Start 10am 11th July 2005
I have just returned from competing in the 2005 Badwater Ultra Marathon. My aim was to finish the race in less than 48 hours in order to qualify for the “Buckle” – a coveted prize for the race.
Badwater Ultra marathon is a 135mile non-stop qualifying invitation only race that starts in Death Valley 282 feet below sea level finishing at the foot of Mt Whitney, the Whitney Portals at 8,360 feet above sea level. There are 13,000 feet of ascent during the race and 4,700 feet of decent!
Runners must cover every inch of the route on foot and must be crewed by a vehicle and a minimum of two crew members. On the 7th July myself and my two crew members Tim Welch and Karyn Moore arrived in Las Vegas. We hired a minivan as the support vehicle and stocked it up with all the essentials for the race including approximately 150 litres of water!!
The race started on the 11th July. There are three waves of starters 6am, 8am and 10am. I was later to discover that you are given a start time according to your times in previous races so I was a bit shocked and very nervous to find that I had been allocated the 10am start with ALL the top runners – not that I was panicking of course!!
The Canadian National Anthem was sung, as we had a large contingent of Canadian supporters!! Followed by the American National Anthem, which was accompanied by a CD player sitting on top of a car. Count down and we were off! The top runners seemed to go off like bullets so I had to pretend they weren’t there, not panic and do my own thing (easier said than done when you don’t like being at the back of the pack!!)
I ran the whole of the first section arriving at the first Check Point (CP) 17.4 miles in 3 hrs 20 minutes. (Furnace Creek Ranch) My crew checked me in and I carried on running. My crew would meet up with me every mile, changing my drinks, giving me electrolyte pills and spraying me with water – which Karen seemed to take great pleasure in!!! The temperatures soared to 118 degrees and the sun was relentless.
After CP1 there was a marvellous 15 mile section of relatively flat/downhill which was a great relief then at 30 miles the hills begin, gently at first then UP UP UP!! One of the other crews noticed that my legs were very red and had come up in hives – Tim to the rescue with his sun precaution trousers! Between miles 35 to 38ish I felt very tired, but my crew as usual got me through it and kept me going. I arrived at CP2 42 miles in 9 hrs 35 mins (Stovepipe Wells Village) now the hard work begins!!
For the next 17 miles I went up hill starting at sea level going up to 4,965 feet above sea level and just when you think it’s over there’s a 9 mile down hill section going back down to 1,640 feet! (downhills are definitely not all they are cracked up to be!!) Tim and Karyn had been taking it in turns to keep me company during this stage as it was dark. The sky was stunning and covered in a blanket of stars, I spotted quite a few shooting starts which sadly Karyn missed as she was far too busy chatting!! (She chatted non- stop to everyone, encouraging other runners and passing on tips to other crews!!) I eventually got to CP 3 72.3 miles in 19hrs 10 mins (Panamint Springs Resort). The temperature at night was still high 80 – 100 degrees.
Guess what – another hill section – 22 miles 1,750 feet to 5,050 feet above sea level arriving at CP 4 90.1 miles in 24 hrs and 53 mins (Darwin). I had set myself a target of reaching the 90 mile mark in 24 hrs so quite pleased with my time at this stage.
Getting to the next CP seemed to go on forever and ever. My left foot was hurting due to three very large blisters which Tim had dealt with marvellously and my quads were very painful due to all the ups and downs and just to make matters worse I was extremely tired – but this is what endurance racing is all about so no complaining allowed!. Karyn and Tim to the rescue, they sat me down for 10 mins while I downed a red bull (disgusting drink), caffeine kicks in and I was off like a little bullet! The next CP at 122.3 miles (Dow Villa Hotel) seemed miles away as the road was fairly flat and you could see forever, so I was getting a bit frazzled at this stage – music to the rescue! Tim went on ahead to check where the CP was (just so we didn’t do any more mileage than necessary!) and Karyn stayed with me keeping me going. Hoorah CP5 in 35 hours 39 mins, what a marvellous sight that was! Now just 13 hard miles to go!!
I think the race organizers when they were putting the event together thought it would be highly amusing to finish on a hill – not any old hill but a 13 mile hill that started at 3,610 feet and finished at 8,360 feet! Thankfully it was dark so I was unable to see how steep the road was. I was hallucinating quite a lot, the trees and rocks were becoming very large teddy bears – very odd! At this stage of the race I was so tired I was falling asleep on my feet, much to the frustration of my crew as the end was so near! Again Tim and Karyn took it in turns to walk – or should I say stagger with me up the hill. I would find myself going in completely the wrong direction as I woke up! Pro-plus to the rescue, these thankfully kicked in two miles before the finish. Karyn parked the van and joined Tim and I on the final couple of miles. We finished in 41 hours and 5 mins. MARVELLOUS! – the “Buckle” was mine.
I came 23rd out of 81 starters, 6th female and 1st Brit!!
Without my crew and their hard work I couldn’t and wouldn’t have completed this event. Like me they had no rest and it was made all the harder as there was just the two of them. We had some very amusing times during the race and I had some real lows but throughout they kept me going – they were without doubt the best crew on the race (not that I’m at all biased!!) so thank you both.