Across a Desert and Up a Mountain

When a friend asks you to do something incredible, even though you think you’re not ready you still say, “Oh Hell Yes!” This was the case with Badwater Salton Sea. I had no illusions that this was going to be as easy one, but knew that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to run a Badwater event without having to do “the big one” AKA  Badwater 135. Plus the distance it in nicely with TRT100, so why the heck not?!

The timing also fit in nicely with training for TRT aside from the whole road vs trail thing, the time on feet would be good for me!

Michael and Tom both volunteered to be our crew and Cinder volunteered to not only do our shopping, but to bring and drive the van the whole way. That makes coordinating things a bit easier and we won’t have to shop for supplies in San Diego when we get in and before heading to Borrego Springs.

We land in San Diego, make the drive, check into the hotel and find some food and maybe some touristy stuffs, there are apparently huge iron sculptures in the desert out here. We find a visitors center and get the low down on where to go for the best ones. Off we go and silliness ensues!

But seriously, these things are pretty sweet!

After a couple hours, we head back to the hotel for the runner check in, packet pickup, and race briefing.

Fun times in the desert being silly!

Grab some dinner, our traditionalglass (or 2) of wine and bed down for a restless, nervous sleep.

O-dark-thirty, that beep beep of the alarm sounds and off we go. Cinder has made us oatmeal breakfast and we do our best to get down what we can on the drive out to the startline on the beach of the Salton Sea. I try to commit the landscape to my brain on the drive out there as well be running this exact stretch back to Borrego Springs.

The start line is pretty cool, it is on the beach of the Salton Sea which if you’ve never been, it is a strange, strange place! I’m told we’re lucky this year, the beach isn’t covered with dead fish and bird skeletons…..lucky me.

249 feet below sea level my watch says!

Team Stray Dogs, aka Feral Cats!

Girl, I wouldn’t be here without you, thank you for believing in me!

The gun goes off and off we go through the remains of Salton Sea and head towards the road. Man this place is strange. Giant entrances to once spawling yacht clubs with no buildings left, and desolate looking houses clearly loosing the battle with time and dust. The quicker we get out of here the better.

The day goes by in a haze of keeping pace, keeping cool, eating, drinking, peeing, and being the marble.

Dang, it is hot.

We’re going through 2 handhelds (one with water, one with Tailwind) each about every 3 miles, but we’re getting there and staying on pace. Once it heats up around 9am the appetite tapers off, but gel is still easy so I’ve at least got that going for me.

We finally settle into our Ultra Shuffle and are finally starting to feel like were getting somewhere.

At least there haven’t been any dust storms….well not really…..just that one right before Borrego Springs…..

Finally starting to see houses, trees, and that left turn to Borrego Springs Resort was a gift from the heavens! We’re well ahead of the cutoff and make in and out of the resort checkpoint quickly to get going to the trail head. Somewhere between here and there the crew runs to find some real food, I’m really looking forward to some real food at this point.

Highly motivated by the peospect of french fries we head towards town and meet up with the crew at the roundabout to put down some fries, snacks, a Coke, and more water.

Up a long slow hill to the trail head and some clouds are starting to form, thank freaking goodness! At the Trailhead we sit for a bit, grab some snacks, soup, a change of socks, and change into some dry clothes that will be warm as we navigate the next 8 miles of mountain trail. The irony is strong changing into long sleeves as we just came out of the blistering desert, but as always I trust that Jill knows best. Packs are stocked with 2L of water, rain jackets, beanies, gloves, headlamps, reflective gear, and any remaining bit of space is packed with snacks. The next 8 miles should take us about 4 hours.

Off we go!

So happy for dirt and climbing as opposed to the road and flat. Jills feet are hurting but we settle into a good hike and chit chatting about how stoked Jill is to be ahead of pace for how precious years have gone, the cactus, the trail, the clouds…

About a 1/2 mile in, those clouds we were so thankful for 30 minutes ago are starting to turn a bit more ominous. A lightning strike, a clap of thunder and the heavens open up. It rains for quite sometime, but at least it isn’t super cold out and the cool raindrops feel heavenly on my legs. We don our rain jackets and keep hiking forward!

One thing I can say is that the cacti are AMAZING! All different kinds and colors, and I don’t know if it is the time of day (dusk) or the spring rain, but most of them have bloomed bright beautiful flowers. Absolutely spectacular!

It’s pretty slow going up, and up, and up, and up but we keep on keeping on. Jill keeps marveling at how far ahead we are than she usually is when she’s run it in the past. This is good news, means we’re still making good time even though I’m starting to feel like dead weight. After quite a bit of work, and more than one grumble from me we start to head down the other side almost out of the trail and back to the car, it’ll be nice to get rid of my pack. I’ve since run out of water and food, so the crew will be a welcome relief as well.

We hit the road and the van, another sock change and a snack and we’re on our way. It is nice to have the sun go down, but it is getting chilly, chillier than I expected. Down, down, down we go, headed towards the Ranchita Yeti that marks the 50 mile mark!

The Ranchita Yeti!!

Most of the early night is a blur, lots of peeing, fighting for calories and trying to stay warm.

We make it to the bottom of Palomar Mountain, 12 miles to go but I am deep in calorie deficit. The crew gets some soup in me and we start the long walk up a freaking mountain. I am deep in the pain cave, but Jill doesn’t let up on me, keeps a hard pace and doesn’t let me spiral too far. I’m thankful for her determination and strength, if only I could get more calories in me.

We’ve only gone 5 miles, and we’ve lost some time due to my slowness, but Jill is relentless and gives me one of her hardass pep talks and doesn’t let me quit.

We started this as a team, we’re finishing it as a team.

I get some calories in me, a sandwich and a Coke and feel energized, we even start running again. If we motor, we might make it is 24 hours! Motor, motor, motor, I’m doing my best and Jill is incredibly patient.

Dawn is coming, and I’m looking forward to the day, we probably won’t make it in under 24 hours, but it’ll be close!

Up and up and up, a beautiful view of the ocean, up and around, and civilization! HoooRay!

One more hill!

Well it’s up a driveway, but at this point anyrhing that isnt flat or downhill I’m counting as a hill!


Buckle in hand, bam!

We head down, back the way we came to catch a couple hours nap before the race breakfast and am soooooo thankful to be done!

A shower, a nap, back up to the finish line for some breakfast and we head down to San Diego. I’ve got a hankering for a beer and some salt water on my aching toes!

We find some beers at Ballast Point Brewery and meet up with Karen. The silliness of being up for so long, running so far, and a couple beers ensues.

A couple hours before we have to catch our flight back to Reno and we set off to find some salt water for those toes!


All in all, it was a great experience. I got to spend a weekend with my husband, my best friend, her husband, and the incredibly generous Cinder who gave up her weekend to come drive and crew for us!


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