Badwater Salton Sea: 81 Miles of Wind and Heat

Badwater Salton Sea 2018 Race Report

I arrived to the start line early on Sunday. The sun was starting to paint a pink line along the eastern hills and reflect on the water. The air was thick with noxious sulfur. The sky was clear with no chill in the air. I had missed the briefing Saturday due to getting mandatoried at work. I hadn’t slept and although exhausted my 2 day taper had me anxious and excited to run.

We used a Lincoln Navigator for our crew vehicle and had 3 crew members, one for each team member. I had Lauren, Ray Sanchez had Sergio Medina and Jared Fetterolf had Candy. We started with 11 gallons of water and 100 pounds of ice. We all brought our own food and nutritional plan.

My team arrived at the start and we started getting the vehicle organized while discussing strategy. Ray convinced us to start slow at a 9:30/mile pace and just maintain it throughout the day. We knew the Anza Borrego trail section and Palomar mountain finish would be difficult and slow us down. Our main goal was to win and get that golden Badwater ticket for 2019. Secondarily, we wanted to beat the course record.

We had to weigh ourselves, get a GPS tracker, take pictures, national anthem, and we were off. Dead fish snapped and cracked under our feet as we ran the first quarter a mile. The first 7 miles were flat and unsupported. I wanted to Run It Fast, but was kept focused and under control by Ray. At mile 7, we saw our crew for the first time and quickly shoved some calories in our mouth and grabbed new water bottles. We sent them 3 more miles down the road and continued on. We followed that routine for 18 miles and were probably in 6th place.

The weather was becoming warmer and drier and so we started using ice bandanas. Around mile 20 the wind started really howling. Suddenly we had 30 mph headwind and were running uphill. The wind zapped my energy and my legs felt heavy and sluggish. I started feeling frustrated and was falling behind Ray and Jared. We attempted to use Ray as a windshield and slowed down but I just felt tired. My mind started turn towards doubt and negativity, “you didn’t taper enough,” “you didn’t sleep enough,” “you’re weak,” etc.

I made the decision to take a minute and eat more calories and drink an entire red bull. I was reborn, my low last 4 miles but never returned.

The heat had us seeing our crew more frequently. Around mile 34 we were getting close to a main checkpoint. Jared was starting to fall back a bit. Something was wrong. Suddenly Jared began projectile vomiting with the ferocity of a head injury. It was a lot of liquid. Clearly heat stress was affecting his ability to absorb the liquid he consumed. We limped him into the aid station and started the process of getting him well again. He was dizzy, pale and thirsty. We cooled him off and started rehydrating him. Fed him mild bland food and ginger. We left walking and spent the next 5 miles at that pace.

At mile 40, we reached the parking lot of the Anza Borrego trail section. The wind was still whipping us in the face. At this point we were passed and went from 1st place to 2nd place. It’s always slightly demoralizing getting passed halfway through the race. Last year the trail section was a shit show. No one brought enough water and multiple teams fell apart. Not wanting to repeat that mistake our crew met us with hydration vests filled with copious amount of water. We were hoping to cover the 9 unsupported miles in 2 hours and instead it took us 3 hours. The course record had slipped away as had our lead.

The wind storm we endured is almost indescribable. The first 3 miles you gain 2300’ of vert on technical sandy single track. I am not a fast hiker and my legs screamed again. We would reach a ridgeline through a saddle and almost get knocked down by the wind. Back down into another valley and back up to another ridge. The wind was around 50 mph sustained at points. Imagine running a single track with 4 foot cactus on both sides while the wind attempted to blow you into the spines. Ray took some damage in one of his knees. For me, the wind made the runnable sections almost unrunnable. I was frustrated. I couldn’t listen to music because my earbuds kept blowing out, not that I could hear the music over the roar of the wind. Inevitably, we survived, came off the trail, and continued on down the road.

We could start to smell the hay in the barn. We were about 8 minutes behind first place with 50k to go. We had a gradual downhill through some picturesque cow filled grassy hills. We were making no progress on catching 1st place and the damn wind was relentless. Pushing downhill and barely hitting 10 minute/miles.

Around mile 60 we put all our night gear on: headlamps, 2x blinking lights and vest. This section of road is my least favorite. The shoulder disappears and the road is busy with speeding cars in both direction. It doesn’t last long but at night you definitely get a couple jerks in cars nearly clipping you.

Finally we started making progress on 1st place. 8 minutes turned into 6 minutes. We started strategizing about the last climb to the top of Palomar mountain. We agreed that we would run the entire 12 miles. And then we saw it. The wonderful red blinking lights in the distance. It reinvigorated us even more and we really started charging. The last turn at mile 69, we were 60 second behind. It got steep quickly, but we could taste the blood in the water and it drove us faster and faster up that mountain. We overtook 1st place with positive encouragement and never looked back.

Relentlessly, we grinded up that mountain without stopping. It hurt so freaking bad. It’s the kind of pain you have to really work for, you can’t buy it or rent it, you have to earn that pain. And earn it we did. Around mile 75 we entered a cloud. Scattered rain with limited headlamp visibility made the climb seem even longer. Mentally I was picturing the nice downhill bomb to the finish. That downhill never really came. It tapered off and flattened a bit, but then we were climbing again. The new finish would be at the top of another climb. Well played Chris Kostman. Nothing easy about this race.

16 hours and 16 minutes after we started we finished. Running to the finish holding an American Flag, just as the 3 of us had done in China two year earlier. We won the 3x team race and each received a 2019 Badwater golden ticket.

We couldn’t have done it without our crew, we had the easy part, all we did was run.

Smile or you’re doing it wrong.

Andrew Glaze (RIF #658)

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This post was written by:

- who has written 1071 posts on Run It Fast®.

Joshua Holmes has completed 204 marathons/ultramarathons while running 100+ miles 43 including races such as the Badwater 135, Western States 100, The Last Annual Vol State 500K (3x). He is the founder of Run It Fast, the most driven club on the planet. His favorite races to date are the Vol State 500K, Badwater 135, Barkley Fall Classic, Catalina Eco Marathon, Chimera 100, Across The Years, Savage Gulf Trail Marathon, Strolling Jim 40 Miler, Tunnel Hill 100, RUTS, EC100 and the Flying Monkey Marathon in his home state of Tennessee. Follow @bayou Follow @joshuaholmes on Instagram

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