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
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.
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.
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
It got up to only 56°F. in Dayton
today (elev. about 4,000 feet), 17° below normal. Wonder what
tomorrow will bring?
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!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil