Monday, June 22, 2009

Bighorn 100 Report (100 mile try #2)

Well Ashley and I headed out to Northern WY this past weekend to give the 100 miler another shot. It was a learning experence that is for sure. One of these days I will get one.

Race Description
The Bighorn Trail 100 Mile Run is an arduous trail run that will take place in the Little Bighorn – Tongue River areas of the Bighorn National Forest. Starting time for the event will be 11 AM, Friday June 19, 2009, with a 34 hour (average pace of 2.94 mph) time limit to finish the event. Runners must be prepared for potential extreme temperature variation and weather conditions during the event with possible temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the day in the canyons and being well below freezing at night in the mountains. The course is wild and scenic traversing territory inhabited by elk, deer, moose, bears, cougars, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes with the potential for wildlife encounters with runners. Crew access points on parts of the course are limited and the runner should be prepared to participate with a fanny pack and other necessary equipment to ensure their ability to safely traverse difficult remote mountainous trails in potentially unpredictable weather conditions. The course is an out-and-back consisting of 76 miles of single track trail, 16 miles of rugged double track jeep trail, and 8 miles of gravel road with approximately 17,500 feet of climb and 18,000 feet of descent.


Hot during the day and cold/windy in the night. The sunset and sunrise were perfect.

Race Report
Well it was a lot of fun, Ashley and I learned a lot of lessons that we actually wrote down for future reference. Basically there was no reason that I should not have finished this race if I would have had planned the drop bag correctly and thought out the whole race a little better. It seemed like the whole weekend was one big rush and that attitude seemed to catch up with us.

We left Denver around 11am the day before the race after Ashley got off work which would put us in Sheridan around 5-5:30pm for the race check in, which closed at 7pm, lots of time. About 10 miles outside of Sheridan we drove through a huge rain storm that seemed to be heading towards town and our camp site. We decided to stop at the KOA and pitch the tent quickly before the rain hit and before heading into town for the race check-in. We got to the KOA about 5:30pm, pitched the tent and were at the race check-in before 6:30pm, lots of time with the exception that they were already closed!! Are you kidding me! The website said until 7pm. There were still people there to weigh me in and give me my race bib but the drop bag people were long gone. No drop bag, great. This seemed to set the tone for the whole 1st day. All we could do is go get some dinner, beer and rest up for the race the next day.

The next morning after having some breakfast with Ashley, Braden, and Joe (my pacer who showed up in the middle of the night) we headed to the race start about 9am for the pre race briefing, the only problem was there was no one there. Fuck! The briefing was in the park in Dayton at the finish line not up the canyon where the race started. That was my fault for miss reading the packet. When we realized the error and got to the park as the meeting was getting over and people were leaving to go to the start up the canyon. At this point I was so worked up on the way things were going I just got quite and kept my mouth shut before I said something that I would regret to someone. Ashley and Joe went to find the race director to tell her what had happened at the check in and see if we could get a drop bag up to the Footbridge. Of course I put it away since they did not take it last night, so when she said that she would it there but needed right away I had to rush to throw some gels, Snicker bars, and a long sleeve tech shirt in the bag. This was one of my mistakes that I will talk about later. Now let’s get to the start line and talk about the race itself.

I had the following plan laid out which I though was very doable for this 100. Basically it was averaging 4mph the 1st 48 miles and 3mph coming back.

Mile 30- 7 hours
Mile 48- 12 hours
Mile 66- 18 hours
Average 3mph to the finish which would be 30 hours.

I was doing great the 1st part of the race staying on what I had laid out as a race plan. That 1st climb from the start up to Horse Creek was a bitch. It was basically a 4000ft climb in about 7 miles. I would say that the steepness of this compares to some of the easier 14ers trails here in Colorado. It just climbs and climbs and climbs. Needless to say there was a lot of power hiking up this section. Since it is all single track you kind of get stuck in a train which helps me to control my pace and not push to hard. From the top of the climb to Dry Fork is a rolling section that I ran with a 59 year old guy from Canada named Karl Jensen. Karl ran his 1st 100 miler in 1993 then took off 6 years to build his house. In 1999 he ran his 2nd 100 miler and has completed over 35 of them since 1999. Amazing!! He basically told me to slow my roll and do not run any uphills what so ever. He ended up finishing less than 29 hours. Our little group of 3 also included Doug Blackford who is a retired house builder from N.C. I spent the next 10-15 miles almost to mile 30 running and swapping stories with Doug who ended up winning his age division of over 60 with a 31:52 finish. Maybe I should have just hung with him the entire race.

I came into Footbridge (mile 30) at 7:05 right on target which would be 6pm after the huge 2 mile/2500 foot downhill. It was warm and I was feeling good. I would not see my crew until the turn around at mile 48 so I told them I should be there around 12-13 hours (big climb heading out). I figured that since it was warm and it was only 9000ft high at the turn around that a long sleeve shirt should be enough to get me to the turn around, so that is all I had in my drop bag. I was wrong! By the time I came into a back country aid station called Elk Camp (a lot like Hope Pass station in Leadville 100) at mile 43, I was frozen from the wind and the dramatic temp drop that happened when the sun went down, moving very slow, shaking uncontrollably and I lost my stomach also during this stretch. I spent about 2 hours there warming up by the fire and lost lots of other time from moving so slow trying to get there. Finally a runner came through that had an extra wind breaker and let me have it. I put it on along with a shower cap to trap the heat from my head that they had at the aid station, and my I-Pod cranking Tool and hiked up to the turn around at the Ranger Station getting there at 16-16:30 during the race, way off my pace. After getting my warm clothes on, picking up my pacer I starting walking back trying to get my stomach back. I had only thrown up twice so far and was still peeing with clear high volume every couple of hours which is a good sign. That means that I am drinking correctly. Walking back I had a cup of mashed potatoes which every 5-10 mins I would take a spoonful and wash it down with a gulp of water. I did this all the way back to Elk Camp which is where I got stuck at earlier. At Elk Camp I ate a couple of Ginger Cookies, filled my bottle and camel back, and hit the trail with Joe.

About mile 55 as the sun was coming up I got my stomach back and was able to keep small amounts of food down. We started jogging all the downhills trying to make up the time I spent warming up and walking slow due to being frozen earlier but could not make up enough time. Joe did a great job of keeping me motivated and moving forward. I would hit high points where I felt great and we would jog, and low points where I was walking even the downhills. The last big downhill coming into the Footbridge aid station was a 4000ft drop in about 6 miles. I got wrecked on this section. I was not wearing my normal camel pack but a small backpack with a bladder in it, I needed something to put my muddy/wet night clothes in after the sun came up since my pacer was not allowed to carry or mule my stuff. Of course my dumb ass never trained with this pack so by the time I got to the Footbridge my back was trashed.

I came into Footbridge(mile 66) about 30mins before the cutoff of 11am and based on the speed was I going did not think that I had enough time (4ish hours) to make the next cut off/drop point (mile 83) so I dropped instead of trashing myself. It was a good effort in my mind.

I just have not been able to get this 100 mile thing figured out. I think that course was tougher than Leadville due to hills, mud (lots of shoe sucking mud), snow and the remote nature of the course. If you do not plan your drop bags right (which I did not) you can easy pay the price. I am in good enough shape; there is no doubt but I still struggling with the food/clothes/logistics of the whole thing.

Anyway today my legs feel mostly recovered already. I have very little soreness in the legs at all. My feet on the other had are trashed from all the water and mud. It is going to take 1-2 weeks for all the open wounds on my heels to heal up. I got blisters on my heels that we popped and duct taped during the race (1st time ever!). They ended up getting a little infected. Sunday night after getting home Ashley cleaned them up and found some more blisters under the blisters. We cut them all open and disinfected them all. Needless to say I was screaming like a little girl while she did this. Nice to have a medic girl to save the doctor office trips. I am having trouble walking on my feet still today but at least the legs feel good. This is the first time that I have ever gotten bad blisters in a race or on a run. I have gotten blisters before but never painful ones.

I want to thank Ashley/Braden for crewing me and putting up with all the hours I spent training. Joe for making the drive up there by himself to pace me, welcome to the world of 100s Joe! And Paul for helping me with my training plan, I am sorry that my poor planning caused a DNF after all the hard work we put in.

I am going to take this month off from structured training, still going to run when the feet heal up, and figure out what is next. I really want to keep building and try again this fall with maybe the Boulder 100 or a 50 miler or a marathon or two. Of course I need to knock out 5 or so 14ers this month also if I can so stay tuned for those trip reports.

If you have any ideas of some good races to look at I am all ears. I am thinking about the Steamboat 50, or Blue Sky 50k, or Boulder 100, or Pony Express 100. Also looking at the Tucson Marathon in Dec to go try to run fast for a Boston time. I will be down at HardRock 100 in a few weeks to pace JT on a 15 mile section.

Ashley and I are going to talk this all over as we are driving out to Iowa this weekend for my Grandma’s 90th birthday and figure out what is next. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Thanks for reading and here are some photos from the race. Hit the trails!