As the old saying goes, the third time is the charm. Not that we royally screwed up the first two Black Hills 100s, but it seems as though we're hitting our stride now that the event has reached its third year. In all honestly, when we started this thing in 2011, we didn't really have a friggin clue what we were getting into. Looking back, knowing what we know now, it's almost hard to believe we pulled the whole thing off that first year. Being an ultrarunner and being an ultra race director are two totally different beasts and, at heart, both Ryan and I are still ultrarunners first. But I think we've figured out how to flip the switch to ultra race director mode when necessary.
The biggest thing we've figured out is that we can't do this ourselves. Now, that should be painfully obvious, but during the first two years we still fell into the trap of taking too much on ourselves during the event, which led to us running around like meth addicted striped ass monkeys all weekend and totally burning ourselves out. This year, we made it a point to seek out more help and delegate responsibilities more, allowing us to sit back and manage situations more so that reacting directly to them. In particular, we minimized the amount of course roaming activities we did ourselves this year (delivering supplies to aid stations, picking up downed runners, etc.). We were able to do this thanks to the dynamic duo of Royce Wuertzer (new RD of the Lean Horse Ultra in Hot Springs in August) and Nancy Smidt (a seemingly superhuman lady who apparently does not require sleep to function at full speed). Those two put in an untold amount of miles and effort throughout the weekend and made our lives much, much easier. We both actually got to sleep for a couple of hours on Saturday night/Sunday morning, which has never happened before during the event. Hopefully, Ryan and I can repay Royce by returning the favor at Lean Horse. Not sure if we can ever adequately repay Nancy, other than to petition her for sainthood.
Another major assist goes to Kevin Forrester and Todd Battles, directors of the Tatanka 100 mountain bike race, who did pretty much all of the course marking (I put up some pin flags for about 30 minutes early Saturday morning, they did the rest). One of the major complaints about the event the first two years was the course markings along the motorized section of trail between Dalton Lake and Pilot Knob, particularly for the 100 milers who are running back through that section after dark. It's a gnarly section of trail with a bunch of side trails and the actual route, despite permanent signage, isn't always abundantly clear. Our number one course marking goal this year was to make that section as crystal clear as possible. Thanks to past 100K winner and 100M runner up John Horns hooking us up with a ton of reflective tape from 3M, we were able to put out significantly more course marking this year and, so far, I haven't heard of anyone going seriously off-course (and the few people I talked to who did go off-course took responsibility for it themselves). We seem to have found a system that works well for us, and we will use it for the foreseeable future.
Another major complaint from past years, and something we have no control over, was the weather. The severe thunderstorm in 2011 and the extreme heat in 2012 took a major toll on the finish rate and times those first two years. Going into this year, we still didn't feel like we had good feel for just how fast or hard this course really was. We assumed that, given decent weather, this was probably a sub-20 course (for the winner) and that our finish rate would be significantly above the 35% and 37% we had in '11 and '12. Well, we were right. No storms and the highs Saturday were in the mid-70s. Jeremy Bradford returned to defend his title and broke his own course record by almost two hours, finishing in an impressive 19:05. The real surprise was in the women's race, which was won by Kaci Lickteig. Now, it wasn't really a shocker that she won it, but the way she did it was pretty incredible. Running in her first ever 100 miler and coming from the flatlands of Nebraska, she absolutely obliterated the women's course record (and the old men's course record) and finished just six and a half minutes behind Jeremy in 19:12. That's seven hours under the previous women's record. Don't be shocked if you see her name at the top of ultra race results for years to come at some of the more well known events. The women's course record in the 50M also fell, with Alison Fraser setting the new mark. Oh, and our finish rate for the 100M this year was 69.5%, basically double what it was the inaugural year. We had 14 sub-24 finishers this year, compared to a total of five from the first two years combined. So, there goes our reputation. And I guess we'll have to order more sub-24 buckles much sooner than we thought.
All in all a great weekend. There are always things we know we can work on, but it feels like we're getting the big stuff dialed in. Now, to do some refining and fine tuning. And work on getting this thing qualifier status for Western States.
As for me, back to Leadville training. Obviously, I didn't do any long runs last weekend....the two days of the BH100 were the first two "rest" days I've had since the day after Quad Rock. And they weren't really restful at all...I woke up Monday morning feeling like I had run an ultra of some sort myself (complete with middle of the night leg cramping, oddly enough...sympathy pains??). But, I'm back at it now and as eager as ever to set aside the ultra race director hat for my normal ultrarunner one. I've said it after each of the first two Black Hills 100s and I'll say it again: it's infinitely harder to direct one of these things than to just go out and run it. But both are rewarding in their own way.
To everyone who either volunteered at or ran in the Black Hills 100 this year, THANK YOU!! I look forward to seeing some of you in Leadville.