Bighorn 100 Race Report – Yvonne Naughton

bighorn 100 race reportRace: Bighorn 100

Runner: Yvonne Naughton

Race Date: 06/15/2018

Location: Dayton, Wyoming

Results: First female

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Firstly, the location is absolutely stunning! The race starts in the Tongue River Canyon before continuing on an out and back course through the Bighorn Mountains. Having grown up in Ireland watching old western movies with my dad, including the 1936 black and white classic ‘Custer’s Last Stand’, I was beyond excited to explore this area steeped in so much history. As we climbed up from the river I kept thinking that the landscape looked like someone had stacked the red mesas and arches of Utah or Arizona on top of the wildflower meadows of the Methow Valley! The rolling single track through sage bushes and wildflowers was pure trailrunning heaven. While I was only lucky enough to see a herd of elk passing through a misty meadow there’s the possibility of spotting other wildlife such as moose, bear and of course bighorn sheep.
  2. Secondly, the event is extremely well put on. Packet pickup occurs the night before at a local brewery in Sheridan. The goodie bag includes some nice items such a t-shirt, buff and water bottle. There’s also a pasta dinner the night before the race. After the pre-race meeting in Dayton all of the runners are bused to the start which is about 5 miles away. The aid stations are very well stocked, there’s plenty of enthusiastic and helpful volunteers and the medical staff were very attentive and supportive. The finish line is back at Scott Park in Dayton. It’s a beautiful riverside location and a great place for family and friends to hang out. There’s plenty of food and beer options and a playground and large grassy areas for the kids. The atmosphere is quite festive on Saturday afternoon as the 100 mile runners finish alongside the 18 mile, 50k and 52 mile runners.
  3. Finally I liked that this race was a great introduction to running at higher altitude. The race starts just above 4000ft before climbing and coursing for about 20 miles between 6500-7500ft. You then descend back down to 4000ft before the big climb to about 9000ft at the turn around point. Coming from sea level you’ll certainly feel the effects of altitude but if you’re prepared you can still have a successful race.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

So, the mud in the Bighorn mountains is just plain weird! A lot of runners talked about how bad the mud from the previous year was and I just thought to myself that it surely couldn’t be that bad! Well, about 20 miles into the race it started to rain and within about 5 minutes I noticed that my shoes were starting to gather mud. Suddenly my feet felt heavy and my traction was terrible! During the rest of the evening and night we had some more showers and penny sized hailstones. Together with this and the parade of runners on an out and back course the trail quickly turned into a treacherous muddy slip and slide. Much of what should’ve been runnable trail became totally unrunnable with even walking proving to be challenging at times. The effort of traversing these sections and collecting pounds of sticky mud all the way to your knees became extremely fatiguing and frustrating. Still, I think you just have to be aware going into this race that if it rains then muddy trails are going to be a part of the challenge. I imagine there could be at least a two hour difference in a persons finish time between a dry and a wet year.

bighorn 100 race report
That mud!!!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • Altitude – try to incorporate some runs at higher elevation into your training. It can be difficult in Washington at this time of the year as much of the trails above 4000ft are still snow covered. However you could include some snow shoe hiking/running. The sauna can also be helpful hen it comes to preparing for altitude. Many years this can be a hot race so if you’re using the sauna for heat training it will have a double benefit. During the race make sure you stay well hydrated and accept that you’re going to move slower than normal. Take it easy on the ascents and dig in on the descents and when on lower elevation.
  • Weather – definitely prepare for potentially hot day. You should incorporate heat training leading up to the race. On the day hydrate well, try to keep skin covered with light layers and consider a buff, arm sleeves and hat that you can wet. The night time can be cold so organize your drop bags well so you can pick up layers especially when you get to the turn around point which is at 9000ft. Consider having a rain jacket or at least a plastic poncho with you from the beginning.
  • Mud – there’s not much you can do about this except laugh it off and keep trudging forward. I wore Hoka Speedgoats which accumulated a thick layer of mud. Some runners changed socks and shoes but honestly there was no point. I had covered my feet in trail toes lube at the start and wore injinji socks. While my feet were wet, heavy and uncomfortable, they were never sore and I finished blister free and without any macerated areas. I brought poles with me to help with the climbs. While they’re not super steep the poles helped with the effort at higher altitude. Later I discovered that the poles helped with stability in the mud.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

If you’re coming from sea level it’s obviously important to be familiar with the elevation profile, know the high points of the course and pace yourself accordingly. When the trail is dry it’s very runnable. But be ready to be very patient and accept a slower pace if the trail becomes wet and muddy. The website has information on aid station splits from 2013 which is helpful in coming up with a pace chart and planning gear and drop bags. It’d be prudent to pack a long sleeve layer and your head light before the ‘big climb’ even if it is only early afternoon and quite warm. If you start to slow down it could be cold and dark by the time you make it to Jaws aid station.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

As I mentioned before, it’s an absolutely beautiful course!!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Coming from sea level, the altitude definitely adds some difficulty. The mud also greatly affects pace. Otherwise there’s a lot of beautiful rolling single track through forest, along raging rivers and through flower filled meadows.

bighorn 100 race report

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

As I mentioned the event is very well run. There’s a lot of support for the runners and I feel like it’d be a great environment for family, friends and kids to hang out while waiting for their runner. This time I went solo but I’ll definitely bring my hubby and kids along next time.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

This race is both a Hardrock and Western States qualifier so it tends to be popular and sell out. Depending on the year it can be quite competitive with strong, experienced mountain runners and Hardrock finishers.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

  • Registration is via the race website rather than Once the Hardrock lottery takes place the race tends to fill quickly with runners needing a qualifying race for the following year. Trail work or volunteer hours are not required for race entry.
  • I took two days to drive from La Conner, WA stopping in Butte, MT overnight. Sheridan is larger with more accommodation options than Dayton where the race starts and finishes. It’s about a 20 minute drive in race morning which is fine since the race starts at 10am. Like a few other 100 mile races, it starts on Friday.
  • On Sunday morning I recommend heading to Silver Spur Cafe for a hearty breakfast. I had such a fun experience sitting at the counter where there was endless coffee refills, friendly chitchat and compliments from the cook when I polished off a huge plate of chicken fried steak, eggs, hash browns and biscuits!

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

As I mentioned the aid stations are well stocked with the usual fare. A few are bigger with good shelter, fires, cots and medical staff. The volunteers are enthusiastic and extremely helpful and there’s a wonderful sense of pride among the locals! I’ll never forget the young boy who couldn’t have been more than about 8 years old who shook my hand and exclaimed “Well it sure is a pleasure to meet you!” on learning that I was the first female!

Weather and typical race conditions

As I mentioned the daytime can be extremely hot while the nighttime, especially at higher elevation, can be cold. If it rains expect mud!

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Plan your drop bags well with options for warmer overnight layers and rain gear. Make sure your headlight is in the appropriate drop bag. Consider carrying a rain jacket or poncho from the beginning as mountain weather can change quickly. While I didn’t change shoes or socks you may want to consider it. I think poles were helpful on the longer climbs and when the trails became extremely muddy and slippery.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

While I didn’t have a crew or pacer it seemed like it was a friendly course for spectators. The finish area festivities were especially fun!

How’s the Swag?

The goody bag has a nice long sleeve shirt, buff, cup and a water bottle. Finishers receive a beautiful buckle, hoodie and socks. There’s also an award ceremony and nice prizes for top three and age group winners.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I definitely give this race 5 stars. It’s a beautiful local and well run event. The weather can be challenging whether it’s extremely hot or wet and muddy. You just need to accept the challenge as part of the race fun.