Monday, May 27, 2013

About the Salt Flats 100!

Salt flats and the USA

Golden Gate Bridge
Yes it is long overdue. Still here I am, this blog is going to be about my first 100 mile run.
We (Joachim, his girlfriend, my wife and I) headed to the USA mainly to do the Salt Flats 100 mile run. It seemed like such a good idea 8 months out from the race, still as the last couple of weeks rolled around we headed away. 

We had a nice holiday for about a week before the race. It was really nice, road tripping and seeing bits of the USA. I have to say…. Man that place is huge! Long wide roads with nothing as far as the eye can see, then coming into a city and so many people… WOW.
So we did the tourist thing…. Las Vegas, LA, San Francisco. It was great. The only big thing that I really want to tell you about was the Golden Gate Bridge. Before heading away I had said I wanted to run across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the one really big this I wanted, and Joachim suggested we run it at night. Naturally I thought this was a great idea, so we got our running clothing on and drove to the parking area next to the bridge, ran to the start and found a really big gate and a sign saying “No Pedestrians after 9pm”. I looked at my watch and it was 9:15. We couldn’t believe it, so I tried to sweet talk the watch tower into letting us run it quickly. After much talking and saying please… No go. The nice guy in the guard tower did say the bridge opened again at 5am. We headed back to the hotel and came up with a plan. Sadly that plan meant getting up at 4am, getting ready and driving back to the bridge. 

Run across the Golden Gate Bridge
This time when we got to the gate, it was still closed. We were 5 mins early, finally the gate opened and we were off. First people on the Golden Gate Bridge for the day! It was awesome, the city lights, a few lights in the bay. Truly a very special moment of my life! I will include a couple of photos and my Garmin data. 

After the holiday we made our way to Wendover and the home of the Salt Flats. Most people haven’t heard of Wendover, yet is the town that is the base for the land speed record attempts, you know the fastest cars and motorbikes in the world, (for the New Zealanders) The world’s fastest Indian movie. All that happens on the Bonneville race way, or once you are there a flat bit of salt! Standing at the Bonneville speed way looking over the Salt Flats is mind bending. You know it is flat, yet it seems to disappear so fast as the earth curves and the mirage kicks in. Then it hits you, you have to run straight for 30 kms and then it hits the islands you see floating in the distance!

Nervous before the start.
Morning of the race came, Breakfast at 5:15 am and then the final prep to head to the start. The only thing I had a problem with was getting my compression socks on over the top of the tape I had put on, that took about 15 minutes. Once at the start it was really easy - put the aid bags down in the right place and then have a very nervous pee. 

At long last I stood on the start line and waited for the gun to go off. It was a very relaxed start once the gun went off, everyone seemed to get into a rhythm and just slowly run in a very straight line. We had been told there are toilets at 5, 10, and 16 km (the first aid station was at 16km) so you and running along looking ahead waiting to see the toilet, and it isn’t there. I was thinking I must be able to see it…. No I was wrong, but suddenly you see it coming over the horizon.  So weird. 

It was very nice at this point of the race. Everyone is chilled and you have this big open place and can talk to each other. I meet 3 really nice guys along the first 40km and had a good chat. This made the mind bending Salt Flats so much easier, fresh legs, people to talk to and this vast landscape. 
Looking along the race course!

Once I hit the 3rd aid station (40km) that was the end of talking to people, it was also the start of the hills and the heat was starting to really kick in. The first climb was runable, yet I power walked most of it. Thinking I had 120km yet to go and maybe now wasn’t the time to hammer myself. The sun was nice and high now and it was getting hot, and there is no shade on the course. I didn’t see one tree in the 160km, so the sun was unrelenting. Once up the first big climb I ran down the hill nice and smoothly and feeling good happy as till the next aid station (52km) suddenly I wasn’t feeling so good. I think it was the heat, coming from a cold German winter to 30 degrees was hard, still I kept moving and that was all I kept telling myself, keep moving. It was all very up and down till about  70 km, and then it flat for 10km. What I didn’t know this was 10km is sand, Yes Sand. That was tough, still kept moving. It felt endless at this point, only 75km and I felt cooked by the sun and was fighting hard in sand, still keep moving. 

Salt Flats 100 from my Garmin. What a course!
Finally I was off the sand and back in the hills after a nice climb, I started a mix of jogging and walking, my legs started to feel better and better as the sun got lower and lower. I had been worried I had left my head lamp on an aid station too far, yet these fear turned out to be groundless.  I had got my plan just right and had an hour before it was dark and when it did finally get dark it cooled off and that was so nice. I was back jogging along happily listening to my favourite podcast laughing away. I must say I was feeling good, and covering a lot of ground. Running in the disc of light from a good headlamp is such a nice thing. 

Aid Station at night.
All was good and I was in a happy place, right till the second to last aid station. It was about 3am and was happy, sat down in the aid station, had something to eat and a couple of drinks and then I stood up took 3 steps and felt broken! I was suddenly so cold, 100 metres out of the aid station I had to sit and put more clothes on. My quads were smashed! After 142km I wanted to sleep or cry, if not both, my legs were empty, still I had keep on moving. It is only 10km to the next aid station and most of that is downhill. Till this point I had run most of the downhills and enjoyed it, this one I could only just walk. The downhill felt 7 times longer than the uphill and finally I got to the bottom of it and just had to find the aid station. Ok…. Where is it….. I thought it was right at the bottom of the downhill….. It’s been 10km from the last aid station…. Am I meant to be on the road again? I thought we were meant to be back on the Salt Flats? I can’t see any lights for an aid station. I was lucky I had taken my phone and started txting my wife…. “Where is the aid station?”….. “Is it on the road???”. The answer came back yes, so I power walked on, hoping I was in the right place. It felt like forever till I found it and yes I was on the right way.

I had lost so much time in the last 12km I couldn’t believe it. I was completely finished, my legs were smashed I was tired and been awake for over 24 hours and most of that time on the move. At the last aid station, all I wanted was a coffee, and guess what was the one thing they didn’t have… Coffee. My wife was there and was really supportive, only 8km to go. So I got up and started power walking for all I was worth along the road. 

All I was looking for.
I thought being on the road would be nice, yet it wasn’t. The road surface is so hard on the body, and after 154km it was very hard. At last we turned off the road and back onto the salt for the last 5.6km. I was looking at my watch and seeing the time and willing myself forward, keep moving. I would run a little and then power walk, run a little, power walk. I couldn’t see the finish, yet I knew it was getting closer. The dawn was starting and I was still moving. At long last I saw the finish, it looked so close, yet felt so far. As I got to the finish line, so many thoughts and feelings were flooding though me, “I had made it, and under 24 hours”, “wait a minute, my Garmin has 163km on it, not 160km”, “Where is my wife!”, “Where is my belt buckle”, “Can I sleep now?” and many more. 

The moment when Vince the fantastic race director handed me the belt buckle I just about cried, I really had to hold it back. Then a couple of nice photos with my wife, and all I wanted was to head back to the hotel and sleep, after a hot shower.

I was so cold, my body was empty and my legs didn’t want to work anymore. I somehow had a shower. Well, I sat in the shower and washed myself. Once I managed to stand again I headed to bed, shaking really badly, so cold. I slept for 3 hours before we had to leave for Salt Lake City. The 24 hours after the race were the worst 24 hours of all my years in sport. I couldn’t walk well or bend my legs, I felt like my bones were bruised. I couldn’t eat well, I couldn’t drink well. Yet I had done it! I had completed my first 100 mile run, and that made the pain well worth it. 
So all I have to do now is pick my next 100 mile race….. And so many to choose from!
The Belt Buckle. So worth it!

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