Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2014 Badwater: Darwin To Mount Whitney 135 Miles

Darwin Turn-Off to Keeler 108 Miles
I headed straight to the Port-A-Potty.  Then I went to the support vehicle as I was feeling uncomfortable with the shoes again.  Sam suggested that I tried wearing his shoes (which fit me just nice) so that I could give my feet a breather wearing a different pair of shoes.  After putting on the shoes, I dashed off (time: 10:05am) without refueling anything as I wanted to maintain my momentum.  I guessed the crew was shocked and for a while, Sam was running barefoot while trying to catch up with me as it was his turn to pace me to Keeler.  (Actually, I forgotten to ask Sam about his footwear after he lend me his shoes!  Ooops!)  Sam tried to update me some info about Mr Lim not reaching Darwin yet.  I guessed I must have passed Mr Lim somewhere at Cerro Gordo though I didn't see him.  I first got fascinated with Badwater when I heard that Mr Lim did an unofficial Badwater back in 2007 (if my memory served me right) as he had not meet the race criterion.  If I could keep him within my sight or get ahead of him, it would give me great confidence to finish the race within the cut-off since he had completed the Badwater 135 running the previous course last year.

The support crew continued to stop every 2 miles ahead.  I was able to run this segment due to the slight descent.  Sam by then had put on his sandals and rattled off the pace that I was running and how long I would arrived at Keeler.  It could be a double-edged sword.  If I was fast, I would be feeling positive and motivated.  If I was slow, I would feel dejected and depressed.  It all depends on what Sam told me.  Nevertheless, the "good" feeling running in Sam's shoes was soon gone and I decided to change to my slippers.  Cheryl and Christina helped me with the toe socks and sandals and I was off.  I fast marched most of the way though Sam would occasionally told me to run on the descent, which I did.  It was by now very hot but bearable.  Nevertheless, I was looking forward to the intermediate point between Darwin and Keeler - the 100 miles mark which was painted on the side of the road where we were running now!  Soon a runner and his pacer ran past me and I saw them disappeared.  Somewhere along this segment of the race, we also saw Mr Lim and his support vehicle on their way to Darwin.

After a couple of miles walking and running in the sandals, I decided to switch back to my last running shoes.  I was able to run and caught up with the guy and his pacer who passed me earlier.  We sort of keep each other company and at the same time, kept a lookout for the "100 Miles" mark.  I looked at my watch and saw that there was a possibility that I could cross the "100 Miles" mark within 30-hours, aka at 12:00pm.  I would be very happy since most 100 Miles races had a cut-off of 30-hours.  I pushed myself until we saw our support crew vehicle waving frantically ahead!  It was indeed the magical "100 Miles" mark!  Once passed, somehow, my body auto-switched off.  I slowed down though Sam commented that I should still be on track to reach Lone Pine around 6:00pm.  Sam kept spraying the sunblock lotion, as well as changing the ice for my neck cooler.  The afternoon sun was really hot by then and it sapped my energy.  I had not much appetite so I just drank.  Stuart, Christina and Cheryl must have noticed and insisted that I ate some fruits, which I obliged.  But somehow, it was too late and my stomach rebelled.

Since I didn't take in much food, there was nothing coming out from my vomit.  After standing under the hot sun for a few minutes, I pushed on, only to stop again a short while later.  I told Sam I needed to rest a while.  So we crossed the road and went over to our support vehicle.  I went to the front of the car, "jumped" in, reclined the seat and closed my eyes.  I also told them I needed some ice on my chest and neck.  After resting for about 10 minutes, I felt much better to continue.  By then, I could only walk at a leisurely pace.  Because of my weakening condition, the support vehicle decided to stay with me till I reached Keeler before they went back Lone Pine to get replenishment of ice.  By then, I somehow managed to catch up with another runner, Cheryl, with a Bib No. 50 because she had taken a rest in the car probably to cool down at regular interval.  I was lamenting to her that I was not sure if I could make it.  But she said we had plenty of time and she had no doubt I would finish strong.  Her pacer also commented that I looked great and I needn't worry too much.  While I knew I looked awful, their positive remarks spurred me on.  I wasn't able to keep up with her but I was able to catch up with her whenever she took a rest.  :)

 Crossing Of The 100 Miles Mark In 30 hours 2 Minutes!

Keeler to Lone Pine 122 Miles
After Keeler, I felt much better and it was time for Stuart to pace me for this stretch of the race.  The crew had packed everything that Stuart and I needed, including all the remaining ice, so that Stuart could help draped my cap in the ice every now and then, as well as to fill up the ice for my neck cooler.  Then the car left.  The distance from Keeler to Lone Pine was about 16 miles and Stuart reckoned they would be back in 45 minutes (granted that we would be moving towards their direction at the same time).  I knew it was hot by then though the X-Bionic gear was really cool and I felt like someone was holding an invisible aircon blowing at the front and back of my body.  Stuart and I talked about running stuff, which was good.  It was different from when I ran with Sam earlier as Sam would talk more about pacing and timing.  Each had its own advantages.  When I was running strong, I wouldn't mind listening to pacing and timing as I would be able to push myself harder.  But when I was low on morale, I needed to hear other things to perk me up, which Stuart and Christina did an excellent job.  :)  Halfway through walking, I asked Stuart to check if they had left Lone Pine and if not, can they get me an ice cream.  Stuart suggested a large milkshake instead and I nodded in eagerness.

The sun was setting which meant that it was shining directly into my face.  Somehow, I had totally forgotten about re-applying the sunblock lotion on my face!  (Afternote: Perhaps that was the reason why I felt so hot on my face and had to keep looking down on the road!)  After 45 minutes, I still didn't see any sign of our support vehicle and wondered aloud what took them so long.  Eventually, drove past and gave Stuart and me a large milkshake each!  I drank up the whole milkshake in less than a minute and wished I could have some more.  Then Christina took over from Stuart to pace me and I enjoyed her company the most.  She was also very chatty and kept me entertained.  Then for whatever reasons I forgotten, the car had to make a trip back to Lone Pine and I asked them to get me a mashed potatoes and chicken wings!  "How many chicken wings do you want?"  Sam asked.  "2!"  I replied and they left again.  When they returned, we went over to the car for a short break.  The mashed potatoes was different from Singapore's KFC where it had no gravy on it.  So it didn't taste as nice as I would have like.  But I knew I had to eat, having eaten only fruits since the bowl of spicy noodles in the early morning.  I was feeling better and decided to save the chicken wing for dinner.

Stuart took over from Christina after my "mashed potato break" perhaps to push me harder.  Somehow I didn't want to response since I was able to keep Cheryl (Bib No. 50) within my sight.  That stretch of the road was the worse section of the race as it was never ending and hot.  At the Dolomite Loop junction, I made the final stop before pushing on.  Stuart told me that by my speed, I would reach Lone Pine at around 9:30pm to 9:40pm.  This was still within my worst case scenario as I had planned to reach there by 10:00pm.  I thought I might get faster when the sun set (around 7:30pm) but that was not the case.  Stuart pointed out the location of the Visitor Centre.  It looked near, yet far as it was not a direct road towards the Visitor Centre!  It was deceivingly long and took me forever to reach the main junction leading to the town of Lone Pine!  When we finally reached the junction, it was totally dark.  We had to cross the road and walked another couple of miles before we met an official at the junction who signaled us to cross back to Dow Villa Hotel for the time check-in.  What a relieve!

The Junction Of Highway 136 and Dolomite Loop!

Lone Pine to Mount Whitney 135 Miles
When I reached Lone Pine, it was 9:45pm.  I saw some runners feasting with their support crew and a few people around the hotel carpark.  Everyone congratulated me even though I still had another 13 miles to cover.  :(  Stuart left to look for his newly charged Garmin while I ate a piece of chicken wing.  But it was too oily and I felt my throat extremely painful with all the heaty drinks I drank and the heat I had to endure for the  past 2 mornings and afternoons.  Cheryl and Stephanie helped me to the field chair and I drank my Ling Yang which they had prepared.  That should cool down my internal body and I decided I didn't want to wait for Stuart as I knew he intended to push the pace.  I told Cheryl to pace me but I didn't want to waste time waiting for her to get her stuff ready.  I asked her to catch up with me and I pushed on.  The time on my watch showed 9:45pm.  Along the Whitney Portal Road, Cheryl caught up with me.  After less than a mile, the rest of the crew drove up to us and Stephanie hopped out from the car and take over from Christina.  She also told me that Christina would be waiting at Lone Pine and drive to Mount Whitney later.

Stephanie had with her the Garmin that belonged to Stuart.  She was less spontaneous as compared to Christina and Stuart but just as positive.  She kept saying that I was such an amazing runner to be able to complete the race though we were still hiking up towards Mount Whitney.  Once in a while, she would take a glance at the Garmin and told me how far we had cover.  By then, I was walking at a speed of about 1 mile every 30 minutes.  I counted that I should have enough time to complete if I stay on the same pace.  I told Stephanie that I would like her to pace me for 5 miles while Stuart and Cheryl could pace me for 4 miles each.  I would really like to cross the finishing line with Cheryl next to me as she is my pillar of strength.  I made another pit-stop to change to my X-Bionic Effector Running Powershirt as it was getting cold.  Though I was slow, the miles seemed to fly through fast, perhaps due to the gentle incline as compared to the last few miles of the race.  With the 5 miles up, Stuart took over the pacing duty.  Then I told him the reason why I didn't wait for him back at Lone Pine.  I had wanted to relax a bit since I knew I could make the cut-off.  :p

Marching On Towards The Finishing!

Stuart and I eventually reached the last Time Station #8 at 131 mile and Cheryl took over.  The last 4 miles of the race was the hardest as it was rather steep.  By then, besides my aching feet and body, my sore throat was getting really bad.  Every drink and even the saliva I swallowed was painful.  Luckily, Cheryl brought with her my flask of hot Ling Yang.  Every after a couple of switchbacks, I would ask her for a small cup which she would pour from the flask.  During this stretch of the road, approximately 4 runners past me but I didn't care much.  This was a competition for me against the clock.  We eventually entered the Whitney Portal Recreation Area, which was about 2 miles from the finishing.  We entered the parking lot area 1 mile later.  Then, every 0.1 mile we covered, looked like a mile.  We finally saw Stuart and Sam approaching us.  He asked if the Race Director would DQ me if Christina showed up in the finishing photo and I reassured him that we submitted the name of our 5th member and info on the additional car when we did the racer check-in.  :)  We saw Stephanie and Christina just before the finishing line and my crew let me had all the limelight of crossing the finishing line in 46hrs 45mins 15secs!  Mr Kostman presented a finisher tee and belt buckle to me which was a customary ritual before the support crew were invited for a finishing shot.

I was extremely happy that I had completed the race of my dream when I first took up ultra running back in 2007.  I couldn't have completed this race without the help and support of my five support crew, where everyone played an equally important role before the time we arrived at Los Angeles, to when I finally crossed the finishing line.  It was the most intense race where they literally carried me through my ups and downs, especially on the second day.  I must also commended the strong support given by the Lone Pine community, where they were always so helpful to runners in urgent need of stuff: like the field chair we borrowed from the waitress at the restaurant we patronised, the blinking lights we borrowed from the store, and the pepper and salt we used from the restaurant.  For that, the 2014 Badwater 135 would be my most memorable race ever!  Thank you again to everyone making my dream come true and especially to Cheryl, Sam, Christina, Stuart, and Stephanie for the wonderful memories you have given me!  :)

The Elation Of Finally Crossing The Badwater Finishing Line!

Proud Finisher of the 2014 Badwater 135!

With Race Director Chris Kostman Who Presented The Hard-Earned Finisher Tee and Buckle!

 A Lifetime Memory - 2014 Badwater Support Crew!

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