I had an absolute blast running the Badwater Cape Fear back in March and I wanted to see what the next race in the Badwater Series would be like. One of the BWSS Runners, Troy, contacted me through the Badwater Facebook page where I posted an offer to help out.Troy had a few friends helping him already, but he figured it’d be a good opportunity for me to learn about the race and locale and could always use extra support. I was psyched because I would get to find out just what it takes to traverse 82 miles of California desert – on foot! I was stoked to get a chance to roll my sleeves up and get involved!
Friday, April 30
I loaded my gear – food, water, running shoes, headlamps, and Volcano vaporizer into the car and drove from Santa Cruz to LA. I stopped in Long Beach and spent the night in order to split the drive into two sessions. I got moving early to have breakfast at the Berlin Bistro, one of my favorite spots in Long Beach. After an unbelievably tasty meal and a stout espresso I felt properly fueled for the drive into the desert.
I arrived at the Borrego Springs Resort while Troy and his friends were checking out the last few miles of the run and the drive to the finish on Mount Palomar. I cruised through town just get an idea of what was happening before stopping into the resort to book a room. The RD (Race Director) Chris Kostman walked into the conference room, so I introduced myself and asked where I could help. A few others, and I, un-boxed gear and together setup the check-in tables. As the runners arrived we checked them in, delivered race packets, and team photos were taken.
With pretty much all the teams checked-in, RD Chris Kostman commenced the pre-race briefing.
After the briefing I joined my team, The 515 Flatlanders.
As we got to know a little about each other, we formulated a loose strategy for getting our racers to the start line in the morning and for shuttling vehicles along the course and ultimately, to the finish. With bellies full and plans made, we retired to rest up for race day.
Saturday April 31
Race-mornings carry a feeling unlike any one I’ve experienced elsewhere! While I was making coffee in my room, I could hear doors opening and closing, bodies bustling about the corridor, teams gathering in the lot, and the low murmur of excited chatter. I blame the coffee for what happened next – I started getting anxious and frazzled while loading my pack! The vibes I was picking up from the air affected me so strongly, I had to remind myself I wasn’t running this day! Still excited and ready to support the team I headed to the car.
I loaded all the guys’ luggage in my car, and running gear into a van to shuttle to the start line at the shore of the Salton Sea. After a short speech the race is on!
With runners off in a cloud of dust, we headed to the first aid station – gas & food station – we posted up in the parking lot to wait for our runners. We organized food, discussed the best deployment strategy, and mixed up nutrient drink mix. We were interviewed and photographed during our preparations by the Borrego Sun newspaper. Troy and Matt arrived, picked up their nutrition supplements, and hit the road in a flash!
We continued on to the next stop. We leapfrog our team and set up a station every 3 miles or so. Pulled off to the side of the road, set up the 6-foot folding table, laid out electrolyte supplements, bottles of ice water, chips, guacamole, and all kinds of munchies. The guys seem strong at every stop, so far!
We set up the most comfortable of the timing checkpoints at the Borrego Springs Resort.
The guys sat in chairs and rested their tiring legs. I ate a few dates, and downed a quick coffee. First sign of flagging was Troy’s nausea at the trail head to the single track section at mile 41-ish. From there they were embarking on a grueling 5500ft climb through the valley behind me.
With restocked nutrition and iced and full hydration bladders, the runners took to the single track with high spirits, hoping to beat the cut-off necessitating the carrying of mandatory gear. We waited with all the other crews at the end of the trail section. Just after dusk our runners came off the trail and up the road with headlamps. Troy’s mild nausea turned to full-blown abdominal cramping and weakness – probably dehydration. The duo lost a great deal of time on the single track and need to do some running to catch up. It didn’t look like Troy would come out of this funk. We shortened our leapfrog stops to two miles, then 1 mile, after a few short stops, Matt and Troy were left in the vehicle alone to hash out the strategy moving forward. Not feeling like his situation would improve, Troy elected to drop at about mile 54. Matt was still feeling quite spry and immediately began breaking off nine minute miles, one after another, passing many of the teams to whom they had lost their lead on the single track. They entered the single track in 14th place, and exited in 29th.
On Mount Palomar, Matt was strong, however started to lose motivation around mile 80. At that point, we were only leap-frogging about a 1/2 mile at a time, and at about mile 81.5 I reached a turning point myself. The burrito I had for breakfast came back to life and fought its way out of my gut violently and without warning. At that point, I was fighting my own battles in my belly and I was losing badly. Shaking, sweating and nauseous I was dropped on the side of the road a few hundred yards from the rental house while the team went on to the finish line.
After a three hour nap, I joined the team at the post-race day brunch hosted by the RD. It was a positively electric experience to mix with these ultra-athletes. Everyone I interacted with seemed to possess the same feeling of accomplishment; having either raced or experienced the race along side their companions new and old. I am so in awe of this community! I am really looking forward to seeing many familiar faces at the upcoming July Badwater 135 and continuing my pursuit as an ultra-runner; support and actual. Look out trails here we come!
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