Heading into the Antelope Island Buffalo Run, I had two goals 1) PR and 2) break 7 hours. I figured if I accomplished one I would the other since my PR is 7:04. I had no illusions about a 3-peat win, with fast guys Nick Pedatella, Tim Long, Hiroki Ishikawa, and Christian Johnson signed up. It turns out that Tim was injured and had to drop, Christian got sick and slowed a bit, but Nick and Hiroki lived up to expectations and smoked the course in 6:43 and 6:45, respectively. I followed a similar pattern to the previous two years by running the first half pretty consistent, started slowing a little during the second half and then getting sick and slowing a lot during the last 12 miles. I finished in 7:08. All things considered, I am very happy with my time, and proved to myself that if nothing else, I'm consistent, with finishes of 7:11, 7:04 and now 7:08. Above all else, 50 miles is 50 miles and I'm fortunate to have fit in a quality run so early in the season.
That was the race abstract, for a slog through the full version, keep reading.
The Buffalo Run 50 miler is an exceptional race. Jim Skaggs has gone over the top to make sure that it is a success from all angles. The course is great (maybe a little long on the out and back to the ranch, any way to add a little more trail?), well run aid stations, perfect weather so far, the volunteers incredible, and the buffalo stew always tastes good after 50 miles. This year was no exception.
Coming in to the race, I had no illusions of winning (unless everybody dropped out or got sick). However, I really hoped to be able to break 7 hours. My training consisted of more "planned" speedwork than in years past with weekly mile repeats and either a tempo or hill session. I was thrown off a little when I was sick for the Moab 50K and then I never got in a solid long run after that. Weekends were hectic and the longest I got in was 19 miles. That concerned me a little, but it is what it is.
6 am on Antelope Island. Jim yelled go and off we went. A lead pack of Nick, Christian, Peter, Hiroki, Cameron Kasteler and a couple others quickly settled in. Nick led the way setting a quick, but not uncomfortable pace. A flash kept going off behind me, which I later found out was Hiroki taking pictures. The whole race he kept pulling the camera out to take pictures and video clips. After about 4 miles we came to the first major hill at Lone Tree, and Nick made his move, never to be seen again. Christian and I settled in to an easy pace as the sky began to lighten. On the trail down to Split Rock Bay, Hiroki caught up to us, my shoelace came undone, and by the time I had it retied, Christian and Hiroki were a good minute ahead of me, and Cameron Kasteler was coming up from behind. The next section is some of my favorite of the race. We climb up past Red Rocks, and then spend a couple miles weaving through big jumbled boulders (which happen to be 2.7 billion years old, older than the stuff at the bottom of the Grand Canyon), past an old stone horse corral (for the wild horses of course) and in and out of little draws. I love it. Coming into the elephant Head aid station we started crossing paths with other 50 milers who decided to do the Elephant Head out and back first. I was happy to see that Tom Nelson was moving well and he looked good. On the Elephant Head out and back, I finally caught Hiroki and Christian. My right hamstring was starting to tighten a little bit and I struggled to keep up with them. Heading to the start and mile 19, we ran into the first buffalo of the day. A small herd of 8-10 animals decided to cut in front of us and as we started to yell at them, out came Hiroki's camera and he started videoing them and yelling "Yeehaw" as he ran. They crossed only 15-20 feet in front of us. Probably my favorite part of the day!
The next hour was fairly uneventful as Hiroki, Christian and I stayed together. On the out and back section of the Mountain View trail, we crossed Nick, and he was about 1/2 mile ahead of us and looking strong. I, on the other hand, was not feeling too strong. My hamstring was really tightening, my left shoulder was really hurting and I was pushing hard to just keep up. At about mile 23, Christian dropped behind slowly, at mile 25 I yelled out to Hiroki that we were halfway done, and he decided that was a good time to leave me. By mile 27, the Lower Frary aid station, he was 30 seconds ahead of me, by the time I left the aid station, he was 1 minute ahead of me, and the next time I saw him, he was heading back from the Ranch aid station (mile 32) and I still had a half mile to get there. I saw Nick a full mile before I got to the ranch. By now my pace was really slowing, I was lucky to keep an 8:30/mile pace and my legs were pretty tired. I tried to get some food/broth down at the Ranch, spent a few too many minutes there, but left feeling rejuvenated. That lasted about 3 minutes, and then it was back to the tired legs. I started walking a couple of the small hills for 10-15 seconds and noticed that it was harder and harder to talk myself into eating and drinking. At the Lower Frary aid station Nick was 20 minutes, and Hiroki 10 minutes ahead, and the nausea was starting to poke it's ugly head out. Karl and Scott told me the obvious that I needed something in my stomach, so I drank a coke, ate some chips, had a couple S-caps and took off. I promptly projectile vomited mid-step (never had that happen before) and I knew it was going to be a long 12 miles to the finish. Up to that point I was still hoping for a sub 7 hour finish, but for the next 12 miles I averaged an 8:45-9/mile pace and only had to throw up one more time, just after the Mountain View aid station. As soon as I picked up my pace to an 8:30 or faster, the nausea would hit full force. After the Campground aid station, it's a beautiful 4 mile singletrack loop around Buffalo Point. I took it easy and was oh so happy to see the finish line.
At the end of every race I've tried to get Sam to run across the finish with me. Being a little reserved, he puts his head down and pretends to not hear me, but Andrew was more than willing and raced me to the end. What a sweet finish.
Thanks to Brooke, Sam and Andrew for putting up with my addiction, and thanks to Wasatch Running Center for helping fuel my addiction. I'll be back next year with a new stomach and new legs, and maybe I'll get the 7 hour mark.