Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Adventures, Part 2: Big Horn Trail Races

The view from Dry Fork
The Bighorn Mountains rise up out of the prairie in norther Wyoming. They are a narrow band stretching parallel to I-90 and crashing through the border into southern Montana. They are quiet and isolated because they sit between two of our most famous natural areas, Mount Rushmore (ok, "natural area") and Yellowstone. They also, despite encompassing one of the nation's oldest national forests, are not as famous as their sister range, the Rocky Mountains.

The course was rerouted because there was still snow up there.
Each year, in June, which is normally spring in the Bighorns, for the last 20 years, a trail run is held. The original purpose of the run was to engage people in protection of the area when plans for a dam were being developed. Apparently it worked and the races continue and clearly enjoy a huge amount of support by local folks. The first Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail run was held in 1992. The distances, in keeping with Wyoming's laid back culture, were roughly 50 miles (actually 52), 50k (actually 32.5 miles) and 30k (actually 17.5 miles). In 2002, they introduced the 100 mile distance.

Celeste and Cat on the 18 mile "home stretch." Amazing duo!
Early in the year, before I had ever run more than 26.2 miles, buzz about this race popped up on the Fort Collins Trail Runners listserv. I had no intention of signing up, but after Red Hot, I knew I wanted to do more 50ks. One Tuesday night, Chris H. and I made a pact to sign up. Unfortunately, the race was full when I went to register. The 50 miler was still open, but that seemed like too much.

Ean leaving on the 30k... she set a PR. Go Ean!
As excitement built about the race, I decided that it would not be horrible to just go and check it out. I convinced Chris to join me, so the dogs and gear were loaded into the truck and off we went. We arrived in Sheridan, WY in the evening. It seemed like everyone in town was excited for the race.

Alex brightened up when he saw his fan club at the aid station.
We wedged Chris' truck and camper in the campsites held by the Mays, the Walters, Mary and Scott (Celeste was already on course with Cat). We arrived after the 100 mile start, but did attempt groggily to wish the 50 milers good luck as they passed the camper (I am pretty sure none of them heard, but we tried!). Later that morning, we headed to the Dry Fork aid station in time to see the 50k and 30k starts and cheer through a lot of the Fort Collins Crew. We had more than 15 runners across all races and it was a joy to see the boost they got as they dragged themselves, tired, sweaty and a little beat up, into an aid station where they were greeted by friends.

After ensuring that each runner had passed through Dry Fork (we did miss a couple of the super fast guys), we joined the rest of the Fort Collins Love Bubble at the finish line to cheer in every last one of our friends. At the awards breakfast in the morning, about 1/3 of FCTRs walked away with awards. What an amazing showing.
Brian finishes his 1st 50-miler with daughter Sandis

As we drank beer and cheered at the finish line, a plot was hatched... Celeste, Ean and I will run the 50 mile next year. Ean put it in her blog, so it is on! And I am excited. Next year it will be me running my longest race ever, through beautiful wildflowers, over amazing terrain, and being greeted at the finish line by a bunch of sweaty, tipsy people, who also happen to be some amazing friends!
FCTRLB (Fort Collins Trail Runner Love Bubble)

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