Tuesday, August 11, 2009

4 posts in 1 because I'm lazy!

Yikes! Where has the summer gone? For those religiously following this blog (ha, yeah right), it probably appears that I've dropped off the face of the Earth since Badwater. Quite the contrary, I've been pretty busy and once again have been slacking on the blogging. To catch up, here's a quick summary of four recent events: Catherine's FatAss 50k, Riley's Rumble Half-Marathon pictures, Coach Mike's Impromptu 50k, and Grindstone Training Runs Weekend.

Catherine's FatAss 50k
July 18, 2009

Having been back from Badwater for only a day, I made my way out to the usual spot (Massanutten Trails) with the usual suspects (VHTRC crew) for some more pounding on the legs. What better way to kick off my 100 miler training than 30ish miles pacing at Badwater, 22 miles on Mt Whitney and a 50k, all in one week?

Michelle, Sophie, myself and Marc on Bird Knob overlook

The weather was beautiful, although a tad too humid for my liking having just been in Death Valley. I ran with Sophie for most of the day and we chit-chatted about training, Badwater, and people who need people. At one aide station we came across a strange looking creature that I've never seen in the woods. It moved slowly, had an odd looking white head, and seemed keen to eat whatever was in sight. Oh wait, nevermind that was just Alisa Springman wearing her Badwater sun hood while she worked the aid station!

Alisa, post-Badwater, trying to cool me down for a change

All in all, it was a sweaty good day of running (no joke, probably the most I've ever sweated in my life... thanks heat acclimation training!) that ended with a phenomenal BBQ and party at the finish line. Thanks to Tommy and Kirstin for manning the grill, and Jeff for organizing the whole event and providing the grub and tasty adult beverages. This is really what summer is all about!

Finish line BBQ and party... great times!

See the rest of my CFA pics HERE.

Riley's Rumble Half-Marathon pictures
July 26, 2009

I once-again pretended to be a photographer while spectating at the Riley's Rumble Half-Marathon in Gaithersburg, MD. It started pouring right after the start, but luckily the camera survived and I was able to get some cool shots once the skies opened back up. Check out all the pictures HERE.

Kelly Hunsecker finishing Riley's Rumble Half

Ominous Mark Zimmerman before race start

Coach Mike's Impromptu Monday Morning 50k
July 27, 2009

My coach, Mike Broderick, has been slowly but surely planting the ultra seed into a few road runners that he coaches. Most gullible... errr... willing to partake our wonderful sport were Renee Bates and Eve Mills. Mike asked if I wanted to partake in the fun, and not having any pressing deadlines at work, I took the day off and went for a nice 31 mile jaunt on the Seneca Greenway trails. We started at the crack of dawn from Mike's driveway, headed a block to the trailhead, and off we went, passing various aid drops that Mike had made the night before.

Can you hear me now? Good!

Renee and Eve seemed to enjoy themselves on the trails. As road runners, I think it was the walking breaks that they seemed to enjoy the most! Ahh the joys of ultrarunning.

Eve leading Renee through some nice open Seneca Greenway trails

Back-to-Back Grindstone Training Weekend
August 8-9, 2009

Clark Zealand, RD for the Grindstone 100, put together a nice little training weekend for those of us who needed to familiarize themselves with the race course. With the race being 50 miles out and 50 miles back, we were able to see every step of the race course while only running half the course.

We camped at the Shenandoah Boy Scout Camp, the race's start/finish, and carpooled to our starting location each morning. Saturday morning we started at the race's turnaround, which has been extended a tad from last year's course after recalculating distances. Day 1 consisted of 30 miles, ending at Dowell's Draft and taking us through miles 50-80 of the course.

Day 1 at the (yet to be named) turnaround point

Jeremy Ramsey, Jared Hesse, Clark Zealand and myself held down the front of the pack all of Saturday, marking the course as we went. David Horton was with us for the first mile or so, but he was still recovering from his Colorado Trail Speed Attempt so he made the smart move and dropped off. Running with these guys was tough at times, but being able to keep up all day was a huge boost of confidence, showing how much endurance/speed I gained back after all my time off from the ITB injury.

Day 2 started where we finished the day before, Dowell's Draft, and took us all the way to the finish at Camp Shenandoah. Instead of hammering it out with the Lynchburg boys again, I took the conservative route and as per usual found myself running with Sophie (she's good entertainment and we have the same comfortable pace... a win-win situation). And no, the matching VHTRC gear was not intentional, we just have club pride!

Sophie and I at the end of Day 2

The combined 50+ miles for the weekend left my quads thoroughly trashed, the perfect training for me since the flat stuff I run on around home doesn't cut it in terms of any mountable elevation gain. Seeing the course (and getting the GPS readings) was a huge confidence boost as well, so come race day I should at least have some familiarity with where I am and what is to come. Let the logistics planning begin!

About midway through Saturday, my left calf/soleus started to feel tight. The tightness continued all day so I stretched and massaged the crap out of it post-run. Sunday started out fine, but for a few miles mid-way through the day the soleus tightness came back. What was up? Apparently my 3 mile barefoot run on the Thursday prior, combined with a 50 mile weekend, was too much stress on the soleus too soon. Lesson learned, ease slower into the barefoot running! No worries though, the tightness went away after a recovery week with low mileage.

See the rest of my Gstone Training Weekend pics HERE.

Summitting Mt Whitney - my first 14'er

The day after Badwater, the men of the crew decided to make a last minute stop at the Park's Visitor's Center to see if there were any unused passes to summit Mount Whitney for the day. They had all been reserved way in advance, but usually there are some leftovers from runners and crewmembers who decided they are too tired to summit after the race. Lucky for us, they happened to have 3 passes left.

Route from my GPS

The trail head up to the summit is located at 8,400 feet, right at the Badwater finishline. The trail is approximately 11 miles long (my GPS read 10.21) and goes up to 14,505 feet - the tallest point in the continguous United States. Not too shabby of a mountain for my first 14'er if I do say so myself! Having just paced 30'ish miles the day before, a 22 mile hike up a mountain was obviously a great training opportunity so I jumped on it.

David, me and Will at the trail head / finishline

Since we only had 1 vehicle available, Alisa dropped us off at the trail right at noon and off we went. The plan was to be done around 9pm and she would pick us up there. A park ranger had told us that the trip takes between 10 and 16 hours depending on the person. Being athletic, we decided 9 hours would be more than enough.

Onwards we went, with none of knowing what we were really doing. We had a bunch of Clif Bars, Gu's, full hydration bladders, headlamps, running gear and our wag bags (you know, for when nature calls... when you're in nature). Speaking of, we passed a great sign not too far into the hike:

Will makes note of serious business. The #2 business to be exact.

I was constantly amazed at how beautiful everything was as we made our way up the mountain. I guess because I'm used to dinky little East Coast "mountains", I didn't really know what I was missing. For example:

Dear Mother Nature, I love you.

We started off fast (3.5 mph) and slowed down a bit after the first hour, making more frequent stops for food, oxygen, or just resting the ol' legs.

Life is good.

As we got higher up in elevation and above the treeline, we came across our first sighting of snow. This was in stark contrast to the 120 degree temperatures we toiled in the day before.

Badwater. Death Valley. July. Snow?

About 6.5 miles into the hike, Will and David decided that pacing at Badwater and the hike up until that point were plenty of miles for their legs and that they would rather not go any further. Also, the question of how fatigued they would feel at higher altitudes and possibly hiking/running down at night did not sound all too appealing. This became tough news for me to take and I was now left with a dilemma. Do I go back down with my fellow Badwater crewmembers whom I had done everything with over the past few days, or do I go on solo and reach the summit like I originally set out to do? After a few minutes of mulling it over, the guys assured me that there would be no hard feelings if I went on without them, and with the possibility that I might race Badwater next year (and almost definitely not have the energy/will to summit then), this might be my only chance to conquer Mount Whitney. The decision was made to push on solo, and after some quick number crunching I assured them that I would be back to the trail head at 9pm.

Just before parting ways with the guys

I grabbed some water purification pills from the guys, refilled my hydration bladder from a stream and went on my way. I picked up the pace a good amount for the first mile or two, but then the altitude hit me and I was forced to slow back down to a more realistic pace for an unacclimated runner at 12,000 feet. At times, if I took a couple of really strong steps and push myself too hard, I would start to feel light-headed from the lack of oxygen. When I reached 13,500 feet, my normal skydiving altitude, I took the picture below of my Garmin since it was the first time I had been at that altitude with my feet still on terra firma. Quite an interesting experience to say the least!

4 hours to get to altitude? It's usually only 15 minutes...

Eventually I reached what seemed to be A peak, just not THE peak, and I crossed over onto the western side of the mountain which was technically considered the Sequoia National Park.

Entering Sequoia National Park

From this point I was getting pretty close. The footing along the west side of the mountain was noticeably more rocky than before, and the altitude was causing much more lightheadedness than before. And then I ran into this guy:

Danny Westergaard, almost halfway through his DOUBLE BADWATER w/ summit

That's right, it's Dan Westergaard, one of the racers who just finished Badwater a few hours earlier. But don't get confused, Dan isn't done racing, he's going all the way to the Mount Whitney summit... and then BACK to the Badwater Basin where the race began. That's 292 miles total. Mad respect for Dan on that one. Wow.

Getting closer, and more beautiful

Almost there...

Summit snow

Up near the top I came across the most amount of snow on the mountain. It was probably 2 feet deep but luckily there was already a path worn into it. Still, I was able to find the one hole in the path and my leg fell another 2 feet deep into the snow. It was actually kind of refreshing. The snow-covered portion of the trail was only 100 yards or so, and once I passed that the summit was only another couple hundred yards away.

I reached the summit after 5:30 of hiking. The views from the top were magnificent (it's the highest point in the continguous US after all), and surprisingly it wasn't cold enough for me to don the windbreaker or fleece I had stashed in my bag.

14,505 feet. Success!

I hung around the summit for about a half hour. I was all alone up there, on top of the world US, and absolutely loving life. Of course, I had to rep my sponsors while I was up there: Brooks Running and Drymax Socks, both of whom took very good care of my feet for the previous couple of days with no discomfort or blister problems.

Brooks shoes and Drymax socks. Only the best for me.

And of course, I signed the obligatory summit sheet which was located at the lightning shelter on the summit (another hiker finally showed up so I was able to get him to take the picture of me signing it).

Making it official

After I had enough lollygagging, I headed back down the mountain, but this time I had gravity to my advantage. Hellloooo downhill technical switchbacked oxygen-deprived running! Talk about fun!

About 1.5 miles into my descent, I ran into three other ultrarunners who I instantly recognized by their Moeben Badwater sleeves. It was Jenn Shelton, Connie Gardner and Jimmy Dean Freeman, all of whom are respective badasses in the ultra world. I'm not too sure if it was the altitude, the sleep deprivation from crewing, or maybe they just found some "special" water source, but these guys were straight loopy. They were laughing hysterically when I bumped into them, and within a minute I was too. Jenn proceeded to crawl across a narrow stretch of trail on her stomach, Connie asked to switch shoes with me (pink Nike road shoes? no thanks) and then they tried to convince me to come back to the summit with them since they were still on their ascent. Despite their begging and pleading (and perhaps some name-calling as well), I politely declined since I had to meet Dave and Will at 9pm, and re-summitting would put me way off schedule. Didn't want anyone thinking I was eaten by a bear! I took a few shots of the gang and then we headed in our separate directions.

Jenn Shelton, ultrarunner extraordinaire?

Connie, Jimmy and Jenn

Pretending they're at the summit. Pic taken from below.

The rest of the run down was rather uneventuful. Lots of running, lots of passing hikers who just hours before questioned my ability to make it to the summit in time, lots of switchbacks, the occassional somersault down the trail from tripping (oops) and lots of pounding on the legs. All in all, it felt great!

One last picture on the mountain

My descent ended up taking 2:45, exactly half the time it took me to summit. Not too shabby! I even managed to finish right as it was getting dark, so I never had to turn my headlamp on.

When I finished, it was 8:45pm so I had a few minutes to spare before the guys were supposed to pick me up. I stretched, had a Clif bar and then put my backpack up against a rock and kicked my feet up on another. Then, right as I was starting to doze off a baby black bear runs across the parking lot, about 20 feet in front of me! Where there are baby bears, there are mama bears. No bueno! Also, keep in mind I have never seen a bear before in my life and I was all alone in a dark parking lot in the forrest, halfway up a mountain where there was no phone reception. Knowing that bears have an impecable sense of smell, I quickly went over to the trashcan and dumped out any remnants of food or food wrappers that I had in my bag. That should do the trick, right?

Well, about 20 minutes later guess who comes running through the parking lot again? Yup, the baby black bear (well, he was maybe teenage bear size). This time, instead of darting off into the forrest, he stopped in the middle of the parking lot and stared me down. I shined my headlamp in his face and spoke loudly and confidently for him to go away, as I had remembered hearing somewhere before. I should have gotten big and opened my jacket, but I forgot due to the fact that I was nearly crapping my pants. The bear would take a few steps onto the trail, then stop and look at me. Then walk a few more steps, then stop and look at me. He continued this guessing game of "am I going to eat you or not?" for another few minutes. Yeah, fun stuff. He finally disappeared into the darkness, so I stood there in the middle of the parking lot constantly scanning back and forth with my light in case I saw his glowing green eyes come back. Luckily, he didn't, and after about an hour and a half my ride finally came (something about a long wait at dinner, whatever, I was just glad to be warm, safe and out of harm's way).

I had never been so happy to see a minivan...

For all of my Mount Whitney pictures, see my Flickr album HERE.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Crewing the Badwater 135

My apologies for the (extremely) late Badwater write-up. I've been honing my procrastination skills lately, and as you can tell, I'm getting quite good at it, especially with this whole bliggity-blogging thingamajig. Now where was I? Oh yes, Badwater...

I flew into Vegas on Saturday afternoon with a massive head cold. I blame the air travel, but another culprit was all the loud sounds and flashy lights that overwhelmed me as I stepped off the plane. Head cold or not, I was in Vegas for a reason: to crew, pace and photograph Alisa Springman during her second running of the Badwater Ultramarathon.

For those not "in the know", Badwater is known as the toughest footrace on Earth. It's a 135 mile run through Death Valley in the middle of the summer, with temperatures in the 120's and so hot that runners need to run on the white line so the rubber of their shoes doesn't melt. Sounds like a blast, no? Well guess what - it was.

Click for larger. Start lower right (Badwater), finish upper left (Whitney Portal).

As a crewmember and pacer on Team Alisa (there were 4 of us total: Me, David, Sue and Will), our job was to meet Alisa with the crew vehicles every mile or so and re-up everything she needed. New water bottle, ice cold hat, a cooldown with the water mister, ice cold sponge on the neck, food, salt pills, etc. (and those are just the basics at each stop, more complicated matters like blister treatment, shoe changes, etc. also needed to be done, just not as frequently). Whatever she needed, we were there to make it happen.

Back to the story, after a brief stop-over at the off-strip cheapo Vegas hotel, we gathered our things and made the voyage to the one stop shop for all your ultrarunning needs. That's right - Walmart!

Alisa with $425 of food, water, ice, gear, etc.

In retrospect, we purchased more food than we could have ever needed (corndogs and BBQ pork ribs for example), but it was nice to know that when Alisa's stomach was putting up a fight in the desert, chances are we had something to satisfy the beast. After Walmart, we made our way out of Vegas, stopping at every possible Albertson's supermarket we could find in an effort to secure dry ice. After a couple hours, we emerged victorious with $100 of dry ice, enough to keep our supplies cold until Monday afternoon.

After a short two hour drive, we arrived in Furance Creek, a small oasis in Death Valley (aka a general store, gas station, hotel and ice house) that also served as the location of the pre-race activities and mile 17 of the race. Here is where the heat really hits you. Walking through the parking lot felt like a blowdryer to the face. Was this what I had to look forward to for the next few days? Awesome!

Bob from Drymax, Alisa and myself with the van signs Bob printed up

At the pre-race briefing Alisa gathered her schwag and bib number, we all filled out the "we know we might die" waivers, we saw some familiar faces and met some new ones, and on we went to prepare the crew vehicles for our impending journey. (Side note: the extremely dry desert air quickly cleared up my head cold once we got to Death Valley. Thanks, desert!)

Monday morning we awoke at 7am for Alisa's 10am start time. She apparently ran so well last year that they put her in the elite start group alongside other notable names like Jamie Donaldson, Charlie Engle, Dean Karnazes, Jorge Pacheco and the guy that wears the pink tutu (you'll see).

David, Sue, Alisa, me and Will at -282ft ASL (the start)

The 10:00am elite runners

Runners and crews gathered at the Badwater Basin (the race start) for some pre-race words by RD Chris Kostman, a singing of the national anthem by a chick wearing a dress and Moeben sleeves, some quick group pictures, and before we knew it the runners were off to embark on a journey of a lifetime (well, maybe 2 days of running through the desert just seems like a lifetime).

Most crews started meeting their runner after a mile or 2. Alisa had made the strategic decision before race start that crewing for the first few miles was pointless since she would not yet be hot and drinking a lot and it would be easier for us to drive a few miles ahead and meet and get ahead of the caravan of crew vehicles.

Dean Karnazes in the first few miles

Jamie Donaldson (and David, one of our crewmembers, in the green hat)

It was nice seeing all the runners together in the first few miles of the race. Alisa, being as fit as ever, was actually running ahead of Jamie Donaldson (last year's women's champion) for a majority of those first 17 miles. Go Alisa! However, we all knew this would come to an end sooner than later... and it did. Like the good Drymax Team Captain that she was, Jamie went on to finish as first female, again, in a time of 27:20.

The tutu guy (Keith Straw), followed closely by Jamie Donaldson

As if it wasn't crazy enough seeing a guy dressed in a pink tutu and pink shoes running through the desert, it made me have deja vu of my first ever road race - a small half-marathon in Severna Park, MD. Keep in mind this was only a little more than a year ago, but nonetheless, it was my first race ever, and as I was running along I was passed by... yup... a guy in a pink tutu and pink shoes. I recall his shirt saying something along the lines of "you just got passed by a guy in pink". Now here I am on the opposite side of the country, no longer at a small half-marathon but the toughest footrace on Earth, and here is the same guy in the same pink tutu. I gotta give it to the guy, in a sport where everyone is of questionable sanity and fashion sense, he definitely takes the cake!

We did this about 100 times...

Above is a video from one of our 100+ crew stops. Kinda like a pit crew moving in slow motion, huh? Well most of the first day looked like this. Nothing totally mesmerizing, but we were efficient and we took care of our girl. Oh wait, I almost forgot about happy hour!

"Happy hour?" you might be asking yourself. Hell yeah! After spending a good portion of the day in the sun, we could tell that Alisa's spirits were down and she needed some cheering up. So we broke out the Spongebob Squarepants pinata, hats, wristbands, ribbons and bubble blowers and we had ourselves a little party as Alisa passed on through.

Crewchief Spongebob makes an appearance for happy hour

And whattaya know, after a Spongebob happy hour, we decided that once again we should give Alisa some more cheering up (I don't think she needed it, but the heat does things to your brain so we went along with the fun). This time around, Sue, the wonderful ball of energy that she is, decided to dress up in the new Moeben sun-hood *cough*lookslikeaklanhood*cough* and read Alisa some of their favorite teenage vampire romance novel *gag*. Needless to say, Alisa loved it.

Don't read and run

So like I was saying, nothing interesting happened the first day. Oh wait, and then at some point in the day Will got hungry and decided to cook up some corndogs on the hood of Sue's truck...

The nutrition of a champion ('s crew)

...and Sue did some jumping around, laughing in the face of danger.

Gotta love her

And of course, some more Spongebob fun during our limited downtime.

David and crewchief Spongebob

But yeah, that's about it for the fun we had during the day. As sunset approached, off came the sunsuits and hats and out came the reflective gear and blinky things. Alisa was holding up pretty well to this point (well, maybe some GI problems here and there but that's not too out of the ordinary). We were a bit past Stovepipe Wells, which is mile 42 and one of the 6 checkpoints, as the sun was going down. We started pacing for her at Stovepipe Wells so that brought about a nice change of pace for both her and us alike. The crew now had one less person to get everything done, but we had been through the routine enough times at this point that we were getting good at multitasking. Besides, less heat at night means less cooling down that needs to be done.

As we got further into the night, Alisa's stomach made a turn for the worse and she was having a tough time taking anything in. While pacing, I got to play the constant guessing game of "what nutrition can I trick Alisa into eating?" and also "what song is Alisa currently listening to based off of her oh-so-wonderful singing?". The singing games were fun, the food... well that was a bit trickier.

Yes we run the whole time in ultras. Well, aside from a few breaks here and there...

At one point she came to the realization that a V8 would totally hit the spot. Bad bad move. The combination of downhill running and V8 brought our running and her stomach to a crashing halt. After a good 20 minute break laying on the side of the road (well, kind of in the road but we had our blinky things so it was cool), the V8 and what looked like everything back to breakfast came out in a wonderful concoction that I'm sure cooked up into a nice looking pancake on the hot pavement once the sun came back out. Disgusting, I know, but guess what? It did the trick and she was back to feeling like a million bucks (or about as good as you can feel running 135 miles through the desert).

A few hours later, probably around 4:00am, she made it into Panamint Springs checkpoint, mile 72 of the race (it was slow going throughout the night if you couldn't tell). With all the crewing and pacing we had been doing, we were all pretty tired. It's safe to say that Alisa was quite tired as well, but this became extremely evident when she came in, requested to lay down for a few minutes, and proceeded to sleep for an hour. This was quite the pleasant surprise to the crew so we all proceeded to rest while we could and we quickly passed out in our camping chairs. An hour later, like clockwork, she woke up, realized where she was, grabbed a water bottle and said let's go. Not expecting to pace that soon after waking (literally about 15 seconds), but knowing that I didn't really have an option, I grabbed a waterbottle and off we went. Within no time we were greeted with gorgeous sunrise views as the sun peaked its head over the peaks in the distance:

Goooood mornin'

The light of day #2 brought new life to Alisa. Hell, she even started running a bit! Temperatures on this second day were slightly cooler than the first. Don't get me wrong it was still a scorcher, but they only reached 110ish from what I recall while the first day easily hit 120+. Nonetheless, Alisa had fooled herself into thinking she was invincible to the sun and she opted for regular running gear instead of the cumbersome sun-suit. What's that I hear? Ooh, another job for the crew: sunscreen application! Eh, who am I kidding it wasn't that bad.

Mmmm... melted mango smoothie

Will, David and myself rotated pacing duties with each of us doing 5-15 miles at a time. My favorite part of the entire trip occurred while pacing so sadly I don't have any photographic evidence. I was told there were usually jet flybys since there was a military base close by. Being a skydiver, I've seen plenty of flybys at the dropzone, so I didn't really think much of it. Well, as Alisa and I were running along on the white line, just over the horizon we start to see and hear a jet hugging the turns of the road and coming directly towards us. I kid you not, the F18 (F16? beats me) came screaming by at Mach Fast-as-Hell, probably only 100 feet off the ground. It was probably the coolest thing I have ever seen. I'm sure Alisa would have joined me if she had the energy to do so, but I was jumping up and down waving my arms and screaming like a little kid on a rollercoaster. When I waved my arms, the pilot dipped the wings to acknowledge us. AWESOME! By the way, this didn't just happen once, nor did it happen twice. We got THREE kick ass flybys! (Can you tell this got me excited? Ok, I'll stop now).

The runner with her water bottle mule, I mean pacer

Right around mile 100, we started to get dangerously low on ice so Sue and I took her truck (the designated gopher vehicle) to restock in the town of Lone Pine, about 20 miles ahead on the course. I drove, and with this being the first opportunity to just sit still for any period of time in almost 2 days, I nearly fell asleep at the wheel. Not good! Thankfully we made it Lone Pine alive, as did all the runners we passed/missed, and I was able to re-energize with some Red Bull. We got our ice and headed quickly back to Alisa and the rest of the crew.

Shortly thereafter, we realized that we needed to check into the hostel in Lone Pine for after the race, so Sue and I once again headed back into Lone Pine. Alisa would be running into Lone Pine in the next hour or two, so the two of us (who hadn't slept as much as Dave and Will) took the opportunity to rest and waited for Alisa to come through. While waiting around, I saw Dean Karnazes very slowly, and what looked like very painfully, walk through town. His crew brought him a big ol' milkshake from the local McDonald's, and after cheering on some words of encouragement to the man whose book got me into this whole ultra world, I too made my way to Micky D's for what would be the first "real" meal that didn't consist of PBJ and PowerGel (I know, Micky D's isn't a real meal, but beggars can't be choosers). Let me tell you, that burger and milkshake were deeee-licious!

Dean no longer does pizza on the run, just milkshakes

When Alisa finally made her way into LP (mile 122), Sue took her first steps as a pacer. With their close relationship, Sue's uplifting presence and her disliking of the heat, we had planned all along to save Sue's pacing for the last 13 miles, the final climb up Mt. Whitney, since she would be able to keep Alisa motivated and happy during this most difficult portion of the race.

Alisa and Sue coming up Whitney Portal Road

The rock formations on Whitney Portal Road were unlike anything I had ever seen, absolutely stunning structures with shapes that you can't find on the east coast. My favorite formation was obviously the big rounded rock painted to look like a monster of some sorts.

What a monstrous rock. Get it?

The sun set for the second time as Alisa ran up Whitney Portal Road. We all donned our required night gear once again, but this time the finish line was so close you could taste it.

David enjoying the view as the sun sets for the 2nd time

With just a few miles to go, we drove the van up to the finish line and walked down to meet Alisa and Sue so we could all walk Alisa in for the last mile or so (let's be honest, not even the leaders are running at this point in the race). All five of us were now together, and just moments remained before Alisa and Team would finish this epic journey. As we rounded the corner and saw the finish line in the distance, we all joined hands and started running. I had put my headlamp and Alisa's flashlight in my shorts pocket, and as I started running the weight pulled my shorts down. Not wanting to cross the finish line with my shorts around my ankles, I threw the lights off into the dark abyss. I again joined hands, and within just a few steps we were screaming with joy as we crossed the finish line of our 135 mile adventure.

She did it! 135 miles in 35:42:35

Now that's one happy team!

Alisa got her awards, we posed for a few pictures, and after a few minutes of sitting we got her up and made our way to the van. As we were walking over, a police car came screaming up the mountain with its sirens. The cop was yelling "Everybody off the mountain! The mountain is on fire! Everybody off the mountain!" Holy crap! We rushed Alisa into the van and sped down the mountain, passing a huge campfire turned forest fire. Badwater was hot enough, we didn't need to get any more burn going! Thankfully we made it back to the hostel with no fire encounters. Others were not so lucky as the finish line was forced to shut down for 9 hours right after we left, so many racers were forced to finish at mile 131. Still, everyone who made it was considered an official finisher and received the credit they rightfully earned.

To sum it all up in one word, wow. A truly unforgettable experience that far exceeded all of my expectations in terms of difficulty, beauty, comradery, fun and heat. Will I ever run Badwater? Well, that depends on if I get in next year...


For more pictures, see my Flickr page HERE.
Official webcast and results HERE.