Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Another from the Salt Flats 100 site: In 2008 I was introduced to the concept of the Ultramarathon when I was asked to provide the timing for Karl Meltzer's Speedgoat 50K at Snowbird UT. At the time, I was a runner for two reasons: First - I had my annual fitness assessment in the National Guard each year so I needed to maintain a reasonable level of fitness for that, and Second - I was running daily to de-stress from a very difficult business collapse. Meeting Karl was an eye-opener to be sure. The idea of running beyond 15 miles or so never even occurred to me, and here was this guy telling me that 31 miles through the mountains in a day is "normal". I'd never even entered a 5K in my entire life, and yet I signed up to run the Speedgoat the next year, and it became my first-ever "race". Obviously, I was absorbed into the culture and have adopted running at ultra distances as a major part of my life. I've gone on adventure runs across the Highline Trail in the Uinta Mountains, and run solo through the West Desert in Utah. I've met 100s of amazing people who I call my friends. I enjoy the general lack of "competitiveness" and the supportive nature of most participants in these events. I've stopped to help others many times during an event I in which I was "competing" in, and had others offer their help when I was struggling. My competition has always been with myself, and for me the process of the ultramarathon has more importance than the result. I realize there are many to whom that concept is unappealing, but that's the magic of this sport; it is capable of supporting many different perspectives within it's ranks while not alienating any one of them. Recently however, I've observed situations that indicate the culture of our sport is in danger. Some within this community are willing to deride and degrade others because of any number of things that aren't in-line with their own perspectives. I see exclusionary statements are being directed at people just looking into our sport via online forums because they've "only" done a 10K or 1/2. I've now heard of ridicule and derision being relentlessly laid upon a runner who became lost in the dark and epic storm of last years Salt Flats 100 event. I find it inconceivable that someone would find it acceptable to be anything but fully supportive and concerned for someone who experienced such a traumatic event. I believe we are better than that. I believe that the ultramarathon itself allows us to become introspective, resilient, accommodating and generally better people as a result of our participation. I think we're a special community simply because we run in places where we often need volunteers, and each other to succeed. I hope that we as a community will work hard to continue to make our sport as welcoming and inclusive as when I was first introduced to it by Karl. Keep running!
at 12:08 PM
I posted this recap on the Salt Flats 100 website, but thought I'd start posting these here as well. This is the recap from the 2014 Salt Flats 100 Event. The NOAA radar picture Friday morning looked a little concerning with a number of storm cells in the area but the temperatures were good, and the forecast was wildly variable from hour to hour, so we started the race on time and sent the runners out onto the beautiful salt flats. All was looking good until just before dusk, when both the weather, and the NOAA radar picture turned very ugly. 80 mile per hour winds hit various parts of the course, and by night-fall the rain was in full force. It turns out, the rainstorm was a "100 year storm"... average April rainfall is 0.40 inches, and this one storm alone was 1.1 inches. Temperature fell to below freezing by 0400. The entire Salt Flats flooded with 6" of water by 0600. Runners were dropping at every aid station, and the volunteers were shifting to Hypothermia triage rather than aid station workers. The racers that came through the finish in the dark were at various stages of hypothermia, and we quickly shuttled them into the trailer and fed them hot soup. The 50 milers who were supposed to start at 0500 and run out on the Salt Flats ended up being re-routed twice... once off the salt (as it was under water), and again off the dirt roads (as aid vehicles were sliding off the road and unable to get out to the aid stations). It was chaotic, stressful, and insane. By 1000 on Saturday, the sun was poking through the clouds, the rain had stopped, and it was perfect running weather again. I thought back to the previous 3 years and how each had it's own "character", but all had been pretty friendly compared to this. It is truly amazing how much can change during the course of a 100 mile event. When all was said and done, everyone was safe (one rescue did occur, proving our SAR and Comm team are truly world-class). All vehicles were accounted for, although one was stuck for several more days until Ray Smith (Assistant RD) and I could get out and extract it after the mud had dried a bit. One of the portable toilets was blown 2 1/2 miles away from it's original position on the Salt Flats. I found course flagging alongside the freeway near Wendover, many miles from its closest possible origin. The Salt Flats is always a harsh environment. On the website I state that runners and volunteers alike should be prepared for any weather, but I must admit that mother nature hit with all she had this time, and it challenged every facet of the event. Good emergency plans, excellent personnel, and great teamwork paid off, and the event was a success despite all of it. Epic. No other word for it.
at 12:07 PM
I'm now throwing my hat into the ring on the topic of Altra Olympus reviews and provide my personal experience in the following paragraphs. First off, a little history. Six years ago I started running in a Solomon shoe
, but then moved onto the Sportiva Wildcat and stuck with that for a couple years. I then tried the Sportiva Vertical K and the Hoka Mafate (ran in both, just depended on the terrain) for a couple years. I ended up with two sizes (8 and 8.5) of the Hoka trying to dial in the fit, but neither really stopped the blister and toenail issues. Then tried the Altra Wasatch, and at the beginning of 2014 I purchased a pair of the Altra Olympus. With that perspective of history, on to the Olympus.
I've now logged over 1000 miles on the Olympus (distributed between three different pairs), and am starting to really like them. I've done about 300 of those miles on pavement, and the remaining on trail, including a 66 mile Highline Trail crossing, several trail Ultras, a rim-to-river-to-rim in the Grand Canyon (all south side), and then endless Wasatch Mountain trails. I feel like the Hoka offers a bit more cushion on the downhills, and has a slightly better fit on my heel, but the Hoka pretty much trashes my fore-foot with that narrow toe-box. The Olympus really shines for me with it's wide toe box. I've yet to get a blister on any part of my foot in the Olympus. The tread is holding up on all three pairs well, as is the sole and upper. I'm optimistic I'll get better longevity out of these than out of my Hokas.
What do I think could be improved? The heel pocket would be a good start, as well as a lacing system that allows more torque in closing the shoe. It's pretty tough to get the sides cinched in. Other than that, I have to admit that I have a new favorite shoe, and just bought another pair to start alternating with. Good job Altra!
at 12:03 PM
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano is the worlds "tallest" mountain... not highest, but tallest. When measured from the base, Everest is 8848 meters, and Mauna Kea is over 10,000 meters... of course Mauna Kea is only 13,796' in actual altitude, while Everest is 29,035'. Because I was spending the week on Hawaii as part of a vacation with my wife, I decided to do a Sea-level to the "tallest" mountain's summit run (42 miles, and 13,796' in altitude gain) one of the days we were on the island. We randomly chose Tuesday the 24th of Sept as the date, as it fit in with all the other activities we were doing. The weather had been really nice since we arrived on Friday, so I figured there was no particular day that would be better than any other. Monday night, we drove the route and I placed "drop bags" in little stashes every 5 miles or so with water and snacks. I woke up Tuesday morning, suited up, and my wife dropped me at the beach pavilion in Hilo (probably 6' above sea-level), and I started my run.
at 9:20 PM
Monday, August 26, 2013
This was my first Katchina, and from the start, it was in it's own special class... hard... 17,000' of climb, and 17,000' of descent hard... really hard. I left work on the evening of the 9th and drove to the pre-race meeting in Orem, UT where John Bozung, the RD, said the course should be well marked (but it has been known to be pulled by random folks), and then went on to call out several people in the group who, despite being experienced runners had made wrong turns in previous years and scored bonus miles... not entirely confidence-inspiring. After the meeting, I drove to Wally-world to get some supplies, and then drove up to the start of the race at Kelly Campground, and rolled out my sleeping bag and tried to get some sleep prior to my 2AM alarm, and the 3AM start. Sleep didn't come easy, but soon enough I passed out, and got a few hours sleep. I awoke to the alarm, and got up and started the preparation routine. This time I took the time to use masking tape in between my toes to reduce the friction there and hopefully avoid those gnarly between-the-toes blisters at the end of the event (and also added the obligatory "anti-monkey-butt"). Confused at that early hour, I walked over to the pavilion, set out my drop bags, and walked to the start line with everyone else while leaving my sleeping bag and pad laid out on the park lawn... fortunately a good Samaritan did me a big favor and set it on the railing next to my truck where I found it that night. John started us out at 3AM, and we started the first 1.5 mile-ish of pavement to where we turned North onto a dirt road that climbed for a few thousand feet to the first Aid Station. I had told myself I was going to start out slow on this run, and make sure I didn't blow up, so as people passed me I had to focus on not trying to "fall in" to their pace, particularly when it was folks I knew I should be finishing in front of ;) We continued the climb to the second aid station, after which we had the descent into the third aid station, and finally, departure from the dirt road and onto the single-track and my favorite terrain. I passed several runners on the way down, refueled at Aid 3, and followed a couple motorcycles up the single-track to lightning ridge. (yep, motorcycles... kinda funny to be hammering up a trail behind these guys, and then meet them on their way down near the top). As I climbed I caught up with Galen Garrison who I met when he ran Salt Flats 100 earlier in the year, we chatted for a bit, and then I fell back into my pace and headed on up the trail. I was then subsequently passed by Jarom Thurston
at 1:19 PM
Monday, July 29, 2013
This was my 5th year running Karl Meltzer's "nightmare" course, this year clocking in at about 32.2 miles. The course zig-zags it's way up the Snowbird Ski Resort to the summit of Hidden Peak at 11,000', and then descends into Mineral Basin, then up over a ridge and down to Pacific Mine in the Tibble Fork area at about 7000'. From there it returns to Mineral Basin up some very steep ATV trails, and then continues to the top of Mt Baldy (just over 11,000'). A quick descent through the "tunnel" into Peruvian Gulch, back to Hidden Peak via the Cirque Traverse, and then a fast 10K down to the base of the resort and the finish. Sounds simple, right? Driving up the canyon at 5AM, I had no idea of the weather forecast and so as I got out of the car in the dawn light, the warmth of the air made me a little apprehensive. The past couple years the heat has crushed me and I was not looking forward to a repeat. I had nothing to worry about, as I would only see the sun twice during the entire run. As usual, the event is highly organized and the volunteers are top-notch, directing the runners and helping answer questions. At 6:15-ish, Karl got on the PA system and went through the pre-race briefing, which included the mass-recitation of the phrases "I will not get into the water", and "I will not short-cut the switch-backs"... both legacies from previous races.
at 2:50 PM
Thursday, May 9, 2013
The 2013 Salt Flats 100 Mile Endurance Run is in the books, full of epic individual struggles, amazing experiences, and the joy of running in some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet! First and foremost, many thanks to EVERYONE who participated, volunteered, crewed, sponsored, or simply supported someone who was a part of this event! A successful 100 is the work of hundreds of people, and this was no exception! After packing the trailer with all the gear for the event the previous two days, my wife Chriss (who is also the Assistant RD in charge of Volunteers) and I drove from our home in Bluffdale, UT to the Bonneville Salt Flats, parked the trailer, and went to sleep knowing we had a LOT of work to get done. Wednesday morning came too soon and we were up and at it. After unloading, Sam Collier, fellow ultra-runner, friend, and part of the Idaho ultra community pulled up in his car and asked if there was anything he could do to help as he'd finished up work a couple days early and decided to come down and hang out before running the event. I took him up on the offer, and we rigged up and set out to flag the first 23 miles of the course. Heading out on the salt, we flagged all the way to the first aid station without issue, but only about a 1/2 mile beyond we started breaking through the salt crust and bogging down into the slimy mud underneath. Rather than make my truck a permanent feature of the salt flats, I decided a reverse-at-full-speed departure was the prudent option, and I'd flag the course via ATV or on foot from Aid 1 to Aid 2. I dropped Sam off at the Start/Finish, he agreed to run the back side of Crater the next morning to help flag it, and he headed off to get some rest. Chriss and I drove into Wendover to check in with the Fire Department, get some supplies, and drop off the deposit check for the community center. While there, I decided it would be a good idea to wash the several inches of salt-mud off the chassis of the truck that I managed to accumulate extracting us off the edge of the flats. The Squaw Peak 50 shirt I was wearing is now permanently "speckled" from all the salt spray... if you ever want that "spilled bleach" look on your running clothes, I now have the solution. After finally returning to the start/finish area, I set out to flag more of the course. After driving the long way out towards Aid 2, before I even arrived I realized something was really wrong with the Truck... start phase one of "operation fix the truck while still getting the race off successfully". The cooling fan clutch had failed, and my big 7.4 liter V8 was gasping for cooling air, and thus overheating very quickly. A long, temperature-balancing drive back to the Start/Finish put me there around midnight, and thus ended that day. The next day after Ray and Becky Smith arrived (Assistant RD), we dropped the truck off at the local repair shop in Wendover, and headed out to flag Crater Island with Sam. Ray and Becky dropped Sam and I off just past Sheep Camp Aid Station (6), and they flagged backwards towards Hastings Aid Station (5/7) while Sam and I headed forwards towards Hastings. Sam and I had a great run setting the course through the "moonscape" on the back of Crater, stopping to punch pin-flags into the pie-crust of baked mud. I always enjoy the novelty of running this section of course as it's been my favorite part of the course since the first time I ran it. Once finished flagging that section, we continued backwards from the Hastings, flagging through 4 all the way to 3. We then headed back to the finish to drop Sam off and start on the water and Honey Buckets. Ray and I continued placing water, Honey Buckets, and flagging through the evening and all the way till about 5 AM, when we headed back towards the finish so we could get the race started, and head back out to get the rest of the course setup. By the time we arrived at the Start/Finish, runners were already milling about, placing their drop-bags, and making their final preparations. I was able to get a few things organized, say hi to Jay Aldous (who had literally just arrived in Utah from Italy the night before), see a few other friends and then get everyone lined up for the start. At 0700, I kicked it off and 53 runners headed out onto the salt, for what I sincerely hoped would be an awesome experience for each one. Then it was time to get back to work. On a side note, we lost an Aid Station Crew late in the game, and so Aid Station 3 became our own and several folks, including a couple who were just there to crew their runner out to Aid 3. Ray and Becky's daughter Rachael saved the day there by teaching the adults how to setup the canopy, and then she took over recording the runners in/out times. Thanks to everyone who stepped in to make Aid 3 possible! Ray and I split up and went to work, he, Becky, and his son Parker took off to continue to drop water and Honey Buckets, and I jumped on one of a couple borrowed ATVs (THANK YOU Bastian Cowsert and Mark Pledger!)and headed out to keep the course flagging ahead of the racers. About 11:00 AM, I headed back to the Start/Finish to find out if my truck was ready to pick up at the shop, and it was! Ray was inbound, so as soon as he arrived, he and I headed into Wendover to get my Truck. Upon returning, Steve Gerritsen, friend and volunteer was at the finish so I grabbed him and we headed out to finish flagging from the "concrete bunker" through to 14. However, at the turn off of Ranch Road that starts the climb out to 13, the truck lost the cooling fan again... MURPHY! I called Ray, who had been diverted trying to assist a runner who had a stress fracture and had to be extracted back to the start, and he started heading our way. Then I called the repair shop, and as diplomatically as possible, told them that they were going to come out and pick up the truck, and fix it before they went home for the weekend (Steve volunteered to go with them so that as soon as it was done he could drive it back), and Ray, Rachael, Parker and I headed out to finish the flagging into 14. Upon reaching 14, we headed back to the finish to regroup, and there I received the call that Steve was on the way back with my (once more fixed) truck. I also learned that Jay was running at least an hour back from his expected pace, so I had a little more time to get the last 5 miles of the course flagged, and the finish setup. Steve and I finished up the flagging by 6:30PM, and the finish was setup by 7:30PM. Somehow, with all the challenges, we still managed to pull it off. (I would learn later, that with the truck breakdowns, and the runner extraction, we failed to get the unmanned water placed at mile 48... FAIL!). My new, checklist-based approach will ensure that we don't let unexpected issues let a water placement slip by again. All during the race, the aid stations were competing for votes by the runners for "best aid station" of the year. All of the aid stations stepped up and provided OUTSTANDING support to the runners. Many runners, including Traviss Willcox who has run 246 marathons and ultras, stated that this was the best supported race they had run! Aid 4 had an amazing setup, as did 12, and they ended up tied for 1st place. Close behind was Aid 13, who were lauded by all for their expertise in moving runners through with both encouragement and tough-love. The biggest win for me this year was that I was able to be at the finish for every runner who came through! It was an amazing experience being able to congratulate each finisher, and hand them their buckle personally. I recognized myself in many of them, having that mix of pain, euphoria, and just plain relief at having it over. It's an odd thing this ultra-running... particularly the 100 distance. Jay Aldous finished first, coming through at 17:59:30. His travel schedule and it's impact on his training was evident, but he was happy none-the-less for having the opportunity to finish another Salt Flats among friends. He is always a class-act, and it was fun to chat with him and Peter for a few minutes at the finish. As more and more runners finished through the night, I enjoyed seeing old friends and new friends crossing the finish line. My cousin Davy Crockett came through just after sunrise, finishing this 100 miler after completing a 104 miles the previous weekend. Next, good friend Sam Collier finished his first sub-24hr 100! He was obviously stoked on the great finish, and also pretty spent... a great accomplishment to be sure. Another great accomplishment is a runners first 100... as Galen Garrison approached the finish of his first 100, I could see the pride that only a 100 finish can give. This is definitely one of the coolest parts of being an RD, is seeing the emotion of completing a first 100... I know how cool it felt for me, and it's a genuine joy to see others do the same! As the morning worked towards day, I decided to sit down and rest for a minute, as I'd been up for nearly 50 hours at this point... and of course that turned into a 30 minute nap until the next runner was approaching the finish. Milko Mejia came through the finish, having completed his fourth 100 miler. This course is not the easiest 100 by any stretch. It's very doable, but not easy, and Milko stated that very plainly to me... he's a new convert to the unique challenge and pain that the Salt Flats provides, and yet another new friend. The remainder of the day was a repetition of amazing efforts by unique individuals, all of whom came to this race with amazing personal stories and challenges. I watched our oldest runner, Bob Mercil (72) finish, followed by our youngest runner, Kara John (25) . Both endured some amazing challenges just to get to the finish. Somewhere along the day, we had a most unique visitor... Neil Young, who arguably shaped much of my musical taste as a youth arrived in his 1959 Lincoln Continental (modified to be a Hybrid Electric). He chatted amicably with a couple of the runners and crews, and then drove off. Had my head been in the game, I'd have grabbed a shirt and handed it to him, but alas, as I was chasing 60 hours without anything but a 30 minute nap, I wasn't really all there. Overall, this was an amazingly successful event this year. We had phenomenal volunteers at the aid stations and with the organizing committee. We had outstanding support by the Elko County Sheriffs Department Search and Rescue, South Jordan City and South Jordan Police Department along with the Amateur Radio Public Service Events (www.arpse.org) which provided medical and communications support, as well as kept the website updated with real-time-ish results! Six Nutrition did an amazing job as title sponsor, and all the other sponsors stepped up and provided prizes and support which made a great impact on the runners! I felt privileged to host every one of them, as well as all the runners, their crews and supporters, and see them cross the finish of what I consider to be one of the most amazing courses on the planet. Thanks again to everyone, and I look forward to next year!
at 10:05 AM