June 21st 2008
50 bloody miles! Wow, that is a long way to run. You know, just a few years ago, I never would have dreamt I'd ever run 50 miles through the rugged mountains of Wyoming. A few years ago, a regular 26.2 mile road marathon seemed like a monumental and overwhelming challenge let alone the equivalent of two regular marathons, back to back, on nasty mountain trail with more than 8,000 feet of elevation change and temps pushing 90 degrees...crazy. Well, that was then and this is now. Living in the now, feeling sheep hunting strong and primed for any challenge, I recently found myself toeing the line at the Bighorn Wild & Scenic 50 Mile Trail Run. I was not alone on this journey. Last year, bowhunting legend and inspiring, age-defying icon, Dwight Schuh, a spry 63 years old these days, and I ran the 50k (32 miles) here in the same mountains.
I finished 2nd in that race to Matt Hart of Seattle, Washington. And this year, like me, Dwight ramped it up, taking on the 50 miler as well.
I can tell you with conviction 32 miles is one thing, 50 miles is quite another. 18 more miles of pain and pounding. Luckily for me, and other ultramarathoners, having a short memory is mandatory. Rewinding the hard drive, I think back to every 50k (32 miles) I'd run before this race and recall I never really once thought, "You know, I feel great. I think I'd like to run 18 more miles or so." But, after a day or two, the pain subsides, the feeling of accomplishment grows and most endurance junkies find themselves longing for a new, tougher challenge. This race would qualify in those respects.
There was another factor that had me more pumped than usual -- this race weekend had a distinctly different mood as there were newcomers to the scene. Guy Eastman, Eastmans' Publisher, Nate Simmons, TV guru/master researcher and Shawn Buckley, Eastman's Director of Sales & Marketing, were all primed and ready to represent Eastmans' and hunters everywhere, by running their first ever organized running race.
They all signed up for the 30k, or 18 mile, trail run. While this is the shortest of the races offered here in the Bighorns, the race if far from a cake walk. It is a quad-pounding event if there ever was one. It is not easy, but if they wanted easy, they would have stayed home. Like everyone up on the mountain on race day, they wanted to test themselves.
They all had put in the time training and were ready to see what this mountain running was all about. Running with Guy would be his always cheery girlfriend, Rinda, who is a heck of a runner herself.
I gotta tell you, for me, this was a big deal. When I can share the experience of race day with people I care about, friends or family, I feel so grateful. Honestly, I never expected an Eastman contingent to ever join me on the trail wearing a race bib. Over the years, most of the time I felt like they all thought I was crazy for running all those miles just to get ready for the hunt. But crazy or not, I had company this year and I was pumped. They too had seemingly bought in to the new Under Armour tag line...."Train to Hunt". Pushing the envelope in regard to hunt preparation....awesome!!!!
Dwight and I carpooled to the start line from Sheridan and during that 90 minute drive we talked bowhunting and running...two of my favorite topics. What a great way to start the day. I was feeling pretty dang good. At the 6:00 a.m. start we took off down the trail in the cool Wyoming mountain air. In my mind, I broke this race into thirds. First,
16.5 miles of quad disintegrating downhill, from 7,600 feet to the 4,500 feet turnaround. I broke out early with my nemesis from last year, endurance machine Matt Hart, out of Seattle and Bill Huggins, also a Washingtonian. Bill dropped off after about 6 or 7 miles and I tried to stay on Matt's heels as long as I could. At about mile 15 I was flying down the packtrail and caught a toe. I went down hard. Painfully slamming my left foot into a rock is what caused my fall and in the process I tweaked my right groin, bloodied my elbow and hand. I scrambled up as quickly as possible not wanting to loose contact with Matt, but I was hurting bad. Post fall, I had lost some of my mojo and before the 16.5 mile turnaround, I freakin' went down again! Now I was mad and getting really banged up. Those hard rocky trails are unforgiving. In the battle of body vs. rock, body looses. I was still close to Matt, but really loosing steam. I was wondering if I'd be able to finish the race. I still had to turnaround and start the second leg of the race I penciled out in my head. This segment had me back-tracking up the hill, 16.5 miles and yup, up that same 2,100 feet I'd just bombed down.
Obviously, we were in a hell of hole with all that descent, I felt like I had been drug behind a car and there was a lot of race left (34 miles to be exact). I felt mentally defeated, thinking this might be the first race I ever quit. I thought if I could get back up to the top, mile 33, I might just pull out with injury.
I could see Matt in the distance when the terrain allowed and Bill Huggins, who Matt had told me over the miles of conversation we shared early on, was a talented runner that Matt thought would be right up in the mix with the lead pack all day. And, then also, I was passed by a young local, Damian Stoy. I hate people passing me. But, with how I felt I wasn't putting up much of a fight. I thought the entire field might end up passing me. All I need was a "binky" and a "blanky" and I could have laid down by the side of the trail like a big baby. You might be able to guess what happened next. I got tough and dug deep. I was still in fourth but I knew there were guys closing in. I decided to hammer the 16.5 miles up the hill as hard as I could. It hurt bad but I pushed through the pain and did it. I was toughening up. My groin hurt, but I had put it out of my mind. My foot hurt and cause a slight hitch in my giddy up, but I ignored it and just to make things a bit more interesting, I slammed the outside of my lower leg on a boulder which cause a bloody contusion to stick out and 1 1/2" or so. Perfect. This too caused me to run more inefficient than normal. So yes, I had excuses to quit if I really needed them. But, I also knew the pain was temporary. Quitting would have hurt forever.
I got to the 33 mile check point and powered through. I ain't no stinking quitter. Hammering away I ran up the Camp Creek Ridge to almost 7,900 feet before starting the decent down to the town of Dayton, 4,000 feet lower. Yup more quad abuse, but just for fun there were some steep hill pulls thrown in for good measure over the courses brutal last 18 miles. I had resigned myself to the fact that if I didn't completely die, I should be able to hang on for fourth place. I figured for my first 50 miler, 4th would work. I kept on keeping on. Over a 50 mile run there are many ups and downs. I had survived the depths and now I was in a zone hammering out the miles...almost enjoying the experience. O.k., that might be a stretch. I stopped briefly to give a begging, sun-parched runner (one of the shorter race participants) a drink of my water and kept pushing. Then at the last aid station, mile 48, two miles from the finish line, I spotted a 50 mile runner ahead of me. It was Bill Huggins and he was hurting it looked liked. I reeled him in and said, "Wassup up buddy, you dying?" He said, "Oh, Yeah" and shot back, "How about you?" I lied through my teeth and said, "Well for running 48 miles, I am feeling pretty damn good. See ya in the park. Keep working." I took off, praying he wouldn't try to stay with me. I ran a half mile as hard as I could before going around a corner and looking back. Nope, no Bill. He was hurting indeed.
I came over the finish line as the 3rd place overall 50 mile finisher, 1st in my age group at 8 hours, 59 minutes and 10 seconds. So, after getting that first 50 miler in the bank I thought to myself, "I can't stop at a 50m can I?" Yes, it is clear I gotta go for the big dog....I see a 100 miler in my near future. Ouch.
Dwight you ask? How did he end up? Well, at his inspiring best, Dwight came over the line looking strong and with a big smile on his face. He said he actually felt better after this race, the 50 miler, than after the shorter, 50k (32 miles) the year prior. Dwight, that doesn't even make sense!?!?!! So while he said he felt good, obviously he wasn't quite right in the head. Just kidding OD....way to represent the older guys by bringing home the sweet 2nd place rock (an ultra runners silver medal) with a time of 12 hours 48 minutes and 38 seconds, in the Men's 60-69 age division.
My Eastmans' comrades you ask? They rocked. Leading the charge in the 30k (18 mile race) of the Eastman's contingent was Guy and Rinda, crossing the line in 3 hours and 14 minutes, tied for 32nd place. Nate Dog came in at 3 hours and 22 minutes, good for 42nd place and Shawn "Buck" Buckley completed the race feeling great in 3 hours and 52 minutes. They all said, I just might have got them hooked on the mountain running scene. Yes, it is contagious and empowering.
What a fun day...the "after party" portion anyway. A big thanks to the Franklin's for hosting the shindig. The food and company were equally awesome. Also, I gotta give a shout out to Ike and Candi Eastman. What a great support crew. Thanks guys for taking the great photos/video and offering all the moral support....I appreciate you.
So, the offer is out there...who wants to join us next year in the beautiful and rugged Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming? How committed are you to preparing your body for the rigors of the bowhunting mountains?
Put in the work now and September will be ripe with sweet reward. I promise. I would love if we could create an entire "bowhunting" division. I will say, if you are into it, sign up early. All the races sold out quickly this year. The Bighorn is a very popular event.
See ya on the mountain, Cam
Got a Bighorn shout out from Oregon ultra running stud, Sean Meissner here...he calls the 50 miler the JV Race...I love it... http://sascharuns.blogspot.com/2008/06/bighorn-and-western.html
And one from the winner of the Bighorn 50 miler, Matt Hart...so he calls me Cameron Haze...coming from an endurance stud like Matt, I'll take what I can get... http://coachingendurance.com/blog/2008/06/big-horn-50-mile-race-report-june-2008.shtml
Full 50 mile results...