The Badwater Ultra 2000
I survived! What a fantastic two weeks it has been ... totally awesome.
After arriving in San Francisco I drove down the West Coast Route 1 which was absolutely stunning - clear blue skies and fantastic ocean, rocks and beaches. By Malibu there was a restaurant which served the usual 16-22 ounce steaks but also had a challenge of eating a 35 ounce with trimmings to get the whole meal for $15 which had to be done. The last 2 ounces were slow but the huge lump of rump was cooked perfectly ... not bad for $15!
I met my support crew in Las Vegas and then went on to Badwater. The scenery is spectacular. The desert is a very beautiful place, with lots of mountains and deep valleys, and incredibly hot. The colours around Badwater are amazing. The hills are full of red, green, brown, purple, etc from the minerals in the rock and, for this reason, the area is called the Artist's Palette. The air was very hot and also windy which dehydrated you much faster.
I met many great people from around the world who have lots of experience of extreme running in harsh conditions like deserts, jungles, high altitude, etc.
I started at the worst time of 10am (after 11:30 the temp is over 115°F and peaks at 129°F at about 3pm) so I ran a good time to the first checkpoint (just jogging at a comfortable pace). The next miles to Checkpoint 2 were still in Death Valley and extremely hot. My heart rate while walking was 130 and skin temp 39°C. From the sauna I knew I was close to the limit of cooling as skin never gets above 42°C and this was a long race so I worked to this threshold and kept walking and jogging to Checkpoint 2 in the evening. I stopped and had food and extra ice.
There was now a 20m/5000' hill followed by a 10m/4000' descent. I flew up the hill in the evening as the temperature was falling to sub 115°F and overtook many of the earlier starters. I was approached by a coyote which was bemused to see a cyclops walking through the desert at midnight under a perfectly clear sky. I arrived at Checkpoint 3 at 72 miles at 4:30 am and was in about 10th place feeling tired but physically fine. Just 100K to go and on course for a 32/33 hour finish. I had to have two hours sleep as the ice cube shop was shut until 6 and I hadn't enough ice left to last until the next supplies.
Another 18 mile hill back up to 5500' and was feeling OK but the extreme heat and cambers of the winding roads were taking their toll and my feet were swelling. This was where the problems started. The swelling caused less room in the shoe and more friction in the heat so blisters started appearing on the toes and balls of my feet, plus it was very hot again. I reached the 100 mile marker in a good time with my feet hurting from the blisters but I was still on course for 35 hour finish.
At 105 miles a new blister was a crippler. I was going to retire then decided to tape a stone to my foot to relieve the pressure from the blister and was able to continue walking. This was apparently spotted and spread to many people and the website! The Blister Queen was passing and did an amazing job on my left foot, cut my trainers into sandals to relieve the pressure and I was able to continue walking.
12 miles later another crippler arose on my right foot so after a few agonising moments I taped a sock to my right foot and found a stick and was able to continue at 2 mph to the last checkpoint before the finish. This was also spotted and apparently reported on the website!
At Lone Pine I had food and changed into walking boots, completely exhausted. I had seven hours left to climb 5000' in 13 miles with two very badly hurt feet so started slowly. This is where at night we are surrounded by the sound of waterfalls and, after not sleeping for over 24 hours, three hours of wild hallucinations were amazing. I only walked 2½ miles in that time but at dawn I suddenly had an energy surge and felt no pain in either foot. A couple of Germans came alongside and we walked briskly up the hill, taking two hours for 7 miles, then I had a drink and food as they carried on but completed the climb to the Portals steadily and with no pain from either foot. The scenery and contrast between Mt. Whitney and the desert is like a different universe, life everywhere with views over the whole desert.
I crossed the finish line in 45:57 and achieved my main ambition which was to be a Buckler. [Buckles are awarded to those who finish with 48 hours.] I sat down for 10 minutes then a rush of extreme pain flooded back to my feet. I was supported back to my car and passed out unconscious, went to bed and passed out cold for many hours.
I wouldn't have made it without the help of Nick and Ruth, my support crew. They did a great job supporting me every couple of miles (I needed a litre of water per mile during the hottest part of the day) and they were very impressed with the equipment and all the arrangements I had made. There were a few things which could be improved for next time but we scored at least 8 out of 10 for good equipment and organisation ... which was the difference between success and failure.
Meredydd was first Brit and finished 24th out of 70 starters (including 20 retirals).
© Meredydd Evans, 2000