PASADENA—On June 9, between 4 and 7 p.m., any of Telma Ghazarian Altoon’s interested fans and supporters will have a chance to get a first-hand sense of how difficult it is to prepare for the Badwater 135—the world’s toughest footrace—by visiting the Rosebowl.
The training is an everyday, intense, time consuming activity for Telma, the first Armenian accepted as a competitor. It’s not just running hills and flats, daily – 8-10 miles and 22-25 miles on Saturdays and Sundays, but also some weight and upper body training, some bicycling, and stairs – both stair master and real ones, at work. Yes, Telma has a full time job, too! But since Badwater is a desert race – HEAT training is another, unusual, component.
Running in 80° or 90° heat is not enough since the temperature during the race can get well into the 120°s! She runs dressed in winter clothing to simulate that sort of intense heat. And, it’s not only she that must prepare for these temperatures, but her support team of four (more about them in the future), too. “My team will be taking turns running with me, supplying water, nutrition, foot care, any many other needs. That’s why they train hard!” explained Telma.
She also has a regimen of steam room sessions, two or three times per week, again to simulate the brutal July conditions Badwater racers encounter in the deserts of Death and Owens Valleys.
Another major aspect of the preparation is the sleep-LESS-ness training. The race spans up to 48 hours. Imagine having to stay awake two consecutive nights while running through dozens and dozens of shadeless miles of terrain on asphalt that sometimes melts shoe rubber! The best racers can do is to catch very short naps, so not sleeping also enters the realm of training.
All these workouts build up and intensify over the weeks leading up to the race. Then, in the days immediately preceding it, the training tapers down to allow the body to recover fully and be at its strongest during the race.
If anyone wants to get a small taste of what all this is like, you can join Telma at the famous Rosebowl in Pasadena, where she will be running laps between four and seven in the evening on Saturday June 9. Just show up with your running shoes on or riding a bicycle, and of course, have plenty of water with you.
Wild West Telma
On Saturday, May 5, Telma Ghazarian Altoon ran the 50-mile Wild, Wild West race in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine California.
Running this kind of course, the equivalent of roughly two marathons, in desert heat is just part of the intense training ultra-marathon runners undergo. In this case, Telma is preparing for the Badwater 135 mile, 14,600 foot gain, race from the lowest point in North America to Whitney Portal, gateway to the highest point in the continental United States. It is known as the world’s toughest footrace.
Along with a few other runners, she ended up running six extra miles, because of a wrong turn. This is one of the risks of races in wilderness settings. Despite that snafu, she finished eighth among the women. It is also important to note that not all participants are always able to finish the race.
The race location has stunning views. The Alabama Hills are jumbled, ancient stone formations that protrude from the floor of California’s Owens valley. As runners wend their way through these mounds of rocks