I wrote over a month ago how I signed up for the Badwater 267 VR Elite. This is one of the more strict virtual races with some excellent oversight to make sure competitors are actually doing what they say they are. And what is that? Running 267 miles in 16 days (or less). Here is what happened!
Finished the Badwater 267 VR Elite
I have done a few different virtual races over the last year as many races transitioned to such a structure due to Covid-19. However, each of those would actually send out your marathon medal and packet before you even ran the race. It was completely on the honor system.
What Is the Badwater 267 VR Elite?
The Badwater 135 is known as one of the most difficult races in the world, covering 135 miles from the floor of Death Valley to the portal of Mt Whitney in July (you can read about my experience in this awesome event as a pacer/crewmember here). The same crew that puts this on also has two other events in the US and with all three together, it equals 267 miles. So, this prompted the Badwater organization to offer something pretty extreme – a virtual race that would have competitors cover 267 miles in under 16 days and rank the runners by total elapsed time of running.
Unlike the other virtual races, each competitor had to sync a tracking device with Strava and then input that exact information from Strava into the race website. Competitors also had to take photos of themselves during/before/after the run and of their tracking device post-run to show the run details. Sure, people could still find ways to cheat (by having a friend run the distance and then just take photos after) but it was much harder than doing it in other races. Only the competitors that could prove they covered the distance within 16 days would be eligible for a one-of-a-kind Badwater buckle.
My Goals For This Event
I had signed up for this with the idea that it would give me something to train for during what is typically a harder time of year for me to get out and run. This is due to the lack of an actual race I am training for/allergies/etc. With a lockdown in place here (but movement for exercise allowed), this allowed me to participate in this as it gave me a way to move around outdoors that I would not otherwise have been allowed to do.
There were cutoffs for various distances during the race, just like for each of the three races that they represented. The Badwater 135 through Death Valley has an actual race cutoff of 48 hours. With that little tidbit, here were my race goals:
- Goal “C” – Finish!
- I mean, we are talking about running an average of 16.7 miles a day, every single day, for 16 days!
- Goal “B” – Beat the 48 Time of Badwater 135
- Goal “A” – Beat 45 Hours
I was hoping that I could hit Goal A as that was half of the total cutoff time for the event and it was a nice round figure of 10 minutes per mile. The runs were tracked by elapsed time. This means that if you go out to run 20 miles but stop your watch while going to the bathroom, getting a drink, catching up with a friend, etc, the total time from when you pressed “start” until you ended the activity was counted – not just the time that you had it running for your actual running.
This meant that anytime spent waiting for cars, drinking, bathroom stops, etc would all count towards your final elapsed total. So, I thought 10 minutes per mile was a good, challenging goal for the whole thing.
My Actual Race
I played around with a few different strategies, based on how my body was reacting to running such a distance each day. To put things in context, elite level marathoners (Olympians, world champions, etc) typically run between 120-150 miles per week so this was in that ballpark. But, they also run quite a bit faster so their actual time on their feet is less than what most competitors in this race would be doing.
I started with a 20 mile run followed by a 2 mile walk that evening with family. This had been my goal – run 13-16 miles each morning and walk about 2 miles with my family at night. But, unseasonably cool temperatures along with wind played into this and it caused the evening walks to not work out.
So, I eventually found that doing like 10 miles in the morning and then 7 miles or so in the afternoon/evening worked best. For the first week, my overall pace per mile was about 9:30. I was very surprised to find that my training (more on that in another post) had really worked wonders for my fitness level and my heart rate was staying between 125-135 bpm for these runs. Not only that but I was rarely sore and always felt strong.
I did run into one problem and it was tendonitis in my left foot on the top. This was due to shoes that had no more life in them but the pain was severe enough one evening that I thought I may be done with the race, just 5 days into it. Fortunately, switching out to a different pair solved that problem.
On the second week, I decided to pick up the pace a bit. Remember, this was a race! I really wanted to finish in the top 25% of the competitors. With 200 runners, this meant finishing 50th place. I had felt so strong the first week that I did not want to leave anything inside of me when it was all done. My second week, my average pace for the 120+ miles was 8:45 per mile. Again, this actually felt quite comfortable with my heart rate staying in the low 140s.
I also found that the best formula on week 2 was going to three runs a day. I would run like a 10 miler in the morning and then some mix of 5+5, 6+4, or 7+3 in the afternoon to finish the day with 20 miles. I had the goal to finish one day early, on day 15, so this is why I went to 20 miles per day.
With the finish in sight (it was actually the last 40 miles!), it became a bit hard to rein myself in! I just wanted to get out there and pound out the miles to finish. I did 22 miles on Friday with the last two runs of the day having about 1.5 hours of separation between them and being 10ks each. I finished in around 50 minutes for each and went to bed ready to go the next day.
I woke up on Saturday with just 18 miles left and I was pretty excited! I was going to do two 5 milers and then meet up with a friend for the final run. Instead, I felt so good on the first run that I just did 10 miles at once – all at a 8:05 pace. I called this the longest finishing “kick” ever! 🙂
I met up with my friend a few hours later, totally pumped and ready to go. We went out for the last 8 miles at a 8:20 pace and he asked if I wanted to pick it up a bit. With 2.5 miles left, we took it to a 7:20 pace. Remember, this is after running 265 miles in the past two weeks – I was very surprised I had this in me at this point!
We finished the 8 miler in a quick time that brought my overall race pace down to 9 minutes and 6 seconds for the 267 miles. I finished in 40 hours, 29 minutes, and 38 seconds of total elapsed time for the race. This was good enough for 33rd place overall.
Suffice it to say, I was pretty surprised and very pleased with the result! I did miss 32nd place by just a minute (which I did not know until later because he finished the next day) but I was still happy with my time!
The Badwater 267 Elite was a great experience and one which I learned a lot from. There were some amazing competitors in this race like the winner that ran the whole thing with a 6:08 pace, the runner who ran 10 sub-3:20 marathons in a row, a runner who came back from 5 days of sickness to finish with over 50 miles on the last day and so many more! You can see the standings and see photos and notes from each runner on the official race results page here.
Since I am a numbers guy, I will be doing another post, breaking down things like calories burned, race numbers, and more – these are things I like to write about even if no one reads them! But, if you are a metric person, you may find it interesting!