2009 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  THE RUN WE'VE DREADED: TONGUE CANYON ROAD
+ MESSIN' WITH JIM'S MIND

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3

 
"Kites rise highest against the wind -- not with it."    
- Sir Winston Churchill
  
 
Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone and just do whatever it is that you've been avoiding. You might find out it wasn't so bad after all.

Such is the case with running the nearby Tongue Canyon Road, which is practically right out our camper door. It's a nice dirt road through scenic ranch land at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains. It's also the last five miles we run, walk, or hobble in the Bighorn races.

Although it has a net elevation loss of a couple hundred feet from the canyon trailhead to the town of Dayton, there are some little ascents, it's not shaded, and Jim and I usually perceive it as a drag because it comes when we are the most tired during the race. It just seems to stretch on forever.

I had already decided before we got to the area to train that I'd run that stupid road -- and ride it on Jim's bike -- to better prepare myself for it mentally during the race.

My first attempt at riding it was stymied by loose dirt and mud the day the county was grading it. We kept avoiding running on it because it was more fun to run trails on the course instead of the road. But then the monsoons came and I finally forced myself to run that road to avoid deep mud on the trails, which was even more distasteful to me.

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY

We enjoyed eleven beautiful, mostly dry and warm days in the 60s and 70s when we first got to the area. Then on Monday night we entered what is forecast to be a lengthy, cooler, wet weather system that may hang around for a week or more. The ground was already saturated The roads and trails on the course have already proven to be fairly wet from snowmelt and occasional rainfall in the mountains. How much worse will they get now??

This is the second day of steady rain and the third day of temperatures in the 40s and 50s in Dayton. The skies are gray, everything is damp in the camper, and we're already getting grumpy. I've mentioned previously what weather weenies Jim and I can be. When we were younger we'd run in about any weather. We're more picky now that we're older and most race goals just aren't as important to us any more to get as far out of our comfort zones as we used to.

Oh, I did manage to walk several miles with Cody around the campground and Scott Park (above) the last two days, and worked out on the nice Magnum Life Fitness machines at the YMCA in Sheridan. But neither of us has braved the mess we know awaits us in the Bighorns -- until today. The rain's getting real old now and we have cabin fever badly enough to get out in the stormy weather even though we know it's gonna be a total mess.

TODAY'S SOLUTIONS

Our ideas of how to do that were different. Jim decided to run up through the Tongue River Canyon once again to Horse Creek Ridge and beyond, rattlers be damned (he didn't see any, thank goodness). I walked with Cody 2+ miles in the park to warm up, then ran alone on that blasted Tongue Canyon Road.

Ya know what, even in the drizzle and mud, I didn't have nearly as awful a time as I expected!

My original intention was to go out only a couple miles on the road and turn around. But I found that I was having too much fun enjoying the varying cloud patterns, bright green fields, colorful flowers, rushing river, interesting rock formations, various types of houses, some deer and other wildlfe, and farm critters . . . that I just kept going . . . and soon found myself as far back as the wilderness area.

 

 


No, I don't have any food for you.

 

The longer I was walking and running, the better I felt. That's no big surprise on a good-weather day;  it's what long-distance runners know and crave. What surprised me was finding this out again on a chilly, rainy day -- since I usually avoid running on those days. How quickly I'd forgotten how much fun it can be to run in cool rain! (It's still not so much fun to walk in it, though, because it's harder to keep warm.)

I got into a nice groove. Once into the wilderness area, I passed the start of the 100-mile race:

I knew it was only a little over a mile to the trailhead now -- and a practical joke occurred to me. That thought spurred me on through the rain and puddles to the trailhead.

 

 

 

 

 

Jim drove out to the trailhead (above) this morning so he could begin his run on the trail through the canyon. I knew he'd still be out there when I got to the parking area. I wanted to mess with his mind but not freak him out after he returned from a hard run in the mountains. I thought about moving the truck to an entirely different spot, then decided to just turn it around in the same spot so it was facing the other direction. Would he even know someone had monkeyed with it??

I turned around to retrace my route.

 

I giggled the next mile, then had only four more to run to reach the camper. A protective bull on one side of the road and several grazing cattle on the other helped to amuse me further . . . as well as a dead rattler in the road. I found myself running more on the return than outbound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Our campground is on the left; the race course goes around it and finishes in Scott Park.

JIM'S MUDFEST

I was still running when Jim called from the top of Horse Creek Ridge and left a message on my cell phone. Trail conditions were so difficult from all the rain that he decided to turn around after reaching the top of the ridge, about six miles in from the trailhead. The ridge was socked in by clouds and he had no view. That didn't surprise me; I could barely see the peaks and ridges from down in the valley because of all the clouds:

Jim later told me he was sliding in the mud both uphill and down the canyon and wasn't having any fun. In addition, he reported there was new snow all over the mountains, even as low as his high point of 8,000 feet. (The highest mountain in the Bighorns, Cloud Peak, is well over 13,000 feet.) Now it'll be even longer before we can get in a decent run from the Porcupine Ranger Station at the race's high point of just over 9,ooo feet.

The only laugh Jim got was at the end of his run. He did notice right away that his truck was turned around in the parking area. At first he was surprised, then puzzled. Then he remembered that I said I might run all the way out to the trailhead, and he knew it had to be me playing a little joke on him. When he got inside he found the little note I wrote for him.

It got up to only 56F. in Dayton today (elev. about 4,000 feet), 17 below normal. Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

ADDENDUM

Surprise! The next morning we awoke to glorious SUNSHINE again.

After hearing how much I enjoyed running on the Tongue River Road, Jim decided to do the same. It was even nicer in the sun. He ran out to the trailhead, up to the bridge near the location of the Lower Sheep Creek aid station, and back, for a total of about 15 miles. He tolerated the road section better than he expected, and realizes that being able to run faster on the road than on most of the muddy trails should be helpful to his training.


Lots of lilacs just before Tongue Canyon Road merges with Main Street in Dayton

I got back out on Tongue Canyon Road for a couple miles, too, and also ran with Cody in the nearby park.

I think we've overcome our aversion to this road section!

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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