November 14, 2015 – Antelope Island Fall 50K
This is the third in a series of occasional training blogs recording my major training runs showing progress toward my goal of completing the Zion 100 on April 8-9, 2016, in support of the College of Law’s 100-100 initiative. The first blog recorded a Mt. Timpanogos Run on October 4. The second recorded the 9th annual “Trans-Wasatch Run on October 25th, an informal group run starting somewhere on the Salt Lake side of the Wasatch Range and ending at an appropriate place for refreshments in Summit County. Other remaining interim goals are:
- A 60th birthday climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro with my family in December;
- The Bigfoot Snowshoe Race on January 30 (marathon or 50K, to be determined);
- The Red Hot 55K in Moab on February 13; and
- The Buffalo Run 50-mile race on March 19.
The Antelope Island 50K is one of a series of races hosted expertly by Jim Skaggs (also known by his e-mail signature “UltraJim”) and a crew of fabulous volunteers on Antelope Island in the middle of Great Salt Lake. The more popular set of races is the “Buffalo Run” in March, which has 25K, 50K, 50 Mile, and 100 Mile versions. I have run the Buffalo Run 50K many times, the 50M once, and I plan to run the 50M again next year as my final long training run before Zion. To learn more about this great series of races, see http://www.buffalorunadventures.com/. You do not have to be a runner to participate, by the way. Some people walk the 25K and enjoy the buffalo stew at the end along with everyone else.
I have run the fall version of these races only once before. I ran the 100K version (no longer held due to lack of popular demand) the first year it was held. Running the 50K this year was a great way to add a supported 50K-length run on a beautiful course to my training plan, and to keep up my training momentum as we enter the winter months (which can be challenging from a training perspective). Because I do not usually take pictures during a race, here are some photos of a friend and me running part of the course last time, taken by a photographer during that race:
If you haven’t been out there, Antelope Island State Park is a magical place. As you can tell from the race names, the island hosts bison (duh), antelope (actually not so duh, as they were eradicated from the island and later re-introduced), deer, mountain sheep, coyotes, bald eagles, and huge numbers of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other birds. (Great Salt Lake is a major avian staging ground on one of North America’s most important flyways.) It is also incredibly beautiful, and one benefit of the fall version of the race is that it takes you on some more remote trails on the southwest side of the island that are not frequently traveled.
Speaking of magic, the other amazing thing about the Buffalo Run race series is its near perfect relationship with the weather gods, and this day was no exception. It was a brisk 30 degrees or so for the 8:00 a.m. race start, but as the day progressed and warmed up to the mid-50s it was a beautiful, sunny day with perfect running conditions. When 200 or so runners descend on the trails the wildlife viewings are few and far between, but bison fear no mere human runners, so we saw several groups along the way. (Just don’t mess with them – keep a healthy distance!) Views out over Great Salt Lake were also stunning given the clear, sunny day.
I suppose blog readers should not care about anything but the fact that I finished, as evidence that I am on track to complete the Zion 100. You have no real reason to care about my times, but being a runner, of course I will tell you anyway! My main goal was to finish comfortably. But I also decided to push reasonably hard if I felt strong enough. I started out running moderately hard on the opening climb (a couple of miles at a moderate grade), but not so hard that I burned myself up. I chatted with some new friends along the way, and because I simply ran their pace, after a while I realized that I was going faster than I intended. I dialed it back just a bit, but kept pushing at that level of effort virtually all day. I won’t bore you with the details of the ups and downs of a 50K trail race, but I finished in 5:49, roughly 50 minutes faster than I had run the spring Buffalo Run 50K last March. (That course is a bit longer and has more climbing, about 3600 feet versus 3100 feet of elevation gain for this course.) That was good enough for 5th out of 20 finishers in my age group (Men’s 50-59), but I am only a month and a half shy of 60. Had I been a month and a half older, I would have won my age group by a little more than an hour. Only runners like to get older when they are about to enter a new category!
Progress toward the Zion 100 goal: The Zion 100 mile run is now less than five months away – getting closer but still a comfortable amount of training time to go. The Antelope Island 50K was a little less than a third of the distance at Zion, with about a third of the elevation-gain of the race. Like the Zion course, and unlike the runs recorded in my prior blogs, there was a lot of “runnable” terrain, that is, long stretches that were not so steep that most runners alternate between running and power hiking. I was pleased that I was able to maintain a steady pace throughout most of the race.