Run the Red Desert 100k Race Report – Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott

Race: Run The Red Desert 100K

Runner: Coach Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott

Race Date: 09/24/2022

Location: South Pass City, WY

Results: 4th Female, 8th Overall // Top Female Time Performance 6th

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Landscape: There is beauty in simplicity. No big mountain vistas. No charging through hoodoos. Nothing but sage and sky.
  2. Message: Run the Red is held on Wyoming Public Lands Day with the goal of raising awareness for protecting the Red Desert and wild lands everywhere.
  3. Culture: This race is just so Wyoming. There is no other way to put it. Antelope bounded across the trail on multiple occasions. We meticulously opened and closed gates on private ranchland and ran through pastures with grazing cattle. Big sky and open country.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

The 30-40mph headwinds that battered us for about 85% of the course were exhausting. At the same time, I was grateful for it as the sky was cloudless and the sun incredibility powerful. Kind of a toss-up as to whether the wind was a true drawback… though it definitely blew us back!

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Nothing weird per say, but starting/ending the race in the historic Ghost Town of South Pass City was unique.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

By all accounts this race should have been brutal on me. I spent a great deal of time in the “pain cave” during a 100 miler a month prior to toeing the line of Run the Red Desert. After that race my husband and I began diligently making final preparations for our cross country move. A week before the race we spent 15 hours moving heavy things in and out of a moving truck and got 3 hours of sleep in 36 hours. The rest of the week continued with little and/or poor-quality sleep. This was due to us learning that there was a hold up and we couldn’t move into our house. A week of phone calls, emails, anxiety, and general chaos ensued. Therefore, I made the decision to not execute my final week of tapering. Instead, I ran without limitations because it helped me find some sense of normalcy in the turmoil and kept me sane. I was willing to sacrifice performance to have some moments of tranquility. For good measure, I hadn’t run in an open desert since March. Plus, my altitude training consisted of sleeping in an altitude tent and I had no idea if it would be effective for me. In short, my preparation was atrocious (would not recommend) and I was relying on fitness and grit to finish.

Only it turned out that finishing wouldn’t be enough for me this time. About 2 seconds after the race began, I decided to compete. I like to say that I run courses, I don’t race them. Historically my goal has always been to simply finish. I did, admittedly, toss around the idea of competing in the Run the Red Desert, but I’d let that idea go a month prior when I realized how rough the lead up weeks would be… or at least I thought I let it go.

During this race I was 100% invested in nothing else but the course in front of me and my performance. I think my focus was near perfect. After my heinous week, suddenly all I had to do was keep moving forward. It was so simple and I committed myself to making every step and thought I had count toward my forward progress. Never have I been so on top of my nutrition and hydration. Never have I been so hyper-aware of every muscle movement. Never have I paid such close attention to my place in the pack. Nothing bothered me. Not the blister on my toe, the blasting headwind or the miles of seeing nothing but sky and sage. The whole race was joy and relief. One step in front of the other. Nothing more and nothing less. So simple. This mindset led me to finish 4th female, 8th overall and to a 6th overall female top performance time.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Wind is standard in the Red Desert. Be prepared to battle it! In general, it is a land of extremes during a very volatile time of year. Sun, wind, rain, snow and hail are all a possibility. In fact, all of these can happen in a single day! Temperature can swing from freezing in the early hours to toasty by midday. Bring layers. Finally, the sun at high altitude in open sage-land is incredibility powerful. Bring sunscreen and don’t forget to apply it when the temperature is in the 30s!

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

My circumstances leading up to this race were certainly not ideal. I would definitely taper and not move across the country next time around!

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The race does not have a lot of vert (3,500-4,500ft depending on where you look). However, it is at altitude. Be ready to run between 7000-8000ft. I came from sea level, but my altitude tent seems to have worked. Flat-landers without this tool struggled. Also, some of the aid stations are rather far apart from one other. Be prepared with lots of food, water and happy thoughts during those stretches.
Also note that the final 10 or so miles of the course are on (mostly) gradually ascending terrain that makes you feel like you’re going nowhere. No easy gliding downhill to the finish.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

I appreciate vast and empty desert landscapes with nothing but sky, sage, pronghorn and cattle. I loved this course and thought the simplicity was beautiful. If you’re looking from craggy mountain vistas or variety this course is likely not for you. You can see the Wind River Range in the distance and desert formations, but they are not the focal points the race.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

It is not a technically difficult course. The extreme environment and weather are the challenge.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

The event was very well organized and went off without a hitch (at least that I know about!).

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I don’t think there were any pro-athletes competing. However, fast times were put up for both men and women. I was definitely pushed to perform my best by the field.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Historically this race has had years of selling out and years of having space for last minute sign up. It’s sort of anybody’s guess what registration will be like from year to year. It was a local race for me, but accommodations should be easy to come by in the nearby towns this time of year.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard food was available at all the aid stations. Later in the race hot options like quesadillas and burgers were also offered. Tailwind, water and enthusiastic encouragement were also on hand at all aid stations.

Weather and typical race conditions

Anything is possible in September in the Red Desert! Be prepared for all extremes as previously mentioned.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Wear shoes that will dry fast and don’t start the race in pants that can’t be rolled up. There are several deep and mucky water crossing in this race. The first is about ¼ mile in!

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

No crew or spectators are allowed on this course to protect the fragile landscape.

How’s the Swag?

Really nice technical shirt and cool wooden plaque with the course on it.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

10/10. I would recommend this course to anyone who loves running in high desert in extreme weather with nothing but sage and sky!

Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.