By Steve Matsuda
Rudy Afanador was the second overall finisher in his first race at Badwater, in 2001. Last year, the intense heat got to him and he was forced to drop out. This year, the 2004 Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon would prove to be a real test for him.
To train for the race this time, Afanador mapped out a 150-mile course in his home state of New York and completed the whole thing in training, running the whole way. He came into the race this year ready to run well. Afanador went out hard because that’s the way he usually runs. "I thought that the weather was different from last year so I thought it would be different,” he said, "but it’s hard no matter what."
Death Valley caused Afanador problems again this year. Dehydration and cramping forced him off the course. He was staring at a second consecutive DNF. "It was definitely do or die. I’m gonna make it no matter what, whatever it takes me…"
Fortunately, his crew took him to the Medical HQ at Stovepipe Wells. They worked their magic on him and got him back in the race after a five hour break.
As he recovered, he began running again. After cresting the climb to Father Crowley, Afanador picked his pace up again and began passing people, a lot of people. He finished in 37:07 to earn a top ten finish. He was, however, very generous in his praise of the medical staff and his own crew. "It’s not just my accomplishment, it’s also theirs as well."