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TEC BADWATER 146: 1992


Last year I had
the honor of participating in this event and the satisfaction of finishing
11th out of 14 starters and finishers; I was 6th of 7 who went to the top of
Mt. Whitney. This year I was 7th of 14 starters and 13 finishers and I was
4th of 5 who completed the course. The race starts at Badwater, Death
Valley, at 282 ft. below sea level and goes on paved roads 135 miles to
Whitney Portals. That's about 5 marathons end to end. About 70 of these
miles are flat, 20 down hill (5,000 ft. of descent) and 45 up hill (13,600
ft. of ascent). The hiking portion of the event starts at the Portals (8,300
ft.) and climbs to the top at 14,496 ft. in 11 more miles making the total
of 146 miles from the lowest to the highest points in the contiguous United
States. Then, there is the descent of 11 miles back to the Portals. The
trail portion, therefore, is 22 miles long, which I refer as marathon #6 for
the event, making a total of 157 miles and adding 6,200 ft. of ascent and
descent. It should probably be called the Hi Tec Badwater 135 or 157 instead
of the 146! What goes up must come down!

To get into this

race one has to be invited. I wasn't sure if completing the event one year
qualifies for being invited the next year. I kept training, doing about a
marathon a month. I did a few ultras as well as a cross country ski marathon
at Mammoth Mountain, California, and the first ever roller blade marathon
which was held last fall in Orange County, also in California. I did an
endurance bike ride from Death Valley to Whitney Portals for the 8th year in
a row and the "Death Ride" in Markleeville, Alpine County,
California, for
the 4th year in a row. I had received a phone acceptance from Dave Pompel,
Race Director, and several months earlier. In the meantime I heard he had
left Hi Tec and went to Reebok. Chris Stai was now the Race Director, so I
sent him a letter to see if I was going to receive an invitation for 1992.
In the meantime, my wife, Denise, and I decided to go to Tanzania, in East
Africa, to train for this race. This is the reverse of what other runners
do; the East Africans seem to want to come to New Mexico and Colorado to
improve their performances and do altitude training. I wanted to participate
in the Inaugural Kilimanjaro Marathon which was scheduled to take place on
06 28 92. I went two weeks before that date to climb Kilimanjaro. This
mountain is about 100 miles south of the equator where it is hot all year
round. The climb via the Marangu Route starts at the National Park
Headquarters at Marangu Gate at 6,000 ft. The first day climbs five miles to
the 9,000 ft. level to Mandara Hut and goes through the rain forest. The
second day climbs ten miles to the 12,300 ft. level to Horombo Hut and
ascends through the heather lands and moor lands. The third day climbs
another ten miles to 15,520 ft. to Kibo Hut coursing the lunar/alpine
landscape. This is where the altitude begins to hit. I live in Lone Pine,
California, at 3,700 ft. and two weeks before the trip I went 13 miles
westward to Whitney Portals and slept over night at the 8,000 ft. level. I
think that this really paid off on Kilimanjaro and later on Mt. Whitney. I
did take Diamox 250 mg. about four times a day while above 12,000 ft. I
never had a headache or nausea during the whole time on Kilimanjaro, as well
as on Mt. Whitney. I did develop a slight cough on the descent, which went
away after getting below 13,000 ft. The secret on the final ascent was to
follow the guide who does this about every week and go "pole,
pole", which,
in Swahili, means "slowly, slowly". Lift one foot up about three
inches and
slide it forward about one foot. While doing this, take a breath in through
the nostrils while taking one step and then exhale through the nostrils
while taking the next step. Do this continuously ascending 10 ft. per minute
climbing 600 ft. per hour and finally 3,000 ft. in six hours. This brought
me to the rim of the Crater of Kilimanjaro (Kibo) at Gilman's Point (18,600
ft.) by sun up at around 0700 on the fourth day. I used this technique of
coordinating breathing through the nostrils and taking short steps on the 13
miles going up the Portal Road from Lone Pine to Whitney Portals and then
finally on the 11 mile trail from the Portals to the top of Mt. Whitney. I
only had three weeks between getting back home to heat train before starting
at Badwater. When I got back to the States, my invitation letter was waiting
for me.
On 07 04 92 I went
to Badwater with Tom Crawford and Richard Benyo. They had previously done
the "Death Valley 300" which is the out and back from Fire to Ice
and back
to Fire. That is the Badwater to Whitney and then back to Badwater. They,
and Rhonda Provost, of the Northern California Ultrarunners Society, felt it
appropriate to make me the Mayor of Badwater. I have lived in Inyo County
for the last 29 years and have had a medical practice in Lone Pine and Death
Valley during this time. I have covered the course by car many times. I have
taken care of many residents and tourists in the area and have encountered
most of the problems that can occur. There is heat exhaustion and heat
stroke as well as flash floods and sand storms in Death Valley. Sidewinders,
coyotes, ravens, scorpions and tarantulas are on a constant search for the
unaware. Traffic accidents and break downs are common on the course. In
fact, just today I got a call from the Inyo County Coroner's office to do an
autopsy on a 72 year old man who died of massive head injuries in a dune
buggy accident on a road 2.7 miles from the race course! At the other end
are problems of hypothermia, sudden blizzards, and torrential rains,
lightening strikes, rock slides and avalanches. They felt I was the best
qualified for the job. There was no other competition, so it was cinched
from the beginning. The National Geographic Explorer film crew met us there
at noon on the 4th of July for a touching ceremony in the 130 degree heat
and in a 40 mile per hour south wind. It was too hot for the assassins who
were reported to be arriving. After a five page ceremony performed by Tom,
Richard and Rhonda, I read a two page acceptance speech. I promised to give
equal rights to all beings trying to survive in this territory, whether it
is man, animal, bird or insect. I was "pro choice" giving equal
opportunities to any of these creatures wanting to perform some daring task
in these conditions. After I was installed as the Mayor of Badwater and my
wife, Denise, being recognized as the First Lady of Badwater, we went on a
10 to 15 mile heat run/slog/walk toward Furnace Creek Ranch.
Over the next
two and a half weeks I did daily 10 mile track work outs at 15 minutes per
mile in temperatures of 90 110 degrees. While doing this I tried to take in
2 liters of fluid per hour and about 500 600 calories per hour, which just
about makes up for what has been lost as it is being lost. This is important
during the trek from Badwater. Following body weight and, at times, rectal
temperatures are important, but sometimes a nuisance. The main fluids I used
were Ultra Fuel, club soda, lemon lime soda, Classic Coke and water on the
rocks in an insulated Camelback pouch with a tube with a nipple like end; I
refer to it as my pacifier. The main solids were fig newtons, pretzels, gum
drops and at times a turkey and cheese sandwich on dark bread.

On 07 19 92, I
went to Stovepipe Wells Village at sea level in Death Valley. This is at the
41 mile mark of the course and was where Richard Benyo was getting a
farewell party before attempting the "Death Valley 300" which was
to start
at Badwater at 0700 on 07 20 92. There was a crew meeting and the strategy
of the event was covered in the 120 degree heat of the day. We had a great
pasta feed. The film crew was also present and interviewed Marshall Ulrich
and me prior to our event which was to start on 07 22 92 at 1800.
In the next two
days I got my gear together. My cobbler, Rod Ayers, rigged me with some
cleats to wear on my shoes to insulate my feet from the hot pavement and
sand and also to protect my Morton's neuroma. Bev Kritz, of La Florista,
supplied some fake palm trees to be part of my traveling oasis. Dwight Van
de Walker, my mortician and funeral director, arranged for me to purchase a
casket (body removal tank) which I kept 3/4 filled with water for cooling
off during the run. I picked up 20 cases of Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring
Water donated by the C.G. Roxanne Bottling Company in Olancha, California,
to be distributed to the participants. I also arranged for "Special
signs to be stationed on the highway by Caltrans, notifying traffic that
runners would be on the road. Then I got the U Haul truck from Don's Texaco.
This would hold all of my paraphernalia during the next week.
On 07 22 92,
race day morning, my crew and pacers had assembled. Denise, my wife, of
course, was already present. Her daughter, Angie Nealy, and her friend,
Bruce Pottenger, arrived from Bishop, California. Race walker, Dave Thorpe,
and his friend, Charlie Stalnaker, from Newport Beach, California, drove up
in a Mercedes. There was a final inspection of the U Haul truck and we were
off for Death Valley. On the way we came upon Richard Benyo along Owen's
Lake at about the 110 mile mark on his way to Whitney. An inquiry was made
regarding the loss of brain cells and we wished him a successful journey.
Others were there to have him autograph his book "Death Valley
300". I also
brought along copies of his book and sold 11 of them on the course. There
were refreshments served at a meeting place at Furnace Creek Ranch from 1400
to 1500. The runners and crews and pacers began to assemble. We got our race
packets with bibs, Hi Tec hat, water bottle and the Hi Tec shirt for 1992.
Extras were available and more could be ordered. We will also be able to get
Hi Tec products at the employee discount! Everyone was introduced. This year
there were six repeaters from 1991 and three from 1990! In the future, it
may be hard to get into this event since Hi Tec wants to keep the number of
entrants relatively low.

Then we drove 17
miles south to Badwater. Our group picture was taken. We then toed the line;
however, I used the chair reserved for the Mayor. Eventually, I rose from
the chair, adjusted my safari hat, shook the wrinkles out of my Cool Max
pajamas, and issued "high fives" to the well wishers and then
strided out at
my 15 minute per mile pace. I literally walked the whole way but did trot
once for a few hundred yards for the Geographic film crew while going down
the west side of Towne's Pass. I also "sprinted" the last few
yards when I
arrived at the Portals. Marshall Ulrich started out doing 8 minute miles and
at about 80 miles almost caught the bicyclist from Minnesota who was
pedaling the course for the second year in a row. Jack Christian, from
Oklahoma, was sick before the start and dropped out after 17 miles; he
finished in '90 and '91. Steve Kerr, from the United Kingdom, became sick at
17 miles, but he and returnee, Jack Denness, also from U.K., re entered the
race and finished before the 60 hour cut off at the Portals. Steve paced and
crewed for Jack the year before. Harry Deupree, from Oklahoma, who never
gets blisters, did get blisters early and managed to walk the rest of the
way with his pacer, Jim Hargroves; Jim took pictures for the first few miles
and then did 99% of the race on foot with Harry! (He deserves a finisher's
buckle; however, he wasn't an official entrant). I had the pleasure of
traveling from Stovepipe Wells at 41 miles up hill 5,000 ft. to the top of
Towne's Pass with Bob Givens, one of the three Texans. He wanted to trade
crews with me, since, at that time; I had my wife and her daughter with me.
He liked the way they sprayed him down! On the second day at 1500 I was on
the east side of Panamint Valley at the 2,000 ft. sign and got bussed to a
reserved room at Panamint Springs Resort. I was there for 4 hours and had a
solid sleep for 2 1/2 hours. I avoided the hottest part of the day and a lot
of glare while trekking westward by taking this time out; same as last year.
Robin Smit, ophthalmologist from Fresno, California, slept for several hours
at a time in his RV; he was planning to do the out and back! We exchanged
positions a few times. John Shehadey, also from Fresno, and Keith Pippin,
from Arizona, made rest stops at Panamint Springs Resort. Keith had paced
Marshall Ulrich the previous two years and knew the course well and had a
good strategy. The night got surprisingly cold between Padre Crowley Point
(80 miles) and the 138 190 Highway Junction (104 Miles) requiring extra
clothing. I wore my reflective vest at night and had a red strobe light
flashing on my hat. The crew could spot me from a mile away! Along Owen's
Lake I could see that I was gaining on two runners/walkers. After about 15
miles I came upon Randy Spears, another Texan, and Jürgen Ankenbrand, a
German now living in Southern California. He participated in the 1990 event
and this is when I first met him as I was an interested observer that year.
We have been in quite a few events together and have become good friends. I
influenced him to do the Mt. Everest Marathon and now he wants to do
Kilimanjaro. Further along, I met Richard Benyo, who was returning from Mt.
Whitney and was at about the 182 mile mark of the 300 mile course (he
eventually finished in 157:50 breaking his old record of 170:58); I was at
110 miles. We again commented on brain cell deterioration and had a dialogue
for the Explorer film crew. Next, I did Immersion II for them. My crew
prepared my casket under the palm trees in the U Haul truck. I did an
immersion getting my Cool Max suit completely drenched. I remarked that if I
couldn't make it out, just keep me in the body removal container and get me
to the nearest crematorium. Then, have my ashes spread out along the course
from Badwater to Mt. Whitney, perhaps in next year's race. Within one more
mile I was barely damp and in another 1/2 mile I was completely dry again! I
got to Lone Pine (122 miles) and the Chamber of Commerce had arranged a
reception for me at the main intersection. I quickly finished my hamburger
and milk shake and attached some colorful balloons to my safari hat. I then
ran the gauntlet! What a thrill to have that support! It gave me a real
boost. I then headed up the Portal Road using my Kilimanjaro technique for
13 miles. I asked the crew and pacers at this time to finally be quiet
because I felt I was reaching the irritable stage that ultra runners talk
about. For a while, I thought I could catch Keith Pippin, but I didn't. I
did extend my lead on Randy and Jürgen. By this time, Marshall Ulrich, who
was doing the course for the third time, set a course record to the Portals
by 16 minutes. He and his pacers, Pete Munding and Willette Senter, were
delivering pizza to me when I was near the end. Mike Sandlin, the third
Texan, was the third finisher at the Portals, Bob Givens was fourth, Keith
Pippin was fifth and Robin Smit was sixth. The film crew was at the finish
tape as were my gang and other curious observers. I was a little more than
an hour slower this year in 51:04, but my finish position was better. It
wasn't quite as hot this year. The tail wind was greater, however, for the
first 40 miles and I think that that is when some of the others got into
trouble with dehydration and blisters, thereby slowing them up.

After doing some

battle damage assessment, I crashed for 7 1/2 hours. Then we all went to
PJ's for a huge, high cholesterol (especially LDL cholesterol) breakfast. A
movie company was in town filming "Joshua Tree". I felt a little
about what I was eating, as Dolph Lundgren was at a nearby table eating
oatmeal and bananas and drinking apple juice. We had a squad meeting at the
Dow Villa lobby and got each others addresses and autographs and took
pictures. There were a lot of memories shared from the previous 2 3 days.
I then prepared to
do the Mt. Whitney climb, even though my feet felt as if they had been
spanked continuously for 135 miles. The night before, I had to crawl from
the bedroom to the bathroom! We hit the trail at 1015. Joe Franiak, from
Canoga Park, California, who was second to the Portals, had already been up
and down the mountain being the first to the top this year. He was sort of
the mystery man, because no one seemed to know him and hardly anyone saw him
other than at the start. There were two optional trails he used, but the
others used the highway for the first 135 miles. Maybe one doesn't get too
much recognition by being too fast! Robin Smit headed up the mountain
earlier and I saw him on the trail at Trail Crest as he was heading back to
Badwater. He was second to the top this year. He eventually made it back to
Badwater in 124:20:30 and became the third person to complete the
out and back course; he beat the best time posted by Tom Crawford of 126:34.
Marshall Ulrich was third to the top, I was fourth and Steve Kerr was fifth.
The other eight finishers to Portals didn't do the hike/climb.
I felt good about
my performance last year as I became the 36th person to complete the course.
I am also the next oldest at age 58 and now at age 59 to complete the
course; Richard Kegley did it in 113:09 at age 68 on a solo attempt. I am
6'5", weigh 190#, work full time and train about an hour each day. I
that I get by fairly well, or may just be lucky, with that foundation. This
year my feet did suffer! It was as if they got spanked for the 300,000 paces
steps I took from Badwater to the top. Next year I might try moon boots
filled with some of those left over Dow Corning breast


AT 1800 ON 07 22 92 IN DEATH VALLEY AT

Time to Portals Time to Whitney

01 Marshall Ulrich
26:18 * 69:50 (3rd)
02 Joe Franiak
29:25 39:46 (1st)
03 Mike Sandlin
04 Bob Givens
05 Keith
Pippin 48:52
06 Robin Smit
49:24 68:21 (2nd)
07 Ben
Jones 51:04 72:08 (4th)
08 Randy Spears
Jürgen Ankenbrand
10 John Shehadey
11 Jack Denness
Kerr 58:19 72:30 (5th)
13 Harry Deupree
* New course record (old
record 26:34 by Marshall Ulrich)
Ben and Denise Jones