By Norm Albert
I have to admit -- this one turned out to be more 'extreme' than I anticipated -- a bit 'over the top' even for me. My Badwater experience went extremely smoothly. I was shocked to finish in just under 43 hours (42 hours and 46 minutes) or 5+ hours faster than my 48 hour goal. My great 7-person crew kept me well fueled and ahead of the affects of the heat by switching out my iced-down cap w/ drape, bandana, and long sleeved jacket every mile during the most intense heat of the day -- from about 0900 to 2000 or so on Monday. Our thermometer built into the minivan reached 123 degrees, even though the official temp only reached the teens! I consumed tons of water, gatorade, soda, V-8, Ensure, Boost, chips, cookies, fruit, pudding and an occasional PB&J or turkey sandwich. My feet hurt like heck (still do), though I only changed my shoes out once the whole way. In the end, it was quite the team effort and definitely the most satisfying endurance accomplishment ever! You just don't burn the same calories treading water 64 hours for a Guinness World Record or swimming 26 miles to Catalina Island!!
The real adventure (the 'over the top' part) began about three hours after finishing Badwater, as I started up the Mt Whitney trail to do another 22 miles round trip (hoping to finish in about 12 hours). Well, 23 hours later (or 81 hours after the start of Badwater on Monday), I returned to the Whitney trailhead, just as the rescue crew (w/ dogs) had formed up to start their search! Though we were running behind about three to four hours from where I thought we'd be, I made a wrong turn coming down from the summit, just after I'd sent my pacer on to the bottom to reassure folks everything was going ok. That was a bad decision, considering I hadn't slept in over 60 hours. Well, the next thing I remembered was waking up the next morning -- figuring I'd slept in the wilderness the night about about 7 hours (I don't remember even lying down). With no clue what happened to my camel pack with cell phone (except for trying to dial 911 sometime during the night) and digital camera (w/ all my Badwater pictures), I spent about 4-1/2 hours Thursday morning looking for my camel pack (since I knew I needed water to make it down), then headed down the trail after I got oriented in the right direction. Eating snow on the way, I ran into my sister-in-law, Toni, and a forest ranger about half way down the trail. After asking me questions like, "Can you tell me your name?" "What day is it?" "Who's the Undersecretary of the Air Force (just kidding, we haven't had one in awhile!!)", I drank a bunch of water and consumed a few salt pills before they walked with me to the bottom.
So with the two other places I actually got lost on the mountain, I figure I ran 162 miles in the course of 81 hours -- with about 7 very cold hours 'sleeping' in the wilderness. Dummy me, next time I'll carry a GPS receiver and a satellite phone. I've only had three assignments in the Air Force working GPS and SATCOM! Ok, and I'll never run alone more than two days without sleep -- key lessons to remember!!
[Editor's Note: Like most Badwater entrants, Norm was running for a charity. His was Azalea Charities, Aid For Wounded Soldiers. If you would like to give, contact Norm.]