Friday, June 23, 2017

She Said: Bighorn 100 Race Report

Time for a quick selfie before the race
Although Joe and I ran/walked/plodded every step of the Bighorn 100 together, we chose to write separate race reports.  I think it will be interesting to compare them and see the differences in what we choose to focus on.  I'm basing my recap on a set of four goals I wrote in my journal and shared with Joe the evening before the race.  Here goes:

Goal #1: Run the whole race together and finish together.  
Grade: A+.  Although there was a time I didn't think we'd make the time cutoff, as we wallowed in the mud overnight, and although Joe half-joked about wanting to drop around mile 60, we managed to stick it out and finish hand-in-hand.

Example: [Joe, jealously pointing to runners being carted away on ATVs after they'd dropped:] "Look at that guy.  He doesn't have to move a muscle!"

Finally approaching the finish line, more than 33 hours after starting
Out of 437 starters, only 175 finished, the conditions were so bad.  For me, it wasn't only the mud, which caused me to fall maybe twenty times and also ripped my shoe off my foot at one point; it was also the constant feeling of being cold and wet that challenged my desire to carry on.  The rain lasted hours and hours, and the temperature at the turnaround, at 9,000ft elevation, was probably around 40 degrees.  If I hadn't changed my outfit from head-to-toe at the 48-mile turnaround, my misery in being cold and wet might have threatened my finish.  One thing that kept me going was thinking that we committed to running the race together, and I couldn't ditch Joe, leaving him to continue alone.  The race seemed like a metaphor for marriage, and if our marriage gets difficult, I wouldn't just give up on it, would I?  I'm so glad we kept going, when so many others gave up.

 Me, slogging through the mud for 50 miles: "I feel like Milhouse.  'So this is my life.'"

Goal #2: Have fun making new memories with Joe, enjoying the scenery, another adventure, and many laughs.
Grade: A.  We certainly made new memories, and we did enjoy the scenery.  I especially appreciated the beautiful purple and yellow wildflowers blanketing the hills and meadows.  It was more of an adventure than we bargained for, with the rain, mud, and cold, but despite the conditions, we joked and laughed a lot.

Easier to enjoy the scenery here, at the start of the race, before the mud-fest
Example: [Joe, running past moose droppings:] "That poop looked like those little chocolate Easter eggs.  What kind of animal do you suppose poops like that?"
[Julie:] "Like Cadbury eggs?"
[Joe:] "No, those little foil-wrapped ones."
[Julie thinks to herself] Cadbury eggs are wrapped in foil.
[Julie:] "It's probably the Easter bunny."
[Joe:] "He poops in the shape of chocolate Easter eggs? But how do you tell the poop from the candy?"
[Julie:] "When it's out of season."

Goal #3: Maintain a positive attitude and perspective.  
Grade: B+.  I'd say we had positive attitudes for about 88 miles -- which is pretty good, considering the conditions, on top of the general difficulty of the course.  I have to admit, however, that we had terrible attitudes the last 12 miles or so.  All of a sudden it got hot, it was totally exposed, and the singletrack never seemed to end.  Then, when we got to the road, that never seemed to end.  

Example: [Julie:] "F--- this singletrack s--t!  Get us out of this f---ing National Forest! I just want to be on the road!  Let us out!"

Example: [Joe:] "F--- me in the goat-ass."  (If you don't get this reference, you really need to listen to this.  Caution: NSFW.)

Long before this, during the mud slog, Joe had started giving me updates on how well we were doing compared to 20-minute miles.  That became the goal; we joked about "Slamming down some sub-20s" when we were really feeling good.  It was so helpful to know that as long as we continued hitting that mark, we would make the cutoff, with time to spare.  That pace is a bit depressing, though, because when you have 12 miles to go, that means 4 more hours.  3 miles to go is another entire hour.  

I had pretty much stopped eating with 12 miles left, thinking there wasn't that much remaining.  That left me lightheaded and exhausted by the time we got to the road, and I felt like I was having a panic attack -- I was breathing rapidly and out of control, and dry-crying (probably too dehydrated for tears).  Even with only 2 miles to go, I was secretly worried I'd collapse before the finish, which terrified me -- imagine suffering through 98 miles and not being able to finish!  Both Joe and I had swollen hands and fingers and were worried about hyponatremia, and I had reacted to that by not drinking even though I was thirsty (mistake!).  Both Joe and I were hurting and beyond ready to be done at this point.

Goal #4: Help each other out there.
Grade: A+.  All I can say is that running this race with Joe was like having a pacer for all one hundred miles.  He helped me in countless ways.  To name a few: 1) when I ran out of nutrition between aid stations (oops!), he gave me gels, and even took the tops off for me.  (Aww!)  2) He helped me get my shoe out of the mud and back on my foot.  3) He always stayed behind me and let me determine the pace.  4)  He kept track of the time for us -- he told me how much cushion we had before the cutoff, and how close we were to 20-minute mile pace.  (This was reassuring for the most part, and motivating in parts where we were slower due to the muddy, steep climbs.)  5) He'd give me encouragement, like "You're moving really good, Jules."  6) He'd remind me to eat.  7) He made me laugh, and we kept each other entertained.

Speaking of entertainment, here's a partial list of songs we had stuck in our heads during the race.  (We were kind enough to make sure any song in our head got stuck in the other's head, as well.)
1. Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen (Really, this one has been stuck in our heads since the Franklin Mountains 50k last September.)
2. Ironic, Alanis Morrisette 
3. Hungry Like the Wolf, Duran Duran (Why is it "the" wolf, and not "a" wolf?  Which specific wolf is he talking about?)
4. Pachelbel Canon (Why?)
5. Highway to Hell, AC/DC

Toward the end of the race, Joe was questioning why anyone would do a hundred-miler.  But of course, now he's excited again for running Cactus 100 in October.  As Chris Russell commented, it's important to have a short-term memory in this sport.  I'm so glad I was there for his first 100-mile finish, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do when he runs one like a race, rather than running with me.
Happy and relieved to be finished -- and to have accomplished it together.
Bighorn was a tough experience, but it was another chance to grow as individuals and as a couple.  We continue to put ourselves in situations where we see all sides of one another, and where we are challenged to our perceived limits, and we keep coming out the other side stronger and better for it.  It's such a blessing to have this sport where we can have these kinds of experiences and make these memories together.  We're already looking forward to our next trail adventure.

Acknowledgements:
Thanks to Nathan for my hydration pack, bladder, and headlamps.  Thank you to Victory Sportdesign for the gear bags (Bear II and Bear III) that kept my stuff organized and dry, allowing me to change socks, shirts, shoes, hats, capris -- pretty much everything. Thanks also to Rob Van Houten, who hiked with us up to the Dry Fork aid station and gave us great moral support, and all the volunteers -- many of which were out in the cold rain all day Friday, all night, and all day Saturday.  They were amazing!  Also thanks to Edward Sousa for sharing his packing list and race strategy, and giving us a ride back to our cabin after the race, when we didn't feel up to walking three more blocks.  And always, thanks to Rob and Rachel Goyen for letting me be part of the Team TROT family.  It's such a blessing and a pleasure to be in the TROT community.