SingleTrack Running's Badwater Salton Sea Ultra

Salton Sea - Below sea level
So I guess once you embrace the sulk and the mope over adventures thwarted something magical happens. Adventures appear out of nowhere. Shit just starts to happen. And I get a message like this from my friend Bill, a SingleTrack Racing Team member, regarding the 2015 Badwater Salton Sea three man team race:

"Hey Krista!!  So I've been waiting to extend a formal invitation to you because I didn't know how things were going to shake with our crew situation. But I want to officially ask you to be part of our Badwater crew with Clint and Maggie we would be so excited to have you! In Paulo's words it would be 'crazyfantastic'"

Crazyfantastic? That's quite a compliment. But, I'll admit I'm partial to unauthorized vocabulary that punches grammar and punctuation rules in the face. 

SingleTrack Running Racing Team
Paulo, Ben, and Bill

I felt honored that the guys wanted to recruit me to be part of their crew team. I had never crewed down at Badwater before so I was a total newb. Pretty sure all three of us were newbs at crewing in this sort of a race - mostly road and little trail with our vehicle being the sole support for our team. But the guys had no idea (or maybe they did) at the level of enthusiasm they had just signed on for, especially with Maggie and I both being on the team. 


We've been known to spend the equivalent of an ultra finish time just to "set up" an aid station. Our aid stations are "destination experiences" usually with a nighttime clubbing atmosphere that includes a chill lounge, lots of lights, loud music, disco balls, and plenty of party. We had big plans for this crewing adventure. Not only were we going to make sure our runners got to the finish line, but we were gonna motivate the shit outa them (and everybody else) along the way.

So we packed up the ice chest, umbrella, pop-up canopy (yes... the pop-up), table, chairs, solar lights, glowsticks, wigs, pirate flags, water guns, cowbells, megaphone, and piñata.

All the important shit.
Just a little "reorganization"

Then we crammed a few personal items in the Swagon and drove south to Santa Monica, where after a couple of chill days we met up with the rest of the team, Bill, Ben, and Paulo (the runners - and my buddies from my Speedgoat adventure) plus our final crew member, Clint.

Everyone had congregated at Bill's place for our caravan to Borrego Springs Resort where we were to attend the pre-race orientation. But not before our pre-pre-race orientation beer. It's about the carb loading, right?

And jeezuz!! I had never in my life personally witnessed the magnitude of matching as I did that day. It was only to be rivaled by the amount of lycra, spandex, performance, and reflective gear that exploded at the start line the following morning. I slapped my forehead when I realized that was why Paulo had asked me to bring my SingleTrack Running Racing Team shirt to this race. I'm hardly the matchy-matchy type but I bucked up and borrowed one of the guys shirts for the team photo.

Ben, Paulo, and Bill posing for group shots
After orientation it occurred to us that we needed to get our runners to the start line in the morning. In the Swagon. The Swagon - our mobile aid station warehouse (a crammed Mazda MPV minivan) was in desperate need of some strategic organization. I think it would have been easier to solve world hunger at that point. But as if that wasn't puzzle enough, we also had to deliver Paulo's car to the finish line 50 miles away where it would be close to our end point accomodations. So while the runners drank beers and went hot tubbing, our crew began crewing. Strapping, tying, shoving, wedging every little piece of enthusiasm into whatever space it fit. Then we caravanned again to deliver a vehicle to the finish line.

About four hours and 100 miles of driving later everything was sorted and organized and the Swagon was ready for race start. The runners had already gone to bed by the time we made it back from the finish line at Palomar Mountain around 9pm.

It was a VERY tight fit for race morning.
Ben - The tallest of the team crammed into the Swagon
amongst backpacks, ice chests, a piñata, and a road cone.

But we all made it to the start line in one piece. 
More importantly, we were all able to dislodge ourselves from the overpacked van.
Paulo exiting our rubix cube on wheels
Ben and Bill walk to find race start
Funny how we got there only a half hour early and the start line wasn't even set up. I was wondering if we were even in the right place. But if we weren't, neither was anyone else and there were quite a few people there. We walked down to the edge of the Salton Sea where the humidity carried a foul stench in the air which smelled like what I imagine to be a fisherman's toilet. Looking down we could see the "sand" was created of tiny bits of crushed fish carnage. We assumed that the race would start somewhere in the general vicinity. Did the race director forget that he was hosting a race?


Fish corpse
Then two random people show up, shove a couple flags in the ground and from out of nowhere the race director appears, climbs up on a ladder and shoots a gazillion photos for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and a plethora of other social reasons.

Wow. This shit has serious coverage. The word is officially out.

I think dude spent way more time advertising his race than making the runners feel like they were participating in one.

Our boys with big smiles on the far left
But that didn't stop our runners from smiling. They were prepared and ready to go.

The Swagon - The official Party Van
(Photo courtesy Kelly Maggie Akyuz)
I don't even remember how the race started. Everybody just took off. And then our crewing adventure began. The piñata made it's way to the top of our vehicle, the hawaiian leis were strung, the cowbell was ready, and the megaphone police siren was turned on. Awwwwyeah. The party van was in full crew mode and we were gonna crew us some runners!

As we passed runners on our way to our first crew stop, we cheered every single one on. LOUDLY with megaphone.

Crewing duties
(Photo courtesy Kelly Maggie Akyuz)
"Oh Yeah... the piñata popo are gonna pull you over for going too fast!"
(Cuz we were the official piñata police.)
"Looking good, runners!! You're looking so hot!"
(Cuz it was damn hot out there and they looked it.)
"SingleTrack Running Sexiness!! Yeah Baby! Show us your tittays!"
(Cuz our team didn't mind being sexually harassed)
I'm pretty sure the competitors in this race had never seen the likes of us at a race like this before... EVER. We got lots of smiles and motivated lots of runners besides our own. We wanted to make sure this race was FUN because running 81 miles through the desert is no joke and as it turned out not always a party. But I'm pretty sure FUN was in our job description when our team asked us to crew for them. HOW COULD WE NOT DELIVER? 

I'm also pretty sure there will be a rule outlawing the use of megaphones with police sirens next year.

Our super awesome mobile aid station
From the time the race started our crew had few spare moments to ourselves. We prepped every other stop like a full aid station so the runners could get in and get out as soon as possible. And as soon as our runner's came into eyesight we went into hyperdrive filling handhelds, prepping ice bandanas and buffs, making mental notes of our runner's health status' and next aid needs. We were able to surprise them with ice cream sandwiches, Mountain Dew (sadly it was diet) and special lunch snacks, which made them happy, even though the miles and especially the heat were starting to take their toll.

Captain Clint - ARRRRRRGH!
We also commandeered an old train container for our full stop Pirate themed aid station. We knew the runners would be coming off the hardest climb of the race and we thought we would surprise them with a treat. But, what was taking them so long?

So we started walking, side by side, down the road with Clint in the middle holding our biggest pirate flag. We were looking totally rogue and badass.

Clint had a gut feeling something was wrong. He had just seen the race director drive by with a more than disappointed look on his face.

Our commandeered container
pirate aid station
Suddenly, we saw our runners. They looked like they were in good shape. We screamed through the megaphone and were super excited to see them. We did our usual loud shenanigans, but Paulo had to politely interrupt us.

The race director had apparently given them a warning and was about to slap a pretty hefty penalty on them.


Apparently, rumor was spread that our crew was drunk and out of control at one of our stops. We were clearly a hazard on the course and were breaking a very significant no drinking rule.

I will own the out of control bit. We were having fun. Being loud and obnoxious is just how we roll. But we certainly weren't drunk. There was just way too much responsibility required on course and with our runners to make sure they were properly taken care of.

Arrrrrgh mateys!!
Apparently there was even alleged proof.

We were caught red-handed with liquor in our hands posing for pirate shots and our runners paid for it. Their option at this point was to drop a cone where the runners were, drive us to the finish line, drop our alleged drunken asses off, then return to the marked spot and finish the race either on their own or with a new crew.

Valuable time ticked away as we made it back to our container to brainstorm solutions. Our crew was distracted by our own stupidity and the fact that no one had bothered to find out if, in fact, we were drunk and incapable of driving. 

Then the race director, Chris, shows up. Taking the opportunity to explain our situation gave us renewed hope that our runners would be able to continue. Paulo respectfully discussed our tragic situation, Clint passed a breath test, and I handed over all our alcohol to Chris... even the good gin.

Getting back their mojo
Photo courtesy Kelly Maggie Akyuz)
The game was back on!!

But the guys had lost a lot of time and we, the crew, just had our wind taken out of our sails. We all felt heavy and quite frankly a little confused at how all this went down. 

Despite being deflated, we were determined not to let it affect us or our ability to crew our runners. Bill was on the fence about quitting and had been struggling with dehydration issues for a while. I was a little concerned he was getting ready to give up his position on the team, but after a ten minute recovery at one of our stops, some hot soup, and some extra attention by our crew, he pushed on and found his second wind. 

Paulo got cranky but remained strong and steady with a bad case of finish line fever while Ben was on his way to effortlessly completing his longest ultra ever. I think ice cream sandwiches were Ben's secret weapon.

The moon beamed down brightly on a fairly clear night as we slowly climbed to the top of Palomar Mountain. I could tell our runners were pushing to finish. They spent less time at our aid stops as we sneakily put a little more miles between them to push them to the finish sooner. 

We finally met our runners at the finish line garage after 19:10 hours of stinky sea desert running.

SingleTrack Running Racing Team
crossing the finish line in 4th place overall
SingleTrack Running Racing Team and crew

A garage?

Yes. A garage... where they ran through tape held up by the team in front of them because I guess all the Badwater Salton Sea volunteers had gone to bed.

Oh well. 

We were super proud of our guys! We tried not to be too annoying at the finish line (I know we weren't the race director's favorites - or maybe we were??) so we whooped and hollared in lieu of using the megaphone. Our guys were pretty happy too. They should be. They finished with an overall 4th place. They totally put the badass in Badwater Salton Sea. Our crew? Well we just put the "bad" in Badwater.

And we got all our alcohol back for our much needed celebration at our finish line accommodations.

SingleTrack Running Rebels morning beer celebration.
It's how we roll.
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