2011 Antelope Island Buffalo Run Race Report

Antelope Island Buffalo RunThis past Saturday, I headed down from snowy Park City to the relative warmth of Antelope Island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake for the Buffalo Run races. Sure, it was right around freezing and there was a breeze, but I knew it would soon be as nice as any day I’d seen up in the mountains in quite some time. I was right. It was a gorgeous day that was matched by the scenery and the company.

The following race report focuses on my own observations rather than commentary on the elite competition that filled the 25k, 50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile races run on the island Friday and Saturday. The early season long run left me wasted enough that I felt like chilling with rather than interviewing the big dogs (and my friends) post-race. I’m sure you understand!

Buffalo Run runners

My Run
I went into the race waiting for a bonk or leg failure. A month earlier, I ran well through 18 miles at Red Hot Moab before my undertrained legs (and the rest of my body) reduced me to a 3+ mile walking break before I could run to the finish. Given that intervening month included my final push to complete Relentless Forward Progress and a reciprocal lack of focus on my training, I would be happy with running further without failure at the Buffalo Run than at Red Hot Moab. To jump to the conclusion, I’m happy.

I had no intention of “racing” the event, which gave me complete freedom to go out conservatively and I did. Between catching up with old friends and making some new ones, I must have chatted for 13 of the first 16 mile lap. The time flew by as I kept my heart rate down and I floated along. Highlights included the brightening sky and mountains, making up for lost time with old friends Jason and Jeff, and running the final few miles into the turn around with Nikki Kimball. I passed through the halfway point in a hair under 2:15. The only detractor was having placed my dropbag at the nearby (but not near enough) start/finish rather than the separate turn around aid station.

Bryon Buffalo Run floating

Me floating through the latter sections of lap 1. Photo by Greg Norrander.

With a long climb to kick off lap 2, my intensity (not pace) quickly rose. I had no intention of pushing the effort this early, but I was maintaining the slowest comfortable running pace up the hill. After cresting the hill, I had fun cruising the flat to slightly downhill ridge, where I took one of only two brief stops during the entire race. As with the entire race after mile 7, I was always moving up the field and while I wasn’t “racing,” it was still a motivating factor that kept me running. Heading out of the fourth of five aid stations at mile 21 my hamstrings were complaining from just shy of as many miles of continuous running. The 600 foot, mile and a half long descent out of the aid station did nothing to help.

Fortunately, the course switched to a correspondingly tall and long hill. Although I very much wanted to walk at times on the hill and I pegged my heart rate at a stout 170-71 bpm throughout it, the climb was a welcome switch. My legs were certainly heavy at the top of the climb, but I greatly encouraged (1) that I was still running and (2) I’d climbed the hill much faster than those around me. More important, during the first lap (and per my general philosophy), I’d marked the top of that climb (mile 24) as a safe place to see what I had left. I kept on running.

To keep my own report reasonably short, I managed to run through finish. All systems held up, but I was pretty exhausted through the final 4 miles. At the time I wished I’d taken better recon during the first lap, as I was never really sure how far I had left… and the twisty, rollercoaster section had many “hidden” trail sections. Ugh. Two things kept me moving: (1) the fact that I was psyched to still be running so late in the race and (2) the thought that I might be close to a negative split. In the end, I ran 2:15 for the front half and 2:20 for the back half, which is pretty darn close especially considering this was only my third ultra in 19 months.

Bryon Powell Buffalo Run

Me finishing the 2011 Buffalo Run 50k. Photo by Aric Manning.

During and after the race, I thought of some strategies that made this solid run possible. I’ll share those with you on Friday.

Observations, Commentary, and Results
Although I’m skipping an elite race report that’s not going to stop me from going beyond talking about my own race. Here are some observations on gear and the front of the pack.

Gear
I’m a bit of a gearhead, so I couldn’t help but notice the dominance of two shoe models at the Buffalo Run races. I’d guess that a third of the field was wearing Hoka One Ones, a third was wearing Brooks Cascadia, and the rest were a mix of other random shoe models. The Cascadia is a… or, perhaps, the benchmark trail shoe of the pass few years, so while their proportion seemed high, it wasn’t shocking. On the other hand, I’ve never seen so many Hokas in one place. Hoka has a great ambassador with Karl Meltzer getting the word out in Utah. It really was an incredible sight.

I wore a pair of Spring/Summer ’12 Montrails that I’ve been wear testing and they performed admirably. I’d say more, but I’m uncertain as to my level of non-disclosure and would rather be safe than sorry. If I still have this model come Western States, I’ll have to consider wearing them as an alternative to the Saucony Peregrines.

I also saw a ton of Under Armor clothing out on the course… or at least more than I’d ever seen at a trail race.

Horses at the Buffalo Run.

Horses at the Buffalo Run.

Races
I’ll forgo a full race commentary, as it would require recapping 8 separate fields. (No thanks!) However, here are some thoughts.

Bozeman, Montana’s (and The North Face’s) Nikki Kimball returned to the Buffalo Run races for the third time, which says something about the quality of these races. They’re perfect, snow-free, early-season races for snowbound Rocky Mountain region runners. Relatively low elevation (<5,000’), an undulating terrain, and warmth mean anyone can jump in and have a good time.

Over the past year, there’s been a growing roster of races with highly competitive fields that draw in ultrarunning’s elite like moths to the flame. With the likes of Kimball, Karl Meltzer, Nick Clark, Dylan Bowman, Duncan Callahan, Dan Vega, and numerous speedsters I’d never heard of, the Buffalo Runs have the same potential. However, the races didn’t have the feel of an “A race”… and I think that’s a GREAT thing. While it’ll surely be the subject of another article someday, I think there may be too many top tier competitive races and that top runners are getting sucked into racing too hard for too long a period every year. These races felt more like solid tune up races with a bunch of great runners. Maybe I would have felt differently if I were racing for a top spot, but, at the very least, external pressure and expectations aren’t yet applied to the Buffalo Run races.

Karl Meltzer engaged in a particularly cruel mental test out on Antelope Island. Just 6 days after running 78 miles at the cancelled Coyote Two Moon 100 miler, Meltzer toed the line for a second 100 miler. Sure, numerous folks have run 100 milers on back-to-back weekends, but how many run just over 16 hours for the second 100?! That’s right, despite being sore for the gun, Meltzer ran a 16:06 100. That’s sick!

Notables Finishes [full results]
(If Jake Krong or Seth Wold read this or any of their friends do, please have them stop by and leave a comment. Super impressive performances guys! Would love to know more about your backgrounds and how you did it.)

25k – Men
1. Chris Lundberg – 1:55:20
2. Justin Leavitt – 1:59:13

25k – Women (race of the day!)
1. Bethany Lewis – 1:59:44 (3rd overall!)
2. Andrea North – 1:59:50

50k – Men
1. Jake Krong (race report) – 3:38:02
2. Seth Wold – 3:43:31
3. Nick Clark (race report) – 3:47:59
[8. Bryon Powell – 4:34:53]

50k – Women
1. Nikki Kimball – 4:41:19
2. Emily Judd – 4:56:48
3. Suzanne Lewis – 4:58:59

50 Mile – Men
1. Dylan Bowman (race report) – 6:15:36
2. Duncan Callahan (race report) – 6:35:24
3. Jay Aldus – 6:43:49

50 Mile – Women
1. Mikelle Stephenson – 8:13:34

100 Mile – Men
1. Dan Vega – 15:31:00
2. Karl Meltzer (race report) – 16:01:50
3. Day Crockett (race report) – 20:27:10

100 Mile – Women
1. Sherry Shay – 22:40:58

Call for Comments
So who’s run the Buffalo Run and what did you think?

iRunFar Buffalo Run 2011

Yours truly enjoying the 2011 Buffalo Run. Photo by Greg Norrander.

There are 20 comments

  1. Ash

    Well, you've sold me on this race. What a beautiful landscape to run in! Congrats on running through the race with a good plan for staying on pace.

  2. mylesmyles

    Interesting comment on the UA gear. I wear nike pro combat shirts when I run (habit of being a road runner) and find them to be the best made out there, though my UA shirts are pretty good too.

  3. Steve Piccolo

    Bryon,

    Great race report! Glad you enjoyed the Buffalo Run. Jim does a great job.

    It was nice to meet you at the packet pickup. Hopefully you didn't have to wait too long. We had a little mixup, so I was the only one there at the time.

    I don't know Seth Wold, but I know he has run some fast marathons, and I believe he has won a few here in Utah. I'm thinking his PR is around 2:20. This might have been his first ultra.

    -Steve

  4. jared

    This year was my first at the buffalo run – and I really enjoyed it. Scenery was breathtaking, course was really fun and well thought out, and all in all it had a great vibe with very nice folks. And can't beat the buffalo stew at the end.

    I noticed all the Hokas too – it was a bit nutty.

  5. Adam

    Bryon,

    Great post and outstanding photographs. Thanks for taking the time to publish such a thoughtful write-up. I, too, am sold on this race for next year.

    -Adam

  6. Nick Clark

    Bryon – Seth and Jake are both accomplished runners (obviously). Seth ran track for Utah State (14:20, 29:30), and has a 2:22 marathon PR from last year. Jake is originally from the east coast and ran XC for Colgate U. I believe he is just getting back into running, but trained huge volume (running and skiing) through the winter in prep for Buffalo. His run in the 50k was, I think, very impressive (negative split it with 1:49:high, 1:49:low).

    Agreed on your thoughts about the race, which is just a fun dirt-filled trail running festival in a hugely scenic location. Jim has some things to tweak for sure (his course needs to be marked better (no markings on some of the key turns) and the start staggers need to be tweaked so that faster 50k runners don't have to spend the last half of the second loop weaving in and out of 25k runners on tight singletrack) but overall a fun low-key tune up as you suggest. Nice to finally meet you, BTW.

  7. Paige T

    Wahoo, Bryon! Great job on a well-executed run! These races sound fun, and I just love SLC :)

    The Hoka craze is hilarious. I remember being very surprised by the number of Hoka-ites at Red Hot this year. I must be missing something ;)

    Congrats, B!

      1. Brad Koenig

        I saw a few people wearing them at MMT Training runs (three people at the recent MMT Training Run #3). Never tried them myself. I always think whatever makes us run is fantastic! whether it really "works" or not, who cares! (not saying they do, or don't,but I think you know what I mean). I'll see you at MMT! (well, at the starting line, at least :-)

  8. Matt Smith

    Great run and nice report! It's nice to see you snagging a top 5 spot on minimal training – obviously you must have followed all the advice in Relentless Forward Progress :)

    I had considered running the 50K at Antelope Island this year, but decided to forgo any racing until May (to build a solid base and avoid the injuries that I typically get when I ramp my mileage up too quickly…) Based on your pics and report, I might just take the trip out next year.

  9. Jeff

    Nice to chat with you for awhile on the first lap Bryon. Hopefully I'll see ya out on the trails this summer.

    I got to say something about the Hokas. People can laugh all they want but they are helping me get better from a long bout of PF. The Hokas are part of the reason I was able to toe the starting line Saturday so who cares how hilarious the "craze" is.

  10. Tony Mollica

    I enjoyed reading your RR as always! Thanks for writing it and including the links to the other RR's.

    Karl is simply an amazing runner! I don't know what to say besides what he did is incredible! It doesn't seem that should even be possible!

    1. Brad Koenig

      I saw people wearing Hokas during the MMT100 Training runs. More specifically, I saw three people wearing them at the recent March training run (MMT Training Run #3). and they weren't rookies to Ultra's, either.

  11. Craig

    Byron, as a heads up, Mikelle (Kelli) Stephenson who won the 50 Miler for the women, it was her first 50 mile race and only the fourth time she has ever run on trails. She has run several road marathons, one trail 50k (that was short, 29ish miles), and done two additional trail runs with me. Saying that she is 'solid' would be an understatement. Keep an eye out for her in future races. She's only going to get better.

  12. Seth Wold

    It is great to read race reports like this. I would love to get you into a pair of Altra Shoes to hear your thoughts there. I am not sure if I will be running the Buffalo Run this year. That was Jake and My first Ultra race. So we were lucky to run with all the great Ultra runners at the event. Nick Clark was a blast to talk with. I look forward to running with him in the future. Thanks again for the great report.

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