Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

April 28, 2014

Salt Flats 50 Miler - 26 April 2014

The Salt Flats 100 is now in it's 4th year, and this year there is also the inaugural 50 mile edition, which seemed perfect for my training plans.   Plus it's on the Bonneville Salt Flats, which in terms of the terrain I've raced over, would be somewhat unique.   And flat.  And fast.  Warm.

Maybe sunny.

So I just lived in the UK for three years, and amazingly enough, most of my races there turned out to have pretty decent weather.   Or maybe I just got used to being outside in disgusting conditions and started to think that wind and rain was normal?  Either way, I'm now adjusting to heat, sunshine, and dehydration.  Or am I?   As I was packing for this race and checking the weather, I wasn't sure if I could believe the forecast.

High Winds:  Check

Lots of Rain: Check

Occasional Snow Flurries: Check

Flooding: Check

Terrible Weather:  Check

Am I in England?  Check 

Wait a minute….it's the Salt Flats.   To be fair, the race did warn that the weather could be anything from 20 to 80 degrees.   The run was supposed to start out over the salt flats, but when we arrived for the 5 am start, it had been raining all night, and the salt flats were now a salt lake…the whole thing was under 6 inches of water.   Even the Porta Johns just off the end of the pavement were unreachable…not to mention this sad little tent which was also sitting in half a foot of water.   Whoops, bad choice of sleeping spots.

Luckily, the race director had a bad weather plan.    Instead of running through the new lake, we would be diverted around on paved and gravel roads until the new route met up with the "floating island" trails for the second half of the race.   Or would we?

We set off in pouring rain in pitch black, just a trail of headlamps down the road.   I had forgotten my headlamp but it didn't matter much, as I could follow the stripes on the road even in a downpour.  At least, it was fine until everyone around me (with headlamps) missed the first turnoff due to inattention.   Whoops.  We found the turnoff soon enough and began dodging puddles on a gravel road.  For a couple of minutes, anyway.

A vehicle soon approached and told us that the rain was making it impossible to get to the aid stations, and that they would have to CANCEL the race!  (It's now 2 days later, and there are still vehicles and drop bags stranded at an aid station due to the flooding…)  So we had only gone 5 1/2 miles and were already miserably wet, and everyone began turning around to run back to the Start/Finish to go home.   Although the offer was there that if we wanted to do the 50 mile distance, we would have to run back and forth on a 4 mile stretch of blacktop which wasn't flooded.   It was mentally difficult to think of running in this weather for 50 miles on blacktop, but the woman next to me wanted to finish her first 50 miler, so I decided to do it, too.  After all, I've never let weather stop me from finishing a race.

I think about 8 people out of about 50 decided to keep running.  It was more of a mental challenge than anything…I was looking for reasons to keep running when I was wet and cold and miserable out there on a surface so flat that the curvature of the earth make the ends look like a mirage.

Luckily Jim was there to boost up my morale along the way,  by bringing me hot chocolate and loaning me his rain jacket when I just couldn't stay warm enough.  The temps were hovering in the upper 30s for the first 6 hours with sideways rain.


The weather improved slightly in the afternoon.  The rain stopped, the winds went down, and for a short time I could even take off my rain jacket and pretend to feel warm enough.  The clouds lifted and finally I could see the hills around me (which did seem to be floating on the salt lake), plus laugh again at the drowned Porta Johns and the flooded tent.   Jim walked with me for a couple of miles, which is always welcome when the time seems to be dragging about mile 30!

The race volunteers were mostly concerned with getting their vehicles safely off the trails and finding all of the poor 100 milers who had been out all night in the disgusting weather.   The 100 milers continued to finish most of the morning and afternoon, and looked pretty miserable.  So the few 50 milers who stuck around were mainly left to keep track of their own mileage and get what they needed for food and water at the finish line (which we saw every 8 miles).    I took an extra long loop a couple of times to go to the C-Store at the interstate exit for their bathrooms, to avoid walking out into the flooded Porta Johns!  

At the finish, finally!
Anyway, blah, blah, blah, the miles went by really slowly and the mileage markers were incredibly far apart.   They were about the only thing that changed in the scenery, aside from the orange peel on the road at mile 2, and the broken printer half under water at mile 3.5, the pile of mud on the road at about mile 1, and the vehicles at the finish which got ever so slowly bigger .  I saw them all about ten times.   Watching the salt flats flood, and even start drying out by the end of the day, was also fascinating.  I mean that.

It was good to finish.  I managed to sprint it in after walking the last couple of miles with some new race friends.   Finish times don't matter much, but I think I did it in about 11 hours 30 minutes.

Results should be on the website soon, if only to prove all of the chaos really happened.  All I can say is, thank goodness it's over!  Although I wouldn't mind coming back to do this race in good weather…it must be more scenic to be out on the true course.

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