March 27, 2010

Antelope Island State Park, Utah


50 Mile 6 AM    91 Finishers

50 K 8 AM

25 K 10 AM

Course is open until 6:30 PM

Cost $85 late registration + 1 can of veggies for post race party

This is a BEAUTIFUL, organized race with the most friendly, helpful volunteers!

Pre Race

Packet pickup is held at the Striders Running Store in Layton on Thursday and Friday. There is also packet pickup Saturday morning when you first get on Antelope Island-not at the start. There was no pre race pasta feed, but there are so many restaurants in the area that you will have no problem finding a place to carb up.

We arrived in Salt Lake City on Thursday and after an afternoon touring SLC, drove to Layton Thursday night. We went early Friday to Striders to pick up our packets, and buy some running gear. We then went to IHOP (very bad choice) had some pancakes, cruised the mall, and hit a 1:20 movie of the Ghost Writer. When we came out and it was SNOWING!!! Panic set in! I don’t like snow-at least not while running! W went back to the mall to Sports Authority and I bought some great running pants. We decided on Olive Garden for our pre race meal. I spent the rest of the evening trying to decide what to wear, what to pack in each of my drop bags, and where I wanted them to be dropped. There is so much more planning involved in ultra runs!


Here’s your chance to run where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play (oh, give me a home etc.)

It is home to bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, coyotes, bighorn sheep, porcupines, bobcats, upland game birds, and countless birds (chukar, meadowlarks, seagulls (the Utah state bird), shore birds, etc).

Antelope Island State Park is on the largest island (28,000 acres) in the Great Salt Lake. There are about 45 miles of trails there with 500 head of buffalo to dodge.

Sometime they move…

sometimes they don’t.

The entire race has breathtaking views of  snow capped mountains, the Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, and Layton in the distance.

The 50 mile course will take runners out the same trail as the 25K and 50K runners. Most of the hills are in the first 20 miles. The 50 K does this early loop twice and the 25 K and 50 Mile run it once. The 50 mile does one extra section in the first part and then goes to other parts of the island.

You will be able to have drop bags at every refreshment stop for the 25K and 50K if you want (there are only two). For the 50 mile, there are three places you can have drop bags. You pass through the same aid stations multiple times.

There are numerous aid stations, but sometimes 5-7 miles apart, stocked with the usual snacks, drinks, and hot soup.

We got up at 3:30, got ready, and had some donuts and a bottled Starbucks frapuccino (my most recent pre race breakfast of choice). We headed out for the 25 minute drive to the island. We made one wrong turn on the way there but quickly realized it and turned around, however a very long line of cars followed us. I decided to wear shorts with my new pants over, a singlet, warm long sleeved running shirt, arm warmers, thin wind jacket, ear warmers, hat, and gloves. (oh and flashlight on my hat because it is DARK with no city lights) The temp was around 30 degrees but with a cold wind.

Okay I was perfect for the 1st mile and then got too warm & took off the jacket and arm warmers and changed the shirt by mile 7 when you run by the drop bags for the first time. The sun came up (the same time as our flashlight batteries died – whew). This ENTIRE course is beautiful! It is almost completely run on single track desert type trails. I felt it was pretty hilly and rocky in the first section, but I DO live in Florida, so … We met a dentist, Mark, from Utah early and had some great political conversation. We played leap frog the entire race.

Lone Tree (imagine that)

I had within the first mile of the race, terrible calf pain/cramping. I have never experienced that before and I panicked! I started focusing on the pain and the what-ifs. It did finally go away…maybe it was the cold start??

I found that ultra runners talk a lot less than marathoners. (except Mark) Since Bill doesn’t talk much anyway, I found myself with a lot of time to quietly reflect on life. The rest of the time I filled with a constant logorrhea. I often say that when running fast, you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, but I never have related that to slow, easy running. As we were hiking up the steepest incline, Mark makes that same statement to me (maybe I was whining?) I quickly realized what I was doing to myself…and what I tell people…running is 95% psychological.

Split Rock Bay & Elephant Head Trail

I have never had a desire to run 50 miles (or more) but this was an opportunity to run in Utah (I got food poisoning last time I was here) and it was billed as not too difficult. So, I thought why not? I have always known I could run 50 miles, but never found the idea of missing more than one meal appealing. It is amazing how negative thinking affects you. I started doubting myself…What if I don’t finish? What if I fall? What if I am holding Bill back? What if I go the wrong way? (not likely as the course is well marked – and it is an island) What if….?

I started evaluating the priorities of the day and came up with a plan which I announced…

  1. Don’t Fall
  2. Don’t step in buffalo pies

Mark says, “I just want to finish!”…hmmm I ponder and reorder…

  1. Don’t fall IN buffalo pies
  2. Finish

Instead of thinking of the unimaginable challenges of the day, I started enjoying the moments.

What a difference!

The reflection of Frary Peak in the Great Salt Lake

As you will see, Mark gave me several things to think about. He started giving us National Geographic trivia.

What are the four most animals, in order, with the most dangerous, maybe numerous, encounters with humans?


  1. rattlesnake
  3. mountain lion
  4. grizzly bear

Okay, since my family owned buffalo growing up, (another story) I was unaffected.

We came back through the start area about mile 19, Bill stopped for an extended visit at the porta johns, and I sat around and ate donuts by the fire pit. (too many as my stomach hurt) I watched the 25 K runners start their race and then took off towards Lower Frary. This is the point in the race that I had my final internal battle. I kept thinking we have 30 mile left! I caught myself and started breaking it down to small sections, in the same way I would a marathon…3 miles turnaround, 5 miles aid station, 5 miles aid, etc…then I had no further trouble.

I was VERY hungry-for food-not snacks pretty early. There were two stops that had hot soups – potato/veggie broth & ramen noodles – that was good!!

There was an out and back section during the Elephant Head loop that the 50 milers ran. At the end you had to retrieve a sticker and place it on your bib. The nice man gave me a turtle sticker and Bill asked him if he had a pig? (also another story) After searching he found one placed it on my bib, and off we went…the moral is be sure to get a sticker so they know you did the extra loop.

All of a sudden, there are buffalo around mile 20, or so, crossing the road. I start thinking about Mark’s comments and start to fret. They start moving and I tell Bill, what if they run at us? There is not even a shrub to hide behind! They run across the road and start playing or chasing-hard to tell…but in a direction away from us!

The next million miles (okay maybe 21-23) are mostly very flat trails across the desert and we enjoyed the afternoon. It started warming up and we couldn’t wait to get to the aid station to shed some layers. I went down to shorts, singlet and a thin long sleeve and was pretty comfortable the rest of the day.

We headed back toward the finish with one more 6-7 mile loop around a hill (or small mountain) before running to the finish. I felt so strong as we trotted up through the rocks. You could look and see the buffalo grazing, the mountains across the lake, and the finish line in the distance.

I couldn’t believe how good I felt as we came down the road toward the finish. Bill and I raced each other in the final stretch to the finish line… It was a beautiful day! I actually had FUN running 50 miles! (sounds hard to believe)! I would have never even thought of running this race if it wasn’t for Bill-THANK YOU!!

It was an amazing day….Life is Good!!!

Final Thoughts

I found the 50 mile distance to be very much the same as a marathon or 50K for me physically, however it presented different challenges psychologically. I had the gift of having someone to run with the entire race. The solitude of 50 miles alone is not something that would entice me to become an avid ultra runner. Some of the people you meet along the way have done amazing races of crazy distances, and I would imagine running much of them alone.

However, this race was GREAT and I would probably consider running it again!

Miscellaneous Stuff

You may encounter Bison out on the course. The race has enlisted the services of the volunteer Trail Patrol to hopefully keep them off the trail. If you encounter bison on the trail, generally they will get out of your way, however, some of the bulls (1500-1800 lbs.) are obstinate and won’t budge. Bison will also charge you (and not with credit cards) if you enter their personal space (seems to be about 10-25 yards or so ). The charges are generally short but can result in having to clean out your shorts, and that leads to chafing issues. Head for a rock field if you can, they generally won’t follow. Don’t look them directly in the eye, they take it as a challenge. Go off trail enough to get around them or wait until they decide to go elsewhere.

Awards & Shirts

Short sleeve tech shirts in a very nice material

Finishers were given mugs.

Awards were given three deep in the usual 10 year age groupings as well as overall male (who finished in 6:31 – how is that even possible?!) and female (8:00) winners.


Cristy 11:15.02  3rd Place Age Group

Bill 11:15.03

Post Race

The post race feed starts about 1:00 PM. Here’s the deal…everyone brings one can of veggies. They dump it into a kettle with buffalo meat and stir it up. For the vegetarians (me), they make a vegetarian version with some kind of faux meat…(don’t really want to think about that too much).  It was DELICIOUS!!!!

There was a nice finish line spread. We didn’t finish until 5:15 and there was plenty there for us! There were snacks, fruit, cookies, and of course the STEW!! There were massages available and hoodies for sale for $25.

We finished and I bought one of the great hoodies, ate two cups of the veggie stew (YUM!), grabbed some cookies and headed to the car. I ran into Mark, my new friend the dentist from Utah, said goodbye, and jumped into the car for the 25 minute ride back into Layton.

We stopped to take some photos on our way out of the park…

We went back to the hotel showered…

So that they would let us in the hot tub…

and examined my blisters…

courtesy of my new shoes!

and then drove across the parking lot to Cracker Barrel for a veggie feast…

well after all we did already run 50 miles!!

The end…