Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bighorn Trail Run Travel and How the Ultrarunning Community is Amazing

I need to write a race report about the amazing experience at Bighorn Trail Run 50K on Saturday, but since the race weekend technically started Thursday, I thought a post about the lead-up to the race would be a good idea too. And in my head it quickly evolved into a story of just how amazing the ultrarunning trailrunning community is.

Getting to the Middle Of Nowhere

Lesley, Jeremy, and I started our Thursday at the airport at 5:30 am. First a 1 hour flight to Houston. Then a 2 hr 46 min flight to Rapid City, South Dakota, which ironically I had just been to for the first time ever only 2 weeks before when I ran Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon.

Then, we picked up our rental car: a Subaru Outback with only 1000 miles on it. It even smelled new! It was a 3 1/2 hour drive to Sheridan, Wyoming. Along the way we chatted nonstop, made Lesley snort-laugh over crude jokes, and had a bird hit our windshield just as we were entering Wyoming! It sounded like a dull baseball hitting the windshield and was terribly disturbing.

We checked into the hotel to immediately head off to packet pickup.

Not Sisters and Awesome Swag

Thursday was really intended to only be packet pickup for the 100 milers, which Jeremy was running. But Lesley and I went ahead and asked if there was a chance to get our 50K packets. They were really nice and accommodating when we would have been totally okay if they'd yelled NO and told us to come back tomorrow. The race director asked us our names and we had our "Are you sisters?" of this trip. "No." Then: "So, sister-in-laws!" ... "Um, no, we just have the same last name."  ... "OH!" We'd even talked in the car about if it would happen on this trip - it has before!

The bibs were personalized, although oddly the 50M and 100M bibs had "[Last Name] [First Name]" without even a comma. 50K had First and Last Name in order. We were given our choice of shirt colors. For the 50K women, it was purple or pink short sleeve shirts. We both chose purple. For other distances, I saw blue, green, orange, turquoise. They had a lot of options!

The race packet bag was actually a lime green insulated zippered lunch tote. Really nice.

100 milers also received a "Bighorn 100" beanie cap, and "I [heart] Bighorn" socks.

F'in B

I'd highly suggested Jeremy do a drop bag just in case when he was leaning towards not. And since I knew the course, I told him Footbridge Aid Station seemed a good place to put it (Miles 30/66). However, Jeremy hadn't studied the course and didn't know the aid stations. A very different attitude for attacking a 100 miler than me, the data-obsessive type.

So we take his bag to the dropoff spot and he again asks me where the bag is going to. "Footbridge". On the drive back to the hotel:
"Where did we put it?"
"Okay, F'in B. F'in B."

By evening, Jeremy says, "So my drop bag is at... F'in B... Fire. Buh, buh, buh..."
I gave him 50/50 at that point of him remembering and thought he'd be going into each aid station having to check for a bag or he would miss it completely. [Ultimately, he'd have no trouble accessing his bag]

Everyone Knows Everyone... Almost

We went to the pasta dinner at the local restaurant, Ole's Pizza and Pasta House. We get our food and then run into Sonia (who is coached by Jeremy and I'd met at Bandera this year) and the 100 miler she was crewing for, Jaime. So we all sit down to eat together.

Lesley is watching for her friend Jenn (running the 100M) to arrive. I'm wondering if we'll see Betsy (running the 50M), who I've been Facebook friends with since Gorge Waterfalls 50K March 2012 but not really met, and it turns out Jeremy knows Betsy's husband Matt (running the 100M)! So imagine our surprise when all 3 of them walk in together, along with Vivian (running the 50M) who we got to meet for the first time!

We had a great time eating pizza and spaghetti, talking about races we'd done, races we want to do, mutual friends we know (which is always a bunch of people), and anything else. Non-stop conversation. You would think the entire group of 9 had all known each other for years. It was so amazingly cool. THAT is the ultrarunner community for you.

100 Mile Race Briefing

The briefing for the 100 milers was at 9 am. But the race didn't start until 11 am. Everyone hung around and chatted. The casualness and calm intensity of the 100 mile runners is pretty neat to watch. The participants are happy and excited; many are ready for a beautiful day... and night...and day again journeying all over the mountain.

At the end of the briefing, they let us know that the start line was 4 miles away, on a little dirt road that had very little parking. The amazingly tight-knit community of ultrarunning shown out again. We were told not to leave the briefing without a car full of runners, crews, and spectators. Everyone to work together. And that's exactly what everyone did. No "out for myself only" mentality, or "I can't be troubled" attitude.

100 Mile Start

After Lesley had commented on the drive that she didn't know what poison ivy looked like (and frankly I didn't either!), Jeremy called her and me over and showed us some in the field by the start. I worried I wouldn't remember what it looked like when I came upon it on the trail - it looked like just a bunch of leaves to me.

A national anthem with the US flag, and then the race was off. No fanfare. Everyone jogged off down the road to start climbing up the mountain.

Scoping Out the 50K Start and Cheering Our Friends

The 50K race would start at mile 13.5 of the 100 Mile race, at the Dry Fork Aid Station. It took an hour to even get up to there from the 100 mile start, which was another 30 minutes from the town of Sheridan, where our hotel was. We did a caravan up the mountain with our friend Sonia and another girl who was crewing her boyfriend that Sonia had just met that morning.

Once up there, it was about 15 degrees colder than 3500 feet lower in the town of Dayton. Sonia was sweet enough to lend Lesley a jacket and me two layers of long sleeve shirts in her trunk. Of course, she's an itty bitty thing so it was the tightest shirt EVER, but it was warm.

Lesley and I jogged the half mile from the parking to the aid station. Breathing was a little harder than usual, but it wasn't terrible. It was good to get a sense of what was to come tomorrow.

We met up with Betsy who was just seeing her husband Matt off as he left the aid station, then we made ourselves comfortable on some rocks and cheered in all the runners. One older fellow came in and his wife appeared to be crewing for him. He was cold and had forgotten to put a long sleeve in his pack so he said he needed his wife's long sleeve. And right there, she made the best crew ever as she gave him the shirt off her back, shivering in the short sleeve she had on underneath. He looked a fool in a normal crowd with his long sleeve women's tech shirt, but it got the job done and that's the point in 100 miles. Get it done.

Jennifer came running in, and we all cheered and took pictures.

Jeremy was next.

Lesley jumped in to fill his water pack and grabbed his hat when it suddenly tried to blow away, because it was terribly windy up there. Jeremy filled up on calories and then was ready to head out. I told him to stop so I could get a quick picture. Then he gave us each a quick hug, thanked us for being out there, and headed out.

Jaime came in just a few minutes after Jeremy. While Sonia was helping him, Lesley saw two 100 mile ladies head out the wrong way from the aid station. "Are they supposed to go that way?" she asked the volunteer manning the check-in and check-out of the station. They just looked at her blankly. Then said, "no". And just stood there. Lesley went running after them and turned them around. We were both shaken and upset to see those couple volunteers just stood there and didn't address it.

Dinner with Long Time Friends, First Time Face to Face

Lesley and I went back to the hotel and hung out before meeting Rebecca, Luke, and Courtney at Qdoba for our race eve dinner. For knowing Courtney and Luke through Facebook and Twitter for a couple years now, it was crazy to finally meet them face to face. We agreed it was like we had already known each other.

We hung out and all talked nonstop. Then it was time to get our rest, but we had to get a quick picture before we all separated.

Race Report Next

So that's how it had already been an extraordinary weekend of new and old friendships in the space of only 2 days. And we hadn't even raced yet. In the next day or two, I'll write up the actual running part of things!


  1. For the record, thinking of the Footbridge aid station as "F'in B" actually did help me remember.

  2. What a great trip! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I know Jeremy had that F'in B drilled into his head because after the 100 miles I asked if I could get his drop bag for him and which aid station it was at. In his stupor all he could say was F'in B, F'in B... I didn't know he had been reciting that to himself all day.