Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Badwater Crewing 2011

When I entered Death Valley for the first time in July of 2006 I knew nothing about it other than it was the hottest place on earth.  When I told people I was going on my annual motorcycle trip with friends and we would be riding through Death Valley at that time of year they all asked the same question.  "Why would you want to go there when it is so hot?"  Simple:  If you can experience a place at its most extreme, its best, then why not;  Pamplona - Running of the Bulls, Times Square - New Years, New Orleans - Mardi Gras, The Plain States - Tornado Season, Mt. Everest and yes Death Valley in July (not all for me but I get it).  While I always remembered its beauty, what I recall the most was the heat and the mountains.  I knew it would be hot but I had no idea how hot and I always pictured the desert as a wide open, flat and baron place.  The incredible terrain, color and wildlife provided a lasting impression in my mind.

Sunrise 2010 by Louis Escobar
 Fast forward and I have now experienced Death Valley in July on completely different levels, three times.  Not less memorable, just different.  First on a motorcycle which gave me an incredible sense of freedom as usual with the added flare of Death Valley.  Then I crewed for Tony these past two years and this gave me a different sense of freedom.  Not the "wild and crazy I am in the outdoors running naked" type (ah yes I love visuals), but the "I really want to experience more in my life and know I can" type.

I believe I am capable of translating into words what the crewing experience has once again given me, but I think by now you must see where I am headed so I will refrain from too much of the hokey pokey crap and put it like this.

Heading to Darwin Day 2, 2011
 Take the desert, the hottest desert in the world and invite 90 athletes with varying degrees of athletic talent to run through it, over it, in it.  Then ask them to do that during the hottest time of the year and tell the runners to invite up to 6 of their friends and family to participate as support crew and pacers.  135 miles on foot, climbing 3 mountains in 120+ degree heat within 48 hours with your friends and family.  I'm sorry but Holy Shit, give me more!!!  I spent 5 days in 2010 and in 2011 as a crew member for my friend Tony Portera as he set out on his quest to complete the toughest continuous footrace on the planet, the Badwater Ultramarathon.  While we were successful both years in terms of the race, I am certain that I, along with so many others have taken much more from this than simply a finish.

As a runner you put yourself through certain torture; pain, discomfort and internal struggles.  As a crew member we sacrifice vacations in order to perform menial tasks and often quite nasty ones at that.  We are pacers, nutritionists, drivers, hydrators, mathematicians, blister poppers, psychologists and most importantly motivators and friends to our runners when they need us most.  In the end, we sleep little, stink big and feel a great sense of accomplishment as the friend we have come to help succeeds. I want to convey the following to all those who think we are crazy and even those who don't but are not sure what it's about.  I can assure you this journey is a life changer.  It is filled with friendships old and new, adventure, inspiration, emotion, commitment and so much more.  I have completed 4 one-hundred milers and while I can attest to the new vision these experiences have given me, plain and simple this event is bad ass and just kills it on so many levels.
BW 2011 Finish (Jason, Me, Julia, Tony, Ginette, Alli, Chuck)

Here are some stats from my crewing experience this year, most of which are approximate and include runner and crew.
  • 30 gallons of water
  • 100 lbs of ice
  • 75 S-caps
  • 100 Hammer Gels
  • 12 servings Perpetuem
  • 20 servings Heed
  • 3 servings Ultragen
  • 3 lbs of turkey
  • 2 lbs of cheese
  • 2 loaves of bread
  • 6 pbj sandwiches
  • 2 liters Mountain Dew
  • 2 gallons Gatorade
  • 1 liter Gingerale
  • 1 quart OJ
  • 10 Red Bulls
  • 2 Cantaloupes
  • 1 large smoothie
  • 6 ice pops
  • 4 popped blisters
  • 1 tube Sportslick
  • 3 cans sunscreen
  • 15 Tylenol
  • 1 Rattle Snake scare
  • 135 miles by Tony in 39hrs 59min
  • 3 crew members pace about 40 miles each
  • 550 times getting both in and out of the crew vehicle
  • 45 hours no sleep
  • McDonald's and Beer post run
  • 3rd Badwater Buckle for Tony:)
Thanks to:

Tony for trusting me with his life!  And for kicking ass up Whitney so we could buy beer before the store closed.

Jason and Chuck, you guys rocked it and were amazing to crew with.

Ginette, Julia and Alli for putting up with our stink, keeping us well supplied and giving Tony motivation when he needed it most.

All the other Badwater runners, crew, volunteers and staff for making this experience what it is.

And once again, my ever supportive and trusting wife Tani for encouraging me to continue on this amazing journey.



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