Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"Ultras, where the athlete pays and the spectator gets in free.
- submitted to the internet ultra list by Tom Kaisersatt


It's almost show time for the Bighorn Mountain Wild & Scenic Trail Runs! We are more than ready to get going. I have to wait until Saturday for the 50K, but Jim gets to check in today for the 100-miler, which begins at 11 AM tomorrow. He is more concerned than usual because of the wet and snowy course conditions. He feels well-trained and he's very motivated to finish the race after three DNFs on this course. I am confident he can do it this time.

I'm pretty nonchalant about my race this year because 1) I have 13 hours to finish the 50K distance, so there isn't any pressure to make aid station cut-offs, 2) I don't anticipate as much mud and snow in my shorter race at slightly lower elevations, and 3) I plan to have fun and take lots of photos during the race; I'm not running for a particular time.


Runners in the three longer races (100-mile, 52-mile, and 50K) can have drop bags or boxes at up to three locations on the course that are accessible by vehicle: Dry Fork (miles 13.4/82.5 in the 100-miler), Footbridge (30/66), and Porcupine (48). There are twelve or thirteen other aid stations in the 100-miler, but most of them have to be packed in by horse or ATV, so drop bags (and crews) can't go to them. It's probably good there are so few drop bag locations in this race; it makes assembling them easier than a race like Leadville, which has more options.

Jim and I have been using sturdy clear plastic boxes with opaque colored lids instead of plastic bags or cloth duffel bags since 1999. The boxes are impervious to rain and being thrown around, and it's easy to see the contents, helping to decrease time spent in aid stations. We use tight bungee cords to make sure the lids stay on.

After all the 100-milers we've done, we've got the drop box thing almost down to a science. We can re-use previous lists from this race and modify them according to the weather prediction, any different gear we may have, and this year's whims (real scientific, eh?). Like most runners, we usually put more in our drop boxes than we'll actually use. We figure it's better to be over-stocked than to wish we'd put something in there.

I've got it easy this year; I'll have only one small drop box at Footbridge, which I pass about fourteen miles into the 50K. I'll also leave a plastic bag on the bus if I don't need the pants and jacket I'll wear to the start. Pretty simple.

Jim's got more work to do to get his four boxes ready. The most time-consuming job is putting Perpetuem and Sustained Energy powder in little bags so he can mix up fresh energy drinks at the aid stations. He'll carry one bottle of each mixture throughout the race so he doesn't get tired of just one flavor. He uses Perp and SE at regular strength, not concentrated like I do. He'll carry as many bags in his pouch as needed between drop boxes and will mix them with water at aid stations.

It also takes a bit of time to fill the Hammergel flasks, put dry t.p. and wet washcloths in (separate!) plastic bags, assemble little packs of Endurolyte electrolyte capsules/caffeine pills/Ibuprofen, and determine what clothes and shoes to have at which locations. He'll also add little tubes of Vaseline, sunscreen, and assorted food items that may appeal to him more than aid station fare.

Because of the long distance between Footbridge and Porcupine aid stations (eighteen uphill miles through the highest elevations and most challenging trail conditions on the course, and then back down again), Jim will have two drop boxes at Footbridge. This is where runners need to put their warm night clothes and lights, even the fast guys who think they'll get to Porcupine before dark. Sometimes they get a rude surprise if they aren't prepared and run more slowly than expected..

Jim's carrying a double waist pack from the start to Footbridge (30 miles). He'll pick up his pre-packed Camelbak Blowfish backpack there with his warm clothing and lights. His waist pack fits fine below the Camelback. He'll continue using his two water bottles, not the water bladder; the lightweight backpack is just for storage purposes.

Although he'll have dry shoes in one of his Footbridge boxes, it's doubtful he'll change shoes there because the next part of the course will be the wettest and muddiest. Why put dry socks and shoes on if they're going to get filthy in ten minutes? (The shoes are there in case he wants to change into them on the return at 66 miles.) Nor is he packing dry shoes in the Porcupine drop bos -- same reason. He has dry socks in that box, though, in case he has a lot of mud and grit on his feet that could cause blisters. It's one thing to put wet shoes back on after cleaning your feet. It's quite another to put wet, muddy socks back on!


Runners in the 100-miler could check in at the Sports Stop any time this afternoon. We drove down to Sheridan about 3 PM so we'd have time to hang out with friends at the weigh-in before going to dinner. One of the first people we saw when we got to the store was our almost-neighbor, David Horton, shown below (left) with Beth Simpson and Larry Hall near the vans that will take the drop bags out to the aid stations:

One of the volunteers helped Jim replace the bright yellow duct tape we use to mark our boxes with silver tape -- the Dry Fork aid station wants each race to have a separate color tape to coincide with that race's bib number color, which makes a lot of sense. Hundred-milers got silver tape to match (?) their white numbers, 52-milers got yellow, and 50Kers got blue (so I had to get new tape, also).

This is the first time we've seen this system. My first impression was that it's too anal, but now I think it's practical and efficient when runners from several distances are going through an aid station. It also  shows the attention to detail for which this race is known. Some of the volunteers have worked their aid stations all fifteen years the 52-miler, 50K, and 30K races have been run. They know their stuff and have their own procedures to make everything run smoothly during the race. Jim and I pick up ideas here and at other races to use when we're running an aid station ourselves or helping out at other races.

I got a nice surprise when we went inside the store for Jim to get his medical check-up and race packet. There on the wall with articles and posters and results from previous races were several of my photos from Porcupine yesterday!!

What was amazing was that we'd only just uploaded them to our website a couple hours ago!

I was also surprised how many people told us they appreciated the course photos. We've met mew friends like Milada Copeland and her husband Bill, below, since Jim posted the URL to the Bighorn message board and internet ultra list serve. Milada and Bill camped next to us at Foothills. They are a delightful couple, and I'm not just saying that because Bill graciously offered to walk Cody and Tater during the race Saturday, thereby allowing them to avoid two night in doggie jail. More about Milada's race in a couple days . . .


Jim got in line for his weigh-in with RN Melanie Powers, who is part of the Powers Team that manages this race. L to R: Rickie Redland-McManus, Karen Powers (Melanie's mom), Jim, and Melanie:

Runners are weighed at Porcupine (48 miles) and Footbridge (66 miles) in this race. They do not get bracelets. Their weight is marked on their numbers. If they are significantly over- or under-weight at those aid stations, they are encouraged to drink or pee, depending on which problem they have. This is just one sign that a runner might be in trouble physically. Each of the aid stations at Bighorn has trained medical personnel, especially important in a race like this with so much of the course in remote mountain territory. A lot can happen out there.

Rickie Redland and her husband, John McManus, chat with Karen Powers below:

Wendell Robison and Vicki Kendall wait their turns to check in:

Wendell's been a very busy boy clearing trail and building bridges the last couple weeks. Vicki, one of our VHTRC friends, decided a few days ago to move up to the 100-miler from the 52-mile race. There are a whopping forty-three VHTRC members signed up for the various Bighorn distances this year, although a couple may not be here. Add in friends and significant others, and it's quite a group!

Below, Vicki and three other runners check out the 100-mile finish awards held by Michelle Powers Maneval (Karen's daughter, Melanie's sister):

Finishers will receive a large black Asics duffel bag with lots of compartments (great for travel or taking to the fitness center) and an unusual watch/caribiner combo. Finishers in the three shorter races will receive smaller Asics bags. Age group winners get beautiful mugs (last year for them, reportedly) filled with socks and other goodies. I still cherish mine from 2000 in the 52-miler, the only time I've gotten an age-group award here. Back then, we also got nice gift certificates to the store, but they stopped doing that several years ago as the race grew. This year there are about 600 runners in the four races, maybe more. It's the largest 100-miler field in six years at about 160 entrants.

Outside the store we talked a while with Matt and Anne Watts, two of our Colorado friends (below). Matt is in the 100, Anne in the 52-miler:



Then we headed over to Ol's pizzeria for the pre-race dinner buffet. It was even better than last year's spread, and a good value at $8.00. We saw lots more friends there, but the only photo I took inside was of David Horton and Olga Varlamova:

One reason I enjoy going to races so much is seeing friends after several months or years and getting big hugs! David's one of the "huggier" folks out there. Another is Hans-Deiter Weisshaar. I had to wait another day for my obligatory Hans Hug.

After dinner we went back to the campground in Dayton to chill out and visit with friends who just arrived, like Tom Hayes from Bozeman, Montana:

Tom's in the 100-miler. His wife, Liz McGoff, will drive down tomorrow for the 52-miler. Tom and Liz direct the Devil's Backbone ultra near Bozeman in mid-July (same day as Hardrock so they aren't tempted to run it this year, Tom said). We also chatted with 100-milers Bob Johnson and Franklin Coles from Bozeman. There are quite a few Montanans in the races. Since we used to live there, it's like a reunion to see so many of them at this race.

Foothills Campground is filling up fast. It looks quite different than the photos I showed a few days ago:


Unlike most 100-mile races, this one doesn't start at 0-dark-forty. The good  news is that we don't have to go to bed at 8 PM. The bad news is that an 11 AM start through the Tongue River Canyon can be uncomfortably hot, as it was last year (one reason for my early demise in the hundred last year). What will tomorrow bring?? Good weather and lots of fun for Jim in his race, I'm hoping.

Gotta sleep,

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

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil