Monday, March 24, 2014

Buffalo Run 50 Mile (Race Report)

So I’m going to start this by explaining my “taper”. Two weeks before the race I race about 30 miles with a group where I ate too many brownies at our 20 mile aid station which caused me to walk a couple miles until I felt better.  One week before the race I was stressed out trying to close on our new house so I could move stuff in. Race day does not a good moving day make. Luckily we closed and were given permission to move so we moved the majority of our stuff (lots of it big, awkward and heavy) into the house on Saturday.

We had plans to have family over for dinner the day after the race so that was a big stressor the week leading up to the race so although my running was tapering, I was lifting and moving stuff all week and not sleeping well because there was so much to do.
Friday morning at work I got a migraine. Ugh! And within 24 hours of the start of the race. I think the past week’s stress had gotten to me. Luckily, I keep a Relpax (migraine medication) at my desk so I took it right away and downed a couple of caffeinated sodas by lunch time. That got me through the initial aura, numbness, and disorientation faster than normal and I was to the functional, but uncomfortable, throbbing headache stage. 

After work, I finally got to pack my things for the race and then I got to mount our TV on the wall above the fireplace before I went to bed. 

As usual, I didn’t sleep well the night before the race. This wasn’t too bad but I did wake up frequently and then stress about how long it was taking me to get back to sleep. 3:15 a.m. came early (as it tends to do) and I got up ate some breakfast and got dressed. 

I drove up to the 7-Eleven off of I-15 and 3300 South where I picked up DJ and we drove out to the Island. It was nice to have someone to talk to on the drive and I enjoyed getting to know DJ a little more. 
No good it you don't take it with you.
 The Buffalo Run was trying to go cupless so in an effort to help, I purchased a collapsible cup at check-in to use for the odd things I’d drink at aid stations. Unfortunately, I forgot to take it with me and even when I stopped by the car around mile 19 I forgot it again.
 So we got to the start area and no one had any safety pins for the bibs so I poked a couple holes in mine and threaded a cord from my pack through it to keep it on. I thought about a bunch of people who I know who were doing the 100 and wonder who I might get to see and when and where it might happen. 

 The start of the race was fairly typical of the Buffalo Runs I’ve done in the past. A pre-race briefing and a short countdown to the start and we were off.
I tried to stay relaxed on the first 19 mile section as it was where the majority of climbing would be. This course is relatively flat compared with other mountain or trail races I do so the flats scared me a bit. My Garmin tracked only 3426’ gain on the entire 50 miles and probably at least 2500-3000 of that was in the first 19 miles. Of course I was feeling pretty good so I just went with whatever I was feeling. In retrospect I probably went out a little fast. Luckily, it wasn’t disastrously so. I ended up averaging around a 9:30 pace on this section despite my super loose plan of just trying to stay in the low 11’s. (It’s a lot faster without all the snow I ran in here a few months ago.) There was one aid station on this 19 mile figure 8-ish section that you pass through 3 times. I stopped to fill up my bottle the 2nd and 3rd time.  I was running with Tailwind in my handheld and carried just a spare water bottle and other supplies (TP, phone, mp3 player, portable charger, more Tailwind powder) in my pack. 
Not me. But the buffalo in the photo were much larger than they appear.
At one point after a long descent, we started climbing and at the top of the hill were 2 buffalo. I pulled off the trail in the opposite direction to get a picture and the next few guys just ran through as if there wasn’t a Bull Bison heading their way. I had another slightly uncomfortable experience with a buffalo later but just got off the trail for a bit to give a wide birth. I have a friend who was charged briefly but luckily no one was injured by any of the interactions with the wildlife as far as I know.
Once back at the Start/Finish area, I grabbed a ¼ PB&J sandwich and filled my bottle. I then went to my car to ditch the extra layers and grab my sunglasses. Unfortunately, I forgot the sunscreen and my collapsible cup. I headed off down the road and luckily before I mixed up some more Tailwind, I took a drink of what I thought was water. It was Heed. I figured I’d see if it worked for this next segment and if not, I could toss it and use my spare bottle.  It didn’t bother me and I continued to the Mountain view aid station and the short out & back before the really long one. This is where I saw DJ again.

I was  catching him but had to make a pit stop in the port-o-potty and it took me until after the aid station to catch him. When I did, I could tell he was starting to struggle. I felt like my energy was getting a little low too so I switched into my “I-can-do-this-all-day-long” pattern of walking the first minute of every mile and then trying to keep a run for the rest of the mile. This worked well for me at last fall’s 100k so I figured I’d use it again. Especially since this was the same trail I used it on. DJ tried to stick with me but he was fading faster than I was. 
At the Lower Frary AS I was offered a perogie or whatever. By the time I had accepted, someone else (I think it was an AS worker) had just taken it. I took a ¼ quesadilla instead. On long runs like this it is good to chew sometimes. I dropped my thin gloves in my bag and headed down the trail.
Not actual AS food.
Around this time I started to see 50 milers coming back to the finish. I saw Scott Jaime blaze by as well as several local guys I recognized. I also saw a few 100 milers and I made sure to give encouragement to anyone I passed. I posed for a picture from a local runner who was pacing her husband even though we’d never officially met. (Correction, I'd met Kelli briefly at the "brownie" run a couple weeks ago.)
Finally, I got to the Ranch. This was the turnaround point at about 33 miles. I reflected on the fact that this was only 2/3 of the way and that bummed me out. Then I reminded myself there were only 2 more aid stations to the finish which meant only 3 segments (there were actually 3 more aid station but I skipped one). Somehow that seemed more manageable. I drank some Mountain Dew for my first caffeine of the race and it seemed to hit the spot so I filled about 1/3 of my bottle with it and topped it off with water. I figured this was as good a place as any to experiment. Besides, if it caused problems I could dump it and use my extra bottle to mix up some Tailwind. 
I headed out and saw DJ coming in, doing more walking than before. I was only about a mile ahead at that point. I encouraged him and kept doing my “I-can-do-this-all-day-long” pattern. The Mt Dew didn’t sit quite as nicely as the Tailwind had but I needed a relief from the saltiness and the caffeine seemed to help. I leap frogged with a bunch of guys on the section back to Lower Frary.
At the aid station, I repeated my Mt Dew bottle and headed out. I still continued my pattern but I was more conscious of my time. I kept calculating what pace I’d have to average to sneak under 9 hours. I had calculated before that a 10:48 per mile average would put me at the finish at 9 hours. I realized that I had a little cushion and could afford to slow to 12 min pace but I didn’t want to blow it and figured the faster I run, the sooner I’d be done. And I was ready to be done. 

At the Mountain View Aid Station I switched back to Tailwind, drank some Mt Dew, had some M&Ms and talked too much and they finally encouraged me to move on. Leaving the AS you have what I feel like is the steepest hill on the course. Not very long, but steep. My breathing felt wheezy but I made it. At the top, I  looked and the last mile split including the AS stop and the hill was over 18 min. I just cut into my cushion!

Luckily, it flattened out for a while and I was able to move fast enough to get some cushion back. I felt like I was “smelling the barn” and starting to kick. I put the music back on and some of my favorite inspirational jams came on and I blazed right past the AS at the campground. Then, I got back on the single track that loops around the North end of the island. This trail has large rocks and is difficult to maneuver on tired and stiff legs. It really slowed me down for a while. Every once in a while something would catch my eye and I thought there were people on the side of the trail but when I looked up no one was there. But later, I looked up and there were actually a few families hiking around.  
Once I got past the rocky part, I was moving pretty well again. I decided I’d see how fast I could finish the last mile but when the mile came, I didn’t have it and just strolled in around a 10 min pace.
I finished my first 50 miler in 8:51:53. Good enough to place 31st out of 113 finishers, 14th in my age group (out of 36). I did get beat by 4 awesome ladies and I’m not ashamed of it.

I did my traditional somersault across the finish line and then stumbled around to get some food talk with friends and wait for DJ.

While I was waiting, Courtney came through paced by her husband and said they passed DJ a little ways back. I was able to see Courtney a few times during the race and it got my low fives going. I think I ended up with about 10-15 low fives, including one from “The Jester”. 
DJ ended up finishing in almost exactly 10 hours. We let him eat and we sat and shared war stories with Courtney and Bryce and then headed home.

Overall, I went out a little too fast, got it under control and finished strong. I had a blast watching others and encouraging them on their way. It was so much fun to see so many awesome people. I’ve continued to be inspired by awesome people who at times thought they should quit, but didn’t and went on to do amazing things. I have been heart broken for those who didn’t have the day they hoped for. But I still think that these stupid long distances are a great analogy for life; Things don’t always go smoothly. There are hills that slow us down, sometimes we just want to quit, but you just have to keep moving forward. Really, time and placement don’t matter. Everyone’s race is different and unique and worth undertaking. What matters is the journey we take inside of ourselves while we are taking on this adventure in the world around us. It’s awesome when we can help others or be helped by others on this crazy adventure.