Monday, December 6, 2010

Just putting in miles

Nothing spectacular about last week, just getting the runs in and accumulating some mileage for a yet-to-be-determined goal race (although it's appearing more and more likely, for a variety of reasons, that the Bighorn 50 will be my "big" race of 2011...but a return to Lean Horse may also be in the cards).

Monday - Woke up. Looked outside. Looked cold. Checked temp. Negative windchill. Didn't feel all that inspired to run at the gym, so went back to bed. About a half hour later I hear the answering machine pick up a phone call saying school has been canceled. I hold out hope that the office will also be closed, but eventually accept the fact that I have to go to work. I waffled back and forth about whether to run at all, but finally forced myself to the gym after work for 6 miles on the track.

Tuesday - Another 6 track miles in the morning. Warmer temps are supposed to be coming, but they haven't arrived as of 5:00 AM. I tacked on another 6.4 miles at lunchtime running with my friend Jerry and his friend Bob. That run was outside and it was still pretty damn chilly, but much better than running in circles.

Wednesday - Ran outside and was determined to get in 10 miles, even though I really did not feel all that good. Legs were really heavy and the pace was pretty pathetic, but I did finish the 10.

Thursday - Another double, 6.2 in the morning and 5.4 in the afternoon.

Friday - Only had to work 6 hours, so worked through lunch and then ran a big 12.1 mile loop from the office around the backside of Lookout Mtn. and then back through Spearfish. It's a nice loop with some good variety of terrain (lots of hills in the first 7 miles) that I've only run twice ever, for some reason.

Saturday - This was one of those cruise control runs. I started running, my body took over and I flew through 8 fairly quick miles with very little effort. If every run was like this, I'd run 200 miles a week.

Sunday - I knew I wanted to run kinda long, but I was sitting at 60 miles for the week so knew in the back of my head that I only needed 10 to get to70. So I told myself I'd go at least that far and see how I felt. I ended up feeling pretty good (not as good as Saturday, but still good) and ultimately ran a big loop around Belle Fourche that totaled 16.2, so the necessary 10 plus a bonus 10K.

Total - 76.3 miles (biggest week since Lean Horse)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Running for pie

Hot on the heels of the first snow of the year came the first sub-zero temps, another dubious landmark that I'd rather not see each year, but is basically inevitable when you live in South Dakota. To top it off, it seems like the lower the temperature goes, the more the wind blows, which creates mind-numbing (literally) wind chills and results in me running in a bunch of circles on the indoor track at the gym. Ugh. You know it's getting bad when you get excited about the mercury breaking 20. In any case, enough bitching about the weather (well, not really, because I'll pretty much bitch about it for the next 5 or 6 months until it warms up and then I'll bitch about how it's too hot's a vicious cycle).

Monday - First run of the year on the indoor track. 7 miles (80.5 laps).

Tuesday - Even colder than Monday, so back to the track for another 10 miles (115 laps).

Wednesday - What sucks more than running 115 laps around the track. How about 161 (that comes out to 14 miles)? Actually, my legs felt REALLY good, which is why I ran so far, but I couldn't help but thinking how much awesomer (that's a word, trust me) the run would've been if it wasn't -15 outside and I could actually see some sights instead of the same four walls of the gym 161 times.

Thursday - Even though it was still cold enough that your spit might freeze solid before it even hit the ground, I ran outside. Why? Because I'll do damn near anything for the chance to win a pie. So I drove to Rapid City for the annual Turkey Trot and, thanks to the cold, there were more pies to give away than there were runners to win them, so I got one. Well worth it. Oh and I was reminded of why I haven't run a 5K in over a year....because they suck. I did run a 20:50, which is decent for me considering I haven't done speedwork since....uh....May?? I don't really remember. What I do know is that I'd much rather run far at a steady pace than short at a fast pace. I mean, if I run a marathon or ultra, I feel like hell afterward, but I also feel like I've freakin accomplished something. When I run a 5K, I still feel like hell and I've only added 3 miles to my training log. The cost/benefit analysis just doesn't work out. It's for that reason that I tacked on 3 miles of warmup/cooldown so I could at least claim 6 miles for the day.

Friday - I've always known that I'm not very good at doing math in my head, like trying to calculate splits near the end of a marathon. I found out on this day that I can't even do simple math. I headed out for a 10 mile loop (the temp had finally risen to a reasonable level) but got confused at some point and was somewhat surprised when I got home and my Garmin said 11 miles instead. Oh well, better to run too many than not enough.

Saturday - DOMS!! If you're not familiar, that stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It's a phenomenon where you put in a hard effort and feel fine the day after, but then 2 or 3 days after, you suddenly feel like crap. It happens a lot after a marathon, but I guess for me it happens after a 5K too (after all, my body is more adjusted to marathons by now). I set out to get my long run of 16 in, but immediately (like within one block) could tell that that was NOT in the cards. My legs were dead and sore in places that they haven't been sore in awhile (stupid 5K....but it was still worth it for the pie). So I ran an easy (albeit painful) 7 instead.

Sunday - Still felt a little of the DOMS, but better than Saturday so I made another attempt at 16. I made it through alright, although I was pretty damn glad when I got home that I hadn't set out for 17....or even 16.5.

Total - 70.2 miles

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Well, my dreams of brown Christmas.....and a brown winter altogether have been utterly crushed by Mother Nature. Granted, November 17th is pretty damn late for our first real snow here, but I was holding out the slim hope that there wouldn't be a first snow. Of course, I probably have a better chance of winning the Powerball 10 times in a row than that happening, but one can hope anyway. Getting myself in shape for the Bighorn 50 would be so much easier if I could actually run trails all winter long (I'm not hardcore enough to strap on snowshoes and give er hell).

So, not a ton of miles last week, mostly due to two days off on the weekend while I was back in Missoula with some old college buddies watching a little Griz football and drinking a lot of beer. And I do mean "old"....we all called it a night by about 8:30 on Saturday. But of course, we started at 10:00 that morning, so it was a long day. Still, I don't remember that stopping us back in our college days. In any case, I ran 40-some miles during the week (I honestly don't even know off the top of my was less than 50 though), including a good 8 mile on the Centennial Trail and a surprisingly fast 11.6 on roads the next day. Hoping to get back over 70 this week, but this damn weather isn't helping...well, it's not really hurting either (it's not THAT bad), just making motivation a little harder to come by.

The big obsession this week is Griz football. It's Griz-Cat week, the most important week in the football year if you're from Montana. Of course, there's smack flying back and forth pretty fast and furious between Griz and Cats. Much more often than not (69 times compared to 38, to be exact), the Griz win this game, but this year is a little different. This time it's the Cats sitting in position to win the Big Sky and the Griz maybe needing a win to secure an at-large playoff berth (they might get in with a loss and a 7-4 record, but would definitely get in with a win). If it weren't for the fact that the game is in Missoula, the Cats would probably even be favored, which is just damn odd. I have faith, though, that the Griz will make it 5 in a row and 21 out of the last 24. Up with Montana!! In honor of Griz-Cat week, here are a few of the better jokes that have been floating around Facebook this week:

How do you get a Bobcat cheerleader into your dorm room?......Grease her hips and push like hell.

Why do Bobcat grads put their diplomas on the dash of their cars?....So they can qualify for handicap parking.

Why is a dollar bill better than a Bobcat?....You at least get four quarters out of a dollar.

Why don't they serve ice at Bobcat Stadium any more?.....The senior who knew the recipe graduated.

Give em hell, Griz!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Catching up

Believe it or not, I am still alive. It's been over a month since I posted here. Not really sure why, just been lazy (about posting, anyway). So, time to get back at it.

Running has been going pretty well. I've managed to get back up to 70 miles per week a couple of times and have started getting long runs in (which significantly helped in achieving 70 mpw) the last four weeks. Most of those long runs have gone very well, but I did run an 18 miler last weekend that was a struggle. Not sure why, but my legs died on me at the halfway point, but I was 9 hilly miles from home and had no choice but to keep plugging. But then yesterday I ran a 16 miler where my legs still felt fresh when I was done. The mysteries of running....

This past weekend I wrapped up 3rd place in the men's open division of the Black Hills Trail Running Series....and I didn't even run. I had accumulated enough points throughout the summer that I was assured of 3rd in the series going into the last race. Still, I would have run the final race but my son's football team was playing in the league championship (more on that later) at the same time so I was at the game instead (which was MUCH more nerve-wracking than any race I've ever run). I won the men's open division last year, but only missed one race. I missed a few this year, which hurt my chances of repeating so, really, third is about as good as I could've hoped for.

Back to football, this year my son played for the first time in the Black Hills Youth Football League. There isn't a team in Belle Fourche, so he played for the Spearfish Rams mitey mite team (6-8 year olds). The league had 6 teams in the mitey mite division and the Rams finished the regular season with a 5-1 record. Their one loss came on the last week of the regular season to the Rapid City Steelers, a team they had beaten in the first week of the season (which turned out to be the Steelers' only loss of the season). So, it was pretty clear that the Rams and Steelers were the best two teams in the league. The top 4 teams advanced to the playoffs, where the Steelers beat the Bears and the Rams beat the Broncos to advanced to the Super Bowl. Everyone was expecting a good game and it definitely lived up to it. The Rams took a 12-0 lead early in the 3rd quarter, but the Steelers managed to pull within 12-6 at the end of the 3rd. The game ultimately came down to the final minutes when the Rams stopped the Steelers on 4th down with a couple of minutes remaining, but then couldn't convert enough first downs to run the clock out. So, on 4th and short from deep in their own territory with only 13 seconds left, the Rams opted to intentionally take a safety and run the clock down as much as possible. That left 5 seconds on the clock, the score was now 12-8 and the Rams had to kickoff. The kickoff was immediately covered, leaving the Steelers with one play to score from about 40 yards out and 3 seconds left. The ensuing pass attempt was knocked down and the Rams were champions! Pretty exciting to say the least. One thing I know for sure is that it's much, much harder watching a game like that from the stands, as a parent, than it is actually playing the game. I was in some pretty close, intense games in high school and never once did I feel as nervous then as I felt watching that game on Saturday. Now I know how my mom felt during all those football games I played in.

So, there are the highlights from my last month plus in a nutshell....hopefully they'll come more frequently from now on.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking the good with the bad

The last couple of weeks have represented a sharp contrast for me running-wise. After getting back from a work-related trip to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, it was like I had been shot out of a cannon on every run. I was cruising through runs effortlessly at paces faster than any I've averaged in a long time. It was my definition of the fabled "runner's high"....being able to just get into cruise control and not feel the effort at all while still moving at a decent clip. It was a fun ride while it lasted, but when it ended, it ended with a thud. I set out for a longish run, 14 miles or so, last Sunday and knew within the first mile that that was not going to happen. I just felt horrible....legs felt weak and I had no energy or ambition. I forced myself through 7 miles, giving me 50 for the week, before calling it quits. Things haven't really gotten better as the week has gone on. I'm getting runs done and some miles in, but they're slow, much slower than last week, and I've had some digestive issues that I can't pinpoint the cause of. If it's not one thing (dead legs) it's another (digestive issues). For example, today I headed out for an 8 mile run on the Tinton Trail, my first trail run since the Thunder Run race a few weeks ago. My legs didn't feel too bad and the run would have been pretty damn enjoyable if not for the fact that my bowels were in revolt for much of it. Too much information or not, a trip to the bushes was required midway through and even after that I didn't feel much better. Again, what to do, what to do?

In any case, I also made a change to my racing schedule last week, which was difficult because of how great I was feeling last week. It turned out that if I ran the Sundance 50K, I would have to miss my son's football game that afternoon (he's playing his first year of youth football). I decided to drop down to the 10K instead, thinking that I could run the race and haul ass to Rapid City in time to watch his game at 1:00. Well, I forgot that the 10K doesn't start until 10:30 and then, to top things off, his game got bumped up to 11:30, making it totally impossible to do both. So, I ditched Sundance, my first ever DNS, and watched the game instead. And it was the right choice. The Spearfish Rams beat the Box Elder Patriots 37-12 and Caid had a blast. And now I know how my mom felt all those years watching me play junior high and high school football....being the parent of a player is nerve-wracking!

As for next year, which I posted about last week, I'm heavily leaning toward the Where's Waldo 100K. The timing is fairly good, right at the start of the school year and before youth football starts again, and the course looks pretty damn awesome (which translates to "harder than hell"). The Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon and the Bighorn 50 in June and the Missoula Marathon in July should give me a solid build-up and I'll probably use a plan very similar to the one I used for Lean Horse this year, but hopefully with more trail miles to prepare me for running in the Cascades.

Okay, excuse me now while I do a little bit of advertising. As you may or may not know, I am one of the co-race directors of the brand spankin new Black Hills 100 (and 100K and 50 mile), which is set to debut June 25, 2011. Registration will open tomorrow, October 1st, at As is usually the case, you can save some dough if you register early. For more information on the race itself, check out, and look up Black Hills 100 on Facebook or Black Hills Ultra on Twitter (Black Hills 100 was already taken on Twitter, believe it or not). We've recently added an elevation profile to the website. Not sure if it is going to attract more people or scare more away. The word I use to describe the Centennial Trail is "relentless" doesn't ever really give you much of a break. Regardless, if you have any questions about the event, feel free to ask them here or through Facebook/Twitter.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What to do, what to do?

Well, now that Lean Horse is over there is a significant void in my running life. For the first time in the last several years, I don't really have any concrete running plans. My legs feel great, I get up every morning (or, if I don't, I go out at lunchtime) and run, but I have no clue what I'm training for and my runs generally just evolve as they go (if I feel done at 6, I stop; if I want to run faster or longer, I do). There are a TON of races out there that I want to run, but I'm having some difficulty choosing which one to do next. Here are the races that I'm kicking around in my head:

Texas Trails 50K (December 11, 2010) - I actually just learned about this one yesterday from a running friend who lives in Dallas. I think she was half joking when she suggested I fly down there and run it, but now I'm actually intrigued by the possibility. It's held on the same trails as the Rocky Raccoon 100, which is a well-respected ultra. Having a relatively cheap direct flight from Rapid City to Dallas doesn't hurt matters.

Rocky Raccoon 50 or 100 (February 2011) - See above. On the one hand, running either the 50 or 100 here is appealing because of the fast, relatively easy course. On the other, I feel like I just ran a fast and easy course at Lean Horse and that I should step up the difficulty a little.

Fargo Marathon (May 2011) - Part of me wants to really train for and run a marathon next year. I ran two marathons in 2010, but both of them were just training runs for Lean Horse, so I didn't put much thought or effort into it. A sub-3 marathon is still a goal and Fargo has a fast, flat course.

Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon (June 2011) - This one is pretty much a given. I live 30 miles away and my friend is the RD. The only question is whether I'll run the half or the full.

Bighorn 50 (June 2011) - This one is pretty much a given too. After my first ever DNF at this race this year, I need to go back and exorcise the demons. Plus, a college buddy just moved to Sheridan, so I have a place to crash.

Missoula Marathon (July 2011) - Another given. I've run this race all four years it has existed. Why stop now?

Leadville Silver Rush 50 (July 2011) - I would really like to do this one to test the Leadville waters (or, more accurately, the oxygen-deprived Leadville air), but it's only 6 days after Missoula, which is a lot of travel in a short amount of time.

Angeles Crest 100 (July 2011) - I've heard good things about this one, although I'm no so sure about running in the high desert mountains in late July....seems like it might be kinda warm.

Where's Waldo 100K (August 2011) - It's relatively near Eugene, which is where my dad lives. And, I've never run a 100K (and there aren't many around). Big problem is travel....getting to Oregon from South Dakota ain't cheap and this would likely be a whole-family trip (you know, since my dad would probably like to see his grandkids).

Cascade Crest 100 (August 2011) - I've seen pictures from the course and it's pretty amazing. Close to Seattle, where I have family. Again, it would be kind of expensive to get there.

Anything after August is pretty much out, with the kids in school and my son playing youth football.

Decisions, decisions....maybe I'll go for a run and think about it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lean Horse Post-mortem

Well, it's been over a week since Lean Horse (seems like ages ago already) and the recovery is going fairly smoothly. Of course, I expected to be a total wreck afterward and the first couple of days I was pretty sore, especially my feet. But by the third day my legs actually felt pretty damn good...much better than they did after I ran Boston (the downhills absolutely obliterated my quads). My feet were another story...they were pretty tender still, mostly from blisters but I also had some swelling in my left foot and still, a week and a half later, there's some loss of sensation in the toes on my left foot. Apparently, this is somewhat normal and probably due to a pinched nerve that will eventually get better. My friend Ryan has the same issue and, in my mind, if it occurs to two or more people, that means it's not a cause for concern (kinda like how if you notice something weird on your left arm and then check your right arm and see that the weirdness is there too, it must be okay). Perfectly logical to me. Certainly not something to waste a $25 co-pay on to go see a doctor about.

I've run four times now since the race. First one was an easy 4 last Thursday. The next day we jetted off to southern California for a family vacation to Disneyland. I didn't run at all Saturday or Sunday, but I did walk at least 500 miles, I swear to God. Well, give or take. I shoulda gotten a buckle for that too. I did run once while we were in California, a 6 miler with my friend Jeff, who until we met up for the run had been an internet friend only. It was good to finally meet him in person after communicating for a few years in various running forums and on facebook. He took me past Angels Stadium and the Honda Center (where the Ducks play) and then along the Santa Ana River trail. Apparently, the definition of "river" is a little different in SoCal than it is in South Dakota. Around here, our rivers generally have water in them. And aren't made of concrete. In any case, since we got back to SoDak on Tuesday, I've run a 7 miler yesterday and then 8.3 this morning. So far, so good, which is good because the next race in the Black Hills Trails Series is coming up on Sunday, the 8.4 mile Thunder Run. I have no idea how my legs will respond to a hard effort on trails, but I'm gonna find out (probably the hard way).

One more note from Lean Horse, after the race it was pointed out to me that my time might be the fastest ever run by a South Dakotan in the Lean Horse 100. I did some checking and, sure enough, it was. There were only 6 finishers from South Dakota in the first 5 years of the event and there were 8 South Dakotans who finished this year. My 20:21 puts me atop that list, but I'm guessing it's a record that won't last long as more and more locals really get into this ultra thing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lean Horse 100 Report

You know what? Forrest Gump was right when he said “Life is like a box of chocolates…You never know what you’re gonna get.” At least he was right when it applies to running, and since he was a runner it’s all the more appropriate. Some days, you set out for a run expecting great things and are sorely disappointed. Others, you expect nothing and are shocked by what you get. It’s happened to me before. At the Colorado Marathon in 2008, I KNEW that I was going to qualify for Boston. I didn’t. Hell, I didn’t even come close. But ten weeks later, on a wing and a prayer, I ran the Missoula Marathon and got my BQ. This year, I entered the Bighorn 50 mile with every expectation that I would finish and get in my longest training run before the Lean Horse 100. Instead, I started puking at mile 19 and then did 15 miles of death marching before finally dropping from the race, my first ever DNF, at mile 34. This past weekend at Lean Horse, the cycle came back around. If you want the Cliff Notes version of this story, here it is: I finished in 20:21:55, 7th overall and 3rd in my AG. If you’ve got time to kill, read on…

I really don’t remember the moment in time when running 100 miles went from something I swore I’d never do to something I decided I definitely wanted to do. A big factor might have been the Lean Horse race back in 2008, a race I didn’t even run. My plan for that year had been to qualify for Boston at Colorado and then run the Lean Horse 50, my first 50, in August. After failing to BQ at Colorado, plans changed and after I did get the BQ in Missoula in July, there just wasn’t time to focus on the Lean Horse 50 in August, so I volunteered instead. Now, here’s a word of advice if you’re going to volunteer for an ultra. Do not tell the race director, especially if he’s a friend of yours, that you’d be “willing to do anything”. I ended up stationed along a lonely stretch of dirt road for approximately 28 hours, manning the Morph aid station at miles 11 and 89 of the Lean Horse 100. It was a long day, but I was astounded by the people coming through the aid station. Sure, I was tired by the end, but I had mostly been sitting on my butt and snacking on aid station food. These people had been on their feet that entire time and were still moving. And none of them appeared, at least at first glance, to be superhuman. They were like me. I began to wonder if running 100 miles was so crazy after all.

Flash forward to 2009. After running Boston in April, I knew I needed another running goal to keep me motivated and avoid a post-Boston letdown. That goal became the Lean Horse 50 that I hadn’t been able to run in 2008. I think I knew then that a 100 mile attempt was probably in my future, but it seemed prudent to test the waters a bit more. The funny thing is the Lean Horse 50 didn’t go all that well. I was ready for the distance, but obviously not ready for the heat and the 95 degree temps led to calf cramping that reduced me to walking most of the last 20 miles (swearing the whole way that I would never do this again, much less a 100). Still, I finished that race in a respectable time (9:32, 8th overall, 2nd in AG) and after the initial pain wore off, I began thinking about the possibility of running 100 miles. By the time the snow flew, my mind was pretty well made up: I would run the Lean Horse 100 in 2010.

I don’t really want to go into the gory details of my training plan, but I feel like I should mention some of the key pieces. Ultra training is MUCH less set in stone than marathon training. You can’t go to a bookstore and buy a book with an ultra plan laid out for you day by day. Much of how to train for these things is an experiment with yourself based on advice from others who have done it. Of course, as with anything, different people have different opinions on what works best, so you’ve got to figure out what works best for you. So, I feel somewhat obligated to share at least some of the key principles of my training for others who are looking for ideas. The basic structure of my training was to have two high mileage weeks followed by a moderate mileage week and then an easy cutback week and repeat that 4 week cycle throughout. The amount of mileage during the week didn’t really change all that much from week to week; the big difference came with the weekend mileage. For me, a “high” mileage week was around 70-75 miles, moderate was around 65 and easy was around 55-60. I know that may not seem like much, but on those high mileage weeks, the bulk of those miles came on the weekend. I used a mix of back to back and single long runs, sometimes running something like 25/15 and other weekends running 30/10 or 40/0….the goal was to get around 40 miles for the weekend. Some weekends were shorter mileage-wise, but because of tough terrain I was still spending a lot of time on my feet. I ended up with one 40 mile long run, three 30 milers, the 34 mile Bighorn DNF, and four marathons (two were actual marathons and the other two were just 26.2 mile runs on my own). I had several other 35-40 mile weekends with the mileage split between two runs. I topped out at 80 miles the last week before taper and then knocked the mileage back about 25% each week, running only 14 miles the last week, with two full days of rest before the race. I started out doing speedwork once per week in the spring, but when summer rolled around and the local trail series got going, I began using those shorter races as occasional speedwork and didn’t do any specific speed workouts for the last few months before Lean Horse.

Really, the summer flew by and before I knew it I was taking my son and daughter to their first days of school, my son was starting his first season of youth football (Go Rams!) and Lean Horse was upon me. I made the two hour drive down to Hot Springs on Friday afternoon. I pulled into the hotel parking lot, climbed out of the car and was hit by a blast furnace like wave of heat. Super. It was near 100 degrees and windy. The forecast for Saturday was slightly cooler, but this still wasn’t all that comforting. I checked in and then headed to the expo at the civic center across the street where I had to buy S-Caps because, like a rookie, I had failed to realize that I didn’t have enough for the race until two days before. I had contacted the expo vendor and she had been nice enough to set some aside for me (and she later told me that she sold out of them, so I’m extra grateful to her). I met up with several familiar faces at the expo and we exchanged nervous chatter. Amongst those faces were my friend and training partner Ryan and another friend from Colorado, Mike, who were both running their first 100.

Before too long, it was time for the pre-race briefing to start, so we filed into the auditorium. At some point during the briefing the race director, Jerry (another friend of mine), brought up the Black Hills 100, a new ultra event that he, Ryan and I are developing. Jerry brought Ryan and I up on stage to talk about the event and during our introductions said something along the lines of “Chris and Ryan are training partners. Ryan is a fast guy and we expect big things out of him in the ultrarunning world in the future. Chris is slower, but they train together…..uh….I guess I’ll let him tell you about himself” (side note: Jerry tends to start talking before the thought is entirely complete in his head). It’s true though, because Ryan is fast….really fast. Our training runs either involved him running really slowly to stay with me, or him charging ahead to the next ridgetop or trailhead and then waiting for my slow butt to catch up. Regardless, we started talking about the Black Hills 100 and next thing you know, the briefing for Lean Horse becomes a question and answer session for Black Hills. Oops.

After the briefing, I caught some downtime at the hotel before heading back to the civic center for the pre-race cookout. After that, I headed into town to watch some high school football, the Hot Springs Bison versus the Winner Warriors (Winner being an appropriate name for the town since they won the state championship last year) and then back to the hotel to try and sleep. Amazingly, I drifted off fairly early, 9:00 or so, and probably slept better than I ever have the night before a big race. I was up at 3:45 Saturday morning and that’s when the nerves really hit: “Holy !@#$, I’m going to run 100 miles!” After a quick, simple breakfast (Frosted Flakes and an English muffin, the breakfast of champions), I headed back over to the civic center to check in and nervously stand around. Once there, I huddled up with all the familiar faces in the room, as if there were safety in numbers from the dangers that lay outside. Just before 6:00, Jerry booted us outside and with a ten count and “GO!”, we were off.

Originally, I was going to break this report down into sections from aid station to aid station, but there were just too damn many (9 aid stations that you go through twice each for 18 total) and I really don’t remember many details (or anything noteworthy) between all of them, so instead it’s broken down from drop bag location to drop bag location.

Start to Argyle Loop (16.6)

The first three miles follow city streets and a bike path through Hot Springs before hitting a gravel road up and over the first significant hill and then down to the Coldbrook campground, and the first aid station, at mile 4. From Coldbrook, a two track road heads across a pasture to the Argyle Road, the most dreaded part of the Lean Horse course because of its constant rolling hills. The Morph aid station is at mile 11 and then the Argyle Loop aid station, where Argyle Road and the Mickelson Trail meet, is at mile 16.6.

I started out slow. Really slow. Well, it felt really slow, but I didn’t really know for sure because I was running without my Garmin. I knew that the battery on it wouldn’t last for the entire race, so I had put it in my Harbach Park drop bag and was relying on my trusty old Timex watch for timing at the beginning. We hit a small waterfall along the bike path that I knew was the one mile point because I had made a note of it last year and I was at about 9:30 pace, which was just about where I wanted to be early on. My plan for this first section was to walk the uphills and run everything else, and that’s exactly what I did. I stopped quickly at the Coldbrook aid station to grab an extra Hammer Gel and then charged on. Just before Coldbrook, Mike charged past me. Ryan had also charged ahead right from the start. I would unexpectedly meet up with one of them much later in the day (how’s that for building drama??). I stopped again at Morph to refill my handheld bottle and also ate half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which tasted REALLY good at that point. I should point out that for hydration purposes I was wearing my Nathan hydration pack with water inside and also carrying a 20 ounce bottle that I was drinking Nuun (an electrolyte tablet that dissolves in water, kinda like Alka Seltzer but better tasting) from. I should also point out that I didn’t record split times at aid stations, but I did have a pace chart in my pocket showing the time of day I’d need to be at each station to maintain 24 hour and 30 hour pace. By the time I hit Morph, was about 30 minutes ahead of 24 hour pace already and a little further ahead of that pace when I arrived at Argyle Loop. I had no need for my drop bag at Argyle Loop, so I topped off my hydration pack and handheld, grabbed another half of a peanut butter and jelly and took off. Actually, I totally forgot about refilling my hydration pack until I got about 20 yards past the aid station and decided it was probably best to go ahead and go back to refill it rather than running another 4 miles down the trail to do it.

Argyle Loop (16.6) to Pringle (24)

From Argyle Loop, the course takes to the Mickelson Trail, a rails to trails path that features long, gentle grades. There are no lung searing uphills, but when you do go uphill, you do so for a long time. Of course, you also go downhill for a long time (although it always seems longer going up). The entire thing is really very runable, but I knew that I wasn’t going to run the whole thing. Because of the long hills, I also didn’t want to walk the uphills for miles at a time. So, the plan was to use a run/walk ratio of 10 minutes to 2 minutes. That plan actually didn’t last long. I was having some trouble finding a groove and decided to break it up more, so started going 5 minutes to 2 minutes and that seemed to work better.

I topped off my handheld again at the Lime Kiln aid station at mile 20 and grabbed some more food (I don’t remember exactly what). My fueling plan was to consume Hammer Gels and Clif Bars between aid stations and then grab some more substantial food from the stations. As it turns out, I quickly discovered that chewing Clif Bars takes a lot of time and effort, especially when you’re not producing much saliva, so I relied more on Hammer Gels, which I was surprisingly able to tolerate for a majority of the race (usually my body rejects them after 3 or 4). I arrived in Pringle at mile 24 feeling pretty good. Again, I had no need for my drop bag. I did grab a turkey and cheese sandwich and maybe a banana….it’s all a blur already. As I left, someone warned me that the next section was long and warm. They were right.

Pringle (24) to Harbach Park (35.5)

The section just past Pringle sucks. It’s long and straight and the trail is right next to the highway. I remembered running this stretch to the 50 mile turnaround last year and it being really hot. It wasn’t as warm this year, but it still seemed to take forever and I was starting to not feel so good. My stomach wasn’t happy about something and I could feel the sensation of nausea building, bringing back some unhappy memories from Bighorn. The run/walk went out the window and it was just a walk for a little while. I had read that ginger helped and had packed some ginger chews in my hydration pack. I took one of those and, lo and behold, it worked. My stomach calmed down and I was able to start running again. Right about this time, a lady who was running the 50K (which ended at the Carroll Creek aid station) pulled up alongside me and we started talking and running/walking together. Running with her helped immensely as it took my mind off the crapiness I was feeling and made the time go by a little faster. She took off ahead to finish her race just before Carroll Creek at mile 30. At the aid station, I topped off with water and Nuun and grabbed some more peanut butter and jelly for the road. It was quite a chore to choke down half a sandwich, but I forced myself to do it as I walked down the trail. After Carroll Creek, I started back in on my run/walk strategy and got into a nice groove. Little did I know then that this groove would last for most of the next 70 miles. The 5.5 miles to Harbach Park, in the middle of the town of Custer, went smoothly and I was starting to have some fun. At Harbach Park, I grabbed some spray on sunblock from my drop bag. Although I had put some on before the race, I could tell my shoulders (I was wearing a sleeveless shirt) were starting to get red. I again refilled my fluids and grabbed a cookie and half a potato before setting off.

Harbach Park (35.5) to Buckaroo (49.2 and 50.8)

From Harbach Park, there’s a long uphill grind to the high point of the course at the Crazy Horse monument, just past the Mountain aid station (mile 40.5). I was unable to choke down either the cookie or the potato, so I took some Hammer Gel instead and then got back into the run/walk groove. As I was nearing Mountain, I started feeling another familiar and unwelcome feeling; my right calf was showing the first signs of cramping. It did seize briefly a couple of times and I took another S-cap and made sure to keep up on the Nuun. After walking a bit longer, I tried a slower run and nothing happened, so I kept charging on. It seized one more time, with the Mountain aid station in sight, but that was the last I heard from it. At Mountain, I stretched the calf a bit, refilled with fluids and was off. Just a short bit later, the course topped out at Crazy Horse and I was really able to get into a nice groove running (and walking) the long downhill toward the turnaround point.

I knew at some point along this stretch I would see the frontrunners as they came back from the turnaround. The first guy was WAY out in front of everyone else and he was a first timer (all first timers had a green sticker on their bibs to signify their greenhorn status). I stopped for a quick fluid refill and maybe tried another turkey sandwich at the Oreville aid station (mile 45.2). Not long past Oreville, I was surprised to see Mike running along in 5th place overall. I gave him a high five as we passed each other. At this point, I began wondering where in the hell Ryan was as I had expected him to be one of the front runners. About halfway between Oreville and Buckaroo I finally found him and we exchanged some quick words of support. I stopped very briefly at Buckaroo on the way out to top off my bottle and then headed out for the short 1.6 mile stretch to the turnaround and back. At the turnaround, I pulled my cell phone out of my pack and called my wife to let her know I was still alive and halfway done. I hit the turnaround in 9:40, two hours and twenty minutes ahead of 24 hour pace. Once back at Buckaroo, I made my longest stop of the day to refill the hydration pack and change shoes. I also grabbed my headlamp from my bag. I had put it in this bag expecting to be here much closer to dark. It’s nice to be wrong about some things.

Buckaroo (50.8) to Harbach Park (65.5)

Of course, that nice long downhill from Crazy Horse to Buckaroo became a seemingly MUCH longer uphill on the way back. But, still, I was able to stick with my run/walk strategy and was constantly banking time. At this point, I was really surprised by just how well this thing was going, but at the same time I was trying not to get too excited about it because, after all, I still had half the race to go. Back at the Oreville aid station, I decided that chewing food was just too much damn work….I couldn’t work up enough saliva to do it properly, although I was maintaining my hydration fairly well and taking a leak at least every couple of hours. So, I decided to try some Coke and chicken soup and it was the awesomest thing EVER. Like nectar of the Gods. I tried some more at Mountain, after finally cresting the neverending hill, and it was still awesome. So I tried some again at Harbach Park. Still awesome. Back at Harbach, I made another pit stop to change into a t-shirt since it was getting closer to dark and starting to rain. I decided against taking my longsleeve shirt, gloves and beanie because I wasn’t expecting it to get that cold during the night and, as it turns out, that was a good choice….I was never cold for the remainder of the race. I also grabbed my Garmin out of my bag so I could know my pace for the final miles. As it turns out, I didn’t rely on it at all, just looked at it out of curiosity every once in awhile.

Harbach Park (65.5) to Pringle (76)

After leaving Harbach, I called my wife again to update her on my progress. I was now 2 hours and 45 minutes ahead of 24 hour pace. I told her I wasn’t sure if I could keep this up for another 35 miles, but so far so good. Not long after I hung up the phone and stashed it back in my pack, I noticed I was catching up to someone who didn’t look to be feeling very good. As I got closer, I realized that it was Ryan. I pulled up alongside him and he gave me a casual “good job” then did a double take when he realized it was me. I asked him how he was feeling and the look on his face said it all. He’d been cramping and was just feeling generally crappy. We exchanged words of encouragement and I ran on. It was this point that I really started to realize how good of a day I was having. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would ever finish ahead of Ryan in a race. Of course, there was still a lot of race left, but the fact that I felt so strong this far into it gave me a huge confidence boost.

Back at Carroll Creek they were cooking up grilled cheese sandwiches. I had a quarter of one with some more Coke and chicken soup. That was pretty awesome too. I headed out of that aid station feeling great and was treated with one hell of a lightning show off to the east as I ran toward Pringle. The storm was never really close to me...the thunder was pretty distant, but I did get sprinkled on a few times. By this point, it was pretty much dark out, but I still had my headlamp stashed in my hydration pack. I was hoping to not use it at all and run only by moonlight, but the thunderstorms were kind of screwing with that plan. I hit probably the toughest stretch for me mentally between Carroll Creek and Pringle. Back on that long straight stretch along the highway, I was struggling. Physically, I was fine, but the headlight heading towards me were pissing me off, the fact that it was warmer than expected and there was no breeze was pissing me off and the fact that the trail was straight and seemed to go on forever was REALLY pissing me off. I KNOW that it wasn’t that long on the way out and if I ever find the bastard that lengthened it, I’m gonna kick his ass. Despite my attitude, I still ran/walked fairly strongly and finally arrived at Pringle. On a small side note, I should mention that even when I was walking, I was usually gaining time on the 24 hour pace. I made sure not to just walk too casually, but to walk with a purpose and my Garmin was telling me that my walking pace was generally around 13:30-14:00 per mile (24 hour pace is 14:24), a little slower on uphills. But I never got so tired that my walking pace slowed to a crawl; I was able to walk strongly the whole way, which played a big part in my overall finish.

Pringle (76) to Argyle Loop (83.4)

I had made the decision long before to ditch my hydration pack at Pringle. I figured that having all that extra water wasn’t really necessary at night and I had another handheld stashed in my Pringle drop bag. So, I transferred all the stuff I REALLY needed (Nuun tabs, cell phone, headlamp) from the hydration pack to my pockets (or head, in the case of the headlamp). The aid station didn’t have any chicken soup, so I went with tomato instead and headed out. It was just after Pringle on the way out that I had hit my first rough patch and it would be just after Pringle and way back that I would hit my second. I don’t know if it was the tomato soup or what, but not long after finishing it, I started to feel kind of queasy again. Of course, the logical solution would be a ginger chew since that worked so well before. Only problem was that they were still in my hydration pack and I sure as hell wasn’t backtracking for them. So, instead I just walked for a bit and hoped my stomach would settle down. Eventually, thankfully, it did and I was able to start the run/walk routine again. By this time, it was no long 5 minutes to 2 minutes. It was much more random. I would start running and go until it started to feel uncomfortable and then I would walk. Eventually, my feet and legs would start to ache while walking, so I would start running again and they would feel better. And the cycle would repeat itself. Back through Lime Kiln I got more Coke and, thankfully, they had chicken soup. I pressed on to Argyle Loop and the Mickelson running was done for the day. More Coke and more chicken soup and then it was back onto the rolling hills of Argyle Road.

Argyle Loop (83.4) to Finish (100)

My strategy for the return trip on Argyle was the same as before: run the downhills and walk the uphills. I could tell immediately that this section might be uncomfortable. I had developed some blisters on the balls of my feet, especially my left foot. The Mickelson is finely crushed gravel and nice and smooth. Argyle, however, is a gravel road with much larger pieces of gravel that did NOT feel good at all if I stepped on one wrong. Upon leaving Argyle Loop, I was about 3 hours ahead of 24 hour pace and still moving strongly. So now, the question became just how quickly I was going to be able to finish this thing. I decided at this point that it was safe to assume sub-24 was in the bag, but could I finish sub-21? That became my new goal.

The storms had rolled through and the nearly full moon finally made an appearance, so I ran much of this final section with my headlamp off. I was able to see perfectly well enough without it and was enjoying the calm night, under the stars and moon. Although the finish was getting close, I tried really hard not to think about it and just focus on getting to the next aid station, as I had been all day. I refueled with more Coke and chicken soup at Morph and headed out for the last aid station. Just before the 95 mile point, there is a long downhill. I was able to run almost all of it and when I got to the bottom was done with Argyle Road and back on the two track toward Coldbrook. They didn’t have any chicken soup at Coldbrook, which was kind of a buzzkill, but I decided that it didn’t really matter at that point. I drank some Coke and headed out, only 4 miles to go. Right after Coldbrook, there’s one last steep hill before the course drops back down into Hot Springs. At the top of the hill, I turned my phone back on and tried to call my wife to let her know I would be in shortly. Unfortunately, the cell coverage in Hot Springs blows, and none of my calls went through. The last word she had, from when I had called at mile 65.5, was that I would be done around 3:00 AM, so she had set her alarm for 2:30. I left Coldbrook at approximately 1:40, knowing that I had sub-21 in the bag. After topping that last hill, there was just over 3 miles left and I ran almost all of it. My feet were sore, but my legs felt great and I could feel the finish line pulling me in like a magnet. I was flying down the streets of Hot Springs, sure that I must be running 6:30 pace. I glanced at my Garmin and saw that it was more like 9:10 pace but whatever; it felt really damn fast 99 miles into a 100 mile day. I hit the bike path leading to the civic center and it just seemed unreal….was I really running the final few yards of a 100 mile race? Up and over one more tiny bump in the trail and across the finish line to the clapping of a few guys who had finished not long before me and the ladies keeping time.

I dropped my bottles on the grass, asked the lady if I could stop now and planted my butt in a chair. It was the awesomest feeling in the world to finally sit down and know that I didn’t have to get back up until I damn well felt like it.

I guess the best way to describe how I felt when I got done is “content”. I was somewhat shocked by what had just occurred. Another guy I talked to the next day, who had also finished his first 100, described it as the best executed race tactically he’s ever run. I think that applies to my race too. I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried. Eventually, I asked to take a peek at the results and discovered that I had finished 7th overall. Mike had come in exactly one hour before me in 19:21, a spectacular 100 mile debut for him also. The winner, another first timer, had run a blistering 15:25, just 5 minutes slower than the course record.

Ryan’s wife and sister in law were at the finish and told me he was on Argyle Road and should be done shortly. I decided to wait and see him in. And, really, I was just enjoying sitting there and soaking in the atmosphere of my first 100 mile finish. I talked to my mom on the phone, who had suddenly awoken for no apparent reason just minutes before I finished, and my wife, who should’ve set her alarm for a half hour sooner. After awhile, I started to get cold and wasn’t sure just how much longer Ryan had, so I decided I should probably go take a shower and try to sleep. Those blisters on my feet hurt much more now, so I began a very slow shuffle toward the hotel. I hadn’t made it very far when I Ryan’s family start cheering, so I did a quick shuffle/hobble back to the finish to see him come in at 21:44, another awesome 100 mile debut. We congratulated each other and talked about the race a bit before I resumed my shuffle back to the hotel to shower and sleep. I was almost scared to take my socks off and see my feet, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared. A few blisters on my toes and some bigger ones on the balls on my feet, but not as horrible as pictures I’ve seen from other 100 mile finishers. I wasn’t really tired at all, but considering I had to drive back home in several hours, I figured I should probably at least try to sleep. I lay down and could not get comfortable at all. My legs and feet were aching and I couldn’t get comfortable in any position. And my brain was reeling. It just would not shut down and go into sleep mode. After about an hour and a half of kinda sorta dozing off here and there, I finally gave up, got dressed and went back to the finish line (this time, I drove the one block from the hotel to the civic center).

And that’s about it. I went to the awards ceremony later that morning to get my buckle and award for 3rd in my age group and then drove home. Today, the day after, it already seems like so long ago. My legs are tired, but have been more sore after some marathons I’ve run. My feet are another story. They have been abused and are not happy about it, especially the left one, which had the bigger blister and also was swollen pretty good yesterday. But, hey, it was worth it.

Wow, 9 pages….if you’ve made it this far, maybe you deserve a belt buckle. What can I say, a long race necessitates a long report. And I’ve got nothing to do today but sit and type. Thanks for reading and all the words of support and congratulations I’ve received; it’s been great!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Counting down the minutes

Lean Horse is upon us. Well, it's upon me, anyhow. A few of you out there might be running it along with me, but the rest of you just get to sit back and await the carnage report. Enjoy that.

The last couple of weeks have had their ups and downs (both figuratively and literally). For the most part, last week went well as I tapered down to 44 miles for the week. That included a nice night run on Friday night where I left the house at 9:30 and put in 15 miles under a nearly full moon. It was pretty sweet. I rested the next day (if you can consider a trip to Chuck E. Cheese and a day full of school shopping "rest") and then ran the McGovern Hill Trail Race on Sunday. It was one of the more miserable 5 mile runs I've had. The race was an out and back with the first half up the hill and the second half back down. I didn't feel all that great going up and I got passed by quite a few people, but figured I'd be able to catch them on the way down. Wrong. I didn't feel much better going down and just could not push the pace at all. It sucked. I keep telling myself that just means the bad mojo is outta my system and now I'm due for a good day(s) at Lean Horse.

As for this week, the running is done and it's full on taper obsession mode. I ran 8 miles on Tuesday and another 6 yesterday. Two days of full rest and then I'll try to conquer the Lean Horse. My number 1 goal is pretty damn simple: finish. Goal number 2 is sub-24. Anything besides either of those would just be gravy on the cake....or something like that. My strategy is pretty simple too. Walk the uphills and run the flats and downhills on Argyle Rd. and then try to stick to a run/walk strategy (10 minutes to 2 minutes initially) on the Mickelson. It's supposed to be hot (lower 90s) at the lower elevations but significantly cooler (upper 70s) at the higher elevations, so I need to be up near Custer (miles 35.5 and 64.5) by the heat of the day, which shouldn't be a problem. By the time I reach the lower elevations again, it will be dark and I'll probably be more worried about being too cold (amongst other things there are to worry about 80 miles into a 100 mile race). After my night run last week, I'm really looking forward to the sun going down on Saturday. It's become branded in my brain that if I can just reach sunset, I'll make it to the finish. The moon will be 4 days past full on Saturday night, so should provide ample light if it's a clear night (which it looks like it should be). Basically, I want to hit the halfway point at Deadbroke St. with some time to spare on the 24 hour pace and hopefully enough energy to take advantage of the cooler temps at night and do as much running (no matter how slow) as walking the last half. And now I'm rambling....damn taper madness...

Okay, I'd probably better go check the weather forecast for the 1,472nd time and look over my drop bag list again....and again.....and again...and again......

Stand by for a full report. Hopefully it's a good one.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Into the taper

Apparently this is becoming a bi-weekly blog for me. My excuse this time is the Sturgis Rally. It's big, it's loud and it's a royal pain in the ass if you live near it. I mean, consider the fact that there were an estimated 600,000 bikers at the Rally this year. The normal population of the entire state of South Dakota is roughly 800,000. Yeah. In any case, there are two popular strategies for dealing with the Rally if you're a local: either pack up and leave for a week or find a way to take advantage of it for personal (monetary) gain. I chose the latter and, for the second year in a row worked in the paid parking lot at the Buffalo Chip campground, which is also a major concert venue (this year included Drowning Pool, Tesla, Buckcherry, ZZ Top, Bob Dylan, Kid Rock, Stone Sour, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, Disturbed and Scorpions, among others). Needless to say, Rally week was hectic for me between running, going to my regular job in the morning, out to the Buffalo Chip in the afternoon, back home late at night (11:00 or later) and then up the next morning to repeat the whole process. It doesn't pay all that great, but it's fairly easy extra money and I got to hear some bands I've wanted to hear for awhile for free (namely Drowning Pool, Stone Sour and Disturbed).

Anyhow, on to running. My last week of "real" training (the week before the Rally) looked something like this:

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 9.3 miles
Wednesday - 10.5 miles
Thursday - 8 miles
Friday - 6 miles
Saturday - 16 miles
Sunday - 30 miles
Total - 79.8 miles (yes, I would've run an extra 0.2 if I would have realized soon enough)

The weekend total of 46 and the weekly total of damn near 80 were both highs for my Lean Horse training. Does that mean I'm ready to run 100 miles? I have no friggin clue, but at this point I'm as ready as I'm gonna get.

The week of the Rally, and the first week of taper, looked like this:

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 8 miles
Wednesday - 10.2 miles
Thursday - 6 miles
Friday - 15 miles
Saturday - 15.5 miles
Sunday - 7.3 miles
Total - 62 miles (notice the extra 0.3 on Sunday to hit an even number for the week...I learned my lesson)

You can see the mid-week miles didn't change much, but I ran fewer on the weekend. The best run of the week was that 7.3 on Sunday...I didn't head out until late afternoon, which is a time when I rarely run, and my legs felt great. What was supposed to be an easy 8:30-8:45 pace effort turned into a mini progression run that finished at sub-7 pace for the last 0.3. Now, that's not blazing fast by any means, but it's faster than I have been running for most of ultra training and it felt really fast after back to back 15s the previous two days. Let's see....I ran a PR at Heart of the Hills last month the day after a 30 miler and then I had a great run this past week after a combined 30.5 miles the two days before. Apparently, my legs need about 30 miles on em to get into the zone...

And the highlight of the week had absolutely nothing to do with me (well, I was there, but all I did was stand and watch). Shannon ran her 2nd marathon on Sunday at Leading Ladies in Spearfish. She's been getting steadily faster in the past year and was hoping to better her time of 5:06 from the same race last year. She did that and then some, finishing a full 30 minutes faster in 4:36 (and that was after cramping calves slowed her down in the final 3 miles). At this rate, she'll be faster than me after just 3 more marathons. I'd better stop slacking off!

Okay, so the Rally is over and Lean Horse is looming large. I feel like I've done what I can do and like I've not done nearly enough all at the same time. Isn't taper awesome??

Friday, August 6, 2010

Catching up

Okay, so I've been a major slacker around here. I am still alive and I am still training for Lean Horse and, actually, it's going fairly well. Since Heart of the Hills, I've put together a couple of solid weeks. My mid-week mileage is pretty much identical from week to week, so I won't even bother discussing that. The weekend after Heart of the Hills, I decided to go for back to back 20 milers. Shannon was running the CASA Half Marathon in Spearfish on Saturday morning, so when she got done I laced em up and ran from Spearfish back to Belle Fourche. I've run the opposite direction several times, but for some reason had never run to Belle. This is particularly odd since it's a fairly big net downhill to Belle, which would make it seem like the easier direction. I didn't feel all that great, but I also didn't push all that hard knowing that I was running another 20 the next day. For that second 20, I met up with my friend Ryan in Deadwood and we ran on the Mickelson Trail. Ryan is significantly faster than I am so even though he was plodding along at an easy pace for him, I was going slightly faster than I might normally go for a 20 miler, especially when it was my 2nd 20 in as many days. But, I felt much better than I had the day before and we ended up running that 20 seven minutes faster than I had run the first. Although I felt good during the run, apparently the two of them combined took a toll because I ended up driving home and basically passing out on the recliner for the rest of the day....I was wiped out. Not like hurt or anything, just really, really tired.....could not keep my eyes open.

Last week was my debut as race director as I was responsible for organizing the fifth race in the Black Hills Trail Running Series, the Old Baldy trail race. Of course, I ended up scrambling around all week doing last minute things that I should've done weeks ago, but everything came together and the race went off without a hitch. I ended up running the 5.6 mile course twice, once the day before to put up signs and flagging and once after the race to take everything back down. I didn't get a lot of miles in on Saturday, the day of the race, but I wasn't too worried about it because I knew I had a big day in store on Sunday. Ryan and I had made plans to meet at the Alkali Cr. trailhead of the Centennial Trail and run the 23.6 miles to Dalton Lake. We had done this stretch once before about 4 weeks ago, but had done it in the opposite direction (the downhill direction) and it had totally wiped me out....the last several miles that day were a massive struggle. I wasn't even able to run very much of the final 4 miles, which were downhill. So, I was a little nervous about how things would go. Even though it was "only" 23.6 miles, I knew it was going to take a while and would be one helluva workout. We also had a local mountain biker, Jake, riding along with us to shoot video and mark the trail with GPS as part of our preparation for the Black Hills 100, which Ryan and I are co-directing with Jerry Dunn (of Deadwood-Mickelson and Lean Horse fame). In any case, we took off bright and early from Alkali Cr. and Ryan mentioned that it would be about 2 hours to the next trailhead, Elk Cr., about 11 miles away. I joked that 2.5 might be more reasonable, but sure enough, I ended up cruising into Elk Cr. feeling pretty good at exactly 2 hours. The next stretch from Elk Cr. to Dalton Lake was a little longer, a little over 12 miles, and included a llllloooonnnngggg climb, but I took it easy, did some extended power hiking on the climb and made it into Dalton Lake still feeling pretty good. Tired for sure, but I felt like I could've kept moving if I'd had too, unlike the last time we had run that same stretch in the "easier" direction. And, although it was the uphill direction, I somehow ran it faster than I had run the downhill direction last time. Bonus. If you're interested in a good butt whoopin, check out and make plans to come see us next June.

So, that brings us to this week, which is, believe it or not, my last week before tapering for Lean Horse. I'll be running 15-16 miles (however far it is from Custer to Hill City) on the Mickelson tomorrow and then I'm hoping to get in one last 30 miler on Sunday before the taper truly begins. Damn, the summer went by fast. As usual, I can think of at least a thousand different things that I coulda, shoulda, woulda done differently for my training, but it's too damn late now. Taper madness is gonna be a doozy for this one...I don't envy my wife for the next three weeks. If nothing else, July ended up being my highest mileage month (320) since I started Lean Horse training in mid-March, so hopefully that will get me through. I can tell from my long training runs in the heat that hydration is going to be key (duh). If I can keep my fluids and electrolytes up, I'm confident I can cover the distance. If not, well, it will get ugly (notice the use of "will" instead of "might"...I know from experience). Well, it's gonna get ugly either way, but I'm hoping to prolong the onset of ugliness for as long as possible. Isn't that what ultra running is basically all about?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Heart of the Hills Report

I call this PR unlikely for a few reasons. First, I haven't been doing much in the way of speedwork lately; ultra training has been more about teaching my body to move forward steadily for a long time, not quickly for a short time. Second, I wasn't even planning on running the race until the day before. Third, on the day before, I covered 30 miles, a "run" (the walk breaks became more and more frequent as the miles accumulated) that ended in 93 degree temps and that left me pretty severely dehydrated despite guzzling what seemed like a ton of water. Probably not the best recipe for success, but it's races like this that keep running interesting.

The race I'm referring to is Heart of the Hills, a 10.4 mile road race that starts in Hill City, SD and follows the old highway east to Keystone, which is the closest town to Mt. Rushmore (in other words, if you look up "tourist trap" in the dictionary, there should be a picture of main street Keystone). The race is 10.4 miles long because that's just how long that stretch of road happens to be. The race is also unique in that it starts at 6:30 PM. I'm not sure why this is, it just is. I've run the race twice before. In 2006 I finished in 1:28:29 after suffering mightily in the heat and on the hills (and seriously considering dropping at one point). In 2008, just six days after BQing at the Missoula Marathon, I ran a 1:17:15 and was pretty happy with it considering how tired my legs were. This year, after again running Missoula six days prior (albeit much more slowly than in 2008) and the aforementioned 30 miler the day before, I wasn't really expecting much, just hoping to get in a 10 mile run. I love being wrong in these circumstances.

The course is a fairly big downhill overall as Hill City is about 700 feet higher than Keystone, but there's more to it than that. There's one huge hill in the first 2 miles, a smaller huge hill in the next mile and then several smaller hills sprinkled throughout the course to keep things interesting. At several points, bystanders will tell you that "it's all downhill from here" and they are basically always wrong (unless they're along the last mile and a half or so). It is a beautiful course, as you might expect one so close to Mt. Rushmore to be.

My race strategy was pretty simple here. Start running and see what happened. I was totally unenthusiastic about this thing in the moments leading up to it. My legs felt tired from the 30 miler the day before, but not horribly so. I knew I would be able to run 10 miles with no problem, but memories of past misery at this race were lingering in my head. When the race started, I just went and tried to work into a pace that felt somewhat reasonable. Turns out that pace was faster than I thought it would be.

Right off the bat, I was moving faster than I thought I would be (or thought I'd be able to maintain). Heading up the first big hill, I could see the field strung out in front of me (the leader, a college cross country runner at South Dakota State, had already gapped everyone by that time and went on to win ridiculously easily) and counted 15 people ahead of me. As we chugged up the hill, barely moving at faster than a walk, I caught a few people and when I was able to drop the hammer and start running hard immediately after cresting the summit, I passed a couple of more. Eventually, I found myself behind a local trail runner, Andy, who I know is faster than me on trails, but maybe not so much on roads (at least when I'm rested). I would end up following Andy up and down the hills until I finally mustered enough momentum to pass him just past mile 4. At that point, it basically became a race with myself. I could occasionally catch a glimpse of the next guy in front of me, but he was never within striking distance. I wasn't sure how much of a gap I was putting on Andy until I finally snuck a couple of glances in the final miles. Basically, my goal became to maintain sub-7 miles and finish in the 1:13 range. Amazingly, the pace felt pretty good up until the last two miles when I had to work a little harder to maintain it. As I rounded the last bend and saw the finish line, I started pushing and realized that not only would I definitely break 1:13, but I was going to be really close to 1:12 as well. Alas, it was too late that I realized this and finished in 1:12:02, a PR of over 5 minutes, 8th overall and 3rd in my AG.

1 - 6:46
2 - 7:41 (big damn hill)
3 - 6:53
4 - 6:39 (chasing Andy down the hill)
5 - 7:22 (inexplicably slow, maybe let off a little after passing Andy)
6 - 7:00
7 - 6:48
8 - 6:44
9 - 6:51
10 - 6:54
10.4 - 2:21 (6:14 pace)
Total - 1:12:02

My AG award was a railroad spike. I've got three of em now (two from Heart of the Hills and one from the Deadwood-Mickelson half marathon). If I can place in my AG long enough, I can build myself a railroad!

So, the moral of the story is, if you wanna PR at a race, just go out and run 30 miles the day before. Guaranteed to work! (Disclaimer: results not typical).