Madera's Oswaldo Lopez set a personal best Tuesday during the Badwater Ultramarathon.
Unfortunately for Lopez, it wasn't enough to defend his title at the 135-mile event generally considered the world's toughest footrace.
Instead, Lopez notched his third second-place finish in four years by reaching Whitney Portal in 23 hours, 32 minutes, 28 seconds. The 40-year-old was nearly 40 minutes behind winner Mike Morton of Lithia, Fla., who led start to finish and whose time of 22:52:55 was 1 minute off the course record.
Lopez also took second place in 2009 and '10 before reaching the top step of the podium last year. His winning time was 23:41:40.
At the finish line Tuesday, Lopez showed his sportsmanship by removing his No. 1 race bib and giving it to Morton, according to a Twitter post by race organizer AdventureCORPS.
The Badwater Ultramarathon is held each July in some of the most extreme conditions on Earth as temperatures Monday at Death Valley National Park reached 110 degrees.
The race begins at Badwater, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level, and ends at 8,360-foot Whitney Portal at the base of Mount Whitney outside Lone Pine. Runners must cross three mountain ranges for a total of 13,000 feet of cumulative climbing and 4,700 feet of descending.
While Morton led at all six checkpoints, Lopez did pull ahead for a short time on Townes Pass, a 16.6-mile climb with a 5,000-foot elevation gain that sits at mile 59. But by the time the leaders reached Panamint Springs (mile 72), Morton was back in front by 13 minutes.
Morton, 40, built his lead over Lopez to 45 minutes at the Darwin turnoff (mile 90) and was ahead by 40 minutes entering Lone Pine (mile 122). Lopez trailed by 58 minutes at Whitney Portal Road (mile 131) before narrowing the gap on the grueling 4 uphill miles to the finish line.
The third-place finisher, Zach Gingerich of Tigard, Ore., came in more than 2 hours after Lopez.