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With freezing hands, Lisa Bliss battled to change the batteries in her headlamp. Sleepdeprived and grossly exhausted, she shivered in the dark on that July night in California and tried to finesse the tiny batteries into the proper orientation so she could see and continue onward. One of her partners for the final leg of the journey offered to shine his light in her direction so she could see better, and make the battery swap a little easier. But Lisa had to ask him to back away. Even while the words left her teeth-chattering mouth, she felt a clap of fear when she considered how this single morsel of “assistance” might somehow upset everything she had worked so hard to achieve, and possibly derail the entire expedition. The rules for this solo, self-contained trip required her to forgo all assistance—no help with water or shelter or food or pacing or even something as benign as “light.” While she wasn’t 100 percent certain about the assistance gained via someone’s headlamp, she just couldn’t risk it. So she refused and ordered her companion to back off. Lisa labored alone in the cold, windy darkness until her headlamp returned to life. She continued to the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous U.S., following her recent trek across Death Valley, the lowest point in North America. Starting on July 25, 2011, she managed this entire journey, all 146 miles, on foot in 89 hours 38 minutes—making her the first woman, and only second person ever, to complete the journey solo, self-supported and self-contained. The primary motivation and charity recipient for this endurance adventure was back home in Spokane. Crosswalk Youth Shelter—a Volunteers of America organization—is an emergency refuge, a school dropout prevention program, and a group of lifesaving and life-changing programs dedicated to breaking the cycle of youth homelessness. Run

by a small professional staff, Crosswalk relies heavily on the generosity of churches, clubs, families and businesses that provide daily meals, as well as community volunteers who provide tutoring and enrichment activities. Dr. Lisa Bliss—a Physiatrist, specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation—considered several charities; but she connected with Crosswalk in so many ways that, in the end, it was the most logical choice. She readily cites worthy institutions that she has raised money for in the

ily identify with the significance of the Crosswalk organization and its mission to create life-changing programs, and she knew her solo crossing could make a difference—a ten thousand dollar difference. No stranger to endurance events and races, Lisa is an established ultramarathoner with numerous records and accolades. After serving as the head of the medical team for the Badwater Ultramarathon in 2003, Lisa entered the race the following year. She placed as the third woman and

------------------------------------------------------------------She routinely humbles some of the strongest distance runners on the planet, but she’s so kind and modest one would never know she runs further in four of her running races than a NASCAR driver does in one jet-fueled race. ------------------------------------------------------------------past, such as Daybreak of Spokane, but the link with Crosswalk made a strong impression—and ultimately aided her training. It even influenced the name of her cart. Prior to committing to the Badwater Basin to Mt. Whitney solo crossing, whenever Lisa reflected on her past during her training runs, she recalled pivotal moments and decisions that delivered her through school and college—as well as many of her first marathons. While she admits she doesn’t identify with being homeless, she does admit to occasional instances of hopelessness. The weight of the world on an adolescent mind is an indefinable test of endurance, and Lisa recognized it. From that perspective, she could eas-

15th overall finisher in her rookie debut, with an impressive time of 37 hours 41 minutes for 135 miles. Three years later, Lisa crushed the Badwater Ultramarathon course again—this time as the first female finisher and 16th overall in a time of 34 hours 33 minutes. In a recent 24-hour race, Lisa ran 125.98 miles in 24 hours. Additionally, running the 153-mile Spartathlon race in Greece this year, Lisa finished as the third woman and first overall American in a time of 32 hours 23 minutes. She routinely humbles some of the strongest distance runners on the planet, but she’s so kind and modest one would never know she runs further in four of her running races than a NASCAR driver

does in one jet-fueled race. Lisa does not model expensive performance clothing. She is stunning in her approachability and her genuine demeanor. She places a significant value on authenticity, but more importantly, she is never afraid to laugh at herself. She affirms uncommon endurance and a good sense of humor go hand in hand. A California blonde, she is built like a high school cheerleader but arguably leaner and tougher than a UFC cage fighter. She is whip-smart about anatomy and physical ailments, but openly jokes that most of her patients don’t know her specialties. She is sheepish about confessing how her achievements occurred after foot surgery or other injury rehabilitations. Most of her ultramarathon knowledge came through trial and error; however, she repeatedly professes that the best advice for endurance athletes isn’t avoiding excessive training—it’s avoiding excessive resting. “This may have been a solo, unaided, self-contained crossing of Death Valley to the summit of Mt. Whitney, but it was in no way unsupported. I am deeply appreciative,” she says. Speaking about the logistics and planning and background support, Lisa is quick to rattle off many key people who made her journey possible. She did not receive assistance during the event, but she did have friends serve as witnesses and protection. Now that a few weeks have softened the event a little more, she can laugh when she says, “Tim [Englund] and Willy [Holmes] were awesome. Of course, they were there to witness and provide a little safety, but not help. A tough job for them like, for example, when the cart tipped over and all they could do was watch.” When asked if she talked to the cart during the solo Badwater crossing, she looks perplexed and then tries to mask a smile. Similar to how some

November 2011

/ Out There Monthly


Out There Monthly November 2011  

The Inland Northwest Guide to Outdoor Recreation November 2011

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