Jim and I well remember the inaugural year of the Bighorn 100 in
2002 when race staff seriously underestimated the difficulty of the course. The
31-hour time limit and accompanying interim cut-offs resulted in a low 24%
finishing rate. Jim was one of the 28 runners out of 37 starters who DNF'd that
year. Only nine finishers!
The runners enjoyed the course but clearly let it be known that more
time was needed to realistically finish it. The race has had a
higher finish rate since the time limit was extended to 34 hours and the
number of entrants has grown to about 177 this year (as of the June 8
list on the website).
A runner descends toward the Tongue River Canyon in the
2009 Bighorn race.
At the awards ceremony one of the race staff corrected the number of Bighorn
100 races that have been held -- this was the 9th year for the race, not
the 10th. I'm betting there will be some special features to commemorate #10
Note that no one has finished all nine Bighorn 100s, although I think
Les Mignery has finished eight of them.
TIME TO CELEBRATE
You can't beat the Bighorn Mountain Wild & Scenic Trail Runs brunch and
awards ceremony on Sunday morning in downtown Sheridan, WY:
involved with the race is invited to come enjoy a free pancake breakfast served
up by the Kiwanis Club, then listen as the 52-mile and 100-mile finishers are
called up to receive their awards and congratulations by announcer Wendell Robison
(himself a frequent Bighorn 100-mile finisher) and co-RDs Karen Powers, her daughter Michelle
Maneval, and her sister Cheryl Sinclair.
Even though the 30K and 50K awards are presented at Scott Park in Dayton
on Saturday afternoon, runners from those races may also come to the breakfast
and awards ceremony on Sunday morning if they are still in the area.
Breakfast is served at 8 AM. There is plenty of delicious food
(pancakes, ham, fruit, and beverages), but
it's still a good idea to get there before a long line forms and it's harder to find
a place to sit at one of the long tables:
This is a great time to socialize with friends, hear race "war stories,"
(thankfully no one was challenged by a moose this year like Karl
Meltzer was last year!), cheer on the
finishers as they receive their awards, and maybe even win a
random door prize. Volunteers and runners may put their names
into the box to be drawn for various items. I lucked out and won
a nice pair of Smartwool socks.
This was our last chance to talk with some of our ultra running
friends for a while, although some we'll see at North Fork, Hardrock, Leadville, and maybe the Grand Teton races,
Silverton 24-Hour, or Bear 100
if Jim decides to do any of those races.
Here, Jim talks with Rich Garrison at breakfast:
Rich is the guy who spurred Jim on to a faster finish than he
yesterday. They placed 1-2 in
the M60-69 age group in the 50K.
Two of my favorite ultra running legends and role models are Bob
Hayes (L) and Gene Bruckert (R):
Gene is a multiple "50 States and DC" finisher, often running
50Ks instead of "just" marathons. He travels around the country doing
marathons and ultras nearly every weekend -- sometimes
even two per weekend. He's 75 years young and as sweet as can be.
Note that Gene also finds time to volunteer at races, too.
The last two years we've worked bag stuffing and packet pick-up
with him at Bighorn. He and I shared some miles on the trail
during the 50K last year, too -- both great ways to get
to know your fellow runners better.
Bob is the father of one of our good ultra buddies, Tom Hayes.
Both live in Montana. We've known the Hayes family for many
years. Bob is now 83 years old but still cranks out quality
ultra performances. When he was "only" 80
or 81 he
ran the 50-mile LeGrizz race in an amazing time of about 10½
Try that when you're 80 years old!!!
Bob was courageous enough this year
to enter the Bighorn 52-mile race with its challenging time
limit. He missed a cut-off and wasn't able to finish, but with
enough time he sure would have. He's tough and he's more fit
than the majority of men in this country who are half his
L-R, standing: Dennis Aslett, Matt
and Anne Watts, and Jim
all sought shade during the awards
Bob related an interesting story to
me this morning. He knows I ran/hiked the Appalachian Trail, so
he knew I'd like this: Back in 1947 (I think he
said) he was working at Sherburne Pass in Vermont at a fire
tower when Earl Schaefer came through and signed his guest log.
The pass is at or near the intersection where the AT goes east
and the Long Trail goes north (they run contiguously for a bunch
of miles south of there). Bob didn't realize until ten years
later that Earl was the first AT thru-hiker.
Cool! I enjoyed hearing that story.
LET THE CEREMONY BEGIN
Race officials had all the awards organized before the breakfast
line opened and began the awards ceremony about 8:30:
Although 52- and 100-mile runners received part of their awards
when they finished on Saturday, there were lots more goodies to
give out today and the runners' efforts were publicly
We have always received very attractive, useful finisher awards
at Bighorn: fleece vests, jackets, sports bags. We still
wear or use them from 'way back in the late 1990s!
This year's finisher awards are also attractive and useful. I'll
start with the 30K and work my way up the the 100-mile awards.
When they crossed the finish line yesterday, the 30K men's finishers received sports bags like this
with an embroidered race logo:
Female friends who received this year's version of the 30K women's
bags really loved them:
Women could choose their color preference.
Finishers in the 50K and 52-miler received these soft fleece
half-zip jackets, also with an embroidered logo:
Women received white jackets in both those races and men got
navy ones. Jim really likes his (so do I -- wish I had
Hundred-milers get even more good stuff than the other
runners when they finish
Bighorn. When they crossed the finish line, they received a
reversible nylon-and-fleece blanket to keep warm. At this
morning's ceremony they
also received practical all-weather running jackets and handsome
gold and black belt buckles.
display of the goodies at packet pickup-up shows the 100-mile men's dark gray
jacket (women got white ones), a folded-up blanket, and a belt
In addition to the above garments and other awards, age group winners three-deep in ten-year age
categories in all four races received handsome Bighorn Mountain
rock awards like the
one Jim got. I believe that the
overall male and female in the 100-mile race received monetary
awards (gift certificates?) and/or framed pictures; I'm
not sure what the overall male and female won in the 52-mile
At the beginning of today's ceremony, the 52-miler age group and
overall winners were
recognized. One hundred twenty-eight runners completed the
difficult course within the 15-hour time limit; another three
are listed in the
results but finished over the
time limit. I don't know how many began this race or what the
finish rate was. I do know there were 217 entrants on the list a
couple weeks before the race.
L - R: Co-RD Karen Powers, Helen
Lavin, Kevin Koch, and MC Wendell Doman
The first overall 52-mile finisher was Kevin Koch in a time of 8:25:08.
Helen Lavin finished 5th overall and was the first female to
finish. Her time was 9:42:59.
I see that both Helen and Kevin are wearing their comfy fleece
finishers' jackets in the photo above. Karen is wearing this
year's 100-mile entrants' shirt. Wendell has on the nice ball
cap that all the 100-milers got in their entry bags (the women's
hat has purple inserts instead of black).
THE RUSTY SPUR CLUB
After the 52-mile overall and age group winners were recognized, the 100-milers were the focus of the
awards ceremony. Each one was called up front to receive their
jacket, buckle, and rock, if they placed in their age group.
First, Wendell called up this year's members of the exclusive "Rusty
Spur" club who were present:
(Apologies to Jeff Browning, on the far left. I didn't get him
in the photo with the other recipients of the
Rusty Spur so I sort of cut and pasted him in. Jim and I
can't identify all the other guys in the photo so I
won't even start.)
Wasatch has its Crimson Cheetahs. Bighorn has its equivalent,
the Rusty Spur Club --
all those runners who have broken the magic 24-hour
mark in the nine-year history of the Bighorn 100. There were
thirteen of 'em this year. Some, like Jeff, have also won the
honor previously. Race staff will get the rusty spur awards
engraved and mail them to this year's recipients.
There were 95 official 100-mile finishers this year who made the
interim cut-offs and came in under the final 34-hour cut-off.
That's a 61% finish rate. One young man in the 19-and-under
category finished. Only two men over 60 finished (Dave Westlake
and Ernest Stolen, age 63 and 61, respectively). No women over
60 finished (I'm not sure any were even entered). Only two
women over 50 finished (Susan Gebhart, 55, and Kelly Ridgway,
This is not an easy race for older men and women to finish!
Neither is the 52-miler.
Wendell introduces 100-mile winner Mike
This year's 100-mile winner was 32-year-old Mike Wolfe from Helena, MT
with a new course-record time of 18:43:37 --
despite the adverse course conditions and re-route near
Porcupine because of the snow. He beat his nearest
competitor, Joseph Grant, by over an hour, and bested Karl
Meltzer's 19:18-hour time from last year.
Ashley Nordell, age 30, was the first female to cross the line.
She finished 12th overall with a time of 23:49:10. Wendell
teased her when she arrived at the ceremony after most of the
finishers had already been called up -- she wanted to
sleep late! Heck, if I just won that race I'd need some sleep,
too! (Runners are called up by their finish times, with the
Wendell teasing Ashley Nordell for sleeping
late this morning . . .
I got photos of several of our friends as they received their
Jody Aslett was 4th female overall and 2nd
with a personal best 100-miler of 27:30:41.
Matt Watts had a fine time of 30:43:41,
which put him in
10th place in the M50-59 age group (very
competitive age group!).
To break up the long list of 100-milers receiving their awards, names were drawn for random
giveaways and Wendell Doman was quite surprised when he was
honored by comments from RD Michelle Maneval and six Bighorn
regulars, including Jim:
L-R: Dennis Aslett, Rickie Redland,
Dave Westlake, Karen Powers (red shirt),
Wendell Doman and his two daughters,
Michelle Maneval, Jeff Browning, Matt Watts, Jim O'Neil
Before the awards ceremony began, Michelle asked each of the six
runners, who have known Wendell for many years, to give a short
personal story about him. They had about half an hour's notice
to come up with something interesting. You can see how moved Wendell was by the time Jim spoke
(next two photos). Jim was
last, which made it tougher to come up with remarks that hadn't
already been made!
After the tribute to Wendell, the second half of the 100-miler
finishers were called up for their awards.
Two more finishers I got decent photos of are Sheridan's own
Dave Westlake, who finished first in the M60-69 category in 31:36:18,
Dave Westlake, L, gets a pat on the back
from one of Wendell's daughters
as he goes up to receive his
and Mike James, a young friend of ours (age 39) from Billings,
MT, who finished in 33:16:20:
Mike James gives me a big smile!
FAREWELL TO FRIENDS
< sigh >
I hate it when races end and everyone goes home except the
we'll see some of our friends at other races this summer, fall,
and winter. Some we probably won't see until next year's Bighorn
The awards ceremony was over by 10:15 AM and folks
gradually dispersed. Jim filled out a SASE to receive next
year's entry early (the shorter races fill up FAST) and we went
over to the Sports Stop to look for a couple items.
After doing five loads of laundry in Sheridan (that didn't
include the load of towels we forgot), we headed back to the
Foothills Campground in Dayton. The place had transformed itself
back to the Foothills we're accustomed to in the weeks prior to
the race -- nearly everyone was gone! That was another
sign that it was almost time for us to leave the Bighorns, too.
Sometime I'd really like to come back and see what the mountains
look like later in the summer and fall . . .
Trail through the Tongue River Canyon, with
only six or seven miles to go in the races.
Our final thoughts about the race itself are:
1) Jim's glad he
was in the 50K this time; he had FUN even though he
pushed hard. He needs to get the fun factor back in his races
2) There were times during the last couple weeks
while we've been in the area that I wished I was in the 50K or
30K race but I know it's not in my best interest because of my
bum knees. If I could find a flatter or
uphill trail race with such a generous time limit, I might do it. The Bighorn races all have
too much serious downhill for my knees.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
This morning during the breakfast and the awards ceremony it was
sunny. In fact, I don't remember any year when the Sunday
morning ceremony has
had poor weather.
This afternoon the Bighorn foothills, including Sheridan and
Dayton, had a nasty storm. In our campground it blew down tree
limbs and knocked a huge cottonwood tree onto the roof of a house
just across the street (the boulevard all the runners go down
before entering Scott Park for the race finish). We could hear
chain saws running all afternoon and evening. Some large branches
came down in the campground where, only a few hours before, runners' campers
and tents had stood. It's a good thing they all left when they
Fortunately, we didn't sustain any damage
to our truck or camper but our site was a mess and we were surrounded by
puddles of water. We hope we can get the Cameo out tomorrow when
we plan to leave.
Storms hit fast and furiously in the
Bighorn Mountains and foothills.
This is a photo I took on June 16 as we
were heading back to the campground in Dayton, WY.
Tonight when we watched the Billings, Montana TV news stations at 5 and 10 PM we were
dismayed to hear that the same storm system did really
major damage in the eastern part of the city this afternoon,
only two or three miles from where Jim and I used to live in the
Heights. (Billings is about a two-hour drive north of Dayton and
Besides baseball-sized hail (BASEBALL-sized??) and torrential,
flooding rain, a tornado hovered over the Metra stadium/concert
venue for about 15 minutes. Local TV stations
played an amateur video tape of the tornado over and over,
debris flying in every direction. Apparently there wasn't too much
damage in residential areas, so we are hoping that all of our
friends and Jim's family members who live there are safe.
You just never know . . . We have dodged a lot of weather bullets in
our travels the last few years. One of these days our luck just
might run out.
Next entry: wildflowers of the Bighorns (last entry from
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil