BADWATER 135 – 2015

On July 28, 2015 Team Shmick took on Badwater 135, a 217km race run in Death Valley California. Mick ran for Team Shmick and finished the race in third position in a time of 26 hour and 23 minutes.

 mick  Shaun  Shane  richard  rob2
 Mick Thwaites  Shaun Mulholland  Shane James  Richard Morbey  Rob Donkersloot
 Runner  Crew  Crew  Crew  Crew

Race Report by Mick

Out of the frying pan and into the fire……………… Well, a week has now but just passed since one of the most surreal events I have ever been involved with. I will try and keep this recollection short as there may be a more indepth insight into the preparation and journey that has been undertaken. What I can say, is that I have been so fortunate to witness and be part of a unique and amazing experience. Since coming back from Italy in April, my sole focus had been on this race (as well as trying to run a business and keep my family from leaving me).

I had trained the house down and was in the best shape and fitness of my life. I had put in a fair bit of self taught heat training and had studied the physical factors that I may encounter in the race. I had also gone to a great deal of trouble along with my awesome crew chief Rob Donkersloot to come up with a pacing plan and goal time for the race after studying lots of history.

The awesome crew that I managed to assemble including my great buddy Shaun Mulholland who trained with me on some of my sessions, were all so keen and briefed on the task ahead. Shane James and Richard Morbey who had not crewed for me before were like kids in a candy shop once we all assembled in LA for the trip out to Death Valley.

We stayed away from the main crowd who were at Furnace Creek, Death Valley. This allowed us to gather supplies and items that we would need to deck out the car as a mobile Jamie’s Kitchen (or Shane’s Kitchen as the case may be).

At check in for the race and briefing afterwards it was beginning to hit home about the task ahead. After seeing so many names that now I could put a face to, it was very very daunting.

With the race being a night time start, a few blogs were flying around that it might be an easier race than years gone by. There’s nothing really easy about this race, and looking at the results and listening to some seasoned veterans, this was far from the case. I tried to sleep as much as possible and got some patchy amounts in during the day.

After a supersonic last 20mins before the race where photo-shoots and the like were happening, we were off! I had not had time to suck that first gel down, finish my drink etc. Ah well, I’ve got all day to do that.  There were a few Trevor Allen’s out of the blocks and one being the defending champion Harvey Lewis. He looked mighty focused and charged running down the road, certainly showed his intentions from the start. I settled into my pace and found myself cruising along nicely. After a couple of miles I passed Nikki Wynd’s crew David Eadie (sitting on his arse,as always), he gave me a good shout out and informed me I was in front of the record holder Valmir Nunes and also Oswaldo Lopez, former champion and top 3 in the last 5 races I think.

I knew this wouldn’t last long and just stuck to my pace. Sure enough after about 20km or so both these guys caught me up and were running together. As we had to run in single file, after a few km’s and a crew stop or two, I found myself running in a train with these guys, initially at the back and then in the front for a km or two. This was so frickin awesome!!! I remember coming into a crew stop with the guys and all I could say was that I had run with Oswaldo and Valmir! It made my race already, and I hadn’t even reached the first checkpoint.

My moment of glory did not last long as they disappeared into the night and I trotted along nicely to my pace plan. I went through the marathon not too far off pace, it was warm through the night hours and there was a slight headwind, but nothing too dramatic.

Shortly after the marathon, I must of had one of those Red Bull pitstops where all the nuts did not get tightened properly. The wheels started to rattle, and eventually they came off. Normally as everyone, I go through bad patches in races and they normally seem to go for an hour or two. Not this time……no this time, it was time for me to go into the 50km hurtlocker lesson.

I’m relatively new to this sport and can only learn as I go along, this time Badwater seemed to be the classroom of choice. Suddenly I had nothing, my legs had lost all power and no matter what fuel I stoked the fire with I could not get them going. The crew tried everything, and by now I was allowed a pacer. They were going to call up Clive Palmer to see if he was free to pace so they could get some sleep. I felt fine otherwise but could not even get the heart rate up when I tried to push. This made the climb up Townes Pass very frustrating and my goals were slipping away. Shortly before the summit I went in for a McLaren pit stop, new front Wing and aerodynamic tweek were administered and I took off around the 90km mark looking for a new line on the track.

Luckily I found it, and started to tick over at good pace again. I was back in the land of living, and so glad for it. The thought of running 170 miserable km’s was now a distant memory (50 was already done) I basically sprinted down the back of Townes Pass and into the Panamint Valley. Now it was cooker time The temps here are only a few degs cooler than the Badwater Basin and it sure showed. I was glad of all the heat training that I had put in, and being a rookie in this race it sure had helped.

Now it was time for the second climb, up Father Crowley. In this climb I passed a couple of runners, most notably being Harvey. He was obviously having struggles of his own, but you would never write the man off. I found a rhythm of sorts on this climb, but it definitely sapped a bit of life out of me.

Then came the next instalment of my tuition, I never remembered signing up for two lessons??? This one though, only lasted about 25km. This was overall fatigue though, everything catching up and taking its toll on your body. Yet again, my awesome crew helped me find a shovel (I think it was in one of Shane’s bags) and I managed to slowly dig my way out.

The thought of seeing my family in Lone Pine and the turn for the final climb lifted my spirits and also my pace. I was back on target pace for the section but way off my overall.

I remember reading Andrew Tuckey’s comments after an awesome top ten finish at Western States this year, when he said that he wasn’t happy with his time, but stoked with his position. I thought, how could you not be happy with your time seeing where you finished. Now I completely understand! I was a bit down that my time had slipped away, but I had a chance to move up the field.

I knew I had given mostly everything that I had and just had to get to the finish without blowing up massively on the last climb up the hill to Mt Whitney Portal. I had heard that I could be in overall fourth place and was a bit in front of fifth. When I heard it was Nikki behind me overall I was absolutely chuffed to bits for her and what a race she was having, (obviously Dave’s early resting strategy was paying off well, and he was pacing her to an outstanding victory).

This also gave me a bit of a rocket up my proverbial, and had me looking over my shoulder for most of the climb. I’d been informed that I was now actually in third overall and the great Oswaldo Lopez, was ahead of me resting just before the finish to get some strength back.

I pushed as hard as I physically could to the end, and I don’t think it was a pretty sight or sound in my last 400 metres or so.

In the end I crossed the line with the band of brothers that I could not have got there without in a time of 26:23 for a solid third position, and fell into the arms of all and my family. It is still sinking in of what I have managed to achieve in not only a short space of time, but up against some of the the best runners in this tough race. Yes, I did set myself some lofty goals. But if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough (M.Ali)

I’d also like to say a big thanks to all that have helped and supported me along the way and the responses from around the globe and home in Aus have been humbling. It may look like I have a few sponsors, but most of the representation on our gear is me saying thanks to the guys that have helped and supported me in my journey so far.

Mick Twaites