Living in the flatlands of Friendswood doesn’t deter ultramarathoner Kim Budzik from heading for the hills. She recently finished her fourth consecutive Badwater ultramarathon, a 135-mile trek through California’s Sierra Nevada, in 46 hours and 50 minutes.
The race, which bills itself as the world’s toughest, ends partway up Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. The Badwater course logs 17,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain, a challenge Budzik trained for by running hill repeats on the Kemah Bridge.
“It was a lot of elevation,” Budzik said. “There were stretches with a 27 percent grade.”
Because the race poses such extremes of elevation and temperature, runners are allowed to bring a support crew along for most of the race. Budzik’s crew consisted of her husband, Tim, daughter Cassie, son Chayton, and friends Cindy Koch and Cinder Wolff.
“Part of the race is on trails, with no vehicles allowed, and my husband Tim ran with me to carry fluids and extra clothes,” she said.
The extra clothing was necessary to prepare for temperatures that ranged from Alpine to greater than 100 degrees.
“Over the course of two days of running, your body goes through big changes,” Tim Budzik explained. “There are issues with digestion and temperature regulation. After being cold at night, the heat is so much more intense.”
The Budziks’ daughter Cassie ran several legs of the race with her mother and focused on nutrition.
“It was always about making sure you’re getting good types of food,” she said. “It was a balance between keeping hydrated, keeping her mouth moist with fruit like melon and blueberries, and salty food like chips and pretzels.”
Kim Budzik will return to ultramarathoning in just three weeks, running in Berlin as the official U.S. ambassador to the Berlin 100.
No matter how far she travels or how far she runs, though, she hasn’t forgotten how it all started.
“I remember when I started running and was happy to go 400 meters,” she recalled. “It doesn’t matter where you start. Getting better is all that matters.”