Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 Badwater: Lone Pine To Darwin 91 Miles

Time Station #2 - Lone Pine 45 Miles
After checking in Time Station #2, I took an extended break to refuel and sort out all the problems that I had.  Christina, who had been waiting at Lone Pine since morning, joined us at the hotel carpark.  She would be taking over from Stephanie while Stephanie would co-ordinate the logistics from Lone Pine.  As soon as I sat down, my team auto pilot mode swung into action: Cheryl passed me an ice-cold towel to wipe and cool down my face.  I then took off the shoes to air my feet while Sam and Stuart put packets of ice on both my knees as I was feeling rather sore after the long downhill from top of Horseshoe Meadows.  Then Cheryl gave me a cup of hot noodle.  I even had some Coke to drink.  When I was ready and raring to go, Sam gave me a good massage on my stiff back.  It was really painful and I almost screamed but at the same time, I felt so shiok.  (Okie, I admit I'm someone who loves pain.)  I checked on the tape on the arch of my right foot which was still holding up well.  After putting on the same pair of shoes, I left with Christina, feeling totally refreshed!

Resting at Lone Pine After 45 Miles!

A Good Massage For My Stiff Back!

Lone Pine to American Hotel in Cerro Gordo 67 Miles
I decided to walk that stretch of the road till we turned into Highway 136, especially after eating a full cup of instant noodles.  Christina agreed and she walked behind me, to comply with the rules.  She even helped me to carry my water bottle, which was a very nice gesture since there's a difference between running with and without carrying your water bottle, even if it didn't weigh much.  :p  As we walked, I saw some eateries and commented that how nice it would be if I could have some ice-cream.  Christina immediately told me that if that was what I wanted, she could run across the road to check if they had ice-cream.  Wow!  "Okie!" I said to her and she left while I continued power-walking.  A short while later, Christina was back with a small cup of Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream!!!  How cool was that!  I thanked her and gobbled up the whole cup.  As we turned into Highway 136, we found the sun shining onto our back, which made the run easier.  At the next stop, Christina ran across the other side of the road where the support vehicle stopped to exchange for a new bottle of water.  Such strategy also meant that she could help me get whatever I needed immediately.  :)

Cheryl Helping Christina To Refill My Water Bottle!

I began the run / walk strategy again.  Christina was very encouraging.  She kept telling me that I was doing very well and to maintain my pace.  It was getting darker and we put on our reflective vests and blinking lights.  We soon turned into the Dolomite Loop, a 5-miles long gravel path.  There, I commented that I might need my slippers later in the race.  I also realized I needed a pair of toe socks to wear it with the slippers.  Christina called Stuart to relay my message.  After a few phone calls to Stephanie, the crew decided that they had to make their way back to Lone Pine to pick up the slippers and socks.  Sam and Stuart also made sure Christina had everything we needed before they left.  We continued to run / walk and we managed to pass a runner and his pacer.  We finished the Dolomite Loop and turned left to run onto Highway 136 again.  Though it was a highway, there was no street lamps like in Singapore.  Except for the vehicle lights and our headlamps, the entire highway was pitch dark!  After a couple of miles, Christina got a call from Stuart to check on our location.  Apparently, we had made great progress and they couldn't locate us!  :)

  Along Highway 136 & Dolomite Loop!

Further up, someone passed me and I noticed it was Andre and his pacer!  I had been expecting him to pass me earlier in the afternoon while coming down from Horseshoe Meadows as he was such a strong runner.  I wished him all the best before he slowly disappeared into the darkness.  Our support vehicle finally found us and Christina managed to top up my water bottle.  We were now very close to Keeler as we could see many vehicle lights in front but took us forever to finally reached Keeler.  This stretch of 14 miles took me 4hrs 45mins to complete.  I had exceeded the timing for my best case scenario but still on pace based on my worst case scenario.  For the hike up and down Cerro Gordo, Stuart would take over the pacing duty from Christina.  It was approximately 7.5 miles up and down, and no support vehicle was allowed due to the very narrow terrain.  We set off immediately after I check-in at the Keeler's Time Station #3.  According to my calculation, I need a minimum of 3 hours to ascend and another 2 hours to descend.  I decided to power walk all the way as the incline was simply to steep to run efficiently (it was a 14% inclination by my calculation).

On the way up, we saw runners coming down from Cerro Gordo, while I managed to pass some runners.  Then I heard someone calling out my name as we approached a runner sitting on the ground.  I realized he was Andre!  I was surprised as Andre was a beast who could run up and down mountains!  I wasn't supposed to pass him!  Nevertheless, I asked him to walk with me but I didn't wait for his response as I wanted to keep my momentum going.  Stuart asked me to eat something and I asked what he had in his bag.  He brought almost everything: rice, hard boiled eggs, sports drink, water, and even my bottle of Ling Yang!  I asked for the plain rice and started eating bit by bit.  I passed another runner which I wasn't surprised as I was strong (at least among runners of my ability) going up mountains.  Mid-way through the climbing, Stuart went to refill the water bottle at the one and only aid station provided by the race organizer.  I continued to walk as fast as I possibly could since I enjoyed the climb up mountains (though it was hard work).  I also wondered when would Andre catch up with me.  Eventually, we reached the old American Hotel at the Cerro Gordo Ghost Town after exactly 3 hours of climbing!

American Hotel in Cerro Gordo to Darwin Turn-Off 91 Miles
We rested for a while and Stuart gave me a hard boiled egg and ordered me to finish it up.  I complied willingly and also drank up the bottle of Ling Yang as it was supposed to cool down my internal body.  A short while later, I was getting chilled and decided that we should make our way down soonest possible.  About 200 meters after we left the ghost town, I finally saw Andre and his pacer, and  I knew it was a matter of time before he passed me for good on the downhill stretch.  Stuart on various occasions asked me if I wanted to do a slow jog.  But I couldn't because I was feeling very sore on my feet.  Besides, I didn't want to bomb down that steepest part of the descent as I didn't want to trash my quads.  Eventually, Stuart gave up on me.  As soon as we had cellphone coverage, he called Christina to prepare the things I needed, most importantly, my hot noodles!  When I reached back at Keeler (now Time Station #5), I saw someone clicking away the camera and I realized they were Mr Lim's support crew!  For the downhill section, I had miscalculated the time I needed as I was too tired to even run.  In fact, I was only marginally faster as compared to the uphill!  :(

After checking-in, we crossed the road to where our vehicle parked.  Christina and Cheryl had prepared the field chair and my hot noodles.  It was hot and spicy and tasted exceptionally good.  Sam also gave me a good massage on my stiff back.  This time round, I almost screamed my head off but was thankful that he continued to massage despite my screaming.  I felt so much better and energized.  In fact, I wanted to cover as much ground as possible before sunrise.  Christina took over the important task of pacing me from Keeler to Darwin.  She was as enthusiastic as in the previous evening - full of energy and positive vibes.  It was flat and cool as well, which made this part of the race the most enjoyable.  I was not sleepy despite not drinking any coffee all this while.  I even managed to pick up my pace a little.  Unfortunately, my feet were still feeling sore and I knew I had to take a look soon.  At the next stop, Sam looked at my shoes and commented they were too large while my orthotics were too small.  He taped over the area of orthotics where I felt uncomfortable while Stuart taped over my feet.  "That's the best we can do!" he said before shooing me off!

 En Route from Keeler to Darwin Turn-Off In The Morning!

By 8am, the sun was up shining.  But I was feeling cool, except my face.  Perhaps the X-Bionic Fennec® gears were keeping my body temperature at the optimum level.  I changed to my sunglasses and shifted my cap and let the neck flap covered the side of my face.  The portion of the route had rolling hills with slight incline.  Christina kept encouraging me.  But my right foot was feeling more and more sore.  I decided to take a break at the next stop to ask what can Sam or Stuart suggest.  Sam told me to change to another pair of shoes and put on an extra sock on my right foot to cushion the sore area.  He then said, "that's all the support crew can think off and you just got to accept the pain and push on".  Perhaps I looked dejected or perhaps I looked frustrated.  But what Sam did next probably helped pushed me get over the difficult patch that I was facing then.  While Christina was refilling my water, Sam took the opportunity to walk with me.  And he started telling me the number of well wishes that friends and strangers had left on our Facebook Page.  I was feeling extremely annoyed as that didn't help my running.  So I picked up my paced to walk really fast, just to get away from Sam.  At the same time, I was wondering what took Christina so long.

Then, Sam caught up with me and started to rattled off all the messages that appeared in the news feed on his iPad!  And I meant all!  "Isaac Tan: Keep going Kelly!  We are all rooting for you from Singapore!", "Karan Chia: Pray for you Kelly, go, go, go!", "Dawn Ng: Go Kelly go.  We are supporting you here in Singapore!", "Tey Eng Tiong: Keep it up!!!", "Jane Tan: Jia You!", "Blessed Irene: 加油哟! We support you all the way from Singapore!" and many many other messages from people I know to complete strangers.  My eyes began to swell up.  I told myself that no matter what happened, I must complete the race.  I could not let the people who had been following my race down.  Friends and strangers who left me well wishes on our Facebook Page.  Even stranger like Christina who was so positive and motivating, as well as Stuart, who crewed me since the start of the race (to until I completed the race).  Miraculously, I began running again!  While I was not fast, I was definitely running and that was definitely faster than walking.  Soon I saw Reuben on the other side of the road on his way back to Lone Pine.  And a while later, Andre.  And finally, I reached Darwin, Time Station #6 at 9:58am, Tuesday morning!  :)

Time Station #6 - Darwin Turn-Off 91 Miles!

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