Slickrock 100 Prep

For the race report, click here.

Went for an easy 5 miler today, that will probably the last run of any significance I do before race day.  Legs were bleh.  Typical for race week.  I’d say I’m at about 85%.  Still working my way through the cold that hammered me last week.  Feeling a lot better, but my resting heart rate is still 10 beats high and I don’t feel as good as I used to on my runs.  It is what it is.

I’m really looking forward to running the Slickrock 100.  I am nervous about it being a first year event, though.  With some fairly inexperienced (though very passionate) RD’s.  Sherpa John posted a good interview with the RD about a week ago.  I hope they, and we, are not biting off more than we can chew.  The course marking is my main concern.  While it is going to be awesome to run a 100 mile loop, or as I prefer to think of it – a point to point where you just happen to end up back at your car, the task of marking and maintaining those markings is massive!  I’m very familiar with the Moab area, having made dozens of trips over the years, and the race course is smack in the middle of a huge spiderweb network of roads and trails.

Take a gander at this to get an idea of what I’m talking about…

And that’s just a 1-2 mile section of what we’ll be traveling through.  At night.

The race maps leave a lot to be desired as well.  Very hard to discern the exact path we will be taking.  It’s all good.  I generally am not high maintenance and don’t have a lot of expectations.  I know the site, maps, and race will evolve as the years go on and things will shape up.  I’m very happy to be able to take part in the first of hopefully many Slickrock 100s.

This 100 miler wasn’t originally on my schedule this year, but I have been wanting to do another one after a pretty dismal showing at Leadville.  I bounced back quickly from that one and have put in my best September’s worth of training since I began running.  By far.  I got in 280 miles which is a long way off my best month, but huge for me post-Leadville.  I’m able to make the trip thanks to my wife allowing me to go play for yet another weekend, and cashing in my 42nd birthday present chips.

In an effort to be as prepared and self-sufficient as I possibly can, I’ve spent the last few days squinting at satellite images of the course and trying to reconcile that with the maps on the race website.  I think I have come pretty close to figuring out the entire route, with a few small exceptions.  I dropped several markers onto a Google map and came up with this (click to get the interactive version):

The martini glasses (needed an easily recognizable icon) represent the water-only aid stations, red crosses are full aid stations, and the airplanes are confidence markers placed at key junctions, etc.  The other blue markers are there to flesh out the route on the map, but are not ones I am planning on using as waypoints.

Now the fun part.

I had to convert everything from decimal lat/long into degrees/minutes/seconds and then put that in the notes section of each marker.  I’m running the race with a Garmin 310XT and will have 50 waypoints loaded up to use if needed.

It is a HUGE pain in the butt to do this, as there is no way to transfer them to the watch from the computer.  They have to be entered manually one at a time on the device itself.

I’m not planning on running with my head down staring at the watch the whole time, but it seems like people are always going off course in even the biggest of events.  I may take longer to finish than I would like, and my time goals may not be met, but I’m determined not to have time spent wandering around the desert looking for a flag be the reason for that.

Here is a link to a Google doc I created with all of the coordinates I plan on using:


The idea is to be able to rapidly pull up the next closest point of interest in case there is ever any doubt or question.  I’ll be able to get a quick bearing and be on my way.

I may not use this feature at all during the race.  That would be optimal, in fact.  I won’t feel like it has been a wasted effort even if at the pre-race meeting they were to announce that the course has been radically changed.  Examining the area in detail has allowed me to mentally fit the pieces and places I know into the ones that I was unfamiliar with.  I now have a much better idea of how things are layed out in general, regardless of what specifics may change.

I love what I have seen of the course.  Jeep and 4×4 roads, canyons, slickrock – terrain that I absolutely love to run around in.  I can’t wait.  I’m looking forward to the night section up on Poison Spider Mesa where we are set to have a huge full moon and a brilliant desert sky.  I was once able to ride the Slickrock bike loop with no lights because the moon was so bright.  Good times!

Best of luck to everyone in the race.  It’s looking like it will be a great weekend!


This was a total seat-of-the pants effort.  I do not have any insight into the official route.  These coordinates were generated as a result of eyeballing maps and satellite imagery.  No guarantees whatsoever that any of this will match anything in the real world on race day!

Posted on October 4, 2011, in run. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Interesting. I like a concept where a race in the “back country” would actually have this all listed out for you and then there is some program to import all that … would eliminate (or at least reduce) a lot of off trail excursions (and combat vandals changing tape markings)

    • Exactly. The tech is there, we just need a good streamlined way of using it. I hate hearing about the vandalism aspect like what happened to Nick @ the Bear due to the ATV’ers.

  2. I was able to import your KML file and download to my 310 as a course: You will see the option to send to a Garmin device after you’ve uploaded.

    Not sure how to select and go to individual points on the 310 because I’ve never done that, but I was able to see named points on the map after I loaded the course, and I got the compass screen.

    • I should have explained a little bit about my issues with ‘courses’ in the post. I haven’t messed with them for a while, so maybe I have missed something, but the problem I have with them is they are all or nothing. You have to initiate the course at the beginning and then you are locked into it. If you go 5 feet (ok I’m exaggerating) off the route it constantly alerts you. The stopwatch is also tied in with it as well.

      What I like about my method (other than manually entering the waypoints) is that you operate the watch as you normally would, but you can navigate to a waypoint – or stop navigation, at any time along the way and it doesn’t change anything that’s running in the background. On the other hand, if you are running along and you select ‘do course’, everything gets reset to zero and you start over.

      Still a lot more tinkering to do. What I would really like is the ease of use of a course, like you have shown with the KML import, combined with the no-hassle operation of just being able to navigate to a single waypoint at any given time.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      • I see what you mean about courses vs. waypoints. You can tell I haven’t used courses!

        The GPS products are unfortunately segregated, i.e. sport vs. trail. A handheld can manage waypoints, but its Base Camp software doesn’t even see the 310XT because it only sees USB devices. Laborious indeed.

        Good luck this weekend.

  3. PS – I just noticed you also have to pick the “Track Creator” tab.

  4. After having run the Red Hot 55k, I completely understand your concern. It’s hard enough staying on course in daylight, that I can’t imagine the task to do so at night. I can’t wait to hear how this one goes for you as I’d like to add it to my list for next year. Best of luck to you!

  5. Looking forward to the “89 miles” and then I tacked on report! (that sounds pretty damn tough to me).

  6. Jane Moser Cox

    This race SUCKED. I ran the 50 miler (only God knows how far it really was). Course markings were sparse, and I’m being kind. If there were any, they were about 1/2 inch long pink ribbons, and pretty far apart. No real sense of where one was going. Aid stations were NOT where they said they would be, and then they had no idea what mile they were really at. Many 100 milers I met were NOT going to go out during the night, as it was clear the race director was in waaaay over his head. I finished the 50, and didn’t even get a stinkin’ cup of water, let alone soda, chips, anything. They should be ashamed of themselves, putting the runners at risk. I’ve done ultras for over a decade, and this was probably the worst as far as organization was concerned.

  7. This is the race director. I am sorry that some of you had a negative experience, but many of you had an awesome time (just look at the comments on our facebook page). One reason for this is that there was vandalism done to our markings throughout the race. During the race motorcycles were spotted on the course with hundreds of our markers tied to their handlebars. We had to pull volunteers from many of the aid stations and have them remark the course. When we assessed the course yesterday we identified 8 miles of marking removal and manipulation. A big thanks to EMS and volunteers for making sure no one had to go to the hospital. Another reason is we had to deal with weather that is highly unusual, and adapt quickly. Of corse we made some first time race mistakes, but if people do not give first time races a chance to learn from the first year, Ultrarunning as we know it will die. We will only have established races to chose from where it is a corporate event, a lottery, high priced or you have to sign up 6 months in advance. (when you have no idea what your health is like at that point). If you are interested in making this race better please email me and we would love to hear your input, or better yet volunteer, otherwise good luck with the lottery, maybe this year you may get picked.

    Congratulations Chris, That must have taken allot of determination to get back out there and hit the trails again. Some runners hit a section where the markers had been removed and accidently took a short cut, that might of been you. Many runners logged less than 100 and most logged many more.

    • Aaron,
      Thanks for the comment and for participating in the discussion. I saw your comment on Tim’s blog as well and thought highly of it. That really sucks about the motorcycles. Thank you for letting the show go on, warts and all. I would have run 100 laps around the campground if needed just to avoid going home without a race. I like your attitude about the whole thing and will definitely come back. I will be in touch about some marking ideas.

  8. Good to hear your response, Aaron, but I have comments relating to same. Aaron, the night before the race, I witnessed a runner at the table asking for a pen to mark their drop bags — “no, we don’t have any.” Runner asked what miles the drop bags would be put — “no idea”. I was at the start/finish when runners were trying to find rides to the start of the new 50 mile course, and no one knew where anyone was as far as the “shuttle bus”. I bummed a ride with a kind runner and we were all a little shaken up, to say the least. I saw you at the start of the 50 miler, when runners asked you to drop their bags at aid stations, because they needed them, and you looked at them in disbelief and told them you “couldn’t promise” anything. Many runners didn’t know about the change in course(s) until the morning of, because they had to travel to the race, and didn’t get there early enough the night before, and had no other choice but to ask you. I saw many runners at aid stations without their drop bags, including 100 mile runners, and they said there was no way they would run the 100, if everything was that messed up even during the day. Aid stations ran out of GU. Runners out on the course milling around asking each other if they had ANY idea where to go, and runners running out of fluids. Finish lane wasn’t even lit up, and nothing to eat/drink unless you wanted to pay. Ambiance at the finish line was non-existent, and runners just left. I’m not a negative Nancy, and am as tough as they come “out there”, and I certainly appreciate first year learning curves, as well as vandalism sucking, BUT runners deserve to be safe. To insinuate that runners need to roll with it, or head to the lottery-filled races (“good luck with the lottery, maybe this year you may get picked”???), is over-simplifying and insulting. There are GREAT ultra’s out there outside of either one, and runners are taken care of. I’m glad runners are responding positively, and that’s a testament to those who participate in these wonderful adventures, but I witnessed otherwise out there, and I’m not alone. Not sure how you’re going to post any results, as runners ran many different distances, and places/times are therefore all relative to that.
    ANYWAY, my added two-cents to my two-cents.
    Congrats to everyone who finished, who hung tough, I loved meeting new ultrarunners and sharing my day with them, and happy trails to all — peace out!

  9. -Yes we ran out of pens for a little while but we found more
    -I personally shuttled anyone who did not have a ride to the 50M and everyone was taken care of
    -If you missed the mandatory race meeting it became your responsibility to find out what was going on
    -If a person missed the drop bag drop off time then yes I could not promise that their drop bag would make it to their aid station.
    -No aid stations ran out of fluids
    -we didn’t light up the finish because we figured it would not be green to be running a generator all night
    -No one was in danger and we didn’t have to take anyone to the hospital. The only danger that we had was people getting lost due to the vandalism on the markers, but we beefed up Search and Rescue on my own personal dime and found everyone who went off course.

  10. Wow! That’s all I can say! People COULDN’T mark their drop bags — DIDN’T know where to put them and were just kissed off all when they were checking in at your mandatory meeting — I saw it and other runners witnessed it too, and we all shook our heads. You told people that they could pick up their stuff the morning of, if they couldn’t make the meeting the night before. Then, hoping to leave bags the next morning (for more remote aid stations), kindly asked you, when the start line was changed for the 50 miler. I SAW you and HEARD you being pissy with these runners. I was standing with other runners at the start looking for you or the shuttle van, and no one knew where you were, so we devised our own ride to the start. I DIDN’T say aid stations ran out of fluids. I said that runners ran out of fluids because your aid stations weren’t where they were supposed to be, and runners got lost, because of lack of markings, and ran so many extra miles, and the runners ran out of water (and these are runners with full camelbacks). No one was in danger? The fact that you “beefed” up search and rescue to find people who had gone off course indicates otherwise. Runners DROPPED from the 100 because they were in no way going to put themselves in that danger at night. You should have had a good mood finish line — like every ultrarunner deserves — how “green” would a bonfire/campfire be?

    I’m not getting in more of a pissing match with you — there are other blogs out there supporting everything I’ve said — you should eat some humble pie and apologize, and ask runners to give you another chance, instead of arguing!

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