(I'll throw in a disclaimer here, the last time I have actually run 20 miles continuously was in 2007 at Big Sur, so while it was only 20 miles, it certainly would not be a cake walk.)
|The Ridge to be run|
Photo Credit http://www.winddrinkers.org/BRR/pictures/BridgerRidge.jpeg
Jenny and I first found the Bridger Ridge Run, I think, in 2006 or 2007, and it was instantly on the list! At the time however, we decided that it was not the optimal race to do while training at sea level and tapering for a half-ironman after reading stories of the race like this or this. We never got out acts together and the timing right to be able to swing it, but several years later after my move closer in distance and in elevation, I decided to enter the lottery and go for it. A few weeks later, I received my confirmation e-mail, I was in!
We can skip the pre-race training, or in my case lack thereof, as I'll just refer you to my Speedgoat post for that! If you really want to know how to prep for an ultra, maybe listen to this guy, he seems to be winning a lot of awesome lately. The next two weeks were spent recovering/tapering filled with lots of shorter runs with brutal elevation in Millcreek Canyon and lots of awesome yoga, just to keep the body loose and moving. Before I knew it, it was Thursday and I was off!
|always include as much green in your route as possible!|
I had never been to Bozeman before and since I decided to drive and camp the whole weekend, I'm going to invite you to share the awesomeness of the entire road trip, not just the race. I got excited on the drive up as I came off I-15 on to US-20, the Tetons came into view, about 70 miles off in the distance. I made the 400 mile drive slightly slower by stopping to take pictures way too often. You can find the whole flickr set here, but for reference, the drive up through Targhee NF, through West Yellowstone and into the Gallatin NF had stunning views along the lines of this:
After learning I was missing out on the Mountain Man Rendezvous in W. Yellowstone (no joke! The gas station clerk tried to convince me that it would be more fun that my other plans), I made my way north along the Gallatin River to my campground for the evening. I was worried about spots, but I managed to snag an awesome one right on the river. Made friends with the fishermen from Salt Lake at the next site over, cooked an awesome dinner and settled in for the night.
|Greek Creek Campground on the Gallatin River|
|Herbed salad with artichokes, tomatoes and avocado|
|eager to run!|
|Looking at The Ridge from my campsite|
|Montana Sunset over Gallatin Valley|
"Oh, there's not really a trail, what fun would that be?"
"Well, its hard to get lost really. The mountain is pretty much just a big pile of rocks, and you can always see town from the ridge. So if you get lost, you either go back to the ridge or just run down the mountain and into town; which people have done by the way. If you do run into town, please call just to let us know where you went."
Waiting around at the start was also a typical trail run, seeing bits of sunrise with ultra runners in every imaginable piece of race gear, shirts claiming how hard core they were and a bunch wearing the new crazy space shoes (I still don't get it, but hey). Organized in wave starts, 5 minutes apart, to avoid congestion on the trail, the race was off. I was in the third wave and was off with a run. All in all, the traili up wasn't actually too bad to start, we ran for a bit, but then someone in front started walking, so we all were walking. It was technical single track, where there was trail, for most of the race, so any passing, ever was at a minimum and here, people certainly weren't willing to let you go by. They always say not to go out too fast, but I have never had the problem of going out too fast at a trail race; rather I get more tired being forced to run/hike at someone else's pace. Nevertheless, I settled in as cleared out of the trees and got our first views of where we were headed. The first 2 miles is over 2000' gain up to Sacagawea Peak, the switchbacks were consistent and make it a reasonable start (no calf burning yet!)
|On our way up to the first saddle, Sacagawea to lookers left|
|Motoring on up! I made it to the peak in 42 min, helloooo 21 min./miles!|
|Traversing the Ridge Trail|
|And by "trail," I mean scree|
|It appears here that slightly left of the giant knife-edged rocks is the route of choice|
|Reaching the top of No Name No.1, looking at the ridge to come|
|At least they trick you into not realizing how tough it is with all the beautiful views to distract you (and make you fall off the side of the mountain!)|
I was excited and relieved to have a real trail that led us back down to the Bridger Bowl aid station at mile 10. The ski lift was self-identifying from far away, and it was nice to finally reach it.
|Resort base down below|
|Bridger Bowl Aid Station; 1/2 way point|
|Looking back from where we came|
|Seriously, I don't think death is strictly tied to avi danger here....|
|The final drop to Baldy and the finish; overlooking Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley|
All down hill from here, about 4 miles and 4000' of down to be exact, turns out that was the bad news of the day. While feeling good at the last aid station, thinking I could snake in at just about 6 hours, I started downwards and every bit of happiness left in me was sucked out as if by vacuum! Ouch! I'll tell you now, if you don't like running downhill, you will probably hate this race, and if you are like me and do like running downhill, you'll probably still be pretty miserable for this last bit. You'll recognize here that even if you drop at this point, you still have to get down, and short of being airlifted or hiked out in a litter, the only way down is down the trail, and the fastest way down is to go faster down the trail. I say this because after 4 or 5 falls, sliding down ridiculously and steep dust and gravel on my arse, I was thisclose to not caring if I finished. I trotted down, relieved for the flats and the slight ups that I came across, walking/sliding down the steeps; my left hamstring felt like it was going to curl up into a tiny ball and die and my right ankle felt as though it might self-amputate (I'm sure there is a connection here). 90 min later, I made it down to the finish that felt like it would never come; I assure you, I could have done the reverse climb faster! I was awarded with some much needed ice for the ankle, a t-shirt and a finisher's poster. I lingered around what was a pretty good post-race gathering, swapping war stories with other runners, and then feeling like death, headed back to shower. The race crew was generous enough to organize a post-race BBQ and party at a local hot tub supplier, I hung out for a while, met a ton of very nice locals. Then a few other out-of-towners and I went to grab dinner at Montana Ale Works (thanks to the suggestion of a friend), after which I promptly curled up in my sleeping bag and passed out.
|This is what I learned today: Stop running races at ski resorts!|
The next morning, I had hopes of exploring the area on bike. Heading up Hyalite Canyon, I was in search of a trail with enthusiastic reviews up to Emerald Lake. Upon arrival at the trailhead, I learned that the trail was closed to bikes on Sundays, which I had not been warned about. Set out to do something, I did what any ultrarunner would logically do, I decided to run the 9 mile out-and-back instead. (Don't worry, I am sure that all ultrarunners have a neurological deficit that leads them to make the same decisions). What's funny is that I felt great.... kinda amazing what happens when you actually have a real trail. I even held a pretty good pace considering the 2000' climb, reinstalling some self-confidence after the previous day's miserably slow pace.
I hung around town long enough to get pizza, coffee, some local beer to smuggle back in Utah with me, and to snap a photo for Ali; whose dog not only has a ski resort, but an entire forest!
|Do you think he'd really run 16 miles for his food though?!|
|NF, in Western WY, flanking the west side of the continental divide and the Wind River Range|
|Sunset from camp in the park|
|The Teton Range|
|If you've never drive through Jackson Hole and Bridger Nat'l Forest, this sums it up right here. The Snake River, beautiful green forests and peaks up into 11000'|
I did a first for me in this race, which was use something new, without any trial. In packing for this race, I got worried after last-years reports of blizzarding snow on the ridge, as the blog suggested to be prepared for anything. With the thought that I might very well want gloves, a hat, and something waterproof up top, as we all know mountain thunderstorms show up at any time without warning, I started looking for a pack to cary. I hate belt packs and generally hate camelbacks, even when biking, so I generally cary two hand bottles and have enough pockets to carry the rest of the gu and food I need. In the event that I had to carry a rain shell up, around my waist clearly wasn't going to be ideal. I had heard good reviews about the Nathan products, particularly that the Women's Intensity Vest is cut really well, so I tried it on and was happy enough. Race day came and there wasn't a blip on the radar with a forecast for high 80's. I didn't need the pack, but decided to run with it, sans water bladder, just to see what I thought. I am a fan. This thing fits like a glove and doesn't bounce around at all. I stuffed my camera, phone, a shirt, and all my snacks in it and it did really well. If you're looking for a new way to carry gear/food/water while running or fast packing, this is one to look at. All the other ones I tried on, had straps that fit awkwardly, especially around your chest, and really just weren't designed with runners in mind.