Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Buffalo Run 50 Mile Race Report

For me, getting to the starting line was the hardest part of 2011 Buffalo Run 50 Mile race. At 8:00 pm the night before I was planning on skipping the race and going skiing instead. The weather forecast was frightful for a fair weather runner like me. And, I hadn’t a good run in more than two weeks. I was clearly in my annual “why can’t it just be spring?” funk.

Somehow before I went to bed I mustered the motivation to throw some cold weather running gear into a pile and prepare a pot of coffee for an early morning alarm. Oddly, when my alarm went off at 4:00 am I was excited. Maybe a race was just what I needed to break my funk.

My lack of preparation evidenced itself when just several miles into the race Dylan Bowman, Duncan Callahan and myself took a wrong turn. Maybe I should have looked at the course map?? After about half a mile we realized our error and backtracked to get back on course. Unexpected detours are challenging for me. My emotional brain wants to immediately get back in the race and regain the places that have been lost. My rational brain (what little rational part I have) knows the importance of staying calm, not beating oneself up for the mistake, and monitoring the burn while picking up the pace to earn the lost places back. I’ve learned from experience that catch-up can be costly!

After a few miles we were able to join the front pack that was being lead by Scott Dickey. Now it was time to just settle into the zone. The Buffalo Run 50 Mile is kind of a fun race in that there are two out-and-back sections where you can determine your position – AND – say “hello” to friends. I always get a boost when I see Greg Norrander and his camera (photos in this post are courtesy of Greg). Other friendly faces along the way included Brian Kamm, Bob Adler, Glen Merrill.

At the Elephant Head aid station (13.5) Dylan appeared to have about a three-minute lead. I remember thinking that just for giggles I would try and keep sight of his yellow La Sportiva jersey to the Gate in the Fence aid station (19). That idea truly ended up being just for giggles. After the aid station my legs began to feel a bit heavy. Mid-race doubts started entering my mind. “I went too hard trying to catch up.” “Maybe I should have got my lazy ass out the door and run more than 40 miles per week the last couple of months.” "If I wasn't so fat." “I’m just not cut out to be an ultra runner.”

After about a mile of highly pleasurable mental doubt wallowing I got the right thoughts back in my head. “I’m finally healthy again after a year of being plagued by injuries.” “This is a perfect early season training race.” “How lucky am I that I can run and feel so good.” I was back in the race…

At the 21.5 mile turn-around Dylan was two miles ahead of me. Scott Dickey and Duncan Callahan were about a half-mile behind. Then as if I wasn’t moving, Scott and Duncan flew by me. For the next five miles or so I watched them continue to pull away. I did my best to manage my resentment towards fast young guys.

Then, like manna from heaven, there was Scott at the Lower Frary aid station. Upon my arrival he immediately took off and gapped me. Damn. With a complete loss of faith in all miracles running related, I resumed with my resentment towards fast young guys.

Not long after I caught up with Scott who was clearly struggling from the effects of a recent bout of pneumonia. We ran together for a mile or so before he slowed down.

After the ranch turnaround I learned that I had about a two-mile lead on runners in the 4th – 6th positions. I felt good, and knew at that point that I could place 3rd. I spent the rest of the race working on turnover, running relaxed and fine tuning my race pace. I surprised myself in that once I let the race go, I actually started running faster.

Hats off to 25 year old Dylan Bowman who finished in 6:15 crushing the old course record. He really opened it up on the second half of the course. Duncan Callahan (also 25) finished in 6:35. And yours truly, who has great respect for these young ones (I’m over my resentment now), finished in 6:44.

As for that winter funk, I sure hope it is gone for the year. This racing stuff is fun...

Photos courtesy of Greg Norrander

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50k race report

I wouldn't call myself a gambler, but I do like to take calculated risks. Not the kind of risks that put my life in danger, more like the kind that test my limits, especially if there is less at stake. I've also come to realize that the more time there is between races the more risk I'm willing to take. Enter the Buffalo Run 50k, my first ultra I ever did back in 2006 and my first race this year. Before my lucky number was drawn for Hardrock I was actually doing speed work a couple days a week to prepare, but since then my training focus changed a bit to incorporate more climbing. Despite the lack of speed work my goal was to run a 4 or 4:10

Standing on the start line I was able to catch up with Nick Clark and a few other friends before we were off. Midway up the first climb I found myself in the lead group with Nick, Seth Wold, Jake Krong, and Mike Foote. The pace seemed a little fast but still well within my limits but my heart rate monitor told me something different, holding steady at 166 to 168. I knew that was too high but carried on anyway.

Seth, Nick, Jake, then Mike and myself 20 yards back, Photo: Greg Norrander
We all stayed together through the first aid station at mile 5 and then we hit the long downhill. Within seconds Mike and I watched Nick, Seth and Jake use their high turnover to pull away. We chose a more conservative pace and lost at least a minute before we started climbing again. Mike and I stayed together on the long switchback climb but when we hit the flat section at the top I could feel my hamstrings tighten up as I tried in vain to stay with him. I backed off for the moment and decided I would try and make up time on the climbs.

Coming back through the overcrowded Elephant Head aid station at mile 10.6, Mike had a minute on me and the other had about 4. Shortly after this I realized I needed electrolytes but I had none. I admonished myself for overlooking such an important detail and kept on eating my gels. I saw Greg taking pictures after the next climb and he confirmed the splits I had calculated. Foolishly I kept on pressing because I was still on pace to break 4 hours. I hit the turnaround in 1:55 and spent a good minute or so hoisting the water container on to the table and filling my bottle. The climb back up was not nearly as smooth as first time so I was quite surprised to only be a couple minutes slower this time up. I was eager to start running faster on the flat but my hamstrings protested so I just did what I could. I switched into survival mode and moved as fast as I could through the rest of the lap. I should have stopped and filled my bottle the last time through Elephant Head AS at mile 26 but I took one look at the line and just kept on running. I received a bit of lift from Betsy, my lovely wife, as we crossed paths in this section. She was looking strong in her first ultra and she encouraged me to gut it out.
The finish line. Photo: Greg Norrander
Shortly after the trail split with about 3.5 miles to go I was caught by Shaun Christian and gamely tried to match his pace but it wasn't happening. I ended up crossing the line in 6th place, stopping the clock in 4:25. For those keeping track that's a 2:30 second loop, a full 35 minutes slower than the first. The lack of electrolytes figured into part of the slow down, but in all honesty a sub 4 was too ambitious (this year) and I blew up going for it. Jake took the win in 3:38 followed by Seth Wold, Nick Clark, Mike Foote and Shaun Christian, myself, Bryon Powell and David Hayes, full results here. The top 3 all went under the course record set by Nick last year. Really quite amazing.

Besides beating myself to a pulp, the highlights were seeing all my friends and meeting some new ones. I had a great time hanging out at the finish chatting with everyone while I anxiously waited for Betsy. She had predicted something around 7 hours but I knew she would be faster and I was right. I was super proud to watch her finish strong and stop the clock at 6:18! Congratulations to Jay for taking 3rd in the 50 miler with a 6:43, watch for a report on his race soon. Thanks to Jim Skaggs for his ongoing deal with the weather gods and putting on one of the biggest ultra's in the country.

Betsy crossing the finish line. Photo: Greg Norrander

Monday, March 7, 2011

Montrail Rogue Racer Review

Check out the review I did on the uber-light shoe over on Matt Hart's blog.

Montrail Rogue Racer - 8.8 oz.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wasatch Pedicure

The long anticipated presentation of the Wasatch Pedicure has finally been posted on YouTube. I feel some sort of Indie short film award coming my way. If you've never heard of Ignite Salt Lake, you should check out the next event which will be sometime in August. It's a completely random blend of people speaking on any subject you can think of. If you want to do a presentation of your own, you can submit an idea to Jesse once they finalize the date. If you don't live in Salt lake, odds are your city has an Ignite event as well. Enjoy, and please don't judge my public presentation abilities........