Friday, July 31, 2015

The Ratched Report...

Greetings friends and supporters of Bob! I apologize for the lack of posting but the desert is not full of cell phone towers and fiber optics we take for granted in the city. Just to fill you in, Bob finished the race yesterday in 41:30 which is hauling @$$...and feet looking better than ever...

After a long drawn out post race party last night, Bob finally got some sleep and woke up to start his trek up Mt. Whitney at 4 am with Marshall Ulrich and his crew members. The sky is cloudy today, but that cools things off, and we can see the summit from town, a few blue holes in the sky are encouraging. I feel confident that Bob is in the best of company in the world on this portion of the trip.

The crew did a fantastic job, over the top, of caring for Bob on the way here. Even though Kevin Grabowski, crew chief, begged and pleaded with me not to look at the van when I first arrived, by the time he allowed me to peek at it, there was no evidence of whatever he was hiding earlier. 

Marc Drautz, Beth Stone, and Roger Burruss made up the rest of the crew and Bob couldn't have been in better hands. 

Today we are talk a day of active rest and preparing for tomorrow's jaunt, beginning our return to Badwater. The biggest challenge for Bob, I think, will be distracting him from the constants - pain in his feet. As I told him, that's a given and the key is to focus on everything else around you. Without the rush, pressure, and fanfare of the race, we should have a fun and relaxing time on the way back. 

I will most likely be posting on Facebook from here on unless we have a stretch of solid wifi access, doubtful... So please feel free to check (Alene Nitzky on Facebook) and hopefully Suzanne will share to Bob's followers. 

Thanks for being Bob's supporters and fans. He is such a wonderful human being, it's an honor to be on his crew. From here it will be Ashley Heclo, Roger, Don Nelson, and me...with the shared goal of getting Bob to Badwater to celebrate this already amazing accomplishment! 

Ratched aka Alene Gone Bad, out.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pursuing the “Badwater Ultra Cup”--2015

I admit it; I’m a “Badwater” junkie.  Don’t know how it happened, but it did!  I’ve been showing-up in Death Valley every July since 2007, and have either crewed for another runner or raced Badwater 135 myself.  Maybe it’s that special camaraderie and race culture; maybe it’s the allure of the desert and the mountains.  Whatever that magic is, I’ve been sufficiently hooked to be competing again in 2015, hoping to earn the “Badwater Ultra Cup” distinction, and attempting the “Badwater Double” at race’s end--as a bonus!  At 70, I expect to “up” the oldest-finisher “Double” record by a dozen years.

As a  Race Director myself, I know a “pro” when I see one, and no one does a better job than Chris Kostman in directing and designing extreme events.  Three years ago, when Chris announced Badwater Salton Sea, there was no way I’d miss being at that crazy, exotic starting line on the crunchy shore of Salton Sea.  A two or three-person team race that was NOT a relay, where mates had to run together for the entire 81 miles to the top of Palomar Mountain?  73 miles on road, 8 miles on rocky trails (mostly climbing), and a course that mimics the Badwater 135 route, just shorter?  I could totally buy into that; Sergio Radovcic, Matt Nelson and I were there and had a terrific experience.

When Badwater Cape Fear was announced for March 2014, my reaction was the same—another Kostman original! Racing a little over 50 miles on a pristine North Carolina coastal island that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles—10 miles on pavement through a beautifully developed second home community and 40 more on the Atlantic Ocean sand beach?  Spectacular idea!  And this not-to-be-missed ultra on Bald Head Island met every expectation. 

Now there were three: Badwater 135, Badwater Salton Sea and Badwater Cape Fear, and a new designation for completing all of them in the same year: the “Badwater Ultra Cup”.  So I threw my hat into the ring for that inaugural chase in 2014.  I had a fine race in the desert in July, finishing 50th in 39:45 at Badwater 135.  The first of the three events, Badwater Cape Fear, was a keeper, too—and, BTW, I couldn’t recommend that event more highly.  But the result for this returning veteran at the second installment of Badwater Salton Sea was not so pretty.  Illness before the race and charley-horsing calf muscles during it knocked me out of the race at the halfway point.  There would be no “Badwater Ultra Cup” in 2014.

So, “Salton Sea” for me in 2014 was quite the bummer, but being part of these races was so enjoyable that I set my sights on giving it a go one more time in 2015.  Besides, I figured that earning the “Cup”--as well as completing the 292-mile “Double”--would be fitting personal birthday gifts in the year when I could no longer deny my entry into Senior Citizenship!!  So, I returned to Bald Head Island in March and actually set a PR for the 50 mile distance.  I had the distinct pleasure of running as the teammate of Keith Straw at “Salton Sea”, and we nailed it!  And now, with just days remaining, Badwater 135 lies ahead, with that proverbial Holy Grail known as the “Badwater Ultra Cup”, just sitting there at Whitney Portal waiting for me to snatch it up!

Thanks, Chris, for all the fun—and all the material for “What I did on summer vacation”.

Bob Becker

2015 KEYS100 Ultramarathon Race Report
RD Bob Becker

The competition was excellent and the views spectacular--as always!  The 8th Annual KEYS100 race across the islands of the Florida Keys was held on May 16-17.  For the first time, a 50 kilometer competition from Big Pine Key to Key West was added to the event menu: 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West, 50 miles from Marathon to Key West and our unique six runner 100 mile team relay from Key Largo to Key West.  Nearly 1,200 competitors insured that the post-race action at the finish line on Higgs Beach kept rockin’!  From 3:00pm on Saturday until 3:00pm Sunday, runners crossed the finish line as 2,000 burgers, 7 kegs of beer, countless pizzas and more began to disappear!  And, a race tradition continued as 700 pieces of Dion’s fried chicken were enjoyed, too.  At the awards program under the huge tent on the beach at noon on Sunday, over 200 awards were presented, each hand-made in the Keys.  Picture the awards presentation stopping each time someone yelled, “Runner coming”, and hundreds of people stood and turned to cheer-in the last few of the 100-milers.  With Gary Hempsey’s band playing “Buffett” on the beach, or the post-race party at “Smokin’ Tuna” or sunset at Mallory Square, the celebration was vintage Key West, and a great complement to the stellar athletic performances along the point-to-point Overseas Highway course.  More than 75% of the race is run on the bike paths, pedestrian bridges and service roads that make-up the “Florida Overseas Heritage Trail” which parallels the roadway for most of that 100 miles.  The balance is run on the road shoulder, including historic Seven Mile Bridge.

Awards time!

Christy Johnson in the Lower Keys

170 people were registered for the 100 miler. 144 actually toed the starting line and 97 finished—a better than expected 67% finishing rate in the sub-tropical heat of the islands in mid-May.  Vanderley Pereira of Brazil beat last year’s men’s champion, Grant Maughan of Australia, for the overall win in 16:17 flat.  Women’s winner, Tammy Walther, of Little Rock, Arkansas, returning to KEYS100 for the 6th time, finished 7th overall with a time of 20:16:18.  There were exciting competitions throughout, including 5th place Zandy Mangold beating 6th place Will Glover by 17.8 seconds to take the Male Masters win.  And Jason Romero, who won the 45-49 male age range award and finished in 9th place overall.  Jason’s time was 20:31:18; he is legally blind.

The 50 mile race saw Chris Van Smith of Weston FL cross the finish line in 7:51:45 for 1st place.  Top spot among the women was Caryn Lubetsky, last year’s 2nd place finisher.  Caryn was 4th overall in 8:19:41.  Tom Drummond of Chalfont PA, Male Masters winner in 8:52:44, was crewed by last year’s 100 mile overall winner, Alyson Venti, who reciprocated for Tom’s crew support of her 2014 record-smashing win at KEYS100, and then again in July 2014 at Badwater 135..

The inaugural 50 kilometer race was added after a chorus of requests to do so, and a consensus to make the heat a factor at that distance, too.  (No “easy” ultramarathon “introductory-distance” race, this one!)  The first 50 kilometer competition began at 1:00 PM on Saturday.  David Kilgore of Palm Bay, FL, a KEYS100 rookie at age 23 and winner of this year’s 50 mile EVERGLADES ULTRAS trail race, broke the tape in 4:19:17 for the win.  Women’s winner and 2nd overall was Fabiola Morales of Miami, FL.  Fabiola’s time of 5:39:55 was only 17.4 seconds ahead of 2nd place female Caitlin Lopez of West Palm Beach.

The 100 mile team relay race produced a spectacular example of athleticism with the record-breaking performance of Space Coast Runners.   The team of Shane Streufert, John Davis, Steve Chin, William Vanos, Dan Burnett and Chris Cacciapaglia completed 100 miles in 9:07:27, beating the old record by 9 minutes in significantly hotter conditions.  This was one of those records that most thought would never be broken.  But, Team BT’s Road Warriors “unbreakable” record stood for just one year.  This was an exciting race as Space Coast Runners and BT’s Road Warriors competed head-to-head; “Road Warriors” finished 2nd.  Overall, 136 teams, including 30 military teams, raced simultaneously with the individual ultramarathoners.  Many teams offered individual runners their support, encouragement and camaraderie along the way while being inspired by the individual effort they witnessed under a cloudless, hot and humid South Florida sky.  Our unique 100-mile relay race remains an important tradition and integral part of the KEYS100 race experience.

More than 30 states and 7 countries other than the U.S. were represented this year.  The 9th Annual KEYS100 returns to the islands on May 21, 2016.  Visit for all the details, and check out the official race video from 2014 ( for an excellent overview of the KEYS100 race experience.