Bighorn Trail 100M - Dayton, Wyoming
Elevation Range: 3940' - 8930'........17,500' elevation gain.........18,000' elevation loss
June 14-15, 2019 - After an uneventful cross-country drive to Wyoming, I arrived in Sheridan for packet pick up with enough time to relax and get a good night of sleep before race day. After not running all week, I was rested and feeling no pain from my heel injury. Catching the early shuttle bus from the finish to the start bright and early on race morning, I found myself having to kill about an hour and a half until the 9 a.m. start. While morning temps quickly rose into the 70's, I enjoyed socializing with others as we sat on a bridge across the raging Tongue River. With the long pre-race wait I found myself a bit dry-mouthed and already dehydrated with the direct sun and low humidity. With the first hydration stop only a bit more than a mile into the start, I tanked up there and quickly avoided further problems.
Having success a month previous with walking early in a race, I hung back and got into queue near the end of the column that began the initial march up the hill. It was all very social and people were patient. After further refueling at about four miles I realized I needed to take a nature break sooner or later, so opted to exit the course while there was still some cover in the willows. After finishing business and returning to the course I quickly assessed that I was the last person in the race. No other runner was behind me and the one ahead was nearly out of sight. That was good, because now I could begin to run and build some momentum into the intial major climb. I hadn't gone far before I caught and passed the guy in front of me, all of a sudden realizing that I had not stopped any too early as the trees and shrubs came to an abrupt end, leaving nothing but open high pastures with no cover to squat.
Picking off one person after another, I maintained my upward momentum and ran wide in the grass off the trail to pass any long slow queue of runners I caught up to. This continued for probably seven or eight miles, with very little walking, until I was up and over the top of the first climb and on my way down to the first major aid station at mile 13. In the nine miles following my being in last place, I estimate that I comfortably passed 80 to 90 other runners. Everything felt good and my heel was not bothering me until the trail began to point down, but then not badly.
Within a couple miles of the mile 13 Dry Fork aid station the darkening clouds began to dump rain on us with a thunder and vengeful light show. If there is one thing that I try to avoid at all costs, it is running in open terrain, especially on a treeless ridge, during an electrical storm. Here I was running with other crazy people flailing their metal hiking poles as they attempted to continue. After donning my rain jacket, I just said a prayer and moved forward as efficiently as possible. After a good soaking, just enough to make the mud greasier, the sun returned and I could continue without a rain jacket. Threatening clouds alternated with sunshine the rest of the way downhill to the second major aid station at 30 miles, Sally's Footbridge.
Reaching this point, nearing a third of the race, in 8 hours felt okay. Since it was five o'clock I had to unpack my warmer clothing, resupply, and be ready for night running. Just as I ducked into the tent to sit down and change out clothing, the clouds dumped on us again. I was really glad to miss that one, so stuck around a good fifteen minutes to let the storm pass. But with the continued threat of rain, I had to wear my rain jacket over my warm clothes, so got quite warm until the sun went down.
From the Footbridge to the turnaround at mile 48, the Jaws aid station, it is virtually all up hill. I slowed it down a bit and was no longer running with the others I had kept company with thus far. I walked more on climbs and shuffled when the trail was less steep. It took until after 9 p.m. before I needed my flashlight. Everything was going well until I stumbled on a rock while shuffling along a level pasture. After forty miles of running I must have been just tired enough that I didn't lift my feet enough and caught a tip. My bad heel was on fire as I hobbled to a painful stop.
With no other choice, I continued, stopping to take weight off my foot regularly and even sitting down a couple of times. After awhile my heel felt good enough to continue and I had plenty of time to hobble the rest of the way. Then we hit endless marsh-type shoe-sucking mud as we climbed further into high pastures after dark. Greasy mud is my nemesis with this particular injury; to add insult to injury, the Hokas I had chosen to wear to protect my feet did not offer the traction I needed to climb through endless slippery mud. Needless to say, I got bogged down and really slowed below two miles per hour. Knowing I was killing valuable time and that the reverse course would require me to negotiate the treacherous mud going back downhill, I mentally decided to withdraw when I hit the turnaround. There was no other choice. It was not a time for either heroism or foolishness.
So I walked it in, very painstakingly in the chilly 38-degree temps. I had to smile, however, as things got even worse as it leveled out before reaching the Jaws aid station. There was enough snow left that the trail went from miserable mud to even worse icy slush. As the cold numbed my soaked feet and turned my toes into popsicles, at least my heel pain was also numbed.
I handed in my number to the race director when I reached the aid station and had her find me a ride back to the start. In the meanwhile I sat down among other wounded runners wrapped in blankets with their bare feet soaking in warm water. Some folks were lying on cots next to space heaters; in general it looked like a large triage tent with dozens of attendants taking care of the beat up runners. Quite a spectacle. My legs felt real good after sitting for ten minutes, but my foot was shot. Even two days later as I write this I'm still hobbling in discomfort.
Some nice local folks named Jeff and Sarah gave me and another girl that stopped her run at Jaws an hour ride back to the start. I still had lots of energy and enjoyed the conversation immensely. A large moose ambled across the highway close enough that Jeff had to break hard. By three-thirty a.m.or so I was wiped down enough to crawl into my sleeping bag to rest and forget about my problems.
After three hours of restful sleep I was ready to head back up into the Bighorn Mountains in the morning to at least enjoy my day before I would be able to recover my drop bags. So, I covered 48 miles, of which I only raced 40. For once I would love to have 100 miles with no mud. Such a race has eluded me this year. But I had a really good time, all things considered. I got to see and enjoy essentially the entire course, with 50 or so pictures to look back upon with good memories. This is an event I will not return to, but I have to say it is one of the best organized hundreds I've ever been in, with beauty that exceeds most. It was a good day. Back to licking my wounds before the next one.