|Bighorn 100 Mile|
I thought of a bunch of ways to start this entry while I was running the race. I thought about a bunch of ways to start this entry on the plane home while reflecting. I'm having trouble starting this entry now. Suffice to say this was a very hard run but I wouldn't say it was the hardest run I've ever done. There were definitely sections of the course that I thought were the hardest while I was doing it, including the night part, but overall it was just a matter of moving forward one foot at a time.
We set off from Dayton, about a half-hour drive from Sheridan, at 11am under a partly cloudy sky. We were very fortunate on the first day as the sun never beat down on us for more than a few minutes at a time. I didn't even wear sunglasses during Friday at all. I went at an easy pace, walking with everyone else when the need arrived. Once we hit the Tongue River trail head about a mile in, we started climbing and I doubt if I ran more than thirty seconds over the first ninety minutes. At the top we were able to run more but then hit tons of mud and wet sections. I saw Tracey and Tom, crew extraordinaire, at the three hour mark, maybe fifteen miles in at Dry Fork. There are some funny pictures of me there on the Bighorn website and I'm still waiting for Tom's pictures to be sent which I'll put on here right after. It was here also that they did the first medical check on the runners. You can't drop more than 7% of your pre-race body weight (taken on Thursday at the package pick-up) or they pull you from the course. I weighed in at a hefty 176, although I don't remember ever being that heavy. At this check I was 170 and I thought, uh-oh, if I'm down more at the next one I could be in trouble. I was drinking a fair amount but not peeing anything out. In fact, my stomach was getting a bit upset using the mixture I was so I switched to one bottle of CarboPro and the other straight water from which I alternated. I still took shots of the Carbo 1200 every fifteen minutes and from there on I had no stomach issues. I ate bananas and PB&J at every station if it was available and they served me well.
Leaving this aid station was the start of the first of two loops of a section we would do due to the changes in the course because of the snow. It was a fairly easy, runnable section except once we got to the Cow Camp and had to head up to Riley's Point which was at the 8500' level. This climb was so long and steep it rivals the Grouse Grind but not as gnarly. I wasn't looking forward to doing this again in twelve hours.
There was a very tiny aid ATV at the top along with numerous patches of snow and mud to go through before we ran down to Dry Fork again. I weighed in at 173. That was good. Then I was off along the same path again where at Cow Camp we turned left instead of right and set off towards Foot Bridge which was the next big aid station that held dry shoes. We ran through lots of low shrubs along here and a bunch of forest patches. There was one that resembled The Blair Witch Project and I thought this will be fun to run through on the way back in the dark. My goal was to get to Foot Bridge before dark where my headlight was so that was my mantra for four hours.
At the top of a long, steep descent into Foot Bridge, the sun was on my left, just above the treeline. It shone on a rock face way off to my right and the sight was magnificent: it was two miles away and stretched for twice that but the sun showed every feature of it. I had to stop and take it in and once again appreciate that I even have the ability to attempt what I was doing - and with no shin splint issues to boot!!
At the end of the long, steep down section to Foot Bridge, Tracey was there to lead me to the oasis. Here we had to do a one mile out and back along a flat section. I thought I'd redo some tape and change shoes so as to make sure it felt okay before the next out and back part that was fifteen miles. I weighed in at 176 now. Interesting.
It got dark halfway to the next small aid station which looked more like a campout with the fire and people singing. From there to the was where the leaders passed me going the other way and from there to the turnaround was pretty rocky. The last mile to the turn was rather trail-less but the glow sticks helped us in the right direction. There was a lot of low scrub that we bush-whacked through but finally arrived at the aid station. It was amazing that all the supplies for this spot were brought up by horse and mule - seven miles from Foot Bridge.
The trip back to Foot Bridge was arduous with my feet beginning to hit rock bottom (literally). Every time I hit my toes on a rock or branch it sent a wave of pain up to my knee. I guess my problem is that my gait doesn't allow me to lift my feet high enough or I just get tired and they drag through obstacles instead of over them. Regardless, by the twentieth time they've been smashed, I was slowing down.
When I saw Tracey and Tom again we redid my big toes in moleskin but reversing it so the non-sticky side was towards the toe then taped up copiously. I think the taping jobs were fine, it was the water that was undoing all of our work. I reloaded with supplies and reluctantly left the comforts of the aid station, off into the dark climb. In retrospect, I thought that I may have been wise to drop from the race at this point because my toes were so bad that I didn't want to do huge damage to them in order to be able to run the other races this summer. Most people who know me wouldn't surprised then that I kept going anyways. Stubborn bastard.
Here's where the run got a bit more difficult. The long climb out of this aid station took a lot out of me. Of course I wasn't concerned about my position ever in the race so just moving forward was accomplishment enough. As I went up this hill, I heard people coming up behind me, sounded like a man and woman. They were chatting away, seeming to be unaffected by the altitude or difficulty of the terrain. I thought they must be either locals used to the elevation, or maybe they were going aid station volunteers going to relieve a crew at the one. Regardless, they passed me like they were on a Sunday stroll and I remember thinking how fresh they looked and acted. In the final standings only one woman came ahead of me and she passed me within two miles to the finish when I was walking so I'm not really sure who those people were. Or if they were figments of my tired mind. Back through some forested areas then down to the Cow Camp again. All through the night I kept looking at my watch and telling myself how many hours left I had to go in the dark. I figured as it was a cloudless night it should start to lighten up around 5am and it did. My little handheld flashlight kept turning off on me and it wasn't until I got home and looked at it closer that I realized it was user error. It was quite simple: Turn one section to get it to come on, then dial the tip for the beam you wanted. For some reason I thought that the part to turn it on wasn't supposed to be turning therefore I kept tightening it (shutting it off) and thinking the tip was what controlled the on/off. Simple enough controls except in the hands of the exhausted. I had trouble crossing small creeks and streams. I would stop at the edge and look at the path I planned to take: Jump on this rock, that rock, then that one, and I'm across completely dry. Then I would take the first step - splash, right up to my ankle. Next step, splash, miss the next rock again and stumble out of the water. I look back now and wonder if there were even any rocks to jump on or whether I imagined them or thought that ones underwater were actually on the surface. Either way I said screw you brain and began running through the water sections without even stopping.
Luckily it was getting light after Cow Camp, unlucky that we had to climb up to Riley's Point again which took me forever. The second half of the run was where the altitude and steep sections really kicked the crap out of me. I was stopping every once in a while just to catch my breath with my pulse pounding in my head. I've heard of people hallucinating during the night parts of 100 miles but my weirdness happened when the sun came up again. You know when you look at a cloud or a pile of rocks or sticks sometimes you can make out shapes, faces, designs, etc., but you need to kind of stare at them to get them to materialize? Maybe you have to get closer to make thinks more clear? Well with me, as soon as I looked off the path at a rock face, treed area, pile of rocks, it immediately jumped out at me as a face, person, statue, carving, you name it. And this went on and on until I figured out this can't be a coincidence that everything looked like a statue, animal, car, etc. It got to the point where it was annoying and I would just look straight ahead or down at my feet to avoid any sightings. Then, however, the rocks at my feet looked like they had drawings or paintings on them. I thought that was weird, why would people come and draw designs on these rocks way out here? It turned out it was shadows cast from long grass or flowers onto these rocks and again my mind made them out to be designs and pictures of things.
I finally limped into Dry Fork to see Tracey and Tom for the last time before the push to the finish, about 17 miles away. I believe I weighed 178 at this point. Tom asked if I wanted company and although I knew I'd be mostly walking and not much into conversation, I agreed to him coming along. We chatted a bit but I wasn't too interested in doing anything but ending the pain. I had changed socks but was out of shoes so kept going in the wet ones. The weather was very warm in the morning and the 50 mile race that had already started would be run under clear, hot skies. At one point I looked ahead and saw a bunch of people standing near their ATVs but when I got closer to them I realized, again, that it was only a stand of trees and sticks, but when I got even closer, I was sure that it really was a bunch of people. I almost said something to Tom about how my mind was thinking that those people were trees but when I was right beside the spot I saw that it really was trees and rocks and no humans nearby. Boy, would I have looked foolish!! Ha, ha!!
We had one last really ugly climb that took me forever because I had no breath. At the top the amazing view opened up and we started the long road down. At one point you could look way, way, down the alpine and see these little teeny, tiny, runners on the path we were heading down on. They were really there as Tom pointed them out too. This last 7 miles down after the last aid station were the hardest, most grueling of the day because every step I was hitting my toes into the front of the shoes. It hurt to run so I did little baby steps down these parts. At the bottom I was thankful to be off the high hills and was looking forward to the last five mile walk down the dirt road to the finish in Dayton. I thought it would go faster but the road kept going and twisting and we could never see the end. It took about an hour and a half to walk those last five miles and in that time I think six people passed me and I honestly didn't care. All I wanted now was that belt buckle saying I was finally done and could stop.
At the park in Dayton they made you go around a soccer field to the finish which I thought was one last insult to laugh at. Through the finish and into the river my feet went to cool down. After a quick bite at the BBQ it was to the van and back to the motel in Sheridan. I don't even remember putting on my seat belt I fell asleep that quickly. Tracey woke my up in Sheridan to double-check which street the motel was on then I was out like a light again for a couple more minutes.
Tracey and Tom were going to drive back to Denver that day so they were cleaning up and I thought it would be rude to fall asleep while they were still there but could barely keep my eyes open. After some good-byes they left, I showered, and laid down for a two hour nap. Almost three hours later Carrie phoned the room, thankfully, as I slept through my alarm and most likely would have woken up in the morning, starving and dehydrated.
I caught the little tourist trolley to town to a Mexican place and found I could barely eat half my dinner which is totally unheard of for me. I did, however, manage to force a DQ Blizzard down my throat. Off to bed for me and, man, my muscles were so stiff and sore that I could barely get out of bed the next morning. My quads and calves were comfortable, not the same soreness after a marathon which was nice, just tired.
The awards were great as they read out each of the 100 mile finishers to come up and get their finiser's shirt and buckle. The race directors and volunteers were so awesome and dedicated. They did an amazing job. I could defintely see me coming back to do this race again one day.
Again, photos are coming!