Friday, August 22

Crewing for 2014 Badwater135

Badwater135 is recognized as the world’s toughest foot race because of it's distance and extreme heat. The race is held in the middle of summer in one of the most severe heat that Southern California can ever experience. This year’s race though covers the NEW route with a starting line at Lone Pine, California with three dramatic ascents in the Sierra Nevada's Horseshoe Meadows (9900') then to a little over 24km dirt graveled road climb to Cerro Gordo Ghost Town (8153') before its  final ascent to the finish line at Whitney Portals on Mt. Whitney at 14494' or 2548MASL. Aside from the distance, the extreme summer heat reaches beyond 124 degrees Fahrenheit, this year's race  reached a little over 110degrees F.
On my several years of running, this is a race that I never see myself doing or thought of witnessing, until a little over a year ago, I got invited to crew but did not materialize. That made me a little disappointed but I said to myself I will be able to witness this race one day. To crew or to run? I don't know. When? I don't know either. Little did I realize a little over a year after that heartbreak  I will be able to fulfill that little dream of mine. I got invited to crew for a friend who will be doing the race this year.

Our Runner
#76 - Kelly Thong Lim is the very first Lady Singaporean runner to attempt this race, or shall I say the very first Female Asian to do and finish it. I know Kelly personally in my very first 100km race way back in 2011, TNF100 Camsur, Philippines. Since then, we bumped into each other in some of the races either here in the country or in Singapore. We are almost of the same pace in the few races that we run together, sometimes she finish ahead of me, sometimes I cross the finish line ahead of her.
This year's list of participants: 2014 Official Race Roster

A month before Badwater,  Kelly decided to race in the Philippines, Ocho Ocho - a 220km road race and she got me to crew for her as part of her training for Badwater. We simulated what we thought would be like in Badwater, food, hydration, change of shoes, socks, when to eat and drink.  After pushing to finish the first loop of over a hundred kilometer distance, she decided to stop. Though the weather was the exact opposite of how it will be in Badwater (it was just raining almost the entire race), that was a good simulation for me to know Kelly's needs during the race,  I got a good idea of what she wants, her nutrition and hydration, how she treats her blister and most especially how to encourage her to go on with the race when the going seem not to be too good anymore. This race also became her gauge on what she needed   to work on for the remaining days before leaving for the big race. (That was a good simulation run for us in preparation for Badwater135.)

Members of the Team
We are a team of international crew members. Sam from Singapore, me from the Philippines, Stephanie and Christina from the US and Stuart from Canada. We do not know each other at all, only two of us (Sam and me) know our runner (Kelly). The team finally meet and become complete 4 days before the race when they finally pick me at LAX from my flight from the Philippines before the 4 hour travel to Lone Pine. Despite our being strangers to each other, we all have one thing in common aside from being in the 40 age group, we are all ultra runners and few of us finished extreme races like MDS, UTMB, Canadian Death Race and two has crewed on the same race few years ago. The international team has one common goal: to make our runner be the first Female Singaporean and first Female Southeast Asian to finish this race. (Set aside individual differences and work for a common goal, to push our runner to the finish line within cut off time.)

This Year's Badwater135 Race
1. Race Route and Difficult Level

For the very first time,  this year's race started at Lone Pine, California contrary to its original starting line at Badwater Basin in Death Valley,  85 meters below sea level since the race started to become an official foot race. It was totally a different adventure as compared in the past but it was equally difficult too. I cannot compare for I haven't been to the original route but as an ultra runner myself, I can say this route is extremely challenging given the fact that a runner will go through 2 steep ascends early part of the race which s/he should be able to manage well and still experience the extreme heat at some point in the route for two days. I saw good athletes this year who suffered on some parts of the course and others eventually  DNF from the race.
This year's race route:  2014 Badwater135 Race Route

2. Support Vehicle and Crew
Only one support vehicle of 4 support crew including the driver is allowed on the race route at all times. Any additional crew should also be listed and has to submit the waiver together with the rest of the members of the team but can only join the team once one crew will take a rest and be replaced with the reserve crew. The one allowed to drive should have an international or US driver's license and best to have somebody on the car that is familiar with the US or California traffic / highway rules.

3. Safety
For crew that is not wearing flashing colored shirt should wear a reflective vest at all times when getting out of the vehicle even at broad day light. All crew should go out from the right side of the vehicle at all times including the driver. From 7:00pm to 6:00pm a blinker in front and at the back plus a headlamp should be turned on at all time if a crew will go out of the vehicle.

Pre Race Preparation
July 17 - My Arrival in LA, Final Grocery and Travel to Lone Pine
I finally arrived LA after a day of flight delay due to super typhoon Glenda that hit Metro Manila and got my flight cancelled. The team left LA in 2 cars, one is the rented Toyota Sienna 8 passenger van thru Alamo Car Rental with Kelly driving the van and Stephanie accompany Christina in her car. We drop by K-mart for last minute grocery of supplies needed: galloons of water and electrolyte drinks and few more stuffs needed for the race. Majority of the things needed were being brought by Kelly from Singapore like two round coolers, bags of milo and instant coffee, instant noodles and porridge. A bigger cooler was provided by Christina and supposedly the chair. The team arrived Lone Pine 9:00pm, and after the team settled in our rooms at Dow Villa, we decided to take a walk and look for a restaurant where we can eat, our feet lead us to Merry Go Around - a Chinese Restaurant with a Lady Cook from Taiwan. The team had authentic beef noodle soup which they don't serve regularly to their customer.

July 18 - Course Recon

This is the day the team go for an adventure together using the van with Stuart as our driver and Kelly in the front seat to give her a better view of the entire race route. It give us a  perspective of how the route is going to be.  A climb to Horseshoe Meadows is a long one with a spectacular view of the beautiful rock formations early part of the narrow road. On the race proper only runners can pass this part and support vehicle has to meet the runners after 4 miles from the starting point. As we move longer we go higher following the switched back road that leads to the top of Horseshoe Meadows with a spectacular view over looking Lone Pine, we go down on the same road which the group went straight to a little town of Keeler then head up to a gravel road to Ghost Town of Cerro Gordo where we were greeted with warm welcome by the caretake, Robert Desmarais. Who could have thought that at the end of this rough road is The Hotel America and a spectacular view of the old mining community during the year early 1800s. After a tour of the place that seems like will bring you centuries back, the group had a lunch over cinnamon roll that Christina bought at Alabama Café with the Ghost Town Root Beer offered by Robert. After almost an hour the group went down and turn left upon reaching the main highway following the  turn around point at Darwin then drives back to Lone Pine then finally went up to Whitney Portal towards the entrance gate to the trek to Mt. Whitney and the finish line of the race. It was a good call that the group take the entire day to check the race route. That give us an idea of what lies ahead of us on race proper. (It is highly recommended to recon the race route as a team.)

July 19 - Team Meeting and Initial Preparation
As a team, we review the race rules and regulations together over breakfast. We take note of those that we need to clarify during the event briefing. We lay roles for each one, who will drive on which part, who will be the pacer after 45 miles, who will stay at Dow Villa and be our runner crew for the things needed, when to replenish food, ice cubes, refuel gas, etc. This at least give us clear picture of how we are going to do on the race proper. The rest of the afternoon was spent putting all the things needed in order. All the personal gears and things of Kelly I put it  in one duffel bag together (my TNF Red Duffel bag), her 5 pairs of running shoes in one trash bag with notes when and at what distance she is going to wear it, all the food in one trash bag, all the notes and papers pertaining to the race in one big envelope together with the pen, pentel pen, highlighter, masking tape and pair of scissors. We buy few additional items that is also needed for the race except the banana, bread and ice cubes.  Kelly come up with her target time based on her pace at the cut off points with cut off time that  also become our gauge, her support crew. I also talk to her about what kind of food she expects at what specific distance, what to hand over to her as expected like her eye glasses and sunglasses. And I also asked about her maintenance and prescription medicine she may need to drink during the race and any pain reliever that she may want to take as a last option during the race. The last time I crew for her at Ocho Ocho, she gave me instructions what medicines she is going to take at certain hours. This time she said nothing. Which I noted. This is also the day that we gave the eggs to be boiled hard and we order the rice that will be picked up the night before the race. And Dow Villa ice maker already has a signage saying OUT OF ORDER. Christina realized that her folding chair was not in the trunk of her car, the nice Lady at The Grill restaurant nicely lend us her big folding chair. So nice of her. Dow Villa has become busier this day with runners all over the place. I finally met my long FB friend and idol Ray Sanchez with her fiancé Eileen.

July 20 - A Long Day That is All About Badwater

The streets of Lone Pine are wet, it rain the night before until dawn with lightning and thunderstorm, unusual for a summer season. A very busy long day for all of us. Three of our team mates pushed with their trek up to Mt. Whitney while me and Stephanie decided to stay with Kelly.

10:30AM - Runner's Check In
After a sumptuous breakfast at Alabama Hills Café where we met one of the screening committee of Badwater135 and had a long conversation while waiting for our table on this popular cafe, Mr. Ben Jones, the three of us went back to our rooms at Dow Villa, then proceed to Lo- Inyo Elementary School Multi Purpose Hall for Runner's Check In and Registration. Here we have to submit all the papers that our runner and crew members filled up, show our mandatory gears ( biffy bags - 8pcs, reflective vest - 5pcs, blinking lights - 8pcs, headlamps - 5pcs),  claim our runner's race kit, claim the magnetic stickers for the car, runner and team photo and shopping for Badwater merchandise. A lot of merchandise are instore for all the runners and crew present. The place has become festive as individual team come and go. We met the fellow runners of Kelly from Singapore, I saw Andre and Paper. Tried to look for the two Filipino runners but to no avail. But I met Bryan Carlo instead, my fellow Filipino BDM102 2014 batchmate who is based in San Diego.

1:30PM - Runners Group Photo
This was just really a very short one. Organizer asked all the runners to gather at  the other end of the Hall, yes the 97 of them, official photographer and crew with camera all gathered infront of  the runners, I asked Stuart to get one using Kelly's camera, with my petite size, there is no way I can get a better shot which for sure Stuart will,  given his height. After that,  all of us were asked to vacate the place for the medical's team briefing. We decided to have lunch then head back to the hotel. The guys had the car washed and cleaned after which we started sticking the magnetic signages on the sides of the car. (Take note: use painter's tape for the signages.) Even if it is magnetic stickers, along the race when it becomes so dusty, this magnetic stickers peel off. Scotch tape does not work and duck tape is hard to peel off as the race route becomes so hot that the color will tint the car. The best is painter's tape which my first time to see it on this race. Well good thing the car next to ours just finish sticking theirs and we asked if they had spare and they gave us. Kind of them.)

3:00 Pre Race Meeting
For me the race briefing was the highlight activity for the day. Even if two of our crew already crewed in the past years' Badwater race, we all agreed that all of us will attend the race briefing, it is a new route anyway and it is always good to do things together. The Stadium was filled with athletes, others were already standing at the side. We were lucky to come earlier and got a good seat at the second row from the front. As there was no microphone being used we can hear clearly what has been announced in front.  Chris Kostman started the briefing by welcoming all those athletes who still come to this year's race even with the new route. It was very overwhelming to hear him addressing that "the burning desire of the athletes to do the race defines what Badwater135 is and not the course route". It was a festive atmosphere overflowing with positive vibes. He made mention of the developments of their rally for using the original course with high hopes that it will happen despite the slow movement of the petition, and that this route could be a new race in the future aside from the original one. Then it was followed by roll call of all the runner present, all the crew and runners this year, and who has done Badwater135 in the past. Amazing seeing people come to this race not just once, twice or 3 times but 15 times. Salute to them. A briefing by California Highway Patrol Scott Wall was very straight forward on what to do and not to do while crewing, basic rules, follow basic traffic rules, when nature calls make it away from the highway behind the bushes, what to do in order not to get a warning X on runners bib, etc. The presentation of the organizing team and medical team was also made with reiteration on basic things to do in case of emergency due to physical condition. The briefing ended with another group photo of the runners in front of the stage.

5:00 - 7:00PM Social Mixer and Support Crew Training (A concurrent event)
Social Mixer is held inside  Mount Whitney Hostel and Store where Badwater135 runners and crew can come,  meet and mingle over free flowing food and drinks. After eating we listen to the Support Crew Training that is being conducted just outside the store at the picnic table and chairs under the afternoon sun about to set. Important useful stuffs were being discussed by California Highway Patrol (CHP) Scott Wall (1 time crew member and 9 time race official at Badwater135). As he said no matter how many ultras we've crewed, this informal session will give tips and tricks to make sure that we as crew and runners will have a great time on the race. Most importantly common mistakes were discussed, overview of the race rules like safety on the highway and give ideas on how to organize our van.

We followed the suggestion of CHP Scott, leave our runner to rest and sleep early at her room while we will prepare and set the car for tomorrow's race. One thing good about our room arrangement, we got two rooms that are adjacent to each other with common bathroom as our passage inside, and right across is the guys room. So while the guys are finishing with the car's signages, we transfer all the things needed from our room to the room of Stephanie and Christina so that we can leave Kelly resting later on the evening. We bring down every thing to the car, arrange the gallons of water container, the position of the big and small coolers, the food, hydration and personal stuffs of Kelly and ours too. While Stephanie and the two guys keep the remaining things inside the car in order, me and Christina then go back to the grocery store to get the remaining stuffs the we need to buy, the bread and banana. Surprisingly the biggest grocery store in town run out of bananas. As we will be needing more during the race, we decided to get more on the day before the race and we did not realize all the remaining 96 runners will be getting on the same store or will consume whatever is available on this town. And sadly the next stock will only come Tuesday afternoon.  We went around as suggested by the store staff but to no avail and one lady even offered that her daughter might be able to bring some from her trip going back to the town but it was too late few hours later she informed us she was already very close to Lone Pine when informed. We leave that for the following day with 3 remaining bananas Kelly will be fine the first few miles on the race.

Ice cubes, as the early evening unfold so as the ice cubes also getting scars, we went first at Mt Whitney Hostel and Store as this is the nearest store from Dow Villa and there were plenty of bags available when we  had the Social Mixer and Training surprisingly already run out of ice too, we went to the grocery store and was already closed (its Sunday - all stores and few restaurants close early) so then we decided go to Exxon- Mobil (a 24 hour gasoline station that also sell ice cubes) bringing Christina's car as that will be too long of a walk for us 3 ladies having one or two bags of ice cubes. We got 4 big bags. Even with the ICE MAKER OUT OF ORDER at Dow Villa, we still manage to fill out small ice bucket containers with ice cubes from the hotel.

It's getting late, after all has been set inside the car, it's finally time for us to get the boiled egg and rice, look for some bread or muffin or cup cake for breakfast for the crew and one final thing, a long stick where we can put the Singapore special kind of flag that we can use at the Horseshoe Meadows turn around point so that Kelly can easily see us. Stephanie decided to stay and get some rest now while Christina accompany me. With all that we've done after the social mixer refreshments, I feel I need to have one more good meal before going to bed. I know I need it for the following days adventure. The Merry Go Around has always been so nice to us, they prepared noodles and plain rice for me and vegetables for Christina while waiting for our take out order of 4 plain rice and the hard boiled eggs. Surprisingly Stephanie followed us so then the three of us enjoying the noodles.

We leave with bag of take out food plus salt and pepper container and a dozen of almond and fortune cookies. So sweet of them.

Not yet done, two more things and mission accomplished for the night: any muffin or bread for breakfast and the pole. As all the cafés and restaurants were already closed for the day we have one last option The Grill beside our hotel. So glad it was still open, Stephanie leaft us to that mission, she went to bed ahead.

Glad there were still cinnamon bread available, this will be our breakfast (which I am not really used to on a big race such as this - I am a morning rice eater - my thoughts then 'I will just eat small bites of whatever food inside the car while doing my duty to sustain me until the next big real meal') and the pole. 5 cinnamon roll, done. After I paid I asked the lady and she tried her best to look for whatever is available long stick of pole at the restaurants warehouse, she came back with one pane of the window blind. Christina hooked up with the group of the famous Marshal Ulrich (author of "Running Empty", an ultra running icon, world class endurance athlete, a seven Summit mountaineer and adventure racer) with other 2 senior guys who looks really veterans in ultra running.  After I finish my mission, I join Christina and the rest of the guys bringing the bread and one piece of window blind....I know we have to leave and get some rest but really I cannot help but join the guys. And glad I did, it was a once in a lifetime experience talking to these ultra running legends and icons, one of the legend in the running and outdoor community,  whom I know will never ever happen again, we were just laughing while outside at The Grill beside the main street of Lone Pine. It was a good conversation over big guys in the running community and that really made my very long day all worth it. Went to my room bringing the banana, bread and marmite spread for Kelly's breakfast before the race and she is  already in deep sleep. Time to get some rest but really seems like I did not, I was just too excited of what is going to happen few hours from then.

July 21 Finally the Badwater Race Begins
Woke up by 4:00 get myself ready, bring down the remaining things to the car, replenish more ice cubes from the ice maker of the hotel (despite the OUT  OF ORDER sign) then all set by 5:00 and finally walk to the starting line. It's a beautiful day, its cooler just like the day before. No mandatory car check this time but runner has to weigh in. Few camera shots here and there, until all 30 runners for this batch were called for final group photo. It was just surreal to be in this place seeing the 30 brave athletes tow the starting line as they are about to begin their adventure of a life time. At exactly 6:00am all the 30 runners were released. And our race as a crew has begun as well.

Lone Pine - Horseshoe Meadows - Lone Pine, 45miles, 13 hour cut off 
Kelly started the race bringing with her 400ml of bottled water, 4.1 miles will be too long of not having any hydration while no access to support vehicle. Upon reaching the 4.1miles,  support cars of the first wave of runners are already parked on the right side  the road. We find our own spot and waited for Kelly. Our goal as a team is to find the rhythm as to how we are going to give what our runner needs. Though I have specific items that are needed to be handed to her at certain hours,  drinks and solid food will really depend on what she will be needing along the way. I have to make sure all drinks (water and variety of electrolyte drinks and MILO)  are readily available and as much as possible chilled before she will arrive. The few 400ml empty bottles were a big help for me to transfer her drinks into smaller containers and keep it cold at all times in a separate chiller just for her drinks. After several runners pass finally we saw her coming, I only change her empty bottle of water with a new cold full one, and she asked one sachet of chia seeds. On the next stop will be her cap, sunglasses in exchange of her eyeglasses and salt tablet. (Several small bottle containers to keep all hydration cold while in the car and 1 small big mouth bottle that can easily put ice cubes to keep drinks cold will be of big help.)

An original plan of stopping every after 5mile becomes 3 as we thought 5 mile will be too far on this gradual uphill part. Next stop I hand her the cap and sunglasses as instructed and give her  1 salt tablet, and another change of cold water.

Kelly run on a steady constant pace. She may not be fast but she also is not too slow. And she is not the last on her batch. And watch out on the uphill part she is just a steady fast walker and she knows how to conserve her energy.

After few more stops of a little over 3 miles each we already got the rhythm of how to do it, as we will see Kelly approaching, Stephanie will run to her bringing new bottle of either cold water or electrolyte drink, then ask what solid food or gears she wants. Stephanie will then run back to us and shout out what I need to prepare then hand it to Kelly once she'll pass by our car. As we move longer, we already got the strategy of keeping in mind who are the 2 to 3 runners in front of her so that when we are waiting once these runners pass by us, we already know that Kelly is already approaching then Stephanie will now go few meters back and wait for her. We thought, it could have been nice if we brought with us a telescope where we can look where our runner is already. And it could have been easier as well if our runner has wear something bright color that can easily be spotted. Kelly wear an off white or close to grey color compression shirt and shorts that blends well with nature. (And same goes with our car, it could have been easier to hang something unique and distinct to our group so that our runner can easily locate us. With over 10 cars parked on the same part, it really is hard to identify which one is ours.)

As the sun goes up and we stayed longer on the road, the humidity and heat is already felt. At 9:00am onwards we started our cold MILO drink ( chocolate drink) and Kelly already started asking for her rice. "Cold MILO and rice, please." And with Stuart as the driver Sam come up with an idea of keeping Kelly's  pace by getting the miles covered in the speedometer of the car versus the actual time. Computation done manually with Sam's phone as calculator. (It's best to have calculator as part of the paper/pen/tape items.)  After few more stops we were able to get her actual pace. Which turns out she is faster  than her projected time.

At around 10:00am, just 6 miles more before reaching the turn around point, each of us already feel hungry. Surprisingly the 4 boxes of rice that we ordered the night before turn out to be  fried rice. I know  that Kelly doesn't want fried rice so I offered it to the group. We ate one box each. A blessing in disguise especially for me, solid food makes me so happy.

Reached Horseshoe Meadows 11:42am, 5hours 42 minutes covering 22.5 miles. Happy with our runner's performance. We positioned few meters after the marshal's table before the turn around point. Setting up the foldable chair and waving the Singaporean flag so that Kelly can easily see us. She decided to take a short break. Both legs up on the cooler with towel, giving her cold buko joice (coconut juice) and rice while stretching her feet. Few more minutes she left.

Now the downhill part. After the second stop Kelly informed us she will look into a hot spot on her foot on the next stop. Indeed, on our next stop Sam and Stuart did minor repair, I prepared the foot powder then she left.  It has become a constant cold MILO and an alternate of slice of banana or a slice of sandwich or hard boiled egg.  I almost finish mixing one big pack of MILO even before the next big stop. Our Canadian and American crew now become curious what is the MILO drink  for our runner can just drink gallons of this. Sam demonstrated to them how to mix it and let them taste it. Looking at the nutritional content, it doesn't have much that will sustain our runner. So we made a next strategy, let her drink more of the electrolyte drink than the Milo. Before reaching the part where support vehicle is not allowed, we already called Christina what food we need for the night before heading to Keeler before going up to Cerro Gordo. (Call earlier what food to order, some restaurants close mid afternoon and open again after 5:00pm)

We proceed to Lone Pine, at Dow Villa parking lot, prepare two big zip locks of ice cubs, set up the chair and big cooler, I prepare the food (hot noodles), get ready the chiller of her cold gears (cap, face towel, neck bandana). Christina prepare all the food that we ordered, Stephanie add more towels. Made sure the flask is full of hot water. Upon the arrival of Kelly,  it has become an auto pilot for us. Sam and Stuart take charge of her feet, I put ziplock of ice on her knees, give her the food while cooling her face with towel, giving her an eye drop for her eys, then all set. But before she left Sam gave Kelly a good back massage to loosen her stiff back. Lone Pine, 45miles, 5 hours 41 minutes (5:23pm), now 11 hours and 23 minutes on the road. First part done. Stephanie will rest at Dow Villa while Christina will be on board. (Bring as many hotel towels of different sizes, this will be a big help along the race.)

Lone Pine - Keeler  - Cerro Gordo - Keeler (75 miles, 20 hour cut off at Cerro Gordo)
Christina all geared up and now onboard. First duty, pace Kelly. The sun is still up and it is still humid but this part of the course is just really very windy. Our runner had ice cream when she pass by the first stop. Christina got her a cup of ice cream when they pass by a restaurant along the main road.   That should be a good treat after a whole day's work. Kelly did not stop by the car, I only change the bottle water with new full cold one. On the next stop together with the hydration, I have to hand to them the lights, blinkers, put on Kelly's reflective vest, and change to her eyeglasses. It will be dark real soon and it is about 7pm now which already is a required time to put on all the safety gears for the runner and the pacer.  Our routine has changed. Since Christina has a mobile phone she now can text in advance to Stuart what Kelly wants on the next stop. Which has its good and not so good points. Good because we can now prepare what she needs way ahead before they will arrive to where we are but not so good because we cannot control much what we think is best for her to take (eg. more of the electrolyte drink than the milo drink).

4 mile Dolomite Loop is a rough dusty road. Here Kelly requested that her slippers be picked up at the hotel and a toe sock (Injinji Socks) can be possibly bought at Mt Whitney Hostel and Store. Since its getting darker now and weighing  things if her request will really be beneficial in the next major part of the course, thinking this might be what she really be needing in the next few kilometers, after few arguments we decided to leave,  giving enough supply of hydration and food to Christina.  Getting her pair of slippers at our room while going to Mt. Whitney to look for the injinji socks. Glad the size that Kelly wanted is available then we rush back as we were so afraid they might be way far ahead already.

It was pitch dark when we come back and we can only see lights from moving cars on the highway, the support vehicles on the side of the road and from headlamps of the runners. True enough Christina and Kelly are already back at  Highway 136 as we suspected. It was just the right timing, just few more miles they were now almost at Keeler.

We look for them as Stuart trying to call Christina where they exactly are. And finally we figure out. Right at the stop, Stuart prepare his things as he will pace Kelly on the uphill part, being the tallest and the biggest among us, we thought he is the best person to be on the hardest (as we thought) part of the race course, the uphill rough road to Cerro Gordo Ghost Town. He brought with him a day pack that can carry Kelly's additional cold clothing, food and hydration for both of them. While Stuart prepare his things, I prepare those that Kelly will be needing up in the mountain. Her hydration, cold clothing, antelope herbs, food, ice cubes. The climb to Cerro Gordo is not allowed to have support vehicle, so only the pacer can carry whatever our runner needs. Aside from Stuart's Salomon hydration pack, a small grocery bag is very helpful where Stuart put all Kelly's food and drinks for easy access while pacing with him.

Keeler, check. It took Kelly 4hours 45minutes to cover 14 miles. She is behind her best target time but within her worst/slowest time target.  Kelly checked in first  then take few minutes of stop to check again on her worsening feet condition. After all set, and our runner with Stuart take off for the ascend, we went back to the hotel. The first few kilometers on the car was spent checking on Stuart how they were doing while we were on our way back to the hotel. He tried to send updates of their distance and time covered for Sam to keep track on their pace and for us to have an estimate of what time they will be down, but mobile signal got so intermittent that both also did not get the messages fast. We drop by the gasoline station to  replenish 4 bags of ice cubes, refuel then proceed to our rooms, take a shower then take a nap. Meeting time, 2:30 at the parking lot to proceed back to Keeler.

Keeler to Darwin to Lone Pine, 122miles, 42hour cut off
Second day of the race. At around 3:00am we travelled back to the junction of Keeler and the highway to Darwin turn around waiting for our runner's descend. It was cold and dark.  Our runner has been on the field for 21hours now without sleep and without rest. We constantly monitor with Stuart there location until he asked us to prepare hot noodles, and the chair to check on her aching feet that already developed blisters. They arrived still dark and cold and we were on an auto pilot mode again, leading our runner to the chair, I have to give her the noodles while Sam and Stuart has to fix her feet. Kelly's feet were more miserable now. I gave her 1 tablet of the pain killer that she requested me to look for on her backpack while we went back to the hotel. She did not want to use this at first.  I did not ask what kind of tablet it was, I just gave it to her and hand the remaining to Christina, in case she would be needing more while they will be traversing the long road from Keeler to Darwin. Sam gave Kelly another good massage before she left. Christina now as her pacer giving Stuart a chance to rest.

We maintained a usual strategy of preparing her hydration and nutrition, I will be bringing it to her few more meters earlier where our vehicle is parked, then I will get additional items that Kelly will need. As the horizon begun to break from darkness to light, we are now on a deserted place, no sign of community, desert sand around with mountain ranges on both sides of the road. Runners of almost same pace with Kelly come and go as we waited for her to arrive. This place is stunningly beautiful that will be too brutal as well towards the later part of the day.

As we waited for our runner, I take the chance to take pictures using Kelly's camera. As much as I wanted to take on all parts of the race, I am just too occupied with my duty of preparing the things that she needed most while on the race. So on  parts where a long wait such as this, I take the chance to hold her camera. Sam on the other hand always bring out with him his point and shoot camera that I take the time to ask to get a photo of me as well if given the chance.

As we are now on the second day, I have to be creative on what for to give to Kelly. It has become challenging as we go longer on the road. We brought with us few slices of pizza, from last nights dinner of Stephanie but our runner don't like pizza. So I was left on my own finishing the few slices.

One major stop, our runner needs to do number two (poo). This was one thing I did not think of how to do it, though we have biffy bag with us, I did not think of using it. One creative way of doing it? Few pages of old newspaper, secure the edges with bigger stones so that the wind will not blow it, then make our runner do her thing while the guys are not looking. After, secure the waste in a trash bag and ziplock and put it in the trash bag away form the food and water inside the vehicle. It is possible. We had this 3 times. I just had to make sure to dispose the waste every time we go back to the hotel.

As the sun goes higher so is the temperature of this stretch of the route. The pace of our runner has become slower, so we thought of coming up with a strategy on how to make her jog a little faster rather than walking. At some parts Sam will walk with Kelly while Christina replenish electrolyte drink and food, I make sure that Kelly has put on the sun block, sun glasses replacing her eye glasses, wet cap and ice on her neck to make sure that she will keep cool and the salt tablet has to be maintained every after an hour.

The turn around at Darwin was a big relief, 9:58am, now Tuesday. 92 miles covered. Our runner went straight to the portalet after check in at marshal's table change the shoes then proceed.  We were caught off guard with that for we thought she will take a few minute break of rest and eat. Christina needs to rest and to my surprise Stuart strongly recommend that Sam will now take the time to pace. Funny, he went barefoot while his shoes was being worn by Kelly hoping that it will ease the pain on her swelling feet. We now stop and run every after a mile distance, making sure that each distance covered our runner and pacer are well attended to. It was just getting so hot and humid.

The 100mile mark was a great achievement and we waited our runner and pacer at that part with so much joy.

The next 20 miles seems to be taking forever and the sight of the tourist center is really nowhere to be seen. We continue on under the scorching heat of the sun. We saw how our runner really struggled, with her slowing pace, we cannot afford to let her cross the road and rest on the car except when it is really needed, when we need to look at her feet. We have to control her rest stops. It has become not just our 'runner's race but our (crews) race'. What we all we wanted was for her to finish the race within cut off time. With that goal in mind,  we have to make sure that every second should not be wasted. Sounds no mercy to our runner but that was the only way for us to move on a faster pace.

Thanks to modern technology, we got wi-fi connection in the car. After the 100km mark we were able to post an update on our runners page and the reply from all over the globe was enormous. While Sam reading this to us, I cant hold my tears from rolling. How touching hearing all the well wishes from all Kelly's friends near and far. Next stop,  Sam decided to join Kelly pacing while reading all the messages. Not a very easy thing to do, if I am the one reading the messages,  I am sure it will give me tears.

Being the crew that looks after the food, hydration and ice cube supply of our runner I have to be creative in preparing all of these. As we are approaching 2nd day to an end, thinking of what food to offer to her has become extra challenging. Glad we had canned fruits that is suppose to be for the crew, and a bag of grapes, I had to give it to her.  Until one stop, her body is over heating that we had to put her inside the car, let her lie down on the front seat and put ice cubes on zip lock on almost all over her body; her shoulders, nape, lower part of the her body. She is overheating, all over. Thank God after several minutes she recovered and finally back on the track. This time Stuart made his turn of pacing. When it comes to giving the best peep talk and some words encouragements, we always feel Stuart do that best, so we always ask him to pace Kelly when we fell she needed it most.

Still mid afternoon, under the blistering humid heat with wind blowing, another stop for another number 2 (poo),  still the same procedure of the newspaper then trash bag and zip lock. And one last at Keeler. Everything went pretty well.

As I account all the supply that is left, an important item in the supply is becoming scars, to more supply of ice cubes, almost all have melted and gone. We decided to go back to Lone Pine town while Stuart pace with Kelly leaving with him supply that will last for 45 minutes to an hour. It is still hot and sunny that including our last supply of  ice cubes,  we need to leave with him. Our travel was fast and we went back right away. Bringing a Strawberry Milk Shake, that was the very first hydration that we handed to both our runner and pacer. As we go few more miles, Stuart reveled to us that he made a promise to Kelly as a reward if she will finish the can of fruits. It's a food of her choice,  mashed potato and buffalo wings. How is that? Ofcourse another discussion on the van, do we really have to get one or not. Will she really eat it or not. But for me, as promised has been done, it should be given. being a runner myself, I totally understand how it feels when you want something in mind especially food. I may not eat all of it when I have it but really it that helps her put something solid to her stomach, why not get it.  So we called Stephanie to prepare the food as ordered while we will go back and get it. The travel back was fast, then we hand to Kelly the food.

The sun is slowly setting down, one more pooh before the day ends. This time Cristina paced our runner, I prepared all the evening mandatory gears, blinkers, headlamp, not just for our runner but for us crew as well. We are now approaching on our second night and we are still on the long stretch to back to Lone Pine with the tourist center still nowhere to be found.

The Final Push - From Lone Pine to Whitney Portal, 136miles 48 hour cut off
 Finally she arrive at Lone Pine 9:45PM. She may be way behind her best time but she is way ahead on her worst target time.  122miles. It was girls moment this time. Stepahnie, me and Christina prepared all that Kelly needed before she left for the final push to the uphill part of Whitney Portal towards the finish line. Though we had so much time and confident that she can finish the race,  we also would want to move a steady forward pace as our runner has been on the road for almost 40 hours now without sleep and rest. Stephanie paced the first part, it was already a walking mode for them, with a stop of every a little over 1 mile distance. 14 remaining miles to cover. All of us where just tired but we got to finish this race.

After Stephanie pacing for around 4 miles,  Stuart take over the next few miles. It was cold outside the car. I have to constantly prepare whatever they will be needing despite the  slower pace that we are making under the pitch dark night. Until the last 4.7 miles I have to take my part, the pacer on the last stretch towards the finish line. It  was totally dark with only  lights from the car that is coming from behind and approaching and the light from the headlamps that only gives light to this place. Otherwise it was totally pitch black everywhere except that of glittering light of the stars then later that of the crescent moon.  Before my final turn to go down the car and pace Kelly, I asked Stephanie what to do, I was in a way anxious and excited to this duty. I wanted to deliver it well just like the rest of the my other teammates who did it earlier. I know this is the most difficult stretch for Kelly as she has been out over 40 hours already with no rest. Stephanie said, just be ready to chat with her with , answer all questions that she will ask like what distance has been covered, elevation gain, what is our pace, and what time is it now, etc. The Garmin of Stuart is such a big help. I have to make sure I will talk to her all the time, I have to make sure that I will be able to entertain her despite her weak body now.  I have to make sure my runner will be able to carry on despite this being the most defficult part for her as she is now on the  most tired part of the race. As I cannot hold her, I have to make sure both my arms are ready at the back to catch her if ever she will fall. She is leaning towards her left and I had to guide her not to move to much towards the center nor towards the edge of the road pn the left. I had to keep on talking to her, give her hot water with salt that I carry with me on the flask. I carry her headlamp and sometimes she carry it too.

To entertain her, I constantly talk to her. Always think of anything that I can start the conversation and as much as possible keep on talking. "The evening is beautiful, isn't it?" or "look up the stars are just so lovely." Or "the look at the moon it beautiful, the rock formation is pretty, or the mountain slopes with pine trees is nice." She sometimes asked me what is written on the street signs, which I sometimes had difficulty reading it loud to her as I cannot see it clearly. With a nearsighted vision and at the street all in pitch dark, my headtorch cannot see clearly what is written on those few street signs that we encounter. This I wish as we are trudging the longest 4 mile on this race,   if only I can sing well, I should have done it as well just to be able to entertain her. She keeps on asking the elevation gain, the distance covered, and the time. Time was just really like taking forever.

As we reached the 134miles mark, she asked to bring out her Singaporean flag. As I help her open the flag I was wondering what she will do with it, to my surprise she  wrap it around her upper body starting from her shoulders. Goosebumps all over my body and I cant hold my tears from rolling down again. We may have a little over a mile to the finish line but my runner is just full of spirit and enthusiasm despite her battered body and very sure that she can finish this race and I have no doubt about that at all. I know despite her limping battered body she has a strong mind and spirit to pull through this ordeal. We may not be that fast but I know she will really do this.

The last curve and uphill push was relentless, it may be cold but I did not feel that. Few runners pass by us but we did not mind that. We are having our own race to finish that I am very sure we can. Until finally the remaining of our team meet us. This is a very good sign. The long awaited finish lines should be few more meters away.

With all of us lining side by side Kelly at the middle, she asked if she can run a little ahead of us,  which I told her she can. We let her run with the Singapore flag flying high above her shoulders having us five at her back. 46 hours 45 minutes and 12 seconds of no sleep and rest. Tears rolling through my face. Unbelievable feat. No smartphones, GPS watches, powerbank batteries lasted that long in our journey but my dear friend can run non stop covering 136miles. She is a true machine.

My salute to our runner, #76 Kelly Thong Lim. She is simply amazing. Such a very strong willed person. She may not be fast but she has a very strong spirit that pulled her through a tough race such as this. I am always grateful she selected me to be her chief crew and make me part of her legendary journey. Every waking moments spent together the last 2 days on the race with 5 special people will always a memory of a life time. It was tough and hard but really it was all worth the effort. We had a great memory together.

Results of the race: 2014 Badwater135 Result

Post Race
There are few important items that I observed before, during and after the race that in my opinion will make crewing a tough race such as Badwater135 a success. Most of it I observed in our team, some I saw it in other team which I thought will be good to adapt in the future races.

1. Mechanics of a good crew members. In a tough long race such as  Badwater135, it is ideal to get crew members that know each other but in instances that such is not possible, it is best to get those that run ultra races and ideally had crew on the same race in the past. It is ideal that few had run tough races and have a background how to treat blisters. A good motivator and one that  knows how to persuade especially if the morale of the runner is quite low.  Knows how to adjust when situation do not go as planned. Open minded and knows how to blend with the group, will not take against each other when a heated conversation come up and knows how to make peace after an argument. Crew should also be ready to whatever role maybe assigned to her/im. From being a pacer to a stanby runner to a driver, etc.

2.  Blinkers, headlamps, safety vests. Each member of the team should have its own set of these safety devices even if less is being required from the race organizer. Why? In the time that all the members of the crew wanted to go out of the car especially at night and in situation that all hands are needed in order to attend to the runner fast, all can move and go out in the highway without having to worry and think of the mandatory gear being used.

3. On Ice Cubes and keeping it clean. It is best to get 5 packs midday before the race. Keep it in one big cooler that is dedicated for clean ice that will be used for hydration on the duration of the race. Refill the small coolers as many ice as you can if ice cubes is available at the hotel.   Do not use your bare hands in putting the ice cubes in any of the drinks especially that will be served to the runner. Have one sturdy cup or small container dedicated on the big cooler that one can use in scooping the ice cubes from the big cooler.

4. Drinks and how to make it clean and cold at all times. Have a dedicated cooler for the hydration of the runner and have few small bottles that one can transfer the drinks from the big containers and keep it cold at all times. When there is a drink that needs to be mixed and keep cold, have one small container with a big mouth or a blender bottle where one can mix the drink and put ice cubes to keep it really cold before giving it to the runner. Refill all small bottles with different kind of drinks (plain water, different electrolyte drinks, soda and juices) so that it will be easy for the crew to give it to the runner to what the runner's request at that very moment. Always secure a hot water for the runner.

5. Food. Have a variety of food from bread to fruits, noodles, canned fruits and canned meat. A frozen grapes would be very good for an extreme hot and humid race. Canned fruits will also be a good alternative food when you run out of ideas what to hand to the runner. For noodles, always have a spare small camp stove where one can boil water. If not noodles will not be too good not unless you have one big thermos container.

6. Different sizes of ziplocks. This plastic will do so much wonders during a tough race. Secure everything in the ziplock to keep things in order. All opened foods and fruits should be transferred to the ziplock to keep it clean and not contaminated. Ice cubes that needs to be carried by the support crew should be in the ziplock. When doing a cold compress to the runners aching muscles and joints, to her overheating body, a ziplock full of ice cubes will serve best. Blister kits and other first aid small items can also be placed on this plastic container. When the does number 2 (poo) should be secured in the ziplock as well.

7. Newspaper. Together with ziplock and trash bag. Newspaper will serve as the first layer cover to the ground when the runner will do number 2 (poo). Put it in the big trash bag after then to the big ziplock.

8. Towels of different sizes. This will be very helpful when keeping the body of the runner cooler during the race and keeping her clean on rest stops. We got ours in the hotel and just return it after.

9. Hydration pack of the support crew. In sections where support car is not allowed, it is best to carry all that is needed by the pacer and the runner. A bigger hydration pack is most convenient.

10. Plastic Drawers. This is a very ideal organizer but I think can only be possible when one is racing within your country or place. All the things can really be very organized during the race.

11. Walky-talky. Very ideal to be brought by the pacer and just radio what the runner needs when they are approaching. This saves the time and energy of another crew to run few meters as the runner is approaching.

12. A container with handle at the middle and two spaces at  the side. I really do not know if I can describe it well here but I saw it very handy for the support crew to just carry when the runner is coming. Put all the beverages at the both side of the container, and put food as well, that way the runner can just choose which one she/he needs at that particular stop.

13. A telescope. I think it will be very useful to keep track where your runner is already at the course. And if already approaching then crew can already prepare.

14. Have something different or unique marker in the car that runner can easily identify. Others decorate their support vehicle. It will be ideal to put a flag or any light colored cloth that the runner can see.

“Eat for nutrition, not for taste. Do what you need to do, not what you want to do and don’t leave out your daily exercise. Love yourself.” ~Ida Keeling, 99 years old and runs 100 meters in 59.8 seconds. ‪#‎runlove

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