Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 Mile Race Report

The first couple of days after a big race are interesting.

The highs of completing a hard race.

The higher feelings of surpassing your own expectations

The lows of thinking "I could have pushed harder" and "What's next?!"

That and ALL you want to do is look at pictures and read race reports and talk about your experience and hear about the experiences of everybody else...

It's a rough couple of days!

But it's awesome to have accomplished something like that.

I ran my second-ever fifty mile race last Saturday.

The Awesome Antelope Island Buffalo Run

For those keeping count that is two fifty em's, three official fifty kay's, and four unofficial ultramarathon finishes - nine ultramarathons.

I still have no idea what I'm doing.

My overall main goal going into the Buffalo Run this year was to finish the race in less than ten hours. My REAL goal was a sub-nine finish and hopefully matching my finish at Pony last fall (8:44).

My PLAN was pretty much non-existent other than hoping I could pace myself with the great Ryan Lauck - who is a race day machine, especially at this race and this course.

I woke up at 4:00 and drove to my brother Matt's house - he was running the 50 miler as well, so we headed out to the island.

It was WINDY in the parking lot, so we ducked into the start tent and congratulated Matt Van Horn on his amazing first place finish. SO amazing to see his hard work and incredible training pay off.

Van Horn Destroying the 100 Mile Race
Photo: Matt Williams

We said hi to a whole slew of friends, listened to the pre-race instructions, and headed out to the start.

I started in the back of the starting line crowd with Matt, but as we got started I cut out to the right and he went to the left, and I passed a whole bunch of people until I recognized Ryan and Stephen Lindsay and decided I probably shouldn't go any faster than that at the start.

2 and a half miles in the moon was bright, we had reached the top of the first climb, and we didn't even need headlamps so we were howling at the moon when I looked down at my watch and realized we were running around 8 minute miles... Maybe a little too fast?

I felt really really good and I tore down that first big downhill towards the first climb up lone-tree hill. Ryan caught up to me before the hill and we had a nice walk up the hill. There is really no point in killing yourself to run up that hill when you are only 5 miles in!

We charged right through the first time at Elephant Head Aid station and on through the out'n'back to Elephant Head. Stephen caught up to Ryan and I again, and as we counted the leaders heading back we realized we were currently running 9, 10, and 11, and we traded the top ten positions back and forth.

I really was ahead of Steve and Ryan for a bit... see?
As the morning continued to lighten, we passed a lot of friends and acquaintances who were heading out to Elephant Head, I paused at the AS to put eyedrops in (yay LASIK) and caught up to Ryan on the Split Rock Downhill. FUN section, but I made myself hold back some so I wouldn't blow up later.

I'm not sure I did a good enough job holding back.

Downhill Blurry GoPro selfies!
The switchbacks up to the Mormon Rocks were rough as usual, but Ryan and I kept up a good pace as Stephen pulled ahead. Finally I let Ryan pass on the final LONG switchback and walked for a bit. That one ALWAYS gets me. I caught up to them just after the old rock horse corral, and we stopped for water refills at the final trip through Elephant Head AS, and I chugged some Mt. Dew as well.

 I'm not a huge fan of going UP the lone tree hill... but it sure is fun going down! I felt great all the way down and back up the little hill section as the sun came out above the island we realized that we were moving REALLY well. Normally at this point you would see the frontrunners of the 50k heading down the hill but we didn't see any. We were cruising.
I took the lead at the split and kept it all the way back to the start line, around mile 20.

At the Start/Finish area I looked around at the THRONGS of 25k runners waiting to start, hoping I would see my wife or some of our spectator families so I could drop off my jacket, but no luck. I made a bad choice and went IN to the tent and had a hard time getting out! When I made it out I saw Ryan tearing up the dirt road so I took off trying to catch him... I guess I'd shed the jacket somewhere else.

Oh look I found my wife! Too bad this picture was from my dad...

Thankfully my jacket compresses small enough to fit fairly comfortably in my UltrAspire Spry vest!

Up the road and down the steep trail along the fence to the shoreline and the Mountain View Aid Station where we head for a quick (but really long feeling) out and back - cheered Zac and the other front runners and Ryan and Steve as they were still ahead of me, turned around and headed back to the aid station. Caught up to Ryan at the Aid station, downed some Mt. Dew (although not as much as is usual for me on these longer races... which is weird) and took off after Ryan.

When I caught up to him he was walking and a bit upset about some hip issues... It is his tradition to run his "Birthday Miles" sometime in the month of his birthday, he figured he would take it to mile 33 and drop at the Ranch Aid Station. I doubted him and knew he would pull it back together. He told me to continue on and not let him catch me, so I headed out.

I saw my brother-in-law Steve at the Frary Aid station - he was pacing a friend on the 100 Miler and headed out still feeling pretty good there. My dad was here too - and he let me know that my brother Matt had DNF'd at the 20 mile Start/Finish part - he had been sick earlier in the week and moved a whole buncha stuff for my parents the week before as well. I felt bad that he didn't have a great race because he totally deserves a good one!

About a mile after Frary Aid Station... I started struggling.

About Mile 30 - starting to struggle a bit
I looked behind me and there was Ryan, catching up. I yelled "What are you feeling better already?!?" and kept going. He finally passed me at the next little parking area that is an aid station in the Fall course, and that's the last I was really close to him. Kept moving at a decent pace until I got to the Ranch Aid Station. Amie Blackham, the eventual 50 Mile Woman's Winner passed me looking strong right as we arrived.

Coming into the 33 mile Aid Station with Amie right in front of me and Ryan headed back

Got rid of the jacket in my pack finally! More Mt Dew too!

Heading out with Steve coming in
From 33 to 36... there was some major run walk run going on. I was trying to count my steps running and only allowed 20 steps of walking in between 200-500 running steps. Sometimes I think this strategy works all right... other times I'm not so sure - but it keeps my mind occupied and I think that helps in itself.

Walking for a bit before crossing the street

Running again for a minute! Wish there was a horse there at the tie-up...
Overall my legs felt pretty good, mentally I was good, I wasn't particularly tired, (I mean, 35 miles in - of course I was TIRED, but not unbearably so!) but there was something off in my stomach and lungs - but I couldn't push past it. I kept saying "Something's missing but I can't figure it out?!"

Literally saying "Something's missing!" here - pic by my bro Matt
At the Frary aid station I changed my socks which felt GREAT!

New Socks at Mile 39!!
 I was off and on for the next couple of miles, still moving, still feeling fine but still missing something.

When I finally got to the Mountain View Aid Station Stephen and the 2nd place woman had passed me. I couldn't bring anything up to catch them, but I maintained my position from then on.

The hill from the AS to the Road is one of the steepest parts of the course. Ryan said 'Lone Tree Hill and Mile 43 - the 2 absolute places where it's worth it to walk.' A friend on FB asked why so many people were smiling on this ROUGH hill, and I mentioned that it was nice to get to WALK for a bit!!

The Great Ryan Lauck

Stephen Lindsay - "You want me to let WHO pass me? No WAY!"

"Walk this hill and Run to the finish!" My brother said. I mostly followed that advice... but it sure felt slow!

Awesome picture from my bro of Stephen running strong - FOUR minutes ahead of me. Love the dedication in these pics!

Ditched my pack for the last 5 miles - SO nice!
As you can see from the last couple of pics, for me - there actually was a plus side to my brother dropping. His experience is basically what allowed me to have a stellar first fifty with him pacing me the last 15 miles at Pony. His advice was definitely useful and I was glad to have it here! It also meant I get these great pictures of me and our friends with the high quality trailandultrarunning.com camera! Honestly I would have rather he had a good race, but I'll be happy with extra benefits like these!

I am grateful for the support he gave me in both my first and second Fifty Milers! Thanks a lot Matt!

Picture from my dad of my brother taking a picture of me!
I ran through the devil weeds off the paved roads (seriously those weeds are the worst!) to the Bridger Bay Aid Station where I grabbed a couple salt caps because I was out.

I looked ahead and I could see Stephen's bright Orange coat just heading around the curve of the trail along with the 2nd place female close behind. I thought if I could get moving and move quickly through the rocky technical trail (it's a really cool trail) I might be able to catch them.

HA! That didn't happen.

I moved well overall but I couldn't get any good energy and pick it up much. I passed a couple 100 mile racers who were obviously feeling the effects of having been out for over 26 hours (!!) and then ran into quite a few horse riders and about 10 families out hiking.

"Look out! Crazy sweaty guy in a pirate shirt and short shorts coming through!!"

I hit the end of that trail and you are on the road for a few hundred yards - finish line in sight!

That last straight dirt road off the pavement, and then back along the fence to the finish line sure feels long! I kept moving and FINALLY found a burst of speed to make it to the finish line.

Photo: Craig Lloyd

Photo: The Beautiful Kristyan Williams
Of course, I ran in hard and almost faceplanted by tripping on the timing mats! YEAH!

Finished with an official time of 8:09:21 to take 16th place out of 113 finishers.

Finish Line Chinstand!

I ran FIFTY MILES in just over 8 hours?! I figured I had the physical ABILITY to pull that off, but I didn't think mentally and nutritionally I would be able to make it work...

I'm very happy about that.

I have to give a great big shout out to Ryan Lauck and Stephen Lindsay for allowing me to leech onto them and pace myself with them for basically 30-40 miles of this race. It was awesome. I'm looking forward to the official pictures where we are running together. Those guys are tough and I am happy they both pulled ahead and finished in front of me.

I definitely couldn't have gotten that close to 8 on my own. I probably would have spent a lot more time at aid stations too!

The finish line was awesome - so many friends, watching people finishing amazing and strong, and other shenanigans... Saturday was a good day!

50 mile snuggles!
Awww! Zac got FIFTH place! Amazing!

You can find my Strava map, Race Analysis, and stuff here.

One thing I really liked about this race was how many friends and family I had out there.

My brother and I were in the 50 miler, my wife ran the 25k as did my sister-in-law - one of my wife's brothers paced his friend in the 100 and another ran the 50k!

Our Facebook group, the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers had SO many people out running all the races! So many of them I am familiar with online but I've never met in person! It was great to meet some new friends and reconnect with many others. The support and experience of that group is awesome.

More thanks to the Race Director Jim Skaggs and all the amazing people who volunteered for crazy hours throughout all the hours and races supporting us silly runners.

Now I need to decide what I'm doing next!! Bosho Marathon? Skyline 50?!?

Look! It's a Guy on a Buffalo!


  1. Awesome report Aaron! You guys were an inspiration to me every time I saw you out on the course. I knew I couldn't catch you, but seeing how well you were doing made me feel like I could push myself a little harder. Way to go, man!

  2. Awesome, well done. Good report, but my favorite quote has to be "ALL you want to do is look at pictures and read race reports and talk about your experience and hear about the experiences of everybody else" so true.