Friday, April 01, 2011

Badger Mountain

One week ago today I ran the Badger Mountain Challenge 100-mile race. I was in DC the first part of the week, then decided to take a few days of spring break to roadtrip up to Washington state with a friend. I stopped and hung out with the always-awesome Chigger, Lint, and Tomato in Portland, bought a dozen vegan Voodoo Donuts (meh) and wandered around Powell's city of books (awesome). I made an obligatory stop at the obvious waterfall on the drive east from Portland to the tri-cities area of Washington state, where the race was held.

Signing up for the race was a last-minute decision, having not known how my legs would feel after the Pirates Cove 50K, or how my body would feel after another job interview. So I wasn't able to investigate the race or do much in the way of pre-race preparation. I began to sense frustration when I showed up Thursday afternoon at the running store where race packets were supposed to be held. The packets were not there and had all been taken to the pre-race dinner across town, despite my not having RSVP'd for the dinner--the first of many website/reality inconsistencies. Arriving at the dinner, I received my race packet, but was frustrated to discover that it contained literally nothing in the way of information and was instead just race swag. Nowhere could I find directions to aid stations for crew, race directions for runners, a general description of the race for runners, or even a hint as to where the start of the race would be! After cornering the race director, I discovered that the website did indeed contain a long chronological (ie, not helpfully organized) list of race updates, one of which was a mapquest link to the race start that would not load on a variety of smart phones. I made the RD point to the race start on google maps on my friend's phone, elicited a promise from him that directions to aid stations for crew would be available at the race start, and went and got a hotel.

I arranged two drop bags, watched Duke lose (always fun), and got a good night's sleep. Positively, I met my friend from high school BH at the start line the next morning. I'd only verified that he was running the race the day before. He had originally clued me in to the existence of the Badger Mountain race, but I wasn't sure he would actually be running. Negatively, the RD failed to deliver the promised aid station directions. My crew teamed up with BH's crew and managed to overcome this obstacle without a hitch, which I greatly appreciate.

The race began at 7:00. BH and I quickly moved to the front of the pack. We were running together in positions 3 and 4. After 3 miles, there was an unmarked turn, and then shortly thereafter, an aid station. We let the 1 and 2 runners navigate the turn, and watched them hit the aid station, verifying we were on-course. They took a right out of the aid station, and we followed, blowing through the aid station without stopping, but cheered on, confirmed, and checked-in by the aid station volunteers.

And that's basically all you need to know about the race.

The course was supposed to go straight through the aid station. The clearly marked right turn was apparently for the 15K race that was being held in conjunction the next day. The markings took us through a subdivision, disappeared completely, wasted 50 minutes, and was only solved by runners with cell-phones who called their spouses and got them to ask the RD what the hell was going on. The entire field had been misled and lost varying amounts of time.

Then this scenario was repeated three more times throughout the next 24 hours. The leaders would push ahead, realize the course wasn't marked for shit, backtrack several miles, the entire race field would gather together, curse the name of the RD, call someone on their cellphone, find out what the hell was going on, and press forward.

Despite screaming at the RD (I think it went something like: "I've walked across the country four times and hiked the entire length of the Sierra cross-country, I know how to follow a f---ing trail; you need to mark your f---ing course!"), getting lost, bushwhacking, rain, and freezing temperatures, I managed to run pretty well. I covered 90 course miles (probably 95 real miles) in exactly 24 hours. I felt great physically, but I had no desire to legitimize the race by running to the finish through another poorly marked set of industrial agriculture service roads, so I bailed there at 90 miles. I'm totally cool with that. The race was an early-season warm-up for me; I got my desired work-out, and that's all I cared about. I saw a beautiful sunrise, got in the car, congratulated my friend BH on his amazing accomplishment (he ran sub-24 despite running 108+ miles), and drove home.

So that's it. Don't ever run the Badger Mountain Challenge. It was frankly the most horribly managed race I have ever encountered.

Check out my friend BH's blog. We went to high school together and have taken pretty similar paths since, hiking the AT, living abroad, and now making the outdoorsy most of econ PhD programs.




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