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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Antelope Island Buffalo 50 Mile Trail Run

(Picture: Beautiful morning for a 50 mile run on Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake)

Antelope Island Buffalo 50 Mile Trail Run (Saturday, March 24th)

It was was a long evening of preparations. I had to go through in my head all the possible scenarios and make sure I didn't forget anything important. Flash light, water bottles, extra pair of trail running shoes, sun block, hat, electrolyte (sodium) capsules, and the list goes on and on. I went to bed as early as possible, but when my alarm went off at 3:15am it felt like I hadn't slept for even 5 minutes. But I had to get up and get going as fast as I could.

The plan was to get my race packet and number at 5:00am at the entrance to the Antelope Island State Park. A friend of mine, Marc Sanderson, had just missed picking up his number the night before and was sleeping in his car on the island. He called me to ask if I could possibly pick up his packet and number for him so he wouldn't have to get up early and drive back off the island. 5:00am I was there and picking my mine and Marc's packets. By 5:15am I was at the race starting area waking up Marc and his wife.

(Picture: Map of Antelope Island and the race courses)

It was a bit windy but not freezing. Just cold enough to give you the shivers before a race. I left my drop bag in the area to be taken to the Ranch Aid Station, which would serve two chances if I needed anything, about mile 15 and again at mile 37. At 5:45, Jim Skaggs, the race director gathered all the runners together (about 65 of them) for a pre-race meeting. He exlained a last minute change to the course that would ensure a full 50 miles of trail running from Start to Finish. Finally the time came and the countdown began. I stayed next to the fire instead of getting up to the front of the starting line. There's really no need to worry about how close to the starting line you are in a race that will eventually take you litterally all day to finish.

It was very dark out, no moon, but millions of brilhant stars. I soon found myself in the middle of a dusty cloud with runners all around me shining their flash lights on the dirt road in front of us. Right after about one mile we all heard some very strange wildlife sounds, like a pack of coyotes trying their best to scare us off (it worked). I don't know what it was for sure and I made it clear to the guy running next to me that I didn't want to know what that was either. After a steady climb we had a quick descent off the dirt road which took us near the shoreline of the opposite side of the island from where we started. As soon as we began running the single track trail we had to take a quick, 2 mile, out-and-back section to add the extra distance we needed for the course change. It was interesting to see the people directly in front and behind you as we made the turn aound an orange cone.

I rember counting 17 people in front of me (this was only about the 3rd of 50 miles). The person immediately in front of me was Birgitta Johnson, a 30 year old woman with a very strong and fast run. I stayed with her for the next several miles. The day light finally started to break and we could see the reflection of the Rocky Mountains in the Great Salt Lake appear. It was a beautiful morning. We finally got to a more open field and there was room to pass several runners. Eventually Birgitta slowed down to chat with a friend and I ran on ahead trying to catch the groups of lead runners, that were about 3 or 4 minutes in front of me.

(Picture: One of the many Buffalo on the island that day)

I felt great for the next several miles and saw about 50 head of buffalo up on the foothills of the mountain. At the first aid station we had already gone about 8 miles and the front pack finally broke up. I didn't need much at the first aid station, just drank some water and grabbed some cookies to carry out on the trail with me. It didn't seem like 6 miles, but the next aid station appeared fast and before I knew it I was at the Aid Station where my drop bag would be. I grabbed my water bottle, some water, a handful of cooked potatoes that I boiled the day before and left as fast as I could. Some of the other runners took their time and one guy even changed shoes. Luckily my feet were feeling just fine after over 2 hours of running.

When I got out on the trail again I noticed that Birgitta had left the aid station in front of me. I also started getting closer and closer to a guy in an orange shirt who had been in the lead pack most of the morning, but was now alone. Mile 16 and 17 took us up the Sentry trail which was a one thousand foot ascent and Birgitta just dissappeared. I finally got close enough to the man in orange to realize it was my buddy Davy Crockett, whom I thought I saw behind me in the dark back after going around the orange cone.

(Picture: My friend Davy Crockett, he's 48 years old, but running like a 20 year old)

(This is the same guy with whom I ran the Pony Express Trail 100 miler just three weeks ago.) He's a tough distance runner and didn't surprise me that he was so far out in front of the other 50-60 runners. He had done what he always does, start off with the lead runners and then evetually slip into his very strategically planned and consistent schedule. Later, after the race he showed me what his planned splits were and said he was generally 15 minutes ahead of schedule most of the run and finished 6 minutes better than planned.

(Picture: Elevation Profile of the course)

We chatted a bit at the next aid station, which was a top the summit. You could see for miles all around, just water on both sides. It felt like we were 7-8,000 feet up but in reality this course only took us to 5,200 feet evelvation and then back down to 4,200 feet. There was a small loop we had to do and then we were back on the same trailway running down as the runners behind us were marching upward. I was running very fast on the way down thinking I would soon catch up to Birgitta again. But after every turn she was nowhere in sight. I began to worry that she missed a turn and kept going on a wrong trail up on top of the mountain. Finally on the last stretch of downhill I could see her almost a quarter of mile ahead of me. I was amazed that she had descended that mountain as fast as I did because I took it rather dangerously fast myself.

(Picture: This is Birgitta Johnson, overall winner in the women's division and a very strong endurance runner)

For the next 6 miles or so I would be very alone with just my earbuds, blasting everything from Metalica to Tool to Sergio Mendez and other Brazilian music I love. There was an unmanned water stop in the middle of nowhere on the south end of the island. I was glad it was there because I needed a refill and would soon need another one after the halfway turn aroun point coming back the same way.

(Picture: My friend Marc Sanderson and his wife running the last 13 miles of the course with him)

I remember seeing my friend Marc on his way back after the halfway point and he was in 4th or 5th place. I again counted the people ahead of me and was about 10th when I checked in at the south end of the island. Not much position change ever happened after that either. I played running tag with several guys. That's where you go through your "high's" and "low's" and take turns catching and passing and then being caught and passed. Marc's wife Jessica was at the halfway station and she recognized me. We talked a bit and she said she was going to go pace Marc for the last 13 miles.

I hit my first big low point on my way back to the 2nd Sentry hill climb. I remeber thinking, "Man, I've got 20 more miles to go and that big freaking mountain climb to do again". I really started doubting that I'd finish the race. But deep down I knew I would. I know very well that I "feel" like quiting several times during these long runs. So I kept going hoping my energy would spike again. I was probably getting low on fuel, I was hydrated pretty well but hadn't had enough to eat to keep my muscles and body happy.

(Picture: Me trying to focus on anything other than running....hehehe)

I made the Sentry climb again, a bit slower this time, but at the top I sat down and had a Peanut Butter sandwich, some Coke and about 4.5 minutes off my feet. It felt so good. I tried massaging and stretching my legs and then re-filled my bottle and left to make the loop around and descent again. I was surprised how well I felt after eating. I think the sodium tablets I took and the food gave me some energy and hope back.

I made it down the mountain and back to the Ranch Aid Station in no time at all. I got some Hammer Gel and more potatoes and drank a cup of beef broth (mmmm). For the next 3 miles (37 - 40) I took it pretty easy knowing that by mile 40 I might start hitting a low again. To my surprise not one more runner passed me the rest of the way back to the finish.

(Picture: Me changing tunes on my iPod shuffle and wondering if that buffalo is going to charge me....aaaahhhh)

At mile 40 I saw my dad and sister driving on the road near the trail. I waved my arms and they waved back and told me that my pacer (my brother-in-law) wasn't able to make it. "Great!", I thought, since I was really looking forward to having a human windshield for the last 6 miles. There was a fairly strong headwind coming from the north and the entire way back to the finish was pretty much DUE NORTH. My dad got on his bike and road up and down the road following me to different places where the trail met or crossed the paved street. We talked for a bit at the last aid station and then he took some pictures of me at about mile 46. I was pretty much alone again to the end.

(Picture: Some pictures my dad took approximately mile 46)

I could see one runner not far behind me and after climbing the last hill to cross over to the far side of the island towards the finish. I felt great and picked up my pace. The runner behind me, who was at one point, just a minute back ended up 7 minutes behind me at the finish. I was, needless to say, shocked when I crossed the finish line under 9 hours (08:57:16). From 10 miles back I remember thinking I could finish under 9 hours if I had fresh legs, but that it would be VERY hard to do when fatigue starts setting in. But somehow I did it and it was a great feeling.

(Picture: My finishing time and place according to the RunnerCard Timing system)

I ended up as the 11th overall finisher and in 10th place since they don't count the women with the men. Brigitta Johnson finished a whopping 33 minutes ahead of me and 40 minutes ahead of the next woman finisher. She took the women's first place overall by several miles. My friend Marc finished 4th place overall with a very fast 08:04:19. He was hoping to break eight hours, but that's an amazing accomplishment even for a 50 mile road run, let alone a trail run with two 1,000 foot mountain climbs. My other friend, Davy Crockett, finish about 20 minutes behind me in 13th place and with a time of 09:16:52.

For the next two hours I just sat down in a chair and hoped that I would be able to get up again to drive home.

(Picture: Me pretending like I feel good)

(Picture: Me trying my best to concentrate and focus on the trail so as not to fall on my face)

(Picture: Me after 8 hours and 57 minutes and 50 miles of running....give me a chair and some water please)

You can see the final results here:

You can see more photos here:

You can see some other pictures and read my friend, Davy Crockett's, experience here:

Here’s a list of some more events I plan to do this year:
*June – Squaw Peak 50 Mile Mountain Run (Provo Canyon, Ut)
*July – RANATAD (Ride Around Nebo And Timp in A Day) 155 mile bike race over two of the biggest canyon passes in Utah, Nebo Loop and Alpine Loop. Sundance to Sundance.
*July – Pacer & Support Crew at the Kheil’s Badwater 135 Mile Ultramarathon (for Monica Otero, the first South American and Brazilian woman EVER to qualify and be accepted in this world renown foot race. One of the toughest in the world.)
*August – Katcina Mosa 100km Mountain Run Challenge (62 mile, 4 mountain summit run, Hobble Creek Canyon, Springville, Ut)
*September – Mid Mountain Marathon in Park City, Utah.
*September – HooDoo 500 mile bike ride in 48 hours (actually it’s 512 miles)
*And Definitely lots more in between that are just for fun and training…

Here’s a list of some events I’ve done in the past years:
*St. George Marathon (5 times)
*Salt Lake City Marathon (2 times)
*Ogden Marathon (1 time)
*Moab Marathon (1 time)
*Mid Mountain Marathon (1 time)
*Valley of Fire Marathon (2 times, once with Dean Karnazes during the Endurance 50 where he ran 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states)
*Squaw Peak 50 Mile Mountain Run (1 time, DNF at mile 33 after hours of urinating blood)
*Katcina Mosa 100km Mountain Run Challenge (1 time, 11th overall. 16:40:00)
*Nebo Loop Run (60 miles from my house in Payson thru Payson Canyon to Nephi and back to Mona, Ut. 12:13:00)
*Pony Express Trail 100 Mile Run (My first attempt at 100 miles ended at mile 93 after 21 hours of running. I learned a lot that day about myself. But I’ll do another 100 again and finish)
*West Mountain Run for my birthday in Feb… I ended up with 34 miles in 5 1/2 hours.

Stay tuned for more great adventures

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