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Racing Badwater for Camp Sunshine

2004 finisher

I got the urge to do the Badwater ultra after crewing for Mike Smith in 2002. I filled out an application that was more like a runner’s resume for the 2004 race and was lucky enough to be picked for one of the 80 or so slots.

My first job was to assemble the best team to help me finish the race. The team consisted of Bob Brainerd from Maine my coach, trainer and he is a triathelete. Carl Hunt from CT. ultrarunner. Walt Prescott from NH, ultrarunner, pace and crew person at Badwater 2002 and 2003 and ultrarunner. Mike Smith from IN, Badwater finisher 2002, crew person 2003. Andy Velazco from GA, orthopedic surgeon, 2003 Badwater finisher, crewed Badwater 2002. These five people are all very close friends of mine who  gave up their time and worked under extremely hard conditions to help me at Badwater.

The crews would be with me supplying food and drinks, moral support and much more constantly for over 85 hours. They would pace me from mile 17 until the finish. They put up with my vomiting, diarrhea and hallucinations. They also kept me motivated, taped my feet, treated my blisters, changed my shoes and socks etc…

This incredible team gave me the confidence I needed to take on Badwater and Mt Whitney. Another motivating factor was the  goal of raising $25,000 for Camp Sunshine and knowing that if I finished Badwater, I would raise even more money.

My “dream team” and I all met in Las Vegas July 10th 2004 and proceeded to Furnace Creek, Death Valley, CA for what turned out to be a most memorable four days of challenging myself.

The first challenge was the Badwater Ultramarathon. This race is 135 mile footrace from Badwater, 282 feet below sea level to Mt Whitney ending at 8,400′. These two places are the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere  and the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. There is no food or water on the course you have to supply your own.

I had the 8:00 am start on Monday July 12th. There are three starts 6, 8 and 10 am each consisting of about 25 runners. It was about 85-90 degrees at the start. By mile 13 I was already in trouble suffering from the “runs”. I had been taking in drinks with too much sugar, this continued to bother me for the next 6 hours or so. By 28 miles into the race a temperature of 123 degrees had been reached as we traveled over the rolling asphalt road through Death Valley. At mile 42 I took my longest break of the race at a motel in Stove Pipe Wells. I spent about 15 minutes in the pool trying to cool down my body. Then I had a pasta dinner as Andy partially retaped my feet in an effort to prevent blistering. In less than an hour I was back on the course starting up a 5,000 feet climb for 18 miles. Around mile 53—I “blew lunch” in front of my crew and lost my pasta dinner and anything else that was in my stomach. The guys were great about putting up with my disgusting bodily functions, keeping me hydrated and moving forward.

Reaching Townes Pass summit  at mile 59 and starting the 8 mile downhill towards Panamint Springs I knew that I had the hottest portion of the race and one of the Mountain ranges behind me.

I ran the first 17 miles without a pacer, but had someone with me from that moment on. At about mile 70 I started another mountain climb to Father Crowley’s 5,050′, reaching the 90 mile mark on July 13th at 2:30 PM. 30.5 hours into the race, I had climbed 2 mountain ranges and descended a long downhill to find a flat stretch of road ahead of me. This took me to mile 122 where I would start another long climb up to 8400′ to Mount Whitney Portals and the finish line.

Darkness arrived for the second time around mile 112 (about 36 hours into the race) this brought on some hallucinations, I was seeing things that I now know were not there. There are miles of the race that I don’t remember, but as Bob started pacing me at mile 122 (at 1215AM) up toward Mt Whitney portals I was again hallucinating in 3D. When I would stop, the asphalt road would move, becoming 3 dimensional and mosaic.  This was not a frightening hallucination, just worrisome that I would lose my balance and fall.

With Mike Smith there with the SUV, moving it just ahead by 1/2 mile at a time, and Bob there to encourage me and keep me moving forward, I knew that if I didn’t stop too often or for too long, I would “buckle”. To receive the coveted “Badwater belt buckle” would mean that I would need to finish this in under 48 hours.

Forty Six hours and seventeen  minutes after starting out at 282′ below sea level, I crossed the finish line with my crew of 5 at my side. I was exhausted, filthy and in pain but I was happy as hell. After a few pictures were taken with my crew and with the race director I called my wife at work to share my victory with her. We  then headed to Lone Pine CA for a shower, some food and some sleep.

Three of my crew members, Andy, Walt and Mike S headed back to Las Vegas that afternoon to fly to Vermont and run in the Vermont 100 mile trail race. (they all sucessfully completed this race with Mike buckling).

I had  finished the Badwater 135 miler, “buckled”, summitted Mt Whitney and returned. I had run, walked and crawled from the lowest point in the Western hemisphere to the highest mountain in the lower 48 states.

The one goal that has not yet been reached is raising the $25,000 that I had hoped I could raise for Camp Sunshine. I will continue to work towards that goal and hopefully reach it in the near future. The website will be open for another year for donations.  There is also more info there regarding the race.

Thank you Andy, Bob, Carl , Mike S and Walt for all that you did!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would also like to thank all the people who gave me moral support before ,during and after the race. And a special thanks to everyone who contributed to Camp Sunshine, I never thought I would be so close to my goal at this point, you poeple are truly  generous and thoughtful. Ten families plus are now going to Camp Sunshine thanks to your generousity.

Badwater 2004 Race Report – Robert Wimmer #34 – German

support crew

Click here to read this report in English

08:00 Uhr

Abfahrt von unserem Hotel in Stove Pipe Wells.  Wir haben den Van gestern abend und seit heute frueh um ca. 6:00 Uhr vorbereitet, gepackt, Eis besorgt, etc.  Eine gewisse Nervosität im Team ist zu spüren, aber generell sitzt jeder Handgriff durchdacht und professionell.  Robert hat durchgeschlafen und fühlt sich super.

Das Team:

  • Robert Wimmer / Ultraläufer
  • Sebastian Bär / Head of the BÄR Team
  • Tom Aigner / Sportwissenschaftler vom HSZ
  • Juergen Ankenbrand / Ultramarathon erfahrener Bekannter von Robert, dt. Auswanderer seit 42 Jahren, lebt in Surf City, CA., Alter: 63 J., kennt Robert vom TransEuropalauf
  • Christopher und Audrey Bunn / Fotografen aus USA
  • Jürgen Müller / Film und Video, war auch schon beim TransEuropalauf dabei

09:00 Uhr

Ankunft in Badwater, dem niedrigsten Punkt der USA (282 Fuß unter Meeresspiegel).  Hier treffen wir auch Marc Cotnoir von der Fa. Rogers / USA, einem Co-Sponsor den wir für dieses Event gewinnen konnten.  Fa.Rogers ist unser Lieferant des Poron und Senflex Materials, das wir im Performance MarathonSchuh einsetzen.  Er ist selbst Läufer und kann nicht glauben was Robert hier vor hat.  Es herrscht bereits grosses Medieninteresse, div. grosse US Sender sind vor Ort.  Schon jetzt drückt die Hitze unerbärmlich runter.

10:00 Uhr

Der Startschuss fällt, eine Gruppe von ca. 25 Läufer macht sich auf den Weg 135 Meilen, quer durch das Death Valley.  Bereits um 06:00 Uhr und 08:00 Uhr sind Gruppen gestartet mit ähnlich vielen Läufern.  Diese sind uns auf der Fahrt zum Start auch schon gegegnet.  Insgesamt sind es ca. 80 Läufer.

Nach 10 Meilen

Die Team Betreuung von Robert hat sich nach den ersten 2 bis 3 Stops eingependelt: wir halten ca. jeden 1,5 km und geben Robert ½ Liter Getränk (Elektrolyt, Frubiase, Wasser im Wechsel) und ein Gel mit Kohlehydraten, Banane, Trauben, Melone, Power Riegel, Vitamin Fläschen, etc. immer im Wechsel.  Außerdem sprühen wir ihn im Nacken, auf dem Kopf, an den Armen und auf der Brust mit kaltem Wasser jedes Mal ein.  Jetzt wollen wir ihn noch mal eincremen mit Sonnencreme, da die Sonne unglaublich intensiv runterknallt und sagen ihm er soll stehen bleiben, worauf er auf seinem typischen Fränkisch antwortet: „Nee, i bleib net stehn!“.

Meile 16,4

Christopher Bergland führt vor Robert Wimmer mit ca. 1 km.  Temperatur ca. 52° C.  Robert läuft ein gleichmäßiges Tempo.

Meile 17,4

Hier befindet sich die erste Zeitmessstation.  Robert spricht jetzt etw. weniger, eine gewisse Anspannung ist spürbar.  Nichts negatives, ihm geht es auch nicht schlecht, aber die Hitze steht nun eben immer noch bei 52° C.  Pam Reed und Dean Karnazes, beides Favoriten in diesem Rennen, sind momentan nicht in Sicht.  Halten sich wahrscheinlich hinten und warten, ob vorn jemand einbricht.

Meile 18,8

Abstand zu Christopher Bergland wird langsam geringer.  Wir geben Robert jetzt etw. verdünntes RedBull, dass sich seine Psyche wieder etw. aufhellt.

Meile 19,5

Wir wechseln auf Kommando von Robert seine Einlegesohle von der LAST Einlegesohle in die Performance Einlegesohle.  Die LAST ist sprichwörtlich platt, v.a. im Ballenbereich.

Meile 22,0

Robert lacht, läuft wie eine Maschine.  Die Performance Einlegesohle ist tiptop, wird ihm auch nicht zu warm an den Fußsohlen.  Wir haben jetzt vom sprühen auf einen Eisschwamm gewechselt.  Die Praxis hat gezeigt, dass dies besser funktioniert, um die Körpertemperatur unten zu halten, als das einsprühen.  Robert wendet sich auch an uns und fragt, ob wir ausreichend trinken, um nicht zu dehydrieren in dieser Teufelshitze.  Er ist bester Laune.  Es ist 14:00 Uhr und es sind weiterhin 52° C.  Eisschwämme nimmt er super gerne, drückt diesen auf Kopf, im Nacken, an den Armen und Oberschenkeln aus.  Der jeweilige  Betreuer hat hier auch beim versorgen immer einen Eimer mit Eiswasser mit dabei, so dass der Schwamm währenddessen immer wieder vollgesogen werden kann.  Mittlerweile hat Robert auch schon einige aus der 08:00 Uhr Startwelle überholt.  Jetzt startet Robert ein wenig psychologische Kriegsführung: er ist aufgeschlossen zu Christopher Bergland, hat ihm gezeigt – hey, ich bin da und mir geht es gut und ich lass Dich die Arbeit machen.  Wir füttern ihm jetzt auch Babyfood (ähnl. Hipp Baby Gläschen) und lassen ihn ein paar Meter gehen, so dass der Abstand auf Bergland wieder 150 m nach vorn beträgt.  Verfassung bei Robert ist super gut!  Temperatur weiterhin 52° C.

14:26 Uhr

Die Temperatur ist mittlerweile hoch auf 60° C (!).  Das ist Sauna im Freien, es ist unvorstellbar im Moment.  Jetzt geben wir Robert jeden km den Eisschwamm und weiterhin 1⁄2 Liter Getränk.  Den ersten Marathon hat er in ca. 3 Std. 40 Min. Gelaufen.

Bergland hat sich soeben in seinen Crew Van gesetzt, d.h. Robert führt jetzt das Feld an.  Es sieht so aus, dass Christopher Bergland einen Krampf hat und er fällt zurück.  Die Crew Vans von Dean Karnazes fahren immer wieder vor zu uns und beobachten, in welcher Verfassung Robert ist.  Dean Karnazes macht auch langsam Boden gut.  Robert sagt, das ist ideal für ihn.  Er hat ihn vorbei gelassen und läuft jetzt hinter ihm her sein eignes Tempo.  Es sind weiterhin 60° C.

Karnazes macht jetzt etw. mehr Tempo, liegt ca. 600 Meter vor Robert.  Wir machen mittlerweile fast alle 600 – 800 Meter Verpflegungsstops (Robert bleibt während dieser Stops nicht stehen, sondern alles läuft im Lauftempo von Robert ab) und kühlen ihn mit dem Eisschwamm.  Die Hitze hämmert unerbärmlich runter.  Robert spürt seine Waden etwas, daher geben wir ihm mehr Frubiase und Elektrolyte.

Wir selbst im Team müssen uns mit Sonnencreme mit Schutzfaktor 60 eincremn und tauchen unsere Baseball Caps regelmässig in Eiswasser.

15:15 Uhr

Robert wird von einem Auto angefahren.  Ein englischer Tourist hat ihn übersehen und bleibt bei vollem Tempo mit seinem Rückspiegel an Roberts Hüfte hängen.  Robert schreit kurz auf, der Autofahrer fährt weiter.  Wir fahren an die Seite, ich renne zu Robert, Juergen macht Eis bereit und Tom… Tom vergisst die Automatik des Vans von „D“ auf „P“ zu stellen, vor lauter Aufregung.  Unser Van macht sich selbstständig und fährt quer über die Strasse auf die andere Seite und bleibt im Seitengraben hängen.  Robert gibt mir die Info, dass es geht und läuft weiter.  Zum Glück ist bei all dem nichts passiert.  10cm mehr und das Rennen wäre vorbei gewesen.  Zufällig war einer der Race Officials in der Nähe und jagt hinter dem britischen Touristen her.  Das Rennen läuft weiter.

15:54 Uhr

Nachdem der Schrecken verdaut ist, läuft jetzt alles wieder in seiner gewohnten Routine.  Dean Karnazes liegt etwa 600 Meter vor Robert, muß aber auch immer wieder gehen.  Es weht mittlerweile auch ein Wind, der leider nicht kühlt, sonder sich eher anfühlt als würde jemand einem einen großen Fön auf höchster Stufe vor den Körper halten.  Wir versuchen kontinuierlich Robert ausreichend zu versorgen, dass sein Körper mit hält und er einigermaßen hydriert bleibt.  Nur noch ein paar Meilen bis Stove Pipe Wells.  Rechts von uns liegen die riesigen Sanddünen.  Temperatur ist wieder runter auf 52° C.  Ab Stove Pipe Wells wird es langsam bergauf gehen, dann wird es auch etwas kühler werden.

Mittlerweile geben wir Robert auch Tomatensaft, dass er mal einen anderen Geschmack in den Mund und v.a. dass sein Körper wieder Salze nachgeliefert bekommt.  An den Sanddünen vorbei, noch ca. 2 bis 3 km bis Stove Pipe Wells.  Dort ist auch ein Pool an dem Motel, in dem wir die letzten zwei Tage gewohnt haben.

Roberts Psyche geht gerade wieder etwas runter, die Versorgung läuft routiniert, wir versuchen Energie in ihn reinzuladen, wie es nur geht.

16:25 Uhr

Dean Karnazes ist jetzt erst mal weiter vor, wir sind kurz vor Stove Pipe Wells.

Meile 42

Robert hat sich im Pool entspannt abgekühlt und dann ein frisches Trikot etc. angezogen.  Das hat ihm gut getan.  Ich hab 6 x versucht Dr. Thomas Prochnow – seinen Coach – zu erreichen, vom payphone in Stove Pipe, leider hat es nicht geklappt.  Er hätte Robert noch mal psychologisch aufbauen und motivieren können.  Audrey hat uns währendessen nochmals 10 Tüten Eis besorgt und Jürgen mehr Wasser.  Nach der Pause habe ich Robert erzählt, dass ich Thomas Prochnow erreicht habe und dass er gesagt hat dass Robert alles richtig macht, dass Thomas voll hinter ihm steht und ihm die Daumen drückt für den weiteren Verlauf des Rennens.  Robert hat sich super gefreut.  Dean Karnazes ist ohne Pause durchgelaufen.  Uns selbst läuft der Schweiß runter wie nichts, obwohl wir nur im Auto sitzen mit offenen Fenstern, wo auch noch der Wind durchzieht.

17:12 Uhr

Jetzt geht es langsam bergauf in die Berge.  Temperatur 52° C.  Auf einmal begegnen wir Dean.  Er musste stoppen und Schuhe wechseln.  Psychologisch das Beste was Robert passieren konnte: Robert war entspannt im Pool, hat etwas gegessen, während Dean ohne Pause weitergelaufen ist.  Dean hat nagelneue Turnschuhe angezogen.  Robert ist jetzt vorbei an ihm.  Es geht stetig bergauf, aber wir kriegen ihn trotzdem immer wieder zum lachen.  Wir versorgen ihn verstärkt mit Vitaminen, Elektrolyten, Kohlehydrate-Gels, etc. und überraschen ihn immer auch mal wieder mit Melone etc.  Jetzt liegt er in Führung mit ca. 400m vor Dean.

Tom und ich wechseln uns mit Robert versorgen bereits den ganzen Tag ab, bis einer aufgrund der Hitze wechseln muß, um zu fahren.  Das sind immer so ca. 6 bis 8 Stops.  Jürgen managt hinten am Van die Flaschen, das Eis, mischt Getränke an, bereitet vor und räumt weg.  Es klappt alles wie am Schnürchen und sehr eingespielt.

Wir wecheln uns mit dem Dean Team Van ab, mal steht deren Van vor unserem, mal umgekehrt.  Unglaublich angespannte Stimmung.  Man geht fair miteinander mit Respekt um.

17:48 Uhr

Robert und Dean wechseln sich mit der Führung jetzt ab.  Als Robert grad versorgt wurde von uns, ich soll mir keine Sorgen machen.

17:56 Uhr

Es ist verdammt hart, es geht immer nur bergauf und das noch ganze weitere 9 Meilen lang.  Robert läuft kontinuierlich wie eine Maschine!  Weiterhin kommt jetzt auch noch, wie jeden abend fast im Death Valley, ein Wind auf.  Und das wie immer pure Fönluft.  Robert macht hier grad das härteste durch, was ich jeh gesehen habe.

18:07 Uhr

Die Sonne brennt immer noch unerbärmlich runter.  44° C.  Wir haben Robert während dem Gehen komplett noch mal mit Sonnenschutz eingeschmiert.  Der Mann läuft wie eine Maschine.

18:22 Uhr

Robert macht nun Milimenter für Milimeter auf Dean gut.  Das Dean Team fängt jetzt an psychologische Kriegsführung einzusetzen, indem sie immer mit einem ihrer 3 Vans 100 Meter oder 200 Meter vor Robert fahren, dort stehen bleiben, so dass Robert denkt, Dean ist direkt da.  Robert interessiert es nicht, er läuft sein eigenes Rennen.

18:43 Uhr

Robert läuft und geht, immer im Wechsel.  Wenn wir ihn versorgen grinst er.  Temperatur geht runter auf 41° C.

19:03 Uhr

Zum ersten Mal unter 40° C.  Robert läuft wie eine Maschine, ab und zu jetzt auch Magentropfen.  Jetzt ist der zweite Marathon durch, Gesamtzeit ca. 9 Stunden.

19:12 Uhr

Chris Kostman, der Race Director, hat uns gerade gesagt, dass Robert 7 Minuten auf Dean hat.

19:16 Uhr

Robert ist super konzentriert, hat mir gerade präzise Anweisung gegeben, was ich mit seiner Sonnenbrille machen soll, als er sie mir gegeben hat.  Wir sind jetzt auf 3000 Fuß.  Die Straße steigt, es gibt die ersten paar Hundert Meter Schatten.

19:25 Uhr

Wir haben Robert auf den Klappstuhl gesetzt, ihm eine Tablette „Hallo Wach!“ gegeben, Beine mit Kühlgel massiert, verdünnte Cola und ein paar Salzstangen gegeben.

19:52 Uhr

Jetzt haben wir Robert seinen MP3 Player gegeben, da er ziemlich müde ist.  Wie es aktuell aussieht, liegt er vorn, aber darum kümmern wir uns nicht, es geht nur darum dass er einen Fuß vor den anderen setzt.  Wir werden ab jetzt, wo es langsam abkühlt, seine Energiespeicher wieder sukzessive auffüllen.  Bei jedem Stop ab jetzt Nahrung, damit der Körper wieder arbeiten kann.

20:01 Uhr

Tom versucht Robert Stücke mundgerecht abgebissene Riegel zu füttern.  Es geht weiter bergauf.  Robert geht.  Im Tal sieht man die Lichter der anderen Support Crews Vans.  34°C.  Für heute gibt es keine Sonne mehr.

20:32 Uhr

Langsam wird es dunkler, wir ziehen Robert jetzt die reflektierende Weste an zur Sicherheit wegen vorbei fahrender Autos.  Robert ist hundemüde, wir müssen ihn wach halten.  Essen kann er gerade nicht, sonst müsste er sich wohl übergeben, trinken geht noch.  Noch ca. etwas mehr als eine Meile, dann sind wir auf der Höhe des Passes (4.956 Fuß), danach geht´s bergab.

20:36 Uhr

29° C !!!

21:02 Uhr

Es ist dunkel, Robert läuft mit Weste und Stirnlampe.  29°C aber es fühlt sich kühle an für uns.

21:25 Uhr

Bergab machen wir nur noch alle ca. 1,5 km – 2,0 km Stop.  Einer geht ihm entgegen mit Babynahrung, Wasser o.ä.  Die Versorger müssen jetzt auch reflektierende Weste und Stirnlampe tragen.  Momentan haben wir keine Ahnung, wo die anderen Läufer sind, wir konzentrieren uns nur auf uns v.a. auf Robert.  Man merkt, es geht wieder ins Tal, wir sind schon wieder auf 32°C.  Draussen ist totenstille.

21:55 Uhr

Dean Karnazes ist gerade an Robert vorbei gezogen bergab.  Die Dampfwalze die Robert bergauf war, ist Dean jetzt bergab.  Aber es kommen ja noch zwei Anstiege.  41°C.

22:23 Uhr

Robert ist eingebrochen, vor ca. 20 Minuten.  Hat sich hingesetzt und wollte nicht mehr.  Wir haben ihn erst mal in den Van gelegt.  Robert hat gesagt er kennt das nicht von sich.  Er kann nicht mehr, er will nicht mehr, lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein schreckliches Ende…

Ich hab die Crew zu mir geholt und gesagt, das neue Ziel ist ins Finish kommen, vergesst den Sieg.  Kein Problem, aber der Mann ist nach dieser Strapaze psychologisch fix und fertig.  Die Überholung von Dean war wohl zu heftig.  Robert drei Minuten liegen lassen.  Dann bin ich allein zu ihm hin und er hat mir seine negativen Gedanken geschildert.  Also habe ich versucht ihn aufzubauen, hab ihm Rückhalt gegeben, gezeigt, dass wir ohne wenn und aber für ihn da sind und ein paar Geschichten erzählt.  Robert ist aufgestanden, hat mich gedrückt und ist einfach weiter gelaufen.  Und das jetzt schon seit fast einer 1⁄2 Stunde.  Tom läuft jetzt etwas mit ihm, Jürgen und ich versorgen.

22:48 Uhr

38° C und am Himmel stehen eine Millionen Sterne.

23:41 Uhr

Ich bin eine Weile mit Robert gelaufen, haben uns über vieles unterhalten, ich glaube es hat ihm gut getan.  Wir stehen alle 100% hinter ihm und sind für ihn da.  Jetzt geht Jürgen ein wenig mit ihm.  Ich wünschte es würde schon hell oder wenigstens mein Handy hätte Netz, dass wir Thomas Prochnow anrufen könnten.

01:09 Uhr

Robert hat sich vor ca. 1 Stunde ins Auto gesetzt mit Kreislauf- und Atemproblemen.  Er kann nicht mehr weiter sagt er, vorbei.  Wir sollen ihn aus dem Rennen nehmen.  Er sieht fix und fertig aus.  Ich hab ihn zwei Mal ernsthaft gefragt und er hat deutlich wiederholt, dass er aufhören möchte und wir ihn rausnehmen sollen, aus gesundheitlichen Gründen.  OK, wir haben ihn im Auto gelassen und sind zur nächsten Zeitstation 3 Meilen voraus gefahren.  Dort habe ich ihn offiziell aus dem Rennen nehmen lassen.  Zum Glück gab es hier auch noch eine medizinische Versorgungsstation.  Robert konnte kaum mehr laufen.  Die Krankenschwester hat ihm den Puls gemessen, Blutdruck geprüft, etc.  Sie hat gesagt es sein nicht ganz so schlimm wie es aussieht.  Wir sollen ihn schlafen lassen.  Er bekommt jetzt alle ¾ Stunde so ein infusionsartiges Aufbaugetränk und schläft.  Vielleicht ist er in 4 bis 5 Stunden wieder fit und dann bis ins Ziel laufen, sagte die Krankenschwester.  Ich habe mich darum gekümmert, dass die Rausnahme aus dem Rennen annuliert wird und er wieder im Rennen steht.  Glücklicherweise ging das.  Offiziell rausnehmen können wir ihn auch morgen früh noch.  Hiervon weiß Robert noch nichts. Jetzt habe ich ihm sein zweites Aufbaugetränk auf der medizinischen Station (so eine Art ein umgewandeltes Hotelzimmer) gegeben und lasse ihn weiterschlafen.

01:29 Uhr

Die Krankenschwester ist Gold wert.  Ich hab ihn gerade geweckt, sie hat seine Lungen abgehört, alles tiptop.  Als ich ihr gesagt habe, dass er heute morgen um 10 Uhr gestartet sei, ist sie beinahe aus den Schuhen gekippt, so sehr war sie erstaunt, dass er jetzt schon quasi auf Meile 80 ist.  Sie sagt, er hat alles um weiterzulaufen!

04:14 Uhr

Vor ca. 10 Minuten kam Robert mit der Krankenschwester an unseren Van und hat uns aus unserem Halbschlaf geweckt.  Er will jetzt weiterlaufen.  Kleiner Jubel, Krankenschwester gedrückt, alle in den Van und zum Abbruchpunkt, drei Meilen vor Panamint Springs zurück gefahren.  Es geht weiter, Robert läuft!  28° C, ideal für im Moment.

04:46 Uhr

Robert ist soeben am dritten Zeitmesspunkt in Panamint Springs vorbei.  Es läuft, er ist uns fast etwas zu schnell, aber wir passen gut auf.  Jetzt geht es schon wieder konstant bergauf.

05:23 Uhr

Immer weiter bergauf, aber wir können mit Robert schon wieder Witze reißen.

06:15 Uhr

Zum Frühstück esse ich eine PowerBar.  Robert läuft konstant seinen Rhythmus.  Unserer Meinung nach etwas zu zügig, aber den Mann zu bremsen…

Wir sind immer noch auf der Steigung.

06:36 Uhr

Jetzt haben wir gerade den 4.000 Fuss Punkt passiert.  25° C, Robert sieht gut aus.

07:06 Uhr

Die Krankenschwester, die Robert heute morgen wieder ins Leben zurück gerufen hat, ist extra hier hoch gefahren, um zu sehen, wie es Robert geht.  Sie ist letztes Jahr Badwater gelaufen und hat dann beschlossen dieses  Jahr als Helferin dabei zu sein.  Sie hat gesagt: „Wenn ich nur einer Person dazu verhelfe das Rennen zu beenden, hat es sich schon gelohnt.“  Es hat sich gelohnt!

07:23 Uhr

Beim nächsten Stop wechseln wir noch mal die Schuhe in eine ½ Nr. größer, Gr. 9,0 mit 6mm Wellfit Einlegesohle.

07:40 Uhr

Robert haben die Fußsohlen geschmerzt, das Schuh anziehen war ziemlich heftig.  Jetzt muß er noch mal durchbeißen.  Wir versuchen wieder alles vorzudenken.  So, dass er nur noch das tut, was wir vordenken, und er keine unnötige Energie für irgendetwas aufwenden muß.  Das ist nach dem Schlafentzug mittlerweile gar nicht so einfach:  teilweise brauchen wir 1 Minute, um auszurechnen wie lange Robert jetzt schon unterwegs ist.  Oder wir beschliessen beim aussteigen aus dem Van, wie wir Robert jetzt versorgen, und wissen es nach 5 Schritten zur Heckklappe schon nicht mehr,  Es geht nur noch eine Kleinigkeit hoch und dann erst mal eine Weile auf einem Plateau und dann bergab.  Zum Schluß noch am 14 Meilen steil bergauf.

07:47 Uhr

Wir haben soeben das Ausgangsschild Death Valley National Park passiert, sind also offiziell draußen, nach 84,9 Meilen pure Hölle.

07:45 Uhr

Robert will jetzt doch wieder die BÄR LAST Einlegesohle, also haben wir noch mal gewechselt.  Das Team arbeitet klasse, Jürgen super professionell und ohne Müdigkeit, Tom tiptop voll dabei.  Es wird schon noch mal hart, aber wir packen das.

08:21 Uhr

Robert freut sich jedes Mal, wenn wir alle drei da stehen und ihn verpflegen, keiner ruht, er kann auch nicht ruhen!  Jetzt joggt Jürgen mit ihm.

09:20 Uhr

Robert hat Schmerzen in den Fußsohlen, also haben wir ihn gestoppt und hingesetzt.  Ich hab mir seine Füße angeschaut und am rechten Fuß hatte er drei prallvolle, dicke Blasen.  Die habe ich ihm aufgeschnitten und getrocknet und mit Blasenpflaster versorgt.  Das ganze war deutlich weniger appetitlich.  Aber es hilft deutlich.  Das Denken wird jetzt wieder langsamer, leichte Kopfschmerzen: Cola und Riegel à das wird schon!

09:44 Uhr

Robert kommt grad vorbei und sagt es hat Wunder gewirkt.  Na also!  Marc Cotnoir vom Co-Sonsor Rogers, der gestern und heuzte auch hier war, ist mehr als schwer beeindruckt, machte noch ein paar Fotos und ist jetzt wieder heim nach Conneticut.  Er hat uns noch mal gegenüber allergrößten Respekt geäußert.  Robert hat beim vorbei laufen noch mal wegen der behandelten Blasen applaudiert.  Tut auch gut.  Es geht ihm jetzt wieder besser, der Laufrythmus ist wieder rund, und endlich geht es bergab.

10:36 Uhr

Robert läuft und läuft und läuft, lächelt und fühlt sich großartig.  Seit der Blasenreparatur dreht der Mann wieder voll auf.  Lacht, hat Spaß beim laufen, alles nach Plan.  Hab kurz in der Firma angerufen und das update übermittelt.  Christof hat mir erzählt, wie in der Firma alle mitfiebern.  Hierüber hat sich auch Robert riesig gefreut.  Ich selbst hab 10 Minuten die Augen zu gemacht, jetzt ist es wieder besser.  Wir ziehen das Ding durch, schätzungsweise noch ca. 35 Meilen.

10:48 Uhr

Der TV Sender CBS war gerade da mit den Kameraleuten von „60 Minutes“ und hat mich und Robert (während des laufens) interviewt, weil sie unbedingt den TransEuropa Sieger haben wollten.  Sie waren von seiner Einstellung begeistert.  Im Herbst soll es in USA gesendet werden.  Immerhin die Nachrichtensendung Sonntag abends hier.

11:22 Uhr

Robert hat etwas Magenprobleme, daher bekommt er noch mal Magentropfen.

12:13 Uhr

Wir sind jetzt auf einer ewig langen schnurgeraden Strasse, super langweilig und heiß.  Das macht Roberts Psyche natürlich wieder zu schaffen.  Wir halten die Muskeln weich mit Salztabletten.

12:25 Uhr

Diese verdammte Gerade zieht und zieht sich.  Wir werden selbst alle etwas langsam und müde.  Die Mittagshitze haut ziemlich runter.

12:36 Uhr

Verdammte Gerade.  Robert hat absolut keine Lust mehr.  Er geht, es geht immer wieder einer von uns nebenher, um ihn bei Stimmung zu halten.

13:06 Uhr

Endlich habe ich auf meinem Handy wieder Netz.  Sofort habe ich Dr. Thomas Prochnow angerufen und Robert mit dem Handy überrascht.  Er hat sich riesig gefreut, gelacht und seine Beine haben wieder zu laufenbegonnen.  Jetzt läuft er wieder, wir versorgen ihn rundum und es geht weiter.

13:18 Uhr

Noch ein bisschen und wir sind endlich von dieser Geraden runter.

13:22 Uhr

Massagepause für Robert.  Er sagt keinen Ton außer „Jetzt wird’s hart!“

13:29 Uhr

Wenn das Ding hier für uns schon so hart ist, dann leistet Robert hier gerade übermenschliches.  Jetzt sind wir in Keeler.  Distanz gelaufen 107,8 Meilen.  Mehr als 4 Marathons.

13:45 Uhr

Die Gerade war noch nicht zu Ende, ging direkt über nach der Kurve in die nächste Gerade und das wird auch bis Lone Pine so bleiben.  Robert hat Gleichgewichtsprobleme, ihm ist schwindlig.  Vermutlich Hitzschlag.  Er ist ganz bleich und ihm ist kalt.  Wir haben Robert also gleich ins Auto gepackt in den Schatten.  10 Minuten ruhen.  Zum Glück kommt ein Medic Auto vom Rennen vorbei.  Wir stoppen ihn: er prüft den Puls, wie die Haut reagiert, prüft seine Temperatur, etc. und kommt zu dem Schluß, dass alles einwandfrei funktioniert.  Es geht Robert körperlich gut.  Er braucht wohl nur ein trockenes Hemd, weil hier so viel Wind ist.  Wenn er zittert, reiben die Muskeln aneinander und seine Temperatur wird noch höher, erklärt uns der Medic.  Robert lächelt, fühlt sich sofort besser und geht weiter.  Trotzdem sagt Robert, das hier hat mit laufen nichts mehr zu tun.

14:15 Uhr

Tom geht mit Robert, wir fahren immer wieder vorbei, parken, etc. und wieder von vorn, in kurzen Abständen.  Ich gebe mir mit Tom bezügl. der Verfassung von Robert nur noch Zeichen.  Das funktioniert so weit.  Die Medics haben gesagt, wir sind durch das gröbste durch, Robert kann beruhigt weitermachen.

14:28 Uhr

Robert ist psychisch unten, hat keine Motivation mehr meint man.  Also bin ich aus dem Van und bin mal 10 Minuten mit ihm gegangen und hab ein paar Geschichten erzählt.  Robert lächelt und macht sein Ding.  Jetzt fängt er sogar wieder zu joggen an.  Immer im Wechsel mit Gehen.  Robert, bleib locker, ganz easy.  Jetzt weht auch Sand über die Straße…

15:11 Uhr

Robert setzt tapfer einen Fuß vor den anderen.  Die Müdigkeit haut bei uns allen ganz schön dick rein mittlerweile, wie muß es dann erst bei Robert sein…

15:36 Uhr

Bin kurz eingenicht bis Tom mich gerufen hat, ich soll mal mit Robert reden.  Mir kommt es vor, als wäre ich eine Stunde weg gewesen, war aber nicht lang, sehe ich als ich mir die Zeit des letzten Eintrags anschaue.  Habe versucht mit Robert zu joggen, ganz langsam, aber es ging nicht.  Wie kriege ich ihn nur aus seiner Erschöpfung raus, zumindest bis Lone Pine, dort könnten wir vorab in unser Hotel Zimmer einchecken und Robert könnte dann kurz in den Pool.  Aber er geht tapfer weiter, joggt sogar zwischendurch kurz, und wirkt mehr und mehr übermenschlich, dass er sich jetzt noch zu all diesem motivieren kann.

15:51 Uhr

Wir müssen alle 20 Minuten unsere Mützen in einen Eimer mit Eiswasser tauchen wegen der Hitze.  20 Minuten später sind sie schon wieder trocken.

16:31 Uhr

Robert isst und trinkt gut, aber er ist einfach so erschöpft.  Er kann nur gehen.  Die Straße noch ca. weitere 8 Meilen geradeaus, direkt nach Lone Pine rein.  Schon wieder in der Hitze langweilig immer geradeaus.

17:34 Uhr

Jürgen läuft jetzt schon eine ganze Weile mit Robert.

17:40 Uhr

Robert sagt bei den Verpflegungsstops, die wir regelmäßig jeden km durchführen, nur noch „ja“ oder „nein“.  Ich hoffe extrem er packt das.  Er kämpft unglaublich.

18:04 Uhr

Nachdem Jürgen jetzt schon eine ganze Weile mit Robert geht, hat er gerade angekündigt, dass er mit Robert noch zum Whittney Portal hoch geht.  Dann hätte er heute auch seinen Marathon gemacht.  Der Mann ist echt auch ein Unikat und das ist eine super Entscheidung von ihm, so können wir verpflegen und Robert akzeptiert das auch so.  Jetzt joggen beide auch schon wieder etwas.

18:35 Uhr

Wir sind in Lone Pine!!!  Unglaublich!!!  Und Robert läuft ein flottes Tempo, Jürgen läuft mit.  Ich war mit Jürgen Müller schnell im Hotel und hab die Zimmer Schlüssel geholt, falls Robert in den Pool will oder duschen vor dem Endspurt hoch zum Whittney Portal.

18:45 Uhr

Robert im Pool!!!  Fühlt sich wie neugeboren!  Frische Kleider und ab geht es zum Endspurt, die letzten 14 Meilen in die Berge.

19:14 Uhr

Alle Müdigkeit bei Robert wie auch bei uns ist wie weggeblasen.  Jetzt folgt nur noch die steilste Steigung des Rennens.  Aber das wird er schaffen.  Vielleicht noch ca 4 Std.

19:20 Uhr

Die Steigung hat begonnen, Robert geht mit Jürgen.  Er ist gut drauf, macht Späße und lacht.

19:25 Uhr

Die Sonne liegt jetzt hinter dem Berg, d.h. keine Sonne mehr in diesem Rennen für Robert!  Robert im Schatten!!!

19:26 Uhr

Die Zeit vergeht jetzt wie im Flug.  Robert wechselt zwischen Gehen und Laufen.  Wir halten den normalen Verpflegungsrythmus aufrecht.  Wenn man überlegt, was wir in diesen Mann die letzten 33 Stunden alles reinverpflegt haben…

20:46 Uhr

Robert kriegt jetzt noch mal Koffein Tabletten, Voltaren.  Er wird das packen.  Fledermäuse fliegen hier auch rum.

20:58 Uhr

Der Jürgen (63 J.!!!) hat 2 Tage nicht geschlafen, geht jetzt mit Robert aufs Whittney Portal und redet in einer Tour und erzählt Robert Geschichten.

21:11 Uhr

Noch 6 Meilen!!!

21:40 Uhr

Robert packt das, man sieht ihm die Erschöpfung so sehr an, aber er setzt weiter einen Fuß vor den anderen.  Mittlerweile ist es wieder stockdunkel.

21:49 Uhr

Noch 5 Meilen!!!

21:52 Uhr

Der 5. Marathon ist komplett, 131 Meilen, 7.000 Fuss

22:09 Uhr

Frubiase, Cola, Red Bull immer im Wechsel.  Robert kämpft.  Jeder Schritt kostet Kraft aber er zieht unermüdlich durch.

22:15 Uhr

Wir haben unglaublich Höhe mittlerweile.  Vom Berg runter ins Tal sieht man ganz klein lauter Lichter von Support-Crew Vans.

22:19 Uhr

Robert schnauft wie sonst noch was.  Spricht auch nicht mehr beim verpflegen (ca. alle 800m).  Aber er geht konstant und stabil wie eine Maschine.

22:23 Uhr

Sie gehen an uns vorbei und Jürgen sagt in seinem amerikanischen Fränkisch: „Wir haben einen ganz schönen Zahn hier drauf, Mann.“   Und wieder stehen 1 Mio. Sterne am Himmel.

Ca. 22:48 Uhr

Noch eine Meile bis Badwater Finish Line.  Robert geht vom Gehen jetzt wieder ins Laufen über.  Stampft wie eine Walze den Berg hoch.

23:53 Uhr

Ziellinie in Sicht, Kameras mit Strahlern, einige Leute, mitten im Wald…

23:53:08 Uhr

Robert geht durchs Ziel, reißt die Arme hoch, lacht, lässt sich beglückwünschen.  Robert ist im Ziel!!!  Nach allem was passiert ist, ist dieser Mann nach einem Endspurt über 14 Meilen bergauf im Ziel!  Das Team beglückwünscht Robert und sich selbst gegenseitig!  Robert Wimmer ist Official Finisher des Badwater Ultramarathon 2004 mit einer Zeit von 36 Std. 53 Min. und 08 Sek. und damit auch bester Deutscher.  Robert ist unglaublich, wir hatten ein super Team, ein wahnsinns Rennen.  Wer hätte das gestern Nacht oder noch heute Mittag gedacht.  Wir sind jetzt alle wohl ca. 40 Stunden wach, jetzt nur noch schlafen!!!

Dieser Bericht kann nur einen kleinen Einblick in die Hölle von Badwater vermitteln.  Was hier tatsächlich durchgemacht wird, können Worte nicht ausdrücken und Bilder vielleicht nur ansatzweise andeuten.

Badwater 2004 Race Report – Robert Wimmer #34 – English

support crew

Click here to read this report in German

8.00 a.m.
Left our hotel in Stove Pipe Wells. We’d started preparing and packing the van last night and continued doing so as of about 6.00 a.m. this morning, we’d also made sure we had ice, etc. It’s obvious that the team is a little nervous, but on the whole every movement is well thought out and professional. Robert has had a good night’s sleep and is feeling on top form.

The Team:

  • Robert Wimmer / ultra runner
  • Sebastian Bär / Head of the BÄR team
  • Tom Aigner / sport academic with HSZ
  • Juergen Ankenbrand / experienced ultra marathon acquaintance of Robert, German ex-pat of 42 years standing, lives in Surf City, CA., aged 63, knows Robert from TransEuropa run
  • Christopher and Audrey Bunn / photographers from the USA
  • Jürgen Müller / film and video, has also participated in the TransEuropa run

9.00 a.m.
Arrival in Badwater, the lowest point of the USA (282 feet below sea level), where we also meet up with Marc Cotnoir of Rogers, a ccmpany in the USA and a co-sponsor we managed to secure for this event. Rogers supplies us with the Poron and Senflex materials we use in the Performance marathon shoe. He is a runner himself and can’t believe what Robert plans on doing here. There is already a great deal of media interest in the project and various major US TV stations are onsite. Even now the heat is already beating down relentlessly.

10.00 a.m.
And they’re off! A group of approx. 25 runners make their way over a stretch of 135 miles, taking them right through Death Valley. Other groups with the same number of runners had already started at 6.00 a.m. and 8.00 a.m. We’d met those groups too on their way to the start. There are approx. 80 runners all together.

10 miles later
Robert’s team support had evened out after the first 2 to 3 stops: we stop about every 1.5 km to give Robert ½ litre of fluid (alternating between electrolyte, Frubiase and water) and a gel containing carbohydrates, banana, grapes, melon, energy bars, bottles of vitamins, etc., again always in rotation. We also spray his neck, head, arms and chest with cold water every time. Now we want to rub sun lotion into him again, as the sun is unbelievably hot the way it is beating down, so we tell him to stand still, to which he replies in his typical Franconian dialect: “Nee, i bleib net stehn!” (No, I’m not going to stand still!).

16.4 miles
Christopher Bergland is leading about 1 km ahead of Robert Wimmer. Temperature approx. 52°C. Robert is keeping to a pretty even tempo.

17.4 miles
The first timing station is here. Robert is talking a little less now and there’s a noticeable tension in the air. Not that it’s a negative sign, he’s not doing badly at all, but the burning heat is still registering 52°C on the thermometer. Pam Reed and Dean Karnazes, both of them favourites to win this race, are nowhere in sight at the moment. They’re probably biding their time towards the back and hoping that someone at the front will suffer a setback.

18.8 miles
The gap between Robert and Christopher Bergland is slowly closing. Now we give Robert some slightly diluted Red Bull to give his psyche a bit of a boost.

19.5 miles
At Robert’s instigation we swap his LAST inner sole for the Performance inner sole. The LAST sole is proverbially flat, especially in the ball region of the foot.

22.0 miles
Robert is laughing and running like a machine. The Performance inner sole is excellent and doesn’t feel as warm on the soles of his feet. We’ve now swapped from spraying to an ice sponge. We’ve learned by experience that it keeps the body temperature down better than spraying does. Robert also turns to us and asks if we’re drinking enough to avoid dehydrating in this diabolical heat. He’s in a really good mood. It’s 2.00 p.m. and still 52°C. He really likes taking the ice sponges and squeezing them out on his head, against his neck, arms and thighs. One duty of the respective person looking after him is to always make sure that he has a bucket of ice water with him, so that the sponge can be constantly re-saturated along the way. In the meantime Robert has already passed a few of those who started at 8.00 a.m. Robert is now starting to demonstrate a little psychological warfare by showing Christopher Bergland very openly – hey, I’m here and doing well and letting you do all the work. We’re now also feeding him baby food (similar to Hipp bottled baby food) and letting him walk a few metres, thus allowing Bergland to again increase his lead to 150 m. Robert is on top form! Temperature still 52°C.

2.26 p.m.
Temperature has now climbed even higher to 60°C (!). It’s like an outdoor sauna at the moment, incredible. Now we’re giving Robert the ice sponge and another 1⁄2 litre of fluid every km. He ran the first marathon in approx. 3 hrs and 40 mins.

Bergland has just taken a seat in his crew van, i.e. Robert is now leading the field. It looks as if Christopher Bergland has cramps and is falling behind. Dean Karnazes’ crew vans keep driving up to us and checking on Robert’s form. Dean Karnazes is good on slow ground. Robert says it’s ideal for him. He’s let him overtake and is now running behind him at his own tempo. It’s still 60°C.

Karnazes is now picking up speed and is about 600 metres ahead of Robert. Now we’re making refreshment stops almost every 600 – 800 metres (Robert won’t stand still for these “stops” instead everything has to happen at Robert’s running speed) and cooling him down with the ice sponge. The heat is beating down unrelentingly. Robert feels something in his calves, so we give him more Frubiase and electrolytes.

The rest of us in the team have to apply sunscreen factor 60 and dip our baseball hats regularly in ice water.

3.15 p.m.
A car approaches Robert. An English tourist hasn’t seen him and catches Robert’s hip at full speed with his rear-view mirror. Robert gives a brief yell and the driver drives off. We drive to the side, I run over to Robert, Juergen gets ice ready and what does Tom do? In all the excitement Tom forgets to set the van’s automatic system from “D” to “P”. So, our van drives off by itself right across to the other side of the street where it gets stuck in the side ditch. Robert tells me everything’s OK and carries on running. We’re lucky nothing serious happened in the midst of all this. Another 10 cm and the race would have been over. As chance would have it one of the race officials was nearby and chases after the British tourist. The race continues.

3.54 p.m.
Once the shock is over, everything is back to the old routine. Dean Karnazes is about 600 metres ahead of Robert, but also has to keep going. Now there’s a wind blowing, which unfortunately has no cooling effect whatsoever. Instead it feels as if someone is blowing a large high drier at the highest setting against our bodies. We try to take care of Robert properly, to ensure that his body keeps up with the pace and he stays as hydrated as possible. Only another few miles to Stove Pipe Wells. To the right of us are the giant sand dunes. Temperature has dropped again to 52°C. From Stove Pipe Wells the road will start to slowly climb and that will also make it a little cooler.

Now we’re also giving Robert tomato juice to give him a different taste in his mouth for a change and to ensure, above all, that his body is supplied with salt. Past the sand dunes, and then about another 2 to 3 km to Stove Pipe Wells. The motel where we lived for the past two days there also has a pool.

Robert’s a bit down again at the moment as far as his psyche is concerned, the catering function is now routine; we’re just trying to fill him up with as much energy as possible.

4.25 p.m.
Dean Karnazes is still in the lead at the moment, we’re about to hit Stove Pipe Wells.

42 miles
Robert had a relaxing time cooling off in the pool and then put on a clean tricot. That did him the world of good. I’ve tried to reach Dr. Thomas Prochnow – his coach – 6 x from a payphone in Stove Pipe, but with no luck unfortunately. He would have been able to build Robert back up psychologically and motivate him. In the meantime Audrey has fetched us 10 bags of ice and Jürgen has made sure we have more water. After the break I told Robert that I’d managed to get hold of Thomas Prochnow and that he’d said that Robert was doing everything right, that Thomas was right behind him and crossing his fingers that the rest of the race went well. Robert was really happy about that. Dean Karnazes had carried on running without a break. The sweat is dripping off us like nothing on earth too, although all we’re doing was sitting in the car with the window down, and there’s even a breeze blowing through.

5.12 p.m.
Now we’re slowly climbing into the mountains. Temperature 52°C. All of a sudden we meet up with Dean. He’d had to stop and change his shoes. That was the best thing that could have happened to Robert psychologically: Robert had relaxed in the pool and eaten something, whereas Dean had carried on running without a break. Dean has put on brand new trainers. Robert has now overtaken him. The path is constantly uphill, but we still manage to make him laugh a lot. We provide him with more and more vitamins, electrolytes, carbohydrate gels, etc. and keep surprising him every now and again with melon, etc. Now he has a 400 m lead over Dean.

Tom and I have been taking it in turns to look after for Robert throughout the day, until one of us has to change over to driving because of the heat. That happens about every 6 to 8 stops. At the back of the van Jürgen is responsible for the bottles, the ice, for mixing drinks, for all the preparation and the clearing up afterwards. It’s running like clockwork and very well rehearsed. We’re rotating with the Dean Team van, sometimes their van is in front of ours and sometimes it’s the other way round. The mood is incredibly tense but people still treat each other fairly and with respect.

5.48 p.m.
Robert and Dean are now taking it in turns to be in the lead. Just as we’d finished looking after Robert again, he told me I shouldn’t worry.

5.56 p.m.
It’s bloody difficult; the road’s still climbing and will continue to do so for another 9 miles. Robert is still running like a machine without any interruption! On top of that there’s a wind stirring up, as it does almost every night in Death Valley. And as always, it’s just like the air from a hair-drier. Robert’s struggling to get through more at the moment than I’ve ever seen before.

6.07 p.m.
The sun is still burning down relentlessly. 44°C. We’ve reapplied sunscreen to Robert’s entire body as we’ve been walking. The man runs like a machine.

6.22 p.m.
Robert is now catching up with Dean millimetre by millimetre. The Dean team is now beginning to employ psychological warfare by driving one of their 3 vans either 100 or 200 metres in front of Robert and stopping there, so Robert thinks Dean is right there. Robert’s not a bit interested; he’s in a race of his own.

6.43 p.m.
Robert is constantly alternating between running and walking. As we’re looking after him, he just grins. Temperature dropping to 41°C.

7.03 p.m. It’s below 40°C for the first time. Robert’s running like a machine, he’s now also getting stomach drops every now and again. He’s now finished the second marathon, overall time approx. 9 hours.

7.12 p.m.
Chris Kostman, the race director, has just told us that Robert is 7 minutes ahead of Dean.

7.16 p.m.
Robert is extremely focused and has just given me precise instructions as to what I should do with his sunglasses when he handed them to me. We’re now at 3,000 feet. The road is climbing and we’ve reached the first few hundred metres of shade.

7.25 p.m.
We’ve sat Robert down on the folding stool, given him a “Hallo Wach!” pill, massaged his legs with cooling gel, and given him diluted cola and a couple of pretzel sticks.

7.52 p.m.
We’ve now given Robert his MP3 player as he’s quite tired. As things look at the moment, Robert is in the lead, but that doesn’t bother us, all we’re bothered about is that he puts one foot in front of the other. From now on, as it’s cooling down slowly, we’ll be successively recharging his energy tank. At every stop from now he’ll get food to get his body working again.

8.01 p.m.
Tom is trying to feed Robert with bite-sized pieces of energy bar. Things are looking up. Robert leaves. Down in the valley we can see the lights of the other support crews’ vans. 34°C. There’ll be no more sun today.

8.32 p.m.
Darkness is slowly creeping in, we put Robert’s his reflective waistcoat on now as a precaution against passing cars. Robert is exhausted so we have to keep him awake. He can’t eat at the moment, otherwise he’d probably be sick, but he can still drink. About another mile or so and then we’ll have reached pass level (4,956 feet), and then it’s all downhill from there.

8.36 p.m.
29°C !!!

9.02 p.m.
It’s dark, so Robert’s running wearing his waistcoat and a headlamp. Still 29°C but it feels cool to us.

9.25 p.m.
On the way down we only stop approx. every 1.5 km – 2.0 km. One of us takes him baby food, water or something similar. Those looking after him now also have to carry the reflective waistcoat and headlamp. At the moment we have no idea where the other runners are, we’re concentrating only on ourselves and especially on Robert. We can tell that we’re coming into the valley again; we’ve reached 32°C again. It’s deadly silent outside.

9.55 p.m.
Dean Karnazes has just overtaken Robert on the way down. Dean is now the same steamroller downhill as Robert was on the way up. There are still another two inclines to go though. 41°C.

10.23 p.m.
Robert suffered a setback about 20 minutes ago. He sat down and didn’t want to go any further. The first thing we did was to lay him in the van. Robert said he didn’t recognise himself. He can’t and doesn’t want to carry on; he’d rather have an ending with pain than a pain without end…

I rounded up all the crew and told them that the new target is to get to the finish line, forget about winning the race. No problem, but the man is psychologically worn down after this exertion. Dean overtaking him must have been the last straw. I left Robert lying down for three minutes. Then I went to him by myself and he described his negative thoughts to me. I then tried to build him up, gave him support, showed him we’re there for him when he needs us with no ifs and buts about it, and told him a few stories. Robert stood up, hugged me and simply started running again. And he’s being doing that now for almost 1⁄2 hour. Tom’s now running a little with him, while Jürgen and I are looking after him.

10.48 p.m.
38°C and there are millions of stars in the sky.

11.41 p.m.
I ran for a while with Robert and kept us chatting on all sorts of topics, I think it did him good. We are all 100% behind him whatever he needs. Now Jürgen’s walking with him for a while. I wish it were already light or my mobile could pick up a network signal so that we could call Thomas Prochnow.

1.09 a.m.
About an hour ago Robert got into the car with circulation and breathing problems. He says he can’t go any further, it’s over. We should withdraw him from the race. He looks exhausted. I asked him twice if he meant it and he clearly repeated that he wanted to stop and that we should withdraw him from the race for health reasons. OK, we left him in the car and drove 3 miles ahead to the next timing station where I had him officially withdrawn from the race. Luckily there was also a medical care station in the same place, as by now Robert could hardly walk. The nurse took his pulse, checked his blood pressure, etc. She said it wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed. We should just let him sleep. Now he’s getting an infusion-like booster drink every ¾ hour and sleeping. According to the nurse he might be fit again in 4 to 5 hours and able to finish the race. I made sure that his withdrawal from the race was annulled and that he was back in the race. I was able to do that luckily. There’s still time to withdraw him officially tomorrow morning if we have to. Robert knows nothing about this yet. I’ve now just given him his second booster drink in the medical station (a kind of converted hotel room) and am letting him carry on sleeping.

1.29 a.m.
The nurse is worth her weight in gold. I’ve just woken him up; she’s listened to his lungs, everything’s in good working order. When I told her that he’d started off this morning at 10.00 a.m. she nearly fell over, as she was so amazed that he’d already virtually completed 80 miles. She said he has everything it takes to finish the race!

4.14 a.m.
About 10 minutes ago Robert came up to our van with the nurse and woke us up from our doze. He wants to carry on running now. Much rejoicing, hugs for the nurse and then everyone into the van to drive back to the departure point, three miles before Panamint Springs. We’re off again, Robert’s running! 28°C – perfect right now.

4.46 a.m.
Robert has just passed the third timing station in Panamint Springs. It’s working, he’s almost too fast for our liking but we’re taking good care. It’s a constant uphill road again.

5.23 a.m.
Still uphill but we’re now able to crack jokes with Robert again.

6.15 a.m.
I have a power bar for breakfast. Robert is still keeping to his rhythm. We think he’s going too fast but there’s no stopping the man…

We’re still on the incline.

6.36 a.m.
We’ve just passed the 4,000 feet point. 25°C, Robert’s looking good.

7.06 a.m.
The nurse who managed to revive Robert this morning has driven up here specially to see how Robert is. Last year she’d completed the Badwater run herself and decided then to work here as a helper this year. She’d said to herself: “If I manage to help one person to finish the race, then it will have been worth it.” It was worth it.

7.23 a.m.
At the next stop we change his shoes again for a pair a ½ size larger, size 9.0 with a 6mm Wellfit inner sole.

7.40 a.m.
The soles of Robert’s feet have been hurting him; he’d had to struggle to put the shoe on. Now he has to struggle his way through again. We’re again trying to think things out ahead of time to make sure he only does what we plan and doesn’t have to waste any unnecessary energy on anything. That’s not so easy now we’ve had no sleep: sometimes it takes us a full minute to work out how long Robert has already been on the go. Or we decide what we’re going to do to take care of Robert this time around as we’re getting out of the car and have already forgotten what we decided again after taking just five steps towards the hatchback. The path continues uphill a short way until we reach a plateau for a while and then it’s downhill again. Another 14 miles and nothing but steep inclines to the finish.

7.47 a.m.
We’ve just passed the exit sign to the Death Valley National Park, so we’re now officially outside it, after 84.9 miles of pure hell.

7.45 a.m.
Robert would now prefer to have the BÄR LAST inner sole again after all, so we changed again. The team is working brilliantly, Jürgen is a complete professional and showing no signs of tiredness, Tom too is all there and on top form. It is hard on occasion but we’ll get through.

8.21 a.m.
Robert is glad every time all three of us are standing and looking after him, no one rests, and he can’t rest either! Now Jürgen is jogging with him.

9.20 a.m.
Robert’s foot soles were hurting him so we stopped him and sat him down. I took a look at his feet and found three massive blisters full to bursting on his right foot. I lanced and dried them for him and put blister plasters on them. The whole procedure was distinctly unappetising. But it was also a distinct help to Robert. Thought processes are again getting slower, slight headaches: cola and power bar à that’ll work!

9.44 a.m.
Robert has just come and told us that the treatment worked wonders. That’s OK then! Marc Cotnoir of co-sponsor Rogers, who was here yesterday as well as today, was extremely impressed to say the least, he took a few more photos, and is now back home in Connecticut again. He again told us that he had the greatest respect for us. Robert applauded the treatment of the blisters again on this way past. That did me a power of good too. He’s feeling better again now, his running tempo is back to normal and we’re finally going downhill again.

10.36 a.m.
Robert is a pure running machine; he’s smiling and feeling great. Since the blister operation there’s no stopping the man again. He’s laughing, is enjoying running and everything’s going to plan. Gave the firm a quick call to give them an update. Christof told me that everyone in the firm is behind us cheering us on. Robert was really pleased about that too. I personally took a 10-minute nap, now I feel a bit better. We’ll get through this; I estimate there’s about another 35 miles to go.

10.48 a.m.
The CBS TV station has just been here with the camera crews from “60 Minutes” and did an interview with Robert and I (during the race), as they had to have the TransEuropa winner. They were impressed by his attitude. The programme should be broadcast in the USA in the Autumn. The newscast was here on Sunday anyway.

11.22 a.m.
Robert has a few stomach problems, so we give him some more stomach drops.

12.13 p.m.
We’re now on a never-ending dead straight road, incredibly boring and hot. That obviously affects Robert’s psyche again. We’re giving him salt tablets to keep his muscles pliable.

12.25 p.m.
This blasted straight road goes on and on. We’re all getting rather slow and tired now too. The midday sun is beating down without a break.

12.36 p.m.
Blasted straight line. Robert has lost all interest now. He’s walking; one of us walks next to him all the time to keep him in good humour.

1.06 p.m.
My mobile is finally picking up a network signal again. I immediately called Dr. Thomas Prochnow and surprised Robert with the mobile. He was really pleased, laughed and his legs began to run again. Now he’s running again, we’re taking care of all his wants and things are moving again.

1.18 p.m.
Just a little bit further and we’ll finally be off this straight line.

1.22 p.m.
Massage break for Robert. He says nothing other than “Now it’ll be tough!”

1.29 p.m.
If this here is already so tough for us then Robert’s performance is superhuman. Now we’re in Keeler. The distance covered is 107.8 miles – more than 4 marathons.

1.45 p.m.
We hadn’t got rid of the straight line; there was another one straight after the bend and that won’t change now until Lone Pine. Robert’s having problems with his balance and feeling dizzy. It’s probably sunstroke. He’s really pale and feels cold. We immediately put Robert in the car in the shade and let him rest for 10 minutes. Luckily a medic car from the race came past. We stopped it and the medic checked Robert’s pulse, how his skin reacted, checked his temperature, etc. and decided that everything was working perfectly. Robert is physically fit. He apparently just needs a dry shirt, as there’s so much wind here. The medic explained to us that when he shivers his muscles are rubbing against each other and then his temperature climbs. Robert smiles, feels much better immediately and carries on. He does say though that this stretch here has nothing to do with running.

2.15 p.m.
Tom is walking with Robert; we keep driving past, parking, etc. and then starting the whole process from the beginning again at short intervals. Tom and I are now limiting ourselves to signs with regard to Robert’s form. That seems to work.  The medics said that we’re through the worst; Robert can carry on with his mind at rest.

2.28 p.m.
Robert is at a low ebb psychologically; you’d think he had no more motivation. So, I got out of the van and walked with him for 10 minutes and told him a few stories. Robert smiled and did his thing. Now he’s even beginning to jog again, alternating between that and walking the whole time. Robert, just stay relaxed and laid back. Now sand is also blowing across the road…

3.11 p.m.
Robert is bravely putting one foot in front of the other. Tiredness is really getting to us all now, so how must Robert be feeling…

3.36 p.m.
Dozed off for a short while until Tom called me to tell me that I should talk to Robert. It seems to me as though I’ve been gone for an hour, but I realise it wasn’t long when I look at the last entry. Tried to jog very slowly with Robert but it didn’t work. How do I rouse him from his exhaustion, at least until Lone Pine where we can check into our hotel rooms in advance and Robert can take a quick dip in the pool? He’s carrying on bravely though, even jogging now and again, and the fact that he’s still able to motivate himself to all this makes him seem increasingly superhuman.

3.51 a.m.
We have to keep dipping our caps in a bucket of ice water every 20 minutes because of the heat. 20 minutes later they’re dry again.

4.31 p.m.
Robert is eating and drinking well but is just too exhausted. He can only walk. The road stretches ahead unrelentingly straight for another 8 miles right up to Lone Pine. Walking in a never-ending straight line is really boring again in this heat.

5.34 p.m.
Jürgen has now been running with Robert for quite a while.

5.40 p.m.
Now Robert only ever says “yes” or “no” at the refreshment stops that we’re making regularly every km. I really hope he manages to do this. He’s an unbelievable fighter.

6.04 p.m.
As Jürgen has now been walking with Robert for quite a while he’s just announced that he is going to go up to Whittney Portal with him. Then Jürgen will have completed his own marathon today. The man really is one on his own and that’s an excellent decision on his part, as it will allow us to take care of them and Robert is happy with that too. Both of them are jogging a little again now.

6.35 p.m.
We’re in Lone Pine!!! Unbelievable!!! And Robert is running at a good speed, Jürgen’s running with him. I went quickly to the hotel with Jürgen Müller and picked up the keys to the hotel rooms, in case Robert wants to use the pool or take a shower before the final spurt to Whittney Portal.

6.45 p.m.
Robert’s in the pool!!! He feels like a new man! Clean clothes and then off to the final spurt, the last 14 miles in the mountains.

7.14 p.m.
Every scrap of tiredness has disappeared without a trace from Robert as well as ourselves. Now there’s only the steepest ascent in the race left. But he’ll manage that. Another 4 hours to go maybe.

7.20 p.m.
The ascent has begun, Robert is walking with Jürgen. He’s in a good mood, making jokes and laughing.

7.25 p.m.
The sun has now disappeared behind the mountain, which means that there’ll be no more sun in this race for Robert! Robert in the shade!!!

7.26 p.m.
Time seems to be flying past. Robert is alternating between walking and running. We’re keeping to the normal refreshment rhythm. When you think of all the different types of refreshment we’ve forced into this man in the last 33 hours…

8.46 p.m.
Robert is now being given caffeine tablets again, Voltaren. He’ll do it. Bats are also flying around here.

8.58 p.m.
Jürgen (63 years old!!!) has not slept for 2 days, now he’s going up to Whittney Portal with Robert and chatting and telling Robert stories as he goes.

9.11 p.m.
Another 6 miles to go!!!

9.40 p.m.
Robert can do it, it’s obvious that he’s absolutely exhausted but he still keeps putting one foot in front of the other. Now it’s pitch black.

9.49 p.m.
Another 5 miles to go!!!

9.52 p.m.
The 5th marathon is over, 131 miles, 7,000 feet

10.09 p.m.
Frubiase, cola, Red Bull in constant rotation. Robert is struggling. Every step is costing him energy but he plunges on untiringly.

10.15 p.m.
We’ve reached an incredible height in the meantime. From the mountain we can see all the tiny lights on the support crew vans in the valley below.

10.19 p.m.
Robert is wheezing like nothing on earth. He’s not talking any more either when we give him refreshments (about every 800 m). but he keeps going as consistently and steadily as a machine.

10.23 p.m.
They overtake us and Jürgen says in his American Franconian: “Wir haben einen ganz schönen Zahn hier drauf, man.” (It’s quite a pace we’re going at, man.) And again there are millions of stars in the sky.

10.48 p.m. approx.
Another mile to the Badwater finish line. Robert changes from walking to running again. Pounding up the mountain like a steamroller.

11.53 p.m.
Finish line in view up ahead, cameras with radiating system emitters, a few people, in the middle of the wood…

11.53.08 p.m.
Robert goes through the finishing line, he shoots his arms high above his head, laughs and accepts the congratulations. Robert’s at the finishing line!!! After all that’s happened this man has reached the finishing line after an upward final spurt of 14 miles! The team congratulates Robert and each other! Robert Wimmer is an official finisher of the 2004 Kiehl’s Badwater Ultra Marathon with a time of 36 hours 53 minutes and 08 seconds. And that makes him the best German too. Robert is incredible; we had an excellent team, a crazy race. Who would have thought that last night or even this lunchtime? We’ve now all probably been awake for about 40 hours, so all we want now is sleep!!!

This report can only give a brief insight into the hell that was Badwater. Words cannot express and even pictures can only give a very rudimentary indication of what people actually go through here.

Hall of Fame: Richard Benyo and Tom Crawford

In 2004, Richard Benyo and Tom Crawford were inducted. They organized the first Badwater race in 1987, then became the first runners to complete a double Badwater, in 1989, about which Richard published the book, “The Death Valley 300.”

Their plaques read:

Richard Benyo/Tom Crawford is proudly inducted into the Badwater Hall of Fame
in recognition of his efforts in promoting the race and “making it a double” (twice!)

See You on the Mountaintop

A Badwater 2004 Race Story

Badwater Finisher, 98, 99, 00, 01, 02, 04

Originally published in Marathon & Beyond Magazine, July 2005

Except for the glimmer of a thousand stars and the faint glow from a few porch lights, the desert outside my room where I am pacing is almost pitch black. It is two o’clock in the morning. A hand full of ravens flit and scratch on the ground near the parked cars. There is noise off in the distance from some animal life digging through the trash cans and the air conditioners drone and hum away in an attempt to keep the warm desert air from the rooms at the Stovepipe Wells Hotel. Otherwise it is quiet.

As I concentrate on the enormous challenge ahead my mind and nerves ramp up as adrenaline, excitement and anticipation slowly starts to drip into my system. The body finally realizes that in just a few hours it will be running the 135-mile race that begins at Badwater, California, the lowest spot in the United States, and snakes through Death Valley and over two mountain ranges before finishing at the Portals halfway up Mt. Whitney. This footrace is considered the toughest in the world. There will be no more sleep tonight and probably for the next few days.

Although I have been here many times, this year is more special. At the pre-race meeting yesterday and at his eulogy in January, I honored my fallen friend, Jason Hunter, before his family, his friends and many great athletes. I dedicated this race as well as the traditional eleven-mile climb to the top of MT Whitney that follows it, in Jason’s name. I am sure that he will be out here, at least in spirit, for guidance and inspiration and to help me fulfill this tall order. I have but one goal now and that is to finish. There are no other options.

In the minutes before the ten o’clock start, I mingle and socialize with the other runners aside the Badwater sign and the Kiehl’s Sponsorship Banner draped across the road were the race begins. I notice that the Sea Level sign that was missing last year is again attached and perched 282 feet above our heads on the rugged side of the Black Mountains. All is well. The National Anthem is played in our honor and hundreds of photographs are taken just seconds before the starting countdown to this grueling event. It is good to be back. This will be my seventh consecutive Badwater Race.

During the first twenty five-miles, while I am still fresh and the endorphins stream through my system, I run and joke with some of the other runners. There is Chris Frost who gives me a Lance Armstrong yellow charity wristband, prompting the joke that we are engaged again. I wonder if his fiancée, Tracey, knows about this?  And Lisa Stranc-Bliss, the running Doctor, who pronounced me alive enough to continue on during a bad spell in last year’s race. Want to feel humble? Run a few miles with everyone’s favorite and ultrarunning legend, Marshall Ulrich.

We run north along the great sprawling salt basin with its colorful landmarks reminding us that we are indeed in Death Valley. The Timbisha Shoshone Indians call it “Land on Fire”.  We pass by Dante’s View, Coffin Point, Devil’s Wheat Field, Furnace Creek, Salty Creek, Devil’s Golf Course, the Sand Dunes and Stovepipe Wells. The land is picturesque but inhospitable. Left unattended, one could die out here in just a few minutes.

My van is filled with tons of supplies and my crew; Christine (my wife), Vince Pedroia, Juli Dell’Era and John Rodger will be alongside me the entire race. They will attempt to keep me fed, hydrated and cooled off by using squirt guns and sprayers. The van itself looks like a rolling billboard with messages, memorial banners and inspirational drawings from special children taped on both sides. We have another vehicle at Stovepipe Wells to be used to shuttle into town for rest, supplies, Snicker bars and other emergencies.

Around the thirty-mile mark I comment that it is unusually cool, maybe only 115-degrees. But that’s about to change; someone hears my big mouth and begins to stoke it up a few notches. By the Beatty turnoff (mile-35) where the race turns to the west, it is at least 125-degrees. Headwinds generated somewhere in the canyons, pick up the radiated heat from the pavement and are superheated even more as they sweep furiously across the Death Valley basin.

For the next seven-miles the suffocating winds are incessant, and it feels like its 140-degrees or more. It’s like opening a furnace door and standing in front of it with a fan blowing the heat on you. The mouth and eyes dry out, unprotected skin burns, the nasal passages and lungs sting, and it becomes hard to breathe. The cooling body sweat and the water sprayed on the running clothes evaporate immediately, and my core temperature rises as intense heat presses heavily against every cell. Fortunately the months of training in a 180-degree sauna have prepared me for this. I handily move ahead, although the heat will take its toll later tonight.

At Stovepipe Wells (mile-42) I could take a quick break. In the past I have cooled off in the small pool, which is now filled with runners and crews, or I’ve used the shower to rinse the heat away but not this year. I have found that the body starts to shutdown once it stops to relax for more than ten-minutes. I have suffered severe cramping and have witnessed convulsions and techni-colored barfathons by other runners in this pool area. Since this has a tendency to ruin your day, my plan is to continue to go forward and take short respites on the stoop of the van every few hours. So, I just sneak on by.

Then I face the most difficult part of the Badwater Race: the seemingly never-ending sixteen-mile 4900-foot climb to Townes Pass (mile-58). The first few miles are directly into the sun and the hot winds continue to blow. As the sun sets, Chris Frost catches me. When we reach the Emigrant Campground halfway up, we take our first mini break. Kari Marchant, a live-wire crewmember, joins us and we gradually move up the mountain now dimly lit by a half moon and the Milky Way.  We pass the time by laughing at raunchy jokes. I have to tell all of them, because they didn’t know any.

At the top, next to the radiator tank, we take another short break. The wheels are beginning to come off and the tired body wants to lie down. This race has become serious. The weariness that is clinging to the body is similar to tying on a spare tire and dragging it to the finish line. Chris naps while I cool off my legs with iced towels and gorge on peanut butter, PowerAde and Ensure.

We then run other eight-miles, down the backside of the pass to the edge of the salt flats in the Panamint Valley. Looking across this five-mile basin and into the distant hills, we can see a string of a dozen or more muted red flickering brake lights. My emotions lift knowing that I am in the middle of other runners and their crews who are also struggling along this course in order to realize their goals. Misery loves company. As soon as we catch a runner, Chris tags along and they move ahead into the night. I am alone again

Suddenly, on the side of the road, there is a quick and blurred movement. I turn and catch a glimpse of a coyote, maybe more, scrounging around in the bush. The one closest is gaunt, wiry, skittish, nervously pacing and panting. Scrawny and undernourished, it salivates from hunger pangs. I immediately flash on Harry, the protagonist in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, who lies on a cot in the African savannah dying from the gangrene that has invaded a cut in his leg. Hemingway writes, “… it occurred to him that…he was going to die…and…the hyena slipped slightly along the edge of it”.

Oops! I make some noise and flash my lights towards these guys and they slink away into the scrub. But I sense that they are still close by: dug in, crouched, waiting, peering, hungry and ready to strike for their next meal. I know that I am rank and it must be wafting in their direction. Hopefully they have targeted a smaller morsel in the area. I decide to hurry up before they drag me off into the desert.

Fortunately dawn is approaching and the coyotes and other animal life will soon vanish into the sand in this sparse desert. They will attempt to survive another day somewhere buried, hidden and protected from the brutal heat of the scorching sun. And we runners think that this Badwater Race is tough. For a moment I contemplate their difficult lives: if they manage to survive during the hostile summer then we should be able to handle a few days.

I run to the Panamint Springs Resort (mile-72) looking forward to a short break. I have been active with minimal rest since the start of the race. My overworked, strained and taxed body is fighting back. It needs to be rejuvenated, and it wants it to happen right now. A ten-minute respite turns into forty-five as an unsuccessful catnap is attempted. Then, in another survival moment, I step inside the hotels bathroom/septic system for relief. Whew! Yet, there is even a richer prize than basking in all this glory. Anyone finishing this race in less than forty-eight hours is awarded a cherished and coveted brass belt buckle.

After gobbling down a cup full of freshly made scrambled eggs and chasing them with a Starbucks Frappuccino, it is time to run up another steep eight-mile winding pass to Father Crowley’s (mile-80). The views along the way are breathtaking. The multi-colored canyon walls that spill into the salt flats below are incredibly beautiful.  These huge chasms are routinely used as military training grounds for the F-16’s that swoop down deep inside after their imaginary prey.

My crew is finally able to make cell phone contact with a hometown radio station. After I broadcast my progress report, the host asks me if I have seen my shrink lately. Well, yes I have, but obviously it isn’t working. I just hope the kids that I run for are listening.

At the top it is time for a change of shoes. One sock is soaked in blood and the other is glued to a severe blistering problem and will hamper my effort as the race wears on.

The next ten-miles of gradual rolling hills is brushed in purple and yellow hues and dotted by old abandoned silver mines that probably dead-end into shattered dreams. The landscape is filled with the colors and scents of sage and withered yucca.

A huge rock and dirt formation near the Death Valley Park entrance sign (mile-85) is shaped in the formation of a Stegosaurus. It has several rows of bony plates along its back, so maybe it is one, partially buried, camouflaged and sleeping. Two years ago during the night I saw them crawling across the desert floor. There are times during this race when the demons stir about somewhere within the dark corners of the tired mind and it begins to hallucinate and sees strange things. But, I know that the dinosaurs I saw were real and I suspect that they are still out there, somewhere on the move, despite evidence that they are extinct.

It is early morning and the headwinds return like a giant heat-searing hair dryer. A chronic Achilles problem is flaring up and progress becomes more of a run-hobble. At the Darwin turnoff (mile-90) the race bends north and I will attempt to run the next fifteen-miles that are mostly downhill. The winds that are now at my back help to push me along.

At mile ninety-seven a minor problem has developed. We are out of ice, low on water and the drinks are warm and hard to swallow. Right on time, Nancy Shura from the medical team stops and gives us all her leftover ice and water. Ironically, a similar scene occurred last year when Monica Scholz stopped along the Panamint Salt Flats and replenished my depleted supplies.

At the 100-mile mark high up in the mouth of the pass, I can finally see the great sprawling Owens Valley. But, three-miles later, I can’t run anymore. The hot tailwinds have cooked my hamstrings and they are now misfiring.  We ice them down and I wear long pants in a feeble attempt to keep them cooler. But the damage has been done: they will not respond to this tinkering and I struggle five-miles into the weather-beaten trailer-park burg of Keeler (mile-108).

After a short rest I still feel drained and wilted from the battering of intense heat over the last two days. For the third time in the last five-years the winds are blowing sand and ash from fires in the Sierras across the arid and desolate Owens Lake and into our path. As I gag and choke on the smoke I resolve to plod along until the sun sets behind the mountains and then hopefully run into Lone Pine. My wife and Juli drive into town in order to rest for the final climb.

Once I start running I feel much better. But just a few miles later, I need water and my van is nowhere in sight. Although it is now dark, it is still hot and I begin to overheat. Unable to continue I wait and waver on the side of the road for about thirty-minutes until the van finally shows up: John had stayed behind to make sandwiches in preparation for the final climb. He should have gone ahead to stay in touch and maintain a sense of timing, but, that’s okay. The heat has tortured everyone and understandably a misjudgment was made.

I shuffle the last four-miles into Lone Pine (mile-122), where I rest and cool down at the hotel. The air conditioner gives me goosebumps and my crew believes I am suffering from heat stroke. They call a race medic, who determines the real problem: that it was time to get going and finish this thing off before anything else went wrong.

Shortly, we start up again. Even though Vince and I laugh most of the way, the steep and relentless thirteen-mile climb to the finish at the Portals (mile-135) is pain-stakingly slow. I need to leave something in my tank for after the race, because I still have to climb to the top of MT Whitney. During a weary moment a massive pack of large rats at the side of the road sweeps towards me. Startled for a few seconds, I move over to our van while Vince protects me from the “varmints”. He tells me that I had likely just flashed on some grass that was growing through the cracks in the roadbed. I am not so sure and hurriedly move forward.

With four-miles to go we enter the first of the two-long switchbacks and realize that the end is only an hour away. The pace quickens, there is more spring in the step and now a renewed sense of urgency to polish this Badwater off.

My crew will walk with me the last mile. Everyone is more alive, giddy and spirited, except for nearby campers who yell from their tents to shut up so they can sleep. Sorry, but fat chance. With only a few bends in the road to go the physical and mental demands step aside. As they begin resting on the back burners, I start tripping on my emotions.

With our hands held high and a great whoop we cross the finish line together. Each year that I break the tape a great sense of achievement and pride flushes my system. It is the successful culmination of months of training and a few days of intense hard work over this extremely challenging course. Badwater will never get old. Finishing this race in 43-hours and 28-minutes with my beautiful wife and crew by my side is as good as it will ever get.

Later, sitting alone and relaxed on a bench in front of the hotel, I reflect on what I had accomplished the past few days:

Although I had survived several mini disasters, days of extreme heat and cold, drying winds, the ever-present Achilles tendonitis, severe blistering, vertigo, and incredible weariness, I never at any time ever thought about quitting. I hope that this will set a positive example and inspiration for all the children.

I was fortunate to have run, walked and shuffled, along with many of my friends, through Death Valley and up Mount Whitney. There are very few places on earth that equal in grace and majesty.

I finished Badwater and summated Mt. Whitney for my friend, Jason, a satisfying tribute to his incredible life. It just really feels good that I did what I had to do.

And finally, I will soon be going back home into the “real world” with restored confidence and convinced that if you can do Badwater, you can do anything.

Thanks to Badwater Race Director, Chris Kostman, and all the people from AdventureCorps. There would be no Badwater Race without their effort. It was also comforting to see the emergency vehicles, the medical teams and all the race personnel cruising around and monitoring for any problems.

Thanks to Kiehl’s for their title sponsorship and all the skin care products.

Thanks to Injinji for the socks touted to prevent blisters. Maybe I should have worn them. Well, duh!

Thanks to Hammer-Gel for the Endurolytes. These things work great. Now, can you make a pill to prevent aged related aches and pains? Better hurry.

Kudos to Dean Karnazes, Ferg Hawke and Monica Scholz. Breaking 30-hours on this course is a major achievement.

To every crewmember and especially mine, thank you for your sacrifices.  It could not have been done without your help.

Thanks to nurse Nancy Shura for stopping to help just in time.

Thanks to Marshall Ulrich, the consummate gentleman, for everything. But don’t forget Heather next year.

Congratulations to Lisa Stranc-Bliss for her incredible 37-hour finish and then the MT Whitney summit. It is amazing that Lisa and others have figured out this Badwater Race on their initial attempt. Heck, I have been experimenting out here for seven-years and still manage to screw it up.

Congratulations to Chris Frost for his fine effort. Each year he has a better finishing time and I know why: he has all my good stuff.  Last year he stole my best super-soaker. This year he not only ripped off one of my new hand held spritzers but he also ate all my premium turkey slices. For awhile I thought that he had hijacked my van with the rest of my secret supplies and even kidnapped my wife. The engagement is off and next year I am bringing a security guard.

Most of all thanks to my wife who has put up with this kind of insanity for 36 years. Everyone appreciates all her hard work, sincerity and compassion, but not as much as I do.

It was a privilege to be a part of the 2004 Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon.

I can’t wait until next year.

I will be back.

67:59:45 — A Long Time to be Outdoors in Death Valley

Crewmember for 11-time finisher Jack Denness

“Death Valley” Jack Denness is something of a legend at the Badwater Ultramarathon. A ten-time finisher before the 2004 race, including a double crossing in the early 1990’s, he entered with high hopes of keeping up with Marshall Ulrich and maintaining his place as joint record finisher at the event.

Crewing for Jack was a no-brainer for me. Certified loonies from the UK may be plentiful, but few of them live just a few miles from the town I called home before I moved to Boulder, Colorado. Jack seemed the kind of character I could work with: his jovial appearance in the documentary ‘Running On The Sun’ kept my spirits up, even as my dream of completing the race myself in 2006 seemed to dissipate with every piece of graphic footage of a foot worn down to a virulent blister.

And let’s face it; we both enjoy a Murphy’s Irish Stout from time to time.

Meeting Jack for the first time in Las Vegas a couple of days before the race, my suspicions were confirmed. He was nuts. He hadn’t trained properly this year—perhaps finishing ten times had made him somewhat blasé about the whole affair, or perhaps the fact that he was just one year from his seventieth birthday was slowing him down at last. Either way, for the first time he wasn’t completely prepared.

But before I continue, let me reassure you that this story has a happy ending. Jack did finish, albeit in a time outside the cut-off. And the Badwater organizers were kind enough to keep the Mt. Whitney finish open for him in recognition of his longtime commitment to the race. He was awarded an Honorable Finisher medal, and great credit should go to the Kostman brothers for their generosity in recognizing this year’s achievement.

Darla, Jen, Keith and I were awake at 4:30am the morning of the race. We spent the moments before the race taking the obligatory photos and video footage of the runners, and then cheered as they set off on their odyssey. Jack trotted along merrily for the first mile, and then began walking. He didn’t run another step for the next 134 miles!

Thanks to a new rule created at least in part for Jack’s benefit, he could now be paced before Furnace Creek. I walked a few miles with him before he obviously revisited his expectations of the race. It was to be a race of attrition, a battle not against time but against the gradual wearing down of his body over nearly three days. I think Jack acknowledged this early, though his crew—and loyal wife, Mags only realized later.

Between Furnace Creek and Panamint Springs, Jack wouldn’t be paced. He had set his heart on finishing almost entirely by himself, although later he would be glad of company. His stride deliberate and determined, he weathered the early morning heat well and reached Furnace Creek in fine fettle.

Our crew had divided into two teams: me and my partner Jen, and Darla (a race crew veteran and team leader) and Keith together. During the entire time we spent on the road we worked as a remarkably efficient and friendly team. Our combined focus on getting our athlete to the finish tied us together even when we were working apart. Our roles became second nature—Jen driving the van and preparing fresh bandanas and headgear for Jack, me enjoying the opportunity to spray someone with a squirt gun and get away with it.

The heat was intense, but we didn’t suffer. We kept well-hydrated, well-covered and took regular air-conditioned breaks in the van. Having read plenty of horror stories about the crew melting while the runner continued on apace, we knew that we owed it to Jack to be prepared. For me, the weather was positively balmy—I’d spent all summer in Colorado running long distances in seven or eight layers of clothes, and my sauna workouts were up to 45 minutes each. I was ready for Death Valley—at least, for the small portions of it that I would walk with Jack.

Our crew shifts generally lasted around eight hours each. We snatched sleep at almost every rest point, so our fatigue, though very real, was not nearly as bad as we expected. As Jen later commented, the race should never be an ordeal for the crew. Without two teams, we would have been in real trouble.

Through Stovepipe and up a seventeen-mile hill, Jack continued steadily. His gait was strong, his steps sure and his demeanor good. Jen and I took turns blasting the James Bond theme to Jack to keep him in the mood for action, and as he walked into the night he was certainly slower than expected, but by no means down and out.

Approaching Panamint Springs, however, things took a turn for the worse. Jack was exhausted, too tired even to catch a few moments of sleep in the runners’ room (and not helped by the noise of a couple of less-than-considerate competitors’ crews). He lay on the bed for a while, refusing even to take off the shoes that would adorn his feet for the entire race. Finally, as evening drew in for the second time, he struggled to his feet and continued.

As we set off again up the hill, we realized that we were hours behind schedule. There was no chance of Jack finishing within 60 hours. In fact, we projected around 72–74 hours at that point. Still unaware that Jack intended to finish the course whatever, we began to seriously consider asking him to pull out of the race. Mags would not hear of it, of course, her experience of Jack being so much greater than ours. Even so, it weighed heavily on our minds.

Another worry was the state of Jack’s feet. We spent some time treating blisters on the hill, and I decided to walk behind him a hundred feet to ensure that cars saw my flashing red rear light before reaching Jack on this narrow, winding stretch. Jack didn’t realize this, and at one point when the van was long out of sight he stopped for a rest against a guardrail. Padding up silently behind him, I asked if he was ok. He sprang a couple of feet into the air, utterly shocked to hear another human voice!

I walked all night with Jack, occasionally running ahead to warn oncoming cars of our presence. It was a dreamy, wafting experience to walk with my head turned up to the dark, moonless sky. Jen and I saw the occasional shooting star, and she even walked a couple of miles behind Jack herself. It was by far our favorite part of the experience.

As dawn broke, the extent of Jack’s troubles became clear. He was leaning heavily to the left, a position we came to call The Leaning Tower of Jack. His steps had slowed to a shuffle, and he was hardly coherent at the regular half-mile stop-offs as we began descending again.

Then something remarkable happened. The dark blue early morning sky began to lighten, and Jen, a quarter mile ahead of us in the van, began playing an Alice Krauss track from the soundtrack to ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ It is, for those who have not yet heard it, an inspiring and uplifting gospel-style tune, complete with full choir as it builds from a single voice to a vast, expansive climax.

As the song progressed, Jack’s steps became surer. His lean became less pronounced. His head lifted, and an overwhelming understanding of his nobility overcame me. This was a remarkable man—a man who had raised thousands for good causes, who had traveled the earth to find challenges worthy of him, who was refusing to give up despite the knowledge that he could not complete the race in the stipulated time. From my vantage point a hundred feet behind him, I could see that whatever else happened on this journey, Jack would finish it with or without us.

Our team-mates appeared shortly afterwards and we only rejoined Jack some way out of Lone Pine. He had made up a couple of hours since we left him, striding along gallantly as he passed the familiar landmarks that told him he was finally nearing the base of Mt. Whitney. By now, he was happy to have company and I walked with him in the heat, spraying him down frequently (it was the only time that the heat really got to him). Dozens of crew and finishers came out to see Jack and wish him well, offering drinks and unloading crates of yogurt for us.

When we finally reached Lone Pine and handed off to the other crew again, we knew that we’d be seeing him at the finish in a few hours. It must have been slow going, but with the support of his team, not to mention Wayne Simpson and his crew too, Jack was nearing the top when we got there at 1:30 a.m. or so.

The finish itself was emotional for all of us. We were so proud of our athlete that we could hardly contain ourselves, desperate to be one of the many people trying to hug him. He drenched himself in Murphy’s and was presented with his finisher’s medal, and graciously thanked his crew for spending so much time out on the road with him.

To say we got more than we bargained for would be an understatement. The experience for me, a future runner, and for Jen, a future crew leader, was invaluable. The sense of camaraderie amongst the runners was wonderful, and the feeling of finishing, albeit a vicariously, was one of the highlights of my year.

My commitment to running Badwater has only become stronger thanks to the experience of crewing. I recommend it to anyone who wants to run the race—indeed, I would advocate making one race as a crew member a mandatory requirement for entry.

If you’re considering crewing, three bits of advice for you. First, take the night shift if possible, or at least part of it. It’s a magical experience to run alone in the night in Death Valley. Second, believe in your runner. Have no doubt that anyone who is accepted to this race has the capacity and the will to finish. Some don’t finish of course, but it’s not through lack of capability or training. It just doesn’t work out for them on the day. And third, bring the soundtrack to ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’ and watch your runner stand tall and proud as it plays at dawn—it’s a memory you’ll treasure forever.


Tusconians Reed and Gungle Tackle the Badwater Ultramarathon

With three national film crews scrutinizing her every step and overconfident runners virtually nipping at her heels, Pam Reed was under extreme pressure.

Her energy level was simply not at its typical unrelenting heights, and with temperatures lower than last year, Reed finished in fourth place overall at the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley.

“It was a very, very difficult event for me,” said Reed, who was attempting a three-peat at Badwater. She won the event overall the past two years.

“I’m really happy I finished. When you expect to win and then people pass you, just staying in there is hard. All the publicity and all those television stations were there. They were all in my face.”

Reed was the second woman finisher. Her time of 31 hours, 17 minutes and 55 seconds was nearly three hours slower than last year and close to three and half hours slower than 2002

Dean Karnazes, from San Francisco won the event in 27:22:48. He had finished in second place behind Reed in 2003. Monica Scholz from Ontario, Canada, won the women’s side in 29:22:29.

The 27th annual event began in Badwater, Death Valley, the lowest point in United States at 280 feet below sea level and ended halfway up the 14,494-foot high Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous U.S.

Runners braved temperatures reaching 120 degrees, but it was cooler than last year when the mercury soared to 133 degrees at the start line.

As of Tuesday night, another Tucson runner’s quest to finish the race is still alive. Bruce Gungle, who is running for the first time, passed the 90.3-mile marker in 26 hours and 11 minutes. The forty-five year old is the only other local runner to ever compete in Badwater. He has a 60 hours, until 6p.m. Thursday, to finish.

Reed felt the burden of being number one early in the race. Up until the 17-mile point, Reed said she had several runners mimicking what she was doing, running alongside her.

“This one woman in particular wanted to run my race, so she was right behind me stepping on me, literally,” said Reed.

As anticipated, until the second time station at 41.9 miles, the race was wide open with several runners posting top times. By the third time station at 72.3 miles, Reed led the women’s field and was in third place overall, about two hours behind the leader.

But in next 17 miles she gradually lost her edge. At mile marker 90.3, she was five minutes behind the Scholz and in fourth place overall.

“When (Scholz) passed me I went after, and then I was feeling pretty good but then all of a sudden my energy level wasn’t there,” said Reed. “I couldn’t do it.”

Reed’s only intake during the race was Ensure, Red Bull and half a peanut butter sandwich. She never slept and estimates that she ran or jogged over two-thirds of the race.

Having the benefit of training in Tucson, her friends have said that she is more competitive when the temperatures are hotter. Last year Karnazes, who has completed an ultramarathon in Antarctica and four Badwater Ultramarathons, said he couldn’t keep up with Reed in the dire, 128-degree heat.

Throughout the race, three television crews interviewed her and her five-person crew. And the day before they were conducting interviews in her hotel room.

This fall she will be featured on PBS’s Nature program, 60 Minutes and the Discovery Channel.

“It was dumb on my part to let it happen. But on the other hand it was exciting,” said Reed.

At the final time station on mile 122, Reed was in fourth place, 55 minutes behind Scholz.

The exhausting 13-mile climb up Mount Whitney was her toughest ever. It took her over four and a half hours.

“We walked the entire time, extremely slow,” said Reed. “I got completely killed on Mount Whitney. I just didn’t have anything left.”

Badwater 2004: Bangemachen Gilt Nicht

Ein Bericht von Andrea Schuster-Betz

Für des Menschen Aufstieg ist keine Grenze
und jedem ist das Höchste offen,
hier waltet allein deine Wahl.

Als das O.K. für die Teilnahme von Thomas (*) am Badwater-Ultramarathon kam, dachte ich, na ja, bei 48 Stunden Köln hab ich Thomas ja schon betreut, diverse 24 Stunden-Läufe und 200 km von Perpignon nach Barcelona, aber die Berichte, die ich über den Badwater-Ultra gelesen hatte, haben mir schon Angst eingeflösst; diese Hitze, davon hielt ich gar nicht viel, hatte mal in Südfrankreich eine Sonnenallergie! Ich sagte mir, mit ein paar Stunden Höhensonne und Allergietabletten im Gepäck wird`s schon gehen. Vor Jahren waren wir schon mal im Death Valley, aber nicht zum BadwaterUltramarathon. Großes Unbehagen vor Badwater hat sich in mein Gehirn gefressen….

4. Juli: Flug von Frankfurt nach Las Vegas. Wagen mieten und einkaufen von Dingen, die wir für den Lauf benötigen, stehen auf unserer Zu-tun-Liste. Wir fahren Richtung Grand Canyon, wo wir 4 Tage später vom Brigth Angel Point eine 10 Stunden-Tour zum Colorado River und zurück starten. Ein kleines Training vor Badwater.

10.7.: Es geht Richtung Furneece Creek, mit einem Stop in Badwater. War es vielleicht ein Fehler, die Klimaanlage nicht öfter auszuschalten? Ich kann mir zu diesem Zeitpunkt nicht vorstellen, 2 Tage später einen Begleitung zu einem Ultramarathon zu starten, diese Hitze… Die Stunden unter der Höhensonne waren mangels Zeit ausgefallen, die Organisation einer 350 km Veranstaltung im Juni hatte uns Wochen zuvor keine freie Minute mehr gelassen, die Allergietabletten hatte ich auch vergessen…

Wir machen Rast in Furneece Creek und machen die Erfahrung, dass man hier Auto-Türgriffe besser nicht mit bloßen Händen anfasst, weil man sich dabei leicht verbrennen kann und eisgekühlte Getränke relativ rasch trinken sollte, weil sie sonst innerhalb kurzer Zeit eine „angenehme „ Temperatur von über 30 Grad haben.

11.7.: Nachmittags Einschreibung und Pre-Race-Meeting aller “Wahnsinnigen.“.

Um 16 Uhr über 45 Grad Celcius im Schatten!! Ich habe mir schon einen Fluchtplan überlegt, wie ich aus diesem Hexenkessel flüchten kann, da fiel mir ein, dass außer Thomas nur ich den Führerschein habe, also, Zähne zusammenbeißen.

Letzte Vorbereitungen am Abend, die NamensSchilder müssen am Auto angebracht , Getränke vorbereitet werden usw. Erst nach 23 Uhr heißt es gute Nacht.

12.7. Wecken um 4 Uhr 30. Start ist um 8 Uhr. Sachen zusammenpacken. Von Beatty geht es nun 67 Meilen nach Badwater. Schnell zum Gruppenfoto aufstellen, noch 10 Minuten bis zum Start. Chris Kostman, der Organisator, wirkt beruhigend auf die Teilnehmer ein, nicht an die ganze Strecke zu denken, sondern in kleinen Schritten. Das klingt logisch, diese Erfahrung habe ich auch schon gemacht, hoffentlich hilft sie auch hier den Teilnehmern. In Gedanken wünsche ich allen Teilnehmern ein gutes Gelingen.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 es geht los. Da läuft er nun. Wieviele Stunden werden vor uns liegen? Thomas lässt es langsam angehen, weiß nicht, wie er auf die Hitze reagiert. Ankommen heißt die Devise und ich weiß, dass Thomas das Wort “ Aufgeben “ nicht kennt. In Furneece Creek wechselt er von seine Kleider, lange Hosen und langes T-Shirt sind angesagt, um sich vor der Sonne einigermaßen zu schützen. Bodo, unser Begleiter bietet sich an, uns einen Kaffee zu holen. Bei dieser Hitze kann das wohl nicht schaden…

Welche Strecke haben wir insgesamt zu bewältigen? 215 km oder 130 Meilen? Ich entscheide mich für die kleinere Zahl!

Es funktioniert ganz gut, alle 1 bis 1,5 Meilen machen wir halt, um Thomas zu versorgen. Am Nachmittag zieht er Handschuhe an. Nein, kalt ist ihm nicht, die Sonne brennt nur unberbittlich. Sieht schon komisch aus, bei über 50 Grad Hitze. Alle sind in guter Verfassung.

Zu meiner Überraschung vertrage ich die Hitze sehr gut, habe keinerlei Beschwerden, lege mir während des Fahrens nasse Handtücher auf Schulter und Beine, die Klimaanlage bleibt aus, da wir öfter anhalten und raus in die Hitze müssen. Wir wollen uns erst gar nicht an die Annehmlichkeiten der Kühle im Auto gewöhnen.

Zwischen Furneece Creek und Stovepipe Wells weht teilweise ein starker Wind, der nicht angenehm kühlt, sondern einem heiß ins Gesicht bläßt. 50 Grad C. Unbeschreiblich.

Stop in Stovepipe Wells. Kein Eis mehr zu kaufen. Nicht so schlimm, wir haben noch etwas und Thomas hat sowieso gemeint, die Getränke sollten nicht mehr so kalt sein. Er wechselt wieder seine Kleider, es ist abend, die Sonne hinterm Horizont untergegangen. Ca 1 Stunde Pause. Getränke vorbereiten, das Übliche.

13. 7. Es geht in die Nacht hinein. Thomas verordnet mir irgendwann eine Schlafpause, er geht alleine weiter, hat Trinken und einen Energieriegel dabei.

Leider vergisst unser “ soll ich noch einen Kaffee holen – Mann “ mich zu wecken, ist wohl auch eingeschlafen. Ich schwinge mich hinters Steuerrad und fahre los und fahre und fahre und fahre. Nein, ich kann mich nicht verfahren haben, es geht ja immer gerade aus. Endlich, er ist in Sicht. Über 2 Stunden ist er alleine gelaufen. Er ist noch am Leben. Wir sind am Towness Pass und machen halt. Thomas ist sehr müde, legt sich ins Auto. 5 Minuten, noch mal 5 und noch mal 5 will er Pause machen. Verordne ihm eine halbe Stunde ab Stück, nach 1 _ Stunden geht es bergab Richtung Panamint Springs. Unser “ soll ich noch einen Kaffe holen – Mann “ wird ihn begleiten, das wird ihm gut tun. Es ist inzwischen hell geworden. Manchmal kommt der Medical Service vorbei und fragt, ob alles o.k. sei, das beruhigt. Diese Sicht den Berg hinunter ist einfach überwältigend. Außer Thomas`s Müdigkeit geht es uns allen gut.

In Panamint Springs bestellen wir Frühstück, es ist 8 Uhr. 35 Grad C. Ein Reporter vom ´Fit for Fun´ Magazin macht Bilder von uns, bin nicht sicher, ob man uns darauf wiedererkennen wird, so müde sehen wir aus.

Lange Meilen wird es jetzt bergauf gehen, die Aussicht phantastisch sein, what a wonderful world! Auch hier herrscht ein sehr starker Wind, aber nicht so heiß.

Müsste mal dringend telefonieren! Fahre 10 Meilen nach Keeler, ein verlassenes Nest, eine Geisterstadt, wo man viele Häuser vorfindet, die mit Holzbrettern vernagelt sind. Muss unverrichteter Dinge wieder zurückfahren.

Es wird langsam Nacht. Thomas Müdigkeit kommt immer wieder mal hoch, so wenige Stunden Schlaf in einem Hotel voller “junger Hüpfer“, die die Nacht zum Tag machen, sind vor solch einem Vorhaben wie der Badwaterultra nicht die ideale Vorstellung

In einer kurzen Pause legen wir uns auf die Strasse und betrachten den schönsten Sternenhimmel, den ich je gesehen habe, what a wonderful world.

14.7. In Lone Pine machen wir wieder Frühstück, ich bestelle Pfannkuchen, aber Thomas ißt nur sehr wenig. Keine Blasen an den Füssen, keine sonstigen Beschwerden; wenn nur diese Müdigkeit nicht wäre. Man gratuliert uns. Nanu denke ich, wir sind doch noch gar nicht am Ziel. Aber wer hier ankommt, gibt sowieso nicht auf, der Rest ist nur noch eine “Kleinigkeit“,

Der Berg ruft und wir brechen auf, eine endlos lange Strecke von 18 Kilometern, die einfach nicht enden will.

Unsere Kräfte lassen jetzt wirklich nach, die Kraftreserven können wir anscheinend nicht mehr auffüllen. Kein Hunger, nur noch trinken. Es wird Zeit, dass es zu Ende geht.

Es wird hell, das belebt noch mal den Geist, aber nur für kurze Zeit. Habe keinen Blick mehr für diese herrliche Aussicht, mein Kopf kann nur noch daran denken, ans Ziel zu kommen. Thomas hat auch große Mühe, einen Fuß vor den anderen zu bekommen, was wohl in ihm vorgeht? „ Ich muß mich noch umziehen, so verdreckt, wie ich aussehe, kann ich doch nicht aufs Finisher Foto“, gesagt, getan, soviel Zeit muß sein.

Nach 47 Stunden und 43 Minuten haben wir es geschafft!!! Und auf dem Foto sehen wir gar nicht so müde aus, wie wir uns fühlen. Nur noch ein Gedanke hält mich aufrecht, der Gedanke an ein kühles Motelzimmer mit Bett. Bis zum gemeinsamen Pizzaessen mit Läufern und Begleitern schlafen wir uns aus, oder sagen wir fast.

… und einen Tag später wird Thomas mit einer Gruppe Amerikanern den Mount Whitney besteigen. Da sie mitten in der Nacht aufbrechen und mir mein Schlaf jetzt sehr wichtig ist , gehe ich nicht mit. „ Die hätten dich mit dem Hubschrauber runterholen müssen“ wird er später sagen, „es war nicht einfach“.

Aber er hat es geschafft, denn das Wort “Aufgeben“ kennt er nicht.

Die Strecke fahren wir auf dem Weg nach Las Vegas noch mal ab. An verschiedenen Punkten machen wir Rast und verinnerlichen uns das, was wir während der Veranstaltung nicht so recht genießen konnten.

Ich bin glücklich, dabeigewesen zu sein und verspüre eine Sehnsucht, wiederzukommen.. Übrigens, die Hölle war es nicht und: bangemachen gilt nicht.

Es gibt nur 3 wahre Gewinner:
Derjenige, der als erster das Ziel erreicht,
derjenige, der das Rennen zu Ende läuft
und derjenige, der sich selbst herausfordert.

Badwater Week And What A Week It Was

2003 official finisher

Following is the report of Badwater participant Scott Ludwig of Peachtree City, Georgia. A Badwater rookie, his crew consisted of Paula May (Crew Chief), Eric Huguelet (Paula’s husband), Al Barker (Scott’s training partner over the past 10 years), Gary Griffin (Scott’s friend and an accomplished ultrarunner from Tallahassee), and Josh (Scott’s 17-year-old son). Everyone on the crew is an accomplished runner. Here is Scott’s story. (Note: there is a reference in the story to a ‘streak.’ Scott has run every day since November 29, 1978—the ‘streak’ being referred to.

Seven days in July. ‘Badwater Week.’ And what a week it was.

Friday, July 18 (-4 days)

Paula, our crew chief, held the final DARKSIDE crew meeting at her house. Gary, Al, Paula and I. Josh? Had to work. Eric? Went to the Braves game. Priorities, you understand.

We went over our final gear check and chronological plan for the upcoming week. It appeared we had our game plan firmly in place. All that remained was the execution. Of the game plan, that is (not me!).

Years of training and months of planning were about to be put to the test. We believed we were ready. And willing. And yes, able. We’d find out soon enough.

Saturday, July 19 (-3 days)

Delta takes us from Atlanta to Las Vegas (by way of Dallas). I’d like to say an uneventful airplane ride, but that would be a lie. As I had been heavily hydrating the past several days, I finished off a 20-ounce bottle of water just before boarding the plane. After sitting on the plane for 30 minutes (we still had not left the gate), I realized I had to urinate. Desperately. Just as I was about to visit the restroom, the pilot announced we were ready to take off and to please be seated. OK, I could wait until we were in the air.

However, we crept along the runway, making my particular condition magnify in urgency. When the pilot announced that we were ‘4th in line for takeoff,’ that was it for me. I jumped out of my seat (figuring I had time, since planes take off at two minute intervals) and headed to the restroom, despite the flight attendant ‘reminding’ me that the pilot asked that we be seated. I told her I couldn’t wait any longer.

While I was inside the restroom, I heard the flight attendant (obviously on the phone to the pilot) saying ‘I’m sorry, sir, he said he couldn’t wait any longer and ignored me.’ Just freakin’ great: two years of dedicated Badwater training down the drain ‘cuz I just know once I exit the restroom I’ll be escorted off the plane. The pressure was so intense that I wasn’t even able to urinate. Upon exiting the restroom, I was relieved (literally, not figuratively) that the flight attendant merely assaulted me verbally (as if I were an 8 year old) about disregarding the pilot’s instructions. I apologized and told her it wouldn’t happen again. Later, once we were in the air, I returned to the restroom, where I was finally relieved (figuratively, not literally).

Once we landed in Las Vegas, we rented our 14-passenger van, dropped off two of the seats (we needed storage space!) at the house of a friend of Paula’s, and made a final shopping trip (cooler, meals, water, miscellaneous items) to Walmart. Finally, we checked into our hotel for some much needed rest (I slept 12 hours—something I haven’t done since college).

Sunday, July 20 (-2 days)

Gary, Eric, Paula and I went for a short run in Vegas. We noticed we were perspiring—something we weren’t expecting considering (a) we were running at a 9-minute pace and (b) there’s no humidity in Vegas. What implications did this hold for Badwater?

We loaded up the van and made the 2 _ hour drive to Furnace Creek, where we were welcomed by temperatures hovering around 120 degrees. Welcome to hell. Once we settled into our rooms, we drove out to the starting line in Badwater, where it was even warmer. Driving back to the hotel, we let Josh out of the van 2 miles out so he could run in to test the conditions.

Gary and I waited for Josh, anxious to hear his report. However, he didn’t need to say a thing: the color in his cheeks said it all. They were BRIGHT RED, approximately the color of a ripe tomato. Later that night, Josh and I went to the pool to cool off. Or so we thought. The water temperature had to have been in the 90’s, and the air temperature was still close to 110. Surely the conditions would improve by Tuesday (race day).

The rest of the evening was spent raiding the hotel’s ice machines and wondering whether or not Al (he was flying to Las Vegas this evening and renting a car) would be able to find us in Furnace Creek. He did. A good omen, perhaps?

Another 9 hours of sleep for me; a good investment for what lies ahead.

Monday, July 21 (-1 day)

A short run to start the day, followed by a visit to the hotel’s breakfast bar. Actually, breakfast buffet is more like it. Fresh fruit, cereal, breakfast burritos, eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, English muffins, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, apple fritters, juices, coffee, soda, water…good timing, as the crew and I were able to load up on some much-needed calories. After all, we would be living on fig newtons and pretzels for the next two days.

We made a trip to the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center at noon to pick up my race number. We met Jay Birmingham, the first man to officially ‘race’ from Badwater to Mount Whitney over 20 years ago. He autographed a copy of his book about his feat, The Longest Hill, for me. I met Chris Kostman, the Race Director, and had my pre-race ‘mug shot’ photo taken. Three hours later my crew and I would return for the pre-race clinic.

Imagine 300 people in a room…for almost two hours…with weak air conditioning…and temperatures outside over 120 degrees. Sound like fun? Sounds like pre-race conditioning, if you ask me. I can’t remember the last time I was that hot (wait—yes I can, it was yesterday!). But you get the picture. We were all familiar with most of the information presented in the clinic—race rules, race history, etc. A short video of last year’s event was shown, focusing on Pam Reed’s historic finish (first female winner of Badwater!). Pam was back to defend her title, and she was assigned to my time group (10:00 a.m., the other two groups starting at 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.). Pam, deservedly so, was presented with a plaque in honor of her accomplishment. At the end of the clinic, all runners were invited on stage to be introduced to everyone else in the auditorium. It was so hot on stage, my knees started to perspire. Drops of perspiration were literally saturating my shoes. More pre-race conditioning, I assume. 20 painful minutes later, we were free. Unless, of course, you opted to attend the foot clinic. Which we did. Fortunately, Paula felt comfortable that she knew how to take care of my feet should problems arise, but she and Gary attended anyway. Me? I went outside to get Marshall Ulrich’s autograph for a friend of mine. Plus, it was cooler outside than it was in that damn auditorium…

We ate dinner as a crew one last time before tackling the beast. The crew gave me a card wishing me well, with a personalized message from each one of them (particularly Josh’s, which he had signed with the insightful message ‘Your son, Josh’). Early to bed: 9:00 p.m. The game plan was for me to sleep until 6:00 a.m., eat breakfast at 6:30, and then nap a few more hours before we headed to Badwater at 8:55. Great plan.

Tuesday, July 22 bleeding into Wednesday, July 23 (0 days)

Great plan, but terrible execution. I was awake at 1:05 a.m., and absolutely could NOT get back to sleep. I was, however, ready to eat at 6:30 (although it killed me to make another pass through the breakfast bar and only eat 2 pieces of French toast, some eggs, and a few pieces of melon). Such a deal for $8.50. Next on my schedule? A short nap. If ‘short nap’ means lying on the bed staring at the ceiling for 90 minutes, then my ‘nap’ was a success. At 8:55 I was more than ready to go. It was time to get this show on the road, or as one of the support vans had written on both sides, to ‘shut up and run.’ My crew and I boarded the van at precisely 8:55 a.m. and headed over to Badwater, semi-oblivious to what lied ahead. Soon enough I would be totally oblivious to just about everything.

We arrived at the starting area on schedule, just in time for the Race Director to call the runners over to the ‘Badwater sign’ for pre-race photos. We assembled at the starting line around 9:58, listened to the starter’s instructions, stood silently for the National Anthem, and shook off any remaining pre-race jitters. At 10:00, we were on our way to a destination some 135 miles away.

First Checkpoint – Furnace Creek (18 miles)

Pacing was prohibited in this segment, so my crew provided me ‘pit stops’ every mile or two (depending how I felt). At first, the entire crew would tend to me at once (imagine being mugged by five people armed with spray bottles, water bottles, wet towels, a wet shirt, and sun-block—it’s the best description I can offer). Soon enough, they would develop an ‘assembly-line’ rhythm that was much more efficient and effective. I ran with Pam Reed, the defending champion, for…oh, let’s call it four miles…before she pulled away. I was content to run alone, not wanting to expend valuable oxygen by making small talk with any of the other competitors. My sole focus was to move forward…at all costs. I reached Furnace Creek in 3:02, an average ‘pace’ of 10:06 per mile. I changed shorts, shoes and socks, as they were totally soaked with perspiration and water.

Second Checkpoint – Stovepoint Wells (42 miles)

Gary was my first pacer, and he opted to run this entire 24-mile stretch so that he could develop a feel for this event. As we got close to Stovepoint Wells, Gary and I both got to experience what 130 degrees feels like. For weeks leading up to this event we had heard the analogy that the heat ‘feels like putting your head inside a hot oven’ or ‘is like blasting a hair dryer directly in your face.’ Gary and I and the rest of the crew can now say that is exactly what 130 degrees feels like! It was so hot the palms of my hands felt like they were on fire (due to the heat radiating off the road surface). I continually asked Gary to splash water on my hands to cool them off. A crew member for another runner said they put a thermometer on the blacktop road and it read 141 degrees. The soles on Gary’s (brand new!) shoes began to separate, as the heat was melting the glue.

Occasionally a desert wind would blow across the highway. If you’re thinking this served to cool us off you would be mistaken: these desert winds felt like blasts from a roaring fire, and the best thing I can say about them is that they didn’t singe my eyebrows. Even if it felt like they did. We completed our second leg in 6:28, an underwhelming pace of 16:10 per mile. At least we were getting ready to ‘cool off’ by heading up to Townes Pass.

Third Checkpoint – Panamint Springs (72 miles)

OK, so maybe heading up to Towne’s Pass isn’t such a great thing after all. A seemingly endless (18-mile) climb to 5,000 feet. Eric accompanied me for this portion of the course, and the only analogy I can make is that it was similar to walking up flights of stairs for the better part of five hours. Now’s probably not the best time to mention that I detest walking up stairs. I experimented with trekking poles, but it was difficult to say if they were more of a help or a hindrance. Once we reached the summit, I changed (actually, the crew changed) into my running sandals, so that my toes would not ‘bang’ the front of my shoes on the downhills. (I would repeat this for the duration of the event on the downhills) The rest of the crew alternated pacing me once we reached the summit, before Paula took the final stretch right before the checkpoint to allow the other crew members to use our room at Panamint Springs to shower and/or take a quick nap. I mentioned to Paula that I was debating on whether or not I should stop at the room, and finally decided that I did want to take a quick shower and short nap so that I could psychologically divide the remaining 63 miles into a ‘different day’ from that of the first 72 miles. We completed the third leg in 9:04, a robust 18:08 per mile pace.


Somewhere around 5:30 a.m. Paula and I entered our room at the Panamint Springs Resort. If ‘resort’ means ‘Norman Bates Motel,’ then, yeah, this was a resort. I took a quick shower (I forgot to remove my watch, so once it got wet it became so fogged that it was of no use for the remainder of the event). I lay down and managed to fall asleep, and the next thing I knew Paula was out of the shower. She lay down on the other bed and said she was going to sleep for ‘5 minutes.’ As we had no alarm clock, I was afraid to fall back asleep for fear that we would not wake up in ‘5 minutes’ and sleep away valuable time. In approximately 90 seconds Paula bounced up and said ‘Let’s go!’ She never fell asleep. I found out later that my sleep consumed a whole 60 seconds. Fortunately, in my mind, I did fall asleep, and I could now mentally ‘divide’ the race into two different days.

Forth Checkpoint – Darwin Turnoff (90 miles)

Eric was called back into active duty, as the next 18 miles were uphill—all of them! There was very little terrain that was even remotely runnable. Eric did a superb job keeping me motivated, focused and hydrated during this period. We even managed to pass a few other runners (climbers?) during this portion of the course. Eric (rightfully so) reprimanded me when I broke one of my race guidelines (‘no wasted motion’) by taking a few steps backward to see a wounded bat on the side of the road. The forth leg took 6:22, an it-could-have-been-worse 21:13 per mile.

It was during this stretch that my crew and I realized just how difficult it could be to consume 300 calories per hour during an ultra event such as Badwater. Up until now, I was taking my Sustained Energy (SE) drink (flavored with Crystal Lite lemonade) for the bulk of my calories, occasionally eating pretzels, jellybeans, or peanut butter to round out my 300 calories per hour. But at this point, I was starting to gag at the thought of drinking any more SE (without the flavoring, it honest-to-God smells and tastes like swampwater). Paula asked me what I would like to eat, and I replied ‘popsicles.’ Al made a quick trip in the extra car to find some. When he returned we were disheartened to find that after eating two popsicles, I had consumed a whopping…30 calories! At that point I began eating small portions: 3 pretzels, 4 jellybeans (‘how many calories now?’), 2 bites of peach jello (‘how many NOW?’). Unfortunately, I had to take ‘a swig’ of SE to round out my 300 calories. Gag.

Fifth Checkpoint – Lone Pine (122 miles)

I don’t know who was looking forward to this 32-mile stretch more: my crew or me. After seeing me walk for the better part of 30 miles over the last 48 miles, they were ready to run (‘run’ in this case meaning ‘get this thing over with’). Paula (our downhill specialist) took the first pacing assignment, and before I knew it we were off at an 8:00 minute pace. I would pick out ‘targets’ from which to run from and to, and would continue this practice over the next 32 miles. With the exception of Eric (who we were ‘saving’ for the final 13-mile climb up Mount Whitney), Paula, Gary, Josh and Al would take turns pacing me for two miles at a clip. This exercise evolved into my first official 32 mile ‘fartlek workout.’ Fortunately, I was on a ‘second wind’ (actually it was more than a ‘second,’ but I lost count) and managed to complete this stretch fairly comfortably in a time of 7:27, a pace of 13:58 per mile. It was during this stretch that Josh got excited and broke a pre-race request of mine (‘don’t tell me how my fellow competitors are doing’) by mentioning I was in 8th place.

Being this late in the race, knowing where I stood wasn’t such a bad thing, as holding my place and finishing in the Top Ten at Badwater was certainly a realistic expectation at this point. An expectation I was fairly comfortable with, until Eric tells me around mile 115 that there’s a runner up ahead, and I should be able to catch him in four or five miles. Josh was my next pacer, and I asked him if he wanted to catch the other runner NOW. He did, and so did I. We sprinted approximately a mile where we caught and passed this runner, one who I had last seen over 100 miles ago. Eric unofficially timed our mile in 8:15, but it felt like a sub-6:00. Gary took the next leg, and Eric mentioned there was yet another runner about a mile ahead who I could catch in four or five miles. Gary and I shuffled along, until we spotted this runner in the distance. As I did with Josh, I asked him if he wanted to catch the other runner now. He did, and so did I. We took off at a 6:00 minute pace (or 8:15 if you believe Eric) and caught him within a mile. Adding insult to injury, we caught him on an uphill. At mile 120. Ouch. (We found out later this particular runner finished an incredible nine hours behind us) Josh took the final two mile stretch into the checkpoint in Lone Pine, where we found out we were now in 6th place.

Paula had prepared some Raman noodles for me, the first food I had in 36 hours that remotely resembled an actual meal. It was heavenly. All five bites.

Sixth Checkpoint – Mount Whitney (135 miles)

As Josh will be quick to tell you, I was absolutely dreading the final 13-mile leg to the portals of Mount Whitney. And rightfully so: after 122 miles of desert and two mountain ranges, making a runner cover these final 13 uphill miles is just plain mean! Eric was once again my pacer, and he did everything in his power to keep me focused, positive, and hydrated. I managed to stay focused, positive, and hydrated—for 7 miles. At that point—6 miles from the finish line—I fell backwards, barely maintaining consciousness. I asked for some more Raman noodles, but Paula had nothing to heat them with except for the radiator of the van. The noodles warmed—slightly—but they were extremely ‘crisp.’ Paula, Gary and Al provided shoulders to (literally) lean on, as there were a few moments I nearly fell off the side of the mountain. Paula was force-feeding me Gatorade, and Gary was continually splashing my head and shoulders with ice cold water. I asked one of them to slap me in the face, but they wouldn’t do it. I guess they thought a slap might knock me totally out, which would put a serious cramp in completing our journey. I continually asked Josh ‘who was behind me,’ thinking that—surely—someone would be passing me in my limited condition. Unfortunately, if someone did make an attempt to pass me at this point, there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. Fortunately, no one did.

The last 2 miles seemed endless, as we wound around the mountain with no end in sight. Cars were passing us in both directions, many shouting words of encouragement as we neared the finish line. At least I think we were nearing the finish line. Occasionally I would find myself walking more side-to-side than forward, a victim of fatigue, exhaustion, and (I’m convinced) oxygen deprivation (we were at altitude, remember?).

Eric drove the van ahead to take his video camera to the finish line officials, hoping they would film us as we ‘triumphantly’ completed our mission. He agreed to meet us at a point one mile from the finish, where the six of us would congregate and run the rest of the race ‘as one.’ When we caught a glimpse of Eric in our headlamps, it was a bittersweet feeling as thankfully, we only had a mile to go, but nonetheless we still had a mile to go!

After what seemed like another hour, we saw the lights at the finish line (it was now just past 10:30 p.m.). The six of us ran (assuming ‘ran’ means ‘shuffled sort of fast’)—with our heads held high—through the finish line banner, officially signifying the successful completion of our journey. Hugs all around! Chris Kostman officially told us that we finished in 6th place and we were the 3rd place male finisher. Not bad for a bunch of Badwater rookies. The sixth leg had taken 4:10 to complete, a 19:14 per mile pace. Not bad when you take into account the last two miles consumed a full hour.

I sat down in the official finisher’s chair—surrounded by my wonderful crew—for some final photographs for the website. I literally looked like death warmed over, but I couldn’t have cared less.

We enjoyed our journey, and we were successful. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Thursday, July 24 (+2 days)

My crew—God bless ‘em—join me for a 3-mile run (gotta keep the streak alive!). Afterwards, a little housekeeping on the van followed by an incredible lunch at the pizza parlor across the street from our hotel, the Dow Villa. Josh and I split a large cheese pizza, but we eat less than half of it (Josh because he ate everything on the late-nite menu at the hotel’s diner last night; me because my stomach had apparently shrunk over the past two days). I spend the afternoon limping back and forth across the street to the laundromat the wash some of the dirty clothes Josh and I have generated this week. I met the wife of a Badwater entrant (Art Webb) at the laundromat, and she told me her husband was still on the course. (We passed him on our way back to Las Vegas the next morning; he was at the half-way point of the course) as he was experiencing some difficulties (he did eventually finish, however)

All Badwater participants and crew members were invited to a pizza dinner at a local elementary school that evening. We spent a lot of time talking with Pam Reed about her performance and her training. She said she has to run 3 times a day, as she has to manipulate her running around her demanding schedule as a mother of three. I invited her to our 50K race in November, and she said she’d run (we’ll see!) if I’d return the favor and run her race (the Tucson Marathon) in December.

After dinner, a short video of this year’s race was shown. As my luck would have it, there was a special feature on each of the top five finishers (I finished 6th, remember?). Regardless, it was well made and very inspirational (up to the point that it didn’t convince me to run it again).

Following the video, Chris Kostman hosted the awards ceremony. He asked all runners who failed to complete the course to stand, and they were given a rousing ovation for ‘having the guts to try.’ Very deserved. Then, all finishers were called to the front of the room to receive their finisher’s medal and, for those finishing under 48 hours, the coveted belt-buckle. We posed for photographs—I’ve never been in front of so many flash bulbs before—and then Pam and men’s winner Dean Karnazes were asked to say a few words. Chris closed the evening by referring to us all as part of the ‘Badwater family.’

A pretty nice honor.

Post Script: On Friday, we made the drive back to Las Vegas. Obviously, we ‘retraced our steps’ along the same route we had started 3 days ago in Badwater. If I hadn’t already decided I would never run the race again, this would have done it for me. I realized that yes, the heat was a huge factor in my performance, but the mountains were much more significant. We stopped in Stovepipe Wells for a drink, and the heat—only slightly over 110 degrees today—still felt like we were sticking our heads inside a hot oven.

Friday night, we enjoyed a crew ‘victory dinner’ at the Pink Taco in Las Vegas. Afterwards Paula, Eric, Al and Gary returned to the hotel for some much-needed rest before our 6:00 a.m. flight to Atlanta the following morning. Me? I had promised Josh that if I was still able to walk after the race—and at this time I barely ‘qualified’—I would take him to see the casinos before we returned to Atlanta. The four hours Josh and I spent—at MGM Grand, New York New York, Mandelay Bay, Excalibur, Luxor—I wouldn’t trade for anything. Josh was so impressed with the large casinos, the bright neon lights, and the endless ‘eye candy’ the city has to offer. But for me, walking on two severely blistered feet was a true test of my pain threshold (I’m sure I exceeded it somewhere during the night). We finally got to bed just after midnight, allowing me two hours sleep before I had to get up for one last run with Gary before we all headed to the airport for our long-awaited (and triumphant) return to Atlanta.

And yes, you read the previous sentence correctly.

Badwater Runners’ Report for the JustDo262 Yahoo Group

2003 staffer & 2002 finisher

The Runners’ Report did indeed spend part of last week in and around Lone Pine for the end of the Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon. I had hoped to be there for the whole race, working on the webcast, but that nasty four-letter word, “work”, got in the way. I was, however, able to leave after work on Wednesday and pulled into the parking lot of the Dow Villa at about 8:45 PM.

When I got there, the race was actually over. In fact, beating everyone, including the first wave of runners who started from Badwater at 6 AM Tuesday morning, was winner Pam Reed who had already crossed the finish line at the Whitney Portals at 2:26 PM on Wednesday afternoon. By the time I got there, four of the 73 starters had finished and 6 others had passed through Lone Pine and were on the Portal Road. Among those already on this last stretch to the finish were Louise Cooper and Bill Lockton who both ran phenomenal sub-40 hour times.

But that is not to say that there weren’t many more amazing feats to witness. I worked the Lone Pine aid station on Thursday, through the early morning hours and then again as the final runners passed through. I also helped Greg gather some info for his webcast duties. I’m sure that many of you were anxiously following the progress of the race through the webcast. Greg and the whole staff did an absolutely fantastic job this year. I can honestly say that those working at race headquarters got about the same amount of sleep as the weary runners and crews. Everyone associated with supporting this event were so passionate about their work and should be sincerely thanked for their efforts.

In between these volunteer stints, I got a couple of chances to see Nancy Shura making her way along the course. She looked strong on each occassion, except for a zombie-like stare she wore on the final arduous climb up to the finish. Nancy and her crew (Saundra, Wendy, Michele, Sandy, Mike, Larry, and Heather, with a final assist from Craig) did a fabulous job and she completed the course in 52:35.

One of the things I really enjoy are the first-person accounts of the race written by runners and crew members. I’ll spare you any more of my perceptions under the assumption that we’ll be reading more in the future from the participants. But I will add some miscellaneous notes about what I saw and heard at the race this year:

  • Temperatures on Tuesday were said to be absolutely miserable. The “official” weather service report was about 125F but most who were there would swear it was at least 130F.
  • A number of well-known Badwater veterans including Mayor Ben Jones, Major Curt Maples and the 2nd person to run from Badwater to Mt Whitney, Jay Birmingham had to drop out. Ben actually “staked-out” twice, leaving the course to try and cool down but eventually had to drop.
  • Race organizers provided a valuable service this year by adding several mobile “Medic” units who patrolled the course and provided essential emergency medical services. 40% of their services were provided to crew members, including one person who needed seven IVs. Deb Clum was one of these important medical professionals.
  • 46 of 73 starters finished (under 60 hours) and 30 buckled (under 48 hours).
  • Women placed 1st, 3rd, 5th and 9th overall (Pam Reed – 28:26, Monica Scholz – 33:41, Tracy Bahr – 35:16, Louise Cooper 39:22).
  • Don Lundell came through Lone Pine station (mile 122) at about 10 PM on Wednesday. Just 5 hours earlier, his girlfriend Gillian Robinson had arrived at Panamint Springs, some 50 miles behind. Don finish in 45:10 and Gillian finished in 58:38.
  • Lisa Smith-Batchen and Joe DeSena ran the Vermont 100 mile endurance run in around 24 hours on Saturday/Sunday, took a day off, then began Badwater on Tuesday. DeSena completed Badwater in 42 hours and might have run the fastest race split ever from Lone Pine to the finish at the Whitney Portal in 2 hours and 53 minutes. Lisa took a 12 hour rest in the middle of the race and still finished in 52 hours.
  • Barb Elia pulled a “Steve Matsuda” becoming the “crooked woman” for much of the last part of the race.
  • Dan Marinsik was told in May that he had a brain tumor. Against doctor’s orders and the urgings of his family, he told the doctors to postpone surgery until after the race. He completed his first Badwater attempt in 53:36.
  • Dean Karnazes, the 2nd overall finisher and men’s winner, was one of many early finishers to stop by the station at Lone Pine asking about locations of the runners still on the course so they could give them their excess food and drinks. Dean also holds the world record for the 200 mile run.

Miles and miles of congrats to everyone involve in the race this year… especially RD Chris Kostman who took a great event and has somehow managed to improve it every year.