Category: Race Recaps

2013 Badwater Salton Sea Webcast

Blog Reports, Podcasts, Video from 2013 Badwater Salton Sea

Photographer David Nelson’s incredible race photos

Ashley Walsh of Team AAAsugar and

One-Hour Podcast with Jimmy Dean Freeman of Team Coyote and Ashley Walsh of Team AAAsugar

Team Ultra University’s Remarkable Video Compilation

Jimmy Dean Freeman of Team Coyote

Elizabeth Kocek of Team ULTRA University

Davd Krupski of Team Miami Thrice

Molly Sheridan of Team FOMO

John Vigil of Team FOMO Part One | Part Two

Special thanks to the Race Staff!

Michael Angelos, Roving Official, Time Station 3 (Lower Trailhead), Finish

Marco Apostol, Medical Team

Jeff Bell, Roving Official, Time Station 3 (Lower Trailhead), Finish

Tim Kjenstad, Roving Official, Time Station 1 (Mile 14.4), and TS 5 (Ranchita)

Chris Kostman, Race Director, Roving Official, Photography, Webcast, Finish

Laurie Kostman, Roving Official, Finish Line, and Post-Race Brunch

Anna Leeg, Webcast Design

Eric Meech, Medical Team

Don Meyer, Roving Official, Time Station 2 (Borrego Springs) and Finish

Dave and Margaret Nelson, Roving Officials and Photographers

Bradley Zlotnick, Medical Team


2006 Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon Race Report

2006 official finisher

There have been many times when I’ve sat alone and cried and wondered if life was worth it. The possibility of ending it all has come to mind a number of times. I’ve sought out death and wanted to die, yet I went to Death Valley in search of life. A journey through the desert would teach me many lessons that ultimately would bring out my inner strength and desire to live my life to its fullest. I would be forced to persevere through the toughest conditions that in the end would teach me that I can be successful at anything life has to offer if I just try. Never be afraid, never give up and always look ahead and success will follow.

Before I could meet the challenge of Death Valley I first had to overcome many obstacles that blocked my path. An injury to my right leg in February hindered my progress and virtually stopped my progression toward my goal. I was diagnosed with a stress fracture that relegated my training to pool running and elliptical training for six weeks. Upon my return to running I found that I still had pain and returned to the doctor to find that I now had tendonitis in the leg along with a pinched nerve. I forced myself to withstand the pain these injuries generated as I trained diligently for my run. The pain never subsided yet my will to succeed allowed me to push forward. I solicited the help of several health professionals including a neurologist, vascular specialist, acupuncturist, and chiropractor to help ease the pain. In the end no one could help and my training along with my mindset suffered immensely. Still determined I set my goals high as the time neared to the start of the race.

Having focused so much on getting healthy, I failed to fully prepare for the race as much as I would have liked. My crew was put together haphazardly but the one constant that always remained was my good friend Rick Palmer. He stood by my side during every set back of the injury and never pushed me into any decision about whether I was going to attempt Badwater. What he did instead was he made me a part of his family. My other crew members came to me by way of recommendations of friends. Lisa Bliss recommended Dori Robertson and Beth Simpson recommended Phil Rosenstein. Just through our few conversations by phone Dori struck me early on as someone I could count on in tough times. She had the experience and background that our team would need for us to be successful. Phil, less experienced than both Rick and Dori, has accumulated quite a resume in the one year he has been involved in ultrarunning. I liked the fact that he has shown determination and guts in several races both qualities that I would need to survive Badwater.

The race itself started in Badwater which, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in the United States. The view as we started consisted of mountains tight to the side of the road on the right and salt slicks on the left with mountains further in the distance. The shiny salt slicks looked like small lakes or ponds from where I stood on the road. The heat was brutal with start time temps of 110 degrees and humidity around 17%. I felt very odd standing in an area where I knew living things did not exist. One of my concerns going in was whether I would allow my crew to care for me. I’ve always been an independent person and have never leaned on anyone my entire life. In order to succeed in this event it would be imperative for me to step outside of that box and do something that would not feel comfortable.

There were a number of pre-race events that took place before the actual start including fulfilling my responsibilities as a test subject as part of a research study being performed at Slippery Rock University. Periodically during the race a doctor would take blood and urine samples to use to collect data for the study. I had to report to Dr. Lisa Bliss prior to the race to supply the first of these samples. After I fulfilled this obligation I then weighed in and reported for our group photo.

In order to control traffic and pedestrian congestion on the road the 85 participants were divided up into three separate groups, which were scheduled to start at different times. The groups were scheduled to start at 6:00, 8:00, and 10:00a.m. My group was the last to start at 10:00 a.m. Immediately after the group photo we were directed to the start line where the Canadian and U.S. National anthems were played. I patiently waited for the start as some final instructions were given and pictures taken.

I wore a white long sleeve shirt, running shorts with white Tyvek covering my legs, and a white hat with a bandanna covering my neck to stay protected from the sun. I also covered my face with 50 SPF sun block and protected myself from blisters by spreading Vaseline on the most susceptible areas. The race director Chris Kostman counted down from ten and we were off. I felt very strong at the start and initially did not feel the impact from the heat. We ran for about a mile when I saw the first of the crew people caring for their runner. There were a lot of experienced runners and crews in my wave and it showed early on. This was the first time either myself or any of my crew members had participated in the event and because of that our team got off to a bit of a rough start. We were one of the first to the starting area so our vehicle was blocked by others double parking around us. They had to wait for the others to move out of their way before they could get on the road to begin crewing me. I was a little worried when I saw the other runners being helped out so early on and my crew were nowhere to be found. I figured, though, that if I couldn’t run at least a couple of miles through Death Valley on my own I didn’t deserve to be there in the first place. Things were a little confusing once they caught up with me because instead of pulling up the road a mile they stopped immediately. This kind of start made it very hard to get into a rhythm of meeting me every mile. Finally I told them I was willing to bite the bullet for awhile and I asked them to pull up a mile so we could get in sync. It would also give them time to catch their breath and allow them to prepare properly for my arrival. It was at this point that I realized just how hard of a job crewing was going to be. Imagine having to stop at least 135 times over a two-day period with little time to rest.

A group of runners took off very fast but I recognized immediately that last year’s winner Scott Jurek stayed behind so I followed suit. I went into the event like I do any race I enter with the belief that I could win but in order to do so I had to be smart. I had no real plan but thought it would be wise to try to stay behind Jurek even though his pace was very slow. I was a Badwater rookie but smart enough to realize going out too fast could come back to burn me later. Staying behind Scott would keep me in check. I slipped in front of him when Lisa Bliss pulled him over to remove his sweat patch. It kind of threw me off and I was now feeling uncomfortable ahead of him. I watched as his crew of three methodically met his every need. The experience his crew had gave him a definite advantage over those of us who were first timers.

Despite their lack of experience my crew was now on track and doing an awesome job. How could I complain being served with water, getting sprayed down and getting a sponge bath every mile? I told them ahead of time that water would be sufficient for at least the first five miles at which point we could discuss whether Gatorade would be needed from then on. Along with water they started to maintain a schedule of supplying me with two Succeed caps every half-hour. The caplets would be critical in helping me control muscle cramps as the race progressed. Their purpose was to replenish the sodium and potassium that my body would lose through sweating.

I noticed at the five-mile point that my crew had slipped some Hammer Gel into my water. It didn’t set well with my stomach so at the next point I asked them to give me straight water instead of the gel/water mix. They satisfied my request but because the bottle wasn’t rinsed I detected a distinct aftertaste. As soon as I tasted the Hammer Gel I became angry and turned to throw the bottle back in frustration. When I did so a couple of things happened to change my whole outlook of the race. First I slipped and fell on the ground and secondly when I did this my calves cramped immediately. I couldn’t believe that I cramped so early in the run. I became concerned and realized the seriousness of taking care of myself. The fall also made me realize that I was taking things way too seriously and that I needed to lighten up. I had to treat my crew with the respect they deserved because they were there for me and helping me. The least I could do is be respectful. I then told them that no matter what we were there to have fun. I made sure from then on that I always thanked each of them as much as possible and I also checked to make sure they were taking care of themselves. It took a fall but I came to my senses and did what I knew in my heart was the right thing. People in general are important to me but these people in particular would come to mean a lot to me over the coming days.

The next major event occurred around mile ten when I started feeling a pain on the side of my left knee. The course was flat to rolling the for the first 17 miles so even though I had a slight ache the pain was manageable except when going down the few hills. I didn’t let it concern me until I hit the last half-mile downhill stretch going into Furnace Creek when the pain in the knee became excruciating. Furnace Creek was designated as the first major checkpoint and an area where civilization existed so I stopped to rest and refuel. I even took a couple of minutes to stand in the air-conditioned General Store where I could get relief from the heat. When I returned to my crew vehicle Don Lundell recognized that I was having trouble with my knee and allowed me to use his massage stick. The pain was localized on the side of the knee, which immediately told me my IT band was inflamed. Despite the localization of the pain I was sure the cause was actually closer to the hip. Instead of focusing only on the knee I massaged the entire leg from the hip down to the knee.

When we left Furnace Creek I was allowed a pacer for the first time so Rick stepped up and ran with me. We were already running low on ice so Phil volunteered to go to Stove Pipe Wells to buy ice while Dori crewed with the other vehicle. I think it was at this time that Rick realized it was no longer a race but rather survival. I was frustrated and in some serious pain, yet I forced myself to run as much as possible. I planned to take it easy from miles 17-42 anyway because it was the hottest part of the day. Even with that planned ahead of time, being forced to take it slow frustrated me. I schemed and plotted and tried to find ways to reduce the pain so I could run again. My first attempt at this was to try running backwards. At first it felt very comfortable and pain-free but I couldn’t fathom the thought of running the whole race this way so I tried turning around periodically and running forward. The pain made it virtually impossible to do so. Finally I succumbed to Dori’s offer of massage and stretching of the knee. It was painful as hell as she kneaded her fingers deep into my muscle tissue. I just grinned and beared it as much as possible, hoping that what she was doing would help. Before heading back out to run she instructed me to try to modify my stride by either skipping with the affected leg or speeding up the motion of the leg. I thought it might be beneficial to run off the road onto the dirt where the slant was in the opposite direction of the crown in the road. I was hopeful that this would put less stress on the bad knee and reverse the negative effect of the first 17 miles. When I went back out it hurt at the start but after forcing myself to run through the pain it significantly decreased and I was able to run comfortably.

The scenery from miles 17-42 was pretty consistent with what looked like large farmer’s fields on either side of the road, but instead of crops growing the fields were covered with rocks. In the distance, beyond the open fields, beautiful orange colored rocky mountains could be seen. It just didn’t feel real. It felt as though I was caught up in a time warp and I was somewhere I didn’t belong. The course remained flat from mile 17 until about mile 30 when the road gradually started to ascend. I used a run/walk method to get up the hill using the road reflectors as landmarks of where to run and where to walk. I felt good for several miles and still felt confident in my ability to do well. I kept reminding my team that we were in this together and that I needed them to take care of themselves while at the same time taking care of me. I constantly checked to make sure each was eating, drinking and taking salt when needed. They were working so hard and I thought it was important for me to put them at ease. I didn’t want them to worry about me. The knee hurt but I hung in there as I descended the short hill that ended around mile 35.

Dori, Phil, and Rick took turns pacing me only staying in the heat for about one hour each early on. I trusted their judgement as to how long they could withstand the elements, and they did a good job of making appropriate decisions. I was able to handle the heat pretty well early on myself. I was constantly taking precautions to care for blisters, stave off stomach ailments and recognize hydration issues. I weighed myself consistently to keep accurate data as to whether I was gaining or losing weight. I took Pepto Bismol on a regular basis whenever I felt any type of stomach pain. I reacted quickly to burning sensations on the bottoms of my feet by stopping and bandaging the affected areas. My feet stayed in excellent condition until I felt the first burning sensations around mile 40, at which point I stopped and cared for them.

My crew was doing a bang-up job with only minor problems through 40 miles. I did become concerned when Phil started talking about his 17-year vomit streak. It was early on so the conversation didn’t bother me too much but I certainly hoped that he wouldn’t bring up such topics as the race progressed.

A bit of a sand storm kicked up as we made our way toward the mile 42 checkpoint at Stove Pipe Wells. While the sand never reached us, we could see it in the distance being blown around by the breeze that was now in our faces. Again, running was a little bit of a struggle at this point as my knee continued to ache. I was resolved to gritting my teeth and running short stints before relenting to the pain and slowing to a walk. We were only about eight or nine hours into the run so I was still strong both mentally and physically, but now with the knee still aching I realized this was going to be a struggle the entire way.

The road that had been straight for so long now veered sharply to the left as we passed some sand formations that looked like old Egyptian pyramids. Even though I was frustrated I still took the time to soak in the scenery that Death Valley had to offer. David Bliss caught up with us about five miles from Stove Pipe Wells, and since I was at my crew vehicle I stopped to chat with him for awhile. I refused to tell him about my knee problem because I didn’t want him to think I was making excuses for my poor showing. In reality he seemed very impressed with the progress I was making which made me feel good. David is a real upbeat guy and I’ve never heard a negative word come out of his mouth so it wasn’t surprising to hear his encouraging words. Despite David’s encouraging words I knew I wasn’t making good time, so I only spent a couple of minutes talking with him before moving on. Rick and Phil hung around to chat more with him as Dori and I headed back on the other side of the road to continue our journey.

There always seemed to be someone in close proximity to me the entire run either in front or behind me. Noora Alidina and I were bouncing back and forth for a while and Linda McFadden was also near. I only know Linda was around because of the presence of the one and only Catra Corbett who was crewing for her. As we approached Stove Pipe wells I passed ten-time finisher Scott Weber who seemed to be holding his own again this year. I patted him on the back and told him it was a pleasure to share the course with him as I went by. I entered Stove Pipe Wells a battered and beaten man. I stopped at the medical checkpoint to have some blood taken out for the research study and a new sweat patch applied to my back. As I sat down I was flattered to see that the beautiful Leigh Corbin had been waiting for me to arrive to take my picture. Her appearance and enthusiasm was an uplifting moment for me. It made me realize that there were many people out there rooting for me. Phil didn’t allow me to dawdle too long talking with Leigh before he pulled me out of the medical station and up to the pool to dunk my head in what seemed to be 130-degree water. I guess he thought it would be refreshing but in reality it was hard to bend my body over and put my head in. I thought I would make it worth his while though as I dunked my head and kept it under for as long as I could. I really felt out of place as I could feel the cold stares of the others in the pool probably wondering what this dirty, sweaty guy was doing. Once I pulled my head out of the water I quickly made my way back to the van to ask for some aspirin and get my bottles refilled. Every time I stopped moving it made it that much harder to get cranked back up again. The knee would loosen some while moving but when I stopped it tightened up and hurt like hell when I started again.

As I left, David Bliss fed me encouragement and gave me a quick idea of what to expect in the coming miles. He mentioned something about a long section of switchbacks that would be coming up so I assumed he was referring to the first long climb that was staring me directly in the face. Turns out though the switchbacks he was referring to didn’t show up until we left Panamint at mile 72. He also reminded me that darkness was imminent and he said I’d be able to let it loose at that point. Night fall was something I targeted early on as a milestone and definitely thought I would be able to put the jets on when it arrived. Now with a bad knee my strategy had to change and instead of darkness being a blessing it could turn into a curse. I had to stave off the demons of the dark and do my best to control my own mind.

Dori took over the pacing reigns as we made our way up the long climb to Townes Pass. We actually did a lot of running from reflector to reflector because the knee didn’t hurt as much on inclines as it did on descents or flats. I still had a lot of energy and once the sun went down I was able to focus on the beauty of the nighttime sky and the million stars it held. Neither of us astrologers, Dori and I pointed out a couple of constellations that could easily be seen from below. Personally the only formation I could find was the Big Dipper, but with the stars seemingly so close any knowledge at all I should have been able to point out everything the sky held. It was such a perfect night—so peaceful and quiet that I felt at ease even though I knew I had a long journey ahead of me. I never once thought about the work that lay ahead but rather the beauty of the area.

Peacefulness aside, there was the intermittent whines of the suffering runners that could be heard in the distance. Jody Lynn Reicher who took off like a bat out of hell at the start had slipped dramatically and was now close by. I passed by fellow east coaster Bill Ladieu who was not too happy, but based on his pace compared to the other year he did the race he was doing well. It was right around this time that Dori and I saw the first living creature in the dessert. A mouse scampered across the street in the darkness moving his little feet as fast as possible probably in hopes of not getting baked to the street.

Dori took the responsibility of pacing me up the hill while Phil manned the vehicle. It was decided early on that each of the crew members would take some time off during the night to rest, and Rick was the first to take advantage of this. It was so hot and sticky that little sleep could be had, but even just a few moments away from the crew responsibilities had to be welcomed. Once we reached the top of the hill Rick returned to take over the pacing duties while Dori manned the vehicle and Phil napped. I had trucked up the hill at a decent rate of speed, but going down hill would be a different story. What should have been an easy glide downwards toward the Panamint Valley turned into ten miles of pure hell. The knee couldn’t withstand the pounding I was trying to put on it, so we were forced to a walk. Every once in a while I would try to skip down the hill only to be brought to a halt by the pain. It was frustrating but I tried my best to remain upbeat. Obviously at this point I knew the run was going to take a very long time so I couldn’t allow any negative thoughts to enter my mind. Negativity would only make it more of a struggle so I did my best to enjoy the fact that I was participating in the premier event the United States has to offer.

Since we were walking down the hill and those behind us were running, we were passed by more than a few people. First to go by was Maria Lemus. She was sprinting down the hill. I honestly thought that because she was giving so much of an effort that we would meet her later on down the road, but as it turns out she put in a very strong effort and finished well ahead of me. Second to go by was Jody Lynn Reicher. As I was taking a break by my crew vehicle I heard her yell out in the night, “is any one else out here hurting?” I immediately raised my hand and yelled back that I was. I certainly didn’t want her to think she was alone. When we got back out on the course nine-time finisher Art Webb caught up to us. He wasn’t moving too fast himself, but he was gaining more ground than we were. He seemed distant as he talked, but it was understandable that at this point in the race he would be more focused on what he was doing than our conversation. I commented on the fact that he was running without a pacer and his response was that it was the only way to do it. I thought to myself, “not really, you could use a pacer.” I took his comments lightheartedly, as what I saw in Art was a tough man out to prove a point, and a point he did prove as he went on to finish in just over 45 hours. Later on down the road we passed my favorite runner Shannon Farrar-Greifer. She and her very attractive crew made up of four very pretty young ladies and two guys had been very kind to Rick and I the night before in giving us advice about the race. When I went by she was just so pleasant and told me how well I was doing. Normally that would fluster the shy side of me but now a confident runner, I handled it well and even flirted with her a bit before pulling away. This wasn’t the last I would see of Shannon however, as later on in the race she pulled even with me and eventually went on to a strong finish in about forty-five and a half hours.

Despite the fact that I wasn’t giving much of an effort to run down the hill, I was tiring quickly. A bright spot came when Dr. Lynn drove up alongside of us with Dr. Lisa Bliss in the passenger side of the vehicle. A familiar song was blaring loudly from their vehicle. My favorite song “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon. Lisa had remembered this from one of our many conversations while I was pacing her at Western States the prior year. It was a heartfelt moment and one that I will not forget. While it didn’t generate any energy or get me moving any faster it touched my heart. Her kindness once again showed me that there are people out there that honestly care about me.

We barely reached bottom before Phil returned from his nap to relieve Dori. He took over pacing duties and Rick took over crewing for the time being as I continued my march toward Panamint. I became bored and disinterested with the course, as what I thought was a steep ascent turned out to be just another flat section of road. The boredom, pain, and frustration from the long downhill had now wore me down to a point where I was thinking about taking a nap. The sun began to rise and my eyes began to close as my pace slowed to that of a turtle. Knowing that it was going to be a tough road to hoe, I made a very difficult decision to take a quick nap. I was hoping a little rest would relieve the pain in my knee and also brighten my spirits. Physical pain and mental pain can be managed when dealing with either alone but in combination with one another it was a constant struggle. If nothing else, a nap would remove the negative thoughts from my mind and give me a whole new outlook on things. The race was now between me and he clock, so it truly didn’t matter who passed me while I was resting. Rick offered to stake me out and run me up to the hotel in Panamint where I would be more comfortable but I stubbornly refused. I had no plans of ever staking out and removing myself from the course and now was not the time to change those plans. The van would be perfectly comfortable enough for me to rest in. I situated myself in a comfortable position and asked Rick and Phil to wake me in 20 minutes. I just happed to look at the clock before going to sleep so I knew exactly what time it would be when they woke me up. I fell fast asleep and before I knew it Rick woke me out of a sound sleep. Boy was I pissed when I found out he had only let me sleep 15 minutes instead of the 20 I requested. Unfairly I chastised him, but later on I told him he did the right thing. The rest indeed gave me new life and I felt very strong, however the pain in the knee not only didn’t get better, but it intensified. It felt as though someone were stabbing me in the knee with a knife. It was constant and throbbing and now hurting not only when I ran but also when I walked. Another fabulous thing happened to me when I fell asleep. A nice big blister formed on the left side of my tongue making it difficult for me to suck water out of my bottle.

Things were growing bleak, but never once did quitting enter my mind. I fell back heavily on my experience and relied on the knowledge that as long as I moved forward things could always change for the better. These were just challenges that I had to overcome, and overcome them I would. In order to keep me full of fluids my crew was now feeding me liquid in a cup rather than my water bottle. I was also now on the verge of having stomach problems so my crew fed me ginger ale. I was always able to settle my stomach with ginger ale and Pepto Bismol, so despite all the other problems I incurred never once did I have to deal with stomach issues.

The sun was now in full bloom and the town of Panamint could be seen in the distance. The buildings seemed to be right around the corner but I could tell we still had a good distance to travel before reaching town. I’m never satisfied, as I either am frustrated because nothing can be seen in the distance or I’m pissed because I can see the town but it never gets closer. I was griping and whining to my crew about my thoughts but with each step we gained ground and the buildings neared. The town of Panamint from a distance looks like a kingdom sitting on a mountaintop but in reality it is just a few nice buildings sitting in a valley. I hobbled into town somewhere around 6:00 a.m. without stopping other than to check in. It had taken me an unbelievable 20+ hours to go 72 miles. Upon leaving the town, we were headed toward the second major climb of the day—a 3000+ foot climb up to Father Crowley. It was at this point that I first realized we were in an ice crisis. My crew had anticipated buying ice in the General Store in Panamint but by the time we arrived there wasn’t a cube to be found. Rick, Dori and Phil put their heads together and came up with a plan. Phil would drive 50 miles to Lone Pine where surely he would be able to buy ice while Dori paced and Rick crewed. It sounded good on paper but Phil wasn’t too happy about the plan. He was sleepy and didn’t feel comfortable making the two-hour out-and-back trip to Lone Pine. Finally, though, he gave in and went. In the meantime I was writhing in pain with every step. Dori offered to once again massage and stretch my knee before I could beg her to do it. It had worked the last time and my only hope was that this time it would allow me if nothing else to walk pain free. She had me lay in the van with my leg hanging out where she could access it. She kneaded, pressed and rubbed deep into my muscle as I literally screamed silently in pain. What she was doing hurt more than when it did while walking on it but if it worked I was okay with it. When she was done with the massage she immediately placed ice on the affected knee and left it there for a couple of minutes before allowing me to go. She warned me that it could be really painful to get started again but as I walked it would loosen up. She was right as it hurt when I first moved, but because she said it would get better I didn’t pay it much of mind. I’m not sure whether her treatment worked or whether it was just mental but after a few minutes of walking the pain subsided to an acceptable level. The pain was still substantial enough that running was out of the question but since we were climbing I was able to accept a fast walk.

I was relaxed and as pain-free as I was going to be at the beginning of the climb, so I took the opportunity to suck in the ambience. The road switchbacked up the mountaintop just as David Bliss told me it would when we were at mile 42 the previous day. The course led us up on a two-lane road with very little shoulder on the left as the road hugged the rugged mountain. On the right there was a deep canyon that looked as if it once was filled with water. The mountains in this area were beautiful as the colors changed from granite to slate never staying consistent for long periods of time.

Just ahead of us were perennial contender Mike Sweeney who had been struggling throughout the event and 64-year-old Art Webb. Like me, both were receiving excellent attention from their crews and were moving forward at a consistent pace. I was feeling strong from the nap and the knee was cooperating for the time being so I was able to pass both Art and Mike at the beginning of the climb. Dori was great company as she seemed to have a million and one stories. I never once had to generate the conversation with her, which really allowed me to focus on what I was doing.

The sun was now in full bloom and it was time to face the heat for the second day. I had given thought to how I would dress for the daytime hours as I trudged along the previous night. The thought of wearing long clothes for a second day in a row just did not sit too well with me. I decided to gamble and continue to wear my nighttime clothes, which consisted of a tank top and shorts along with the white baseball cap. I was told the maximum temperature would probably only reach 110 degrees, which bothered me because I thought that at 5000 feet we would have gotten to a point where the temperatures would be somewhat moderate or at least acceptable. Well no matter what, I had to deal with whatever Mother Nature threw at me. Dori recognized very early on that the heat was once again going to be a factor and she immediately started spraying me with water. Rick busted his butt making sure he had water bottles filled for me each time I arrived at the vehicle. At this point I pretty much had my fill of water so he was mixing it up with different flavor sodas including Dr. Pepper and Ginger Ale. The soda seemed to sit well in my stomach and satisfy my taste buds as well as my thirst. He also periodically wrapped an ice bandanna around my neck to help keep me cool.

I was still lucid enough to make sure I asked my crew every once in a while if they were okay. It was very important to me that each one of them had fun on their trip. They were busting their butts for me so if there was anything I could do to reciprocate I was willing. They never once asked anything from me but rather continued to encourage me and lead me down the path to success.

As we climbed, the views became more spectacular. While I’m not a big fan of open fields filled with what seemed to be lava rocks, it looked so pretty from a distance. It was beautiful, peaceful and serene. It looked like a place where one might go to reflect. In reality it was a dangerous place where if anyone were stranded would become part of the desert itself.

I love to climb, but like everyone else I eventually look forward to a change. Upon every turn I hoped for the top but the hill was relentless and we continued to climb and climb. At no time was the grade unmanageable but it was a bit more than a gradual ascent. I never struggled but I did become impatient. We met up with a photographer about two thirds of the way up and he asked Dori and I a few questions of which Dori responded that she was the president of the Dave Bursler fan club. We both got a good chuckle out of her comment and wondered if indeed that audio would make it to the webcast. We went a little further before we saw Phil returning with the ice. When Phil and Rick met us at the next stop there seemed to be a bit of a power struggle amongst my crew as Dori wanted to complete her trek up the mountain and Phil thought it would be best if he took over. Rick looked a little dumbfounded for a reason that I found out later to be because Phil didn’t actually make it to Lone Pine. He stopped in Darwin and asked for 4 bags of ice from the medical crew. Rick looked dumbfounded but in reality he was upset because he believed we were in an ice crisis and 4 bags just would not cut it. Now I wasn’t supposed to know any of this was going on but I’m the type of guy that it’s pretty hard to keep a secret from. Rick tried to resolve the problem by conserving as much water and ice as he could. He went as far as to not drink any fluids himself for over three hours. This is something I did not realize until later that night toward the end of the race when all was under control. I wasn’t eating or drinking a hell of a lot at this point so in reality we were okay with both water and ice, but without the ability of telling the future Rick reacted in what he thought was the most appropriate manner. While Rick dealt with the ice crisis Phil won the battle with Dori and gained the responsibility of leading me up the rest of the hill where at the top we saw Lisa Smith-Batchen in the parking lot huddled around her crew. This was the first stage of her attempt at the double Badwater. She would be out on the course at least another four days after I finished. An amazing feat by an amazing woman, not to mention a very generous crew of people assisting her.

When we reached the top, the bottom of my right foot was burning up. The humidity was taking its toll on the bottoms of my feet. When I removed my shoe to pop the blisters on my left foot I noticed how wet and wrinkly the foot was. The combination of the moisture in the air and my own sweat had soaked my socks clean through to the skin of my foot. I changed my sock on the one foot after carefully popping the blisters and bandaging them, but I didn’t touch the other foot for fear I might cause problems. Once I was back together I headed back down the road, this time with Rick by my side. I was slowly dying with every step we took. The climb up the mountain had taken its toll on me. I was weary and struggling forward toward the next checkpoint at mile 90, which was in the town of Darwin. I acknowledged Lisa Smith-Batchen as she went by wishing her luck on her double. I also made mention of the fact that Rick and I are both from the East Coast where she previously hailed from. She seemed like a very sweet lady but obviously she was also a very tough lady.

In the distance Rick and I saw what I had been hoping to see for a really long time: Mt. Whitney and the finish line. We still had miles and miles to go, but it was mentally uplifting to see our final destination no matter how far away it was. Dori snapped our picture as we pointed toward the mountain and then almost as quickly as the surge of energy appeared it was gone. I was weary and weak and my feet felt as though they were cast in stone as I raised my legs to take each step. When we came upon a sign on the left that read “Death Valley National Park,” Rick told me it signified the end of our journey through Death Valley. I’m still not sure if what he said was true but it sure made me feel good. Well as good as an overheated, overtired, injured person can feel anyway. I limped my way toward the sign where Dori had parked and told both Rick and Dori that I needed to sit in the air conditioning for a few minutes. My body was beat to a pulp and I was so weak I needed to rest. While resting, Rick and Dori took a moment to snap photographs of one another next to the sign. The a/c felt good but I knew I couldn’t waste too much time sitting in it. Eventually I would have to face the elements once again and what better time than now to do so. So after about a five-minute rest I plopped out of the vehicle and continued my death march toward Darwin.

Dori took over the pacing duties as Rick manned the vehicle. Immediately it seemed as if Dori recognized there was a problem and did everything she could do to figure out exactly what it was. Despite the problems we continued to trudge along at a snails pace with nothing ahead in sight other than more road. Once again, the only scenery provided to us were two big open fields full of rock and mountains in the distance. It was picturesque but I had no inclination to soak up the atmosphere in my current condition. Rick and Phil swapped duties as Rick headed off to Darwin to relax for awhile and Phil manned the main crew vehicle. Since Phil had been to Darwin already I begged Dori to ask Phil just how far we were from town and he said about three miles. Calculating quickly in my head 30 stinkin’ minutes per mile times three—okay, 90 minutes until Darwin. I can do that. The only real problem I had making it from point A to point B was that Phil didn’t really give us a correct distance. As we got closer he kept leading us to believe we were almost there. At 1.5 miles he said we would be able to see the tent as we reached a rise in the road that was directly in front of us. He was wrong. He insisted that we were just about there whenever asked. Every time he was wrong. The anticipation drove me crazy. Dori was still trying everything she could to revive me. She was forcing me to eat and drink and at the same time spraying me with water. Finally she got a big sponge full of water and dumped it over my head and the water went down my back and legs. When the water hit me I immediately got the chills. I was freezing in temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. My core body temperature was out of whack and I didn’t realize it until then. In only a few minutes I was a new man.

Just about the same time I came back to life we reached Darwin. I thought it would be a small town with buildings and people bustling about but that turned out to be not true, or at least they didn’t direct us into that part of town. We landed at an intersection where we could either go straight or turn right or left. There was a big tent on the corner of the intersection that housed the race officials. I was revived but I still sat for awhile to rest while Dori, Rick, and Phil refilled my bottles and got me food. While I was sitting there Shannon Farrar-Greifer made it into the checkpoint looking in great shape. Her crew yelled over to me that the two of us should run together since we seemed to be moving at the same pace. Running with a bunch of pretty women appealed to me so I certainly was not going to disagree. Shannon’s crew was continually nice to me throughout the event. They even offered food to Phil at this particular junction of the race, which he accepted. Personally, if the offer were made to me directly, I would have graciously declined. This was a self-support style race and I truly did not want to take from others. Despite my thoughts, I must say that the fruit they offered came in handy and is partially responsible for giving me the strength to complete the next several miles.

There seemed to be some discussion amongst my crew as to who would go into town to get more supplies. Seems Phil was quite smitten with Shannon and her crew and wanted to run with us but each of my crew members had strengths and right now I needed Dori to run by my side and Rick to crew. That left Phil to go into town. I made the mistake prior to the event of not naming a leader so right then I took command and in front of the three of them pronounced Rick the leader. I knew he wouldn’t be comfortable with such a title but it was a decision I had to make and an easy decision at that. Out of the three of them he knew me best and I trusted him most. I trusted his ability to make wise decisions and guide us safely to the finish line. Very quickly I told each crew member what role I would like them to play and I was off. Rick was to lead and be our crew, Dori was to pace and Phil was to go to town to get supplies. I explained to Phil how Dori had just revived me from the dead and that for some reason I listened to everything she asked me to do. I was positive I would not have responded to either Phil or Rick in that manner. I’m not sure why but I allowed Dori to take complete command over me and I did everything she requested. She did my thinking for me and took care of me and right now that’s what I needed more than anything. When I left, the crew had a little pow wow but ultimately each took the role I requested and things seemed to calm.

I started down the road slowly waiting for Shannon to catch up so we could chat a little. If possible I would have loved to run all the way to Lone Pine and then finish with her but I didn’t want the pressure of having to push when she pushed just to keep up with her. My energy level was now such that I thought I may have some running left in me but that was a decision I wanted to make on my own. I didn’t want to feel as though I had to run just to keep up with Shannon. She still had a bounce in her step so I figured she would be doing at least a little running the rest of the way and that made me uncomfortable. I chatted for awhile and then I forced myself into a jog. I didn’t make a conscious effort to pull away from Shannon but I do think subconsciously that I made myself run to gain some separation between the two of us. The pain in the knee was still sharp but the short jog gave me some hope that maybe I would be able to pull off a few more stretches like that to help get me across the finish line quicker than I projected earlier.

What occurred next was an emotional experience I should have tried to gain control over before allowing it to get out of hand. It hurt me in the long run but it was also something that defines me as a person and something that was going to happen no matter how much control I tried to maintain. While running I thought to myself how I should be able to withstand the pain generated from the knee. Thoughts of how much pain my grandfather had put up with in his lifetime without so much as a whimper made me feel like such a baby. Would he be proud of me at this moment if he saw how I succumbed to the pain of an aching knee? My only answer was no. The more I thought the more I ran and the more I ran the faster I went. Tears started rolling down my cheeks and ultimately I lost it totally. After about a mile of running I yelled to Rick to please get the picture I had of my grandfather that was in my suitcase and pass it to me the next time I went by. Quickly he did as I requested, and I continued now sprinting at max speed down the highway crying like a baby. I’m not sure if anyone other than Dori and Rick recognized what was going on nor did I care. This was a moment I shared with my grandfather. Momentarily he came down from above and watched as I ran as fast as I could for two miles just to make him proud of me to show him that I am tough and I can run with pain. At one point Dori tried to stop me and I slowed a little but I couldn’t stop just yet. I pulled away and fired off another quarter mile or so at top speed before slowing down and finally stopping. I dropped my head for a split second and at that point promised my grandfather that no matter what happens from that point I will make it to the finish line under any and all conditions. I quickly came back to reality and when I did, found that my knee was now aching more than ever. Not only could I not run but also I could barely walk without pain. I felt a little foolish especially after Shannon ran by several minutes later as I hobbled down the highway with Rick by my side. My emotional outburst may have been premature, but after 90 miles and almost 28 hours of running I think I had a good excuse for losing my grip with reality momentarily. Neither Dori nor Rick ever once questioned my thought process. I totally expected to be questioned but they never judged me. They gained my respect and trust after this escapade because I knew most would have asked what the hell was I doing but they didn’t. I knew at this moment that my decision to pick these two people to be on my crew was the best decision I would ever make. While Phil held his own as part of my crew both Rick and Dori would be the main people I would lean on the rest of the way to the finish.

Now with no one in sight and me hobbling in excruciating pain, Rick and I talked about how I could get relief. As he walked from behind I told him that I thought I needed to swap out shoes. He looked down and dramatically said Dave your shoes are definitely your problem. He told me they were shot and by the looks of them may have been how I got hurt in the first place. Before I knew what was going on he began to take his shoes off while at the same time he asked me to remove mine. He demanded that we swap shoes immediately if for no other reason so I don’t injure myself more. Possibly, I may even get some relief from wearing his shoes. I did as he asked and removed my shoes. His absolutely felt better on my feet but they were tight up against my Achilles tendon so I told him I could only wear his temporarily until we met up again with Dori down the road where I could change into my other shoes. I certainly didn’t want him to have to wear my bad shoes the rest of the night so the swap would benefit both of us. His shoes felt better but the damage to my knee had already been done and the pain never relented. We decided that now would also be a good time for Dori to once again work her magic and massage and stretch the knee to get me walking comfortably again. At this point we were about 95 miles into the run with still close to 18 hours left to get into the finish in time to buckle. My past experience told me I had plenty of time to make it. My crew was concerned but I tried to put them at ease by explaining a similar death march I had at Wasatch in 2003 where I was forced to walk the last 40 miles and I did it in less than 18 hours. That experience kept me worry-free but I don’t think it did much for my crew. Despite there concerns I had to take a little time now to get my knee worked on or the pain could potentially slow me to a point where we could be in danger. When we reached Dori it was almost as if she knew what we were going to ask. She immediately went to town on my knee as I quietly screamed. I made no noise yet the expression on my face told the entire story. I teased Dori because it seemed every good thing she did for me initially put me in severe pain before I could see the benefit. I told her I thought she was enjoying watching me scream and make faces. I said it in such a way that she knew I was just teasing.

I overheard Rick wishing his son happy birthday over the cell phone as Dori tortured me. I was humbled by the sacrifices my crew made just to be at Badwater for me. Rick missing his 5-year-old son’s birthday was a perfect example of this. At this time I took a moment to reflect and to thank God for allowing me to have such friends. There have been many times in my life when I’ve felt so alone and so unwanted but times like this make up for any of those times alone. Rick’s call to his son put the thought into my mind that I should try to call my mom to assure her I was okay. I remember from the previous year that the Badwater webcast sometime leaves a lot to be desired and I didn’t want my mom worrying to death about me. After all I was in a death march and certainly not where I thought I’d be at this point in the run. Rick allowed me to use his phone and even dialed the number for me and talked to my dad who answered the phone. He assured him everything was okay but I wanted to talk to him to just so he heard my voice. My dad is a strong man and wouldn’t lead on to me if he were worried even if he really were. I didn’t want to leave him with any doubt that I was okay so I wouldn’t hang up the phone until I was certain he was confident. While talking to my dad my mom walked into the room so he put her on the phone so I could talk with her. This put a smile on my face because I would be able to speak to her personally and be certain upon hanging up the phone that I put her at ease. My mom has been to many of my ultra events before and has seen me do well and has seen me struggle mightily so I was able to give her a point of reference from which to gauge my condition. I asked her if she remembered Wasatch? She said yes. I then told her this race was Wasatch revisited. It was a struggle and I was suffering but I would persevere just like I did then. I told her to be patient and not to worry because it would take some time but ultimately I would finish. I just asked her to trust me and I promised her everything would be okay. Sometimes I’m not sure where my inner strength comes from because deep down inside this was one of those times where I wish I could have been a little boy and just whimpered away crying for my mommy. I had to be strong though and I had to persevere. I had strong reasons for being there and the only thing that was going to stop me was death itself. This was not a message I wanted to convey to my mom at this point in the run so I just assured her that I would be okay and that in due time I would finish. I felt certain that our little talk put her at ease and that her ability to relate this race to Wasatch helped her understand that all would be okay. She sounded good and I was positive she wouldn’t worry so I said goodbye and started on my trek toward the next landmark.

The landmark we were in search of was a cemetery marking that supposedly signified the 100-mile mark. I honestly didn’t even know the landmark existed until Rick made mention of it to me. He stayed on the lookout while I trudged forward. Dori’s handiwork once again allowed me to walk with pain that I could withstand. I focused on the road in the distance hoping for a change of scenery. Seems the entire route leading from the top of Father Crowley around mile 85 to our current location of almost 100 miles was exactly the same, empty rock fields with no signs of life and mountains in the distance on either side and in front. I made mention to Rick that it looked as if there had been a fire on the mountains we were coming upon. A black shadow covered portions of the mountains on the left that led directly over the road and onto the mountains on the right. Turns out that the closer we got it was easier to determine that indeed that it was just a shadow formed by clouds partially covering the sun. It seemed really hot to me but Dori told me that the temperature had been hovering in the mid to low 90’s most of the afternoon. I guess my body was just having a hard time adjusting to the different temperatures it was being exposed to and defaulted to hot all the time.

Just after we passed the 100-mile mark Dori and Rick swapped up once again allowing Rick to get some rest. At this point in the race I felt really comfortable having Dori by my side just because she seemed to know how to react in critical times. She brought me back to life when I overheated and had been massaging my knee constantly since the 17-mile mark of the race. I trusted her and I knew Rick would understand. Phil on the other hand seemed a little distant and I was concerned he felt left out. He had a role to play, however, and he did it to the best of his ability and he never once questioned my decisions. As we walked, I told Dori how disappointed I was that I hadn’t seen the F-16 fighter jets that David Bliss told me we might see. As if God above was answering my prayers an F-16 came out of no where and did a fly by. A few seconds later a second F-16 flew by us. It was an unbelievable experience that gave me an emotional rush. Seems I was going to experience everything Badwater had to offer from the heat, to the sandstorms, rain and finally the pain. I thought to myself that even though I had suffered mightily up to this point this had been the best experience I have ever had in my life. The emotion quickly wore off however and once again I slowed to a snails pace. In the distance severe lightening strikes could be seen in the mountains ahead and Dori became concerned that maybe we would get caught in a storm. I told her I was considering a nap and she responded by saying she thought the group should discuss it first. We were a team so I was okay with her suggestion. Dori and I really seemed to think alike. Earlier in the day she repeated my own words back to me. She told me this was my day and they were there to take care of me. I should allow them to make all the decisions and all I need to do is run. I’ve spoken those same words many times to friends of mine in the past and was astounded to hear them said to me.

A decision to sleep now or to move forward a few more miles to see if we hit the storm was a critical decision. A severe thunderstorm would shut us down and we didn’t have a lot of time to spare so it might be best to keep moving and sleep in the storm rather than sleep in the clear and be shut down later too. When we arrived at the crew vehicle the consensus was that the storm was in the mountains and it was doubtful that it would hit us so they allowed me to sleep. Rick proved to me the first time I napped that 15 minutes would be enough to get myself refreshed and moving again but I still asked the gang to give 20 minutes. I crawled into the van and this time in an attempt to alleviate the pain in the knee my crew told me to elevate my leg by placing it on the dashboard. They also wrapped my knee in ice hoping to keep the knee from getting even more inflamed while I rested. They left the vehicle running with the a/c cranked up to high while I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. I was unable to relax because I knew my time was limited plus I was in an uncomfortable position. I squirmed around in the vehicle before finally just deciding to relax my mind in hopes of regaining my mental sharpness. I breathed easy and thought good thoughts and finally I found a relaxing moment. Before I knew it, though, 15 minutes had passed and I decided it was time to get up and get moving again. Before doing so, I munched on a few tortilla chips that were sitting in the van alongside me. The rest seemed to stimulate my appetite and I felt famished so I was looking for everything and anything to eat. Dori and Rick seemed upbeat about my newfound hunger. Dori for the first time expressed her concern that she didn’t think I had been eating enough the entire race. I couldn’t deny it but at the same time my excuse was that it was way too hot. In reality I was trying to consume calories but instead of doing it through solid food I was doing it through liquids like Ensure, sodas and Gatorade.

As soon as I moved to get out of the van pain shot through my entire body. This time it was not only from my knee but every muscle in my body. Seems fatigue was setting in and this was now going to be the time to see what I was made of. I felt like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz because every one of my muscles felt as though they needed greasing. I grinned and beared it as I hobbled out of the vehicle. I left the ice wrapped around my knee because I thought the numbing affect might help ease the pain. I was taking Advil on a regular basis and was relying on my crew to keep track of how much I was taking. I would ask periodically if I could have some aspirin and they would tell me yes or no based on the time in between doses. Before leaving this time Dori gave me a pain reliever and then urged me to move forward. Once again the short nap brought new life to me. My body was dead but my spirits were up. The storm brought cooler temperatures along with a slight breeze. As we walked it began to drizzle a little which made me wonder if we made the right decision to nap or not. The rain never amounted to much but the cool drops of water gave me new life. Although still walking, we were once again moving at a good pace. The scenery started to change a little as the mountains came closer to us. I could tell we were back in an area where things could actually live because the plant life was green and the best sign of all was the jackrabbit Dori and I saw off to our right. I only caught a glimpse of the animal but it was enough to remain a lasting memory forever.

We came upon a short rise in the road where it looked as if a mountain had been blasted to construct the road through the area. We walked down the road where we were surrounded by rocks on either side making it feel as though we were in a tunnel. It was a short distance through the almost cave like structure but it was very cool. Once again the scene brought back memories of the Wizard of Oz when the story went from black and white to color because as we reached the top of the rise the scenery changed dramatically. In the distance directly ahead the town of Keeler could be seen. Mountains surrounded the entire area with salt slicks on the left and a rock field on the right. It was obvious that Whitney was closer so the end could finally be seen. I saw several crew vehicles winding around the road in the far distance and I imagined what lay ahead. The scenery change was uplifting for a moment but my spirits dropped when I saw the significant downhill section that laid before me and the rolling road that could be seen for miles ahead. When I’m healthy I don’t fare well on downhills, so I knew it would be challenging with the bad kneed to traverse this part of the course.

Dori advised me to allow gravity to take me down and just relax. Unfortunately I tend to fight gravity and make downhills more work than they should be. This particular section would be no exception. I struggled down and exerted a lot of effort to do so. By the time I got down I was wiped out but time was of the essence so I couldn’t rest for very long. The road was rolling so there would be more downhills to tend with but out of all of them the first would be the most difficult.

Dori and Rick had sent Phil off to Lone Pine to pick up burgers for dinner so I looked forward to his return and some good solid food. In the meantime they were satisfying my hunger by feeding me Oreos, Doritos, and slices of turkey. Dori stopped me from eating because she was concerned if I didn’t allow the food to digest properly I could get sick. Once again a very good decision on her part and I listened. I’m totally amazed how such a stubborn, self-sufficient person such as myself was able to allow three people, two of which were total strangers, to take care of me for two straight days. I was fearful going in that I would fight off their help but as it turns out it was an unnecessary fear.

We continued up and down the rolling hills, as Dori seemed to be calculating our pace. In the distance I could see the town of Keeler, which I overheard someone say, was the 107-mile mark of the race. We were still a good ways out of town and seeing it so far away started to drive me crazy after awhile. If I were healthy I could have been there in less than 30 minutes but in my current condition I would be lucky to get there in less than two hours. My goal was to make it there before sunset and I thought that was reasonable based on the distance and our pace. When I mentioned it to Dori she didn’t seem as confident but I remained positive and continued to push forward. Phil finally showed up with our burgers but since I had energy my crew and I thought it would be best if I just maintained my pace rather than stop to eat. I ate as I walked and I enjoyed every bite. I’d say the burger neutralized the negative effect of having to go up and down the hills headed into town. The traffic on this road seemed to be particularly bad. Not really the amount of vehicles but rather the speed they were travelling. It seemed as if some of the vehicles were going 80 m.p.h. I made a conscious effort to stay alert and stay as close to the shoulder as possible.

Badwater legend Ben Jones pulled off the side of the road about 50 yards ahead of us. I wasn’t sure what his intentions were until I saw him pull his camera out of his vehicle. He took a few photos and whispered words of encouragement as we went by. Before we arrived at his vehicle Dori told me to continue on and if he wanted to talk she would do the talking.

After getting by Ben I picked up the pace significantly. Dori had been calculating our miles per hour and what we would have to average to get to the finish in less than 48 hours. She said that at this point we needed to average 2.5 m.p.h. to get in with time to spare and that included the 5000 foot climb over the last 13 miles up Mt. Whitney. When spoken the task seemed kind of daunting and maybe impossible, but I’m not a guy that lives in reality or lives by numbers. I just go and see what happens. I appreciated what both Rick and Dori were doing by advising me what I needed to do but at the same time it was hurting me. I like to focus on fantasy and what seems to be the unachievable rather than reality and what actually needs to be done. First of all, reality takes all the fun out of it. Secondly, it is mentally stressing to think you have to maintain a certain pace over a long period of time to be successful. At this point we were still more than a marathon away from the finish which was way too soon to be pushing hard. They did, however, convince me to pick up the pace and seemed happy when I banged out a few miles averaging the required 2.5 m.p.h. and even a couple at 3 m.p.h.

As we approached Keeler in our night gear, but with still some daylight left, my pace once again began to fade. As the sun dropped so did my energy level. I expended way too much energy worrying about maintaining a quick pace. By this time Rick had headed into Lone Pine to check into our hotel room to get cleaned up and get some rest. When he left I’m sure he was confident that I had made a complete turnaround and would march into the finish with no problem but in reality I was about start the most brutal death march of the entire event. Just as we left Keeler at 107 miles, my body started to slowly shut down. I was unable to control my body temperature. I became cold, yet when I put a jacket on I was too warm. I was able to keep moving for a couple of more hours at a moderate pace but by the time Rick arrived back to relieve Phil I was totally shut down and in need of another nap. I was very aware that my decision to nap at this point put my chances of finishing under 48 hours at risk. At the same time my pace had slowed dramatically, and if I continued I had no chance anyway. I continued to assure my crew that all would be okay. I’m not exactly sure how confident they were listening to words coming from a beaten man but I did my best. In my heart I knew I could do it but at this time even I began to prepare myself for the possibility of something less than what I expected.

As Dori and I made our way toward the van there seemed to be a commotion as Rick and Phil were dancing around the vehicle. As I got closer I noticed Rick taking pictures of the ground and I wondered why. I thought maybe I was hallucinating but Dori confirmed that something was definitely going on. As it turns out Phil had been standing next to a baby sidewinder snake as he was waiting for me to arrive. Eventually he must have looked down and noticed the snake and then called Rick over to look at it. Both were enamored with the reptile, and also brave as it crawled around the road. I got a very quick glance of the snake before it scurried off underneath the van. Dori asked Rick to move the van forward so they could keep an eye on the snake to make sure no one got bit. When all was done they once again got me in the van, elevated my leg, put ice on my knee, and allowed me to rest. I sat there restlessly with thoughts that the snake might once again get underneath the vehicle and somehow get in the ventilation system and bite me. Also I was concerned I had left my shoes on the ground outside and the snake might find its way inside. All these concerns along with the thoughts of the miles that I had left to traverse kept me awake. I knew that the time off my feet would still be beneficial and would allow me to feel refreshed and pick up the pace when I returned to the road.

Ironically, for the third time in a row, I got out of the vehicle after exactly 16 minutes of rest and began to move forward. I was refreshed mentally but physically my body had totally shut down. I hobbled out of the vehicle and somehow got my shoes on and moved forward. The few minutes rest allowed me to regroup and also gave me the opportunity to regain control of my body temperature. Aches and pains are easy to deal with but heat exhaustion or hypothermia would shut me down. Dori continued to walk with me and tried her best to assure me that we were making headway. Before Phil left he said we were on an 11-mile stretch of road that would lead us toward Lone Pine. It was dark but I could still make out that we were going uphill and that there was very little to look at as far as scenery goes. I was going crazy because off to my left I could see white lights lining what seemed to be a shoreline. If I didn’t know any better I would have said there was a river separating the road I was travelling and the white lights I could see in the distance. The reason the white lights were so nerve wracking is because I was certain the lights were those of other runners and crew vehicles and that eventually I would need to be on that side of the fake river in order to finish.

The road I was walking went dead straight ahead for as far as the eye could see. I was certain that eventually we would need to make a sharp left but I never saw any hint of a turn. Dori was trying to get me to relax by looking at it in terms of time rather than mileage. She said look at it as two hours rather than four miles, but finally my frustration overflowed and the expletives started flowing freely. Seemed like every other sentence out of my mouth was where is that f’in town. She would respond in some manner and no matter what it was I would say I don’t care I just want to know where that f’in town is. My next favorite statement was, “what are those f’in lights on the far left side? Is that the f’in town?” Dori was really cool and kept her composure. She tried her best to divert my attention by telling me stories of things that had happened in her life. It had worked earlier on when I was mentally sharp but I had now lost it completely. It was at this point that I knew I needed Rick by my side. Dori had staved off my frustrations all day but now things were slipping out of my mouth that I didn’t want to expose her to. I knew Rick would listen to my whining and somehow make light of it and probably even piss me off generating energy, which would get us where we needed to be. I politely explained to Dori that she had done her job but now I needed Rick to get me into Lone Pine. She accepted what I had to say without a problem and jumped right in the vehicle to take over the crewing duties. Just before she swapped out with Rick I asked the two runners behind us if they knew how far we were from town and in which direction we had to go. Another reference to the Wizard of Oz as just like the Scarecrow in the story each pointed in the opposite direction. I was totally frustrated by this point and really needed someone to gripe to. Rick stepped up to the plate and willingly listened to my whining for the next several miles.

As the night progressed my pace declined to a crawl. It seemed we were stopping every 100 yards to rest, but the stops were short. A bit of excitement that shook things up is when I almost stepped on a scorpion that was scurrying across the road. It lit a fire under my butt and got me moving again for a few moments before I crashed and went back into my death march. I continued my constant cries about the lost town and the lights that were shining off to the left. In retrospect I’m not sure how Rick was able to listen to my constant whimpers. He was patient and kind. He tried his best to divert my attention but it was to no avail as I was frustrated. Along with my cries I begged Rick to somehow motivate me to get to the checkpoint in Lone Pine. I was certain that if he could get me to Lisa Bliss she would find the right words to say to get me into the finish. Finally we turned right off the road we had been travelling and continued a couple of more miles before headlights from the main road leading us in to Lone Pine could be seen. After several stops to rest we finally made it into town but we still had about a one and a half-mile hike before we reached the Lone Pine checkpoint. This is where Rick came up with a simple method of moving me forward. He broke the 1.7 mile route down into sections by having me walk from road sign to road sign. I might be stubborn at times but believe it or not I’m easily motivated even with what most might consider simplicity. Rick’s strategy worked as I plodded forward in the direction of the Dow Villa Motel where the medical staff was positioned. While Rick pushed me Dori called Phil at the Comfort Inn and told him we were in town. It was time for him to rejoin us after his long rest. I would need my entire crew to help me face the final challenge of traversing the last 13 miles straight up hill.

I was literally trashed by the time I crawled into the checkpoint. I struggled, cried, and hurt for 122 miles and I looked and felt terrible yet the crowd of people cheered as I entered. I received encouragement from everyone as Lisa Bliss took blood out of me, weighed me and put a sweat patch on my back for the final time. While this was being done I looked straight ahead and zoned everyone else out but Lisa. I listened intently to every word she had to say while at the same time firing myself up. Lisa assured me everything would be okay but that I needed to make sure I loaded up on glucose tablets, candy and Gatorade as I climbed the final mountain. I briefly glanced down at my knee for the very first time and was shocked at how swollen it was. I also took a look at my hands and noticed that my fingers were very swollen. I had done my best to monitor my weight throughout the event even shutting down fluid intake around mile 110 because my weight had increased almost 10 pounds but it appeared that at mile 122 I had lost control. My weight was 145 pounds up five or six pounds from my initial weigh in at the start. Lisa didn’t seem to be concerned so even though I was swelling, I didn’t get concerned either. I sat for about three or four minutes staring straight ahead before getting up and starting off on the final leg of the run. Just before leaving I asked David Bliss how this climb compared to what Hope Pass at Leadville had to offer. He chuckled and said it’s not even close to being as hard as that. This was all that I needed to hear. I conquered Hope Pass while fatigued so I was confident that Whitney would not challenge me. As I left I became very focused and was ready to get down to business. I told my crew that I would need each of them to take a turn going up the hill with me. My thoughts were that mentally it might make it easier for me to take the hill in segments of four miles. Taking each segment with a new person would mean a new personality and a new topic of discussion. I figured this would keep me from getting bored and would allow time to pass more quickly while also eating up the miles. I also told each that if we needed to we would run. I could suck it up for a few miles for the finish.

Rick took me from town to the Whitney Portal Road where we made a left across the main street and started our ascent up the mountain. Each mile mark was identified by a landmark that was documented in the race manual and Rick knew each so he was able to calculate how fast we were going. I had six hours and 40 minutes to make it to the top in order to finish under 48 hours, which I thought was more than enough time. Personally, I was ready to be done and didn’t want to waste any time so I picked up the pace dramatically. I could feel the adrenaline rush through my body with each step and as the adrenaline levels increased my spirits rose. I felt like a college football player who was fired up to play a big game. There was nothing that was going to stop me. I swung my arms and breathed rhythmically as I got myself into a groove. About a quarter mile up the hill Rick and Dori switched positions because Rick wanted to have the manual handy in order to properly identify each mile mark. While Rick scouted out the mile markers and Dori paced, Phil manned the crew vehicle. Somehow I dug deep inside of myself and blocked out all the pain as we maintained 15-minute miles going up the sharp inclines. Dori fed me water and Gatorade upon request and occasionally slipped me a glucose tablet or a piece of candy to help me keep my energy up. At this point I didn’t allow anything or anyone to distract me. My crew vehicle was only needed a couple of times to fill my bottles but other than that was virtually useless. The information Rick fed me about my pace and the mile markers was what I needed most. Both he and Dori made me feel great with their enthusiastic comments of how well I was doing. After we had climbed about four miles, Dori commented that a sub-48 was in the bag and now the only thing left was to see just how fast we could make it up. I responded by saying let’s go then. Rick told me I was making up so much time that I was gaining on a few people in front of me which motivated me to move even faster. It wasn’t long before we could see Judit Pallos in the distance. I told Dori, “let’s go get her.” We gained ground until the road leveled off a bit at which point we maintained the gap between us but once the road went up again I was able to pass her. I tapped her on the shoulder as I went by and wished her luck the rest of the way. Next up was Art Webb, a gentleman I had spent time with earlier in the race. He was trudging forward as I went by. Again I wished him luck and continued on without even so much as blinking my eyes. I was in a zone and focused on nothing else but the finish line. The incline was not as tough as what I expected and I kept commenting to Dori how I wanted everything the mountain had to offer. I pushed and pushed and maintained my pace through eight miles. I slowed a little as we climbed mainly because we were reaching altitude levels that were affecting my breathing but also because my sub-48 hour finish was in the bag.

As the sun rose I wanted to turn around and look back down the mountain but I didn’t want to do so until I reached Vista Point where the views would be best. The switchback climbs that took us to this point were the toughest of this 13-mile section. Overall fatigue and the altitude were taking its toll on me. I was motivated to finish strong though, so I continued to push. When I reached Vista Point I only briefly turned to observe the scenery below. It was so amazing to see what I believed to be the entire 135 mile course that I had just traversed over an almost two-day period. I was in awe of what I saw below but I was also ready to finish so I turned back around and continued on. Just as we turned to go up, a vehicle from above slowed and came to a complete stop as the ladies inside cheered me on. The ladies that were cheering were members of Shannon Farrar-Greifer’s crew. They had been so nice to me the entire way and it continued even as I was on my way to finish. I’m certain I blushed in shyness, as I never had so many women make such a fuss over me. Their cheers gave me the energy to move forward up the final hills toward the 1-mile to go marker. Upon reaching this mark Rick and Dori both challenged me to move faster in order to break 45 hours. My mind wasn’t sharp enough at this point to determine if a sub-45 was all that important so I put my trust in Rick and Dori and fell back into the zone that allowed me to get to this point so fast. I swung my arms in dramatic fashion, breathed rhythmically and moved my legs quickly. We reached the one mile to go marker in under eight minutes at which point Dori told me that I didn’t even need and even split to break 45 but I moved faster anyway. I yelled for Rick and Phil to be ready to join us, as I wanted all four of us to cross the finish line together. As I yelled Phil seemed to disappear which upset me enough to yell at Rick to get him back. Rick yelled back that Phil needed to notify the race organizers that we were on our way so they could set up. Satisfied with his response I continued on. We made a left turn onto a paved road that led us into a wooded area where we were joined by the rest of our team. We then crossed the finish line together in a time of 44 hours and 56 minutes, mission accomplished. Once across the line Chris Kostman who placed my finishers medal around my neck greeted me and then posed by my side for a few photos.

In the aftermath of the excitement I stood off to the side and became very emotional. As I knew they would tears streamed down my face as I thought of my family and my grandfather and God above. I ran this race not for myself but rather to show my young nieces and nephews that no matter what obstacles stand in the way there is no challenge that cannot be met. My grandfather did this for me and now I have done it for them. The race was also for my family as a way to show them that I’ve implemented the lessons each have taught me over the years and I am successful because of them. It was for my grandfather because he can now rest peacefully with the knowledge that his toughness has been passed on to another generation. I thank God above for watching over me and my crew and for allowing us to overcome the many challenges we faced while protecting us from the elements of the desert.

I said in my opening paragraph that I was looking for life in Death Valley and I believe that the kindness, generosity, and caring that I found out there amongst the competitors and crew alike personifies the life I was in search of. I started running 100 mile races in search of death and now I’m ending because I’ve found life.

Dave Bursler
Bear, Delaware

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.

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.