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

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