Toeing the Line
By Steve Matsuda
So what would motivate someone to run a race like the Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon and what does it take to get ready for such a grueling event?
Robin Smit, 70, first ran Badwater in 1993. He’s crossed the course six times, including two “doubles,” running from Badwater to Mt. Whitney then turning around and going back to Badwater. He keeps threatening his crew that he may double again this year if he feels good, but candidly admits that he probably won’t. To prepare this year, he did a couple of long runs, including a 130 mile run from the Pacific Ocean to his home in Fresno, CA four weeks ago. His goal is to buckle this year and hopes to break the record for a 70-year-old.
Badwater has special meaning for Dan Marinsik, 48, of San Jose, CA. In 2003, he learned he needed brain surgery, but postponed it so he could train for and run the race, which he finished. He’s run every one since then and this year, with higher mileage and more hill and heat training, he hopes to do very well.
Stephen Hudgens of Fort Worth, TX has done many mountain 100-mile races but was looking to try “one of these alternate runs.” He met past female champions Pam Reed and Monica Scholtz at a race who suggested he apply to Badwater. He did so on a whim, was surprised to get in, and laughs when he says now he’s a little scared.
Don Fallis is the only entrant this year from Hawaii. He says that training there wasn’t bad because they just trade the heat for humidity. His goal is 59:59 and just to finish.
Brian Kuhn of Champaign, IL did the Western States 100 miler about a month ago but thinks he’s sufficiently recovered. He says he has some experience doing long races back-to-back but nothing this extreme.
Gary Hilliard, 52, from Sierra Madre, CA is succinct. “Well, we’re starting, we’ll get it done and it’ll go well.” What he doesn’t say is that he plans to carry a huge American flag throughout the race. He’s heard nobody has ever done it, so he’ll get it done.
Gabor Kozinc is a 44-year-old Badwater rookie from Pasadena, CA. He describes the mountins as a type of parabolic mirror that focuses all it heat on a single point, the runner. He says the trip through Death Valley will be like a “ride with the devil.” In training, he came to Death Valley for three consecutive training weekends, spending the night in his car so he would remain in the heat for at least 48 hours.
James Moore of Bowie, MD crewed two years ago for John Dodge. He knows he’ll enjoy this experience no matter what “the good, the bad and the ugly.” To prepare, he’s done his sauna training, run in layers and even got off the beer for awhile, but he’s anxious to get back on it so you know he wants to get to the finish line soon! He’s using his race to raise money for breast cancer research.
Pierre Oster is a French citizen living in White Bear Lake, MN. He is a race veteran, finishing in 2004 but dropping out in 2005 when he got nasty blisters and his knee began swelling up too much. He puts on a race called the Arrowhead 135 in northern Minnesota that, with Badwater, is part of a series of extreme 135 mile runs. That race this year featured minus 35-degree temperatures with a wind chill of minus 45 degrees. He had to drop out of the Arrowhead race this year because of four frozen toes. No worries about that at Badwater.
Jamie Huneycutt of Fayetteville, AR wants to be the second person and first woman to finish Badwater from her home state of Arkansas. She’s always wanted to do this race, crewed for Greg Eason two years ago and was on the Medical team last year. She says the people at Badwater are outstanding all the volunteers, the Race Director, all the people she’s met. As part of her training she did one run that consisted of 25 two-mile loops around her house.
Kira Matukaitis, 30, of Alexandria, VA is the youngest female entrant in this year’s race. In May, she started a new business venture called Doggy Jog, which allows her to combine two things she loves, running and animals. She estimates she gets in an extra 6-7 miles per day with her canine training partners.