It is absolutely ridiculous that it has been 7 weeks since I ran in the Big Horn 100 and I have yet to provide an account from the race. So it goes. This summer has been one of transition for me, and as I look toward the future it has been challenging to put in words races that have already been run. This summer has been great in many ways and the final countdown to the Leadville 100 is upon us. Look for another post shortly. As for the Big Horn 100:
The Big Horn 100 started on Friday, June 18th in the beautiful Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming. Although I had driven through the area on many occasions, I had never had the opportunity to run in these mountains. I was truly excited to explore some new terrain. Furthering my excitement was the fact that I was going to be running with two new pacers (good friends I had never run with much). Also, I was excited to see my parents (they live close by in Billings, MT) who had never seen me finish an ultra before. For these reasons I was keen to be running the Big Horn 100. (That’s right… I said ‘keen’) There was a whole host of reasons why I was not terribly excited to be racing a 100 miler. For about a month prior to the event I had felt beat up, tired, run down, and I had been sick for a while as well. Regardless, I knew I needed to run this race as a way to get back on track again. Wow, what a conter-intuitive and perhaps contradictory statement.
Another interesting point to note is the 11am start time which ensures all 100 mile competitors (from the course record winners to the last place runner) get to experience a full night of running. This was to be my frist experience running through an entire night, which had me slightly nervous, however I was confident in my Black Diamond Icon prototype headlamp and my fantastic pacers (Adam and Jerry). This prototype lamp was a more powerful and longer lasting version of the world famous Black Diamond Icon Headlamp. There were also numerous warnings about the wildlife, from rattlesnakes to moose, which honestly had me excited. The race starts just outside of Dayton, WY and heads immediately onto trails through a gorgeous basin. I purposely began this event carrying more than I am used to: a nathan bladder pack and a hand bottle. I felt that I needed to make a great effort to stay on top of my nutrition and hydration from the start. As we got in a groove around mile 5, I was in approximately 9th place and began to settle in with Bryan Goding and Erik Storheim, who were both great to chat with for a little bit. The temperature remained cool with a strong breeze. This was shaping up to be a good day, however, the front of the pack was long gone. All I could do was settle into a running pace that I felt I could sustain. I was stoked to briefly see Annie at the mile 13 aid station where she once again made sure I had everything I needed. I pulled ahead of a struggling Bryan Goding at approximately mile 13 (he later had to drop as he was dealing with a chronic injury), and soon fell into a good pace with Erik. We moved together for many miles and eventually came to the top of the 3 mile descent into the mile 30 aid station. Erik, being a tremendous downhill runner, dropped me as I found my first brief low point of the day.
This section of course was beautiful with big views and perfect weather giving way to foliage, pine needles, and a roaring river. I snapped out of my ‘low-point’ buoyed by the knowledge that I would see some of my crew (Jerry and Adam) any minute now. (Annie had skipped this aid station, as it was a ridiculous 2 hours one way to get into). As I came into the aid station I felt solid and wanted to get out of there relatively quickly with my first pacer and good friend Adam St. Pierre. (Adam is an exercise physiologist at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine as well as the coach of the Junior Nordic Team in Boulder). Adam and I started out on the 18 mile gradual uphill to the turn-around at mile 48. I was not feeling fantastic on this mellow uphill grade, but with Adam prodding me along at a good pace, I remained running on sections of trail I normally would have hiked on my own given how I was feeling. We quickly passed Erik and one other runner as we moved at a good clip. The higher we snaked our way up, the better and more gorgeous the views became, and with every step I knew I was nearing the turn-around point. I maintained a steady diet of Vespa, and Frist Endurance EFS products as we closed in on Yassine Diboun in 4th place. We passed him briefly at mile 45 as he dealt with ‘shredded feet.’ I came into the Porcupine Ranger Station at the turn-around mark in 4th place, 19 minutes back from 2nd place, and moving well. Annie was a welcome sight and source of encouragement at this point as she readied me to roll for the second half of the race. Just as I was leaving the aid station, I saw Yassine slip out slightly ahead of me. At this point, I truly believed it would only be a matter of time before I passed him for good. As it turned out, I would not see him again until the finish line. (Yassine dealt with his shredded and ‘ripped apart’ feet for the remainder of the race as he posted a valiant 4th place result)
With this knowledge and carrying a positive feeling, I believed I was well on my way to rallying the second half of this race and securing a podium finish. As Adam and I headed back down the 18 mile gradual downhill section into the dark, I found myself stuck in 2nd gear. I was running well, moving forward with a good stomach, solid legs, and higher than normal energy, but my legs were stuck. I just could not move faster than I was. This was kind of odd and may be linked to a slightly ‘un-motivated’ brain which did not desire to suffer too bad during this race. This is slightly inexplicable, as normally suffering is a high priority for me in all races I enter. Regardless, this is where I found myself between miles 48 and 66 with Adam leading me at a good clip. As we headed into the mile 66 aid station around midnight, I found myself wanting to push the pace more up the steep 3 mile climb ahead. Adam switched off at this point with my other pacer and friend Jerry. Jerry took over and helped me make a surge on this climb. We moved quickly, yet controlled, and as we neared the top of the climb I kept expecting to see Yassine or Jeff Browning just ahead. It was not to be. Jerry and I rolled through the course in the dark with every step getting me closer to finishing this race. With no head-lamps in sight up ahead, I increasingly became resigned to the fact that this was not my day. I was very happy though with how my stomach was remaining strong and my appetite was tremendous. Jerry and I would pause at each aid station as I ate a fair amount of noodles and broth.
At approximately 3 am, I found myself feeling sluggish and moving slowly as I struggled with a sleepy body. In short, I was tired, and caught myself ‘nodding off’ as I ran or hiked. This feeling ended as we approached the mile 82 aid station at 4:30am. (Approximately). I knew at this point that I would see Annie again, consume a little breakfast, and began to awaken with the ever-brightening sky. The sun was rising, and with it, so did my spirit. Jerry and I moved out of there and back onto course. I was pleasantly content with the fact that I was moving slower than I anticipated and Jerry was going to be able to see 15-or-so-miles of the course and the accompanying expansive views. We kept rolling and soon found ourselves on the last long downhill single-track section at mile 90. This was tremendous, and I was excited to be running strong on solid legs this late in a 100 miler. We moved on down until we reached the dirt road which signaled five miles to go (start and finish were at different places meaning we had a longer road section on the way to the finish). As we made it to the road, Jerry kept me positive and moving forward even though my mind wandered to how this was a relatively poor race for me. Again, I was excited that my legs and stomach were fully intact and I was still moving forward well, but this was at least 90 minutes slower than I had hoped for. (almost 1 minute per mile slower than I had planned). Jerry just kept me thinking positively and finishing well at this point. Thanks man!
Finishing the Big Horn 100 with my Dad was an awesome moment!
With about 2 miles to go I saw my Dad on course and this bolstered my spirit greatly. He jumped in with Jerry and I and ran the rest of the way with me. Jerry peeled off with a 1/4 mile-or-so to go and my Dad and I finished together, which was a very cool experience that I will remember forever. I finished in 5th place with a time of 21 hours and 22 minutes. (21:22). A gigantic congratulations to the fast dudes who killed me in this race: Mike Wolfe for his CR, Joe Grant for a solid 2nd place result, Jeff Browing for his consistent consistency, and Yassine Diboun for his extreme mental toughness. You guys all had a tremendous race. Erik Storheim finished in 6th place and once again I must say thanks to him for engaging me in a mellow conversation early in a race. Thanks man… I always enjoy it and you have no idea how much that helps me. Corey Hanson finished it up in 7th place. Great race man; very nice to meet you out there too. To all who finished this race: great job. Race organizers and volunteers: THANK YOU! A truly great event, and well done. Lastly: to my fantastic crew: THANKS A TON! My wonderful wife Annie once again crewed me to a solid finishing result, although she had to crew through an entire night this time around! Adam and Jerry were fantastic pacers; keeping me encouraged, focused, and running well for 70 MILES! Thanks guys: no way I wanted to be out there alone through the entire night. You really helped!