The Bigfoot 200 (lengthy) Race Report
I know race reports, especially a race of this distance, can get rather lengthy so I will keep this one as short as possible and talk just about the race, instead of the training and prep that went into it, if people are interested I will be happy to post another article relating to those topics.
Before I dive into the report itself, I want to give a huge shout out to the people who made this race possible for
me and allowed me to do as well as I did. The success I experienced at the Bigfoot 200 would not have been possible without the help of Daniel Reyes, crew chief extraordinaire. Not only has he mastered the art of taking care of any feet issues that come up, he knows what I want and/or need at aid stations often before I even know. I was able to get in and out of all aid stations in a fast and efficient manner. I have some super amazing and wonderful friends that made the trip up to help pace me and then crew when not pacing. These
awesome people are, Sharon James, Marie Lanka, Corie Young, Jim Juilan, Gary Fitts and Jaymi Yazzolino. All of my pacers helped keep me going and were great company out on the trail and when I was exhausted they kept me from falling off a cliff as we were going through brush and you couldn’t see the cliff edge. All of these amazing people deserve more credit than me for the success of the race.
I am fortunate to have several great sponsors, Altra and Hammer, this year as well as be a part of the best trail racing team in the US, Team TROT. When I raced Tahoe200 last year (terrain wise very mild compared to BF 200) I had not yet fully converted to Altra and wore another shoe the majority of the race and my feet paid the price. This year I wore the Lone Peaks for 190+ miles and wore the Olympus for the last 13 road miles. It’s amazing how much better shape my feet were at the end of the BF 200 compared to the Tahoe 200. During the BF 200 I took Tissue Rejuvinator and drank Heed. I truly believe the Tissue rejuvenator allowed my muscles to mend on the go while I was racing. I finished the race with no soreness and was out running again 3 days later. The Heed I drank gave me enough electrolytes that I did not have to supplement with anything else and not once did I cramp or have any issues of that nature. Although I had no service on my phone during the race, after completing it I was able to get on and it felt great to see how much support and good wishes I had from my team manager, Rob Goyen, and the rest of my TROT teammates. I love this team 🙂
Now on to the Bigfoot 200 race report …….
When participating in this race, runners will have an opportunity to bushwhack through significant brush, practice their Barkley route finding skills, play I spy a piece of a flag 1 mile away, practice their log jumping and ducking skills, and do out and backs to peaks to see nothing in the middle of the night. That being said there are some beautiful views on this course.
The Bigfoot 200 race journey began Thursday afternoon at the pre race meeting. It was great to see and catch up with several of the Tahoe 200 vets there. During the meeting runners were told there would be markers every ¼ of a
mile and there was no need for GPS. Luckily, Sam (Tahoe 200 4th place and BF
200 4th place finisher) told me about a GPS navigation, Galileo, that you can download to your phone and it works even in airplane mode and with no reception. This app is a life savor and I highly recommend it.
The race started Friday morning at 9 am Pacific time. The first section was well marked. It started with a gentle
runnable up. Chatting with fellow runners was fun and the miles passed quickly. Approximately 5 miles in I met my running
buddy for the next 40 miles, DJ (5th place male). There was some
flag searching over the lava boulder field, several of us were close together so we helped each other out. Blue Lakes Aid Station came up about
mile 12. My
crew did a quick refilled of my water while I grab some food before I jetted out.
DJ and I headed out of the aid station on the trail chit chatting. A few miles in we saw an arrow on a tree stump pointing straight ahead so we followed the trail ahead. About a half a mile later we saw a couple of runners coming back saying they
couldn’t find any flags so we all started back tracking. I spotted a flag half hidden in the trees across the stream from where we had seen the arrow. We pointed the
arrow in the correct direction for the other runners coming up. The trail was easy to follow after that until we came to a T intersection in the trail and no markings in sight. There were a couple of runners there trying to figure out which way to go. As DJ and I approached the other runners we were both stung by yellow jackets. A couple of other runners came down the trail shortly behind us, unfortunately they were stung as well. We all searched for flags and finally found a few hidden in the gully to the left. Using ropes we were able to climb down into and then out of the
gully. After the gully the trail became fairly well marked again (although markers were closer to a mile + apart). There were some amazing views as well as several steep scree field drop offs. Both of us were running out of water in this hot very exposed section. We were thrilled to come to a water crossing where DJ filled his bottle and we both chugged a full bottle. Coming up and over the ridge line Mount St. Hellen’s provides an amazing view. Windy Ridge
(non crew) Aid Station came up about mile 31. We refilled water and headed off to Johnson Ridge, only about 7 miles away.
The trail was easy to follow on this section. It did, however, contain multiple areas where the trail was very narrow with scree field drop offs. I slid off several times, but was able to recover quickly before sliding too far down. This section was scenic as well, especially along the ridge lines. As we approached the Aid Station we passed many friendly hikers who offered us encouragement. Coming into the
Johnson Aid Station (mile 38) the smell of burgers filled the air, I was kind of sad I wasn’t hungry for one. They did have the best
watermelon; I think I ate 6 pieces while visiting with my crew then heading off to the Cold Water aid station.
This section was a short 7 miles of mostly descent down into the lowlands. It was nice to get back under some tree cover and away from the hot sun. Cold Water Aid Station came up about mile 45 and the rumors that
they had good pizza were true. I was happy to see my crew and pick up my first pacer, Gary, although I was sad to no longer be running with my buddy DJ.
The Section from Cold Water to Norway started off very runnable as we traveled along the lake. The sun was starting to set as we
headed up the first big climb creating a fantastic view along the lake. By the time we got up to the ridge line it was dark, you could tell if had been light there would have been some amazing views. I do remember looking up and seeing so many stars and feeling so small at that moment. There are several places in this section where you have to watch your feet or it is easy to step off the trail and slide down the mountain. We reached the first of three out and backs to a peak, it was the middle of the night so we saw nothing. I would have felt better about doing the out and backs had there been some way to prove runners did them.
At Norway, Corie took over pacing. This section was pretty straight forward. I can’t say I really remember anything notable
about this section. It was nice getting to catch up with Corie, who I hadn’t seen in almost 8 years.
At Elk Pass I started running with Jaymi. The volunteers working the aid station told us there would be breakfast at Rd 9237. I was so excited I had been craving eggs and bacon since the last section and I knew we would hit the aid station a little after sun up so the timing was perfect. There was climbing over and crawling under tree navigation along with deeply rutted areas from MTB’s in this section. I had my heart and stomach set to eat bacon and eggs when we arrived at the RD 9237 aid station. Upon arriving I was sad to find all they had was eggs and pancakes. The eggs were very good although I still really wanted bacon.
Gary ran the next section to Spencer aid station (non crew) and then to Lewis River. At this point I am about 90 miles into
the race. The section started off fairly runnable, however that was to quickly change. The trail started to become a narrow deep rut (about 18”-2’deep and 12” wide), with no way to get up on the sides. It was obvious we were on a predominantly mountain bike trail. After a long decent with the ruts making it difficult to run we came to a climb that seemed to never end. When it finally did end we were at the Spencer aid station. We sat down for a short bit and visited with Sam. I always love chatting with him. The wonderful volunteers at Spencer were cooking a great smelling breakfast, including hash browns, spinach, ham and probably other things I can’t remember, it tasted amazing.
Leaving Spencer there was a short road section then a steep descent before hitting the Lewis Trail that went by the river. The trail became very runnable, although my legs were not so sure about
that. About 5 miles from the Lewis River aid station we started seeing plastic flamingos and a marker that said 5 miles to the aid station. I swear this was the longest five miles of my life!! I was
starting to hit the point of exhaustion and was not finding things very amusing. Gary was great and listened to my “not very amused at certain things” griping and we kept going. As we got closer to the aid station there started to be more people on the trail and several amazing waterfalls. The flamingos kept teasing me, I would see them and think yeah we are there only to discover a sign next to them saying, 3 more miles, 2 more miles, 1 more mile.
After what seemed like at least 10 miles and reaching several parking lots I thought the aid station would be at we reached the real Lewis River aid station (approximately mile 111) and I immediately crawled in the car and tried to take a nap. It was still day light, hot and noisy so I was not able to sleep but just getting to lay there and not move for 30 minutes was helpful.
As Marie and I started out of the Lewis River aid station I spotted a flamingo piñata. I got excited, grinned and
sheepishly asked the aid station captain if I could hit it. I was stoked to find out I could. I didn’t bust it but I did pop a sweet-tart out of the top, best piece of candy the whole race. Starting this section I felt pretty energized. Just as the sun was fading from the sky and night was taking over around us the energy from my body was fading and exhaustion was taking over once again. There is a big climb in the section
that when its dark and you’re exhausted feels like you are climbing up Everest. I finally stopped counting all the false summits we hit. The trail would often disappear and you had to bush whack your way for about 50+ feet and hope you found something that resembled a trail on the other side. The markings on this section were not great but they were not as horrible as what was to come. By
the time we reached Council Bluff aid station area it was a little after midnight and I was exhausted. My crew was located just before the actual aid station so I
crawled into the crew car and I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow. It is amazing what an hour of sleep can do. Upon waking I felt like I was back from the dead. I bundled up in layers to get warm and made my way up to the actual aid station to get some real food. I felt bad of the volunteers, they were told to be set up and expect runners by noon and it was midnight before they saw their first runner, none the less they were very friendly and cheerful.
Corie and I headed out of the Council Bluff aid station towards Chain of Lakes. Mentally I felt fairly rested. Well, as well
rested as one can after 133 miles and one hour of sleep. My legs, however, were not convinced. There was a short road section before the last mile of single track that took you into the aid station. As we entered back on the single track the sun was starting to come up and there was fog all around and over the lake, absolutely beautiful. It was about this time my legs remembered they could run and we hit an 8 min pace the last mile, it felt awesome to run again. It was
early morning and feeling pretty chilly so I opted for soup at the aid station to warm up, then I discovered they had drip coffee. Best drip coffee I have ever had, or maybe that was the caffeine talking. It quickly warmed me up and I shoved some breakfast stuff (I think eggs and hash browns) in my mouth before heading down the trail with Jim.
This part of the trail was pretty runnable and it felt good to get a steady running rhythm again. Upon coming to the first of four water crossing we were able to pick our way across the rocks and keep our feet dry. The wet feet started at the
second crossing. Luckily there was a guide rope to help balance with, since the current was fairly swift here. The third and fourth crossing got deeper and deeper. Although the current wasn’t as swift it still required a fair amount of balance on the slick rocks. As we continued we came across some people playing Frisbee golf, or at least carrying the gear for it. We never did see an actual course, although we did see a half drank case of beer not far from the group of guys. Maybe they were “seeing” their own course. Further down the trail
Jim found a feather and asked if I knew what kind it was. I surprised myself to see my memory retention skills were actually still working. Marie had found a feather, just like the one Jim found, in her section and showed me that since the outside edge were ruffled it wouldn’t make a sound when the bird flew, so it belonged to an owl. I got to feel smart when I told Jim that. The big climb started shortly after the feather find. This climb had endless false summits. After about the 5th
one and Jim saying “we made it to the top” it became very amusing. He would say that and I would proceed to swing a pole at him and he got to play “how quick can I duck the pole” game. Just before the Klickatat aid station we reached the 2nd out and back to a peak. At least it was daylight this time, although I can’t say the view was worth the steep sandy climb and descent. The descent into Klickatat was fairly runnable.
I grabbed some food chatted with my crew as I got a blister taped by the medical staff. Worse mistake I’ve made. Shortly before the Kickatat aid station I had a blister pop on the inside of my left big toe and half the skin was hanging off exposing fresh raw skin. The medical staff put a pad on it and taped it to the toe next to it. Right away it didn’t feel good, I thought I would get use to it, little did I know it was going to cause a blood blister the length of my second toe. Sharon and I headed off towards Twin Sisters, completely unaware of what lay ahead of us.
Starting off out of Klickitat wasn’t too bad. Within about 2 miles it was clear this section was going to serve as a prep for
Barkley. Had there been an actual trail to follow a scarcely marked section wouldn’t have bothered me. The problem with this section is occasionally you could find a very faint line
in the dirt otherwise there basically was no
trail. I am thankful Sharon was with me to help look for markers and that we were able to go through most of this section in the light. Many of the markers had been disassembled and a single non reflective ribbon was tied to a tree instead of the two ribbons and a reflector. Several times just the reflective clothes pin was found with no ribbon. We ran into Sam about to take a nap on the trail. I felt bad waking him, although it was nice having 3 sets of eyes
looking for ribbons. This section had very few runnable parts and had a significant amount of off trail bush-whacking. Adding to all the bush-whacking there were numerous trees to crawl under and over. A little after midnight we finally made it to Twin Sisters. I was thankful to have made it out of that section without getting lost and I was looking forward to a quick 10
min nap. I later found out multiple people got lost. One guy was lost
for 26 hours and due to lack of communication and Ham Radios it was hours before anyone even knew he was lost.
Marie was my running buddy for the 16 mile next section. Leaving out of Twin Sisters we had a 2.5 mile climb (as part of an out and back to the aid station). We saw a couple of runners coming down
towards Twin Sisters they all said how frustrated they were about how hard it was finding markings. As we headed
towards the next aid station, Owens, there were so many blown down trees on the trail that many times there would be 3-5 all blown down together. Trying to balance and hop from tree to tree was a difficult task this far into the race and significantly slowed down the pace. In the middle of this section we ran into the last out and back to a peak in the dark where there was nothing to see. The last 5 miles or so of this section was on a fire road that had
tress on both sides that created a canopy over the top. We hit the fire road right as the sun was starting to come up. In my incredibly tired and sleep deprived state I thought I was in this never ending green tunnel and I swear there were dark rocks in the ground that looked like smiley faces and spelled out words. The green tunnel finally ended when we made it to Owens aid station.
There was only 13 miles left to the finish from this aid station so I was able to ditch my pack and pick up my favorite Nathan handhelds. My running buddy for the last section was Jim. The first 3 miles was a downhill gravel road. At the end of the gravel road we hit pavement. Up to this point nothing really hurt. Once I hit the pavement everything hurt, it was the most brutal 10 miles of my life. Jim helped keep it entertaining which made it much more bearable. We finally made it to the school and the track. I’m sure it was a combination of adrenalin and reaching a nice soft surface, but all of a sudden my legs remembered how to run and they took off around the track.
Being able to finish the Bigfoot 200 in 73 hours 28 minutes 42 seconds and as the 1st female and 5th overall finisher was a huge thrill for me. My goal when I started was to finish with a faster time than I ran the Tahoe 200 in last year. I accomplished that goal by 2 ½ hours on a much tougher course.
I have to throw in that August 5th was my moms birthday. Since I was not able to celebrate it with her on that day we all went out for a birthday celebration post race …… and of course we had to do the embarrassing sing to her at the restaurant thing.