Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Badwater ultra marathon

It's getting to be that time of year again where I scare myself with stories of races like the Western States 100 and the Badwater race across Death Valley, both in California.

I saw the article below posted to runningmania.com and that got the cycle going again for me this year. My measly miles don't feel so bad when I consider what others do for training. I'm out the door on a coolish cracking clear day for my run.


A long, hot run
...Guelph man earns spot in ultramarathon

June 30, 2009
Tony Saxon
Record news services


Geoff Linton went looking for the next challenge and found it on a 135-mile stretch of sun-baked Nevada nowhere.

In two weeks, the 47-year-old Guelph resident will take part in the Badwater Ultramarathon -- a 217-kilometre race that proudly boasts it "starts in hell" and, quite frankly, doesn't get much better. A two-day run on a stretch of highway that starts 85 metres below sea level, goes through barren desert where daytime temperatures hover in the 51 Celsius range, and ends with a 15-km climb up the side of a mountain.

"They tell you to run on the white lines of the road so that your shoes don't melt," Linton said.

One question: Is he crazy?

"I get that a lot," Linton says with a chuckle. "But this is it. This race is the Mecca for ultra-marathoners. I've done 22 ultras (100-mile races) and I was looking for the next challenge. It's really about seeing the boundaries of what your body and what your mind can do.

"It's almost a spiritual experience."

Hamilton's John Rennison ran the race in 2007, finishing in 37 1/2 hours.

"The hardest part is that coming from Canada, you just don't deal with that kind of heat. It's difficult to prepare," Rennison said.

Part of Rennison's training involved wrapping himself in fleece and a tuque on hot days, as well as jacking up the car heat every time he drove.

Linton has gone a step further, installing a sauna in his garage and pulling in a stationary bike where he goes for hour-long rides several times a week.

Linton, a married father who runs Inbox Marketer, an email marketing company, is a lifelong runner. He ran his first 100-mile race in 2000 and "was hooked."

"The crazier the run, the better the race for me," Linton said.

Just getting into the Badwater Ultramarathon, which was listed by National Geographic magazine as the world's toughest race, is almost as hard as running it.

Runners from around the world apply and must prove they are worthy. Having worked as a crew member for another runner at Badwater in the past helps your cause. This year there are 78 runners -- 17 of them women -- ranging in age from 19 to 67 and representing 17 countries. Linton will be one of 38 first-timers.

Linton has worked as a crew member for other runners, including Rennison, the past two years. His own crew this year includes fellow Guelph ultra-marathoner Luke Hohenadel, who will occasionally run beside Linton to help with pacing, as well as supplying support from a car.

The race begins July 13 in Badwater, Death Valley, Nev. It ends between 22 and 60 hours later, depending on your speed, at Mt. Whitney Portal, Nev.

There is no prize money, just the "Badwater belt buckle" for those finishing in less than 48 hours.

"It's such an extreme environment," said Linton, who once lived in Africa. "I've lived in heat before, but it was nothing like this."

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