A Major Accomplishment on Two Feet

August 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: blister care, Health 

Some of you may have followed the recent saga of Lisa Bliss’ solo, self-supported Badwater Solo crossing of Death Valley on the Badwater Ultramarathon course. Lisa is one of the strongest women runners I have met. – and this solo adventure proves it.

Lisa started at Badwater, the lowest point in the United States at -282 feet, and covered the 135 miles to the Mt. Whitney portal in just over 75 hours. Then she made the climb up to the summit of Mt. Whitney at 14,494 feet, the highest point in the lower 48 states, about another 11 miles. All without any support from another person – no extra food or water, no help of any sort.

Lisa's taped feet

Lisa's taped feet

Lisa has two great, well-conditioned feet. This picture shows the tape job done by Denise Jones before her start. That’s it. A single strip of Kinesio Tex tape across the ball of the foot, with a piece of Hypafix tape cut in a figure 8, holding the leading edge down. Denise is fantastic at taping, being very careful to avoid creases or folds in the tape, and making sure all edges are secure.

The second picture is of Lisa pushing her 240 pound cart through Death Valley. The cart carries all her water, food, clothes, and other essentials.

Lisa pushing the cart through Death Valley

Lisa pushing the cart through Death Valley

The third picture is of Lisa on the way of the Portal Road. This is probably around mile  132.

Lisa on the Portal Road

Lisa on the Portal Road

The fourth picture is taken very near the “official” finish line of the Badwater race, the Whitney Portal at 8371 feet. At this point, the road part is done. This is where most of the Badwater runners stop. But the official solo rules include summiting Mt. Whitney. So the cart is stowed and the hike to the summit starts.

Lisa reached the summit and became only the second person to have completed a solo, self-supported run on the Badwater course. Lest you think Death Valley is flat, you might be surprised to find out there is a long 15-mile uphill from Stovepipe Wells at 0 feet to the top of Townes Pass at 4956 feet. Then you descend to Panamint Springs at 1980 feet, before starting the climb to Father Crowley Point at 4000 feet and then over Panamint Pass at 5300 feet, and then the rolling road into Lone Pine. That takes you to about mile 122 at the 3700 foot Lone Point. Then as said earlier, the Portal is mile 135 at 8371 feet. Mt Whitney’s summit is another 11 miles to it 14,494 summit. Remember that after completing the solo, and reaching the hut at the summit on Mt. Whitney, she had to turn around and go down the mountain back to the Whitney Portal. They came down the mountain in a storm.

Lisa wrote me a note after she returned home and shared how her feet held up. Here’s what she said:

“I had NO trouble with blisters even with all that toe-off on the uphills.  I had just a tiny blister on the end of my second toe, noticed in Lone Pine when I was changing socks for the first time.  I snipped it and filled with it with benzoin. No more trouble even with soaked shoes for 7 hours coming back down the mountain in the rain.  My feet were pruny, but no blisters.  They recovered just fine.

I’d say I was lucky, but I really think it was more due to the pre-run foot care with me filing callouses and toenails, Denise’s pre-tape for balls of feet, the Engo pads, and the very, very thin layer of Hydropel I always use between my toes.”

I commend Lisa for a fantastic accomplishment. It was fun for us, watching from the comfort of our homes and offices, to hear updates on Facebook the the ultra forum. Lisa is a good friend and a great runner.

The first and only other solo, self-supported Badwater Solo crossing was done by Marshall Ulrich in 1999. Here’s a link to Marshall’s webpage to read his account. Marshall and Lisa are special people.

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