Tag Archives: Big Horn 100

2012 Big Horn 100–A Great Day for a PR

After running Zion 50 a few weeks ago I had a little anticipation going into Bighorn. I felt really demolished after Zion due to the intense cramping my legs went through with the severe dehydration (I already feel better a couple days after Bighorn than I felt after over a week after Zion). I figured out that if I’m going to go harder than I’ve done in the past I need to make up for that with increased nutrition and hydration. I took it easy for a week after Zion to really give myself time to recover and was planning on putting big miles in over Memorial Day weekend as a final training push before Big Horn. Unfortunately, the weather really got the best of this plan so I had a little bit of intrepidation going into Big Horn.

I had the confidence that with improved nutrition and hydration I could go out harder and the world will not fall apart. I took what I learned from Zion put together my Big Horn strategy. A large part of this strategy was to start the race harder. I have historically took it easy in anticipation of the long miles, time on the feet, etc. to make sure I “felt good” later. I decided that there really is no such thing as really “feeling good” so I might as well get as many miles under my belt before it got dark since I was not picking up Chad until mile 48 and it would for sure be dark. I knew that he would be able to push me at that point.

Kristin, Chad and I left for Sheridan Wednesday after work. We traveled to Bighorn the same way that Chad has done the past 3 years by driving half way on Wednesday night then just have 4 more hours on Thursday morning. That was nice and allowed me to have over 8 hours of sleep for a number of days prior to the race. I was so happy to be going into this race feeling perfectly healthy – no coughor sore throat and body feeling great (I definitely know what difference that makes)! On Thursday, we got into Sheridan, I went for an easy 2 mile run, relaxed, then went to check-in and medical check.

The 11AM start was really weird for me. We woke up at 7:00a and had almost too much time before we had to leave at 8:20. The pre-race meeting was at 9:00. I found myself uncomfortable in my flip-flops concerned I wouldn’t have enough time to put my shoes on even though I knew we had the drive to the start line and would have more than enough time to do everything I needed before the start.

Big Horn 100 Start

Since my plan was to go out pretty hard so I went out with the front pack. The run on the gravel road was fast and then we started climbing up the single track. I felt I kept up a good clip and focused on eating and drinking in this section. This race was very competitive – women wise – I was in 2nd place until mile 4 which I knew I shouldn’t be in but I was listening to my body. Suzanne and Missy passed me at that point and my goal was to keep them in sight. There were also a couple other women that were leapfrogging all of usduring this section. I came into mile 13.4 and Kristin and Chad got me in and out very quickly that I was able to get ahead of a few others that came in before me.

The next portion of the course was a great downhill, rolling, easy running. It felt good to tick away the miles. It was overcast and sprinkled on us a little bit so the weather was absolutely perfect. The wild flowers were blooming and the colors were spectacular. There is a steeper downhill then short up to the Footbridge Aid Station at mile 30. I was feeling great. I switched out my waist pack for my new UltraSpire Kinetic pack. This was my first significant run in this pack and I loved it with all of the pockets that are so easy to access and so comfortable.

Running into Footbridge Aid Station

I headed out with warmer cloths and lights. I put on my arm warmers and gloves on around mile 40. The section before Porcupine was swampy, muddy, wet, and snowy which slowed me down a little bit. I kept anticipating the front runners heading back down towards me. I saw Mike Foote when I was around mile 42. It was fun seeing people on their way back and knew I’d be one of those soon. I saw Suzanne and David heading out 0.2 miles from the Aid Station. I got in and out of Porcupine as fast as I could as it was very cold and I really wanted to keep moving. I was 5th place woman at this point.

This next section was one of the toughest for me. It was a lot downhill but for some reason I just couldn’t run downhill. Chad tried to coach me in my form to get moving faster but for some reason I was struggling to a great extent making that happen. I also had issues with rolling my ankles which I did again and again. I would have to shake it out then keep moving as quickly as possible. This section only took me about 10 minutes less going down than going up (and it is a 4,000’ net descent) which tells you how absolutely slowly I was moving. It was incredibly frustrating. Chad and I got into Footbridge and I got some food in me, grabbed my poles, switched headlights, dropped some cloths, and took off.

I took off doing one of the things that I’m most strong in – power hiking uphill (I’m even better when I’m tired). I really focused on the fact that I struggled on the downhill so I really needed to make up some time on the uphill. I pushed myself as much as I possibly could on the uphills and found that I was running a little better on the downhills. The sunrise in this section was so beautiful!


Sunrise on the climb to Bear Camp Aid Station

We smelled the bacon at Cow Camp before we got there. When we got there Chad handed me a piece of bacon. I didn’t know if I could stomach it but I made myself eat it and my stomach felt better right away. We quickly left the aid station with a few more pieces of bacon and homemade chocolate chip cookies (I didn’t try it, but Chad said bacon, chocolate chip cookies are awesome when you haven’t slept in 25 hours). It must have been the fat that coated my stomach and made me feel better.


Running towards Cow Camp Aid Station in the early morning

As we headed up the long ascent into Dry Fork we could see a number of people in front of us including two women. David and Suzanne were right ahead of us and we waved to David. When I got into Dry Fork I quickly took a bathroom break and changed my shoes and socks. Suzanne and I were in the Aid Station together and it was great to see her looking so strong. She and David left just a minute before Kristin and I did.


Running into Dry Fork Aid Station

Kristin and I headed up the road and were able to jog quite a bit of the first section. Right as the trail got a little steeper downhill I lost my downhill legs again. I can’t even profess how frustrated I was looking down at my watch and seeing a 16 minute mile and I was “running” downhill. I couldn’t believe it. There was absolutely no reason why my legs could not run this terrain. What made it instantly worse is that the 50k racers started to pass us on this single track. So not only was I not moving as fast as I should be able to but others were passing and shooting down the train and would be out of sight in minutes. It also took time to move off the trail many, many times while people were passing which I felt took extra time. After a few rolling miles and some frustrating descents, we hit the gravel road and I was able to take off again. I ran almost the entire 5 miles of road with just a few very short walking breaks – even running the uphill sections. This section was super hot and I couldn’t wait to be done. This was a good section because many people passing express that they are impressed at the 100 mile racers. I was passing a lot of 50kers at this time and as I passed one guy who was walking I had to ask him if he was really going to let a 100 miler pass him. That was all it took for him to take off running (he later found me at the finish line and thanked me for getting him going). Even though I was moving really well this last part was tough on me mentally because I was totally set up for a under 26 hour finish and I was not able to meet that due to troubles descending. Kristin was doing major math to see what I could do I decided to just push as fast as I could at that point – while not falling apart – and try to be as much below 26:15 as I possibly could. I crossed the finish line at 26:11:44. It felt so good to be done.


The Finish

It was great to see Suzanne and hear about her fantastic finish of 25:46. Kristin and Chad got my calf sleeves, socks, and shoes off and I went straight into the river to sit down. The cold water felt so good on my legs. We enjoyed the beautiful afternoon watching other runners come into the finish line for a few hours. We then returned to Sheridan for a much needed shower and a now traditional Sheridan great Mexican meal (a margarita is always good after a 100 mile race and it’s always good to feel well enough to want one).


Recovering at the Finish Line

Sunday morning we attended the pancake breakfast and awards the next morning. I was happy to accept the rock prize for 3rd place woman in my age category (behind Darcy Africa and Suzanne).


The Wasatch Contingent – 2 of the 4 top women!

All my thanks to Chad and Kristin for all that you did for me crewing and pacing. Just knowing you both are there either at the aid stations or beside me on the trail made me feel so much more at ease so I could focus on just racing and not gear, food, etc.

I will spend the next 2+ months getting ready for Wasatch100 focusing on fast downhill running, strong uphill hiking, core and strength work, and continuing with the speed work and running that I’ve been incorporating all spring.

For full size images, view the Big Horn Photo Gallery.

Redemption at Big Horn

After last year’s epic Big Horn 100 race (2010 race report), I registered for the 2011 race wanting a good race and to get redemption on my poor 2010 race. Due to the long winter (or great ski season depending on how you look at it), the standard course was impassable and had to be modified. The modifications started the course at the park in Dayton (the normal finish line) instead of 3 miles up the Tongue River road, added a 7 mile out-and-back at Dry Fork (that you did once on the way out and again on the way in), then turned the course around at Spring Marsh instead of going all the way to Porcupine. The short story first – I had a great race finishing in 6th place in a time of 22:47.

And as they say, here’s ‘the rest of the story’. My total training miles for the year were less than 2010 so I was worried about being fully ready for a 100. I had a strong non-running base due to a great ski year having had close to 80 days in including lots of days over 8000’ of climbing, an 11,000’ day and a 13,000’ day. I was also going into this year with a coach (Matt Hart) so even though I didn’t have as solid of a running base, the quality of what I had seemed to be better.

My race plan was simple, run my own race (not get caught up in too fast of a pace during the first 5 miles of gravel road or foolishly chasing early on), feel good for as much of the race as possible, and finish in under 24 hours. Christopher and Emily were along as my crew and pacers. During the drive to Sheridan and the evening before the race, the 3 of us reviewed my race, aid station, and pacer plans. Everything had come together except the weather which was a little bit questionable (cool, cloudy, and rainy for the entire race). The 2 nights prior to the race, I got better sleep than usual so when race morning came, I felt ready. Big Horn had a 10AM start this year (it is usually 11AM) so we were able to have a relaxing morning and not have to get up in the middle of the night and rush to a starting line.

The race started fast with a couple of groups taking off running sub 7 minute miles. I stayed back with the third group and we ran a fast, but comfortable pace covering the first 5 miles in 38 minutes. At mile 5 you start climbing and mostly climb for the next 12 miles to Dry Fork Aid Station. I was happy with my time into Dry Fork covering this section in around 2:40. Coming through Dry Fork was a huge confidence booster as we had a perfect crew stop (see it in the video below). I slowed down to a 10 min/mile pace, handed Emily my waste pack while she handed me a hand bottle, 100’ later Christopher handed me an Ensure and I never had to slow down or break stride. At this point, I was running in 9th or 10th place with Emily Judd. It was good to have company and Emily Judd and I continued to push each other for the next 40 miles.  Emily  would go on to win the women’s race and become on the second woman to finish Big Horn 100 in under 24 hours.

The 7.5 mile out-and-back section went quickly (84 minutes) and we had another very fast pit stop where I picked up my waste pack and food for the next 17.5 miles. They always say never try new things on race day, but having not had a lot of long training runs this year, that wasn’t an option so I left Dry Fork with 2 turkey/avocado sliders (1/4 of an avocado wrapped in a slice of turkey) hoping these would be a good source of ‘real’ food for the race. They turned out to work out well for me. Emily Judd and I settled into this section at a comfortable pace pushing hard and catching a few people at the same time. We rolled into Footbridge at mile 41 at 5:15PM a full 45 minutes ahead of my 23:30 split time. I was not expecting my crew to be here, but thankfully they were. They had everything organized and got me out of the aid station in just a couple of minutes.

Leaving Footbridge, Emily J and I were running with Mike Farris. We made the 3,300’, 9.5 mile climb in 2:30. At the turn around (mile 50.3), I was now running in 7th. I was now updating my race goal to finish in the top 8 and if possible under 23 hours.  This was maybe a little premature at only mile 50, but it kept me motivated. I was hoping to make good time back to Footbridge, but due to the rocky and technical trail and my extremely poor headlamp, my return took me 2:10 so I had lost some valuable time. My second time at Footbridge (mile 60) was another quick stop, I sat down for 2 minutes (the first and only time I had sat the entire race) to eat, then headed out with my top pacer (my wife Emily) and BD Z-poles. The 3.5 mile, 2,000’ climb out of Footbridge is steep and muddy, but we made really good time getting to the Bear Camp aid station in just over 1 hour.

So far the weather had been very good. There was a strong headwind for quite a while during the day, but the rain held off and the temperatures remained comfortable. As morning came, it started to get cold. I was able to get by with just shorts, shirt, arm warmers, long sleeved shirt, hat and gloves. Definitely better than lots of years when you have pants plus a jacket on.

Emily B continued to push me hard (making me even run the hills) the rest of the way to Dry Fork and we made the entire 16.5 mile section in around 4.5 hours. We spent just a couple minutes at the aid station quickly drinking a cup of warm soup, then headed to the 7 mile out and back section. We were now past mile 76 and I was starting to feel poorly for the first time. I was hungry, but really couldn’t eat, and starting to get a pretty upset stomach. We pushed through and made this loop in 1:45. Back at the aid station, I took the longest break of the race (about 5 minutes) and quickly had some oatmeal and coffee that Christopher had ready. This was another case where my crew came through for me. I needed real food, but didn’t have anything planned and Christopher just knew that these 2 things would taste good and get me the calories and energy I needed – he was right.

Christopher took over for Emily and he had his work cut out for him. It was just after 5AM and we had a little over 17 miles and under 4 hours to do it in. This would be easy if it wasn’t mile 83, I wasn’t tired, and the terrain was flat, but none of this was the case. Christopher and I were making good time until after Sheep Creek when we hit the steep descents. My knees were shot. It was all I could do to hobble down the steep hills and we continued to lose valuable time. As the descents eased up, I was able to pick up the pace and due to not being able to move quickly on the steep descents, we had to move all the faster on the gradual descents and climbs. In the last 9 miles, we were regularly pushing sub 8 minute miles and averaged just over 10 minute miles for the final 12 miles. We reached the Tongue River Road with 5 miles to go and 50 minutes to do it in (this would give us an 8 minute buffer for any amount that our watches or mileage estimate were off). Christopher pushed me to the edge and kept me there for this entire 5 miles and we came through the finish line at 8:48AM covering the 5 miles in 46 minutes.  My finish time was 22:47 total time.

All I can really say is that I had a great race and I could not have done it if it weren’t for my extremely organized crew that kept my total aid station time to less than 15 minutes for the entire race, my pacers for pushing me harder than I could have pushed myself, and Matt for forcing me to do speed work (this was definitely noticeable on several occasions in the last 40 miles). From a personal perspective, I was mentally and physically ready for the race and when I realized what I could do, I was willing to go deeper into the pain cave than I had been before (this confirmed that the demons only get worse the further in you go). There were some new things that worked well for me in the race including the turkey/avocado sliders (thanks Matt), tapioca pudding (thanks Roch), Black Diamond Z-poles, CEP compression calf sleeves, and a Nathan Krissy pack (kept the weight off my waist late in the race).

In the end, I had a very successful race. I had my fastest 100 mile finish by 1.5 hours, my first sub 24 hour finish, my best 100 mile finish (6th place), I placed third I my age group, and I made the Big Horn 100 Rusty Spur Club (for finishing under 24 hours).


Big Horn 100 Video