Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Buffalo Run 50 Miler Race Report

I ran the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 miler on Saturday and had an awesome experience. I felt a little under-trained but figured since I had done the 100 miler in November, surely 50 miles wouldn’t be too bad. (Possibly dumbest thought ever.)

The race starts with a miles-long steep climb. Imagine this: pitch black outside. All you see is the few feet ahead of you from the beam of your headlamp. You see little beams of light like a line of ants going up the mountain. I didn’t see anybody running. We were all power hiking. I didn’t hear anybody talking. Everyone was intently focused on the hill and conserving energy for the coming 48 miles. And finally the sun started to rise over the Great Salt Lake.


Antelope Island sits in the Great Salt Lake and I had never been on any of it’s trails. As the sun started to rise I was amazed by the incredible scenery. (Which helps explain why I took 218 pictures during the race.)


I tucked in with a group of wiley old veteran runners. They had a steady, conservative pace that seemed sustainable for the race. Older ultrarunners are really a gem. They have perfected the art of tortoise-and-the-hare. They hang back early while the youngsters speed by, then pass everyone at mile 40 when the youngster’s legs have blown up. I was happy with this little pack of guys.


After a while our pack broke up and I ended up running with these two guys. I heard one say to the other “The cutoff for the race is 12 hours and 30 minutes. If you finish any faster than 12 hours and 30 minutes, you aren’t getting your money’s worth.” Those are the kind of people I like to run with.


The first 20 miles of the race were particularly challenging. There was some rocky terrain and long hills where you thought you’d never reach the top


I decided the 50 miler would be an appropriate setting to break out the Don’t Worry, Be Happy hat that Mel got me in Virgin Islands. Although this did have the unfortunate side effect of getting the song stuck in my brain more times than I cared for.


I experimented with a heart rate monitor for the first time ever. My watch beeped whenever I went above 148 beats per minute. I listened to an Ultra Runner Podcast which talked about the importance of using a monitor for the first 30 miles so that you don’t start out too fast and you don’t fill your body with lactic acid early in the race. I hoped that if I was conservative for the first half, I wouldn’t feel like a dead weed for the second half.


There was a 50k race that started a few hours later which made the trails a little more congested at times, but I didn’t mind having some more company.


Around mile 20 I saw a race photographer and said “Hey, I’ll do a jumping picture for you.” After I jumped he got a grin and said “I remember, you jump at all your races don’t you.” I told him that I try my best.


I expected to see more buffalo than I did. I wasn’t even close enough to smell them. Or vice versa.


I was feeling pretty tired by mile 30. Even though the news said temps only got into the 70’s, I swear it was 120 degrees out there. I seriously felt like I was melting! I carried an extra water bottle just to keep dumping water on me, and still I could not cool off. Much to the dismay of Bobby McFerrin’s song, I wasn’t feeling so Happy.


Around mile 35 I started to feel some discouragement and despair. I felt like I was on fire, my quads were sore, and I felt like I was completely out of juice. I didn't know how I could keep going. I would have sold my firstborn child for a cold Red Bull. Then the song “All This Time” by Britt Nicole came on the radio and gave me the boost I needed. (Check out a video of the song here, I think you’ll like it.) The scenery almost took my mind off the fact that my skin had ignited in flames.


I met some awesome blogger friends during the race. I saw Janice from Run Far Strong a few times. It's good to get a few high fives from a friend along the way. And Chris Boyack from The Scene Begins who ate a positively nauseating 47 Gu’s (!!!!!!) during the 100 mile race. Chris was so nice – after he got cleaned up he came back to mile 44 and cheered on the runners.

One of my favorite things was seeing Jay Aldous at an aid station. I ran the Javelina Jundred with Jay who happens to be the WORLD (yes, world) record holder for fastest 100 miler for someone age 50-54. So I see Jay at an aid station and he is so happy and encouraging. I drank a cup of Coke and he made sure I had everything I needed. Then he said "Do you want one more cup of Coke just in case? You can always throw it up later." That kind of reasoning is hard to argue with. So I had another cup. Thanks Jay!

The area I struggled with the most was my stomach. It never felt very good. It was a little tense the day before the race too, so maybe it wasn’t because of the running. It just felt tight – like there was a buffalo standing on my stomach. The sure sign that my stomach is off is when I can’t eat candy. It wasn’t until mile 46 when I was able to eat some of these.


The last 10 miles were challenging because I was tired. But a very strange thing was happening..... I could still run. Even though my quads were sore and my rump felt like I'd been kicked by a buffalo......I could still run. And the knees? Golden! Knee issues were my biggest fear and they didn't bother me once! I can't tell you how happy I was (and am) about this! I knew my day would have a happy ending.


In the last few miles I could feel the finish line pulling me in. I was so happy that I wasn't doing the death shuffle, but I did feel worn out and exhausted. I had my fun for the day and I was ready to be done. I saw this sign and got even more excited to finish the race and stop running.


And then I saw the finish line. Relief. I made a big jump across the line and was done. Five hours earlier I wasn't sure how I was going to make it to the finish line. I was wasted and exhausted and I didn't think it was physically possible to keep going in the heat for five more hours.

I re-learned a few valuable lessons when I crossed that finish line: Our bodies are pretty remarkable. We can always go one more step. We can't know our limits unless we push them. And then push them a little more. We can do hard things. We are capable of more than we know.


And how is this for a post-race meal.....BUFFALO STEW! I had never eaten buffalo before, and it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately my stomach still didn't feel very good so I didn't eat much. Heck, if I can't eat Oreos at the aid station, I surely can't eat buffalo stew.


My feet were pretty sore and tender afterward, but I didn't have any blisters and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to keep all my toe nails. You can see how much dirt piled up on my legs.


I would call the Buffalo Run a success. I was able to run WAY more toward the end than I have in any other ultra, my knees had no problems, I didn't throw up (despite coming close a few times), and I didn't get chased by a buffalo. My Don't Worry, Be Happy hat ended up being a perfect summary of the race.

33 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, and good luck on your upcoming impromptu ultra! So awesome!

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  2. What a great race! You're reports are my favorite!! Just so you know, if you don't wanna eat those peanut M & M's, I'll have a go at them :)

    Glad you got to meet Janice!! I had the honor of getting to run with her in a trail marathon before the 50 she did on the Island :)

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    1. Thanks, I appreciate it! Have no fear - since the race I've caught up on all the candy I missed out on.

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  3. Congratulations on the 50 miler and gorgeous photos (as always!).

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  4. Cory,
    It was great to see/meet you out there! I really enjoyed your report and the pictures are fantastic. Congrats on your finish.

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    1. Great to see you out there too! On Friday night I saw the awesome sunset over Antelope Island and thought "Chris is running out there somewhere and must be loving this."

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  5. this really is a great race recap! i cant even imagine ever thinking "oh 50 miles wont be too bad" so you are my hero for thinking that and running ultras. so dang cool. some day when i run an ultra...i hope that my stomach is calm so that i can eat lots of candy. i hope that would distract me from the mileage...haha ;)

    another great job Cory! you always amaze me and inspire me to keep going :) congrats again!

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    1. The whole "50 miles won't be too bad"....ugh. What was I thinking?

      You really should do this one next year. I think you would completely love it!

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  6. You are such a bad ass! Seriously, I know how that head can just zap your strength and energy and leave you crying like Hello Kitty - but you did it and I am so stinking happy for you! Did you get all 12 hours and 30 minutes worth?? Hahah.

    Congratulations! You are always a huge inspiration. When are you coming to Colorado to run one of your ultras?!?!?

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    1. Yea, I was definitely close to the Cry-Like-Hello-Kitty stage a few times. Thankfully I came fairly close to getting my money's worth at the race. Colorado would be awesome!

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  7. Wow great job! Looks like a beautiful course.

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  8. You are AMAZING!! Your race sounds fabulous and you make me want to run one. I can't wait for the Zion 100! I should probably start running again!

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    1. Bring on Zion! Give me a week or so to get my legs back and then we'll go run part of the course eh?

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  9. 50 miles- that is just amazing! Someday.
    Sad that you didn't get chased down by any buffalo, but the scenery looks beautiful!

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  10. Awesome recap Cory! Your strength is just insanely crazysauce amazing to me. I mean seriously you felt like crap from the beginning and you still perservered and finished! You should really be a motivational speaker my friend because you are inspiring!

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    1. I was just trying to out-run the mosquitoes. (Wasn't very successful.) Sometimes I think the only thing that gets me to the finish line is being stubborn.

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  11. I loved this recap! 47 Gus???? How is that even possible? I get gaggy just trying to take more than 3. Also, I'm sad there were no close encounters with buffalo and seems mean to eat them after they were so polite to the runners. :)

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    1. I know - 47 really does sound horrific. I counted mine, I think I ate 18 which was enough to make me sick. Toward the end I thought "Should I eat a Gu and throw up, or not eat a Gu and bonk?" Usually I just chose the bonk.

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  12. You're amazing! The photos are amazing too! Can you post some more? I guess if your stomach was feeling better it would have been a completely perfect race...I guess you'll just have to run yet another one!

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  13. That first picture is incredible! What a great race. I am truly amazed at your ultramarathoning abilities. Congrats!

    The buffalo stew looks delicious but I'm not sure I'd want to eat if after running 50 miles either. hmmmm

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  14. Great race report. It had me smiling all the way through - the photos (sunrise over the lake - magic!), the commentary from other runners (if you run much faster than the cut-off you're not getting your money's worth) and your own insight. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Incredible!!!!! These pictures are stunning. We live in such a beautiful state. I'm amazed to hear how well you felt (besides your stomach). My run felt pretty hard on Saturday and when I hit mile 17 and wanted to just stop, I thought of you. If you were running 50, I could surely run 18. THANK YOU FOR KEEPING ME GOING. How awesome is it that the photographer remembers you?!

    You're the coolest ultra runner I know.

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    1. I can guarantee that if I'm the coolest ultra runner you know.....I'm the only ultra runner you know. Way to go on your run!

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  16. I loved this race report, especially all the ultra runner humor. And I love your strategy of hanging with the old dudes. And MAN those M&Ms look good. Congratulations, Cory!

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  17. I love your recap. The pics are fabulous. Greg was running with me during that tall wheat grass stuff.... So pretty! I am so excited we finally met, and it was fun to see you out on the trail. I didn't get any blisters either, but I did have to fix two hot spots. Guess what???? Maria had an ice cold red bull for me at mile 33 ( the ranch) and it was sooooOOoo yummy! My quads are still trashed today. Hoping to hit the road tomorrow.
    Hope you recover quick and get some more great runs in before Zions.

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    1. Awesome to finally meet you too. I looked forward to seeing a familiar face out on the course. I've never tried Red Bull while running but that is about to change. Great job at the race - you are amazing!

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  18. Your stories motivate and start dialog between Kevin and I on to ultra or to not...I was against it a number of years ago, but, I am coming around to it with the prospect of eating and running/trotting....I had a chance to talk to Pam Reed and she said ultras are easier than marathons. Odd that going twice or more the distance is easier. It is a mindset of the people doing it, the highly competitive edge isn't there she said like it is with marathons. I love to hear about the older guys, our first marathon we went back and forth with a couple old fellas. I am proud of you and your achievements and I look forward to reading your ventures. One day, we will all meet up. We will after September have 4 States of marathons down, Utah should be next!! Run on, write on and Smile-Be Happy-ha ha. Oh, p.s. Kevin said that he didn't approve this message because of the ultra...he said no to Bataan---but he did it!

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  19. I have read this recap 5 times now. I had no idea how beautiful it looks out there. My wife (seemomrunfar) has turned me on to your blog. The way you write about ultras helps me to believe that I could do it too. Signed up for my first 50k in August, El Vaquero Loco and I am really looking forward to it. I will be sure to get inspiration from your blog and your race recaps. Thanks.

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  20. Great report and great race. The pictures are awesome too. I'm out there all the time and I never get tired of the scenery.

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  21. Great race report! I'm gearing up for a 50 miler this Saturday. It will be my 3rd. Nice to find another positive report to encouragement as I deal with the pre-race nerves.

    Love love love your photos!

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  22. Favorite line: You can always throw it up later. Haha. I can't believe the distances in these races. Wow.

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