Finding Inner Peace at The BigHorn 100
100 miles by no means is a short run. 100 miles takes grit, courage and determination to complete. The Bighorn 100 was no different as there was a large majority of the first half where I wondered if I would even finish. This was hands down the hardest run I have taken on in my brief Ultra career. This was my second 100 but this is simply a harder run then the TRT 100. Not to say TRT was easy this was just more technical, contained more climbing, mud, snow, and night running. I would also like to add the disclaimer that this race report is not short as I just can’t put my entire experience in a short amount of writing.
I arrived in the bighorns on Wed before the race and met up with my Father who would crew me at the race. We setup camp and got some food shopping done. The campground we stayed at was located about 100 yards from the finish. Bighorn has a family feel to it and is easily felt at the campground. The race starts at 11am Sharp on the 3rd Friday of every June. The 11am start is a real mental challenge out of the gate as one is fully tapered and feeling like a caged animal awaiting to go on a hunt. The one positive is that one can sleep in and get a big breakfast.
The river at the start
The start is very casual as the race director counts down from 10 and we are off. The first two miles are on dirt road which lead into single track along the river. The first 8 plus miles are basically all a steep climb but once at the top everything opens up and you feel like you are in the Mary Popins movie where she is running through the big wide open grass fields. I guess the once difference is the scenery looks like that but in reality I was running on single track full of awkward hoof prints in hardened mud.
The first 13 1/2 miles went flying by as I rolled into the dry creek aid station grabbed my drop bag and refilled my water bottles. At this point I was all ready battling cramps which would last for several hours but were manageable as long as I got my endurolytes into me every 20 minutes. It was a bit hot to start the race and frankly all the way into night.
The next part of the course is just amazing scenery so it was easy to keep moving. There was a lot of leap frogging on the course but I did very good at just running my own race. The downhills were very technical so I was a bit a slow on them and it is clearly an area I will focus on improving over the remainder of the summer. The uphills treated me well as clearly that was my strength especially as the race progressed.
Around mile 26 at the bear camp aid station things started to cool off a little bit. However this was the steepest downhill and what would surely be the steepest uphill on the way back. We ran down the wall!!! I got passed by several runners but I would see them all again later. My friend Kelly joined me into the Footbridge aid station. This is also the first time I saw my Dad who was crewing. I was not feeling the greatest coming into the aid station and I made a few changes. I downed my first soda of the day, had a red bull and dropped my nathan pack in favor of a second hand held. Funny things happen in 100 mile races.
As soon as I began the 18 mile climb up to the turn around point I started to feel really good again. I was able to really work the uphill into the next aid station and I was able to pass a few runners along the way. I had my best rhythm on the uphills/flats and even downhills I had felt all day. However after going through the next aid station and making a few more miles up this feeling was gone quick. I got the worst cramps I had felt all day and was reduced to a slow hike. The cramps lasted into the Spring Marsh aid station.
Scenery of the Bighorns
At this point I started to eat chicken soup as I needed some change. I also ate some ginger for the second time in the race. I took an extra Edurolyte at this point as well. I think I am still clearly making nutrition mistakes at this distance but I seemed to once again pull it together at the Spring Marsh aid station. I really think ginger saved me on this day as well.
I would say by no means things went great going up to elk camp from here but my stomach started to feel better and I started to hike with more of an authority and even started to be able to run uphill again. Over the course of 13 miles I went through several changes and I without a doubt hit my lowest point.
I got to elk camp and grabbed some more chicken soup, drank some soda, refilled my bottle and got ready to head to Jaws and the turn around. The course got pretty serious here mud wise. I have honestly never run through mud like this but I was able to pick and choose my lines through it. At this point my shoes were muddy and wet for the rest of the day however. I also was finally able to get through an hour without cramps and things were really looking up for the second half.
Elevation Profile (Only 3 hills :))
I rolled into Jaws for what would be my longest aid station visit on the day. After this none would last longer than 2 minutes and 15 seconds. I had my dad help me pack my nathan with warm clothes for the night as dark was about to fall and really was already there. I filled my water bottle with powerade and got another refill of water in the second one. I was finally feeling ready to push and felt as good as I had felt since the start and the first few miles. I am not sure why but in my both of my 100’s now the first half has been a much bigger struggle then the second half. I came out of jaws feeling refreshed and ready to charge so I quickly started running fairly hard.
I ran into Aron who was crewing Kelley and he gave me some gu brew and gu roctane as I desperately needed something besides tailwind for a couple of water bottles. Going back to elk camp I was making very good time but I was unable to pick my lines through the mud and I made a decision at this time to say whatever!!! We are out running and having fun and I just charged the quickest path for the rest of the day. Mud or no mud nothing was going to slow me down. Just to make the run a little more hectic a really awesome thunder and lightening storm hit and along with that came rain.
I hit the elk camp aid station and made very quick time of it. It was really raining hard and I hit wide open meadows for the next several miles. The rain really just made it fun and this section was easy going as I was passing several people going up and a few going down. Everything was fairly uneventful all the way down to the footbridge aid station as I continued to make quick time I didn’t see anyone. I think I passed 2 or 3 people early on but once out of the meadows and more into the trees along the river I was very alone. However I found a real peace and serenity a real calm came across me.
As I arrived at footbridge for the second time I found several runners at the aid station. I once again made very quick time through there but 3 of the runners got up and joined me for the march up the “WALL”. I initially opened up a gap on them but I missed a turn not to much further and found myself hiking through a mud bog. Fortunately the 3 behind me guided me back to the proper trail. At this point I went up the wall with the youngest runner in the field at the age of 18. We enjoyed the company of each other and grunted up. Once the hill leveled a little I caught back up to the other 2 as well.
All 4 of us rolled into bear camp again. I ate some more ginger again here as my stomach started to feel a hair off but just wanted to stay on top of it. It worked as I ran really strong from here to dry fork. I was the 4th one out of the aid station but quickly asked to get by them and did. I ran strong in the last parts of the dark. Once again all alone and finding that inner peace that feels so good when running well. This section is much more rolling with some slight uphills. Anything that went up though I was power hiking at a decent clip. The flats I was moving really well and the downs were sufficient.
I rolled into cow camp as the headlights were no longer needed. They got me in and out there quickly and I was ready to move to dry fork. I really found another gear from here as it is 6 miles from cow camp to dry fork. Out of the aid station I ran the first up hill there and everything started building. I continued to roll on the downs and hit the flats hard. I also started passing a few people through here. Since I am competitive I continued to run harder to ensure they wouldn’t try to keep up. The dry fork aid station is visible from a long ways away and I continued to push really hard on the ups as I closed into dry fork. As I rolled into dryfork to meet my dad for the final time I was told by the aid station that I was moving to fast for 83 miles into the race. That felt good.
I was out of the aid station and working hard up the the final few uphills that lead into upper sheep and just past. This was more time spent alone and I quickly made my way to the upper sheep creek aid and got to take on the final 13 miles of downhill. The final uphill before that however was much steeper then I remembered but I worked my way through it. Just before the lower sheep creek aid station I got passed and lost my 10th place position but thats ok. My legs were pretty zapped but I was able to keep running. The final 5 miles are along a fire/dirt road with a slight downhill. I was able to run 9-10 minute miles for the first 3. The last 2 were very difficult to keep moving but before long I came into the park where the finish was. At this point there was no choice but to keep running until I passed under the finisher banner. Which I did with a time of 22:47.
Just after Crossing the Finish
I walked away from this race feeling very happy with my time and the run I had. 100 milers are all about troubleshooting on the fly and maybe some day I will put together two good halfs instead of 1. Maybe I don’t want that though as being slowed in the first half has probably helped me in the second half. 100 miles is without a doubt a long ways and is always a journey. I leave this years 100 and I find myself all ready focused on improving my nutrition both in life and while racing. I also want to now work on my technical skills especially on the downhill. I guess one could say I am a bit obsessed with this 100 mile distance and the desire to always improve at how I run them.
Induction into the Rusty Spur Club
I would also like to touch on the Bighorn run in general. I just want to say wow. A top notch race. A very hard course with amazing scenery and just the best volunteers one could ask for. I camped out next to the finish and the campground was filled with runners. Such a great community and family feel at this race. I will without a doubt be back to the bighorns I am just not sure when. I highly recommend this race to anyone if nothing else just to enjoy the amazing experience the Bighorn team puts on.
Picking Up My Buckle
See ya all on trails!!!!!!!!!