Amid scorching temperatures and fearsome terrain, an endurance athlete from Cardiff has become the first Briton and only the sixth person ever to complete the Death Valley Double in California.
The 270-mile challenge involved running the route of the infamous Badwater Ultramarathon and back, across the hottest place on earth.
Rhys Jenkins (28) set out on the mission with his brother Scott (34), a fellow ultra runner, with the goal of completing and potentially breaking the record for a non stop Death Valley Double.
Standing in their way were temperatures of 120 degrees F (100F at night), which had prompted the pair to heat train in a sauna, and three mountain ranges for a cumulative ascent of more than 6,000m.
Their route started at Badwater, 85m below sea level, and mid-way came at Whitney Portal, 2,530m above sea level. In total, the pair aimed to run the equivalent of 10 back-to-back marathons with only seven hours rest, but they encountered major difficulties from early on.
After 45 miles, Rhys suffered from an exerciseassociated collapse during a rest break. “One minute he was sitting drinking his Nuun electrolyte drink, the next he started talking gibberish and his eyes rolled back into his head and then he just passed out,” said Terry Jenkins, the boys’ father and support crew member.
Lacking the bedside manners of a nurse, brother Scott added: “It was scary as I’m used to him talking nonsense but not then passing out. I was concerned for his wellbeing… and what my windbreaker was going to be if he couldn’t continue.”
The team revived Rhys without IV fluids, but insisted on a 90-minute rest before allowing him to continue, monitoring his temperature constantly.
Focused on setting a record-breaking pace, the brothers slept for just an hour on their first night, but Scott had started to struggle. Beset by blisters, he adapted his running style on a long descent and injured his knee so badly it was unable to bear weight.
An imposed break for an ice pack, compression and elevation allowed Scott to continue with the aid of walking poles, but gaps started to open between the brothers.
At the top of Mount Whitney portal, the finish line for a single Badwater Ultramarathon, the knee injury forced Scott to withdraw from the challenge.
If you want to take on something like this, you’ll need the right Training.