Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"I decided to go for a little run.
- Forrest Gump


Bighorn runners aren't going across the country like Forrest Gump, but their journey may feel that long by the time they finish.

This is it. Show time for the sixth annual Bighorn Mountain Wild & Scenic Trail 100-miler, with an emphasis on "wild" and "scenic." As noted, this year will be more "wild" than usual because of the late spring snowfalls, rain, and high winds that have created more runoff and mud, higher creeks, lingering snowdrifts, and downed trees.

But ultra runners love a good challenge, don't they? They wouldn't have signed up for this race if they expected it to be easy.


I started taking photos on the (short) walk from our camper to the Scott Park pavilion for Jim's pre-race briefing at 9 AM. Runners in all four races come into the park about a quarter of a mile from the finish banner, following a sandy path along the campground fence and river:

That path was partly under water less than two weeks ago! Walking to the pavilion this way helped us visualize the finish line we'd be striving to reach on Saturday.

The pavilion quickly filled up with the large group of eager 100-milers and their support teams. Some friends and family members would be crewing and pacing their runners, while others would be running in the shorter races tomorrow. Some really energetic folks would do all three!


Race director Michelle Powers Maneval conducted the runner briefing, welcoming everyone to the sixth edition of the 100-mile run. She thanked the generous sponsors and dedicated volunteers (including the hard-working race management team) and reiterated the important rules for runners and crews in order to make the race as safe and enjoyable as possible for everyone. Wendell Robison described the course conditions, and a drawing was held at the end.

Jim's name was called about last. Since it was first come, first served his only choice was among women's socks, so I ended up the "winner." Thank you, Sweetie! Here's a photo of my new Asics socks, which amuse me because they are marked left and right:

My Injinji toe socks have a definite right and left, but these are the first anklets I've seen that are made specifically for one foot or the other. Maybe they're made for brain-dead runners or old ladies like me with CRS (Can't Remember *Stuff*) Syndrome!

We had a few minutes to socialize after the briefing with Ed Cacciapaglia (AKA "Cappuccino") and Vicki Kendall, VHTRC friends who are running the 100-miler for the first time. Fellow funster Gary Knipling, who's in the 52-miler, is in the blue shirt in the background:

Rickie Redland-McManus (blue shirt), Diane Van Deren (coral top), and Merilee O'Neal (co-RD at the Leadville 100) are all smiles before the race:

Both Rickie and Diane have finished the race previously. Diane was the first female finisher last year. Do well, ladies!


Then it was time for final preparations for the 100-mile race to begin. Most runners carpool to the start on the Tongue River Canyon Road four miles out of town. There was also a bus this year to transport runners. Last year we rode to the start with our Idaho friends Dennis and Jody Aslett; this year we invited them to ride in our truck. Dennis is in the 100-miler, Jody the 50K. We had a nice visit on the way to the start. Jim seemed pretty relaxed, considering the task ahead.

Weather always plays a major role in a race this long. It was sunny and warm (low 60s??) at the race briefing in Dayton, but we could see low-hanging clouds over the mountains and the Tongue River Canyon as we drove to the start:

This could be good news or bad news, depending on just what was going on up there. Last year it was brutally hot running and walking up through the canyon until we got to Horsecreek Ridge at about 8,100 feet elevation. The clouds could be a blessing for runners this year, keeping the temperatures cooler. If it was raining, however, it might not be so pleasant.

We had half an hour to mingle and wait until the start a bit over a mile from the Tongue River trail head. It was cooler here with the breeze and clouds. We talked with lots of friends and wished each other well in our races.

Cheryl Sinclair, in blue top and black pants at lower right, rounds up runners for pre-race check-in so race officials will know exactly who is running (as Michelle commented an hour earlier, not everyone who attends the briefing actually begins the race):

VHTRC friend Tom Corris, who will run the 50K tomorrow, takes our photo:

Jim talks with Californian Don Lundell, below, who runs the internet business Zombie Runner with Gillian Robinson; she was home this weekend literally "minding the store." We missed you, Gillian!

Left to right below: Jody and Dennis Aslett, Jim, and Franklin Coles:

The calm before the storm? Looking from the start line toward the canyon:

Jody and Dennis talk with a relaxed Michelle and Melanie, sisters/race staff, a few minutes before the start:

Runners move to the start line for the national anthem and prayer:


Cheryl checks in Wendell Robison (blue shirt) and David Horton, who have both finished the race previously. It's not too late to change your mind, guys!

A smiling Jim talks with Tom Hayes a couple minutes before the start:

Dave Westlake from Sheridan, on the left below, is taking it easy in the 30K tomorrow as he tapers for Western States 100 next week. Good luck, Dave! Karen Powers is in the background, red top.

Left to right below: Louise Mason from Illinois in red jacket (did not start the 100 due to two stress fractures -- ouch!); Tennessee friends Susan Donnelly in blue top and Rob Apple in orange jacket:

Rob hams it up for the camera below. This is his 491st ultra, "if I finish," he added humbly. (I'll cut to the chase since I'm writing this several days later: he DID finish, and so did Susan.) Right behind Rob are Merilee O'Neal (in yellow cap) and Ken Chlouber, co-RDs for the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado, Jim's next race.

Hans-Dieter Weisshaar, one of the friendliest, most popular ultra runners out there, talks with Susan Donnelly in the photo below just moments before the start. This is Hans' 99th 100-miler. Hardrock in July will be his 100th. (He finished Bighorn and he's likely to finish HRH again, too.) At age 67, he's a great role model and ambassador for the sport.

And then finally it was 11 AM.


Michelle (foreground, right) moves out of the way as she counts down the seconds until the start:

. . . GO!!!

There they go, not to be seen again by their crews until the Dry Fork aid station 13.4 miles later:

One hundred forty-seven runners began the race, which I believe is the largest field they've had. Eighty-one would finish on Saturday, one coming in just a few minutes over the official limit. In some races, he wouldn't "count," but at the Bighorn Mountain Wild & Scenic Trail Run, Ed "Cappuccino" not only counted, he also got his finisher bag and watch.

Just one more reason to love this race.

After the race began I just had to see Hans' and Susi's new dog, Capulin (pronounced like the technical fabric used in running clothes called Capilene). Hans found this dog in a little village in Mexico several months ago and purchased him for less than $20.

The young pointer mix just LOOKS like a born runner, no? He's run up to twelve hours with Hans. I'm glad they've got another dog here in the States because they missed their previous pooch (a Doberman, as I recall), which they had to leave in Germany. The couple spends as much or more time in the US as in Europe.

Jody Aslett and I piled back in our truck and returned to the campground in Dayton, happy that our fellas were finally on the trail doing what they love to do. We wished we were able to begin our races, too, but we have to wait until tomorrow . . .

Next entry: too much going on today for just one entry, so there's a Part 2 for June 15.

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

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil