Monday, June 17, 2013

Bighorn Trail 50K (Race Recap)

Saturday, June 15
Dayton, WY
50K #4
Weather - Chilly at the start, sunny and warm

I registered for the Bighorn Trail 50k the day it opened, way back in January. Remember, way back then when I had all these aspirations about rebuilding my base and getting faster again and starting to love running? Yeah. Well, we all know that didn't happen.

I think I was in denial about this race. I didn't prepare for it, I'd been on running hiatus for over a month. I had not looked at the course information, the elevation profile, NOTHING. I figured, I have done the distance before, if nothing else, it will be a nice, long hike?


I dropped A off at summer camp around 7:30 and started the long and lonely drive to Sheridan, Wyoming, where packet pick-up and our hotel was located. I was really excited to see my Texas ultra friends Libby and Lesley again, and would be sharing a room with Lesley at the swanky Holiday Inn. They had arrived the day before and told me to text when I got close. Unbeknownst to any of us, there would not be cell phone service on the mountain (where they were crewing for their friend who was running the 100), so when I didn't hear from them I went to packet pick-up. The sign hanging in the stairwell was HILARIOUS, yet terrifying at the same time.

I spent  my time in the very long line chatting with girl and her dad. SO cute that they were doing this together as their very first race. EVER. Turns out the really long line was for the 30k, so I was able to cut over and get my things. There were two different shirt options, and I chose the bright purple. I still hadn't heard from the Texans, so I headed to the bar next door for a beer. I ended up chatting with a couple from Ft. Collins (an hour north of where I live) and we walked to a brewery down the street.

I had a few DELICIOUS beers and heard from Lesley and Libby with our dinner plans. They had not been super impressed with the pasta dinner, so we met up with Courtney and Luke at the Qdoba down the street. I had a tasty chicken bowl. And then this picture happened. Why am I so weird? :(

Early to bed.


Thankfully, Libby is a planner. She was driving us all to where we had to pick up our bus to get to the start. Remember when I said I had done zero research on this course? I hadn't even purchased my ticket until last month, because I didn't realize there was a shuttle. I also didn't know it was a half hour drive to the shuttle. Pre-race picture for us to upload before we all lost cell phone service:

Lesley, me, Libby
Annoying, we walked all the way to the bus pick up before I realized I had left my sunglasses in the car, so I had to run back and get them. At least I realized THEN and not later?

The bus ride was REALLY long and our driver made a few wrong turns. We arrived at the start (also, the mile 14 aid station) about an hour before start time. It was COLD. I was glad I had chosen to wear arm sleeves and almost wished that I had worn a throwaway. I cycled through the bathroom line twice.

Another picture where I look like a midget to add to my collection (From left: Phil, Libby, Me, Lesley, Courtney, Luke)

Again, not having ANY clue what was happening, I didn't realize that we were starting, literally, straight up the mountain. Probably the first race ever where I didn't even jog across the start line. Us mid-back of the packers, walked up the first steep hill of the course.

Even with all the running hatred I have been feeling, I vaguely remember that part of what attracted me to this race was how pretty the course was going to be. I probably could have dropped to the 30k, which I briefly considered when I starting hearing things about the course, like all the extreme downhills we would be running. My IT band tends to flare up a lot on downhills and I didn't want to have to drop if it started to hurt. Then I was reminded that with the other distances, the 50k had a generous 13 hour time limit, which I figured I could walk most of and still finish in time.

Like a few other reports I have written, this will be recapped mainly in pictures. To summarize very briefly:
  • The uphills were steep.
  • The downhills were steep.
  • Some of the course was rutted with lots of rocks and roots.
  • Some of the course was crazy muddy.
And spoiler - even with a fall around mile 6 where I rolled my (bad) ankle (which thankfully did not hinder my ability to finish), nothing really hurt! AND I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED THIS RACE. No really, it was the hardest 50k I've done, and there were a few times I wanted to die, but the scenery was completely worth every second of it. Run love is not back, but trail love is.

Without further ado... the Bighorn Trail 50k:


This trail fed into a really beautiful wooded section of rooty, muddy trails. Probably my favorite section of the course, I do remember yelling "I LOVE THIS COURSE" through that section. I didn't take any pictures because I was moving pretty fast (for me) and it was pretty technical.

I turned around at the top of a steep incline to take this of the people behind me. I feel somewhere behind where they are and the ridge at the top.
Bacon!! (At Cow Camp aid station)

Mentally, I began to crash a bit on the huge huge HUGE incline back up to the Dry Fork aid station (aka, where we started) at mile 14. I could see the cars shining on the top of the ridge and it seemed like we were never ever in a billion years going to get there. I think walking up that slope was the first time I got passed by a 100 miler, and I felt like the biggest jerk in the world for complaining and he was just sucking it up and moving.

I remember briefly contemplating if I even wanted to finish this race. Since I had no real idea what the course was like, I wasn't sure if what I had just done was what the rest of the course was like or just a really tough section. Turns out, that was the "hardest part." I  regrouped at the aid station (no seriously, I was there for at least 10 minutes). I had two tasty pieces of pizza (meat, olives, etc) and some candy (m&m's, mike & ikes), chips, watermelon, diet Pepsi, and grabbed a piece of beef jerky to eat on the hill out of the aid station. I have never seen such a wide variety of food at an aid station. I really didn't want to leave.

But leave I did. Grudgingly, finally. I spent the next few miles "chasing" a 100 miler and her pacer. Finally, the time came to pass her, and really, there is NO glory in passing someone that has already been on their feet for over 80 miles.

I spent some time chatting with a man from Canada. After leaving the aid station (at mile 18?) we encountered another really muddy area. The mud was SO thick it was more of the consistency of silly putty or something. More than one person lost their shoe in the mud!

I'm about halfway up "The Long Haul" and took this picture behind me. Only hill I had to stop a billion times because it was so exhausting to walk up
"Rewarded" with a nice downhill after The Long Haul where we got to run through this beautiful field of wildflowers

At some point, I finally asked someone where we were, and I surprised (I guess?) by how much we had already done, even though it felt like I had been out there FOREVER. The second half went by a lot faster for me because it seemed a lot more "runnable" than the first half, where I honestly walked MILES.

And then....
We ended up on the "worst" part of the course. A 5 mile death march on a flattish gravel road. There were some houses and a few spectators. This house had the cutest sign out front and they were blasting "Eye of the Tiger" on a boombox:

I really wanted to run it in, and hopefully beat my Palo Duro time. I just did not have anything left. The first 26 of the course had so many ups and downs and very few flats. My legs were just trashed. I could only run a minute or two at a time before I needed to walk. If I wasn't walking, I might have missed the only snake I'd encounter on the course:

When I finally got to paved road, I knew I was almost done. Libby had pointed out the park to me as we had driven by in the morning, but I didn't know exactly where. I walked up until I was about 50 feet from the finish line. I just had nothing left.

No medal for this one, although we did get a long sleeve 1/4 zip pullover "finisher" shirt that was really nice.

Bib #836
Time - 8:30:56
Overall Place - 170/216
Gender Place - 86/112
Division Place - 33/40

Would I have liked to have run faster and stronger? Of course. I will say, I am very pleased with  my finish. I got done without quitting or dying, and I actually passed some people in the second half and did not come anywhere near last. So, I call this a win

Finally found another INB'er at this race!
Courtney and Luke were still waiting at the finish line, even though they had been done for HOURS (no, really. Luke ran a 4:34 for 3rd male and 1st in his age group. Courtney ran 5:5x for 9th female and 1st in HER age group. Are they badass or what??)

It was so nice to have a friendly face at the finish! Luke had even brought beer and shared (thank you!)

Libby and Lesley had a tough race (Lesley blew out her knee on the extreme downhills around mile 20) and Libby had developed some nasty blisters. But they both finished!

We stayed at the finish area until after 9:00 pm to wait for the 100 milers to roll in. On the right is Jen from Run Pretty Far finishing another 100!

I had been hoping to have a beer at the "Crazy Woman Saloon" down the road, but everyone was pretty exhausted at the end of the day.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was after 10. Lesley and I had a brilliant idea to order pizza. That took over 8 minutes (!!!) but I was afraid to get rude with the guy for being a moron because I was pretty sure I'd die of starvation without it.

Pizza finally came, and after eating and unwinding, it was probably 11:30 before we made it to bed.


Lesley and Libby's flight back to TX left early, so they were up before 5. I woke up right as Lesley was leaving and figured I might as well start the drive back to.

I made it back to Denver in one piece and without any speeding tickets. Win.

  • A bad/hard trail race is infinitely better than any dumb road race.
  • I'd rather run something like this than a traditional marathon any day.
  • I am NOT in shape to be doing something like this, so I am really happy I didn't get injured. I don't recommend doing something like this without training.
  • I wonder what this would have been like if I was in better shape.
  • I kinda want to do another 50k. Which is crazy.
  • I would recommend this race, for sure.


  1. After seeing your pictures I can understand why you signed up for this race! Talk about amazingly beautiful. But those hills! I think I died a little just looking at those.

  2. I don't care what you say, you are a badass! This is gorgeous and all but I already think that 26.2 miles is long enough so this is insane to me. Anyhow, you look amazing!

  3. Wyoming is so pretty!

    Our shuttle bus driver got us lost in Utah too. What is it about bus drivers not knowing where they are going?

  4. OMG sooooo pretty. Trail love <3

  5. Your 50K looks a lot more pretty than the one I did on Saturday. I'll have to check this one out next year. I love pretty trail runs! I think you did a spectacular job!

  6. Gorgeous pictures!! This makes me want to run a 5ok !!!

  7. That is so pretty!

    The bacon is fantastic. Can't wait for the bacon challenge at Dumbo.

    That sign? The funniest ever.

    Maybe 50k's are your thing?

  8. Those are the most beautiful pictures. Wow.


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