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Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"Chance favors the prepared mind."
- Louis Pasteur

I've mentioned previously about visualizing race courses. Training on various parts of the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run course helps us prepare mentally for this race. We've run so many trail ultras around the country that it's easy to forget parts of each course, even those like Bighorn that we've run several times. With all the variables and the things we cannot control in a 100-miler, like the weather, having a "prepared mind" is just one way to help us accomplish our goals.


Here's a quick update on the last two days, then more details about today's training run on another part of the Bighorn course.

Jim felt so good on his hike Thursday that he wanted to run several miles on Friday. However, Dayton finally got some much-needed rain. The skies were pretty gloomy over the mountains, which we can see from our camper, and severe thunderstorms and large hail were predicted for northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. I drove up the road a bit for this photo:

That just didn't look or sound like any fun, so we weenied out and stayed "home." That gave Jim time to recuperate some more from his rattlesnake bite and to fiddle with his new Garmin GPS unit and software. I worked on the journal and did laundry. We both started fine-tuning our drop bag lists. Each day I walk the dogs around the campground several times to potty, so I did get in at least a mile today.

It's called "tapering," and it's a nerve-wracking process before a race. Our minds and bodies want to run, but rest is more important so we're fresh on race day.

On Saturday we drove up to Billings again. The weather was great - 70s, sunny, and breezy. In fact, we got chilly sitting in a nice little neighborhood park watching four of Jim's grandchildren play on the swings and other outdoor equipment. We also had a picnic lunch with Jim's sons and the kids

L to R: Camille, Jim, Garrett, Cameron, Chris:

L to R: Cameron, Robin, Paige, Chris:

Unfortunately, illness and the hospitalization of a family member prevented us from visiting with two of our favorite couples in Billings. Maybe we'll be able to see them the week after the race. Some of our other Montana friends are in the race, so we may see them in the campground or on the course. Before driving back to Dayton, we got the second replacement camper tire at Goodyear and supplies at Wal-Mart.


Today dawned cloudy again in Dayton but we were eager to run after taking two days off. We headed up into the mountains and discovered it was mostly sunny up there. Nice surprise!

This time we drove past the Dry Fork aid station location where we parked two previous times for training runs (see June 2 and June 3 entries) and went another mile farther on Freeze Out Road up to Camp Creek Ridge at about 8,000 feet. We parked the truck on FSR 201 just past the cattle guard and ran 3.1 miles from there to the top of the ridge (also ~8,000 feet) near the Upper Sheep Creek aid station location. The out-and-back run was 6.2 miles long, according to our GPS unit.

I added arrows on Russ Evan's elevation profile below to show where today's run comes during the race (about 9-12 miles and 84-87 miles). The "point" is the ridge near the Upper Sheep Creek aid station where we turned around to go back to the truck:


We started out on FSR 201. The photos I took on June 3 show very dry roads and trails. Recent rains left us some mud and puddles to dodge today, more typical conditions for the upper elevations of the course on race day:

We noticed other changes along the roads and trails. The snow patch where Jim and the dogs played eight days ago was gone. There were more kinds of flowers blooming (including numerous bright yellow dandelions) and the meadows in this section were even more full of blooms than last week.


We veered right onto the rough single-track trail after about a mile. There are some great views along this trail if you look carefully (so as not to trip and fall face-first into the flowers or rocks):



We ran to the double-track primitive road (FSR 181, I believe) and climbed steeply to the fence line at the intersection of Forest Service roads 181, 198, and 199 on the ridge above the Upper Sheep Creek aid station.

This ridge is about 8,000 feet in elevation. The climb didn't feel too steep today because we were rested and we're adjusting to the altitude, but on race day it'll be difficult after 87 miles (heck, even downhills are tough after you've been on your feet for 87 miles!).

Jim was first to see this little non-poisonous (we think) snake going up that road:

Jim looked first to see if were any rattlers on the tail end. Nope.

Then he looked at the head end to confirm it was a snake. Yep.

Then he inspected the tail again - OK, it's not a rattler, he confirmed.

Once bitten . . .

We could see Horse Creek Ridge from this ridge, a little over a mile away:

That's where we explored last Monday. Here's another view:

Once runners reach that far ridge, it's mostly downhill to the finish eight miles away.

We turned around there and returned to Camp Creek Ridge. The next photos show some views the 100-milers will see as they're heading outbound toward the Dry Fork aid station:



Jim took this photo of me inspecting yet another interesting flower:

When we got back to the truck, we hung out for about an hour on the ridge above Dry Fork so we could do some acclimating. Cody and Tater are begging for some of Jim's beef jerky and cheese crackers in this photo overlooking the valley runners descend to that aid station:

I chose to check out the wildflower field to the left of Jim, even lying down for a little nap among the lupines and other blossoms:


Bighorn runners are so fortunate to see scenery like this. It's one of the main reasons Jim and I do ultras.

But you don't have to be an ultra-distance runner to enjoy the Bighorns. You can also access various roads and trails in these spectacular mountains by hiking short or long distances, cross-country skiing, riding a horse, mountain bike, ATV, or snowmobile, or just passing through in a car, truck, or camper.

To get up close to nature, however, we recommend foot travel on the more remote trails.

Next entry: Off the Beaten Path - getting into the Little Bighorn Canyon and the Footbridge aid station location.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil