Alan Geraldi, the runner I helped crew, finished his first Badwater attempt in 41:14.17! Yeah! He was so strong, it was fantastic! I hope he runs it again next year, because I think he could be a serious contender. The guy has so much talent and a wonderful spirit.
Tim and I took the kids to Vegas for the weekend before Badwater. It was hot, hot, hot! We had never been to Vegas, so we weren't sure what to expect. By the end, we decided that it is very much like Disneyland for grown-ups - lots of people, lots of walking, lots of stimulation, and lots of money (as in, spent). The architecture was the coolest part to me. I loved all the different "themes" of the hotels. It was also pretty great that you could find yummy food just about everywhere you went. You were not forced to eat fast food ever!
Sunday, Rajeev picked me up in front of Mandalay Bay. We chatted non-stop the entire way to Furnace Creek. He is one of the funniest guys I have ever met. If you have a chance to run Ruth Anderson next year (where he is the RD), do it! It is worth it just to meet Rajeev. But all chatting came to an abrupt halt when we entered Death Valley proper. Oh my gosh! It is unbelievable! I really expected a barren wasteland, but instead, we found one of the most beautiful places on earth. If I could wax poetic, I would. But words cannot do the place justice. So, instead, I will just insert some pictures.
Funace Creek Inn served as a sort of summer camp/base camp for runners and crew. It was very cool to see everyone getting ready for the race. I saw Jamie right after she arrived and she was relaxed and excited. Her poor husband, David, was sporting a cast on his arm after a hiking accident. We went in search of our runner and saw Pam Reed, Dean Karnazes, and Monica Scholz on the way. I didn't realize Pam (the women's course record holder) or Monica were running Badwater again. Wow, Rajeev and I decided this was going to be a fun race to watch!
After the race briefing, we headed into Stovepipe Wells so that Rajeev and I could leave our car. The entire crew (except for Joe Judd who was meeting us the next day) gathered for dinner and an informal meeting. This was the first time we were all together. What a great group of people! If we don't all run Badwater together next year, I hope I can talk them into crewing for me. We chatted about ourselves and the plan for the next day. Everyone seemed pretty relaxed but committed, a very nice combination. After dinner, we headed back to Furnace Creek to get last minute supplies and take Alan to medical for the study he had volunteered to be in.
4:00 am came bright and early. We gathered up the last of our stuff and headed to Badwater for the start. Badwater is 17 miles from Furnace Creek and the lowest point in the United States at approximately 200 feet below sea level. Alan was scheduled to start in the first wave at 6:00 am. After photos, the national anthem, and last minute instructions, the runners were off. We were not allowed to pace for the first 17 miles, but we could crew him. Rajeev, Martin Casado and I took the first shift. It was pretty relaxed because Alan was very smart and decided to go out slowly, knowing he had a long, hot day ahead. We spent the time between stops getting to know each other and making each other laugh.
At Furnace Creek, things shifted into high gear. We reloaded on ice and gas, and picked up Nicole. Nicole is very adept at crewing. She is very organized and positive, but also extremely calm. That can be a lifesaver in a crewing situation. We planned the strategy for the next stretch and moved forward. Rajeev started pacing Alan at mile 20, and Nicole and I manned the van. We stopped every mile, sprayed Alan with water, gave him something to eat, filled his bottles, and marked it all down. At about mile 25, I took over pacing duties. Because I didn't really know Alan, I was a little nervous about how this would go. But I shouldn't have been. He couldn't have been an easier person to crew/pace. He was super focused, but incredibly pleasant. He knew what he wanted to do, but took suggestions very well. I loved the time I spent with him! We talked about all kinds of stuff - practicing law, family, running goals, running temperments, life. I told him the only jokes I knew and he attempted to laugh even though it was 111 degrees. We ran together for about 5 hours and he was so even tempered the whole time. He has the soul of an ultrarunner. I loved it! I'm running ahead with Alan's bottles so that we can refill them. Isn't it beautiful out there! And look at him smiling - what a trooper!
During this time, Nicole and Lisa did the bulk of the crewing. They were awesome! Not only did they take care of Alan, but they took care of me. They made sure I wasn't getting overheated, that I remembered to eat, and that I was getting enough electrolytes. Lisa and I are both mothers of twins (plus, she had two more), so we joked that we were taking turns mothering everyone. And I was so grateful she was mothering me! It was toasty!
At Stovepipe Wells, we switched off. Martin came back on and Rajeev and I drove to Panamint Springs with the intent of taking a shower, eating and getting some rest. We met up with Joe Judd, who was going to take the night shift, and had dinner. Afterwards, Rajeev and I grabbed showers in the medical cottage and then tried to lay down for awhile, but we were too wired. We were supposed to relieve the crew at 10:00, but couldn't wait, so we headed back out. On the way, we saw Jorge Pacheco with a clear lead over Akos Konya and Dean Karnazes. Wow! He was flying! Jamie was slightly ahead of Pam, but Pam seemed to be closing in on her. I was super nervous. Pam is so strong at this race. All we could do was yell out encouragement as we passed and hope for the best.
We found our group at 8:00 and switched out. I was glad we switched out early, because they looked really tired. It is hard to explain how exhausting it is to crew in that kind of heat where you spend the whole day sitting on the side of the highway in a van. They had been out there for hours, with Lisa running a huge stretch with Alan. It was definitely time for them to head to Panamint Springs for some food and a nap. Rajeev and I joined Joe, who took over the pacing duties. Alan was still looking so strong. He said that he had had a bad stretch earlier, but I didn't see any lingering evidence of it. He was upbeat and moving well, often waving us off, telling us to move further down the road. It was awesome to watch him!
At night, the temperature started to fall significantly. By the late hours, it was 74 degrees, which went a long way to helping the situation. People started to really move again, getting longer stretches of running in between the hills. Rajeev and I became slap happy from lack of sleep and hours confined in a van. We harassed each other like brother and sister, even though we hardly knew each other 36 hours prior. It was a blast! Joe seemed to be doing a good job with Alan. He has a very upbeat disposition, which I think had to be extremely helpful in the middle of the night. He was very easy to crew with, and I hope that I have a chance to work with him again.
Through this stretch of terrain, it was very mountainous. It was so awesome to see the long stretch of lights from the crew vans all along the road for miles. In the middle of the night, it was an eerily beautiful sight. I felt like I was part of something so unique and I was so happy to be sharing it others who thought it was a special thing, too. I just have such profound respect for all the people out there on that road that night, tending to the needs of their friends and family members, many of whom were not runners themselves. There were several runners who had their children crewing for them, their spouses, their parents. It was just such a wonderful thing to be a part of! Rajeev at 2:00 am in back of our van. We were waiting for Alan and Joe, wearing our lovely reflective gear because it was DARK!
We rolled into Panamint Springs at around 3:oo am. Again, we filled up with ice and gas and switched crew again. Rajeev and I had to drive back to Las Vegas to catch flights, so Nicole, Martin, Lisa and Joe were back on until Alan finished. They had managed to get a little sleep and something to eat, so hopefully they were rested. Rajeev and I got back into our rental car and started the drive back to Vegas. The section between Panamint Springs and Stovepipe Wells was a little tense because there were so many runners on the road and it was pitch black. In some sections, there were no shoulders, so the runner and pacer were on the road. We had to be extra careful to keep a watchful eye out for them. Usually you saw their crew van first and knew a runner was coming, but sometimes the van was behind the runner. Since we had been awake for 24 hours, we really had to drive that section slowly to be safe.
By the time we made it to Stovepipe Wells I told Rajeev I needed to sleep for an hour or I would not make it into Vegas. I didn't want to risk falling asleep at the wheel. He had had less sleep than I, so we both needed a little shut eye. We ended up sleeping in the parking lot of the hotel, in the rental car. It was very warm, but it did the trick. I woke up refreshed enough to make it into Vegas without a problem. It also helped that Rajeev and I both like to talk!
All in all, Badwater was one of the coolest things I have ever done! Alan was a dream to crew for - strong, pleasant, easy to deal with, great energy! If I don't get in next year, and he does, I would absolutely crew for him again. He has so much going on! The other crew members were awesome too! I hope we end up somewhere together again. They are a great group of people! Alan exceeded his goal of 48 hours by over 6 hours! Unbelievable! I am so happy for him!
In other news, Pam did overtake Jamie, but Jamie fought back and WON, beating the course record by an HOUR!!!!!!!!! She is just phenomenal! I am in awe! Yeah Jamie!!