“I feel like I’m running inside a Bob Ross painting or something”
I said to myself as I made my way over the sticky white salt of Bonneville last April. Looking back in retrospect this was a poor description for what I was seeing, but then again, the ability to accurately put words to the stunning beauty of dawn in the Bonneville Salt Flats might escape a lot of people. There’s nothing quite like it. A person needn’t do much more than watch a race recap video or two to see that it’s very unconventional terrain that provides views unlike anywhere else and seems to give the place a certain type of mystique.
The same is said about the actual race itself, the Salt Flats 100. Race Director Vince Romney is quoted as saying: “It’s a very unique 100 mile experience. Most people come out thinking it’s going to be an easy 100, but yeah…no. It messes with your mind and it messes with your body in many ways that other 100’s don’t.” As I found out sure enough, he wasn’t lying.
The race starts out on the outskirts of a town called Wendover, a tiny town situated on the Utah/Nevada border. If you’ve come here looking for a bustling city significant in size, you’ve come to the wrong place. The town is practically desolate aside from a few casinos, a gas station, and a hotel or two. 7 am on a brisk April morning marked RD Vince Romney offering a few last words of encouragement and sending us on our way.
The first 15 miles of the race are relatively flat and uneventful, but this provides ample opportunity to take in the amazing scenery of the Salt Flats. I found myself overwhelmed by how remarkable this place was. I had never seen anything like it, not to mention run on anything like it before. To this day I have trouble describing how it felt on my feet….like white, sticky, semi-hard oatmeal? Weird I know. Mile 15-23 include some rolling dirt hills making their way up to higher terrain. Piece of advice: stock up at aid station 3, you will need it for the climb that awaits you.
I honestly don’t remember much about miles 23 through approx. 26, except huffing and puffing over some tough climbing. A smooth descent awaits which takes you into the mile 31/50 aid station, which then moves into a remote rolling 10 or so miles into mile 40 aid. It’s at this point that the course wraps around the mountain and leaves runners very exposed to the elements. I got pretty beat up on this section of the course last year as bad weather hammered the west side of the mountain. If you get caught in bad weather on this portion of the course, I hope you have a poncho or something in your pack, because god be with you. After mile 50, the race follows a relatively flat and manageable dirt road on into the mile 57 aid station. Unfortunately for me, this point marked the end of my efforts last year. I was suffering some IT band issues and didn’t really deal with it properly which left me in too much pain to continue. Exhausted, hurting, and chilled to the bone, I wove my white flag and called it a day.
The feeling of DNFing my first 100 mile attempt was bittersweet. I walked away knowing I did the right thing for my body, but the stubborn part of me always feeling the need to go back and set right what I felt was wrong. As cliché as it sounds, I couldn’t just let it go. Giving up without knowing that I gave everything I had seems to go against my internal genetics. I look at it like it just wasn’t the right time, the right circumstance, the right training and recovery, etc. Hence, I am returning to run it this year with a greater awareness of what went wrong, and by doing so am very much cognizant of covering all the angles in these last few months so I can get myself across that finish line in April.
That said, this year my attitude is different, my training is different, my goals are different. I am building from the ground up – literally and figuratively. I am incorporating many different things into my regimen this year that were lacking last year. I have a fresh perspective not just on training, but of life in general this time around. Things have more meaning to me now, and I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the reasons I do this. Attitude and mental game is so much a part of the racket we call ultra running, and I think I’m returning with a lot of strengths this year that I didn’t necessarily have last year. Last year was obviously filled with too much chaos, distraction, and negativity. Many things prevented me from training and competing at the level that I knew deep down I belonged at, of which many factors were things I subjected myself to. I guess I see that now. However, with many more personal issues in-line this year, I want to set out on a journey to prove to nobody else but myself that my propensity for self-sabotage was not boundless after all. It’s time for me to stand on my own two feet, and finally make my own way that I’ve been avoiding for any number of reasons in the past. Perhaps it’s because of all these personal revelations that I’ve decided to run this year’s Salt Flats 100 without a pacer or crew. I know, I know…lofty ambitions right? I just feel it’s something I need to do on my own, symbolic of so much more in my life than just the race itself. I want it to be something that I do, me, completely and totally on my own. Some might think it’s foolish to do so, especially with a formidable race like the Salt Flats 100, but when have you ever known me to follow what the crowd says?
See you on the salt,