Racers are lacing up their running shoes, trying on their Dri-Fit shorts and getting ready to compete in what organizers call "the toughest foot face in the world," a 135-mile, mid-summer run across Death Valley National Park.
The annual Badwater 135 Ultramarathon returns July 28 to its regular route after a nine-month safety assessment by the National Park Service forced the race to find another venue last year.
Race coordinator Chris Kostman said he‘s excited the event is returning to the California park 100 miles west of Las Vegas.
"It‘s an epic, iconic, historic route, trod since 1977 by the world‘s toughest and most committed athletes," Kostman said.
Mike Reynolds, superintendent of the National Park said he‘s also happy to see the race return to Death Valley.
"We are looking forward to hosting these international athletes and ensuring a safer experience for all future events," Reynolds said.
Last year‘s review was launched to examine and improve the safety of the race and other permitted events held on roads in the 3.4 million acre park. Park officials and event coordinators will now only allow one vehicle with four crew members per participant instead of the usual two due to traffic congestion during the race.
Average temperatures in Death Valley range between 110 and 115 degrees in the summer, with lows around 90 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Summertime highs of 120 degrees or more are not unusual.
The nonstop race starts at about 280 feet below sea level and finishes at the trailhead for Mt. Whitney, 8,300 feet above sea level. The 135 mile course crosses three mountain ranges in between for a total 14,600 feet of ascent and 6,100 feet of descent.
Joaquin "Toro" Candel is participating in the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon for the fourth time in the six years he‘s been running marathons, and he said heâs prepared to combat the heat. His crew will carry multiple changes of clothes, different size shoes and gallons of water for him during the 48-hour race.
"From mile 42, you can have a pacer run with you," he said. "During the day, they carry a sprayer. They can spray you down (with water) up to a point where you‘re soaking wet. Three minutes later, you‘re bone dry."