The Badwater 135ml is a race like no other it tests you in so many ways..the distance 135ml (217km) then add in the heat something only one can experience to truly appreciate the intensity.
It tries to suck every bit of moisture from you and blasts hot horrible winds in your face along with the intense sun beating
on your skin with very little if any shad to try to hide in.
The race starts at death Valley below sea level
passing through furnace creek, stovepipe wells climbing and winding through three Mountain passes with some crazy downhill chucked in before the final cruel climb up Mount Witney Portal road to cross the finish line and for all your trouble, pain and suffering you get presented with a finishes t-shirt and belt buckle. But WOW does that stand for so much more.
Why why why is what you get asked….. I guess there is no sane answer so can only say because I can. This event was way past my comfort zone and I knew it was going to be some huge challenge that was also going to take some coordination to pull it all together. It is not an event you get to complete on your own in fact without a dedicated crew that also get to be sleep deprived and need to with stand the harsh conditioners of the desert heat……your crew is the most important element of this race…..oh yes it was not me running this race but “team Sandy”.
Fortunately for me I had Linda who I crewed for back in 2013 through her Badwater journey and from then I knew one day I wanted to conquer that beast of a race. Linda helped me prepare all the logistic of the race and that in itself is a challenge but it all came together as did the crew of Linda, Col, Dina and Louise.
I was fortunate to have both my husband Col and my daughter Louise there beside me to help make this journey very special. I was also very grateful that Dina a nutritionist and wonderful friend was going to be with me on this journey along with Linda both very special ladies I felt I was going to be in very good hands…. In fact I knew Team Sandy would be there every step of the way through the highs and low, the uphills and downs and the star lit nights they would share the pain and the final glorious moments of crossing the finish line with me.
It was great to meet all the competitors at the briefing and meet the other Aussies doing the event very exciting that there were six of us representing Australia and some with great resumes me I felt like the novice in all this but I was here a dream from 2013 all I needed to do was keep moving forward and get to that finish line in the cut off times.
As I lined up at the start line at 11pm at night in the last wave of runners to leave I felt very honoured as I looked around and realised how special this was to be with this group of accomplished athletes.
Must say felt like I was the odd one out as I had no experience on races like this and felt extremely nervous but just stood there taking it all in I had the biggest smile on my face as it all seemed so surreal to me….
all I could think of was WOW you are here and you are going to do… this team Sandy are ready and you cannot let them down, you cannot let yourself down.
Team Sandy were already at work getting everything organised in the back of the car, Dina was taking notes on my fluid intake/nutrition
and Linda had suggested icing me down in the car before I started the race.
Yes even at 11pm it is hot hot hot and the wind was blowing at gale force just making it all the more uncomfortable.
I just wanted to start ….so the count down …..and we were off I don’t even know what was going on in my head but I knew for me this already felt like it was a long long journey getting to the start and I wanted to just find my own rhythm and do my own thing to get through the nights and days ahead.
I can usually find my own rhythm and head space but I was struggling to do that I questioned myself now as to why that happened and I don’t have the answer. I did eventually find my zone spot in my head but it was long into the night before that happened and by then I had felt a bit messed up in the head as to how was I going to ever make it to the end if this is how I am feeling already.
The crew didn’t miss a beat and kept up the ice in the neck ties, changing my water over, feeding me and at times think I was being difficult over what I wanted to eat as just didn’t feel like anything.
But I just kept moving forward once I reached stovepipe wells at the 42ml mark I was able to have one of the crew join me pacing from behind never allowed in front but it was nice company even if a word was not uttered.
Some of the most memorable moments were running along talking to other competitors and there crews which would come out and spray us down and make sure we were good the camaraderie in a race like this is wonderful. I kept focussing on the smiles of my crew,
there encouragement and of course without a doubt they kept me entertained with their dancing (thanks Dina and Louise),
even in my delirious state I laughed at their dance moves not sure so much about their singing but they get A for effort,
the fun jokes no guessing who took the award for that one …Col….
and somehow my Crew Chief Linda kept all ticking over
and I am sure there were some tough talks about getting me to eat and drink but think with me it was more about being told what I needed to do even if I didn’t think that was the case
I do remember each and every one of them being polite but with some seriousness of you have to drink or eat this Sandy…or just telling me to stop, sit and get your feet looked at or Cols speciality the miso soup…. Oh that worked a treat….…
unfortunately for me like no other time in an Ultra have I suffered so severally with blisters. Sure I have had many blisters but this was different I felt like the bottoms of my feet and my toes skin was separating from any form it knew…
I had to stop at Paramount Springs and get the Doctors to look at my feet and fix them the best they could I remember being really upset as this took 1 ½ hrs to have them treat my feet as they were a mess and I knew if I didn’t take the time then I might not make it to the finish line. I sat there clenching my jaw and tears running down my eyes as they treated me….the pain was so cruel and as I gritted my teeth trying not to scream my thoughts only went to that finish line and how good it would feel …the vision firmly planted in my head…. Don’t waver Sandy you will do this I kept telling myself.
Well the journey continued through the twisting and turning of the snaking route, extreme desert heat,
a sand storm,
and over the three mountain ranges I did what I told myself to do just keep moving forward.
It was not pretty at times and with the blistering heat and lack of sleep I became deliria’s but the calming words and constant attention my crew continued to give me through those hours was immeasurable.
I feel so emotional still but also so lucky for the experience. The beautiful full moon
and desert sky the trail of headlamps and car lights at night blinking in the distance beneath the starlit sky
and the beauty of the unforgiving desert landscape filled me with energy to keep going.
As much as pain can take over at times I tried to stay focussed on all the positives and with each sun rise I told myself it was a knew day embrace it & take on this challenge and remember the suffering goes away the memories and the bonds with friends do not and for that I am very thankful.
Finally coming through Lone Pine and the final 17km climb up the Mt Witney Portal road to the finish line was the ultimate test and challenge for me.
The body was depleted I felt I could go no further but somehow I had to dig deeper the body and mind were giving in a nightmare I just wanted to wake up from. I felt like I was walking on razor blades but if you want something bad enough you can find a place to go in your mind and keep moving.
Sleep deprived and physically exhausted I continued winding up up up the portal road with the sun now beating so intensely on me, my hands so swollen they ached.
I was having a complete out of body experience and kept muttering for hours to myself (so Col told me later) …I was saying over and over again… keep moving, lift the arms, you want this, left right left right, then stopping crying and telling Col I can’t go any further … “ you can do this” Col would reply “ just keep moving”….
And that I did 135miles…..217km…. over 38hrs……
I crossed the finish line with 4 of the most wonderful supportive people…team Sandy… Col, Linda, Louise and Dina…
you feed me, sprayed me down, iced me, gave me pep talks and simple were just there…. you drove me to finish those last gruelling cruel climbing miles and that I will cherish for a life time…my dream fulfilled to complete Badwater 135…
And for all the wonderful support in getting me to the race …..Cavpower, Generation Ucan, Brent from flight Centre, My Uniform, Andy from Mile 27, eNRG performance and runwell and family and friends from home and afar I am eternally thankful.
Alistair and Dean you truly believed in me and made it all come together from behind the scenes..Wow I could not have been luckier thank you simply is not enough
Such a truly unforgettable event…. Epic in every way…. and as Linda told me back in 2013 dream big and that I did….