Soon after I completed my run across America, I was looking to accomplish something even bigger. There are not many things bigger or harder than a run across America.
National Geographic calls the "Badwater Race" in Death Valley "The hardest foot race on the planet." I knew I had to do it. With another year of training, that's what I set out to conquer. But unlike the annual official race event, I decided to do it without the assistance of a support crew in a run through Death Valley solo unassisted run. Arguably, making it 10X times harder and more dangerous.
Death Valley is the hottest place on the planet with summer temperatures over a scorching 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius). It's a desert with nothing but rocks, sand, and snakes. In the official annual race, each runner has a support team to carry the food, water and supplies. But I would cross Death Valley without any assistance of any kind. It's a race against the clock where I push a cart filled with my water, food, and supplies chasing.
My goal ... to beat the world record set 13 years earlier by Marshall Ulrich's record of just over 78 hours.
On race day, the temperatures ranged from 117 degrees at midday to below freezing temperatures at night as I crossed into the mountains. The elevational climb is 25,000 feet. Or roughly equivalent to 25 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other. All while pushing a cart filled with food and water that weighed 270 pounds.
During my first attempt, I only made it 45 miles before I had to quit. My body rebelled against the heat and intensity of the race. As I was heading back to the air-conditioned hotel room, my videographer, Josh barked at me, "How can you quit? You're the guy who ran across America giving speeches about never giving up on their dream. And now you are quitting. This is worse than failing. It's pathetic."
I sulked, and soaked in his words. And he was right. I couldn't give up. I have to finish what I trained a whole year to be ready for. So, I rested for three days, restocked my cart and I went back to Death Valley. Not to mile 45 where my body shut down. But back to the starting line ... mile zero.
At that time, there were only two people who had successfully completed an unassisted run through Death Valley from the lowest point to the highest point in the United States. 13 years after the record was originally set, I became the 3rd person in the world to complete the course.
Does it matter if I broke the world record?
Not really, because what matters more is that I didn't let a failure, just three days earlier, stop me. I did not quit on my dreams. I went back and completed one of my life's biggest goals and officially entered the record books as the most elite ultra distance runners in the world.
When I got to the top of Mt. Whitney in California, I took a photo of my watch to document my time. I finished in 72 hours and 55 minutes.
I didn't just beat the record...
... I crushed the previous world record by almost 5 hours.
My official time and a new world record was 72 hours : 55 minutes.