2007 Big Horn 50k Race Report
sean meissner and i arrived at the foothills campground in dayton, wyoming on thurs night. shortly there after karl meltzer, his wife cheryl and scott mason arrived. we shared a camping spot in the most perfect of locations. right next to the playground picnic area where all the big horn mountain wild & scenic trail races finish. big horn is unique in that they have 30k, 50k, 50 miler and 100 miler. and they are all scheduled to finish around the same time so that everyone can see you finish. david horton was just one camp spot away and we all had a good night of hanging out and chatting about races, race strategies etc. most notable was karl’s strategy to not be in front before mile 60.
11am friday the 100 milers started. i was kind of bothered being there knowing i was supposed to be running this 100 miler, but was able to put it behind me. watching them leave made me jealous. from there sean and i headed up to the dry fork aid station which was mile 13. first in, just 30 feet in front of karl and mike wolfe (who won white river) was josh brimhall. a few minutes back was northface runner topher gaylord looking really strong. sean and i got to crew david horton, van phan, olga varlamova and a few others come through the aid station. that was fun. it was amazing to me how many runners looked so terrible at mile 13 of 100. i would assume that none of those runners finished. that was our last aid station visit as the rest were significant drives of a couple hours. karl’s wife cheryl did a great job crewing him.
2007 big horn 100 mile race start
sat morning sean was up at 3am to bus to his 50 mile start at 6am. i woke at 5am and had just enough time to make and drink some coffee, eat and get ready. i was very excited about the coffee since i instituted my “no caffeine one week before a race” rule this week, for this race.
we arrived at dry fork for our 8am start. i chatted with northface runner topher’s wife who said he was dropping out there, just 17 miles from the finish.
the 50k race started at 7,850 feet and was about 3,600 feet of elevation gain and 6,800 feet of descent, a net loss. i chatted with some racers at the front of the line who all looked fit enough to win. then we were off at 8am running straight up an open ridge for 1,600+ feet of gain to start the race. within 10 minutes my heart rate was 177! i haven’t seen it that high in.. well ever. it was clear that i was not going to run below my anaerobic threshold at altitude. there were four of us off the front. then three. then one guy in orange took off in first, hammered the hill and within 45 minutes was completely out of site. sean’s buddy cam, who runs for underarmor (that’s him in the ad) ran really strong up the first climb too and within 1 hour i could no longer see him either. i was running a steady even pace and felt like i was running smart, for me. after they dissapeared i readjusted my expectations and came to peace with the fact that i would most likely not win this race, they were more fit than i was and deserved it. now, i could just run my best race and not worry about anyone else.
i ran with a guy named trea for a while in 3rd and 4th. he found out i’m a coach and was asking advise while we charged through this beautiful wooded section with lots of downed trees and redirected trail. we got a bit off track after the first climb on the way down the grassy fields to the aid station because the course markings weren’t very good. we lost some time and added some mileage there and two runners snaked in front of us. through the aid station at mile 9 we quickly regained 3rd and 4th place. i was running the hills from the start, trea walked and i pulled away a bit. then without warning he was charging uphill past me a few miles later. coming back around our 15 mile loop to where we started at dry fork my steady uphill run had worked and i was just a hundred yards behind him going into the aid station.
at dry fork we had our one drop bag. i drank some nuun, took a shot of some red bull, grabbed a new bottle and was out. i following trea up the road as i burped red bull, ugh. i was running my 50k maintainable pace, it just so happened to be slower than trea’s pace. so he slowly pulled away once again. “more power to him” i thought. “he’s running well.” in the back of my mind i thought, “he’ll blow up”. from there we started to run into or lap the shorter course 30k runners. it took a lot of effort to run off the trail around them. most didn’t know enough to get out of our way no matter how much warning we gave. luckily trea had to deal with them too. through the last aid station before the last big climb there were so many 30k runners that i didn’t even stop, i just dodged and ran through – this would prove to be a mistake.
up the last big climb before the long canyon descent we started. this is where i caught trea, this was about 3hrs into the race. i knew we had probably around 2 more hours of running left, and lots of downhill. my shoe size ended up being a big mistake. i went up a size in continental divides and they were too big. there was so much room in them my feet slid around. by this point in the race i had blisters the entire size of my heals, on both feet (photo of the aftermath). every downhill was a nightmare for me changing stride and grimacing. ugly running..ugly. trea was hammering the downhills. i figured i had to catch or stay close to have a chance at 3rd place. so i just went back to normal heal strike hoping to pop the blister on my right foot (the bigger more painful of the two). it blew, but it didn’t have the desired affect. the raw skin hurt worse once popped.. damn.
down the canyon we ran with trea seemingly getting stronger and faster. i was now completely out of water and starting to feel twinges of cramps in my calf muscles. i never cramp (not a big sweater)! we ran down this canyon for what seemed like forever, trea getting farther away and i was in severe heal pain and slowing. “where is this damn aid station?” i thought. as we reentered the trees, bam! i ran full speed around the corner into it. first thing i saw there was cam, the underarmor guy with his shirt off looking like he was all done, fried. then i thought i saw trea, but i didn’t care. heed in my bottle and i was out.
seeing me leave trea followed. the race was on! we had probably 8 miles to the finish. the trail crossed a little wood bridge and started up hill. i ran.. i ran hard and luckily i had it in me. at the top of the climb i looked back, no trea in sight. i wasn’t sure, but i thought i was in 2nd place now. i ran probably 7-8min miles for the up and down along the river to the road. at the aid station before the road i was told i was in first place. sweet! the guy who blew past us all on the first 1,600 foot climb had dropped.. nice. i ran hard out of that canyon with fear in my stomach that these guys had had a rest and were charging.
the finishline was an amazing party with a band, bbq and every racer and crew member just hanging out on the grass in the sun cheering for finishers. as i rounded the corner into the park i took one last look to make sure i was going to win this thing, then i turned it on and crossed the finishline in 4:47. the race staff yelled out “you won! you won!”.
the day before the race, at registration michelle the race director was giving me a little bit of crap. she said i went from the varsity race, the 100 miler, to the freshman race, the 50k. so after i finished i went over and told her “i just won your freshman race”. she got a kick out of that. there was a woman standing right there waiting to talk to me. turns out she was a writer from the local paper and had overheard the “freshman race” comment. she interviewed me and all the other winners about our races. what a day, what a race (results). i will return to big horn to run the junior varsity race (50 miles) and the varsity race (100 miles) at some point without a doubt.