1999 Hi-Tec Badwater/Whitney 135 Story and Results

July 15, 1999 to July 16, 1999
Badwater, Death Valley, to Whitney Portals
135 miles


Article and results courtesy and © Ben Jones

Everyone is aware of the flash floods in the eastern California and Nevada deserts recently after the news from Las Vegas deluge of the “Strip” and Caesar’s Palace a week before the race. In the days before the event, runners started showing up at Stovepipe Wells Village. The staff there was well aware of what was about to happen and was looking forward to it. No one was quite expecting an apocalypse however.

The runner’s exposition was well attended. Everyone was excited and apprehensive. Many old acquaintances were made as well as new ones as half of the participants were first-timers this year. Course rules were reviewed by the staff, the California Highway Patrol and the National Park Service Rangers. Chris Kostman, Race Director of the Furnace Creek 508 Bicycle Race, presented Marshall Ulrich with a plaque for completing the Death Valley Cup (racing Badwater and the 508 in the same year). Marshall did it in 1996. Marshall was also recognized for his recent solo, self-contained, un-supported crossing from Badwater to the top of Mt. Whitney in just over 77 hours. Denise Jones held a foot-care clinic after the exposition.

Right after the exposition and a runner’s reception, the apocalypse started. A black wall appeared in the north preceded by a plume of dust sucked up from the Stovepipe Wells sand dunes. As the squall proceeded southward, rain started to pelt down and then turned into a sheet of water streaking in at a 30-degree angle. Rivulets of mud started flowing through the motel walks and almost into the rooms. Rivulets soon turned into muddy-brown streams. Flashes of lightning and cracking thunder kept us on our toes. Over the next two hours the cell of energy moved on to Furnace Creek and Badwater. Flash floods caused mud to cover much of the highway in between. Temperatures which had reached 112 degrees dropped. Eighteen miles to the east at 5,000 ft. it was 61 degrees. From this point at Townes Pass, the spectacle was even more dramatic because, as the sun started to shine again, a beautiful double-rainbow appeared within the black cloud and lightning streaks.

Between 0400 and 0500 Thursday morning 07-15-1999 the armada left for Badwater. We were diverted by the Hi-Tec staff and a closed gate at the Badwater turnoff to an alternate site 17 miles to the east. Communications were established by the CHP with the NPS staff. Many of the elite and old-time runners in this race pleaded for a Badwater start. With tremendous cooperation of these agencies, a contingency plan was hastily adopted. We agreed to return to a staging area near the date orchard in front of the Furnace Creek Ranch until the NPS maintenance crew could plow the 17-mile road between there and Badwater. This was done and at 0900 the armada drove to Badwater. Group pictures were taken and last-minute interviews were held. Adam Bookspan, concert trumpeter for the Florida Philharmonic, played the National Anthem. Watches were synchronized. At exactly 1000, Matt Frederick, Race Director, sent the 42 runners on their journey. It was four hours later than the usual start time.

Eric Clifton took the lead immediately. At one point he was five miles ahead. This narrowed later after the trailing runners stepped up their pace. He set a new men’s AM-start record of 27:09 and this was his third try here. Gabriel Flores, who broke David Jones’ record last year of 29:10 in 28:09, maintained second place fairly early and closed the gap to finish in 28:36. Mark Godale, a new-comer to Badwater, put on a spectacular performance for third place and was also under 30 hours in 29:58. Steven Silver and Art Webb, both returnees and over age 50, shared the last 90 miles together. Steven held back about 30 seconds at the finish so both could share fourth place in 33:57. Marshall Ulrich put on a courageous performance, especially after his solo within the last two weeks, to come in sixth. Dale Sutton, the “pajama man,” returned for another spectacular performance for the second time to come in seventh.

The women deserve a lot of credit this year for some remarkable performances. This year there were seven women at the starting line. Angelika Castenada, of the Twin Team, completed the course for the fourth time along with her sister, Barbara Alvarez Warren. They had just won the National Triathlon Championships in Florida and are headed for the World Triathlon Championships in Canada. They were the only women to do Badwater in 1989 and 1990 and were therefore first in those years. In 1991 they improved by about eight hours but were behind Bonnie Boyer, who set the women’s PM-start record of 36:19:20 and they did it in 40:05:10. Now Angelika set a new women’s AM-start record this year of 36:58 breaking Lisa Smith’s 1997 record by three minutes and was the eighth finisher overall. Louise Cooper-Lovelace is recovering from breast cancer surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. She and Lisa Smith were running for charity including breast cancer cure and paralysis research. Louise was the second woman and was the thirteenth overall finisher. Barbara Warren, mentioned above, was the third woman. Fourth and fifth women, Maria DeJesus and Cathy Tibbetts came in fairly close together. My wife, Denise Jones, First Lady of Badwater, improved her time by over six hours to finish for the third time as the sixth woman. All of the women finishers buckled within the 48-hour time limit.

The other finish times are listed below. There were 33 finishers of whom 25 buckled within the 48-hour time limit.

Nine of the 42 starters did not finish. Jason Hodde had an aggravating Achilles tendinitis problem and quit after completing the first marathon distance. Jurgen Ankenbrand, who finished in 1990 and 1992, made it about 35 miles and had to drop because of problems with his feet; he covered the rest of the race as a photographer and encouraged the other runners to the end. Major Curt “Bill” Maples had to drop at 40 miles and needed IV fluids thereby being disqualified. After recovering, he and his fellow Marines, jumped ahead to join and support Maria DeJesus and encourage her to the finish line. Brian Van Oene, from Canada, quit at Stovepipe Wells (41 miles) with stomach trouble. Bill Menard, previous winner at this race, quit with stomach problems at around 50 miles. Carlos Banderas, who, besides Gabriel, also broke the 1997 record last year, had to drop at 55 miles after stepping on a rock in the dark and sustaining a stress fracture. David Jones, previous record holder from 1997, had to drop at 60 miles due to a vertigo problem. Dan Jensen, amputee from a mine-blast injury in Viet Nam, developed swelling of his stump and could no longer wear the prosthesis after 95 miles. Lisa Smith, who recently was the first American finisher at the Marathon des Sables, and was running for breast cancer cure and paralysis research, had a virus disorder and a reaction to a skin application (DMSO), stopped for IV’s at 129 miles and was disqualified, however she later completed the course to the Portals.

During the Race the temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees cooler than usual. The trade-off was increased humidity to 55-100 % giving a high heat index. A storm similar to the one pre-race occurred in the afternoon. A huge dust storm occurred without rain at the Stovepipe Wells dunes giving a dramatic effect for the film crew as runners had to lean sideways into the wind and blowing sand. A lightning storm and flash flooding occurred again with road closures below Furnace Creek.

Leland Hammerschmitt of Ramstead Productions along with Mel Stuart and Chris Wiser were responsible for directing 28 other film people in a two-hour documentary which is being called “Running on the Sun.” They did a marvelous job of coordinating their activities both before and during the race in capturing the human element as well as the race itself. We will all be rewarded in about six months by being able to see it on TV perhaps on the Discovery Channel.


Place, Name, Home State, Age, Sex, Finish Time, Time to Top
01. Clifton, Eric NM 41 M 27:49! New men’s record 46:26 1st
02. Flores, Gabriel CA 33 M 28:36
03. Godale, Mark OH 29 M 29:58
04. Webb, Art CA 57 M 33:57
Silver, Steven TX M 33:57
06 Ulrich, Marshall CO 48 M 35:52 50:10 2nd
07. Sutton, Dale CA 59 M 36:11
08. Casteneda, Angelika CA 56 F 36:58! New women’s record
09. Lapanja, Bob CA 45 M 37:51
10. Hanna, Noel IRE 31 M 39:03
11. Decker, Joe MD 29 M 39:37 104:00 8th
12. Ankeney, Bobb CA M 40:05 57:00 3rd
13. Cooper, Louise CA F 40:14
14. Russias, Pierre FRA 55 M 40:28
15. Manley, Brian CO 36 M 41:23
16. Warren, Barbara CA 56 F 41:25
17. Saffery, Clive TIA M 42:15
18 Palazzo, Nick NY 52 M 43:07
19. Justin, Mick MN 51 M 43:09 73:05 5th
20. DeJesus, Maria UK 34 F 43:10
21. Tibbets, Cathy NM 44 F 43:47
22. Bookspan, Adam FL 33 M 44:43 Race walker record
23. Hamilton, Jim CA M 45:47
24. Jones, Denise CA 53 F 45:54 80:03 7th
25. Simmons, Stephen WV M 46:56 59:00 4th
26. Rosmus, John CA 50 M 49:07
27. Merienne, Jean Jacques FRA M 49:45
28. Smit, Robin CA M 51:10 74:24 6th
29. Romesberg, Ephraim CA 68 M 53:10
30. Moon, Chris UK 37 M 53:48
31. Denness, Jack UK 54 M 54:06
32. Johnson, Kirk NJ M 54:26
33. Weber, Scott CO M 56:34 77:18:28

42 starters, 33 finishers