Last Saturday I ran my first ultra marathon, the Antelope Island 50K. I had read that the course was relatively easy and it seemed like a good way to jump into the ultra running world. I hadn’t ran a race in 4 years, the last being a half marathon. I was filled with apprehension and excitement for the Antelope Island 50k.
Kyra and I drove from our place in Orem up to the Antelope Island 50k start/finish line early Saturday morning. We stood around a small fire as daylight slowly brought light and warmth to the world as we talked casually with other runners. the 8am start time quickly approached and I found myself standing at the starting line among a group of about 70 runners.
Jim Skaggs, the race director, gave the countdown and we were off. My race plan was to maintain a 9:40 pace and finish under 5 hours. I also wanted to keep the leaders somewhat in sight. After about a mile or two I found myself in 6th place as the runners spread out along the climb to Elephant Head aid station. I was feeling exceptional and unstoppable as we hit a series of switchbacks at 9 miles in. I ran/hiked comfortably and soon caught sight of the 4 leaders who had been out of sight for some time, but something was up. They were standing and looking around, we were off course.
After some quick evaluation we began heading back down the way we had just came. I checked my Strava App for the first time, I had been averaging 8 minute miles. I had started much too fast in my excitement and had now gotten off course, a mistake that eventually cost about 1.5 miles. My Antelope Island 50k had gotten off to a rocky start just 1/3 of the way in.
I made my way back down the switchbacks and found the grass covered trail we were suppose to take that the runners behind us had been directed to take. I was feeling good and felt confident I could slow my pace while still making up time. However, looking down from the top of the rise I could see the trail ahead for the next couple of miles. Runners were strewn along the course ahead of me. I had lost all my position and had would soon be feeling that mistake mentally. I would also soon be feeling my novice mistake of starting to fast on my first Antelope Island 50k.
The next 10 mile stretch I met an Instagram friend, Ryan Freeman, whom I didn’t realize was running the race. We chatted as we plugged along. I was grateful to have his company, but I could feel my legs were growing more and more sore. I knew eventually he would move on without me towards his first ultra finish as well. At the aid station around mile 20 I sat down for a minute and munched on a potato covered in salt, trying my best to combat the leg cramps I had been facing for the past 5 miles. Ryan waved as he left me at the aid station, “see you at the finish!” I waved back with a smile, “yeah, have a good one!”
After another minute I set out again. The next 10 miles were going to be a bit fought and I knew it. I worked and worked to get my mind back into it, but I never felt I was able to recover after my off-course blunder. My legs felt better after getting some salt, but even though they weren’t in a state of constant cramping they were sore. I did my best to run/hobble the last 10 flat miles towards the finish. I was loosing time every mile and my goal of breaking 5 hours had long been dashed by my own novice approach.
My Antelope Island 50k had turned from feeling strong and confident in my ability to break 5 hours to just wanting to endure the last few miles and finish. Eventually the trail made it’s way to the final stretch, a gravel road that softly descended to the finish line. I tried to run a bit faster than my current shuffle wanting to look stronger and happier as I rolled into the finish than I actually was.
I crossed the finish line and stopped my Strava app as Kyra and Paityn came up to give me a hug and I was handed my congratulatory Antelope Island 50k Finisher Mug. I almost cried. My Strava app gave me a time of 5:34:14 which later was shown to be way off from my official race time of 5:53:52. I had finished an hour later than I had set out to finish, yet I was happy and proud to be done. I finished in 17 out of the 67 runners who finished.
As a competitive person I am generally pretty critical of myself and Saturday night as I laid in bed to fall asleep I tried to fight off the “what-ifs” of the race and concentrate on looking ahead. What did I learn? I’m a total novice? No surprise there. I started out to fast and couldn’t sustain that pace? Also pretty obvious. How could I expect to click of 8 minute miles for 30+ miles when I don’t do any speed work whatsoever. It’s nice to have litmus test now and I’m looking forward to making some changes in my training in preparation for the Buffalo Run 50k in March, which is put on by Jim Skaggs as well and follows the same course as the Antelope Island 50k.