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2018 Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon Experience (Part 5)

13 08 2018

2018 Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon Experience (Part 5)

From Towne Pass To Panamint Springs

I consider the stretch from Stovepipe Wells To Towne Pass as the most difficult section of the course due to the following: 1) the runner had already ran a distance of 40 miles without sleep and exhaustion is about to creep in; 2) it’s the 2nd morning and the temperature is almost the same when one started and it can rise up to 127 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of the day; 3) if the runner has the tendency to have an imbalance of electrolytes in his body system, the body will not be able to process whatever food intake, whether they are in the form of gels, liquid, or solid food; and 4) and the relentless uphill climb which is about 5% to 10% gradient where you can see the point where you should reach at a distance is too much to bear and think that particular uphill climb is endless.

On Our Ascent To Towne Pass

Tess and I were well-supported by our Support Vehicle and Crew on this portion/segment as they would stop to refill our hydration bottles every 500 meters to 1 kilometer. Tess would be only treated with Ice Cold Water spray by our team once she reaches the Support Vehicle. Sometimes, I would use the water from my Simple Hydration to douse ice cold water to Tess’ head. However, I did not have the plan or thought of carrying the ice cold sprayer bottle while I was pacing her. There are pacers who would follow their runners behind with a bottle sprayer and it was my first time to see such. By doing this, there is a tendency for the ice cold water to become a hot water while it is being carried by the Pacer due to the heat of the environment. The ice I place in my Simple Hydration bottle whenever I reach the Support Vehicle would be easily transformed to a hot water in a few minutes while I was following Tess. As compared with the Salomon Collapsible Bottles which I had for my electrolyte drinks, I’ve observed that the coldness of the liquid stays longer than the ice water in my Simple Hydration Bottle. During my pacing job to Tess, I was carrying with one Simple Hydration Bottle with Ice, and later melted to Ice water; and a 20-ounce Salomon Collapsible Bottle with my NUUN Electrolyte drink. So, for our relentless climb to Towne Pass, we repeatedly refilled our bottles whenever we reached our Support Crew/Vehicle. We also had the time to ingest some food available in our Support Vehicle.

We had KIND Fruit & Nut Bars (my primary food intake); fresh fruits (apple bites and ice cold watermelon); Rice O Roni; Champorado; Cookies; Sandwiches (prepared by Jas); Noodles; Pizza; Peanut Butter; Ham; Gels; Bundaberg Ginger Beer; and Ice Cold Soda (Coke & Mountain Dew). These food were prepared and served to us during the run, most specially along this segment of the course. I bought two packs (8 pieces) of KIND Fruit & Nut Bars and two packs (8 bottles) of Bundaberg Ginger Beer which I intend to use as my source of food and cure/treatment for any GI issues I might have during the run. I offered/gave one KIND Bar to Tess on our uphill climb to Towne Pass but she only took a bite and returned the remaining bar to me. I was then forcing her to eat some solid food but she would prefer her instant Champorado. I ate the remaining bar and consistently fueled by this fruit & nut bar which is a mix of sweet and salty tastes. I also started to introduce her to drink the Ice Cold Bundaberg Ginger Beer to make her stomach settle due to her frequent throwing out of her food and drinks from her stomach. I wanted her to finish one bottle during the course of our run for a few kilometers but she would not want it. Frankly speaking, this Ginger Beer and my NUUN Electrolyte Drinks had arrested my problem on my GI issues of not being able to fully process my ingested food in my stomach.

Bundaberg Ginger Beer

Our pace/speed was on the average at this segment even if we slowed when we were about 2 miles from the peak of Towne Pass. I told Tess that we will be able to even up or make up for our lost time as we descend from the peak of Towne Pass. It was a matter time as we relentlessly power-hiked the remaining portion before we crest the top most portion of the Pass.

After we refilled and re-fueled on top of the Pass, we tried to increase our pace/speed and we were making good with it. However, the strong crosswind coming from our right side or right portion of the mountain pass was so strong that it slowed us down. Coupled with the heat of the day, we would hike and run but our hike would become longer than the time we would run or jog.

At this point, I could see that Tess could not cope up with the increase pace that I would like her to attain. So, we walked and I allowed her to dictate the pace of our run/jo/hike down from Towne Pass. There was a time that she asked for a Peanut Butter Sandwich and that she had to throw it away after a bite on the side of the road. As for me, I would eat everything that I was offered by our Support Crew. Even if I was running and jogging, I was still fresh because I had only about 20 miles of running from Stovepipe Wells. Plus the fact that I was well hydrated and fueled by the solid foods I was eating/ingesting.

There are two important things that I did to entertain Tess while I was pacing her: First, talk to her and ask her about her past sports and past “love life”, however, I was not sure if it made her more motivated during the run or it made her weaker for asking her. Second, my regular Farting behind her made her laugh and smile at first but when it was becoming repeatedly heard, I was not sure if the smell had jolted her body system once in a while or had to stop breathing just to let the smell pass away from us.

The descending portion from Towne Pass would cover almost 9 miles and we would stop from time to time to refuel and refill our bottles. As we reached the bottom portion of the Pass, it was again another seemingly flat but increasingly uphill climb to Panamint Springs which could be seen from a distance. It was another challenge to us to be boringly looking up to the place of our destination along a straight wide road as if it is an endless road to run. The 7-mile road portion up to Panamint Springs seems to be easy but the strong headwind coming from the desert was battering us head on to our uphill climb pace. We would run/jog and hike to reach our Support Vehicle repeatedly.

Endless Road To Panamint Springs

There was a time that our Support Vehicle would park away from us longer than one kilometer that it took us more effort to reach it because of the hot headwind that would meet us along the way. Our Team would look for a more stable shoulder where they would park in order to avoid from being being stucked in the place and need someone to help them push the vehicle. I would complain that they had parked so far that we had consumed already our water before we reached them. At this point, I was feeling dehydrated but I would drink a lot of water and electrolyte drinks just to arrest and remedy such situation.

This uphill climb to Panamint Springs is very memorable as runners would hear the roar of jet planes or fighter jets of the US Air Force in a nearby Air Base passing and crossing above the route. There was a time that you can feel and hear the roar of a passing fighter jet plane on top of you but when you try to look up in the sky, you could no longer see any figure or form of a jet in the horizon. I would learn later after the race that this place is the training ground of the famous Stealth Jet Bombers which you could hardly see because of its speed and its appearance to blend with the sky.

At Panamint Springs Time Station/Cottage Area

It took us a lot of time to reach the Panamint Springs and the last two miles was too painful for Tess as she lagged behind down the road. I went ahead of her to the Time Station just to make sure that the Race Marshals were there to check us. Finally, Tess arrived at the Time Station at Panamint Springs weak and exhausted. She told me that she will have a shower at the “Cottage” and try to sleep for some time but she was already telling me to DNF at this point. I suggested her not to think of pulling the plug off at this place as she has at least 35-40 minutes buffer time before the cut-off time and we have a lot of time to reach Darwin after her rest at Panamint Springs. She has 9 hours to cover 17 miles to Darwin and after reaching Father Cowley’s Pass Vista Point which is 5 miles from Panamint Springs, it is all downhill and flat roads to Darwin for the remaining 12 miles before the next cut-off time of 5:00 AM of Tuesday morning.

Panamint Springs Restaurant

While Tess was having her shower and sleep/rest in the “Cottage”, we had the time to refuel/gas up our Supply Vehicle; resupply our stock of Ice but instead bought frozen bottled water by the gallon (8 gallons of frozen water) due to the fact that the 6,000 packs of Ice prepared for the event were all sold out as early as 6:00 PM of Tuesday; and we were able to have our first decent dinner/meal during the event Panamint Springs Restaurant; and we also had time to have our first Shower/Bath at the Park across the road from the Restaurant. The shower was Free with Towels. We ordered food for Tess but she did not mind touching it after she woke up from her sleep. The food that we ate at the Restaurant was the most expensive one that we had in California and to think of it that the food we ate were pasta and hamburger meals!

Tess was already reluctantly and forced herself to DNF at this point when she finished her shower and nap. I talked to the Race Marshal at the Time Station and told me that there are still at least 3 runners behind us and about 25 runners had DNFd already before reaching Panamint Springs! Wow! I was surprised later to know that at least 3 former Champions and Course Record Holders had DNFd at Stovepipe Wells and some at Furnace Creek.

We were able to encourage Tess to push up to the peak of Father Cowley’s Pass with Khris as the Pacer with the arrangement that I would pace Tess again once they reached the peak. Tess and Khris left Panamint Springs at 9:30 PM with 3 other runners left behind at the Cottage.

After 3 kilometers, I parked our Support Vehicle in a designated Parking Space at this ascending zigzag part of the route. It took Tess and Khris 1.5 hours to hike the distance. Again, Tess pleaded to DNF but we would find a way to ease her GI issues by giving her White Flower Ointment. The ointment made her continue but after two kilometers, I was told by Khris that Tess would be holding his arms as they walked along the road. I drove the Support Vehicle to the Parking Area of the Father Cowley’s Pass Vista Point (Peak). As I was driving, I would see Tess lying on the road while Khris was giving her massage on her legs. At this point, I have concluded that Tess is done with the race. The distance of 8 kilometers from Panamint Springs to the Father Cowley Pass Vista Point had been very painful and brutal to Tess’ condition and it took her almost 4 hours to reach the peak. There was no way she would recover and then cover another distance of 12 miles (20 kilometers) for 4 hours (5:00 AM Tuesday is the next cut-off time in Darwin) with her condition.

While we were parked at the Vista Point, the Park Ranger/Race Marshal would come to us and inform us that our runner were seen by them to be lying on the road. At the Support Vehicle, we waited for the arrival of Tess and Khris and our Race was over.

We are bound for Lone Pine, California, 35 miles away, and it will be my 2nd night without sleep as a Driver and Pacer of the Support Vehicle and Tess, respectively.

I wonder if I could still drive with one eye open and the other eye closed and reached Lone Pine safely.

To be continued…..

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2018 Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon Experience (Part 4)

8 08 2018

2018 Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon Experience (Part 4)

From Badwater Basin To Furnace Creek (0 to 17.5 Miles)

It was almost 15-20 minutes after the race started when we left the Parking Area. After being shouted at by the Traffic Marshal as we merged to the road, we moved on with a slow speed. I didn’t mind being shout at as it was a result of misinterpretation of the hand signal of the Marshal. Our main focus was to support Tess Leono and I have also the habit to shout at runners who are trying or observed to be violating my race rules and regulations.

Tess was already far from our sight as we moved on the first 200 meters of the route. Actually, we could no longer see her back! The temperature was still 120 degrees Fahrenheit and there was no sign that the heat is beginning to cool down even if the sun is about to set from the west horizon.

It was already “early evening twilight” when we saw the back of Tess on the left side of the road. She was not on the back of the pack as we advised her to be easy and slow on this section of the route but we were surprised to see her at the middle of the pack!

The following were the notes I had written/inputted in my iPhone’s Notes from the time the race started as I drove the Support Vehicle:

• Initially running at 9 kilometers per hour up to Km 5
• She kept on pouring water on her head on the first 5 kilometers and we had to stop every 2 kilometers (1.25 miles)
• She was looking like “stressed and nervous” on the early part of the race until she reached Km 8 (5 miles)
• Advise her to slow down within the first 5-kilometer stretch and advise her of the 12:3 ratio of run and walk (12 minutes of run/jog and 3 minutes of walk). She can lower her speed to 7 kilometers per hour.
• At Km 11, she had her first pee and she slowed down to a speed of 8 kilometers per Hour.
• She started to ask for a change of Shoes at Km 12 but when I asked why she was changing on the early part of the race, she changed her mind and decided not to push through.
• Told her to take some bite foods at Km 12 and she did. At this point, she was relaxed on her pace but she was still sweating profusely.
• At 9:00 P.M it was still 113 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature (as glanced from the Vehicle Controls)!
• Reached Km 15 in 1:58+hours
• She asked for her Chamois cloth at km 16.8.
• Arrived at Km 18 in 2:30 hours
• Arrived at Km 19 in 2:38 hours
• Arrived at Km 20.5 in 2:52 hours
• Asked for Coke for the 1st time at Km 21.6 at 3:03+hours
• Arrived at Km 24.6 in 3:36:30 hours
• Arrived at Furnace Creek Crossing Km 27 in 4:00:00 hours
• Arrived at Furnace Creek Aid Station at Mile 17.5 in 4:18 hours
• Bought 3 packs of Ice at Furnace Creek General Store
• Arrived at Km 40 (Mile 25) in 6:17+hours

2nd Day Sunrise

My Personal Observation On The First 25 Miles

Tess was very fast on the early section from the Start to Furnace Creek Time Station @ Mile 17.5 (Start To Mile 17.5) but she apparently slowed down on the later half of the section due to many stops and refill/exchange of her Simple Hydration Bottle with Ice Cold Water. She was holding/carrying only one bottle at a time during the run. However, I have observed that most of the 16 fluid ounces of ice cold water was being poured on her head. We reached the Time Station at Furnace Creek at 4:18+ minutes without any mandatory cut-off time at this point.

It was in this Time Station (Furnace Creek) that she asked for a seat and a change of her shoes. In an instant after she sat, she was already having muscle cramps on her legs. We wanted to stretch or massage her legs but she shouted at us with “Don’t touch me!” Ok, fine…She was sweating profusely and we gave her a lot of water in her hydration bottle but I have observed that she would pour the ice cold water on her legs! Ok…I thought, maybe she wanted to have her 2XU long tights to be wet with cold water. Later on, she asked for a pair of scissors. What? For what is the scissors? Khris gave her the pair of scissors and she was cutting the lower part of her tights in a vertical manner. I only suspect that the tights was putting a lot of pressure/compression on her ankle and calf muscles. She felt relieved when she made some cuts on her tights. Later, I found out from her that it was her first time to use this new 2XU tights. I thought she was using her old tights for this event. We gave her the food that she asked at this point. In a few seconds after the pouring of ice cold water on her tights/legs, cutting her tights, and eating some foods/drinking some water and Coke, she was back on the road.

It was her request that we should stop whenever we see her on the road. In my estimate it would take us a few minutes from the time we prepare her next supply of water and food before we move from where we stopped up to the time we see her on the road. Sometimes, she would run, at least, one kilometer before we would look for a parking space on the side/shoulder of the road. As a driver, it was very tricky to look for a wide and stable space on the shoulder/side of the road. There are times that the shoulder is very loose with small rocks/sand that you don’t want your tires to go deep on those loose sand and rocks. The RD had advised us not to suddenly brake on these loose shoulders once we park our Support Vehicle as some of the vehicles would be sucked on the side of the road. It is also automatic that we would slowly drive our vehicle out of the shoulder when we leave. There is no rush in parking and leaving the parking area.

Loose Shoulder Along The Road

We could no longer count how many times we parked at the shoulder of the road of which we don’t have to. But it was difficult for us to have a nap or have time to rest and wait for Tess as she approaches our Support Vehicle as soon as we park our Support Vehicle on the shoulder. This park-support-leave cycle was repeated every almost one kilometer to one mile until it was sunrise.

At the break of dawn, we would see a lot of runners and Support Vehicles passing us and they are the runners that started with the Second Wave at 9:00 PM. Tess would continue with her run and walk, and she was back with her good running condition.

It was a matter of time before we reached Stovepipe Wells at Mile 40 as Tess would move progressively forward with the rest of the runners. The heat temperature had lowered in the early morning of Monday but it went as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit as early as 9:00 AM. As the runners relentlessly moved forward, the heat of the sun and the winds had also relentlessly became hotter and stronger. At a distance, we could see already the building structures of Stovepipe Wells. It was time to prepare myself as the Pacer of Tess once she reaches the Stovepipe Wells General Store.

Pacing Tess Leono From Stovepipe Wells To Panamint Springs

At The 2,000 Feet Elevation Marker

• Started to pace her at Stovepipe Wells General Store. We power hiked the uphill up to the Time Station where the RD was waiting which is still 8 miles away from the center of SP Wells. The RD was located at the 2,000 Feet Elevation Sign on the left side of the road. At this point, the RD told us that we missed the 10:00 AM cut off time by 9 minutes but he told us that we just proceed to Panamint Springs and be able to recover the negative time we had. It was time to push Tess to jog and hike the uphill climb to the peak of Towne Pass. At this point, the Elite Group who are with Wave 3 started to pass us and I observed that they consistently jogged on the road which is to my estimate is 5-15% gradient. I tried to jog behind Tess and I felt comfortable. While I slowly jogged behind her.

From Stovepipe Wells To Towne Pass

• Since I don’t want that our crew would also assist me on my needs from the Support Vehicle, I asked them to aid and concentrate on helping Tess on her needs once we approached our parked Support Vehicle. There are times when Tess would simply leave me as I was still refilling my bottles and chewing my solid foods. Most of the time, she would be 50-60 meters ahead of me and I have to jog the uphill climb just to be able to be directly positioned behind her. It would take me almost one minute to jog the distance where Tess is located.

Before Reaching Towne Pass

• Early on, I taught her run while counting on her strides. I told her that we should do the “20/20 strides”—-20 strides on the run & 20 strides while walking. We did this kind of run & walking ratio on our way to. Panamint Springs. I also taught her to power hike as if she was race walking!

• After we crested the peak of Towne Pass, I was confident that the downhill route to Panamint Springs will provide us the confidence of a faster pace and speed. But I was wrong!

To be continued….

Downhill From Towne Pass








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