(Part 2 of a two-part series on ultrarunner Desiree Marek and the Badwater Ultramarathon.)

Training for Badwater.

Since being notified of her acceptance to Badwater in early February of this year, Marek has pushed both her mental and physical abilities to the limit with a grueling training schedule. A typical day involves waking up at 3:45 AM, running anywhere from 10 to 12 miles, and squeezing in strength training or physical therapy exercises before an hour-long commute to work. Marek fits in another 5 miles during her lunch breakand finishes the day off with a yoga class, additional training at an altitude gym, or a trip to the sauna (which prepares her for the extreme temperatures she will face in Death Valley).

On more strenuous days, she does all three. Her evening routine consists of foam rolling and icing her muscles, eating dinner, and going to bed early enough to manage 6-7 hours of sleep before the next day’s early start.

Fine tuned-diet.

Marek has fine-tuned her diet over the years to allow for maximum performance and recovery. Before morning runs, Marek typically eats a banana, not needing much to fuel for an hour or two of exercise (for longer runs, she opts for a piece of toast with nut butter and fruit). Post-run breakfasts usually involve coconut milk yogurt with fruit and granola, while lunches and dinners include hearty kale salads and homemade veggie burgers. Chocolate, coffee, and nut butter are staples in her daily diet.

As for fueling during a race, she opts for energy supplements (gels, gummies, bars, etc.) for shorter distances, and relies more on “real” food (sandwiches, potatoes, soup, etc.) during longer events. For the upcoming Badwater race, Marek will be closely followed by a personal “crew” of three friends, who will provide her with first aid supplies, water, performance fuel, and solid food along the entire 135-mile route.

Why Badwater?

A common question many runners and non-runners alike ask when hearing about Badwater is, simply, why? Why subject one’s self to months of grueling training and 30+ hours of physical and mental struggle in such extreme temperatures? What is it, exactly, that draws certain people to “the world’s toughest foot race”?

At the beginning of her running career, Marek had written off Badwater, swearing that she would never even consider participating in such an extreme race. In the years that followed, however, Marek’s understanding of her what her mind and body might be capable of went through a significant transformation. Following an injury incurred during the Hagg Lake 50k earlier this year that sidelined her training for almost two months, her determination to test her limits grew even stronger. Now, Marek says, “I pursue challenges not because I think I can achieve them, but because I don’t know if I can.” In a recent post on her personal website, she affirms, “I want to prove to myself that I can rise to the challenge, embrace the pain, and emerge on the other side stronger for the experience.

Badwater is everything I never thought I could be and everything I want to prove to myself that I am.”

Learn more.

The 2016 Badwater Ultramarathon will be held from July 18-20, with participants hailing from 27 U.S. states and 20 different countries. Additional information can be found on the race’s official website. You can follow Marek’s training and her upcoming Badwater experience onTwitter (@runbecause) and her personal blog.

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