Well, where should I start?
I have been looking forward to this race since last December when Sean Meissner told us that the Big Horn Ultra was the most scenic race he’s ever done. From a guy, who travels all over the world to run Ultras and win them, I think that says a lot!
My plan was to have a good race and not have to race the clock to the finish line. I’d maintain a steady pace and focus on my form to have better endurance. I’d drink Perpetuem the first half, take shot bloks and S-caps, and then switch to water the 2nd half and eat a Justin’s almond nut butter to get to the finish line within 14 hours or less.
This is what actually happened…
Super loud coal train sounding off its horn…I woke up thinking it’s my alarm. Nope, only 12:30am…back to sleep.
2:30am, wake up!
At 3:15am, we were on our way to the high school in Dayton, where we caught the school bus to take us to the other side of the Big Horn mountain range. When we finally reached Porcupine Ranger Station, it was 30 something degrees and I had butterflies, not in my stomach, but in my hands!
I love how casual the start of a trail race is, no corrals of people with specific times from previous races, we all just gathered around and started running when the race director said go!
Marcel pretty much took off from the start, Jose was somewhere behind me and soon caught up. I can’t remember how many miles we ran together, I was pretty much just in awe of the scenery, trying to take pics when I could and trying not to get stuck in the giant mud puddles. Jose eventually got ahead of me; I wasn’t going to try to keep up with him on the up hills. Up hills take a lot out of me, so I have to make up my time on the down hills. Well not long after, I came to a shady pine tree section with a couple of trees in the middle, do I run down the left side or the right side? “When in doubt, go right,” that’s what my hockey coach always said. So what did I do? I went left and in a flash, my ankle turned under and I heard a loud pop! Now I’m freaking out in my head, because that’s the sound I heard when I blew out my knee. I guess this happened somewhere between miles 12-14, not really sure.
I kept moving forward slowly to walk off the initial pain. So many thoughts were going through my head. First they were all negative as more and more people were passing me and asking if I were ok. Finally, after an hour and 4 minutes of wallowing in self-pity I suddenly thought, “Jodie, you’ve been looking forward to this race since last December. You did lunges around the track at work every Monday for these mountains, while everyone at work thought you were crazy. You came all this way to see what Sean was talking about…just keep going till you’re stopped by something else!”
After that my ankle didn’t feel as badly as I thought it was going to feel , or else it was just numb, either way, I had to get to the next aid station on foot, unless they sent a cowboy on a horse.
When I reached the aid station I asked if anyone had athletic tape and this burly man in his Stetson had told me he had some duct tape or ½” wide medical tape. I opted for the duct tape, but it wouldn’t unstick to itself on the roll. Thus I had to go with the ½” wide medical tap, which I taped over my muddy socks the best I could. I looked at my watch and saw I had an hour and 5 min. to reach the next aid station that was only 3 ½ miles away. No problem!
Listening to the raging river below was exhilarating and motivating. When I finally saw the river, I wanted to stop and take pictures so badly, but I kept telling myself to keep moving, because I was now racing the clock.
I made it to the aid station with 30 min. to spare! I guess that meant I had to keep going. I refueled and then headed up the longest climb.
After staring at the ground for a long time walking uphill, I was startled by the swiftness of a female elk running away from me. She stopped for a brief moment and stared at me, then took off again. I started to hike some more and then I heard some crazy animal sound that I couldn’t place. I scanned all around me and saw nothing. As I was frozen in my tracks, I thought to myself, is that what a male elk sounds like? The race director’s advice was, if you encounter an elk make sure you get a tree between you and him. What?! Really? And where were all of the other runners? Did I miss a turn from staring at the ground too long lost in thought? A few steps further…oh it’s just a pack mule! Hahaha! Hey, I’m from the Jersey suburbs, how would I know what an elk or a mule sounds like?
I made it to Bear camp aid station at the top of the mountain and refilled my pack with water. According to my plan, after halfway, I wanted to switch from perpetuem to water and that’s what I did. Finally, I was able to get 2 ibuprofen, I don’t know how much they helped but I was now on my way to reach Dry Fork aid station before 4:00pm. I don’t remember much after this aid station, did I zone out? Was I just super focused on making the next cut off time?
Eventually, I could see the Dry Fork aid station off in the distance…on top of another mountain! And the people all looked like little ants slowly walking up the hill. I had hoped to make it there by 3:30pm but arrived at 3:40. About 10 yards from the top, I heard Jose yelling out to me. For a split second I was happy to see him, but then it crossed my mind that he should be way ahead of me and I got all crazy. Instead of saying “hi” I yelled, “JOSE! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE! Nice, Jodie, real nice, yell at your friend in front of everyone! Jose was great, he found my drop back, he refilled my hydration pack. Meanwhile, I must have been in a panic. I started downing too many things I don’t normally ingest during races all at once – 5 hour energy drink, Justin’s nut butter, ibuprofen and now Heed. What is it with me and Heed? What’s ironic is that I had just finished telling this other runner that I keep my refueling regimen simple…apparently, I lost my brain and did totally the opposite!!!
We left the Dry Fork aid station and as soon as we started jogging, I began to feel nauseous. I drank from my hydration pack and felt even sicker. OMG! I’m a dumb dumb! I told Jose to put Heed in my hydration pack! I finally asked Jose if I can have ½ of his water, since the next aid station was only 5 miles away. He was awesome and gave me half of his water. I couldn’t jog much at this point, so I said goodbye and didn’t see him again till the end, which is good because I probably would have yelled at him if I saw him waiting for me up ahead.
I reached the next aid station again a half hour ahead of the cut off. I decided to drink a cold cup of 7up thinking that might settle my stomach. Umm…bad idea.
I left Lower Sheeps Creek AS feeling refreshed for 3 minutes, crossed the creek to head uphill…again. OMG! This was extremely steep. I guess that’s why they call it “up shits creek,” because that’s where I found myself. As I started hiking up, the nausea started setting in again and I felt dizzy. Not Good. Every 10 steps I’d sit down on the side of the trail, left room for people to pass and hoped there wasn’t a rattlesnake nearby. They said if you get bit by one to just lay in the trail and wait for help…great.
When I reached the top of the mountain (I’m guessing it was around mile 40), I leaned over in the grass and hurled everything I ate at the Dry Fork aid station. Thankfully no one was around to watch me in all of my shining glory at the top of the mountain. I felt so much better, but also very weak. I slowly walked down the steep trail and finally sat on a rock to take a moment. Just like Marcel had a face off with a moose, I had a face off with a Mountain Ground Hog. Yup, he looked me right in the eye, squealed and took off down the trail. Did I look like death or something?
A few moments later, this runner and who I thought was a pacer came down the trail. He told the other runner to keep running as he stopped to ask me how I was feeling. I said, are you her pacer? He said, I’m a safety runner. Um…Ok, I’ve never heard that before but I’ll go with it. He looked like a long time ultra runner, a mountain man with a small silver feather earring and well-tanned weather beaten skin. The lines on his face looked like he had many stories behind them. I told him my ankle was busted and I threw everything up. Ha! Nice introduction. He gave me an E-cap and a B12 and told me to drink my water and start running, that everyone still has a chance to make it. He gave me another E-cap told me to take it in 2 min. when I heard him yell down to me.
I can’t believe I took pills from a stranger! So now I’m running down the mountain. I don’t know where this energy came from, but I kept running all the way to the next aid station without stopping. I was super psyched to see the aid station as it was only 7:10 and the cut off is 7:30. Then after talking to them I found out the aid station with the 7:30 cut off time is 2.2 miles away. Crap! And there goes the wind knocked out of my sails again for probably the umpteenth time that day. I started walking fast as the other lady Lisa went flying past me and the Safety Runner caught up to me and told me to start running again. But then we hit another uphill and I said, “uh…the uphills make me want to vomit.” The clock struck 7:30 and I haven’t reached the last aid station.
The other runner, Lisa and I walked the rest of the way to the last aid station at mile 46. We arrived around 8:00. We asked for a ride to the finish line, which was still 6 miles away, but Lisa’s friend, Miles told us we had to start walking to the finish. I don’t know what conversation took place, but I’m assuming Miles did not want to wait for them to pack up the aid station to then take us to the finish line. So he said he’d run back and get the car to pick us up. Lisa and I started walking and chatting. Soon a pick up truck with a young Wyoming couple drove by as Lisa put up her thumb to hitchhike. They stopped and we jumped in the back and that’s how I made it back to the park! I can’t believe I hitchhiked too! What happened to my street smarts from living in Brooklyn?
It’s not over for me, I will have to return to the Big Horns finish what I started!
Congratulations to Marcel, Jose and Robert for their great accomplishments! It was an excellent trip to Wyoming and back! I can’t wait for more!
(Note: I later discovered, Miles Krier is an accomplished ultra runner and coach! I’m thankful he helped me get my ass off the rock and run down the mountain.)