Sunday, May 12, 2013

Badwater: Salton Sea Race recap. part 1

In my last quick blog I talked about entering and running the Inaugural 2013 Badwater: Salton Sea race with Molly and Bill and this week it arrived!

This race was directed by Chris Kostman of AdventureCorps, who also directs the Badwater 135, Furnace Creek 508 cycling event and many other great cycling endurance events, you can find their web site here: AdventureCORPS.

About 6 weeks ago, Molly and Bill asked me to run this event with them only to find out this was not a relay type event. All runners must run and complete the 81 miles together in order to receive an official finishing time credit. Well being as I had been truly running any long distance since my last 100 miler in Nov. 2012 I was certainly not confident I could complete the distance with only an 8 mile training run. Since I had been seriously hitting the gym and crossfit type workouts the last 12 weeks Molly and Bill assured me that this would be a fun and easy paced race for them and the goal was to finish under the 28 hour cut off time, so after a few email conversations they convinced me to sign up with them.

Once I was committed to the team it then became a goal of not getting hurt during the last 4 weeks of training, of which one week was completed wasted as I was out of town working and didn't really have to run train. I continued to hit the gym and finish out my 12 weeks of training I had previously started hoping that it would lend enough strength and fitness to get me to the finish line, time would only tell.

We quickly became Team FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) because only 20 teams were being invited and first come first serve was the game. We were 1 of 14 teams to officially sign up and with one of the team members, in our team, two of the runners, being Veteran Badwater 135 finishers.
It was great to see the list of names on the roster knowing that I would be running with these great ultra-athletes.

Team FOMO was able to recruit veteran crewer Brendan who I crewed with for Molly when she ran Badwater in 2009 and we also had Bill's nephew Alan from California. These guys were great and did an awesome job helping us along the way. Crewing is a tough grinding job and when its raining and cold its just as bad as when its blistering hot, its a grind, so I greatly appreciate there help.

Brendan, Molly, Bill and myself left early Sunday morning heading to the finish line area where we had a cabin reserved and would meet up with Alan, then drive to Borrego Springs Resort in Borrego Springs where the pre-race meeting and hotel was located before the start on Monday.
We arrived just after lunch, checked in and quickly went to eat at the onsite restaurant called The Arches. It was pretty good and reasonably priced and would later have pre-race dinner there as well.

On the way to Borrego we actually drove part of the course which ultimately I was not to thrilled with seeing because I was not interested in seeing the beat down I was about to get but the actually scenery along the course was beautiful in different parts and I actually enjoyed the drive. After lunch we rested up and had a crew meeting with Brendan and Alan since they had 3 runners to tend to and we all had different types of nutrition plans and back-ups.

After the crew meeting it was off to the pre-race meeting and check-in where we got to see all the other teams and great runners. During the meeting Chris talked about the race and the adventure we were about to embark on as well as race rules, crew rules and even had Marshall Ulrich speak on some aspects of TEAM RACING and how to work together to be the most efficient.

Then it was group photos and off to dinner went, then a quick trip to the local super market. Borrego Springs is a very small town so there is only a couple of stores so if you ever decide to run this event make sure you bring pretty much everything you need, although, the super market did have just about anything basic you may need but it was a little more expensive. The next "biggest" store is about 35 miles away in Salton Sea area at the local AM/PM gas station truck stop.

After the store it was quickly organize the mornings race clothes and off to bed as we were leaving at 5:30am to head to the start, again, about 35 miles away. I was awake at 4:45am, hit the shower, grabbed some oatmeal and coffee in the room and realized it was almost time to go and I was barley getting dressed. I had to pick up the pace as soon Alan came knocking on the door asking if we were ready. I finished up and headed out to the MotherShip and off we went to the start. I was pretty nervous on the drive to the starting line and my stomach was letting me know so when we arrive in the small town of Salton Sea we stopped at the AM/PM store (also where we would be our crew at mile 6) and hit the restroom. 

Once finished up we headed to the start line and other teams were already there preparing.
   We quickly headed to the weigh in scale where they were marking the weight on each runners bib. Molly went first and then Bill stepped up and weighed in at 193lbs. The guy writing the weights on the bibs tells Bill that he is the biggest, heaviest runner so far. I quickly yelled out, "I'm about to bust that record off the charts." When I stepped up to weigh in I was hoping I was not too far off my mental mark as I had not been on the scale in over a week but had been eating pretty good since the 12 weeks had finished, especially, since the last week I was taking in extra carbs. My mental weight was 215lbs and I as I stepped up on the scale with shoes, shorts, and shirt I weighed 219lbs. Definitely, the Clydesdale of the bunch! I was happy to hold the title.

After weigh-ins we all quickly got our gear ready and headed to the start as group pictures and the National Anthem had to be played. Walking to the start with the announcement of all runners need to head to the starting line only made me realize that this was really about to happen. We got to the Badwater: Salton Sea banner and was able to grab a couple of pictures before everyone arrived and the group photos were taken. The start of the race was pretty exciting as everyone of the teams were standing there and all counting down and with a simple count down to Zero it was off we all went, yelling and shouting. Some started running and others just started walking, we were basically walking. The first hundred yards were actually on dead fish-sandy beach with the smell of "sweaty dead fish ass - Jimmy Dean Freeman" lingering in the air. The sand was actually a mixture of mostly dead fish scales and dirt over the years, quite interesting to say the least. There were a few actual full body fish scales. 


It was short lived on the dead fish sand and we were quickly on the asphalt road which would take us in and around the sea shore of Salton Sea for basically 6 miles. We started easy but with the built anxiety of the race itself we picked up the pace just a little but Bill was concerned that we were going too fast for the over distance and slowed us down. Its such a long distance that its hard to judge how fast you should really be running but running too fast at the start of a race can be a for sure sign of demise at the end.The first few miles running around the shore line was basically running in a neighborhood that never developed, there was the occasional house and even a few blocks that had houses together but for the most part the streets were open to sandy dirt lots. After about 3-4 miles the wind started to pick up and it seemed like it was a head wind with each turn. At one time we were all running together side by side and then I thought why are we not drafting each other. One of the rules of this run was that runners could, push or pull any of there teammates, and well, drafting is certainly pulling. So I tucked in behind Molly for a few minutes and then would jump out and see the difference, it was quite significant  I asked the Team if they want to draft each other and rotate out so we all started to pace-line it but after a few minutes Bill said he didn't feel a difference and asked if he could just stay in the front as it was easier for him, so Molly and I would rotate places ever while, later Bill would rotate to the back.

The wind would continue for the rest of the day and at times was just down right head on and at times gusting enough to push me to the side. We soon came upon Chris who was waiting at part of the course where we would cross under the freeway and then meet our crew for the first time after 6 miles at the AM/PM. Once we arrived Bill had to work on his feet/shoes, Molly took care of her refilling and I quickly got refilled and grabbed some pop tarts and quickly went to use the bathroom inside AM/PM. When I was done the team was finishing up and off we went down the road towards Borrego Springs at 35.1 with a time check coming at mile 14.4. 

We would continue in the pace line type fashion as this seemed to be working the best and the crew was settling in stopping about every 3 miles, which was requested per race rules. 3 miles actually came pretty fast and the refueling for each of us was pretty fast, the crew had it down and was quick on the exchanges. We seemed to move along quickly and at some point before mile 14 I had to change my running shoes which would be an unplanned change but I had originally planned on starting in my trail shoes but then decided to use my road shoes as it was going to be more road but now they were causing my feet to burn even with the great foot anti-chaffing cream/paste by FootKinetics called Run
After changing my shoes and into my trail shoes my feet did feel heavier and I could feel the drag of them in my legs but my feet so much better. I actually said it felt like I went from a Cadillac to a Jeep which may not be the best thing but in this situation it was. We rolled into Mile 14.4 at 3 hrs 35 mins. It was only a time check so no need to stop so we pressed right on through to Borrego Springs. 

Much the team dynamics was pretty good, we were all in sync with each other and the crew stops were a NASCAR pit routine, these guys had it down after a few stops and the only reason we would be at a stop longer than expected is because someone had a issue with something or needed something extra but not certainly a hold up from the crew team. 

We were in such a run zone that I had actually lost track of distance and started to feel a little off, like I was heading into the Funk Zone and asked Bill what mile we were at, thinking we were somewhere between 17-19 when his answer was even better, mile 22! I asked him to let me know when we reach the marathon mark as I wanted to start my Garmin watch I was using from Brendan. When we finally reached the marathon distance I started the watch and noted our time about 6hrs 30 mins. We continued to push on and arrived at Borrego Spring, mile 35.1 in 8 hrs 51 mins after starting. (avg pace 15:07 per mile so far).
I was tired of course and quickly hit the bathroom then a quick refuel of bottles and grabbed some snacks. We had asked the crew if they could hook us up with some soup or something for lunch being as we were in the town and they had awesome chicken soup from Carlee's  this place was great and the crew actually stopped there for burgers and food once we started on the trail section and got some more soup for later! Definitely recommended. After our small stop and soup we took back off with a quick picture by Chris Kostman 
 and we were off back on the road and looking to catch up with the team in front of us. After about 2 miles we finally caught up with them, it was Team Stray Dogs #2 and once we reached them we walked and chatted with them for a while. I thought this was great because this team included Chris Frost, a 9x Badwater Finisher, as well, as 508 cycling finishes and Danny Westergaard, a 6x Badwater Finisher and multiple 508 finisher and Kate Fischbeck who was a rookie like me. Chatting with them was overall mentally refreshing and to see how they were doing overall was also a good thing for me because it gave me insight to the physical stress others might be dealing with and how they were coping with the elements. 

After a few minutes I noticed Bill and Molly were pulling ahead of me and I had to stop talking and get moving and this was our pass of Team Stray Dogs #2! (more on them towards the finish) 

As we headed through town we noticed that Marshall Ulrich team, Stray Dogs, (yes there was actually 3 Stray Dog Teams) was catching up to both Stray Dogs #2 and us and it wouldn't be long for they made the pass. As we got closer to the trail section we notice that several of the team crew cars were stopped together and waiting on there teams and as we passed them we no longer saw the Stray Dogs coming along so we knew they had made a stop. We finally made it to the trail head section, mile 40.5 in a time of 10 hrs 29 mins, we all once again prepared and got ready for the single track section which I grabbed a hand held bottle as this section would be about 8 miles with no crew access. We were also told to take warm clothes because it was about 43* on the top and possible could rain. We were also required to carry a space blanket for emergency! Yikes, looking up at the mountain it did look like it could rain but certainly didn't look like it was that cold up there and since we were at the bottom and it was approx 80* or more it was hard to think that the temperature could drop 40* but I put on and extra long sleeve shirt, grabbed two other shirts, pancho and of course head lamp and once everyone was ready off we went.

Stay tuned for part 2.... the mountain climb, the rain, fun night drama, sleep walking and snoring and more! I will also talk about my nutrition and gear.


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