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