This weekend was the annual Buffalo Run out on Antelope Island. I remember participating in its inaugural running back in 2006 when I did the 25K. It was a tough run then, it is even tougher now. In the first year, there weren’t a lot of runners, but (and I believe it is mainly because of this race), Antelope Island is now a hot spot for trail running in Utah.
I had good intentions back in January of trying to PR on this course. Then I got sick. And stayed sick. Did I mention I got sick? Four weeks of constantly being sick and three antibiotics took a huge toll on my fitness and training plans. I basically went into this race on what I call my “couch to 50K” in 3 weeks program.
The volunteer coordinator needed some help with the Elephant Head aid station on Saturday, so I got authorization to run the race alone on Friday. I had to work half a day and then headed out to the island. The wind was picking up, which made me a bit nervous, but it was overcast and not too cool, so that was okay.
The 100 mile race had started earlier and another 50K runner a little before me. Jim Skaggs, the race director, started my race and I headed out. I dropped a bag at a post where the turnaround would be the next day. Since that aid station would not be available, I had to guess my drink needs and food plans based upon what I put in a Ziploc bag.
The first three miles is pretty well uphill, so I walked most of it. Just at the point that I could start running, there was a buffalo coming down from the upper section where there is an old cabin. I pushed to get ahead of him, since he didn’t seem to want to stop his descent.
As I headed across the ridge into the White Rock Bay section, I turned on my phone to send off a text update to my daughter, son and sister. Alternated running 100 steps and walking 50 steps (running more on the downhills) into the White Rock Bay area and then started up towards Elephant Head, past Lone Tree. I really dislike this uphill, but was able to get a good picture of Karl Meltzer bombing down the hill in the lead of the 100 mile race and then a minute or two later, the second place person.
Didn’t stay long in the Elephant Head aid station because it was so windy. Ran down into Split Rock and then turned on my audiobooks for the climb up the switchbacks. I had some serious stomach issues on the run down into Split Rock and had to do a couple of emergency pit stops, but was much lighter after that and didn’t experience any stomach issues the rest of the race. Ran as much as I could once I got up the switchbacks and back to the aid station (mile 11). Requested a PB&J when I came back at mile 21. He was glad to be of assistance because there would only be a few of us through that aid station later in the day until the 100 milers started round 2.
As I crossed the ridge, received a message that my niece was in labor – so it looked like I would be a Great Aunt again before the day was through. I was feeling pretty good as I ran down towards the White Rock baggie aid station. As I approached the aid station, I started into a bonk. I really dreaded the idea of the long climb and doing the course a second time. It was emotionally very hard. I packed my headlamp and flashlight, stocked up on Ensure and Gatoraid and Gu’s and forced myself to move. Basically – I told myself that I could walk the course and finish before midnight and that I would not let myself quit. This bonk actually lasted until mile 24 – at which time the PB&J kicked in and I was able to move better and be more motivated. This time, as I went up the long uphill, there was one buffalo laying a few feet off the path, with a fence to his back, and another buffalo downhill a bit on the other side of the fence in grazing mode. I decided to not interfere with the buffalo’s rest and move off the path to get around him. He seemed happy with this choice. Shook my head in amazement when a group of teenagers behind me started yelling at the buffalo. Um – hello? There is a fence behind this buffalo – so he is going to stay on this side of the fence. Don’t spook the big furry critters, you idiots!
This time as I crossed the ridge, I called my sister and daughter to get updates on the baby situation. Tried to force myself to run the downhills, but could only do about 50 steps at a time. Up the torture climb to Elephant Head and I dropped off an Ensure for my next trip through and grabbed my sandwich for the next portion. That sandwich was delicious and help boost my flagging morale. As I started up the switchbacks, I felt my energy starting to come back and was enjoying myself again. I kept wondering when Karl Meltzer would lap me. At the pace he was going, I knew he would pass me before I finished. I took a couple of neat pictures of the sunset and set up my headlamp and handheld in preparation for darkness. I had grabbed a jacket in case it got cold when the sun went down, but didn’t end up needing to put it on. Windy, but great temperatures.
Running in the dark was a good experience. It takes practice and I need to get better at it. Davy Crockett had explained that he used a green handheld because it helped differentiate the terrain better and I purchased the same model he uses and had a new headlamp to try out too. Drank my Ensure as I went through the aid station and told the men there I would be back to relieve them in the morning.
My IT band started hurting earlier in the race around mile 11 and I was worried that I would not be able to run much the rest of the race. I did have an IT band strap and used it after the first downhill past Lone Tree. During the second half of the race, I figured out that if I ran downhill without bending the left knee that the IT band wouldn’t hurt. I think this also kept the IT band from deteriorating and slowing me down even further the rest of the night.
At the top of the ridge, called to hear all about the newest member of the family. Karl Meltzer stormed by me again on his second 50 mile loop (probably about mile 64 for him). It was very different running in the dark. I was glad I was fairly familiar with the trail, but would be surprised at the different lights and when I would see them as I went around curves on the trail. It was nice to pass the aid station and head in to the finish line. Remembered to grab my bag as I went past and stopped my watch when I hit the tent. Talk about your precision race timing. I’m pretty sure I will have the slowest time for the race. According to my Garmin – I finished in 9 hours, 39 minutes and 11 seconds.
Friday night I spent huddled and sleepless in my Jeep. It was too windy for them to set up my tent earlier and I was too tired to do it at that point in time. The zipper on my sleeping bag broke and I was cold and miserable all night. I’d try and stretch my legs out for a while to keep the lactic acid from being too bad. Each time I dozed off, a car would drive by with someone going to or from helping out their 100 mile runners (plus some stupid dog that kept barking). Saturday morning I was pretty stiff and tired, but went back up to Elephant Head to volunteer. Luckily I was in a truck this time. We were slammed at that aid station. I had several friends pass by, but never even saw them we were so busy trying to keep food stocked and help fill bottles. Saturday ended up being very hot and we ran out of water, Gatorade and S-caps. Luckily they were able to get us some more water, but dehydration was starting to be a serious concern.
All in all – it was a good weekend. 12 hours of sleep last night did a lot to help me recover and be ready for whatever comes next.