When it's in the wee hours of the morning, you have only your headlamp to guide you, you're unfamiliar with the countryside and there's no trees or lush green undergrowth to line the trails, it can be pretty easy to wander off this course. Every year we try harder and harder to mark the course as best we can, and we learn from the prior years mistakes. But it's our observation that no matter how well you mark a course, people will still get lost. It's also up to you to know the course and pay attention.
Nothing can guarantee that you won't miss a trail marker in the middle of the night, we also can't promise that vandals won't mess with the markers (yes this happened in 2015). So, here are a few pointers to help minimize your chances of having to do extra, unwanted "bonus" miles:
1. Study the course maps. They're posted on the webpage for a reason. Learn them!
2. Pay attention to the course markings! This is a bit of a no-brainer, but until you've been on your feet for 19+ hours and you're in the middle of a nasty storm at 2:00 AM you don't know how easy it is to miss a marker. Keep your eyes up and wear a good headlamp.
3. Attend the pre-race dinner and listen to the Race Director, and ask questions! Also pay attention to the notification emails and Facebook page too. We often have last minute course changes.
4. The 100-milers have the benefit of seeing the first 50-mile loop in the daylight. This should help you as you repeat the loop a second time. Pay attention at tricky sections.
5. Use GPS. This is certainly not a requirement, and GPS's aren't for everyone. But if you're the techy type and like your gadgets, a .gpx file of the course is available for download.
6. Pair up with another runner. This is tough to do as very few runners will be moving at the same pace late in an ultra, but if you have the opportunity to double-up, it can certainly help. But remember, runners that are chatting can actually miss things because they're busy focusing on the conversation and not the flags. If you're with someone make sure all eyes are pointed forward. If you have a pacer make this their priority.
7. Run the tricky sections of the course before race day. This is obviously easier if you're local, but if you're not stay tuned to the BMC Facebook page for opportunities to run sections of it the weeks before the race with the Nomad Trail Runners of Eastern Washington.
8. Wear a BRIGHT headlamp and bring extra batteries. The nighttime markers are reflective and only work as well as the light that's coming from you.
9. If by chance you find yourself lost, backtrack! Go back the way you came to the spot where you last saw a trail marker, and go from there. Look for more markers before proceeding. If you need to, please call the RD or one of the volunteers and ask for help!