Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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FRIDAY, JUNE 15, continued

"I want to keep my crew happy.
- Dennis Aslett, after giving his wife a little bouquet of flowers at the Dry Fork Aid Station


On the way back to the Foothills Campground in Dayton with Jodie Aslett, my afternoon plans suddenly shifted from journal-writing to something more exciting: surprising Jim by driving up to Dry Fork to watch the 100-milers come through!

I hadn't planned to crew him any during his race because I still had to check in this afternoon for the 50K tomorrow. It wasn't until Jodie mentioned crewing for her husband Dennis at both Dry Fork and Footbridge that I realized I'd have enough time to get to Dry Fork AND pick up my race packet at the high school in Sheridan before 6 PM. (Jodie was smart and arranged to get her packet for the 52-miler when Dennis checked in for the 100-miler yesterday. Gotta remember that trick . . .)

So I ate a quick lunch, packed some munchies, got the dogs in the truck, hit Hwy. 14, and drove up the mountains to the first aid station open to crews at the Head of the Dry Fork. This is gonna be fun, especially if it's not raining up there. From down below it looked as if surely was wet at 7,500 feet:

These first two photos are more from my "windshield series." <grin>  Don't try this at home. Usually Jim's driving when I do that. Hey, I was in a hurry and didn't want to get out of the truck every time a photo op presented itself..

I did stop and get out to take the next photos at the pull-off below Steamboat Point. From here you can (usually) see the upper Tongue River drainage area where the Bighorn course runs, but today it was mostly hidden in the mist:

The meadows were filled with a dozen varieties of colorful spring wildflowers, a feature for which this race is renowned. If you're not racing fast, it is enchanting to run and walk through the plethora of blooms and truly appreciate their beauty. Especially prominent this time of year are the lavender and blue Lupines and bright yellow Alpine Sunflowers:

Then at about 7,000 feet, I got above the clouds and it was a beautiful sunny day! Here's another windshield shot (left the hood in this one as proof):

Jim later told me it was overcast the first several hours of the race. There was no rain, despite how gloomy the clouds appeared. He was so focused on forward progress that he didn't even notice it was sunny when he got to Dry Fork at 2:38 PM!

Poor Cody and Tater don't get much exercise when we're both tapering for an ultra, so at least I gave them the pleasure of a little swim in this chilly creek on the way to Dry Fork:

After about an hour, we arrived at the Head of the Dry Fork and one of the busiest aid stations on the course. Some of the volunteers who (wo)man this aid station have been doing it all fifteen years of the race. That's just awesome, and we are soooo appreciative.

Freeze Out Road is shown below. The 100-milers come down the hill on the road from the upper right into the aid station and continue on down the Dry Fork drainage to the left; you can't see it in this photo. The dirt 4WD road in the upper left is the approach I'll take in the 50K at the beginning of my race tomorrow morning. The other three races don't use that road, which eventually leads up to Riley Point.

Crews aren't allowed to drive up past the aid station, but folks not associated with the race can keep on going. You can see two campers in the distance as they slowly make their way up the road. I saw them parked a couple miles past here during my race on Saturday. Fortunately there aren't very many vehicles kicking up dust on the roads during the race.

This is the view down the Dry Fork drainage when I arrived at the aid station. Only the first five or six runners had come through. You can barely discern the rough jeep road in the middle left part of the photo. Also notice the low clouds over the valley in the distance:

After checking in with the timers, volunteers or crews direct the runners to the fluids, foods, and drop bags, which are organized in numerical order:

I knew it would be a little while before Jim came through, so I took the dogs down to the creek across the road from the aid station for several minutes, well out of everyone's way (and sight). Dogs aren't allowed right at the aid stations at Bighorn. Since it was was cool and breezy up at Dry Fork, Cody and Tater did fine in the car for another hour while I waited for Jim to come through.

I found a good spot to sit near the drop bags where I could see most of the action -- runners coming down the road and into the aid station, then running off to the left and down the rutted jeep road through the Dry Fork drainage. If the volunteers were busy and a crew-less runner needed a drop bag or fluids, I offered my help. That's more fun than just sitting there!

Here's a runner with a crew extraordinaire -- Dennis Aslett and his wife Jodie, mentioned earlier. I think the best crew people may be other ultra runners because they know what they want when they are the runner.


Dennis and another runner head off down the jeep road through the Dry Fork drainage. He'll be back there just before 82.5 miles on the return trip. The 52-milers and 50K runners also come up that hill. You can see the aid station a good two miles away and it seems to take forever to get up to it.

The blue color on the hillside above is mostly from the mass of Lupines that are blooming.

Milada Copeland (white shirt, foreground) and Don Lundell (gold shirt) fuel up:

A group of runners comes into the aid station:

Susan Donnelly looks strong:

Then my best buddy came into view! I think I saw him first, with the aid of Tom Corris (in red shirt, below). Jim saw me from quite a ways up the road. Or was it his truck he saw first?? We hadn't even discussed the time he wanted to reach Dry Fork, but I remembered about how long it took him last year and made sure I got there well before that. He was surprised and happy to see me, so I'm glad I went up there.

After helping Jim mix up new bottles of Perpetuem and Sustained Energy and swapping out Hammergel flasks, I followed him into the food tent:

We kissed and hugged and I reminded him to do his best and have FUN. He was gone from the aid station in about four minutes, following several other runners down the dirt road to the next aid station at Cow Camp:

The clouds still hung over the valley in the distance. I wondered what kind of weather Jim would encounter after dark. It can get very cold in the Little Horn Canyon and up at Porcupine Ranger Station during the night hours of this race. But I knew Jim had plenty of warm clothes in his next two drop boxes and he'd do just fine.

I wouldn't see him again until late afternoon the next day. I spent a lot of hours wondering how he was doing!

In a little while, Hans-Dieter Weisshaar came into the aid station, assisted by his wife Susi. She's not a runner, but she's a fantastic crew person after crewing for Hans in many of those ninety-eight hundreds he's already finished (plus a few he's DNFd):

I left about 3 PM so I could get back down the mountains and into Sheridan ASAP to get my race packet. It was even foggier between 6,000 and 7,000 feet than on the trip up:

Below that, it was clear and sunny again. Mountain weather always fascinates me.

The weather remained good throughout the race for the 100-milers, with no rain and temperatures in the forties at night -- warmer than normal during the Bighorn Run. Jim usually gets cold pretty easily, but he never needed to put on pants, gloves, or a warm hat during the night. He added a long-sleeved shirt over his short-sleeved one, and an REI running jacket he recently acquired. (More about our gear in another entry.)


OK, it was time to focus on MY race now. After a quick stop at the camper, I drove down to Sheridan High School to get my 50K race packet. By the time I arrived, most of the approximately 450 runners in the 52-miler, 50K, and 30K had already been there and gone. There was a mandatory "briefing" in the form of a film about race rules. I'd already watched it at the Sports Stop when Jim checked in, so I didn't have to watch it again.

Check-in was quick and efficient. The only problem was with my shirt, which was much too small. There weren't any larger women's ones left and the remaining men's sizes were too big. It appeared I was SOL. But Michelle promised me a nice substitute, so I'm perfectly happy. Thanks, Michelle and Cheryl, for your efforts to keep me (and other runners) satisfied. Another reason to love this race.

I forgot to show the 100-miler entrants' shirt yesterday:

It's a very nice, soft, silver-colored long-sleeved "technical" shirt from Asics. The women's version has a more fitted cut and feminine neckline. The shirt for all of the other three races' entrants is the same color, with short sleeves. As I said, they are very nice.

I made a quick trip to Wal-Mart before heading back to the camper in Dayton. The campground was even more packed than it was yesterday. I fixed some Pad Thai for dinner (instead of eating at Ol's again), talked with some runners, and made final preparations for my race in the morning. I was in bed around 9 PM, before it was dark. I had three alarms set for 4:45 AM. I went to sleep more quickly than usual, wondering more about how Jim was doing "out there" than about my own race. My goals were very different than his, and the level of difficulty I faced was much less.

It was strange having the bed all to myself, but I slept well.

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

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil