Pretty good, eh? After all, he's not 48 any more (let alone 35, our standard
joke about aging).
Nothing boosts your confidence like a good strong finish!
Jim needed a faster time today to boost his level of
self-confidence and motivation to train. Now he's seriously considering entering the
Bear 100-miler in late September. He wants to get another couple of good races under
his belt before deciding for sure, but this accomplishment has at least made the possibility more
Part of what kept Jim going faster was knowing that Rich Garrison was on
his tail the whole race. They are both in the M60-69 age group and they both
know it, so the competitive juices were flowing.
Occasionally they were close enough to see each other. Usually Jim was
just leaving an aid station when Rich was entering it.
That's when Rich would jokingly suggest that Jim wait up for him! Jim
knew, of course, that it was a ploy to slow him down.
I was able to capture their proximity in the photo below at the Dry Fork aid
station, not quite halfway through the race. Jim's in the blue shirt, on his way out (see arrow).
Rich is in the yellow shirt, having just arrived:
Jim got several minutes' lead on him that time. Although I said hi to Rich
and asked him if he needed me to get him anything, I didn't
delay him. I might have if I'd known the little game he was playing with Jim!
Jim didn't know if there were any other 60+ men ahead of him; he
just wanted to stay ahead of Rich. Nothing personal. They're good buddies. It
was just something to motivate both of them to run more, walk less, and get out of the aid
Getting older doesn't necessarily dampen the competitive drive, after all.
Jim unintentionally employed a tactic that may have helped
him stay ahead of Rich. He started the race in last year's
long-sleeved white Bighorn race shirt and wore his short-sleeved
blue Dirty Thirty shirt over it for warmth. By the time he got
to Dry Fork at 14 miles he was plenty hot. He intended to give
the blue shirt to me at Dry Fork but in his haste to get out of
the aid station,
he forgot to take it off:
Part of that was my fault.
Cody and I got back from our own hike on the Riley loop
only minutes before Jim arrived -- he was well ahead of his
projected time at the aid station and I didn't have his drop box
open and ready for him when he came in. Fortunately, it was in the pile with the
other drop bags at the aid station (We learned that a long time
something may happen that the crew person doesn't get there) and
he was able to retrieve it before I got there. I suddenly saw him coming up the
trail, told Cody to stay next to the truck, and ran about 200
feet down to the
aid station to help him. A volunteer was already refilling his bottle. Jim
got what he needed from his box, said he had to get going, and was out of there in
about two minutes.
He didn't remember his shirt until he was far enough from
the aid station that he couldn't yell to me to come get it. He
took it off and carried it on his waist pack the rest of the
What does this have to do with Rich? Well, Rich didn't know Jim
had taken off one of his shirts. By the time Rich got out of the aid station
and onto Freeze Out Road, he couldn't see the familiar blue
shirt in the distance. He figured Jim had gotten a substantial
lead on him. He said later that he didn't realize it was Jim in
the white shirt that he could sometimes see farther up
the trails and roads in the last 18 miles of the race.
So how did this turn out? Jim's official finish time was 7:26:54.
Rich's was 7:28:49, less than two minutes behind!
If he'd known he was that close, Rich probably would have pushed
harder in the final half and Jim may not have seen him coming
or been able to respond to his surge.
There's another nice surprise or two about Jim's finish time
that I'll reveal at the end of this story in Part 2 . . .
EARLY SATURDAY MORNING: PRE-RACE ACTIVITIES
There are lots of advantages to doing the Bighorn 50K as opposed
to the 100-miler or 52-miler. One of those is the humane start
time of 8 AM for the 50K.
The 50K is basically a point-to-point race (with a loop) where the majority of the runners
take one of three buses to the start, which is almost a 40-mile
drive from Dayton and more from Sheridan. The 50K buses leave
Scott Park in Dayton precisely at 6 AM. Those 40 miles up into
the mountains and over dirt roads take well over an hour to
drive, especially in a school bus.
Our MO was to leave the adjacent campground in our truck right
before the buses so we didn't get stuck behind them on the road
-- or behind all those runners at the porta potties at
We got up about 5 AM to eat breakfast, walk Cody around the
campground, and get our stuff in the truck. More people had come
into the campground since my evening walk. It's always amazing
to me to see how the near-empty Foothills Campground morphs into a
mini city on race weekend:
We had enough of a head start before the buses to stop twice on
the way up to Dry Fork to take pictures of two sets of moose.
The first ones were along US 14 in a large open area a couple
miles before Burgess Junction:
The early morning lighting was kind of funny for those, but
perfect when Jim took this shot out his window when we were on
FSR 15 heading for Dry Fork:
We were too far away to get good close-ups of those two moose
but we knew that's what they were.
Cool! We love seeing moose. I hope all four were still there
when the 50K buses came by a few minutes later. That's a fun way
to get pumped up before the race and it's one of the things that
makes the Bighorn races special.
The Dry Fork aid station was fairly deserted when we arrived a
little after 7 AM. The only runners coming through -- and they
were few and far between at that point -- were the
100-milers who were still in the race after 72 miles. None of
the 52-milers, who started at Porcupine at 6 AM, had gotten here
yet (~ 34 miles into their race).
We were able to park along the side of the road fairly close to the
aid station again. I walked around taking pictures and mingling
with friends while Jim used the rest room, drank his usual
generic nutritional drink (similar to Boost or Ensure), and relaxed
with Cody in the truck before the start.
Crew members assist a 100-miler at Dry
Fork, while a volunteer watches, ready to help.
The first of three buses carrying 50K
runners has arrived.
The view from Dry Fork down into the valley; Jim
will come up that way
to the aid station from Cow Camp at the end
of his 14-mile loop.
50K runners check in with Cheryl before the
The second bus has arrived. Where's the
A few minutes before the race was to begin at 8, I kissed Jim
good-bye and walked up the trail about a hundred yards where
Mike Powers (Karen's husband) and a couple other folks were
standing so I could take pictures of the runners as they came up
the hill. I'm not sure if the cyclist was involved with the race;
I didn't see him again:
I head up the trail with some other crew
members to take pictures.
Looking back down at the aid station. OK,
where's that third orange bus??
As Mike and I stood watching the scene below us, we wondered
aloud about that third bus. We both knew one was missing but
didn't know what was wrong. Did the driver miss a turn? Was
there a mechanical failure?
Eight o'clock came and went. The runners were grouped near the
aid station, ready to start the race but about a quarter of the
entrants hadn't arrived yet. Oh, my.
Finally, about 8:10 we could see Bus #3 (see red arrow
below) speeding along the dirt road toward the aid station. I'm
so glad neither Jim nor I were on that bus, worrying that the
race had begun without us! At least one of our friends was on
that bus and later told us about her angst.
Actually, that's happened before in this race. Bus drivers have
been known to overshoot FSR 15 at Burgess Junction and end up
farther west on US 14 or 14A before realizing their mistake. It's the
reason that when I ran the 50K in both 2007 and 2009 I sat in
the front passenger seat so I could make sure the drivers made
the correct turns at the Junction and two other times on the dirt
Forest Service roads to Dry
Call me paranoid, but I got there correctly both times!
I don't know all the details but apparently this bus was in the
lead, got out of sight of the other two buses, and missed the
turn onto FSR 15. This is the only fault I can find with the
Bighorn races this year. Race management really has it together,
especially for such a remote wilderness course and such a large
number of registrants, but this is a problem that must be
addressed and solved before future races. I think the drivers
got all the 30K runners to Dry Fork OK for their 10 AM start;
there were even more runners in that race.
Anyway, most of the runners on the third 50K bus had time to go to
the bathroom before the race began about 8:18 (by my watch).
Some didn't, however, and had to play catch-up. As far as I know, the 50K
times reflect the late start. I'm sure that added some
complications during the race for the folks working
communications and final results.
LET'S RUN: THE 50K START
I'm also sure the 200+ runners who began the 50K were more than
ready to begin their two-mile trek up to Dry Fork Ridge (I think
that's what it's called) on the
way to Riley Point. Many were probably champing at the bit,
anxious to get started.
I took a lot of close-up pictures of runners as they
passed me but I can't put most of them here. If you were in the
50K and want to
see if I have a picture of you coming up the hill, please e-mail me with your
race number and I'll see if I caught you on camera. I don't have room
on our current Picasa photo site to add any more pictures.
I either need to delete some albums from that one or get a new
account so I can post more race photos on the internet. (Don't
hold your breath; my first priority is getting caught up
with this website.)
Jim started about two-thirds of the way back but ended up
finishing in the top half (good pacing!). Here he hands me the
fleece jacket that kept him warm while he waited for the race to
start. He carried a lightweight rain jacket with him during the
race but never needed it:
Here are two shots of the backs of the runners as they streamed
up the mountain:
There were quite a few clouds in the sky this morning but Dry
Fork was less cold and windy than it was yesterday afternoon as
we watched the 100-milers coming into the aid station. The
weather for the races was quite good this year, with a little
rain in some areas late Saturday afternoon and evening. Most
runners stayed dry this year.
THE 50K COURSE
Here's a map of the 50K course:
See the start at Dry Fork? Runners go CCW around that loop for
14+ miles before returning to Dry Fork. There are two aid
stations in that section: one at or near Riley Point, about six miles
into the loop (it's not marked on that map) and one at Cow Camp,
about eight miles into the loop.
After leaving Dry Fork, the runners have another ~ 18 miles to go
to the finish at Scott Park in Dayton. I've shown photos of most
of that part of the course in previous entries. Runners pass
through four more aid stations before the finish.
Jim knew where each aid station was supposed to be but ran out
of fluids twice on the loop in the first part of the race. There was still enough snow on the
Riley loop (Dry Fork Ridge) near the usual aid station location
that volunteers stopped well short of there. Jim didn't fill up his
bottle when he saw them, expecting the "real" aid station at Riley Point. It
wasn't there and he ran out of fluids. He had to wait until Cow Camp at eight miles
to get more.
He made another tactical error in the six miles between Cow Camp
and Dry Fork: he missed the spring where he usually
tops off his bottle before the long, hot climb to Dry Fork. He
ran out of water again there. Fortunately, this didn't happen
again for the remainder of the race.
You can read a more detailed 50K course description
here and follow one of the
links on that page to a larger version of the map above.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT DRY FORK . . .
About 20 minutes after all the 50K runners started the race,
Cody and I headed up the ridge the same way the runners went. By
going out and back, we were out of the way of all the runners in
all four races. I was more than curious to see how much snow had
melted on the course on Dry Fork Ridge since Monday and I wanted to take pictures of the
changes (Jim wasn't carrying a camera during the race).
I'll show those photos in another entry so you can see what
conditions were like up there for the 50K runners.
I took these two photos of the Dry Fork aid station when I came
back down, thinking I'd have at least half an hour before Jim's
The next photo is to the right of the one above, showing
crew members waiting for 50K, 52-mile, and 100-mile runners
coming up the hill, and the piles of drop bags:
As noted at the beginning of this entry, I got back with only five
minutes to spare and nearly missed Jim's arrival! A volunteer got
him some water, I helped him change his shoes and socks, and he
was off in a hurry, trying to stay ahead of Rich. We
didn't get a chance to talk much about course conditions, how
Jim was doing, or anything else until after
After Jim left Dry Fork I took his drop box with me. Cody and I headed
back to Burgess Junction. I knew I had some spare time before Jim would get
to the finish (even at his accelerated speed), so I took a side
trip west on US 14A to the area near Medicine Wheel and the
Porcupine Ranger Station. I'll show photos of that area in
another entry, too.
Then I hustled down 50+ miles to the campground to feed Cody, change into
clean clothes, and walk over to the finish at Scott Park before
Jim came in.
Part 2 . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil