Welcome to the second-annual ZWITTY ULTRA Badwater 135 race preview. This year, we start with the women's field. (Tomorrow we will release our preview of the stacked men's field, where about a dozen of the guys have at least some realistic chance of winning the race).
By contrast, however, this year's women's field is top-heavy, and there are three women running Badwater who are clear favorites to finish on the podium. Now, the order in which they will finish is anyone's guess, and there are a handful of women ready to jump up and grab a podium spot should any of these ladies falter. So let's get right to it...!
1. The three prohibitive race favorites.
Let's meet these three race favorites:
Nikki knows that Aly and Brenda both possess immense talent, and I am sure she has been absolutely training her butt off this year to defend her crown. Unlike last year -- where I (in)famously stated that there was "only one world class woman runner" in the race (a fact Nikki's crew mercilessly (and deservedly) reminded me of as she blew passed me during the race -- I will NOT be surprised at all this year if Nikki winds up defending her crown. She is fierce, determined, and tough as nails.
Given that Aly pulled out of last year's race at about Mile 100 due to an injury, Aly is likely very motivated to reclaim her spot on the top of the Badwater podium. Will this be the year that Ms. Royal Caribbean cruises her way to the title?
She is also a finisher of Badwater and the Spartathlon, and has won many other ultras, including a blazing-fast overall win at the 2012 Graveyard 100 (16:33), as well as the overall win at the 2013 Keys 100 (17:16, where she smoked yours truly by 14 minutes) :)
Brenda is a classic front runner, who is most comfortable when leading the race, and she appears to gain more and more confidence the longer she stays in front. This means Nikki and Aly will have to pay close attention to her at all times, because Brenda has the speed and experience to pull away and never look back.
This should be the best -- and most hotly-contested -- women's race ever at Badwater. Personally, I cannot wait, and like last year, I hope to have a front row seat to their race :)
2. Other Top-10 favorites.
- Kathy Youngren: a longtime ultrarunner who has run Badwater years ago, Team Zwitty runner Kathy has aggressively trained for this year's race, and her results so far this season have evidenced her fitness. In April, she won the Strolling Jim 41-mile race (one of the country's oldest ultras), in the blazing fast time of 6:22. She followed that up with a finish at the 130-mile Ultrabalaton in Hungary last month. Expect Kathy to have nothing less than a fantastic race at Badwater!
- Sada Crawford: the winner of the 2016 Brazil "135+" (and this year, that "+" meant the race was 160 miles!), Sada followed that effort up with a third place female finisher at this year's incredibly hot Keys 100. She will unquestionably be ready and raring to go at this year's race...
- Sandra Villines: the masters' champion of this year's Keys 100, Sandra is yet another one of the Team Zwitty runners participating in this year's Badwater 135. She is also one of the Badwater 135 runners who is gunning for the Badwater Ultra Cup (which means running Badwater Cape Fear, Badwater Salton Sea, and the Badwater 135 in the same calendar year). Expect a very solid race out of Sandy in her Badwater debut!
- Sandy Suckling: I don't know anything about Sandy except for the fact that she is Australian (see my above comment on Aussies). That's enough for me to put her among the contenders :)
This will be one of the most fiercely-contested women's races in the history of Badwater, and because of that, Jamie Donaldson's course record (26:16) is in serious jeopardy. My bet is that the record goes down, perhaps by as much as 60-90 minutes (seriously, that is how talented the three women are at the top of this year's field). No matter how the women's race shakes out, however, it promises to be a race for the ages at this year's STYR Labs Badwater 135.
Tomorrow, we will post our preview of the men's race . . . and the men's field this year is the deepest and most-talented in the illustrious history of the race...