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(The map is incomplete; the Garmin lost power at 46 miles).
My Big Horn 50 experience began with being "denied boarding" on my flight from LAX to Denver on the morning of June 22. The gate attendants were so frustrated with the overbooking that they refused to talk to those of us who were denied. When I called United, they told me they couldn't help me because I didn't have a denial of boarding form and thus couldn't prove that I wasn't just late to the gate. So, I debated just calling the whole thing off, but after my fourth call to United (all to somebody in India), I found somebody willing to believe me and I was routed to Sheridan, Wyoming. The problem was that when I made it to Denver for the connecting flight to Sheridan, I was denied boarding once again due to overbooking. United routed me to Billings, so I made it -- several hours late but I finally pulled into Sheridan to make the very last pre-racing briefing at the high school in Sheridan.
We boarded the bus in Dayton at 4:00 a.m. It was ominously warm. One hour later we arrived at the Dry Fork aid station. The race route had been changed to avoid snow conditions at Porcupine Ranger Station, the normal start.At 6:00 a.m. we started. I was in great shape; no injuries, but packing maybe 15 pounds I couldn't quite shed.
We descended from Dry Fork (7480') to Foot Bridge (4590'). I wasn't paying attention to the course route to know that I was going to have to make this ascent, and that we were in an out and back.
The descent was fierce and my toes were getting jammed. My feet were wet from all the river crossings, and I discovered that socks that I thought were synthetic were actually 50% cotton. My socks were getting bunched up. The more tired I got the more I tended to stub my toes on the rocks; my new shoes are not all that well armored.
Fortunately, I had followed my brother Dave's advice and had synthetic socks waiting for me at Foot Bridge in my drop bag. That was all I had in my drop bag. I made the change and off I was on the climb back to Dry Fork. My feet felt a whale of a lot better with the new socks.
The ascent was horrific. It was warm. During this ascent I began to hang with the runners I would be passing and who would pass me, over and over again, all the way to the end of the race. After chowing down a sandwich at Foot Bridge, I had grinding nausea the rest of the race as the ascent came down to steady plodding up the mountain in warm temperatures.
My one major physical weakness -- a weak back -- began to plague me. My back gets sore in an extended ascent. All I need is a mile or two of a descent to stretch it out, but this particular ascent had me yelping in pain.
Finally, I arrived back at the top at Dry Fork. It was a very exposed ridge, but we were favored with thunder clouds and slightly dropping temperatures. At the aid station I stayed only briefly, and heard comments from the volunteers that a couple of the runners who preceded me were dropping out as a result of the effects of the climb. I saw one fellow in his thirties surrounded by his wife and two kids.
I blasted out of the station, passing in the aid station about 5 runners who had been in front of me but couldn't bring themselves to leave the station. One of them caught me about 10 miles later and we joked about how hard it was for him to catch me, but away he went and I never saw him again.
Between Upper and Lower Sheep Creek I passed many runners. Most, but not all, were 100-milers who were walking. One woman I passed recognized me from Leona Divide 50. (The ultrathon crowd is truly small.)
Other than a few fierce climbs I steeled myself to run and never stopped.
I looked at my time and started worrying. This was the toughest 50-miler I had ever run, and it was apparent that I was going to be 2 hours longer than my best 50-mile time on Antelope Island.
Between Lower Sheep Creek and Tongue River (45 miles) was a tough ridge to climb and then a grinding descent of many miles. I passed several runners, but was passed by one runner with whom I had been dueling for 20 miles. He passed me and was out of sight by a mile or more. My descent skills lacked something.
But, at the bottom along the Tongue River I caught him! I was pretty happy and he was pretty sad to see me go.
At the Tongue River aid station, my brother Dave was there to greet me! He had finished his 100 miles several hours before (I was still passing 100-milers on the run). Aid station workers sprayed me down with a hose. It was 90 degrees. The last 5 miles was on the road in sizzling heat. My brother followed along in his car.
I was in great shape -- no injuries; no tendonitis. A few blisters but nothing significant I ran well the last 5 miles and caught and passed a runner I had been dueling with for 5 miles. I caught him at the footbridge in Dayton near the finish.
I finished in Dayton at 12:13:35, fifth in my age class. The winner of my age class beat me by two and one-half hours. My brother was there to cool me down to make sure I didn't pass out, but I had been carefully taking my salt tablets during the race and drinking more than usual, so I had no problems with low blood pressure.
I hung out with my brother's race friends. Matt teased me about my blog. Said my picture made me deceptively young. Matt, some day you'll pay for that slight.
The scenery was amazing, but unfortunately I lost my camera at the first aid station. Oh well.
The Big Horn race volunteers and organizers were wonderful. So nice; so cheerful. This is really the way a race should be run. They had medical personnel at the major aid stations, making sure each of us was capable of going on.
Then it was up again at 2:00 a.m. to make my flight in Billings, and then back to Church to run my ward as an LDS bishop for the day. I was beat. My seventeen-year-old daughter teased me for falling asleep on the stand during Sacrament meeting. And then a couple of emergencies later in the day in my role as "transient bishop," where I attempted to take care of the homeless in my stake boundaries.
So, once again at mile 17 I vowed never to run again, but today on Monday I look forward to the next one. No muscle soreness. I have a jammed toe which makes it painful to walk, but nothing more.