No Fears - No Regrets
The Badwater Ultra is one of the toughest road races in the world. Not only does it consist of 135 miles continious effort, but it starts at the lowest point in California, a place called Badwater which is 180 feet bellow sea level and finishes on the Portals 8000 feet up the largest mountain in California. In getting from Badwater to Mount Witney, you have to cross 2 mountain ranges before climbing the final hill, and the total ascent is over 15000 feet. But to make it a bit more interesting, the race is held in the height of summer where temperatures always exceed 125 degrees with the asphalt exceeding 180.
This year was the 25th aniversary of when the run was first accomplished by a runner called Al Arnold.. he failed 3 years before finally completing the run to be the first man to run from badwater to the summit of Mount whitney.
In order to compete in this race, you also need to provide support crew, vehicle and own supplies and I chose a Chevy Blazer which I rented from Las Vegas airport. Inside we had 2 huge igloo ice boxes which were kept full of ice to mix with drinks and keep perishables fresh. But even with hundreds of dollars of supplies. we still spent $200 on restocking with drinks and ice on route.
This year was one of the hottest on record, the temperatures during the day were in excess of 140 degrees air temperature and the asphalt approaching the 200 degrees.
Travelling over from Ireland with my 2 Irish friend Catherine and Ann (Above left Photo), which was experiencing the wettest year on record was a huge transition.
The first 20 or so miles were ok and I was running well, but at 22 miles I had to stop.. the temperature was over 140 degrees, 12 degrees hotter than when I completed the event in 2000 and I was suffering badly from heat / sunstroke. Feeling dizzy, Nausia, unable to fiocus properly and very weak, I took a long break and was on the verge of retiring... but after a drink and 1.5 hours sleep and some food, I decided to walk out of Death valley to the next checkpoint 20 miles away and just take it one step at a time.... So I donned the white trousers and set off up the long road.
On reaching check point 2, I was over 4.5 hours behind the split time which I achieved in 2000 event, and at the ranch we were all advised to go for a swim in the outdoor pool which proved to be very enjoyable, although I did get a bought of shivers upon exiting. We then dressed a few blisters and I went on my way p the first 18 mile 5000ft climb.
During this section I walked fast and overtook many other competitors and once at the top ran a few miles over the plateau before deciding to walk down into the valley bellow towards checkpoint 3. The hill is 9% for 6 miles with less steep parts either side which when I ran in 2000 mashed the Quads due to the perpetual downhill forces... and I walked briskly and entered check point 3 only 1 hour behind when I left CP3 in 2000 splits. Here due to a few blisters, we lost 2 hours time, and once the blister queen had dressed them I set off up the second 5000ft hill. (In future I will dress my own blisters ad it would have taken only 20 mins... we live and learn) and as the temperature rose sharply during the day I climbed slowly to the top.
Now i was over 4 hours behind 2000 split times again, and needed a rest from the extreme heat and sore feet. an hour later Catherine encouraged me to leave the car and walk to cp$ at 90 miles, and once I found a walk that was almost comfortable, the blisters went numb and I walked straight through cp4 on to cp5, Lone Pine at 122 miles... just 13 miles to go.
Click on picture bellow to hear a few words form my support crew..!!
I entered cp5 20 mins faster than in 2002, and the desire to stop in a cafe for some chips was huge... once I sat down I knew it would be hard to continue.. and after cutting off my socks and decided to retire to the dismay of the medical doctor who pronounced me fit to continue and the officials manning the check point. I had 20 hours left on the clock and just 12.5 miles to go... but after the disasterous episode at 22 miles where i was quite unwell, I felt I had salvaged my pride and dignity... My aim was to complete the race in approx 33 hours, in 2000 I did 100 miles in 25 hours before both feet being crippled with blisters but still managed to finish in 45 hours in 20th position.. This year I was on course to finish in exactly the same time and my Heart to continue vanquished.
Both Ann and Catherine were also happy to have got that far and we were all of the opinion that there was no point proving something which i had previously proven... They say the second visit to Badwater is harder than the first.. and they were right. From now on, if there is time on the clock and if I can move, then I will continue to finish the event.
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