Monday, March 29, 2010

Seven Hour Monkey

The short of it is that I finally broke the 7 hour barrier on my fourth try.
Since my first running of the Buffalo 50 miler in 2007 (7:11:43), I knew I had a sub 7 hour finish in me, it just took a few years to get there.

This year, I was fairly skeptical that I would pull it off. I had no illusions of keeping up with Scott Jaime and Ryan Burch, and just hoped to maybe hang on for third. As has been the case the past couple years, my training hasn't been ideal leading up to the Buffalo Run. I've put in decent miles(for me), with some consistent speed work, but only managed to pull out a couple 20+ mile long runs, the longest being 22. So.....I was a bit uncertain as to where my fitness and endurance would be.

The race started out with Ryan, Scott, Max from Bozeman and me pulling to the front right away. For the first 4 miles we all ran together chatting and taking it easy. Scott called the pace "pedestrian". As we hit the climb just before Elephant Head, Scott and Ryan slowly pulled away and then Max did as well as I walked for a second to make a few adjustments. At the Elephant Head aid station, I saw that Scott, Ryan and Max had taken the out and back option first and that was the last I would see of them until the Mtn View out and back. I felt pretty good for the next 15 miles keeping a steady pace. Last year I pushed it much harder through this section trying to keep up with Christian and Hiroki, and I paid for it later in the race.

At the Mountain View out and back, I was surprised that I was as close to Scott and Ryan as I was. When they got near enough to talk, I found out why. The turn around point wasn't marked and they blew right past it with Scott continuing to the Causeway before realizing his mistake. It probably cost them an extra mile of running. I'm not sure what happened there, in the past it's been very well marked. I turned around and 3 1/2 minutes later crossed paths with Max giving me a 7 minute lead on him. A couple minutes later, two other guys came along. I had a lead on all 3, but not enough for comfort with 30 miles to go.

The next 10 miles are enjoyable if you like being able to see just how far you have to run before you get to turn around. It's long and flat with some rolling sections, with a beautiful view of the Wasatch Range to the East. I put myself into self-induced runners hypnosis and and and kept a steady pace until about 7 minutes before the Fielding Garr Ranch aid station turn around, when Scott came cruising by with Ryan about 200 yards behind him. They both looked great and it looked like they were both pushing the pace a bit. I hit the aid station in 4:27, giving me a 3 minute cushion on my splits to finish in 7 hours. The last 18 miles, I had allowed myself about 20 seconds per mile more than the previous 32, knowing that if history repeated itself, the lack of long runs would start to take it's toll, and I'd slow down a bit. I passed Max 4 minutes after the turn around which gave me comfort that he hadn't made up any time, instead I gained a little more breathing room. Then I started passing other runners and it was nice to see some familiar faces. Rich looked strong, Tom Nelson was leading a pack of 5 or 6, Tom Remkes and Cory Johnson were on their way to great finishes, and Davy Crockett looked SOLID- 80 miles into his Antelope Island 100 miler.

I was still nipping at my EFS flask every 20 minutes or so, (not enough-but adequate) and trying to eat a jelly bean every now and then to add some variety.

The Lower Frary aid station was a welcome sight with Peter, Christian and Marge there taking pictures like I was some kind of celebrity. My stomach has always struggled at this point, but today it felt just fine. I drank some coke and got out as quick as I could. I wasn't 30 seconds out of the aid station when out of nowhere the queasies hit and before I could stop it, everything came up. How weird is that?? I emptied my stomach, and things felt fine again, in fact I felt great.

30 sec prior to gastric emptying

I was still on pace for 7 hours with 55 minutes to finish the last 6.5 miles. I walked up that steep mother of a hill where Christian was waiting and tried to keep walking but Christian convinced me that the only way I would make it was if I started running RIGHT NOW! So I did, and pushed it as hard as I could to the Camp Aid station. With 37 minutes for 3.8 miles, it was (barring any last minute catastrophes) in the bag. I sipped a coke, got some encouragement from Bozung, told him I couldn't run Squaw Peak this year and then it was 3.8 miles of beautiful, rocky, single-track around the north end of the island. This is always one of my favorite parts of the race. It's scenic, isolated, and it means the end is near!!

I navigated the last mile of intertwining trails and dusty roads, and lucky for me (and not so lucky for Scott) knew where I was supposed to take a 90 right turn even though the flour arrows were kind of washed out from all the traffic.

Sam cheering me home.

6:56:49. 3 minutes to spare!! Thanks Christian for making me run!!!!

As always it was a great race, and the deal RD Jim Skaggs has made with the weather gods was once again upheld with perfect running conditions. I'll be back again next year for sure.

Photos courtesy of Marge Norrander, Peter Lindgren and Christian Johnson. More can be found here.

As a follow up, I feel compelled to add my favorite picture of the day. If Nikki only knew what was behind her........


FastED said...

Congrats Erik! It was nice to finally spend some time and chat. Too bad you had so many engagements planned for the day. Hopefully you ate lots of food and stayed awake. See you in Poky!

Anonymous said...

Greetings, MRC. A couple things:

Christian/Peter - very nice pics. Thanks for posting.

Peter - thanks again for fetching me some liquid at the finish of the
race. I was hurting.

Erik/Greg - congratulations on your matching 3rd-place finishes. Good

Christian/Jay - thanks for the tips on the Swiss Knot. I've been using it for the last couple weeks, and it was my knot-of-choice on Saturday. It performed admirably, even with my crappy way-too-easy-to-come-untied Brooks laces. I'm totally on the Swiss Knot bandwagon now.

Happy trails,

Jon Allen said...

Huge congrats on breaking 7 hours, Erik. Sounds like you ran a great race. It was nice to meet you and talk for a few minutes. Best of luck in the future.

Rich said...

Erik, You know I am proud of your sub seven finish. My only question is what could you have run with a pair of the Arctryrex $89.00 trail running shorts? (they really exsist) They must make you run faster. If not they better do more than just give support below the waist! Congrats -Rich / aka Snuffy