I consider the stretch from Stovepipe Wells To Towne Pass as the most difficult section of the course due to the following: 1) the runner had already ran a distance of 40 miles without sleep and exhaustion is about to creep in; 2) it’s the 2nd morning and the temperature is almost the same when one started and it can rise up to 127 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of the day; 3) if the runner has the tendency to have an imbalance of electrolytes in his body system, the body will not be able to process whatever food intake, whether they are in the form of gels, liquid, or solid food; and 4) and the relentless uphill climb which is about 5% to 10% gradient where you can see the point where you should reach at a distance is too much to bear and think that particular uphill climb is endless.
Tess and I were well-supported by our Support Vehicle and Crew on this portion/segment as they would stop to refill our hydration bottles every 500 meters to 1 kilometer. Tess would be only treated with Ice Cold Water spray by our team once she reaches the Support Vehicle. Sometimes, I would use the water from my Simple Hydration to douse ice cold water to Tess’ head. However, I did not have the plan or thought of carrying the ice cold sprayer bottle while I was pacing her. There are pacers who would follow their runners behind with a bottle sprayer and it was my first time to see such. By doing this, there is a tendency for the ice cold water to become a hot water while it is being carried by the Pacer due to the heat of the environment. The ice I place in my Simple Hydration bottle whenever I reach the Support Vehicle would be easily transformed to a hot water in a few minutes while I was following Tess. As compared with the Salomon Collapsible Bottles which I had for my electrolyte drinks, I’ve observed that the coldness of the liquid stays longer than the ice water in my Simple Hydration Bottle. During my pacing job to Tess, I was carrying with one Simple Hydration Bottle with Ice, and later melted to Ice water; and a 20-ounce Salomon Collapsible Bottle with my NUUN Electrolyte drink. So, for our relentless climb to Towne Pass, we repeatedly refilled our bottles whenever we reached our Support Crew/Vehicle. We also had the time to ingest some food available in our Support Vehicle.
We had KIND Fruit & Nut Bars (my primary food intake); fresh fruits (apple bites and ice cold watermelon); Rice O Roni; Champorado; Cookies; Sandwiches (prepared by Jas); Noodles; Pizza; Peanut Butter; Ham; Gels; Bundaberg Ginger Beer; and Ice Cold Soda (Coke & Mountain Dew). These food were prepared and served to us during the run, most specially along this segment of the course. I bought two packs (8 pieces) of KIND Fruit & Nut Bars and two packs (8 bottles) of Bundaberg Ginger Beer which I intend to use as my source of food and cure/treatment for any GI issues I might have during the run. I offered/gave one KIND Bar to Tess on our uphill climb to Towne Pass but she only took a bite and returned the remaining bar to me. I was then forcing her to eat some solid food but she would prefer her instant Champorado. I ate the remaining bar and consistently fueled by this fruit & nut bar which is a mix of sweet and salty tastes. I also started to introduce her to drink the Ice Cold Bundaberg Ginger Beer to make her stomach settle due to her frequent throwing out of her food and drinks from her stomach. I wanted her to finish one bottle during the course of our run for a few kilometers but she would not want it. Frankly speaking, this Ginger Beer and my NUUN Electrolyte Drinks had arrested my problem on my GI issues of not being able to fully process my ingested food in my stomach.
Our pace/speed was on the average at this segment even if we slowed when we were about 2 miles from the peak of Towne Pass. I told Tess that we will be able to even up or make up for our lost time as we descend from the peak of Towne Pass. It was a matter time as we relentlessly power-hiked the remaining portion before we crest the top most portion of the Pass.
After we refilled and re-fueled on top of the Pass, we tried to increase our pace/speed and we were making good with it. However, the strong crosswind coming from our right side or right portion of the mountain pass was so strong that it slowed us down. Coupled with the heat of the day, we would hike and run but our hike would become longer than the time we would run or jog.
At this point, I could see that Tess could not cope up with the increase pace that I would like her to attain. So, we walked and I allowed her to dictate the pace of our run/jo/hike down from Towne Pass. There was a time that she asked for a Peanut Butter Sandwich and that she had to throw it away after a bite on the side of the road. As for me, I would eat everything that I was offered by our Support Crew. Even if I was running and jogging, I was still fresh because I had only about 20 miles of running from Stovepipe Wells. Plus the fact that I was well hydrated and fueled by the solid foods I was eating/ingesting.
There are two important things that I did to entertain Tess while I was pacing her: First, talk to her and ask her about her past sports and past “love life”, however, I was not sure if it made her more motivated during the run or it made her weaker for asking her. Second, my regular Farting behind her made her laugh and smile at first but when it was becoming repeatedly heard, I was not sure if the smell had jolted her body system once in a while or had to stop breathing just to let the smell pass away from us.
The descending portion from Towne Pass would cover almost 9 miles and we would stop from time to time to refuel and refill our bottles. As we reached the bottom portion of the Pass, it was again another seemingly flat but increasingly uphill climb to Panamint Springs which could be seen from a distance. It was another challenge to us to be boringly looking up to the place of our destination along a straight wide road as if it is an endless road to run. The 7-mile road portion up to Panamint Springs seems to be easy but the strong headwind coming from the desert was battering us head on to our uphill climb pace. We would run/jog and hike to reach our Support Vehicle repeatedly.
There was a time that our Support Vehicle would park away from us longer than one kilometer that it took us more effort to reach it because of the hot headwind that would meet us along the way. Our Team would look for a more stable shoulder where they would park in order to avoid from being being stucked in the place and need someone to help them push the vehicle. I would complain that they had parked so far that we had consumed already our water before we reached them. At this point, I was feeling dehydrated but I would drink a lot of water and electrolyte drinks just to arrest and remedy such situation.
This uphill climb to Panamint Springs is very memorable as runners would hear the roar of jet planes or fighter jets of the US Air Force in a nearby Air Base passing and crossing above the route. There was a time that you can feel and hear the roar of a passing fighter jet plane on top of you but when you try to look up in the sky, you could no longer see any figure or form of a jet in the horizon. I would learn later after the race that this place is the training ground of the famous Stealth Jet Bombers which you could hardly see because of its speed and its appearance to blend with the sky.
At Panamint Springs Time Station/Cottage Area
It took us a lot of time to reach the Panamint Springs and the last two miles was too painful for Tess as she lagged behind down the road. I went ahead of her to the Time Station just to make sure that the Race Marshals were there to check us. Finally, Tess arrived at the Time Station at Panamint Springs weak and exhausted. She told me that she will have a shower at the “Cottage” and try to sleep for some time but she was already telling me to DNF at this point. I suggested her not to think of pulling the plug off at this place as she has at least 35-40 minutes buffer time before the cut-off time and we have a lot of time to reach Darwin after her rest at Panamint Springs. She has 9 hours to cover 17 miles to Darwin and after reaching Father Cowley’s Pass Vista Point which is 5 miles from Panamint Springs, it is all downhill and flat roads to Darwin for the remaining 12 miles before the next cut-off time of 5:00 AM of Tuesday morning.
While Tess was having her shower and sleep/rest in the “Cottage”, we had the time to refuel/gas up our Supply Vehicle; resupply our stock of Ice but instead bought frozen bottled water by the gallon (8 gallons of frozen water) due to the fact that the 6,000 packs of Ice prepared for the event were all sold out as early as 6:00 PM of Tuesday; and we were able to have our first decent dinner/meal during the event Panamint Springs Restaurant; and we also had time to have our first Shower/Bath at the Park across the road from the Restaurant. The shower was Free with Towels. We ordered food for Tess but she did not mind touching it after she woke up from her sleep. The food that we ate at the Restaurant was the most expensive one that we had in California and to think of it that the food we ate were pasta and hamburger meals!
Tess was already reluctantly and forced herself to DNF at this point when she finished her shower and nap. I talked to the Race Marshal at the Time Station and told me that there are still at least 3 runners behind us and about 25 runners had DNFd already before reaching Panamint Springs! Wow! I was surprised later to know that at least 3 former Champions and Course Record Holders had DNFd at Stovepipe Wells and some at Furnace Creek.
We were able to encourage Tess to push up to the peak of Father Cowley’s Pass with Khris as the Pacer with the arrangement that I would pace Tess again once they reached the peak. Tess and Khris left Panamint Springs at 9:30 PM with 3 other runners left behind at the Cottage.
After 3 kilometers, I parked our Support Vehicle in a designated Parking Space at this ascending zigzag part of the route. It took Tess and Khris 1.5 hours to hike the distance. Again, Tess pleaded to DNF but we would find a way to ease her GI issues by giving her White Flower Ointment. The ointment made her continue but after two kilometers, I was told by Khris that Tess would be holding his arms as they walked along the road. I drove the Support Vehicle to the Parking Area of the Father Cowley’s Pass Vista Point (Peak). As I was driving, I would see Tess lying on the road while Khris was giving her massage on her legs. At this point, I have concluded that Tess is done with the race. The distance of 8 kilometers from Panamint Springs to the Father Cowley Pass Vista Point had been very painful and brutal to Tess’ condition and it took her almost 4 hours to reach the peak. There was no way she would recover and then cover another distance of 12 miles (20 kilometers) for 4 hours (5:00 AM Tuesday is the next cut-off time in Darwin) with her condition.
While we were parked at the Vista Point, the Park Ranger/Race Marshal would come to us and inform us that our runner were seen by them to be lying on the road. At the Support Vehicle, we waited for the arrival of Tess and Khris and our Race was over.
We are bound for Lone Pine, California, 35 miles away, and it will be my 2nd night without sleep as a Driver and Pacer of the Support Vehicle and Tess, respectively.
I wonder if I could still drive with one eye open and the other eye closed and reached Lone Pine safely.
From Badwater Basin To Furnace Creek (0 to 17.5 Miles)
It was almost 15-20 minutes after the race started when we left the Parking Area. After being shouted at by the Traffic Marshal as we merged to the road, we moved on with a slow speed. I didn’t mind being shout at as it was a result of misinterpretation of the hand signal of the Marshal. Our main focus was to support Tess Leono and I have also the habit to shout at runners who are trying or observed to be violating my race rules and regulations.
Tess was already far from our sight as we moved on the first 200 meters of the route. Actually, we could no longer see her back! The temperature was still 120 degrees Fahrenheit and there was no sign that the heat is beginning to cool down even if the sun is about to set from the west horizon.
It was already “early evening twilight” when we saw the back of Tess on the left side of the road. She was not on the back of the pack as we advised her to be easy and slow on this section of the route but we were surprised to see her at the middle of the pack!
The following were the notes I had written/inputted in my iPhone’s Notes from the time the race started as I drove the Support Vehicle:
• Initially running at 9 kilometers per hour up to Km 5
• She kept on pouring water on her head on the first 5 kilometers and we had to stop every 2 kilometers (1.25 miles)
• She was looking like “stressed and nervous” on the early part of the race until she reached Km 8 (5 miles)
• Advise her to slow down within the first 5-kilometer stretch and advise her of the 12:3 ratio of run and walk (12 minutes of run/jog and 3 minutes of walk). She can lower her speed to 7 kilometers per hour.
• At Km 11, she had her first pee and she slowed down to a speed of 8 kilometers per Hour.
• She started to ask for a change of Shoes at Km 12 but when I asked why she was changing on the early part of the race, she changed her mind and decided not to push through.
• Told her to take some bite foods at Km 12 and she did. At this point, she was relaxed on her pace but she was still sweating profusely.
• At 9:00 P.M it was still 113 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature (as glanced from the Vehicle Controls)!
• Reached Km 15 in 1:58+hours
• She asked for her Chamois cloth at km 16.8.
• Arrived at Km 18 in 2:30 hours
• Arrived at Km 19 in 2:38 hours
• Arrived at Km 20.5 in 2:52 hours
• Asked for Coke for the 1st time at Km 21.6 at 3:03+hours
• Arrived at Km 24.6 in 3:36:30 hours
• Arrived at Furnace Creek Crossing Km 27 in 4:00:00 hours
• Arrived at Furnace Creek Aid Station at Mile 17.5 in 4:18 hours
• Bought 3 packs of Ice at Furnace Creek General Store
• Arrived at Km 40 (Mile 25) in 6:17+hours
My Personal Observation On The First 25 Miles
Tess was very fast on the early section from the Start to Furnace Creek Time Station @ Mile 17.5 (Start To Mile 17.5) but she apparently slowed down on the later half of the section due to many stops and refill/exchange of her Simple Hydration Bottle with Ice Cold Water. She was holding/carrying only one bottle at a time during the run. However, I have observed that most of the 16 fluid ounces of ice cold water was being poured on her head. We reached the Time Station at Furnace Creek at 4:18+ minutes without any mandatory cut-off time at this point.
It was in this Time Station (Furnace Creek) that she asked for a seat and a change of her shoes. In an instant after she sat, she was already having muscle cramps on her legs. We wanted to stretch or massage her legs but she shouted at us with “Don’t touch me!” Ok, fine…She was sweating profusely and we gave her a lot of water in her hydration bottle but I have observed that she would pour the ice cold water on her legs! Ok…I thought, maybe she wanted to have her 2XU long tights to be wet with cold water. Later on, she asked for a pair of scissors. What? For what is the scissors? Khris gave her the pair of scissors and she was cutting the lower part of her tights in a vertical manner. I only suspect that the tights was putting a lot of pressure/compression on her ankle and calf muscles. She felt relieved when she made some cuts on her tights. Later, I found out from her that it was her first time to use this new 2XU tights. I thought she was using her old tights for this event. We gave her the food that she asked at this point. In a few seconds after the pouring of ice cold water on her tights/legs, cutting her tights, and eating some foods/drinking some water and Coke, she was back on the road.
It was her request that we should stop whenever we see her on the road. In my estimate it would take us a few minutes from the time we prepare her next supply of water and food before we move from where we stopped up to the time we see her on the road. Sometimes, she would run, at least, one kilometer before we would look for a parking space on the side/shoulder of the road. As a driver, it was very tricky to look for a wide and stable space on the shoulder/side of the road. There are times that the shoulder is very loose with small rocks/sand that you don’t want your tires to go deep on those loose sand and rocks. The RD had advised us not to suddenly brake on these loose shoulders once we park our Support Vehicle as some of the vehicles would be sucked on the side of the road. It is also automatic that we would slowly drive our vehicle out of the shoulder when we leave. There is no rush in parking and leaving the parking area.
We could no longer count how many times we parked at the shoulder of the road of which we don’t have to. But it was difficult for us to have a nap or have time to rest and wait for Tess as she approaches our Support Vehicle as soon as we park our Support Vehicle on the shoulder. This park-support-leave cycle was repeated every almost one kilometer to one mile until it was sunrise.
At the break of dawn, we would see a lot of runners and Support Vehicles passing us and they are the runners that started with the Second Wave at 9:00 PM. Tess would continue with her run and walk, and she was back with her good running condition.
It was a matter of time before we reached Stovepipe Wells at Mile 40 as Tess would move progressively forward with the rest of the runners. The heat temperature had lowered in the early morning of Monday but it went as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit as early as 9:00 AM. As the runners relentlessly moved forward, the heat of the sun and the winds had also relentlessly became hotter and stronger. At a distance, we could see already the building structures of Stovepipe Wells. It was time to prepare myself as the Pacer of Tess once she reaches the Stovepipe Wells General Store.
Pacing Tess Leono From Stovepipe Wells To Panamint Springs
• Started to pace her at Stovepipe Wells General Store. We power hiked the uphill up to the Time Station where the RD was waiting which is still 8 miles away from the center of SP Wells. The RD was located at the 2,000 Feet Elevation Sign on the left side of the road. At this point, the RD told us that we missed the 10:00 AM cut off time by 9 minutes but he told us that we just proceed to Panamint Springs and be able to recover the negative time we had. It was time to push Tess to jog and hike the uphill climb to the peak of Towne Pass. At this point, the Elite Group who are with Wave 3 started to pass us and I observed that they consistently jogged on the road which is to my estimate is 5-15% gradient. I tried to jog behind Tess and I felt comfortable. While I slowly jogged behind her.
• Since I don’t want that our crew would also assist me on my needs from the Support Vehicle, I asked them to aid and concentrate on helping Tess on her needs once we approached our parked Support Vehicle. There are times when Tess would simply leave me as I was still refilling my bottles and chewing my solid foods. Most of the time, she would be 50-60 meters ahead of me and I have to jog the uphill climb just to be able to be directly positioned behind her. It would take me almost one minute to jog the distance where Tess is located.
• Early on, I taught her run while counting on her strides. I told her that we should do the “20/20 strides”—-20 strides on the run & 20 strides while walking. We did this kind of run & walking ratio on our way to. Panamint Springs. I also taught her to power hike as if she was race walking!
• After we crested the peak of Towne Pass, I was confident that the downhill route to Panamint Springs will provide us the confidence of a faster pace and speed. But I was wrong!
Being a CTS athlete, I regularly receive in my e-mail articles written by CTS Coaches of articles related to the Sports of Ultrarunning and other Endurance Sports. The following article is very timely for those athletes and runners who will joining ultra marathon events in the months of July up to the later part of October in the United States as most of these events happen during extreme heat temperatures.Personally, this had been my problem through the years on why I failed to finish 100-mile trail races in California, Utah and Nevada in the past years. However, with my Support Crew and Pacing experience in last month’s Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon, I was able to solve my problem on my hydration and heat prevention. Through the help of my CTS Coach John Fitzgerald, I was able to correct my electrolyte imbalance whenever I run in an environment that is too hot during my training in my Playground in the Philippines. For the past three months, I had been weighing my body before and after my runs in order to determine my body sweat loss within a period of time of running. As a result, I would determine how much liters of water and electrolytes I would carry depending on how many hours I would be out for my run, whether in the early morning or late in the afternoon.
As I continue to write and post my 2018 Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon, I will mention something on the later part of my blog on how I was able to manage the extreme heat during the time that I paced Tess Leono for almost 32 miles (50 kilometers) under the heat of the sun.
Without much further ado, I am now reposting this article and I hope that those who are planning to do ultramarathon races in hot environment will learn a lot and be able to apply the preventive measures stated in this article. Let this be a reference to all ultra runners out there.
Heat Illness and Endurance Athletes: The Science of Staying Safe When It Gets Hot
By Corrine Malcolm CTS Coach and Exercise Physiologist
Human beings are inherently inefficient. Only a fraction of the work athletes do ends up propelling them down the road, up the mountain or through the water. The rest just of that work generates heat, which has to go somewhere. Normally, the body is reasonably good at dissipating heat, until the environment is also hot and/or humid. Heat illnesses develop when you can’t adequately dissipate heat to the environment, and involves an incredibly complex relationship between your thermal physiology (all that heat you are producing), environmental heat strain, and your clothing (2). Many experienced endurance athletes are well versed in hydration and cooling strategies, but as a community it is crucial for all athletes to understand the signs and symptoms of heat illness, how to prevent it, and how to help athletes suffering from it.
Heat illness doesn’t care how much you know about hydration and cooling. Despite all the right preparations, even experts and experienced athletes can end up with heat illness when things go wrong during training or competition.
There are two main types of heat illness: classic and exertional. Classic heat illness is directly related to the environment and how the environment is effecting one’s ability to dissipate heat. These factors include high temperature and humidity, strong direct sun exposure, and still air. Exertional heat illness on the other hand is primarily caused by your own heat production, which is why exertional heat illness can occur in all types of weather (3). It should be noted that the treatment and identification does not change between classic and exertional heat illness, but illustrates the fact athletes should be aware of the signs of heat illness even in cooler and less humid environments.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL RISK BEFORE A RUN, RIDE, OR RACE CAN BE CRITICAL FOR SUCCESS AND YOUR HEALTH (4).
Body’s Response to Heat Exposure
Although 98.6 F (37 C) is generally accepted norm for human body temperature, it is normal for core temperature to fluctuate within a small range of 97-99 F (36.1-37.2 C). When your body increases much above or below this “set” temperature you can experience hyperthermia or hypothermia as your body tries valiantly to bring your body back to homeostasis. When you get too hot your one of the best way your body can cool itself down is to shift more blood flow to the capillaries that lie immediately underneath your skin. What this allows your body to offload some of the heat into the environment and in turn send cooled blood back deep into your body. The second way your body combats the likely rise in core body temperature is by increasing your sweat rate. This allows you to utilize evaporative cooling, which cools the body by creating a temperature gradient as sweat (or other water) evaporates from your skin surface into the air. The neat thing about the increase in your sweat rate per hour during the heat is that your sweat becomes more dilute than usual which makes it even easier for your sweat to evaporate from your skin into the air.
Additionally, there are three environmental mechanisms that can both prevent your core body temperature from increasing and also increase your core body temperature. Those mechanisms are radiation, convection, and conduction. All three rely on temperature gradients where the heat goes from the warmer environment to the cooler environment. In an ideal world that means your body is the hot environment and you are able to dissipate heat into the surrounding environment (5). While you exercise and race your body relies on these thermoregulatory adjustments because during exercise you produce 15-20 times more heat than you do at rest. Without these crucial adjustments, either physiological, environmental, or behavioral changes, your core body temperature will rise 1.8 F (1C) for every 5 minutes of exercise (3).
Levels of Heat Illness
Heat-related illnesses start out mildly uncomfortable and progress all the way to life threatening. The conditions are, from least serious to most serious: heat edema, heat rash, heat syncope, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (3,4).
Heat Edema and Heat Rash
Heat edema and heat rash are both the mildest forms of heat illness you might experience. Heat edema can occur as your body tries to dissipate heat by vasodilation and a shift of blood flow to your skin. This most commonly happens in the lower extremities as fluid creates inflammation in your feet and ankles. Heat rash (also called prickly heat or miliaria rubra) is a pinpoint red rash that forms on the skin that was covered by clothing. This generally happens in areas that have a higher concentration of heat glands, like your trunk and groin, and is caused by the increase in sweat saturating the clothing and your skin surface clogging sweat ducts.
Heat syncope, or fainting caused by heat, may happen during heat exposure because blood is being shunted to your skin and extremities. Rapid changes in body position (commonly sitting to standing, or bending over and standing back up) can lead to a temporary change in blood pressure that causes a person to faint. Most athletes recover quickly once laid flat, which allows blood flow to normalize. That being said, falling due to a rapid loss of consciousness could lead to a concussion, and an athlete who faints due to heat should be evaluated before being allowed to continue training or competing.
Heat cramps or muscle spasms have been notoriously linked with dehydration and electrolyte imbalances over the year. However, we now know exercise associated muscle cramps are more commonly associated with a wider range of variables such as fatigue and muscular imbalances. Although harmful to performance, exercise associated muscle cramps are generally harmless to your health and most commonly occur on one side of your body (i.e. your left quad or your right calf). If you are experiencing bilateral, or both sides, cramping or full body cramping, this is often linked to a more serious condition such as extreme dehydration or hyponatremia (depleted electrolytes from excessive water consumption) and should be immediately addressed by your physician or the medical team at your event.
As we move up the scale in severity we come to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion should be taken seriously and treated quickly, as it can advance to more serious and potentially life-threatening conditions like heat stroke. Heat exhaustion generally presents with fatigue, dizziness, heavy sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache, fainting, weakness, and cold clammy skin. A person with exhaustion typically still has normal cognitive and neurological function. They should be able to answer questions about their condition, where they are, who they are, etc.
Heat stroke is characterized by a core body temperature greater than 104 F and altered central nervous system function, including irritability, confusion, combativeness, or even worse, loss of consciousness. Hot and dry skin is a sign of heat stroke, but it is important to realize a person can be sweating and still have heat stroke. Altered central nervous system function is the hallmark difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but when in doubt, treat the situation as if the athlete has heat stroke. Athletes showing signs of heat stroke need to be treated by medical professionals as soon as possible. It should be stressed that heat stroke is incredibly serious and can lead to death if not treated quickly.
THE CONTINUUM OF HEAT ILLNESS (3).
Risk factors for developing heat illness
The most recent estimate is that heat related illnesses cause 695 deaths per year in the United States, but they are the 3rd highest cause of death amongst athletes. There are two main categories of risk factors: environmental (external) factors and physiological (internal) factors.
Environmental factors include how hard you are working, clothing choices, insufficient shade during activity, lack of access to water, ambient air temperature, and humidity. Internal factors include age (people under the age of 15 or over the age of 65 are more susceptible to heat illness), recent alcohol consumption, acute or chronic dehydration, history of heat-related illness, medication or supplement interactions, recent illness that included a fever, recent head injury, sunburn, skin conditions (eczema or psoriasis), or insufficient heat acclimation (3).
Treatment of Heat Illness
As with many medical emergencies, time is an extremely important factor in treatment of heat-related illnesses. The goal is to get core body temperature down to an acceptable level (below 38C or 100.4 F) as quickly as possible. It’s important to note that although fevers generally present at similar temperatures to what we call hyperthermia (temperatures above 100.9 F) the underlying mechanism is different. In general, our thermal max is a narrow range from 106.8 -107.6 F. Sustained core temperature at this level for anywhere from 45 minutes to 8 hours can be lethal, and one of the factors for predicting the outcome for a person with heat stroke is how long they are hyperthermic. Body temperature of 106.8 – 107.6 F may seem awfully high, but when you are exerting yourself in hot conditions, it is not uncommon for body temperature to reach 102-103 F for short periods of time. Adverse conditions, either internal or external, can cause core body temperature to stay elevated or rise to higher, more dangerous, levels.
The key takeaway from research institutes, such as the Korey Stringer Institute, that focus on heat-related illnesses is to cool the athlete down as quickly as possible to protect the athlete’s brain and vital organs. To do that, the critical first step is to recognize you or another athlete is in trouble. This step is often missed, which allows heat illness to progress to dangerous levels. Get out of direct sunlight and into a shaded, cooler environment. Finally, use whatever you have to cool off. This can include dousing with cold water from a hose or shower, wrapping in cold towels, applying ice packs or immersion in an ice bath, and having them ingest cold fluids. Athletes experiencing heat stroke need medical care immediately, with the goal of lowering body temperature to below 104 F within 30 minutes.
Preventing Heat Illness
The best ways for athletes to avoid heat-related illness are to heat acclimatize before training hard or racing in a hot environment, monitor and manage your hydration needs, and utilize cooling techniques to help manage your core body temperature. Doing these three things well will reduce the physiological strain of training and racing in the heat and optimize performance.
The most important of these three is heat acclimatization because it not only improves thermal comfort, or your psychological tolerance to the heat, but also it improves your physiological thermal tolerance, which is your body’s ability to tolerate heat exposure for an extended period of time. The physiological benefits of heat acclimatization include increased skin blood flow and increased sweat rate, both of which help to dissipate heat quickly and efficiently. During heat acclimation you also have an increase in your blood plasma volume, which allows you to better sustain your blood pressure and work capacity (1). These adaptations take roughly 7-14 days to fully manifest. Because of this, it is important to monitor your level of exertion as your body makes these adaptations. During this time you will naturally have a change in threshold pace, power output, and both maximal and submaximal heart rate. Don’t force it.
Dehydration is one of the key precursors to developing a heat-related illness. Although dehydration generally occurs from an inadequate intake of fluids, it can be made worse by an excessive amount of fluid loss through sweating, putting you in a state of hypohydration (Howe et al). Regardless of whether you’re putting too little in the tank or losing to much from sweating, from an athletic standpoint it has been shown that your heart rate will rise 3-5 beats/min for every 1% of bodyweight loss due to dehydration (Coris et al). When dehydration occurs your blood plasma volume shrinks, which not only effects your heart’s ability to do its job, but also decreases blood flow to the skin and sweat rate. As a result, performance declines and the chances of developing heat illness increase.
What this means is that you should monitor not only your during-activity hydration but also your pre-exercise and post-exercise hydration when temperatures begin to rise. It is recommended that you start your exercise or race euhydrated, which just means starting at a normal level of hydration and not getting to the start line dehydrated or hyperhydrated. Adjusting your day-to-day hydration status takes some time, and guzzling fluid isn’t helpful. Rather, try the WUT method and make appropriate adjustments to daily fluid intake.
When it comes to hydration during exercise the idea is to minimize losses in total body water mass. During strenuous exercise in the heat, sweat rates can reach 1.5 liters per hour, and sometimes higher. General recommendations are to consume 16 – 24 ounces of fluid an hour, but endurance athletes in hot environments often need to consume 2-3 times that much. You can figure out your approximate sweat rate by weighing yourself pre- and post-workout. When it comes to post race or activity hydration the old staple was to try and replace 150% of body mass losses during the first hour of your exercise stopping (6). For many athletes this simply wasn’t practical and caused some GI discomfort, and because of this the most realistic guideline is to try and replace 100-120% of body mass lost in the first hour after you stop exercising (1) and continue consuming fluids in the hours after that. CTS has long recommended athletes aim to consume 150% of fluid losses within 4 hours after exercise.
The final components to avoiding heat-related illnesses are the little things you can do to work with your environment and not set yourself up for failure. You can choose to wear light colored and loose fitting clothes. Additionally, you can utilize two different methods of managing heat exposure by either continuous cooling methods or pre-cooling techniques. Continuous cooling methods utilize both external and internal cooling methods. Some external cooling methods include the application of iced/cooled down clothing, towels, water immersion or dousing, or packing ice onto athlete via ice bandanas, ice socks, or into clothing and hydration vests. Internal cooling methods generally rely on the ingestion of cold fluids or ice slurries to try to maintain a lower core body temperature. When it comes to endurance activity in particular, pre-cooling methods have been shown to be effective in both improving performance and delaying the inevitable rise in the core body temperature. What this means is that an athlete getting ready to compete in a warm environment can benefit from starting their event with a lower core body temperature. This can be accomplished by ingesting cold ice slurries, or now the use of a commercial ice vest (or more simply cold iced down towels around your trunk and shoulders) during your warmup. It’s been shown that these crucial minutes of cooling down before you hit the start line or the start button on your watch can prolong your body’s ability to maintain a lower core body temperature (1).
When it comes to exercising and racing in the heat, prepare yourself for the demands of the environment, manage your fluids, and utilize physical methods of cooling yourself off. Taking a moment to cool off now might slow you down temporarily but cannot only save your race or workout in the long run, but also your life.
Team Leono Inside The Room @ The Ranch (Furnace Creek)
Our room that was reserved by Tess at the Furnace Inn Ranch was good for one day from 1:00 PM of Sunday to 12:00 NN of Monday with the hope that we could be extended up to 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM with an additional cost. However, the Hotel Administration would not allow us to extend our stay for another 5 or 6 hours because all the rooms were fully booked and reserved for the whole week. We tried our best to plea for their understanding to extend our stay but they could only allow us an extended period of stay up to 2:00 PM of Monday. And this was final!
Let me describe to you our situation in the room. We were 5 persons in one room but there are two double beds which could only accommodate only 4 of us (two persons on each bed). To remedy the situation, we had to pay an extra bed to be inserted in the room. Because of the bags and luggages; food; coolers; and other needs for the race were all inside the room, we had a very limited space for the folding bed to be fully deployed, instead, we got only the mattress from the folding bed to be placed on the floor in between the two double beds. The tallest among us volunteered to be the “Floor Manager”! It’s was good we had a very good coordination in the use of the single bathroom and toilet during the duration of our stay in this room.
The room has a Wi-Fi connection but it could only be used by two devices only per room. With the five of us, I was given the priority as I was the one who was posting some Updates on Facebook. However, there was a time that I could no longer connect when I disconnected myself so that others can use the allowed two slots per room. When I could no longer get any connection, I opted to have a dedicated Wi-Fi connection for myself by paying $10.00 from my Debit Card for the duration of 24 hours. This was the ONLY way for me to send some more “Updates” on Facebook before we left Furnace Creek. I knew that once the race starts, I will no longer have a Cellphone Signal up to Lone Pine, California or at Panamint Springs (Mile #70+)
While some of us were resting inside the room with the Full Power of the Air Con, Tess, Jas, and Khris were busy organizing our things but somehow all of us were able to rest. In the evening of Sunday, we started to get some Ice from the Ice Maker Machine of the Hotel at the front edge of the building. We were able to fill our Coolers with Ice for Free! From here on, it was just a waiting game and trying to maximize our rest and sleep inside our room. Night came but the extreme heat outside the building was almost the same during day time. After supper at the Diner, we just returned back to our room, take a shower, and then went to bed. I could no longer remember how many hours I was able to sleep during nighttime. I was too tired for the day. However, every time I go to the Bathroom to pee, I would observe that Tess was still awake. I wonder why she was not yet sleeping. Is she nervous, anxious, or have some things playing in her mind? Or is she checking on her cellphone or Facebook? I didn’t bother to ask.
We woke up at about 7:00 AM and we had to line up for the Bathroom and take turns. Hahaha! We were back to the Diner for our brunch…again! We did a lot of conversation in the room about how to fit in everything in the Support Vehicle and how we will be able to support Tess in an efficient clockwork manner. I would be the driver and the rest of the team will have to take their part of making sure Tess will finish the race. However, Tess had all the pressure on her as she is the Main Actress in this event.
After our Brunch, we started to bring all of our things to the Support Vehicle and it was Khris’ responsibility and work on making sure that all of our stuff was loaded properly before the 1:00 PM check-out time from the our room. Starting at 12:00 Noon we were disturbed by visits from the Hotel Staff reminding us of our check-out time by 1:00 PM. They made a lot of calls and visits to us and told us to leave the room until we finally left the room at 2:00 PM.
Waiting Game Before Leaving Furnace Creek
Tess told us that she will stay in one of the Team Tabios Rooms while the four of us as her Support Crew went to the Diner to pass the time and then pick her up near their Hotel Building anytime between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM. We waited inside the Diner for 3+ hours and we reviewed our plan on how to support Tess during the run. We made also our plan on how to resupply our needs for water and ice along the route as we anticipated for a higher and extreme heat/temperature the following day. On the last few minutes of our stay at the Diner, we ordered two Pizza for our anticipated Dinner food once the race starts at the Badwater Basin.
We left the Diner at 5:00 PM and parked a few meters away from the Team Tabios’ Hotel Building because there was no parking space available. We, instead, looked for a shaded area where we could wait for Tess. At exactly 5:30 PM, we left the Ranch Inn with Tess and dropped by the Gasoline Station at the entry road to the Ranch to fill up our gas tank on Full Tank. We panicked when a CLOSED sign poster was shown hanging at the Cashier’s counter. Jasper said that we could still pump the needed gas using her Credit/Debit Card of which we did. We were already fully-loaded and prepared for the event as we left Furnace Creek to the starting area in Badwater Basin, 17.5 miles away.
The two-lane/two-way road (one lane in each direction) from Furnace Creek to the Badwater Basin was busy with traffic due to the presence of the Support Vehicles. I drove slowly within the permitted speed from 30MPH up to 40 MPH until we reached the starting area in almost 30 minutes. We had enough time to take some pictures of the surroundings and watched the other runners and their Support Crew arrived at the Parking Area. After the usual Check-In procedures of Weighing and Final Check on the gear of each of the runners, they were advised to proceed to the Badwater Basin Sign which is on top of a wooden platform. More pictorials were done by the runners and their Support Crew on this spot while the start time was about to be reached.
Start Ceremony & Race Proper
The First Wave of Runners where Tess belongs starts at 8:00 PM and 30 minutes before that, a Simple Ceremony was held. There was a Short Prayer, Singing of the US National Anthem, and more Group Pictures of the Runners on video and still shots. Cris Kostman went on his way to shot a video of each of the runners using his cellphone while a group Pictorial was taken on them. He reviewed the runners on the cut-off times of each of the Time Stations but he emphasized that he wanted all the runners to reach Stovepipe Wells, whether they are within or not within the cut-off time. The RD is really a “hands-on” guy who treats his runners as his brothers and sisters. No wonder that this Badwater Event is a community of runners who know each other and help each other to finish the race.
Finally, the race started at exactly 8:00 PM and the runners started running, jogging, walking from the wooden platform of Badwater Basin, turning left on the concrete pavement/pathway going up to the curb of the Parking Area until the runners finally reached the left side of the road leading to Furnace Creek. The runners automatically formed a single file with reflectorized vests, blinking red lights on their back and front, and headlight on their head or using hand-held flashlight.
Each of the Support Vehicle was advised not to rush out from the Parking Area as there were Marshals who would control the traffic for all the vehicles leaving the Badwater Basin. The Traffic Marshals made sure that the Support Vehicles will not clog up with a file of vehicles along the road with short distance between each vehicle. I had the experience of being shout at by one of the Traffic Marshals when I interpreted his “hand signal” as a “go”, but instead, he was signaling me to proceed slowly and stop for a verbal instructions from him. Shit! I am a RD in the most popular ultra marathon race in the Philippines and here I am as a Driver being shout out by a Traffic Marshal??? Fuck You, Man!!! If only you know who I am.
I am reposting this blog by Pam Smith aka The Turtle Path which was posted on August 3, 2018. Pam Smith was the Champion of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Race in 2013 with a time of 18:37+ hours when Timothy Olson broke the Course Record. She finished 6th Overall and First-Runner-Up in The Female Category with a time of 28:47:53 hours in this year’s Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon.
It is my intention to write a separate blog on this particular topic as part of my observation and experience as the Chief Crew of Ms Tess Leono. However, since I am not “in the know” of the actual expenses that my runner had incurred before, during, and after the event, my estimate of expenses will be purely not exact and accurate and that is why it will be always considered as an “estimate of expenses”.
For an International Runner coming from Southeast Asia like the Philippines, a runner would add more of its expenses if he/she would pay for the flight fares of his/her support crew from the country where the runner is coming from. With an average of $1,200 per person, you can add another $4,800 to the total expenses. Merchandise and Souvenirs are not included in Pam Smith’s expenses and I would estimate another $300 for this purpose. International Runners like the Filipinos are fond of having some items for souvenir for the event like, Badwater T-shirts, Caps, Buffs or Stickers. Another thing that was not included is the Uniform T-Shirts/Long-Sleeved Shirts of the Team to include those OSHA gear aka Reflectorized Vests/Shirts and Blinkers. There is also a need to buy, at least, two (2) big Coleman Coolers, if possible, able to fit the core portion of the body of the runner if there is a need to submerge his/her body with ice water, to bring down the body temperature of the runner.
So, there you go! If you have any plan to join in one of the future editions of the Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon, you better start saving now or have a plan where to source your logistics and financial support. Good luck!
Every big ultra has its critics these days, and Badwater is no different. However, if you pay attention, almost all of the Badwater criticism comes from those outside the event; those who have participated are full of appreciation and praise. I am a cynic by nature and I admit there was plenty to make me skeptical as well. However, after participating in the race, I, too am a convert and you will only hear me say good things. That being said, the indisputable fact is that Badwater is a VERY expensive race and if this race is on your bucket list you might need to start saving a few years in advance!
Here is a breakdown of my costs. I believe I spent significantly less than the average person, but there are a few places which I noted below where you could shave off a few more dollars.
Badwater entry fee – $1500. This is probably the most criticized thing about Badwater – a $1500 entry fee and they don’t even have aid stations! This starts to make a little more sense when you are there when it finally dawns on you that Death Valley is really the middle of NOWHERE and there are no locals to help out, meaning many people have to be put up in hotels. There are a few niceties offered to runners, such as a cottage room in Panamint and a post race dinner for everyone. I will say the race had more officials for monitoring and safety on course than any race I have ever been at. Race officials found me three times to try to help me with my tracker (not entirely successful, but still appreciated) and I used the cottage room and footcare available at Panamint. Yes, the race is for profit and I am sure the RD gets a decent wage from the race, but this is now fairly commonplace in ultra running. The price is steep, but the only way around this is to pledge to raise $7500 for charity.
Crew Travel: $1200. Standard practice at Badwater is for the runner to pay entirely for the crew. This includes travel, lodging and hotels. My pacer Dennis and I drove from Oregon and crew chief Jimmy drove from L.A, significantly cutting travel costs. I paid $660 for my sister’s flight and $515 for my other pacers flight. It was worth every penny to have them there with me, but if you want to keep crew costs down, stick with three crew members instead of four and find crew that doesn’t have to fly to get to Death Valley. (Update: Others have noted “standard practice” is to pay for crew once they get to Death Valley but for crew to pay their own travel. That would certainly mitigate expenses.)
Van: $750. I rented a van for a week for $525. I was a little taken aback when the person picking up the van added the $30/day insurance; however, this ended up being a good thing as we spilled dirty water in the van and it stunk to high heaven when we were done with it. The crew also reported there were a lot of places that it was easy to open doors into rocks. Anyway, we probably could’ve gotten by without the insurance, but it was nice to know we didn’t have to worry about anything we did to it while racing.
Hotels: $1900. I had two hotel rooms for two nights in Furnace Creek and two rooms for two nights in Lone Pine, plus one extra night while traveling. Both places outside of Furnace Creek, we stayed at Best Western, which has air-conditioning (about half the hotels in Lone Pine don’t – your crew will thank you for the AC!) and a free breakfast (decreased food costs!). I got 10% off with my Costco card. I paid $127 in Fallon, NV and $141 x 4 in Lone Pine, both of which seemed reasonable. Furnace Creek is where you will pay an arm and a leg – nearly $300 per night per room – and anyone looking to save money should think about staying elsewhere and driving to the Sunday race briefing and the Monday night time start. I had my crew come in Sunday, which worked out fine in the end, but most people arrived Saturday which made for a bit more leisure time and less stressful race prep, but certainly adds to the costs, especially if that means more nights in Furnace Creek.
Gas- $500. This was 6 tanks of gas to and from Oregon, plus three tanks of gas for the van to and from LA and during the race.
Food – $500; Groceries -$150. A huge chunk of this was a $190 crew dinner on Sunday at the nicest place in Furnace Creek. On the bright side my crew didn’t do much drinking and they weren’t into dessert. 😉 I brought a lot of groceries from Oregon and several crew members traveled with food, which meant we had snacks and race food covered.
Ice- $138. That’s 200 pounds of cube ice plus two frozen water jugs. Be prepared to be gouged on the ice pricing in Panamint (and severely limited) but every place else was reasonable and plentiful.
Race Items and Supplies – $120. This is where I spent nearly nothing but you could easily rack up big bills here. Driving from Oregon meant I could bring things like coolers, sunscreen, towels, chairs, and spray bottles from home instead of buying when I got there. Critical gear includes: calf sleeves, arm sleeves, a high coverage hat, ice bandanas, and full protection sunglasses but I already owned all those things (and actually didn’t pay for any of them originally either!). I also wore clear glasses for most of the second night but I used a free pair of protective eye goggles I got from the hospital where I work. I did not buy any of the “add-ons” offered by the race, such as signs or crew shirts, nor did I have any matching team shirts for my crew (they have to be in OSHA gear anyway, so not like anyone really sees them on race day!). Next time (yes, I said that!) I will buy better OSHA gear because I borrowed and skimped and we should’ve had a little higher quality stuff. I did buy 8 red blinky lights ($28) and 10 “Biffy bags” ($25) (cheaper online than through the race) as required, plus one OSHA vest ($8), and an umbrella ($14). I was able to borrow coolers and water jugs from a local race as well as a crew member and only bought one extra large cooler at Walmart for $60.
Total: ~$6,800. That’s a hefty price tag for a single race! (Now think about the ten time finishers or Marshall Ulrich and his 23 Badwater starts – yikes!). As one friend and excellent Badwater candidate told me, “I’d much rather vacation in Europe for that kind of money.” It’s hard to argue with that, and as such, a lot of top runners will never be on the starting line of this race. However, there’s a reason this is an iconic race and it was definitely a unique and special experience.
I was surprised to see that Pahrump had been developed to a larger community of Commercial establishments and residences as compared when I first passed by at this place 10 years ago. This town is 60 miles away from Furnace Creek and it is about 50-minute to 1-hour drive. The scenery of the desert and mountains changed as we entered nearer to the Death Valley Park. Since it is mandatory for the Badwater 135 runners to purchase a Permit or Adventure Pass to stay at Death Valley Park, we have to stop in an unmanned Kiosk along the Highway and purchase the $30 Permit Pass which Tess Leono had to show to the BW staff during her Registration at Furnace Creek Registration Area. Since the place is unmanned Kiosk, you need to have a Credit/Debit Card to purchase the said Permit Pass.
From this point, you could see all around you the different colors of the rocks and mountains which I was not able to appreciate during my previous trips in this area. Five miles from Furnace Creek, on your left, you could see a large Parking Area which is the trailhead of the famous Zabriskie Point, a tourist spot in the area. However, at this period in the year with the high temperature in the area, it is very risky to hike on these spots. It was later in the day when I found out that these mountain and rocks around us were popular shooting locations of Hollywood’s Cowboy Films when I was still a child, starring Richard Widmark, William Holden and Marlon Brando in their younger days.
Finally, we reached the Furnace Creek Inn Resort which is the only Hotel establishment that you can see at the intersection of Highway 190 and the Road to the Badwater Basin. It is located on the right of the Highway. The place is now called the Oasis At Death Valley which has a Resort, Ranch and Golf Course! This is the first place where runners should go for their Registration, Body Shots/Picture with Race Bib, Group Picture of the Runner’s Team, Expo For Merchandise Items for Sale , and where to meet the other Runners for the first time.
At The Furnace Creek
There was a long line of Runners and their Support Crew when we entered to the Lobby of the Resort. There was a need to Fill-Up some forms for the whole Team and wait in line before we were told to proceed at the Registration Area, which is the Ground Floor of the Resort. The Registration and Plate Number of our Support Vehicle were also needed. After Tess submitted all the required forms and documents, we were led to the Pictorial Area where Tess “Mugshot” was taken as well as the Group Picture of Team Leono. The next step is more interesting…Shopping for the Badwater Merchandise! Badwater Rules and Regulations is very strict that we need to have Category 3 Reflectorized Outfit for the Support Crew. As compared to Category 2 Vest, the Category 3 Vest has Reflectorized bands on the sleeves. It is only the Runner/Participant who have the option to use any kind of reflectorized vest during the race.
I had a chance to greet my friend, Catra Corbett, who was at the Pictorial Area promoting her newly published book and I was able to buy a copy of her book with an autograph. One of our Support Crew was able to buy also her book and had some pictorial with her. From here it was time for us to look for our accommodation which was reserved by Tess.
One mile from the Oasis At Death Valley along Highway 190, is where our room/accommodation is located. It is called the Furnace Creek Ranch, simply called “The Ranch”! The entry road to the establishment is beside a Gasoline Station (the only one at Furnace Creek!) and a road further down along the Highway is the entry to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center where the Digital Thermometer is located. After our Check-In at The Ranch, we finally have the comfort of our bed in an Air Conditioned room. The room is a heaven for us knowing that the outside temperature was 120 degrees Fahrenheit and it was still going up later in the afternoon. The Ranch consists of rows of two-store buildings with rooms and we were designated to stay at Building 6, first floor. The rooms are designated from 500-900, of which I really don’t know if the establishment has that 400+ rooms in the said place. From afar, you could not see the buildings as this patch or portion of the Furnace Creek is the only green and vegetated area in the place surrounded with trees and palms. There is a Diner, a Golf Course, and Golf Shop/General Store where we can buy some groceries and ice, but with a higher price for obvious reasons.
After we settled in our room with our personal belongings, we went to the Diner to have our late Lunch/early Dinner. It is a walking distance from our Building but we opted to ride in our Support Vehicle because of the heat outside the building.
The Diner is big and according to Tess, it is a new structure in the place. It looks like a huge Cafeteria to me where one has to order his/her choice of food whether its Pizza, Pasta or Hamburger and some packed foods and sliced fruits. There is unlimited serving on drinks/Soda if you paid for the drinks. A Whole Pizza costs $24.00, enough to have 2 slices for the members of the team and Hamburger with French Fries at $13.00 each. The drinks must an additional $3.00 each! After our lunch, we went back to our room and waited for the scheduled Race Briefing at 5:00 PM of Sunday with only the Runner and the Chief Support Crew in attendance at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.
The whole team went to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center where there is a Hall and Seats, which looks like a Stage or a Hall where a Movie/Film could be shown. The rest of the team waited at the Lobby of the Visitor Center where there is a Merchandise Store, Museum, and Reception Area manned by The Park’s Rangers/Management. Tess and I went inside the Hall and the Race Briefing had started already. All the seats were full, some were seated on the floor at the back portion of the Hall and some were just standing on edges of the said Hall. Chris Kostman, the Race Director & Organizer was at the stage infront of a Speaker’s Podium and Microphone. He just barely started as he was relating to the audience about the history of the event and the his story on how he became the Race Director and Organizer.
His briefing progressed with a relax tone with some funny ad-libs to his briefing. He explained the reasons why the Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon Race is considered as the “Toughest World’s Foot Race” as stated by the National Geographic Magazine; writers from Outdoor Magazines around the world, and from other Runners who finished this Race. As he was talking about his mission/objective as the Race Director, he asked the audience if there are Race Directors in the audience and asked them to stand up. Of course, I was one of those who stand up because my BDM 102 is becoming popular to international runners. Until it came to a point when he called the International Runners mentioning their country and letting each runner stand up to be recognized. I cheered, shouted and clapped when Tess Leono and Philippines were mentioned by the RD. He asked the “First-Time” runners to stand up and congratulated them for being selected in this year’s edition of the event. And then asked the “repeaters” of this event to stand up, mentioning how many times they have finished and then asked to sit down until the last one, Marshall Ulrich, remained standing! Yes, he is the Legend of the Badwater 135 for finishing the event for 20 times and winning as Champion in some of the editions, I think, for four or five times!
He awarded an Award of Recognition to Ray Sanchez who finished the Badwater 135 for 10 consecutive years! Wow! And after the awarding, Ray Sanches was made to say a few words to the audience. This guy is really tough! He got a lot of applause from the audience.
The last part of the briefing is the briefing presentation on the Rules and Regulations of this race. It just a repetition of those R & R that you can read on the event’s website and the regular e-mail that a runner-participant receives from the Race Director.
Some administrative announcements had been made about what establishments along route which will be open at nighttime and early morning where gasoline, water, grocery and additional ice will be available. There are four significant places/locations where these runners’ needs will be available: Furnace Creek Ranch; Stovepipe Wells; Panamint Springs; and Lone Pine.
After the briefing, all the runner-participants were asked to assemble infront of the Digital Thermometer outside the Furnace Creek Visitor Center for the Group Picture. I took this opportunity to take some picture of the runners and talked to some of them.
Tess Leono will be starting with the First Wave of Runners at 8:00 PM of Monday, July 23, 2018. We have at least a day, 24 hours, to rest and prepare before going to the Starting Line at Badwater Basin, 17 miles away from Furnace Creek. We should be there before 7:30 PM for the Weighing, Final Briefing and Group Picture.
It’s time to rest and sleep. It will be two (2) very long days ahead of us once the race starts.
I did not have any plans of going to the Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon Race for this year or go thereat to have a visit in the US on the early or middle part of this year. But I was thinking early this year to have my “redemption” run in this year’s Javelina Jundred 100-Mile Endurance Run which is usually held on the last weekend of October.
When Tess Leono was admitted in the lottery for this year’s Badwater 135 last February, I was surprised when she asked me to be her Chief Support Crew in the event, together with some members of Team PAU (Philippine Association of Ultrarunners). I was supposed to be a part of her Support Team in her first time to participate in the event (in 2016) where she finished and unfortunately, I was not able to make it due to more important commitment within the family. Actually, my International Race Schedule had been set as early as January of this year and Crewing for Tess at Badwater 135 Ultramarathon Race was not included as I wanted to return to Arizona, USA for my redemption at the 2018 Javelina Jundred in October of 2018. With her request, I have to adjust my schedule and finances. Having travelled to MIUT in Portugal (and London, Great Britain) in March and then in TNF Lavaredo in Italy in June, it drained a lot from my financial resources/savings and I was hoping that I could save some money for the rest of the year for my October trip to Arizona, USA. Nevertheless, if there is a will, there is always a way to solve problems.
I have known Badwater 135 Ultramarathon Race since I have started blogging, moreso, when I got hooked on ultra marathon. When I thought of creating and organizing the 1st BDM 102, I extensively visited its website and read its rules and regulations. Even if I attempted to provide Aid Stations in every 20 kilometers of the course of BDM 102, I have always returned to its website as my reference. On the 2nd edition edition of BDM 102, I completely copied and implemented the Rules and Regulations of the Badwater 135 to the BDM 102. Thus, it started my interest in this event and I even went to the Badwater Basin to witness the start of the 2009 edition of the event. I made post on this blog about such experience, thereby, seeing my “idols” in ultra marathon in person!
It became more interesting when Benjamin Gaetos finished this race in 2013 as the First Filipino Finisher and and then another Filipino based in California, Thomas Zaide, finished it and another Filipino based in New York City, Gerald Tabios, would finish the race, but it was Tess Leono who made an impact and more interest on this event because she was the First Locally-based Filipino and First Female Filipino to finish the race in 2016. In 2017, Franco Soriano, a Filipino based in San Francisco, California finished this race and Gerald Tabios finished his 4th consecutive finish in this event. In summary, only five (5) Filipinos and only one Female/locally based Filipino had finished this race.
This year, it would be another history in the making for Tess Leono to join this prestigious world’s ultra marathon race.
Training & Preparation
I asked Tess if she is interested to ask for the assistance of a Professional Coach and I recommended CTS for her or any of the available Coaching Services Online. She declined my suggestion but she requested me to guide her and assist her in her training. Knowing the training philosophy of CTS, I recommended to her my training schedule with the end goal to prepare herself for the mountain climbs and to improve her performance when she finished this race. I immediately sent her two weeks of training schedule to improve her lactate threshold through hill repeats and endurance runs and I would ask her about her feedback on a daily basis. I was frustrated when she told me that she was doing these runs on a treadmill. I can not blame her since she has an office job and some trips abroad to attend to as she had deadlines from her superiors. One time, I invited her for actual “hill repeats” in my Playground, of which, I was not satisfied with her performance at that time. There was still time for her to improve and I asked her to visit my Playground regularly or on a weekly-basis. Unfortunately, that single visit to my Playground to run and train was not repeated. As months, weeks and days passed by, I would see her in my PAU Events as one of the participants and I would see in her FB posts that she had LSDs and “heat training” in Metro Manila on holidays and on weekends. From what I saw on her performance in my PAU Races for the past months, I was confident that she will be able to finish this yea’s edition of Badwater 135 Ultramarathon.
Badwater 135 Team Leono
The Team Leono was organized after Tess Leono got the word from the Race Director Chris Kostman, through a Live Broadcast on Facebook, that she was able to get in in this year’s edition. I was requested as the Chief Crew and Pacer; Khris as Assistant Crew and Pacer; Jasper as the Medic Crew being a Registered Nurse; and Madam Rowena as the Assistant Driver. All of the members of the team are Licensed Drivers but I was the only one who had been in the area, Death Valley Park, for so many times. However, it was evident that I would be the Main Driver of the Support Vehicle from Las Vegas to the event’s site (up to Mt Witney Portal) and then back to Las Vegas.
Way back in Manila when we had a chance to meet in informal gatherings, Tess would advise us on some tips on how to be a Support Crew at the Badwater 135 and we have the impression that it was almost the same with what our Support Crew are doing in most of my PAU Races, most specially on those 100K and longer distances. However, during our arrival at the Death Valley Park a day before the start of the event, we realized that a special attention must be given to our runner, considering the extreme heat in the area. Fine tuning on how we would be able to support our runner was finalized on the day we arrived and stayed at Furnace Creek Ranch.
Sunday (AM) July 22, 2018
The team left Las Vegas at about 9:30 in the morning and I was the driver using my old GPS Navigation System for my Car whenever I am in the US. Our Support Vehicle was a Chevrolet Mini-Van and took a few seconds to orient myself and know the controls, specially the Hand Brake which is actually a Foot Brake for this particular vehicle. I had a mistake of setting the Automatic Transmission to Drive not realizing that the Foot Brake was still engaged. That was my Lesson #1 for this Mini-Van; Lesson #2 was the Air-Con control; and Lesson #3 was on how to make the Automatic Transmission Control to Manual (which I learned on the steep downhill drive on our trip back to Las Vegas after the event).
With everything complete on our administrative and logistical needs in our Support Vehicles (Ice Coolers, Stove, Food, Water, and some Ice) for the event, we left Las Vegas with a happy mood but with a little nervous feeling knowing the extreme heat weather forecast to the place we were heading.
We had our late breakfast/brunch in one of the Taco Bell branches on the commercial establishments located along the Blue Diamond Highway which leads us directly to the Furnace Creek Resort Hotel. Our first activity once we reach Furnace Creek, which is 110 miles west of Las Vegas (2-hour easy driving trip), is the Check-In and Registration of Participants.
While I am still writing a full description of my 2018 Badwater 135-Mile Ultra Marathon Experience as the Chief Crew & Pacer of Ms Tess Leono, I would like to repost this article taken from the BADWATER Facebook Page. My story about my experience will be divided into parts and every detail of the story will be a description of what happened during the event from my own perspective.
Official Press Release from Death Valley National Park
World’s Hardest Foot Race Gets a Little Hotter
DEATH VALLEY, CA – On July 23-25, ninety-nine of the world’s toughest long-distance runners participated in the legendary Badwater 135. Even by Death Valley’s standards, this year’s ultramarathon was hot.
The annual summer race is widely recognized as “the world’s toughest foot race.” Extreme athletes from 22 countries and 22 American states faced off in a grueling 135-mile non-stop run from Death Valley National Park to Whitney Portal, CA in scorching temperatures.
With the hottest start line temperatures yet recorded (118⁰F), the racers began at Badwater in Death Valley National Park in three waves at 8:00pm, 9:30pm, and 11:00pm on Monday, July 23. It remained over 110⁰F through much of the first night of the race, eventually dropping to 95⁰F just before the sun came up and temperatures climbed up to 127⁰F.
With that brutal first night behind them, many runners struggled to meet the first time cut-off at mile 50.5, located approximately halfway up Towne Pass. Beaten down by the heat all night, which was also unusually humid, many were forced to stop to cool off in their support vehicles and were experiencing stomach issues and more.
As the new day began, the racers were climbing the 17-mile-long, 5,000-foot ascent of Towne Pass, as temperatures climbed to 127⁰F, setting a Death Valley temperature record for the date. The 135-mile race route includes three mountain ascents (Towne Pass, Father Crowley, and Whitney Portal), totaling 14,600 feet of elevation gain.
Twenty-two of 32 women and 47 of 67 men finished the race and earned an honorary belt buckle. This year’s winner, Michele Graglia, finished in 24:51 hours. The fastest woman was Brenda Guajardo, finishing in 28:23 hours. Sixty-two-year-old Pamela Chapman-Markle set a record in the women’s 60+ age group for the third year in a row with a time of 34:30.
Thirty of the 99 competitors were not able to finish the race this year, the lowest completion rate in the 41-year history of the event. This high “did not finish” (DNF) rate was likely due to the unusually high temperatures.
The vast majority of those who withdrew were veterans of the race and yet they still succumbed to the challenges of the course and the conditions. Notable “DNFers” included 2015 and 2016 champion Pete Kostelnick and 20-time finisher and four-time champion Marshall Ulrich.
“I’ve never seen such an astonishing number of withdrawals from the race. It was heartbreaking to see these incredible gladiators forced to withdraw from the race due to time cut-offs or because they succumbed to the incredible challenge of the race course and the extra brutal weather unleashed by Mother Nature,” commented Race Director Chris Kostman, who has helmed the race since 2000. “Of course, this race is widely known as ‘the world’s toughest foot race’ and the athletes intentionally come to Death Valley to compete during the hottest part of the year. They, and their personal support teams which leapfrog along the course to provide aid to the runners, know what they signed up for and they relish the challenge, even if they meet with DNF. In fact, seeing so many incredible athletes having to withdraw only underscores how fortunate and life-changing it is to actually finish the Badwater 135,” he continued.