From Birmingham to Badwater: Micah Morgan’s Journey to a Dream (Part II)

In the September and October 2018 issues of The Vulcan Runner, we published BTC member Micah Morgan’s first person account of the her journey to the 20018 Badwater 1365 Ultramarathon, culminating in her incredible third place finish in the race billed as “the world’s toughest foot race.”  Here is, as they say, the rest of the story!


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

We headed towards the car for the journey down the mountain. I felt like finally sitting down would be the death of me. My dad drove us down the mountain; Cary started snoring almost immediately.  My mom tried to get me to drink chocolate milk, but I thought I was about to lose my guts. She said I would fall asleep basically uttering nonsense. When we got back to the hotel, getting out of the car was eventful, to say the least. Cary saw a McDonald’s, and of course, he was gone. I was extremely nauseated, and my mom helped me to shower. I never got sick, but the nausea was wicked. I basically showered enough to get the salt off of my skin and passed out sideways. I never heard anyone leave or realized whether Cary made it back. My sleep lasted a hearty three hours before waking up to go to the bathroom. Of course, I felt like I had peed 50 times during the race. It was haunting me. Although I was thankful, I slept maybe two more hours and was then wide awake. We were all starving, and we went to a local diner/dive that ended up having really good food. My stomach was not right, but I knew I needed to eat regardless. I had an egg, tomato and cheese sandwich, along with a side of a grilled chicken sandwich. That was about all I could put away.


After lunch, we walked around Lone Pine, and stared at the splendor of Mt. Whitney during the day time.


There was a hail storm at that time and a couple of friends had to finish during the storm. They are monsters! So tough! Cary and the other guys cleaned off the van, and we donated our leftovers to a charity onsite. Mike and Owen went to run on Mt. Whitney and after they finished, they quickly apologized for “pushing me so hard” -- they did not realize just how steep it really was until they ran two miles ( ) of it!


The finisher’s pizza party was that night at 7:00. We headed over to see a room full of tired runners with their crew members shoving pizza down their throats. We caught back up with RunItFast friends and new ones we have made. We spoke to Pam and her team about how much fun we had on the road. Chris began speaking about the race and conditions this year. He mentioned that it was the hottest year on record, and there were record number of drops. Greater than 30. He was upset, and you could see it on his face. As Race Director, he handpicks runners who he believes will concur the course, and this year was tough with all of the drops. He named them all and hoped each of them would return to conquer Badwater.


Chris then asked every single finisher from last to first to line up in the front of the room. It was cool moment for everyone to witness. The amount of talent, determination and perseverance in that line would have knocked over any barrier or obstacle in the way. We became a wall that was unbreakable. A meme a friend sent to me described it perfectly -- we see the podium, #1, #2, #3, but underneath the podium is all of the hard work, sacrifice, heartache, struggles, highs and lows that go into training for a race like this. We all did it, overcame a vigorous training cycle and made it out alive and better for the experience.


We recognized all of the crew members and gave them standing ovations.


As Chris ended his speech, a girl with a shaved came shuffling into the room. Jennifer Nissen is a girl who overcame cancer. She was one of the last finishers, and she came in smiling. We all stood for her, and she gave a speech about never giving up on your dreams and loving your family. She reminded us to never take a single day for granted. She was motiving and such a fighter. I think every single person shook her hand.


After the post-race festivities, everyone headed over to a local saloon to continue the party. It was so crowded and I was starving, again.  So we went to eat sandwiches, again. I had no idea why I had sandwiches, but for some reason it was all I could stomach. Cary and I went back to the saloon to hang out with the RunItFast folks for a few more minutes before going back to the hotel. I was so tired, and it was late. We passed out, well I did – Cary seemed to be stuck on social media . . . .


Ok so the drama. . .the next morning I woke up STARVING! I was in a panic; I needed food. I called my parents and told them breakfast was STAT, get here NOW! We went to the Alabama Hills Bakery. No correlation to “our” Alabama except it was named after a trail that is shaped like the State of Alabama. The trail is made up of weird rock formations that look like Ninja Turtles, Batman and natural arches. We had a short wait, and I thought the end was near. I got a glass of water and calmed down. When we sat down the waitress brought a huge cinnamon roll that was devoured by yours truly. But in fairness, I did give one bite to everyone.

I then ate a huge egg, veggie and avocado wrap and pancakes. And yes -- I did eat almost every single bite. The avocados in California are like no other, BTW! So good. I thought to myself, okay, now I can continue on.  But for a moment, the sky was falling.


I wanted to see Mt. Whitney during the day, so my dad drove us back to the top. She was beautiful. Did I actually make it up the climb by foot? I felt like the car was going to quit on us. The top was cool, and a huge waterfall blasted through the trees. It was a sight to see during the daylight. The drop-offs we had hiked next to were eye-opening during the day. When made my dad drive very slowly on the way down.


We checked out of the hotel and literally packed into the car. The guys had left earlier to head back to Birmingham, but we were going to Vegas!


We were packed full of water and plenty of Nuun. We were going to show my parents the basin area before heading to Vegas. The entire route back to the basin was beautiful. I recalled everything from the race but still could not believe what we had accomplished. It was fun to relive the course with my parents and Cary. He made some jokes at my expense, and we all laughed.


The beauty of the Badwater course awakened my soul. In a world that seemed so cruel these days. . . for 30 hours, it was quiet and alluring. I was able to find my inner beast and concur 135 miles of unforgiving terrain. It made me realize all I have accomplished. The hardships that I overcame but never gave up. Women are strong and can do anything. We are relentless.


But back to the drive.


We stopped at Stovepipe Wells for bathroom break, and the heat was brutal. Tourists were everywhere, which again, was so weird to me.


I made my parents chug water every time they got out of the car. We went to the basin and got out for pictures with my parents. The basin was HOT! Cary did a Strava segment, and I thought he was a goner! Why? It was the original segment Owen created called the Alabama Slammer! Cary did not complete it faster than Owen, but he did run a longer distance. My parents were sweating and made us all get the heck out of there. Everyone was awarded Nuun tablets in their water bottles! We got back in the car and went one last time to the Furnace Creek visitor’s center. The thermometer was clicking 130 degrees – 131 degrees – 130 degrees – 131 degrees. . . .


My dad parked quickly, and we all got out to try to capture 130 degrees on the thermometer. The highest on record was 134 degrees, so we were so close. We could not capture it – oh well. We all got back into the car and headed to Vegas, baby! The drive was about 1.5 hours or so. We all sat back and watched the desert fade to urbanization.


We arrived at the Palazzo. It was a very nice hotel, and we had rooms next to each other. We showered off and headed out to the strip. . .to eat! What a surprise. We ate at a Mexican restaurant that was really good. We then met up with Chavet and her crew. We went to watch the Bellagio fountains and to the Flamingo for gambling. No, I do not gamble. . .why? Because I suck! I put one dollar in a machine, and just like that, it was gone. My mom had never ever even been to a casino. Watching her play was hilarious. She actually did quite well. Cary played roulette and had a ball. We looked at our watches and it was seriously 2:00. My feet were killing me, so I begged to leave. I actually got Epsom salt and soaked my feet at 2:45 in the morning. NICE! Cary got White Castle. . . gross! We headed back to get some sleep.


The next morning I woke up around 10:00 – who was I? It was awesome. We did some shopping and laid out at the pool. We never agreed on a show, which was fine. Actually, watching my mom at the casino was hilarious enough. We ate dinner that night and Cary and my mom hit the casino again and my dad and I went to a piano bar with Chavet’s crew. It was pretty fun, but I felt like we were on a cruise ship.


Cary texted me that night that my mother was playing roulette and was ahead. The funny thing was that I heard her on a table with female dancers above it. Too funny! MY MOM IS STRAIGHT LACED!


We met back up after midnight so we could ride the Ferris wheel. It was so pretty at night. The strip was lit up, and we were high above it. Again, we made it until 3:00 a.m.,  and it was time to hit the sack!


The next day we woke up and went to breakfast before our trip to the airport. Checkout was easy, and we were all exhausted. I was ready to head home. Vegas I could do without, that much was certain.


The airport was a disaster. Just as we were about to board, the plane broke down. After the mechanics worked on the plane for two hours, they decided it was not safe. Two hours? I could have told you that! I told myself, “Ok Micah, you’ve finished Badwater, do not let this break you!”


The airline decided to get another plane, so after four hours of delay, we finally had a plane. We also met up with Christy Scroggins, a friend from childhood whose father had died suddenly that morning. Her sister texted me that morning but it was a God thing that we were there to help Christy. She had her spouse, children (6 weeks and 3) and tons of luggage. We tried to calm her and help her get through the delayed flight.


I found out that Michael Hull, another childhood friend, had tried to get A LOT of people to come to the airport that night to welcome us home. Once the flight was delayed again and a midnight to 1:30 a.m. arrival became a reality, the crowd quickly dissipated, which was totally fine. It was so sweet that people even wanted to welcome me home!


I had a lot of high school friends, old church friends and family reach out after Badwater. My experience motivated them, they all said, which was the whole purpose.  If I could bust my tail to reach a goal of mine in order to motivate others to do the same then it was all worth it. To hear that friends and their coworkers, and even my own coworkers watched my progress throughout the race filled my heart. I felt the prayers of this city and the love each person sent my way! I have never felt so connected to my city or running community. To see Birmingham and the running community come together was beautiful. I am motivated by my community of runners, and I cannot thank them for all of the support. My friends and family cheered me on, and I am forever grateful!


The Sunday I returned, July 29, Cary and my family tricked me into going to O’Henry’s (even my mom). I am not good at being the center of attention or being acknowledged, but several people gathered together to say congratulations. It was very sweet and unexpected. Ryan Graham’s little guy even drew me a picture – too cute! It is on my fridge. I hugged everyone’s neck and was excited to answer everyone’s questions. Mary Adamy sent brownies out to us, which was very kind! That afternoon was sweet because we got to spend it with my brother and Meagan.


My first day back at work my co-workers were so sweet. They decorated my office and gave me a gift basket full of recovery goodies. They were all so involved in training and encouraging me daily. My office manager had to send out an email (I was accidently copied with it) that made everyone pay attention to work and stop focusing on the race during work hours . . .too funny! We all had a laugh about that. They were too sweet to watch and cheer me on from Southeast Gastro.


I continue to believe that women are strong and can do anything we set our minds to do. So many runners have children and full-time jobs while training. I have never met a tougher group. The encouragement of the women on the course was boundary breaking. It’s always amazing to me to see women doing what “the boys do” and yet doing it well and with a smile!


I wish I could have taken the entire city of Birmingham along for the ride. I owe Birmingham so many thank you’s. I have never in my life felt love from strangers quite like this. Of course, I felt the love of friends and family, but it has been so humbling and encouraging to meet people I have never met before and hear them tell me they watched along at home or work with me! I’ve had people in the grocery store and on the roads tell me I encouraged them. I hope I continue to bring encouragement and light to people until the end! If one tidbit of my story can encourage anyone at all to be active or healthy or push to the next level, I will 100% believe it was worth every drop of sweat!


A lady from Hoover messaged me that I encouraged her young daughter. I had so many struggles in high school and college, and I wish I had had more women in my life motivating me into the right direction, rather than pushing me the other way (high school coach, not mom! )


I just hope that through all of the obstacles we face, we – and especially young girls -- will remember they are strong and the opportunities are endless. Have goals and never let anyone tell you that you are not tough or “good enough.” Push the limits, cry a little if necessary and continue standing tall!