Nev. firefighter completes 135-mile race


By Lawrence Mower
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Copyright 2007 DR Partners d/b/a Las Vegas Review-Journal
All Rights Reserved

CLARK COUNTY, Nev. — Clark County firefighter Tim Kjenstad arrived in Las Vegas on Friday with souvenirs from the most grueling foot race in the world - swollen legs and blistered feet.

Kjenstad, 49, completed the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in just under 48 hours, shaving off seven hours from last year's pace.

After suffering an upset stomach in the first few hours of the race on July 23, Kjenstad ran through the night, stopping only a few times to eat and rehydrate himself.

But in the second day, he erred by not wearing long sleeves during the hottest part of the day in Death Valley, which helped to exhaust him by late afternoon. A sandstorm whipping through the area didn't help.

By 2 a.m. Wednesday, just hours from the finish line and more than 8,000 feet above the start line in Death Valley, Kjenstad's body and mind started to give out on him.

As he ascended Inyo National Forest's Mount Whitney, his mind wasn't able to process the lights and images of the race's last checkpoint. His body was spending the last of its energy moving one foot in front of the other.

"It almost seemed to me like I was crawling on all fours, the hill was so steep," Kjenstad said. "I was mentally gone by then."

Only with the encouragement of his brother-in-law, who provided water and emotional support, was he able to finish, Kjenstad said.

He celebrated crossing the finish line with a cold Corona beer. Thursday was spent nursing his body in a hot springs in nearby Bishop, Calif.

Kjenstad finished the unforgiving trek in 65th place out of 84 runners. Six runners didn't make it to the finish line within the 60 hours allowed.

The winner, 43-year-old Brazilian Valmir Nunes, shattered the record for the race, running the 135 miles in 22 hours, 51 minutes and 29 seconds - an astonishing average speed of nearly 6 mph.

Nobody else in the race's 30-year history had been able to finish it in less than a day.

Kjenstad has two more 100-mile marathons in store for him this fall, but he hasn't decided whether he'll go through the Badwater Ultramarathon again.

"If you would have asked me that at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, I would have said, 'Nope. In fact, I'm done right now, I'm ready to call it in.'" 

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