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Race Report: Big Horn 100

June 6, 2012 Comments (1) Race Reports

RACE REPORT: Rocky Mountain Double Marathon

It was a cold and windy morning and we dawdled about with shoulders like coat hangers. Our hands sought warmth in the crease of our armpits as we waited for the race to begin. “Fire that gun!” we thought, and stoke the hot flame of our blood through the timber of our veins. Run! Run! Run! Celebrate this day with thunderous hooves the dreams of glory.

After brief instructions and a prayer our wishes for departure were met with mitten-muted celebration and a stray cowbell. We were on our way! The downward path reminding us that it is easier to sink to hell than to rise to heaven. The descending false tempo gave some of us early hope of a race day PR to conquer. But soon the wave of dirt shifted upward and we were left to toil and plow the field ahead. The cruel scale of natural talent and training was putting us in our place and our lot in the pack was soon sealed…

Every Memorial Day weekend Brent Weigner puts on the Wyoming Marathon Races. Participants have the choice of a 5k, half marathon, full marathon or double marathon. The ultra distance race is the longest running ultra in the Rockies. It started 35-years ago as a way for Brent and his running buddies to qualify for Western States and has grown ever since. The Wyoming Marathon Races event is four events stuffed into one day and one course. Brent is a veteran of the trail running scene and has probably run every event you have thought about. He ran the first Leadville Trail 100 and finished 10th while the other half of the field could not make the full journey.

I met Brent the night before at the registration and pasta dinner at the Little America Hotel. We traded war stories and Brent even gave me some advice for running Leadville. Later that night John Raveling from Colorado was honored at the dinner for winning the 1982 Rocky Mountain 50 miler in 5:58:54! He is the only person to go under six hours on the old course from Laramie to Cheyenne.

The packet pickup process was quick and friendly. Within minutes I had a pink number designating a double marathon participant. The other divisions had blue for the regular marathon and yellow for the half. It’s nice to have different colors so you know whom you are racing against. There were also heavy-duty t-shirts as well! For a race with a motto that touts “Where the race director promises nothing and delivers” I was already feeling spoiled. Tomorrow there would also be a belt buckle waiting at the finish for the double marathon runners. All I had to do was get there.

As racers came and went I spied the color of their numbers peeking from the schwag bags. Too tall…too big…this one looks fast. I was sizing up the runners are they walked past me. Which one of them was going to have an empty trail in front of them tomorrow? As the sun set and the winds continued to swell the winner was probably calmly sitting in a local hotel room silently pinning his number… 

That night the weather report was predicting our doom. The race day would include high wind warnings and gusts up to 65 mph…can that be right?  A “Category 1” hurricane designation is applied when there are sustained winds between 74-95 mph. It was going to be a tough day for all.

Just where and when the wind will hit you is always a mystery. It’s like waiting for a sucker punch. Just when you think you are safe you’re pushed off course by the invisible taunting of a wind gust. While physically displeasing, it will begin to eat away at the mental fortress as the day grows long. Rain makes you soft, snow chills your bones but wind will make you crazy…

The marathon and double marathon course is an out and back 13.1 miles jaunt through Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest with an awkward frontage road section diverting us from private land. At least both outward segments to the 13.1 and 39.3 turnarounds were met with a tailwind once we got off the pavement.

With the first pass of the turnaround  at mile 13.1 I could finally see who was ahead of me. I counted two males and a female that I could identify by their pink numbers. Of course with the cold temps some race numbers were concealed under emergency layers of clothes leaving the mystery to be solved at the 26.2 turnaround. From what I could guess I was sitting in 4th.

I gave first place a nod and he just looked at me calmly and smiled. It seemed effortless for him to be in the lead. Did the 52.4 mile course not affect him? Did the wind blow around him and not through him? It was all I could think about as we ran in opposite directions. This would be my prison for the next 7+ hours. Welcome to Wyoming! Don’t come here if you aren’t ready to work or be worked… 


A note from Brent the Race Director: Folks give themselves permission to have fun at our races because there are no overall trophies for the winners and no age group awards.  Nobody comes expecting to run a PR or qualify for Boston.  They come to enjoy Medicine Bow National Forest and their fellow runners and family members.

And yet as competitors it’s human nature to want to know where we stand in the field and who is hunting us down. It’s part of the fun even though the brain says it is serious business. At the 26.2 mark the leader was just cruising and adding to his lead with every stride. Physical fatigue has making my calculations to 3rd place difficult. According to my math I was roughly 8 minutes behind 3rd place. With the regular marathoners finishing I knew from now on the sighting of other runners would be scarce. It was time to make the company of the 3rd place runner or spend the day alone. I gave all I had from mile 26.2 to mile 29 only to learn I had lost time to her! Not just a little time…14 more minutes! How could that be possible? My math at the turnaround was wrong and had given me false hope. I wasn’t gaining on the top 3, I was slowly sliding back. Soon my concern would be for the 5th and 6th place sneaking up from behind…

I’m normally a fan of out and back courses. It gives everyone a clear picture of  the race unfolding and provides a clear view of the leaders practicing their craft. The second turn around at mile 39.3 was a welcome sight if only as a promise of a one-way ticket home.

The poor volunteers were cold and came out of their car as I approached. I asked them if I was the 4th person to visit them. They confirmed that fact and scurried back to the warmth of their vehicle. The winds were keeping the temps low and unless you were moving it was impossible to stay warm. I speak for all the runners when I say “THANK YOU Volunteers” for being out in the elements for a long day.

I looked into the eyes of the pack as I made my turn for the last leg home. Some were cheerful, some held up 4 fingers for my place and some just stared with a haunting gaze. They felt the course and the wind. It crept up from their tired feet into their bones. Shoulders ached and legs were becoming difficult to direct. My wife handed me more than a bottle at the aid station entering the pavement section. She handed me the news that two racers were nine minutes back and closing…

The Medicine Bow National Forest is home to amazing rock formations. They seem to be fake or put into place by a God with a sense of humor. They make for a beautiful backdrop to a day of running. Traffic on the course was very low and other than the short road sections the ground was very gentle to the feet. The legendary Micah True made this race his ultra debut in 1986. He won that day.

Leaving the pavement section for the last time I was given disturbing news. The chasing duo was now seven minutes back with seven miles to go. My plan of coasting in on a difficult day was erased. It was going to be a push until the last inch of the course. Now was not the time to start bleeding minutes. The following duo seemed to have their own support car that would drive up past me and pull over every 15 minutes or so. Knowing there was a “spy” in the car I smiled and put forth an Oscar winning performance for my starring role as “Energetic Happy Runner.” Even dying a thousand deaths running the seemingly growing ascents in the  ferocious wind I just kept smiling away. Soon the miles were behind me. With just half a mile to go kept checking over my shoulder. I could feel them closing in on me. With one more ask of my engine and pistons I ran up to the finish and collected my buckle. I had stayed in 4th place for 8 hours. That’s a lot of work to stay in one place but that’s racing. Of course it was worth it…

I asked for Brent at the finish line so I could thank him for a day of racing. The volunteer at the finish said he was out on the course tending to the runners. I would expect nothing less from Brent. He’s a runner’s runner and knows how to put on an old school race.

Closing notes from Race Director Brent Weigner:

For the 35th annual races we had 234 finishers in all the events (double-21, marathon-76, half-84, 5k-53). It was the first year we had more Wyoming runners than Colorado runners. It was the windiest race on record, 35+ mile per hour winds. Because of the winds the course was slow.  No records this year.  As referenced above, we had an average turnout, 234 finishers.  We cap the race at 300.  Temperatures mainly in the 35 to 45 degree range.  A flew snowflakes towards the end of the race.  Most runners and walkers were fantastic and positive.  Obviously, we could have done without the wind.  However, it is what it is and you are in charge of your attitude and how you want to respond.  We always look forward to the next one.

For more information on this event click here.

One Response to RACE REPORT: Rocky Mountain Double Marathon

  1. mkreuzer says:

    great report. Such a great RD. Congrats on the double butt kicking!

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