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Bighorn 50K: Wild and Scenic

A scene from the Bighorn course

I live in a (former) swamp. This year I went to Wyoming and ran the Bighorn 50K. The West is big and tall.

It laughs at East Coast low-landers like me. This is my race report.

Tough. My Garmin recorded the elevation at the start of the race at 7482 feet. You immediately climb for 2.5 miles for 1,000 feet of elevation gain. I could definitely feel the altitude, at least the first (lots of uphill) half.

Breathtaking.  I know this word is overused, but the course scenery is stunning! My photos are pitiful representations of the awe I felt standing in these exalted surroundings. As an added bonus there was sunshine, cool temps and no humidity or bugs.

Friends. Every year a big group of VHTRC members make the trek to Wyoming. This year, it was my good friend Lola's first ultra! I ran with her the first half, taking it relatively easy, working hard to keep up with her on the climbs, enjoying the scenery, bombarding her with helpful mantras.

Some sweet single-track

Quad-punishing, at least the second half. Around Mile 19 comes a three mile section with an elevation loss of 2,750 feet! And then there's a brief half mile respite before another two mile dose of the same. I love downhills; I consider them my strength, but this is an entirely different ballgame. If I return to race this event in earnest, I'll need to do some serious long stretches of downhill training to prepare my quadriceps. Ouch.

Fun. I didn't feel like racing, partly because I wanted to run with Lola as long as it worked for both of us. With no pressure and little thought about pace and finishing time, I felt relaxed and simply focused on my senses. The crunch of my shoes on occasional snow patches, the smells of pine needles in the forested sections, the red hue of the earth, the vibe at the aid stations. I also took sixty-six (!) photos.

Lola running on the Bighorn course

This is a stellar event and I highly recommend it. They have it all: Friendly folk, amazing weather, colorful wildflowers, Pancake Breakfast the following morning, and just a few hours drive from Yellowstone National Park. Definitely worth a few days of summer vacation!

Grizzly in Yellowstone National Park
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