Friday, August 31, 2007

I got my Lean Horse schwag!!

Jerry, Lean Horse race director, dropped by my office this morning and dropped off my awards. All 50K and 50 mile finishers got a Black Hills gold keychain with the race logo on it (the 100 mile finishers got a belt buckle, a traditional 100 mile award). I also got a cool horseshoe award for winning my age group, my first ever 1st place award (I've won my age group in a couple of other races but they didn't give awards).

I also officially registered for Crazy Horse this morning. As of this morning, there were 64 people signed up for the full, so looks like it will be a small field (although already bigger than last year's 55). I think word has gotten out that the course is tough and more and more people are opting for the half instead (like I almost did). I've raised $35 for Avera so far (see my previous post)....only $965 to go!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Running for Mom

I just discovered this morning that All Sport Central (organizers of the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Marathons) has a list of associated charities and organizations that runners can raise money for. One of these organizations is the Avera Cancer Institute, which provides breast cancer research and treatment. This hits home for me because my mom was recently diagnosed with and underwent treatment for breast cancer. Her cancer was detected early and her treatment was aggressive, so her prognosis is good.

In honor of my mom and other breast cancer patients, I feel compelled to run for a reason other than to satisfy my own sadomasochistic urge to inflict pain upon myself for no apparent reason. So, I have set up a donations page through the All Sport Central website and will be running the Crazy Horse Marathon in support of the Avera Cancer Institute. Any amount is better than no amount, so please check out my donations page at and make a contribution.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

From Lean Horse to Crazy Horse

Now that I've put Lean Horse behind me I need something new to stress about, so I've pretty much almost kind of probably decided that I'm gonna run the Crazy Horse Marathon on October 7th (what's with the "horse" theme around here?). I've been wavering back and forth between running the half or full at Crazy Horse and I think I've finally decided that the full is calling my name. For one, I've yet to choose a half marathon when a full is offered, which is why I've only run two half-marathons. For two (that doesn't make sense but I don't care), I've got some redemption issues going on with the second half of the Crazy Horse marathon course. You see, I ran the Mt. Rushmore Marathon last year (race report is on here somewhere). Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse are sister marathons. They start at different locations (Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse.....surprise, surprise) and have different courses for the first 10 miles before merging and sharing the final 16 miles, finishing in Hill City. Hill City also represents the halfway point for each of the marathons. I was cruising along pretty well during the first half of Mt. Rushmore last year, especially considering I had just run the Montana Marathon three weeks prior. Then, after the halfway point, the courses start an almost constant 6 mile climb until finally turning around and heading back down into Hill City for the finish. It was on this climb that my Mt. Rushmore marathon went to hell in a handbasket last year; I was reduced to walking during a marathon for the first time. The result was my slowest marathon time to date.

It was tempting to run the half marathon at Crazy Horse this year to avoid that brutal climb but what's the fun in that? I've got an entire 6 weeks between Lean Horse and Crazy Horse to recover and prepare myself to tackle that hill again. It seems like such a great idea now, but I'm sure I'll be cussing myself out over it come October 7th.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lean Horse results are posted

The results for the Lean Horse Ultra are available at . Looks like red shirt guy beat my by 8 minutes and I was ten minutes ahead of 3rd place. Also turns out red shirt guy was from Ashland, OR, which is where both of my kids were born (we were living in far northern California at the time). Wish I would have talked to him a little bit more now.

The really interesting results are from the 100 mile race. Akos Konya absolutely obliterated the course record. He finished in 15:24, a full 2 hours and 14 minutes faster than the old record. The guy who had set the course record last year finished second and also beat his record with a time of 16:43. That is just crazy fast.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lean Horse 50K: An almost triumphant ultra debut

Have you ever leaped head first into something without really thinking about it? That pretty much describes my decision to run the Lean Horse 50K this year. I first learned of the race last summer and logged it away as something I might like to do someday with the expectation that “someday” would be a few years away. Flash forward to June of 2007 and I’ve just PRed at the Fargo Marathon and am considering how to go about knocking another 8 minutes off my Fargo time to get myself a ticket to Boston. Honestly, after Fargo, I had absolutely no motivation to run another marathon right away, or even to take a BQ shot in the fall, which I had considered doing at the Roughrider Marathon in Bismarck, ND in September. In fact, I canceled plans to run the Governor’s Cup Marathon two weeks after Fargo, something totally out of character for me. I’ll admit that I was resting on my laurels just a little bit. I did run the Missoula Marathon on July 15, with not great results but also without any real expectation of bettering my Fargo time. One good thing that came of Missoula is that my lackluster performance rekindled my desire to really challenge myself again.

An acquaintance in South Dakota had mentioned that he was considering running the Lean Horse 50K this year. He eventually came to his sense and decided not to…the son of a…. So, the seed had been festering in my head for a couple of months by the time of my Missoula meltdown. Another factor that played a big role in choosing to run Lean Horse was the Western States 100, which my X-Squad teammates Mr. and Mrs. Runamaniac conquered this year. I was very intrigued by the whole ultra scene and started wondering if it was something I would enjoy. Only one way to find the answer to that question. But, I wasn’t about to jump into it whole hog and try a 100, or even 50, miler right off the bat. The 50K distance, only 5 miles further than a marathon, fit the bill quite nicely. So, having already resigned myself to pushing the BQ attempt back to spring of 2008 and with the disappointment of Missoula fresh in my mind, I started making plans to run my first ultra.

I will also admit right now that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I came to discover rather quickly that 50K plans aren’t all that plentiful, even in the vast expanses of the internet. And, 6 week long 50K plans are pretty well nonexistent because, well, that’s just stupid. I eventually ventured to Hal Higdon’s webpage and bastardized his 24 week plan for the Comrades Marathon (54 miles) to come up with a 6 week plan for a 50K. Sorry, Hal. Yes, it did occur to me, several times, that this was ridiculous, but so is running an ultra, or even a regular, marathon in the first place. My 6 week mini-plan basically just borrowed Hal’s structure with easy runs on Monday and Wednesday, a tempo run on Tuesday and back to back long or medium-long runs on Friday and Saturday, with a rest day on each side of the back to backs. Got it? Of course, my plan was immediately derailed by the Spearfish Canyon Half-marathon (a three minute PR) at the end of the second week, so I really only got in two decent back to back long runs due to recovery from Missoula and tapering for Lean Horse. I did complete 12/18 and 14/20 back to backs four and three weeks out, respectively. For the most part, I just put in some miles, no real speedwork, and hoped that my marathon fitness would carry me through. Needless to say, I wasn’t all that confident in my level of preparation, but with my primary goal being simply to finish upright, I figured it was good enough for government work.

The Lean Horse Ultra features three races: the 50K, a 50 miler and a 100 miler. This was the third year of the race and the first year on a slightly different course. Well, actually the course was slightly different for the 50 and 100 milers, but totally revamped for the 50K. The entire course had previously followed the Mickelson Trail (a rails to trails project), which meant that runners had to be bussed from race HQ in Hot Springs, SD, to the trailhead. Also, the races the first two years had ended somewhere along the trail (not sure where, but not in Hot Springs). This year, the race director (Jerry Dunn, also the director of the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon held in June) decided to ease logistics by starting and finishing all three races in Hot Springs. So, the new course started at the Mueller Civic Center in Hot Springs, followed a bike path and some city streets out of town and then jumped onto a dirt road before hitting the Mickelson Trail at about mile 16.5. This meant that the 50K turnaround was about 1 mile before hitting the Mickelson. The general nature of the new 50K course was quite different from the old Mickelson route, which is a gradual uphill. The new course featured a pretty good climb from miles 5 to 7.5 and rolling hills throughout. In total, the course gains about 1300 feet on the out stretch and then, obviously, a net downhill back into Hot Springs. This is far from a technical ultra course like you would find at, say Western States or Hardrock. For the majority, it’s wide crushed gravel paths and dirt roads. So, in other words, this course is about as easy as an ultra in the mountains (yes, South Dakota has mountains) is gonna get.

I, my wife and our two kids made the two hour drive down to Hot Springs on Friday, the day before the race. I was really supposed to be there by 3:00 for the pre-race meeting and packet pick-up but when I knew I would be unable to make it by then due to work Jerry agreed to leave my race packet at my hotel room. We arrived in Hot Springs, checked into our hotel quickly so I could get our meal tickets and then headed to the pre-race meal to eat and meet some fellow competitors. I especially wanted to meet Akos Konya, who has finished 2nd the last two years at Badwater and was running the 100 miler at Lean Horse but found this to be more difficult than I had for some reason thought it would be. For some damn reason he wasn’t wearing a large sign that said “I am Akos Konya” and I didn’t know if it would be appropriate to stand up in the middle of dinner and yell “Akos! Akos!” at the top of my lungs. So, I resigned myself to trying to meet him in the morning before the race started. After dinner, it was back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool (my kids are attracted to water almost as strongly as our two Labrador retrievers) and then off to bed.

I slept like hell. I woke up at least three times, convinced that it was time to get ready (the first time it wasn’t even midnight yet). My overactive mind wasn’t helping matters. I had one dream where I was late to the start and everyone had already left. I took off after them, but then got lost on the course before I even got out of Hot Springs. I had another dream where I realized that the 50K didn’t actually start until night, which meant that I would have to run in the dark and I hadn’t packed a headlamp. I was finally up for good at 3:45. Jerry had made arrangements with the host hotel (the Best Western) to open their breakfast bar an hour early to accommodate the runners, so I headed down there for some oatmeal and coffee bread then milled around with nervous energy until it was time to go expend it.

The race started behind the Mueller Civic Center, right next to the Best Western. I stepped out of the hotel and for the first time in several months was actually cold. The overnight temps dipped into the upper 40s and a heavy fog had settled in….near perfect running conditions (for me anyhow and, frankly, that’s all I care about come time to race). The Mueller Center was open for us to stay out of the cold until race time. I checked in with the lady with the clipboard and set about finding Akos again and was, again, unsuccessful. Not only is he fast, he’s elusive. At about ten minutes to six, all 200 or so of us herded out to the start line and waited for the misery to begin. I found myself standing very near the front of this crazy herd, then realized that, being a 50ker, I was to the 50 and 100 milers what a half-marathoner is normally to me….someone who’s going to go out too fast for their liking. Promptly at 6:00 the “gun” (Jerry yelling “GO!) sounded and we were off like a herd of turtles.

Little detour here cause I don’t know where else to put this….My nutrition strategy for the race wasn’t really all that different than what I have been doing for marathons (which has had good results….if I actually stick to it). I had six packets of Sport Beans stowed away in the various pockets of my race shorts and planned on taking one at miles 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 28. The big difference was that I was carrying a handheld water bottle with me, which was filled 50/50 with water and Gatorade. I have never carried fluid with me during a marathon and just recently started drinking Gatorade on my long runs. The goal here was to stay plenty hydrated and keep my electrolytes up to avoid the cramping issues I had near the end of the Missoula Marathon. The aid stations were spaced roughly 4 miles apart and my plan was to drink one 22 oz. bottle between each station and refill when I got there. I also knew that the stations would be stocked with a variety of food if I wanted something besides beans, but I was hesitant to try something new right in the middle of the race unless I was really desperate. Back to the race….

So, we were off and I found myself near the front. A few guys took off ahead of me and I don’t know that I ever saw them again. I fell into a pretty good rhythm fairly quickly but with no markers every mile I really had no idea if I was going too fast or too slow. My initial goal had been to run a 4:30, which comes out to 8:40 miles. But, being my first ultra, I wasn’t really too worried about it as long as I got back to Hot Springs under my own power. I fell in with a 50 miler and a couple of 100 milers and basically tried to copy them (keeping the pace easy, walking the uphills even early on, etc.). The biggest climb started at mile 5 and near the top I passed another 50Ker (our bibs had pink stickers, 50 milers had green, 100 milers had none). I wasn’t sure if that put me in first place or not, but suspected that someone was ahead of me still. My nutrition strategy went slightly awry as I ran through the first aid station at mile 4 because, like I said, I was copying the veterans. I stuck with it for the remainder of the race, though, except that I didn’t eat my last bean pack because I just didn’t damn well feel like it by that time.

By walking the uphills and running the flats and downhills, I felt great for all of the first half of the race. As we neared the turnaround I kept expecting to see someone running back at me any second, but that person never materialized. I hit the turnaround (which was unmanned, just a painted line on the road which seemed odd to me) in first place and hit the split button on my watch so that I could determine how big (or small) of a lead I had. The first pink sticker I saw was a guy in a red shirt and he was 2 minutes back. I was hoping for more of a cushion, but thought maybe I could hold on to it.

On the return trip we were going mostly downhill, as I mentioned, but there were still some significant climbs, which I continued to walk. I felt great as I began the return trip, due in no small part to the cheers of encouragement from the other runners I was now passing as they were still heading out. But, by the time I reached the aid station 12.4 miles from the finish, the red shirt guy was right on my tail. Just before the 20 mile marker, he caught me. I looked at him and said “Wow, you closed that gap fast.” He said that he was just putting in a good training run in preparation for a 100 miler in 3 weeks. I saw my visions of grandeur fading quickly. After a minute or so, we parted ways and he took off. I saw him a few times in the distance after that, but it was basically a race with myself for the last 11 miles. After red shirt guy blew by me, I tried to just relax and run within myself the rest of the way. At the 8.4 mile to go aid station, I was definitely starting to feel the fatigue setting in and was actually looking forward to uphills so that I could have an excuse to walk for a little while. Running down the biggest hill to the mile 25 marker felt pretty good, but when the course flattened out for a stretch after that, I was definitely feeling it. It didn’t help that the nice, cool fog was long burnt off by that point and I was running directly into the sun. The heat didn’t get to me as bad as in Missoula, and I never had cramping issues, but it surely didn’t make the experience any more pleasurable.

With about 3 miles to go I reentered Hot Springs and started trying to do some math in my head, a very sketchy proposition under normal circumstances much less after 28 miles of running. I knew that 4:30 was out the window, but finally decided that 4:45 was within reach. By this point, though, I was taking a walk break every now and then, hill or not. I found that the pain in my ankles and calves would grow progressively worse and extend up my legs as I ran and that if I walked for a little bit it would subside and I could then run fairly comfortably again. Again, because there were no markers every single mile, I didn’t really know how far I had to go and tried to use building as landmarks, which was a pretty shaky endeavor since it was so foggy in the morning and I hadn’t really been paying attention. Just as I was thinking that I was going to have to walk for another spell I saw the magical Dairy Queen sign ahead. I knew that DQ was right next to the Best Western, which was right next to the finish. So, instead of walking I gave it a little finishing “kick”, which was really pretty pathetic and surged toward the finish line. I will point out that, besides other runners and aid station volunteers, there were absolutely zero spectators for the entire course. Finally, as I neared the finish line I saw one lady cheering and then Jerry’s wife, Elaine, pointing me toward home. As I crested the final small hill (no walking that one) I saw the very low key finish line (a banner strung between two poles about a foot off the ground) and my wife taking pictures. With my son yelling, “Go, Daddy, GO, GO, GO!” I ran past the lady with the timing device next to the banner and, unsure of where the finish line really was because it wasn’t really clearly marked, just stopped when it she seemed satisfied. First ultra down!!!

So, the stats: I finished 2nd overall in the 50K, 1st in my AG with a time of 4:46:22 (9:13 avg. pace). My first half split was 2:22:13; second half split was 2:24:09. Red shirt guy beat me fairly handily, and seemingly barely broke a sweat in the process. The 3rd overall finisher, and first female, finished about 5 minutes behind me.

The aftermath: I actually don’t feel THAT bad as I write this about seven hours later, but we’ll see what the next couple of days hold. I will say that I’ve felt worse after a couple of marathons. Will I run a 50K again? Not out of the question. Will I ever run a 50 or 100 miler? Can’t honestly say right now, but I think it’s still within the realm of possibility (which makes me worry for my mental health). In any case, I think that any further ultra ambitions will be pushed aside until I’ve taken care of a little Boston qualifying business.

Overall, it was a fun experience…extremely sick and twisted, but in a fun, wholesome way. The event itself was very low key but then again, maybe that’s how ultras are in general. I obviously haven’t run enough to know. Maybe I’ll find out someday….

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

3 days til Lean Horse

I ran my last run before Lean Horse this morning, an easy 5 miler. Physically, I guess I'm as ready as I'm gonna get at this point. Mentally, I've decided that this is by far the stupidest idea I've ever acted on (I have a lot of stupid ideas but, fortunately, I usually restrain myself from acting on them). If I'd actually gone through a long, 50K-specific training plan, I'd probably be a little more confident about the race. But, as it is, I basically did two marathon plans (Fargo and Missoula) back to back and then tacked on some ultra-esque training in the six short weeks I had between Missoula and Lean Horse. I keep telling myself that a 50K isn't THAT much farther than a marathon, but it's not helpin.

So, two days of rest (an oddity in itself for me) and then Lean Horse on Saturday. The weather is supposed to be nice and cool for the next two days and then warming up again (a forecasted high of 90 in Hot Springs) on Saturday. Fortunately, temps early on Saturday should be in the low 50s and the race starts at 6 AM, so it'll at least be pleasant for a couple of hours.

As of now, there are 25 runners registered for the 50K (along with 113 hundred milers and 46 fifty milers). My primary goal is to survive. My secondary goal is to finish in 4:30 (8:40 pace) which may or may not be totally unrealistic for a first timer. If I make it to halfway in one piece, I should be golden because it's all downhill from there. If I don't then, well, they'll probably be able to find me by heading toward the circling vultures.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Leading Ladies Half-marathon Race Report (from the sidelines)

Yesterday was the third running of the Leading Ladies Marathon and Half-marathon, an all-women's race down Spearfish Canyon. I would love to run a full marathon down Spearfish Canyon, but since I have that Y chromosome I don't qualify for this race (sexist pigs :) ). However, my wife and sister-in-law did make their half-marathon debuts yesterday with great results.

I've listened to my wife tell me two things repeatedly for the last several months (yes, I do listen long as football isn't on). The first was that there was no way she would be able to run a full 13.1 miles (this even after she ran 12 in training). The second was that if she did actually make it 13.1 miles, it would take her at least 2 hours and 45 minutes. I told her (repeatedly) that both statements were bull pucky. Lo and behold, I was right, damn it.

The race started at 6:00 AM and the half-marathoners had to be on their bus by 4:45, so my wife and sister-in-law were out the door by 4:15 to drive the 12 miles to Spearfish. I got to sleep in until the extravagant hour of 6:15, a new and not unpleasant experience for me on race day. As a consequence, though, I was left to the task of feeding, dressing and loading up a two year old and a three year old, which is a sort of endurance event in its own right. But, I was ultimately successful and delivered everyone to the finish line at the Spearfish city park with the race clock reading 2:22. This was a totally new and odd experience for me; being the one sitting and waiting instead of being waited for. As it turns out, the experience didn't last long because barely seven minutes after we arrived I saw my wife coming down the homestretch. I pointed her out to my three year old son, who was patiently waiting with a rose in hand. As she neared the finish line and he finally caught site of her, he started yelling "Go, Go, Go!!!" as loud as he could. She hit the line in 2:29 and I believe my words of congratulation were something along the lines of "2:45 my ass". After getting a hug from the designated hugger (yes, the race had a guy at the finish whose sole job was to hug each sweaty, fun, fun), she got her medal and her rose and we settled back down to wait for her sister to finish. Her goal had been 2:40 and she sprinted the final stretch to finish in 2:38.

My wife is already contemplating her goal for next year. When asked, I said "5 hours would be good first marathon goal." She wasn't amused. She also says that she'll never run a full marathon. I said that once too....six marathons ago.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Running with the Marathon Man and my new job as map maker

Yesterday morning I went for a short run with local running legend Jerry Dunn. Jerry became somewhat well known in the running community when he ran 200 marathons in the year 2000. That's some friggin dedication there. I think I once watched "The Goonies" once a day for 30 straight days. For details on his exploits, check out his website at .

Jerry is also the director of two local races: the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon, which I hope to run for the first time next June, and the Lean Horse Ultramarathon, where I will be running the 50K in 9 short days. When I registered for Lean Horse, Jerry noticed that I lived close by and offered to go on a run sometime. The running community here in Belle is very small, especially when you're talking marathoners who get up at the buttcrack of dawn to run. I have run with someone else (not including races of course) exactly ONE time in the six years that I've been running and that was when I went to San Francisco for work and met up with a friend, and marathoner, who lives out there. So, I took Jerry up on his offer and we ran a few miles together around Spearfish yesterday before I went to work.

During our run we of course talked about Lean Horse and I mentioned at some point that I had made my own map of the 50K course so that I could see the elevation profile for just that race (rather than try to decipher it from the 100 mile elevation profile on the race website). Jerry thought that was a good idea and asked if he could use it for the website. I said sure and emailed him the link later that day. He apparently liked the map because he called me yesterday evening and asked if I would make maps for the 50 and 100 mile courses also. I'm a geek who likes doing that kind of stuff, so I agreed and just sent them off to Jerry this morning. So, coming soon to the Lean Horse website ( you'll be able to see some of my extremely amateur map making abilities on display. Hopefully no one gets lost because of me....

Jerry also told me that there'll be somewhat of an ultrarunning celebrity running the Lean Horse 100 Miler this year. For those of you out there who follow the Badwater Ultramarathon, you'll probably recognize the name Akos Konya. For those not in the know, Badwater is a 135 mile race that starts in Death Valley and ends at the Mt. Whitney portal. The course goes from 200 feet below sea level to approximately 11,000 feet above sea level. And they do it at the end of July when temperatures in Death Valley typically top out around 130 degrees. Akos has taken second at Badwater the past two years and this year he actually broke the course record. Unfortunately for him, some guy from Brazil broke the course record by more. Anyhow, Akos is obviously fast and tough and the Lean Horse course (that rhymes) is much more kind than Badwater, so it appears likely that the course record will be broken this year.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The week in review: Godsmack, head colds and some running

Wow, I've been slacking off here.... So, to fill the void, I'll write a little bit about my last week or so of training/life. As if anyone cares about the intricacies of my running schedule, but this is my blog damn it, so just sit there and read!! Sorry...

Last week went pretty well training-wise, which is good because it was the last week of any real training before Lean Horse, which is now only 11 days away. Here's a breakdown of my workouts:

Sunday - "Rest"....that's in quotation marks because I spent the entire day on my feet cleaning the house, so it wasn't really restful at all and when I finally sat down sometime in the evening after dinner I realized that I was wiped.

Monday - 8 miles easy. Whether I intended to do them at an easy pace or not, an easy pace was all I was gonna get after the previous day of cleaning and the 18 miler the day before that.

Tuesday - 10 miles with the last 5 @ Marathon Pace (around 7:38 min/mile). Felt much better than the 8 on Monday and it felt particularly good the last 5 miles to stretch my legs a little.

Tuesday Night - Ever hear of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally? Well, imagine a few hundred thousand bikers all in one place at one time. Now, throw in a Godsmack concert (with Fuel and Ted Nugent as the opening acts). Now, add me and a few (or 6....or maybe 10) beers. Good times....

Wednesday - Okay, add up all the stuff from Tuesday night. What do you get? You get me sleep deprived and hungover. What don't you get? Me running.

Thursday - 5 miles @ recovery pace. Back in the saddle and recovered from Godsmack, but now I have a head cold.

Friday - 14 miles easy. Day 1 of my back to back long runs. Felt okay overall, but my legs didn't feel too good going uphill.

Saturday - 20 miles easy. Day 2 of the back to back. After one block I was pretty sure that this was going to be one of the most miserable experiences of my life. My legs were achey and I just didn't feel like I was going to be able to find any rhythm whatsoever. It doesn't help that my long run route is a net uphill on the way out. By the time I reached the 10 mile point I was pretty damn tired and hot (the wind had been at my back). But, once I turned around and started heading back I fell into a good groove and was greeted with a nice head wind to cool me off. The second 10 miles went much better than the first 10 and I actually finished feeling stronger than I had at the end of my 18 miler the week before. Hopefully a good sign.

So, there it is. I'm now in taper mode for Lean Horse, which means that I'm running less and obsessing more. When I checked yesterday, I was one of 21 runners registered for the 50K and still the only one from South Dakota. Home field advantage?? I'll take any help I can get...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Just how crazy am I??

Well, it's official...I've fallen off the deep end. I'm a few cards short of a deck. I jumped off the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down. I mailed in my registration for the Lean Horse 50K this week and got my confirmation email today. Right now I'm sure of two things: 1) I'm sick in the head and 2) I have no idea what I'm doing (training wise, that is). There's not much I can do about number 1 besides find comfort in the fact that there are people out there even crazier than me. There are at least 100 people signed up for the Lean Horse 50 mile and 100 mile races, so compared to them I'm relatively sane. As for number 2, I took a 16 week long 50K training plan I found online and crammed it into 6 weeks. Probably not ideal, but I justify it by the fact that I'm already in marathon shape and my goal for the 50K is just to finish.

So far, I'm one of only 19 runners registered for the 50K and the only one from South Dakota, which struck me as odd. There are people coming to this race all the way from the east coast to Hawaii, but I'm the only one within driving distance. I have met a few ultrarunners over the past few years at marathons, which they use as a leisurely training run. They are a close-knit (and relatively small) group; it seems that every ultrarunner knows every other ultrarunner. They seem to travel in packs, moving from ultra to ultra and earning belt buckle after belt buckle (the typical prize for completing a 100-miler, I'll get a Black Hills gold keychain if I finish the 50K). I suppose you would bond pretty quickly with someone you ran with for 17-30 hours straight.

This brings up a point of concern for me. I think it's likely that after running this 50K my running future will veer off onto one of two possible paths. Either I'll finish and be content that I gave an ultra a shot or I will be instantly hooked and immediately start planning on my first 50 miler. I'm not really sure which outcome I'm hoping for, but I'm inclined to believe it will be the second. For me, running has become what heroin is to a druggie; I'm always looking for a bigger hit and better high. Running my first (or second, or third, or fourth....) marathon certainly didn't satisfy my addiction, so why should I believe that running my first 50K will have a different result?

What in the sam hell have I gotten myself into?