Badwater: Running 135 Miles Across Death Valley

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Today on the show I sit down with my ultra running friend Josh Spector to talk all things Badwater.  Widely accepted as the “World’s Toughest Foot Race”, Badwater is a 135 mile running race across Death Valley — the hottest place on Earth, where temperatures average 120+ in July and can reach as high as 130 F with pavements temps typically in the 170-180 degree F range.

Starting at Badwater Basin — the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level, approxmately 100 invitation-only runners from across the globe begin a jaunt that will take them across bleak and scorching desert terrain as well as three formidable mountain passes, including the culminating 13-mile ascent up the portals of Mt. Whitney — the highest peak in the lower 48 — to finish at 8,300 feet.

Yeah – it’s that insane.

I had the honor & privilege of being a member of Dean Karnazes’ crew this year, along with Jason Koop, Brandon Friese and Nathan Peerbolt.  Together we paced, fed, hydrated and generally did all we could to help Dean complete this unbelievable race for the 10th time.  It was an extraordinary experience — one I won’t soon forget.

Simultaneously, Josh — himself an accomplished ultra runner with three 100-milers under his belt — returned to Badwater for his third crewing experience, this time for runner Ray Sanchez.

In this episode we swap stories about the experience, giving the listener a rare peek at exactly what it’s like to have a front row seat at what I have to say is one of the most incredible displays of the indomitable nature of the human spirit I have ever seen — and will likely ever see.

Enjoy the show.

To view a Flikr photo gallery of the journey click HERE — most images by Nathan Peerbolt with a few by Brandon Friese.  I took the GoPro pics.

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  • KenZ

    Here’s a shout out from one of the many plant-based runners at BW135 this year (#94). Didn’t know you were there on Dean’s team or I would have said hi; am a big fan. We all shared the road for a bit on the climb up Towne Pass (I was singing up much of it, and my crew member “Captain Underpants” got some good photos with Dean.)

    • richroll66

      Def Leppard! Awesome man. Had no idea – very cool. Congrats on the run!

      • KenZ

        Thanks! Don’t know what part of my rear end I pulled that result from, but I guess easy pacing works. Loved rockin’ out on the climbs, and you guys were great. Dean was a super star too; he was like “Hey, my crew is right up ahead, do you need any water? Spray? Food? What do you need?” What a great guy.

        Sorry we didn’t get to meet up, but I’m sure we will in the future. Your podcast is great; I LOVE the stuff with people who have different views, like Brian MacKenzie. Or Vinny T. There is a common enemy, and it is processed junk. Vegan vs Paleo vs Pollan-esque vs whatever is just in the noise; you first have to eat clean.

        If you’re ever in the Bay Area (you or any of your friends/family), you’ve got a place to stay with us!

  • Monique

    So I am at work listening to this and burst out laughing (sympathetically) at poor Deano’s reaction to that guy wanting to get into the coffin. Thanks for sharing your incredible experience. I have nothing but the hugest respect to anyone running and crewing this race. Chapeau!

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  • Scott Ormond

    Hi Rich, very entertaining podcast. Dean is pretty cool. Do yourself a favor and buy a pair of Hoka Bondi B 2’s and give them an honest try. Your leg pains may go away and will definitely enjoy something out of the box. I am running the Leadville 100 on August 17th in Hokas. Time to bring the hot stuff. 4 am go time. All the best buddy. scottyO-Aspen