Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lean Horse 100- Moutain Lions, Black Hills and Buffalo...oh my!!!!

Road Trip to South Dakota- The trip started with a fun road trip through Wisconsin then entered South Dakota and Wild Western Landscape, including, the Badlands, Black Hills, watering holes and field of sunflowers. I enjoyed this all with my good friend Holly and her boyfriend, Bill. I looked out the window as we drove along and fantasized about riding horseback across the countryside. Tomorrow I would have my chance with Lean Horse and run 100 miles through this beautiful area.

We arrived in Hot Springs, S.D. just before packet pick up. We met up with our friend Dorn that arrived a week early for some back country hiking and backpacking. We all headed into packet pick up together, dropped off our drop bags and did some shopping in the nice expo. We chatted with our friends from Southern IL, Don Frichtl, Bill Dey, Lucia Alzaga & Tim. Don was doing the 100 but said he was most likely going to have to stop early because his ankle was bothering him. He needs to stay healthy for work, he is a farmer and very busy. Bill, Lucia and Tim were all running the 50 mile race. They informed us we were to yell "Buffalo" whenever we saw each other. I was digging that, I felt like a little kid that just found a new word to yell out, Buffalo!!!

Holly and Me-click on picture to see a video story of race

I enjoyed a pre-race dinner and company, then headed to my hotel room and laid out my race gear. The week leading in to the race I had some nerves and self doubt. But today I was calm, confident, healthy and 100 % committed to finishing this race to my best abilities. I knew it would not be easy, but I had a race plan, the course was well visualized in my head. I knew I could run at a pace that would keep me "comfortable" for at least 75 miles, then I was going to gut it in for a 100 finish. That belt buckle was beautiful and I wanted it! I was physically and mentally prepared to Get-R-Done!

Race DayI slept well and woke up feeling well rested. Had a cup of coffee and got my clothes on. Tempatures would reach the mid 90s with no shade. I was wearing my white singlet, loose fitting shorts, white Inov-8 cap, a waist pack loaded with- a water bottle for my perpetuem drink, hard candies, e-tab, and advil. The shoes I decided to wear were an old favorite, my Inov-8 terrocs. This was the first pair of trail shoes I ever owned. I chose them because they are comfortable on roads or trails. About 33 miles of the course was on roads, the rest is crushed limestone trails. Since it was going to be warm I decided I would also carry a hand held water bottle from the start of the the race.
Me, Dorn, Holly before race

At the start line I chatted with friends. I was going through in my mind what I needed to do to stay strong through out the race. I needed to burn this in to my head because its easy to forget things once you start running. I love the physical challenge of races, but enjoying the scenery is why I love trails. I was excited about the beauty of this course. The race began and I took off. The course starts by winding through town. My goal was to stay comfortable running, nothing fast, I wanted to feel "fresh" at the 50 mile turn around, ready to run another 50 miles.

Once out of town the course went on to a rolling country road. The hills weren't difficult, just fairly constant. I walked up, then ran down them. Just doing what the course was telling me to do. I could have ran the hills but I figured that was a walking break I could not get back. I would save that energy for later in the day.

The first aid station my instinct was to fill up my water bottle quickly and keep moving. But I have found if I wait till I'm hungry to eat, I'm more likely to have a sour stomach. I looked over the food. I grabbed a homemade chocolate chip cookie and was on my way. The road had a trail feeling to me. It went through the Black Hills National Forest and I enoyed the beauty of rolling hills for miles around me.

The road section passed quickly. Then the course switched to the Mickelson trail and my first drop bag. Argyle Road mile 16.6. I ate some fruit, grabbed a small box of raisins, filled up my water bottles and mixed one of them with my caffe Latte perpetuem. I was glad I decided to carry 2 bottles, I was drinking both between stations. I was on my way again...

The course is an old railroad route that was abandoned in 1983. It had been primarily used as a gold mining route and now passes through old mining towns. The hills are slight but constant and long. I enjoyed the stunning views as the course wound through the Black Hills with rocky canyons, praire scapes, and evergreen forest. The trail crossed over many streams and deep valleys that were connected by solid old railroad trestles converted into bridges.

The day went by quickly as I enjoyed the stunning views. I had found a few friends to run and talk with, and was having a great time. My body felt good, my only small complaint was my right knee was starting to swell. It got very hot during the day and I chose to quickly walk some flat areas. My main goal was to finish the race and I wanted to stay comfortable for as long as I could. I felt I could pick the pace up at night when the cooler weather would make the effort less.

I arrived at the 50 mile turn around at 11:58. I decided not to change my shoes. I put my Go-Motion light on my waist pack and dropped off my camera. I also threw some extra batteries in my waist pouch. I was feeling "fresh" and ready to run another 50. The course was more downhill on the way back and I felt I could take advantage of that. I love running down hills. Finishing in the 26 hour range was sounding reasonable.

By the time I get to my next drop bag ( mile 64.5 Harbach) my knee is really giving me problems. It is extremely swollen but I am forcing my self to run. I came to this race to give it my all and that is what I'm doing. Even though I was still running it was costing me time. It was especially slowing me down on the uphill walks. I feel I was still keeping a strong uphill walking pace, but with little movement in my knee, it was slowing me down.

I did a run-walk from here on out. I would run as long as I could, then walk a short amount of time, then start running again. I felt I was doing well, being strong and running when it was difficult for me. I went through another aid station and drop bag, Pringle, mile 76. A lot of runners were looking exhausted, sitting in the medical tent. I was hurting but I thought for running 76 miles, I felt pretty darn good.

I headed off from Pringle with my next drop bag stop being Argyle (mile 83.4). I was tired but determined to finish at my best. I had found a friend running my pace and we were keeping each other company. As we were getting fairly close to the Argyle drop bag we heard a growling, purring noise to the left of us. It did not seam real. We commented on the unusual sound and turned our lights in the direction it was coming from. The trail in the area was about 5 feet elevated from some tall grass on both sides. As my light passed over the tall grass I saw the back of a mountain lion walking with its long tail. It was not looking at us, just moving in the opposite direction we were traveling. It was within 15 feet. We walked a few more feet down the trail and found a fresh bloody kill. It was a rabbit or a possum. I didn't look at it long. We walked for quite awhile because we didn't want to encourage the Mountain lion to chase us. When we got to the next aid station a couple of guys came in behind us. We asked them if they saw the fresh kill in the middle of the trail, they hadn't. I'm sure just after we passed the mountain lion went back up and grabbed its dinner.

At the Argyle Aid station we hung around for awhile sharing our Mountain Lion story. I looked at the food but nothing looked appetizing. They had a good spread, I was just tired and not wanting to eat. The small break chatting was not good for me. When I left the aid station my legs were not working. My knee was tight and I struggled just to walk up very small hills. It was amazing how quickly I went from good to bad. I shuffled along for a long time. If I kept this pace I would possibly not make the cut off. I had done so well during the first 3/4 of the race. I did not want all that hard work to go to waste. I wanted a PR finish. I mentally got myself back together and started running the downhills. I just tackled one at a time. Walk up the hill, run all the way down no matter how much it it again. I did this all the way back to town. I had gotten myself back on track for a PR finish.

When I turned on the trails leading back to town I kind of lost it again. I knew I could walk it in and still PR. I was griping, "I'm done with 100's... I will stick to 50s and 100ks that way I'm done in the evening and get to hang with friends...I'm leaving running 100s to Julie Aistars...." It was the early morning rantings of an Ultra Diva. It's a good thing I didn't have the video rolling then. I had 4.5 mile to the finish line and I shuffled my way to it. My whole right leg was grossly swollen. I walked like a peg legged Pirate. I was coming back on the same course I went out on, but I did not remember seeing all these hills on the way out. Ugh!

I finally arrived to the finish line, I was sure I was going to walk it in. My Southern Illinois friends were there cheering "Buffalo!" that perked me up enough to go ahead and run it in. I finished for a 35 minute PR in 27:45. Wow, that was a tough and rewarding accomplishment that will be with me a lifetime!

Next morning thoughts- I had decided, I could have done that better. If I would have forced myself to run that last 4.5 miles I could have taken quite a bit of time off. The experience of this race will help me be just a little bit more mentally strong for the next. I'm looking forward to my next 100 mile race, in fact I think 100s may be my favorite!

For a video story from the race click on this link It's less than 3 minutes long with some fun music ;-)

Me with my AG award and My Awesome friend Holly- her 1st time 100 mile finish - tough ultra chick, plus she is a mountain climber...yeah she is one of those "crazys" that clamps on and goes straight up! We both are happy to have our beautiful Belt buckles!


  1. This is a very inspiring story to read, thanks for sharing more good thoughts. Nice blog too.

  2. Thank you for reading. It was a very special day for me.

  3. i also ran the leanhorse 100 and 3 days before the event i read that there are approximately 250 lions in the black hills.

    the average of 1.6 mountain lions living on every 100 square kilometers of land in the Black Hills makes it one of the highest densities in the West.

    and a couple days before the race i met a local from custer who told me about 2 problem lions that had been recently killed. one was in rapid city and the other in custer.

    so when the sun went below the horizon and i was exhausted, every movement on the side of the trail looked like a lion to me!!! yes, i was a scaredy cat.