A few years back I trained hard for the Buffalo Run 50 mile race. Unfortunately, as I finished the first 20 mile segment my IT Band was already painful and by mile 27 I was barely walking so I ended up DNF’ing. I have had a few other DNF’s in my running career, but this was the only one that I had worked hard to prepare for and was demoralized and distraught over dropping.
This year I decided to attempt this race again. I knew I was not physically as prepared as I could be since I was still finally building up endurance after my 3 year long bout with Plantar Fasciitis, but I knew that I had the mental fortitude to finish and in the last 3 weeks my endurance finally started growing again. My plans were to volunteer for the Saturday races and do my 50 miles a day early (best laid plans, etc….).
I started alone at 10 a.m. Friday morning. I took a two hour early, early start so I could hopefully get some rest that night. At mile 2 I ran into 5 buffalo on the trail. Not only did they not want to move, but when they did move, it was to continue on the trail. With a fence line to my left and a small ridge with three more buffalo on it to my right, I just kept talking to the beasts and advancing and pausing to get them moving.
Once I got past this group, another half mile or so brought me up to a pair of buffalo that kept starting to run and then stop and turn to look at me. Again – I did my best to convince them I was not as much fun or threat as they thought.
Someone once told me not to be worried unless the buffalo started pawing the ground or raised their tail. I think every buffalo I passed that morning decided it was time to make more buffalo chips – so lots of raised tails. Was it something I said?
A few less scary buffalo adventures and then I was over the ridge and onto the saddle. I enjoyed running the saddle and down to the bottom of Lone Tree. I was much relieved that I made it up the climb by Lone Tree without wanting to pass out (like my last run on the island) and not even needing to stop. As I ran out to the end of Elephant Head and back, I was entertained watching the vehicles drive out for the Elephant Head aid station. I was doing a pretty good job of running flats and downhills and feeling good. My toes had been rubbing a bit, so I stopped and tightened both shoes. Should have done that earlier….
My friends from the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers cheered me on as I ran by and headed off to the Split Rock loop. They were not set up yet – but I requested a sandwich when I came back. I was also happy to run the 2 miles down to split rock without stopping. My last time out I was even walking most of that. As I started up the switchbacks, I realized the “real race” for 100 milers had started a bit earlier and decided I wanted to make it back to Elephant Head before I was passed for the first time.
I was cruising along on the path back to Elephant Head and turned a corner and saw my friend, Lori Burlinson, out taking pictures. She takes incredible photos as was surprised to see me as the “front runner” and we talked as I ran by.
Back at Elephant Head I beat the first 100 mile runner by an entire 30 seconds. Even got a fist bump from Matt Van Horn as he headed out on scouting expedition. Refilled my water, complained that I didn’t get a cinnamon roll and headed out. Matt Williams mentioned that if I hurried I might be able to get a cinnamon roll from Jennilyn Eaton at the start/finish line. Coming off the saddle again, I really enjoyed the rollers around the other side of White Rock Bay. That 3 mile section is my favorite part of the race. Said hello to Peter Van Horn and Leslie Howlett as they ran by. (Leslie went on to win the race and set a course record). As I turned the corner to come into the start/finish I was happy to hear Cherri and Jennilyn cheering for me from Matt Williams car and holding out a pan of cinnamon rolls for me to grab one. It’s good to have friends.
It was quite a relief to finish the first 20 miles and not be in any pain. That boded well for overcoming that DNF. Can I just say now that the hill from the start over to Mountain View trail is cruel? It was good to get on the Mountain View trail though. No sloppy, muddy sections this year. It was pretty hot down there, but I lucked out in my timing and avoided the bugs that afternoon. I sent a few texts off to my aunt, daughter and sister during the 1 mile out and back and then headed off to Lower Frary. Another fun buffalo run in – but I once again avoided them stomping me in the ground. Of course, the runner behind me who benefitted from my wrangling ran by a minute later and said, “That was interesting.” Uh huh – lucky me.
Coming into Lower Frary in good spirits made me happy, as did seeing Laurie and Chris Krash Pope running the aid station. But did they really have to put the portapotty so far away? At that point my sister volunteered to come out and follow me for a while, so I had something to look forward to. Made a couple of mistakes at Lower Frary. I debated between fixing my feet the first time through or 11 miles later and they weren’t hurting – so decided I would wait. I also grabbed my headlamp because it would be dark before I got back, but thought I wouldn’t get cold and could put on warmer clothes on my return.
I ran into a low point after crossing the road again in the last couple of miles before the Ranch aid station. More buffalo, getting tired, I realized I probably had another 5 hours of work ahead and let that get to me. Marcia could tell I was down when I got to the Ranch, but gave me half an Arby’s Roast Beef (my magic race food) and agreed to meet me at each spot she could. I put on the Frozen audiobook and headed back. Knowing I had someone to see me and waiting for me allowed me to run more again and helped get my head back in the game. It was nice to know I was no longer alone as it got dark. Of course, my sweaty shirt quickly got cold and I started wishing for my long sleeve shirt.
Coming into Lower Frary again, Marcia had my drop bag in her car and I changed shirts and then planned to clean my feet and change socks. Too late. Large blood blisters on both of my big toes and a large blister on my left heel. I debated that morning on taping before using Run Goo. I chose wrong. I also used a new pair of insoles that day. Bad decision too. Luckily the blisters had not popped and were not really painful. Taped things up as best I could, Run Goo’ed, new socks and I was out the door.
It took me the next mile and a half to warm up. My body temp had dropped while sitting in the car and I was shaking, I passed Marcia again at the road crossing and told her the next time I would see her would be when I got off the Mountain View trail. I kept my head down focusing on the trail hoping that by doing so I would not be aware of any buffalo around me. I did scare a few mice like critters. During this section my Garmin died and so did all speeds but slow. Stopped at the aid station to get some warm broth into me and that helped me – but once again they threw a nasty hill at me to get up to the road.
At this point, Marcia and I hugged each other and she headed home. That 10 miles of having a crew chief really helped me keep my head in the game.
The next section was unfamiliar to me. When I got on the main road to find the trail to Bridger Bay, I was freaked to see about 5 pairs of glowing green eyes by the side of the road. I pretended I was invisible to buffalo and carried on hoping they would ignore me. Phew! The markings on the cross country section were good. I was just really tired and had to focus to find the next stake/cone. So happy to see the Bridger Bay aid station, but also worried about the rocky section up ahead.
I slowed even more on the Bridger Bay trail. I have run it enough to know it twists a lot and has lots of foot traps the jump out when you don’t expect them. Plus – these scary little rabbits kept following me and their noise would make me paranoid until they moved away. What kept me going was the hope of seeing the finish tent all lit up. Silly me – I didn’t realize they kept it darker while people slept. They really need a searchlight (just kidding). I stumbled into the tent after nearly 16 hours of constant motion. All the exciting people were asleep, so I soon crawled off into my car to recover.
After 4 hours of laying there shaking, in pain, and not sleeping, at 6 a.m. I got up and gave the bad news that I couldn’t volunteer that day. Heck – I could barely walk. My feet were not too bad during the race, but pretty painful once I finished. I received my gorgeous finishers mug and a sweet coat for participating (racing or volunteering) for all ten years of the race and headed home to be miserable in comfort.