|The view from the fire-trail south of West Yellowstone.|
I pored over Google Maps via MapMyRun the previous evening to map out a course that would be easy to follow and give me the distance I needed (40+km). A forest road that headed south, parallelling the Montana/Wyoming state border and the western edge of Yellowstone NP, seemed the best option and I carefully examined the satellite images to verify the map information. There was a saddle and track junction around the 22km mark that looked to be indentifiable and would mark the turnaround if I made it that far. I tried to memorise other significant junctions, waymarks and the elevation profile since I didn't have any maps.
I set off around 7:00am on a cool and sunny morning, and despite the ideal conditions, was a little apprehensive for a number of reasons. Firstly, to travel lighter, I wasn't carrying anything apart from my camera, so was planning to survive without fluids. It was forecast to warm up to near 30⁰C during the day so it was going to be tough if I was out for too long. Secondly, the run was at an average altitude of more than 2000m, high enough to affect performance, though I had been training at similar altitudes for the previous three weeks. Thirdly it was bear country.
|Looking towards Idaho from the trail.|
I reached the track junction as expected and gratefully turned around, reminding myself that every step now was a step closer to the finish. Although bordered by the forest, the road was mostly in the sun, which was now beating down. In another hour, it was becoming a battle and by half-way back my pace had dropped to a plod and I was eagerly checking off the waymarks, which were coming way too slowly. The last hour was ugly, but I never stopped moving, and finally made it back to town and the hotel shortly before midday. Apart from two mountain bikers close to town, I didn't see anybody else at all on the trail, and no bears. Though exhausted and dehydrated, I knew the training run would bring dividends, and happily set off for a day's sightseeing in Yellowstone.
My heel was tender during my run today though not as bad as I feared, and has become less painful during the day. I will try an easy 22km tomorrow, but cut it short if necessary.