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Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 mile Race Recap

It was 8am on a Friday morning and it was pouring rain. I drove onto Antelope Island and pulled into a parking lot to grab my bib number and shirt. It was all real now. I was unusually calm this morning, which compared to my previous 100 mile attempt was very reassuring. As I drove to the starting area, I saw it, my first buffalo about 5 feet from my car. How in gods name am I supposed to run with these gigantic creatures just running around the island?? Well, no one had been hurt yet so I guess it’ll all be good…..right?

I arrived about 2 hours before our early starting time, which was intentional. I tend to get very anxious before races(especially my NUMBER ONE race) so arriving TOO early is my plan. I dropped my drop bags onto the tarps, walked around a bit, took my before race photo, and sat back in my car and played some solitaire. Yep, sitting and playing solitaire keeps me calm and not overthinking what is about to come. I had put in training for the past 6 months, including two 40 milers and a 24 hour race, so I felt ready and was ready. It was about 9:30am so I wandered into the tent for the pre race briefing(which included instructions on how NOT to get charged by the buffalo. Very reassuring.) and just like that we were lining up. This was what I had planned and trained for over the past 2-3 years. I had never felt more ready.

The race layout was two 50 mile “loops”(more like a couple of pinched loops and an out & back of about 20 miles) which was perfect! If you have tried to do 3-4 loops of a longer race, it can be very daunting. This way, I could finish the 50 miles and end up at the start/finish to get a little boost from my pacers & crew(which consisted of my husband Jeremy and great race support Bruce). With ONLY about 7500 ft elevation gain over the entire 100 miles, this was a much less daunting course then some others I had attempted(Tushars with it’s 10,000-12,000ft climb and Rio Del Lago with it’s 14,000+ elevation gain) so that helped my confidence. I stuck to my aid station plan almost flawlessly: Refill your pack, add electrolytes every other aid station, refill your food making sure you had at least 800 calories on you at all times, put BioFreeze on your feet to stave off soreness, and sit down for a bit but try to keep it to 5 minutes.

Within the first 5 miles of the course, I found myself playing chicken with a buffalo on the trail. He goes one way, I go the other. He turns around, I try not to freak out and get around him. All I could remember was “Don’t look them in the eye!” and “Do not run if you are close to one!”. Talk about instilling a slight fear of death. Those first 50 miles felt great, my body felt better then I could have hoped for. My pace put me about 2 hours ahead of cutoff times and I was feeling awesome! As I came into the finishing tent about 12:30am Saturday morning, I was welcomed by my husband and Bruce, a VERY welcome sight. I sat for 20 mins(knowing I was ahead of schedule) and shoveled pizza, soup, and coke into my mouth as fast as I could. I knew these next 20 miles were the hardest part and that being night time, I may forget to eat as often as needed. So, I was trying to front load and get some calories in while I could.

Expecting Jeremy to jump in as pacer for the next 20 miles or so, he said “Ok, you go the next 20 miles and I will be right here when you get back.”. Huh?!? This was the hardest portion of the race! I have to go alone?!? Being pretty tired and not able to really think too much, I said ok and at 1AM, I headed out. The next 20 miles were rough! Most of the elevation of the course was in THESE 20 miles. Winds had picked up to 25+ mph and on some steep drops off of the trail, it was a little questionable. I was tired(as expected), cold, and it was just a rough 6-7 hours. Each aid station I would sit, put my head in my hands, and wallow, but then I would get my shit together, refill, and head out. Just trying to get through the night and into sunrise was my goal for this portion of the race.

It was 8AM and I was feeling pretty defeated. I had cried a few times, or tried to at least(you’d be surprised how hard it is to cry under duress and when you are clinging to hydration) and as I came around the corner and the finishing tent was in sight, I saw Jeremy. At just the right time and with just the right tone, he said let’s get this done! Only 23 hours in, I had 9 more hours to get this last 30 miles done. I can actually finish this thing! With the night behind me, my spirits were lifting pretty quickly.

The next 25 miles were a constant awareness of time, of movement, of alternating between my shuffle jog and walking a little when needed.   Jeremy was there the whole way, telling me to try to run. He made sure I had what I needed at every aid station, coke, food, refilled camelback. He was the best pacer I could have asked for. Of course, being 24 hours into a non stop race, I was starting to get a tiny bit agitated. I wouldn’t expect anything less honestly, and those who know me, would probably be surprised it took me that long to get to that point. So we kept moving and as we hiked up the hill and approached the 95th mile, Jeremy let me finish the last part on my own. I know part of it was because, well, he was probably sick of moving like a snail for 25 miles. But I like to think it was just that he wanted me to finish alone, what I had started alone.

I came around the back side of the final loop and I could see it, the finishers tent. It was then that everything just came together in my head. Oh my god, I am going to finish 100 miles. Oh my god, I am not last! Oh my god, all of that hard work and those long weekend runs paid off. I DID IT! And so I came down the final stretch into the finish, I could hear Jeremy and Bruce as they watched me walk, run, walk some more, run some more, and I just felt complete happiness. Again, I tried to cry and probably got two tears out(it’s hard to cry when you’re exhausted haha) and I came into the finish, the happiest I have been with myself. I realized that it was possible and I just made it so. The remainder of that day really didn’t entail much more then a shower, pizza, TV, and sleep.

 

A Few Things that I Learned on this Race

 

*I didn’t listen to ANY music! I tried, I really tried to, but I wasn’t feeling it and it ended up being 100 miles listening to other runners, my mind, and the surroundings. This just surprised me, a lot!

*My feet, which had given me trouble all throughout this training cycle, held up great! Knowing they were a little difficult, I made sure I stopped at each aid station and out on biofreeze. The 30 seconds it took really helped keep them mellow and was worth the time.

*I OVER packed my drop bags. Expecting rain, each bag had a sweatshirt, socks, a hat in two. I was over prepared and it helped avoid some of the anxiety during the race.

*ALWAYS PACK A HEADLAMP IN YOUR PACK! Instead of trying to time where I would be when it got dark, I kept my headlamp on me at all times. You ever run in the dark on a trail? Yeah, probably not because it’s stupid! I ran into a few people who didn’t get to their light in time and well, a few didn’t finish. Maybe this was part of the reason.

*I found it helpful to separate this race into 3 separate races: the morning portion, the night time, and post sunrise. The goal is basically, get through the night and you’ll come out on the other side in a much better spot. Push through the dark place!

*My many training runs taught me that the food you like to eat while you run, may be the food you hate on race day. You NEED to have a lengthy list of options. Pros can sustain themselves on a single type of nutrition, but for the rest of us it’s all about what you can basically get into your body. Pop tarts I consider my staple base. Soup, like an angel, especially when it’s cold and/or dark. Potato chips, you can just shove them in by the handful and not pay a price for it. Pizza, um yeah pizza was a great treat a the 50 mile mark. Ibuprofen(I know it’s not food) was a life saver twice when I just couldn’t get past the pains of the run. Gummy candy, easy to shove in and kind of a treat when you need a break from pop tarts. Coke, coke, and more coke! Even if it were 5 sips, every stop on the last stint included coke. Sugar, carbonation to settle your stomach, and it’s fairly calorie dense for the volume.

*Why would you run a 100 miles when your training was a marathon? Yeah, I don’t know why either, but I met a few people who were in that boat. Why go in unprepared mentally and physically, when you can train and be much more relaxed on race day? Needless to say, some of these people did not finish. You may be able to push through the physical under preparedness, but mentally you WILL suffer!

*You finish, exhausted and just drained of every ounce of energy. You say you will never do this s**t again. Two weeks later, you’re signed up for a 48 hour. Yeah, they’re right. You WILL do it again, if the passion is inside of you.

 

 

Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 mile race, March 2018

Coach Melissa Farrell

100 Mile Finisher

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The Road to Running 100 miles

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As I approach 4 months out from my first 100 mile run, there are so many things that go into training and preparing for the big day.  For the first couple of months, it was nutrition & hydration.  Easy right?  Well, preparing and training your body to intake energy to sustain 22 hrs+ of work, well, it’s hard work.  Once that was buckled down, it was strategy.  You think you can literally RUN 100 miles?  Well, if you have done it then more power to you.  If you haven’t, you have to be smart.  This means being prepared to walk most uphills in order to conserve energy for the latter hours.  You check your ego at the trailhead, literally. 

And here we sit, coming off a few pretty long training runs.  Runs that include hours upon hours of walking, running, hiking.  Hours of heat exposure, stopping at the car so you can shove food in your mouth and ice in your hat.  Hours of mental training, of repetitive mantras of positivity and riding out the dark times.  And with the day quickly approaching, one of the final steps is to prepare those who will support you on race day.  Your crew, your pacer, your family & friends.  Remember they have probably never gone through such an experience and so the only way they can help you, is with some draw out instructions.  Here are my instructions that I sent to my pacer for my upcoming 93K training race.

**I tend to be a lone runner, which means I am not a big talker.  Though I do need distraction during the later miles of the run, it doesn’t mean you need to entertain me or talk the whole time.  It is a good idea to say something once in a while to a)make sure I am alert, b)take my mind off of what is probably a very dark place, and c)to distract.  If I ignore you, don’t take it personally.  I am just saving my energy for more important things, like running 100 miles 😉

**Your primary job will be to a)make sure I eat enough calories(We will chat before the race but we are probably looking at about 300 calories per hour), b)make sure I am drinking consistently(most likely this should be every 15 mins or more often during the hotter hours), with the goal being about 25 oz of electrolytes per hour, c)Keep tabs of when I go to the bathroom(fun, huh?) so that you can tell if I am dehydrated.  If once every couple hours is happening then we are probably good to go.  

**AID STATIONS: Make sure I eat enough calories before heading out.  Make sure if there was something that was an issue(wet socks, chafing, food that didn’t sit well, etc..) that it is addressed at the aid station before setting back out.  Be prepared to spend 10-15 mins at aid stations, depending on the difficulty of the previous miles.  MAKE SURE I reload my food and electrolytes, since it may be 6+ miles or so between stations and this can take 2 hours if it is a difficult part. MAKE SURE I prepare for the upcoming miles, if it will be getting dark I need a headlamp.  If it is approaching night time, make sure I bring a long sleeve shirt.  If my socks are wet, make sure I change them.  Basically, be my babysitter. 
**Watch where we are going.  Even though I can see, it doesn’t mean I am looking…..at anything really!  Especially when it gets dark, we will have headlamps but since I will most likely be a little loopy, you will need to keep track of the trail and just make sure I don’t veer off into the abyss 🙂  
**Be prepared for some slow running/walking or hiking.  The ultimate goal in these races is to keep moving forward, even if it is down to a slow walk.  If we are approaching a downhill, feel free to suggest trying to run it.  I’ll tell you if I don’t feel like running, and I just won’t.  BUT sometimes a little nudge is all it takes for there to be a spark lit under my ass, so suggest away!  
**DON’T LET ME QUIT!  Of course I will want to quit a LOT of times.  As ridiculous as it sounds, just tell me at the next aid station.  If I am persistent about quitting, try to talk about something different and distract me.  It kind of is like being with a kid or a puppy, cause at later miles I can be easily refocused off of my pain.  There will be times where no matter what you say, I will be dead set on quitting.  Feel free to tell me “Don’t be a wuss.”  “Be the badass that you are.” “Don’t fuck up all that work you’ve put in.”  “When it’s over you can have ALL THE CAKE YOU WANT!”, you know, shit like that 🙂 
If you haven’t paced an ultra runner, you should try it!  It’s a chance to see humans broken down, pushing themselves to the limits both physically and mentally.  It’s a chance to see some beautiful courses and to be the hero who plays a critical role in getting that runner to the finish line safely. So to all who have played a role, you rock!  
Melissa Farrell
Las Vegas Runners Coach
Ultra marathoner & Cake Lover
Melissa Farrell - Running Coach