Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another Fantasy Run: Badwater Ultramarathon

I have written about Hardrock and Western States, mountain trail runs I would love to run in someday.  Because of its notoriety, I have to put the Badwater Ultramarathon on that list, too.  I don't know if this would be a fantasy run or a nightmare run.  Unlike those other two races, Badwater is run all on pavement.  Hot, oozing asphalt.  In Death Valley.  In the middle of the summer.  Temperatures during the race can reach 130 degrees.  Runners' shoes melt on the hot pavement, necessiting frequent changes.
Here are some runners struggling through the 2009 Badwater Ultramarathon.

Not content with the standard 100 mile ultra distance, Badwater starts in Death Valley and runs 135 miles to Mount Whitney.  They call it the "world's toughest foot race."  I don't know if this would be tougher than Hardrock.  I think the challenges would be different.  The elevation change is a huge factor (from 280 feet below sea level to almost 8300), but the heat would be the greatest challenge.  I have heard of people training by running in sweat suits all summer, putting their treadmills in the sauna, or strapping heat blowers to their treadmills.  But I'm not sure any of that can prepare runners for the Death Valley heat.
How's that for a climb?

This year's winner: Zach Gingerich, who finished in 24:44:48.  That's quite an improvement over his 2008 finish, which was over 37 hours.  In the women's field, Badwater veteran Jamie Donaldson won for the third time, in 26:16:12.  Out of 80 starters, an impressive 73 finished.  Most impressive of all was another Badwater veteran, Jack Denness, who finished in 59:13:02.  Why is that impressive, given a finish time well over double that of the winner?  Simple: Denness is 75!  He became the oldest Badwater finisher 5 years ago, and topped his record this year, his 12th finish.  I don't know the details, but I'm sad to report that Amy Palmiero-Winters dropped about 1/3 of the way through.

I may never make it to Badwater.  But I'm keeping it on my list.  Maybe someday. . . .

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