Interview With Badwater 135 Legend and Ultrarunner Pam Reed

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At 48, ultrarunner Pam Reed has accomplished endurance feats most athletes have only dreamed about. Her running resume is stacked with countless record-breaking performances including the American record for a 24-hour track run; the female American record holder in six-day marathons (Reed completed 490 miles in six days in May 2009); being the first person to complete a 300-mile run without sleep; and being the only woman to have won the Badwater Ultramarathon overall, which she did twice in both 2002 and 2003.

Just a couple days after finishing her sixth Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, Reed took time out to talk to about the race, her thoughts on the new wave of ultrarunners and what's next.

What is it about Badwater that keeps you coming back year after year?

I went there to win, so I'm disappointed in myself that I got second (for female finishers; Reed finished 7th overall). I did pretty well for being 48 years old. But what keeps me coming back is going there to win. (Jamie Donaldson) just ran faster than me. I had a good race. I had one part of it where I was just going too slow. I could not get my legs to move. Then I finally picked up and did a little better, but by then it was too late to catch her. And then you climb up Mt. Whitney and it's impossible. It's so hard.

So I did the best I could. I thought I did pretty well, but she just did better. But that's why I come back. At 48 years old, I could have won it. I had a chance. In some of these 100 mile runs, I can't win it. And that's not always the goal. But this one, that's definitely the goal.

How did this year compare to previous years?

It was a little hotter than last year, and I was looking for that. It definitely wasn't as hot as the years I won it. It's interesting because that's another reason why I go (to Badwater) because if it's really hot, really fast runners just can't run fast there or you're gonna blow up and get sick. There's a lot of strategy. Mine and the way my crew works with me has worked out really well for me. It's worked, and that's why I've done well in the past.

What new things did you learn on the course this year?

I don't know if I learned anything new. It's really hard to stay focused and patient out there--and in any of these things. You just get tired of it. I just wanted to lay down. Luckily I didn't lay down, but I wanted to.

Mental training can really make or break you in a race like this. What did you do to prepare beforehand?

This could have been good or bad. I don't know. But at the end of April, beginning of May I ran a six-day event. I ran 490 miles. Three weeks ago I did an Ironman (Coeur d'Alene). I guess I'm not really recommending that as training, but that's what I did do beforehand.

Mentally, I kept concentrating on and going back to the six-day. If I can do this for six days, I can do this. And I've done Badwater. Mentally I know what the course is. I know the heat. What I tried to do was eat more because it worked last year. It worked OK (this year), but you get really sick of eating out there. It's like, "OK. I'm done. I don't want to eat anymore." But you have to. You have to keep eating and drinking. It just gets old. And you try to come up with what else can I eat--what's anything that could taste good. And nothing tastes good after a while, but you have to keep going because you'll run out of energy.

What was your nutrition like for Badwater?

  • Ensure
  • Red Bull
  • Grapefruit juice--which is supposed to settle your stomach
  • Xzude--which doesn't have any sugar but lots of electrolytes
  • Zico--a coconut drink
  • Tomato soup
  • Oatmeal
  • Chicken broth
  • Bread and honey--I learned that somewhere in France. I saw someone do bread and honey and thought, "Oh, that looks good."

You just get so thirsty. So I do a lot of club soda too. It has a lot of sodium. I also had a papaya enzyme. But I do not do fruit ever.

Things have happened to me in the past where I've lost energy and am bonking. In this kind of stuff you get to a point where you feel sick but you really need food. It's really different so we try to keep my nutrition up. And it worked pretty well but your stomach gets sick of taking all this stuff.