If you were one of the lucky runners to have participated in the 2019
, you will know how awesome the 1.71 mile course on the Bonneville Salt Flats looked.
Not only was the course on salt, it was at night....under the stars....lit by 500 balls of light that looked like an interstellar pathway.
Pictures don't come close to depicting what the experience was actually like. As one runner put it, "I loved the solitude of the race and how it course was only lit with very small lights." And another, "I have never seen the Milky Way as bright as when I was making my loops during the dark hours. Running beneath those clusters of light and the tails of shooting stars is an experience I will long remember."
The salt in and of itself presents a unique destination for a race. But our dilemma was how we could turn the salt and night into an even more ethereal experience for runners. Let's start at the beginning, where my wife helped me glue 500 light balls onto 500 golf tees....
Some 3 1/2 movies later, we had successfully glued 500 small balls of light (traditionally found at wedding receptions in balloons or small crystal vases) onto 500 white 2.5" golf tees.
Let me tell you, white golf tees was the WORST idea ever!!!! I'll tell you why later, keep reading...
We arrived at the Salt Flats at 11am the day of the race, which started at 8pm that night (sunset). The temperature in August was somewhere around 80 degrees, and steadily increasing as the day went on. We set up light towers, tables, canopies, water jugs, etc. The toilets arrived, and we got those situated. And then the task was at hand to mark the course.
Did you know that it's actually not that easy to stick stuff into the salt flats? Underneath the salt is a hard layer of clay sediment. No wonder they set land speed records there!
Anyway, that left us with the task of bending down to hammer a screwdriver into the Salt, then placing the golf tee light into the hole - every 20 feet. Bend down, hammer hammer hammer, stick light in hole, stand up, walk, bend down......all in the blazing sun reflecting off of the white salt and burning my legs arms, face, and eyes. Not pleasant!
And now to why white golf tees was the worst idea ever: the salt flats are completely white, right? So if you set down a white golf tee, what do you think happens? IT COMPLETELY DISAPPEARS!!!
To try and expedite the course marking process, Andrew (a fellow Race Director) walked ahead and set golf tees down every 20 feet. And then I would follow and hammer them into the salt. But then......it was like I was lost in an ocean, trying to find a droplet of water I put right next to me. Or like walking through a forest not knowing what way I had come from or which direction I was headed....I walked around trying to find stupid white golf tees for more time than I'd like to admit.
And then, some 4+ hours later, right before the race was supposed to start, we finished the 1.71-mile loop (of what was supposed to be 2 miles). Sunburnt, dehydrated, and on the verge of death, our work was done.
When the sun went down, the course was truly LIT. And it made all that suffering worth it. So much so, in fact, that we'll do it again in 2020!
August 21-22, 2020 BABY!!!
But we won't be using white golf tees, I can promise you that.