The first part of the journey was preparation. Even if you are just pacing you need to get ready for the heat. Thankfully the owner of the local running shop (Mark at Kilometers) had a great idea. He said he would hook me up with his treadmill and some heaters. His treadmill is surrounded on three sides by walls and then we blasted 1 to 2 heaters into the space and that is how i would run...for hours..seriously sweaty hours. Ok it was gross and a tiny bit odd running in someones running store as people milled about looking for shoes but hey most runners understand crazy, they even embrace it so I am sure the scene was totally normal, right???
Next we all headed to Vegas to meet up with Ethel and her awesome wife Kerry. Then we headed out in our two white vans, into the desert. A tiny bit odd heading out with folks you don't know for an epic journey but we quickly got to know each other.
|Heading into Death Valley (From L to R: Lisa, me, Tammy, Jan, Ethel, Kerry, Rosie).|
|Just thought this was cool. All of the white vehicles ready to go for the race.|
|We checked into Stove Pipe Wells we realized the rooms didn't have microwaves so we cooked our food on the dash. Really!|
The next day was mostly about preparation, pre race meetings and check in and hanging out. Part of the crew went to Badwater while Ethel and Kerry got checked in. Rosie and I took the opportunity to run the road from Badwater towards Furnace Creek. It was hot but so dang cool. After that we went to the pre race picture and Rosie and I were able to grab photos with Dean K and Pam Reed. Dean was so dang nice, he took the time to not only take pictures but talk with us and seemed super down to earth and just into the sport.
We headed back to Stove Pipe Wells and began to get the crew van ready for the following day. All vans have to be marked and we needed to organize all of the gear that would go inside for the next two days. We also went over with Ethel her race plan, what she preferred in the way of being dealt with if her mood sank, what foods she wanted, what things she liked and didn't, etc... And then we went to sleep.
I was on for the second shift on day one. So we headed out after noon to switch out pacing and crew duties with the 1st crew. Our first turn over was rocky and to be honest I was so excited to run with Ethel I just started pacing. In hind sight I should have stuck around and listened to the turn over and helped my crew get us up and going. I got to run quite a ways with Ethel on the first day and did tons of miles with her over the course of the 43 hrs. The first day was hot. The ice bandannas were melting ever mile, yes every mile. But we just kept plugging along. I got in some great speed work sprinting to the van to let them know her needs, grabbing stuff and then racing back to her. I knew she was dreading the hike up Towns Pass (she said it was like a blow dryer in the face for all 20 miles and her friend from last year had said it was soul sucking). Well it lived up to the hype. 20 miles of going up. From mile 40-60 you just climb and you climb with the heat in your face. I tried to keep her sprayed down but there was little else I could do for her. At mile 50 we stopped and we looked at her feet. She had a blister. I did my best to take care of it. I was so thankful at that moment for the time I had spent reading up on blister care. I had read every article on the Badwater site and many others just in case I had to take care of her feet. Amazingly Ethel did about 100 miles of the race with one of her feet badly blistered and the other mildly blistered. I thought that was amazing and seriously hard core. She was super consistent in her pace and just kept on plugging along. At the top of Towns Pass we massaged her legs and attempted to take care of the new blisters that had formed.
On the second day we met her in the wee hrs of the morning. She was just getting over being sick and we had another climb. So we headed up the next pass. On this climb we were leap frogging with Marshal Ulrich and his crew and that was pretty cool. His video guy walked with us for a bit and chatted. Right around the 100 mile mark I switched out with Jan so she could hit that mile marker with Ethel. Ethel decided she needed another stop after 100 and she lay down and got a massage. After that she powered through to the finish.
We met back up with Ethel as she was beginning the climb up Mt Whitney. I was insanely lucky to get to do most of the Mt Whitney portion with her. She was a machine. Was making some serious time but she kept telling me that she would be slowing soon. Well she knew what she was talking about the climb goes from nothing too bad to a seriously steep hill about half way up. Holy crap that sucked the last bit of life out of all the runners. They just did what they had to do to keep their feet moving and to get to the finish line. Ethel did an amazing job. She was incredible and I am so lucky to have gotten this opportunity.
So is this still my dream race? YES!! Now more than ever. It was out of this world. I really hope I can get in one day.