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2015 Badwater 135: Race Moments from the Road

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Among the nearly 100 runners representing 24 countries at this year’s Badwater 135, seven were TALON (TX, AR, LA, OK, NM) athletes. Texas and Oklahoma represented.

A 135 mile point-to-point blacktop scamper with big heat (temperatures reached into the 120s) and hearty climbs. As much of a team race as individual due to the required crew teams that leap-frog runners and provide a laundry list of support throughout the 48-hour time limit.

An evening start to this year’s race added a new twist to the Badwater 135 experience.

26 year old Jared Fetterolf led our TALON athletes with an 11th place finish in 30:58:17.

55 year old Kimberlie Budzik was our sole female lacing them up this year and earned her 5th finish in 41:29:09.

Nathan Ferraro of Oklahoma became our final TALON finisher in his race debut with a time of 42:42:23.

Badwater 135 Moments

I asked our runners…

Could you share the detailed story of one moment from your Badwater 135 race that made a special imprint on you?

Their responses are below. (from those I was able to get in contact with)


Phil Nimmo (TX)

For me the real challenge in the event was that I took this on as an overlapping series; in addition to the three race Badwater UltraCup series this year I also set my sights on the inaugural three race Grand Slam of 200s. This meant that I completed the Colorado 200, a challenging high elevation point to point trail run outside of Gunnison Colorado shortly after 2:00am on Friday July 17th, only 11 days prior to the start of the Badwater 135. The Colorado course was very wet and contained countless water crossings. My feet were wet for 80 hours straight and severely blistered with little time to heal before heading to Badwater.

As the Badwater 135 started, I was off and running well. Fast out of the start and making great time. As the event progressed my feet became more and more sore. The hard road surface and difference shoes were putting entirely different pressures on my feet, but over time the existing tenderness gave way to new blisters, on top of, along side of, and even underneath the existing damage. My crew was on top of their game, ensuring that I was able to run strong and smart in the heat and through the distance, but the damage to my feet needed help beyond the skills of even my very experienced crew.

We finally made it into Lone Pine in the middle of the night (maybe 30 hours into the race). When we arrived, Catra (my crew chief) promptly introduced me to John Vonhof who was willing to take take a look at my feet and help get me on the road again. John is the author of Fixing your Feet. A book that I have owned for a few years now but have only used as a reference guide and never actually read.

Getting those feet worked on.

Phil getting those feet worked on.

As John looked at my feet the expression on his face was enough to provide the complete diagnosis, and it wasn’t a smile. While I laid on the bed, John worked on my feet and provided what I’m certain is a gold mine of sound advice regarding the proper care of my feet unfortunately laying on a soft bed wasn’t conducive to my remaining very coherent. John worked his magic and when he finished I was off again on my way to Whitney Portal and the finish line.


Steve Maliszewski (TX)

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At around mile 48 my body started to rebel. My stomach stopped being able to process liquids while trying to cool itself – to no avail. My legs started to cramp. First my quads. Then my calves. Then my hamstring. Every step was a struggle. My pace evaporated. By mile 52 it was even worse. I kept thinking how I could possibly make 80+ more miles in this condition.

I tried everything I could think of. I could see the concern in my crew’s faces. They had never seen me like this. All I could do was sit in the chair and cry.

I thought about the kids fighting cancer whom I was running for (Snowdrop Foundation) and knew that my pains were nothing compared to what they have to go through on a daily basis.

After about 20 minutes of trying to stuff some food in my face and collect myself, I started to shiver uncontrollably. My bodies last effort to get me to stop. So I did the only thing I know how to do. I got back up and kept going.


Dale Cougot (TX)

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“Don’t let me camp out out in the van”, was one of the major points I stressed to my awesome crew and pacer.

I cruise past 115 miles swerving down a long black two lane road in the middle of the desert where it looks like you can step right into another galaxy with all of the stars. This is the farthest I had run at one time and fighting a fire breathing squirreluffalo (half squirrel / have buffalo) with my water bottle had me second guessing everything.

My head ached to a point I thought it was going to burst from heat exhaustion, dehydration, lack of eating, fighting stomach issues, and for being up over 40 plus hours. Yes, I had done the unthinkable, I crawled in the van.

My lower back had shooting pains, as I had not peed in several hours. When I did, I will just say “not pretty” which had me really worried about my kidneys. So as any good/bad ultrarunner would do, I kept that from my crew (sorry guys).

Laying in the fetal position within our luxurious mini-van, I began to cry (I am big enough to say it). And this is where a pivotal spiritual point occurred for me that night.

Closing my eyes felt great, but thoughts emerged quickly into my head; “You have done a great run! No one will hold it against you if you quit! Respect your body! It’s an honor to just be on the course!”

Then a headlamp came through the side window, bouncing off things in the car, but shinning on the American Flag I had run with at the start. I so proudly wanted to carry it at the finish.

I could hear murmurs from outside as my crew debated about my split times, how to motivate me, and worried about my health. While lying there a charge of emotions shot through me and it felt like several hands were massaging my head, back, and calves.

My call sign is the Texas YETI Runner, which is not me personally, it is a Pooka (watch Harvey with Jimmy Stewart) that shares adventures with me. He has pulled me out of the deep, dark funk of negative thinking several times and this time he sucked a lot of hurt out of my body. That was when I heard a grasping voice whisper, “You are exceptional. Doing something exceptional. In an exceptional race and for an exceptional cause!”

I glared into that Red, White and Blue flag given to me by two loving vets. Thought of my two Marine Devil Dogs standing outside along with two awesome ladies. I realizing my effort was for an exceptional cause, my Team RWB Heroes and my family. My thinking became clearer.

I quickly rolled myself up. The door abruptly opened with my crew standing there wide opened eyes as I said, “Let’s go one more mile. Yahoooooo.”


Nathan Ferraro (OK)

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The sun had set some five to six hours ago, casting the high desert into complete and utter darkness. A rare overcast blocked the glistening light from the moon and stars like a sleep mask worn over the eyes of the world. In this darkness, I could be found on a desolate road, nearly numb. Swollen joints bent and straightened, bent and straightened, continuously propelling my body forward. The pavement beneath my feet mumbled a faint “crunch” with every step rhythmically like a metronome. Through my nostrils dove the dry desert air, pausing in my lungs before expelling through my teeth. With each breath, the wear from the race seemed to intensify. I was weak. I was broken. I was tired. Nevertheless, my feet kept moving as I push forward through the night. I had been running for 29 hours now, but there was still 35 left to go.

I have felt pain before, the kind that creeps deeply into one’s soul and pulls out feelings of self-pity and depression. I have felt this before in past races, accompanied by broken bones and damaged organs. The pain I felt at mile 100 of Badwater, however, was of a flavor more sour and bitter than of that previously tasted. It was holistic and consuming. This was the pain of desperation. It left me in a strange state of disoriented panic. The pressures of time cutoffs weighed heavy on my mind while moments of hallucination and unconsciousness seized my brain sporadically. I was keenly aware, and almost obsessively aware, of what needed to be done to cross the finish line while fighting a body in clear revolt.

At this point in the race, I was undoubtedly injured. Hip spasms had flared up some 58 miles ago, firing bolts of lightening down my IT band. These spasms were experienced two to three times per mile for the remainder of the race. By mile 45, the IT band issues left my right knee locked solid like a rusty hinge. This caused my pace to slow to a limp, and a limp it would remain for the rest of the race. By the time mile 100 had rolled past, 55 miles had been limped over two mountain ranges, through the heat of the salt flats, and into the second night. In addition to the increased amount of time per mile, this irregular means of forward propulsion added another layer of hardship to the race. It destroyed my feet. For some reason unbeknownst to me, my feet suffer more from prolonged walking than they do from running the same distance. I had observed this in past races, but experienced this in an elevated degree at Badwater. By mile 100, all toes had a burning, tingling sensation rolling through them. Both big toe nails had blackened and blisters had formed on the bottom of my right foot. Adversity of this degree tends to challenge one’s mental toughness and can cause one to summon a survival technique called desperation.

Desperation exposes one’s true nature. I was introduced to my primitive and innate self out there in the desert as the hardships stripped away the walls and personas that I had built over the years. I came to find that I am a downer. Shamelessly, I sulked in silence in front of my crew members as a war waged in my head between mind and body. My words were few and disingenuous. Be it reflex or a method to save energy, I was a miserable person to be around at mile 100. It’s sad to know that in the face of true adversity. I transform into the likes of a grumpy old man. This sharply contrasted preconceptions of myself as an unbreakable, unwavering scrapper when the going gets tough. But, this is a demon I bare.

I can say with some certainty that there was a little good in me during the darkest moments of the race, three in particular. First, At no point during the entire ordeal did quitting ever enter my mind. Quitting is not in my vocabulary, and this principle was unshaken even during the most painful of times. Second, I am proud to know that I can reason my way through adverse challenges. I reasoned that despite the crippling pain pulsing though my legs, I could finish within the time constraints as long as I kept moving forward at a pace faster than 2.25 mph. Third, I refuse to fail others. Both on the course and thousands of miles away, friends and family were rallying for me to finish Badwater. I would be hard pressed to say that this wasn’t the greatest source of motivation to keep moving forward, especially at mile 100.


Duke Moseley (TX)

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I had just summited Townes Pass, around mile 65. It was the middle of the afternoon and my body was stinging I was so hot. My mouth and nose were dry – like I had been chewing on cotton and sniffing flour. I remember seeing a lizard and thinking wow something actually lives in this hell hole.

My pacer, Debi Morgan (a dentist) handed me a small, disposable toothbrush (one of those with the toothpaste included) and said brush your teeth, it will make you feel better. I remember thinking, there’s nothing in the world right now that could make me feel better but what the hell I’ll try it.

It worked. For about five seconds I actually felt better – it reminded me of when I was a kid sitting in the back of my mom’s station wagon (one that didn’t have reverse) going to the dentist.

Then reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t find that place I usually go to summon inner strength. I couldn’t make the misery go away. I felt nauseous from the heat and altitude, thirsty, sleepy and very, very hot. I remember my insides were even hot. I felt like I had the flu and I was super hung over at the same time.

That must have been the beginning of the end. I don’t remember much after that, it just got blurry. I kept telling myself to stay on the white line and keep moving forward. Soon thereafter I couldn’t get my body to do what my mind was telling it. It was a horrible feeling, one that unfortunately I will never forget.


A special thanks to our Badwater runners for sharing some of their experience with us.

Complete TALON Results

  • Jared Fetterolf (TX) – 30:58:17
  • Phil Nimmo (TX) – 36:20:15
  • Steve Maliszewski TX) – 37:57:27
  • Dale Cougot (TX) – 39:23:47
  • Kimberlie Budzik (TX) – 41:29:09
  • Nathan Ferraro (OK) – 42:42:23
  • Duke Moseley (TX) – mile 72.3

Badwater 135 Results page.

Congratulations to all our Badwater 135 athletes that laced them up this year!

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David – EnduranceBuzz.com

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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