Antelope Island 100k

Ok, so I’m a bit behind updating my blog reports. Since the Antelope Island race, I’ve been swamped with work, busy organizing a new 25 and 50 mile trail race with Nick, and have started obsessing over training for the HURT 100. Yes, I’ve officially decided to race HURT.

I originally signed up for the Antelope Island 100k on a whim. I’d never raced a 100k and after recovering from Hardrock, I felt like I needed one more good race event before the end of the year. I really hadn’t started training seriously again until October so I wasn’t sure how it would go. But I figured that regardless of how well I ran, it would be a good training experience to test out my legs and get an idea of how well I might be able to prepare for HURT.

A few other FCTR’s decided to make the trip out together so we had a pretty good group with Shannon, Kristel, Cat, and I running the 100k and Justin, Slush, Celeste, Mary, and Robert running the 50k. The weather forecast for the week was perfect with highs in the 40’s and 50’s every day ….every day except for race day. On race day it would be in the 30’s with snow and possible rain and freezing rain. I started to wonder why I decided to sign up for a November race in Utah but I convinced myself that my chances of placing well would be better in bad weather. The course is fairly easy and runnable and I tend to do better on the rough, technical stuff.

Kristel, me, Cat, and Shannon ready to start the 100k. (Photo by Megan Price)

The race started in the dark at 6am and fortunately it wasn’t too cold out and once we got moving, it was actually fairly nice. Most of the trail was clear dirt with a dusting of snow on the middle sections of the hills and some ankle deep snow on a couple of the higher sections. From the start of the race, Shannon, Scott Dickey (the 2010 winner), and I ran out in the lead together. The first half of the 50k loop was fairly hilly with a couple short climbs and some rolling hills. I chatted with Scott for a while and it seemed like his strength was really on the fast and flat sections. I expected that he would easily out run me on the flat back half of the loop so at the first decent downhill, I decided to run at my own pace and pulled away into the lead.

A view of the hills along the southwest corner of the Antelope Island 50k loop. (Photo by Mary Boyts)

View of the last climb up into the snow on the south end of the Antelope Island 50k loop. This side of the island had some incredible views. (Photo by Celeste O'Conner)

It was a bit tricky running out in the lead since I wasn’t familiar with the route. The race director had explained that course markings would be sparse and only the major turns would be marked with small signs and flour. I stopped a few times along the way to wait to make sure Scott and Shannon were still following me and at a couple intersections, I had to stop and try to find where the arrow signs were buried in the snow. I probably could have run this first loop a bit faster if I knew where I was going and didn’t keep second guessing myself. But since this was a 100k race, I figured I was better off taking it easy and pacing myself to save my energy for the second loop.

On the east side of the island, the last 10 miles of the trail were pretty flat. As I expected, Scott caught back up with me here. The first couple miles before the 9 mile gate aid station were absolutely miserable. The trail was muddy and the tall grass was coated with ice and bent over and thatched together across the trail. The only way to get through this section was to just keep plowing through shin first. I spent a good amount of time cussingĀ  and stumbling through this section.

On the first loop in the morning, this grassy section was completely thatched together with ice coated grass. On the second loop, it was just soupy mud. (Photo by Celeste O'Conner)

On this same section, I ran into 2 buffalo delays. Buffalo roam around the island and we got right up close and personal with them several times. Scott told me we’d be OK just as long as we didn’t look them directly in the eye and piss them off. I was still skeptical and was more than happy to wait until they moved a little further away from the trail.

One of the many buffalo on the course. I really didn't like getting this close. (Photo by Megan Price)

Shortly after the 9 mile gate aid station and last buffalo delay, Scott pulled a head of me. My legs weren’t feeling great at the time so I was content to let him go. I figured it would be best to just take care of myself at my own pace than try to race him through the full flat section where he would probably be stronger. We still had another loop ahead of us and I would have plenty of opportunity to catch up on the next round of hills. But after a few miles I realized that Scott wasn’t pulling away from me and that I was actually catching back up. A few miles before the end of the first loop, I caught up with Scott and he let me take the lead again. I figured he would be right behind me and I just kept in my zone working away through the last few miles. At the final turn at the fence line that leads to the finish, I looked back and Scott was no where to be seen. I really didn’t think I had been running that fast but my last couple miles were around 7:40 pace. Based on what I knew of Scott’s running ability, I figured this would have been easy for him. So I started second guessing myself. Scott ran and won the race in 2010 so maybe he knew how to pace himself to run the second loop better? Maybe I was going out too fast and was just going to crash and burn on the second loop? But I was in the lead at the end of the first loop and really didn’t feel that bad.

Finishing the first loop. (Photo by Megan Price)

I finished the first loop in 4:15 and quickly head out for loop two after grabbing another handful of shot blocks and a water refill. I was determined to keep my lead so I pushed as hard and steady as I could up the first gradual climbs. I couldn’t see anyone behind me at this point but my eyes were getting a bit blurry and I couldn’t really be sure whether or not Scott was right behind me. He was wearing black and could easily have blended in with the landscape between the rocks and buffalo. So I set off assuming that he was only minutes behind me and tried to keep my focus on a hard steady effort up and over the first set of hills.

At the first big downhill where I had cruised along and lost Scott and Shannon on the first loop, my hamstrings were getting really stiff and sore so the second trip down the hill wasn’t much better than an easy jog. By the time I hit the shoreline before the last big climb, I was hurting pretty bad and took a couple walking breaks to eat some more shot blocks and drink my water and try to pull myself back together. And even though the grade was fairly easy, I walked almost every step of the last climb on the south end of the loop. It even took me about half a mile from the top to get my legs moving downhill.

Scott was still nowhere in sight behind me and I still had 10 flat miles to cover to hold my lead. Crap, this sucked. I was hurting and struggling to keep up a 10 minute mile pace. I knew Scott could easily run faster so I started doing the math in my head …if I had a 10 minute lead, I just had to run this last 10 miles 1 minute slower than Scott could. But what if I didn’t have a 10 minute lead? Damn it, I could completely blow it. Now wouldn’t that suck to lead most of the race and get passed right before the finish. I decided that I didn’t want to be that guy and doubled my efforts and pressed on. At the start of the flat section by the ranch, I caught up with the last 50k runner who was busy taking photos of a buffalo standing right in the middle of the road between us and the next section of trail. Unlike the other buffalo on the course who mostly just got in the way and minded their own business, this guy was squared off and staring straight at us and didn’t look like he was going to get out of the way any time soon. So I decided to take a short detour down through the ranch parking area and back up around to the other side of the blocked road. The 50k runner was kind enough to stay there and continue taking photos to divert his attention away from me.

Grinding my way along the last flat miles at the end of the second loop. (Photo by Megan Price)

From this point on to the finish I kept catching up with 50k runners who were very encouraging. Every time I really wanted to slow down or walk, I’d run into another group of 50k runners and thought, damn it, I can’t just walk now after they were all so nice to cheer me on. After the 9 mile gate aid station where the trail turned into clear dry dirt single track, I managed to get moving at roughly a 9min pace. I did some more math to figure out what lead I’d need to have to hold off Scott if he could cover this same section at an 8min pace. About 6 miles out from the finish, the cows started to smell the barn and stepped up the pace again. My hamstrings were in serious pain and running along this flat section just wasn’t any fun any more. I wanted to be done with this race and off this stinking island. I was pissed that I had to be in the lead and couldn’t just run my own race and finish comfortably in a respectable and solid 2nd or 3rd place. It was stressing me out not knowing where Scott might be behind me and I didn’t like the idea of getting this far in the lead and completely blow it at the end. I managed to run 3 more miles up to the last little climb before the finish at about 8:30 pace. At the top of the fence line, I looked back one more time and couldn’t see Scott. But both eyes were completely blurry by this point and I couldn’t see the fence 10 feet in front of me so I still couldn’t be sure if I was in the clear. Any one of the blurry dots behind me could just be 50k runners that I had just passed or one could be Scott gaining on me. So I pushed as hard as I could for the last little stretch of road downhill to the finish.

I made it in 9 hours and 13 seconds. This beat Scott’s 2010 course record by about 29 minutes but this year’s course was re-routed and may have been 1.5 to 2 miles short. I’m really not sure exactly how the courses compare. The re-route cut out some flat running along the shoreline and added some extra hill climbs on the first half of the loop so it may have been comparable. But I figure I could have still at least walked another 2 miles in 29 minutes so I think it’s fair to take credit for the record.

Shannon ended up finishing second about 54 minutes behind me. Evidently Scott decided to drop out after the first loop. So I really didn’t need to push as hard as I did through the second lap but in hindsight I was glad that I didn’t find out that Scott had dropped. I probably would have gotten a bit lazy to just cruise through the second lap and I’m happy that I was able to maintain my focus racing from start to finish.

Shannon and I happy to be finished ...and completely unable to get up out of those chairs. (Photo by Megan Price)

Overall I was pretty pleased with my run and it was nice to finally win something. But I think all of my friends were more excited about the win than I was. Pushing the pace and trying to hold the lead was just painful and stressful so I’m not sure how much I really liked it. And for my own personal standards, I don’t think I ran as well as I could have. For this race day, I did the best that I could but I felt sluggish on the uphills and was pretty weak up and down the hills on the second lap. I definitely didn’t feel like I was racing in my peak condition. But it was a good confidence boost to get ready for full HURT training. I have some more work to do but feel like I’m starting with a good base and have the time to really sharpen up to be able to race in peak condition this January.

The rest of our FCTR crew all did extremely well. Kristel and Cat ran together and tied for 2nd place in the 100k for the women. In the 50k, Kristel’s husband Justin finished his first 50k. Scott ran with Celeste who had an awesome run as well. And Mary and her brother Robert seemed like they just had a great time enjoying the trail.

Kristel, me, and Cat at the finish. I'm not sure if I'm holding them up or they are keeping me from tipping over ...maybe a little of both. (Photo by Mary Boyts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Stephanie

    November 20th, 2011

    Amazing you shattered the record with muddy/snowy conditions and stubborn buffalo blocking the trail. You’ll do great at HURT! And congrats on your streak!

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