Eight years ago, less than a year after I landed in Salt Lake City, a few friends and I signed up to run the Buffalo Run 25K. We had such a great time we signed up the next year. Again, it was a blast. After that I was running A LOT of races all over the country and every year since, I was out of town on the weekend the Buffalo Run was being held.
As you know from my previous posts, I am attempting the 2018 Yeti Distance Challenge this year. This means running a 50k, 50 miler, 100k and 100 miler in 2018, so I got on UltraSignup and started looking for races that I could drive to or get there really inexpensively. To my surprise, Race Director, Jim Skaggs split the race into two different weeks this year, the 25k on one week and the 50k, 50 miler and 100 miler the next week. For the first time in ages, I was in town! I signed up for the 50 miler immediately.
Never running the 50 miler out there and having not run out on Antelope Island since the last time I ran the 25k, I had no idea about the course, except that the first few miles were up hill and that I was afraid of the buffalo (long story). I didn't want to get lost, so I tried to study the course as best I could before going out there.
The 50 miler started at 6:00am on Saturday and I live about 1 1/2 hour drive from Antelope Island State Park . I decided to get a cheap hotel room closer to the island so I wouldn't have to drive too far before and after the race. I found a Days Inn in Clearfield on Priceline for $49 a night and booked it. The great thing about this motel is that is was really close to the island (like 20 minutes), the bad thing about this motel was that it was a total shit hole with strange people sitting in their cars in the parking lot. A little creepy, but for what I needed it for it was OK and I must admit, it was nice to drive such a short distance after running 50 miles. I did feel a little bad that I recommended this place to Jason Green (founder of the Yeti Trail Runners and RD of my favorite race, the Yeti 100) before I saw it. We had a good laugh over what a dive it was.
I got an OK night's sleep and was up at 4:00AM. This gave me enough time to get dressed, make a cup of tea and drive to Antelope Island in time for the pre-race briefing and check in.
On one side of the huge tent at the start/finish was where we were able to drop our drop bags. In the 50 miler, there were four spots you could have a drop bag. In a 50, I generally will only have one, but the weather forecast all week was cold temperatures, rain and snow. Being cold is my Achilles heel and since I had no idea when the rain and snow would come, I packed a drop bag with warm clothes for all four aid stations that allowed them. I knew I wouldn't touch most of them, but I prepared for the worst.
The race started right on time at 6:00AM. It was cool and dry, but still dark. I was so glad I had my awesome rechargeable headlamp that Sean Blanton (East Coast Trail Runners) sold me. It was so inexpensive and is as bright as the sun. I love it!
The course map.
The first 3 miles of the course went up hill. This is always hard as I like taking hills after a little warm up. After about 1/4 mile of running I wanted to save my legs and I power hiked to the top. Once it leveled out my legs were warm, but not tired and I was able to run at a really comfortable pace. One of the biggest mistakes people make in running ultras is going out to fast. A friend told me this before my very first 50 miler.."If you think you're going slow, go slower". This can be a difficult transition when going from road marathons (where you want to go fast) to trail ultras (where you have to be patient).
Heading up the hill.
You could see the city as the sun came up.
The sunrise over the Great Salt Lake is breathtaking.
I really tried to watch my pace. It felt really easy, but I knew in a few hours it would get hard and I wanted legs left for the hard part.
As we hit the first aid station at Elephant Head, I felt great. I was running with two great ladies, Shelbie and Julianna. We hit the turnaround and found the sticker book to put a sticker on our bibs (this is how the RD knows you didn't turn around early), but there were almost none left. We found part of a big Batman sticker and tore it in thirds and stuck it on our bibs, hoping that runners behind us would do the same thing. It would stink to get out there and have no sticker to put on your bib.
The view on our way back to the Elephant Head aid station.
When we got back to the Elephant Head aid station, I saw Jason Green. We started the race together, but a nagging injury had him dropping earlier than he expected. It was great to get a high five from a fellow Yeti as I hit the aid station, grabbed a cookie and kept rolling.
The next part of the course was very runnable. In fact, I had to really watch my pace as it was really easy to go fast there. I was glad I did. At the end of that nice runnable section was a pretty long climb with a lot of switchbacks.
Me at the bottom of Split Rock (Photo credit- Brian Passey)
I got about half way up and started losing steam fast. It made no sense as I wasn't pushing the pace at all. I realized that I had only had two little cookies since the start and I needed to eat something. I reached into my vest an pulled out a little bag of Good & Plenty and ate them (they are my favorite go to energy source). Within a few minutes, the sugar kicked in and I was back on track.
The snow capped mountains against the lake was beautiful!
By this time the weather was warming up quite nicely, so when I made it back to the start/finish aid station, I dropped my sweatshirt off into my drop bag and used the restroom. I took more time at that aid station than I wanted, but it was OK.
The next part of the course was pretty easy to run. We had a little bushwhacking and a short bit of climbing to the next aid station, but from there I could make up some time lost on all the rocks and hills of the first 20 miles.
There were only two hard cut offs in this this race. The Ranch aid station (around mile 33.83) and the second pass of the Lower Frary aid station (around mile 38.7). I had got separated from Shelbie and Julianna at one of the aid stations, but caught up to them on this part of the course. We started talking about the cut offs and where we were. We were moving pretty good, so I wasn't worried about missing the cut off especially when Shelbie told me we had until 3:00PM to get to the Ranch and 4:00PM to get to Lower Frary (the second pass).
Now during the race briefing I swore I heard Jim say we had to be at Lower Frary by 3:00PM. When I mentioned that, Shelbie got nervous as she was pacing herself with 4:00PM in mind. She pulled up the website and sure enough she was right and everyone relaxed.
When we got to the Lower Frary aid station on the first pass (around mile 27.4), I decided to change into my new Altrs Timp Trail shoes. I didn't have a chance to wear them before so I thought If they didn't feel good, I could always change back on my second pass. As I was changing my shoes I heard one of the volunteers tell someone that they had about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get back to the aid station before the cut off. I started doing the math, 2:45 to go about 11 miles. Now on the road, this would be easy, but after running 27.4 miles and running on trials, I started getting nervous and for the first time thought I might not make the cutoff and this was shocking as I was running at a pretty good mid pack pace. How could I be so close to the cut off?
Published cut off times
Starting to feel a little panicked, I tied my shoes and took off towards the Ranch. I was running 9:30-10:00 miles on parts of that stretch. Every runner I asked about the cut off, told me something different. I just had to get to the Ranch and they would know what was going on.
I got to the Ranch aid station tired AF from pushing the pace and asked the volunteer what the correct cut off was. He said 3:00PM at the Ranch (where we were). I breathed a sigh of relief grabbed some food and started back to Lower Frary.
On the way back I met up with this young girl from Vietnam named Dieu. We battled a heavy head wind which was so frustrating as we just wanted to get back to Lower Frary by 3:00PM (just in case), but the wind made it so hard to run without zapping the energy we had left. We made it back at 2:45PM. Whew!
One of the volunteers mentioned that we made the cutoff with 15 minutes to spare. 15 minutes? The Ranch said 3:00pm cut off there that matches what the website says. With that we beat the cutoff by 1 hour and 15 minutes. There was some major miscommunication which had runners and volunteers confused. I just hoped that it got worked out for the runners behind us. I saw Jason Green again helping out and cheering runners into the aid station and with some encouraging words, we were out of there!
Dieu and I on the course!
Dieu and I left the aid station relieved. The wind was still blowing so hard that we power hiked when it was strong and ran through the small breaks when it would die down.
They don't call it the buffalo run for nothing!
The last 5 miles I started getting a little cold. I lost my gloves somewhere. The must have fallen out of my vest without me seeing them. We bushwhacked down to the last aid station and ran into a few 100 milers still out there.
With 4 miles to go I used the camp bathroom (were I lost Dieu), grabbed some peanut M&M's and hit a really rocky section of trail that reminded me of being in the Flintstones.
With about one mile to go I could see the big tent. I started running/walking between the picnic sites until I hit the last hill. I walked that little hill and when I got to the top, put the pedal to the metal and ran as fast as I had steam to run. Just like that, I was done!
When I crossed the finish line, I was handed this beautiful handmade mug. I love unique finisher awards! These are great!
The finisher's cup!
I sat down in a chair and thought about Shelbie and Jilianna. It was their first 50 miler and I was really hoping they didn't get pulled. Not a minute after thinking that I see Shelbie running in! It was a great moment for her!
I was so excited for Shelbie!! She finished her first 50 mile race! WAY TO GO!!
I went into the tent, took my mug and had it filled with veggie chili, grabbed a beer and sat down. I chatted with other runners and shared our experiences out there. It was awesome!
When I got up to grab my drop bags and leave, Julianna came walking in. She finished too. I was super happy for her.
I got up and went to the back of the tent to collect my drop bags and there I saw a drop bag with my sweet friend Robert Merriman's photo on it. Robert did his first 100 miler at this race last year. He LOVED this race. Who new that only a couple months after his amazing achievement, he would be diagnosed with brain cancer and not live to see the race this year. I cried when I saw this. I thought of Robert many times out there. He was truly missed.
Robert was on our minds and truly missed.
After the race I headed back to the horror hotel (LOL) got a shower and a little snack, then met up with Jason for a beer and got the lowdown on all things Yeti! I can't wait to do the Yeti 100 again!
Overall this race was great! It is a beautiful course, the weather worked out, I loved the finisher mug, and people were really nice. My only complaint would be more "real" food at the aid stations (I ate so much candy) and better communication with the cut offs (this was the first year having a hard cut off, so I am sure it will get worked out for next year).
I really liked this race and hope to be in town to run it again next year. I would do the 100 if I didn't have to train through a Utah winter to be ready! LOL!
The shirts were simple, but cute.
Ended up 3rd in my age group! Cool!