DAYTON — Miguel Medina turned around to reveal a lengthy scar on his lower back.
Medina suffered from spinal stenosis that required surgery about seven years ago, hence the scar. After the operation, Medina made a few changes in his life that included a dedication to physical fitness mostly through distance running and obstacle course races.
In Medina’s first career 100-mile race, the 31-year-old from Durango, Colorado, took runner-up with a time of 22 hours, 10 minutes, 5.08 seconds in the 27th annual Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run over the weekend.
Medina competed in Sheridan County because he heard the course was challenging yet beautiful, and found that to be the case. He enjoyed soaking up the scenery throughout the competition and saw a few moose and rabbits.
The wet, muddy course provided plenty of trials and tribulations for racers, especially during a thunderstorm that took out several computers and communications operations at the Dry Fork aid station early Saturday morning. The high temperatures and humidity Saturday after the storm added to the difficulties as well.
Michelle Maneval, the Bighorn trail run director, said it was one of the more interesting logistical races during her 20 years as race director. There wasn’t as much snow as in some prior years but still enough to force adjustments to the 100-mile, 52-mile and 32-mile courses.
“[Snow] didn’t thaw to the levels that we wanted until literally days before the race,” Maneval said.
No matter for Medina, who said the poor conditions played to his favor as an experienced obstacle course runner.
“It was my kind of course,” Medina said. “… I do well in s—ty weather and s—ty conditions.”
Medina works on strength training for eight to 10 hours per week in addition to running about 70 miles, and he said the strength helped this weekend in a few places that featured excessive mud and water. To help maintain energy, Medina ate snacks high in carbohydrates every hour and drank between 16 and 20 ounces of water per hour.
Medina came in second after winner Seth Swanson from Missoula, Montana, who crossed the line in 19:30:02.52. Swanson also won the 52-mile race in 2013 with a course record time of 7:17:05. Jessi Morton-Langehaug was the first woman to finish the 100-mile race Saturday in 26:58:57.11.
William Mitchell from Denton, North Carolina, placed fifth with a time of 24:23:12.74. It was his first 100-mile race and he wanted to challenge himself in a brutal yet scenic environment. With the tough course conditions, Mitchell said he only ran for about 20 miles total. The rest of the time was spent slowly jogging, walking or crawling forward.
Mitchell ran on a track team in college but called ultrarunning almost a different sport. He knew he could handle pain for sustained amounts of time, a key factor in ultrarunning.
“You have to be able to hurt,” Mitchell said.
Don Asligner hails from Spokane, Washington, and also said a lot of ultrarunning involves dealing with unpleasantries.
“It’s embracing the suck,” Asligner said. “We’re all out there together. There’s no room for people to be mean. I mean, if something happens, the guy or gal next to you is the one that’s going to be helping you out.”
Aslinger was one of many people who didn’t complete the 100-mile race for a variety of reasons. Maneval said the race historically has about a 73 percent finish rate.
Crossing finish lines is not Aslinger’s end goal with the activity, though. He is a military veteran and finds distance running to have a therapeutic quality whenever he laces up his shoes.
“Shrinks don’t work for me, so this does the trick,” Asligner said.
Adrienne Rock is from Enumclaw, Washington, and finished the 100-mile race with a time of 34:55:14.58. It was the third 100-mile race in her career, and Rock appreciated the course’s challenging nature.
She, too, finds ultrarunning to be therapeutic and embraced the race’s ups and downs.
“I get to choose how I respond when it gets really tough, and that’s kind of what it’s about,” Rock said.
Carl Tippets came from South Jordan, Utah, to run. He competed in the 52-mile race but didn’t finish. Tippets has run the 100-mile distance previously and called the Bighorn race one of his favorites due to the scenery and high level of organization.
Tippets began racing about 12 years ago after helping pace a friend during an ultramarathon and said the camaraderie is a main factor that keeps him running.
Most races have an excellent cross-section of society, and Tippets said runners are some of the best people he has ever met.
For Maneval, this year had additional significance. The race honored Matthew Watts, a Broomfield, Colorado, resident who died last month at the age of 62.
Watts completed the 100-mile race nine times and Maneval had other runners take his timing chip with them along the course so he could symbolically cross the finish line for the 10th time. Watts did just that, coming in with a time of 32:04:58.35.
“I needed to connect with why I do this,” Maneval said. “… It’s not just a business side … There’s a human side of it for me this year.”
Maneval appreciates the unique camaraderie offered by ultrarunning and the relationships she has formed during the past two decades.
“It’s one huge community, and watching it come together gives me goosebumps,” Maneval said. “… I’m starting to see people age out and people pass away and volunteers needing to retire … It’s making me realize how important it is to honor the legacy of what this is and what it’s become for our community.”
David Ayala from Bozeman, Montana, won the 52-mile race for the second straight year and third time overall in 7:49:00.64. Gwen Golaszewski from Boulder, Colorado, won the women’s race in 10:17:49.28.
Bryson Smith from Jackson took first in the 32-mile race with a time of 5:00:52.25. Anna Spiers from Boulder, Colorado, was the first woman across the line in 5:39:35.12.
In the 18-mile race, Joe Wilson from Lingle won with a time of 2:00:07.63 and Ana Brown from Bozeman, Montana, claimed the women’s crown in 2:30:31.30.
Runners participated for an array of reasons but made it through the mental, physical and natural obstacles over the weekend as a group.