Monday, March 30, 2015

Buffalo Run 100 - Raced to my Potential

So I'd been pondering doing the Buffalo Run 100 on Antelope Island here in Utah for about a month. I signed up for the 25k, and would wait till the week of to feel my body out. You'll recall I took a bit of an off season after Black Canyon in February, and I really did. No running for 2 weeks, then 20 mile, 25 mile, 30 mile weeks. Nothing says smart like doing a 100 at the beginning of the end of the off season eh?
But I wanted a learning experience so I can be better prepared for Wasatch. The only way I know how to practice and perfect those last 30 miles I just don't feel like I've done well with, is by running 70 miles first. This is an easier course than I've done, I know the course, it is a great atmosphere with lots of friends, the weather looked good and I put together a great team of crew and for the first time, pacers. 
I would love to do Bryce in June again and better my course record there, but it's too much interruption of Wasatch training. I have 2 very long runs (Bandera and Black Canyon) under my belt and recently read a blog post from Pam Smith, legendary ultra runner, who had her best 100 mile race up to that point, after about a month off. Like I just took. So I felt good about things. 

That is until I woke up the day before with a left foot that felt like it was bruised and didn't feel good to step on. Great. Then my 3 year didn't feel good night before the race, pretty much kicked me out of my own bed (because I'm a softy with her) and I woke up with a really sore neck.

Got a ride onto the island with sweet friend Janice and her family and per my usual, spent till the very last second prepping my gear. I ran to the start, they said go, well actually I believe "run you fools!" were the parting words. 
Run you fools!  Janice in the cute pink shorts next to me and Marlin to our right.  Melissa behind him

Short version: Ran a great first half in about 9:15, dealt with the heat just fine, feet started to get sore, real sore.  Dealt with 3 buffalo herds.  Picked up first pacer, had a great time, slower 20 mile loop than the first though.  Picked up second pacer, was scared of the coming sleepy hours.  Got pushed and pulled and fought through extremely hurting feet, and you'll have to scroll to the bottom for the result.

Long version, as usual.  I was honestly a little nervous in the hour before the race about whether this really was a good idea or not and if I was up for the nights that can be rough on me. 
Miles 0-20 Upon starting though I was relieved to not feel that foot and settled into a good, relaxed pace. Probably 10 min mile pace, no GPS so never kept track.  Heard a gal behind me for a while so turned around to say hi.  Her name is Melissa Soper and she is a great runner.  She was looking for her first 100 finish after a scary go at it last fall.  

Around mile 7 we headed out to Elephant Head and the trail can be steep and rocky and what did I behold?  A very old man hunched over, trekking poles in hand, making his way up the same trail I was hiking up.  I'm a sucker for old people, I stopped, patted him on the back and told him how awesome it was he was out here.  He had an early start and I'm pretty sure he said something about not being very fast.  Bless his heart! 

Melissa and I carried on around the point to get our sticker and see the best view on the island.  I fully expected us to spend much of the race side by side so felt bad when I saw her drop off at only 12ish miles in (she had some rough stomach issues that day but went on to get that finish she wanted so bad!!).  It did allow me to focus on me and how I was feeling though and not worry about where I was in the mix.  I focused on keeping my breathing silent and legs not burning.  I was really pleased with the pace I was keeping while perfectly comfortably being able to also accomplish those other two parameters.  I mean it wasn't hips open long strong strides or anything, but it felt good and efficient and I wasn't pushing at all.  
All these amazing photos above courtesy of Lori Burlison
Completed that first 20 mile loop in 3:20ish I think?  Stopped only long enough at start/finish aid to grab a small pain cream container as my hamstring/glute attachments had been tight for a bit.   Helped some I think, although to anyone behind me, sorry you had to watch me basically rubbing my butt.

Miles 20-50 As I headed out onto the now much flatter 30 mile out and back section of the course I felt good.  Did encounter an hour maybe of horrible gnat swarms to run through, but thankfully that was the only time they were there.  There are lots of buffalo roaming the island and they're generally not a problem, but I do prefer to keep creatures that weigh 10x my weight a comfortable distance away. The guy next to me however, preferred to attempt to coax them closer to us.  Ugh.  He was trying to be funny, but I didn't love it so much.
As I furthered on I started passing a fair number of men that reported suffering from the heat.  I knew it was warm out, but it really wasn't bothering me at all.  I have to suspect maybe I gained some heat tolerance from last month's Black Canyon.  Yes that was a long time ago, but you never know.  I had a half buff (cut a regular length in half) with me that I'd soak in cold water at aid stations, put it around my neck and then when I didn't notice any effect there anymore, I'd put it on my head spread out like a buff.  Worked really well!
Ran into a heard of buffalo planted squarely on the trail so ran off trail to the road where there was a heard on that side too.  At least the several cars there watching them could peel me off the ground if the bison got excited.  Ran the road for probably 1/2 mile before getting back on the trail.  Not too long after had to go way around a big heard of grumpy bison near the out and back turnaround, the ranch.  Was nice to have someone with me that time, kind of a team effort, and we did the same on the way back.  Marlin I believe was this friend's name.  From up high away from the trail we watched another runner who decided to use the trail have several small herds run at him and I prayed out loud he'd be ok.  Thankfully he was.  The off trail we had to do definitely added time and distance, but something I was entirely ok to do.  They are big beautiful beasts, from a distance.

Around mile 36 now I was concerned after the turnaround that I hadn't seen Melissa.  I didn't think I missed her but you never know.  I saw who I figured was the third place woman an estimated 40 min behind me.  And then maybe 20 minutes later Melissa.  What??  I asked her what was going on and she said something about having a hard time but she was running and smiling so I hoped she'd be ok.  Also saw friend Janice who giddily told me they pulled her from the race.  Wait what?  They had pulled her due to breathing difficulty but were now letting her continue.  And she was so excited about it.  I love this sport - that you could have a perfectly good reason to call it a day, but not, and be excited to continue for hours and hours on end.
Now onto the third herd to go around I ran into a new friend, Jim from Ohio.  We'd run the next 15 or so miles together.  Love meeting someone new on the trail, lots to talk about and keep each other entertained with.  I was pleased to be a good 40 minutes ahead of the average I needed to hit for my goal of 20 hours.
The sun was finally going down, farther into the race than I expected which is always nice, although it meant I carried my headlamp in hand for a while.  When it was finally headlamp time, Jim was in front and I told him he could turn his on whenever he wanted.  He replied that his was already on :)  Oops.  Thankfully I had the car headlight Petzel Nao with me and lit the way for both of us through the field and around the NW point of the island under beautiful stars and great temperatures.  My feet were really sore at this point, not blistered or toe nail issues at all, just sore and my right arch really painful.
L to R: Canice, my sweet Ella, Jeremy, Jim in the corner 
Mile 50  New friend Jim and I pulled into the halfway start/finish aid tent and while I didn't want a long stop, I did sit down when I saw my sweet baby sitting in the corner waiting for me.  "I missed you on your run mama!"  Melt my heart.  My great team got me in and out quick, Canice timing, Ella comforting, Jeremy taking my orders, neighbor, friend and pacer Jim ready to head out with me.  And off we went for miles 50-70.  I was pleased with a 45 minute cushion on my goal pace, really glad I listened to Canice the day before and didn't try to run even splits.  9:15 for 50 miles was a comfortable effort and gave me positivity.
Miles 50-70, 9:15pm  We left the tent perfectly willingly and had a great time!  Fun conversation and easy going, pretty quickly passing miles.  I did struggle with temperature regulation a little, jacket on, jacket off.  Arm warmers would have been perfect but I forgot them at an earlier drop bag.  Didn't get to be real jacket cold till 2am or so.  I didn't give Jim too many jobs to do, but just having someone to share the trail with was nice.  This was his first real night run and definitely his longest and most technical trail, I was impressed he never fell :)  I was getting a little weary of the gel I'd had all day and knew friend Jennilyn had made some famous cinnamon rolls so on our last stop through the Wasatch Mountain Wrangler (local trail group) aid stop, I sat down for a couple minutes to nibble on one.  Cinnamon roll, ramen broth, a chair and friends, oh yeah :)
We were definitely making slower time than the first time around and I picked the pace up a little the last 5 miles as a result.

Mile 70, 1:30am We came into mile 70 with only 20 or so minute cushion on our average pace goal.  Made me nervous, but I still felt like I could run those 12's and as long as I didn't slow from that we could do it.  Aid stops however would cut into that cushion and leave no room for error.  Feet were still hurting so much so I walked right into the tent and sat on a cot and made Jeremy rub them with that pain cream.  He was not so thrilled with the task.  Big baby ;)  They were really trying to rush me out, but this was my planned longer stop and while I didn't want to eat into my cushion any more, I did want a second.  Had my feet rubbed which felt so amazing, ate a cup of Ramen, and closed my eyes for 60 seconds.  It felt really good and I was nervous now about the sleepy hours to come.  I voiced it in the tent and I voiced it when Canice and I left.  I was afraid of the coming hours.

Miles 70-100  After a 10 minute stop Jeremy and Canice pushed me out of the tent.  This time I was far less willing to leave vs 4 hours ago.  But I was ok.  Canice got me quickly shuffling into a run and off we went.  He took good care of me at aid stations doing everything for me (which was really just filling my flasks and sometimes getting into drop bags, simple is best), and often I'd continue right through them and he'd catch up.  From the second we started running together he was telling me how we were going to work to break 20:00.  I told him I truly didn't care about that goal or passing any men, another goal he had for me.  I only wanted to run until 20:17.  There was very little communication between us.  He would talk, but it wasn't small talk at all like Jim and I had, it was all about fueling and telling me to go faster and some 'good pace' every so often.  I rarely answered back.  My feet hurt really badly, and I wasn't crazy bored or anything like I've been before at night, I wasn't actually sleepy either, I was just focused.  All I could do was think about not thinking and moving forward with as much running as I could do.  Truth be told it felt a little less painful to run than to walk fast.  So I'd push myself into a shuffle, then a run and carry on.
One job I told him I really needed him to do was to run in front of me and be my eyes for buffalo.  I did not want to have to scan around us and keep an eye out for them.  He said he would, but I'm not sure he did except for once when he pointed to our right and 10 feet from us was a big black buffalo with glowing green eyes.  That was at like mile 75 too.  After that, I honestly didn't even think about them.  Again, my brain needed to only focus on forward movement.
My nutrition plan didn't necessarily go out the window, but I wasn't sticking to the normal 1 gel every 30 minutes, pills on certain interval schedule.  I didn't want to interrupt my mind and didn't really feel like i needed as much at night.  Canice was good to hold my flask of gel out as I'd run by, make me take several sips, and then I'd hand it back.  Then I'd hope I could block him from running in front of me so I could set the pace, not one like he was, running away from me. That never lasted, he always sprinted in front of me.  But it was what I needed, to be pulled along like that.  And sometimes, I'd catch right up to him and he'd tell me we didn't need to push that hard if I didn't want to.  The thing was, I wasn't pushing per say, I was just going with what my body would give me that mile.  Trying very hard to not put us in jeopardy of not getting that course record.
I'm going a little out of order here, but at mile 77 aid station, Lower Frary, I decided I'd try a new pair of shoes in my drop bag.  Couldn't make it any worse, and it meant I could sit down, mwahaha!  I really did try to be fast while doing it though.  They felt ok, but were less cushion than the Altra Paradigm I'd been in all day and just didn't quite feel right so when we returned to Lower Frary after the turnaround (which section seemed to take forever), I changed back into the Paradigms.  At that point I don't think there was any fixing how sore my feet were, I'd just have to deal with it as I had for hours already.

At mile 88 we were 15-20 minutes ahead of schedule.  We were loosing that cushion.  We'd gotten as close to only 10 minutes ahead, and that made me nervous.  But now with less than 13 to go, I was feeling good about my goal.  We should for sure be able to make it under 20:17.  I kept looking behind us, waiting for the mountains across the Great Salt Lake to illuminate.  Not because I was tired, because thankfully, I really wasn't too sleepy, but just because it meant we were closer, the headlamp could come off, just another milestone toward the end.  When I saw the second to last aid station at mile 94 off in the distance, and looked at my watch and did the math, I got excited.  Canice really was right, we really could go under 20:00.  Under 20:00?!  That honestly was never in my mind before or during the race up to this point.  Jeremy and Canice had the goal for me and Canice reminded me of it often (and I'd complain at him that it was his goal not mine) but I never entertained it.  All I cared about was finishing between 20:00 and 20:16.59.  Now that 19:something seemed possible, we had to try!  We is really funny here too, since I was the only one that didn't think I could do it.   It takes a lot of time and work in the 18 hours before to be in this position of a sub 20 finish, and by golly I didn't want to have to try for it again :) 
I put my head down and as much as I wanted to cheer people who were passing us, just starting that long out and back, I let Canice.  I just kept my head down and ran.  Ok, there was that one time fellow runner Phil said "25k sounds nice now eh?" to which I called back too late for him to hear "Not as nice as a 100 mile course record will!".  Then I put my head back down.  I had my ipod in now and while I thought it a little impolite while I was running with a pacer, Canice suggested it, and it was a good thing.  We got to that mile 94 aid station and I never stopped, I power hiked right up that hill letting Canice stop for the both of us, reporting my name.  It was twilight now I think and I felt like the finish was close.  Then we got to all of mile 95.5 and I was pooped.  So drained.  Walking wobbly, feet so so sore.  Just a little bonked.  I had Canice tell our last aid station, mile 96 to radio the finish to let my husband know we were headed in soon.  I was nervous he wouldn't be awake yet and I really wanted my kids there to watch mama finish.
Mile 96, 6:50somethingAM  Again, I didn't stop at this aid station and the finish felt fairly close.  For only being 4 miles to the finish, going around this point of the island sure can feel long.  And while not hilly, it's easily the rockiest most technical part of the course.  Hard to keep a running rhythm going on tired legs.  But I sure tried as Canice would pull farther and farther ahead.  I knew even with a walk though, I could power 15 min miles, and that would sneak us just under 20:00.
And then we finally rounded the corner to be able to see the finish about 2 miles in front of us, and it felt SO VERY FAR AWAY!  I was panicking now, it was like 7:30am, we had to finish by 8am to go sub 20.  I asked over and over if Canice was sure we could even make it under 20 at all.  It was so close, I couldn't not, but oh how I feared we wouldn't make it.  I ran my best but wasn't going very fast.  We were about 3/4 of a mile away and what did we see?  Buffalo on our trail. Ugh.  Canice tried to get me to follow him and run fast, but I yelled at him to come back, and to go around them with me.  So in my freaking out, emotional, physically hurting state, I held his arm and we skirted around our last herd.  Finally to the road, a short but steep hill ahead, and I ran it, and it felt good to run it.  It looked so long, but was probably only 1/2 mile now of running straight toward the finish line with a quick 1/10 of a mile left turn to actually finish.
We ran it SO fast!  I was running my best, with all I could, to put down the best time I could and feel 100% good about the effort I put forth in this race.  Hips were open, strides were long and strong, and I don't really remember my feet hurting that last 1/2 mile.  Canice said his GPS showed us under 5:00 mile pace.  Woah.  Neither of us said a word.  We just powered forward looking forward to the glorious finish line reception we'd get from my family and the hundreds of 50k runners getting ready to start their race at the same place.  I'd envisioned my finish for hours, fist pumps up, maybe hands down and eyes to the sky smiling, but something awesome and victorious.  Canice wanted me to feel the energy from all those people.  We rounded the corner, I searched for where the finish line actually was, and I ran over the timing strip in the dirt to pretty much silence.  I remember a couple cheers in those last couple seconds and race director Jim (lots of Jim's in this race) staring at me as I finished, but that was it.  No flags set up yet, no finish chute, no one ready to cheer us in.  No glorious finish line pose or photo.
My glorious finish line photo.  Such is ultra running I guess.  I won't lie though, kind of a let down.
But I freaking did it!!!  I ran more of a 100 than I ever have.  I ran a 100 like I knew they could be run.  I defeated those sleep demons.  I broke the course record by 32 minutes and ran an incredible 19:45.  19:45!!  Now this isn't the same kind of vert course like Bryce or Run Rabbit Run, but it certainly isn't flat.  Comparable to the other courses, at least a 2 hour PR for me.  Most importantly, I finally felt like I ran a 100 to my potential.  It could even be my best ultra performance to date.  I cannot look back and say I could have run it faster.  Sure there might have been places to cut off a few minutes, but truly, honestly, I ran the very best I could have out there and I am 100% happy with it!!

Trying to make a 19 in my depleted but blissful state.  L to R: Canice, Jeremy, Jim
None of it would have been possible without this amazing team of mine!  WE did it!  My Jeremy listens to me talk endlessly about my thoughts and goals and blabbering about ultra running All. The. Time.  He isn't always perfect, but is very often a super supportive spouse and father to allow me the time I need to train when I can fit it in.  And he is the thick skin I need him to be during a race.  I'm not always nice while racing. I can be short and whiney and impatient to him, but I hope he understands, and knows that he is my best crew chief and I look forward to seeing him every chance I get.  Jim was such great entertainment.  Both Jim's actually, but pacer Jim most specifically.  Those 4 dark hours we ran together were entertaining and fun and I needed that.  I knew the hardest work would come at 70 and I was grateful that he made the 20 miles before that be chill and calm.  And Canice.  He made me run like a work horse, was true to his military background and kept me in line.  He wasn't mean, but he wasn't soft.  He was there to get a job done.  And he always believed in me.  I knew going into this race that he was exactly who I wanted to get me through the hardest part of the night and he was perfect.  I apologized after the race for being mean and ornery a few times but he reassured me he wasn't listening anyway :)

Things to work on: I felt some abdominal strain during the race.  I have been a huge core work slacker and with an abdominal separation from my ginormous 9.5-10lb babies, and yeah, my youngest is 3 (hanging my head in shame), my core is weaker than average.  I have several custom plans I can use, but I'm lazy and never stick to them.  I will get a grip on it and get my core in shape this summer so it's at it's best for Wasatch.
Got to figure these feet out.  I don't remember this pain at Bryce 100, but I do remember it the last 30 of RRR (had me in tears the last 6).  Again, it's not a blister or toe nail issue at all, I have zero blisters post race.  The bottom of my feet were just tender and sore, my right arch was very very painful, from far too early in this race.  I love the shoes I was in, the Paradigm, but I may need to experiment with a different model in some long training runs or races this summer, or maybe a different insole.

Gear I used: Altra Paradigm - Really love it's light weight, max cushion for the legs, perfectly suitable traction for me. I go half a size up from my regular Altra size in this shoe, especially for ultras.
Injinji socks - 1 pair the whole race, the thicker wool-ish ones.  Zero blisters.  Didn't use to like things between my toes, but really like racing in them.
Party shorts, no name brand, probably from Ross, Gore tank, Handful bra - my second ultra in it and I am very happy with it.  No rubbing or adjusting all day, no cleavage sweat that I've felt with other bras,  Believe it or not I do posses a tiny amount of cleavage, or at least space where that would be. Note that this bra for running is most suitable for A or B cup ladies, a great non-running bra for C and up ladies.  Pearl jacket, Gore jacket.
Petzel Nao and Tika headlamps.  Love em both.  The Nao, seriously is like a car headlight, and that's on low.  Neither of them died on me, just changed half way just in case.  Each went 4-5 hours.
Ultraspire Spry pack - shied away from it for Black Canyon which was smart because it wouldn't have held enough water, and I did run out once at this race, but it was the heat of the day and I skipped the aid station I was going to fill up at.  I love this little pack.  Holds everything I could need with drop bags around a course and doesn't bounce.  Would be a great first pack for someone getting into longer running.
Ultraspire Quantum belt - my favorite belt ever.  Wore it the last 30 miles, held 10oz of water at a time which I never drained - it was night time.  If you have a course with aid stations around an hour apart of less it is a perfect choice. I can hold a ton in the front pocket too (like 6-7 gels) and no bouncing!
Vfuel gel - served me perfect again.  No stomach troubles, the new cut on the tabs always came off perfectly, better than before, and although I did say I grew weary of gel eventually, it wasn't the gels fault, more my mind.  I took Vfuel with me for all 100 miles.  It was definitely my main source of nutrition.  Love the thinner consistency and energy level it gives.  I cycled between flasks of it I had prepared and packets depending on how drop bags worked.
Elete Electrolytes Add In - I recall having the my first hydration bladder dosed with the drops and how good it tasted to me.  Definitely got me off to a great start!
Pill wise I used 8 Hammer Tissue Rejuvenator pills which are a natural anti-inflammatory.  I don't notice a huge effect, but enough that I keep bringing them along.  I use 4 immediately post race and then over the weekend recovering too.  I used 2 doses of First Endurance Pre-Race, a stimulant and mental focus pill and don't remember the pick up I've felt in other races, but again, I do think they help.


Emir said...

Great race Leslie!!!

Rachel Kelley said...

WOW! Congratulations on a HUGE PR and sub 20! (and congratulations to your whole team of sure does take a village!)

melissa kimmerwebb said...


Tina @GottaRunNow said...

Big congrats to you on the win and sub 20! I might use a buff like you did in a future warm race. Thanks for sharing the race details!

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