The Big Horn race is early in the season for a high altitude mountain course and this year the deep snowpack and late spring in the west left the race directors in a scramble to find a workable course. They did an amazing job to find a route that maintained most of the normal course while allowing the volunteers to pack in supplies to the many aid stations needed to supply not just the 100 mile race, but also 50 mile, 50 km and 30 km races. The new course route replaced the final 7.5 miles of the normal course (thus reducing the maximum elevation from 10,000 down to 8,000 ft) with a 7.5 mile out and back section (the lower spur in the picture below) which we did both on the way out and on the way back in. According to the map corrected elevation from my Garmin recording, the course had about 17,000 feet of climbing (see elevation profile below). Prior to running this race, I had considered an out and back course design much less appealing than a loop course, but it actually worked out really well. I reached the 50 mile turnaround point just as it got dark enough to turn on my headlamp so I got to see all of the course in daylight and it was nice during the night to have some familiarity with the course already.
|Course route, starting and ending in Dayton, WY|
I'm not going to try to give a blow by blow of running the course. As usual my goal was to go out easy, especially for the first big climb which took us from 4000 ft to 7500 ft within the first 10 miles of the start and then try to maintain as steady a pace as possible while taking as much advantage as I could of the downhills. The weather was pretty much perfect except for an intense wind. It seemed that the wind would suck the last bit of oxygen left at altitude away before we could get any on the first climb. The course was perfectly marked so route finding was never a distraction. I tried to maintain a fueling schedule of alternating a gel with either honey stinger chews, lara bars, or honey stinger waffles every 30 minutes but it was only a few hours before everything started tasting too sweet leading me to rely more on gels (still sweet, but easier to get down), perpetuem and turkey/cheese sandwiches whenever the aid stations had them. I got a big mental boost during the first half of the race when Dan Paquette offered me some unanticipated crew support at Dryfork and Footbridge aid stations. Dan was at the race to pace Seattle speedster Jon Robinson who finished in 4th but before pacing he gave me some great positive mental energy.
|Little Big Horn River|