Showing posts with label Badwater Ultra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Badwater Ultra. Show all posts

The 2015 Badwater Ultramarathon is Underway

The 2015 edition of the Badwater Ultramarathon got underway yesterday with 90 runners setting out from the tiny town of Badwater in Death Valley. The classic race takes endurance athletes across 135 miles (217 km) of some of the harshest environments imaginable as they run to the Mt. Whitney Portals in temperatures in excess of 100ºF/37ºC.

As with most ultramarathons, the distance is a big part of the challenge. But with the Badwater, it is also about the vertical gain. The race starts 280 feet (85 meters) below sea level, and rises to 8300 feet (2530 meters) above sea level at the finish line. Along the way, runners must negotiate their way across demanding desert landscapes, through difficult valleys, and up mountain passes. Those that complete the grueling run will end up with a cumulative vertical gain of more than 14,600 feet (4450 meters), with the fastest runners completing the run in less than 24 hours.

The runners departed last night in three different waves, with the first setting out around 8:00 PM local time. The second set of athletes took to the course at 9:30 PM, with the final wave hitting the road at 11:00 PM. Traveling at night helps to lessen their exposure to the heat, but today temperatures are expected to hit 113ºF/45ºC out on the course.

If you have followed the Badwater over the past couple of years, you probably remember that in 2014 the race was forced to take an alternate route because the National Park Service had implemented a bad on endurance events taking place within national parks while it evaluated safety requirements. This year, the Park Service allowed the runners back in, but mandated the overnight start to help mitigate the danger.

Some critics have said that this could put the athletes under more stress however, as now they'll be heading into the hottest part of the day already fatigued. In the past, runners would start fresh, but take on the heat early, with the cooler temperatures arriving just at the most opportune time to refresh the runners. That won't be the case this year however, as they'll now be 50 miles (80 km) into the race when things really start to get hot. How this impacts the results remains to be seen.

If things go according to form, the first runners should reach the finish line as early as this 7:00 or 8:00 PM this evening. Others will stagger in over the next day or two. As always, it'll be interesting to see how things play out in an event that has been called "the toughest footrace on Earth."

Badwater Ultramarathon Returning to Death Valley

One of the big stories from the ultrarunning world earlier this year was the news that the Badwater Ultramarathon had been barred from taking place in its traditional environment – Death Valley National Park. In an effort to increase safety throughout the park, a comprehensive review of all events taking place within Death Vally was conducted, which included a number of running and cycling competitions. While that review was taking place, the Badwater was forced to use an alternate route for the 2014 event, and for a time it looked like that route could become permanent. Last week however, it was announced that the race will return to its traditional route in 2015, with only a few minor changes to operations.

In August, a report on the findings for the safety review in Death Valley indicated that sporting events taking place in the month of July – when the Badwater traditionally is run – could be permanently banned. That's when the temperatures in the park are at their hottest, and conditions are most dangerous for those participating. At the time the report was released, the future of the ultramarathon continuing in Death Valley looked grim, and it seemed it wouldn't even be able to start in the small town from which is garnered its name.

But now it seems the Park Service has granted the Badwater a reprieve, and the event will take place more or less as usual. The 2015 edition of the race will be held July 28-30, with a route that begins in Badwater Basin, 86 meters (282 feet) below sea level, and ends at the Mt. Whitney Portals located at 2530 metes (8300 ft). Along the way, it covers some 217 km (135 miles) through one of the harshest, driest environments on the planet.

Race officials indicated that the Badwater would have a three-wave start, with runners setting off in the evening. They indicated that participants wouldn't notice any other significant changes to the event, although behind the scenes there has been more bureaucracy and expense taken on by the AdventureCORPS team that puts on the race. Other than that however, it is business as usual for the ultra-event.

It's good to see the Badwater return to its traditional home and route. The event was never in danger of going away, but for decades it has been run along the route from the basin to Mt. Whitney, and it is nice to see it able to continue along that path. I commend the National Park Service for taking safety seriously, but the AdventureCORPS team has been running this race for a long time, and they have proven time and again that they know what they are doing. Safety remains a chief concern of all involved, and will continue to do so as long as the Badwater continues to operate.

Badwater Ultramarathon Banned From Death Valley

Update: It has been pointed out to me that this ban is leveled at events that take place in Death Valley during July, and isn't for every event that takes place in the park. The text below has been updated to reflect this.

The Badwater Ultramarathon is one of the toughest races on the planet, thanks in no small part due to the fact that much of its 135 miles (217 km) length crosses through the desert in Death Valley National Park. For years, the race started in the town of Badwater and ended at the Mt. Whitney Portals, drawing some of the best endurance runners from around the world to compete. But now, the National Park Service has banned the event from taking place inside the park altogether, changing the very fabric of this iconic event.

The news of the ban came a few weeks back, creating disappointment within the ultra-running community, even if it wasn't necessarily a complete surprise. Earlier in the year, the Park Service instituted a temporary ban on events taking place within national parks in order to evaluate them for safety. That forced the 2014 Badwater Ultra to create a new route that didn't put race organizers and runners in conflict with the NPS. When this year's event took place back in July however, there was still hope that the ban would eventually be lifted. This new ruling – signed by Death Valley National Park Superintendent Kathy Billings – makes it permanent.

The primary reason for the ban is concerns about safety issues. Death Valley is one of the hottest locations on the planet, with temperatures in the summer routinely exceeding 110ºF/43.3ºC. Prolonged exposure to that kind of heat can put any visitor to the park in danger, let alone athletes attempting to cover more than 100 miles during the hottest time of the year. There also appeared to be some concerns that the Badwater would take part at night, when visibility was low and there were fewer park service staff members on duty to deal with potential issues. Responding to calls for assistance could be greatly delayed, raising the questions about overall safety even further.

It should be noted that this ban isn't just leveled agains the Badwater Ultra. Death Valley has hosted between 10 and 14 sporting events each year, and any of them scheduled to take place in July, when the heat is at its worst, will not be allowed to take place. Of those, the Badwater is probably the most well known, but others could be affected by this ruling too.

This year, the race started in Lone Pine, and followed the edge of Death Valley towards the regular route up Mt. Whitney. The new route added some further challenges with more climbs, but the spirit of the race remained the same. It is possible that this route will now become the one that is used moving forward. The race will likely continue to keep its name, even though it will no longer begin in Badwater as well.