manual which indicated the landmarks for each mile so we would know where to park and wait. After fifteen minutes I looked at my watch in anticipation of Phil’s arrival. I had hoped that he would gain some significant time in the early miles. I became antsy when I did not see headlamps in the distance so I took a walk back in search of Ted and Phil. The more I walked back the more concerned I became because I did not see them or anyone else for that matter. Finally, after a few minutes, I saw two shadows in the darkness hunched close together walking very slowly. As they came near I found Phil’s arm leaning heavily on Ted’s shoulder. I knew Phil was not thinking clearly and that Ted did not realize that this was a violation of the rules so I reminded Phil that there could be no assistance from the pacer. I felt like a jerk but I’m certain that Phil would want to be able to say that he finished in compliance with all of the rules. Once I found them I walked back to the vehicle and waited to calculate the first mile split. They arrived in 25 minutes so struggle or not he gained 10 minutes for later in the race. The pattern of a 10 minute gain for each mile continued for the next 5 miles so it wasn’t long before he had gained an hour and because of that things were looking up. It took a turn for the worse when he arrived with “Subway” at the seventh mile. He was quite disoriented and very paranoid, in fact, when I ran toward him to take over the pacing duties he ducked and hunched down to the right as if fearful that I might do him some harm. As we traveled together over the next mile I observed his actions and became quite concerned by his condition. At one point he grabbed my hand, pointed to the ground and gave me direction to stand by his right side. I assured him that I would protect him and that I would not allow anyone to do him harm. His actions were of great concern but as I observed his movements he continued on a straight path only wavering if someone ran toward him. Elizabeth confirmed that one of the symptoms of hyponatremia is confusion. I felt that he should stop because he also had swollen joints but Ted; the person who knew him best asked if he could walk with him for awhile. We all agreed that would be the fair thing to do so off they went. Amazingly when Phil returned he was a different person.

Since Ted had assisted in the miraculous recovery I felt that it was best to leave the two together for a while longer. They followed the course together leading up the steep winding switch backs until Ted turned over the reigns to “Subway” for the last mile. The rest of us traveled up the hill to locate the finish while Phil and “Subway” ran together. When we found out that there was more than a mile to go we went back to make ourselves available one last time. Phil was again disoriented when he reached the one mile to go mark but at this point it would not have made sense to stop him. I was totally confused by his behavior and genuinely concerned for his health so when we went back to the finish to notify the officials of his arrival I also notified the medics as well. .

When he arrived at the entrance leading to the finish Ted, Elizabeth, “Subway” and I joined him on the last 50 yards to the end point of the race. He was greeted by Chris Kostman and then moved directly to the medical area where he could be observed. Under normal circumstances he would have received his awards upon finishing but in this case it was best for him to get medical assistance first.

At the medical tent he provided both blood and urine samples that were tested immediately. The results of these tests indicated that he was clinically dehydrated even though he had gained nine pounds. Basically the water that he had consumed had accumulated in the soft tissue of his body yet to be absorbed. His electrolytes were checked and his sodium was normal and he was urinating fine so we were able to let him sip small amounts of fluid. We were told that over a period of time the water would be absorbed and processed by his kidneys and his weight would then return to normal. They attributed his confused state of mind to lack of sleep over a long period of time. Once given assurance that he would okay Phil was allowed to go over to accept his awards for his 44:41:40 finish.

Yes Phil finished and yes he is a tough guy but did he gain the true experience? He may not know right now but if he looks deep into his own heart he will find that answer some day.

I love Phil Rosenstein as I love a lot of people in this world. I like to think that when those people are with me that I will do everything in my power to protect them and guide them down the right path. I think that each of us on his crew proved our loyalty on these days as we did our best to protect him from everything including his own self.

The view of a crew person is based on outward appearance alone so to gain a true perspective of what the runner felt deep in his heart please read Phil’s comments below:

Page 4 – Before the race started, I was never concerned with time or buckle. Of course, I’d love a buckle, but I mainly wanted to finish. It wasn’t until near Panamint that I started to foolishly think about times and buckles. That was due to what I’d say was my biggest problem with the race: lack of mental training due to long layoff.

Page 5 – I thought I finished the Perpetuem bottle near mile 10 and then promptly threw up because I drank too much of it too fast (at Ted’s urging). That bottle should have lasted close to 4 hours with it’s 750-800 calories. I did the same thing around mile 21 with drinking a whole can of Ensure and some water and coke – then threw up.

Page 8 – you were fine with my breathing. I can’t blame the surgery or the illness for anything other than a few instances of painful and irregular breathing. Trust me on that, I was paying close attention to it. Though I hadn’t done a lot of running prior to the race, I had done enough to know that the surgery/illness wouldn’t directly impact my race greatly. The long layoff, on the other hand…

Page 11 – this is where we really get on my biggest problem for the race: mental issues. Whether it was abandoning my pre-race nutrition plan so early, not trying anything to deal with nausea, chasing others and buckles, depression, etc… I really let my high’s get too high and my low’s get too low. Each low seemed worse than the previous one, especially compared to the previous high just a few miles earlier.

Page 11 – I wouldn’t say I refused to wear the bar shoes, more like I was really hoping not to. I was completely prepare to if necessary to finish. I just wasn’t comfortable going to them so soon, leaving only the cutouts as the only shoe left with so many more miles to go. In retrospect, I should have just gone straight to the cutouts at Panamint as they were fine.

Page 12 – my strongest disagreement with your overall report: seeking fame?? I don’t think so in general and certainly not at that time. That was a comment for Elizabeth who was there filming without knowing who the man was. My luck – having my feet worked on the The Expert of All Experts! This race, like all others, was an opportunity for me to test myself and prove to others that anything is possible with hard work and lots of desire.

Page 14 – changing into the bar shoes because they hurt with their lack of cushioning. Subway and I cut out those Brooks shoes a week before the race just in case I needed them. Boy, am I glad we did that. He did a terrific job with my feet in general and with cutting the shoes in a way so that I could still run in them without any pain from seams or anything.

Page 14 – I only answered “maybe Elizabeth” when asked twice if there was anybody I wanted to be out there with me in an effort to get me going. My first answer was I didn’t know or I didn’t think so, but when asked a second time I said maybe Elizabeth because I had just realized that I tended to run faster with her. Very minor difference from what was written.

My Badwater Family

2007 Finisher 

Originally published in Colorado Runner, September/October 2007

So, here I was—standing at the 10am starting line of the 2007 Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon. I was ready to live out a dream. The training was done. No more long runs in a heavy black sweat suit and hat. No more daily sauna sessions. No more long runs on pavement instead of trails. No more runs up fourteeners. The car was organized. The pre-race activities were finished. The pasta carbo-loading dinner was being digested. My crew practiced their responsibilities. All I had left to do was run.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…we were off! Cheers filled the air from the runners. Finally! The road was very crowded with runners and crew vehicles. I just wanted to stay on the white line so my feet could stay cooler. I was excited to meet up with my crew for the first time.  My crew consisted of my husband David, my sister and her fiance, Connie and Rob, and my brother in law and sister in law Steve and Alicia. David was in charge of making t-shirts for all the crew members. He knew that most crews would be wearing white, so he designed pink t-shirts. That was an awesome idea because I could see them from a distance. When I reached them, they were very efficient and got me out quickly. They were beyond amazing the entire race!

I felt very strong. I got to the first check point, Furnace Creek (17.4) at 2:26 (elapsed). Nothing seemed to bother me. I was eating, drinking, and the heat wasn’t as issue for me. I got to Stovepipe Wells (41.9) at 6:46. When I got to the first mountain pass, Townes Pass, I power walked up. It is an 18 mile up hill. Once at the top, I was excited to run down. It was a steep 8 miles back down. At Panamint Springs (72.3), I began to feel the onset of several things. My left shin was red and swollen. It hurt a lot to move after that downhill. I had severe bloating and began throwing up. I had blisters that covered most of my feet. My husband knew I was in trouble, so he offered to walk with me. David was definitely one that could motivate me and keep me going. We powered over the next mountain range at about 3mph. Every step hurt more and more, but I didn’t want to let him or my crew down. They gave up some much and worked so hard for me.

Finally, we made it to Lone Pine (122.3) in 30:47. My husband just walked me through 52 miles. He didn’t complain once about having to walk in the dirt and rocks alongside of me. He didn’t speak of the heat or his hunger or my less than positive attitude. I always knew I was lucky, but wow, that was love! Surprisingly, I was still the first woman as I turned on the last road to Whitney Portal. David was ready for a break and I was ready for the last 13 miles!

Most people take about 4-5 hours to complete the last section. I was hoping for about 6-8 hours. Unfortunately, my power walk turned to a painful 1mph shuffle. I have never felt pain like that before. As I slowly continued, I saw Lisa Bliss. She talked with me for a moment as she ran strong past me. She looked amazing. Sure, it hurts to lose the lead at the end, but as I looked around, I felt really lucky. I was on this road to the portal that was so amazingly beautiful. I had my crew still beside me cheering me on every step of the way.  As people came down the mountain, they cheered me on. Runners passing me hugged me and wished me well. Other crews stopped to see if they could help out. That is what kept me going up the mountain.

11 hours later from Lone Pine, I turned the corner to see the race director, Chris Kostman (who was so supportive throughout) and the big white and blue finish line tape. My entire crew joined me one last time as somehow I started running towards the tape. The support I felt was so overwhelming that emotions overcame me as I finished.  I really felt like I was part of the Badwater Family! The Badwater Ultramarathon is more than a race. It is a lesson in life that will stick with me forever.


Crewing for a Champion

Crew person for 2007 women’s champion Lisa Bliss

In the world of a person who lives far away from me lays the dreams of a champion that will soon be realized. What does it take to be a champion? It takes hard work, passion and a competitive spirit willing to risk all in order to make it to the finish line first. In the minds of most Lisa Bliss was not a favorite to win Badwater but she shocked the world. A pretty young girl who smiles all of the time yet has a burning desire to succeed and will risk all to do just that. She welcomes all into her world but on the racecourse she is a fierce competitor. While she talks, smiles and giggles she runs with purpose and the heart of a lion.

IMG_2602When Lisa Bliss asked me to be a part of her Badwater team in 2007 I accepted her offer without hesitation. She is someone who immediately gained my trust, put me at ease and accepted me for who I am without judgement. She saw through all of the barriers and disguises that I put up and looked directly into my heart and saw things that others missed. She is a very nice person who gives everyone a chance.

We first met when I paced her at Western States in 2005. While she had a successful race I walked away feeling as though I had failed her. I had promised her that I would do my best to help her achieve a sub-24 hour finish and I walked away knowing deep inside that I could have given her more. Since that day I’ve spent all of my time waiting for a second chance. A chance that would make it all okay. Badwater 2007 would give me that second chance.

The most difficult task for me and probably the others as well would be to find the courage to be a part of a team of people who barely knew each other. Though we did not know one another, Lisa trusted us to care for her and to guide her safely across the desert while also making sure we cared for ourselves as well. Though fearful, I had no doubt that the five of us would mesh together and strive for the common goal of getting Lisa to the finish line as quickly as possible.

The five individuals that Lisa chose for her crew each brought a different flavor to the team. Larry Ham was the only person that served on Lisa’s crew on her first attempt in 2004. I personally relied upon him to take the initial lead because he knew how to serve her best. Larry was a critical asset to the team because his profession as a physical therapist gave him the skills necessary to put Lisa back together if need be. Larry is a regular guy who lives in the real world and has no ambition to be an ultrarunner. He worked feverishly in elements that are not common in his world and was asked to sacrifice his own well being for a friend. Sacrificing sleep and food would be easy for those of us who participate in the sport and understand the nature of the event but it was quite a task for an outsider. Larry adapted well and contributed a great deal to the team effort.


Dori Robertson was a member of my Badwater crew in 2006. I knew her strengths prior to this year’s run and in fact recommended her to Lisa early in her selection process. Dori is a teacher and a communicator. While I can’t honestly say that I listened to every word that Dori spoke to me in 2006, I will admit that she tried her best to distract me from any pain I was experiencing at any time during my race. She’s a ball of energy, enthusiastic and competitive.

Dave Heckman brought humor to the group. He had a knack for making everyone laugh but more importantly he seemed to be able to take the edge off of Lisa. When he was by her side she smiled, laughed and absolutely enjoyed her surroundings.

Glenn Tachiyama brought a winning attitude to the group. His experience crewing for Scott Jurek in 2005 and 2006 was invaluable. While others at first reneged at his ideas we all concluded that there was no other way to do our best than to copy what the best did. Glenn is a quiet, kind yet powerful guy with a contagious laugh. In his presence everything seems so calm and nothing is pressing or urgent. He has the remarkable ability to relax even in the most tense of situations. His job was to keep Lisa calm while pushing her hard and he was very successful at doing so. Oh and late in the race his presence motivated Lisa to run as she refused to be captured on film while walking.

Me, well my job was to jump in anywhere that I was needed. Even though I can be quite shy at times I have the ability to organize people so that they work well together. I knew that over a 30-40 hour period of time that there could be some conflict amongst the group and the conflict had to be resolved quickly. My main goal going in was to do just that. Also I had hoped to find a way to motivate Lisa in her toughest times and ultimately bring her to the best finish that she could possibly expect. She has always told me that she feels as though she has never given enough effort in an ultra. Well I owed her my best effort to find a way to motivate her and keep her moving forward.

Glenn offered his suggestion as to what method we should use at the start to satisfy Lisa’s needs through the first seventeen miles. Since we were allowed only one crew vehicle until the 17 mile mark at Furnace Creek Dori volunteered to stay back until we reached that mark. The duties assigned were as follows: Dave Heckman would meet Lisa and immediately take her empty bottles and used ice bandanna. I would then meet her next about 10 yards up with new bottles filled with ice and water along with a new ice bandanna. Also I was responsible for getting her food if needed. Larry would then see her off by spraying her down with water from a large garden sprayer that was filled with ice. Finally it was my responsibility to document all of the activities that took place including her food and fluid intake.

The field along with Lisa posted some very fast opening splits with the leader pulling off a 7:30 first mile. Unknown to me at the time, the fast splits would not come back to haunt anyone as the 93% finish rate was un-freakin’ believable. The first day was beautiful with a slight cloud cover, a nice 20-25 mph tailwind and temperatures topping out at about 105° at the start. It may have been cool for Death Valley but the Valley is not a foe to be taken lightly. There are many challenges along the way that if not met with total concentration would overcome a runner and end his or her day very quickly.

Lisa had no trouble navigating her way down the hilly road that led from Badwater to Furnace Creek. In fact, I think her biggest worry was how her crew was doing. Early in the race she yelled over to us that she loved us which I took as a sign that she was concerned and needed to be reassured that we were okay. I didn’t really say anything but instead just kept working. The runners were fresh this early on and since we stopped every mile we stayed busy filling bottles, loading ice to the bandannas and trying to figure out what she might like to eat. We never really struggled with our organization and in fact we all stayed busy trying to satisfy the task we were assigned.

When we reached Furnace Creek at seventeen miles Dori jumped in and started to pace Lisa. Prior to pacing I told Dori and the rest of the group that I thought it would be best if each of us only ran 5 mile legs with her. One of the mistakes I made last year was not assigning limits to my crew ahead of time. We were there to help Lisa and the best way to do so was to keep ourselves strong and never allow ourselves to get totally depleted. Dave Heckman told me immediately that five miles might be a little too much for him and we all agreed that it was okay. Five was the limit but if one of us only felt comfortable running one or two than that would be okay too. Larry had already told us up front that he was only capable of running a mile and it would be best if it happened when Lisa was moving slow later in the race or up a long hill. Glenn let us know that he would prefer to help out in the van on the first day and then pace on the second. That being said the pacing duties would be the primary responsibility of both Dori and I on the first day. We were all in agreement that no matter how we divvied up the mileage the five-mile limit would stay in effect.

Lisa ran into some minor trouble with an imbalance of electrolytes on her way to the forty-two mile mark at Stove Pipe Wells. Her fingers and wrists had swelled to an uncomfortable state and her weight increased by two percent from where it was at the start. She was also suffering from some minor cramping which is something she had never experienced in past races. She recognized the conditions immediately and knew exactly how to instruct us to react. We followed her instructions and her body responded quickly. Within a few miles the cramping was gone but the scare made us realize just how critical it was to stay on top of her water, food, and electrolyte intake. We monitored her weight every hour and reacted based upon the outcome. Lisa was also very good at letting us know how she felt. Her knowledge of how to care for her body in the brutal conditions was unbelievable and her guidance was something that was valuable.

The weather in the late afternoon changed significantly from that of the morning. The temperature registered by the gauge in our vehicle had risen to 116° and the cloud cover was now gone leaving those outside more exposed to direct sunlight. Even though the scenery of the sand dunes on the right hand side of the road was spectacular I’m certain that those running could only concentrate on placing one foot in front of the other.

It was now late afternoon and I felt that the steady diet of honey on tortillas that we had been feeding Lisa was not enough of a variety for her. While she had an assortment of foods to select from they honestly did not look very appetizing to me. I struggled to find something that I thought would not only give her energy but something that would also satisfy her taste buds. Soy chips, organic Cliff bars and trail mix amongst several other items that she had purchased at a health food store most certainly would supply her with needed energy but where was the taste? I guess I’m just used to the aid stations at ultras where the mainstays of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, M&M’s, regular potato chips (with a lot of fat!), and real cookies are served. I was doing way too much thinking which made the job harder than it should have been. The funny thing is that by not accepting the food that I had to offer early in the race Lisa further solidified my belief that what she had was not satisfying her. I told my fellow crew members that I was living in bizzarro world and that instead of offering her what I wanted I should offer her the opposite. Truthfully Lisa was very nice the entire time and always managed a smile no matter the situation. Early on I found it tough to get her to eat something other than the honey on tortilla but as the race progressed she became more accepting of anything I had to offer.

As we approached Stove Pipe Wells Lisa’s pace had slowed to that of a turtle. She was experiencing some pain from injuries that existed prior to the race. When she reached the mile forty-two checkpoint she changed clothes, grabbed some food and regrouped before fulfilling her duties as a test subject for a study performed by the medical staff.

Prior to the race those of us on the crew agreed that it would be important for each of us to get away for a couple of hours to relax our minds or sleep if need be. Getting away from the intense action would allow us to be fresh throughout the night and into the next day. Lisa had reserved a room at a hotel in Stove Pipe for us to use if need be and that is exactly what we planned to do. Dave Heckman made it clear at Stove Pipe that he was ready for a break so it was decided that he would sleep first. Larry wanted to sleep when normal people sleep so he volunteered for the 11 p.m. slot. The group determined that I would go next at 9 p.m. at which time I would return with the car and wake Dave up. I only wanted to be a way a couple of hours so I asked Larry to return by 11 p.m. and then finally Glenn would return at 4 a.m. to get Larry. Glenn sacrificed the most, as his sleep would be had in the car during the one-hour trip back. Dori wasn’t interested in going to the hotel so instead she took the car up a few miles and slept on two occasions. Everyone found time to get a way for a while so I felt good that we were doing everything right in order to give Lisa our best effort. Whether it was just time alone to relax or sleeping when each of us returned to the scene we were raring to go.

Lisa’s progress on the course was steady despite the fact that 50 miles into the race she was hampered by blisters that were forming on the balls of both of her feet. It was around 8:00 p.m.when she first made us aware of the problem. She voluntarily came over to the vehicle where she proceeded to remove her shoes and socks so that Larry could take a look. There were no visible blisters leading Larry to believe that she might be suffering from a neuroma or bruised feet. Lisa was prepared for any situation and had a bag set aside with supplies for just such an occasion. She along with the help of Larry fabricated a cushion for her shoe that would protect the affected area and hopefully allow her to run again pain free.

By the time she was done and running again it was getting dark and we needed to start gathering Lisa’s nighttime gear. Dori had taken the car up the road a few miles to get some shuteye and unfortunately had taken Lisa’s flashlights with her. I was somewhat concerned because it was getting late and we really didn’t know for sure where Dori was. Glenn and I calmly drove up the road to find Dori while Larry ran by Lisa’s side. My concern was unwarranted as we easily located Dori, found the lights and returned before darkness set in. Once Lisa was all geared up for the dark it was time for me to head back to the hotel in Stove Pipe Wells to wake Dave Heckman. I wasn’t too keen on leaving but I knew it was the best thing to do and besides I couldn’t leave Dave back at the hotel.

I made it back by 9 p.m., woke Dave, and then talked with him until he left around 9:45. I took a shower and watched WWE wrestling as a way to unwind. When Larry hadn’t returned by 11 p.m. I became antsy and went for a walk outside of the hotel. When I went out front I saw my friend James Moore arriving at the checkpoint. I took the opportunity to wish him well on the rest of his trek to Whitney and also took the time to chat with Badwater veteran John Dodds who was serving on his crew. Despite the fact that it had taken James some time to make it to Stove Pipe he had a big smile on his face and he was upbeat. I saw the smile on his face and was certain he would be okay but in the end he found himself moving too slow and had to bail at the seventy-mile mark in Panamint Springs. James is a very accomplished runner and someone who is not afraid to take risks and I applaud him for his effort.

When Larry finally pulled into the parking lot around 11:30 p.m. I showed him to the hotel room and immediately headed back out to the course. Larry had told me that Lisa had crested the long hill at Towns Pass and should still be making the long descent into the Panamint Valley by the time I got there. I drove twenty miles with the fear that I would not be able to locate our team in the dark but the green night lights that Lisa and our team were wearing as opposed to the red that most selected were easy to detect. Just as Larry had said Lisa was making her descent into Panamint but to my surprise she was running by her lonesome. When I arrived at the scene Dori told me that she had started out running with Lisa but that the fear of aggravating an old injury forced her to the sidelines. Both Dori and I thought that it would be best if I jumped back out there to run with her if for nothing else to allow her to feel somewhat protected against the demons of the dark.

When I started running Lisa was cruising at a good rate of speed on an easy but long down hill section. I was a little worried that the long down hill could aggravate an old injury of my own but I was ready for it. The beautiful night time sky filled with a million stars kept my mind off of everything including any pain that I may have had. The sky and the surrounding mountains put me in such a relaxed state that for a few minutes I forgot why I was even there. I snapped out of my trance and chatted with Lisa a bit to see if she too had recognized the sky that was directly on top of us. She acknowledged that she had noticed and even pointed out that the moon was missing as she watched it earlier dip below the mountains in the background.

Lisa was relentless as she ran every inch of the way down the road into the valley below. Several miles later and a few thousand feet lower we reached the bottom only to find Lisa in severe pain. The pain in both of her feet had intensified to the point where she needed to stop to tend to the problem immediately. This time when she removed her shoes and socks large blisters were noticeable on the balls of both of her feet. We retrieved her foot care kit and allowed her to go to work on herself. She stubbornly refused to allow anyone else to pop the blisters or help her in any way. The only role I could play was that of comforter. I reassured her that once the blisters were drained that the pain would decrease to an acceptable level. She poked and prodded at the blisters on the right foot but they were so deep that very little fluid was released. The blisters that were on her right foot were not as deep and could be drained with ease. She allowed Dave Heckman to bandage her feet but showed concern when he placed an adhesive bandage directly on to the skin. She was worried she would never be able to remove it without tearing the skin off but once it was on it was too late. Now that the bandages were on and her feet were wrapped in tape it was time for Lisa to make an attempt to move again. I felt so bad inside when she whimpered as she rose to her feet and moved forward. I had not treated her like a girl all night long but I was so tempted to do so at this point. I could not enable her but instead I needed to find a way to make her fight. I promised her that the more she walked the less pain she would feel. She continued to make noises but never complained or stopped. It hurt me deep inside but I never let her know and instead I continued to urge her to walk.

I looked at my watch and noticed that at 2:20 a.m. we still had time to travel the three miles uphill to make it to Panamint before 3 a.m. After we traveled a mile and a half Lisa asked Glenn and Dave Heckman to go ahead into town and get her some breakfast at the all night restaurant. She thought that the warm food would help her relax and recover. She was also hopeful that John Vonhoff or someone from Zombie Runner might be there to treat her feet. We moved at a slow rate of speed but as she walked her stride became smoother and her pace picked up despite the pain. The only thing I could do was to continue to reassure her that the more she walked the less pain she would feel. I worked hard to convince her that her pain would decrease in intensity as long as she continued to walk. She accepted my comments with the same smile that was on her face at the start and the same smile that remained throughout. Her words expressed pain yet her face expressed joy.

When we reached the town of Panamint a little before 3 a.m. and found that no one was there who could treat her feet we continued straight through without stopping. Before catching back up to Lisa I quickly popped my head in the restaurant to let Glenn and Dave know that we were moving on by. Both Dave and Glenn seemed frustrated because the food was taking a little longer than expected and also because the restaurant was not yet serving breakfast. Lisa would have to settle for spaghetti and meatballs instead of the eggs that she wanted. Just like every thing else though Lisa took it in stride and accepted the food with a big smile on her face.

We left Panamint in the dark starting the long climb up to the top of Father Crowley. I knew from my experience last year how spectacular the view was at this point. This year, however, I would have to allow my imagination to run wild because darkness concealed the beauty of the area. Lisa may have been in pain but her consistent pace had her catching up quickly to a runner just a head. The person she was gaining ground on was not just any runner but one of the best and a Badwater legend in Lisa Smith-Batchen. Both Lisa’s had faced some adversity throughout the night and shared stories as they walked together. They walked and talked for a quarter mile before Dave and Glenn showed up with Lisa’s food. When Lisa slowed to eat Dave took over the pacing duties and I joined Dori in the crew vehicle. Dori suggested that we head back to town and buy more ice since we were running low. Dave had Lisa giggling like a little girl and back on track so Dori and I felt comfortable leaving the two alone for a little while without support. We backtracked and headed into town where there was a little mini-mart/gas station that sold ice. I was shocked that the price of gas at this particular station was $4.39 a gallon. I may have been shocked but I also understood good business practices. The local stores knew they had us by the you know whats and like any smart business they took advantage. I went inside and bought six bags of ice at a $1.89 a bag and after seeing the price of gas felt as though I got a deal. When I put the ice in the coolers I took a peek in the vehicle and looked around for the first time since the early afternoon hours. The inside was a mess and totally disorganized. I looked at Dori and she looked at me and without a word said we both jumped in and started cleaning up. We discarded all of the trash and reorganized the entire van prior to heading back out.

When we caught back up to Lisa and Dave they were both still giggling and having a good time. It was as if we weren’t even missed. We were back and as a group we continued the eight mile, three thousand foot climb leading up to the top of Father Crowley. Lisa told me earlier that she had run most of this section in 2004 and was concerned that her feet would not allow her to do so again this year. Her confidence level was not high early on because her race this year was quite different from that of 2004. In fact, as funny as it may sound she questioned her ability to buckle. I responded by referring to my own race of the previous year in which I was well behind the pace she was setting on this day. I assured her that she could easily walk from here and still break the forty-eight hour time limit needed to buckle. I felt uncomfortable making references to my own struggles in races but it was the only thing that I knew to do. This race was all about Lisa not all about Dave but I had hoped that she would see that if I could overcome different challenges than she could as well. My purpose was to help her relax and allow her mind to rest knowing that she was not alone, anything was still possible!

As we climbed the mountain the sun rose. This gave us an opportunity to see the crew vehicles that led down the long stretch of highway into Panamint Springs. As Dori and I admired the scenery Dave continued to walk with Lisa up the mountain. We were about two thirds of the way to the top when Larry and Glenn returned from resting. We all pulled off into a large parking area where at four thousand feet we had a 360° view of our surroundings. Lisa, Noora Alidina and Lisa Smith-Batchen were running neck and neck as she came into our view but instead of trying to gain ground she opted to take a five-minute break instead. Dave Heckman had brought a comfortable lounge chair along for the ride and now it was time for it to serve its purpose. He pulled it out of the vehicle, assembled it in the proper position, and allowed Lisa to sit. The big smile that had been plastered on her face since the start was now even wider as she rested.

Once her five minutes was up Lisa laughed in pain as she struggled to rise from the chair. She hobbled forward but then quickly regained a smooth stride. Larry tagged along with her for about a mile before handing over the pacing duties to Glenn. Lisa and Glenn crested the mountain together and were rewarded with a spectacular view of Mt. Whitney well off in the distance. Though Whitney looked like it was just a hop, skip and a jump away in reality there were many miles to travel before reaching our final destination.

When Lisa and Glenn made their approach toward the crew vehicle we were about to experience our lowest point of the race. Lisa’s smile was replaced by a look of concern as she limped dramatically toward us. Seemingly out of no where an angel of mercy arrived. Jamie Mieras, a race medic, had been traveling in the area and decided to stop when she spotted Lisa. Once she saw how much pain Lisa was in she offered to help. Jamie quickly located her medical supplies and brought them to our location and went to work on both of Lisa’s feet. There wasn’t a lot that any of us could do at this point except pitch in to do minor tasks and clean up the trash that was left over. It took 43 minutes before Lisa was up and running again but the time lost was well worth it as the intensity of the pain in her feet significantly decreased. We cleaned up the area, thanked Jamie and quickly moved on.

While we were making our way to the mile 90 mark in Darwin Lisa asked us how many people and who had passed her during the down time. I assured her that only a couple of people had passed and for the most part those that did were early starters. I wasn’t 100% sure that my answer was correct but I thought it was more important for her to remain focused on her race and not that of others.

Lisa seemed to pick up speed when she found out that she had a chance to make it to Darwin in less than 24 hours. We were about three miles out when Larry sent Dave ahead to find out the exact mileage from where we were into Darwin. When Dave came back with the news that we were closer to two and a half miles than three it was a no brainer that Lisa would make her goal. She kicked it into gear and when there she looked as if she had been reborn. We stopped in Darwin where Lisa weighed and rested for a few seconds before kicking it back into gear and heading out once again.

Almost immediately after leaving Darwin Larry and Dave took over the crewing responsibilities and Dori headed into town to pick up the Mt. Whitney passes. There was a small chance that after crossing the finish line Lisa and crew would attempt to summit Whitney and return in record time. We weren’t sure at this point in the race if we would make the attempt or not but there was still a chance so as planned Dori went into town.

Predictably Lisa ran almost the entire stretch of downhill road leading out of Darwin. It was a beautiful setting in which to run as Mt. Whitney could be seen directly ahead and the dessert colors now included something other than brown. Lisa’s confidence level increased brightening the spirits of the crew but there was still one more down period lurking just ahead. When we reached the 103-mile mark the town of Keeler could be seen well off in the distance. The road leading to the town was winding and rolling and though it seemed so close we knew it was still far away. Suddenly the wind stopped blowing and the heat beat directly on Lisa’s brow, which compounded the mental struggle she was already experiencing. The knowledge of having to travel the long, winding road before reaching town along with the brutal heat was devastating. Her pace slowed and her spirit took a beating but amazingly enough she still smiled.

As we neared Keeler she asked me two questions both of which I could not answer. I was flustered when she asked what time of day it was and what mile mark we were at. My watch was still on Eastern Standard Time and for one reason or another I couldn’t figure out how to subtract three hours from whatever time it read. I told her she would have to wait until we reached the van to get the time but I gave her a good guess as to what mile mark we were at. When we arrived at the crew vehicle I was hoping that Larry would know the time and exact mileage mark and lucky for me he did. Personally I’m not a big fan of calculating pace because if it’s not what I want it to be it can be deflating. Sure enough when Lisa found out what her pace was over the last five miles she seemed quite dejected. It was at this time when it seemed as though she made a conscious decision to dictate the outcome of her race. I looked at her and I saw a spirit that was intact and a ton of energy and strength that remained inside. I attempted to draw what remained inside by urging her to concentrate on her race and to focus on running as much as possible. She responded positively to my words and listened to me instead of the IPOD that she had been listening to the entire race. Her positive response gave me permission to let loose every bit of passion that I had inside. I scare most when I let loose but Lisa sucked up every ounce I had and wanted more. I felt a rush of energy and somehow it made its way to Lisa. She was in no way intimidated but instead listened and followed my guidance. I had lit a spark, which Lisa used to ignite a fire. She was running and running hard and it would last until the very end.

Once she was running I asked her to communicate her needs to her pacer and allow him or her to get what she needed. It made no sense for her to come out of her zone and lose energy just to get what she needed when we could do it for her instead. I thought it was important for her to stay focused for this would allow her to defeat any mental challenges that could arise along the way.

At mile 111 it was Glenn’s turn to pace and his job would be to keep the fire burning in Lisa’s heart. The mix of my emotion, Glenn’s patience and comforting presence and Dori’s ability to teach was exactly what Lisa needed to get her to Lone Pine. Our plan was for each of us to run three miles with Lisa until we reached the Portal Road at mile 122.

The crew played a critical role in what was about to occur over the next five miles. Dave Heckman had earlier drove up ahead to do some reconnaissance work and when he returned we were surprised by what he told us. He said that Lisa was gaining ground on the second and third place females and that the first place female had less than a two-mile lead and all were struggling. It wasn’t long after Dave broke the news when Noora Alidina came into view. We saw her hobbling and moving slow and knew that it was only a matter of time before Lisa would catch her. Larry, Dave and I discussed how we should proceed with the crew vehicles and concluded that we should stay out of view of Noora and her crew until Lisa was close and ready to pass. We figured that if we got too close the nervous energy generated from the knowledge that Lisa was on her tail might give Noora second life and make it more difficult for Lisa to pass. We implemented our plan precisely and before we knew it the time had come for Lisa to make her move. The competitive juices were flowing in every one and everything we did was for one purpose and one purpose only, to help Lisa win.

Just prior to our decision to pass Noora’s crew vehicles I ran over to Dori and Lisa and told them “ladies let the games begin”! Lisa was now aware that she was in contention and she literally responded by putting the hammer down. Not only did she pass Noora but unknowingly to me she also passed Tracy Thomas. I saw Tracy’s crew vehicle but did not see her so I assumed that she was still running up ahead. Turns out I was wrong as Dori and the others had seen Tracy in the vehicle. Once Dori guided Lisa by Noora and Tracy it was my turn to keep the fire burning in Lisa’s heart.

Lisa was easily motivated but also easily distracted by spectators who happened upon the course. It angered me when someone would drive up along side of her or walk up to her to chat. She’s a nice person and very approachable on the outside but on this day she’s a competitor attempting to realize a dream. While I didn’t feel comfortable screening Lisa from the public the race was now on so I not only felt comfortable but I felt it was my duty.

DSCF0173 Lisa had just taken over second place when I started pacing her and my goal was to keep her relaxed and focused. I wanted her to focus ahead and not behind. This was not an easy task because Noora’s crew vehicles had to come right alongside of Lisa to park to wait for their runner. This led both Lisa and I to believe Noora was right on her tail and truthfully maybe she was. I refused to look back so I honestly do not know how close Noora was at the time. It was all strategy and tactics from here on out, don’t smile at your competitor, don’t acknowledge her or her crew but instead run forward looking strong and confident. That’s a winning attitude and something that will build confidence and allow you to run with authority and not in fear.

Glenn ran with Lisa the last two miles into Lone Pine. They made a right turn on the main highway and then ran another half mile before they excitedly caught a glimpse of the female leader. Jamie Donaldson fought a good fight but was now hobbling toward the Lone Pine checkpoint. Once Lisa saw Jamie she became a woman possessed and pushed hard toward the town. She stayed way over on the left side of the road away from race officials and ran strong toward the Portal Road. She had absolutely no interaction with any of the officials but instead depended upon her crew to check her in.

The crew had worked feverishly to get her to this point but now our lack of knowledge of the rules left us a bit exposed. Someone remembered that the runner is allowed only one crew vehicle to follow him or her up the Portal Road. Since we had two crew vehicles and a five-member crew we were not sure what to do. I got a little nervous because everyone looked at me for direction so I quickly sought out assistance from one of the race officials. He told us that it would be okay to have two crew vehicles as along as we stripped all of the identifying marks off of one of them, kept them a good distance apart and only used one as a crew vehicle. Since he was an official I listened to him, but once I told Lisa our plan she refused to allow us to do it. She was a stickler for rules throughout making sure that we stayed behind her and off of the road when we paced and that our vehicles complied with all of the rules as well. Though tired, she was not going to change now and demanded that we take the car all the way up the mountain. I assured her that we were given direction by one of the officials and that we did not deliberately set out to break the rules. I promised her that we would obey her by moving the car all of the way up the mountain and that’s exactly what we did.

I’m not sure why, maybe because I’ve done Badwater or have experience as an ultrarunner but for some reason the others in the crew looked to me for guidance. I had been leading since we were five miles outside of Keeler and continued to do so as we approached Lone Pine and our final destination. I say it was my experience but I have a feeling that my peers deemed me the leader because I was so emotional and fiery and truly wanted Lisa to win. I found it hard to make decisions that could potentially hurt someone else’s feelings but any decision I made was made because I was certain it was best for Lisa. I went back to our team and explained exactly what we needed to do and though my decisions may not have been popular everyone accepted his or her role. Our plan to get up the mountain would be that Dori, Glenn and I would continue rotating the pacing duties every three miles, Larry would drive the crew vehicle while Dave drove the other up the mountain.

I was first to pace and immediately I challenged Lisa to move as quickly as possible and even run when she could. Larry had told me that in 2004 she made it up the mountain in four hours and ten minutes. I told Lisa that the race was hers if she could post that same exact time again. I told her all of this not knowing that she was already in the lead. I must have left my mind in Lone Pine because I thought she was still the chaser not the one being chased. Lisa slowed a bit and even asked Larry to give her the hairbrush that he had been guarding with his life for over 123 miles. I wondered why Larry had a hairbrush in his lap for so long but now I know. I think Lisa’s plan was to use the brush to help her relax and it served its purpose as she zoned out for a few minutes. In a way it drove me nuts so in response I urged her to give more effort if she could but I let up when she told me that her hip would only allow her to go so fast. While Lisa was brushing her hair Dave Heckmam ran up beside me and told me that Lisa had nine tenths of a mile lead on Noora. When Lisa asked me what Dave had said I would only tell her that she had a significant lead. In retrospect I should have told Lisa exactly how much of a lead she had because now that I know she would have found another gear and put the race away even earlier. I found this out when Dori jumped in to pace. She immediately told Lisa that she had less than a mile lead on Noora and that all would be okay if she maintained. That lit a fire under Lisa’s ass for two reasons first because she felt threatened by Noora and secondly because she was mad at me for not telling her how close Noora was.

I made a mistake at the 127-mile mark of the race when I allowed my feelings to get hurt. One of the main duties of a crew person is to build walls and to not allow emotions to affect his or her job. It is critical to the runner that the crew works out their own problems and is able to handle any thing the runner throws at them. No anger, no hurt feelings and no frustration. At the 127-mile mark the walls I had built fell to the ground and I allowed my feelings to get hurt. I was sad because Lisa thought I had lied to her and I was sad because I had made Lisa mad at me. It hurt me and I felt it but still I did my job. I couldn’t face her eye to eye but instead what I did was fill her bottles and prepare her food only to ask Glenn to give it to her. It broke my heart that I couldn’t be out there but I figured that my presence would only piss her off more. The good thing is that the anger that was generated lit a fire under her ass and she started to run up the mountain. I was sad and happy at the same time. A bad thing may have occurred but she turned it into a positive. I thought it was totally amazing that she could dig so deep inside of herself to find the energy to run up the mountain. This allowed her to crush the 4:10 time she posted in 2004 by twenty-eight minutes.

DSC02254Glenn paced her the next three miles before Lisa looked over to me and asked if I was next. I jumped at the opportunity and melted like butter when Lisa expressed her appreciation for all of my help. Any hurt feelings I had were now gone as together we walked up the three steep switchbacks that led up the mountain. I continued to walk with her until we reached the 1.5-mile to go marker at which point Larry took over for the next half mile. Dave took the final leg with Lisa to the finish as the rest of us waited patiently for her to arrive. At 8:33 Pacific Standard Time Lisa Bliss crossed the finish line and became the 2007 Badwater ladies champion in 34:33.

While Lisa was being interviewed Larry and I stood together speechless but the smiles on our faces said it all. The team spent many hours together, struggling when Lisa struggled, laughing when Lisa laughed and feeling bad when Lisa cried. Now that she had crossed the finish line and all was over I wasn’t sure if I should be sad or happy. I had just spent the last day and a half with people I barely knew yet somehow at this time each felt like a part of me and I never wanted the time to end. Reality set in quickly and I realized that it was over. Though the thought of leaving was sad I knew the events of this day would be played over and over again in each of our minds until the end of time. There was more to this than just winning a race as each of us took home a part of the other. Congratulations Lisa you are a true champion!

Romancing the Stone

A 2007 Badwater race story

I am at the starting line and in a few minutes will be joining the six and eight o’clock runners who are already well into the march of madness across Death Valley and two mountain ranges and then to the finish line, at the Portals, halfway up MT Whitney. We are at the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon. It is the toughest footrace in the world.

Although I am here, it was questionable a week ago. Excruciating back pain from a mean-spirited and jagged-edged kidney stone had me digging in my heels and white knuckling the rails of a gurney in an emergency room. A dose of morphine gave me temporary relief but during the week there was more pain as gravity continued to drag the cruddy little thing through my plumbing system. It is quiet now; knock on wood.

My goal is to be the first runner over sixty (I am 65) to ever-complete Badwater in less than forty-hours. For months, I averaged 120-miles a week and everyday baked in a 170-degree sauna. I am physically ready.

I have run this race nine consecutive times and have created a race plan, which incorporates everything that has worked on this course. I am mentally prepared.

My support crew, Christine Webb, Julie Strong and Alfonso Partida have met a dozen times to cover possible contingencies. They are ready.

Our support van contains a large chest filled with dry ice, cubes and blocks. This is used to top off four smaller chests containing liquids of choice and two five-gallon coolers of water for drinking and spraying. If overheated, I will climb inside the large chest to cool off. Sizzle!

I will down one cold Ensure Plus every hour and an occasional Power Gel or GU. Every few miles I will hydrate with 16-ounces of cold Crystal Geyser water, PowerAde or a Starbucks Frappuccino (my preferred drinks). I will only carry an eight ounce spritzer of ice water. The mist I spray on my face and other hot spots is a refreshing coolant.

Since I only drink a thimble full on my daily runs, I have not over-hydrated. This will help avoid the numerous nasty water polluted health issues, which includes waddling down the road feeling sluggish and bloated. To eliminate any guesswork we use an electronic scale, which allows us to immediately adjust my hydration level and to help prevent cramping and dehydration I will take Endurolytes.

It is 105-degrees, humid and windy. To prevent moisture loss, I wear a long-sleeved Patagonia Capilene white shirt, matching pants and a shrouded hat. When it is really hot my crew, who will leapfrog me in the support van for the entire race, will soak me with cold water from a garden type sprayer.

Race director Chris Kostman gives the countdown and off we go. The last thing I want is to get caught up in a jackrabbit start; egad, after a few minutes, I am dead last.

I have modified Tim Twietmeyer’s (five-time Western States 100-mile endurance race winner), “I run the hard parts easy and the easy parts hard,” to Arthur Webb’s mantra, “I will run the easy parts easy and power walk the hard parts.” There will be no exceptions. Well, okay, maybe a few.

The early miles along the edge of this pure white salt basin is a music laden iPod sing-along and endorphin filled run. At the Furnace Creek Hotel (mile-17) I jump into the pool for five minutes to cool down. It’s twenty-five miles to the next time station and it would be a mental handicap heading into the next marathon of arid rolling hills and extreme temperatures, overheated. After filling my shoes with Gold Bond blister preventing foot powder, I am quickly back on the course.

We have a second vehicle that my wife uses to help crew for the next two hours and then drive to a hotel to rest.  A major objective is to keep the crew fresh, especially during the second day.

The seven race time stations that are about twenty-miles apart are too much to grapple with. To compress the 135-miles into bite size comfortable mental running zones, I concentrate on the landmark and turnoff signage spaced every three to four miles. As weariness creeps in, I will shorten that distance by using the highway marked mile-posts and on the opposite side of the road, the alternating one-half mile-posts.

As I handily run across the barren heat filled and unforgiving landscape, I catch a runner who is sitting on a mound of sand. He says, “I am cramping and my pacer is looking for my crew.” He has no water, appears dehydrated and is overheated. His crew is too far ahead, has few supplies and is puzzled. What! How can this happen? I tell them, “He can stay in the hunt if he is cooled down and given lots of water and electrolytes (my wife gave them a full bottle).” It is too early to be suffering so much. I hope he makes it.

Nestled between the sculptured sand dunes and the multicolored segmented chiseled mountains is the Stovepipe Wells Resort (mile-42). The white metallic roof of this next time station shimmers in the distance and looks like a Star Wars movie outpost: desolate and eerie. Maybe aliens in the spacecraft that I have seen hovering in this area during previous Badwater races think so too.

The seven-miles that cross the Death Valley basin are mostly downhill and are usually run in oppressive, suffocating 130-degree furnace-like heat. But as I run past the Devils Corn Field and into Stovepipe Wells it is a comfortable and less punishing 120-degrees. Thumbs up for heat training.

After a splash in the small tepid pool, a Slippery Rock University research vampire team doing a volunteer study on dehydration drains a sample of blood. Since it will be dark soon, I strap red flashers on my arms and legs and begin to charge up the 16-mile mountain pass that has always been a monumental struggle.

Nine miles into this teeth gritting effort, I am concerned about a sharp twinge in my lower back. Terrific! The last thing I need is the kidney stone to rear its ugly head and curl me up on the ground with knife stabbing pain. Maybe it is just teasing me since it settles down after a few miles. Hopefully, the pounding on the pavement has either jolted it free or the liquids have washed it into my disposal system. Splash! Adios.

At his memorial in June, I promised family and friends that I would dedicate this Badwater race in honor of ultra running giant, friend and crewperson, Vincent Pedroia, who had just crossed his last finish line. This is swirling about in my head as I move straight up the pass into the billions of stars. Fortunately, Julie is walking with me because my heart is in my throat and I need her to lean on.

At the top of Townes Pass (58-miles) I am washed with fatigue. As I lay on the ground for a short respite and a leg massage, will be the only time during Badwater that I momentarily question “what am I doing here?” Yuck, scratch that negative thought. After a failed catnap, I am still fresh enough to run the downhill miles and surprised to pass about a dozen runners who are walking this section.

Near the bottom the winding road straightens and I see about fifteen crew vehicles strung out across the desert floor. The caravan of flashing red taillights energize me enough to handily finish this grade and trek across the salt basin and up the three-mile incline to the Panamint Springs Resort (mile-72).

I chat with volunteers, Mags and Jack Denness (eleven-time Badwater finisher), as the van is filled with gas. I am always toast here and require a long break, but this morning moving forward has a higher priority. Shortly, I start up the eight-mile steep winding hill to Father Crowley’s (mile-80). I will not take another break for fifty-miles.

Chris Frost “zips” by me and says, “Arthur you have a very good thirty-seven hour race going for you.” I lightly brush it aside. It is too early to be thinking about finishing times. Besides I am still doing my three-mile at a time chunk thing.

Although the stark beauty in this area captivates and inspires, it remains a difficult climb. I have run this section in two hours but was totally drained. Today, I will walk at a two and a half-hour clip and after cresting have enough energy to keep on moving.

It is early morning as my wife returns full of energy and relieves the tired crew. We will do the same things that worked yesterday and hopefully it will be deja vous all over again.

The next ten-miles of rolling hills are sprinkled with sagebrush, sparse yucca trees, dinosaur flashbacks and 110-degree heat. To feel at ease with the extreme fatigue that is assaulting me, I gear down into a one mile at a time mode.

At the Darwin checkpoint (mile-90) it’s a hello, goodbye and keep on trucking. The next ten miles along the Centennial Flats are mostly downhill and before it gets super hot, I want to take full advantage.

I believe the halfway mark in a 100-mile race is about mile eighty. At Badwater it’s the large white cross and gravesite at mile ninety-six. It is noon and hot and I am struggling.

At the one hundred-mile marker, we clip a water soaked white towel over my shoulders and I am cooler. I see the weather-beaten trailer park burg of Keeler on the edge of the dried out Owens Lake bed, eight miles in the distance. Burdened by the heavy towel, I am still able to run to its front doorstep, where I run out of gas. Sputter! Sputter!

While my wife power walks with me for the next nine miles, swirling winds filled with sand and extreme heat blow across the road and thrash us. Whoa! Not only is it difficult to breathe clean air, but this battering is taking its toll. As weariness sinks deeper into my body, it is now Badwater one half mile at a time.

Howie Stern, from Mammoth Lakes, CA arrives and relieves my wife. After shuffling into Lone Pine (mile-122) I ease my overheated body into the Dow Villa hotel pool. Minutes later after gorging on turkey slices and Starbucks doubleshots, I grudgingly begin the extremely steep final thirteen mile climb.

The first few miles up the Whitney Portal Road are punishing as strong headwinds make it tough to advance. Howie leads the way and is figuratively dragging me up the mountain. The pace picks-up as we realize that the end is near and there is a sense of urgency to polish this thing off. It’s analogous to the cows smelling the barn thing. Moo!

Just below the two long switchbacks we know that if we charge the last five miles a sub thirty-eight hour finish is possible. But, I am struggling with bone marrow penetrating fatigue, strained hamstrings, and a painful sciatica exacerbated by a chronic lumbar disc problem. Great!

I have a few fleeting doubts as Howie says to me, “Art, whether you crawl or surge either way it’s going to be painful.” He is right. So I tell him, “Okay let’s go for it; besides it will be over sooner.”

In the past I have been visited by Yetis, Pterodactyls and other strange creatures in this area, but not tonight. Without the distracting “hallucinations” the switchbacks seem brutally longer and it has become extremely difficult to push forward.

With a mile to go and time slipping away at warp speed, it would be easy to ratchet down to a less taxing one step at a time survivor shuffle. Instead, I dial up the worn but still motivating “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.” cliché and continue to press on.

At last, with only a few turns to go, this seemingly endless chore is almost over. My crew joins me and we cross the finish line holding hands, screaming and hollering. We have a mini celebration for the 37:48:35 finish. Yes! We did it. And it sure feels good.

I usually get very emotional at the finish. But, I have reserved it for tomorrow’s MT Whitney summit, when I will write in the logbook attached to the side of the cabin, a respectful farewell to my fallen friend.

Later after everyone is in bed and I soak in a whirlpool to begin the long recovery process, I realize that I owe this memorable finish to my crew for their relentless, unwavering and successful race management. Yeah team!

Thanks to race director Chris Kostman, his AdventureCorps crew and all the volunteers for staging this spectacular event.

Thanks to Heidi and Cameron Steele, Carmen Kaplan, SCORE International, Barbie and Jim Riley for their support and the smiley face poster I taped to the back of the van, which gave me a buzz for two days.

Thanks for the motivational drawings that I had taped to the side of the van from the youngsters that I ran for at the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home in Santa Rosa, CA. Hopefully, the inspiration is mutual.

Thanks to nurse Kelly Ridgway and all my friends for looking over my shoulder and nudging me on the web cast. I knew you were there. Whew!  Paybacks are tough.

Thanks that the kidney stone I nursed for a week was never a major factor and hopefully it is now a permanent resident somewhere on the desert floor.

Congratulations to the “Mayor and First Lady of Badwater” Ben and Denise Jones for their induction into the Badwater Hall of Fame. Yeah.

Congratulations to race winners Valmir Nunes and Lisa Bliss. Hurray!

Thanks to protégé’s Julie Strong, Alfonso Partida and Howie Stern for their unselfish and stalwart help. It’s your turn now.

To Trisha, family, friends, Sassy and all the other animals in his charge, it was an honor to “carry the torch,” and a montage of memories taped to the van, at Badwater and to the MT Whitney peak, in memoriam, for the beloved Vincent Gerard Pedroia. Amen.

And finally a huge thanks and much more to my beautiful wife, Christine, for everything. Next year during the Badwater race we will take a dip in the pool, but in Hawaii. Oops! Maybe?

That’s ten Badwater’s down and (?) to go.

It was a privilege to be part of the 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon.

Arthur Webb

Badwater Finisher

98, 99, 00, 01, 02, 03*, 04, 05, 06, 07

*Honorable mention



Badwater Runner Adopted by Dr. King School

August 5, 2007

Dear Chris,
I decided that you have to know about this. A few days after my return from my participation in the Badwater Ultramarathon, I received a large envelope in the mail. My wife, Laurel, opened it and started to cry. I could not believe that a class of children in Syracuse, NY, near where I live, completed a project on the California deserts. They sent me a 3 ring binder that has 29 letters to me from the students congratulating me on my race. They had followed the website and race closely. In so doing, they learned about computers, the deserts, and one very amazing athletic event. Attached are some examples of their work.

Al Arnold needs to know the significance of his legacy, and you need to know the significance of your work.
Todd Baum, Syracuse, NY

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On September 24, 2007, Todd Baum and his wife visited the Dr. King School. They brought Badwater Ultramarathon hats for all the kids, plus race magazines and DVDs for the teachers. Here is the report by journalist Amber Smith from the local newspaper:

Syracuse school children, enrolled in a summer camp at Dr. King School, were reading Gina Gershon’s “Camp Creepy Time” this summer. It’s set in the Mojave Desert When their teacher, Pam Angotti saw an article in The Post-Standard about Fayetteville nurse Todd Baum preparing to run 135 miles through the desert, she incorporated his undertaking into her lesson plan.

When he returned from the Badwater Ultramarathon, Baum received a packet in the mail of notes the students wrote, bound together in a notebook with pictures they printed from the Internet. It touched him.

Monday, he met with the students at the end of the school day. About 30 third- and fourth-graders gathered to hear about Baum’s adventure. He passed around the hats he wore, the medal and belt buckle he won. He answered their questions.

One student wondered why he wore shorts instead of pants. Baum explained that he wore long white pants when it was sunny, to protect himself from sunburn, and then switched to shorts as the sun set.

Another student asked if he saw any animals along the way. Baum mentioned crows, a group that assembled in the shade, their beaks gaping open as if trying to stay cool. His wife, Laurel, part of his support group, told about the coyotes and roadrunners.

September 25, 2007

Dear Chris,
I wish you were there yesterday. You would have been proud of those students and teachers. All the children in the summer literacy program were let out of their respective classes and came together in an open class with a TV/DVD player. The students sat around on the carpeted floor. I think they are in the 3rd grade. I spoke and explained how the finisher’s metal and belt buckle were wonderful awards, but it was their project and letters that really captured my heart, and I thanked them.

I explained that you, Mr. Kostman, were also very happy to see the work they did. I explained that the Mojave Desert and the Badwater Ultramarathon are very important to you, and that you are very happy to see them, the students, learning about the deserts and the race. I went on to say that the runners are not the only participants in the race, that each runner has a crew, and that they, the students, were also participants in the race since they learned so much and came to appreciate what a special place the desert can be. I told them you had sent them gifts. It was really an exciting time.

We watched the 2006 Badwater Party film clip that you sent, and then I took about 100 questions. The kids passed around and tried on my Sun Protection clothing and hats. I also gave them the race magazines and several 8.5 x 11 pictures of the race. Every student was African-American and they were especially interested in Mr. Goggins. They all giggled when they saw him running in the film clip. The desert, the race, and the athletes blow away many paradigms, don’t they?

I gave the DVD to the teachers and encouraged them to consider the same theme for next summer’s program. Your gifts, the hats, were given to the students. It meant a lot to them. We said our thank yous and good-byes. I met many teachers, even the principal came to introduce herself. Pam Angotti, the teacher, along with Amber Smith, Health and Fitness editor of the Post Standard, my wife Laurel, and I went to the school cafeteria. A large board was on display with many pictures from the summer program which was called Camp Creepy Time (see below). When I went to my car, I saw the children walking home with their hats on. 30 children were walking toward South Salina Street, or were they?

Camp Creepy Time is the book that the students read in the literacy program. It is set in the Mojave Desert. The children were divided into different “camping grounds.” Death Valley and Joshua Tree were two of them. The classrooms had tents, sleeping bags, coolers, maps etc. Just as things were getting started last year, Pam read about me in the paper. Well, the curriculum adopted the Badwater Ultramarathon and now you see the result.

Above: Todd participated in the 2007 Furnace Creek 508 and brought Chris a copy of Camp Creepy Time.

Below are some pix of Todd in the 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon.

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Links to media coverage of Todd’s participation in the 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon and Furnace Creek 508:

Video: The Ultimate Marathon, April 10, 2007: Click here.

Video: Local Marathoners attempts Badwater Ultramarathon: Click here.

Video: Training for the Badwater Ultramarathon, July 9, 2007: Click here.

Baum Speaks at School, September 24, 2007: Click here.

Back to Death Valley, September 24, 2007: Click here.

At Furnace Creek…, October 11, 2007: Click here.

Hall of Fame: Ben & Denise Jones

In 2007, Ben and Denise Jones, both of them three-time official finishers, as well as training camp hosts, mentors to many Badwater runners, and more, were inducted.

Interview with Ben and Denise Jones, 2007 Badwater Hall of Fame inductees
Audio File by Marlis Schmidt: 2.2Mb

Their plaque reads:
Badwater Hall of FameBen and Denise Jones In Recognition of their 17 years
on the race course as athletes camp hosts, volunteers, crew members, Race Ambassadors, and Mayor and First Lady July, 2007.

What can Running for a Charity do for Your Race?

Each Badwater Race Experience is Different
Keeping Track of Nutrients – Spreadsheet you can use

Click here to download this article in PDF format

Click here to download the Excel spreadsheet for nutrient tracking

Running for a Charity

There were a number of inspirational factors that led me to commit to dedicating my 2007 Badwater race to a local charity:  many Badwater runners run for a charity (including Dr. Lisa Bliss, who won the 2007 woman’s race); Chris Kostman doing the Ironman Revisited each year for the Challenged Athlete Foundation; and a desire to have my life-in-retirement make a difference by giving back.

The charity was Mobius Kids in Spokane, WA, where I live. Mobius Kids is a children’s museum for young children and their families for hands-on arts, culture and science learning. The museum offers seven interactive exhibit and gallery areas along with community outreach camps, classes, programs and special events. Since opening in September 2005, Mobius Kids has hosted more than 160,000 visits.

Unfortunately, a fact-of-life for children’s museums is that they cannot make ends meet from only user fees and ticket sales. They must raise money each year from their local community and foundations to keep the doors open.

The result of my commitment was 2,000 letters going out to Mobius Kids members about my race, a mention in the monthly Mobius Kids newsletter and on their website, an interview on local TV that ran both on the morning and evening news, a blog that I created for the race ( and $12,000 raised!  This greatly exceeded my expectations, as I thought $2,000 or so would be a “good show.” I was very moved and humbled by the outpouring of support.

So, what was the impact during the race? My dedication of the race to a charity both inspired my crew and me. My crew viewed what they were doing as having a higher and additional purpose. They had to make sure they kept me going all the way to the finish line “for the kids” and often mentioned to me that we had to remember “the kids.”

As for me, during the race I often thought of the children and parents that go to Mobius Kids—the smiles on the faces of both—and how my running would assist in keeping that opportunity open for them. It kept me going. It was a clear purpose outside of a self-absorbed interest. As stated in the race blog:

Why Did I Do This Blog?

Running races like the Badwater 135 is essentially a self-focused and self-absorbed effort. While a successful race is indeed satisfying and there is for me an essential joy in running reflective of my appreciation of life, I wanted to achieve a balance—to do something for others so as to balance a self-focused effort.

I highly recommend dedicating your race to a charity. The inspiration and satisfaction that comes from knowing you can—and did—make difference is remarkable, humbling and very satisfying.

Every Race is Different

I have done the Badwater Race twice officially and once as a solo runner outside of the race. I have also started the race once, having to drop out due to a knee injury from a biking accident before the race. In addition I have volunteered, having been a course marshal and on a medical team. Consequently, I have seen the race from several perspectives.

Each race has been different, in part because of my advancing age (66 in 2007, five years after my first Badwater race in 2002), the effects of which I resist acknowledging. The solo race was by far the best in terms of energy level, freedom from pain and distress, relaxation and enjoyment. What I did miss, however, was the accompaniment of other runners. Perhaps the solo not being in a competitive environment was a big plus. The 2007 race was memorable too because of several distinct phases.

During the miles up to Stovepipe Wells, I felt good, strong, and pushed the pace a bit. However, my left hip kept hurting, and by Stovepipe Wells, every step hurt. Luckily, I had a chiropractor on my crew. He worked on my hip for about an hour until he got it fixed, and it never bothered me for the rest of the race!

Moral of the story: see if you can have at least a massage therapist on your crew, and a chiropractor if possible (but only if you have been seeing that person beforehand). Note: this may be good advice mostly for folks like me, whose “bolts” have become loose after so many years of running (first 100 miler in 1978). Try to take care of problems when they arise.

Here are comments from my crew in a spreadsheet log for this phase up to Stovepipe Wells:

  • Complained of left anterior and lateral hip pain with SI immobilization.
  • Left sacroiliac joint (“SI”) posterior, adjusted with blocks and activator, left adductor tight, left piriformis tight, stretch and muscle work. Dave put on SI belt. Also peed.
  • Singing [ran with MP3 player].
  • Time check in, picnic table massage, peed (yellow). Distraction of left hip, left inferior pubic bone, left TFL muscle work, left temporalis tight and tender.
  • 124 F on asphalt with cloud-cover.
  • Dave said his hands felt swollen (possibly b/c he took excessive Endurolytes). Feeling pain in his feet, legs, and body. Observed ingestion of extra pills (possibly electrolytes) from secret stash!
  • Commented that it was a long damn race and wished he’d never written the blog for Mobius Kids – all with a smile.
  • Got chair to sit for a 10 minutes. Said he had never felt this bad 46 miles into a run. Feels “wiped out; no energy.”  Closed eyes for a few minutes. Changed shoes to Mizuno, kept same insoles. Urinated.

At Stovepipe Wells I also took the time to have a foot specialist fix a minor blister to make sure it did not get worse. Worked, never bothered me for the rest of the race.

The downside: total time at Stovepipe Wells was 1.5 hours.

The next unusual aspect was getting so very sleepy that I just had to stop and sleep about half way up the climb to Townes Pass. This happened during the 2002 race as well, and was unexpected so early into the race. I lay down on an air mattress, was out in a few minutes, and woke up two hours later, feeling refreshed and ready to go.

Total time off course: 3.5 hours. This, of course, concerned me although it seemed necessary.

Have since read somewhere that intense exercise can deplete a hormone that then lets another hormone take precedence, causing one to become very sleepy. Would love to know how to prevent this from happening again.

The sleepiness also may have been due to an allergic reaction to blowing dust and pollen.

Notes from crew:

  • Exhausted; voice lower than normal (pollen and dust); throat dry; breathing hard.  Reported one allergy tab helped some.
  • Exhausted; wanted to sleep. Before sleep 2 scoops from double-zip bag in shaker – drank all before sleeping for two hours. Snored, very congested. Drank Cytomax Lite one scoop in 8 oz. – drank all after waking. Upon waking weight was 159 without ice scarf. Started walking again at 12:37 am. Crew could not find Hammer gel boxes.
  • Hands are swollen; breathing is more difficult than usual.  Sounds like head is stuffy.

During the rest of the race, including the second night, never even thought about sleeping or stopping. So, a bit of a mystery.

One of my crew, an experienced Badwater runner, George Biondic, suggested later at Panamint Springs that I climb up to the Darwin time station at a very slow pace, as the climb was deceiving. He suggested that I keep my heart rate at 50-55% of maximum or so. So I did, even though 50-55% seemed ridiculously low and slow. But, as a consequence, after Darwin I was strong and passed many runners, especially coming into Lone Pine. I saw many who were barely walking and obviously in pain, while I was feeling great. It turned out to be very useful advice, as I had one of the faster times from Lone Pine to the finish line.

Comments in crew log:

  • Continues to urinate frequently – clear, good stream; Cytomax Lite drink 0.6 [drank only 0.6 of 20 oz bottle]. Question the scale reading at 166 given last reading at 162.
  • As above re: urine, seems content; no reported pain; stride is strong.
  • Cytomax Lite drink 0.6. Changed shoes at 2:15 p.m. midway of mile. Listening to Pink Floyd “over and over and over again.”  And is it working?  “Yes!”  Smiles!  Still urinating frequently. Put straps just below knee.
  • Drink – Cytomax Lite plus previous drink mixed with D-Ribose (approx half consumed previously) plus gel. Is singing along with his music now.
  • Hands still swollen.
  • Does not stop. Is running.
  • He is truckin [mile 115].

Last, I wanted to thank my crew with a gift that they would appreciate, beyond my many verbal thanks. Fortunately two of my crew took some wonderful pictures of the adventure and I found a site that makes putting together a “coffee table” picture book a breeze; Picaboo:

I put together a book that was focused mostly on my crew’s experience and their contribution, rather than on me. It was a hit with them. You can view it at:

Post script: kept changing shoes in the race, as my right foot hurt. Found out after the race that I had been running with a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal.

Hope the above may assist some.

Keeping Track of Nutrients – Spreadsheet you can use


One of the mysteries of running in very hot weather is how many electrolyte tablets to take. With a constant intake of water, if one takes too little sodium (“Na”) one can gain weight as one has a too dilute a concentration of Na in the blood for the body to excrete excess water. One has “too much water on board relative to sodium” (this, by the way, is from Dr. Lisa Bliss, who is the medical director for the race; I asked her to review this article for accuracy—thank you Lisa).  On the other hand, if one takes too many tablets (containing Na), one also can gain weight, as the high Na will tend to retain water. There is a delicate balance, just the right amount of Na so you do not retain water and gain weight, and historically I have found it hard to find.

For example, during my solo run, I took too many electrolyte tablets, thinking I needed to do so to get my weight down. Instead, I gained about ten pounds, with swollen hands and legs. Fortunately, it did not seem to have any other ill effects, although being hyponatremic can be deadly.

Also, unfortunately there is a wide range of what is normal for electrolyte intake, depending on individual physiologies. Information from the Hammer Nutrition folks indicates a probable range of 300-600 mg of Na per hour.

Also, Hammer Nutrition’s recommended maximum ingestion of carbohydrates per hour is 280 calories.

I found that typical recommendations for mixing energy drink powders are normative for much cooler conditions, wherein one does not consume as many water bottles per hour as one does at a high temperature race like Badwater. At Badwater, if one mixes to manufacturers’ recommendations, one would be getting too many carbohydrate calories per hour and possibly too much sodium as well, depending on the brand used, unless one also took in plain water from time to time.

So, for the 2007 race I was determined to figure out my needs by training in hot weather and periodically noting my weight and intake of tablets, food and drink. Fortunately, I was able to go down to Death Valley for two long weekends to experiment.

One technique I used there when I was alone was to park my van, weigh myself with a small scale, run out for a mile and then back to the van, and then weigh myself again. Then I drove forward a mile and repeated the process.

What helped figure things out, and was remarkable, was running with two water bottles—one with only plain water and the other with an energy drink mix. I found that sometimes plain water tasted wonderful and “my body” wanted it, and at other times it tasted terrible and my body did not want it. Also found that when I did not feel like plain water I wanted the energy drink mix. Once, when plain water tasted good, I found myself taking a mouthful of energy drink (thinking that I should have some) and involuntarily spit it out. Evidently my body was telling me it wanted plain water and not energy drink!

I started by taking a pre-set amount of electrolyte tablets, plain water in one bottle, and one bottle of energy drink at a certain concentration, per two miles. If after a number of out-and-backs my weight was going up, I took more tablets until it started to come down. Once, however, I had an intuitive sense that my weight had gone up because I had already taken too many tablets, so I backed off on tablets and my weight then came down.

I noted what and how much I drank (how much of each bottle I used) and ate, and how many tablets I took for each two mile repeat. I also tried going out 1.5 or 2.0 miles before turning around, but found that the cumulative out-and-back mileage exceeded the capacity of two water bottles in the heat (115F). Back at Furnace Creek, I then figured out my consumption of carbohydrate calories and sodium with my laptop.

The result was that I felt I had dialed in my calorie and Na needs for the race, having found amounts that kept my body weight perfectly even for many hours (longest run in Death Valley in training was 8.5 hours).

In the end I built an Excel spreadsheet to come up with a plan for the race. During the race it allowed my crew to input what I was taking real-time to make sure I was on plan with nutrients and fluids.

The spreadsheet is available for download in both XLSX and XLS format.

You will note it has a “plan” section to the left, and an “actual” section to the right. The actual section is broken down into two areas: one for primary fuels that I planned on taking, and a secondary fuels section that lists fuels that I might also take. The division was made so the crew, who used the spreadsheet with a laptop and DC/AC converter in a crew van, could see the most important parts of the spreadsheet in one screen view.

Since the race I have added graphs that show planned and actual weight, pace, calories per mile and hour, Na (mg) per mile and per hour, and H2O (oz) per mile and per hour. It would have been helpful to have had the graphs for the race, as it would have been easier for the crew to how I was doing relative to plan over time.

My plan overall was to take in 270 calories per hour, 296 mg of Na per hour, and 64 oz. of water per hour. Yes, I know, 64 oz. an hour is a lot; however, I used about that amount in heat training over long periods with no apparent ill effects, both in Death Valley and in a sauna.

My actual average consumption was much less in every category, at least on a per hour basis: 202 calories, 156 mg of Na, and 28 oz., all per hour. Calories were about 2/3 of plan, and Na and water were about one-half of plan.

On a per mile basis, the plan average was: 80 calories per mile, 88 mg of Na per mile, and 19 oz. of water per mile. Actual average figures were less: 71 calories, 55 mg of Na, and 10 oz. of water, all per mile. Calories were not too far off (10% down), but Na was about 1/3 down, while water was 50% down.

However, averages are one thing, patterns and trends are another.

Starting weight was 160 lbs., and for the first 70 miles or so it averaged about 1 lb. above. Thereafter, weight started climbing steadily to 166 lbs. (see weight graph). Why? Looking first at water intake, using the H2O per mile graph, the water I took in per mile was remarkably within a small range for most of the race, and came down only slightly around mile 70. However, looking at the Na (mg) per mile graph, Na fell off per mile about mile 70 and continued downwards thereafter. Consequently, my hypothesis for the weight gain is that, from mile 70 on, I was taking in too much water relative to Na or, equivalently, too little Na relative to water.

Dr. Lisa Bliss, however, has a different take of sorts, leading also to a conclusion of too much water but in a different way—a conclusion of my having taken too much water from the beginning (see H2O per hour graph, which shows starting consumption about 40 oz. per hour, down to 30 oz. per hour at mile 50): “Weight goes up because of water (with some contribution of calories). Here, I would think, [look at] water first. That is, you were either taking in too much water (regardless of sodium intake) or you were taking in too much salt, which caused you to retain water. … Your overall calorie intake/ hour and sodium/hour seem spot on for you. The overall water intake, however, seems high since the maximum absorption rate from the gut is about 2.4L/hr, but running at slower intensities (< 75% VO2max) may allow for increased absorption. In any case, I think the extra water, accumulated over that many miles, caused the extra weight and maybe even slowed you down. The fact that you continued to urinate frequently at the time when your weight was up also suggests that your body was appropriately getting rid of excess fluid.”

Lisa recommends the following for a lay person:

In addition, around mile 100 I was “running out of gas,” and asked the crew to show me the spreadsheet so I could figure out where I was off. Upon seeing it, it was obvious that I was running far below plan for calories, which you can see quite easily from the graphs of both calories per hour and per mile. Consequently I started taking more calories, which had a noticeable positive effect.

“Wow,” you might say, “not sure I want to be that detailed.” There are many runners who are very successful at Badwater without the kind of record keeping shown in the spreadsheet. Perhaps their intuitive sense is more powerful and discerning than mine. Nonetheless, it was interesting to find out after the race that Michael Emde, who won both the 2006 and 2007 Furnace Creek 508 bicycle race, has his crew keep extremely close track of even more nutrients than I show in my spreadsheet.

Hall of Fame: Rhonda Provost

In 2006, Rhonda Provost, who became the first woman to complete a double Badwater in 1995, was inducted.

Interview with Rhonda Provost, 2006 Badwater Hall of Fame inductee

Her plaque reads:

Rhonda Provost is proudly inducted into the Badwater Hall of Fame
in recognition of being the first woman to complete a double Badwater
and her many years of support of the race

July, 2006


Rhonda Provost, 2006 Badwater Hall of Fame Inductee

Hall of Fame: Jack Denness

In 2006, Jack Denness, the eleven-time official finisher and first ever 70-year-old finisher (in 2005), was also inducted.

Interview with Jack Denness, 2006 Badwater Hall of Fame inductee
Audio File by Marlis Schmidt: 2.3Mb

His plaque reads:
Jack Denness is proudly inducted into the Badwater Hall of Fame in recognition of his eleven official finishes of the Badwater Ultramarathon, including his 2005 finish at age 70 July, 2006.