By Tyler Barrett
An Overview of The Pony Express
The Pony Express 50 is a trail race that runs the old Pony Express National Historic Trail. Both the 50 mile and 100 mile begin at the Lookout Campground with staggered starts every 15 minutes. This race is extremely remote and requires each runner to have a crew, since there are no aid stations provided.
My wife and I and our two golden Doodles, Georgia and Roma, arrived at the start early in the morning. My assigned start time was 6:30 AM; I woke up around 3:30 AM and began sipping on Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel in preparation. I decided not to eat any solid food and only drink Tailwind beforehand, because I wanted to try something a little different with fueling compared to my last ultra, Bryce Canyon 50. The temperature was around 25 degrees at the start. Thankfully there was no wind. There were approximately 10 other runners, a mix of 50 milers and 100 milers. At 6:30 sharp, the starting buzzer sounded and I was off!
I felt great the first few miles. Light on my feet and light in my stomach. I separated myself from the rest of the group. After the first few miles, I began to have tunnel vision due to my headlamp. I quickly snapped out of that brain fog when I looked up and saw the stars. The sky was so clear, I felt I was on another planet! I had the game plan to sip on my Tailwind every mile, refilling my flask with another scoop every 45-50 minutes (this proved vital for me later on).
I met my crew at mile 10 and refilled my flask with a fresh scoop of Tailwind. By this time the sun was peeking over the mountains. The first 10 miles felt great. Due to the cold temps, I didn’t shed any layers. I decided to wait until Simpson Springs (Mile 16) to change.
After passing Simpson Springs and changing my clothes, I was off again. I began to rotate between Caffeinated and Non-Caffeinated Endurance Fuel every 45-50 minutes. Miles 16 through 36 had spectacular views. Imagine looking down a dirt road that went all the way to and disappeared over the horizon. Although this could be mentally daunting at first sight, for me it was exciting and motivating. My energy levels continued to stay up. I still felt light on my feet and powerful. I began passing other 50 mile runners that started prior to my start time.
At Mile 26, I met my crew. I had about ½ cup of mashed potatoes and another serving of Tailwind. I changed shoes from the Hoka Speedgoat 3 to the Nike Kiger. I dumped my vest, my phone, and changed shirts. At this point I decided to go light and just keep my handheld flask. No music, no distractions. Within about 4 minutes I was off again!
The weather at this point of the race was perfect. No wind, no clouds, and the temperatures in the 50’s. Besides the occasional dust from passing crew vehicles, I had no complaints. Energy was still way up, but my feet began to get sore. At Mile 36, I met my crew again. I quickly switched shoes back to the Hoka Speedgoat 3, and I felt so much better after I did. I refueled with more Tailwind and checked in with the race’s checkpoint. The positive vibes I was getting from my crew were awesome. My wife knew I had the pass to get over and that it was literally all downhill from there. Her motivation and encouragement was contagious. The volunteer at the check station notified me of my time and standing. I was in first place by 8 minutes. The only problem is that the second place runner was in front of me due to starting with the 6:00 AM wave of runners. This made it impossible to really track him or her for the rest of the race. I decided to stop thinking and start running!
I began the ascent over Dugway Pass. The pass has about 1500 feet of elevation gain over the course of a mile. Once over the pass, I began to try and turn on the jets to make up the time lost on the climb.
I met my crew again at mile 40 for some Tailwind. The temperature was now into the 60’s. After leaving my crew, I met up with another 50 mile runner who had started with the 6:15 AM wave. We had a good chat (as good as you can have 40 miles in). After some small talk, I began to pull away from him. At this point in the race, all I had consumed was 6 servings of Tailwind and ½ cup of instant mashed potatoes. I felt great! Besides the normal onset of some soreness in my legs, my energy and endurance levels remained high. I hadn’t “hit a wall” or crashed. I still had that “light” feeling with no gut aches or bogged down feeling.
I met my crew at mile 45 for one last refuel (Caffeinated Tailwind). I took a sip every ¼ mile from that point on. At mile 48.5 you actually have to pass the finish line, run .75 mile out and back in order to finish the 50. As I passed, I noticed a runner standing around the Finish line with the Race Director. I came to find out he was the 50 mile winner. I returned after the out and back and crossed the Finish line with a second place time of 8 hours 26 minutes. The winner beat my finishing time by 22 minutes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this race. The mountain desert views were inspiring. Obviously with the global pandemic, there was not a post race party/food this year. The race was put together well and was very organized. Definity on my list to do again next year! If you are looking for a scenic, fast and fun Ultra, give the Pony Express 50 miler in Central Utah a try!
Looking back, fueling was key for me. I relied solely on Tailwind for my fuel and it didn’t let me down. Immediately after I finished, I devoured a serving of Chocolate Rebuild Recovery… it tasted amazing! For the next few days, post race, I consumed one to two servings of Rebuild per day to assist with recovery. Because of this, I was able to get right back into training only 3 days after the race. Thanks Tailwind!