Madera’s Oswaldo López said he wanted to try something new after finishing runner-up for the fourth time at last year’s Badwater 135 Ultramarathon.
But the 44-year-old mariachi musician, husband and father of two couldn’t deny his passion, returning to the California desert to compete in the STYR Labs Badwater 135 for the eighth year in a row. It also marks a decade of participation for López, who crewed in 2007 and ’08 for friend Jorge Pacheco before giving it a go on his own at the endurance race the following year.
López is among the favorites to win, having reached the podium six times in his Badwater career. He won in 2011, was runner-up four times (2009, ’10, ’12, ’15) and third in 2013. He did not finish in 2014 due to stomach problems.
He’s also established himself as one of the best endurance runners ever to compete at Badwater, becoming one of just two runners – the other being Hungary’s Akos Konya – to finish the race in under 24 hours twice. López did it in 2011 (23:41:40) and 2012 (23:32:28); Konya did it in ’07 (23:47:47) and ’08 (23:49:44). In all, just eight runners have finished Badwater in less than a day’s time.
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The endurance race starts at Badwater Basin – the lowest point in North America at 280 feet below sea level – and ends at Whitney Portal, 8,360 feet up and the trailhead to Mt. Whitney. That’s a distance of 135 miles crossing two mountain ranges and three valleys for a total elevation gain of 14,600 feet.
Runners will take off at 8 p.m. Monday in the first of three waves every 90 minutes. The elite wave – including Lopez – is at 11 p.m.
Temperatures at start time are expected to be in the low 90s in the basin, while a high of 112 degrees is forecast for Death Valley.
It’s a demanding race that requires a crew of around four people to help keep the runner – and each other – hydrated and healthy for the race that takes nearly a day to complete.
López will be watched over by his official race crew of Carlos Vasquez, Winston Fletcher, Brad Castillo and Ivan Hernandez.
Together they’re up against a highly competitive field that includes defending champion Pete Kostelnick of Nebraska (23:27:10), 2014 champ Harvey Lewis of Ohio, and 2013 winner Carlos Sa of Portugal.
STYR Labs Badwater 135
- When: 8 p.m. Monday (second wave at 9:30 p.m., elite wave at 11 p.m.)
- The course: Starting at Badwater Basin – the lowest point in North America at 280 feet below sea level – and ending at Whitney Portal, 8,360 feet up and the trailhead to Mt. Whitney, runners in the process will cross two mountain ranges and three valleys for a total elevation gain of 14,600 feet.
- The field: 97 runners (72 men, 25 women; 46 rookies, 51 veterans), including defending champion Pete Kostelnick and women’s defending champ Nikki Wynd.
- Youngest competitor: Sam Weir, 25, Gold Coast, Australia. Oldest: Mark Olson, 69, Covina.
- Nationalities represented: 20
- Some of runners’ day jobs: Software engineer, yacht captain, elementary school teacher, truck driver, musician, casino dealer, and pediatric ophthalmologist
- Webcast: http://www.badwater.com/2016-styr-labs-badwater-135-webcast/
- Results/splits: http://dbase.adventurecorps.com/results