I was incredibly excited to attend this years Big Horn Trail Races in Sheridan, WY. I had heard a lot about these races through the ultra-community over the years, and the event serves as one of the races that qualifies folks for the Hardrock 100. I was incredibly floored by Big Horn; which offers a 50K, 50Mi and 100 miler. In my years of ultra-running, I have yet to see a town roll out the red carpet like Sheridan and Dayton, WY does for runners coming to town for the races. The Race Directors are four family members who run the race out of the love of our sport and the area they live, where their passion lies in sharing their woods with many. To my knowledge, no one is taking a paycheck from the Big Horn Races, and the army of volunteers that come together to make it all happen are as professional and dedicated as it gets.
Bottom line is this.. only the Vermont 100 is a better ultra marathon than this. Big Horn was my 15th one-hundred mile start. I’ve criss-crossed this country, from sea to shining sea, across countless mountain ranges, all to run these ultra events. Big Horn instantly became one of my top 3 favorite 100 milers, only topped by the Vermont 100 and Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 in Virginia. They’re in good company.
Pre-Race and Shwag (4 STARS)
- The registration process for this race could not have gone any smoother. Not only was it a breeze to shell out my cash and get my name into the race, but the communication between the race directors and the participants is second to none. I received various well timed and important e-mails in the weeks/months leading up to the race. I also felt attended to, cared for and valued. They RD’s also go out of their way to ensure that all of your registration information is accurate and intact prior to you even arriving in Sheridan. A huge hats off to these attentive and caring Race Directors for making every single runner feel wanted and appreciated. (Reg. = 5 STARS)
- Race Weekend Check-In went flawlessly and with great ease. The volunteers are friendly, helpful and truly supportive. A local running store allows the race to use much of it’s retail space as a race check-in, medical check, and course information center. In fact, one of the Co-RD’s answered any and all questions about the course in a detailed, almost methodical way, that you feel as if you’ve run the entire course before even stepping foot on it. The race feed was sponsored by a restaurant called Ole’s on the other side of town. Some confusion as far as how ticketing goes for non-runners, but otherwise, the food was amazing and it allows runners to eat as a community at a place other then the registration area. (Check-In/Feed = 5 STARS)
- I HATE. yes.. hate.. the race shirt I got from this race. It is not a shirt that I would ever wear, and many of the runners I spoke to about it agreed. Though, in all fairness, I did see quite a few folks wearing it proudly at the finish line. I think in the races attempt to make a statement for it’s 20th Anniversary, they went a bit off the deep end with the race shirt design. I was also disappointed that I could not purchase a shirt from this years race for my pacers or crew. The only thing I could purchase for them was Finishers Apparel from previous years. The best piece of shwag I received from the race was a small Merrell Adventure Medical Kit. (Shwag = 1 STARS)
The Course (5 STARS)
- I was shocked at how many runners out there said they signed up for the race because they thought “It is one of the easier 100s in the country.” IT’S NOT! I think the race could make this a little more clear on their website that this event is a challenging 100 mile event, akin to some of the toughest in our country. It serves as a Hardrock Qualifier and the list of 100s harder than it, is sparse. Most of the event feels like it’s uphill, both ways, from start to finish. The climbs are relentless, 8-18 miles (of uphill) at a time. The downhills are amazing, and thus, short lived. (Challenge = 5 STARS)
- A 34 hours time-limit for this race is spot on. I could see them giving folks 36 hours (Definitely NOT 30), but why change a good thing? 34 Hours seems to work. Not many runners were a fan of the 11:00am Friday start time. Starting on a Friday is fine, but they still prefer starting at 8am or earlier, especially for 100 miles. The 50K and 50Mile Events start at a reasonable time akin to other races nationwide.. (Time = 4 STARS)
- The course itself was stunningly beautiful. Words cannot describe how one feels out there on this course. At times I forgot that I was even in the United States. I felt like I was in Europe running across the lush mountains of Ireland, or the green knolls of the Alps. I heard it was gorgeous at this race, but in the end, I was incredibly stunned. Scenery so gorgeous that it’s easy to get lost in it. Easy to let your mind wander and simply enjoy something more beautiful then you see in other parts of our country. (Scenery = 5 STARS+)
Aid and Value (5 STARS)
- I have been to very very few races that have better aid stations then what I saw on this course. Every 3-5 miles there is a friendly staff of volunteers, from step one till the end, waiting to help you achieve your goals. Not a single volunteer had a scowl on their face, or a bad attitude. They were all very willing and eager to help. Every aid station was supplied with the right food (and the right amount of food) to cater to those in the front and in the back of the pack. I’ll go as far as saying, I’ve only run ONE, 100-Mile race elsewhere where the aid is better than this. (Race Food = 5 STARS)
- The cost to run this race is an ultra-cheap $175.. actually I forget what I paid. I know it was under $200 and at that price, it’s a freakin’ steal! I will say that the race should advertise the price on the race website. The cost of running the event is not easily obtainable; not now, and not before I signed up when I was trying to budget the cost into my bill cycle. I would urge the race directors to consider transparency on their website in terms of the cost for runners to run each event. In the end, whatever I paid was worth it. Even without my favorite choice in shwag. The buckle is made of glass. The aid stations are plentiful and well stocked. The Race Directors knowledgable, passionate and friendly. My friends and family could even track my progress live through the event. And by Live I mean… pretty spot on! (Price = 5 STARS)
FINAL SCORE = 5 STARS
At 5 stars, I’ll make it a point to head up there for future editions of this event. Whether that be to run 100 or 50 miles is no matter. Just to be apart of an ultra event that still values the community our sport is built upon is a humbling and rewarding experience. I highly suggest, that those of you who want to experience what this sport has been about for 20 years.. go to Wyoming and get a taste of the past at Big Horn. They still do it better than right. It’s better than good. It’s incredible.