The race definitely did not go as well as I had hoped.
My main issue was the inability to take in calories during the second half of the race. I also had some issues with feet because of my socks, but that wasn’t as big of a deal.
On race day, I felt slightly panicked about the rain since both my rain jackets were in my drop bags. All I had was my hot weather gear. I didn’t have any other clothes with me, if it rained, I would get cold quick. I remembered I had the race shirt, a half zip long sleeve. I took that and was glad I did, because I ended up using it.
I was so focused on having a plan in place and sticking to the plan, that it never even occurred to me that the weather might be different. The crazy thing is, I had checked the weather the days before and the day of the race, saw the rain forecast of 60%, but I still expected the weather to be hot. I think that’s called tunnel vision?
The first half of the race went well. We were fortunate to have plenty of cloud cover all day. I had expected Texas style heat for the first 30, and was happy to not have to deal with the heat. Surprisingly, the long climb out of the gate didn’t bother me that much. Could be fresh legs, but the climb into Jaws didn’t seem that bad either. There were definitely slow and tough sections, but mentally I was okay with it.
The cloud cover eventually turned into rain. It never seemed like it was raining that hard, but it was a constant drizzle for 50 miles. Somehow it created a mind boggling amount of mud. And worse, the mud was a greasy slippery slidy mud. The kind that could be fun if this was a mud fight, or you were sliding down it into a pool, but it not good for running. You could see on the ground the patches of parallel lines where someone foot had slid across the mud. Amazingly, I never fell once. That bit of luck I would attribute 100% to my poles.
The week before the race, Travis came into the store and we chatted about the race. He had run Bighorn twice before, finishing once and DNFing the other time. I asked him if he thought we needed poles, he said he didn’t think so. This surprised me, I planned to use them regardless. And I am super glad I did. I used them the whole race. The only point I didn’t want them was the last 5 miles.
I got to the halfway point 2 hours ahead of my planned time. When Rob told me that, I was stoked. I was feeling great considering the conditions. But what goes up, must come down.
As I sat there trying to eat, changing my shirt and getting into a sweater and a jacket, in the span of just a few minutes, I begin to shiver uncontrollably. I never felt terribly cold on the way up to Jaws, but I guess the rain and cold added up. They wrapped a blanket around me and stuffed my shirt with two big heated gel things to get my core temp up.
Know this future Bighorn runners: Jaws was nuts. There were so many people crammed into this tiny tent. People walking all over each other, crew tending to their runners, volunteers checking on runners, at one point, a dude’s butt was in my face as he changing socks or whatever he was doing. It is seriously tight quarters, so be warned. Everyone wanted a seat by the heaters, but there were very few seats to be had. Make sure you or your crew has a big warm blanket for you.
Here is where my race went south. I changed my shirt and and jacket, but I didn’t change my socks. There was so much mud and water crossings, it seemed pointless. But here’s the deal: as you wear the socks hour after hour, they sort of lose their shape and move around, which can cause blisters. If you change socks, those new socks will hold their shape for the first few hours and won’t (Or are less likely) to cause blisters. At the very least, I should have taken the clean socks in a plastic ziploc and changed them along the way. (Another mistake I made was not having two pairs of socks at the first and second aid stations, despite having had that on my pre race plan.)
You can never have enough socks during a 100 mile race in the rain and mud. Make sure that your socks are taller than your gaiters. Make sure to knock off as much mud from your gaiters when you change your socks – you don’t want dry mud falling into your new socks.
I don’t recall what I ate at Jaws. I asked Rob to grab a plate for me, but I ate very little of what was on the plate. I have learned that later in a race, my mouth gets dry and it’s hard to generate saliva, so everything is so dry I can’t eat it. I know now that I need to rely on more semi solid foods or maybe just do liquid nutrition entirely.
After I warmed up, Jake showed up. I gave him my seat and headed out. I knew I was lagging in calories, but I didn’t want to stop in the rain and mud. So I just kept running. At a certain point, it was maybe two hours I went without any major calories. I was shocked I was moving as well as I was, I thought (prayed) that maybe my body was using fat for fuel and everything would be okay so long as I stayed hydrated… Wishful thinking.
I got through the night in pretty good shape. I ran with a guy for a bit. I kept trying to drop him, but he clung on. Eventually, we started talking. He was a little spooked running alone at night. I passed a decent amount of people and felt good.
Then the bonk came.
And the hills showed up.
At one of the smaller aid stations, Jake and his pacer Cam caught up to me. I tried to run with them, but couldn’t keep up. Jake was running strong.
Later I caught up to Travis at Footbridge. He was debating dropping because he was having some knee pain and didn’t want to risk further injury because he wasn’t getting any traction with his Calderas. I told him not to quit, he didn’t want to be the only one in the group to DNF.
And then I teased him because he had two wooden sticks he was using for poles.
Maybe that was bad karma, as I left the aid station, I kept running straight down the road instead of making the turn across the bridge. Luckily, a runner that was coming to collect his drop bag told me I was going the wrong way. I was only half a mile out, but that was still demoralizing. I walked back to the aid station with him and thanked him for saving my ass.
Travis had taken off running pretty hard thinking I was ahead of him. He must’ve been totally bewildered that he never caught me.
The rest of the race was running a bit and then hiking a bunch. There were several uphill sections that seemed to go on just forever. At one aid station, the guy said, “It’s just one 300 foot climb and then it’s literally all downhill.” I honestly don’t know what a 300 foot climb looks like. But going up that hill, all I could think was either the guy was kidding, he thought it was 300 ft, maybe he meant 3000 ft, or I am about to die. We have nothing remotely close to that climb in Texas. It wasn’t technical, it was just loooooooong.
The second day of the race, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. When I could take my eyes off the trail and look around, it was beautiful. I regret not taking a camera or a phone to take photos. The smell of the flowers, the colors of the flowers, all the freaking trees everywhere, it was pretty amazing.
My watch died 10 miles or so from the finish. This was infuriating because I had no idea how close I was until I hit an aid station. During those miles, I asked literally a dozen people how far it was to the finish and not one of them knew. I was utterly surprised since most of them were 50 milers. How do they run without knowing how far they are?? But that’s my problem, not theirs.
Eventually, I hiked into the finish. Rob joined me on his bike about a mile out. I was so happy to finish, happy to be done. 32 hours 17 minutes. Far short of my goal of 28 hours, but maybe next time. Right now, all I can think of is working on my nutrition strategy so that this doesn’t happen again.
Some additional notes:
Know where packet pickup, start and finish is. Know how to get there.
Know how the shuttle works since the start and finish are different locations.
Always label your drop bags yourself. Big and clear: Name, bib #, AS
Make sure drop bags are waterproof.
Have snacks readily available and /or schedule time to eat when traveling. Especially for before and on race day. Consume massive calories day before.
Plastic bag to keep dirty/wet stuff separate from unused/ dry gear, Especially in drop bag.
Notecards w/ instructions to remind yourself of things to do, ie contacts, change socks
WATERPROOF BOOTS W/ GATORS, forgoing that, change socks even if it seems pointless. As time goes on, the socks move around and bunch. A fresh pair stays put longer.
Make sure start kit has everything you need, dont forget trail toes!
Short shorts are okay in cold, but not if it rains.
How to get calories late in the race: liquid calories.
Avoid getting coke or broth two aid stations in row. Skip one or two so that you dont burn out on it. Water down coke. Carry tums if stomach turns acidic.
Put tape on middle section of poles, they are cold at night.
Learn what poison ivy looks like.
Two Chargers for watch.
You can never have enough socks for 100 miles.
Socks need to be taller than gaiter!
How to deal w/mass dirt post race laundry.
Separate dirt (socks, gaiters) from sweaty.