Sunday, March 29, 2009

Buffalo Run 50k 2009 Race Report

50 kilometers (32.63 miles actual)
4th overall of 151 entrants
Official 50k results
My SportTracks GPS data report and map
My Picasa Photo Album
Official race website

View Larger Map

As I sat in the Salt Lake City airport the morning after the run, it was blowing and snowing with a temperature of 36 degrees outside and I couldn't believe what a gorgeous day we had yesterday for the Buffalo run on Antelope Island. The nasty Sunday weather also made me really appreciate the fact that the run was yesterday versus today. It would be miserable out on that course a day later. We lucked out and had an awesome day for a great run on a very scenic island.

Bill, Minesh and I had flown up to Salt Lake City on Friday before the race and got checked in for the race at Striders Running store in Layton. A snow storm had just passed through the area the day before leaving the Wasatch mountains a bright white and deposited some snow on the higher peak on Antelope Island. We heard that despite the new snow up high, the course for the run was in great condition with only a few muddy spots. Bill would be running the 50 mile course while Minesh and I planned to run the 50k course. For a bit I had considered the 50 mile course but because I had recently run in the Old Pueblo 50 mile race and I had heard the 50k course was more enjoyable, I stuck with the 50k.

We awoke at 4:15am on Saturday morning in our hotel in Layton for a quick breakfast and then nearly 30 minute drive out to the island. As we entered the Antelope Island State Park and drove over the causeway we immediately got the feeling the race was very well organized by the number of “parking nazis” (as RD Jim Skaggs referred to them) using lights to direct us to the parking near the start. We found the parking and rambled the hundred or so yards to the start area to find some tents setup and a couple of campfires raging to keep us scantily-clad runners warm while we waited. Jim Skaggs was easy to spot wearing his unique buffalo hat. He gave us a pre-race briefing of the course to the 50 milers and showed the runners where to line up. At 6:00am the 50 milers took off running amongst the usual whooping and hollering. It was dark and pretty chilly with the temperature in the mid-30s and a light wind blowing but the sky was clearing promising a nice day.

From Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50k and 50 mile race 2009, 2009-03-29
The Beist takes off for the 50 miler.

Minesh and I loitered around the campfires and chatted with some friends that we've made during meetings at other races. Karl Meltzer and Scott Mason (WasatchSpeedGoat) would be manning the Lower Frary aid station in the 50 mile race and were loading up drop bags.

The time came for Minesh and I to get ready for the 8:00am 50k start. I chose to ditch my beanie, gloves and running pants so I'd start with just my visor, sunglasses, long sleeve shirt over my sleeveless shirt, shorts, hand bottle and my Saucony Xodus trail shoes. This would be my first long run in the Xodus shoe which has turned out to be a nice little shoe.

From Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50k and 50 mile race 2009, 2009-03-29

As all of us 50k runners lined up, no one was anxious to step up to the start line. Since I planned to run the course hard I decided to step up to the line and then a few others finally did so too. When we all took off running at 8:00am, I was the leading the pack for the first few miles which made me uncomfortable for two reasons: First, I'd never been on the course and hadn't studied the map very well and second, I'm not used to running in that position so it felt odd. I was wondering if my pace was too slow or too fast. One look behind me confirmed that I didn't appear to be going too fast...plenty of folks were with me.
The course starts uphill on a long switchback up the east side of major ridge on the north end of the island. As we rambled up the hill I began talking the the runner next to me, Jesse, from Bozeman. He had spent a summer in Los Alamos working at LANL in the Theoretical Division. Pretty cool to meet another runner here that was familiar with Los Alamos. His friend Don and other friend, Nikki Kimball, were right behind us up the hill. Once we crested the ridge and turned to the right along the ridge we encountered the only herd of Buffalo I'd see all day and ran past them with them standing about 50 feet away. Pretty awesome and huge beasts but no match for us bunch of mountain goats. Baaahhh! We next hit a nice, fast descent into a saddle between the two high points we'd be running around all day. At this point I was running in the group of the front four and saw Bill coming uphill with a couple other 50 milers on their return of the loop. Bill was looking strong and we high-fived as we passed by each other. From the saddle it was another steeper descent before some flat running and then up the steepest climb on the course to the first aid station, Elephant Head. Up the steep hill the three other runners in our group started power walking but I had to pee and took the opportunity to keep running up the entire hill to gain some ground so I could pee without falling too far behind. I went out ahead of the others and no doubt they were thinking, “He's gonna burn out running the steep hill.” But when they reached the top of the hill and saw me peeing on the side of the dirt road at least one of them said, “Good idea, I need to do that too.” I got back on track and passed through the aid station without stopping. I still had plenty of gel in my flask and my single hand bottle was half full. We' be back at the AS in five miles so I was set.

We busted off right onto some fast downhill trail/old road and the four of us were flying down with a pace of about 6:00/mile for the next mile. At the bottom of the fast section we turned left and started up a gradual hill that eventually led to some very runnable switchbacks up and back towards the aid station. The scenery back here was phenomenal with a view of the open water over to some snow covered mountains on the lake's west side. Here the group started to break up a bit and three runners moved up about a minute ahead of me and a fifth runner. At the top of the switchbacks another runner in tan came up on me and the other runner and passed us just before the Elephant Head AS at mile 10.5. At the AS I went looking for my drop bag and it took a few minutes to locate it. I grabbed an extra three gels, refilled my water bottle and headed out. A few hundred yards out of the aid station I realized I had meant to grab my electrolyte tablets but had neglected to do that. But they did have S-caps at the aid station tables so I knew I could get some at the AS at the start/finish area before starting our second lap.

On the return to the start/finish area we ran on a new trail that stayed pretty low on the ridge's west side. This trail was really fun and fast and we made good time back towards the front of the ridge looking down on the start/finish area. I believe I was in sixth place as we descended down to the start/finish area. About a half mile out from the start/finish AS I noticed the front runners all heading out on the dirt road along what I knew was the 50 mile course. I thought this was odd as I didn't recall the course description stating anything about that. When I reached the aid station as just over two hours, I filled up my water bottle again and grabbed a few s-caps while swallowing a couple for good measure too—I had been sweating pretty decently in the last hour. As I got ready to leave the aid station, two of the front runners came back up the dirt road from the 50 mile course area asking, “hey, where do the 50k runners go?” A woman at the aid station said, “out that way along the dirt road and then eventually back here.” It sure didn't sound right but the three of us went for it anyway and starting running along the dirt road out away from the loop we had just ran. As we ran I looked over to see Tim Long, whom I'd met a couple of months ago at the Ghost Town race in southern NM. I said hello as we passed by. But as we neared the parking area I really started thinking this was wrong. I didn't recall the course description staying anything about an out-and-back and my GPS watch was now reading 16.3 miles which was already more than half the distance of a 50k...if we were going to run that loop one more time that would be more than 50k. So I hollered at the other two and told them I didn't think this was right. We saw an official-looking truck of some kind with two guys in it and stopped to ask them if they knew where the 50k course went. They didn't know but another guy standing nearby told us he didn't think it went out where we were headed. That was enough confirmation for me and all three of us turned around. There was a runner in brown ahead of us who I was pretty sure was a 50k racer also so I whistled at him but he was wearing headphones and didn't hear my whistle. We got back to the aid station and a different woman was now telling us the 50k runners didn't go the way we were going and pointed us back onto the loop we had just run. It would have been nice to get that information before we headed out the wrong way rather than being directed to go the way we went but the bonus distance was good for my training and we lost only about 8 minutes total. It was just a small heat-of-the-moment misunderstanding on all our parts--no worries!

From Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50k and 50 mile race 2009, 2009-03-29

Back on the course and starting the second loop I ran as much as I could up the initial hill but got passed by another 50k runner. At this point I had lost all track of where I was in relation to other runners because I expected a few had passed by when the three of us were off track for a bit. So now with this other runner passing me and three others I could see up ahead, I was hoping I was still in the top 10 at least. I reached the top of the ridge and started running along the top and could see one runner ahead of me. At the saddle he stopped to pee and I passed him there. It was an uneventful cruise to the Elephant Head aid station again save for yielding to all the other 50k and 25k runners coming up towards me. At the Elephant Head for the third time I found it congested with many of the other runners and had to wiggle my way to the water container to fill up my water bottle at the aid table. I still had a good amount of gels so it was a quick stop and back onto the fast downhill section again. Earlier I had ran this section at about 6:00/mile pace but now, at mile 20 I ran it a bit slower but was still pleased to maintain a sub-seven minute pace. I was coming up on another runner in front of me and as I passed him he asked my name and said, “Didn't we meet at the Moab Alpine to Slickrock 50 miler last fall?” Indeed we had. We reintroduced ourselves...his name is Shane and he had run an awesome MAS 50 miler last fall just a couple weeks after running the Wasatch 100. I opened up my pace using my long legs to my advantage and cruised to the bottom of the descent. I knew I was likely to slow down on the climb up again so I wanted to move as fast as I could on the descents.

Going up the runnable switchbacks again I ran a good bit of them slowing to a walk only a few times and mostly so I could change up my pace and take some of the strain out of my groin area that was starting to feel the effects of running as hard as I had been. As I topped out and ran back along the contours towards the Elephant Head AS again, I noticed another runner coming up fast and strong. He passed me right before the AS. At the AS for th last time, I filled up my hand bottle with water again and grabbed one more gel and an extra S-cap for the final five miles to the finish. I left the AS before the other runner but not long after I left he came cruising by and I told him how strong he was looking. I was impressed. I shuffled down the steep descent as fast as I could go at this point and then held a decent pace along the contouring trail to the final decent climb back up towards the saddle. Here I noticed that strong runner had completely stopped and was cramping. I pulled the S-cap out of my pocket and gave it to him as I passed him because I know how much it sucks to cramp late in a race. He was thankful and slammed it down. At the saddle another runner, Greg Norrander, had been making good time on me came up and passed by me as I slowed to pee one last time.

We were now on the homestretch towards the finish line with only a few miles to go. The cramping runner had made a good recovery and came up behind me and introduced himself. His name was Sandy and he again thanked me for the S-cap as he passed me. I told him, “No worries, now go finish under 4:30!” We were at 4:20ish at that point so I think we both knew that wouldn't happen but it was motivating to think about that. A few minutes later Sandy cramped again and I passed by him once more. As we turned the corner and could see down to the finish, I slowed for a moment and Sandy passed by me one last time. I did notice Greg in front of us was slowing just a bit on the descent so I hoped to catch up to him before the finish. At that moment Sandy yelled to me with some encouraging words so I picked up my pace to keep up with him. As we descended we continued to pick up the pace eventually passing Greg about a mile from the finish. We hit the flats just before the final short hill that then led to the short downhill finish. Sandy finished about 30 seconds ahead of me and I came in at 4:40:50 feeling like I ran as hard as I could. It took me a few minutes to decompress before I could shuffle the 100 yards to the car to get my recovery whole chocolate milk, extra clothes and a chair. I ended up driving the car back to right near the finish because I figured Bill and Minesh would appreciate not having to make that walk.

I sat around the finish area drinking chocolate milk, water and beer, in that order, (I had a few hours to hang out) while ringing the cowbells for finishers and eating chips. I also indulged in a bowl or two of the potluck buffalo stew which was quite tasty. I had never eaten buffalo before. It was a beautiful afternoon to hang out on the grass waiting for fellow Los Alamos runners Bill, Nena and Minesh to finish.
From Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50k and 50 mile race 2009, 2009-03-29
Beist finishing strong for a 50 mile PR.

From Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50k and 50 mile race 2009, 2009-03-29
Nena finishes up her 50k run in 7:30ish I believe.

From Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50k and 50 mile race 2009, 2009-03-29
Minesh coming into the finish.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Old Pueblo 50 Mile 2009 Race Report

~52 miles
7th overall out of 124 finishers
Official Website
My Picasaweb Album
Official Results
GPS watch data report

The head wind was killing our gas mileage and had been for the past 100 miles. It was Friday afternoon and Dan, Mom, Matt and I were pulling into the Fleet Feet running store in Tucson, AZ having driven down from northern New Mexico all day. We were there so Dan and I could run in the 20th Old Pueblo 50 mile trail race south of Tucson. Neither Dan nor I had run in this race before and we were looking forward to running a new course. In fact, Dan had never run a 50 mile race before so this was going to be big for him. Mom and Matt had graciously offered to join us to serve as our crew.

After picking up our race packets we drove out to near the start line at Kentucky Camp, an historic homestead not far from Sonoita, AZ. The wind was blowing, as it had been all day, so we found a relatively sheltered camp area in the valley a mile short of Kentucky Camp in some grass. For dinner we cooked up some tortellini and sauce and hit the sack pretty early opting against a campfire given the strong winds.

4:00am came all too early but I had slept very well so I easily awoke to make my standard pre-race breakfast of one cup of strong coffee and a toasted bagel with cream cheese. As I finished eating my bagel the masses of runners began driving by on the dirt road towards the start line. Dan, Mom, Matt and I arrived at the start line around 5:20am finding time to obtain our cloth bib numbers, drop our drop bags in the appropriate piles and huddle around with friends Ryan, Susan and Nicole waiting for 6:00am to come so we could start running and warm up.

From Old Pueblo 50 Mile Run, Tucson, AZ, 2009-03-07

I opted to start without a headlamp based on the suggestion from my friend David who'd run this race a few times before. I lined up just behind the first row of runners on the start line and wished Dan a good run. At 6:00am sharp we all did the usual hooting and hollering to signal the start of the race and headed off and up the initial 200' climb on the dirt road. I started the race in shorts, no gloves, a visor, sunglasses and a long sleeve shirt over my short sleeve shirt. It was about 30 degrees at the start but no wind so my clothing situation was perfect for me. After starting up the hill, I saw the lead pack already taking off and reacted accordingly by upping my pace and keeping them in sight up the hill. It was dark with no moon but there was already enough ambient light to run without a headlamp. Once we crested the initial hill it was plenty light and we were really off. I ran a few paces behind a runner I didn't know and we were running in about 6th and 7th place. We kept a good consistent pace going through the first aid station at mile 3 where I didn't stop and continued on up the hill. At mile 3 we turned off the main dirt road and headed up an old two-track before turning onto some sweet single track along the Arizona Trail. Along this section the sun came up and the scenery was beautiful. I love the desert and at sunrise it was magical. We had to pass through a few cattle gates along this stretch and I even managed to jump over one rather than opening and closing it behind myself. I knew I wouldn't be doing that on the way back over this section later in the day.

I ran into the mile 7 aid station at 1 hour, 2 minutes (1:02) and realized Iwas moving pretty fast. I was feeling good, though, so I made the stop quick picking up a couple gels and my extra hand bottle before continuing downhill on the dirt road. We made a hard right turn onto another dirt road that I nearly missed but volunteer in a truck pointed me in the correct direction. I was getting a bit warm so I pulled off my long sleeve shirt and tied it around my waist. I wouldn't have a chance to drop it off before the aid station at mile 25 where I'd first see my Mom and Matt. At this point I was pretty much running by myself and would continue to pretty much to the end. The run down in this sandy road canyon was great and I ran through a ranch where two dogs were hanging out next to the road. They were very friendly so I took the opportunity to stop to tie my shoes and pet them briefly. Awesome dogs. Further down the road I came to a triangle intersection. The right fork was flagged and the left fork was not so I went right but immediately after that there was flagging going left back towards the left fork. This didn't make sense to me. Why would they flag it to the right and then back left immediately afterwards when they could have just flagged the left fork initially? So I opted to not turn left and stayed right for a bit. After about 100 yards I hadn't seen a flag so I turned back and ultimately got back on track. I rolled into the mile 13 aid station with much relief after second-guessing myself for the last 10 minutes at 1:53. I slammed a packet of Carbboom energy gels and refilled my bottles with water for the climb up to Gunsight pass. As I left the aid station, two other runners came in just behind me so I felt motivated to really push a bit up the climb.

It was getting warm but still nearly perfect running weather as I ascended the pass. I had heard the backside of the pass was very technical and I was looking forward to seeing that and running it as I enjoyed technical running. At the top of the pass I finally had a view towards Tucson as well as the view east that I had much of the morning. Running down the backside was indeed very technical and took some solid concentration to keep from twisting an ankle or tripping. At the bottom of the hill it was more fast dirt road runnning south along the base of the mountain to the aid station at mile 19 at 2:48. I again ate some more Carbboom energy gels and refilled my bottles with water. As I started to leave the station I started to head out on the wrong road and was quickly corrected by one of the volunteers. Another one said, “Head down that way and soon you'll turn left on another road.” There just happened to be a road heading left just a few yards out of the aid station so I jokingly started to head down that road and said, “oh yeah, right here?” and looked back smiling. It took them all a second or two to catch my joke as I headed the correct way.

I felt I was holding a good pace here along the rolling dirt road but looked back at the top of a hill to see another runner behind me—the first I'd seen in many miles. So I stepped up my pace a bit as I passed the end of the dirt road through a gate into some private land for a bit. I could now see the mile 25 aid station and was looking forward to seeing Mom and Matt for the first time since the start. I heard the cowbells beckoning me into the aid station and reached it at 3:43 where I ditched my long sleeve shirt, refilled my water bottle and grabbed a gel flask for the big pull up the hill to mile 29. My goal was to run the entire hill and I set off and did in fact run the entire hill except for a short stint where I had to urinate on the move. This section up the hill was pretty warm and dusty thanks to some decent traffic along the road. As I neared the top of the climb I started to turn left onto the road we had initally turned right onto after aid station at mile 7 but was corrected by another volunteer. This was odd for me since I rarely, if ever, have trouble following a course. I came into the aid station at mile 29 at 4:24 and the woman there said I was in fourth place. I knew that wasn't true and was sure I was in 6th or 7th place. I grabbed some more gel and filled up my hand bottles with water and HEED before getting back on the portion of the Arizona Trail we had run in the morning.

I ended up walking a good bit of the climbing on this section and was happy to run down into the aid station at mile 33 at 5:10. Apparently I had a drop bag here but had forgotten about that so I just filled my bottles and kept on going. Leaving this aid station we were back on a dirt road running up a slight incline for a bit before turning left onto a more technical road and down into a drainage complete with an old windmill and some water in the creek. I was still running alone and really enjoying being back in this area on such a beautiful day. As I neared the aid station at mile 40 another runner, Mike, came up from behind. We had leap-frogged a bit since mile 28. I felt I needed to “go see a man about a horse” so I pulled off the course and found a suitable tree and rock to take care of business. Back on track I came up on the mile 40 aid station to the sound of, “Now that's what I'm talking about!” This was a now-familiar sound to me as I have heard this man at a couple of different races in the last year. I gave him the knuckles as I passed by him into the aid station at mile 40 at 6:29. Mom and Matt were here to help me with a quick time through the station so I filled up both hand bottles and grabbed some more gel. One of the station volunteers offered to take a photo of me and Mom so we posed briefly for the photo op.

From Old Pueblo 50 Mile Run, Tucson, AZ, 2009-03-07

From the mile 40 aid station it was a long, gradual grind up a dirt road along a nicely running creek. Mike passed by me again here and we talked briefly. He was from Phoenix and hadn't run this race before either. We informally paced each other along the road and onto some singletrack which led to a technical dirt road and then a crossing over the stream again before some nice singeltrack to the mile 46 aid station. Here, Mike moved out quickly and I tried to keep moving fast too. A quick bottle fill up for the final stretch. A short distance out of the station Mike and I encountered another cattle gate that he graciously left open for me. From here I would barely see him much until the final stretch to the finish. This section to the finish was longer and more difficult than I had expected. We crossed down and through a couple of drainages, climbed a long hill and then paralleled the finish line area running along a mesa top. It was definitely getting warm now and I was ready to be done. My GPS watched beeped mile 50 at 8:20:29 but I was still far enough from the finish that I could not see it. Now I really wanted to finish under 8:30 and was really pushing it and slowly coming back up on Mike. I averaged about 9:00/mile for the last three miles and finally could see the finish line at the top of a small rise. I put my head down and was sprinting as hard as I could towards the finish so I could come in under 8:30. But then I hear the crowd saying, “No, go back, you missed a turn.” Sure enough, I was supposed to go right around a truck instead of left. So I stopped dead in my tracks, rand back and around the truck the correct way to finish in 8:30:21. I probably wouldn't have made it under 8:30 anyway but....

I sat down to my quart of chocolate milk and enjoyed watching a few more finishers before Dan came in at 9:39:40. The post race scene was great...burgers, beer, music, good chat and fine weather. This race was really enjoyable and I hope to make it down there again.