I rolled in just before packet pickup opened to find Race director Matt Gunn looking like a man who hadn’t slept in days with a lot left to do. As with many of the newly minted events, Matt’s condition looks similar to many RD’s we’ve seen lately. With heat concerns, aid station setup and course marking corrections, the next 48 hours would only add to his number of days without sleep.
Seeing his condition I tried to take the bare minimum of his time. Matt graciously showed me the key areas for pictures and gave me the “ones to watch” list. When I asked him about the weather his response was, “Hot, terrible, they’ll be exposed and baking”. As Matt explained, running the race earlier in the year would risk a wet course. Water mixed with desert dust equals unrunnable mud. Ok, heat it is.
The course itself was essentially a figure eight that ascends and descends 2 different mesas. The opportunity to run atop these mesas offered views few people, other than locals, ever see. For that reason alone, Matt’s course design was spectacular.
After our short time together I spent most of evening catching up with folks like Lynette McDougal, Dennis Ahern, Scott Brockmeier and Liz Bauer… all of whom had run the Salt Flats 100 just 2 weeks earlier. During the evening I also met a great couple from Las Vegas and Kevin Patterson. Kevin was interested in a pacer. I would end up pacing miles 35 to 70 in order to bookend the pacing with race coverage.
It’s now start time and Matt warns everyone of the heat and the course difficulty… then they’re off. Along with other spectators we drive to the top of the first mesa to see the runners climb from the canyon below as the sun rises over their shoulders. If the views are not motivation enough to get to the top, there’s a bonus waiting. $100 for the first runner to reach the top, oh… and a gorilla. Jay Aldous grabs the hundred bucks and speeds away. At that moment the temps are still cool and other than a hard hike to the top, everyone is fresh and happy. My next vantage point is mile 31 and we see the worm start to turn.
Coming up the road, looking like a broken man, is a Tony Krupicka look-a-like who was 2nd to the top of the Mesa and now in 18th place. Word on the street is he has plans to be done before dark which he manages… dropping at 51.5. Jay Aldous on the other hand comes running through in first place, ignoring the water and charging up a hill like a horse heading for the barn.
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I pickup my pacee (Kevin) at 35 and we ran / walked for the next 11 hours. My time on the course was fantastic. We found a hot but flowering desert. We also got to interact with legend Pam Reed and after a great climb to the top of a slick rock mesa we were treated to gorgeous 360 degree views that lasted for hours.
The course design consisted of a mix of hard and soft pack roads coupled with single track trail that went from the desert floor, up the mesas and continued along roads and trails at the top. At the top of the second climb the runners encountered a slick rock trail, which was not only hard on the feet but many of the front runners reported that they could not find a rhythm on the zig zag, up-down, technical path. Personally, I loved it. My speed hike and run bursts fit that section well.
There were some complaints bantered around about the course but actually it’s just tough. Yes, it was hot but Matt had plenty of water, salt and sponge buckets for people to stay hydrated and cool. If you dehydrated out there it was your own fault. Course markings on the slick rock were tough for people to see at night. Actually, it was well marked but the reflective tape didn’t create the effect they’d hoped for. That section is hard to call a “trail” to begin with; it’s really a series of painted ground markers on the exposed rock. Along that same section there were a couple added degrees of difficulty. For one, it was rattlesnake infested (we circumnavigated one on the trail with many additional reported sightings) and you also had to watch the 1000’ drop only yards away. There were also a few tough junctions along the course that people failed to navigate but Matt will have those corrected next year.
Most of the post race stories evolved around the heat, slick rock difficulties, getting lost and the cold overnight temps… so a little something to challenge everyone. Personally, I think it’s a great course. If you like diversity then it’s the course for you.
The times reflect a tough course with some first year hiccups.
When it was all said and done, people put another feather in their cap instead of leaving with something stuck in their craw.
Top Female Finishers:
Hannah Roberts 22:45
Sarah Evans 23:09
Katherine Metzger 25:08
Janet Thomson 27:08
Iris Priebe 27:11
Top Male Finishers:
Jay Aldous 18:25
Slater Fletcher 19:39
Gary Gellin 20:16
Brian Kamm 21:46
Justin Nelson 22:01