Erika Gerhardt: 2000 Badwater Reflections

Here's my thoughts "from the waaay back", behind even Frank MacMillan back. The last person back. I relate to Frank in that you have the amazing ability to "elasticize" the parameters of "what is normal," just for this for event, and out of love for the people in this event. In my case, "My crew MUST hate me" (which wasn't true), you assured me even THAT "was normal" . . . . I dropped out of the race at mile 77, just after Panamint. I ran out of total calories and protein. It was my birthday, and like the song, I cried: I just wanted (A), my husband, (B) my dog, and © a birthday cake. My dad said, I don't have any of those, but let's just go another mile. And he, a non runner who signed on to crew his first ever, and this baddest of ultramarathons two days before the event, stretched that mile for five miles. I told him I wanted to drop and it was my dad that made sure I put the marker in. My dad also ensured when he checked in at Lone Pine Friday night, not to count me as a DNF "yet".

Saturday morning, after a hearty sleep and some heartier food, Denise gave me a pep talk to return to the course as an unofficial finisher. I just wanted to be able to WEAR my Badwater T-shirt, even if I didn't count. My crew and I continued on, getting into Lone Pine at 5:30 Sunday morning. My crew gave their all, even Don (Meyer) pacing me for almost 40 miles. The crew got 17 more unofficial hours than they "signed up" for and they held up remarkably: Don Meyer, Anna Boldon, Glenn Gerhardt, Greg Gerhardt, you rock!

Denise, thank you for stepping in to assist with decisions in Lone Pine when we were all too exhausted to comprehend, except to know on some primordial level that I could taste the finish. To then reassure the crew and to organize willing volunteers, Bob and Dave (Matti Ace) from Lisa Smith's crew. Additional thanks to Bob and Dave (the self-proclaimed "Good Cop/Bad Cop" tag team) for guiding me the last 13. I think Dave and I spent five miles determining which TV show was better: "Old" Star Trek or "Star Trek: Next Generation." I hope we can continue the discussion in '01. And I don't think I did ever answer some of Bob's probing questions. Next year, too. I feel so grateful that you helped my crew and me to finish, Denise. Not "better" or "different" just infinitely more humbled. When I finished at 77 hours, I couldn't fathom that what you did, was as you would do—and did do—and do any year, for any one of us Badwater participants. To comprehend the depth of that unconditional fortitude, just intensifies my respect for you, First Lady.

I truly desire that you and Ben take from that 77 hour Portal finish: my finish is my gift to you. I hope that after all these months of support and nurturing via email, then the camp, that is ok with you. That it is worthy payment? I remember Denise, before the training camp, you told me that "you don't play favorites," but please know, because of YOUR efforts, I float that "asterisk" of being an unofficial finisher like an orbit around my head, like an extra chakra or six inches to my height. I'll even decorate it (*) with tinsel and ornaments at Christmas time.

I understand now the need in these days following to try to integrate this experience back into my (real?) life and to share it with others who participated. I feel like I have been in a car crash and can't remember the moments up to the wreck. The moments are hazy, as if they happened to someone else. My old self maybe? But the feeling throughout of knowing that you and Ben were there, remains constant in that clutter I struggle to process.

Please tell Chris to reserve bib number 69 for me. I learned too much, am too humbled, and too grateful for everyone's support in 2000 to not return in '01.

From the last person in 2000, #69, Erika Gerhardt.