by Deena Kastor | Jul 20, 2010 |
Badwater was awesome. Next year I want to pile you and your friends into an air-conditioned bus so you can witness this amazing 135-mile race. You’ll be exhausted just from the lack of sleep, but it will let you know what can come of the human spirit. The racers were amazing in the most oppressive conditions I have ever witnessed. Death Valley would be a great place to visit in the winter, but mid-summer we baked in the 128-degree temperatures that welcomed our days there. The radiant heat off the pavement was 186 degrees, but if you ran on the painted white line in the road it was only emitting 168 degrees.
The white line was what we ran on. My friend Shannon is tougher than I ever imagined. She tossed aside her Prada heels and laced up her ASICS for the long journey ahead. She started the race nursing some kidney problems and blisters that plagued her in the Western States 100-miler just three weeks prior. She was not off to a good start, but persisted through the heat, hills, hot wind, cramps, sunburns, blood, puking and crying. She was chafing in all the wrong places. She phoned home at mile 17 to say she didn’t think she could make it (I think it wise not to invite her husband to witness this).
Shannon slept for 5 minutes in the gravel on the side of the road at 3:30 am, just enough time to get off her tired feet. She woke to chills from the 95-degrees that blessed us at this early hour. It was a challenging Badwater for her, but she made it from Badwater to Mount Whitney in 46 hours. To finish is a celebration all on its own, but Shannon did it in less than 48 hours to earn her 4th Badwater belt buckle. What impressed me even more is that her mascara didn’t run in the two days and two nights she was out there working, sweating and crying.
She misses the experience already and looks forward to next year. I recommend any running enthusiast to head out there next year for a running vacation just to watch this race unfold. Badwater should be on your list of things to witness before you die. I saw people out there running who looked as close to death as I have seen, but they still managed to move forward. It is a true test of human spirit and makes me believe far more is possible that we give ourselves credit for.