Welcome to Death Valley
By Steve Matsuda
In Death Valley, things change quickly.
The approach to Death Valley from the west, takes you over the Panamint Mountains, up a winding climb to the top of Towne’s Pass, at nearly 5,000 ft. From there you catch your first glimpse Death Valley. At the summit, temperatures are much cooler than the Valley. Drive just 15 minutes further and you’re at sea level... and the temperature rises 25 degrees. Welcome to Death Valley.
For the 84 invited athletes assembled with crew, friends, family and race officials at the pre-race briefing for the 2007 Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon, conversations turn quickly to the weather. How hot will it be? Some have heard predictions of thunderstorms, and with them perhaps brutal humidity. The once bright, blue noontime sky becomes obscured by darker, more threatening clouds. Then, before the sun sets, traces of a rainbow can be seen.
So what lies ahead for race day? Heat or rain? Which runners will be having a good day? Which will not? One thing is certain, things can change very quickly. Welcome to Death Valley.