Sunday, October 28, 2007

Victory is Mine!!!....figuratively speaking, that is

Today I took my third shot at going sub-20 in the 5K. I've run several 5Ks in the past few years, but first started thinking I could break 20 minutes about a year ago and took my first shot at a Turkey Trot last November, finishing in 20:16, which was a big PR but left me wanting sub-20 even more. A second attempt came this past June when I charged out and had a 6 second cushion at the turnaround but then saw that cushion literally melt in the 100 degree heat during the second half. I finished in a disappointing 20:34.

So, today I looked to get the sub-20 monkey off my back at the Halloween Sock Hop 5K (they give out socks instead of shirts) in Rapid City. I've come to realize that I don't have a freakin clue how to train for a 5K, nor do I really care. Almost all of my 5Ks have been run either as part of a marathon training plan or during marathon recovery and this one was no exception, coming three weeks after the Monumental Challenge marathon. I know that my training was far from ideal; in the two weeks preceding the race I ran 13 straight days, totaling 115 miles, none of which included any speedwork. I did "taper" by running an easy 5 miles on Friday and Saturday.
Caid has the Pre-race Stance Down

I ran this event last year, pushing both my kids in the stroller, so I was familiar with the course. It's fairly flat, with a few very short hills. The route itself loops around a city park. I warmed up for this year's race by running the kids' 1K with my 3 year old. He finished in 7:XX, but could have been faster if we wouldn't have taken time to look at the ducks, the water, the playground equipment, the orange cones marking the course, and to show me how he can run and jump at the same time. I guess we need to work on his focus. He had a blast, and is especially excited about the Spiderman socks he got, which he swears helped him run fast and so now he's going to wear them forever and ever. Caiden Sprinting to the Finish

Finally it was time to line up for the 5K. This was the most nervous I've been for a race in a long time. There was a slight breeze, but the temperature was about 70, which is higher than I would like, but better than 100, I guess. I lined up in the front, knowing I would be close to top 10 if I did indeed go sub-20. Just before the start I glanced to my left and saw a local runner named Wally, who I have race several times and lost to several times. I knew that Wally ran 5Ks consistently in the 19:30-20:00 range, so I told myself that I either had to stay ahead of him, or cling to him like stink on poo. There was a Ready, Set, Go! and we were off.

I immediately took off with a group of the top 15 or so runners. Wally was behind me, which was good but I wondered how long it would stay that way. I was immediately uncomfortable and seriously doubting I would be able to keep up this pace, so I knew that I had the pace just about right. As we made a loop around the park I jockeyed for position with a couple of junior high looking kids, but they eventually pulled away. Normally, my ego would be shot, but I frankly didn't give a damn if it resulted in a sub-20. After the loop, we headed out on an out and back where I maintained position, but could hear someone close behind. I suspected it was Wally and at the turnaround, I was proven correct; he was right on my tail. My first half split was 9:53, so 7 seconds of cushion. I was glad to see something under 10, but also wishing the cushion was bigger given how not good I felt. For the second half of the race we backtracked the first half. I passed one guy, who turned out to be in my age group, just after the turnaround and that was it; the field was pretty spread out by that time. I could hear Wally behind me for awhile, but by the time we got back to the final 1K loop, I couldn't hear him anymore....or maybe my ragged breath and thumping heart were just covering the sounds of his footsteps. With about 500m to go, I glanced at my watch and saw 18:XX and knew I had to pick it up. As I came around the last turn onto the final straightaway, I took another peek at the watch and saw 19:19. Now or never, damn it! I gave it what little more kick I had left and surged across the line in 19:46. Sub-20 is mine!! I would like to say that it felt triumphant, glorious, spectacular, or something similarly great, but really I just grabbed my popsicle stick (which declared that I had taken 11th overall) and then wondered if I was going to pass out or not. Turns out, not, but it seemed like a toss up there for a few seconds. Wally finished not too far behind me and congratulated me on setting a good pace, which made me almost feel better than the sub-20. I wonder if he has any clue how many races I've spent trying to chase him down?

1K to Go?? Son of a #*^%$!!!

I ended up with a 1 second negative split and my time was good for 11th overall, as I already mentioned, and I got 2nd in my AG (actually 3rd, but they don't double up on awards and the overall winner was in my AG). So, the sub-20 demon has been vanquished and I can concentrate on loftier goals (BQ) now. Thanks for reading and thanks for all the support!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Runnin to Wal-Mart

How often does someone say, "I'm gonna run to the store." Probably quite a bit. Now, how often do they actually run to the store? Well, I never had. At least, not until this past Saturday.

Ever since we moved to South Dakota, I've wanted to run from Belle Fourche, where we live, to Spearfish, where I work and where we do the bulk of our shopping. I even measured the route one day a few months ago just in case but had never actually run it. Well, on Saturday, I finally crossed that off of my to-do list. The schedule called for a 16 miler. We typically do our weekly grocery shopping at the Wal-Mart Supercenter (insert redneck joke here) on Saturday, after I've gone running. Well, it just so happens that if you follow the back roads (as opposed to the 4 lane superhighway), that it's exactly 16 miles from our house to Wal-Mart. I presented the proposal to my wife on Saturday morning. She questioned whether I really wanted to walk around Wal-Mart all sweaty and stinky. I questioned whether or not she had actually taken a look at some of the people who shop at Wal-Mart.

I left the house at a little after 9 while my wife took the kids to see a little kids' soccer game. After the soccer game, they moved on to Wal-Mart and started in on the shopping. Meanwhile, I chugged along, hoping to meet them there at about the same time they were finishing up. Here's a Map My Run link to the route, for anyone who cares. Take a special look at the elevation's a leg-burner.

The first 10 miles of this route were nothing new to me as this is where I do the majority of my long runs....10 miles out and 10 miles back gives me a good 20 miler. But, I had only seen the final 6 miles one time, when I measure the route, and that was from our car and I've learned from experience that hills don't look nearly as intimidating when you're riding in a vehicle. I also wasn't sure of the location of the mile splits for the final 6 miles because I had failed to write them down during my only drive through of the course. So, in a total departure for me, I ran the last 6 without really knowing what my pace was. As you can see from the elevation profile, the last 6 miles were where the men got separated from the boys...well, maybe not that extreme, but they were tough. I don't think I've ever been so relieved to see a Wal-Mart before.

Upon arriving at our car in the parking lot 2 hours and 17 minutes later, I discreetly shed my sweaty running clothes and threw on some clothes that my wife had brought along for me. Nothing quite like trying to get on a pair of jeans in the front seat of a Dodge Durango when you're 6'3". Then, I went into the store to find that the grocery shopping was pretty much done....perfect timing!

So, mission accomplished. I got my long run in and got out of most of the grocery shopping. How's that for time management?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What now?

Jeez, I'm a slacker....well at least as far as posting on this blog is concerned. I'll blame it on the fact that I don't really have anything to obsess about right now. At least not running-wise, there's always the Seahawks, but I don't want to get into that right now....naughty words are likely to appear frequently if I do.

So, the big question for me is: What now? Over the past 5 months, I've run 3 marathons, 1 50K, 1 half marathon, and at least 5 shorter races. That comes out to an average of 3 races per month (I'm a math whiz!!). Now, I face a 7 month period with 5 races that I know I will probably run. That comes out to less than 1 race per month (I figured that out without a calculator!!). Well, hell....what am I going to do with myself?

I do have a plan, believe it or not. Basically, I'm gonna run. To be more precise, I'm gonna run a lot. It took me a long time to come up with that plan, so don't go mockin it. Okay, really, I do have a more intricate plan in the works. It goes something like this: For the next 2.5 months or so, I'm going to do some basebuilding, putting in 60-70 miles per week at mostly slow and easy paces to get my body used to higher mileage (again). Then, on New Year's Eve, I'm going to launch into my most aggressive training plan yet, a Pfitz 18 week plan that tops out at 93 miles in a week. My target is the Colorado Marathon in Ft. Collins on May 4. My goal is 3:10:59 or less, which will qualify me for Boston in 2009.

My reasoning for this strategy goes something like this: I used the Pfitz 18/55 plan for my second marathon and took 16 minutes off my time. Last spring, for Fargo, I used the Pfitz 18/70 plan and took another 11 minutes off my time. Therefore, more mileage = faster marathon so 93 miles will = BQ. Sounds logical, right? If you don't think so, then keep it to yourself and let me live in my own blissfully ignorant little world :).

There is a second aspect to my reasoning (I know, this is getting really complicated...I told you it took me a long time to come up with this). You see, a funny thing happened to me when I started running marathons. I had already been running for a few years before I went off the deep end and started training for my first mary. And, for a few years, my weight had always hovered between 180 and 185. All of a sudden (well, not all of a sudden, but fairly rapidly) my weight started going up as my weekly mileage did, and before I knew it I was at 220. What the hell? One would think that more mileage would equal fewer pounds, but one would be wrong. Apparently, for me at least, more mileage equals more calories burned but also equals more food in. Of course, a lot of that is my's easy to justify more food with the "I ran 20 miles today, I can eat whatever the hell I want" excuse. There's a point in here somewhere....oh yeah, so I read this article in Runner's World that said by losing so much extra weight you can gain so many minutes for a marathon (I don't remember the exact numbers, but I do remember that it was enough minutes for me to BQ if I lost 15-20 pounds). So, I figure if I can run a 3:18 weighing around 215 pounds, then I should be able to run a 3:10 weighing under 200. And if not, then Runner's World is full of shit and I'm cancelling my subscription. So, this adds another variable to my equation: less weight + more miles = faster marathon = BQ. Hell, if I gain time from more miles and from losing weight, I might just run an Olympic Trials qualifying time (that's 2:22, folks). Well, maybe just a BQ time.

Okay, as if this wasn't getting complicated enough, there's yet another factor. The Colorado Marathon course is touted (by the organizers) as being the #1 Boston qualifier in the country. This is because it's almost all a relatively gentle downgrade and the weather is usually good (i.e. cool, but not too cool). So, that makes it: fast course + less weight + more miles = faster marathon = BQ. Maybe I will get that 2:22.

So, there ya go. I made up for over a week of no posts by rambling on incessantly about a bunch of nonsense. Don't get mad at me about it, you're the one who actually read it...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A great course amidst a logistical mess: Monumental Challenge Race Report

I might have a new favorite marathon. I’ve only run 7, so that’s not really saying much, but still. Maybe I should clarify that I might have a new favorite marathon course as the event itself had some fairly major glitches, which is to be expected when you change the entire thing three weeks before race day. Let me explain (skip ahead if you don’t care)…

The Black Hills Marathon started in the late seventies and was originally organized by a group of local runners and then the Rapid City Visitors Bureau. At some point and for unknown reasons (to me at least), the name was changed to the Mt. Rushmore International Marathon. The course didn’t go anywhere near Mt. Rushmore itself and I’m not quite sure what was “international” about it. Maybe a Canadian ran one year. Or maybe a North Dakotan…they’re close to Canada and it’s a foreign country as far as most South Dakotans are concerned. But, that’s not really relevant. What is relevant is that RCVB decided three years ago to sell the marathon to All Sport Central (of fame) because it was too much work for their limited staff to organize. ASC immediately made what was a largely unpopular change to the course. The original course had always started somewhere in the Black Hills and gone downhill, finishing in Rapid City. It was fast and BQ friendly, so people like it. Understandable. ASC decided that if the event was going to bear the Mt. Rushmore name, it should include Mt. Rushmore. So, they redesigned the course so that it started at Mt. Rushmore, went up and down and up and down some more to Hill City and then went up, up, up to the Crazy Horse Memorial (a mountain carving in progress). The final 8 miles were basically all uphill. It was tough, so most people didn’t like it so much. Understandable. In response to the general dislike of this new course, ASC changed it again for their second running of the event last year. They wanted to keep both memorials in the event so they decided to have not one, but two marathons (and half marathons), one starting at Mt. Rushmore and the other at Crazy Horse with both heading toward Hill City before merging after 10 miles and then sharing the final 16 miles, which included another tough, 6 mile climb as part of an out and back from Hill City and back to the finish. Got it? If you don’t, it doesn’t really matter, just go with it. The plan for this year was to use the same format as 2006 (the dual marathons) but the necessary permits from the Park Service weren’t obtained in time, which forced ASC to go with (or make up real quick) Plan B. Plan B, as it turns out, was a brilliant plan, in my opinion. This year’s course was almost totally different from the previous courses. It started just outside the old logging and mining town of Rochford and followed the Mickelson Trail from there to Hill City. The Mickelson is a Rails to Trails project that traverses the Black Hills for 110 miles. Per railroad regulations when the original tracks were laid, none of the grades are greater than 2%, so no steep hills although there are some long ones. And the crushed gravel running surface is very kind on the legs. Overall, it proved to be a much easier course than either of the old Mt. Rushmore or Crazy Horse courses. Since neither of those memorials were involved in the course this year, the name was also changed to the Monumental Challenge Marathon, which I think is lame, but I guess I don’t always get my way (or at least that’s what my wife suggests on a regular basis). So, with such drastic changes in such a short time you wouldn’t really expect everything to go off without a hitch. Well, they didn’t. I’ll get to that as I tell my tale…

I went into this marathon without much of a goal in mind. You see, I’ve been racing a lot lately. Since setting a marathon PR (3:18:53) at Fargo in May, I’ve run one marathon (Missoula), one 50K (Lean Horse), one half marathon (Spearfish Canyon, also a PR), and five shorter local races. So, my marathon training hasn’t really been all that impressive since Fargo; I’ve basically been stuck in a race/recover/train briefly/taper cycle since then. Given that, I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular at Monumental Challenge, but I knew that the nature of the course would lend itself to a decent time. The new course featured about 10 miles of downhill followed by 8 miles of uphill and then another 8 miles of downhill to the finish. If you were paying attention before, you’ll remember that the grades on the Mickelson are very gentle, so the downhills weren’t quad pounding and the uphill didn’t make me wish I had taken up stamp collecting instead of running. I set my goal fairly arbitrarily at sub-3:30, which would give me my second fastest marathon time. I thought that if everything went absolutely perfectly, I might hit 3:25, but wasn’t counting on it. My basic pacing goal was to run 7:40-7:45 miles on the downhills and around 8:00 miles on the uphill.

The day before the race was a blur of activity. It started with Black Hills State’s homecoming football game against the archrival South Dakota School of Mines, a 58-0 blowout in BHSU’s favor (Go Jackets!!!). Then, it was on to Rapid City to pick up some last minute supplies at the running store (GU and Body Glide), pick up my packet at the expo, and do some carboloading at Olive Garden (I think a marathoner invented their “Never-ending Pasta Bowl” promotion). After that, we finally made our way to Hill City and our hotel, where I was eventually able to crash about 10:00. I slept remarkably well, waking up only once before my alarm went off at 4:15.

I dressed, chowed a couple of bagels and a banana and chugged a bottle of Powerade then made my way to the 1880 Train Station, which served as the shuttle departure point and finish line. I hopped on the first bus leaving the station at 5:00 and the bus driver immediately informed us that there was no way the drop-off schedule was going to work because the organizers hadn’t allowed enough time for each bus to get to and back from the start line. Not a good sign, but being on the first bus, I wasn’t really worried. The ride itself took a good hour, during which I dozed off a little, so I guess I was relaxed. We were dumped off at what we thought was the start line at 6:00, a full hour before the race actually started. It was drizzly and fairly chilly outside; making me glad I had thrown on a sweatshirt and sweatpants and brought my drop bag. I began to suspect that the logistics were a mess when 7:00 was nearing and only two of the supposed 4 shuttle busses had arrived. I first heard that we were going to start the race in waves (it was chip timed) but then we were told that we would be delaying the start to let one more bus arrive. Then, they said it was time to walk to the start line itself, which turned out to be a good half-mile away. When we got there, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a perfectly good parking area right there. So, why then did they drop us off a half-mile away? Who knows….no, seriously, who knows? They did offer up a bus that was already there to escape the rain and warm up, which I jumped on immediately as my feet were pretty much numb by that point. Finally, about 10-15 minutes after we were supposed to already be running, we were herded off the bus to the start line and before I knew it, we were off.

I’ll say this in general about the course: it was beautiful. I typically zone out during a marathon and don’t really see anything, but I did take the time today to actually look around at the scenery. Awesome. Drizzly and cold, but awesome. And I’ll take drizzly and cold any day over hot, or even mildly warm. The temp at the finish was 39 and temps were probably in the upper 30s and maybe lower 40s for much of the race. I swear I might have seen a snowflake when we hit the high point of the course at mile 18, but I might have been hallucinating. In any case, this is actually nearly my ideal running weather. I could have done without the drizzle, but I was fairly comfortable in shorts, a t-shirt and gloves.

Okay, finally, here are some stats for ya:

Mile 1: 7:48 – feeling good, which is good because if I’m not I’m pretty much screwed with a capital S
Mile 2: 7:30 – a little too fast
Mile 3: 7:44 – right on
Mile 4: 7:21 – stop following that girl who’s running the relay!
Mile 5: 7:40 – right on
Mile 6: 7:40 – groovin, eat my first gel, which actually seems to settle my stomach, which had been a little heartburny (is that a word?)
Mile 7: 7:26 – too groovy
Mile 8: 8:11 – stopped to take a leak in the portajohn
Mile 9: 7:13 – trying to make up time and overdid it a little, pull up and chat with a guy for awhile to settle myself down
Miles 10 and 11: 15:25 – didn’t miss the marker, but did apparently miss the split button on my watch
Mile 12: 8:05 – we’re going uphill now, eat my second gel and sense that I may have to visit the portajohn again soon, but not to take a leak if you know what I mean (for #2 if you don’t)
Mile 13: 8:09 – this hill isn’t steep, like I said, but it is consistent; the urge I mentioned before has passed, thankfully
Mile 14: 8:25 – 4 more miles of this??
Mile 15: 8:31 – trying to be patient and not push it too hard
Mile 16: 8:31 – groovin again, but a different groove
Mile 17: 8:34 – I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! (okay, that was totally corny….sorry)Mile 18: 7:45 – downhill again!
Mile 19: 8:18 – uphill again! Didn’t see that in the elevation profile… eat another gel here
Mile 20: 7:33 – downhill again and feeling great
Mile 21: 8:40 – actually felt good except that #2 was imminent and no portajohns in sight so I dove into the brush
Mile 22: 7:33 – back in the groove (again)
Mile 23: 7:39 – man it’s fun not to crash and burn
Mile 24: 8:11 – my body is betraying me, I have to pull over to water a tree
Mile 25: 7:32 – back in the…oh, hell you know what I’m gonna say
Mile 26: 7:47 – starting to feel the toll but oh so close to the end
Mile 26.2: 2:45 – I really don’t think this was 0.2 miles. The course was certified, so the markers must have been a little off along the way, because this was the longest 0.2 I’ve experienced in awhile. In any case, I finished fairly strong and pulled my 3 year old son out of the crowd to run the last 20 yards or so with me.

1st Half Split: 1:41:10
2nd Half Split: 1:46:59
Final Time: 3:28:09
Overall Place: 19 out of 160
AG Place: 4 out of 10

So, there you have it. A decent time (my second-fastest, in fact) on a great course despite some shady logistics. In addition to the debacle at the marathon start, the half marathon start was apparently even more FUBAR (watch “Saving Private Ryan” if you don’t get that). Apparently the half-marathoners had to walk a full mile to their start and when I passed the halfway point, I saw many people still making the walk toward the start even though they were supposed to have started 40 minutes before I got there. I don’t know the full story on that, but it seems that there are definitely some kinks to be worked out. In my opinion, ASC should ditch the whole dual marathon plan and stick with this course. But, as I sadly mentioned before, I don’t always get my way.

My legs feel remarkably good right now, but it’s only been about 6.5 hours, so we’ll see. My legs didn’t really start feeling fatigued until mile 24 or so and were definitely talking to me by the finish, but I’ve had much worse. The Mickelson is much gentler than 26.2 miles of pavement or asphalt, so hopefully my recovery will be swift. Well, what next? No, really, what next? For the first time since Fargo, I don’t have another marathon in my immediate plans. There is a trail race this weekend I may go to depending on how my legs feel and the annual Halloween and Thanksgiving 5Ks, but I’ll be in marathon withdrawal probably until May, when I’m looking to capture that sneaky 3:10 at the Colorado Marathon in Ft. Collins. What’s a raceaholic to do? Alright, y’all, you’ve made it through another of my marathon (literally) reports. Congrats, thanks for reading and a big thanks to my fellow X-Squaders!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Monumental mess??

The Crazy Horse Marathon is no more. The Mt. Rushmore Marathon is no more. What do we have instead? The bastard child of the two, the brand-spanking new Monumental Challenge Marathon! Allow me to explain...

All Sport Central bought the Mt. Rushmore Marathon from the Rapid City (SD) Convention and Visitors Bureau a few years ago after the city determined it was too time consuming to put on a marathon. The first major change ASC made was to move the course from it's location of 30+ years so that it actually went past Mt. Rushmore (the original course wasn't within 20 miles of the memorial). This was an unpopular move from the start because the original course had been a fast downhill one that was PR and BQ friendly. The first year under ASC, the marathon started at Mt. Rushmore, went down to Hill City and then up to the Crazy Horse memorial. That final stretch up to Crazy Horse was a brutal 8 mile climb and people hated it. So, last year ASC came up with the bright idea to have not one, but two marathons, one starting at Mt. Rushmore and one at Crazy Horse with both ending in downtown Hill City. ASC seemed happy and proud of this format, it went remarkably smoothly I'll admit, and the plan for this year was to repeat this double-marathon strategy. Apparently not everyone was so keen on the idea though. In order to do anything besides look at Mt. Rushmore, you need a permit. ASC had gotten into the habit of waiting until the last minute to obtain said permit and this year Mt. Rushmore said "enough of this crap, come back next year and do this on time" (I made that up, but it's the gist of what happened as far as I know). Also, Hill City citizens were disgruntled with the closed roads around town that made them late for church last year, so the city wasn't too keen on granting the necessary permission either.

So, what to do? Well, how about combining two marathons, totally rerouting the course, and changing the name of the whole thing? Sounds like a plan. Oh, and let's wait until 10 days before the race to announce all of this! That's right, I got an email on Thursday night with the news of the demise of Crazy Horse/Mt. Rushmore and the rise of Monumental Challenge from their ashes. I'm going on record as saying that the new name is lame. I'd much prefer "Black Hills Marathon" but, obviously, no one asked me (for some reason). ASC stated that they would offer "registration transfers" to anyone who wished to skip this year's event and come back next year (when the two-marathon thing will supposedly happen again). The chief organizer of the event has stated that he wants to make this a "goal marathon" and attract 5,000 to 15,000 runners each year. Not bloody likely if you continue to commit organizational blunders like this.

Having said all of that I, for one, am in this for better or for worse for two reasons. The first is that Crazy Horse wasn't a goal marathon for me, just something to do for the fun of it that's close to home, and that hasn't changed. The second is that, in my opinion, the new course is MUCH better than either of the old ones. The race will now be run almost exclusively on the Mickelson Trail, which is a crushed gravel path that extends a total of 110 miles across the Black Hills from north to south. It was an old railroad until the 90s, and while there are ups and downs, the grades are very gentle. We'll start just west of Rochford (which consists of a bar, a post office and a community center) and finish in Hill City. It's a point to point course, so no doubling back and covering the same terrain twice like there was last year. The first 10 miles or so are a gentle downhill, followed by 8 miles of gentle uphill, followed by another 8 miles of gentle downhill. I wonder, after running the event on this course, if anyone who matters (i.e. the runners) will actually want to go back to the dual courses? I'm sure some will, but my guess is that far more would choose the new Mickelson course. So what if you don't get to see Mt. Rushmore or Crazy Horse during the if you're really paying attention to some mountain carvings when you're about to run a marathon anyhow.

Anyhow, this Sunday will be interesting for sure. Hopefully, ASC manages to get all of their ducks in a row and can pull this thing off despite all of their own self-generated problems. I'm kind of hoping everything goes perfectly and they decide to adopt the new course for long as they change the name.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Oh so close to back to back wins...

On Saturday I ran the Call of the Wild 5 mile trail race with visions of back to back wins dancing in my head. Last week, I won a sparsely populated (9 total runners) 5K and I felt my chances would be good today. Why, you ask? Well, last year I ran this event (it was four miles on a totally different course) and would have easily won if I hadn't taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque and run 6 miles instead. Oops. This year I was intent on staying on course and competing for the win.

The race itself is a fundraiser for the Spirit of the Hills animal sanctuary in Spearfish, SD, which houses a wild variety of animals without any other home. Tigers, bears, lions, ducks, pigs, cats, dogs, goats,'s like a modern day Noah's Ark, you name it they either have it or have had it at some time. Most of them are either abused and neglected or were illegaly owned pets or former zoo animals. And it's all non-profit, totally operated by volunteers so they are very dependent on donations to stay in operation. There actually wasn't even a fee for the race today, but donations were accepted (yes, I did kick in some cash).

This year's course started at the Passion Play parking lot in Spearfish and wound up and down through some meadows and the edges of the Black Hills National Forest eventually ending at the sanctuary itself. Sizing up the competition, which is always sketchy, I figured there would be two other runners who would push me for first. One was a guy, Mark, who got lost with me last year at this race (we were the only two). The other was Paul, who I work with and I know does a lot of trail running, trail triathlons and mountain bike races. A lady yelled go and we were off. Mark and another guy immediately took off into the lead with me and Paul not far behind as we started heading uphill immediately. I could tell from the start that this might be a struggle as my legs didn't feel all that great and running a long uphill to start the race wasn't helping. But, I maintained my position and within a quarter of a mile pushed into the lead. My hope was that if I went out strong enough, no one would be able to keep up and challenge me later. As it turns out, Paul, who is much more experienced at trail races (this being only my second one) ended up pacing himself much better. We kept heading up and up and then up some more until I finally had to stop and walk a short stretch to get my heart rate to calm down a felt like I was about to bust a rib. Paul didn't catch me, but he got much closer.

Paul did catch me just after the halfway water station and it was here that I learned just how badly I had paced the first mostly uphill half. As the course finally started to head slightly downhill Paul put on the afterburners and I was almost running all out at that point just to keep up. But, I eventually caught a second wind somewhere in there trying to keep pace with Paul. We ended up running a majority of the second half together and nearly got lost once as we ran across an open meadow without a trail and I just barely caught sight of some red flagging on a tree up off to the left. Up until that point we had been running mostly on vary faint two-track roads, but after the open meadow we hit a gnarly, technical single track trail complete with big rocks, exposed roots and low hanging branches. It was downhill on this stretch and once again, Paul kicked it into overdrive. I simply couldn't keep up here as Paul's trail experience won out....I was too damn worried about breaking an ankle to worry about keeping up with him. After this nasty downhill we only had about 0.1 mile to go, but it was the nastiest uphill I have yet encountered in a race. It was literally hands and knees, pulling myself up with trees and anything else I could grab. It was more akin to crawling than walking or hiking. I knew at this point that Paul was gone as my legs were so spent that it was all I could do to keep moving. The seemingly endless uphill finally ended and the finish line was right at the top. This is the first time I've ever walked across a finish line and I frankly didn't care because running in any form was totally out of the question by that point.

So, I finished second overall in a time of 45:44 and for my efforts got the best trophy I've ever gotten: a big polished Black Hills alabaster plaque, not bad for a race where there wasn't even an official entry fee. Next week, on to the Monumental Challenge Marathon for my third and final 26.2 of 2007.