|The crew - Mike, me, Bonnie, Adrian and Casey; photo: Mike Toby.|
After enjoying pacing for Mike Wardian at Badwater last year I decided to go back again so managed to find a runner needing some crew. Dave Eadie from Australia is a prolific runner of all distances with a 29 minute 10k a few years ago so I knew he'd be a great competitor and able to push himself, plus Aussie banter would make the hours go by faster as I could rub in how weak his country is at sport, especially cricket. It's also very helpful for me as a coach to pace and crew for others to learn and put into practice things I've learned from experience.
I met the whole crew of Aussies and Americans for the first time (excluding emails) a couple of days before the race - Mike Toby, Adrian Panozzo, Casey Cooper (local knowledge as he lives in Vegas) and Bonnie Busch (serial finisher and crew member at BW). Dave's wife, Kim, and young son, Lucas were also along to be part of the whole adventure.
|Three significant climbs over 135 miles.|
There's a brief description of the event and this year's podiums that I wrote for irunfar here, but my main experience from the day was Dave's experience (albeit much easier for me since as I kept jumping into an air-con car). The race is kind of crazy with temperatures that are best summed up in the photos - people don't dress like this unless the heat is a serious issue. We had a 'cold' year where the high was only around 114F according to one of out vehicles. It was windy too, which was helpful while it was from behind, but after Stovepipe Wells (42 miles) we had hours of headwind.
|Dave Eadie charging through the heat|
|Me near the finish with the mountains in the background.|
|Looking back down from half-way up the final climb.|
|Power-strutting the last couple of miles.|
In these types of extreme conditions you expect very low points and his slow climb, including a 30-min nap in the car, wasn't ideal, but we all focused on bringing him back to feeling more normal. It cost a little time, but managing his overall well-being was the priority and in the scheme of 30+ hours it was merely a blip. We just wanted to minimize any future blips.
The rest of the race saw Dave back to running through the night and his resolve was extremely strong. Considering how bad he looked while ill (every runner in this race looks close to death at some point), his turn-around was inspiring. Plenty of running and strong power-walking when needed or when it got steeper led to Dave passing people continuously through to the finish.
Many people were reduced to zombie-like lurching for many of the later miles as parts of their bodies started breaking down. Dave's running form remained surprisingly good throughout and the final climb from Lone Pine to Whitney Portal was a walk, but faster than others could manage. In fact, Dave's split for his final four miles was the second fastest of anyone! He finished 14th in 30:24, so was comfortably under target.
This is an event I still have little desire to do myself, due to cost and the fact it doesn't have much enjoyment during the course for the runner, unlike most 100s. I don't mean it's harder, just less fun to suffer through extreme heat. However, for the crew it's incredibly enjoyable to act as (in Dave's words) a butler, driving a mile or less each time to provide a mobile aid station. Pacing is also more involved than in other ultras due to muling being allowed - carrying things for the runner. As many teams did, we used a sprayer with iced water to run behind and cool Dave down. Weirdly, because he's more reliant on his crew than a runner normally needs to be, it means we all feel more involved in the event.
I'm sure I'll pace again, especially as the timing is ideal for a relaxing trip, in relative terms, after Western States each year. Congratulations to all the runners and their crews - full results and splits here. Of particular note was Mike Morton who was under course record pace almost the whole way, just losing out by a minute in 22:52 as he slowed right at the end. Still mightily impressive from the man who's run three 13:xx 100 mile course records already in 2012 - see Ultrasignup.