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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Respect the desert ! (or else...)

I wish I could put into words what the heat really feels like out in Death Valley. It's not hot.... it BURNS!!! It HURTS!!! and you can't escape it.

"If you don't respect it you won't survive it." MO

I went to the desert this last weekend to spend some time training with Monica Otero... the first Brazilian (and even South American woman) to qualify for this most difficult of foot races.

Badwater is a 135 mile ultra marathon across the hottest place in North America, Death Valley. It starts at a place that is -282 feet below sea level and finishes 135 miles away 8,000 ft above sea level on Mtn. Whitney.

Here's a link to the Badwater sister race held in Brazil every January. I'm planning to compete in January 2008 BR135 . There are 4 Brazilians who did the BR135 race this year and are coming to the United States to run Badwater on July 23rd.

  • Monica is the only woman,
  • Valmir Nunes (won the Brazil 135 in 27 hours),
  • Adilson Jose, and
  • Manoel Mendes (trying for a third time to finish Badwater).
Also coming is a good friend of mine, Marcio Villar from Rio de Janeiro who also finished the Brazil 135 race and has competed well in ultras all over Brazil including a 6 day stage race through the Amazon Jungle. Marcio will be a crew member/pacer with me on Monica's support crew.

It's a long drive from Utah to the middle of the Mojave Desert in California...and you see lot's strange things along the way...hehehe

It was sooooooo hot trying to take this picture. I remember thinking my ears and eyes were going to just burn up.

The names of all the places here are very fitting !!!

This pool served to wet us down before training and to cool us off after hours in the heat. Most of the people there are just tourists and would ask why we were out running in that heat....I really wonder what they thought about us :)

In my right hand is a pressurized garden spray bottle to keep us damp from the dry hot wind.

You can't see it very well here but we just ran through a sand storm....see the sand behind Monica flying across the road?

Ouch!!! It's hard to even breath. Wearing a scarf over the mouth and face helps you breath if you can keep it wet.

Stovepipe Wells is about mile 41 on the Badwater Ultra course. This is wear Monica is staying for the month before the race to adapt to the desert and aclimatize herself. It's winter in Brazil right now!

You would think that training at night might be a relief...naaahhh, it's still just freak'n hot.

Monica's room. Valmir Nunes will be staying here with her for the week before the race.

This is a guy we met who was in Stovepipe Wells training just for the weekend. His name is Gary Hilliard and is the Race Director of the "Mt. Disappointment 50/50 Endurance Races"
he hoped that Monica would stay after Badwater and run his race on Aug. 11th.

The most interesting thing about these two people meeting (despite not being able to comunicate without me as their translator) was to watch the two of them compare their Cancer surgery scars on their stomaches. Both are cancer survivors and amazingly strong people!

Just like the Wild Wild West...... got it right, it was only 10:28 am and temperatures were already 120 degrees F (50 C)

This is an old Borax mine from 1881....don't even ask me how those people could live and survive out here w/o ice and cold water like we can get today. It boggles the mind.

Furnace Creek is the first section of the Badwater course. It's 17 miles from the starting line and only -190 ft below see about 100 ft higher than at the start :)

That water behind us is apparently "bad" water....hence the name Badwater, but I didn't try drinking any to confirm that rumor, lol.


Monica pulled the tire for the first 30 minutes of her 6 hours long training in tempuratures that reached 130 degrees in the afternoon.

Man....these roads go on and on and on and on and on and on.....etc

You guessed it....she found a pit stop...hahahaha Behind her were deep dry riverbeds.

If there's one place on this EARTH you don't want to have your car break's here in Furnace Creek, Death Valley....hahaha. Poor lady :(

6 hours later Monica finishes her trek from Badwater to Furnace Creek. It's crazy to think that's only 12.6% of the whole distance she will cover in 60 hours just two weeks from now.

Next to me in this picture is a lady named Maria Lemus, she's from El Salvador and ran the Badwater 2006 race finishing in an amazing 39 hours placing 4th overall among the woman's field.

Next to her is the great Jorge Pacheco, from Mexico....this guy has raced and beat Akos Konya in a few 50 and 100 milers and even won the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Championships in Texas in 2006 with an unbelievable time of 13:16:56 See results

Pacheco is a humble guy and this is his first year at Badwater and could win, however he says he only hopes to place in the top 5 and finish within 25 hours.

The mens competition this year at Badwater will be the most fierce and unpredictable EVER!!! With:
  • Scott Jurek (Badwater winner last two years coming back for a 3rd victory)
  • Valmir Nunes (Brazil 135 winner and world renoun Ultra runner)
  • Akos Konya (runner up last year at Badwater and amazingly fast guy in the heat)
  • Dean Karnazes (Badwater winner and veteran and the guy who just ran 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states last year)
  • Jorge Pacheco (Hoping to finish Badwater in 25 hours...mind you the course record is 24:36:08 Scott Jurek's 2005 time)
This years race could go to any of these guys....although I'm cheering for the Brazilian to win it :)

This is the uphill after you leave Stovepipe Wells that climbs to Towne's Pass at nearly 5,000 ft above sea level.

All things must come to an end and my time with Monica this weekend came to an end too. She's in great spirits and I know she'll do well and finish the race within the 60 hour cut off time.

On my drive home from the desert I got stranded in Cedar City, Utah due to the Interstate 15 being shut down because of Utah's worst wildfire in history. The next day they re-opened the freeway and I was able to return home and take these pictures...

Can you see the helicopter?

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