Editor’s Note: On July 22, 2014, Harvey Lewis won the Badwater 135 with a time of 23:52:55
The Badwater 135 ultramarathon begins in the scorching southern California desert basin and climbs over 19,000 feet to Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states. We checked in with three-time Badwater veteran (and School for Creative and Performing Arts teacher) Harvey Lewis to learn how he goes the distance.
“I like pushing myself to new limits and challenging people’s ideas about what’s possible. You do feel a sense of euphoria at times; it’s like connecting to a primal state of the human being. There’s an energy we have that you can’t see.”
“The training never stops. After finishing last year’s race, we hiked up Mt. Whitney the next day. I commute to work by running. As Badwater approaches, I increase the amount of miles each week. April was 100 miles a week; in May it was 120 miles a week. I’ll start to increase time in the heat sauna. During the last week before the race, I’ll wear a lot of clothing while I run. I’ll wear six or seven layers of shirts, plus hats and gloves. I don’t recommend it.”
“On race day, a Sahara hat that drapes down in back and on the sides is key. I really like wearing a tank top and shorts, because I like to feel the air-flow, but I have to be careful to put on sunblock every hour and a half because I’m sweating and my support team is regularly dousing me with water and ice.”
“I don’t drink any water the whole race, except to brush my teeth, which I like to do because it brings me a sense of renewal. I have to constantly feed my mind and soul with motivation. Sometimes it’s very simple things. I’ll think about the next aid station or the next time I can have some Coca-Cola or Clif gel. It’s so hot; you can’t consume solid foods well. It’s a real battle. Miles 100 to 135 become about who can best absorb nutrition. I love Coca-Cola—it’s like jet fuel.”
“July is the 10th anniversary of when I broke my neck in an auto accident merging onto I-75. I was inches from death and got a new lease on life. I love running, so I thought I’m going to take full opportunity of this chance and just run. So while I had run marathons since age 15, and completed ultras since 19, a fire had been lit to go all out.”
Originally published in the July 2014 issue