Badwater 135 race like open oven door: Sutton

Glenn Sutton built a heat box to prepare for the Badwater race. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Glenn Sutton built a heat box to prepare for the Badwater race. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Dunedin joiner Glenn Sutton is all set to go in what is termed the world’s toughest foot race.

Sutton will head to the start line of the Badwater 135 in Death Valley in California at 4.30pm today (NZ time) to start what it going to be a very harrowing couple of days.

Sutton (45) is in his third attempt at the race and is hoping to go faster than he has ever gone before.    

But it is not going to be easy.    

He has been in California for the past week preparing for the race.    

Held through Death Valley, California, on the first full moon at the height of the northern hemisphere summer each year, the 135 mile (217km) race is renowned for its extreme temperatures, which can soar past 50degC.

Last year’s event had unofficial temperatures recorded at 58degC.    

The start line is at Badwater Basin, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 85m below sea level. The race finishes at Whitney Portal at 2530m, which is the trailhead to the Mt Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous United States.    

Sutton has been training in Dunedin, using a heat box equipped with a treadmill, although it is not exactly like the conditions in Death Valley.    

‘‘The dry, dry heat at Bad-water is like standing in front of an oven door when it is opened — a thick carpet of hot air and you can’t escape it,’’ he said.    

‘‘There is no opening the door and going into air-conditioning. You’re completely exposed and then you have to run 217km. There is no shelter, no trees, you’re out in the full sun all day. The heat is relentless.’’    

New Zealand Olympic medallist Rod Dixon dropped into Lone Pine to meet Sutton before the race and gave the Dunedin runner a boost.    

The course crosses three mountain ranges and, from just after Stovepipe Wells (mile 42) to Keeler (mile 108), Sutton and the team will have no reception and only one fuel and food stop at Panamint Springs to rely on before reaching Lone Pine.    

Sutton’s support team for 2019 consists of Steve Barton, Bruce Adams, Greg Yee and eldest daughter Emily Sutton.    

The support crew does not sit and watch. It has a huge role to play, keeping Sutton fed, watered, weighted and, most importantly, on target in the race.    

Sutton is believed to be the only New Zealander in the 100-strong field.    

He had initially set a target of going under 30hr but had now scaled that back to wanting to go better than he has before. His fastest time was recorded in 2014, in his first attempt, when he finished in just over 36hr.

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