Thursday, June 21, 2012

Big Horn 100

The Big Horn Wild and Scenic Runs celebrated it's 20th anniversary this year with the 100 miler in it's 11th year.  All this experience has paid off as the race is as well executed as any and pulling this one off is much tougher than these folks make it look.  There are three main aid stations where you can have drop bags in the 100 mile and these can all be driven to but many of the other aid stations must be accessed by rough 4 wheel drive roads, ATV trails and one, Bear Camp, is only accessible on foot or horseback.  Coming into these very remote aid stations though, you would never guess it by the service you receive or by the food, drink, and first aid supplies.  In this race I wore new shoes which were much heavier and stiffer than I have been using and so had blister issues but even these back country aid stations had full blister kits.  Impressive!

Liz and I had a weekend off before this one but both of spent much of this time "off" working and suffering from a head cold.  Neither of us are much prone to getting sick but this is the 2nd or 3rd time this year and I think it's due to the stress we are putting our bodies through.  Our immune systems are depressed from the constant travel, work, and physical abuse of running these races.  We both started this race with stuffy heads and both produce copious quantities of "nasal mucus" as well as coughing up unidentifiable substances also in copious quantities.  Sorry for all that but it was a significant part of our race!

One unique and positive aspect of this race is the 11am start time on Friday.  This is nice as it lets you get a full night's rest without the sleep disturbing anxiety of oversleeping.  For this one we flew into Denver on Tuesday, picked up the RV and drove up to Sheridan for the Thursday packet pickup and drop bag drop off.  There was a nice buffet dinner of pasta, pizza, chicken and a full salad bar Thursday night where we spent about 4 hours eating, chatting with old friends and meeting new folks.  One of the new people we met was Mark Tanaka from CA who weighs about 120 lbs but I swear he put away 10 lbs of food before our very eyes!  Good to meet you Mark!

We drove to Scott Park in Dayton about 10 miles from Sheridan and parked the rig near the start.  It was a bit noisy early but quieted down and we both slept decently with the aid of Nyquil.  There was a 9am race briefing and then a carpool to the start 3 miles down the road.  We started on a gravel road for 2 miles to the trail which led us a few miles up the Tongue River canyon and then up a big climb into the high country.  The course is an out and back but we would run past our starting point down the gravel road all the way to Scott Park.

The gravel road at the start. 160 or so started.

Still on the gravel road....

Singletrack along the Tongue River.  Liz just ahead.

Leaving the river and heading up high.  Descending this on Saturday was rough with blistered feet.
After leaving the river we ran across 20 or so miles of rolling terrain at around 7k feet of elevation.  With no acclimation I was worried about so much running at this elevation but for some reason neither Liz nor I really had any problems with it.  Going up to 9k feet at the turnaround we felt it but not so much through here.  At 30 miles you hit the Footbridge aid station after a long descent from Bear Camp.

Looking back towards the Tongue River canyon.

Upper Sheep Creek aid station at the end of the climb from the river.

This and the following pic are from the long traverse toward Footbridge.

Starting the descent to Footbridge AS.  Liz and I ran near each other during much of the race.

The footbridge with the excellent aid station just across the river.
After Footbridge the course basically climbs for 18 miles to 9k ft and a very chilly turnaround at the Porcupine Ranger Station and a cozy cabin.  About 2 miles before the turnaround there is a mile or two where there was plenty of snow, mud, and soggy (Cold!) ground.  By the time I got to the turnaround my feet were starting to get numb and my hands were also quite cold from getting them wet and muddy catching myself as my feet slid out from under me on a muddy creek bank.

Fairly early on the climb up from Footbridge AS.

Heading down to Footbridge early Saturday morning.  A couple of miles before this I witnessed Liz startling a large bear from the top of a hill when I was about 1/3 mile behind her.  She never saw it.
As we were coming into Footbridge on the return I was worried about time thinking that we would be slow on the long high traverse after Footbridge.  Liz was less worried.  We had several hours on the cutoff at Footbridge but I wouldn't relax until we had reached Cow Camp, an aid station about 11 miles past Footbridge.  On Friday the weather had been quite nice and chilly with a very light rain for several hours.  I like the cooler weather though it did get too cold for me at the turnaround.  On Saturday though it was a different story.  We were at a high elevation for much of the run which helped but the sun was out all day long and much of the course is out in the open.  By the end of the day I was done with the sun.

Dry Fork AS the last main AS.  From here it is mostly downhill.  I had been ahead of Liz Cow Camp but she caught up at the AS while I refueled and did some foot maintenance.
The single most painful part of this race was the long descent down to the Tongue River.  My feet had blisters all around the heels but the really painful one was on the ball of my left foot.  This long descent was much too steep (much steeper and longer than I remembered from ascending it) and rocky for comfortable running with sore blistered feet.  Talking to Liz after the race she also suffered big time here experiencing the joy of blisters popping while on the run.  Ouch!

Many runners talked about how difficult the 5 miles of road was at the end of the race but I found it quite nice.  I was able to shuffle most of it in as it was less painful for my feet to shuffle slowly rather than walk.  I finished in 32:45 and Liz came in about 30 minutes later around 33:15.  We were both hobbled and could barely get around enough to change shoes and get a bite to eat at the park.  It was very sad to finish so late and to be so wrecked as we both missed out on socializing at the finish.  This one was very tough for both of us.  It even brought tears to Liz's eyes as she removed her shoes, saying "That was too hard.  I don't want to be tough anymore."

This race has a pancake breakfast and awards ceremony in Sheridan on Sunday morning.  We were able to spend some time with friends and enjoy ourselves there though we were both very footsore as were many of the other runners.  The awards ceremony was very well done by emcee and ex-RD Wendall Robison.  This is a good value race.  For your entry fee you get a pre race buffet, a goody bag with technical tee, socks and a first aid kit.  You also get treated like a king (or queen) on the course and if you finish you get an embroidered fleece blanket and belt buckle.  And then the awards ceremony free pancake breakfast.  Not bad.

I have to put in a huge shout out to race management and the aid station volunteers.  This is truly a "wild and scenic" run.  It is a true backcountry experience and it couldn't be done without these dedicated volunteers.  Every aid station this year was run by the same crew as the previous year showing dedication and a willingness to work hard so we can play hard.  Thank You!

I am writing this in Sheridan on Thursday and will be running the Black Hills 100 starting at 6am on Saturday blisters willing.  Liz is in GA and will be flying up for the Great New York 100 also starting on Saturday.  Wish us luck.  This is getting hard....

Race count:  Liz (17)  Scott (12)


  1. WOW Scott! I was with Liz in the beginning of the climb up to Upper Sheep and she mentioned how she felt tired (more than normal) and I was telling her how amazing I think she is. I never saw her pass me and it must have happened at an AS because I was very worried she hadn't finished since she didn't come in after me. she was about 13 min before me. I'm so glad you two finished! What a feat this is...30 in 52. I cannot imagine. BH 100 was my first 100 miler and I absolutely cannot imagine doing another this weekend. I wish you both the best of luck this weekend.

    1. Congratulation, Amy! It is quite an accomplishment to finish this race as your first 100. The first one is usually the most traumatic but as you do them your body adapts to the abuse. Lol. But doing them week after week, I think, will never get easy. Thanks for the good wishes!

  2. "This is getting hard..." No joke!
    So "just" one more 100 before Hardrock, or did you find something to fill in the other two weekends?
    Congrats and keep pushing through it. The year will be over before you know it.
    See you in Silverton soon.

    1. Thanks Jeff. Can't wait to see you and the rest of the "family" in three weeks! I expect some fast packing adventure stories from you. : )

      I'm registered for Angel Fire in NM next weekend but at this point I'm taking a "wait and see" attitude towards it. I don't want to jeopardize my HRH run. I'll give Black Hills a shot this weekend, go down to Angel Fire and if I feel good I'll run, otherwise I'll just help out.

      See you soon.