Before the Bighorn 100 and 50 mile races, you are given instructions on what to do if you encounter wild horses, moose, or get bitten by a rattle snake.., if that's not your idea of a fun weekend, I don't know what is!
While driving from Southern Colorado to Northern Wyoming (500 miles), you begin to get an idea of how rugged the terrain and State, in general, really is. The further North you get the more sparse the human population, the bigger the mountains, and the more frequent the wildlife. Seeing a pack of apparently wild horses running up a rocky mountain side and nearly running over an antelope on the highway were the first hints of how wild of a weekend it was going to be.
After meeting a friend for dinner, the usual pre-race ritual began. Water, gels, bib number, sunscreen, etc. The part that caught us both off guard is how late it stays daylight. Being only a few miles from Billings, Montana we were far enough North that it was almost 11:00pm before we realized that we needed to be on the shuttle in less than 5 hours. Needless to say, sleep didn't come easy.
On paper the race course seemed to be ideal for a PR; you begin with 18 miles of downhill (starting at 8800 ft elevation), gain a couple thousand feet in 3 miles, run through rolling terrain for about 17 miles, and then have another long, steep downhill back into the town of Dayton, Wyoming to the finish 52 miles away. Easy enough, right?
What paper doesn't prepare you for is the mud that you run through for the first 20+ miles, the narrow and rocky single track, the rivers that you must cross (almost waist deep), the heat, or the moose attack variable (talk to Karl Meltzer, the 100 mile winner, for the full story on how to avoid death by cow moose)! The mud is due to the snow runoff and is at times 6"+ deep; having a shoe ripped off your foot is not uncommon!
After running downhill 18 miles and then climbing to the 21 mile aid station, I was unaware of the toll the heat, the pounding on my knees, and my exertion level level were taking on me. It wasn't until the aid station at approximately 28 miles that I realized how depleted I was; I was caked in salt, still drinking water, but not peeing. At the aid station, bacon and potatoes covered with salt seemed like the logical miracle cure, but it was too little too late. Once your body is that depleted, you don't bounce back quickly.
After covering nearly a mile after that aid station, I realized that I'd left my salt and electrolyte tablets behind. As awful as it is to backtrack, I knew that I wouldn't finish without these supplements. Once retrieved, the mental lows began to cripple me to the point where I had to walk DOWNHILL sections of the course due to the fatigue I was feeling. By 31 miles, I was laying on my back in a field with nothing but the idea of quitting on my mind. Thankfully, logic kicked in and I reminded myself that I was litterally in the middle of nowhere and that it would take longer to get out via stretcher than if I just toughed it out. Continuous forward motion... even if I had to walk 21 miles, I was determined to finish on my own power.
The next 4 hours weren't fun, but a little after 4 pm the finish finally came! I was 10th overall in 10:20.xx and 2nd place 20-29 male.
The scary part of the story began after the race was completed. I was about to experience the excitement of hyponatremia (complete salt deficiency). When you run out of salt, you no longer can absorb water, so no matter how much I tried to drink, I still was feeling effects similiar to severe dehydration.
I was found by the medical staff face down in the park near the finish line festival, having apparently passed out. I was very delirious, so the details of the next 3-4 hours are fuzzy, but they involved slipping in and out of consciousness, nausea, several bags of saline solution IV, and an uncontrolable heartrate. I would awake to various EMT's all trying to keep my conscious and get a coherent response to their questions. But after a few hour of IV and attention, I declined the trip to the ER that they were offering and managed to make it to the luxury accomodations of the front seat of my Honda Civic for the best night's sleep I've ever had!
It was a great weekend!
A new hydration and salt/electrolyte combination will be mandatory if I want to beat the inherent salt processing problems associated with Cystic Fibrosis and finish Leadville in 5 weeks. The Minnesota Voyageur 50 miler in 2 weeks will be a good testing ground.
Until next time...