After finishing a solid race last weekend, North Coast 24 (107.7 miles) I went into the week wondering if I would recover in time to run a local race, Salt Flats 100. I was signed up, but not really committed. If I tried, It would be only five days recovery time between races. With a couple days to go, I didn’t have anything major left to recover from, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I still had doubts and decided to just treat it as a training run and see how it goes.
The Salt Flats 100 starts on the historic Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway. The actual salt flats are 12 miles long and 5 miles wide covering just over 46 square miles. Near the center, the crust is 5 feet thick in places. That is 147 million tons of mostly table salt! It is the site of some astounding land speed records over of more than 600 mph. My top speed would be 7.9 mph. The course then runs along the foothills of various “islands” above the salt and up and over five significant passes. This is an “easier” 100, but not a flat run. I think it is about two hours tougher than its neighbor Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100. It has a very generous cutoff time, so is great for first-timers or slower runners.
The weather would be on the warm side with beautiful sunny skies all day. We were off and running across the salt speedway just as the sun was rising. What a beautiful morning. Fox News was out there reporting. See their story.
Video of the start of the race.
We first ran 14 miles or so across the famed speedway….very cool. I didn’t go out fast and instead hung back and chatted with friends for several miles.
I then started to struggle so kicked it up a notch, 8:30 pace to see if I could work out the kinks. That helped for several miles and I passed a bunch of runners, but by the time we got off the speedway and near Floating Island, I was again struggling on the flats, not enough recovery, and heavy legs. But I hung in there.
On the road between Floating and Silver Islands, I caught up with Trace Lund who was always cheerful and fun to talk to. Word had spread that I had run 107 miles last week. I would see Trace and his buddy, Pete Petersen on and off for the first 67 miles. He told me that he had set a goal….to finish ahead of me. Certainly he could beat an old man who ran 107 miles last week. It was great fun and a little motivator for me to each time catch up with him.
I reached Aid Station #3 (mile 22.6) at the 3:46 mark, not terrible fast, but a solid start. It was getting warm, but I looked forward to a change after all the flat terrain. Over the next three miles, we would need to climb 1,000 feet to Cobb Peak Pass. Trace and others, including buddy Brent Rutledge went on ahead as I was still at the station.
As I started out to try to catch up, I was stunned to discover that I could easily run with speed up the road. With all the flat miles over the last week, my uphill muscles were pleading for a chance to show what they could do. Wow! I’ve never experienced this in a 100 before, being able to run up hills, well into a race, with good speed. I quickly caught up with the others and left them far behind. I would experience this amazing high on every hill during the race.
We rose up the mountain, high above the white, flat salt far below. The views were incredible. The aid station at the top was amazing. They had a lady down before you arrived to take your order for a grill cheese sandwich or something else. When I arrived it was hot off the grill and I was in and out of the station in a hurry. Down the other side of the pass, the trail was very technical with lots of deep gravel. I ran past areas with caves where Indians once used as shelter, storage, and ceremonial sites. It was peaceful.
Before the next aid station, was again a flat dirt road and my flat road muscles struggled. Trace and Pete caught up as we arrived at Hastings Pass, which connects Silver Island to Crater Island. The Donner/Reed company also went over this pass on their way to California back in 1846. Last year I was the aid station captain there and cooked up a nice feast for the runners. I arrived there (mile 31.6) at 5:41. For 50K on this course, that is pretty good.
I left there for Crater Island to the north and was determined to stay ahead of Trace and others. I passed a couple runners and looked forward to next tough climb up to another pass. Sure enough, the legs again loved to keep a nice run going all the way up the hill. Again I passed a runner. The aid station on Crater Island is perched at the top of another pass on the north end of the island. I was in good spirits as I arrived. I looked down the other side and saw another runner that I could go after.
As I almost caught up to the next runner, I hit the toughest obstacle of the course, the mud flats. For the next seven miles we would need to run around the west side of the island on these mud flats. It was like running in snow or deep sand on the beach. I saw three runners only a quarter mile ahead. Surely I could catch them, it looked like they were barely moving. But my efforts slowed and soon I was barely moving. It became hot in the afternoon sun and it reflected off the flats and would leave me with a sunburn all over despite using sun screen.
I slogged along and eventually ran out of water. A couple runners caught up and they were also out of water. Soon dehydration set in and I started to suffer. That next aid station just was too far away. I finally arrived there, back at Hastings Pass (mile 50.4) at 10:19. It took my 90 minutes longer than expected to make that loop.
I was thrashed. Trace and Pete soon arrived too. I drank and drank, three cans of ginger ale and other drinks. I was in no hurry to continue, staying there for 17 minutes, trying to recover. I mentioned to the others there that it typically took me a couple hours to fully recover after a bad case of dehydration. I left with the guys, but Trace and Pete were doing much better and it wasn’t long until I could see them about a mile ahead on the dirt road around the west side of Silver Island. I was really struggling and clocking only 13-minute miles. Finally it was cooling down as the sun was setting. That helped a ton. It took 2.5 hours, but I eventually recovered.
As I ran into the 61.7-mile aid station, I was in high spirits, feeling super. With the slow pace over the last few hours, my legs felt fresh. I arrived there at the 13:21 mark as dusk was arriving. Best of all, next up was another long hill, up and over Silver Island Pass. 100K was in the books. Typically at the 60-mile point of a 100-miler, it was finally time to seriously race. I put on my determined race face, found a specific “hill running” song, and was off and running up the hill at about 9-10 minute pace. I quickly passed a couple runners ahead who gave me nice compliments. Could I catch up to Trace and the others? At the top of the hill it was time to turn on my light. I ran hard down the other side and when I arrived at the next aid station, there was Trace and Pete, somewhat struggling.
I didn’t stay long because I saw lights ahead to catch. We next had to again cross up and over the island using a different, rougher and steeper road. I could still cruise and quickly caught another runner. I was now in 8th place. How long would I be able to keep running hard like this. The answer soon came. As I was cruising down the other side, I caught another runner, it was Tetsuro. He was struggling with drowsiness. I was now in 7th place and could see the next runner ahead. But it all came crashing down, literally. In a very rough, steep section, I tripped and knew that this would not end well. Down I went and fell into sharp rocks and thorns. My right arm was bloody all over and immediately started to swell. Tetsuro caught up as I picked myself up and tried to dust myself off.
The wind left my sails. I kept pace with Tesuro, but just couldn’t find the speed anymore. I reached Aid #11 (mile 74.3) at the 16:05 mark. The volunteers were so nice, helping me tend to my wounds, putting on about five bandages. After 10 minutes, it was time to leave again.
The next section was thankfully uphill, which helped, but my speed was gone. Once we reached the next pass, it was a long four-mile down-hill paved road run into Nevada. I caught up and passed Tetsuro. It was fun looking back and across the valley at all the other lights of runners and crews spread out for miles.
What, no slot machine?
I arrived at mile 80.6 at 17:56. It was a party aid station of good friends, Mike Place, Dennis Ahern and others. They immediately started to poke fun at me and made me laugh. What a fun group and fun place. They were full of enthusiasm at 1:00 a.m in the morning. I wished I could stay, but Dennis said the next runner was only three minutes ahead, so I pushed on.
My feet were now the issue. The salt and sand had been thrashing them. After another mile, I decided it was time to do something. I sat down and drained a bad blister on my heel, and watched Testsuro’s light go down the road. For the next 10 miles, I would run in a section I had never run before. At times I would be in doubt that I was going the right way and it would slow me down, but I always did stay on the course.
I was faced with a long 8-mile run rising 1,000 feet. As the run started I took off. There were lights within 100 yards of me, but I left them far behind. I worried that they could see my light, and use it as a motivator to catch me, so for the next six miles, I ran by the full moon. It was incredible. I was able to push my lead over the next runners by nearly a mile, but just could not quite catch the next two runners ahead. The valleys I ran through looked amazing in the moonlight. I need to return there during the daylight some day.
Then I ran out of water again! I had only one bottle and didn’t think about this long section. Dehydration again set in and one runner eventually caught me as we arrived at the 90-mile aid station. They had some great food there and it really helped.
It was the 20:30 mark, with ten more miles to go. For the next several miles I played leap-frog with the other runner and we could see the lights of Tetsuro and Jeffrey Kasal, less than a half mile ahead. As we came down out the hills, I passed the other runner for good, but just couldn’t catch the others. My feet felt pretty thrashed and I didn’t look forward to the next seven miles of flat running. I stretched my lead on the runners behind to about a half mile and just concentrated on keeping that lead. Dawn arrived and it was a spectacular sight out on the salt flats.
Finally that finish came, with smiling cousin Vince Romney at the finish. My finish time was 23:29:19. Wow! I was pleased to come in at under 24 hours. I finished in 8th place out of about 52 starters. It had been a wonderful day and night on the Salt Flats and the islands, but I was glad I was finished. I proved to myself that I could run solid back-to-back 100s. I learned some new things about my ability to run up hills. I hope I can do that again.
Now it is time for a little rest. My 54th 100 finish is done. Thanks to Vince and all the others for putting on a super event. Each year it gets better.