Mmmm . . . sounds like a lot of fun, huh?? That's a pretty
standard warning on mountain trail 100-mile race entry forms and websites.
Bighorn clearly spells it all out in two printed pages, which is more complete
than some other races. Not all of them have medical checks at aid stations or
even medical directors and staff on site during the race. Bighorn is great in
this regard, but runners are so isolated along most of this trail that they have
to be mentally and physically prepared for about any emergency. It could take
Search and Rescue a while to find someone.
It's just one part of the challenge and the lure that keeps
us coming back to hundred-milers in general and Bighorn in particular.
Note: The next few entries are written in retrospect
the week of June 19, which means some of the events (and my perspective of them)
are tempered by time and hindsight. A lot happened in four short days. I can't
believe it's all over so fast!
CHILLIN' WITH FRIENDS
The day before a race of any distance can be full of
stress. Jim and I were more calm than usual on Thursday, I think. We had our
drop bags ready and knew the drill for the rest of the day. There really wasn't
much to do all morning except read e-mail and visit with friends as they arrived
at the campground and got settled in. We weren't overly confident about the
race, but our advance planning allowed us to kick back and relax for a few
Brent Craven came back to visit us in the morning. He and
Jim and the dogs wandered over to the tent area in the morning to talk with some
other runners from around the country: our friend from Billings, Bill
Johnston, who completed the 100-miler again; Bob from Texas (who DNF'd the 100);
Sean Meissner, who won the 52-miler; Billy Simpson, who paced another 100-miler;
and several others.
Brent, Jim, Bob, and Bill J. are shown left to right in the
photo below before the area in the background was covered with tents:
Shortly before we left for Sheridan in the afternoon, Tom
Hayes-McGoff, a good friend from Bozeman, MT, came over from one of the nearby
cabins to visit. He drove down with friends Bob Johnson and Franklin Coles for the
100-miler, but was unable to finish because of IT band problems about 40 miles
into the race. Tom's a very fast runner who was in contention for one of the top
spots before his injury. His wife, Liz McGoff-Hayes, drove down Friday afternoon to pace
him the last 52 miles. Liz has the female course record for the 100-miler,
although this year's female winner, Diane Van Deren, came very close to it (just over a minute
off the record time).
Franklin finished in 31 hours and change; Bob DNF'd
somewhere on the course.
Tom, Bob, and Franklin are shown below with Jim outside our
camper (Tater was taking notes from these race veterans):
I showed you the view from the camper yesterday, when we
still had the campground mostly to ourselves. Boy, would that change during the
weekend! The 100-milers mostly arrived on Thursday (since that race began Friday
morning), and runners in the three shorter races filled the camp sites and
cabins at Foothills to more than capacity by Friday:
The camper in the foreground belongs to Dick and Sandy
Powell. Sandy ran and finished the 100-miler in just under 32 hours; Dick and their daughter, Anna,
crewed and volunteered during the race. Dick and Anna were also helpful to me
during the race, as you'll see later.
I neglected to take any photos later in the weekend to show
how crowded the campground was. It was great having so many of the race
participants in the same campground so we could talk to more of them. By Sunday
afternoon, the place was deserted again except for Brent and Sue Wegner from
Cheyenne, who were camped next to us in their trailer for a few more days.
Brent completed the 52-miler. Ultra runners may recognize him as the RD for the
Rocky Mountain Double Marathon.
DOGGIE JAIL, PACKETS, &
Later in the afternoon we piled our two dogs and
eight drop boxes into the truck and drove twenty miles into
Sheridan. First stop was the Country Hospital for Animals, the nicest-looking
veterinarian office I've ever seen. Since we were both running the race, we had
to board the dogs for the weekend.
Cody loves going to the vet. Cody loves
everybody and everywhere. He's a big, lovable, playful three-year-old puppy.
He's smart, but he never sees it coming when he goes to a kennel. I don't think
he considers it in a negative light. He gets food and attention and quality time
with Tater. He's happy.
Tater, on the other hand, has a different
opinion of kennels. She's been in more than Cody during her long life (she's
almost ten). To her, they are truly "doggie jails." Although she sleeps more than Cody,
the confinement and being in a strange place with lots of dogs and noise
don't suit her. She usually goes into a veterinary office readily, but
once she sees the kennel room, she tries to leave. This time, she readily went
in. She seemed to like the place.
Whew! I didn't feel so guilty this time.
Then we headed to the Sport Stop, headquarters
for the Bighorn Mountain Wild & Scenic Trail Runs. A volunteer retrieved our
race packets, which included a UD water bottle, two Hammergel packs, and lots of
race and local information, including art exhibits and other activities going on
in the area during race weekend.
Each packet for every runner in all four races
contained a 3x5" yellow piece of cardstock with the following
CAUTION: Rattlesnakes have
been sighted on the course. If you are bitten, remain calm, lie down, and stay
as quiet as possible. Any physical activity may increase the flow of venom to
the blood stream. Wait for help to arrive.
[I discovered first hand during the race that
there was no "help" coming during the first 14 miles up to the Dry Fork Aid
Station. There was no "sweep" following the last runner. Trust me, I know. I
didn't get bitten, but I was the last runner after five miles from the start,
and the volunteers at Dry Fork told me there was no sweep that early in the
race. That section included the area where Jim was bitten and several other
snakes were found (some were killed) before the race. The last person through
that section, and I was last for eight miles, was SOL if they'd gotten bitten.]
We got our numbers out and gave them to the
nice man who weighed us. Several other folks agreed that the scales were kind,
giving us a weight while fully clothed that is more like our bare "nekkid"
poundage. A nurse took our blood pressure and pulse and asked questions to
determine if we knew what we were doing (ha!). As usual, the numbers were up a
bit because of pre-race anxiety.
All this medical information and previous race
experience was recorded on master sheets and copied for the nurses, EMTs,
doctors, and other personnel who volunteered at the aid stations with medical
checks during the race. Several times the 100-milers had to get weighed (without
their packs) as they entered an aid station. If there were reported or obvious
signs of medical distress, such as significant weight gain or loss, vomiting,
dizziness, vacant stares, memory loss, etc., further questioning and monitoring was done.
are kept at aid stations until they re-hydrate enough to gain some weight, for
example. If a runner is in bad enough shape, (s)he can be pulled out of the race
by the aid station captain or medical folks. Runners are sometimes so
disoriented they cannot make wise medical decisions for themselves, so their
crews, pacers, or race officials do it for them. Fortunately, most runners are
able to recognize when they are in trouble and voluntarily withdraw from a race.
After the medical check, we added our numbers
to the information on our drop boxes and placed the boxes into the proper files
for Dry Fork, Footbridge, and Porcupine aid stations. The volunteers were going
out to the aid stations that evening or early Friday morning to get set up and
most would stay there overnight Friday as well. These are very dedicated
volunteers, as I've already explained.
DINNER WITH FRIENDS
Eating "strange" food at a pre-race dinner is
always dicey. What if it's so different from what you normally eat that it
causes some sort of digestive distress on race day? We'd heard mixed reviews
about the restaurant serving the pre-race dinner, Olés
Pizza, so I prepared one of our pre-race favorites, a chicken-and-vegetable
tomato-based sauce over angel hair pasta, in case we decided not to join folks
at Olés. One of our good friends vouched for it, so
I'm not sure if
it was a mistake or not. At 6 PM, the place was packed with runners and their
families and friends. The restaurant recently moved and hasn't opened yet to the
public. The owner tried very hard to accommodate the runners on Thursday
(100-milers) and Friday nights (other three races), but service was harried and
hot buffet replacements were few and far between. The food itself was just OK.
The main reason
we went, of course, was to socialize. We did lots of that at the Sport Stop and
the restaurant. It's so much fun to see runners and their families when we
haven't seen them for a while. Since we didn't go out West last year, it'd been
longer between visits than usual with some folks. I didn't take the camera into
either the Sport Stop or the restaurant, so don't have photos to show you.
We got to talk
with Jodie and Dennis Aslett, a nice couple from Idaho we've known for several
years. Jody ended up second
female (by only a minute) in the 50K and Dennis had a strong finish in the
100-miler. We got to know Elizabeth Bouquet and Roch Cogar better (Roch
finished, but Elizabeth stopped at the turnaround), and we spent more time with Tom Hayes, Bill Johnson,
and Franklin Coles over spaghetti and pizza.
Quite a sizable
group of our fellow VHTRC
(Virginia Happy Trails Running Club) members were eating at a nearby table while
we were there. Several were in the 100-miler, others in the shorter races or
crewing and pacing. VHTRC is open to members from other states, such as John
DeWalt from PA/FL (he's retired) and John Prohira from NY. It was great to see
some of our "local" buddies from the East, as well as our "western" friends.
Jim's rattlesnake bite was already well known, so
he had to explain over and over to folks how it happened. He's not
accustomed to being the center of attention and I could tell he was
getting tired of it after a while, but he tried hard to be polite and
answer everyone's questions. It's a good thing if we can educate people
on avoidance and treatment of poisonous snake bites, but it was somewhat
draining to him the night before the race - too much excitement.
begin at the ungodly hour of 4, 5, or 6 AM. Bighorn is one of the few that
begins at the much more civilized hour of 11 AM. The advantages are obvious -
runners can sleep longer, eat a normal breakfast, do everything they need to do
in the bathroom (was that polite enough?), and be limbered up by race
start. The downside is starting when it's already fairly warm in a summer
race. Jim and I got to bed before 10 PM and set the alarm for 7 AM "just in
case" we had such a deep sleep (HA!) that we missed the pre-race briefing
in the park adjacent to our campground at 9 AM.
Next up: the race itself, Friday and Saturday.