Buffalo 100 Mile Race Report
March 23 - 24, 2018
A few years ago, I saw a video of a running friend finishing the Buffalo 100 mile trail race. I was inspired and a small seed was planted in my heart. I do not have a natural running ability. I run a 3:55 marathon which is NOT a Boston Qualifier. My weekly mileage sweet spot is only 40 miles/week. I do not have perfect running form. I have had every running injury. But I wanted to see if I worked hard enough and had a big enough desire that I could accomplish a 100 mile trail race Just. Being. Average.
Now that I have finished this race, I write this race report to remember. Remember the training, the feelings, and all the non-sugar coated details. I write it for those who are the average runner wondering if they could finish such a race. YOU CAN!
I ran 4 days/week for this race. I ran on the road, treadmill, and trail. I did the 25k loop on Antelope Island 4 times. My weekly average was 40 miles/week. I completed 4 weeks of 50 miles/week and hit one week of 60 miles/week. On my non-running days, I would lift weights and do yoga. My longest run was the Red Mountain 55K three weeks before race day.
The race day weather report showed rain and snow. Because of the weather, I opted to utilize the early 10:00am start time. My race anxiety greatly eased knowing I had two extra hours. I also purchased a Patagonia Houdini rain/wind jacket (which turned out to be the best purchase ever).
Tim and I arrived at Antelope Island 8:45am. It was pouring rain as I picked up my bib. As we headed out to the start line, the rain let up. I checked in with the race director, made last minute clothing adjustments, and attended the pre-race meeting.
There was 20 runners that utilized the early start. Jim Skaggs (the race director) drew a line in the dirt with his foot and at exactly 10:00am, he yelled ”Run, you fools.” We started out on the 20 mile loop. This loop had the most climbing of the course.
I made it to the first aid station (AS) with a small group of runners. I was taught to be fast and efficient with aid stations by my friend/pacer Kelli. No dilly-dallying! The clock is still ticking. During miles 15-20, I started to get nauseous. This is not normal for me, so I walked until I felt better. Then ran. Walked. Ran.
At mile 20, I made it back to the start/finish area. My friend and pacer, Melissa was yelling for me! It was wonderful to see a familiar face! She led me to where Tim had set up all my gear. Melissa gave me some Tums to help my stomach, filled my water bottles, and sent me off with words of encouragement.
Next stop was the Mountain View AS (mile 22) and then onto the Lower Frary AS (mile 27). This was a long and lonely trail. Tim was the best crew chief. He always had a camping chair set up, my plastic container of gear open, and was ready to get food/fill bottles.
I started to listen to podcasts and looked forward to seeing other runners along the way (and there were not a lot!!). I planned to take some time at the Ranch AS (mile 33). I used the restroom, got some food, changed my socks/added more lube to my feet. This was a longer stop (maybe 10 minutes). It felt good to sit for a minute and see other runners.
As I left the Ranch, I was listening to the Trail Manner’s podcast. I met the Trail Manner’s guys while running the Red Mountain 55k a few weeks ago. Right then on the podcast, they gave me a shout out for the 100 miler. I got the biggest smile on my face. It totally made my day.
My legs were feeling good and I made great time back to the Lower Frary AS (mile 38). I grabbed my headlamp and charger. It was starting to get dark. It was windy all day, but it was getting windier.
I saw my dear friend and training partner, Rachel around mile 45. It was good to have her walk with me for a minute. She gave me details of the other runners. She was just the perfect dose of sunshine.
It was dark and I had trouble with my headlamp. I ended up taking both headlamps off and holding them in my hands (I had one for my head and one to go around my waist). There was a short field that I had to bushwhack. I struggled running through this section because it was hard to see the holes in the ground. The wind was blowing and I kept having to hold onto my hat. This is the most technical portion of the course.
I struggled over the large boulders and had a hard time figuring out the trail. I started to hit the panic button….I did not have cell coverage. I was all alone. It was dark. It was windy. I was SO cold. I could not see very well. I ended up missing a turn off and got lost. I eventually found my way back to the start/finish AS (mile 50), but I was an emotional mess.
When I came back into the AS, Tim wrapped me in his arms and told me I was going to be fine. I changed my clothes, got on a winter hat, hand warmers. Kelli (my other amazing pacer) handed me a cup of warm broth. Manna from heaven.
As I was pulling myself together, Annie Macdonald came over to chat with me. Annie ran the Buffalo 100 last year. I followed her training and race last year. She totally ROCKED it and was on my “cool-runner” list. I felt silly for being such a hot mess and tried to pull myself while she talked to me. She filled my brain with confidence and sent Kelli (pacer #1) and I out the door for loop #2.
I cannot even express how grateful I was to have Kelli by my side. We have done this 20 mile loop several times during training. It felt like a Saturday morning out on the trails with my friend….telling stories and catching up with life. The moon was incredible. I had several PB&J quarter sandwiches and chips. I took my trekking poles during this section as it had a few good climbs. I had done a caffeine fast three weeks prior to the race. I finally took some Excedrin at mile 57. My IT Band was starting to slightly hurt. I figured it was a good time for some pain relief and caffeine.
Kelli and I completed the loop (mile 50-70). I changed my socks/shoes and added more lube to my feet. More broth. I headed out of the tent with Melissa (pacer #2 who gave me Tums at the very beginning. Yep...I have the most amazing friends who hang out all day). My legs were starting to get heavy and my IT Band was still hurting. Melissa encouraged me to take more caffeine. She told me stories and asked just the right questions to keep my mind moving.
Melissa is amazing photographer. I told her I wanted lots of pictures and video because I was only going to run a 100 mile race once….and I needed to document it. She took some amazing sunrise pictures.
We finally made it back to the Ranch AS (mile 83). Tim had all my stuff ready for a full clothing change. It was still windy and I needed to get out of my wet clothing. I got some food/filled my water bottles. I was officially sick of eating.
The wheels started to fall off. The exhaustion was overwhelming. I literally needed toothpicks to hold my eyelids open. I started to get quiet and tucked way into the pain cave. My legs were so heavy. My IT Band was crippling. I had heard of the “lows” of ultra running. But I had no idea just how LOW this felt.
As we pulled into the Lower Frary AS (mile 87), I told Melissa I needed to lay on the ground for 10 minutes. I laid on the dirt on the side of the trail. Pack and all. I only lasted 45 seconds. I sat up and Tim crouched down in front of me. I put my hands on my head and started to cry. Tim kept saying to me, “you only have 13 miles left”. “13 MORE MILES.” This seemed like such an overwhelming distance. I was mostly walking at this point and this meant HOURS left. Carol Manwaring (ultra runner extrodinaire) knelt down by me and said “You got this Toby”. I know Carol, but in my state of hot-mess, I looked at her and asked her “who are you?” She laughed and helped me up. Talk about your friends seeing you in a very raw-state. No faking the lows of a 100 mile race.
I guess if I can’t take a nap, I might as well keep moving. I had been posting periodic race updates on Instagram. As Melissa and I walked, I decided now would be a perfect time to check Instagram. I had so many comments and well wishers. People are REALLY nice to you when you run a 100 miles.
Somewhere between mile 87 and 90, Kelli and Tim blasted my favorite song from Tim’s truck. Tim even danced. It totally put a smile on my very tired face. I was grateful for Kelli’s inspiration to remember my song!
Melissa and I made it to mile 94. I was SO unbelievably tired. Tim took over pacing duties into the most technical part of the course (the part I got lost on the night before). My IT Band was still crippling...going up and over the large boulders was excruciating. I had a blister on my right foot. This was a very long section of the race. I was grateful for Tim’s stories of the past two days.
We came across two ladies that asked if I was Toby. They had been following my Instagram posts and gave me some encouraging words! We finally came to the long dirt road to the finish line. As much as I wanted to run into the finish, my IT Band said no. So I made my mile 99 shuffle into the finish line.
I cannot even begin to express the emotions of seeing my two pacers at the finish line. To hear them scream my name. I crossed that finish line a new person. So many kind strangers came up to me to congratulate me on my success. I cannot tell you the relief of being DONE. My crew helped me into the tent and Tim took off my shoes. Best thing EVER!
My #1 goal was to finish within the 30 hour cutoff time. I finished in 26:53:43 and the 5th female.
It was so fun to chat with other runners at the finish line tent. Swap stories. I am still in awe at how kind people are while these ultra races…..aid station volunteers, other runners, and spectators. Everyone wants to you to finish. They will help you in anyway possible. I believe that the 100 mile belt buckle belongs to the entire team (crew, pacers and the runner). If it were not for Tim, Kelli, and Melissa, I would NOT have crossed that finish line. I am forever grateful for their kindness in my very dark moments.