2007 "Double" Badwater Race Report
by Danny Westergaard
Team Westergaard: Runner Dan Westergaard, Nancy Shura Dervin (Crew Chief), Larry Dervin, Saundra Whitehead, Don Hougerhyde, Brent Spears and Eric Sugden
You all did an awesome job out there!!! I could not have done it without you all, thanks so much!!
The race went better than I could have hoped for, my first goal was just to finish… second goal was to buckle… third goal was sub 40… forth goal was sub 36 (a day and a half)… fifth and final goal was to average 15-minute miles the entire race, including breaks = sub 34. Well mission accomplished, thanks to all of Nancy 's up front advice and hard work organizing things and thanks to all my crew members' dedication to the heat training and tireless efforts during the race.
You were all there for the race so I won't go into great detail on that section but I would like to highlight some memorable moments for me:
- The well organized pre-race meeting conducted by our fearless Crew Chief Nancy, I'm sure even the non-note takers were enlightened and amazed by the depth of knowledge they walked away with. I also caught part of a second round of meetings in Danish… Nancy continues to amaze me.
- The ice shortage the night before the race… the guys came through with bags of ice to spare.
- Finding Rocky hiding in the bushes of the parking lot of our Furnace Creek motel… a great mascot for a great race (Like a Rock!).
- The ride to the start line with everyone crammed into one van, rocking out to the Best of Death Valley Dan's soundtrack.
- The photos of all of us by the Badwater Basin sign.
- The excitement of the start of the race.
- The lack of water available on the course those first 17 miles ;-).
- The two bottles of pink Gatorade that I specifically asked for even though I don't like to drink fruit punch Gatorade during a race.
- The efficiency of my crew throughout the race, you guys and gals were awesome!
- My potty break at Stove Pipe Wells and seeing Larry, our sixth crew member, not necessarily in that order.
- Talking and messing around with the race leaders as they struggled past me going up Towne’s Pass.
- Spending some quality time with my pacers (Larry, I did try and get them to stop talking so much and focus on running more).
- Plodding along in the wee hours of the morning without the use of any drugs (i.e. ibuprofen or caffeine pills).
- Having a much needed "Inspirational Pep Talk" by Nancy in the early morning hours (at which point Brent finally stopped shooting the breeze with me and focused on "Running Down the Dream").
- The hallucinations of seeing Don's white butt on the horizon, in an endless squatting position.
- The never-ending flow (no I'm not still talking about Don), of those energy packed turkey rolls served mile after mile.
- The envious looks on my pacers faces as I slowly savored each tender tantalizing turkey treat.
- The constant reminder from my Crew Chief on how close we were getting to the finish.
- The 17.4 written across Nancy 's hand signifying how close the finish line was.
- That last .4 mile before Hwy 395 that took me over an hour to complete.
- Nancy wiping my butt for 42 miles during the race (Nancy, I will always remember this unlike someone else).
- The run into Lone Pine chatting with Saundra (my newest Best Friend) and reliving "our moment", we had earlier in the race.
- The bruises on my arm that still remain from my Crew Chief firmly guiding me across the street in Lone Pine to a waiting chair.
- The joy of finally being on the Whitney Portal road, the final obstacle between me, and the finish line.
- Having all my crew (except Larry) pace me up that final climb.
- Getting into my Tunes and feeling stronger as the climb got tougher and the finish line neared.
- Coming around that final corner and seeing my excited crew waiting for me and having my parents present to see me finish.
- Running (okay jogging) across the finish line, hand and hand with my Best Friends, it was Priceless!!!
As we walked back to the van after the race a strange thing happened. A guy that was walking near us asked me if I was going to do the double. His question made me mad… didn't I just do enough? I told him I wasn't even considering it; maybe a summit attempt would be possible though. As he left he said "you will regret it" and I simply replied, "no I won't you big dick head". Okay maybe I was just thinking the big dick head part. That was to be my first sign of a double.
So all we went back to Lone Pine, cleaned up, and had a great meal at The Pizza Factory. Then it was on to a couple of hours of foot care thanks to Nancy, in preparation for the summit a few hours later. It started out with Brent, Eric, Don and myself going up but in the end, I think some of the guys were just caught up in the "I love you man" emotion at the finish and didn't really have the commitment to climb the highest point in the Continental United States. Though at 2:00 in the morning, after not getting to bed until close to midnight, the true Ironman emerged from under the sheets… it was none other than "Dig Deeper Donny" who would guide this weary traveler up to over 14,000 feet and return him safely down to the awards dinner in Lone Pine that evening. We arrived at the Whitney trailhead just before 3:30am, took a few photos, and started off at 3:33am, to conquer the Beast. The trek up was uneventful and the explorers made good time, arriving at the summit at 11:46am… a time of 8:13 to the top.
After taking photos at the top and signing in the registry, at 12:24pm we started the torturous climb down from the heavens (okay a little dramatic but just humor me). I was a little perturbed by now, thinking I would not get any credit for this 11-mile trek down the mountain, since the "traditional" race ended at the summit, 146-miles from Badwater (the lowest to the highest)… my second sign of a double. Don and I had to pick up the pace on the way down or risk not making it to the awards in time to get my buckle. We ran some on the less rocky sections though the quads and blisters were not happy and there was a lot of grunting going on, it wasn't one of my best moments. At about 2:00pm on the switchbacks, we saw Anita Fromm heading up. She had three guys with her and looked pretty good at that point but shortly after that the cloudy skies above opened up and we became soaked, as the temperatures dropped. The trails turned to streams and the rocks were slippery to maneuver over. Don had a few unscheduled short sitting breaks but I was fortunate enough to stay upright. We arrived back to the Portals at 5:13pm. After getting a cup of hot chocolate at the Portal store we headed back to our motel to quickly clean up and get to the awards.
The award dinner started at 6:00pm and we arrived just in time to miss out on the pizza, but in plenty of time for the ceremony that started about 20 minutes later. My parents saved us seats and we enjoyed watching all the athletes get their just dues. Afterwards we went to the only restaurant still open in town and had a bite to eat with my parents and off to bed for some well deserved rest.
I had three unspoken goals when I went to Death Valley that in a "perfect world", I would accomplish. One was to run my 33:45 race or close to it, the second was to summit Whitney and the third was to get off the mountain in time to make the awards. Maybe the forth was to be able to get out of bed Thursday morning and go and enjoy a nice breakfast with the other runners before heading home to the real world. Well it was a perfect world and as I enjoyed breakfast with Don, my parents and the other runners, sharing stories of our adventures, someone yelled out "there goes Scott Weber". Some of us jumped up and went outside to cheer him on and I noticed he had only his wife crewing for him, and didn't have a pacer at the time. I asked him if he preferred no pacer or if he would rather have one. He said he would love the company if I felt up to it… oddly this would put me right back at the finish of the race and the point I left off from my summit… my third sign of a double.
So the fun continued as Don and I rushed back to the motel and grabbed my double pack, bottles and some Clif shots and bloks. Time passed quickly on the way up Portal Road as Scott is a legend in the ultra world and even more so in the Badwater circle. Don checked out of the room and followed us to the top where Scott finished about 2:00pm on Thursday. We decided to have some lunch at the Portal store and head home from there. As I stood outside waiting for our lunch, I looked up at the mountains and realized I had already started the double yesterday when Don and I headed back down from the summit… my final sign of a double. Only then did I have the idea of the Double and all the other signs came into focus and I got really excited about the thought. So I asked Don if he had any plans for the next couple of days and told him what I was thinking. Being the trooper he is, Don said if you think you can do it, I'm up for it. So just like that we decided to do the double! A few other things had to fall into place before we were ready to proceed. At 3:40pm on Thursday, I ran down the Portal Road, from the finish line to Lone Pine. We arrived at 8:00pm and I called Janet to see if she was on board for the Double. She wasn't thrilled, but she didn't say "no", so we moved on to the next step of getting my feet fixed up. I had some new blisters from Whitney and the hike down the Portal road that would need to be taken care of before I could set out to Badwater, the next day. I called the Blister Queen, Denise Jones to see if she could take care of me and like the wonderful person she is, she said come on over. From about 9pm until after 11pm, she lanced my blisters and taped me up. Afterwards Don and I found a room back at the Portal Motel and had some dinner across the street at the restaurant. We finally got to bed after midnight and got a little sleep, though the feet and legs were throbbing.
Before 6am on Friday we were up and at it. We totally emptied the van out and got organized again for the return trip. We went to the market and restocked with ice, water and other supplies. Then one more call to the boss to let her know that Don had roped me into this and we were off like a herd of turtles, at 9:16am on Friday July 27th. I switched to a larger pair of shoes but the feet were not happy, so after about 5-miles we stopped and cut the toe box out of some old shoes and l wore them the rest of the way. Soon after, my left shin and the blister on the pad of the same foot began to be a problem. After several failed attempts at cutting the insoles of my shoes to help the blister area, we stopped at the top of Towne’s Pass and Don cut the blister open, drained it and taped me up again over the ever-expanding blister. Soon after, we saw Mary Boyd from Lisa Smith's crew who were heading out of town. She tore off the tape and re-taped it, however it continued to be problem, along with the shin, until the entire way back back to Badwater.
At about mile-55 (counting down), Don asked me if I could do anything better than the gimpy walk I was doing. So, at that point I started to do a gimpy jog, and then it turned into a gimpy run, then eventually something that resembled a slow run. I ran into Stove Pipe Wells and after a short break to call the Love of My Life (no I don't mean you Brent, though we did have
our special moments in the desert darkness, during the race) we continued on. I ran most of the way to Scotty's turnoff, and then decided to go back to my hiking mode. At this point, someone from the crew of a runner in front of us told us he was having some major blister problems, so we decided to pick things up some to see if we could close the gap some. After about 10- miles of mostly running somewhat fast, I ended up frying my legs and struggled into Furnace Creek at about midnight. Another telephone call to my Sweetie and off to the finish. At this point I was really regretting not taking a nap along the way somewhere because I was really sleepy and Don was doing everything to keep me awake. We really wanted to finish before the sun came up again since even at midnight the temperature was 105 and earlier at 9:30pm it was 113. Thanks to Don, at 6:53am, we finally arrived back at Badwater, where we started 6 days earlier. The crowds at the finish were amazing and the media attention was beyond belief… honestly it was funny, you could hear a pin drop, Don and I were the only ones there. We took a few photos and headed back to Furnace Creek to shower by the pool and get a little sleep on the chase lounges before heading back home. I owe the entire double to Don whom without him doing the solo crew job, I could not have made it back to Badwater. Though of course, the excellent job you all did taking care of me during the race allowed me to have the energy to even start the return trip.
Well, there you have it… all the gory details and more, probably more than you ever wanted to know. I had a fabulous adventure and I hope you all did too. Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedules and helping me fulfill my dream of doing Badwater in a great time, at least for this old fart. And please remember if you ever need anything like
crewing or pacing or even helping you move, then I'm your man. Also if anyone needs any foot tape for anything, I just happen to have about $447 worth, anything from 1/2" to 3", and everything in between. It might even work well for sealing up those boxes if someone is planning a move in the near future.
Thanks again for all the time and effort you gave me, I'm really not worthy, but thanks so much. I need to thank my parents as well for being at the race and cheering me on to the finish. And special thanks to my dear sweet wife Janet, who took up the slack around the house when I was off baking in the sauna or doing that extra training hike at night. And to my beautiful daughters, Meagan, Brenna and Madison for giving up time with their Daddy so I could train for the race. Also thanks to Brenna and Madison for cutting my name out of contact paper for the vans, and the girls for putting them on the vans the night before we left for the race. Also the night before the race they all sent me these great inspirational faxes to the motel to wish me luck… I Love You All and I'm so lucky to be blessed with such a great family and Best Friends (now who was that person that wiped my butt for 42-miles?).
Thanks for helping me to have the "Time of My Life".
Your Best Friend Always, Danny Boy (I get knocked down but I get up again, you're never going to keep me down!)Back to story index page