Malibu resident goes for third Death Valley ultramarathon

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Chris Frost, right, and team support at the Badwater Ultramarathon two years ago.

Chris Frost plans to beat last year’s Badwater Ultramarathon time of 43 hours-in the more than 100-degree heat of Death Valley.

By Lindsay Kuhn/Special to The Malibu Times

During the dog days this July, Malibu resident Chris Frost will run 135 miles nonstop in the invitation-only Badwater Ultramarathon, taking him from the dry boil of Death Valley to the wintry, 14,496-foot top of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States. In 2003, he ran it in 42.51 hours. In 2002 he ran it in 43.14 hours. This year he plans to do it in less than 40.

Frost, 52, says this with the kind of nonchalance and confidence that makes you believe in him and want to root for him.

Athletes don’t start with Badwater. It’s considered one of the most taxing competitive events in the world and for this reason has its own qualifying standards. But Frost was a shoo-in; his history in ultra-endurance sports is as lengthy as the Badwater race itself. He used to be on the U.S. Water ski racing team; he’s run numerous 50-mile races; he’s competed in triathlons all over the world, including the Ironman.

Frost began competing in 1971. “It seemed like good fun and a good way to stay in shape and travel,” he said. (He’s competed in such places as Australia, Chile, Easter Island and Tahiti.)

The Badwater path will be the same this year, but Frost said his experience won’t be, citing different sunsets and sunrises, wind and rain conditions, and temperature, all which come together to create a challenging run. “It’s a mixed bag of adventure,” he said.

Just finishing Badwater in less than 60 hours, the time limit, is an achievement in itself. Last year, only 46 out of 73 participants made it to the end. Runners face 130-degree temperatures and risk dehydration, heat stroke, renal failure and nausea. Hallucination is common too.

Fluid and electrolyte intake are important to prevent heat illness. Frost runs along side a crew of three to four people in a truck, including one paramedic, who carries supplies and monitors his health. Frost said he goes through about 600-800 calories an hour, which amounts to 20,000 a day. He doesn’t stop to refuel.

“I run and drink at the same time,” he said.

Tracey Breen, his girlfriend, has been his crew chief for the past two years and is doing it again this year. As crew chief she said she took care of him as far as food and water and sometimes pacing. “Chris has an amazing strength about him and can pretty much get through anything,” Breen said.

“Tracey makes this race possible for me,” Frost said. “Without her, I couldn’t do it.”

Age wise, Frost is among the middle of the pack when compared to the age of his Badwater competitors, which ranges from 32 to 70. Frost said age has its advantages.

“Older people have experience to push through adversity. They can go after adversity and get past it,” he said.

Getting through adversity is one thing Frost has learned from ultra-endurance sports. They’ve given him the confidence to approach challenges. And this attitude has taken him places in his professional life too. This year he was honored as the realtor of the year at the Malibu Board of Realtors installation dinner.

Even though Frost has run Badwater twice, he’s still just as excited about running it again this July. “I love the adventure,” he said. “It’s all a total adventure.”

The Badwater Ultramarathon takes place July 12-14.