Bighorn 100 Race Report

It is around December when I am usually considering what races I might do the next year. Looking ahead to 2021 was a little different as I had several races from 2020 that were rolled over to 2021 due to the pandemic. The biggest race on my rollover calendar was Lavaredo in Italy at the end of June.

But then many of my local friends started to talk about doing Bighorn in June offering a variety of distances from the 100 miler, 52 miler and 32 miler. While I really wanted to do Lavaredo, my family was not comfortable with me traveling to Italy and Bighorn was one of my bucket-list races, so the decision became easy. Then immediately my parents and my husband Ed all wanted to go to Wyoming to join me and the others at the Bighorn race.

Our Group from Georgia

My training leading up to the race was some of my strongest. I was feeling great but big mountain 100 milers which are some of my favorite races also scare me to death. DNFing a race does not scare me.  It is the unknown and all the things that can go wrong that scares me but excites me at the same time.

Knowing Brad Goodridge was going to be my crew chief takes a huge load off my mind. He takes care of all the details that are out of my control, and I know he will not miss a thing. He usually has much more confidence in me than I have in myself and lets me know when I need it most that I can do it!

Sherri was going to pace me as well as Ed. Both strong climbers and could join me on sections of the course that had the biggest climbing sections. Those are the plans I had laid out but when I say big mountain races scare me to death, it is largely because in 100-mile races, my experience says plans do not always go as expected. Bighorn 100 would be no exception.  If you have a run 100 miler, one thing that you learn is that they are a 100 miles of problem solving. Having a plan is great but being able to adjust your plan becomes the game changer that can save your race.

Group photo waiting for start
Rami, Troy and I enjoying a conversation
with John Fegyveresi (ok yes, we were fan stalking him)!

The Bighorn 100 has experienced rain the last several years of the race. That rain leads to lots and lots of shoe sucking mud. It also goes up to a fairly high altitude that is notoriously very cold and often snow covered during the over-night hours. All of this with around 22,000 feet of climbing and a 35-hour cutoff. I had an “A” goal of a 30-hour finish but really my main goal is always to finish and have fun. I love the mountains and enjoy the trails and scenery. God has created a beautiful masterpiece and it is an honor and privilege to be able to run in it and I never take that for granted! We do these races to go places few will see, experience limits few will push, and gain a perspective we would otherwise never have!

First big climb

The race starts off with a very large climb of over 4,000 feet in just the first few miles once you hit the single tracts. Due to logistics, Brad did not go to the start of the race, but Ed and the rest of the Atlanta crew saw us off. I knew Brad would be waiting for me at mile 13.5. Early in the race but after the race’s first major climbs so he would have a good gauge on how I was doing. From there it would be rolling hills and a good downhill drop into the 30-mile mark and picking up Sherri for the big 18-mile climb to the high point of the race.

Close to seeing Brad and dropping off my poles
for the next 20 mile section

Those first 30 miles seemed to go by quickly. The scenery was spectacular, and I shared some of the miles chatting with a couple guys from Denver. It was the final aid station (AS) before dropping into Sally’s Footbridge, the 26.5-mile AS where I came across the first of our Atlanta runners. The heat of the day had started to get him and slowing down some and cooling off at AS is definitely a key in the heat.

First Aid Station where I see Brad

I got to Brad at Sally’s Footbridge where I picked up Sherri. I was feeling great and ready to have company for the big climbs ahead. The course was so beautiful, and I was excited that Sherri was going to have lots of hours in the daylight to enjoy its beauty. She usually paces me during night hours and misses so much. I did not want her to miss this course. It is also here that you have to be sure to get your lights and warm clothes for the night. It is easy to see why people forget that because of how warm it is at this point in the race and nowhere near dark. This is always when my check list for Brad comes in handy. He makes sure I do not miss a thing especially later in the race when I can no longer think for myself. This next section as Sherri and I began the long climb toward the mile 48 turn around, was when I got my first punch in the face. So far, my race had been going perfectly as planned but those plans were beginning to be challenged. Living in Atlanta does not give us any altitude training although we had gotten heat in recent weeks, which would later prove to be helpful. As we quickly rose in altitude, I began struggling to breath. I knew it was the altitude, but it had caught me off guard as I have run at altitude in other races and never experienced any issues. Now it almost seemed the life was being sucked right out of me. All I knew to do was just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. Sherri kept encouraging me saying that I was doing great.

Sherri and I just after she joined me

We finally got to the AS 8 miles from the turn around. It had seemed slow going but it was still a while before dark and so far, not gotten cold on us. I sat down a minute to reset things and take in some warm broth. Let me say here, that these AS were over the top and some of the very best. The volunteers were experienced and knew exactly what to ask and do for you. Some AS were so remote that they used horses to get the supplies into them. That is some dedication to help out runners!

So here I sat needing to reset things and get my mind into a positive mode instead of being discouraged. One of the AS workers must have immediately seen I was not doing well or in a good place. He began waiting on me and seemed to have taken me on as his personal project. He gave me a few minutes to drink my broth and then he came over with a pulseox tool to check my heart rate and oxygen levels. He knew right away I needed to recover some more before leaving. He would come back to check my oxygen levels again several more times before allowing me to leave when my readings got back into good ranges. Even though we continued to climb in altitude I had gotten over the hump and didn’t really struggle as much after that.

Where the altitude struggle started

The next AS was 4 miles from the top and turnaround. Sherri and I finally got out our lights and put on warm layers and jackets. It was dark and cold as we came into the Jaws AS at the turnaround. Brad was parked and waiting on the road just outside beyond the AS. As soon as Sherri and I walked in, one of the AS workers immediately came over and took hold of me. I wanted to use the porta-potty and get some more broth. Again, this worker took me on as her personal project not letting me out of her sight, even holding onto me to guide me. I must have looked worse than I felt. Soon I was out of there. Quick stop with Brad to drop Sherri off and adjust a few things before I was ready to take off getting down out of the cold and altitude. I ran on and off with other runners all the way down the mountain.

Brad and Sherri met me back at Sally’s Footbridge just before the sun came up. Sherri was originally planning to jump in here and pace me for the next brutal climb and about 17 miles. She hinted as we came into Jaws that she might not jump back in. She knew my goal of 30 hours was within my grasp and she did not want to slow me down. So, I had mentally prepared myself to finish solo.

I dumped a bunch of gear here to lighten my pack and knew I did not need all the extra things because it would soon be daylight and warm out. The next 3.5 miles was an unbelievably tough climb up at least 3,000 feet. Once I got there it felt like I was home free with a nice rolling section ahead. During this long 7-mile section, the day would start to heat up and by the end as I got to the next remote AS, the course was completely exposed and the sun was out in full force. The beauty of this course was also in full force.

I now had 6 miles and another rough climb leading into an AS and seeing Brad and Sherri one final time. Now the 32-mile runners were on the course and began giving encouragement to us 100-mile runners which was appreciated. The oven of the day began to really take its toll. Not just on my pace but my spirits as well. I knew I would see Brad very soon and knowing he had some cold drinks for me kept me moving forward when I did not think I could.

Brad came down the trail a bit and walked me into the AS. I know the look on my face might not have showed it but I am not sure I was ever so happy to see you Brad! Another fairly quick reset. I was anxious to get this race finished. Brad and Sherri updated me telling me that Ed wanted to pace me in the final 4 miles so now I had that to look forward to.

I’m definitely struggling in the heat of the day
but the views still did not suck

The next AS was another reset from the heat then on to the final big uphill push before a long decent and some flat miles to the finish. Rami Odeh was running the 32-mile race and as luck would have it, he was just behind me near the top of that final hard steep climb. I waited at the top for him. Rami had also been working with me as my coach on nutrition and weight training over the last few months. He had seen me through some extremely challenging times in my life and I was very happy to see him now. I was ready to have company and have him pace me to the finish.

I waited for Rami to get up the climb so he could pace me in

Even that plan was short lived. As we headed down, I took off running (well I called it running) and ended up dropping Rami. Just like our more recent training runs together, sorry coach, call it a testament to your good coaching! This long downhill that we came up just the morning before seemed way longer than I had remembered, even though it was endless going up. And as one plan falls through to have Rami pace me in, I see my husband, Ed coming up the trail towards me ready to pace me in the last 10 miles of the race. My legs felt great, my feet were in good shape, my stomach was doing okay but the heat had now just about brought me to my knees. It was midafternoon and not an ounce of shade anywhere.

A couple of more AS and a lot more heat, I finally crossed the finish line. As you come into Dayton, Wyoming, the finish line was in a packed park, the crowds were overwhelming. The long shoot to the finish was lined with people cheering in the runners. It was that 100-mile bib I wore that almost had crowds on their feet to cheer for you. It was all I could do to smile as I crossed the finish line. I would have been in tears but honestly, I think I was too dehydrated to produce any or they dried on my face in the heat. I nearly collapsed into a chair and needed several cold cups of water as Brad and Sherri were immediately at my side helping me.

We found a shady spot in the grass for me to lay down and recover. Sherri collected my buckle and finishers jacket for me. A little while later Rami came in and joined us and we all got a cold beer to drink.

So while my “A” goal didn’t happen as I missed it by about 45 minutes, my goal to finish and have fun was more than met.

Such a well put on race! I cannot express enough how great a job they did with this race. The pre-race activities, the swag, the RD’s, shuttle drivers, to all the many, many great volunteers. We do not run these races without a lot of people helping us along the way. I have run lots of beautiful courses and you really cannot compare them. Bighorn though was spectacular with its beauty and if you have to suffer on some mountains somewhere, this scenery will definitely keep you in good spirits. I feel blessed by all the great people helping me and to have finished when nearly half of the runners who started the race did not. Embrace the journey because every step is a blessing! Great friends and family are an even bigger blessing!

2nd in Age Group 50-59 Female
Rock, Buckle and finishers jacket

Mystery Mountain Marathon, October 9, 2016

 

This was a hard one.  Well, all of them are hard, actually, but it does seem like some are harder than others.  Sometimes it’s just not our day.  Maybe we are tired, our nutrition might be off, our mind isn’t quite with it, or for whatever reason the run just seems like such a struggle.  We can try to just enjoy a beautiful day for running and some beautiful scenery, but it’s hard to enjoy that while our head is focused down on the trail.

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Fort Mountain, Chatsworth, GA

I had a goal, a plan.  I even shared it out loud.  Normally I don’t share a goal.  It’s like bad luck – I might jinx myself or something.  But there you go, I said it out loud – I really wanted a sub 6 hr finish.  This would be my third time running this race.  It’s 26 miles with 7,000 ft of elevation gain, lots of single track technical trails (my favorite), long stretches of rocky fire roads and some gnarly downhill sections.  Previously, my best time was 6:16 and each time I’ve run it, I’ve also been the Grand Masters Female 1st Place Finisher.  This year I have been training with a coach and felt like I was stronger and had a good chance of reaching my goal.  I also asked a couple of my running friends, Bill and Loren, if they would pace me.   I knew with a little push, I could stay running on sections I had walked in previous years, and that should help me reach my goal.

Promptly at 8am, the race started with a bang, literally from a cannon.  Like most races it started out on a short road section before entering the trails, then within a mile or so the trail narrows to some single track and very technical sections.  This is my favorite part of the course, but today it took me several miles before I felt like I really settled into a comfortable pace and run.  I know I’d pushed myself up to the front a little more than normal and was running strong with my two friends, Loren in front setting the pace and Bill just a few steps behind me.  We all stayed together and pushed through nearly 5 miles of trails before Bill took the lead and moved further ahead.  He had been struggling with stomach issues all week and I knew he was not feeling great, so I was happy to see him push ahead and find his own groove.  I also knew Loren would continue to set a good pace and help me to push even when I didn’t feel like it.

At each aid station, we got an update on how far Bill was ahead of us.  Sometimes it was a couple minutes, and later it was more like 5 or 6 minutes.  He would leave word that he expected us to catch up to him as he continued to struggle with his stomach issues, but he seemed to be having a great race anyway.

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I really was having a good time

Around mile 9 or so, I turned my ankle.  At first, I wasn’t sure just how bad it was, but I was able to walk it off within a few minutes and begin to run pain free again.  It did, however, make me more cautious so I wouldn’t turn it again.  This wasn’t my “A” race and I knew I didn’t want to injure it seriously.  After the mile 10/11 aid station, the fun really began with a steep power line climb and then a downhill that is called the “downhill of despair.”  I guess that should be description enough.  I was hopeful that once we finished the downhill section, the trail would smooth out and the fire roads would not be quite so technical – a little easier running.  But instead, we experienced more rocks and technical sections that made it difficult to settle into a comfortable stride.

Once we went through the next couple of aid stations that seemed to come quickly on the fire roads, we came to what’s known as Conte’s climb.  Most local ultra trail runners and any GUTS Member (Georgia Ultra and Trail Running Society) knows who Franco Conte is.  I’m sure his ears are burning as many of us go up this long climbing section named after him.  The climb isn’t hard because it’s so steep, but because it’s so very long.  Most Georgia runners are used to hills.  We run on them almost daily, and they are usually short and steep.  Long steady climbs that never seem to end are not our specialty, in most cases.  Two weeks earlier, I had been in the Grand Canyon, so this was right up my training tree.  I had this one.  Loren and I were looking forward to reaching  the Last Gasp Aid Station, but it just seemed to take forever.  By the time we got there, I felt I was a little past my Last Gasp.  We caught and passed a few runners here as we headed into the last section of rolling hills with more climbing.  By now, I’m just ready to be done.  Loren pushed us forward and I kept running even when I really wanted to just walk it in to the finish.   I knew I had to keep pushing to stay with him.  He kept track of our time on his watch and let me know we were doing great, but I didn’t really want to know exactly how we were doing.  As long as we were good, that’s all I needed to know.

Soon we were at the top of the power lines, headed down them and into the home stretch.  We both moved as quickly, but carefully, as possible.  We quickly checked in with the aid station crew at the bottom of the hill, and were off around the lake to the finish line.  I told Loren it would take all his strength to push me in, because I was done.  I kept moving forward, trying to finish as strong as I could.

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This was all the push I had left in me

I wish I would have been smiling as I crossed the finish line, because I could not have had more fun.  I got to run on a beautiful course with absolutely perfect running weather, and I spent time with a couple of my favorite runners.  But I was spent.  I gave it all I had that day.  Maybe on a different day it would have been more.

It took a couple of days before I realized I did reach some of my goals.  I did get a PR on the course by 9 minutes, finishing in a time of 6:07, and I was once again the Grand Masters Female 1st Place Finisher!

 

Pine Mountain 46 Miler Race Report, December 6, 2015

Just about a month after our DNF at Pinhoti, Carrie and I had signed up long ago to run the GUTS Pine Mountain 46 Miler. (Lisa was always the more cautious runner and thought we would need more time to recover and opted for the shorter 19 mile distance). We had heard it was a tough race but that did not stop us.  We had both felt strong after Pinhoti because of course we only ran 65 miles not the 100!  We were ready to tackle this tough course and get a little redemption for our Pinhoti DNF!

The race started early and in the dark but we lined up at the start line in good company with many of our friends.  A couple we would run with for section but Carrie and I were so focused on our redemption at this point we didn’t want to commit to going someone else’s pace, this was our sweet redemption to get.

We fell into a good pace early on, again starting far enough up that we didn’t struggle to pass runners and settled into a good pace.  We quickly cruised through the first AS and both felt good and had a positive attitude.  We were on part of the course that had been added onto the previous year’s 40 mile course.  We enjoyed the views of this section and weather was perfect.  Quickly we dropped on the 40 mile course from the previous years and got to the next AS.  Carrie and I had learned to manage AS stops very quickly, usually we chatted before getting to them about what we need to do, we would focus on those things and quickly be gone.

The trails from here became much more rocky and technical.  We ran what we could and were careful through the tricky sections that were rocky.  When we got to the next AS we had drop bags here and both dropped our lights off in them.  We would head out from there and when we came back through this AS on the way back we could retrieve our headlamps for the finish.  It was a long section out from here and we began to see some of the first runners headed back from long loop we were headed on.  It included a very long, steep downhill section which a quickly mental note, you had to climb back up later.  When we got to our next stop I was greeted by a running friend of mine, Della and it was so nice to see a friendly face.  She cheered us on and sent us on our way.

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The next section was a loop that would lead us to the Radio Tower AS.  We struggled some through this section and it seemed difficult to follow the trail through some sections along the creek.  Finally the Radio Tower AS was not far off but we were now just on the verge of the cutoffs.  While we were with several other runners at the time, Carrie and I both knew we were running it in.  It wasn’t over and we would not do a death march.  How did we get here again, we could not figure it out.  We ran well all day.  We came running into the AS seeing familiar faces and friends.  We were just minutes behind the cutoff but because we were running great, they sent us on.  Carrie and I had gotten a pass and we weren’t wasting it.  We knew we could get our redemption.  Determined more than ever we ran well from there to the AS where my friend Della was still working.  We had gained some time and were now ahead.  We could do it.  Again we were off.  We knew we had some work ahead of us but aside from that one good climb we knew we could do it.  Carrie and I powered on passing several other runners out on the trail but the end reward was ours to get.  Once again we felt good and we were so proud of how hard we were pushing and climbing.  We saw the next AS and knew we needed our headlamps from our drop bags.  We had little time to spare so we ran in straight to our bags to get our lamps and were then told “your done girls.”  What?  “You missed the cutoff by 2 minutes.”  We had run hard, we had put all we had into it.  But we knew she was serious and wasn’t letting us go on.

So we are back on the DNF bus. We may have picked a really tough race to try to get off the bus but again we sit in good company with lots of other runners. If you are a runner or competitor you can imagine this begins to shake your confidence. But we awarded ourselves the “most determined” award because we never gave up or stopped until we were pulled! And we will keep that determined award and get ourselves off this bus! Soon…