DNF 76.5m Cow Camp
I met up with Vishal at the Trail Ends Hotel in Sheridan on Thursday. We rolled to the race sign in, completed our medical check, downed some pizza & pasta at Ole’s and tried to get as much shut eye as possible. The next day we were out of the hotel by 8:20am, in Dayton, WY by 9:00am for the race briefing, hitched a ride to the start with Ryan Ravinsky and friends. The logistics of this run can be slightly confusing. It’s a bit like a lopsided out & back, with the return being slightly longer.
Rewind 3 weeks ago for a second. I got sick with a nasty cough, and after 4 days of trying to wait it out I started to treat it with medicine. This hindered some of my training, and the only really long run was the RAM the week before Bighorn. I was still felt weak on the RAM, and put in just over 8 hours on what really is a beast of a trail run. I knew this would be bad news for Bighorn, but heck, I was committed to this run and couldn’t back out. So I flew into the smallest airport I have ever been to, Sheridan, WY.
After the national anthem and a prayer we took off at 11am. The first mile or so is on gravel and flat, so this is where you want to get a little ahead of pack if you don’t want to get into traffic jam heading up to Fence Spring. After a few miles I got into the groove and rhythm of running a comfortable pace. Looking behind me, I noticed Emily Judd, from Bozeman, MT on my tail. “Caccoo, caccoo” she called out…it was the call of a Sparrow her trail name. We chatted it up & checked in and out of the Dry Fork aid station in just under 3 hours. We boogied downhill for 6 miles on a double track dirt road and checked in and out of Cow Camp. Just after leaving Cow Camp I passed Vishal. Vishal is a fast cat, and has thrown down some previous 100’s. He was having some stomach issues. Emily kindly pulled over and offered him some ginger, which he downed. Both of us hoped that he would bounce back fast and zip right by us. I ran the flats and downhill’s, and hiked up the hills and felt great.
We ran for miles and crossed Stock Tank, Bear Camp, and ran a steep downhill into the Footbridge aid station at mile 30. I spent 10 minutes here hydrating and eating food. I grabed some warm cloths and lights and took off. By this time I had been privy to Sparrow’s life story, and the fact that a law school friend of hers was in the lead, Mike Wolfe. Just after checking in and out of the Narrows aid station I see a runner running towards me. “Nice job man” I yell out. Sure enough it was Mike, who later won the race and broke Karl Meltzers previous record!
My pace began to slow a bit after crossing Sprig Marsh, and Elk Camp on the way out as the mud became a nuisance. At first I tried to navigate around it, which was impossible, and inevitably I got mud everywhere. The mud in this part of Wyoming felt mostly like clay. It was heavy and viscous, making for some tricky navigation. This went on for miles as the day began to fade and the night crept in. Sparrow was now out of sight and when I crossed Devil’s Cyn Rd it was pitch black outside and I had all my cloths on with all lights helping me navigate thru all the mud and snow. We were at 9,000 feet or so and temps began to drop to freezing.
I was the 26th runner to reach the Porcupine Aid station (Mile 48) in 12:02:44. I felt a bit tired, but relatively strong all things considered. The volunteers at this aid station were first class, and strived to get the runners anything they needed. The aid station is indoors and was very warm and comfortable. Several runners were in there for what appeared to be a long time. I asked a volunteer to warm me when 5 minutes were up. I ate 1.5 grilled cheese sandwiches and rehydrated as much as I could and left promptly in 5 minutes.
I hiked back up to Devil’s Cyn Road in the snow and followed the blaze of glow sticks. I saw Ronda Sundermeir running down to Porcupine. We seem to cross paths around mile 40+, just as we did at Hardrock. I caught Iodine from Idaho and we ran together for a while. A big toe on my right foot ended up banging a rock while running somewhat fast downhill which ripped off the toe nail while it was alive. Dead toe nails fall off, or rip off easily, but when they are alive it is a different story. This had a profound affect on my ability to run downhill. It was a shooting pain, and slowed my roll big time. When I reached Elk Camp on the inbound I thought about dropping, but hobbled in and out of there in a hurry to stay warm. I was now hiking downhill and began to get passed by several runners. I tried to keep a respectable pace, but both the pain despite vitamin I and the condition of my body wouldn’t allow me to go any faster. Things didn’t get any better when I rolled into Spring Marsh and I thought about dropping here. This was 56 miles into this adventure. How can I give up that easily I asked myself? No, I kept moving onward in a slow hike walk downhill. My body had taken a good beating. Can I keep up trucking along I asked myself.
I reached the Narrows aid station at exactly 4am, exactly 17 hours on my feet into the run, and it was mile 62.5. I knew I wasn’t going to drop here, but I sat down next to the warm campfire and drank as much as I could and ate a little. I thought this would make a little difference. I kept telling myself I could get out of this low, and would get back into a high, when the sun came up. That’s when I had the idea of sleeping for a bit here and waiting for the sun. I rested for 45 minutes at the Narrows and drank some coffee. I scooted at 4:45am when the glow of the morning sun began to emerge.
I was moving downhill, but at a slow pace. I told myself I would drop at the Footbridge aid station, at mile 66. When I got there, I noticed a few runners that were changing shoes and cleaning up. The volunteers were uplifting. I ate 10 pancakes, and had freshly squeezed apple and carrot juice (what service)! Here I dropped some shoes, inov8 212’s. What a bad idea. These shoes are a bit narrow, and are great for blazing a fast 50k, but not such a good idea at a 66 mile drop. Anyhoo, I had to change shoes as the casscadia’s I had one where so covered in mud, both inside and outside of the shoe that it weighed me down and extra 4 lbs, 2 in each shoe. The mud in WY is heavy clay! To my surprise Vishal rolled into Footbridge. I cleaned up a bit, and after an hour or so at this aid station I took off with Steve and Beat, two cool cats from the San Fran area that have thrown down several mountain hundreds. Vishal caught up. We hiked uphill for 3.5 miles and I was able to keep up with them, but my body was screaming at me. I pulled over to download for a moment. Then I reached Bear Camp, re-fueld, rehydrated and took off, and kept fighting the urge to drop.
I tried to run a little fast down the hills, but that made things worse, and slowed my roll to a painful shuffle and passed thru Stock Tank and finally stumbled into Cow Camp. I sat in a chair and squinted into the horizen as the sun was fully out and blasted the Wyoming landscape. We were just under 7,000 feet here and I sat down for 10 minutes hydrating and eating a little. My foot was throbbing, the shoes were too tight, the body was not recovering, and I didn’t see this low spot going away anytime soon. It was six miles to the Dry Fork aid station, where I had another pair of shoes that would have been more comfortable, but the thought of walking and stumbling another 6 miles uphill in the fully exposed sun seemed too daunting at the time. I had 23.5 miles left to go. On a good day, when your feeling great and with fresh legs 23.5 miles is a long distance to cover. I could walk it in at this point I told myself, but I ended up talking myself out of continuing onward. I dropped at Cow Camp, mile 76.5 after 23 hours on the feet.
Renee gave me a ride in a 4 wheeler to Dry Fork, which is where I hitched a ride with Marianne Fitzgerald from Colorado back to the finish. I ate some food, and took a nap.
Later the next day we had pancakes at the breakfast and listed to the awards ceremony. I had the opportunity to take a car out to Burgess Junction just West of Dayton, WY. I explored the lands that once were roamed by Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea!