Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bighorn 100

Cliff notes version: 
-Beautiful course! Out and back style. 
-My dad crewed and did a great job...and I may have had to drag him from Wyoming kicking and screaming.
-Rudy Rutemiller finished his first 100 miler despite having a terrible first 30 miles.
-Had numerous friends finish, and actually didn't know anyone who dropped out. 
-18 mile rough patch in the heat of the day, and walked most of it. 
-Came back from the dead once the temperature dropped and ran hard to finish in 19:39:02 for 2nd place. 

To start, the Bighorn 100 is a beautiful, though brutal race that I'll admit to having a lot of trouble with until mile 49. I was nervous coming into the race because, while I was able to do a handful of long runs, and two races since January, I felt a little under prepared based on what friends of mine were doing. One of my long runs was a traverse of five of the peaks near my house with two friends, Patrick Garcia and Todd Gangelhoff.
Todd and Patrick
Patrick Garcia on Mt. Morrison

The second big effort was a long day on Pikes Peak with my friend Carson Rickey from Colorado Springs.

Carson and me

While both long runs were fun days with lots of vertical, long descents, and lots of time on my feet, neither was very focused in terms of elevation or the amount of actual running I'd need to do if I wanted to do well. That being said, just living in Colorado, I have access to much more trail running with elevation gain than I ever have before and I think that played a bigger part than I realized.

Also worth mentioning, after Quad Rock, I was added to the Pearl Izumi team! I'm very excited to be representing such a great company.

My dad had expressed an interest in crewing for the race when I had told him I'd signed up, and I definitely wasn't going to turn it down so we made plans to pick him up at the airport on Wednesday before the race and drive up to Sheridan, Wyoming that day. It's always great catching up with my dad, and a six hour drive is the perfect time to do so. Thursday before the race, my dad, being the logistical king he is, wanted to scout out the crew stops and figure out which one's he could get to. We also went on a short hike where we found a cave!
"We should take a selfie." - My dad
Bighorn is not an easy race to crew. Some crew stops have 90 miles in between them and crazy back roads with river crossings, so we knew he wouldn't be able to get to every one. 

After scouting it out, we picked up my packet and made the plan for him to go straight from the start to the 30 mile outbound aid station, Footbridge, the turn-around point and mile 47, Jaws, the mile 82 inbound aid station, Dry Fork, and the finish. 

Friday morning, I woke up at 5:30 on my own. The race didn't start until 11. I had hoped to sleep a little longer, but I was too wound up and ready to go. My dad and I ate breakfast and basically just hung out until it was time for the pre-race meeting at the finish line at 9. Afterward, we packed Rudy Rutemiller and his whole crew and pacers (there were too many to count, I think it was most of Virginia Tech) into the truck and made the 5 mile drive to the start line.
Minutes before the start

The race starts on a dirt road in Tongue River Canyon. It turns to single track trail after a mile and a half but remains very exposed for the majority of the race. Just standing around, we were all getting hot and tried to hang out in the shade for as long as possible. After an eternity, the race started and the field took off. Several people jumped off the front like a 50k. I was a bit surprised, but wasn't really worried. Rudy and I ran very relaxed for the first several miles pretty much until the first aid station when we start the climbing.
Myself and Rudy in the light blue behind me
I tried to stay relaxed and hike without putting too much effort into it, but with the sun beating down, it was difficult to not work hard on that first climb. After the mile 8 aid station, things settled down and I ran fairly easily for the next 20 miles or so with a couple of guys. I thought I felt pretty good coming into the Footbridge aid station at mile 30. Luke Nelson was still in the aid station looking terrible and over heated. I saw my dad, got refreshed, and left the aid station in roughly 4th or 5th place.
Coming into Footbridge. Photo Wyatt. @wyattloud

About 20 steps outside the aid station, the heat caught up to me and things got bad quickly. I hadn't realized how dehydrated I'd gotten, or how hot I was. I took every opportunity to splash water on myself from the various streams and rivers. I didn't push it at all. I just walked. I knew if there was any way to further my deficit, it would be to push it harder on that 18 mile climb out of the canyon to the turn around. One guy passed me, and I could not have cared any less. I made it to the aid station at mile 33.5 and felt dizzy. There wasn't any shade and I just slammed a couple cups of water and left for the next station assuming that the heat would have to break at some point. When I left there they said the next one was 3.5 miles away. I figured that was going to take me about an hour at the rate I was moving. Soon after leaving the AS, Luke Nelson passed me while I was dunking in a stream. He had some words of encouragement, but he looked pretty fresh. An hour and 35 minutes later I reached the next aid station and saw that Luke was just leaving. After stating that the section was the longest 3.5 miles of my life, I found out the distance was just over 6 miles. I had long run out of water and was now cramping.

The next section was more of the same. Walk a lot, run a tiny bit, cramp, stretch, hydrate, repeat. I could see Luke in front of me for some of it, but it was only because you could see so far in front. I slopped through the muddy marsh and tried not to lose my shoes for, what seemed like, miles at a time. Jesse caught back up to me about 2 miles before the turn around. He was feeling rough too, but was moving a little better than I was. I decided the turn-around would be my regroup aid station. I'd see my dad, I knew it was the end of the long climbs for awhile, and it was going to be getting dark soon. 

I plopped into a chair and ate a bunch of food. I just relaxed for a minute or two. I didn't feel rushed, and wasn't in a hurry to leave, but also made sure I didn't get too comfortable. With the food, I could feel the life coming back to me. I left there with my cold weather clothes and lights and felt actually fairly fresh, so I started running. Running felt good, I wasn't cramping, I wasn't tired anymore, and with the newly dropped temperature I wasn't sweating like crazy anymore. I wanted to be careful not to blow out my quads by running the downs too quickly, but I was feeling good...really good, and I also didn't know how long it would last. 

As it would turn out, I ran the entire way back to the Footbridge AS. It had long been dark, and had encountered every other runner on the course, along with a set of green eyes I'm still telling myself was just a deer. Behind me while running down I could see flashes of lightning and heard rumbles of thunder. I'm not sure how much it rained on people still at the turn around, but it rained the perfect amount for me. Just enough to further cool me off. I remained in my tank and shorts even though I saw others in tights and jackets. 

At the Footbridge AS I saw, what I thought was, the third place guy just leaving as I came in. He was doing the zombie walk. I sat down and Rudy's dad along with his crew of Guy Love, Wyatt and Chrissy were all there and started helping me. I knew there was a big climb labeled "the wall" coming up so I ate plenty and drank a cup of coffee. I wasn't quite done with the coffee so Rudy's dad walked me down to the bridge so I could finish it. 

As soon as you cross the bridge the trail cranks upward and remains that way for 3.5 miles. I settled into a hike and ran a couple steps occasionally until I saw the next guy's headlamp. He wasn't feeling so hot so I passed him and tore off up the trail. 

The night was incredibly peaceful after I reached the top of the wall. Shooting stars and the Milky Way littered the sky. With the exception of a turned ankle and steady running, the next couple sections were largely uneventful. I thought I was in third place and kept asking how long ago the next guy left the aid station when I would arrive. Times varied from 30 to 45 minutes. 

At the mile 83 aid station, I was able to see my dad again and he told me I was in second. First place, Luke, had a pacer with him and had left only a little bit ago. I thought if I pushed hard I could catch him. I left the aid station in the dark and made my way up the road, made the turn onto the little trail and came out on the road. I tripped and realized my head lamp and waist lamp were going dim very quickly. I could just barely notice that the sky wasn't totally black anymore but there wasn't nearly enough light to turn off my lights yet. 

My lights went out about 15 minutes before I would've liked them to, but managed to stay upright. I knew I only had one little uphill, then a downhill then the aid station. Then a short downhill, then a medium length, but incredibly steep uphill know as the head wall, then a very long downhill into the second to last aid station. Then I'd be back in the canyon for 2 or 3 miles then pop out on the road for 5 or 6 miles (I couldn't remember) until the finish. 

I kept looking ahead for Luke but never saw him. Around every bend I expected him to be there, I was running hard and surprisingly painless. I grunted my way up the head wall and ran hard on the down. Then I finally saw someone in Patagonia clothes! But as I got closer I realized it was Luke's pacer. He'd dropped his pacer. I didn't stick around to ask the reason he'd been dropped but I assume it was because Luke was hauling too. 

At the aid station at mile 92 or so, I asked how far ahead Luke was. They thought he was about 30 minutes up.  I knew 30 minutes would be a lot to make up in 8 miles but I took off anyway. I looked at my watch; 5:54 am. My goal shifted from catching Luke, though that would've been really cool, to breaking 20 hours. 

I ran hard through the canyon not realizing how much of it was downhill. It was beautiful that time of morning. I hit the trail head and last aid station but still wasn't sure if I had 5 or 6 miles on the road but didn't stop to ask. I knew the faster I ran, the sooner I'd be done. Around every bend in the road I expected to see the paved section which meant the end was near; and every bend in the road offered only a new bend I'd hope was the last. Finally it came and I enjoyed the last little run into Dayton, over a little bridge, across the road, into the park where I could see the finish line. I looked at my watch one more time; 6:38:01. I knew I'd definitely break 20 hours now. 

I crossed the finish line with hugs from my dad at 6:39:02. Which was 19 hours 39 minutes and 2 seconds after we'd all started.
Photo by Guy Love. @glovevt

We hung out at the finish line and waited to Rudy who finished 7th in his first hundred!!

Afterwards, my dad and I went back to the hotel to shower and nap but felt it would be ridiculous to waste time in a place we'd never been, so we slept for two hours then drove out to Devils Tower National Park. 
My dad at Devil's Tower

Overall, it was an awesome weekend, awesome race and we were both successfully wiped out!

Thanks to Pearl Izumi for the support!
Thanks for crewing, Dad!