Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Badwater Ultramarathon - FINISHED Business - Part III

Lone Pine to Portal Road – 131 miles – 2:56 hours [3:34 in 2009]
Arrival Time: 5:59 PM

When Bernie and I turned the corner into Lone Pine I started to feel a little bit tired and I was looking forward to using a real washroom at the Dow Villa Hotel and to take a short break before climbing up the steep uphill section to the finish line. My crew chief John told me that it was only about one mile to the Dow Villa Hotel but that mile felt like a lot longer! After using the washroom I didn’t want to waste any time and started off up to the Mount Whitney Portal road. My crew were taking luggage out of the car to make a little bit more room in the van and put it into the hotel room.

Arriving at the Dow Villa Hotel check point not looking all that bad

When I crossed to road and took the left turn to Mount Whitney portal road I caught up with the nice Australian girl Susannah. We started walking uphill together and it was very pleasant to share some experiences with another runner. Susannah told me that she had a bottle of Champagne at the finish line, “the real thing not one of those cheap ones.” Way to go Susannah! You deserved it!

After about 2 miles my crew caught up with me and John joined me on the walk up to Mount Whitney. We talked about all kinds of different things and he did a great job pushing me uphill.
My crew chief John and I walking up Mount Whitney Portal road
Starting to feel a little bit tired

Keep moving!! One foot in front of the other!
Portal Road to Finish Line – 135 miles – 1:22 hours [14:55 hours in 2009 including lost hours due to forest fire]
Arrival Time: 7:21 PM

At Portal Road (131 miles) we took another longer break. I used the washroom (the ever famous outdoor WC) and changed my clothes again. John wasn’t very happy to see me wasting more time and wanted me to pass Susannah but I decided I wanted to look good for the finisher pictures. Sorry John! At that point I was not competitive anymore and was just looking forward to cross the finish line in real Swiss Miss Style!
Nothing can stop me now...

Annette joined me for a couple of miles and then Jeff took over the pacer duties for the last short section. What a difference to walk this section in daylight. The view is simply amazing. John, Annette and Bernie drove ahead and John parked the car. We all thought that we would be at the finish line before 7:00pm but I slowed down a little too much. Annette and Bernie realized that we had to put on the reflective vest and the night light again as it is mandatory after 7:00pm. They ran down with the vests and the lights for Jeff and me and got a ride back up to the finish area with Susannah’s crew, which was very helpful. Thank you so much guys.
One mile to go! Come on Jeff!

A short distance before the finish line Jeff and I met up with John, Annette and Bernie and we all ran together with the Swiss flag through the wonderful finish line of Badwater. Each runner gets to cross the tape, no matter if you are the winner or not. Every runner at Badwater is a winner and it is such a wonderful feeling to cross that tape with my crew beside me.
Team Swiss Miss running to the finish line - holding hands - exactly the way I've dreamed it...
We did it again! 35:21 - 22nd place overall, 5th women
Badwater Ultramarathon race director Chris Kostman and the Swiss Miss (including finisher medal and belt buckle)
Team Swiss Miss rocked! (from left to right: my friend and crew chief John, my dear friend Bernie, the Swiss Miss, my husband Jeff and my little sister Annette)

The Aftermath

After the finish ceremony with lots of pictures and getting the finisher medal and the devoted Badwater belt buckle from the race director Chris Kostman we drove down to the hotel in Lone Pine where we all had a nice shower and got cleaned up. We met up with Rob Gryfe and his crew at the Pizza place across from the hotel and celebrated with some draft beer. One thing I know for sure, if I get into the race this year I will have a bottle of chilled Veuve Clicquot Champagne at the finish line (thanks Susannah you got me thinking about how important it is to celebrate in style).
Everyone was tired but very happy with respective times, how things went in the run and that everyone was well. The next day John cleaned out the van and Jeff and Bernie went to the car wash to make sure the rental company has nothing to complain about the van. Soon after that we drove up to Mount Whitney portal and along the way we say Jack Denness who was on schedule for his amazing finish at 75 years of age. We had lunch at the finish line, talked to fellow runners and enjoyed the relaxing setting of the portal which is so beautiful. Later in the afternoon we met up with all the other runners and crew members at the post Badwater pizza party. When Jack Denness walked into the room after his finish he got a standing ovation from everyone.
Once the award ceremony was over we went to Jake’s bar for some wine, beer and chilling out. It was great to see all the Brazilian guys, Jack and his wife Mags and many of my fellow Badwater runners. We had a few drinks, took some pictures with Jack and Badwater Ben and some more with other runners and crew member. Everybody was having a good time. When we left we bumped into the youngest BW runner, Nickademus Hollon and I was dying to see who’s feet were worse – his or mine. Nickademus won! We all walked back to the hotel. Annette and I were still in celebration mood and we sat down on the bench outside of the Dow Villa Hotel to talk about some of the most memorable moments during the Badwater Ultramarathon. Some time after midnight Mags and Jack Denness came back from Jake’s bar and joined us on the bench. We talked and had fun for another hour. Jack is the most incredible 75 year old man I know. After starting the Badwater Ultramarathon on Monday, July 12 at 6:00 am and running for almost 60 hours, finishing on Wednesday, July 14 just after 5:00pm he was out partying till midnight. How amazing is that? I told him I won’t mind turning 75 if I will be in the same shape as he his. The four of us had some great laughs together. We found out that Jack’s sponsor “Seven Seas” was not a cruising company like we thought and Mags told us another Badwater secret that I can not share with you. Like I said before, what happens in Badwater stays in Badwater. A very memorable moment to end our second Badwater Ultramarathon adventure!
The girls are having fun at Jake's (from left to right: the Swiss Miss, Annette and Bernie)

The Swiss Miss and her Badwater heroes - Jack Denness and Badwater Ben

Jack Denness and the girls (from left to right Annette, the Swiss Miss, Jack, Bernie and Tammy (Rob Gryfe's crew)

Whos feet are worse? Nickademus won! (I was wearing Drymax Maximum Protection socks)

Thank you so much to all my sponsors: Attar Metals, my dear friend Donna Attar, Bob MacGillivray from Drymax, and Xy Weiss from Dirty Girl gaiters. Congratulations to Rob Gryfe, a fellow Toronto Ultrarunner and his crew who helped and encouraged me along the challenging course. Further I want to thank my family and friends in Switzerland for all your support. I know you all where there in spirit and I was thinking of you during those long hours out in Death Valley. And thank you from the bottom of my heart to the most amazing Badwater crew I could have: my crew chief John Rennison, my lovely husband Jeff Cooper, my dear friend Bernie Kennedy and my awesome little sister Annette Brogle who came all the way from Switzerland to help my Badwater dream come true. And last but not least a huge thank you to Chris Kostman for putting up such an amazing event. Badwater is simply amazing. I cannot imagine it not being part of my running life. Nothing compares to the bond you have with your crew and the friendships formed there with all the other runners and crews crossing Death Valley for one goal. It is an honour and privilege to get accepted to run the Badwater Ultramarathon, something very special that I don’t take for granted, and I hope to be part of the Badwater Ultramarathon again this year.
Photo credits: Chris Kostman, AdventureCorps (; Bob MacGillivray, Drymax (; Ben Jones ( ), Gareth MacKay, Luis Escobar ( ), Charlie Nickell (, John Rennison, and Annette Brogle.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Badwater Ultramarathon - FINISHED Business - Part II

Badwater to Furnace Creek – 17.4 miles – 4.04 hours [3.22 hours in 2009]
Arrival Time: 12:04 PM
The first hour into the race I felt great but then suddenly things changed and I started to feel very dizzy and nauseous. All I could think was if this doesn’t get better soon there is no way I will be able to finish the race. Luckily there was a restroom just before the left turn into Furnace Creek. Markus Wiaderek and his crew had stopped there too and I asked them to let my crew know that I did not feel well. After resting in a chair for about 15 minutes and using the facilities I started to feel better and I got back on my feet and arrived at Furnace Creek after 4 hours and 4 minutes.

Beginning of the race - feeling good!

Starting to feel a bit dizzy and nauseous

My crew (from left to right Annette, Jeff and Bernie) working hard to keep me moving.

Leaving Furnace Creek feeling much better

Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells – 41.9 miles – 5.07 hours [5.12 hours in 2009]
Arrival Time: 5.11 PM
After leaving Furnace Creek I started to feel much better and picked up the pace a little bit. The nutrition worked like a charm. I used Perpetuem Orange Vanilla I also drank chocolate and strawberry milk, Starbucks Frappucino and V8 with lots of ice cubes tasted great. As for more solid food I had mashed potatoes, bananas, melons, fruit caps and rice pudding. My crew worked very well together and stopped approximately every mile to cool me down, feed me, change my drinks, and change the ice bandana. The Badwater Ultramarathon is a team effort, and I could not have done it without my amazing crew. After a while I passed Jack Denness , the oldest Badwater runner with who is 75 years of age and one of my running hero’s since watching the movie “Running on the Sun” . He truly is an inspiration!

Getting cooled down on the way to Stovepipe Wells (from left to right Jeff, John and Bernie)

I put my music on and got into a great running grove and just enjoyed being out there and the beauty of the Death Valley. After a while I noticed that my sister Annette, who is not a runner, seemed to be s to havinge some kind of problems. The crew later told me that she had problems with the heat. They gave her electrolytes and an ice bandana and after a while she was felteling better. Just before I got to Stovepipe Wells the first runners of the 10:00 am started to passed me.

The sand dunes on the way to Stovepipe Wells

Stovepipe Wells to Panamint Springs – 72.3 miles – 8:30 hours [8:15 hours in 2009]
Arrival Time: 1:41 AM
At Stovepipe Wells the crew restocked the car with ice, got some ice creams and reorganized the gear. I changed into some new clothes, put on my music and left Stovepipe Wells feeling really strong for the first major climb (17 miles, 5000 foot climb) up to Towns Pass. Even the strong hot wind coming down from Towns Pass which felt like running with a hair dryer blowing in your face, didn’t bother me much. I had no problems with heat this year at all. While walking at a good pace uphill, my fellow runner Rob Gryfe passed me, looking very strong. I thought I was walking quite fast but man , Rob was moving, and I didn’t have any chance to keep up with him. After a while, I caught up to my facebook Facebook friend Anthony Portera . He said he was having a bit of a rough and some stomach issues. I offered him a coconut ice cream and a rice pudding which he thankfully took. After a little chat and encouraging each other I continued my way up Towns Pass. A lot of tourists along the route honked their horns when they saw the Swiss flag. Four young guys from Switzerland turned around and wanted to take pictures with me. They didn’t know anything about the Badwater Ultramarathon and they thought the race was a relay. They were very impressed when my sister Annette gave them more information about the race and didn’t want to stop taking pictures till my crew chief John reminded me to keep moving and not wasting any more time. Good job John! I was having so much fun. Sometimes I actually forgot to look at the time!

Walking up to Townes Pass still smiling and having fun

Walking up Townes Pass with the amazing ultrarunner Michelle Barton and her pacer

"The runner who ate her crew" according to the funniest Badwater report ever:

With the evening setting in, the temperatures got a bit cooler and Jeff joined me. We made some good progress the last stretch to the top of Towns Pass and the 13 mile downhill to Panamint Springs Resort. I love running downhill and Jeff and I passed a few runners along the way and I was looking forward to take a shower at Panamint Springs.

Panamint Springs to Darwin – 90.1 miles – 6:28 hours [6:37 hours in 2009]
Arrival Time: 8:09 AM

After arriving in Panamint Springs I told John, my crew chief. that I wanted to take a shower. He didn’t want to agree and said I would waste too much time, but I insisted and he finally realized there is no way he could change my mind and helped me finding the room that was booked for the Badwater runners to use for showers or having a nap. There were about 10 people sleeping in the room but I was lucky no one was in the shower and I didn’t have to wait. While I took a shower my crew reorganized the van once again. When I got back to the van, John treated my feet for a couple blisters that I got due to my wet shoes and socks. I wasn’t careful enough not to get water into my shoes when I got sprayed with water to cool me off during the day. Huge lesson learned for the next time.

We spent about one hour at Panamint and then I set off with my sister Annette pacing me up the second major climb to Father Crowley’s. This is one of my favourite sections of the race. The night is pitch dark but the stars are so amazingly bright and they seem so close you can almost touch them with your hands. It is one of the few places I’ve seen the Milky Way which makesde Badwater it feel a more like a magical place than it is. Annette and I turned off our lights and enjoyed the beautiful view. When you look back into the Valley, you can see the lights of the other crew cars climbing uphill and you know behind each light there is another runner. It was very special having my sister there to share this incredible experience. We walked all night and talked throughout about family and life and everything else. Bernie later told me that she could hear us talking on the switchbacks. During the night we had another longer break. John needed to look at my feet again. After some special treatment, another change of socks and shoes he pushed me out with some food and Annette and I took off again. Annette really surprised everyone with her ability to walk me through the night as she was the only non-runner in my crew. Way to go little sister!

As the sun rose Annette was off her pacing duty and Bernie joined me. By this time I started to get some minor stomach issues and I decided I wanted to have a sandwich. Unfortunately, the bread had been thrown out and I was disappointed and not very happy. Bernie felt bad and asked a couple crew cars that drove by if the would have some bread. Luckily Nickademus Hollon’s crew had some bread left and were happy to share. A huge thank you to Nick and your crew! After eating a couple sandwiches I felt like a new person and my energy came back. John started to walk with me after Bernie and then the heat got to him. The crew drove a little too far ahead. I said to John I will go ahead and let to crew know to turn around and to get him. This was the beginning of a huge day ahead for me!

In the morning of the second day - my crew still working very hard to keep me cool.
Darwin to Lone Pine – 122.3 miles – 6:54 hours – 7th fastest time of all runners! [10:13 hours in 2009]
Arrival Time: 3:03 PM
Last year I had to walk the entire length of this part of the course and had very bad stomach issues. This year I ran the 7th fastest time of all runners on this section. I felt in incrediblye strong and was moving like it was the beginning of the race. I was so happy to be out there and just run on my own. Music is an amazing thing. I listened to my favourite tunes on my iPod and was in my own groove. The nutrition (Perpetuem, milk, V8 and mashed potatoes) worked like a charm again. At Keeler Bernie joined me again and we ran together all the way to Lone Pine. We passed a number of runners with one being my good friend Keith Straw who was not feeling well. Keith was doing the Grand Slam and was two weeks from doing Western States (Congratulations Keith! You did it! You are amazing!). He is a great runner and after the race he told me one of his secrets – which I can’t share with you! “What happens in Badwater, stays in Badwater”!

Swiss Miss on a mission!
Love V8 juice with lots of ice cubes!

Great picture taken by Luis Escobar on the way to Lone Pine

The Swiss Miss and her pacer Bernie looking very strong at Keeler

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Badwater Ultramarathon 2010 - FINISHED Business

After I got stopped last year with just a little over one mile to go to the finish line, due to the forest fire, I knew I had to come back and run Badwater again so I could finish this incredible race the way I have dreamed of for a very long time.

Team Swiss Miss from left to right: John my crew chief, the Swiss Miss, my lovely husband Jeff, my little sister Annette and my dear friend Bernie.

When I found out that I was one of the lucky runners who had been invited to run the world’s toughest foot race again, nothing could stop my training and preparation. This year I wanted to finish the race in one stretch and I also wanted to run a faster time than last year. Last year, I had some very bad stomach issues on the second day and wanted to make sure this would not happen again. My plan was to try all kind of food during 100 mile races and with my training to find out what would work best besides the Hammer Perpetuem and Carbo Pro that I was planning to use. As it turned out, milk, mashed potatoes, bananas, rice pudding, fruit caps, Starbucks Frappucino, V8 jus, melon, and some Red Bull worked great. I also dropped 10 pounds of weight, incorporated some weight training and decided to get a ‘nice’ tan before the race to make sure I did not get sunburned like last year!

Team Swiss Miss Crew Van

Another change this year was having only four crew members and one van. John Rennison, my fantastic crew chief, Jeff Cooper, my wonderful husband, Bernie, my dear friend and Annette my favourite little sister - you guys were simply amazing and I could not have done the race without you. There aren’t enough words to thank you for keeping me going all the way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget what you guys did for me out there in Death Valley.

My crew chief John made sure the rules are clear..

My little sister, the Swiss Miss and crew chief John at the pre race dinner..

The journey begins…

Jeff and I arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday before the race. We picked up the rental van, which took us almost two hours until we found the perfect one – a white Chrysler Town & Country with low mileage (7,000). After settling into our hotel we drove out to the airport to pick up Annette who came in from Switzerland. I had not seen her since last fall and was very excited when she agreed to be on my crew. It meant a lot to me. The next day we drove to the airport again to pick up John and Bernie who arrived with two huge coolers and a lot of race gear. I was a bit worried that we were not going to be able to fit everything into the van but John convinced me that it wasn’t a problem. Even after we bought some missing gear at a Walmart in Las Vegas, we still could fit everyone and everything in the van. I popped in the Team Swiss Miss CD that I had made up into the CD player and off we were to Pahrump. As it turned out, everybody liked the first song – Hey Baby and we made it the Team Swiss Miss Badwater song. During the whole race we must have played it at least a hundred times or more and from what we heard back from other runners it was a great inspiration for many of my fellow runners. After arriving in Pahrump we settled into our hotel, organized our stuff a little bit and went to the pool. The next day, we bought all the food at the Walmart and somehow we were still able to fit everything into the van. Wow! And off we were to Furnace Creek where we arrived around lunch time. It felt so good to be back, to see the incredible beauty of Death Valley, and being part of the Badwater family again. It was also very nice to meet Ben Jones , a Badwater veteran and legend and some of my friends, Keith, Tony Adrian, and Harvey. I was also looking forward to meet Bob from Drymax who has supported me with socks and the signs for our van (last year and again this year). Thank you so much for everything, Bob. After we got our rooms my crew organized the van, put the signs up, boiled some eggs (sorry guys I never ate one) and off we were to the pool. Then we went for dinner where we met our friends from the other Toronto crew, Rob, Tammy, Jimmy and Paul.

Ben Jones, the Swiss Miss and Reza, the first Badwater runner from Iran

Rob Gryfe and his crew and Team Swiss Miss, from left to right: Jeff, the Swiss Miss, John, Paul (Rob's crew), Tammy (Rob's crew), Bernie, my fellow Badwater runner Rob Gryfe, and Annette.

The next day went by very quickly with racer check in and the race meeting. We went for an early dinner. Afterwards my crew did some last rearranging of the gear and I could rest. John didn’t want me anywhere close to the van and I knew I could fully trust him and didn’t have to worry about anything. He knew exactly what needed to be done and Jeff, Bernie and Annette helped him to organize everything. I was completely relaxed and ready for the race.
BIB # 18 is ready

Race Day, Monday, July 12, 2010

Team Swiss Miss before the start at the Badwater Ultramarathon 2010

I was in the 8:00 am start and we left Furnace Creek around 6:45am to drive to the starting line at Badwater. Along the way we cheered on the runners from the 6:00 am start. We were all very excited and couldn’t wait for our start. When we arrived at Badwater we had the music on full blast and after we stopped the van we all were dancing to Hey Baby. [] It felt great! Too bad we were one of the early teams and not that many people could see our grand entrance. After weighting in, the taking of the 8:00 am runners’ picture at the Badwater sign all runners lined up at the starting line. Now I really couldn’t wait to start. After Casey Dakus finished singing the American national anthem, the countdown began: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and GO! It was such an incredible feeling. My crew cheered me on and off they went into the van to drive about 2 miles ahead and wait for me.
My fellow Badwater runner from Toronto Rob Gryfe and the Swiss Miss

My friend Keith Straw, the Tutu Man

Does my ass look fat?

8:00 am start runners at the Badwater sign

Second wave runners at the starting line just before 8:00 am

Part II

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Badwater Ultramarathon 2010

Team Swiss Miss in Action!
Thanks so much to my crew chief John for the great video.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Burning River 100 - Suck it up Princess!

It was time to pay back to my incredible Badwater crew member Bernie. She supported and helped me during my training for Badwater and did everything to get me through those 135 miles in Death Valley together with the rest of the greatest crew I could have, John, Jeff and Annette.

Bernie you are an amazing person and a great friend. You always believed in me and you are always there for me. It was my pleasure running Burning River 100 with you, the race you decided will be your race this year. We had a lot of fun out there in the trails and went through many up and downs. I always believed that you are much stronger than you think and you showed me what a strong lady you are. It felt incredible passing all those runners close to the end, finishing in 26:31 and winning the female super master title together. I am very proud of you. You are a princess!

Some of the Canadian runners, from left to right: Kinga, John, Steve, Bernie, myself and Kat.

Following the guy with the blue t-shirt. He was already running with 3 other ladies. Lucky guy!

Swiss Miss on a mission

Bernie looking very strong - the princess is coming!

Gregory made us laugh: "The last time I felt this good I was in the hospital!"

The most inspiring runner, Monica Scholz on her way to her 14. 100 mile finish this year. Congratulations! You are truly amazing!

My favourite aid station - the Covered Bridge. They even had mashed potatoes!

Wooh-ah!! Crossing the finish line felt incredible. 26:31 - Bernie you were awesome!

Congratulations to Monica, Kinga, Sharon, Kat, Steve, and Stephan for finishing the Burning River 100!
And last but not least this is from Bernie, the princess herself:
Thank you so much to Iris for helping me accomplish a kick-ass race in Burning River. We had a wonderful day and night and there was 100 years of running power on the trails and road!
Iris your support and belief in me got me through this run and while it was my legs that got me to the finish line your never ending determination of mind helped carry me through :) from the Princess!