Not Just Another Ultramarathon
By Greg Minter
Before he became known to everyone as the ultramarathon man (thanks to his best-selling book of the same name), Dean was running the 2006 Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon for a love of the race. Dean won the race outright in 2004, posting one of the best times for the leg coming up the Whitney Portal road to displace earlier leader Ferg Hawke.
This year, Dean was back. He looked happy to be found at the 10:00am starting wave. "I'm feeling pretty good. I'm just going to play it by ear. I've been racing a fair amount, I did Western States and the Vermont 100. That's a beautiful course, but humid. (Editor's Note: Dean is too polite to tell say that he won Vermont outright.)
His plans for the day? "Just go low and slow. Just get it done! I've got a great crew and we'll just see what happens."
The 10:00am wave traditionally holds most of the race favorites, and this year is no exception. Lining up with Dean at the start are last year's winner Scott Jurek, two-time winner Pam Reed, top-five finishers Ferg Hawke and Charlie Engle, and the cream of the ultrarunning's desert racers.
The race starts according to form, and within hours, some of the top runners including Jurek, Hawke, Engle and Dean are trading leader positions at the front of the pack. Katie Ramage, Athlete Manager for new sponsor The North Face, is reorganizing coolers at mile 30. "He's looking great!" she enthuses pointing out the rest of his crew who are dashing around in a well orchestrated frenzy: fellow The North Face employees Jimmy Hopper and Garrett Draubins, as well as Jason Koop with Carmichael Training Systems. "It was startted by Lance Armstrong's coach, Chris Carmichael. We actually hooked up with Dean through the North Face. They brought us in in a coaching and consulting role. We're just out here learning more about Dean," he says with a chuckle. His impressions of the race? "I've never been here. I grew up in Texas, so we had heat, but this is way more than anything I've ever experienced. Pretty amazing, that's for sure."
"We have two vehicles who are a half-mile apart. Each of us leapfrogs up a mile so he can get what he wants every half mile. Once we figured out what he wanted to wear, it's been easy." At this point, he's settled on a pair of knee high socks (which help prevent sunburn, plus a mixture of long white shirt and undershorts and some wild running shorts.
Later in the race, Dean has fallen slightly back from the leaders, on his way up the Whitney Portal Road as a late afternoon thunderstorm rolls over the Owens Valley. For the runners, it's humid, but a welcome alternative to making way up the steep ascent in the baking sun.
After 135 miles, Dean's done it again. He finishes in 10th place overall in a time of 33:33:41.