Pony Express 100-mile Endurance Run 2014


Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.

The Pony Express Trail in total is 1890 miles long starting in St. Joseph, Missouri, and ending in Sacramento, California. Riders ran the route, relay style, in ten days. It only operated for 18 months, April 1860 until October 1861, before telegraphs replaced it.

There were 157 pony stations along the route and each horse ran approximately 10 miles before the rider swapped out horses. There were 500 horses. The horses were not actually ponies. They averaged 14 hands and 200 lbs. There were 80 riders. Each rider rode between 70-100 miles of the route and could not weigh more than 125 lbs.

William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, was the most famous rider. He helped build some of the stations, and then was hired as a rider at age 15. He made one of the longest runs when his replacement rider was killed by Indians. He rode 322 miles nonstop over 21 hours 40 minutes.

Robert Haslam was also a well-known rider. He ran 120 miles in 8 hours and 20 minutes, while wounded, carrying President Lincoln’s inaugural address. He also made the return trip after nine hours of rest. When he arrived back where he started, Indians had killed the stationmaster, so he continued and rode 380 miles.

It took a lot of grit to be a Pony Express rider, and the ultrarunners who run the Pony Express 100 capture the same spirit.

Pony Express 100 2014 004

The sun light fell on the earth like opening the blinds on the first morning of spring. A dust cloud moved across the flat open land planted with anthills and sagebrush. White and chestnut wild horses emerge from the dust. They toss their mains and their nostrils flare as they come to a stop before cantering across the rocky road to take up the run on the side among the splotches of red, brown, and yellow across the plain and toward the peaks jutting from the ground.

The Pony Express 100 is an amazing experience because of the history and the unique setup of the race. Knowing the stories of the riders and stationmaster of each of the stations you run through brings the sagebrush and anthill strewn land alive.

Part of the Pony experience is bringing your own crew to act as your stationmasters. They help you change out your gear and keep hydrated in the desert sun. Pony Express is the most family and friend involved 100-mile event out there. They can see you at any time, your crew can reach you whenever you need, and you can have a pacer at any point by bike or on foot. The race is held over fall break, so kids are out of school and can participate or not as much as their age and demeanor allow.

There is only one aid station along the 100-mile route. It’s at mile 50. There you will find Davey Crockett, the race director, handing out metals to the fifty-mile finishers. Argentine barbeque is dished up for all the runners and their crew and each bite alone is worth the 50-mile trek.

Davey makes the race better every year. This year he added “nearly” real time tracking on the internet. That may not seem like a huge deal in this day and age, but if you know where the Pony Express is held you begin to appreciate the difficulty of doing that. Cellular service dwindles to one or two providers at Lookout Pass. Once you reach Dugway Pass, it’s a dead zone. There is nothing, but ham radios and (in my experience) spotty satellite phone reception.

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My dad and I woke up at 3:30 a.m., and snuck out of the camp trailer leaving my mom and my thirteen-year-old son, Sky, asleep. We dodged cottontails on the dirt road as we drove the 16 miles from camp to the starting line at Lookout Pass. I began my 100-mile journey along the Pony Express route at 5:00 am. It was about forty degrees Fahrenheit. Starting times are staggered at 5, 6, 7, and 8 a.m.

My dad met me at mile five. He filed my handheld with water and took my jacket. I ran the first ten miles or so with the race director of Salt Flats 100, Vince, and a few other guys. We talked about the epic storm at Salt Flats 100. Vince said he talked to the Bureau of Land Management who said that it was one of those storms that only happens every one hundred years. He went out to pick up the port-o-potties on Wednesday after the race and the wind had pushed them 2.5 miles.

While I ran, my dad went back to the trailer to get some breakfast. He met me just outside our camp at Simpson Springs (mile 16.5) by then I was the second runner. Ahead of me was the Jester, who I would get to know as we played leapfrog over the next 50 miles. I remained first or second runner until about mile 92 when Sherrie Shaw (First place 20:15) passed me. She had started at 8 a.m.

The Jester, Ed, has run eighty-three 100-mile races. He is attempting to break the world record for most 100s in a year. Pony Express was his 30th 100 of the year breaking the men’s world record of 29. He had to finish Pony in 22 hours to make his flight to California to run another 100 Sunday! The women’s world record is 36, which Ed intended to beat by four races. He finished in 21 hours and 42 minutes.Pony Express 100 2014 005 one marathon finished, three to go.

We saw the wild horses along the course between the Riverbed Station and Topaz Well. They were off in the distance, but still such an inspiration.

My dad met me every five miles, making sure I had everything I needed. We reached Blackrock Station, mile 48 at 2:30 p.m. From there we went ten miles out to Fish Springs (the turnaround) and then back to Blackrock (68 miles), which we reached at 7:30.

Pony Express 100 2014 007two marathons finished, two to go.

We met up with my night crew, Swiss Miss and Larry, around mile 62. Miss’s cousin, Jon, was a surprise crewmember along with his charge, the puppy Constantine. I was so grateful to see them, because I was struggling at that point in the race. I had given a lot up to that point and I knew I would have to slow down to be able to finish. Miss paced me for the next 15 miles alternating between walking and running. Jon and Constantine paced on their bike on and off with Miss. She was wonderful. She told me all the things I had missed since I had come out to the starting line: Friends getting engaged and busting sneaking domestic violence perpetrators in closets.

Melissa and Larry were supposed to take over crewing for the night shift, so my dad could sleep, but my dad wanted to stay on and see me through to the end. I marvel at how much my relationship with my dad has changed over the years. When I was a teen, we could barely stand the sight of one another and now he is my crew chief for the Pony Express 100 catering to my needs every few miles.

three marathonsThree marathons finished, one to go.

We were way ahead of schedule. I called J$ on the satellite phone to find out where he was. We spoke for a minute before the phone cut off. He met us at mile 78 at about 11:00 p.m. and took over pacing duty from Swiss Miss.

We had our crew meeting us every three miles. It was very dark. The moon was hidden behind the surrounding mountains. My calves were tight causing pain on the inside of my left knee. J$ rubbed them out every three miles. At each stop, they had a chair out waiting for me and something warm to drink as the temperatures dropped. My dad and Larry made broth and coffee through the night.

J$ and I would see our crew stopped on the side of the road ahead of us. Each time, we would think, “Oh, they’re only a quarter mile away.” And each time, they would get farther and farther away, the closer we got. They swore they were not moving. I’m not convinced.

By the time we got to 95 miles, I was ready to be finished. I was seeing three moons in the sky and the stars were clusters of dots rather than one single star. I saw signs on the side of the road that disappeared by the time we reached them.

After 24 hours and 15 minutes, I crossed the finish line of the Pony Express 100.

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Pony Express 100

Pony Express 100
Pony Express 100

Tomorrow I will be sitting at the starting line for my third one hundred mile run. I’ve done all my training and am going into this race well rested and injury free.

Well rested and injury free at the starting line were goals of mine. They seem like no brainers right? But that’s not how I’ve done my last two hundreds.

2013 Pony Express 100 was my first attempt at the one hundred mile distance. My training was going beautifully. My long runs were difficult at times but doable. Long runs are supposed to be difficult after all. Five weeks before the race, I rolled my right ankle. I had rolled my ankle before so at the time I didn’t really think much of it and continued on my run. But this time was different. I had a high ankle sprain and fifty-five miles to run the next weekend with my relay team. There was no way I was going to let my team down. So I sucked it up and ran the fifty-five miles. I knew when I chose to run with my team that I may not be able to finish the 100, but my team run was the most important. So I made it to mile 72 and had to drop out of the race. I wasn’t willing to cause more damage and potentially be out of running for six months or more.

My dad was on my race crew for Pony Express and even though I didn’t finish, he got me the award you see in the picture above. It sits on a shelf in my living room, totally out of place with the rest of the décor. It reminds me of my struggle and determination. Sometimes it’s not our time to finish or reach our goal because there are other lessons out there for us to learn. We have to remain determined. Without the possibility of failure, is it truly worth the pursuit.

2014 Salt Flats 100. I was determined to finish Salt Flats 100 no matter how ugly it got and I did. I was one of three women who finished the race. Two-thirds of the runners dropped out or didn’t show up at the starting line. Forty-five mile an hour winds and 16 hours of rain made me ask myself, how bad do you really want this belt buckle? There was one point in the race when I really considered quitting, but my crew stepped it up and got me back out on the road.

I will finish Pony Express this year.


100 mile race plan

Pony Express 100
Pony Express 100

Above is my dad and I at last years Pony Express coming over Dugway pass about 35 miles into the race.

I met with my race crew to go over the plan for Pony Express 100 yesterday. Last year, I made it to mile 72 and had to drop from the race because of pain in my knee caused by a high ankle sprain I had not allowed to heal sufficiently. Last year I vowed to come back and finish the race. This year, I’m coming in injury free, I have one 100 mile finish under my belt, I have trained better, and I am on the low carb diet. 


There is a thirty-hour time limit on Pony Express 100. That means you have to maintain an 18-minute mile to finish the course before time runs out. But, I don’t want to be out there for thirty hours. The longer you are out there the harder it becomes to finish because you are tired, ache, and want to be done.

It takes six months to train for a one hundred mile event, at least for normal people who have a full time job and family to care for, and failure to finish after training for that long is a disheartening blow to say the least.

So you have to plan for every possibility that you can think of happening out there. One hundred miles is a long way and a lot can happen. I’m not saying that you need to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse, although I wouldn’t fault you for it, but each possibility that is within reason.

Pony Express is a great beginner’s race because you have to have your own crew and they can access you at any time during the race. There is only one aid station provided and it is at mile fifty. It is the finish line for the 50-mile runners and dinner for the 100-mile runners and their crew.

The major issues you have to consider are weather conditions, problems with your feet, and problems with your stomach. The best course of action is to do everything you can to prevent any of this by training well. And then be ready to deal with it when it does occur out on the course.

I have a blister kit to deal with any type of blister situation that arises, and I have a “medical kit,” which contains solutions to stomach problems that may arise. I pack the full gamut of clothing for Pony Express because daytime temperatures are around 75 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperature drop below freezing.

Once I have all the gear I need, I have to teach my crew when I will need it. For this, I meet with my team before the race and go over a list I put together of what I will probably need and when. This list includes any important rules my crew has to follow, the food I have available, when I should change clothing, and any time cut offs for the race.

My parents are coming out for this race, which is exciting for me because they are not able to be at the finish line of many of my races due to work schedules and life events. They are pulling their camping trailer out to the race start and taking care of my son Sky (13) and my dogs while I run.

My dad is going to be my daytime crew. He will meet me along the road as my mobile aid station from 5:00 a.m. until about 5:00 p.m., which will be from the start to mile fifty or sixty depending on how I am feeling. Last year I had my crew meeting me every ten miles during the first fifty of the race, but this year I may cut that to every five miles.

Swiss Miss and another friend will by my nighttime crew performing the same duties that my dad did, but from 5:00 p.m. until I cross the finish line anywhere between 5:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

Both my daytime crew and nighttime crew may become pacers at some point in the race to help encourage me to keep going or to provide me some company out there on the flat as a pancake western desert. J$ will be coming out to pace me from mile 75 into the finish line, which is what he did for the Salt Flats 100.

My goal for the race is 28 hours, but just finishing is a huge achievement and I will accept a 30-hour finish with open arms as well. I am really looking forward to crossing the finish line where my mom, dad, Sky and a few of my best friends will be. I cannot imagine a better way to spend an October day.


DNF: Did Not Finish or Did Nothing Fatal

Salt Flats sixty-six percent dropout rate was high for an Ultramarathon, even a 100-mile event. The Angels Crest, Hardrock, Leadville, and Wasatch 100s, all have high dropout rates due to their massive climbs, and strict time cutoffs.
I have three DNF’s beside my name (if you decide to google it) for the ultramarathon distances. My first DNF was at Speedgoat 50k 2012, which is advertised to be the most difficult 50k in the lower 48 states. My second was at the Buffalo 50 mile run in 2013. The third, Pony Express 100 also 2013. A DNF comes with the territory of running Ultras. There are so many things that can go wrong when you are pushing your body and mind to their limits over 12, 24, or 36 hours.
Speedgoat 50k is held at Snow Bird Ski Resort in Salt Lake City, Utah. It takes place at the end of July. The weather in July is typically hot, 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the valleys. But, Speedgoat is not in the valley. It starts at 7500 feet above sea level, which isn’t that bad if you live here in Utah because the valley is about 5500 feet above sea level. Speedgoat doesn’t stay at 7500, of course, it climbs over 11,000 feet three times. The total ascent over the 31 miles (50k) is 11,600 feet. The decent is the same. There are strict cutoff times. In 2012, I missed the 21-mile cutoff by five minutes and was pulled from the race. I went back in 2013 and finished the race.
Buffalo 50 mile is not especially difficult, but it is held during the early spring on Antelope Island in northern Utah. The weather in 2013, was extremely unpleasant for running. The race director decided to give the 100-mile runners the option to drop to the 50 during the race because it was so cold. My hydration pack leaked soaking my base layer, and I ended up with hypothermia at mile 38. I decided to drop. I went out the following morning and finished the last 12 miles. In 2014, I finished the Buffalo 50 all in one go.
Pony Express 100, is run on the infamous Pony Express Route used during the American Civil war to transport mail overland using horses and riders. It is a mostly flat course and is challenging because you use the same muscle group over the whole race rather than switching to ascending and descending. Five weeks before the race, I rolled my ankle badly and rather than rest the injury, I chose to continue to run because I had a team race (Red Rock Relay), and I was not willing to let my team down since I was assigned 55 miles of the race. Needless to say, it was not fully healed when I ran Pony Express, and I dropped at 72 miles. I will finish Pony Express this year.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I also dropped out of a duathlon (bike and run) race to take over my son’s spot because he had heatstroke in the middle of the event, and I didn’t want his team to be disqualified. I finished the race, just on another team, so that is also recorded as a DNF.
The decision to drop out of a race is a difficult one and frequently compounded by not thinking entirely clear at the later stages of a race due to exhaustion, low blood sugar, and/or pain. I think many runners consider dropping at some point during a 100-mile event. It’s hard! Race directors do not want their race to be easy. They get great pleasure out constructing a challenging course.
DNF is not a failure. It’s a learning opportunity. The most important thing is to not let it close the door. Each time I have not finished a race, regardless of the reason, I go back the next year, and I finish. I won’t leave it undone.
So to all my fellow runners, who Did Nothing Fatal at Salt Flats 100, get back out there, dust yourselves off, and I’ll see you next year at the finish line.