I weaseled my way into the Antelope Island 100k by offering to write a pre and post-race article for trailandultrarunner.com, a cool online magazine I periodically write for. If you haven't been there you should check it out, there are some solid writers and interesting articles. Anyway, I stayed the night at friend Matt's and on the drive to the start I was questioning my decision to run the full 100k. Oh, why didn't I just sign up for the 50k and run with my friends? All the same, I arrived and was amped to toe the line. This would be the first ultra I've ever run where I went in with a truly 'racing' mentality. Not race against an arbitrary time goal, but literally race for a win. I knew that my main competition was someone who had proven better results in a lot more ultras than me, but I was up for the challenge and was hoping for the best (that's a lie, I was hoping he wouldn't show up or twist an ankle or something).
In great ultra fashion, Jim Skaggs drew a line in the dirt, we all stepped up, and he counted down from 10. We were off. No matter what race or how I run it I'm really good about going out at my own pace and that's just what I did, way ahead of everyone else. About a mile in Aaron, my main competition, caught up and we chatted the next four miles to the base of Lone Tree hill. His uphill legs were a little stronger than mine and he gapped me a little. He then didn't stop at the first aid station while I refilled my water and ate some chips. By the time I left and headed down into Blackrock Valley he was now a quarter mile ahead. That was fine, my plan was to stick to my race and we had a very long way to go.
I kept him in my sights through the valley and then up and over to the switchbacks. We ran these at a pretty good clip. At the top the trail deviates from the spring Buffalo Run course. It turns south over the saddle and takes a steep, rocky drop into the next valley. Over the next few miles we would do a few easy, semi-longish climbs, then drop back down near the beach. Then we finally dropped down to the very rocky shore and technically made our way around the beach, alternating rock hoping and slogging through sand. Once you turn the corner you get a clear look at the biggest climb of the day, a 2+ mile 1200 foot ascent up to the 2nd aid station at North Senty. We ran all but the steepest parts and I got to the aid stop about 5 minutes after Aaron. I wouldn't see him again for another 5 hours. I wouldn't see anyone other than him for the rest of the race. Headphones in.
I still felt pretty good at mile 15 just as I made the 3 mile descent down to the Ranch on the east side. The climbing was now over and I just had the long 12 mile Mountain View trail heading north back to the starting line.Once I got to 9 Mile Gate aid station at mile 20 my legs started hurting. My calves were locking up even though I was meticulous about salt, hydration, and nutrition, and my hamstrings were getting tight. It was the leftovers from Wasatch and some of the difficult vert training I've done since. With 10 miles left in my first loop I went into a very dark, bad place. I was constantly having vocal conversations with myself. One part of my head would give an excuse about why I should DNF and then I'd very vocally tell myself to shut up. There were a fair amount of swear words involved. I just didn't like running. I actually didn't want to run, race, or do anything, I just wanted to be at home with my kids. As I came into the start/finish of the first loop I knew if I stayed any time in the aid station I wouldn't leave so I told them to get me out of there as quickly as possible. Amazing, even though I was having some very severe mental battles I was still on my splits, finishing that first loop in exactly 4:30:00.
As I headed out on my second loop I had a 1.5 mile easy climb and tried to run all of it. But I was still in my head when I had to slow to a walk on a very easy part I yelled as loud as I could a few things I can't write on this family-friendly website. I vowed from there to run every step to the base of Lone Tree Hill. As hard as it was to keep myself moving at a trot I ran every step and enjoyed the easy power hike up to the aid station. I asked one of the volunteers if they had any ibuprofen and amazingly she had two in her pocket. SALVATION. They kicked in half way down into the valley and I was back. And I was back in a big way.
My leg pain went away and I could run, really run. I ran all of the switchbacks and all of the hills until nearly the same spot I did on the first loop. I got into the North Sentry aid station at 7:15 (I knew I ran the first loop in 2:20 from that point to the finish). Now I had a bit of a cushion to run a little slower and I could still go in under 10 hours, my second goal. Obviously, with 16 miles left I wasn't going to catch first place as he was 15+ minutes ahead. I didn't know it at the time, but he was running hard and scared, thinking I would catch up at any minute. I made the cruise down to the Mountain View trail and started the long 11 miles flat run back to the dirt road heading to the finish. I was hurting and trying to run hard, but I was mentally solid. I just told myself, "you've missed your time goals your last few big ultras, not this time. It's going to hurt, just keep pushing". As I came into 9 Mile Gate aid station I caught up to my mom and her friend Deanna who were running their first 50k. My mom was dealing with severe ITBS, but she way under her goal time and I just told her to walk it in. The awesome volunteers (all of whom I know) ushered me out of there quick and convinced me to race it, push hard, and maybe I could catch Aaron.
Unfortunately, within a mile my stomach did a backflip and it was all I could do to not throw up. If I walked I felt dizzy and nauseated. Running felt marginally better so that's what I settled on, an easy trot. After four miles I knew I had to take a gel, even if I threw it up. Fortunately, it actually helped settle my stomach and I was able to get back into a decent pace. I knew from the first lap that if I hit the fence turn-off with 20 minutes to spare I could definitely finish in under 10 hours. I got there with exactly 20 minutes to spare and made the turn. I made the steep climb up to the dirt road, then passed two more 50k runners cresting the hill. I now had a 4 minute blasting run down to the finished. There waiting for me was Matt Williams and Matt Van Horn. I crossed the finish line, and literally collapsed into Matt W's arms. I just lost it. I gave everything I had in that race and while I didn't take first I truly believe I one the biggest prize, getting over my own issues to achieve my very aggressive time goal.
This was the perfect way to cap off a very long and tough race season. I'm looking forward to taking some serious downtime from racing and hard training. I plan to spend the rest of the year doing a bunch of fun and adventurous runs with my friends. I'll refocus on training in January, until then I'm just going to enjoy recovering and having fun. Oh, I should mention this as I am actually writing it on Sunday morning, I don't think I've ever been this sore after a run. I am wrecked, completely and totally wrecked. It's awesome.
My mom and Deanna finishing their first 50k