Race Day Splits Day One
By Paul Skilbeck - Furnace Creek, Calif. (July 14, 2008) 15:38 PST. - The 31st AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon started this morning at Badwater, Death Valley, when 79 of the world's top ultradistance runners set off in conditions that favor fast overall times, with a slight tailwind and an expected high of 111F in Furnace Creek.
Three waves of runners departed from the salt encrusted dry lake at Badwater, at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Their quest is 135 hot miles away, and 8653' higher, at the Mt Whitney Portal.
The true form of this year's contenders is not likely to reveal itself until the first or second major climbs, the 4956-foot Townes Pass and 5300-foot Panamint Pass, at 59 and 90 miles respectively.
The men's field showed the three fastest starters were Jorge Pacheco, 40, of Los Angeles, Calif., Akos Konya, 33, of Oceanside, Calif., and Navy SEAL David Goggins, 33, of Chula Vista, Calif.
Pacheco and Konya passed through Time Station One at Furnace Creek, 17.4 miles into the race, after 2:16, while Goggins was two minutes adrift at 2:18. Dean Karnazes, 45, of San Francisco, Calif. was fourth through, at 2:21, and Charlie Engel, 45, of Greensboro, NC., fifth at 2:37.
In the women's field 8 a.m. runner Shanna Armstrong could keep things interesting for the elite and veteran group comprising the 10 a.m. wave.
Armstrong, 33, of Lubbock, Tx., accompanied Jonathan Gunderson, 30, of San Francisco, Calif., through the Furnace Creek time station with a time of 2:29.
Armstrong may be a Badwater rookie, but she is a four-time Hawaii Ultraman world champion and has won the Race Across America cycling event.
Next fastest woman was 10 a.m. starter and Badwater legend Pamela Reed, 47, of Tucson, Ariz., with a time of 2:37.
One minute behind Reed was another 8 a.m. runner, Lorie Hutchison, 44, of Salt Lake City, Ut., who passed Furnace Creek at 2:38.
Fourth and fifth fastest in the women's field were Jamie Donaldson, 33, of Littleton, Colo., and Jenn Segger, 27, of Garibaldi Heights, BC., at 2:40 and 2:41, respectively.
Donaldson, running in the Badwater Ultramarathon for only the second time, is remembered by many for having led the women's field by more than an hour at the 90-mile mark, but then succumbing to shinsplints and hobbling in to finish an excrucitating fifth.
Segger is the youngest known woman to have competed at Badwater. She says she's come to win it.
Most notable in the 6 a.m. wave is the highly experienced Kelvin Marshall, 44, of Palm Beach, Queensland, Australia.
Marshall held a lead of maybe five minutes over the Jarom Thurston, 34, of Payson, Ut., at the 14-mile mark, but by the time they passed Furnace Creek, Marshall had slowed and Thurston went through six minutes clear at 3:10.
Marshall was second through at 3:16, and third, at 3:18 was his compatriot, Bjarte Furnes, 34, of Altona, Victoria, Australia.
Marshall has proven himself in international competition, but said he is here to gain experience of the course, have a comfortable race, and finish inside 40 hours.
The composition of the starting waves is based on where the race organizers expect the runners, based on known results, to finish in the race. In the past there have been upsets with runners from earlier waves performing above expectations.
In 2006 both Konya and Goggins, who had started in the earlier waves, finished with top five times overall. Konya, second overall in 2006, was less than 17 minutes behind the winner, Scott Jurek.
In 2007 Konya took second place too, but this year he said he was less well prepared than in '07.
As the runners head into the hottest part of the day, everything is on the line, and spectators course-side or on the internet can look forward to a spectacle of great racing and great courage.
The next report, detailing the struggles on Townes Pass, will follow at approximately midnight, from Panamint Springs, at mile 72.
Almost a Mid-Race Route Change
By Paul Skilbeck - Panamint Springs, Calif. (July 14, 2008) 22:36 PST – The first half of the race was subject to many surprises, both from the athletes and event organizers.
Shortly after the leaders had passed Stovepipe Wells, at 5 p.m. an official re-routing was announced in response to news that Hwy 136 was closed north of Keeler, and Hwy 190 to Olancha was closed too.
With advice from Caltrans that the roads would be impassable on Tuesday as well, event director Chris Kostman was obliged to issue a communiqué that read: "All racers will run to the standard 102.9 mile location (the junction of 136 and 190) and then TURN AROUND there. Racers will then run BACK to Panamint Springs Resort," which was designated as the finish.
Notices were printed and the news rapidly distributed to all athletes and crews, who took it with mixed results.
Dean Karnazes said "How cool is that?" While Jorge Pacheco’s wife, Marie, said his face fell when given the news. Shanna Armstrong said, "I came here to run the Badwater Ultramarathon, and the race finishes on Whitney Portal."
Yet nobody stopped racing, everybody just adjusted to the news and continued their efforts.
Meanwhile the Caltrans road clearance crews worked hard and fast, and by 7 p.m. announced that the roads would be passable.
Racers and crews were notified and everybody put the episode behind them and continued with the rather formidable task at hand.
Provided the torrential rainstorms of the past few days do not repeat overnight, the roads should remain passable.
Pacheco, Reed Take Control
By Paul Skilbeck - Panamint Springs, Calif. (July 14, 2008) 22:36 PST - The first half of the race was subject to many surprises, both from the athletes and event organizers.
A late afternoon route change announcement sent ripples through the field, but nobody slowed down, sped up or quit, and a couple of hours later when the route reverted to its original course any ruffled feathers were quickly smoothed.
Mexican national Jorge Pacheco, in his second year at Badwater, exactly repeated his effort of last year to the Panamint Springs time station, at 72 miles, which he reached as the absolute leader of the race in 10:29.
Among the competition there were differences and similarities to last year. Hungarian Akos Konya, ran past Panamint Springs at 9:10 p.m., 11:10 after leaving the start. This was six minutes behind last year's pace... but Konya's position, second, was the same.
David Goggins, who had accompanied these two through Furnace Creek, began a rapid slide backwards through the field shortly afterwards, and by Stovepipe Wells was reduced to a walk, almost two hours behind Pacheco.
His crew members were tight-lipped about Goggins' situation, but said there was no specific problem. In the absence of anything more concrete to go on, the speculation was that he might have overtrained for the race.
Goggins himself stated that recently he'd been training in Death Valley wearing plastic bags under a heavy jogging suit.
Third place in the men's race was Dean Karnazes, who lost two hours to Pacheco between Stovepipe Wells and Panamint Springs, but remained very upbeat and looked solid in his race position.
Karnazes went past Panamint Springs at 11:03 p.m.
Third runner outright through Panamint Springs was the 8 a.m. wave leader, rookie Shanna Armstrong, who passed at 9:57 p.m., with a time of 13:57. "I've only once run past 72 miles before, that was at the Boulder 100, and I'm feeling kind of drunk now. Maybe I had a little too much water," joked Armstrong, who looked good.
At Stovepipe Wells, 42 miles into the race, Armstrong had been three minutes behind the outright leader of the women's field, Jamie Donaldson, and two minutes ahead of Pamela Reed.
By Panamint Springs, Pamela Reed, had reasserted herself, and passing at 11:44 p.m. had a 13 minute lead over Armstrong, who was walking. Reed maintained a short-stride run.
Jamie Donaldson came past Panamint Springs at 11:54 p.m., which put her three minutes ahead of Armstrong. Donaldson had been having stomach upsets on Towne's Pass, and had looked very white-faced for some time, but by Panamint Springs she was feeling good again.
With the punishing 'Father Crowley' climb ahead - 2020 vertical feet in only eight miles - much can still change by the monotonously arduous flats of Keeler and Lone Pine, not only for Donaldson but all the runners.
Also going late into the night was service at the Panamint Springs Hotel, which remained open to the crews and runners into the early hours of the morning.
The next report will be from Lone Pine.
Donaldson Fights Back
By Paul Skilbeck - Seven miles south of Lone Pine, Calif. (July 15, 2008) 8:30 PST - After falling ten minutes behind through the darkest period of the night, Jamie Donaldson made a surge after the climb of Panamint Pass and opened a slim lead over Pam Reed. Seven miles out from Lone Pine the two were separated by five minutes.
The maverick run by rookie Shanna Armstrong was close to its end by this point. The duel between Donaldson and Reed took them close to her heels at the same point, where they were 19 minutes back.
According to Reed, however, that might not be the case. When one crew member gave a time split to Donaldson, Reed's pace runner responded: "We're not looking at her, we're getting to Lone Pine in under 24 hours."
At this point, Donaldson had passed Dean Karnazes, putting her into third place overall in the race.
Men's Race Summary - Pacheco Gets it Right
By Paul Skilbeck - Finish Line at Whitney Portal, Calif. (July 15, 2008) – 10:03 a.m. - Jorge Pacheco returned to the 135-mile AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon to score a hard-earned win with a time of 23 hours, 20 minutes, 16 seconds—only 29 minutes ahead of second-placed Akos Konya. Dean Karnazes, of San Francisco, Calif. finished third in the men’s category and fourth overall with a time of 27:11:00.
Pacheco, 40, a Mexican national living in Los Angeles, had to fend off a late race charge by the diminutive Konya, who closed the gap to 17 minutes when they passed through Lone Pine, at the 122-mile mark.
Konya, a 33 year-old Hungarian national living in Oceanside, Calif. finished with a time of 23:49:44.
On a day when temperatures were relatively low (111F), but humidity unusually high (50-60%), many runners suffered just as much with dehydration as they would have had it been hotter and dryer.
Pacheco, who had committed to competing in the Badwater Ultramarathon only four weeks earlier, and had been driving around LA with his windows wound up and the car heater on, made the heat and humidity look just fine—as did Konya.
After distancing an off-form David Goggins, 33, of Chula Vista, Calif., early in the race, the two began playing cat and mouse before Stovepipe Wells at the 42-mile mark—where Goggins would DNF.
Pacheco passed the Stovepipe time station nine minutes clear of Konya and then extended his lead to 40 minutes on the 4956' Towne's Pass.
Konya, who had given some coy answers to pre-race questions about his form, was clearly better than he said he'd be, and as he tenaciously kept Pacheco in range, questions arose as to when he would make his move.
An opportunity almost arose when news of the brief race re-routing hit the runners. Pacheco had a short down moment near the summit of Towne's Pass.
"When we told him the race would finish in Panamint Springs, not Whitney Portal, his face fell. He wanted to race to the Whitney Portal," said Pacheco's wife, Marie, for whom he crewed here two years ago.
But the Mexican ran steadily on, visibly undeterred by the thought of being denied this opportunity to atone for what he saw as errors in last year's race, when his quadriceps gave up with only 25 miles remaining and he relinquished a commanding lead.
Konya saw it very differently. "Actually I was excited about the new course, the downhill finish," he said after the race. Konya ran a very steady race, seemingly without problems. Pacheco, on the other hand, went through a series of stomach issues during the night, and needed to stop for a couple of five-minute naps and massages.
As day broke on Tuesday, Konya moved up to about two miles behind. Pacheco was at his most vulnerable here— and had some painful memories of last year to overcome.
"I was thinking, 'Oh no, this again the same spot,' but I was tougher mentally because I knew how I was going to feel so I was prepared mentally and I was more patient and was able to keep going… And at the right moment my stomach got back when I knew Akos was getting closer."
By Lone Pine Konya had brought the 40-minute gap down to 17 minutes and it was looking as though he would soon be nipping at the heels of Pacheco. But Mexican's timely improvement in stomach condition enabled him to find some extra push for the interminable 13-mile climb to Whitney Portal, at 8371'.
At the finish he had pushed the gap back out to almost 30 minutes.
Konya said before the race that he was not quite so well prepared as in 2007. With a finish time this year that was one minute, fifty-seven seconds slower than '07, maybe he was right afterall.
What Happened to David Goggins and Charlie Engle?
By Paul Skilbeck - Lone Pine (July 15, 2008) - 6:54 p.m. – Two big names that recorded DNF results included David Goggins and Charlie Engle.
In the first 17 miles to Furnace Creek a paceline formed, comprising Pacheco, Konya and Navy SEAL David Goggins, 33, of Chula Vista, Calif.
Approaching the time station there, Goggins dropped back and passed by two minutes adrift.
Goggins, who had been walking a lot more than last year in the early part of the race, arrived the 42-mile mark, the Stovepipe Wells time station, with a time of 7:23, almost two hours behind Pacheco and seemingly out of contention.
Goggins finished third overall last year with the fast time of 25:49:40.
He announced his withdrawal from the race at Stovepipe Wells. Members of his crew did not immediately give a reason for the withdrawal.
Accomplished Badwater Ultraman veteran Charlie Engle, 45, of Greensboro, North Carolina was another racer to call it quits at Stovepipe Wells, which he reached in eighth place, in 7:07. Reports from his crew have it that he sustained soft tissue injuries in his legs—the first time in 30 years he has withdrawn from a race as a result of an injury.
Women’s Race Summary - Donaldson's Redemption
By Paul Skilbeck and Laura Brennan - Lone Pine – (July 15, 2008) - 11:00 p.m. - For Jamie Donaldson the 2008 AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon was "the race of redemption." And what a redemption! Not only did she shatter Pamela Reed's 2002 women's record of 27:56:47 with a 26:51:33, but also she bested all but two of the men running in the race.
After the agonizing disappointment of her 2007 finish, this was the result that found a special place in everybody's heart.
Reed, who followed Donaldson to the finish line with a time of 27:42:52, claimed second place and beat her former record.
The 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon had seemed to belong to Donaldson, 33, of Littleton, Colo., until the 122nd mile maker, where shin splints reduced her to a shuffle, and she pushed through pain barriers unknown to most humans to complete the remaining 13 uphill miles to the finish line. So strung out was the field that she still managed a fifth place in the women’s category.
With 22 women in a field of 80 starters, this is the largest women's field in Badwater history. Five placed inside the top 10 finishers, with three more taking positions 11, 12, and 14.
This year's field was stacked high with possible dark horse rookies like Shanna Armstrong, 33, of Lubbock, Tx.; Lorie Hutchison, 44, Salt Lake City; and Jen Segger, 27, of Garibaldi Heights, BC; as well as past champions such as Pamela Reed, 47, of Tucson, Ariz.; Monica Scholz, 41, Jerseyville, On., all of whom were aiming high.
From the start almost to Stovepipe Wells, Shanna Armstrong was at the head of the women's race, not only by virtue of being in the 8 a.m. wave, but also because she was running faster than her rivals.
Pam Reed glided past the Panamint Springs time station at 72 miles, distinguished by her trademark humming bird canter, which she was able to keep up for most of the race. Exactly 10 minutes behind her was a determined Donaldson who had recently worked through a violent bout of vomiting, and was looking cautious, but feeling better for the purge and extremely determined.
On the other hand, the 17-mile climb up Towne's Pass had weakened Shanna's stride. At Panamint Springs, Armstrong's time of 13:57 put her 10 minutes behind Donaldson and 13 behind Reed. The Texan later joked that she had a strategy for the first half of the race (put pressure on her rivals), but not the second. Her humour was intact as she passed Panamint Springs, where she quipped: "I'm feeling a bit drunk, maybe I’ve had too much water!" Lorie Hutchison was traveling at a slower pace, and passed Panamint Springs 1:36 behind the Texan, but she still looked strong and steady.
As they pushed into the night, up the steep 8-mile Father Crowley climb, and on to Panamint Pass, Reed slowly opened up a lead over Donaldson, which had grown to 30 minutes by the Darwin time station, at the summit of the Panamint Pass time station 90 miles into the race, where Reed made a short stop.
After playing leapfrog for a few miles, Donaldson made a move that Reed could not counter, hitting the front at 95 miles. In the words of Pam Reed, "She was too strong, I could not catch her." From there onwards, Donaldson pulled ahead.
When it came to the gruelling slog up to Whitney Portal, two-time overall Badwater Ultramarathon winner Reed said: "I'd forgotten how hard that climb is."
For Shanna Armstrong, things kept getting hard and harder and she began to walk more than she was running. The more experienced Hutchison, however, had kept energy in reserve, and during the final 45 miles of the race slowly closed a two-hour gap. As these two scaled the walls of Whitney Portal it started to look as though Hutchison would pass Armstrong, yet the multiple Ultraman world champion hung tough and held onto her third place in the women's field by one minute, six seconds. It emerged much later that she was blissfully unaware of being chased by a woman. "My crew was telling me it was a woman, but it wasn't registering. I had it in my mind she was a guy!" Said Armstrong.
The day, however, belonged to Donaldson, who had recovered from the disappointment of last year's race, learned from her mistakes, trained and prepared accordingly, and in true Badwater Ultramarathon spirit, never given up.
As for the depth of talent in the women's field, this year was on a par with, or arguably surpassed 2003, when Pam Reed won outright, Monica Scholz was third, Tracy Bahr fifth and Louise Cooper ninth.