Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Salt Flats 100 Race Report

Rhett and Bram and I had signed up for the Wasatch 100 trail run.  It is without a doubt one of the toughest races in America and maybe someday I will do it.

I jumped into the training full bore and within a month of dedicating way too much time to running Sara had had enough.  I had asked her permission before I signed up and tried to warn her of the amount of time I would be spending training, but until we were living it neither of us really understood the amount of time dedicated to doing something like running 100 miles.

Neither I nor Sara could handle 8 months of legit training.  Sara thought I should just run the 50 miler I had already signed up for and call it an ultra marathon career, but I had started this training to run 100 miles and would be disappointed in anything less.  So I found a race that was only a month after my 50 and promised Sara that I wouldn't need to train much in between them.

Enter the Salt Flats 100.

The Salt Flats is a really cool backdrop for a race. 

 Bram and Rhett and I spent the night before the race carbo-loading at Pizza Hut and talking race strategy.  The best thing about getting together for any challenge is always the build up and the aftermath.  We had a blast imagining what the next day would bring.

At 7:00 am the next morning, in a totally surreal landscape, on a perfect April morning 54 runners set out to tame the Salt Flats 100.

We started out with ten miles of straight salt.  It was smooth sailing and we were all feeling good.

Here are the three of us running in formation.  This is around mile three.  Notice the smile on Bram's face and the grimace on my face.  It is freaking mile 3!  I should not be grimacing yet!  The bottom line is I am just a miserable runner and I can't really hide it.

When we got close to aid stations I always made us walk into them to get us ready to stomach some calories.  My 50 miler had taught me the importance of continuing to put calories in.

The three of us ran together for the first 25 miles.  That was the best part of the race for me.  Being with my good buddies and feeling strong all while being in a totally unique setting was about as good as running can get.



 At mile 25 we were at the top of our first mountain pass.  My knee had been bothering me for the previous 10 or 15 miles.  (Now I know it was my IT band, but at the time I didn't know what it was.)  I only knew it hurt less when I ran faster than when I ran slower.  So I told Rhett and Bram I was going to run at a little faster pace for the next 4 miles as it was all downhill.  That was the last I saw of Rhett and Bram.

From there it was a lot of easy miles on nice rolling dirt roads through mile 35 or so when we had our second significant climb over another mountain pass.  I got another good burst on the downhill but when the trail got really steep my knee was starting to bother me enough that I would have to hobble down the trail.  Not a good sign considering I still had over 60 miles to go.

At mile 40 the elevation chart showed a long 7 or 8 mile flat section.  I think most people were anticipating some easy miles, but that was not the case.  The dirt was really weird and crusty and every time you stepped on it you sunk in 3 or 4 inches.  It made running difficult and not getting crap in your shoes impossible.  The landscape made you feel like you were in a Mad Max movie and the endless straight desert line started to play with your mind.  When the race was all over I heard the most complaints about this section.  I was actually enjoying it quite a bit until my ipod died.

Around mile 46 I noticed a hot spot on my left foot from some of the dirt that had got in my shoe. I didn't want to stop to get it out because I had been jockeying back and forth with some girl and I was finally opening up a little more distance on her and I knew she would pass me again if I stopped.  I pushed it to mile 48 and finally decided to clear my left shoe of debris.  It was too late I could tell I had a blister started right on the ball of my left foot.  To make it worse the girl passed me again at mile 50 anyways.

 I was around mile 53 when the sun set.

 It was about the same time I picked up my first pacer, Roxanne.  It was great to have someone to run with after being alone for the last 25 or 30 miles.

Her first question for me was "Do you feel like Forest Gump?"
Roxanne and I made good time and I passed the girl responsible for my blister again for the last time.


At mile 57 I picked up Danny and put on a head lamp.  I think up until mile 50 I was towards the back of the pack, but I felt much better than I had at the end of my 50 miler and my confidence was high despite my knee which was bothering me more all the time.  Danny and I kept a good pace and we started to pass a lot of runners.  I kept my stops at aid stations short and when Danny and I finished at mile 75 I had moved up to be the 21st runner and was on pace to be under 25 hours.  I was tickled especially because I was just hoping to finish in under 30 hours.

One of the aid station workers at mile 67 told Danny and I we had a beautiful section ahead of us but this was all we saw.


At mile 75 I picked up Roman and we got on the trail quick.  Every leg after mile 75 felt long.  I would be looking at my watch wondering why we weren't at the next aid station yet.  In hind sight I had obviously dropped my pace but my mind was not sharp enough to realize that and instead I just complained about the mileage not being accurate.

The mile 80 aid station finally came and I had moved up to be the 16th runner.  I was excited about that but not excited to still have 20 miles left to go.  I was still hoping to be under 25 hours but could sense it was slipping.

At mile 81 I felt a rock in my right shoe.  I knew my sense of distance was warped when I thought to myself, 'You don't need to get it out, you only have 19 miles left.'  Then I really didn't get it out.       

After the mile 80 aid station the next station was mile 90.  That was a heck of a long way to go without an aid station at that point in the race.  Seven miles of it were uphill and I was running on empty.  

Around mile 85 we passed a runner who was literally barely moving.  He actually looked more like a zombie than a runner.  When we passed him I asked him if he was alright.  He looked at us but didn't appear to see us.  It was like he was staring right through us.  We asked him again if he was all right.  He finally said, "If you see my partner will you tell him I had to take a rest."

I asked him, "Are you talking about your pacer?"

"No my partner, will you just tell him I had to take a rest."

After we left him I turned to Roman and said, "There is no way we are seeing that guy again.  I'm not doing that good but I am doing a lot better than him."

I was sure that he was going to lay down for a rest and be on the side of the trail at least until the the sun came up.

We came around one bend in the road after another and I just kept expecting to see the mile 90 aid station.  Finally when it was just barely starting to get light enough your eyes could play tricks on you, we came around a bend and I saw it.


"Yes, we made it!'

Roman's reply "What?"

"Right there see that black thing over there that's a trailer, we'll be at the aid station in a couple of minutes."

"That black thing right there?"

"Yeah."

"Uh.....that's a bush."

I looked a little closer, "Dang it..... that is a bush."

We went five or ten more minutes and came around another bend.  

"Yes, we made it!"

Roman, "What?"

"Right there straight ahead you can see the shape of a tent right across the way."

"Umm..... I don't think that is a tent."

"No it is totally a tent.  Stand where I am standing look were I am pointing that is definitely a tent." 

"Uh......that's not a tent."

"Yes it is man.  I can see it.  You will see it in a second too."

Five minutes closer it was obviously not a tent.  Roman was smart enough not to give me an 'I told you so', I was probably pretty volatile at that point.  I was pretty much at rock bottom. 

We went another five or ten minutes and came around another bend and the dirt road we were on just looked like it went straight up forever with no sign of the aid station.  Turns out I was pretty volatile because at this point in the race I said some not very nice things.

Roman lightened things up by saying they should have a camera set up right there to get runners reactions as they come around.

After an eternity we made it to mile 90.  During the ten mile section I only passed the zombie guy so I was now in 15th, but as we were arriving we saw runner 14 leaving the aid station.  I was trying my best to put in some much needed calories when all the sudden another runner came in to the aid station, to my astonishment it was the zombie guy.  I said "Man you made a heck of a recovery."  To which he gave no response.

I tapped Roman and said "Let's hurry and get going I don't want him to pass me."  We got out of the aid station and I figured he would definitely need to spend some significant time there and get some calories in him after the 10 miles without anything.  I thought at least five or ten minutes maybe fifteen or twenty.

We had gone about 100 yards when Roman said, "Man your not going to believe this but the zombie dude is leaving the aid station."

"What? No way!"



Out of the aid station we had a long downhill.  I usually tear up downhills, but my knee was not going to allow that.  I was trying to hobble along as fast as I could, but it was not fast at all.  Meanwhile Roman was continually looking back to keep a watch on the zombie guy.

"Is he gaining on me?"

"Yeah he's definitely gaining on you.  In fact you better scoot over and make some room for him."

He honestly passed me like I was standing still.  He was running like I would have been 80 miles ago.  It was pretty disheartening to see him crushing the downhill, and myself being reduced to a hobble.  We could see the trail forever in front of us which made it that much more painful to watch him go.  I was back in the 16th spot and losing my motivation.  I obviously wasn't making it in 25 hours and just a mile before I was envisioning moving up to the 14th spot but now was back in 16th after having been destroyed by a guy who I seriously doubted was going to finish just 5 miles ago. 


Getting to mile 95 aid station was probably the most miserable part for me.  Everything was hurting.  The blister that I felt start back at mile 46 now felt like it covered my whole foot.  My joint pain had been limited to my right knee, but now my left ankle was hurting and swollen.  I had been told by many people that I would feel better when the sun came up but that turned out to be a lie.  I just needed this to end.  Around mile 94 runner 17 came into the picture.  I did not want to get passed again.  Finally some much needed motivation to pick up the pace.

When we got to the mile 95 aid station, runner 17 was closing and I didn't have much to hold him off with.  In NASCAR fashion I told Roman I was going to gamble and not make a pit stop and see if I could lengthen my lead a little.  Roman refilled my water and grabbed me a piece of fruit.


The last 5 miles was completely flat and just like the race had started.  You could see the finish line forever but it just didn't seem to get any closer.

Don't be fooled by these pictures I was strictly power walking and only managed to get this run going  because Roman wanted to take some pictures.  I just kept asking Roman to check on runner 17 and see if he was making a move.  If he did, I was going to try to hold him off but that could have gotten ugly very quickly.  It is really pretty pathetic how competitive I am.  Luckily he didn't ever make a move.


Finally after 27 hours and 8 minutes, the long awaited finish came.  It was a very rewarding moment.  I ended up in 16th out of 54, with number 17 only 3 minutes behind me and the zombie guy finishing 48 freaking minutes ahead of me.

 Sara couldn't be there to hug me but I got the next best thing, Cher.  She cried for both of us.

 The Smart family never disappoints in supporting each other.  It meant a lot to me to have them all there.

I had not sat down once the whole entire run.  Towards the end of the run I think if I would have sat down it would have been impossible to get going again.  Once I finally sat I could not believe how fast the soreness set in.  Within ten minutes my legs were literally rigid.  I could not stand up.  It was like nothing I had ever experienced.  

I told my supporters to come check out the bottom of my feet as I took my shoes off, if they wanted to see some serious carnage.

The feet did not disappoint.  One of the other runners asked if he could take a picture of my foot and post it as his.  "Sure, knock yourself out."

One hundred miles is a long way.  It is exponentially longer than 50 miles.  I was shocked at how beat up all the runners looked as they finished the race.  It wasn't just me.  Rhett and Bram were no exception either.  If you look close in this picture you can see how swollen Rhett's right knee is in comparison to his left.  Rhett and Bram finished the race together like real buddies should.


The race was quite an experience.  Though I didn't enjoy the last 20 miles much, the end result brought me a lot of satisfaction.
 I keep getting asked the same thing now, "Are you ever going to do that again?"  To which I always give an honest answer, "I hope not."

12 comments:

Rocky said...

Awesome work!!! Thanks for the recap. I am proud, jealous and mostly fearful I will have to follow suit some day. Literally, my palms are sweating a little just thinking about it.

Rachey Elder said...

You are an animal! I am so proud of you Rang because honestly, who can say they've done a 100 miler? Great post and all the pics are sweet. You are awesome.

Sara said...

I secretly want to photoshop my head onto Cheryl's body hugging you at the end. I am so glad she was there and the whole family. I am so proud of you too. You are crazy and intense and competitive and have a lot of heart, I love you- way to go! P.S. No you're not going to run another 100 mile race, one is enough.

Mindy said...

Your Amazing Rangi, so glad we could witness the finish line, after seeing that you moved up to the second toughest Smart brother in my eyes(:
How's your foot?

Beetle said...

I think I will go with the double "Molar Off" to prove my manhood. Congrats on the awesome accomplishment.

Grandma Cher said...

So glad you could do that one in Utah! It was amazing! I was super proud to be the mom of one of those crazy 100 milers! Don't want to be that proud again! Call it done and done! Rhett and Bram were awesome too! So glad we could see them!

Darcee said...

I've been wanting to read a recap of your race! WOW! You really are an animal! Your foot!?! Crazy! That is amazing to finish and especially to place so high when you didn't even really train. I have to admit. I'm jealous. I've got the bug to try it. You're amazing!

Savage said...

Rangi....your a CRAZY man! I think you made the Smart family proud!

Go Cubbies said...

Rangi,

I told Regan that if I were ever in a competition that was a fight to the death and had to pick a team of guys to fight with me. You would be first on my list...you are insane. Congrats man!

Darrell said...

Wow! that is a really heinous looking foot. I'm really proud of you guys. Epic for sure.

Roman said...

Dude, this was awesome. Super good post. I'm in a similar boat as Rocky -- Dreading the day I step to one of these. Way to finish.

adamisrunning said...

Awesome post race report! I am heading out there for this years Salt Flats 100. Good to hear about the experience from another runner.