With great preparation and a fantastic support team, we headed to Sheridan, Wyoming. I love, love, love, love the Bighorn mountains. They are large and grassy, not rocky like the Sandias. They have cliffs and rivers. They have fantastic fields of wild flowers in June. There are canyons, wild animals, big skies, and the possibility of "weather."
The race starts on Friday at 11:00 AM. Weird, eh? The 100 miler was an add on and they started it so that the 34 hour cut off would match the cut off times for the other distances. The weather was mild. Maybe upper 70's. Nothing to complain about there. Rachel started with me. As an "over 60" runner, I was allowed to have a pacer for the entire 100 miles and I figured I could use all the help I could get. Her job was to make sure I started at a reasonable pace, ate and drank consistently, and get me to the first major aid station and up the first major climb with no deficits. I wanted Rachel to experience the beginning of a 100 miler so she would know what to expect for her inaugural effort in September.
At mile 13.5, Cheryl joined me. Since she did not get to pace the previous year, I wanted to make sure she got to run this year. Cheryl and I saw amazing fields of wild flowers. Arrowhead balsam root, lupines, primrose, and I don't know what else. The hills were covered! We had one major downhill. I wanted to stretch out, so I picked up the pace a bit. I fell. It hurt. I got up and opened up again. I fell again. It hurt. I dialed it back. We paused for a few seconds to look over the side of a drop off at the raging Little Bighorn River. Totally amazing view.
Cheryl and I hit the next major aid station ahead of schedule. We prepared for cooler temps and darkness. Leaving the aid station we could hear thunder and within a few minutes the rain started. We parked ourselves under an overhanging rock ledge along with Ferdinand, a friend from New Mexico, and put on our throw away ponchos. The rain didn't last long and the clouds lifted.
As it grew dark Cheryl asked about the moon. I glanced up and saw an almost full and clearly visible moon just above the silhouette of the cliff face. It could not have been more strategically placed for maximum WOW factor. We stopped and gazed at it, oohing and ahhing as if we were watching fireworks.
We were fortunate that there was very little mud this year and we pulled into the halfway aid station still ahead of schedule. There was a large tent, with lots of heaters, food, cots, helpers, food and chairs here. We met Ranie here. The goal was to get my butt out of there before I became comfortable. The cots were filled with bodies trying to get warm, bodies that were spent from over exertion and nausea. My body was fine. I just needed to change shoes, grab food, and get back on the trail. We did great.
Now it was time to run with Ranie. I had vowed to be upbeat and steady to make up for all my whining the previous year. We had a good time dodging mice and garter snakes, discussing (totally one-sided discussion) the rock formations, and talking about folks we know in Laramie. I kept positive until we were pretty close to the next major aid station when my feet started hurting.
By this time it was getting hot but we had tons of downhill running to go. I was looking forward to it except....my feet hurt. Again, the goal was to get in and out of the aid station with minimal time loss but I insisted on doing some foot work: adding tape, and changing socks and shoes. I said good bye to Ranie and headed off with Rachel. I figured since she saw the best of times at the start she should also see the death march of the finish. And for me, it was a death march. My feet were done. Every step hurt, especially every downhill step, and we were going to lose a couple thousand feet over the final miles. I whined, I whimpered and I rebelled. Rachel, the same age as my son, told me to suck it up. She informed me that we were doing the pace we needed to beat the cut off. She acted like she was checking her garmin for verification. I found out later that the garmin was worthless to her at that point, but her confident lies were exactly what I needed.
Let's cut to the finish. I made it with almost 45 minutes to spare. Every step was torture by then but walking was only slightly less painful than jogging.
Before the race, my friend Linda Romero sent a picture of the back of one of our shirts: