Monday, February 8, 2010

The Badwater Experience by Jeff Cooper (Crew Chief Team Swiss Miss)


The Race:
The Badwater Ultramarathon 135 miles … “the toughest race on the planet.” National Geographic
Yes, we were unanimous on that one, for sure!!!

The Course:
Long rolling hills, longer flat stretches even longer steep uphill climbs …Just can’t imagine anything longer!
From Badwater (-282 ft below sea level) to Furnace Creek (appropriate name … 17.4 miles/-165 ft) to Stovepipe Wells (41.9 miles/0 ft) to Panamint Springs (72.3 miles/1970 ft) to Darwin (90.1 miles/5050 ft) to Lone Pine (122.2 miles/3600 ft) to Mt Whitney Trailhead (135 miles/8360 ft) and the FINISH LINE!!!
Whew … it was tiring just thinking about and writing that!!!

The Weather:
Hot, Hotter, Hottest … ranging from 90 to 130 … but hey, very little humidity … so what, it was just stinkin’ hot, is what it was!!!!! It really was like being trapped in an oven … with all your clothes on!!

The Competitors:
86 runners from 13 countries. A truly unique (crazy?insane?) mix of men and women ranging in age from 19 to 67. The list included some of the world’s top endurance athletes (Dean Karnazes, Charlie Engle, Jorge Pacheco, Pam Reed, Jamie Donaldson) along with 38 first-timers like Iris. Also, competing for Canada were Monica Scholz, Robert Lebrun and Geoff Linton (who we’re very glad to say survived a trip to the hospital and while he didn’t get to finish, is doing well.

Yes, there really is true meaning to becoming part of the Badwater family.

The Crew:
A totally inexperienced (for Badwater) group of 6 consisting of Angie, Bernie, Paul, Diane, Henri and I who had the pleasure and honour of crewing for Iris. With 6 pretty different personalities, it was so important to remember that we were there as part of the Swiss Miss team and that all personal issues had to be put aside. While not without a few “differences of opinion”, I think we were a quick study, a group who learnt our roles on the fly and did a fantastic job helping Iris get to the finish line under such extreme conditions. One lesson learned (among the many):

“The crew is everything … without the crew, there is no runner.”

The Runner:
Iris made us all SO proud to be part of her Swiss Miss team. She showed us just how tough and durable she really is, as this extreme endurance event took every ounce of her strength and resolve to get to the finish line. Despite sunburn, dizziness, stomach distress and the need for a few cold, wet towel soaks due to over-heating, Iris continued to persevere all the way to the end.

Race Note: Due to the forest fire that broke out on Mt Whitney Portal, the course was evacuated at that point. This was an unfortunate circumstance, to say the least, especially since Iris was only about a mile from the finish. The good news was that nobody was injured in the fire.

More good news … the runners who had staked their place before leaving the course were allowed to return the next day to the exact spot and finish the race!

From there, Iris’s finishing time was actually 38:44 (lost 13:25 to the fire so that her official time reads 52:09).
It was great that we could get back to the top (the drive was definitely easier than the walk the night before) so that Iris could cross the finish line, get her Badwater Finisher shirt, her medal and belt buckle (the real reason they do this, btw) and then have pictures taken with her crew for what will be an everlasting memory.

The Badwater Experience: Perspective of the Crew Chief / Lovely Husband:

This adventure was truly an exciting and unbelievable event for all of us. To finally become part of the Badwater family (one of Iris’s dreams) was another special and defining moment in all our lives. We all shared the ups and downs (literally) and the highs and lows together and came through with flying colours in the end.

As always, I personally find that such a challenging experience changes your perspective in many ways … on life, of new acquaintances and old friends and helps you to discover what’s really important in life. While I’m pretty sure that we all get something different out of such an extreme event (not something we do every day … thank g-d), one thing that’s certain for all of us … nobody can ever take this away from us!

Thank you all for your interest, your concerns, your love and affection … not to mention your very generous support for the Terry Fox Foundation, Iris’s charity of choice for your donations for which she collected CAD 3,800.

It will all be remembered as part of the 2009 Badwater Experience .

Until next time …

No comments:

Post a Comment