Salt Flats 100

Spoiler-  it turned out to be my first attempt at 100 and I did about 53 .

What went wrong  ? I can’t pin it to any one thing it was a perfect storm of things . I knew that I had as much a chance of  finishing as not finishing going into this race and would be ok with either outcome . I prepared as well as I could , you never know for sure until you try if it was enough or not . I did two 50 milers within 6 months of the race and trained all through the mild winter . I thought I had fueling dialed in having finally overcome issues that plagued me for years . As always the weak link , the knees , I just never know from day to day or week to week what I’m going to have.

I watched the weather the week going into the race ,  it never improved , in fact it just got worse each day . I prepared for that , everything was in zip lock bags inside my dropWendover bags , I had changes of clothes , wool hat , wool gloves , endless soaking rain with wind up to 20 mph . That is also the very worst forecast for arthritis .

I was solo this trip , Brian had to stay home to take care of my other hobby . The drive to Wendover was uneventful , I drove ahead of the storm it was overcast yet a warm 67 when I got there . My phone changed to Mountain time , a concern for Cyndy , the race was just over the State line but I was staying in Nevada . I had no problems with that . I had booked a room for 3 nights at the Peppermill , I hadn’t done that in Vegas and ended up sleeping in the car at the Jackpot Ultra .  The race meeting was at 7:00 check in 6-7 . Now an hour ahead I thought I had time to eat and get to the meeting . I checked in and went to my room , it was awful . I’ll admit I have watched a few episodes of Hotel Impossible with Brian but I’m not as bad as him , I don’t carry bedbug spray  but I do expect a clean room . It wasn’t . Back down to the front desk , new room , same outcome . Now I’m getting stressed , I don’t want to drive around Wendover looking for another hotel . They send up maintenance and housekeeping . I sit there while they fix and clean the room . I decided to not eat there and went to the supermarket for dinner .


I ended up at the check in at 6:40 , the pre-race meeting was already in progress . I missed the first 40 miles of the course . The race director , Vince Romney , was as positive as he could could be about the weather . I left the meeting went back to the supermarket bought a box of trash bags , put two in my pack and a couple in my drop bags . I watched the forecast from Salt Lake the morning of the race and if anything it was worse , rain lots of rain .

At the start it was cool and partly cloudy to the East,  black and dismal to the West . We took off across the Bonneville Salt Flat . It was an interesting surface , hard but not pounding like cement at times there would be damp patches that could be slippery and the salt would stick to your shoes in small balls then fling off . We ran about 16 miles on the salt , the first aid station  was on the salt the second just off it at the Floating Island . We then switched to typical desert type running , a gravel road to seemingly no where . Around this time I met a young man doing his first ultra anything , his first question was ” have you read Born to Run ?” , then I noticed some major modifications to his shoes , the entire toe box was cut off almost to the first lace hole. Being an atypical ultra runner I don’t judge anyone , whatever works for you . I also found out his history was a marathon 5 years prior , not run over 20 since that , but he was young male and determined . I dropped him and continued to run with the type I usually end up with , a man 15-20 years older than me that eventually drops me , we ran together for miles then he dropped me .

I was struggling with my stomach before I left the hotel . I had dry heaves in my room and thought it was just nerves and would pass , although in my entire life I had never had anything that bad even at big shows . Running didn’t settle it down . I was happy to find peanut butter and honey,  my all time favorite at aid station 2 , took two quarters with me forcing them in . I had Tailwind which had served me well in all training runs and my two 50’s . At Jackpot I ate everything , pizza , bread sticks , burritos , nothing caused me any trouble at that race . The food didn’t help,  at that point I noticed my hands swelling . For whatever reason I couldn’t remember what to do about it , drink more,  take salt , do both ? miles of stressing and watching them turn into clown hands . At aid station 3 I drank some ginger ale and asked for some S!caps took two , tried to force down more and more fluid which was Tailwind and stressing I had too much salt .  We started the first climb , it was 3 miles but not bad ,  a stronger runner would have no trouble running it . Footing was a good gravel road . At the top aid station #4 making some kind of hot food with bacon , I drank more ginger ale took another 1/4 sandwich which I chewed but didn’t swallow . At this point I was pretty bloated and puffy could feel my knees swelling but the road was good rolling down hill so I ran . At aid station 5 ( 31 miles) which was also 7 ( 50 miles ) I finally asked for advice/help .

First climb

Aid 5/7 Hasting Junction was a large well staffed aid station also staging for Search and Rescue and the first crew access , they were grilling chicken and had everything you could think of . I also saw a horse trailer , which became pretty important later on .  I was given a drink with caffeine to help flush things out . I stayed there about 15 minutes drank two cups of ginger ale , two cups of Coke , two of the caffeinated drink ate a grilled chicken taco and headed off on a 20 mile loop . I felt better at that point then I had all day , thought things might be turning around for me .

On the 20 mile loop there was only 1 aid station this was a very remote part of the course but the trail/road was good rolling terrain very runnable . Down the trail I came across Nick the young guy trying his first ultra . He was past the 50k mark and seemed to be doing well , we spent that 10 miles together . At aid station 6 I drank more coke and a peanut butter & honey 1/2 sandwich , refilled my bladder for the next 10 miles. I dropped down the other side to overlook the mud flat and saw squalls , like I haven’t seen anywhere except on the ocean . The guy ahead me stops and I see him doing something , at that point I realize he putting on rain gear . I take off my pack put on my fleece I had been carrying all day and dig out my rain poncho ( trash bag ) just as the sheets of rain hit . Then I’m on the mud flat .

Looking into the mud flat

We had been warned about this section @6 miles . I didn’t think about it much , I didn’t want to,  it will forever be in my running nightmares . It didn’t start out horrible just bad , then it crossed over . It was at that point all kidney function returned and I had to pee , constantly . Also the course markings just disappeared . I was following some tire tracks in sinking , slippery mud like I have never been in before . Sticky and deep like adobe but fine like caliche , you either sank into it or slid like ice over the top of it,  all the while it stuck to your shoes making them heavier and heavier . I had my head down,  water was dripping off my hat brim , my TRT buff holding my hat on keeping my ears dry . The wind making my trash bag poncho flap , at that point I realized I hadn’t seen a flag in ages.  I looked behind me to see a small group following me spread out over 1/2 a mile . I looked around and saw foot prints everywhere , in circles , crossing back and forth,  some sick sadistic person had drawn a happy face in the mud . Finally I stopped and waited for the closest people to catch up , turned out to be Alla and Rafael . I told them what was going on,  then Bob caught up to us , we all agreed the general direction to go . At that point I knew things could get dire,  it was near sunset with no service in the rain and wind on the mud flat with no idea where to go . Miles of that when I finally saw hoof prints . Horses ! never would I think I’d be happy to see horses , horses came in a trailer , a horse trailer at the aid station , the horses came from the aid station . I told Bob and we started following the hoof prints , what kind of sick sadistic person would go for a ride in a rain storm on a mud flat ?  Finally I see a flag just as the light is dimming , it’s the only thing out there moving about 200′ off the track we are trudging along . I start over to it , the rest of the groups asks why am I heading out there , I yell “A FLAG !!!” we all start trudging along seeing the flags regularly now . Finally they turn off the mud flat on to the sand . I was never so glad to see sand in my life . My GPS beeps , 48 miles , I know we wandered a few miles off course and it was farther than 2 back to the 50 mile aid station .

Me , mud flat and Pilot Peak

As we start the climb I see a glow in the sky and turn . The rain had stopped , a beautiful sunset over Pilot Peak . I dig out my phone to take a picture Alla stops and gets her’s out too , the others catch up and we take each others picture . Then continue on . I knew at that point it was over for me . My stomach had crossed over and I felt good , the pain in my right knee was extreme . The combination of heavy mud,  the sinking and sliding for hours on the mud flat finished it off . I knew I had a better chance of getting out at Hasting Junction aid 5/7  so I decided it would best to drop there rather than stress the resources of a smaller station down the line .

I dropped there as did Rafael who’s wife was there waiting . The Search and Rescue told me they had their horse patrol out looking for us and others and they couldn’t find us . I told him how we followed the hoof prints for miles . Alla tried to talk me into continuing on with her,  it was her third 100 mile attempt , she ended up going  on with Bob . Rafael offered me a ride out , his wife had been waiting around 5 hours . They kindly made room for me and gave me a ride that was around 20 miles taking me back to the start/finish where I had left my car. Rafael and his wife had traveled from Mexico City for this race and we  both agreed to try it again next year .

I went back over Saturday morning to get my drop bags . Conditions were as bad as they could have been . The Salt Flat was under water , the 50 milers were running up and down the access road in pouring rain .

Finish A difference

I loved everything about this race , except the weather . I will do it again . The Race Director and volunteers were amazing , using the standard of the TRT,  this race was comparable support wise with a fraction of the runners the TRT has , I think 64 in the 100 and 30+ in the 50 . I have no trouble with vast distances , if you do it might not be right for you. It is remote , yet the start is only minutes from Wendover,  which is full of questionable hotels .

I can’t pin down what went wrong for me , just a series of things that complied making it not my day . Like I used to say in the olden days

” There’s always another horse show ” .


Epilogue –

My right knee is still swollen and I am taking NSAIDs at a high dose for a couple days to get it under control .

Driving home had epic winter driving conditions from Wendover to Wells . Somewhere in BFE Nevada on the 80 headed East I saw an ultrarunner pushing a buggy with a sign that said “CA-NY ” I honked she waved I need to find out who she is . Found it please check it out and if you can support her cause

I have no regrets would do it again even knowing the outcome would be the same

Alla , Bob and Nick all dropped further down the trail. I think Nick made it to 67 so 100k + with very limited training and no ultra experience

They had one rescue out on the mud flat , she posted she was ok  but it sounded so scary , Search and Rescue helicopters .

Next for me ?  I had planned on doing Lost & Found a 30 mile bike race in May  ,  Silver State 50/50 as a volunteer , no real running plans until the TRT 50 mile in July . I’m entered in the Pony Express 100 , I might just keep trying until I get that 100 mile completion or the body says stop it .





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