2009 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  TRAINING RUN FROM DRY FORK
TO STOCK TANK & BACK

THURSDAY, MAY 28

 
"WWCND: What Would Chuck Norris Do?"
 
- bumper sticker on Texas truck in our campground
 
 
I'll begin this entry with a little irreverent humor, a take-off on the WWJD bumper stickers.

That Chuck Norris bumper sticker belongs to one of the two train engineers staying near us in fifth-wheels in the campground. They're gone most of the time and are probably sleeping while there, so we rarely see them. Haven't seen any weapons either, except the ones the hunters bring in here.

The older guy on the other side of the train engineers has a sign in the back of his truck that says, "GRUMPY: Does not play well with others." I impulsively laughed when I first saw it. Truth in advertising. This guy is around every morning and evening. He wears a mustache and cowboy hat, and smokes cigars. He has a drawl and a swag. He's living in a 14-foot Casita trailer with two hunting dogs, one of which is named Cody. He isn't very talkative with me (and couldn't care less that my dog is also named Cody) but carries on animated conversations with the guys who come in to hunt.

We don't know yet just what they are hunting; we're too busy running. (No wonder we haven't found any common ground yet!)

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER SCENIC TRAINING RUN

After a day off I was ready to run again. Jim's putting in major miles now, so he was game for another moderately long run even after yesterday's exhilarating 12-miler. If you read that entry, you know why it was exhilarating.)

We decided to head up the highway again to Dry Fork and do an out-and-back on the jeep road and dirt trails past Cow Camp (12.2 miles roundtrip). We'd aim for the next aid station location during the race, Stock Tank (20.2 miles roundtrip), and maybe get to Bear Camp (26.2 miles roundtrip) if we were running really well.


Beginning of our run at Dry Fork

We decided we'd had enough fun when we got to the location of the Stock Tank aid station and turned around there after taking a 10-minute break. That gave us 20.2 miles for the day, which was plenty for me.

Another alternative we considered was to climb up the mountain from Cow Camp toward Riley Point if we had the energy on the return trip. Ha! That didn't happen. It's over a 2,000-foot climb and we could tell from the bottom that it was "juicy" through the lower drainage area. We just didn't have the energy or motivation for such a big climb after doing 14 miles already.

Fortunately for Cody, the out-and-back we did was also "juicy" from snowmelt and possible rain in the mountains. We knew he wouldn't need to wear his pack because we'd be crossing lots of creeks. All three of us enjoyed the periodic cold water on our feet as the day heated up.

Jim carried just one bottle because there are several springs along this route where he could replenish water and not need to treat it. He and Cody both seemed to have plenty to drink.


Cody and Jim both got water from this spring pipe, location of the Stock Tank Aid Station.


Another good spring is about three miles below Dry Fork. We passed that one twice.

On the other hand, I ran out of water about a mile from the end of our run. I was like a mule, carrying 100 oz. of water in my Camelbak bladder, 20 oz. of concentrated Perp and water in my hand-held bottle, and replenishing with half a bottle of water at the last spring!! I even had finger cramping when we got back to the camper, a sure sign for me of dehydration. I may have also been low on electrolytes. I had enough calories to maintain my energy, however.


Water, water everywhere . . . but you don't want to drink from this nasty stock tank!

I usually seem to need more fluids and electrolytes than Jim does, even though he weighs 25-30 pounds more than I do. I'm definitely not well-trained right now either. The high altitude, dry air, light breeze, and warm sun made this a challenging workout for me fluid-wise.

THE CHARACTER OF THE TRAIL

This isn't a difficult part of the course during the race at 13-23 miles on the out-bound in the 100-miler. It's a roller-coaster with lots of long, easy grades up and down and some shorter, steeper ones that get your attention but don't leave you dragging -- until the return part of the 100-miler at 72-82 miles into the race! This section is about halfway through the point-to-point 50-miler. Only the six miles from Cow Camp to Dry Fork are in my 50K race.


Cody follows Jim down one of the hills outbound.


On the return, none of us was going uphill quite as fast.

The part that is toughest to me is the two-mile climb before reaching Dry Fork going inbound toward the finish in all three races. During the race you can see the aid station and crew cars up on the hill from two miles out and it seems to take me forever to get there. Today I had even more miles under my belt at that point than I will on race day, and it was a strain. On the way out at the beginning of our run, it was pure fun going downhill:

Elevations in this 10-mile section range between 7,650 feet at Dry Fork and about 6,400 feet at the creek below Cow Camp. That's one reason we chose this route today: the lower elevation reduced the chance of snow on the course. Cody found only two or three snow banks, and of course he had to roll around in each of them:

.
What a goofball!

We ran about 12 miles on the jeep road and 8 miles on single track. Areas exposed to the sun for several hours a day were mostly dry. There are a lot of narrow trenches, uneven footing, and holes made by cows, horses, deer, elk, and moose (wildlife loves these major highways through the sage and trees!).

Some areas were smooth and dry and perfect. Some were rocky, some muddy. We had quite a variety today, but no snow!

FLORA & FAUNA

This part of the course is full of sage bushes, which add a lovely greenish-gray hue to the palette of greens and a nice scent to the air.


Surrounded by sage: Cody watches Jim in the distance.

The only downside to the sage is its adaptability to this climate: it grows so rampantly that the Forest Service sometimes has to do controlled burns to keep it in check. This year we don't see evidence of any recent burns but they may be imminent because parts of the trail are barely passable where the sage overhangs. We came back with scratches all over our legs today when we couldn't avoid sage branches crowding the narrowest "squirrel" trails, especially the ones where we were in foot-deep trenches.


Got sage?? Jim's nearly hidden by it in the distance. And where is Cody?

Some of the aspens (and birches?) have no leaves yet in this section. Some do, giving a nice contrast between new light green leaves and grasses, the deep evergreen of the pine trees, and the gray-green sage.

 

Although we saw quite a few flowers in bloom, they are nowhere near their peak yet. They should be by race day, however. Most of the lupines in this section have not opened up yet:

 


The meadows below Dry Fork should be filled with blooming lupines on race day.

 


Harebells

It will be interesting to compare the photos in this entry with the ones I take during the race in about three weeks. There will be a big difference in the number of flowers and leaves.

The only large wildlife we saw on the trails today (besides tell-tale hoof prints) was one deer. We saw more in the truck, driving in this morning!

We didn't see anyone else on the trail but for the first time we saw life at the cabin at Cow Camp: six horses fenced in, one dog, and one cowboy. They weren't there when Jim ran this section two days ago.

Cow Camp from two perspectives on the trail (above and below)

After yesterday's drama with the rattlesnake, we were on high alert for the critters. We've never seen any in this section but that doesn't mean they aren't there. Every time we heard birds and insects chirping, we got super vigilant. Paranoia can be healthy for you.

THESE TRAINING RUNS WOULD BE A LOT MORE FUN . . .

. . . if I was better trained for them!!

That was my thought as I trudged up the final hill today to Dry Fork. I was tired but could have gone further if I had to. Although I was slower than I'd like, I paced myself well enough up each climb that I never had to stop to catch my breath. That's my best test for proper pacing in any given run and at any level of fitness.


Shortly after this fence line comes the long climb back up to Dry Fork.

Jim's training is coming along very well. Today's trek barely tired him out. He was able to run up some of the hills. He won't be doing that in the race, but it helps build his stamina in training. He's run and walked 80+ miles in six days this week, which is very high for him. He's hoping to do another big mileage next week before beginning to taper down. He's considered dropping down from the 100-miler to the 52-mile race but today's workout gave him more confidence in his ability to finish the 100. Without me slowing him down today, I think he could have gone at least an hour faster than the 6+ hours it took us to do 20.2 miles.

Cody did well, too, considering this run was as much of a stretch for him as it was for me. Jim was quite a bit ahead of me most of the way out and back (he'd periodically wait for me to catch up before going on again). Cody was back and forth between us the whole time, even at the end. Goodness knows how many miles he ran today!

We'll all sleep well tonight.

Next entry: a group training run for Bighorn participants from Dry Fork to the Tongue River trailhead

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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