Antelope Island 50 Mile 2011 Race Recap
Annie and I had a relatively quick and painless 8-hour drive over to Salt Lake City on Friday as I was readying to race the Antelope Island 50 mile the next day. We had been out to Antelope Island (a gigantic island on the Great Salt Lake) one other time about three years ago with my parents and one thing we all took away from that visit was a sense of how large the Salt Lake actually is and how cool it is that there are Buffalo out on the island. That visit three years ago was the day I decided I wanted to one-day race in the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 mile.
I woke up on Saturday morning alert, and positive as I ate a fairly standard breakfast of toast with peanut butter and jelly, Greek yogurt, a banana, and a good-sized cup of coffee. Feeling perfectly fueled, Annie and I hopped in the car and headed out to the Island for the 6:00am start. The temperature was in the mid-20’s and I was surprised and pleased to see how abundantly visible the stars were. We would have at least a clear and beautiful start to the day. This event has turned into a large ‘ultra-running’ festival with a 100 miler, a 50km, and a 25km all going on the same day as the 50 mile event, meaning there were hundreds of people and cars out on the island when we made it out there about 40 minutes prior to the start of the 50 mile. (All told, I believe a total of 780 people were registered for one race or another!). After visiting the ‘porta-potty’, grabbing some safety pins for my race number, and having a short, nervous conversation or two, the race director yelled ‘go’ right at 6:00am and we were off into the dark.
There was a group of four of us off the front right away as we warmed up on the first gradual uphill mile of the course. The pace felt good and I knew right away that there would be four or five people contesting for the podium. The four of us settled into a good pace and came upon a course marking cone basically in the middle of the trail about two miles into the race. We all took a left and kept running uphill. I did hear one guy, who was behind us, yell that we were going the wrong way but I did not believe him and instead kept running up the hill. We arrived at the top of the climb and noticed that despite how beautiful the views of the city were, this was a dead-end and we would have to turn around. Just over four minutes later we arrived at the trail intersection again and continued on the proper direction. Turns out our little foray cost us maybe 8 or 9 minutes, or about 1 mile. Within this group of four of us who had taken the wrong way was Dylan Bowman who was 2nd to me last year at the Leadville Silver Rush 50 and 3rd in his debut at the Leadville 100. Dylan lives in Aspen and is on the verge of having an awesome season. As soon as we were back on course, Dylan took off and within a couple of miles, the four of us had returned to the front of the race with Dylan out in front by a little.
Eventually I was able to turn off the headlamp and as I ran through miles 6 and 10 and 14 the beauty of the surrounding area astounded me. There were a few sections on switch-back single-track that were very close to the water, with views of snowy mountains. The contrast of the water, mountains, and trails was incredible. As I neared mile 19 and the second large aid station I knew I was going to see Annie, and as I approached she got me what I needed (First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot) as I kept running. Annie told me I was about 10 minutes behind Dylan who had opened up a good-sized lead on 2nd and 3rd place as well. I was running in 4th place and just starting to feel good. A few miles later there is a short out-and-back section of trail where we could get an accurate measure on where we stood. Dylan had about an 8-minute lead on 2nd and 3rd and I was only about 30 seconds behind those two guys. The mile 22 aid-station was where I decidedly to notch up the pace a bit and I quickly moved into 3rd and soon into 2nd place. I kept the hammer down and made it to the mile 33 aid-station (the middle of another long out-and-back section) about 13 minutes down to Dylan and solidly in 2nd place. I was feeling strong and knew that if I could just keep the pedal down for another 10 miles or so, I may have a chance at reeling Dylan back in. Annie hooked me up with another First Endurance Liquid shot and I was on my way. I ran as smooth as I could and gave chase to Dylan, but as I went through the mile 38 aid station I was told that I was 15 minutes back now, meaning I was losing time.
Still feeling very good, I kept a positive attitude, as I knew this was going to be a great result and be very close to my time goal of 6 hours 40 minutes. (8-minute pace for 50 miles) My stomach was holding up well thanks to the Vespa and First Endurance system I now have in place, my overall energy was holding steady and my legs and feet were doing well as I entered the very unique last 4-mile section of the course. This section of technical trail circumnavigates a small mountain/hill near the waters-edge and provided a good chance for the legs to move in different planes of motion. I crossed the finish line in 6 hours 35 minutes for 2nd place, some 20 minutes down to Dylan Bowman who won in a new course-record of 6:15! Nice work Dylan. I look forward to more racing against you this season.
I ran this race in a brand new pair of the Vasque Mindbenders, straight out of the box and I had zero feet problems. No blisters Nothing. Very cool indeed.
One great thing about this event was the after-race hanging out. Annie and I were able to relax at the finish line tents for quite some time, eat Buffalo stew for lunch, meet some great folks, and catch up with others. We greatly enjoyed this time! I was also able to receive a massage from one of a group of massage therapists that the race director had brought in, which greatly enhanced how I felt during the drive home. I would suggest this race to a great number of people as a fantastic early season test on flat terrain to get the body used to a full day of running. The views are spectacular as is the overall atmosphere. Give it a shot!
There were times during the latter-stages of this race where I was pretty sure I could not go any faster, but where I also wished it was longer than a 50 mile…. I just wanted to keep running, which I took as a positive sign. Prior to the race I asked the question: ‘Am I ready to race a competitive 50 mile?’ The answer turned out to be no. I am not ready to race for a victory yet over a strong runner like Dylan, but I am close, closer than the 20-minute time gap looks on paper. I feel confident and positive moving forward and I am looking ahead to the Spring Desert Ultra 50 mile in Fruita, CO on April 16th. Here’s to a great start to April. Live well. Train well. DC