by Jake Babich
People always ask me why run 100 miles. The weekend of June 16, at the Bighorn Trail Run, I found out. It was the hardest thing I have ever accomplished and words cannot explain the emotion I felt after finishing the race. I have been looking forward to this race since 2015 when I had the opportunity to crew/pace a few friends that completed the Bighorn 100. It was everything I expected, testing me mentally and physically.
This event would have not been as successful without my amazing crew, Lacy and Rob, and my pacer Kam. They stayed up countless hours and drove all over the mountain side to make sure I had what I needed to complete this race.
I started the race slow, and in the back of the pack, to ensure that I took my time. The first 7 miles were all climbing that felt like it would never end. The course started at 4090 ft and by mile 8 had climbed to 7,450 ft. I managed to get into the Dry Fork (the first major aid station) where I drank some liquids and was on my way towards Sally’s Footbridge. I picked up the pace as the climbing turned into rolling hills and the mountains turned into stunning views. The last three miles into Footbridge were steep and downhill with a lot of rocks. I tripped a ton which made me feel like I had lazy feet. I cussed with every rock I kicked.
entering Dry Fork
As I strolled into Sally’s Footbridge, which was 30 miles into the course, my crew cleaned my feet, re-applied lubricant, and got my socks changed all while I refueled. I packed a long sleeve shirt and my Houdini jacket. I was out and headed up to Jaws (the turnaround) with my hiking poles in hand. From Footbridge to Jaws, the course climbs from 4,590 ft to just over 9,000 ft. It never felt super steep but always up. Into the third mile after the Footbridge, it started to rain. I refused to stop until I got to the next aid station.
It had been raining steadily for two miles so I put my long sleeve shirt and rain jacket on along with a light pair of gloves. The gloves made it difficult to get nutrition without pausing The rain turned the course into a slip and slide. Every full step felt like a half step, and it was un-runnable.
At the next aid station, Elk Camp, I put on my headlamp as it was already dark but I did not want to stop in-between aid stations. I was on my final assent towards the turn around when the rain had become a steady downfall and the wind began to kick in.
My goal the whole way up was to keep my system fueled with nutrition so that I could keep my body warm by moving forward. At Jaws, it was pure carnage. I kept my head down trying to not be influenced by the negativity around me. My crew cleaned my feet of all the mud and I put on some wool socks. I put on a thicker shell jacket and a warmer undershirt. I was out of Jaws and headed toward the finish line. I knew that the longer I stayed the harder it would be to leave.
The rain continued to pound but I had picked up my pacer, Kam. Kam is a friend that I had looked forward to catching up with since I had moved from Montana a year ago. The trail was now in worse condition going down than it was going up. I felt at times like I was cross-country skiing down the mud. It was so wet that I didn’t stick so much. But, when approaching streams, my shoes would get sucked into the mud. The clean water of the streams did though allow me to wash the mud from shoes.
It took me just as long to get back down to Sally’s Footbridge as it did to climb up to Jaws. At Footbridge, I gave my headlamp and my trekking poles to my crew. I would have loved to keep the poles but my right wrist couldn’t handle it. The climb out of Footbridge was a horrible 3.5 miles with hands-on-knees climbing, and legs already shaky as I pushed through the pain. I pushed into Cow Camp, named the "bacon station" because they cook up bacon non-stop for the runners. I gobbled a couple pieces and we were on our way. Leaving Cow Camp, you can see the reflection of all the cars parked at Dry Fork a long rolling six miles away. The good news is the sun had come out and the mud started to dry up. My pacer kept me fueled, reminding me to take gels and chomps on a consistent basis. I picked my pace up and was running more than walking.
My race changed at Dry Fork, which was 18 miles from the finish. My crew did the normal by making sure that my feet were washed, new socks were applied, and I drank water. This time, I changed from my shorts to CW-X compression pants, along with changing to a pair of new shoes and put my hat on. I pacer came up with a handful of different looking pills and said, “Take these”. They were caffeine pills and salt tablets which made me feel like I had the energy of a meth addict.
We walked up the first hill out of Dry Fork. We hit the flats from there and I started to cruise. The down hills felt I like was unstoppable. By the time I hit the road, I felt like was going to vomit. I had worked too hard and I had pictured this finish for way too long. I took five minutes at the final aid station for a gel and to drink some water. We were off to the races. I dropped my shirt and my pacer and I started clicking out the final 5 miles all under 9:30. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. As I crossed the finish line I hugged my wife and I cannot describe the emotion I felt.
Last 5 Miles of Road into Town with the “Ace of Pace” Kam
I gave my first 100-mile buckle to my wife, Lacey. She has followed me around the world and given up a lot. On top of that she allows me and encourages me to these crazy endurance events.
Jake trains with Coach Mark Turner.