How Greg Salvesen Won The 200-Mile Peak Ultra Race

Ten hearty runners started the 200-mile race, but only five finished. (This photo includes race directors Andy Weinberg and Joe De Sena. Greg Salvesen is in the back row wearing green. One 200-mile runner missed the photo.)

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What kind of gear did you use?

I wound up using a lot more gear than I thought I would. I ran with an Ultimate Direction race vest the whole time. It worked great and has zero chaffing. It pushes down your T-shirt so you don’t chafe your nipples like you do with some packs. But as far as other gear goes, I changed my socks 19 times. Every single loop I put on new socks because I was terrified my feet were going to go. I would cover my feet in BodyGlide and a powder called Squeaky Cheeks. I don’t know what everyone else did, but it was definitely a way to get it done successfully. My feet were fine. I think I had one small blister the entire race. I think I also changed my shirt five or six times and changed my shorts several times. I’d wipe myself off with baby wipes every loop and cover my body in BodyGlide to avoid chaffing. Aside from that, I also carried and Ultimate Direction water bottle and wore a cheap, crappy trucker had because it was sunny the whole time.

How much did you sleep?

Most people wound up sleeping for about 8 hours total. I had planned on taking some power naps. I really wanted to take advantage of the weather. In the past, it has always rained and the forecast is pretty unpredictable. My plan was that anytime it was daylight or not raining, I would be on the course running. But if it was going to be dumping buckets of rain or it was nighttime, maybe I’d sleep. But for the first 140 miles, the weather was great, so I kept running. I felt like I could sleep, but I felt like I could keep going too. I was having some very mild hallucinations—nothing too crazy, but I was worried they’d get worse at night. It was just something small … I was sitting at the aid station looking at my leg hair and it seemed to be coiling up really tight and then uncoiling. You know you’re fine and you’re with it, but there are just weird little things like that. I wound up sleeping for 2 ½ hours and I was totally fine. I was out there for almost 62 hours but I felt totally fine.

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How are you training?

I’m really just going race to race. I might average 50 miles per week on the trails in Boulder. But I haven’t been to the gym in four years. I’ve got runner arms. I don’t think I could do more than three pull-ups. I was at a buddy’s wedding recently and we had an arm wrestling contest and I didn’t beat a single person. I’m a vegetarian, but that doesn’t really mean I’m careful about my diet. I think I probably drink too much and I eat a lot of sugar. I have a real sweet tooth, which is maybe why the Kind bars were so appealing to me.

What inspired you to run this race?

A lot of it has to do with a friend, Marcy Servita, who died of pancreatic cancer on  March 16. I found out she had cancer the morning after I finished the H.U.R.T. 100 in Hawaii in January and decided to run a 100 a month in her honor. For her, running was so simple and fun. But for her, running was a social thing, a way to spend time with friends. She was always reliable as a training partner and totally positive and likable. It’s one of those things in which, when you think you have it bad, you don’t have it bad. She had bigger ambitions than what she had already done, so I figured ‘why not try something beyond my limits?’

What else happened out there?

A really cool thing about the race was that there were a variety of different race distances going on. On the very last day there were runners running the 500-, 200-, 100-, 50-, 30- and 15-mile courses. So you had this whole spectrum of people out there and I remember coming into the aid station after 190 miles with someone who was finishing their 30-miler and we just said, “Let’s grind out these final 3 miles together and get this done together.” It was great to see and interact with the whole spectrum because you sort of forget what it’s like to be to new this and how cool and open the community is. That was really fun, something I wasn’t really expecting going into it.

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Are you surprised with how well it went?

Yes, big time. I am hugely surprised. I think really what it came down to was deciding right away that I was running my own race early on. If it was going to come down to a race, it wasn’t going to happen until mile 160, so who cares at all before that. I was almost looped twice by one runner and I was only at mile 80. For me, I just wanted to complete the distance and run it as smart as I can. I was able to run the whole thing, and although I don’t think I could have gone much faster, I think I could have kept doing what I was doing for quite a while. I was shocked. It was a lot easier than what I thought it was going to be. I think that was being smart about my pace and taking care of my feet, but also about having been there before. I kind of knew what it was going to feel like to run 100 miles and how it would feel like to plod along with tired legs.

Would you ever consider returning to run the Peak Ultra 500-mile event?

No, I don’t think so. To see Kale and Nick and Michelle out there, that’s an insanely impressive accomplishment. Those people are just freaking nuts. They were moving fast when they finished. I think if I wanted to run for that long, I would do something like run the Colorado Trail.

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