Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bighorn Trail Run 50K - 2011

I've heard only good things about the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run and after I DNF the Surf the Murph 50 miler last Fall, that I was running as a test for the Bighorn 50 miler, I decided that the 50K distance was right for me. Most of the year I kept up enough of a mileage base that it's not too difficult to train for a marathon. So far this Spring, I only had two road races - a 25K and a half marathon. Beyond those races, I was only able to squeeze in two or three twenty mile runs. I had zero trail runs this year and no hill specific training. Sounds pretty bleak for running a good Bighorn 50K. Well, it's all about the plan.

My plan was to enjoy the scenery! In order to do that, I needed to finish and in order to finish, I had to take it easy. So, my plan was to walk up every hill and to run very easy down the hills so I didn't kill my quads. Also, I didn't know how the higher elevation running was going to affect me so I planned to keep an eye on my heart rate.

Since I had never run the Bighorn, I wasn't sure exactly what to carry or pack in a drop bag. The race website suggested we carry extra socks and shoes and I also planned to carry a lot of water. I had my Nathan hydration pack which I filled with about 65 oz of water and a 22 oz handheld. With socks, rain poncho, S!Caps, a bunch of ShotBloks, and a headlamp in case I was out until close to the 9pm cutoff, I was set.

Bighorn mountains and Bighorn sheep near the finish in Dayton.

From the finish line in Dayton, Wyoming, many of us took the 6am bus up the mountain to the Dry Creek aid station. The starting time was 8am.

Here the runners are checking in and getting ready to run!

The first 14 miles are an out and back down the valley in the pic above. The course this year was modified from the traditional course which usually starts with the runners heading up the hill (path to the left) in the picture below.

Here is the valley where we would run out and then back up. The 'back up' is a killer.

At 8am it was time for the singing of the National Anthem. The man signing was a good singer, but in one part, he had problems and stopped to start again. Unfortunately, he had problems singing at the same part and stopped again. The runners took over singing and the man joined back in. It was an awesome experience and everyone applauded loudly when the singing ended.

We gathered at the start and off we went, heading down the big hill at a pretty good clip. I noticed not too long after starting that my heart rate was sitting at about 160. Ugh. Too high as I knew a 160 heart rate would not be sustainable for the many hours I knew I was going to be out there. My main goals were to enjoy the scenery, not get injured, and to finish. I needed to meet all three goals for my day to be the best that it could be. I wasn't feeling great in those first miles but I hung in there. I walked up any incline and ran when I could. For this race, it felt like if I was running and hit a 160 or 161 heart rate, I better stop running and just walk. I would keep to that plan the entire day.

Instead of writing a report mile by mile, I'll get this done in the next few paragraphs. After the out and back portion was done, I changed my socks, put the things I wouldn't need from my backpack into my drop bag, and then headed out 10 or so minutes later. It was finally now, after mile 14 that I felt great. I would feel great the whole rest of the day! I ran the downhills very gently to not wreck my quads. I walked at a normal pace uphills. I loved the stream crossings and how they cooled off my feet.

This is me at around mile 8 or 9.

For nutrition, I did some light snacking at aid stations and from mile 7, and every three miles after that, I had 3 ShotBloks and 2 S!Caps. I found that sometimes my 22 oz bottle was enough not between aid stations, sometimes I drank from my Nathan pack. Note for myself next year - just carry 2 bottles and forget the pack, it's pretty darn heavy.

I ran in to the finish in 7:44. My conservative plan allowed me to enjoy every minute of my run, stop to take 100 pictures, and I never got tired or cramped-up! For those of you that have run any of the Bighorn races previously, some of the scenes below will look familiar. For those who haven't run it yet, put this race on your 'must run' list. It's fantastic!

Thank you, Race Director, for putting on an unforgettable event. Thank you volunteers and aid station workers for all the hard work you did to keep up runners safe and hydrated and well fed. Note to self: Don't pass up the cold shrimp next year!

I wore my Garmin 310XT and the data from my run is here.

Each of these pictures are worth more than a thousand words, so there's about a million words below:

What you can't see in the picture directly below is the smell of bacon. Mmmmm....bacon!

Did anyone else love the feeling of the ice cold water on your feet?

Maybe my best picture for last. Now it was time to turn the camera off and finish this run!

--Mark Hanson

photo credits:

1st photo taken by race photographer - I purchased the 'Web Resolution Digital Image' version from Action Sports Images LLC for use here.

I took all of the other pictures and you can download them for your personal use.


upnorthgranny said...

Very interesting blog Mark. I do have a question, What is a "drop bag?" Is it a bag of items that once you used them, that you leave behind to lighten your load? Loved all of the pics too.

Mark H. said...

A 'drop bag' is a bag or backpack or something similar that you can put things you will need later in the race and not need to carry them with you. For this run, there was an aid station near the halfway point. That's where the drop bags were too. The volunteers were awesome and as I got near the drop bag area, someone handed me my bag. They were marked with our bib numbers. I put things back in it to lighten my load as I ended up carrying too many things that I wouldn't use. For the 50 and 100 mile distances, there are multiple drop bag locations.

SteveQ said...

After a while, I started to laugh at how many photos you took (everyone seems to do that at Bighorn!) - the last one would make a good header photo.

Nice job on the 50K, Mark.

Beth said...

Wonderful! I have never thought I could do a trail race before but you have done a good job of selling this one. It looks beautiful and I like how there is an actual path. I always imagine myself getting lost in the woods during a trail race. I'll keep this one in the back of my mind for the future. Thanks for sharing!

Ken Swab said...

Terrific report of a race on a beautiful course. I borrowed some of your pics for my
my Bighorn 30K report. I brought my camera to WY and then forgot to take it on the run. Arrgh!