by Paul Skilbeck
Posted July 14, 2008 at 11:59 a.m.
With 133 marathons and 202 ultra races of under his belt, 44 year-old Australian ultra-runner, Kelvin Marshall, of Palm Beach, Queensland, came to the Badwater Ultramarathon looking for new challenges.
Marshall, who started ultra running in 1992, says his longest race to date is the 150-mile (240km) Eden to Kosciusko race, from sea level to Australia's highest point. Another one race he did was a race across Australia's Simpson desert. "I am not concerned about the heat," says Marshall who lives in Australia's tropics.
A fourth place finish in the 2007 Race Across Germany gave Marshall knowledge that he is a match for the international elite when competing in the stage race format, although he is less confident about continuous races. "I see myself as more of a stage race runner," he stated.
Marshall was not looking for a win at his first Badwater Ultramarathon. Speaking at the pre-race registration, Marshall said, "This year is an exploration for me. I'd like to think I can come back next year and be a contender. I'm aiming to go under 40 hours."
For this seasoned ultra runner, there are no misconceptions about the quality of the field. He was adamant in his praise of the Badwater Ultramarathon competition: "There are some very good runners here, the depth of this field is impressive."
A runner of Marshall's calibre might be tempted to push himself in a race like this, but to help remove the temptation Marshall elected to start with the 6 a.m. wave, which generally has the slower runners, so he can more easily keep his objective of 40 hours in sight.
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 14, 2008 at 1:08 p.m. PST
The early morning drive to Badwater is foreboding, ominous. The sky is obscured by an eerie blanket of darkness as a glimpse of light begins to emerge slowly over the Funeral Mountains to the west. But the best thing about the drive is that the road is open. Threats of thundershowers that could have closed sections of the course, including Badwater Road, have failed to materialize thus far, and the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon is about to begin.
80 competitors from ten countries, two Canadian Provinces and 19 American States will soon descend on Badwater, the lowest point in North America at 280 feet below sea level, to test their mettle against some of nature’s harshest conditions.
In the 6 AM start alone, one of three waves of runners that will begin the race within a four hour period, consists of runners from Brazil, France, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom and the USA. Molly Sheridan, a crew member for Badwater rookie Bill Andrews, 56, of Reno, Nevada, sports a "Bill’s Slaves" t-shirt. "We’ll do whatever it takes, we will be slaves for Bill," she smiles. "It was either that or 'Bill's Babes', but the one male member of the crew said he'd rather be a slave."
Also in the 6 AM wave is Dan Marinsik, a veteran of five Badwater finishes. When asked about his goals for this year, he says he always starts with a goal of finishing in less than 40 hours. How many sub-40 finishes does he have? "Zero," he laughs, "but you always start off higher in your expectations at the start and assess as you go along."
Several runners plan to take advantage of below normal temperatures at the start of the race to run more of the first section of the course to Furnace Creek at mile 17. Word begins to filter in to race officials that parts of the course covered yesterday by mud and debris from flash flooding, are now being cleared by highway crews which should allow the runners to continue on their way to the finish at Mount Whitney.
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 14, 2008 at 2:55 p.m. PST
On Friday, Ian Parker, 57, from Irvine, California was inducted as a Fellow in the Royal Society of London, the oldest scientific society in the world. As part of the ceremony, Ian signed his name in the Charter Book, along with such notables as Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
How did he celebrate? He flew home from London on Saturday, drove to Furnace Creek on Sunday, and toes the line at 6:00 AM on Monday morning to start his 7th consecutive Badwater Ultramarathon.
Why does Parker return each year to Badwater? "It's the hallucinations on the 2nd night," he says.
Parker is a neurobiologist at the University of California, Irvine. He earned is position in the Society through his work with cell signaling—how cells transmit messages within themselves, particularly using calcium ions.
So how does this learned man prepare for an event as extreme as the heat of Badwater? He sits in a heated closet for 45 minutes a day for the months before the race. Parker has set up two electric heaters in the closet of a spare bedroom. He measures the temperature in the closet with a meat thermometer so he and his wife refer to its intensity in terms of whether it was "rare beef, medium beef or lamb cutlet. The hottest I ever got it was 170 degrees which is beef well done."
From Darwin to Death Valley… well done, Ian!
By Laura Brennan
Posted July 14, 2008 at 5:35 p.m. PST
Shanna Armstrong, four-time Ultraman winner, first in the Furnace Creek 508, and Champion of the Race Across America, has thrown herself in the fiery furnace of the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon.
Shanna does not look this event in the eye with the same uncertainty as most first timer entrants. She looks confident and prepared. She has even sacrificed some of her own training time to carefully teach her crew how to efficiently care for her and keep her cool.
This is Shanna’s first foot race over 100 miles. So the question is—is the Badwater Ultramarathon going to be just another notch in the belt of this endurance warrior, or is Shanna going to reach her boiling point?
Right before starting the race Shanna said, "This is going to be the most painful race I has ever done, but not the hardest. I think the gigathlon is going to be the hardest."
The "gigathlon" that Shanna is referring to is a seven-day race is the Swiss Alps that includes: running, swimming, mountain biking, roller blading, and road cycling.
At Furnace Creek, the 17 mile mark and first time station of this year’s race, Shanna Armstrong is in the lead for the women’s category.
By Laura Brennan
Posted July 14, 2008 at 6:07 p.m. PST
One of the most inspiring things about the Badwater Ultramarathon is how so many people just can’t seem to get enough. Whether they were third place, 54th, or could not finish, many of them just keep coming back.
Last year Jamie Donaldson all but had the cat in the bag. She was in first place of the women’s category and had plenty of time to spare. Then, on the 122nd mile, things fell apart. Jamie injured her leg and had to halt abruptly. Luckily, she was still able to continue but was forced to walk because of the severity of her injury. Due to this tragedy, Jamie finished the 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon in fifth place of the women’s category.
Jamie is back. She said she has been preparing and training more for the race this year than ever. She has found different ways of fueling that work better for her, and even took a trip to Death Valley in June where she ran 110 miles in two days.
Her husband David Donaldson is her usual pacer, but he will be unable to run this year due to a recent hiking accident in which he broke his arm. Thankfully, Jamie has an amazing crew who has jumped in to fill the shoes of David. What makes this story particularly inspiring is that her whole crew is entirely made up of family members.
I got to speak with them this morning after the 10am start and they said Jamie was doing great. As David put it, "The hardest part is going to be trying to keep her at a slower pace than last year."
Her crew said "The plan is to keep Jamie going around 10 minute miles, much less intense than the 8 minute miles she was knocking out in the beginning of the race last year, then after Stovepipe Wells, let her crank it."
The 8 a.m. Start
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 14, 2008 at 8:51 p.m. PST
Runners in the 8:00 starting wave in the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon voice an almost uniform respect for the challenge ahead of them.
Monica Fernandez, 40, originally from Guatemala but now living in Morocco, is a two-time winner of the Ultraman double triathlon in Hawaii and has also completed the Marathon des Sables. "This will be the toughest thing I've ever done, for sure. It is a very humbling experience. I know I'm going to want to quit a lot of times but I’ve got to dig in there to find a way to keep going."
Rookie Steven Douglas of Sacramento, California is asked why he appears to have a smile frozen on his face. "I'm just anxious to get started. The sooner we start, the sooner it's over." He’s done "a little bit of sauna training, probably not enough - but it was torture, just torture." Douglas would like to finish in less than 40 hours "so I can get a good night’s sleep Tuesday night." His two person crew of his wife and friend also want him to finish in under 40 hours so THEY can get some sleep.
Two runners in the 8:00 start are raising funds for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Bill Cook, 39, of Santa Monica is another first-timer at Badwater. His plan: be conservative and run his own race. Why Badwater? "It has a kind of specialness about it. It's like no other race really. It’s the environment and conditions. Death Valley is beautiful, a wonderful place."
Back again in 2008 is Vito Bialla who had to drop out of last year's race. He’s running again to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund. Crewmember Agnes Pak said that Bialla had lost 12 lbs of water last year and had to drop out at mile 40. Bialla had a severe sodium deficiency and spent five hours in the Medical Center to rehydrate but was unable to continue. Pak’s fellow crewmembers are David Uri, who serves on the Board of Zoot Sports with Pak and Bialla, and Vito’s daughter Chelsea.
Spanky Gibson, who helped crew Bialla last year and inspired Vito's interest in the Semper Fi Fund, couldn’t crew again this year because he was unable to get back from Iraq for the race. Gibson had met a General after a swim to Alcatraz. When the General asked what he could do to help him, Gibson asked to be redeployed and has become what Pak says is the first above-the-knee amputee to be redeployed to Iraq.
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 14, 2008 at 9:00 p.m. PST
Dan Jensen’s life changed in an instant in February 1971 in Vietnam when he stepped on a landmine. A medic was right there to control the bleeding. He lost his right leg but was lucky to be alive.
His life changed again in 1990 when he received his first flex foot prosthetic. After the accident, his "old school" prosthesis would let him walk, but not much more. The flex foot allowed him to run, and he hasn't stopped yet.
Jensen, 58, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has entered Badwater for the fourth time this year. A finish will give him a .500 record, two finishes in four attempts. In the past, he's had complications with the prosthesis and his other leg. He experiences a breakdown inside the prosthesis on his stump. "Swelling, blisters, nodules on the bone, it can get pretty painful." Even the year he finished the race, his other leg swelled up so his prosthesis became his good leg.
This year, Jensen is just excited to be here. He's prepared more than usual making the training a real priority. "I had other things going on and this time I said, "I'm not going to do the lawn, I'm going to run." Jensen plans to use one type of prosthesis for running and then will change into another near the end of the race when he has to walk a lot.
"This race takes a lot and I thought I'm just going to give it all I can, as much as I can, and see what happens… and that's all you can do."
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 14, 2008 at 9:12 p.m. PST
In 1981, Jay Birmingham became the 2nd person to run from Badwater to the summit of Mount Whitney. While an admirer of Al Arnold's pioneering effort in 1977, Birmingham's run was actually inspired by a 1980 meeting with Gary Morris who had attempted but failed to duplicate Arnold's run. Birmingham completed the Badwater to Whitney run in under 75 hours.
In 2003, Birmingham returned to Death Valley to participate in the Badwater race. He had some problems with a sick crew and only made it 75 miles. He came back the next year and finished, cutting 10 hours off his 1981 time.
He has returned in 2008 to test himself against the Badwater course again. Birmingham, 62, from Orange Park, Florida, wants to come back to Badwater every four years, the same interval at which the Olympic Games are held.
"For me this is the only source of international competition against really good people."
Birmingham sees himself as a track and marathon runner as well as an ultramarathoner. This will be his 50th year coaching track. He’s coached in Nebraska, Colorado, Ohio and now Florida.
His goal for Badwater this year is a sub-50 hour finish time. He says he has higher goals but dares not speak of them.
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 14, 2008 at 9:17 p.m. PST
Monica Fernandez, 40, originally from Guatemala but now living in Morocco, is a two-time winner of the Ultraman double triathlon in Hawaii and has also completed the Marathon des Sables. "This will be the toughest thing I've ever done, for sure. It is a very humbling experience. I know I'm going to want to quit a lot of times but I've got to dig in there to find a way to keep going."
Fernandez was a two-pack a day smoker who changed her life when she was 22 years old. She quit smoking and took up exercising, excelling in multi-sport triathlons. "Running is my weakness but you get to know yourself better. You can see everything around you. It is very enchanting, intuitive, kind of spiritual."
Monica was looking for a goal as she turns 40 years-old this year and heard about Badwater from her "crazy friend," three-time Badwater finisher Ferg Hawke. She had done a lot of triathlons in the past and did extremely well. But now, she is married with two small children and places a lot of importance on balancing her running, which she sees as her entertainment and a way to keep herself fit, with the things that are important to her, family and work.
True to her triathlon roots, Fernandez believes in cross-training so as not to put extra stress any part of her body. To her regular multi-sport training, every two weeks she’s added a long run and then follows that up with another run the next day of half the distance of her long run. The weather in Morocco has been unusually cold until about a month ago so she hasn’t been able to do much heat training. She says the heat has not affected her before but she’s also never done anything this hot.
In addition to the training she's done for Badwater and her time spent with family, Fernandez started a business this year, teaching babies how to survive in the water. With her conservative approach to the race, it looks like she'll not only survive, but may thrive in the heat this year.
Jen Segger’s Ice Cream Monday
by Laura Brennan
Posted July 14, 2008 at 10:35 p.m. PST
Jen Segger is the youngest woman on record to run the Badwater Ultramarathon.
Like most Badwater athletes, she is no newbie to the arena of endurance sports. For years she has been growling it out in endurance races all over the world.
Jen came to Badwater with an extremely positive attitude, high spirits, and a tenacity to compete that surpasses admirable. You really can’t hear her talk about racing without wanting to be out there with her, cracking jokes and checking out what tunes are on the surprise play list that her extremely supportive crew made her.
A few minutes before the 10 a.m. start, Jen said, "The course is totally different than I expected, but I am well rested and prepared." She also expressed that she was tired of standing around and ready to get out there. Watching all the other runners take off really excited her.
In the opening miles, Jen kept a steady pace of 10km per hour. Her coach Ray Zahab said everything was going as planned. Jen was running smart and strong—things were looking good for her.
By the 42-mile mark, Stovepipe Wells, she was still moving, but not at the same pace. Zahab said she had slowed to about 8km per hour and that they planned on keeping that pace for a while, but would eventually pick up again.
Jen also seemed to be having mild foot problems, but when I asked crewmember Cat Mills about it, she humorously said, "This is nothing! In the San Diego 100 her feet looked like oatmeal!"
Despite her well-attended yet blistered feet, which were receiving their third shoe and sock change, Jen seemed as sharp as a whip. She said that the foot pain was nothing. It did not even have to go into the "pain-box." The pain-box is the place where Jen puts all of her pain until the race is over.
While she was having her feet bandaged, and at the same time munching on a sandwich with large slices of cucumber in the place of bread, all she talked about was wanting vanilla ice cream. When it finally arrived she quipped: "Who eats ice cream in the middle of the desert?" Jen Segger, apparently.
While the outcome of rookie Jen Segger's race might not be as bright as she had hoped, one thing seems certain: she’ll keep a sunny smile on her face all the way to the finish.
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 14, 2008 at 11:00 p.m. PST
As the first day of the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon turns slowly to night, there are more dramatic changes occurring on the race course.
The approach of dusk finds most runners at Stovepipe Wells, mile 42 of the course, or beyond. There are, however, many runners still finishing their trek through Death Valley. Sarah Lowell, 46, of Franklin, North Carolina is at the back of a long "connect the dots" string of runners outlining Hwy 190, the main route from Death Valley to Lone Pine. Since runners may start as much as four hours apart, this doesn’t mean that Lowell's in last place.
To the contrary, Lowell, a veteran of the Arctic Grand Slam, a series of long races in low temp environments, has purposely slowed her pace. She's more accustomed to running in sub-zero rather than triple-digit temperatures. Her plan is to slow her pace dramatically during daylight hours and speed up at night when temperatures begin to dip.
Stovepipe Wells marks a milestone point of the race, the transition from the heat of Death Valley to the nearly 5,000 foot, 17 mile climb up Townes Pass. A chance for crews and runners to rest, swap stories, restock crew vehicles.
But by this point in the 2008 race, bad news spreads like wildfire. The course is impassible ahead at Keeler. Heavy rains in Lone Pine have closed Hwy 190. Getting to Lone Pine and finishing at Mount Whitney is not possible.
A new plan is devised.
Racers will run the standard course to the junction of the 190 and 136 highways and then TURN AROUND and run back to Panamint Springs.
The revised course would be 133.5 miles, only slightly short of regular route’s mileage, but very different in terms of the essence of the race.
Race officials spread the word of the revised course. Runners and crew are informed, plans are changed, and hotel reservations in Lone Pine are canceled.
Then, just hours later… the road is open! The plan has changed again. We’re back to the original course!
Race officials are sent out to the spread the word again. On to Mount Whitney!
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 15, 2008 at 10:00 p.m. PST
Like father, like son.
2008 Badwater Ultramarathon runner #94 is Chisholm Deupree. That number is significant because it represents the first time Deupree was at Badwater. In 1994, Harry Deupree completed the race, with son Chisholm on his crew. The elder Deupree has completed the race five times. This will be Chisholm's first attempt.
Chisholm Deupree, 41, of Edmond, Oklahoma, has impressive ultrarunning credentials himself. Last year he completed his 10th finish at the Leadville 100. He would be the 3rd Oklahoman to finish Badwater.
Nancy, Chris and Taylor are Deupree's three-person crew and will stay with him for the duration of his race. "He is very internal. He expects crew to be there when he needs them," says Nancy. "We love him dearly and will get him through it. We'll pace at night when the sun isn't shining. He's the one who signed up for the heat."
Deupree started off his race well but began having troubles with his stomach between Stovepipe Wells and the 3rd timing station at Panamint Springs. After cresting the steep climb up Father Crowley, he began to feel better and on the approach to Lone Pine is impressed at how well he's been doing
When asked if he was disappointed when he first got the word of the initial course change, before the original course was reopened, Deupree's crew said his attitude was there's no point in being disappointed, you've just got to do the best with what you get.
It looks like Deupree's best this year could even earn him a coveted belt buckle for a sub-48-hour finish.
Jacqueline Adams Florine
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 15, 2008 at 11:00 p.m. PST
A quick scan of the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon roster reveals a wide variety of occupations for this year’s entrants. The list includes: Cardiac Surgeon, Biotech Engineer, Bus Owner, Running Therapist, and Jeweler. But one that definitely catches the eye is Homemaker/Retired Supermodel.
Jacqueline Adams Florine, 44, of Lafayette, California was discovered by the premier modeling agent in the world at age 17. She started her modeling career in 1981 in New York City and went on to do a number of national and international covers and earned a 5-year contract with Elizabeth Arden cosmetics becoming the first woman contracted in the 77-year history of the company.
While reflecting back on the lifestyle she once enjoyed as a supermodel, Florine’s thoughts turn to Badwater. "I’m going to miss those luxuries out here."
But it wasn’t her modeling experience that got her into Badwater this year.
Florine has an impressive resume, and not solely as a runner. "I’m a climber," she says. She has the record on the John Muir Trail for female solo self-contained, was the first woman soloist of El Capitan, and holds the women’s record for a push of the California 14ers – 14,000 ft high peaks.
Her crew at the start of the race: Anthony Portera, Paul Hara, and Mike "the Dog" Lopez, were very tight-lipped about her training for Badwater, but she did elaborate a bit. "I did a lot of moderation, keeping myself nice and healthy. I did my long runs. The longest was about 8 ½ hours but it was in the hills. The idea was to get me trained but not get me injured."
Without extensive running experience, she contacted ultrarunning legend Lisa Smith-Batchen and put herself in Lisa’s hands. The training program that Lisa developed took into consideration the importance that Florine places on her life outside of ultrarunning.
So how has this training paid off? Her crew reports that she’s doing great and is eyeing a sub-48 hour finish, with a comfortable 6-hour cushion. As she approaches Lone Pine, she stops on the side of the highway with her crew, pointing out various peaks on the rugged skyline of the Sierras, most of which she’s climbed.
She may be the only entrant in the race actually looking forward to climbing the Portal Road.
What They Said
By Paul Skilbeck
Posted July 16, 2008 at 12:46 a.m. PST
Your strategy - "I had a clear strategy for this race. I wanted to start out slower compared to last year so this time worked out pretty good but I was running with these guys Akos Konya, David Goggins and Dean Karnazes. I was running more relaxed than last year and that was a good advantage and key for my success later on."
Running with a group - "I stayed around the others until Furnace Creek and the only one that was close to me was Akos Konya."
Being in the lead – "It was a little bit of pressure but I'm used to that because my races work that way. I try to run the way I feel in that race so if they're not pushing the pace I try to do the best I can at the moment."
Crew keeping track of time splits for you – "Yeah, they were very supportive in every way, they were the best crew in the world for me."
Problems with blisters? – "I was lucky to have Denise Jones tape my feet and I just had one blister in a spot where she didn't tape so I was lucky and that wasn't a big problem. I had some other issues during the race that kept me from finishing faster but I could overcome them."
Only stop for a leg massage? – "No, I stopped a couple more times after that because I was having issues with my stomach and I was feeling a little bit weak. I wasn't being able to eat solid food but after awhile I was feeling better."
What were you eating – "I was eating just about anything. Ensure, a lot of GU, Gatorade, salt pills, sandwiches and stuff like that."
Heat – "I thought it was about the same compared to last year."
Course change – "When you told me that the first time, I wasn't so happy about it because I wasn't going to do the original course so I was thinking, ‘well it's not going to be the same. I wanted to finish here at the Portal.' I wasn't so happy but when you told me the second time we were going to finish here at the Portal, I was happy again. I just kept the same pace but I was more happy."
Sponsors – Moeben sleeves (Shannon Farar-Griefer). "I wore them all the time and they kept me pretty cool. I was putting water on them." And USA Bank Card ??? (Alan Griefer). "I couldn't have done it without them."
Stomach issues – "After 110 miles, I was having issues with my stomach. I couldn't eat because everything that I eat, including drinks, water, right after I drink or eat I was throwing up. That was really a scary moment for me because I didn't know if I was going to be able to finish or not but finally I was lucky and I could solve the problem and it worked pretty good."
Kept moving – "Akos Konya was pretty close behind me and at the right moment I got my stomach back. I was just getting to Lone Pine and I knew that Akos Konya was only 2 miles behind me, pretty close, and we were going to be fighting this last section to the finish line. I was pushing the pace because I knew he was pushing too. I was OK by then and I was able to push this section."
Problems in the same area as last time – "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."
Training – "I did the same training, I just wanted to start out slower than last year."
How you got interested in running – "A friend of mine invited me to watch a race in 1998 and since then I've been doing them and I love it."
Recovering from problems – "I was feeling sleepy and I took a couple of naps, my wife was giving me a massage and I was taking advantage of that, but I was so weak. I was going to do a little better time if I was OK but I couldn't. And at the right moment my stomach got back when I knew Akos was getting closer. In Lone Pine my stomach was getting better and I was able to try."
Did your hamstring problem affect performance? – "I don't think it did. It hurt but I don't think it slowed me down."
Were you nervous about your hamstring coming in to race? – "I was not because it's kind of a slow race and a long race and my hamstring hurts when I'm running fast or uphill, and this uphill hurts anyway."
Compare your overall fitness versus last year? How many races did you do? – "Last year I raced more, I got several races …. two 100 milers. This year I had 4 races, two 50Ks and two 50 milers, so I was worried about the night … that I'm going to have a hard time without sleeping."
You ran with Jorge and Goggins at the beginning, did that just happen or was it planned? "I was following Jorge and I wanted to cut the wind for awhile, and so my goal was to slow everybody down. Before the 17 mile mark, Jorge took off and I never saw him again."
Around Furnace Creek you were in 2nd, so how was it like staying in second for 118 miles? – "I got used to it!"
Were you getting time splits? – "I kind of remembered my last year's splits and my time was two minutes over last year."
That's the two minutes for the hamstring? – "I tried to beat it but I couldn't."
Were you keeping track of Jorge? –"I couldn't see him."
Keeping track in terms of the time splits? – "I sent my crew ahead to see how he was doing, what was the difference…. I was hoping that he would have problems again like last year but he didn't! Just kidding. He's really good."
Did you have any foot problems? – "I didn't have any problems. I just wanted to be here (at Mt Whitney) as fast as I could and I love being here."
How did you feel when you heard about the change in course and then the change back? – "Actually I was excited about the new course, the downhill finish. And I was coming down the first climb (up Towne's Pass) and you told me I have to come up here (Mt Whitney). I was kind of shocked but I said OK, whatever. I didn't slow me down."
Anything to add? – I just want to thanks everyone for helping.
Konya and Pacheco
AK – It's nice to see you again. (laughter)
How many times do you race each other?
AK – Four. This year, second. He beat me four times.
JP – I was lucky, that's all. You have beat me before too.
"My goal, dare I say this on the record, I want ten of these (referring to his medal)."
"The course change didn't slow me down, but I was upset about it because I had some new crew members and wanted them to see the whole traditional course."
About running with the pace makers early in the race
"We are all good friends. They say I'm inspirational, but I'm like 'guys, I bow to you.'"
Day Two: Keeler to Lone Pine
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 16, 2008 at 12:53 a.m. PST
In the late afternoon of Day Two of the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon, a few runners have already crossed the finish line. But the race isn’t over, not even close.
Many runners who are likely to earn one of the coveted belt buckles representative of finishing the race in less than 48 hours have reached Hwy 136, the last stretch before entering Lone Pine. Here is a summary of a quick drive down the highway to get updates on runners between Keeler and Lone Pine.
#57 John Butterick – Butterick’s legs are beat up but he’s doing fine. His crew chief was unable to be here at the last minute because of a death in the family but the crew has rallied and everything has gone well. The crew wants us to know that Butterick, in the 6 AM start, was the very first runner to arrive at Furnace Creek.
#35 Alan Geraldi – This first-time entrant is fatigued but doing well. He’s had a good attitude and been in good spirits. He recalls the wind seeming to go from zero to 60 miles per hour at one point and seeing a full rainbow on the course.
#21 Marshall Ulrich – This will be Ulrich’s 15th Badwater finish and 21st crossing.
#26 William Cook – Crew says he’s been on fire since Keeler. They’re not sure why, perhaps he saw Lone Pine, but he’s now totally focused and moving strongly.
#15 Anita Marie Fromm – Had been flawless through 95 miles then has been fatigued. Took a 45 minute nap and got some calories. She now steadily improving. She’s being smart and the crew says she’s been an angel to crew for.
#23 Bill Andrews – Has had a good attitude. Steady with no major problems. Had some foot issues but “the Zombies” came by and took care of them.
#79 Joao Sacks Prestes – He is two miles from Lone Pine and his crew expects at 42 hour finish. One crew member wants to tell everyone that you don’t lose weight crewing at Badwater. She was told she’d lose at least 5 pounds and says it isn’t true.
#71 Alex Nemet – Is running and looking strong.
#41 Ray Sanchez – Two crewmembers stop to help another runner’s vehicle whose rear tire is stuck in the soft dirt on the side of the road. As he runs by, Sanchez yells out suggestions for extracting the car.
#19 Barbara Elias – Finished in 43 hours last year and is doing even better so far this time because she now knows what to expect.
#36 Zach Gingerich – Is running and looking pretty good.
#74 Dan Marinsik – Doing well, has the potential for his best time ever.
#77 John Radich – Is running and looking pretty good.
#49 Bruce Gungle – Crew claims that Gungle was probed by aliens at the top of Towne’s Pass to get him moving quickly from there. He is struggling now, so the crew draws tick marks with show polish on the back windshield and lets Gungle cross then out for each mile he passes.
#24 Rita Banes – Walking strongly.
#50 Cheryl Zwarkowski – Getting stronger. Zwarkowski was cramping yesterday. She had been on a liquid diet but was convinced to change to solid food. Their scale was weighing incorrectly because of the heat so they put it in a cooler and now it’s working fine.
#60 Mary Gorski – Has been pretty chatty and into it. Has been wearing the BAR shoes since Stovepipe Wells and likes them.
#55 Chris Frost – Moving steadily without a pacer.
Arthur Webb Crosses the Line Again: Bär or Bear?
By Laura Brennan
Posted July 16, 2008 at 2:46 a.m. PST
Right as veteran Arthur Webb a.k.a. the Grinder approached the finish line in his Bär shoes, with a time of 39:46:53, a 400lb black bear also sneaked up to our fine finish area and snatched food from under a table no more that six feet from where the crew was sitting around talking about, you know, official race business. The next thing we knew there was a huge bear 20 feet away in the woods happily eating whatever he had poached.
Even though the bear may have had 200+ pounds on the Grinder, I really feel like he would have stood no chance to him in a 135 mile foot race. Let's face it, bears are short distance runners.
Arthur Webb, on the other hand is not. He is everything you could hope for in a Badwater race. Determined, focused and bearing a great since of humour.
As he put it, before he was literally carried away to his car, "10 times, 10 buckles." Not many Badwater racers can or will ever be able to say this.
As for our friend the bear, after 15 minutes of munching away, he started lurking closer to the medical research car, which apparently had food in it. It was time for a group effort to scare him away. It took about ten people and all of their vocal power to make our unwanted guest leave the 2:00 a.m. Badwater finish line party that is estimated to go on well into tomorrow.
Mr. Bear's time was a 6 second 50 yard dash put him at a much safer distance from the crew.
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 16, 2008 at 11:48 a.m. PST
The 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon started well for Jarom Thurston, 34, of Payson, Utah. Thurston was in the 6:00 AM start wave and was doing great through the first two checkpoints at mile 42, according to Thurston's brother, Heath. That's when problems arose.
Thurston started to feel nauseous and began to throw up on the long climb out of Stovepipe Wells. About halfway up Towne's Pass he laid on the ground for awhile but wasn't getting much better so his crew set his numbered stake in the ground, allowing him to be driven back to Stovepipe to try and recover.
Thurston slept for 2+ hours at Stovepipe and then went back out on the course where his stake had been set and tried again. He continued to struggle. He staked-out again before the next timed station at Panamint Springs as he continued to throw up and was driven to Panamint by his crew.
He tried to eat at Panamint and the crew finally got him out on the course and going again. From there, Thurston fought fatigue and blisters but began running more and he and his crew started focusing on the possibility of a "buckle", despite the eight hours of struggles he had with his stomach.
By the Darwin station, his crew was pushing him to keep up a steady pace and stock up some minutes for the tough final climb up the Whitney Portal Road. In Lone Pine they put two insoles in his shoes to give his feet more cushioning. Thurston, even after 122 miles, was able to run most of the way from Lone Pine to the start of the steep switchbacks on the Portal Road and crossed the finish line in 47:09:08 earning a highly-prized belt buckle for finishing under 48 hours.
His troubles at the beginning of the race contributed to a 5-hour "negative split", meaning he actually ran the second half of the race much faster than the first half. With all his difficulties, was there ever a thought of dropping out? "We never talked about it," said Heath. It was clearly on their minds but nobody wanted to be the one to bring it up.
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 16, 2008 at 1:41 p.m. PST
It's the middle of the night and your feet are killing you. You've run well over 100 miles and you can't run any more. Your race is over. Or so you think.
Todd Baum, 50, of Fayetteville, New York, is back at Badwater again. This year he finds himself about 9 miles outside of Lone Pine telling his crew he's done. Blisters on his feet have done in his race. They pound their stake in the ground to mark their departure point from the course and head into Lone Pine. Baum feels bad for his crew but decides he's had enough.
Baum goes to the race headquarters at the Dow Villa motel with his wife and 12-year-old daughter and announces he's withdrawing from the race.
Don Meyer, race volunteer and former Badwater finisher, hears this but knows Baum has plenty of time to finish the race if he can take care of his feet. Meyer tells Baum that arguably the best foot care person in the world is sleeping in a nearby room and offers to wake him up.
John Vonhof is the foot guru. He is awoken from a sound sleep but quickly assesses that Baum's main problems are hotspots that have formed underneath the calluses at the base of his toes. Vonhof works his magic and tells Baum to walk around a little and see how it feels. Baum rests for a couple of hours in Lone Pine and indeed goes back out to find his stake and give it another try at finishing the race.
Meyer himself is awoken, this time at about four in the morning to the breathless sound of someone saying that Baum is checking in at Lone Pine. But he isn't stopping. Not this time.
Rather than being content to finish, he's now trying to get a belt buckle for a sub-48 hour finish. Meyer rushes outside to see Baum running past the Lone Pine time station on the heels of fellow entrant Steve Teal, 42, a firefighter from Phelan, California. His long break has left Baum little margin in his quest for the buckle.
Some reports describe Baum as sprinting up sections of the Portal Road to the finish, completing that section of the course in a time of about three hours, comparable to that of the fastest runners in the race. Baum crosses the finish line in 47:24:26, turning a possible Did Not Finish into his coveted sub-48 hour buckle.
"That is the essence of this race," says Meyer. "To go from being out of the race to getting a buckle! It's a great lesson to his daughter and to everyone that you can do anything if you focus on it."
Baum is seen the following morning near the race headquarters, buckle in hand.
Kelvin Alexander Marshall
By Steve Matsuda
Posted July 16, 2008 at 2:05 p.m. PST
In a marathon, runners are said to hit "the wall" at mile 20 when it feels like you've got nothing left. The Badwater Ultramarathon is different, according to rookie entrant Kelvin Alexander Marshall, 44, from Palm Beach in Queensland, Australia.
About Badwater, Marshall said, "You hit the wall three to four times, at least."
Marshall hit the wall for the first time at mile 30. He'd "lost his momentum," but didn't want to get his crew worried so early in the race so he tried not to show it.
He improved but again hit a low spot at Towne's Pass, the highest elevation point of the first half of the course. Marshall thought he'd drunk too much water during his long, slow climb to the summit in the cooler evening temperatures and was feeling bloated.
He couldn't get his stomach right so he tried not to eat too much. He'd brought "real food" but stuck mainly to more energy gels and protein shakes. It got to the point that he couldn't even handle physically chewing food so he had to rethink his entire food strategy.
Knowing things wouldn't magically get better, Marshall ate as little as possible for the rest of the race.
"When I got to Lone Pine, I thought I'd run my race," said Marshall. "I was tired and emotional."
But his race wasn't done. "It was so good when I got to the finish because I didn't have to go any further," said Marshall. "I couldn't have done it without my crew, it felt like I had a family out there."
Though a first-timer at Badwater, Marshall is a veteran of many multi-stage events in Europe and Australia. "This is harder physically because you don't get to rest at the end of each day. Here, you've got to keep going for 135 miles."
Since this was his first time at Badwater, Marshall's goals were first to finish and then to bring home a belt buckle for completing the course in under 48-hours, which he did in a time of 40:23:48.
Marshall was the first runner from the 6:00 AM starting wave to reach the finish line and ended up in 33rd place overall. His crew joked that now he has to come back again and be the first finisher from the 10:00 AM start, reserved for the fastest race entrants.
Or, were they joking?