Ultramarathoner Kerri Kanuga has done it again. Last month she conquered the brutal 160-mile race over the most challenging segment of the Caminho da Fe (Path of Faith) in the Serra da Mantiqueira mountains of Brazil, a sub-range of the Andes.
And she came in under the wire, finishing in 60 hours and 10 minutes, achieving her goal of beating the cut-off time of 62.5 hours. She was among 22 of the 68 participants who completed the race. Of the 10 women who took part, four finished.
Kanuga is now back in Cayman and has slowly resumed training.
“My body feels great and I feel very fit,” she said. “I am a little tired, but overall, other than a few blisters, I am no worse for wear.”
Kanuga said her training in Cayman paid off, and she loved every minute of the Caminho da Fe. “The countryside was beautiful and I made many friends with similar interests.
“It was my first time in Brazil [and] I loved it. The people were very friendly … I was sorry that I did not speak Portuguese.”
Kanuga celebrated with friends by staying an extra two days, enjoying Brazilian food and hospitality.
Next up: What is described as the world’s toughest foot race, in Death Valley, California, in July, when temperatures reach 120 degrees. Her result in Brazil, plus finishing three other 100-mile races, qualifies her to compete in the Badwater Ultramarathon.
The start line of the 135-mile race in Death Valley is at the lowest elevation in North America at 280 feet below sea level. The race finishes at Whitney Portal at 8,300 feet, and in between the course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600 feet of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100 feet of cumulative descent. Whitney Portal is the trailhead to the Mount Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous United States.
“A year ago I would have never thought Badwater was an option for me,” said Kanuga. “To even be considered for the ‘world’s toughest foot race’ is an honor. I am astounded by the fact that I am able to complete and improve as a long-distance runner even at age 45. I have never felt as strong in my life.
“Ultra-running keeps me focused on my personal goals. I have so much gratitude that my body can run at this level.”
As important, Kanuga notes, is the platform she has for raising money to combat childhood cancers. To date, she has raised thousands for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which gives grants for research to find cures for childhood cancers.
“I am very happy that my sport allows me to give back and raise money and awareness for St. Baldrick’s,” she said.
As for training for Badwater, Kanuga intends to “continue [to] cross-train with swimming, Metafit and, of course,” she says, “pull my tire. I will be trying to train during the hottest part of the day.” Part of Kanuga’s training involves running with a tire tied behind to her.
Once in São Paulo, Kanuga and her team of two assistants had a three-hour drive to Sao da Boa Vista, the starting point for the ultramarathon. Her support team provided food and drinks as she ran over the mountains.
“They were able to escort me for most of the way, but occasionally had to drive around parts of the road that were not suitable for a car,” she said. “At one point, due to lack of communication, we were separated for almost 50 kilometers. Luckily I was with a group of friends so I was safe, but as night fell I did not have my headlamp or a jacket. We were able to find a small store to purchase a few chocolate bars and some water.”
Kanuga is now looking forward to her next adventure. Only 100 slots are available for Badwater this year, due to the ultra’s popularity. She has already submitted her application and is awaiting the go-ahead, which she hopes will arrive this week.