Eight months ago I was struggling with the thought of turning 40. Perhaps it was a mid-life crisis, personal fears of getting old or some other scenario. I don’t know. Whatever it may be, I was determined I needed to do something spectacular. During my search for something epic, I came across many interesting and intense challenges. Cycling across America, mountain biking from Canada to Mexico and many others. But what really resonated with me was the ultra race across the Bonneville Salt Flats. Why? Well the biggie was that it was run the day before my birthday. What better way to ring in 40 than running 50 miles? I must admit that I didn’t fully understand the commitment I was undertaking, but I was excited and determined to see this through.
I had been out to the Salt Flats a few times to do a few smaller practice runs and experienced the strange anomaly that running out there has. It is a bizarre mind twist. You can literally see for miles on the Salt Flats and as such, you never seem to get any closer to where you are going. Plus, running for 15 miles in a straight line is brutal on your mind. I was ready for this and had been working to be mentally prepared for this. The weather was absolutely perfect for running. Cool and overcast. I had told myself to relax and just go out nice and slow. I really wasn’t competing against anyone else, just wanting to finish.
The day was nice and there is a kind of meditational quality to running this far. Time dissolves away as you continue to run. I had brought my iPhone with a few podcasts, an audiobook, and plenty of music to keep my mind occupied, but the funny thing is, I never got it out except for a few photos along the way. I enjoyed the tranquility and nothingness of being out there. Especially after about mile 20 where everyone had spread out and was running at their own pace. I would run miles without seeing anyone.
As I came over the pass by Volcano Mountain, around mile 42, I saw a car parked at the bottom of the trail head. I didn’t think much about it, but as I got closer it started to drive towards me. I realized it was my sisters Land Rover. I was ecstatic! My girlfriend, mom and dad, sister and brother in law all piled out to cheer me on. I was so surprised to see them as I wasn’t sure they even knew where I was on the course. I stopped and got hugs from each of them and removed the small pebbles from my shoes. It was a great reprieve from the monotony of running and gave me a huge boost in energy. For the next few miles they leap-frogged me, driving ahead and getting out to cheer me. It was incredible to have my own roving cheering section.
The race ends back on the Salt Flats with a four mile stretch back to the finish. Again, I had to psych myself up for this section. I cannot explain how bad this section plays with your head. It is only four miles and yet it seems like an eternity. I kept telling myself to ignore the time and distance. Just continue running and it will figure itself out. I had a goal that I wanted to finish in 11 hours. When I started down that final four mile stretch I knew I was going to come in under 11 hours. This was exciting for me because it vindicated all of the training I had done. Not only was I going to finish, but I was going to beat my goal time. As I neared the finish line I saw my sister and dad running out towards me to keep me company through the final quarter mile. I cannot express how much it meant to have them there supporting me. Even when I didn’t see them for most of the race, just knowing that they were there was enough to keep me motivated through much of the race. Somewhere I found enough energy to sprint the last few hundred yards. Maybe because I knew I was almost done and didn’t need to conserve any more energy or maybe I just thought it was sprinting. Either way, I came through the finish line with my family, a few other runners and the race director cheering me on. I was glad to be done. I gave everyone hugs, even the race director, and then it was over. Kind of surreal after preparing for something for so long. We visited for a while and I put flip-flops on. The next runner came in around 45 minutes after me and we all cheered him on to the finish. That is why I like this community so much. Everyone supports the next guy or gal, even when they are a complete stranger. All in all I was thrilled with the race. Happy with my time, happy I felt great after the race and happy I didn’t die.
Up next: Boise Half Ironman and Xterra Triathlon at Snowbasin
Read more about the race: http://saltflats100.com/