2006 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

   
 
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THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
 
THURSDAY, JUNE 15
 
 
" . . . It is important for the participants to recognize the potential physical and
mental stresses which may evolve from participation in this race. The runners may be subject to extreme temperatures of heat and cold, hypothermia, heat stroke, kidney failure, seizures, low blood sugar, disorientation, injury, falling rock or trees, wild animal or reptile attack, or even death from their participation in this event . . ."
 
- Bighorn Trail 100 medical information
 
 

 

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 hours.

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, & THE SCALES

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 warning:

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.

Sometimes runners 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, Ols 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 Ols. One of our good friends vouched for it, so we went.

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.

Most 100-milers 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. Showtime!!

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

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil