I ran the Trail Trashed 100, put on by Triple Dare Running Company, held in foothills of the McCollough Range above Henderson, Nevada, near Las Vegas. This was the first time a 100-mile race was put on as a part of this running event. Other distances included 50 miles, marathon, half-marathon, 10K and 5K. I discovered the race only ten days before and decided to register. The course was only four miles from my son’s apartment in Henderson. I would be attempting to finish three 100-milers in a four-week period.
The Trail Trashed 100-mile course consists of four 25-mile loops. As I researched the course and pieced together Strava segments, I discovered that this would not be an easy 100-miler, with about 16,000 feet of climbing. “Not easy” turned out to be an understatement. This turned out to be one of the toughest 100-milers I had run in several years.
The course ran through Sloan Canyon, a very popular area for local runners. It is all barren desert with shrubs, except for some short green sections in gulches. For the 25-mile loop (closer to 26 miles), 20 of those miles were on tough, rocky winding single-track. There were also a couple miles of desert, sandy washes.
I flew to Las Vegas after work on Friday which gave me enough time to check out a few sections of the course to make sure I knew where critical turns were. I stayed at my son’s place and got up very early to do the early start at 4:30 a.m. I was really glad the RD, Heidi, let me start early to get an extra hour of cooler desert running. Two ladies also started with me.
The first 4.2 miles of the course was an out-and-back up over a low pass and then a huge 500-foot descent to another trailhead. Then we had to turn around and make that climb back. The trail surprised me. It was rocky, rugged and difficult to run fast. My first four miles were 11:25, 10:51, 14:33, and 14:34. I originally had visions of finishing this race in about 24 hours, but within these first four miles, I knew that would be impossible for me on these rugged trails. After the first four miles, I was already ahead of the two ladies by more than a mile.
Next up, at mile five was another out-and-back consisting of a steep 300-foot climb in just 0.7 miles to a saddle overlook with great views of the Las Vegas lights. It also was rough and rugged, with no fast running back down. The rest of the 100-milers started an hour after me. (Turns out there were only two more.) The field was small, only about 5 runners started in the 100. Another group of 50-milers would start in another half hour. It was now light and I dropped off my flashlight at a very enthusiast aid station, excited to see their first runner.
I thought the course would now get easier, but next I climbed up the 601 trail 400 feet of climbing in 1.5 miles. I did enjoy the climb, and once up on a shelf, the trail weaved around as it presented many views of the valley below.
The course was wonderfully marked, perhaps even over-marked. In addition to the course flags, there were encouraging, and humorous signs along the way. These signs were not just near aid stations, they were seen in all the remote areas of the course. There were probably about 70 of them. I was impressed by all the care that went into this race. At mile 8.3 was an important intersection with a guy who was out there for more than ten hours making sure we went the right way.
Soon the course took a turn and went into a wide and winding uphill wash with deep sand, that later would really drain my strength. I then rejoined a single-track trail that took me to the head of a more narrow wash. Thankfully this one was downhill and I had great fun running through this gulch. With my early start, it was so pleasing to have the desert to myself. It felt really remote and quiet. I was glad when I came upon an un-manned aid station where I filled my bottle. For the 25-mile loop there were four manned-aid stations and another four unmanned stations, so I could run the course with one water bottle and never worried about running out of fluids.
I reached the Jeep road aid station (mile 11.3) at 2:29. Next up I was faced with running a tough Trail 701 6-mile horseshoe. The first couple miles were fun and fast through washes and winding single-track, but next up was a long sustained run up the foothills to wind in beautiful gulches and drainage areas at the foot of Black Mountain. I reached the 701 aid station (mile 17.7) at 3:51. The guys there were friendly and very helpful, happy to see the first runner arrive.
I was next faced with a brutal and very rocky 300-foot climb up and over a pass which they called “Everest.” Along the way one of the numerous signs actually had my name on it. The run down the other side was very rough through volcanic rock. Finally at mile 19.8 I was on the smooth maintained McCullough Trail which would take me six miles directly back to the start. It was nice to finally stretch my legs out with longer strides on this section that gets a lot of use by runners and bikers.
At mile 21, I was surprised that a runner caught up with me. He was the leading runner in the 50-mile race. We exchanged greetings, but he went on fast down the trail like I was standing still. He ran those 21 miles 1:30 faster than me.
See video of the Trail Trashed Marathon that started a couple hours after me.
I made it back to the start-finish at 5:41. I had originally hoped to run the first loop in 5:05, but that just wasn’t possible. On my Garmin, the loop was exactly 26 miles instead of 25, with 4,000 feet of climbing. With the extra miles, I knew this would add to the toughness of the race. Whenever I run a first year of a 100-miler, I know it won’t be perfect, so my attitude is always that it will be an adventure run. However, with all the care put into this race, I never went off course. It was just far tougher than expected. I greatly changed my expectations for a 24-hour finish and instead felt that a 28 hour finish would be great for me. But I decided to instead just try to have fun and make sure I finished. I concluded to treat this as a very long training run, my first one for the year that involved climbs.
After an 11-minute break that included a bathroom stop, I started the second loop with the out-and-back. At mile 29, the leading 100-miler and eventual winner, Shannon Ono caught up and passed me (An hour ahead of me). No other runners from either the 50 or 100-mile race would catch up to me with my early start. I detected that the next runner (and last runner, Scott) in the 100-miler was just a little more than an hour behind me, so I was in 2nd place by just a few minutes.
Loop 2 was brutal. The forecast high winds arrived and for hours were about 20 mph sustained from the south. The headwind going south sapped my energy and my miles slowed to 18-minute miles as I crouched down to push ahead. The sun also came out and the temperature rose. I detected that I had not been drinking enough and was getting dehydrated. I pushed the fluids harder, but with the heat and tough effort, my stomach got roughed up. The little signs were getting blown down all over the course and would be a chore for someone to find them all.
Thoughts of quitting after two loops started to come into my mind. This race was far tougher than expected and it didn’t help that I ran another 100-miler just two weeks ago. There would be no shame in quitting. With all my flatland training during the past several months, all these hills were killing me. But once I started heading more northerly, with a backwind and mostly downhill, I started to feel well again. By the time I finished loop 2, the wind had died down, and dusk arrived with cooler temperatures. I finished loop 2 at 13:09. That loop took me about 7:20, much slower than my first loop. The effort for these first 52 miles seemed to be similar to running Squaw Peak 50.
Feeling great, there were no thoughts about quitting. On the first out-and-back for Loop 3, I caught up with a 50-miler on his second loop. His first loop had taken him about 11 hours. I noticed that as we came close to the start area again, that he quit after about 30 miles. I never saw another 100-miler on the course so I knew I was at least a half hour ahead of the next runner. The two ladies who started with me quit after one loop and doing a couple extra miles taking a wrong turn. So there were now only three of us left in the 100-mile race.
All was quiet and peaceful as I ran Loop 3 during the night. The winds had died down and were no longer a factor. I looked for runner lights behind me, but they never could be seen. The skies were cloudy all night so there were no stars to be seen. But the clouds were all lit up brilliantly from the light pollution coming from Las Vegas to the north over the mountains. The light was so intense that I could even run without my flashlight at times. As usual, my stomach had issues during the night. At one point I lost my little bag of salt caps, Tums, and pain-killers, so I had to do much of the loop getting my salt from jerky.
Hallucinations started to come. Dark boulders along the trail started to look like backpacks and I at first was worried that someone had lost their’s along the way. It was a lonely loop. Two of the aid stations turned into unmanned aid stations, but they had left out enough things to be helpful. I tried hard to keep the calories flowing. At the Jeep Road aid station, I lapped two lady runners the 50. I left them far behind on the 701 trail.
I finished Loop 3 feeling great again at 22:02 (2:35 a.m.). That loop had taken me nearly nine hours. My legs and feet were very sore from the rugged course, but I was now determined to finish this 100. My stop was 16 minutes. Several volunteers were up and awake and all were very helpful. I just sat down with my drop bag and they pleaded to help me. I drank my soup and refilled my pockets for the last loop.
For Loop 4, we wouldn’t have to do the out-and-back to the view point, cutting off 1.5 miles and bringing the mileage down closer to 100. I knew that I would still be covering about 102 miles. I hoped to do an 8-hour loop to beat 30 hours.
Loop 4 was slow. Dawn arrived about mile 87 on the 701 trail. I now greatly disliked all the climbs and looked forward to finishing. My miles slowed to 20-minute mile as a painful blister developed on my left big toe. I almost stopped to try to fix things but soon the pain died down.
Around 7:00 a.m., the brutal south winds returned. Thankfully I was mostly heading north. On the McCullough trail there were many runners and hikers out for the morning. They would ask me if I was all right. Little did they know.
With three miles to go, it got hot, preventing me from finishing fast. I ran out of water but thankfully there was still an unmanned station set up with 1.5 miles to go. At Mission (0.7 miles to go), Annette, one of the 100-milers who started early with me was waiting for me. She had dropped out after the first brutal loop. She asked if she could run with me to the finish.
Somehow everyone knew I was coming. Kevin Youngblood took a nice video of my finish and at the finish they were doing cheers for me. I finished in 2nd place at 31:10:55 feeling pretty thrashed after also climbing 16,000 feet. It was my 89th 100-mile finish and 3rd for 2017. Shannon Ono finished in 25:11 and Scott Gilson finished in 32:33. The last time I ran a 100-miler in more than 30 hours was two years ago at Capitol Reef on another brutal course.
Putting on a 100 and 50 for so few runners is a tremendous effort. Heidi mention that next year their longest distance would probably be 50K. If you want a good challenging desert 50K, this one may be for you. This may have been a “one-and-done” 100-miler. I’m glad I was able to run it. It was a first-rate event with smiles all over the place.
Recovery was on the rough side. On Loop 4, I again lost my salt tablets so I finished depleted in salt. I went to my son’s apartment, showered and rested. I had originally hoped to finish before dawn which would allow me to sleep for six hours before my flight, but instead I had a short rest and went to the airport.
The winds were terrible at the airport and our flight sat on the runway for more than an hour waiting for a turn to take off. Only little cat naps came as I battled painful feet and legs. When I arrived back to Salt Lake City, a big blizzard was pounding the area. I had a slow, painful drive home, finally arriving around 10 p.m. Thankfully sleep came fast and in the morning I could at least move again.
Looking at my Fitbit stats, I was amazed to see that I took 227,000 steps. Usually during a 100, I take about 180,000 steps. The rugged nature of this race caused me to take much shorter steps. I stopped at aid stations for a total of about 80 minutes. My goal is always to be less than 90 minutes, so my stops were short and effective.