Back in the Saddle

I ran the Buffalo Run 50k on Antelope Island this past Saturday, March 19, 2016. It was my second 50k. I had a great time, and it was all valuable ultra experience for me. I had been struggling through my training recently, but this race lit the fire within me. It made me want that 50 miler even more than I did before. It also proved to me how much I love running the trails.

My goal for this race was to come out of it feeling good. I wanted this to be a good training run for my 50 miler.

Early on

The race started at 8; so, we woke up at 5:30am and were on the road by 6am. We got to the island at about 7, picked up my bib, and headed onto the island. We found our friend, Brooke, and I finished my last minute preparations and before I knew it, it was time to head to the start line.

The cool thing about the Buffalo Run is that there are 4 races that take place the same weekend. The 100 miler started on Friday, the 50 miler started at 6am Saturday, the 50k started at 8, and the 25k at 9. The bibs for each race were different colors, so you could see a runner and know what race they were running. It was fun to be able to see so many different levels of runners all pushing their limits.

I did my best to not get caught up in the early race adrenaline rush, and just keep a good all-day pace. It was difficult to feel like everyone was passing me, but I just tried to tell myself that I was running a 50 miler, and not a 50k. My pace was a little faster than what my 50 mile pace will be, but I was definitely cognizant of not pushing to hard.

My first 50k I felt like I didn’t do a great job of fueling. I started late and was inconsistent. For this race, I wanted to make sure I started early and was consistent. I started taking Cliff shot bloks at mile 3, and then about every 10-15 minutes. I also tried to get some food down at the aid stations. For the most part I would have a little PB&J square, some mountain dew, and a handful of Lays potato chips. It is so interesting, because I very rarely have soda anymore, and I absolutely hate Lays chips under normal circumstances. But I was craving both really bad all day, so I went with it.

Running in circles

This course was interesting in that it was a looped course. You run one 25k loop, and then go back out and do it again. I made it through the first 2 aid stations (11 miles) feeling great and then it was time to head back toward the start/finish area. The 25k runners were heading in the opposite direction as me, it was fun to see them and encourage them and have them encouraging me.

It was this section of the race that I probably pushed too hard, but I was really excited to get to the turnaround aid station, I knew Kelsey would be there and so that was a big motivation for me. The trails in this section were also really fun to run, so I did. I also passed Brooke as she was heading back out on her second loop. She was about 15 minutes ahead of me. We yelled encouragement to each other and high-fived, it was awesome to see a familiar face.

I knew going in that having to head back out on a second loop would be really tough mentally. It was. I came into the aid station and saw Kelsey and took in some food. I tried to be quick and efficient at all the aid stations, but especially at this one. I didn’t want to give in to the temptation of just stopping at 25k.

Do it again

Heading back up the hill on my second loop was rough. When I was running it at the beginning of the race, it felt so easy, but this time was hard. I just tried my best to keep a consistent pace up the hill, power hiking the steeper sections and shuffling the more runnable sections.

Near the top of the hill, I caught up with a guy that had left the aid station a little before me. He was a nice guy and he told me I did a good job of attacking the hill. I know he was probably lying, but it was nice to hear. We talked for a little bit and then rolled into the next aid station. He took longer than me, and so I was ahead of him for the rest of the race, but he definitely was pushing me during some sections of the rest of the race.

This section of the trails had some fantastic trails that were so much fun to run. But it also had some awful sections. There is one part where you hit these switchbacks, and they are the worst things ever. I actually felt like I did a decent job of climbing this race. I was able to pass a few people on the climbs, so that was cool.

So close

I went through the last aid station and knew I only had 5.5 miles left and that there was no doubt I would finish. I was still trying to take in nutrition, but I was starting to get a bit of a sour stomach and stopped taking in nutrition. For my 50, if I stop taking nutrition at mile 27, I will be in big trouble. So, I might start experimenting with ginger chews on some of my longer runs to help with any nausea.

With only a little over 3 miles left, you hit the last hill of the race. This was the absolute lowest point of the race for me. I didn’t think that I’d be able to make it one more step. Battling out of the dark places is one of the things that I love about distance running. Your body hurts. It is telling you to stop. Your brain is telling you to stop. But your heart and determination keeps pushing you forward.

I thought about how Kelsey was waiting for me, and how she had given up her entire Saturday just so she could sit around for hours to see me for two minutes. I knew that with such support, it’d be selfish of me to not give my all. I also thought about how there are people who are really suffering. There is pain, heartache, loss, despair in the world. What I was going through was nothing compared to what many people live through. It helped me get an extra surge of energy. I also had to choke back the tears. It happens every race, and sometimes multiple times, but I always end up crying.

I was able to hang on for the last few miles, and smiled when I saw Kelsey and Brooke at the finish line, cheering me in. It was a great day.

It took me 6 hours and 16 minutes. It was about 20 minutes slower than my first 50k, but this one had 600 more feet of climbing, and was longer by about a mile and a half. So I probably would have been right around the same time if it was the same course. I finished 64th out of 130 runners. So, pretty much the epitome of middle of the pack.

The Big Kahuna

So, all of my tune up races are out of the way. The next step is the Salt Flats 50 miler. My goal race for the year. The day after my 30th birthday. 37 days away. I am nervous and scared. But I know that I’ll have a lot of great support and I will give it everything I have.

I just hope that it’s enough, and that I am capable of more than I can even imagine.