(Me and my ultra running friend from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Marcio Villar)
(Me and Valmir Nunes. The day before the race)
Valmir Nunes is 43 and a very very good endurance runner. He holds several World Records in the 100km distance (100km = 62 miles). He also holds the world's second longest record in a 24 hour race....running 170 miles.
Valmir's story at Badwater is an AMAZING one to say the least. This was his first time running the Badwater Ultra Marathon and to compete in such extreme heat. He knew he was physically able to run the 135 miles in under 24 hours if he could keep from getting nauseated.
(Me running with Valmir at approximately mile 13 or 14)
This was a shot I took as Valmir passed the runner I was pacing, Monica Otero, who started two hours earlier with the 8am group.
(Valmir's Support Crew: Mario, Valmir, Ely, Charlse, Jason, Peter, Tony Montana)
Valmir is sponsored by Brooks and has been a professional ultra runner for 17 years now. He is also a personal trainer/coach and one of his athletes just took the bronze medal in the women's marathon at the PAN-American Games being held in Rio de Janeiro this summer!
So after a difficult battle and strategically planned race, Valmir made a come back from over an hour deficit and being at one point 6 miles behind the leader, Jorge Pacheco, he ended up winning....
(Me pacing Monica over 30 hours into the race and after covering nearly 90 miles of road)
This was Monica's first time running this ultra marathon too and her only goal was to FINISH within the 60 hour cut off time limit. She struggled to meet her coach's (Mario's) first milestone goal of 60 miles in the first 24 hours of the race.
Monica was able to get a great support team organized who all loved her very much and wanted her to succeed. We had a very emotional team meeting the day before the race where Monica expressed her gratitude towards all of us on her support crew. We all cried with her and knew we were all apart of something amazing.
The Badwater race across the Mojave Desert in Death Valley and over two mountain passes and halfway up Mount Whitney. It's a very spiritual journey for those few people who ever attempt it. Here you can see Monica standing at the starting line of the race and already emotionally overtaken by the power of this place. Many consider this event the road from Hell to Heaven.
We have all been preparing for this day for months. The final day came for us to get everything ready, including detailing the car with racer's names and numbers.
Ice baths, water sprayers, bandanas with ice, and ice cold soaked towels and clothing were the best way to keep her body tempurate down. She was constantly putting ice under hat and called it her own personal "cooler".
I was the first to start pacing Monica after she reached the time check-in at Furnace Creek. In our training two weeks ago Monica took 6 hours to get from Badwater to Furnace Creek. Day of the race she covered the same section of the course in only 4.5 hours :)
After reaching Furnace Creek there's still another 24 miles to the next check-in stop in Stove Pipe Wells...which Monica wouldn't reach until dusk of the first night of the race.
(Mario Villar pacing Monica into the darkness nearing Stovepipe Wells)
Once we reached Stovepipe we spent the next 3 hours in a hotel room there to rest, eat dinner and try and sleep. Monica took a nice cold bath and then a visit to the foot doctor to re-wrap her feet and blisters. Keep in mind that the clock DOES NOT for these rest stops.
(Marcio, Marta, Pat, and myself pose at the top of Townes Pass with Panamint Valley in the background)
Below you can see where I'm pointing is the next valley and mountain pass that Monica would do in day two of the race.
(Just a picture of me out on a training run the night before the race....I just had to put this in because it's so damn cool...well, hot...hehehe. You know what I mean.)
Monica had her own caravan of pacers and support crew encouraging her and making sure she was getting enough calories and fluids the whole time.
Marcio proving to me that he still had it in him after so many hours and miles of crewing and pacing. He only managed to do 2 push ups, hahahaha...)
With only 1/2 mile to go the whole team got out Brazil flags and our team shirts and we followed behind Monica to the finish line yelling "MONICA...MONICA....MONICA." It didn't take long for all the other spectators to join in the chant too....it was a very emotional finish for all of us.
(Badwater Race Director Chris Kostman and Monica Otero)
(Monica's feet after 135 miles across Death Valley to Mount Whitney...I don't think you want to see them with her socks off...lol)
The last Brazilian athlete I wanted to blog about is a great guy named Manoel Mendes, or Manoelzinho, as known by fellow brazilian ultra runners. Manoel is 47 years old and has been to Badwater two times before this, however, both times unsuccessfully finishing the race. This time was going to be different...it had to be !
Manoel told me he came the last two times to try and place in the top 5 or 10...he's a very good ultra runner, but the pressure to do well and the heat did him in both tries in the past. This year he only cared about crossing the finish line.
Manoel is not just an ultra endurance runner but he has also competed in and finished the Ultra IronMan in Hawaii three times as tattoo'd on his back. That's double the distances of the already incredibly difficult Ironman distances.
This is Sarah Lowell pacing Manoel...she's amazing!!! Not only is she sponsored by Montrail but she was the winner (and only finisher) of the ArrowHead 135 mile ultra marathon in the snow back in February. No support crew either...just her and a sled with her food and equipement in temperatures of -50 degrees below zero.
Sarah also ran a 50 mile ultra just a day before coming to Death Valley to pace Manoel across the desert. Sarah hopes to encourage her Montrail sponsorship team to consider Manoel as a possible first international sponsored athlete. This news helped Manoel to dig even deeper to find it in him to finish the race this year.
As Manoel caught Monica (he started two hours later than her with the 10am group too)...he had to take a minute to celebrate and dance some samba. It was wonderful to see his level of enthusiasm so high and to know he was doing well. I took the next few miles to run with him so we could talk and just enjoy this dream come true.
Running with Manoel was one of my highlights of the whole experience :) thanks Manoelzinho! Te vejo em Janeiro 2008 na Brooks BR 135 pra vc poder correr comigo, ta beleza?
Manoel is capable of finishing the distance in well under 40 hours, but he didn't want to risk NOT finishing this time.
Manoel and his crew took a long rest/sleep stop in Stovepipe Wells so Monica actually left the hotel and started the climb to Townes Pass before him....it wasn't long until Manoel made his second pass around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, in the dark under the stars.
Manoel's last climb, up Mount Whitney was so close to making the 48 hour time. Anyone who can finish this course in under 48 hours not only gets a finishers medal, but also a prized Badwater Belt Buckle :)
Manoel finished in 48.5 hours !!! Nice job my friend. Now it's my turn to finish the Brooks Brazil 135 mile mountain Ultra Marathon in 2008 :)
Badwater 2007 - Stop!!! (THE END) www.Badwater.com
Special thanks to Rodrigo Cerqueira....Cara voce merece mil "Thank You's". Keep dreaming and working hard. You help bring so many people together in such a special way.
Also, thank you to Mario Lacerda for all your dedication and hours of "delegation"...lol to get us all at least to the starting line....we took over and helped get them to the finish line!
Rodrigo: We can't wait for the Magazine Articles...oh and maybe a book too :)