Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bighorn 100-- Cold, Mud, Miracle Drugs, and a Dud Wearing Pink Underwear Who Stole My Shtuff

Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic 100 Mile Trail Run

Friday-Saturday, 15-16 June 2012

Bighorn was my 2012 didn't-get-into-Western-States-again consolation run. I had heard vague great things about the race, it was the 20th anniversary run, and they offered an early entry option in which you send them a self-addressed-stamped-envelope.  Plus, the Friday start salvages some of my weekend.  My family (my siblings and parents) had taken a trip to Jackson Hole and the Tetons the previous summer, which was stunningly gorgeous.  This race was kind of nearby, so I would get a broader geographic view of western Wyoming's scenery.  I signed up.

Given the somewhat remote location, flights weren't cheap.  Sheridan, WY (30 minutes) for $500; Billings, MT (2 hours) for $400.  I went cheaper only because I could get home earlier Sunday morning. There were no Saturday return flights that I could definitely make.  I didn't want to get home too late-- movers had transported our big furniture just a week prior, and my parents were arriving from the Midwest the day I flew out to help us settle in to our new house.

Packet pickup was in Sheridan, which was smaller than I'd expected.  Really a very small town.

the one bike rack in Cheyenne. 
alright maybe not, but I heard on NPR since there are only 2 escalators in the entire state.

A few days before, the weather forecast for the area was scattered Thunderstorms, chance of rain 60%.

I left my drop bags with this nice family of volunteers set up in an alleyway.  I was told the course could get cold, colder than I had expected.

As I discussed the weather, Brian Kamm, from Salt Lake City (with whom I ran briefly with at Zion before he went ahead, finishing several hours faster) lent me some cheap gloves, which I much appreciated.

At the pre-race dinner at a spaghetti restaurant, I ran into some Japanese friends.  In 2005 I had run several miles with the woman to my right, Yukiko Nishide who lives in New York at the Crater Lake Marathon.

Later at the dinner I met this couple:

You may have already heard about them by now-- Liz Bauer and Scott Brockmeier, were both on their way to breaking Monica Scholz's record for the most 100-mile run completed in a year. Scott himself was going to finish 27, but Liz was ahead of him and would set the new record of 36.  Fascinating chat. Incredible accomplishment/s.  blog posting about them after they finished on

I dislike late starts--11 am-- ouch!  At the pre-race meeting that morning, we were told it would get REALLY REALLY COLD at night around the turnaround, and that we should have decent rain gear in our drop bags.

Unfortunately, our drop bags had been due and turned in the evening before.  I don't think this is emphasized enough on the website. Thanks for telling me!

Being skinny and easily chilled, I scrambled to figure out my options.  I was advised to carry a garbage bag from the start, but this seemed a bit ridiculous to do for 30-50 miles.

Getting to the start was random and fun--runners piling into cars driven my nice volunteers and crews-- everyone got there in the end.

The course was pretty, the air was thin.  Luckily it didn't rain on us, especially before I could get to my jacket (though not waterproof).

I took a wrong turn shortly after leaving Cow Camp, mile 19.5, but fortunately others shouted at me before I put too much bonus on.  Over the next few miles there were supposed to be springs with drinkable water, but I missed most of them.

At around mile 40 as the sun set on me, the course got muddy and wet.  VERY.  The many course veterans told me that this was a good year though-- this mud was nothing--- usually the bad mud starts around mile 25 or 30.  I was more impressed by the times cranked out in prior races.

I was warned by Keith Blom on facebook pre-race about the turnaround 50 mile aid station, Porcupine:

  • Mark, the goal i(s) to get out of the turnaround! It's so warm and they have such good food...

So true.  I spent a fair amount of time at there, a building with heat.  But I had to head back.  I put on everything I could but was still chilling.  One mile after heading back after the turnaround, at the Devil's Canyon Road this pacer took pity on me and lent me (gave me) his knit cap and gloves.  You saved me, Jeremy!  Thanks, again!

with Jeremy Ebel, pacer for Mark Larson, both from Colorado, post-race
The sun came up, I somehow managed to become less sleepy (no lying in cots this race), but I developed knee pain that I'd never experiences before.  Not ITB.  Weird-- it hurt too much to run on the flats, and was easier to run downhills.  Even in a hilly trail race there is enough flat stretches that this sort of problem will kill you.

I think I suffered through this for more than 10-15 miles, and got passed by many many people.

Finally, at an aid station, I asked for drugs-- some volunteers had ibuprofen, I think I took 800 mg.  Yes, it's potentially risky to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories during a race, but I was hydrating and peeing well, hardly working near my max, and as a doctor, I told myself it was damn well okay.

I see all these patients in the ER who are addicted to narcotics for their real or purportedly and dubious real chronic pain problems who tell me that ibuprofen does nothing for their pain ("I need Vicodin/Norco/Percocet/Dilaudid... ").  But for clean "just say no to drugs" me, ibuprofen is a MIRACLE DRUG.

Within 30 minutes, I was running again.  The shit works.  Duh.

At Dry Fork Ridge aid station, mile 82.5, there was a flurry of people as numerous runners from many of the shorter races that started Saturday converged at this aid station (and not at the previous ones).  I got weighed, ate lots of avocado and a pizza slice (perhaps my first in a race since Headlands Hundred, when I got sick soon after eating one, and feared the lactose of pizza was the cause-- since my GI tract didn't revolt, I guess it wasn't.  Yet I'm still hesitant to eat too much pizza during these races.)

In my exhausted state, worries about getting home safely and drop bag return anxiety increased.  I worried that my drop bags wouldn't get back to the race finish until late, which would delay my 2-hour drive to Billings, cutting into my sleep before having to wake up butt-early for my early morning flight back home.  So I thought I would ask someone crewing another runner who was returning to the finish.

Volunteers asked around for me and found a guy, I think wearing hot pink girls panties over his shorts.  This should have wet off a warning light in my brain, but after 82.5 miles, it wasn't working too well.  I tried to talk to him, but he was talking with his pacee (apparently he was also pacing), so he had me wait a couple of minutes before I made my request.  He agreed to get take my bag to the finish.

Next aid station, Upper Sheep, mile 87.5, they served boiled shrimp.  Tasted amazing.  I started chowing down on them, until I felt I was pushing it.

From there was an ascent, and then the next 5 miles or so was all downhill.  Since I had been running so slowly due to the knee pain and altitude, my felt remarkable good.  The air felt wonderfully thick and oxygenated.  I acclerrated down the hill, and felt like I was running as fast as I would on a 2-3 hour training run.  I passed tons of people.  It felt good.

The Tongue River Canyon looked more gorgeous on the return than it had the previous day on the outbound.  What a great finish.

photo by Rick Gaston, at race start, 2013 race

However, the last 4-5 miles of the race took us from the start point to the pre-race and finish area--pavement.  Ugh.  But flat.  I caught up with a 50 mile runner, Andy (Pearson, Boulder, Colorado, but moving to Santa Monica, California).  I started talking with him, and maybe he convinced me to try to stay with him.  Since I had been passing tons of people and feeling on the upswing, I took him up on this, and really pushed it.  Having been running for 19 hours longer than he, this was so painful.

Popped ginger since the pace was getting me nauseated.  An aid station had popsicles, I think I had motor problems trying to eat it.

So, however unimpressive my overall time and place may seem (28:52:59, 60th overall), at least  finished strong-- with the guy who placed 15th overall in the 50 mile race.  For the last 10 miles of this race, I ran like a badass.  Thanks for the painful pacing, Andy!

Andy and I have ended up running several of the same races since then-- so now I finally recognize him.  Usually he kicks my butt, but not always.

with his first 100 mile buckle, the 106 mile Mogollon Monster

I forgot this guy's name, but we chatted during the race, and we were both happy to finish!

to get a buckle with a Bighorn sheep on it, I guess you have to run......Hardrock

So I got to the finish, and my drop bag wasn't there.  I kept looking, but I couldn't find it, and it never showed up (I emailed the race directors several time).  So unexpected at an ultra, and so disappointing.  I lost:

  • my favorite black tech La Sportiva top
  • my 2009 deep yellow/orange Sportiva jacket-- although I've gotten a couple of others, the new company's jackets don't breathe, so I can't/don't wear them while racing.  This also had two pockets.  It was a great to stick in a 100 mile race drop bags.  You need to plant more than one, since it is hard to predict when it will get cold enough.
  • a pair of clean tech socks
  • the gloves that Jeremy lent me above (I guess he didn't really need them back, but...)

The worst thing was the drop bags from that mile 82.5 Dry Fork Ridge aid station got to the finish within an hour after I finished.  Ouch!  Lesson learned.  1. Don't trust skittish pacers wearing hot pink underwear over their running shorts.  or,  2. Just wait for the damn drop bag.

At least the shwag was good.  The yellow jacket has a light running along the sleeves you can turn off and on.

More schwag:

I made it back to Billings with only 2 stops without killing myself or anyone else-- to find my reservation at the hotel, which I booked through, wasn't there.  The hotel manager told me he hates that website, implicitly comparing them to the mafia.  Lesson: never book through, but directly through the hotel.

GPS recordings:
part 1, first 32+ miles
part 2, middle 29+ miles
part 3, last 27+ miles

results (100 mile race)
out splits
in splits including finish



Scott Dunlap said...

Nice work! The mud on that course is are ready for UTMB now!

Pink panties over pants shall forever be a warning for us now. ;-)

John Nguyen said...

You're on a roll! Keep those race reports coming!

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Thanks, Scott! I probably should have done UTMB earlier-- now I would have to take my kids out of school to make that weekend. Upsets the teachers. Same for Spartathlon.

I am scared no one believes me about pink pantie weirdo, like I was hallucinating. I scoured the race photos from that year and never saw him.

Deep said...

Thanks for the report. I am debating Bighorn vs Tahoe Rim Trail 100 for 2015. Any thoughts? - Sandeep Shah

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Hi, Sundeep, sorry for the delay in responding; my email inboxes are overflowing with spam, so I only see these when I go into the blog. TRT is logistically less complicated (fewer aid stations since it is a repeated 50 mile loop rather than a 50 mile out and a 50 mile back as in Bighorn). If you are flying in to either, it is much cheaper to fly into Reno, NV than Sheridan, WY or Billings, MT. The mud at Bighorn is tough. They are both awesome races with amazing scenery, so you can't go wrong with either. If you are up to it, I think they are separated enough in time that you could do both.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Sundeep, if you run Bighorn and see the weirdo with the pink shorts, please kick him in the ass. I will pay you.