We could write an entire novel 📖 on the last week…but this short post will have to do. ☺️ We are forever changed by our time crewing/pacing Badwater 135 @badwatwrhq 🏜. The grit, endurance, mental toughness, teamwork, courage, kindness, humility, and all out badassery that we witnessed this week has inspired us beyond measure. The incredible humans we had the opportunity to get to know via the world’s toughest footrace made us better people…and we feel abundantly grateful to have had the honor to play a very small part in helping these elite athletes realize their dreams! You may have heard the quote: “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon," - by Kathrine Switzer (the first woman to run the Boston Marathon). We’d like to add to that “If you want a well-spring of inspiration and a profound reminder that humans are capable of extraordinary things, go out and watch an ultramarathon!”
Our first crewing/pacing journey started out as Team John Radich #77 (@radichruns)! We joined John’s crew (along with Karl Eggers, loyal friend and crew van driver extraordinaire, as well as Jace Hinesly @jaceruns an accomplished ultrarunner in his own right, and all around amazing human / rockstar pacer), a few weeks ago…
Only days later @scottjjenkins received special dispensation from the US/UK govt to travel to CA from London to fulfill an 11 year long goal of completing Badwater 135; Scott reached out and asked us to join HIS crew as soon as he knew he could race. Alas, we had already committed to @johnradich and apologized, hoping Scott would find a few more people willing to help!
John Radich is an absolute legend and has completed Badwater 135 FOURTEEN TIMES! At 67 years young, John was looking for that 15th belt buckle, but unfortunately he had been battling some serious foot pain (a sesamoid injury / overtraining niggles) and chronic back pain as well. Despite his suffering…he taught us how to be a positive and gracious runner. John was constantly asking US if we were ok, if we were staying hydrated, had we eaten etc.
John ( @radichruns ) was thankful and appreciative the whole way and never once complained about the pain we knew he was in; seeing him demonstrate the epitome of “grace under pressure” felt like magic 🪄✨.
Darin @chemist27 had the opportunity to pace John a few times and ran over 14 straight miles with him that first night and watched as the sun rose through Stovepipe Wells … it’s a run he said he’ll never ever forget.
Jules @luckyjadejules ran through the canyons with John for about ~4 miles around mile 60 and though it was clear to all of us that John was struggling and in an immense amount of pain, trying to keep his mind off that, Jules asked him what his favorite section of the Badwater course was. He turned around and threw his arms up in the air gesturing to the expansive views and said “This! This is my favorite part of Badwater … and I’m so glad I get to experience it with you Miss Jules!”. 😉 He turned around and continued running as we marveled at the beauty we felt so fortunate to be able to experience!
After running ~66 miles throughout the windy 🌬 humid sandstorm of that first night, to the sweltering heat of the day (~115°), and consulting with Dr. @russreinbolt 👨🏼⚕️ on the course, John made the best possible (though heartbreakingly difficult) decision with his health and future recovery ❤️🩹 in mind to withdraw from the race.
Team John Radich decided to drive on to Panamint Springs to have some real food (and get John a much deserved beer after 24 hours / ~66 straight miles of running with zero sleep) and to debrief, but on the short drive there, our thoughts immediately turned to Scott @scottjjenkins and his wife, Abby @abbyfleming & best mate since they were 5 yo, Chris aka Fez @ferrier.chris … they’d been going for 24 hours plus jet lag with only two crew members (1 driving and 1 pacing).
We were lucky to come upon their crew vehicle (#80!) at Panamint and offered to join their crew for the last half of the race! They asked us if we were kidding!?!! 🤣 At about 8pm (24 hours after the race started) we hopped in crew car # 80 to join Team Scott Jenkins!
A few miles past Panamint Springs (~74 miles in) just as the sun was setting on the second night of the race…Team John Radich ( @jaceruns @radichruns and Karl Eggers) dropped us off on the side of the course and we hopped in the Welsh Mobile / crew van 🚐 # 80 and officially joined Team Scott Jenkins! Scott ( @scottjjenkins ) had only two crew members ( his wife, @abbyfleming and his best friend @ferrier.chris Fez), as they all needed special permission to travel from London for the race.
Team Scott Jenkins didn’t even learn they’d been given special dispensation to travel to California until the Monday prior to the race. When we arrived on the scene, we quickly learned that Chris/Fez had already ran over 30 miles with Scott at that point (from Monday pm - Tuesday pm) and then had to drive whilst Abby paced Scott, and vice versa.
They were the little crew that could, and we marveled at how in sync they were with Scott and each other. @luckyjadejules hadn’t slept for even 5 mins at that point and @chemist27 maybe had ~30 mins of shut eye (stolen in short 10 min increments)…so as soon as we got in the crew van, exhaustion took over.
We both slept for about 45 mins, and little did we know that was all the sleep we would get until 1am Thursday morning…Jules was somewhat accustomed to sleep deprivation from long poker sessions, but this proved to be the most challenging part of crewing for Darin.
Refreshed after our little nap, Darin set out to pace Scott at Father Crowley (a notoriously grueling uphill climb 🧗🏻♂️ ). We took a second to stare up at the starlit ✨ sky 🌌… no one tells you how absolutely stunning Death Valley / the @badwaterhq 135 course is…
Jules started digging through the trunk (boot! 😉 🇬🇧) / backseat to familiarize herself with all the supplies and food and take inventory of Scott’s provisions/equipment. Every runner is so different in what they fuel with, and what they like, so we were starting all over again to learn how to best support Scott. Before I knew it, Scott and Darin had finished a particularly tough climb and Scott’s feet 👣 were definitely giving him some grief.
*In preparation for the @marathondessables we learned that blisters and foot issues are the number one reason that runners DNF in the Sahara, so we watched hours upon hours of tutorials and training modules on foot care by the world renowned sports podiatrist, Dr. Rebecca Rushton (blister-prevention.com) and stocked up on all sorts of scalpels, needles, bandages, benzoin tincture, engo blister patches etc…Jules has always been fascinated with foot care / blister prevention particularly because of her classical ballet background, so we found this training completely enthralling.
Scott managed to limp over to the passenger seat of the van; he slumped down and we took his shoes and injinji socks off to quickly survey the damage. He had two huge fluid filled blisters on both big toe knuckles, two inch long blisters that had started to form on the inside of his feet right above both arches…one blister in between his big and second toe…painful calluses on the balls of his feet where blisters were starting to form… We went straight to work cleaning his feet of dirt and sand, using needles 💉 to drain the blisters, torturing Scott with the antibacterial Benzoin swabs, then bandaging him up, giving him a quick foot rub and reapplying @squirrelsnutbutter / putting his @injinji socks and shoes back on. The hardest part of crewing for @luckyjadejules was seeing our runners in indescribable pain. Both of us massaged John’s lower back and shoulders as he grimaced 😬 and groaned - it was so hard to witness… then having to pour what is essentially rubbing alcohol directly on Scott’s open wounds and hearing him cry out - his body started shaking uncontrollably … it was pure torture. We continue to be amazed by these endurance athlete’s other worldly pain tolerance!
In the middle of the second night, Darin busted out the jetboil and made us all cup o noodles/ramen. The warm salty / carby snack totally rejuvenated us! As the sun started to rise on Wednesday morning, Scott got his second wind. Scott really started to pick up his pace - we were all trying to get him to try to eat more … he would occasionally nibble on a cookie or some pringles shoved in his face, but really battled through bouts of nausea and a loss of appetite.
As we prepared to get to Lone Pine, Fez @ferrier.chris (who claims “he’s not a runner” and “doesn’t train” 🤣) started his ~40th mile pacing Scott who was doing 9-10 minute miles … to see Scott pushing himself like that, and knowing the state of his feet and stomach (not to mention the fact that he’d been awake for nearly 40 hours)…was the closest thing to witnessing a miracle as we’ve ever come. We know that when times get tough at MDS, we have hours of footage that lives in our memory of Scott just absolutely crushing it out there in the severest of heat and most suboptimal conditions.
The whole crew started to get a little loopy 🤪…the idea of an actual store/restaurant at Lone Pine 🌲 kept us motivated and energized! We started to take McDonald’s orders … hoping that Scott would feel like eating a quarter pounder 🍔 with french fries 🍟 and that we could get more calories in him for the final push!
We hadn’t eaten McDonald’s in over 15 years (ironically the last time was when we lived in England)…Jules @luckyjadejules didn’t even know what was on the menu. Unfortunately, our eagerness for hot “real” food combined with our sleep deprivation led to a few poor choices at this point in the race lol 🥴. With “only” a half marathon to go until the finish line 🏁, we paid dearly for deciding to have our first 10 piece chicken McNuggets in a decade and a half. 😬🤢😵💫 (When relaying this story to our sports med doc, he joked “serves you right for trying to eat so healthy all these years! 🤣”)
Also, of course the last 13 miles after Lone Pine is directly uphill. Fez had run Scott in past the Lone Pine checkpoint, so Darin @chemist27 jumped in to pace him for the next 6-7 miles. Jules could see Darin’s stomach was bothering him and though she didn’t feel much better, she offered to jump in for a few miles to give Darin a break…those were easily the toughest couple of miles Jules has ever done. Marching up Mt. Whitney knowing the sheer exhaustion Scott was feeling and enduring the pain in his feet… 👣
Jules ignored the rumbling in her stomach and just had to grit her teeth and tough it out. Her legs and glutes were burning … and she had 🎶 “Baby Got Back” stuck in a loop in her head. 🤣 The pain she was feeling PALED in comparison to what Scott @scottjjenkins was experiencing! Fez 🦸🏻♂️ @ferrier.chris tagged back in the last ~4 miles and what a last few miles those were … full of relentless switchbacks and vert! 🏔
We drove ahead to the finish line after one last drink / bottle refill and quick 🧊 icy sponge 🧽 bath for Scott…The finish line 🏁 is tricky at Badwater - it’s up and around a corner so you can’t actually tell how much further you have left to go: the longest 200 meters ever! 😜
We could’ve stood at that finish line all day and night - it’s an incredible thing to watch someone accomplish a lifelong goal… to overcome so many barriers and do something they didn’t know was possible. On those last few miles that Jules paced Scott, she told him how inspiring he was to us. How proud we were of him raising money for @opsmileuk - How amazed we were that he had tried to finish Badwater for 11 years and despite having failed to cross that finish line, he showed so much courage and fearlessness and a complete lack of ego in attempting it once again…and how beautiful and pure finally conquering that goal was going to be!
We believe in the motto “iron sharpens iron” and feel so blessed to have met the absolute warriors on Team Scott Jenkins - Scott, Abby, & Chris - you helped make us better people…we’ll never be able to properly thank you for allowing us to share in your epic journey!
Watching Scott cross that finish line 🏁, wrapped in his Welsh 🏴 flag … well we all broke down in tears of joy and relief and happiness…it reminded us that WE CAN DO HARD THINGS…and that there is so much beauty and joy to be discovered in attempting things that scare us!
Egads, 24 hours didn’t go by before we volunteered to help Abby @abbyfleming crew Scott at the Tahoe 200 in September. We’re hooked! 🥰 See y’all then! 😎🥳🤩🥴🤗
*Bonus blister / finish line 🏁 / group pizza dinner / breakfast / even more blister ”surgery” / and one last look at Father Crowley in the daylight pics below…
**A number of these photos (the obviously breathtaking ones) were taken (and shared with us) by the incredibly talented Abby Fleming 📸❤️🔥💪💯!!