Antelope Island – 50 Mile

Moonlighting as The Little Nell’s Front Desk Manager by day, our resident freelance adventurer, Dylan Bowman, spent last weekend competing in the “Buffalo Run” on Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

He ran 50 miles in 6 hours and 15 minutes and shattered the course record by 18 minutes… That’s running at 8 miles per hour for 6 hours and 15 minutes, or 50 x 7.5 minute miles. Oh, and he won the race. Here’s Dylan’s account of his amazing journey.

On what was one of the last busy weekends of the season in Aspen, I managed to sneak away and indulge in a long hard effort on some dry trail.

I hit the road early Friday morning and managed to make it to Salt Lake City in one piece after seven hours and some sketchy driving conditions. After finding my hotel, I headed out to Antelope Island to check out the course a little bit. After a 20 minute jog, it was back to the hotel to order a pizza and head to bed.

The 4 a.m. wake-up call came quickly, and before I knew it, I was chatting with fellow racer Duncan Callahan at the start line, anxiously anticipating the gun. The pace felt very easy to me on the initial climb. I took the lead from the start and immediately opened up a slight gap. I felt solid and continued motoring past several buffalo that were roaming around in the pre-dawn darkness.

About two miles in, right before the top of the climb, I came to a fork in the road with a cone marking the left turn. Thinking the cone marked the correct trail, I led five or six of the front guys left. A short time later, we reached a viewpoint to find that the trail dead-ended. Dang it! Should have paid more attention during the pre-race announcements.

We probably lost seven or eight minutes. I was upset with my mistake and immediately turned up the pace to a near-uncomfortable level. My goal going into the race was to really go for the victory. I had never run with this mentality before, so I was OK with the very real possibility that I would experience a meltdown at some point. I finally caught back up to the leader. I jumped right behind him, and we started chatting. Right near the top I could feel that I was pushing him harder than he was comfortable with. (Later I learned that he was recovering from pneumonia… sheesh.) I scooted around him at mile 9 and never looked back.

When I got to the start of the long, mostly flat 22 mile out and back, I had the chance to get a read on the competition. I was very pleased to see that I already had nearly an eight minute lead. 

The way out to the mile 33 turnaround was pretty tough. We had a stiff headwind that also carried a bit of a chill. It was comforting to know we would have this same wind at our backs for an equal amount of time on the way back though.

I clocked my lead on Duncan at the turnaround to be close to 12 minutes. Having first-hand knowledge of Duncan’s late race strength meant that I was never really comfortable. I just continued to run at a pace that I felt was aggressive yet maintainable. When I got to the end of the monotonously flat out and back, I relished the steep single-track that indicated only six miles remained.

From there, I essentially knew I was going to win, barring a catastrophic failure, and began focusing on knocking a bit of time off the record. I had been disciplined in my gel and water intake and had really solid energy levels all day long. With a half mile to go, I took one last look over my should and was pumped beyond description.

After the race, I had the pleasure of meeting ultra-celebrities Bryon Powell and Nick Clark, as well as other amazing competitors. I continue to be inspired by the community of athletes I’ve come into contact with through my participation in Ultras. I feel so privileged to be able to compete alongside them, and I look forward to coming back to Antelope Island in the future.

After a long drive home, I managed to get a short and humiliating jog in. It’s safe to say my legs are toast, but I couldn’t be happier. Next up? Fruita 25 miler in mid-April. Fire it up!