Kaylee Fredrick is the youngest finisher of the Badwater 135 race. This event is grueling as it takes athletes through Death Valley where temperatures can be as high as 130*, in the shade. Before you read Part II of Kaylee’s story and how she took on the challenge of Conquering Badwater 135, read Part I of Kaylee”s journey to Badwater 135.
Surrounded by an unwavering sense of community support, 18-year-old Kaylee Frederick prepared to take on the challenge of Conquering Badwater 135. The financial aspect of participating in the Badwater 135 was a reality Kaylee had to confront. Fortunately, the community rallied behind her. A t-shirt fundraiser emerged as a lifeline, successfully offsetting some of the financial burdens associated with this epic race. “I didn’t have to spend all of my college money on this adventure,” Kaylee laughed. Friends and family transformed her entire house into a party. Among the decorations, a banner served as a testament to the collective excitement and encouragement, adorned with the signatures of members of her local running club.
At the Starting Line
At the starting line of the Badwater 135, Kaylee found herself in the company of running legends such as Harvey Lewis, Catra Corbett, and Ashley Paulson. The presence of these accomplished athletes left her in awe. “I was freaking out,” Kaylee exclaimed. “They are legit runners, and then here I am!” As the US national anthem played, Kaylee, along with fellow runners, held banners in anticipation of the race’s commencement. Looking around at the other participants, she realized, “We are really all about to run this race. I’m actually here, and this is actually about to happen.”
Stay in the Present Moment
Kaylee’s strategy was simple: stay in the present moment and execute her race plan meticulously. The sun set and the race began. She started the grueling 135-mile journey with fellow runner Keith Straw, an experienced Badwater athlete, as they ran the first 60 miles together. Fatigue set in early on the first night. Kaylee’s transformation after sunset was remarkable. “Once the sun goes down, I am a completely different person. So, I was glad to run with Keith.”
With the arrival of the second day, Kaylee reached Panamint Springs, only to realize that the Whitney Portal still seemed far away. “It felt like an optical illusion,” Kaylee chuckled. Amidst the challenging terrain, fighter jets soared overhead at low altitudes, adding an unexpected but thrilling dimension to her race experience. “One jet flew super low, and that was super cool,” Kaylee explained.
One of the defining moments of the race occurred when Kaylee tackled the Father Crowley climb in the blistering midday heat. “I thought I was gonna do it at night,” she admitted. Nevertheless, she persevered through the challenge and pressed on to Darwin. This section proved to be a rough patch for Kaylee. Fatigue had caught up with her. “People were tracking me and thought I had stopped. I took two 10-minute breaks and a 5-minute break because I was so tired.” Kaylee persevered.
Hers to Conquer
With time on her side, Kaylee continued at her own pace. As the sun began to rise, her determination only grew stronger. She knew this race was hers to conquer. “Once I got to the [Whitney] portal, I was zooming up the hill.”
With just 3.5 miles left and 8 hours remaining on the clock, Kaylee’s determination was unwavering. She knew she would cross that finish line, even if it meant enduring excruciating pain. The sight of the finish line in the distance filled her with overwhelming emotion. “When I saw my crew, I knew this was literally it. I just started running.”
With her mother and dedicated crew by her side, Kaylee crossed the finish line, achieving her dream. Hugs and expressions of gratitude flowed as she realized she had set a world record as the youngest finisher of the Badwater 135. “Just talking about it makes me happy because it was just the most amazing moment of my entire life. Literally, my biggest dream came true.”
Far From Over
As she revels in the glory of her triumph, Kaylee Frederick’s journey is far from over. With her eyes set on even greater goals, she hopes to return to conquering Badwater 135 once again. Her indomitable spirit continues to inspire others, reminding us all that with determination and unwavering support, we can achieve the extraordinary.