I woke up at 4:00AM, prepared my things, took a shower, and before 5:00AM, I was already on the road with my wife towards Badwater, California. It was still dark and the street of Los Angeles were clear and I was the only one on the side streets near our place before hitting California State Highway 101 North and later merging at Interstate Highway 10 East after leaving the City of Los Angeles. (Note: US Highways are designated with odd numbers if they go North to South or vice-versa and even numbers if they go West to East or vice-versa)
Well, it had been a long time that I did not drive a car. In the Philippines, I still have my driver to bring me where I want to go in Metro Manila and when I am in Laoag City. But once I am here in the United States, my son or my daughter or my wife becomes my official driver/s and I rarely drive while I am with my family. However, I am a holder of a California Driver’s License which I had renewed regularly since I got it after my schooling in Fort Benning, Georgia and having stayed with my family in Los Angeles for a few months in the early ’80s.
For today’s trip to Badwater, I was made to drive the car as my son and daughter have their respective offices/jobs to attend to plus their scheduled attendance to a Coldplay Concert in Los Angeles on Monday evening. Driving in the US is very easy and efficient unlike driving in the Philippines. Where on Earth (except in Europe’s Autobahn) would you experience driving for hours with an average speed of 80-90 miles per hour? Yes, that was my speed along Interstate Interstate Highway 10 East and later hit Interstate Highway 15 East. Sometimes, I would increase to 100-110 MPH but my wife would remind me that I was way above the authorized 75 MPH speed. She would not like to pay a fine of $260.00 for speeding. That would be equivalent to the price of a Newton and an ASICS Running Shoes!
After one hour of driving, we have to stop at Barstow to fill up the gas tank of our Toyota RAV 4, bought ice cubes for our Coleman Ice Chest where I placed a lot of bottled water, Red Bull, Gatorade and fruits, and we had coffee to go. After 15-20 minutes stop at Barstow, we were on our way to Baker, California, as our Gateway to Death Valley National Park, where we would leave Interstate Highway 15 North and hit California Highway 127 towards north going to the center of Death Valley National Park.
This is California State Highway 127 after leaving Baker, California. At this point, I still had 110 miles (176 kilometers) to go before reaching Badwater Basin, the Starting Area of the Badwater Ultramarathon. There are no structures along the way as it is preserved as a National Park because of its desert and unique land features and mountains.
Driving along CA Highway 127 was a bliss and fast as I was alone on the road. I think I had overtaken two vehicles and met at least 3-4 vehicles on the opposite way for the distance of almost 60 miles before turning left to California Highway 178. CA Highway 178 goes directly to the heart of the Death Valley Park and I had to travel 25 miles along this road until it became an ordinary asphalted road without any center divider line to separate the opposite lane. The CA Highway 178 ended to become the Badwater Road.
At the end of CA Highway 178, there were parts of the earth/soil which were washed away from the mountain and desert due to flash floods and rains on the middle of the road and it made our trip slower for a while. However, once we hit the Badwater Road, we could see the lowest part in the whole United States and we seldom met any vehicle along the road. For almost 45 minutes, we were alone along the said road with a temperature reaching to 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. My wife became nervous as we did not see any other vehicle for almost 30 minutes except when we had a sight of a Ranger Patrol Car parked on the side of the road.
I was confident that I had the right direction and I was always asking my wife what is the time as I estimated to be at the Badwater Ultramarathon Starting Area in 4 hours and 30 minutes to include our brief stop along the way. I was thinking that I had to reach Badwater at 9:30AM with my estimate of our travel time. And suddenly, the Starting Line was on our sight after a long curve on the road.
I arrived at the Badwater Basin at 9:25AM and I was happy that I had still 35 minutes to take some pictures and time to mingle with the elite runners and later witness the start of the 10AM elite runners group on the 31st rendition of the Badwater Ultramarathon.
The Badwater Ultramarathon Starting Area is a small Rest Area or Viewing Area of the Badwater Basin along the CA Highway 190 which has a parking area good for about 50 cars, toilets, and a wooden elevated stage where the elite runners had their group picture before the start of the race.
The following were the pictures taken before the start of the Badwater Ultramarathon.
This is the only shaded area at the Starting Area where the race organizers would take blood samples, conduct brief medical check-up and weight-in to all the runners/participants.
This is the elevated wooden structure on top of the Badwater Basin where a small amount of water is left on the sides. Fifteen minutes before the start, all the 10AM group of elite runners had a picture taking and at the same time served as their final meeting place and got their final instructions from the race manager. Sports photographers, media, relatives, friends, and crew members were infront of the runners taking pictures. I observed I was the only Asian and spectator for the 10AM event as the rest of the crowd were the race organizers, marshalls, medical staff, members of the family & friends of the runners, and members of the crew of each respective runner/participant.
From left is Akos Konya (with white cap) who is 33 yrs old from Oceanside, California and a native of Hungary, Dean Karnazes (#4), and Pam Reed (with black shorts). These three elite ultramarathoners are the favorites in this race. Konya finished 2nd last year.
This tall guy is David Goggins (#3) who carries the brand The 100 Mile Man. He is the present US Record Holder of the most number of miles ran in 48 hours (203.5 miles). He is presently a member of the US Navy Seals and he has an impressive record in ultramarathon for the past two years. He finished #3 in last year’s Badwater Ultramarathon.
Well, this is the Best Picture For The Year. A pose with The Ultra Marathon Man, Dean Karnazes. I will post another story later on my brief chat and meeting with Dean Karnazes.
Aha! Another Best Picture For The Year! A pose with Pam Reed, The Ultra Marathon Woman. I will be posting another story about my brief meeting and chat with this wonderful lady.
Konya and Goggins at the Starting Line. Here are two contrasting apparel of two ultramarathoners where one is wearing a white long-sleeved shirt with cap and another wearing a dark-colored singlet for an ultrarun with a temperature reaching up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit on daytime.
I counted 32 ultra runners for this 10AM group out of the 80 runners who finally accepted the invitation of the Race Organizers to run this event. There were no prayers before the start of the run but they had to play and sing the US National Anthem (Star Spangled Banner) before finally starting the race.
And there they go! The start of a 135-mile distance in 60 hours along California Highway 190 and 136.