Google+ Followers

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Black Hills 100, June 2014

We spent a few days before the run in the Black Hills area. Lisa's brother and his family were there at the same time and we had a blast with them. Lisa and I stayed a couple nights in Custer State Park and a couple nights in Deadwood. Two days before the race, I celebrated eight years of continuous sobriety (wow! never imagined that one). This was a lovely getaway for us.

Lisa and the Bunde clan at the top of Harney Peak
It was raining on the drive to Sturgis from Deadwood on race day. It had rained much of the day before too. At Woodle Field, the race start, we hung out in the car watching the rain. I made it to a group of outhouses near the track, and discovered too late, that the one I had chosen had no toilet paper. It was facing the opposite direction from the crowd waiting in line, so with my pants down I peeked in the next toilet (it was empty). No paper there either. What to do? I considered my socks. I asked the crowd for help and received a knock and a hand through the door with paper towels.  That's community. We trail runners look out for each other.

The rain subsided by start time, 6 am. An hour earlier, the Tatanka 100, a mountain bike race, had begun here too and would ride the same first 50 miles of trail that we did. The Tatanka course is a loop, while the Black Hills 100 is an out and back along the beautiful Centennial Trail from Sturgis to the turnaround at Silver City. A 50 mile and 100k run all began together with the 100 miler, and we left the track, followed sidewalk out of town, ran through a tunnel under a road and were on the Centennial Trail.

Race start with Lisa. She is awesome. I am lucky, blessed.
My main goals for this race were to:

1. Finish.
2. Remain positive and spread that positivity as much as possible--to enjoy it.
3. Run smart. Go out at a reasonable pace. I've never done that in a 100. I'm excitable.
4. Eat real food as much as possible. 
5. To move quickly through the aid stations, to not linger.

My concern was making the cutoffs. I've only finished two of these, both last year, Zumbro and Superior, and neither were done below the 32 hour cutoff of Black Hills.

We had lovely views of Bear Butte as we left the Sturgis area and began climbing our way into the hills.

Bear Butte
It was fun to chat with people around me. In the past, I would get talking to someone at the start and end up running faster than I should, not paying attention to pace. Today I reminded myself to take it easy, to run my own damn run.

Gnarly Jordan
I settled in around a couple other Minnesotans, John Taylor and Scott Huston. This was John's 61st 100 or longer race! We could all learn plenty from him about recovering from these things, and he confirmed one thing I've suspected, something very obvious, which is that diet plays an important factor. In no time we were through Alkali Creek, the first aid station. I screamed Woo! and grabbed water and a banana and kept moving.

Following John and Scott
The course was wet. I was surprised that the mountain bikers ahead of us hadn't shredded the trails to pieces--in most places I couldn't tell they had been through. The Bulldog aid station popped up all of a sudden. I grabbed water, a banana, a quarter of a peanut butter jelly sandwich and kept moving.

Mushroom that looks like a burger bun
At the Elk Creek aid station (17 miles) I ate a couple Endurolytes, a banana and watermelon. I ate a lot of fruit throughout the run, watermelon, cantaloupe, and bananas. I also drank soup broth at the later aid stations. These things appealed to me and stayed down easy. I only ate the salt pills a couple more times, and I ate about 3-4 Gu's (salted caramel) throughout the run. I had mixed Tailwind in my water bladders and that seemed to give me most of what I needed with the fruit and the broth.

Centennial Trail
Immediately after Elk Creek aid station there were five creek crossings within a mile or so. The creek was flowing and cold at thigh level, with ropes tied off to help us get across. I've never done these before and was worried about proper etiquette. Was I supposed to let the person ahead cross all the way before grabbing the rope?

Crossing Elk Creek
I met a dejected bike racer heading back on one of these crossings. The mud had been too much for her, or at least for her bike. On the last crossing, the stream branched out in multiple directions. Somehow, without intending to, I ended up sitting down in the middle of the current. My feet left me. I held tight to the rope. The cold water felt awesome and I popped up and kept moving.

Elk Creek

After the creek crossings, the trail was full of mud in the bottoms. It was irritating and took some energy to get through it. I'm not complaining, as we take what the trail gives us each time and do with it what we can. I was surprised to pass another biker here who was clearly struggling with the mud. It was nice to climb out of the bottoms. The trail was dryer in the hills. 

Crooked tree that inspires the race logo.

Somewhere around the Crooked Tree aid station we saw the leaders of the 50 mile run returning. This is what I love about out and back courses, seeing everyone in all the races moving through and also getting a sense of where I am in the overall scene. I tried to give them all a big loud Woo!

Coming down the long hill leading to the Dalton Lake aid station, I met a guy from Sioux City. For the next few aid stations we would leap frog and I would call him "Sioux City" and he would call me "Mankato." He was a fun guy and I could tell from talking to him briefly that he would finish this. I recognized this aid station as a place my son and I had camped and fished at several ago. I added gaiters to my shoes here and drank some Coke.

The next section climbed up again and then, somewhere near the 100k turnaround, we were on the ATV trails, with large ruts full of water. At the first one, I tried to squeeze between the ruts and slid into the mud, performing a total faceplant mudbath, laughing as I got up and kept rolling forward. It seems I fall down at these things a lot. 

Insert face and body into puddle and roll around like Otis the pig.
Trail markers

He thinks we are racing each other.
After the Nemo aid station (mile 36), the trails had several dirt bikers and four wheel riders. At one point the dirt bikers were helping a lady who had fallen off her four wheeler. Her face was bloody and the back of her head was soaked with blood. I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do for her, but they were slowly getting her out of there and she seemed able to ride on the back of the thing. My legs were getting sore along here. I was slowing down. I also saw the leaders of the race in this section, the first one coming by as I was wetting my face and head from a stream that crossed the trail. Somewhere around here I saw Ed Thomas on his return. He would be paced by Maranda Lorraine and it was good to have met them both (we've been at many of the same races). Those ninjas have great energy.

Leaving the Pilot Knob aid station, I looked around and remembered being here years ago, biking in the snow with a friend. My legs were really hurting now. I wondered if it had something to do with the higher elevation than I'm used to. I saw John Maas on his return leg--that gnarly bandit just ran Kettle Moraine and was smiling. By the time I hit the turn around about 12.5 hours into this I was a mess. I need to sit down for awhile. I needed to regroup. Lisa is so awesome at these aid stations. I felt this kind of drunk love for her through the next 50 miles. I refused to tell her how I was feeling about her because I felt like a schoolboy and she would have one more thing to tease me about.

Coming into the beautiful valley at Silver City
Leaving Silver City
The climb out of Silver City bit me hard and left me reeling for awhile. It was just cruel. I was light headed and sat down. Things really slowed down here. Maybe that's natural, as it was getting dark. I walked a lot. One thing that lifted my spirits was that the Bunde clan had come out to visit us at the Pilot Knob aid station. Long before I reached the aid station, I could hear the Bunde kids screaming Woo! in the dark. I needed that spiritual bump then. Later, Sioux City mentioned hearing our Bigfoot calls at that place.

Black Hills lion found just before dark.
I tried to embrace the pain in my legs. I tried to wrap myself around it and accept it as just another sensation. Maybe I did that. Maybe I just finally accepted it. Maybe I ran through it. I kept telling myself to simply run into the moment. Somehow I kept moving through this beautiful night. Coming into Nemo, hounds bayed in the distance and I imagined what strange things they thought of our quietly moving headlamps. In my light I saw the reflections of eyes of mice, bunnies and deer. A couple times I turned off the lamp and stared up at a perfectly clear sky. Once I sat on a log and rested my head in my hands, possibly fell asleep for six minutes before cramps had me dancing around the trail. At each aid station, Lisa was waiting for me, offering encouragement and cantaloupe and lifting my spirits.

The mud that was so irritating earlier had largely dried on our return. I ran much of one section with a lady from Pennsylvania who had broken her thumb earlier. A group of three of us had loosely connected headlights that seemed to hold each other together through that piece, even though I'm not sure who the third headlight belonged to, can't put a name or face or gender or anything to it. It was simply a light, moving just behind me, that in some ways helped keep me moving too.

There is something about these things that draws me in, and that's the curiosity of what I might find within myself, deep in the night when things feel like they're falling apart. It's not necessarily a test, what I'm talking about. Perhaps it's nothing magic, but simply the astonishment to find that energy to keep moving forward. I know that for me what works is diving deep into the moment, into the now of the matter, and that becomes a special and eternal place.

At some point, from high up, I could see distant lights of Sturgis through a valley. It was beautiful. I knew it would be light soon. And when that light appeared in all its colors I felt reborn. I was moving! Those stream crossings were cold but I kept moving through them and at Elk Creek  (mile 83) I was feeling so good. I changed into dry shoes and had some hot chocolate. I left the hiking poles I had used to get through the night with Lisa. I didn't want them slowing me down. I was ready to run and I was shocked at how fast I felt then.

Good morning cows (we had a nice discussion)
At the Bulldog aid station I hardly stopped, took some water and bananas and asked if there was anyone ahead whom I could play chase with. I was really opening up, especially on the long downhill sections. I didn't know where this energy had come from but I felt like I was floating.

I found a few people along the way, and most seemed to be moving pretty well too.
The return views of Bear Butte were amazing.
Just after Alkali Creek (mile 94) I caught up to Sioux City. I was so happy to see him. It was like finding a long lost friend after years apart! We shuffled along together. I learned his real name is Taylor. What a delightful character he was to run with. 
Tunnel under the highway. Almost there.
Lisa and nephew Evan had come out to meet me--at Alkali Creek I had asked her to please run in with me as a team. That great energy I had found earlier was definitely waning but I was having such a blast. How can a person not be completely ecstatic when the end of this is in sight?

This one felt so good. 29 hours and 4 minutes was my finishing time. I'm so blessed to be able to do this thing I love, and to be able to do it with awesome people around me and with Lisa too. I usually fall into things in my life, perhaps I get lucky with things, but I feel like I actually ran a smart(ish) race this time! And I had so much fun doing it. As usual, I'm so impressed by all those who showed up for the attempt at this thing. And the volunteers who helped us get there. And as always, I'm so grateful for Lisa.

I barely made it out of the parking lot awake.


  1. Wow Kevin! Way to go. I was just about an hour behind you and really appreciated reliving the race through your words and pictures. It was a great adventure. Best of luck in your future races. Hope to see you on the trails.
    Susan Rice (#56)

    1. Thanks Susan! I appreciate your comments. Congrats on an awesome finish!

  2. Congratulations Kevin! It sounds like you finished strong and had a fantastic race! Hope we will cross paths again at another race! Laurie (Inknburn gal - crew/pacer for Kurt H. #22)

    1. Thanks Laurie. Great race to you and Kurt. You seemed to give off great energy out there.

  3. I'm registered for the 50 mile next year and found your blog entry. Great work!