Bighorn 100 2009 Race Report

I’m still amazed at how incredible this course was. The scenery completely made the challenge worthwhile.

Given the circumstances of the day, I had a great run. From the start I was feeling like my effort level was unusually high even at a very slow pace. I should have at least been able to breeze through the first 15 miles of the day. It seemed pretty clear that I was starting out over trained which didn’t really surprise me after what I did to myself in May. May was a separate personal challenge in itself so I really don’t have any regrets in hindsight. And since I wasn’t challenging Karl for the course record, running a bit short of optimal performance wasn’t much of a big deal.

The section from Dry Fork to Footbridge was rougher than expected and I had a hard time getting a comfortable rhythm going. And the decent down the Wall was brutal. Early in the day the mud was shin deep in several areas and the dry sections were painfully steep. After a quick sock change at Footbridge, I headed out for the 18 mile uphill climb to the Porcupine ranger station turn around. I finally started to feel good on this section and kept up a steady pace passing several other runners along the way. I guess I just needed a good 30 mile warm up to get going.

The last few miles from Elk Camp to Porcupine were pretty nasty with long sections of muddy boggy marsh, several small streams, and then about a mile of alternating snow piles and mud pits. I paused at one small stream looking for an easy way across and noticed a course flag set about 15 feet to the left at a very narrow section. I thought that was nice of them to point out where it would be an easy one step through instead of the 8 foot crossing at the trail. So I stepped in right over the flag marker and immediately sunk hip deep into freezing water.

Fortunately it didn’t take long to get to Porcupine where Eric and Victoria helped me with my gear while I warmed up next to the wood stove. From here to the finish, I doubt I would have made it without Eric pacing me. I frequently have problems with blurred vision on long runs. I’m not sure what the exact problem is, but guess that it’s salt in my eyes. Shortly before making it to the turn around, my right eye was completely blurred over so I was having a lot of trouble seeing course flags and my depth perception was way off. So for almost every step of single track trail back to Dayton, Eric ran about 2 steps ahead of me to spot course markers and call out rocks, mud, or holes right and left. We actually got a pretty good rhythm going with this system. Going up the Wall after footbridge was a breeze …actually it was quite a relief after 18 miles downhill. We caught Ashley on the hill and by sunrise she was no where in sight behind us.

We kept up with a good steady pace from Bear Camp and caught up with Bryan Goding just before Cow Camp. He wasn’t moving very fast and at the aid station, Eric and I stopped for quick water refills and kept charging ahead. Bryan stayed behind at the aid station to eat. I probably should have done the same because about 20 minutes later, Bryan came flying by us remarking about how good the bacon was. My legs were starting to stiffen up and there was no way I could keep up.

We finally made it to Dry Fork after a long uphill trudge. I changed into a fresh pair of socks, saw Shana and Paul, and left the aid station with cheers from the 50k runners who had just arrived for their race start. This was a great boost of energy and Eric and I left the aid station running and kept on going right up the hill and about half a mile around the corner ….where my left knee broke down and completely locked up. Eric helped me to stretch out and I tied a moeben sleeve around it for support and managed to start moving slowing down the trail to Sheep Creek. I stopped to refill water at Sheep Creek and after just a brief stand still my right knee locked up. Perfect timing for the huge final downhill. We had one tiny little hill climb left that actually felt good and as soon as we started down the other side, Eric moved out ahead and set a blistering pace down through the meadow. It hurt like hell but it would hurt worse to try to stop.

Unfortunately I needed to top off my water at the next aid station and couldn’t get my legs moving again. Somewhere around mile 93 I tried stretching and ended up sitting down. Once I sat down, everything started to shut down and I just laid out on my back wondering if I was going to be able to move. A couple minutes later Ashley and her husband showed up and they stopped to ask if I was OK and tried to encourage me to get up and run the rest of the race in with them. I told them I was fine and that I had 10 more hours to make it to the finish and they headed on their way. I’m really not sure how I managed to get up. I wish I had some cool inspirational or spiritual moment to share with everyone. But there wasn’t any theme song playing, there was no Rocky training montage running through my mind, and no flashback to my childhood days growing up with the wolves. I just got up and started moving forward again. How else was I supposed to get home? By the time we hit the road, I could manage an easy jog without too much pain and we caught up with Ashley again. Eric and I tried to convince her and her husband to keep running the rest of the way with us but I think she was just happy having her 1st place finish in the bag with a sub 25 hour time and dropped off to finish at her own pace.

The rest of the run in was fairly uneventful. I didn’t have any time goal to meet or another runner to chase so we cruised the rest of the way in to finish. It took longer than I expected but I really didn’t know what to expect going into this race. Overall, it was a solid run. I never had a mental break down and stayed awake and alert the entire time. The only issues I had were a sluggish start, some trouble getting calories down in the last 50 miles, and the mechanical failure in my knees. And even though this course was much tougher than I expected, I really enjoyed it and plan to run it again. If my legs were working, I’d step up to the starting line again tomorrow.

The entire weekend was a blast running with so many friends crewing, pacing, and racing. This is certainly not a solo sport. I can’t wait for the next adventure!

I posted the full course map and elevation profile from the GPS data here.

Photos and a few video clips along with some extras from Eric, Karla, and Shana:

Marie, Nick, and I ready to start the Bighorn 100.Marie, Nick, and I ready to start the Bighorn 100.

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Marie, Nick, and I ready to start the Bighorn 100.19-Jun-2009 09:45

My pacer, Eric, and I at the start.My pacer, Eric, and I at the start.

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My pacer, Eric, and I at the start.19-Jun-2009 09:24

 
Nick and I getting ready to run.Nick and I getting ready to run.

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Nick and I getting ready to run.19-Jun-2009 10:09

Nick and I ready to start.Nick and I ready to start.

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Nick and I ready to start.19-Jun-2009 10:25

 
Karl taking the lead at the start.Karl taking the lead at the start.

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Karl taking the lead at the start.

 
The first mile up the dirt road heading into the Tongue River Canyon.The first mile up the dirt road heading into the Tongue River Canyon.

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The first mile up the dirt road heading into the Tongue River Canyon.19-Jun-2009 11:05

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Hank Dart heading up the hill into the canyon ahead of me.Hank Dart heading up the hill into the canyon ahead of me.

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Hank Dart heading up the hill into the canyon ahead of me.19-Jun-2009 11:17

Looking back down river towards Dayton.Looking back down river towards Dayton.

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Looking back down river towards Dayton.19-Jun-2009 11:18

 
Starting the first big climb out of the canyon.Starting the first big climb out of the canyon.

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Starting the first big climb out of the canyon.19-Jun-2009 11:31

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19-Jun-2009 11:35

 

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