2002 Badwater…The Tuffest

By Rick Nawrocki, 2000, 2001 & 2002 Finisher

Training hard & being in great shape doesn’t always mean achieving one's goal. That was the story at this year's Badwater. I had the best crew that any runner could dream of: experienced runners with great backgrounds to help me achieve my goal. This year started out great & turned into managing injuries just to finish.

I met Ken Eielson Sunday in Lone Pine & we drove together in the crew van to Furnace Creek. He had driven out from Colorado. The next day we did the pre-race check in and met the rest of my crew by the cabins at Furnace Creek. Theresa Daus-Weber & Scott Snyder who flew out from Colorado to Vegas and drove a rented car to meet us. We all went to the meeting and I got to know the two men on my crew. I crewed with Theresa in 1999 so we knew each other pretty well. I had pre-taped my feet that morning so now it was time to rest & let my crew arrange the van the way they wanted to.

I started at 8am and we had my splits figured out for a 45 and a 47 hour finish, since this year I was going for the buckle. I was about 10 miles into the race when I felt a twinge in my left groin. No, you have got to be kidding I thought, not this early in a race of this length. I kept running hoping it would go away. I got to Furnace Creek 45 minutes ahead of a 45 hour finish. So I ran off to the next check point. It seemed hotter than usual, especially out by the dunes, but again I ran into Stovepipe still 45 minutes ahead of schedule. I noticed I was running a little different since I was favoring my left leg & the blisters on the balls of my feet were proof of that, but I opted not to look at them.

I headed up Townes Pass and was strong till the summit with the help of Scott pacing me. Now started the real problems. The down hills really seemed to aggravate my groin (psoas muscle) so I limped my way down. Near the bottom Chris Frost, a friend from Malibu, passed me & hooked me up with a guy on another team who was a masseuse, He worked on my quads for about 10 minutes & off to Panamint I went. I still was in good shape to buckle. I had some breakfast & headed up Father Crowley’s. Now Ken was back with me & we talked and joked while we were entertained a few times by some of the jets. At about mile 87 Shannon McQueeney & her Mom caught up with us. I knew her dad Scott from the 2000 race & had been in contact with both of them as Shannon battled cancer for the last 6 months. We had so much in common, catheters, chemo, radiation & hair loss. I knew of what she had to go thru first hand. It had just been 17 months since my bone marrow transplant. Shannon came out and ran a mile with me & really pumped me up. So I asked my crew for some wild music for my mini disc player & started to run strong to Darwin. That is where the next major problem showed up. Since I was favoring my left leg my feet blistered worse than usual and because of that I was running on the edges of my shoes which caused my right ankle ligament to hurt or tear. Now at Darwin my goal changed from the buckle to just finishing, I had to finish. My crew wrapped a small bag of ice with a Ace bandage to my ankle and I was off.

We got to the 100 mile mark and Scott rejoined me. I couldn’t believe how bad the smoke from the fires had gotten. Now was the 20 mile, 2nd night, death march to Lone Pine. At 40 hrs. my crew decided I needed to lay down & rest my mind for 30 minutes because that is where my fight was going to come from, my body was spent. This is where I lost all the time, getting to Lone Pine and going up the Portal Road. Coming into Lone Pine I got charged up again, made the left turn and started up. Around 8 miles from the top Shannon & her Mom caught up to me again and Shannon came out and did another mile or so with me. We talked about doing the last mile together. I talked it over with my crew & we all decided to meet 1 mile from the finish. Last year I did that mile alone & reflected on my transplant. But this year I was going to do it with another cancer survivor. My crew continued to give me fresh cold bottles every mile and I worked my way up. What a climb at the end of a 135 mile race. Shannon and I started on the last mile. We rounded the final turn and decided to join hands and finish with arms in the air as cancer survivors. I did it! Number three! I received my medal from Chris Kostman, got congratulations from my crew, friends & Al Arnold, the 1st man to do the course 25 years ago. What a finish!

I think this will be my last Badwater: 3 for 3. Next year I will probably crew for someone, maybe even one of my crew, because it looks like both Ken & Scott might want to run this race. Otherwise I will drive the course & try to help as many people as I can, achieve there dream, and finish this race. I would like to thank my crew who was flawless for the entire 53:20:07. No way I would have finished this year without their constant devotion.