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


Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

Results can be found here

Congrats on the run

Nick said...

Christian - good catching up this weekend. See you in Silverton, if not before!

Jake said...

Christian - Nice run yesterday! Thanks for keeping us on course several times in the first few miles. That run was hard enough, I wouldn't have wanted to run any extra!

Jay said...

Great race report. These early season races are tough - it's hard to know how much mustard you have - or don't have.