The road from Town's Pass down into Panament is a long steep section where Cath would certainly take advantage but just starting the down she was feeling some pain in her big toes as it was hitting the front of the toe box and wanted to wrap them up a little before taking on the long descent. She took a few minutes at the Mothership preparing her toes but then also decided to remove the blister protection patch on her heel but as she did it completely tore off part of her skin revealing a nice round blister on the heel/Achilles, not good at all. She attempted to put another blister covering on it and also changed her shoes she could not get her foot back in the shoe as the heel blister was just too painful. Finally, she made a push to get it in yelling some lovely complimenting words to the shoe and the Universe but then realized it was not going to work so pulled her foot back out with more complimenting phrases. The Crew had to come up with another plan and Samantha came up with the thought of cutting some of the soft sponge tape I had with a hole in it to allow the blister area to be covered but not pressed on with the cut out, as well as, offer Cath one of her shoes that might work better. So after all the blister repair and a completely different shoe she had never worn before Cath was able to get her foot back in the shoe and get walking again, soon she took too running and watch out!
She was flying down the hill and while there is limited pullouts to use we did our best keeping with her as well as Angelina running most of the downhill with Samantha helping in sections. I have always liked this section of the race simply because you can see all the way across the valley to Panament Springs, approximately 30 miles and you can see many of the teams and we could definitely see a lot of the 6am starters and of course the faster 8am and 10am runners. As we made our way down I always take note of the Milky Way (not one of my pics) because its so great to see! I kept telling the crew to check it out because its so rare that you can see it unless in your in the middle of no-where! The crew probably thought I was delusion because I kept talking about, haha.
The night time seemed to be doing good for all of us. Tired yes, Hungry yes, ready for a break, yes but we all managed to take a couple minutes here and there and rest. I do me a couple of minutes, I think we all only took about 15 minutes total sleep the entire trip, (okay maybe Mat took more because he was puking a few more times but this guy was a trooper and would toughen up when needed in the call of duty, no matter what!)
Heading into Panament, the Mothership would need a few supplies again, ice and some gas as well as maybe some coffee and another snacks we could find, Mat requested a pizza but not sure that would be available.
As we approached we planned the same type of transition as Stovepipe Wells, load the pacer up with drinks and anything they might need for a few extra minutes, have the pacer, Mat in this section, check her in as she passes and the rest of us tend to the other duties. Panament had a sale on gas at $5.98/gallon but good thing the KIA was doing good on gas and only need a little amount. A local guy offered to take our trash for $5 so we gladly paid and he was nice enough to supply us with some great trash bags. The downside of all this was that it took a seriously LONG time, much more than expected but we got what we needed. We also ran into Josh, from J-Tri's blog. I met Josh on my first crewing with Molly Sheridan, Josh was crewing on Ray Sanchez's team and told us that Ray was asleep at this check point and had some stomach issues. (Ray and Cath made a dinner bet last year and Cath ended up buying the dinner so this year the bet was back on but this year it was dinner for the entire crew! Looks like Ray will be buying dinner after making this pass!)
As we left Panament Springs still not knowing exactly where we were in the mix of the race we caught back up with Cath/Mat and Mat quickly jumped out and I was in. We were able to get Mat a pizza but the long haul he just did had pushed him back over the edge and needed rest and his pizza. (As a crew member/pacer you sacrifice yourself for the good of the runner, and in this case being as it took so long for use to return Mat had stopped drinking liquids to save as much for Cath as he could!)
- Let me quickly review how our pacing worked. Of course at Badwater the pacer has to be behind the runner. We would carry 2 bottles for Cath, (yes, no need for runner to exert energy holding bottles) 1 bottle of water, left hand, 1 bottle of Aqualyte, right hand. Cath would simply extend her left or right hand backwards and the pacer would simply hand that bottle to her, when she was done she would hand it back. But watch out if you got the bottles mixed up, as I did one time hahaha, no really Cath was great, she would just hand it back and say THAT'S WATER! so after my flop, I recommended putting painters tape on the bottles so we knew which was what.)
Back to the change out, Mat is resting, Ang is driving and Sam is crewing/resting, I'm pacing up to Father Crowley's point. Panamint Springs is mile 72.3 (115.6k) and 1970 feet elevation (600m) and the top of Fr. Crowley's is 80.2 mile (128k), 4000 feet elevation (1219m) and just when you think you're at the top of climbing you continue on to Darwin check point climbing another 1550 feet (472m) over another 9.8 miles (15.6k) but getting to Fr. Crowley's point was the first goal and it was no easy task as we kept the pace steady and Cath was continuous, no breaks, no stopping to smell the sand/rocks, just grinding it out as fast as possible. She knew getting to Darwin the road would "flatten" out and give her time to run and now the Sun was slowly starting to break providing another beautiful sunrise over Death Valley now far behind us.
Once we reached Fr. Crowley's point I was feeling pretty good and Cath started to ask about sections to run, which there are a few here and there getting to Darwin, so when the opportunity presented she took them and she took them quickly, running still much faster than me after her 80+ miles to my now approx. 12-15, but I would push my zone and hang with her knowing the uphill was soon coming and she would walk, or so I thought! Some of the uphills, although gradual and maybe not really "hills" in her mind she would continue to run at least part of the way up them with me looking for the Mothership to no avail. Going up Town's Pass Cath would run in parts as well, maybe because she felt she could or maybe because I opened my big mouth when she asked me about running: "John, you want to run?" ... me: "well I am wearing Running shoes, not walking shoes".. (I was joking really, note to self: don't joke with a faster runner about running when your pacing) but she said Okay and that was enough to get her running in areas pushing me over the edge before the top of Town's Pass. I distinctly remember one time after Fr. Crowley's Cath goes, we're running to that next 3rd marker, I said okay as we continued to run, I was so glad when we reached the 3rd marker huffing and puffing but she quickly goes, "To the Van"! (what I'm thinking the van is another 1/4 mile (400 meters) away and I'm already dying, but I hung in there) Good Times Cath!
When we drew closer to Darwin check point, mile 90.1 (144k), 5050 feet (1540m), its just a tent with a couple of great guys from Las Vegas, volunteering out in the middle of no-where! No Services, no bathrooms, nothing but a table, tent, chairs and what ever else they bring. I'd had reliqunished the pacing duties and Samantha was helping out, Math had recovered fully and managed to eat his entire pizza which was his saving grace. Ang had done an excellent job driving and crewing and keeping everything in tidy order and we were all getting ready for the day. Cath would want some coffee and to sit for just a couple minutes to change here shorts to a running skirt and also we would rub her legs a little. We also now saw the standings on the other racers and got the update that Pam Reed (1st place) had left only 15 minutes before we got there! Wow, we are super close and within reach. At this time one of Pam Reed's vehicles happened to drive by and turn around once they saw us, so they were checking to see how far behind we were.
Cath got situated and off she went with Mat as the road started to drop down into Keeler a meer 17.7 miles away (28k). The Sun was up and the temperature was starting to rise, in the past this section has/can be just as hot as day 1 so we were prepared but luckily the heat for us never really came and it stayed about 100*F(37.7C) which is Hot don't get me wrong. Cath quickly settled in and continued with her day time nutrition plan and she was running good now that the sun was up and she was a little more alert although tired and somewhat delusional as she told Sam when crewing her that she wanted Mat to pace her for the next 42k into Lone Pine, which was simply not going to happen from a team aspect, not that Mat probably couldn't have done it, this guy would have but from a Team aspect it was not a wise chose to put him at risk since he just recovered and we still needed him later on, and although Cath was in the Groove and not willing to change the dynamics, Sam, Ang and I quickly decided it would be my job to break the chain when the time was up.
That time had came and honestly I was a little nervous because I didn't want confrontation with Cath at this point in the race so I rehearsed my statement several times and as Samantha walked out with me ready to change places, Ang staying in the car as to not be involved if Cath was disapproving, my heart raced as she approached and I quickly said "Okay, Cath were gonna give Mat a little break to keep him fresh for you today and Sam will now take over!" .. she simply said Okay and kept running. Whew! was I revealed. We got back in the car and updated Mat on everything.
As we approached the 100 miler mark (160k) we all got out and took a few pictures video as she passed in approx. 21 hours 55 mins! She didn't even really blink as the goal is 135 miles and kept moving, focused as ever. Samantha and I enjoyed the delirious times of the early morning and were constantly laughing at ourselves and making smart ass comments. The best of times when your tired and delirious.
Then at approximately at mile 105 168k) we were on the side of the road just done crewing Cath and fellow crew member for David Clark, Jimmy was driving towards us, so I waved him down and he turned around pulling up behind us. Mat and I walked up to his car and we said hey what's up.. have you seen Pam Reed, how far ahead is she? Jimmy said: "You mean that 2nd runner right up there and points to the curve in the road." What? Are you serious, I said. "Yeah, dude, she is literally only 7-10 minutes ahead of you guys!"
OMG, so excited Mat and I were we quickly chatted and back in the Mothership. We took off to our next stop and now we could see Pam's crew van, also a red-ish maroon color. We decided to not tell Cath just yet because we didn't want her pushing to early for the pass, Cath was catching her anyway's with her current pace so no need to red line her with still a long way in the race to go.
In the past years as a driver, and we were catching someone I would pull up just past the other runner to let them see our van and they would know we were close but this year, I would pull up short/behind Pam and keep from letting her see us as Pam is a strong experienced veteran and can dig deep like no other so to let her know to early could spell disaster for TeamCath. Finally, we had to tell Cath that Pam was just in front of her, Sam was with her and did a great job telling her to hold her pace and she would catch her anyway, but Cath is here to Win and a Competitor so we noticed she picked up the pace just a little.
Finally, I had to no choice but to pass Pam and just as I expected, she was walking at this time, saw our van and started running! Overall, I could see Cath's turn over was much quicker and it was going to be inevitable that the pass was coming, now it would be just when, especially since we were now passed Keeler and within 1 mile (1.6k). The anxiety of the race is something I have never experienced before in the past 5 years and to now be in the hunt for first was truly amazing. Samantha continued with Cath and as we drew near mile 110 (176k) there was a slight long downhill and with Cath only 100 meters or so behind her, the decision was made and she put it in high gear! Cath caught Pam Reed and went around her aggressively and forcefully with a determination and statement that said, If you want to win, you're going to have to take it from now! It was completely exciting to see her make the move and Pam saying Good Job as she went by.
The pace stayed high till we opened a gap on her of about a mile then she settled back down into her rhythm.
Making the pass brought new emotions and feelings to crewing that I had not experienced in the past 4 years. I guess I never really thought about being on a winning Team, as I also just wanted to help any runner, no matter what there finishing time was but now being the lead Team we were the one's being chased. Pam is clearly the only female close enough to take the lead back and with 25 miles (40k) left to go, there was still time for her do it if anything went wrong. As we were approaching Lone Pine Cath kept asking for mileage splits to the check point at the Dow Villa Hotel in Lone Pine, mile 122.3 (195.6k) and I got really good at calculating the distance (remember all four of my teammates work in Kilometers and Meters)
Finally, making the turn on to the highway in Lone Pine and knowing we are only 2 miles (3.2k) from the check-in was a nice feeling. I knew that we if we could get some more distance going up the Portal Road she would win.
The Mothership pulled ahead to the Dow Villa check-in and Mat, Ang and I all quickly jumped out and got ready for her. I knew I would be taking over going up the Portal Road but figured it would be after we made the turn on to the road so I went into the hotel room and told them our runner, Cath Todd was coming! They quickly asked "when did you pass Pam Reed?" I said mile 110, "oh great job" they said. A few guys came out to the side walk to cheer her on and yell for her as she approached. The plan was for her to take a quick leg rub down and get moving she didn't want more than 10-15 minutes here knowing Pam was closely behind but as we got her checked in she quickly stated she was not stopping but just for 2 minutes. We quickly rubber her legs, changed her bottles for the pacer, which was Sam but then she started walking off and yelled "John let's go, your up!" Ohh, crap, I was completely not prepared but took the bottles and ran up to her. We quickly got to the intersection to make the left hand turn on to the Portal Road, crossed the street and started running. I knew we would run the first part of this road as its basically one of the few parts to run due to the increasing grades later on the road.
As we made the turn, I said.. "I hope the crew knows which way to go as I didn't even tell them where the turn was" but our team was on top of it and quickly figured it out and pulled up next to us.
The Portal Road from Dow Villa check-in is 12.1 miles (19.4k) to the finish, with elevation at 3610 feet (1100m) up to 8360 feet (2548m) with most of that gain coming the last 5 miles (8k) on the switch backs.
Cath's pace was steady and was doing good but she was beyond tired and giving all she could. She kept asking if we could see Pam but the road is somewhat twisting and simply could not see that far behind us. I was calculating her pace and figuring it was going to take us 3 1/2 - 4 hours to get to the finish but not knowing where Pam was I needed Cath to keep her pace 16-18mins/mile or 10-11mins/k even though she planned for 20min/mile or 13mins/k as the lower section of the Portal Road is more manageable for that pace and knowing the upper portion would being a pace of 22-25mins/mile or 13.5-15.5mins/k or possible slower. Cath kept asking not only for the distance to the finish but how far Pam was behind her. Finally, I made a deal with Cath: I will send the van back to see how far she is behind us but you have to promise me that if we find out she is 4 or 5 miles (6-8k) back you will not slow your pace!, otherwise, I am not doing it. (I said this because knowing your ahead by 4-5 miles with about 9 miles (14.4k) to go, its almost impossible for someone to catch you unless they are completely running the whole Portal Road or your runner slows to a snail's pace and I simply didn't want Cath to slow her pace knowing she could possible be that far ahead) She easily agreed and promised, so we sent the van back. I looked at my watch to see the time and monitor how long it would take for them to return, now this is purely estimating but if the Mothership returned in less than 5 minutes, she was close; if they returned in 20 minutes, she was pretty far back. Turns out they returned within 10 minutes, so that told me she was close enough to still be a threat with 9 miles (14.4k) to go. Cath asked me if we had it. I said No Not Yet, don't count Pam out, there is still too much road in front of you to the finish so let's keep working on it to close that distance to the finish. Cath even managed to run a couple of the less steep sections and I could only imagine what was going threw her mind knowing she was so close and being chased.
She made several comments that she wanted to win, to win for friend Rich Holland who was injured in a life threatening bike accident sustaining a brain injury and has been raising money for him through Back on Your Bike, to win for her team, and for achieving the goal she set months ago. I told her to keep the pace as she was and she could do it, no slowing down expect on the very steep grades we were about to start. When we hit time station mile 130.8 (209.2k) the start of the switch backs, I told her we would shortly be able to see where Pam was. With 3.6 miles (5.7k) to go I could start to smell the Victory. As we completed the first switch back the crew approached me a little way back from Cath and said that she needed to maintain the pace to break under 30 hours, I had completely lost track of overall time but now I checked and this was going to be within minutes of 30 hours if she maintained the pace, if she slowed too much the victory was still hers but the 30 hours would be missed my seconds or minutes.
Up 2nd switch back Cath remembered this section from last year and how the road dips back into the mountain and its seems like a long ways to the lower camp ground just before the last S curve to the finish line, she knew she was close but not close enough as she said she at her end. Great, just what I needed to hear to now have to tell her I need to her to keep pushing to make 30 hours.. so here it goes: "Cath, you're doing amazing and I'm so proud of you for not slowing down but I need to keep this pace a little bit longer to make just under 30 hours" .. Cath: "Oh, I'm not worried about that, I don't care, I just want to finish"... me: "I completely understand that but your other goal was to go under 30 hours and you can do it, I just need 20 more minutes of a push from you (what a jack I am!, this gal has busted her ass for 29 hours and the last 2 miles (3.2k) I am asking her to go faster! haha) You can do this, you've been doing this for 29 hours and its only 20 more minutes, okay!???" ... waiting for the piss off reply.. Cath: "Okay I will keep trying!".. me: "okay great that's all I need, you got this Cath, you can do it".
Getting to the camp ground the grade is not as steep until the final S curve so she was able to pick up the pace which was clearly going to get us under 29 hours but it was still close. I instructed the Team that once we hit the S curve to continue up the parking, park and then walk back down to us a little ways as the finish line is only about 200 meters away and we would all cross together as TeamCath. We hit the S curve and the Team drove away, but some how Cath caught the glimpse of someone behind us and thought it was Pam. "is that Pam?" no I said. "are you sure, she was wearing blue shorts, that runner has blue shorts!" I said no that's the guy you passed a while back, he has blue shorts too. "John, are you sure?! You got my back right?!!" Yes, Cath, I gotcha, You are Okay, we are almost there, less than 500 meters! "Okay but keep watching my back" she said. I suppose in her mind if I had said that's Pam she would have literally took off in a sprint!
The Team soon joined us and we all gathered close, draping the Australian flag across the back of her, holding hands and yelling out, "RUNNER COMING IN!" I soon saw the finish line tape being strung up, I saw the race director, the cameras and people cheering and clapping. We approached the finish all together and crossed the line as one. She had done it, she Won! She immediately dropped to her knees and starting crying in glory, we all embarrassed her on the ground, tearing and crying with joy. I couldn't believe the emotions I was feeling her for, for the Team, and for achieving her goals. 29 hours 55 minutes 29 seconds. We all high-fived, hugged, laughed and continued to cry with emotions for several minutes. It was over but feelings, emotions, pictures and memories will last forever.
After a several minutes we had to move to the side for another runner was coming and then we took finish pictures as she received her Finishers Shirt, Medal and Buckle.
After the photos we walked back down to the Mothership to change clothes then grab some food. As we were chatting Pam Reed came in, 44 minutes behind for 2nd place.
We all enjoyed the stories post race and food but then it was time to get cleaned up and some much needed sleep. We headed back down to Lone Pine, stopping on the way to cheer in Ray Sanchez as he was making his way the Portal Road and finishing his 6th Badwater.
After a quick shower it was food time again and then we all quickly hit the beds. The next morning the girls were up before the boys and letting us know they were going to get coffee. Mat and soon were up and met them at the coffee shop still chatting about stories from the race. After that it was clean out the Mothership, ohhhh boy, always a fun job post Badwater crewing, and reorganize the van for the drive back after the awards and pizza.
Once that was all done we got the awards area early and took the grass and sat and enjoyed the conversation of more stories, and just simply becoming great friends and being a Team! Soon the awards started, we ate and chatted with others and then it was drive time back to Vegas to party! The drive back was great as we all sang and were acting about enjoying the overall Victory now that it has set in.
So here are some great lines that were said during the race: (I am sure there are others I can't remember now)
"the ice cubes are too big, can you make them smaller"
"can you spray my face but not my sun glasses"
"can you spray my neck but don't get my chin wet"
"every person should know exactly what mile/kilometer we are at!"
"Everyone should have Tissues on them at all times!"
"the drink is too weak, make it stronger".. (literally hand her the same bottle 3 minutes later) "now its too Strong!"
"John you got my back?""tell John to drive only 400 meters (1/4 mile).. So I would drive 1/4 mile... "Tell John he went too far"
Overall, this was an awesome crew to work with and get along with. We all had our strengths, roles and times to step and down when needed. Friends for Life! Cath was a great nice runner with no outbursts just funny statements. She was determined, focused, and stronger than anyone I have seen who is being pushed to achieve there goals. I can't thank her enough for asking me to crew again (and for the record any other future years she may want to do it!)
We all returned to Vegas and the party continued with dinner and drinks till wee' hours of the morning.GO TEAMCATH!
and thank you to AdventureCORPS for another amazing race, Chris Kostman and his crew who do a wonderful job all along the way, so glad to be a part of this event for 5 years in a row!