Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bighorn 50 Mile Run - Truly Wild and Scenic!

This race was our 'vacation' race.  Each year we load up the family and go to some far off destination and the race is just an excuse to go.  This trip may have been our biggest adventure yet.  From Oklahoma to Rocky Mountain National Park, to Dayton, Wyoming and the Bighorn 50 Mile Race and then to Devil's Tower and Mt. Rushmore and on to DeSmet and Little House on the Prairie.  What a great trip this would be!

The Happy Happy Van also doubles as the Sleepy Sleepy Van

To make it even more fun, I sold my truck and bought an older but hopefully trustworthy conversion van to travel in comfort and to camp in as we went.  The kids were so excited we decided to name the van.  It became known as the Happy Happy Van.  After camping in windy western Kansas we made it to Rocky Mtn National Park.  It was beautiful and a great day of hiking and driving to over 12,000 feet.  Camping was great with cold weather at night and a nice warm campfire.

Alpine country well above the treeline there was still lots of snow.

Then we had about six plus hours to Dayton Wyoming and the race check in.  With the inclusion of a 50k and 30k, there were far more people than are usually at ultras.  But it was very well put together and the volunteers were very helpful.  We camped next to the race finish line and went to bed early as I tried not to be nervous.  This was just a training run for Leadville after all and it had to be easier then Lake City and the Grand Canyon.

Up at 3:30 and get on the bus at 4:00 am.  The buses shuttle us out to the start line.  The course was slightly altered this year because of high snow fall.  The bus to us out to what seemed like a very remote spot in the Bighorn Mountains.  Once there, we saw the 100 milers coming through who had been running all night.  These people were determined and tough.  They were my inspiration to not drop out because if they could do that, surely I could run a measely little fifty miles.

At 6:00 the race started.  We ran a 16 mile out and back section that was so beautiful!  The mountains and canyons just seemed to swallow you up.  The scenery was like some grand western film except you are in the middle of it.  I tried to run conservatively and soon found myself struggling.  It was not going to be a good day for me to run fast but I wanted to at least stay strong the last twenty miles or so.

I borrowed this picture from another race report.  It is pretty but you just have to see this in person to appreciate.

At about mile 12, you come out of a wooded area and the mountains that surround you become more visible.  Then you descend to the footbridge aid station.  That descent if very steep and was very muddy.  The water fall and the river is so beautiful.  At this point, I really did feel like I was in a more remote and more wildneress area than at any race I had done.  Coming back, around mile twenty-five, I started really hurting but tried to continue to run strong.  I did run pretty well and only 6 hours had elapsed at the 50K mark.  But I was hurting and thought it might take four or five hours to finish the last 19 or 20 miles.

As it turned out, it took less than three hours.  That last bit is almost all downhill as you descend through a huge canyon back to Dayton.  By this time, there are tons of people on the course and the remote and wild feeling is gone and it is almost as if you are running on a crowded urban trail.  But the beauty and the race organization was top notch!  I suffered quite a bit but managed to stumble into the finish under 9 hours which was good enough for 10th place.

Just like in Lake City, the kids cross the finish line with me in Dayton!

I really struggled in this race and hope that I run better at Leadville.  I am very excited about Leadville because I have waited 10 months now and only need to wait to more to make up for last year's disastrous DNF at mile 87.  I can't wait to cross the red carpet and hopefully do so in around 20 hours.

After the race, the family and I partied in Dayton.  They had a great post race picnic with lots of good music and festival like atmosphere.  We camped another night and then drove to Devil's Tower and toured Mt. Rushmore.

Iconic Rushmore in the background.  Family photo of the year!
Devil's Tower was impressive.

Rushmore was awesome but if you go, see Rushmore and get out.  The rest of the area is a tourist trap.  We stayed our only night in a hotel there and then moved on to DeSmet South Dakota and the Little House on the Prairie.  This was perhaps the best part of the whole vacation.  We stayed in a covered wagon and toured the entire place.  There were so many hands on activities including wagon rides, pony rides, schoolhouses, corn stalk doll making, rope making, old time clothes washing.  The kids loved it and so did Suzanne and I.  I would highly recommend to anyone and can fit this into their trip.

A longing for how things use to be.

What a great vacation and a great summer.  The Happy Happy Van is great and we hope to make another road trip to Pennsylvania in July!

1 comment:

  1. great story as usual. I really enjoy them along with the pictures