June’s Bighorn 100 wasn’t the race I wanted, but it turned into the training run I needed.
That doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.
Before I flew out, I had this romantic idea that I would write this amazing race report on the plane ride back. I also had some preconceptions about how well I wanted to run it.
Big Horn for me was supposed to be a 100-mile training opportunity, but I am not sure I mentally understood what that meant. Somehow — even though I wouldn’t say it out loud — I had visions of myself running an amazing race and finishing in around 24 hours, which is a damned respectable time for a difficult course.
Purposely planning a fast time at Bighorn goes against everything that I have read about running such a long event while training for a 200-mile race. According to the experts — such as Bigfoot 200 race director Candice Burt — I should run these races “super easy and relaxed.”
That was not my plan, but it is what ended up happening.
What went right:
Wyoming is beautiful.
The first 12 miles on the out-and-back Bighorn course were the most beautiful course I have ever run. The next 38 miles were a close second. The terrain is much more runnable than the mountains we have here on the East Coast, but unlike the rolling hills of Virginia, the climbs come all in one shot.
Also, it was fucking hot.
Not the humid kind of heat that we have on the East side. The temperature topped 100 degrees in the canyons and it was so dry my sweat evaporated instantly. We had joked about how many times people would say it was a “dry heat,” but this is where I made my biggest mistake.
What went wrong:
Twenty miles into the race, I was chugging water trying to stay hydrated. But, as diligent as I was being about water, my mouth stayed dry.
By mile 25, I was feeling like I was in a hole.
By mile 27, I was wanting to drop and couldn’t figure out what the hell was wrong with me. By this point it occurred to me that as much water as I had drank, I had not urinated.
Then a nice woman, no doubt noticing the shape I was in, offered me an, “electrolyte tablet.” I turned it down, I had an entire bag of salt caps I hadn’t taken.
In that instance I realized I was a dumbass: I was chugging water but hadn’t taken anything to replace my electrolytes. My stomach felt so full that it was hard to eat anything.
I took the damn pill.
Over the next six to eight hours, I cannot say that I had much fun. I wasn’t running, rather I was hiking and trying to recover. At some point my stomach went sour, adding to my discomfort.
I wanted to drop. I wanted to drop bad enough I sent Sara a text saying I was going to drop.
But I kept walking.
What I learned:
Every time I felt like dropping, I kept going so I could see more of this trail.
During the day, I had constant views of the mountains, forests, the Tongue River, and huge fields of wild flowers. At night, when I couldn’t see the mountains, I stared at the star-lit sky on my left and watched a lighting storm passed through across the river.
It was amazing.
While on course I saw my first elk and I enjoyed the best tasting water I have ever had. During the last 12 miles, I was united with other runners from the 50K and had the joy of sharing some miles with people I knew from the VHTRC.
I slowed down the rest of the race and focused on enjoying the course. The best way to know and understand a foreign place, is by foot. And I wanted to understand the West a little more.
I finished the race in a little over 30 hours — my slowest 100 miler to date.
After the race, I had a hard time with the fact this race wasn’t what I considered a good performance. It seemed like an anticlimactic trip out west — the farthest I had traveled for a race.
That is why it has taken me more than a month to write this. But I am realizing I learned lessons in Wyoming that will better my chances at finishing the Bigfoot 200.
- Monitor my fluid and electrolyte intake (aka take the damned pill)
- When a race isn’t going well, remember how much I love being on trail and try to enjoy what is going on around me
- Not all races are going to go well
- A finish is better than a DNF
- It may take a while, but you will eventually climb out of the mental/physical hole
And most of all. Just keep going.