July 3, 12:00 AM local time. We’re 21 hours into the run, having covered almost 58 miles, I’m wiped out. I haven’t been able to keep anything down and if it wasn’t for the kids my crew, their motivation and pacing, I wouldn’t even be here at the top of Townes Pass- 4956 feet. Right now, they’re discussing my options, which have dwindled down to two. I either keep something down and move forward, or we come off the course.
In my mind, it’s only one, I cannot stop at this point and won’t let my stupidity (pushing too fast and too hard in the heat and during the climb) end this. After a fitful rest, I’m feeling a little better and decide to press on. It’s now 1:30 in the morning. I should have been able to sleep more, but couldn’t. We decide that, to get my 300 calories, my 500-800 mg of sodium and my water, we’d try using just Perpetuem. A strawberry-vanilla sports drink that sounds disgusting, but is weirdly something I can keep down. We start down Townes Pass. The rest has given me some relief and we cover the next 14 miles in 3 hours, 15 minutes. It’s downhill, so we’re moving pretty quickly, and at the bottom of the Father Crowley climb, the lack of nutrition catches up with me again. It’s now 3:30 in the morning, sun not yet up, and I need something more substantial than liquid nutrition if I’m going to cover the next 74 miles. A memory surfaces from my 24 hour race and I discuss it with my coach- what if we tried solid food? It’s against 25 years of coaching experience to eat solids in this type of race- the body has to work doubly hard to break down and digest the food, and water absorbs into the body more slowly as the food soaks it up. It did, however work for me in my 24 hour race, so he’s willing to try it. It’s either that, or we try to go back to the gels, something that turns my stomach just thinking about it. We decide to take another break and wait for the small restaurant at Panamint to open.
I have eggs, sausage and some breakfast potatoes, and I feel the normalcy return. We get going again at 8:00, and start up Father Crowley. An 8 mile, 2500 feet climb that officially takes us to higher altitude for the rest of the run. We get to the top at 11am (now 80 miles into the run), rest for a few minutes, change clothes and start a section that is rolling hills, but will take me first to my furthest distance (92 miles), then my first 100 miles. But before that, we need a nutrition plan. We can’t keep going back to Panamint, and we don’t have much in the way of regular food. Again the memory speaks to me: McDonald’s Cheeseburgers. Each one is 300 calories, and 700 mg of sodium (think about that next time you get a craving!). We are now only about 30 miles from Lone Pine, the big town at the base of Mt. Whitney and officially the 120 mile mark. We take another break, at the Darwin Road at 3 pm, mark the spot where we stopped (the rules say if you come off the course, you need to come back to exactly where you came off and restart) and head into town. I eat two cheeseburgers and we decide that the crew will make turkey wraps (one tortilla, four pieces of turkey and one piece of swiss cheese) which I’ll eat once an hour. We’ll also break my salt pills into my water just in case the pill dumping it all at once into my system was part of the cause of my nausea. We get back to the spot after about two hours and I’m ready to roll! Once again McDonald’s saves the day!
From there, it’s on to the 100 mile mark and darkness…
We hit the 100 mile mark at about 7:35 pm, just as the sun is going down. A little celebration, a few pictures, and then it’s off again. We’re met soon afterwards by Marcia Rasmussen. She’s the unofficial record keeper of solo events like ours, and after finding out about my run, she and her husband drove 6 hours to see us! Not only that, she agrees to pace me for a bit, which turns into the next 14 miles!
As the darkness descends, we get to one of the easier, yet more monotonous parts of the course. 20 miles of nothingness to Lone Pine. My feet are really starting to hurt, so I stop to lance some blisters, then re-bandage and tape the toes. I also end up cutting two holes in my shoes to keep the toes from rubbing. Because my feet have swollen, they’re pressing on the shoes, making it almost unbearable to walk. Lucky for me, Marcia has a number of stories from past Badwater experience and she keeps me focused, moving forward and out of traffic. This is where, due to lack of sleep and overall exhaustion, many runners experience hallucinations. However, there are no Hamburglars coming out of the desert tonight, and we stumble into Lone Pine at 2:15 AM, a little over 47 hours into the run. Little did I know, but the GPS tracker had stopped working. On a positive note, the other GPS tracker had found us and reported our position.
There was a (very) short discussion on whether or not I should press on and climb to the Whitney Portals, and it was decided that rest was a better option. I had no desire to stumble around at 8000 feet in the darkness, my feet were killing me, there weren’t any records I was trying to break, and we were already way ahead of the 60 hour goal we had set. I had about 15 miles to go to the portals, then another rest until the 5th because we couldn’t go the last 11 miles to the summit without the July 5th permit.
So, 120 miles, dropping into a bed at 2:30am, I get my first and only hallucination. It’s hard to describe, but essentially I was trying to pull the sheets up, but kept missing the edge. My brain said I caught the sheet edge, so the sheet “disappeared” on me three or four times before I actually caught it. 3.5 hours of sleep took me to a total of about 6 hours since we left Badwater. I woke up ready to tackle the first part of the mountain.
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