Fayetteville: Todd Baums describes going the distance in Badwater Ultramarathon

I'm Todd Baum, a Fayetteville resident, and this is the story of my foot race from Badwater to the Mt. Whitney Portal.

The Badwater Ultramarathon started Monday July 23. With the start line at Badwater, Death Valley, the course rises from the lowest elevation in North America at 280 feet below sea level. After a grueling 135 miles of paved roads, the race finishes at Mt. Whitney Portal at 8,360 feet. The Badwater course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 13,000 feet of cumulative vertical ascent and 4,700 feet of cumulative descent. The Portal is the trailhead to the Mt. Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous United States.

The team

Each entrant can have up to two vehicles and six crewmembers. My wife Laurel, Jim Costello, Margaret Hartmann, and Ben Clardy went to the start with me. Pat Riccardi stayed back in Furnace Creek with the other minivan in case of vehicle failure in the desert heat. The two vans would stay in touch via satellite phones to arrange for necessary ice and supplies as needed.

I was standing on a starting line, feeling a little like I didn't deserve to be part of this Holy Grail of marathon running. A committee of five felt otherwise -- this 49-year-old from Fayetteville was in the company of the best ultra marathoners, adventure racers and mountaineers in the world. The French, German and Spanish languages seemed as commonplace as English.

Cloudy skies allowed me to comfortably run the 42 miles through Death Valley before reaching the Panamint Range. Temperatures started rising to 114 degrees in the Badwater Basin and Furnace Creek. The crew kept me cool, every mile spraying my Sun Precautions shirt and restoring my ice hats and collars.

After Stovepipe Wells, the road began ascending the Panamint Range. I walked strong through 2,500 feet. As I approached 3,000 feet, I was out of gas. Looking back on things, it is apparent that I wasn't taking in enough calories.

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