December 29-30, 2007

In December 2004, I started running the historic Pony Express Trail in sections across western Utah.  I desired to go further out on the trail, but couldn’t find anyone willing to drive my all the way out to my continuation point.   So I thought, why not just do the whole stretch in one section and make it a 100-miler?   I was pleasantly surprised that some friends wanted to join in so I decided to publicize the run and invite some others.

We eventually chose the date of December 29th, making it a holiday season run.  No doubt the run would be very cold, but this would be a great way to feel a connection to those Pony Express riders of the 19th century, who rode on these remote miles in every kind of weather.

This would be a very unique 100-miler for several reasons. The course is very straight with an end-to-end layout.  When you finish, you must drive back along the entire course.  It really helps you appreciate how long the 100-mile distance is. Crews would provide the aid and could drive along the entire course except for a two-mile cross-country section.  In a way it would be similar to the Badwater race, except the temperatures would be frigid cold instead of blazing hot.  Crews would make efforts to keep their runners warm throughout the day and night.  It would truly be a challenge against the winter elements.   See Pony Express 100 Website for more details.

The course follows nearly half of the Pony Express Trail that extends across Utah.  The starting point is in a housing development only four miles from my home in Saratoga Springs, Utah.  The finish is way out in the west desert at the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge.  Those running the entire 100-mile course would pass by nine Pony Express station sites marked by eight large monuments.  To get an official finish, the runners needed to touch each of the monuments.  These stations were used as relay points to change horses or riders.

 

The profile for the course is very flat with only a 5,000 feet increase.  The route crosses over three minor passes.   There is about 30 miles of pavement.  The remainder is dirt roads.  For those that did not want to run the entire 100-mile distance, I offered two alternatives, a 30-mile run to the Faust Station monument or a 56-mile run to Simpson Springs.

Two weeks before race-day, a storm dumped snow on the entire course – ten inches at the start and two inches at the finish.   The snow slowly melted over the next two weeks.  On the day before the run, I placed markings on the first 75-miles of the course and was relieved to see that the roads were clear enough for running.  There was one flat section around mile 8 that was still very icy.  We would need to be very careful to avoid falling.   Several runners dropped out in the few days leading up to the run, but we still had a good core to have a fun day.

Race day arrived.   We gathered at the Pony Express Elementary School in Eagle Mountain, Utah.  I arrived at 5:30 a.m and greeted the runners as they arrived.  Eleven runners arrived and we quickly organized them between the three crew vehicles.  Four runners planned to run the entire course:  Myself, Phil Lowry, Brent Rutledge, and Stephen Kissell.   Brian Beckstead planned to run 56 miles and the rest would stop at 30.  As we were getting ready, Phil pointed out that my van had a nearly flat tire — A great way to start.  My son brought out a compressor, filled the tire, and it seemed to be OK.  

At the 6:00 a.m. start, the temperature hovered around 25 degrees.   Phil Lowry counted down the time and away we went.  We first ran along the Pony Express Parkway.   Early commuters drove by our group, surely wondering what was going on – a group of crazy runners out in the dark morning cold.   My crew for the day consisted of six of my family – my wife, my two daughters, and two of my four sons.   For the first few miles they stayed close to make sure things started out fine.   During the early miles, we naturally divided into two groups of runners.   I kept up with the lead pack, wanting to make sure they didn’t make any wrong turns.  So much for that goal!   After we descended down into Cedar Valley in the dark, we missed a turn (mile 3.7) onto a dirt road.  My crew was waiting at that point, but Phil said his GPS indicated the turn wasn’t there.  So we continued on for a quarter mile until I became sure we missed the turn.   Our lead pack back-tracked and cut across a field to reach the correct road.  Oh well, 0.4 bonus miles.   As Phil and I put YakTraks on our feet to help with the icy section, the second group of runners also missed the turn-off.  We yelled to them and got them back on course. 

That would really be the only tricky turn.  From now on, it would be “head west.”   As dawn approached, Phil and I caught up with the lead runners who stopped at a point where the road made a jog around a ranch in the middle of the valley.  We pointed out the signs and flags at the turns that pointed the way.  Phil reported that the temperature had dipped to a nippy 15 degrees. 

 

Dawn approaches at Camp Floyd

 

At about the 2-hour mark, we arrived at the next historic Pony Express Station site, Camp Floyd at mile 11.0.   My crew was ready and waiting for me.  I drank some nice warm soup.   My crew would wait behind to make sure that all the remaining runners arrived and then would drive five miles ahead to see us again.

In 1857, President James Buchanan sent an army of U.S. troops to quell a purported uprising in Utah. When the “Mormon War” was settled in 1858 without a battle, the army of 3000 Union soldiers built Camp Floyd.  The soldiers spent their time in drilling, practicing.   By 1860 Fairfield was a busy city of thousands, the third largest city in Utah with 7,000 inhabitants (3,000 soldiers, 4,000 civilians).  When the Civil War broke out, the camp was abandoned.

The next section was the most annoying section of the course.  It was five miles of highway running, much without a shoulder.   The traffic on the road was light, but still a bother.  Our lead group quickly spread out with me and Phil bringing up the rear.   The runners ahead weren’t going 100 miles, so I was content to keep the pace slower.   As we ran up the road, the sun peeked over the horizon and caused a stunning reflection across the flat snow-covered valley.  It truly looked like an Arctic wonderland.   A cold headwind blew, causing the wind-chill to drop below ten degrees.   The nozzle of my water bottle started to freeze.  I tried to drink more often to keep it from totally freezing up.   As we ascended out of Cedar Valley, the view around us was wonderful.  I pointed out to Phil the various small mountain ranges that I enjoyed running in, the Ochirs, and the Tintics.   During this long 100-mile run, we would pass five mountain ranges.  The Wasatch mountain range would disappear from our sight by mile 39.

 

We turned west here, off the highway

 

As we continued to run along the highway, most of the fast-traveling cars would give us wide berths, but a couple trucks would blow by us like we weren’t even there.  My family crew passed by us and reported all the runners arrived at Camp Floyd, but they were over two miles behind.   By the time I reached Five-mile pass, my crew reported that the lead runner was 20 minutes ahead.  Phil and I were running the same pace.   The Kris Lander crew was also there offering any assistance we needed.   The Stephen Kissell crew was about three miles behind, assisting the back of the pack.

 

View from the crew.  Me and Brian Beckstead in Rush Valley

Finally the course left the highway and we ran along a remote road across Rush Valley.   The noise of highway traffic was gone and we could see for miles ahead of us.  The runners in front were small specks on the rolling road.   As we pushed ahead further down into the valley we soon could not see any evidence of modern development except for the paved road.  From horizon to horizon, there was only snow-covered desert landscape with various mountain ranges far in the distance.

 

Four of my loyal crew (kids) at East Rush Station monument

 

I fell behind Phil but caught up as we arrived at the East Rush Station (mile 22.2).  We were averaging a little better than 5 mph.  My crew was getting the hang of things and helped us quickly refill.   Phil made a sock change so I continued on ahead.   I pushed up the pace in an attempt to catch two runners ahead.  At the 25-mile mark, I almost caught up.  At that point, one runner (Zac Case) decided to call it a day, and jumped in the Kris Lander crew vehicle.    Rand Nielson pushed on ahead.   At various points, we could see miles to the rear, but there was no sign of the runners behind.  I needed to stop to make a long pit stop, so Phil caught up and went ahead for the last time.   I tried to catch up but he soon was about a half mile ahead.

 

Not a structure to be seen clear to the horizon

 

With the low horizons, It was pretty amazing to see how low the sun traveled across the sky at this time of year.   As noon approached, the sun was still very low and the temperature was still pretty cold.   As I approached the Faust Station monument (mile 29.9) I could see that Phil was already leaving.  When I arrived, all the other runners there reported that they were done for the day.   They thanked me for the run and I quickly refilled and pushed on.   It was now just me and Phil on the road ahead.

For the rest of the day, we began a very interesting pattern of crewing.  Phil would extend his lead over me to about two miles.   My crew would travel 3-4 miles ahead of me, making sure they were ahead of Phil.  They would stop, wait for Phil to arrive and then wait for me to arrive.  In this way Phil and I could still know how far apart we were and how each other were doing.   We had no way to know how the runners in the rear were doing.  Did they stop at mile 30?   How many would be continuing on?

For me, the long paved nine-mile stretch toward Lookout Pass was a slow effort.  My walking stretches became more frequent.   After a couple miles I saw a figure on the road ahead.  I thought that perhaps Phil slowed down to wait for me, but it turned out to be a hunter with a rifle walking along the road.  As I passed he remarked that it was a great day for run.  It really was.  The temperature was around the freezing point and very pleasant.  

 

Looking back to where we came. Scout trailer on left.

 

My friend Pablo Riboldi drove up with scout troop that would camp out at mile 56 and provide dinner.  He reported that the runners in the rear were still a couple miles east of Faust but doing well.   I wondered how the remaining 30-mile runners would get a ride back.  My plans for rides were messed up because more people stopped at 30 miles than expected.  Oh well, I couldn’t do anything about it.  I’m sure they would figure something out to get back.

 

Foothills below Lookout Pass

 

I pushed on and as I started to ascend the foothills of the next mountain range, I looked behind me and could see both Mount Timpanogos and Mount Nebo more than 50 miles away.   At one point I could see the road extend more than six miles straight to the west.  I couldn’t see any runners behind.

 

Finally the pavement was gone for good as I ascended toward Lookout Pass (about 6,400 feet).   Clouds were hovering over the mountain range causing the temperature to drop significantly.   It did feel good to have a tougher uphill section, causing me to use some different muscles after the many miles of flat running.  Also the landscape was totally different, dotted with cedars and trees.

 

Once over Lookout Pass, I was very pleased to finally have some downhill running.   My pace picked up and soon I arrived at Lookout Station (mile 39.3) where my crew was waiting for me.   I made the short out-and-back run to the silly Pet Cemetery there.  My wife remarked that Phil thought it was stupid.  I chuckled.   They also reported that Phil was only about 20 minutes ahead.   I told them to go ahead four more miles. 

 

Pet Cemetery

 

Horace Rockwell, brother of Orrin Porter Rockwell, and his wife Libby lived in a small log house at Lookout. They had no children, and Aunt Libby, as she was called, kept several dogs that she treated like her children.  The stone enclosure a short distance to the south was built to protect the cemetery where her beloved dogs are buried. Three emigrant graves are also said to be found within.  An entertaining story is told of a time when one of Aunt Libby’s beloved dogs was sick. She sent to Tooele, about 40 miles away, for the nearest doctor. She sent the message that one of the ranch hands was critically ill, knowing that old Doctor Dodds would never make the trip to treat a dog. When he arrived, late at night, he was nearly apoplectic to find he had rushed out there for a sick dog. Aunt Libby just smiled and gave him a $20 gold piece, and everyone was happy.

 

Snowy descent from Lookout Pass

 

The run for the next four miles was a very pleasant mild downhill section through a winding valley dotted with cedars.  I recovered well through this section and really started to enjoy the run more.  I took inventory and couldn’t find any muscle or joint problems.   I pushed the pace faster but when I’m running alone it is too easy to get lazy, slow down and do sight-seeing.  

 

Me, running toward Government Creek

 

In about 45 minutes I caught up with my crew again.  Wow, those miles went by fast.   I was now into the next spacious valley.  The snow coverage continued to decrease and the temperature was warmer in the afternoon.  I noticed that icy puddles were melting.

 

Indian Peak

 

At about mile 45, my friend Brad Clements arrived.   It was so kind of him to drive out to help with the run.   He reported that the rear group of runners were still about two miles east of Lookout Pass when he passed them. They were walking.  Wow, they were more than six miles behind!  He said there were three runners in the group.  That would be Brent and Stephen.  Who was the third runner?   I assumed that one of the 30-mile runners decided to go further.  (Many hours later I learned that Milada Copeland jumped in with them about mile 36.)   Brad had come out to shuttle back the 56-mile runners.  I asked Brad if he would kindly take over crewing duties from my family until my night crew arrived at 6:00 p.m.   He drove ahead, transferred all our stuff into his vehicle and soon my family headed back after a very long day.

 

Me at about mile 49

 

As I ran across Government Creek, I thought of legendary Porter Rockwell.    Porter Rockwell decided to establish a ranch here in the 1860s.  In commenting about his choice of location, he said, “For a cattle ranch you want a place where you can track’em out.”   With the wide-open landscape I was running through, I knew that was true!

The sun going down at mile 52

 

At the next stop, Brad reported that Phil was having some achilles pain and would probably stop at mile 56.  That was very disappointing news.   I started to worry about what I would do for a crew during the night.  Dave Hunt was coming out to crew us during the night.  Would he still crew me?   As the sun continued to set, I pushed on along the long straight road and passed the half-way point, 50-mile at about the 10:30 mark.  My pace was a little slower than planned but still was fine.

 

 

The sun slowly set below the horizon and the temperature dove.  As I ran up the road toward Simpson Springs, I finally turned on my flashlight.  Off in the distance I could see the light of a bonfire from the scouts.  I could also see flashlights flashing in my direction.  I saw Phil flashing his light at me.  He was surprisingly close, within a half mile.  I concluded that he was already on the road ahead leaving Simpson Springs.  

 

Simpson Springs Station bears the name of explorer Captain J. H. Simpson who stopped here in 1858 while searching for the overland mail route between Salt Lake City and California. It was one of the most dependable watering points in this desert region.  A Pony Express station has been reconstructed on the original site.

 

I arrived at Simpson Springs and started the half-mile climb up to the campground.  Brad had done a good job glow-sticking the route.  I was puzzled to see that I could see Phil’s foot tracks in the snow going up, but couldn’t find any coming down.   Could he have taken a different road down?   I soon arrived to cheers at the campground and saw Phil sitting beside the warm campfire.   Phil said he was done for the day.  He was experiencing a lot of pain and didn’t really look forward to a long cold night.   I had no thoughts about quitting.  I was feeling great. I would have to press on ahead alone.    Pablo fed me a great dinner of spaghetti and turkey sandwich.  Phil told me that he planned to go back when Dave Hunt arrived.  He said Pablo would crew me during the night.  Another scout leader would stay with the boys.   That sounded fine.   I put on another layer of clothes and donned my warm coonskin hat.   My stop was long, but by about 6:30 p.m. I was on the road again.

 

I felt wonderful and pushed the pace fast.   The road headed straight west with a mild downhill.   I could see lights of trucks heading toward me many miles to the west.   Their day was done and they were returning from their fun day of ATVing in the western desert.  When they finally approached me, they slowed down, surely wondering what this guy was doing alone out in the dark desert.   I also could see to the northeast the lights of the crew vehicle for the runners in the rear approaching Simpson Springs.  Would they continue on?

 

After about an hour, I started to worry.   Where was my crew?    I looked behind me and could only see a dim light from the campground over 4 miles away.   I decided to continue on.   Another mile went by.   It was now totally dark both to the east and the west, no lights to be seen.   I was completely alone.   My pace slowed dramatically as I tried to figure out what was going on.   Did Pablo get a flat tire?   Did he head out on the wrong road?   I looked to the south and could see the lights of a vehicle heading south about four miles away.   I shined my light and it stopped and shined its headlights in my direction.   Wow, could Pablo be on the wrong road?   I stopped and flashed my light.   The vehicle started heading north but then stopped and again shined its headlights toward me.   It stopped moving.   What was going on?   Was Pablo stuck in the snow?   What should I do?

 

I decided to continue on but my worries slowed me down.  I knew that there was probably no one to the west for 40 miles.   My fluids were running low.   After another mile, it was now over 1.5 hours since I left Simpson Springs.  There were no lights following me to the east.   I had no choice but to turn around and head back.   I marked my stopping point with a row of three rocks and then started to run back.   Soon, I again saw the lights of a vehicle on a road to the south.   It was only a couple miles away.  I started to run across the open desert directly toward the lights to the southeast.   Soon the vehicle started moving to the north.   I thought it must be Pablo finally figuring out a route to reach me.   I headed back to the main road and continued to run to the east.    The vehicle reached the road and started to head toward me.  

 

When it finally arrived, I was surprised to see that it wasn’t Pablo.  It was three Latinos in a truck who spoke very little English.   I asked them for a ride back to Simpson Springs.  They agreed and I squished in the truck cab.  On the way back, I did my best to explain to them what I was doing out there, that my crew was lost and I needed to return.   It was a hard task to help them understand that I was running 100 miles, but I think they finally understood.   After driving about five miles, we came upon the lights of two crew vehicles.   We stopped them and I jumped out.   It was Stephen Kissell’s crew vehicles.  He now had two cars.   I asked them where Pablo was.  They reported that he was still eating his dinner by the fire when they left Simpson Springs.   I decided that I would just run with the others, but soon Pablo arrived to my relief.

 

I jumped in his van, told him to drive east and helped him understand better how critical it was for a crew to stay close to their runner during the freezing night.   I had thought that he would follow after me in fifteen minutes, but it was now nearly two hours.  He sincerely apologized and drove me up to my stopping point.  He gave me some nice warm cobbler on the way.  I could see why he took his time!  It was fantastic.  I was now about 5 miles ahead of Brent, Stephen, and Milada.   I instructed Pablo that we would use a pattern over and over again.  He would drive two miles ahead and wait for me to catch up.   We would also hang some glows sticks along the way for the runners behind.   They knew that they should gather the glow sticks.

 

Back on the road again, I had plenty of energy after a wasted half hour of rest.   I was able to push the pace very quickly for the first two miles, but soon slowed down as I started to experience pain in my left hip.   I soon could only manage 15-minute miles after that.   I did some calculations and realized that a sub-24-hour finish would now be tough.

 

It was very cool to see the lights of Stephen’s crew vehicles many miles behind.   After awhile, I could see that they would drive ahead, stop and then turn out their lights until the runners arrived.   The road ahead took me down into an ancient dry riverbed.   Pablo and I hung glow sticks to make sure the runners behind made the out-and-back to the Riverbed Pony Express Station (mile 64.3).   According folklore, this site was difficult to man because of its reputation of being regularly visited by desert spirits.  Three former operators claimed they were afraid of the “desert fairies.”  I chuckled as I looked around for desert fairies.  We didn’t see any fairies flying around, just eerie glow sticks.

 

Once I ran up out of the massive riverbed, I could again see far to the east the lights of the other runners.   They were still well behind.   The half moon was glowing brightly above and it was very easy to run without any lights.   I did that for awhile but knew that it concerned Pablo that he couldn’t see where I was, so I turned my light back on.  

 

The temperature really took a dive and a wind blew in my face.   I did my best to stay warm and put on ski goggles to keep my face warm.  I also retrieved some fresh hand-warmers.  I was now wearing six layers of clothes on my chest.  I knew the temperature was below ten degrees because my water bottles started to freeze in just 20 minutes.   Drinking cold slush was not very fun.  On one cold stretch it totally froze.  I couldn’t get anything out even after unscrewing the top.  The long nine-mile straight stretch from the riverbed seemed to go on forever.   I could see Pablo drive ahead two miles and then stop.   His taillights looked so close, but in reality they were far away.

 

Along this stretch, the story is told that during the 1860s a lone woman passenger on a stagecoach awoke to find the horses and coach standing still.   She could not find the driver and ended up driving the coach to Simpson Spring.  Legendary frontiersman Porter Rockwell greeted her there.  “She was a noted character known to carry a revolver and was also known to be able to take care of herself under any and all conditions. Port examined the gun and found one empty shell in it, listened to her story, and let her continue east while he went to investigate.”  Porter found the driver’s body about one mile west of the Dugway Station, drove to the well and dumped the body down it.  Later, stagecoach officials in Salt Lake City demanded that Rockwell go retrieve the body so they could investigate the death. “He told them it was too hot to attempt to haul a dead body that distance, but if any of them wished to investigate, he would be glad to go back with them and lower them down the well and let them carry on all the investigating they wanted to alone with the body. No one wanted to go.”  The story speculates that Rockwell didn’t arrest the woman because he believed that Indians had killed the stage driver.  Rockwell found an arrow shot into the driver’s heart.”

 

Finally we reached Dugway Topaz Well, the turnoff to go to the Dugway Station monument.   We glowsticked the turn and then headed south.   After 1.5 miles the course again headed west toward the monument and I started the cross-country route that I had flagged on Thursday.  I grabbed 10 glow sticks and Pablo drove back to the main road and went forward a couple miles waiting for me to come out of the desert to the main road.  I was pleased to feel that the temperature was much warmer in this section of the desert.  It was probably in the low 20s.

 

It was wonderful to now be running on soft trail away from the hard dirt road.   It was after midnight when I arrived at the Dugway Station monument (mile 75.7).   This was amazing.   I was alone, out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the wintry night.    I could see the tail lights from Pablo’s van stopped on the road heading toward Dugway Pass.  Far to the northeast I could see the headlights of Stephen Kissell’s crew.  

 

Around 1860, three wells were attempted here, the deepest being dug to a depth of more than 150 feet. All were dry, and water had to be hauled from Simpson or Riverbed. Horace Greeley, passing by in 1860, describes Dugway as “…about the forlornest spot I ever saw.”

 

I did my best to glow stick the cross-country route along washes that followed the original route of the Pony Express trail.   I knew that the other runners would have some difficulty doing some route-finding along this section.  (They later told me that they were cursing me along this stretch).  My flags had a good reflective strip on it, so I felt confident that they could pick them out with their lights.   Even if they went off course, if they continued west, they would hit a small dirt road which would take them back to the main road.   As I was approaching this road, I could see a flashlight approaching me.  It was Pablo.  He decided it would be more fun to backtrack toward me and run with me for the end of the leg.   We hung a couple more glow sticks on the way and soon arrived back at the van.   I could see off in the distance that Stephen’s crew were making their way south on the road to the monument.

 

Next up was a nice climb up to Dugway Pass (mile 80).   Pablo drove up to the top of the pass and then ran down to escort me up.   It was very cool to rise high up above the moon-lit desert floor.   As I power-hiked up around a huge switch-back, I thought of a legendary chase the concluded here.

 

In 1885, a horse was stolen from the town of Vernon, in Rush Valley, to the east.  Men followed the trail of the horse to Simpson Springs.  They arrived there shortly after midnight and awoke Ed Meredith, who maintained the station.  Meredith mentioned that a man had been there but must have left abruptly while Meredith slept.  The men continued along the long road to Riverbed and toward Dugway Station.  As they rode down from the bench,  “they saw a man hastily throw a saddle on his horse, mount, and speed away, possibly one-quarter of a mile from them.  What a race and what a racetrack—level as a barn floor with nowhere to hide before Dugway Mountains were reached, ten miles away! . . . Mile after mile it continued with little change in position.”  As they chased him toward the horseshoe switchback in the road, one of the chasers took a shortcut directly up the hill as the thief continued on the bended road.  The chaser reached the road above, jumped off his horse, hid behind a large rock and waited.   As the thief approached he called out for him to surrender.  Taken completely by surprise, the thief turned in his saddle only to find himself looking right into the business end of a pistol sticking over a large rock. Automatically up went two hands as the tired horse came to a stop.”  They tied up the thief and took him back to face justice.

 

As we arrived at Dugway Pass, I could see far below that the other runners were successfully making their way out of the cross-country route.   I shined my light toward them and then started a very welcome downhill stretch past the Dugway Geode Beds toward the Blackrock Station, ten miles to the west.  

 

I tried my best to run hard but my left hip screamed in pain, causing me to again back off to 16-17-minute miles.    For the next 14 miles Pablo would drive one-mile ahead, run back toward me, and then run with me to the van.    I would alternate water bottles every couple miles to replace a frozen bottle with a thawed-out bottle.   My stomach started to shut down and I struggled to get it working again.   Boy it was cold!   It was probably ten degrees.   I stopped at one point to put on another pair of pants.  That helped.   The cold really sapped away my strength.  As the moon set, it cast amazing reflections on the pools out at Fish Springs many miles away.

 

Finally, after about six miles of this, we again started to see headlights from Stephen’s crew up in the foothills near the Geode Beds.   It was very hard to estimate how far behind they were.   The road turned to the north to head around a small mountain range.   As we headed north, we could plainly see at an angle the bouncing lights of the three runners behind.   It seemed like they were catching up, so I pushed it into a higher gear.   We again turned to the west around the mountain range and lost sight of the other runners.   Now, we could clearly see the lights of Fish Springs, our finishing point!   It seemed very close, but I knew there was still ten miles to go.   Before descending into the valley, the wind kicked up and made the wind chill feel sub-zero.   Wow, this was becoming very extreme.   I was relieved that the wind died down as I approached the entrance into the Fish Springs National Refuge.  There was only 5 miles to go.   It was now past 6 a.m.   I had been out in this frigid cold for more than 24 hours.   I was worried that Pablo had not slept much and instructed him to drive ahead two miles and get some rest for a half hour instead of running with me.   He agreed.

 

As I continued to run in the Refuge, some vehicles of hunters passed me from both directions.  They were headed to do some early morning duck hunting in permitted areas of the Refuge.   Soon I could again see the lights of Stephen’s crew.  It seemed like they were only a couple miles behind (in reality they were 5-6 miles behind).  Dawn arrived and I turned off my flashlight with a couple miles to go.

 

I was feeling pretty good as I approached the finish.  I was very ready to get out of the cold, but I wasn’t very sore and still had an appetite.  Pablo ran another half mile with me and then drove to the finish.   I arrived at 7:30 a.m.   My finishing time was 25:29, a PR for 100 miles.

 

The Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Refuge, established in 1959, covers almost 18,000 acres, including approximately 10,000 acres of marshland. It serves as an important stop on the migration routes of thousands of birds from dozens of species, as well as a prime location for a variety of fields of wildlife research.

 

I hobbled down to the Refuge headquarters, took off several layers and then was greeted by the ranger there, Jay.   We had been in contact a week before.  He and his wife arose early to greet us.   They were so very kind and friendly.  They took us into the headquarters and fed us some wonderful homemade chicken soup and hot chocolate.   They explained that they don’t get many visitors, only about 10 vehicles drive by each day.   They brought out historic pictures of the Pony Express station there and showed us various maps.  They really enjoyed hearing about my long, cold experience.   Pablo had fun talking to them as I struggled to warm up and recover.   After 45 minutes, I felt much better.   There was still no sign of the other runners.  Jay’s wife, Francis offered to let me take a shower in one of the bunk houses.  Wow!   I took them up on that offer.   After a wonderful hot shower, I felt much better in clean clothes.  

 

The finishers at Fish Springs

Milada, Stephen, Davy, Brent

 

Stephen’s crew arrived but the runners were still a mile away.    Pablo and I went out to the finish line and cheered them in.  They finished at 26:50.  Jay and Francis convinced them to also visit the headquarters and have some soup.    They were so kind and it was nice to have such friendly people take care of us at the finish.    We were all very impressed and hoped to return to the Refuge someday soon.   Finally we bid goodbye and started the long 100-mile drive back.

 

As we were driving, it amazed us how far we had come.  It seemed to go on forever.  How in the world could we have come that far on our feet?   We stopped after Dugway Pass and I again “ran” through the cross-country section and pulled all the flags and any remaining glow sticks.  When all was said and done I ran about 103 miles.   Back on our way, Pablo fell asleep at the wheel and the van almost drifted off the road.   I took over the driving duties and got us back to Simpson Springs about 11 a.m. where we helped the scouts break their camp.  They were in good spirits after a cold, frigid night.

 

Will we do this run again?   I don’t know.   That may be the first and only Pony Express 100, at least at this time of the year.    The night was long and very cold.   It was long and hard on the crews.   But I had a great time and so did the others who finished at Fish Springs.   If nothing else, it was another amazing adventure.

 

Results:

 

100-mile finishers 

25:29 Davy Crockett

26:50 Brent Rutledge

26:50 Stephen Kissell

 

100K finisher

About 16:30 Milada Copeland

 

56-mile finisher

11:57 Phil Lowry

 

30 mile finishers

5:15 Kris Lander

5:40 Brian Beckstead

Kent Griffiths

7:04 Gary Stosich

7:04 Mike Perkins

 

25 miles:

Zac Case

6:30 Rand Nielson