That was my standard joke today.
I mentioned in a previous journal entry how I decided to enter the
30K Bighorn race only a few days ago after getting inspired on our hike
through the Tongue River Canyon. Because of my deteriorating knees (bone
on bone in both) I haven't participated in any race for almost two
Fortunately, that impulsive decision turned out
OK. Despite not being
fully trained for the distance I finished the course (and a bonus mile
before the start) and had a great time.
"Great time" as in fun,
not how long it took me.
Jim finished, too, in a much faster time than me but with more pain
because of his injured knee. I'm pretty sure I had more fun out there than he did.
Let's get this show on the road!
Jim and me at Dry Fork before the start.
Neither one of us was certain we'd finish so getting to the park in Dayton on our
own two feet was victory in itself. Times sure have changed from when we
were both able to finish 100-mile trail runs, though. After the race we
agreed that this 30K felt more like 50 miles.
There, that's the executive summary.
Read on for tales from the
trail and lots of photos from the last 18 miles of the Bighorn course. Everyone
in the 50K, 50-miler, and 100-miler who finished their race also ran and/or
walked this section.
And be glad I wasn't in the 100-miler because this report would be
even longer than it is. < grin >
RISE AND SHINE
One of the best things about the Bighorn 30K is its civil start time at 10
AM. That doesn't mean we could sleep late, though.
The 50-milers had to catch their buses in Scott Park at 4 this
morning for their 6 AM start, and the 50K runners left (or were supposed
to leave) the park at 6 AM for their 8 AM start.
Since there are so many 30K runners (over 300 this year) and very
limited parking in Scott Park, the buses for the "short race" leave from
the high school at 8 AM on the west side of Dayton, about 6/10ths of a
mile from the park and our campground.
30Kers hike up Freeze Out
Road from Dry Fork; you can see Twin Buttes in the background.
That still meant Jim and I needed to get up about 6 AM to get
ourselves and Cody ready, then walk to the high school to catch one of
the buses to Dry Fork.
The other option was less pleasant -- leave our truck at the
high school and retrieve it after the race, when we'd be tired. No
thanks. We'd rather get a warm-up walk before the race. I suppose we
could have bummed a ride to the high school with someone but we didn't
The temperature was in the low 50s F. when we got up and the sun was
already shining. We're in the north and we're close to the
longest day of light. Temperatures were in the mid- to upper-70s F. in
the afternoon when we passed through the Tongue River Canyon and along
the road back to Dayton. Those are usually the hottest parts of the
What a pretty day! This is the view down the Dry Fork drainage;
we could see runners
in the 50K and 100-miler coming
up FSR 149 to the Dry Fork Aid Station.
The day remained mostly sunny with enough of a breeze to get some
relief through the canyon and on the river road for those of us who
passed that way during the afternoon.
Cody was disappointed that he didn't get to go with us today. He
knows all the nonverbal signs that say "We're going to go run" but all he
heard us say out loud was "You have to stay here." He
looked pretty sad when we said goodbye and left him in the camper. He
did fine, as usual. He's pretty low maintenance.
HURRY UP AND WAIT
When I was outside the camper with Cody this morning I noted that the
buses didn't leave Scott Park until 6:20 AM. They almost always
promptly at 6.
That didn't portend well for the 8 AM bus departure for the 30K folks
-- we'd be riding on the same buses. It takes more than an hour to
get up to Dry Fork in the buses, another hour to get back down to
Dayton, plus the time it takes to unload everyone at Dry Fork and get the buses
turned around in tight quarters near the aid station.
Hmm . . .
We figured we didn't have to hustle to get to the high school as
early as we'd planned. However, we did leave early enough to get there
before 8 AM.
Jim and I wait at the high school
for more buses to arrive.
We should have gone earlier.
Two extra buses for the 30K runners were already there and full. To
our surprise they did not leave for Dry Fork but waited on the other
three buses to come back down to transport the remaining 30K runners en
So we stood around with Anne Watts from 7:45 to 8:45 waiting for
the other three buses to arrive. The good thing was having more time to
talk with Anne. The bad thing was being on our feet, then sitting, on hard
concrete for so long.
A little comic relief once we were on a bus.
Then we saw the buses coming. Yay!!!
Oh, no. They didn't stop! It was excruciating to watch those
three buses continue past the school to
Scott Park, perhaps to return some 100-mile runners who dropped out
along the course?
Finally the buses came back and we were able to sit
down on relatively soft seats for the next hour. Anne and I snagged the seat behind the driver
of the fourth bus; Jim shared the
other front seat with two small trash cans for banana peels,
empty water bottles, etc.
Heading toward the Bighorn Range in the bus.
Being in the front assured me of getting some pictures AND being able
to back-seat drive if
the bus driver, Dan, looked like he would miss the turn on FSR 15 to Dry Fork.
Several drivers have missed that turn over the years,
occasionally forcing the 30K or 50K to start late and causing angst for
the runners on board.
Fortunately, the 30K buses all made the turn properly this year. We
enjoyed the ride and the time with Anne. She's always full of
interesting stories about her and Matt's running adventures.
A LITTLE ASSERTIVENESS SOMETIMES PAYS OFF
Or as Jim quipped, "It's all about Sue."
Our bus was fourth of five going up to Dry Fork so we figured we'd
have to wait a while to check in and go to one of the porta-potties when we
Runners lined up (in the
background) for the porta-potties at Dry Fork
When we got to Dry Fork the first bus turned into the parking area at
the top of the hill about a quarter mile from the start. This is not a
parking area large enough to accommodate five school buses turning
around amid all the
other vehicles that were already there.
I could see us having to wait for each bus to enter the parking area,
let dozens of runners out, get turned around somehow, and leave on the
very narrow dirt road where the remaining buses were sitting. It would have
taken forever if we'd all waited our turn to get out in the parking area, especially since Anne, Jim,
and I were in the fourth bus.
The other bus drivers in front of us didn't know seem to know what to do
even though some of them had been up here earlier to let off 50-mile and
50K runners. They'd been told
not to go down to the aid station because of the 100-milers on the road
and the general chaos in that aid station this year. There was even less
room down there to turn around.
So buses #2, 3, 4,
and 5 sat in the road, doors closed, antsy runners all inside.
Anne and Jim look relaxed and happy before our race
began at Dry Fork.
I'm not shy. I'm not very patient, either. Not only did I need to go
to the bathroom by then, it also seemed pretty stupid
for runners in four of the buses to just be sitting there when the race was supposed to start in
So after about 10 seconds assessing the situation, I politely asked
Dan, our bus driver, if he could please let us off right where we were.
I figured correctly that if he let us out, the other drivers would see
the light and let their passengers out, too.
Lo and behold, Dan opened the door and we were among the first
runners from the buses to check in and/or get in line for the potties!
The other bus drivers did the same, but not as fast.
Early release: walking down the
road toward the Dry Fork AS, where our race began.
If I hadn't said something, someone else probably would have spoken
up pretty soon (like Anne or Jim!). I wasn't trying to
"cheat" and it wasn't only about me. It just made sense.
After walking down to the aid station to check in with co-RD Cheryl
Sinclair and go to the bathroom we stood around in the chilly wind for
40-45 minutes talking
with other runners/walkers. Jim (bright orange shirt, below) discovered
this camper blocked most of the wind:
The 30K was supposed to start at 10 AM but since the buses got us up
there late, it took until 10:30 to get everyone checked in and allow
time for (most) everyone to go to the bathroom.
Times were adjusted accordingly at the end of the race.
We got to watch some of the 100-milers and 50Kers come and go through the aid
station while we were waiting (photo above and next one below).
We witnessed some of that extra determination for which good ultra
runners are renowned. Dennis Aslett, for example, was having problems with
asthma but doggedly finished the 100-mile race. Davy Crockett broke his right hand at 30
miles. That didn't stop him! He got it bandaged up and kept going
another 70 miles. He finished the race with his son Kevin, who was
in the 50K and caught up to him.
of the faster 50K runners and 50-milers (but not so many 100-milers) passed Jim and me while we were
on the course.
Matt hadn't come back to Dry Fork for the final time when we started
the 30K at 10:30. Anne knew he was
somewhere on the out-and-back section to Twin Buttes. She waited for
about an hour for Matt to return to Dry Fork, then ran the last 30K with
him to the finish.
30K COURSE DESCRIPTION
I'm copying this information from the race
The 30K course begins at the HEAD OF THE DRY FORK aid station
[elev. 7,650 feet] and proceeds up the Freeze Out Road, following trails
and a gravel road cresting on Camp Creek Ridge at 8,100 feet. It then
descends down Sheep Creek drainage to 7,300 feet on a four-wheel drive
Scenic view near the Upper Sheep
At about 4 1/2 miles you will reach the fully supplied UPPER SHEEP
CREEK aid station. Next is the summit of Horse Creek Ridge at 8,000
feet, following trails and primitive four-wheel drive roads, which will
then drop you into Tongue River Canyon. Take a moment to view the canyon
and the distant plains before you descend the trail through seas of
There are fewer wildflowers on
the descent to the canyon this year but the views are still awesome.
LOWER SHEEP CREEK aid station at mile 10 and 5,025 feet, is a good
place to fill your bottles before entering the sometimes hot canyon
below. Continuing on to the TONGUE RIVER aid station at mile 12 1/2 and
approximately 4,375 feet you will leave the trail and run on a
relatively flat gravel road for the remainder of the distance.
At about mile 15 is the final aid station, HOMESTRETCH aid
station. Continue on and just as you are entering Dayton you will cross
the Tongue River on a rustic footbridge. Runners then cross Highway 14
and proceed into town making a left onto 3rd Street. Go one block and
make a left onto Broadway and into Scott Park where the FINISH and
picnic gala await you.
The Tongue River roars through the lower canyon
"Eye of the Needle" rock formation.
This is the traditional 30K course, except for the last couple hundred yards
at the park in Dayton; this was the only race of the four that
didn't have to be rerouted this weekend because of snow.
The photos below and on the next three pages are in order as I hiked the course.
WE'RE OFF! DRY FORK TO CAMP CREEK RIDGE
Jim started the race about two-thirds of the way toward the back. I
was near the back of the 300+ runners because I knew I'd be walking most of the race,
especially up to the first ridge. So did most of the people around me.
As you'll see in the next group of photos, this section of trail was
pretty sloppy up the Camp Creek drainage and along the ridge to Upper
Here we go!
Starting up the very wet Camp Creek drainage area
Looking back down through the drainage toward Dry
Fork. We're almost to the ridge.
Continued on the
next page: scenes from Camp Creek Ridge to the Upper
Sheep Creek aid station
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil