Double Badwater Finisher, Kenneth Posner
By Alix Shutello
Kenneth Posner, 51 from New York, decided to do something different this year – run a double Badwater. After completing a 350-mile thru-run of New York’s Long Path, a well-known hiking trail from Fort Lee Historical Park in New Jersey to John Boyd Thacher State Park near Albany in New York. The Long Path, a thread connecting many of New York’s parks, preserves, and state forest lands along a bucolic trail, was a the perfect setting for an ultra-athlete to test themselves in managing longer distances.
“Completing The Long Path gave me the confidence to set my sights on longer distances,” Posner said.
Also, his coach, the well-known Lisa Smith-Batchen was planning to run a Badwater Quad (which she completed, making her the first female to do so) and that inspired Posner head back out to Death Valley to attempt a Double Badwater along the original course.
To prepare for his double Badwater attempt, continued the interval work Posner uses to prepare for marathons, then integrated long runs, races, or going out and exploring interesting road routes and trails of 30, 40, 50 and even 74 miles.
“Exploring new routes turns a long run into an adventure,” Poser said. “At the same time, I experimented with different nutritional strategies and even ran some long runs without calories in order to further develop my fat-burning capability and reduce my dependency on carbohydrates.”
And to prepare for the heat, Posner completed several months of sauna training with light calisthenics to adapt his body to cooling itself under stressful conditions.
Marshall Ulrich is clearly one of the world’s most prolific ultra-athletes. He has completed the 135-mile Badwater ultra numerous times including one double and one quad crossing. In 2013, Ulrich ran Badwater and then circumnavigated Death Valley. (https://tighthams.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/circumnavigation-of-death-valley-a-go/)
Posner researched a website that tracks all known 146-mile crossings from Badwater to Mt. Whitney (https://sites.google.com/site/badwater146info/). Out of curiosity, Posner scanned the times, noting that Ulrich had also completed a Quad crossing.
“When someone pointed out Ulrich’s double Badwater time to me, it looked like it was right on the edge of what I might be able to achieve — but only if everything went perfectly. It gave me a stretch goal to aim for, helped me stay focused during training, and pushed me to give everything I had on the course,” Posner noted.
Marshall has been a huge inspiration to me (and countless others). For me, the double was about doing the best I could possibly do, out of respect for the people who came before me and showed the way. I think Marshall was excited to see someone get out there and try to improve the record. It’s part of how much he loves the sport and shows how meaningful his legacy is.
Overcoming Challenges during Badwater
Heading up Towne Pass on the afternoon of the first day, I started to run low on energy, as I hadn’t eaten a lot during the day. It’s hard to eat when it’s so hot (127 F), and the carefully selected and tested foodstuffs I had brought with me no longer were palatable. I started eating Gatorade Carbo Chews, but the sugar content was too much for me, causing an insulin spike and shutting off fat-burning and leaving me weak and quivering. I sat down on the ground and waited for my my crew to catch up. My two chiefs, Diane Grecsek and Lynne Hewett forced me to try a bunch of different foods until I found something palatable (a strange combination of hard boiled eggs and chia seeds). That got me up and moving again.
During the last night, when it should have been a flat, easy, relatively cool final 45 miles, we encountered ferocious headwinds, which blew all night. I don’t know how fast they were, but the creosote bushes on the side of the road were jumping and whipping around and all you could hear was a howling in your ears. This being my second night without sleep (only 4 hours during the entire 94 hour run) I was losing my mental focus and struggling to maintain the speed necessary to set the new record. My two pacers Deanna Culbreath and David Staley made a huge difference by getting me to run forward (slowly) into the winds — something I didn’t think was possible until they showed me the way.
From these two examples, you should be able to tell that my crew played an enormous role in helping me overcome challenges and without their decisive contribution, there would not have been a new record. Dan Khalili, Chris Dooley, and Laura Casner were the other members of the crew.
Did anything unexpected happen during the race?
The headwinds (blowing from the south) were unexpected. But since I had been out on the course three times before, I was able to plan for and execute the course with a good understanding of the challenges.
What were three good things that came out of your completing this distance.
This was a tremendously positive team experience. We had an ambitious goal, a detailed plan, a team of good people who were all committed to the mission and who all made different contributions to getting it done. This left us with a very special feeling about the experience.
As part of the run, I was able to raise a little bit of money for New York Road Runners Youth Programs, which organizes running instruction and events for young people in underserved areas, who may not have much access to organized sports at school or in their neighborhoods. In today’s sedentary world, it’s really important to get the next generation introduced to fitness, not only for health reasons, but so they can develop that spirit of focus, discipline, and determination which is so important in life. Anyone who would like to learn more about or support these programs can visit my website http://www.runwithtfk.org/Member/PublicPage/3176
Beyond Batwater. Preparing for the Future
Posner is currently training for the New York City marathon, hoping to shave another few seconds off his time. He’s also researching some other possible adventures…looking for records that seem impossible, and possibly finding ways to beat them. But that process, Posner notes, is still in the works.