Friday, June 24, 2011

Big Horn 100....What an adventure!


Big Horn 100 is a whole other beast!  What an amazing course.  The scenery was gorgeous, the terrain was tough and the organization was top notch.  I was so impressed with how the aid stations were set up on account that there were some spots that were so remote, only cowboy and horse were able to access it.  This year was a snow route and therefore the highest we went was 8000 ft instead of 9000 ft.  I thought that the elevation would effect me but I just wasn't sure how much.  I was quite excited about this 100M because it appeared things were shaping up for me; my leg was healing and I was able to get in some higher intensity workouts in the month of May.  I was hoping to go 27-28 hours.
Originally, Owen, John and I had planned to go together to Big Horn.  That plan was challenged when Owen had to have surgery in late March and John had to have surgery in the beginning of June, rendering him unable to make the trip.  We told John we would take lots of photos, and we did so there are many included in this post

 We arrived in Sheridan on Wednesday afternoon and decided to take a look around the Western town.  It seeded as though the town had commissioned a lot of art to publicly display and later we found out that there are a handful of very wealthy residents who put forth lots of money for art and community activities for children.  Pretty cool!

 Thursday we dealt with the drop bag situation.  It's always hard to foresee what you might need in terms of clothing and food.  Which bag should I put what in.....what will I feel like at that aid station?  It's a crap shoot and I guess you just have to be prepared to be unprepared.  We were told there would be creek crossings, lots of mud and snow.  Some cowboys had heard about the knee deep creek crossings and made a bridge for us out of 2 tree trunks, wow!  The mud was not joke, it was literally shoe sucking.  As for the snow, it was very very minimal, I ran on more snow at Rattlesnake Ridge last month!
Friday rolled around and it was time to run 100 miles.  We saw Team Fleet Feet that morning, everyone was looking excited and ready.

 There were actually a few more green shirts and 2 more Seattle-ites that we knew not pictured here....

 We all walked over to the elk statue for the start and this cowboy picture here belted out the best National Anthem I've ever heard!  After that, we were off!  There were 5 miles of dirt road, slightly downhill.  I was trying not to think of the last 5 miles on that road but was trying to get a mental picture of landmarks for on the way back, what is there when there is only a mile left?  Like I was going to remember....

The first climb through the canyon was BEAUTIFUL!  It was quite steep and it was super windy.  There are no big trees here like in the PNW to protect you from the wind and so my hat blew off several times.

Once you get out of the canyon, there is more climbing up to a ridge that eventually drops down and crosses a creek.
Once we dropped down, Owen and I missed a turn and we wound up on the other side of the creek.  A little back tracking and we were on the trail again!  Whoops.
Eventually, we got to Dry Fork aid station, we would pass through this aid station 4 times.   There was an out and back from here that went up to 8000 ft and then turned around and headed back to Dry Fork. It was here that I felt the elevation for this first time, at least in a less subtle way.  I was still making pretty good time here, I was at about 5-1/2 hours for about 25 miles, most of which was climbing.  I hadn't peed yet and I was somewhat concerned about that.  I tried to, but the trickle that came out was blown directly on my shorts from the wind.  Humility was starting to set in.

From Dry Fork, we headed down for several miles with a few ups until I reached Cow Camp AS.  Owen and I had separated, he was vomiting and told me to go ahead.  I was not feeling great myself, but just kept going.  I thought, oh, I'll feel better, just keep fueling.  It was so beautiful that I just concentrated on the scenery and tried to forget that I was feeling lousy.

As I made my way to Footbridge, mile 41, I still had not peed yet.  I made it here in about 9 hrs and 40 mins.  I was still making ok time I thought but I was really feeling low energy and was concerned that I still had not peed.  I was taking salt, drinking, eating, etc.  Oh well, it'll come, I thought.  We got weighed in here and I thought for sure I would be heavier, but no, I had lost 2 lbs.  It was here that I saw Owen!  he was feeling better and we were psyched to see each other as it would be night soon-ish.
We headed up to Swamp Marsh, 10 miles up and 10 miles down.  At the top was the turn around and I was excited to get the first half done with because I had convinced myself that the second 50 would be better for me.
On the way up, I finally peed!  I was over 10 hours I had gone and I was thinking, yes, now I am getting on track!  Well, I soon deteriorated.   I was nauseous,  low energy but still trying to keep positive.  That 10 miles seemed to last for quite awhile and it was here that I was started to get passed quite regularly.  Once we got to the top, I was a mess.  I was incoherent and shaking.  The AS volunteers told Owen that he had to get me down once I was coherent again and they loaded me up with soup and mountain dew.
I felt absolutely horrible and it was here that mentally I was wrecked.  But, I got up and started to run/walk down.  We hit the Narrows Aid station that was stocked my the cowboys and their horses.  We took a moment to have more soup, I was still wrecked.

And so it goes, another 100 with nausea and hydration issues, it's time to make a change!
Once we got back to Footbridge, we had lost considerable time.  We got weighed here and I had gained 6 lbs.  
Owen and I weren't really able to eat and he could not walk uphill without stopping every 20 yards to put his hands on his knees to catch his breath.  We were determined to finish and at this point just wanted to stay ahead of the cut off times.  It was still dark and we had on all of our clothes as we were moving quite slow.  I puked quite a bit until the sun came up and Owen's distance from walking to resting was getting shorter and shorter.  I was very concerned for him, his breath was so labored and he looked the worst I've ever seen him.  He had some courage to keep going I can tell you that.  He did not complain, just kept moving as best as he could.
As we approached Cow Camp, the AS volunteers had remembered Owen from the first time through.  They asked him if he was feeling any better and he said yes, even though that was not the truth.  It really sunk in to me there that he had been going for so many miles feeling sick and now not being able to breathe.  I was really concerned for him.  I started feeling better and was able to eat some at Cow Camp,  had me some bacon!  It was tasty.  
We still had 6 miles to go and I thought that if I made little goals for Owen that that might be helpful.  I would say, let's make it to that orange marker and then you can rest and catch your breath.  But as time went on, he was unable to walk more that 10 yards, uphill, downhill or on the flats without having to stop to catch his breath.  I had 100 mile head and was trying to figure out ways to help him, but I could not.  We were in such a remote area that we had to make it to Dry Fork and then re-evaluate.  During those 6 miles, we started seeing some 50 milers come through.  They were fresh and fling down the mountain.  All of them said, "great job" or "keep it up!" or "looking strong!".  It was nice to see some other people on the trail.  We had been passed by what seemed like everyone in the 100M.  

Finally, we arrived at Dry Fork.  Mile 75!  I got weighed in there and had gained another 6 lbs.  I was worried they would say I had gained too much weight, but the woman who weighed me said she would let me continue.  I talked with Owen for about 15 minutes here.  I knew it was in his best interest to stop here but I did not want to be the one to talk him into anything.  I was not thinking so clearly myself.  I knew that if he were to continue that I would have to stay with him.  The next section was a climb to 8000 ft and seeing as though Owen could not walk long on the flat, I was hoping he would say, ok, next year, next year I will come back to finish.  He did.  Phew.  I was so concerned for his health but I knew he had to come to that decision himself or have an AS person/medical person tell him that.  So I said goodbye to him and kept going.
I had 25 more miles to go and enough time to do it in.  So from this point on, it was one step in front of the other.  I didn't even listen to music, the birds, wind and sound of my feet beneath was a comfort to me.  Since there were 3 other races going on, 50M, 50K and 30K, I did see some other runners.  Once they would see I was running the 100M, they were very encouraging and that was helpful.  
creek crossing before a big climb back to the ridge before the descent into the canyon

heading up to the canyon
The descent into the canyon was brutal.  It was steep and technical.  It was also quite hot.  But I just concentrated on the beauty and knew that eventually, I'd make it.  I let go of any time goal I had had a long time ago.  Next thing I know, I have hit the Tongue River and the road to the park in Dayton, The Finish Line!  The next 5 miles was the best I felt the entire 100M.  I ran most of it.  I talked to a few people along the way but all I wanted was to get to that finish line.  About 2-1/2 miles into it, a bunch of people were handing our Popsicles, what a great idea!  That Popsicle was so refreshing.  Next thing I know, I hit pavement and the entrance to the park, it had been over 32 hours and I was exhausted.
So, that's the story of the Big Horn adventure.  
When I finished, I learned that Owen had sat at the Dry Fork to see if things got better for him.  They did not.  The medical crew took him to lower elevation and to the med tent where they hooked him up to some tubes to breath in I'm not sure what.  He was diagnosed with Pulmonary Edema.  Thank Goodness he did not go on, what a trooper to make it as far as he did.  
I really need to figure out this nutrition thing, anyone have any ideas?  This 100 took a lot out of me and I am not sure I am up for doing Cascade Crest 100 in August seeing as though this nausea thing and hydration issue really makes things tougher.  I always expect to have many ups and downs in a 100, or any ultra for that matter, but it seems like if I can dial in the nutrition better, I'd have to battle less obstacles.  The last 3 100's I've done I have puked a lot.  Maybe that is just normal and I am a wimp! That's what I will research in the coming weeks and then make a decision about CCC100.  
In any event. Big Horn is an amazing course and I plan to go back next year to do it again.  The AD volunteers, RD and all the events that make up Big Horn were spectacular!  The BBQ after the race and the pancake breakfast on Sunday was awesome.  Adam and Gwen did awesome, as well as Dan Baeir Eric P and John.  It was great to see so many PNW runners there, to see friends and make new ones.