Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This Weekend In Running (7/12 - 7/13) Special Badwater Edition

At 6:00 AM (PST) on Monday, July 14, the first wave (there are three waives starting at 6, 8 and 10 AM) will get under way at the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135 mile foot race from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA in temperatures that can reach up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Badwater has been called "the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet." The time limit for the event is 60 hours, with a buckle awarded to those who finish in 48 hours or less.

The race starts adjacent to a pool of saltwater located in Badwater, Death Valley, California, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 280 feet below sea level and finishes at Mt. Whitney Portal at an elevation of 8,360 feet (the trailhead to the Mt. Whitney summit - the highest point in the contiguous United States). The course covers three mountain ranges and over 13,000 feet of vertical ascent. There are 69 flat miles, 46 uphill miles, and 20 downhill miles. Runners travel through Furnace Creek Ranch (mile 17.4), Stove Pipe Wells (mile 41.9), Townes Pass (Mile 58.7), Panamint Springs Resort (mile 72.3), Father Crowley's Turnout (mile 80.2), Keeler (mile 107.8) and Lone Pine (mile 122.2), before arriving at the finish at Mt. Whitney Trailhead. You can find and view a mile-by-mile race route (including time station locations and all landmarks), a written course description, and a course map on the Badwater Ultramarathon Race Route page.

Valmir Nunez set the men's course record in 2007 with a time of 22:51:29. Pam Reed set the women's course record with a time of 27:56:47 in 2002, the year in which finished first overall. The average finishing time is approximately 48 hours.

The 2008 race field is described as "particularly competitive". On the men's side, veteran contenders include Akos Konya (the 2006 and 2007 runner-up), Charlie Engle (3rd place finisher in 2005 and 2006), David Goggins (5th place in 2006 and 3rd in 2007), and Jorge Pacheco (placed 4th in 2007). Three former champions, Dean Karnazes (2004), Marshall Ulrich (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996), and David Jones (1997) are also participating.

The women's field is the largest in the history of the race and includes Pam Reed (the 2002 and 2003 overall champion and 2005 women's champion) and Monica Scholz (a five-time finisher and 2004 and 2006 women's champion). Other veteran contenders include Jamie Donaldson (who led the women's race in 2007 for 122 miles) and eight-time finisher Lisa Smith-Batchen (the 1997 and 1998 champion). Check out the 2008 Race Roster here. You can also follow along on race day at the 2008 Badwater Webcast.

Getting into Badwater is no easy task. An invitational race, applicants submit a race application to a committee of five race staff members. The selection process takes place in mid to late January. The committee reviews and ranks each application on a scale of 0 to 10, with the top 80 applicants receiving invitations to participate. Will you get in to Badwater? Qualifying standards and other details can be found on the Applying to Compete in the Badwater Ultramarathon page.

Training and preparation for Badwater is always a hot topic of discussion. There are plenty of links, articles, pieces, books, etc... (covering how to prepare for and survive the race, heat training, nutrition and hydration) on the Badwater Training and Preparation page. Two of the more popular books are "Death Valley Ultras: The Complete Crewing Guide" by Denise Jones and Thersa Daus-Weber and "The Death Valley 300: Near Death and Resurrection on the World's Toughest Endurance Course" by Richard Benyo. The DVD "Running on the Sun" chronicles the 1999 event. There are also plenty of "True Stories from the Badwater Ultramarathon" to read.

I will be heading out to Badwater on Saturday to pace/crew Jacqueline Adams Florine (Bib # 44). Joining me, among others, will be Meredith and Eddie. As of today, the AccuWeather.com forecast is calling for highs in the 115-120 degree range.

Best of luck to all participants !


  1. Dude that's awesome, in with all the action ;-)

  2. Thanks so much for giving us all a heads up on these big races. I can't keep track and this is one I want to follow since I am friends with Akos. In fact, if you ever read Marathon & Beyond magazine, I wrote about his first attempt at Badwater, where he and his undermanned crew defied logic and almost won outright.

  3. Tony - a great thing you are doing crewing and pacing on such and "adventure". I wish you and your runner the best of luck. Safe "travels" through the ups, downs, flats and everything in between. Looking forward to the rr once you get back!

  4. What an amazing experience this will be for you. If you happen to meet my friend Shanna Armstrong while there, tell her Hello from me. Good luck and stay cool!

  5. What a real test of endurance. Have a great time pacing

  6. Wow, that's great you get to be a part of it in some capacity. It is an amazing race and I am in awe of those who participate!

  7. That's awesome. Good luck!