Saturday, April 2, 2011

Buffalo Run 100 (Antelope Island State Park, Utah)


The decision to run this race was one born out of necessity, in my mind anyway. For some unknown reason this last fall I signed up for the Leadville 100 Mile Endurance Run in Colorado as it seemed like a good idea at the time. But fear and panic soon set in. Can I really run 100 miles, with substantial climbing all at altitude (average elevation is 10,000+ feet)? I had some 50k and 50 mile racing on my schedule before Leadville but I wondered if that would be enough. In the hunt for a good regional 100k run to add to the schedule I stumbled across the site and a new race on their schedule for this year…The Buffalo Run 100. On paper this looked like a good intro to the 100 mile distance and if I believed I was going to finish Pbville then I should be able to run this. Heck, it was an “easy” course and typically had good weather this time of year. Perfect!?

My coach set up a training schedule to get me to this race in some semblance of good condition (only a little over 3 ½ months to work with) and I was off and running.

The weather in Reno during the winter can be unpredictable. I’ve lived here for over half my life and I’ve seen it all but this one seemed like one for the books. Maybe it was just because I needed to run but this winter seemed unusually wet. The occasional big snow dump is fun to run in; changes the mechanics and makes the run feel more like an adventure. But when ever other day seems like the Trail of Tears or a Muddy Buddy run it wears on the mind. Am I really getting in the type of training I need to run a “hundo?” Quiet! Turn off “the unit” and run dangit!

I hit the bricks and got the mileage in (more weekly miles than I’ve ever done, in winter no less!). Aside from the weather I had few complaints; why should I, running is a pleasure.

The only injury incurred in this build up was about 3 ½ weeks before the event. I hyper extended my knee whilst sledding with my daughter up at Bocca Reservoir. Ouch, that hurt! Mileage dropped to a quarter my norm and KT Tape became my friend. Longer taper, at least that is what I told myself.


Flew into Salt Lake the day before the race and met my coach who was running this race also. Less than an hour after arriving it began to rain (with the occasional snow flake) and it rained for the next 5 hours. The weather began to break by late evening and we were optimistic about the next day even though all weather forecasts were ugly. We woke to snow. We were optimistic that it would stop long before the noon start. We arrived at the start in pleasant winter squall. What are going to do? It’s not like I didn’t run in this all winter long. Quiet the mind, yet again, and run.

Likely over dressed, we got the race going with a nice climb in the first few miles. This climb was remarkably dry for the conditions and I was optimistic about the rest of this initial 19 mile loop. Optimism is fleeting. After the first few miles we arrived to an inch or two of snow and medium sized ponds in the middle of the trail; the trail conditions would continue to degrade. Miles 15-18 of this loop was less like running and more like interpretive dance (slipping and sliding every which way). I wasn’t looking forward to doing this loop again in the late night hours!

I always make a conscience effort to smile and greet other runners on the trail when possible (out and back sections). The return smile and greeting I get from them is like fuel for my run. Something about the shared experience motivates me. But do other runners really notice this as more than just a standard, dead panned “good job?” Apparently they do!

I was in an awful “bad patch” from mile 19 - 33 and while I kept up the “good job” at every occasion it was missing heart. One runner (Meghan Zarnetske) noticed something missing, at some point on the long out and back section on the east side of the island she said “you’re not smiling anymore?” That phrase clawed at my mind for miles. I needed to get my game back. I needed that fuel I get from other runners when I give them an earnest greeting. (as a side note: I talked to another runner (A.D. Marshall, I believe. He’s not on the results but he did finish in under 24 hours) the next day at the hotel and when we recognized each other from the trail he said “You’re the happy guy on the trail!” So take note; a good attitude is noticed, appreciated and, in my case, fuel!)

I was sure I was going to drop from this ordeal during that bad patch but something happened at about mile 33 (Ranch aid station). What? Thoughts of my family primarily. My wife snuck a picture of my daughter and me together in my bag before I left Reno and that picture consumed the pessimism and turned my race around. I picked up my headlamp at Lower Frary aid station and began to look forward to a night on the trail.

The night was a stark contrast from the day (aside from the obvious, the weather was decidedly better). Clear as a bell…and a bit chilly; low of about 24 I think. I didn’t really notice the cold however, I just enjoyed the trail which was in much better condition than it was in the afternoon. Miles went by. I arrived at the 50 mile mark about 10 hours into the race (not a bad 50 mile split) and took my time getting dry gear together. At this point I should mention I was “testing” some new, silly shoes: Hoka Bondi B’s. I typically wear NB MT 101’s, which I love, but didn’t think I could handle 100 miles in those. While the Hoka’s seem completely opposed to the NB’s they have a relatively low heel to toe drop and that is what I’m really after (I’ve got no problem with cushioning!) in a shoe. Light weight ain’t bad either. No shoe (or sock) change at 50, or at any point, These were worth the high price tag! After a long aid stop (almost 30 minutes! Yikes.) I put my ipod on and hit the trail. The Beatles, Presidents of the United States of America, STP, Iron Maiden, Dave Mathews and many others. Strange music selection but the variety was good.

This next lap was less like a blur and more like a dream. Everything seemed to gel and the body just did what it was trained to do, run (okay, and walk a good bit too. It’s a 100 miles, cut me some slack!).

I knew at some point in the morning I’d see my parents out on the course. One of the aid station leaders (mile 93 or so) told me they had stopped by to get an idea on my ETA. That lifted some of the natural fatigue. At about mile 95 there was my Mom, in the middle of the road, running out to greet me (my Dad, with his ever present camera there ready to document the moment). I still get a lump in my throat just writing this. It started to sink in…I’m about to run 100 freakin’ miles! Mom didn’t even want a hug. She was so excited she just patted me on my back and told me to keep going! Adrenaline injection right then and there. I must have run by them at 7:30 pace, not bad for mile 95. That burst lasted for about a half mile and then it was back to a reasonable pace. A lethargic run at best but definitely acceptable for my proximity in the race.

The finish line was a sweet sight, albeit still an agonizing mile away. Run it in. Finish strong. Look like an idiot sprinting down that last quarter mile like it was a five mile race. Check, check and check! Done. 22 hours, 10 minutes and 44 seconds of pretty constant forward motion. I’m impressed. Less with myself and more with the capabilities of the human body. It can do far more than we give it credit for!

Post Race

I was anticipating a week of sore legs and silly walking, but my body had other plans I guess. By Monday I felt pretty darn good. Going down stairs didn’t really hurt all that much and walking in general was pretty normal. By Wednesday I could have done a normal running workout. I didn’t. My body deserves a break and I’m going to give it one. This weekend I’ll hit the trail again. After all I’ve got Leadville to run, which is why I did this silly run in the first place!

Hoka Bondi B (great shoe)
Wright sock (blister free 100 mile run!)
Nathan Hydration Pack
McDavid Calf Compression Sleeves (Happy calves)


Footfeathers said...

Awesome write-up! See, you're a born blogger...and ultrarunner.
Proud of you, my boy!

Darren said...

Getting my thoughts on "paper" is almost as hard as running.