On July 18-20 Jodi Weiss, an ultramarathon runner, will run one of the toughest ultramarathons in the world, the Styr Labs Badwater 135.
The 135-mile Death Valley race starts in Badwater, the lowest point in North America, 280 feet below sea level, ending in Lone Pine at 8,000 feet above sea level.
Weiss, at 46, is not the typical Badwater runner. She is a writer first, then runner. And second she doesn’t race to win. She describes herself as a disciplined runner that loves to write. In her blog post, she explains her running:
“For me, ultra-running is not about belonging to a group, or about acquiring belt buckles,” she wrote. “It is not about my undying love for running, or any desire to win a race. Most days, running is my salvation; some days it’s not…”
Weiss hasn’t been a long-distance runner her whole life. She told the Pahrump Valley Times she started running 23 years ago as a graduate student in New York City. She said she started running to be outside, starting with two miles.
“I went up to doing the six-mile loop in Central Park and then gradually progressed to doing 5Ks and 10Ks, which then led to the New York City Marathon.”
She said the running helped her to think in her writing career.
“Running was my way to get creative without looking at a computer,” Weiss explained. “I was able to think about my writing while I ran.”
When her mother became ill eight years ago, Weiss moved to Florida to be closer to her. To help deal with the situation, she turned to running longer distances.
“I would run to the hospital to see and spend time with my mother, who had leukemia,” she said. “My life was falling apart at the time, with my mother being ill. I needed to do something and in 2010 I did the North Face Run, which was 50 miles.”
Weiss said she didn’t do the longer distances to escape death, it was something more positive.
“I needed something challenging and uplifting that promoted life,” Weiss said. “I survived that race and at the time it was the hardest thing that I did.”
From there the runs became longer. There was the Brazil 135 and the Javelina Jundred to name a few.
“I have now completed 23 100-mile ultramarathons,” she said. “I do about eight to 10 ultras a year.”
Weiss turned to yoga to help her body as it gets older with the pounding and the pain.
“Yoga is a part of me and I think it helps my running,” said Weiss, who began yoga in 1995. “It keeps me limber and I never have had to take off from running due to pain.”
Despite all the other races she has run in, Weiss said there is nothing like the Badwater ultramarathon.
“Heat does strange things to you,” she said. “I think the heat does more to you than extreme elevations. And Badwater subjects you to two nights of no sleep.”
The race starts in the night, with temperatures starting at over 100 degrees and then cooling to the high 90s.
“Then you emerge in Panamint Springs and the heat of the day,” she said. “That was just too much for me. I remember throwing up a lot last year. Perhaps it was just too many calories too soon. This year will be different. I changed a lot based on that experience.”
One change will be the nutrients she takes in. Weiss said she will be going back to the basics this time around, which means no chemical supplements.
“I can’t do solid foods because of the heat,” she said. “I just didn’t want food. I will do Gatorade, coco water, Coca Cola for the sugar and water. I will also do Ensure drinks for protein. I used product last year (chemical supplements) and they didn’t agree with me. That just means no chemicals for me this year.”
In addition to the nutrients, the ultra runner is doing more strength and sauna training.
Weiss said despite the feeling of quitting, she never gives up. Running has taught her to push through her difficult times in life.
“Knowing this has helped me in all aspects of my life,” she said. “I like knowing I can push through things. I walk away from every race knowing I can survive whatever happens.”
Contact sports editor Vern Hee at firstname.lastname@example.org