Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Black Hills 100

This was the radar image around 10pm on Friday night before the start of the Black Hills 100 mile run. I was sitting in the Winnebago wondering when the temperature would drop and the terrible mugginess would ease.  I noticed a lot of lightening to the west so I opened up the Ipad and found this radar image.  I braced for the onslaught and it did get windy and rain a bit but then the storm just fizzled out.  I rechecked the radar and this cell had just vanished.  At least the air started moving and the temps moderated so I could sleep.

I had stayed in Sheridan post Bighorn until Thursday night and arrived in time to get some sleep and make it to the packet pickup around 10am.  I got to meet co-rd Chris Stores and Debbie Phillips the wife of co-rd Ryan Phillips here.  I got some of my questions about the course answered by Chris and was charmed by Debbie's contagious smile.  Ryan and Chris conducted the race briefing at 4pm and a pasta feed started not too long after the briefing.  Everything was well organized and I felt good about keeping on course and knowing what to expect out on the course.  Saw lots of friends including Beth Simpson and Larry Hall, Olga V and Larry King, Mike Smith, Dennis Drey, Patrick from Bighorn, Alan Holz and probably more that I don't remember.  The big concern for the race seemed to be the heat.

My biggest concern was my feet.  I had a terrible time with blisters at Bighorn and I still had two decent sized holes in my heels, one of which was still very tender.  The ball of my left foot was also still tender.  I came up with a taping strategy and hoped for the best.  Starting the race I was really worried as I could feel several different areas of .... discomfort.

The start and finish of the race is at a newly resurfaced track called Woodle field right in Sturgis.  It's a great place to stage the race from with a plenty of parking, a concession stand type building, and plenty of room for post race festivities.  Here's some pics from the start:

Dennis Drey and Mike Smith.  100 mile afficianados discussing the finer points of running insane distances.

Larry Hall's head and the start/finish line.

Co-RD Chris giving some last minute instructions.

One very cool thing that they did at the start was to invite Billy Good Voice Elk, a local member of the Lakota tribe, to say some words and send us off with a traditional Native American song/prayer.  Thank you for you kind and inspirational words!

Billy Good Voice Elk

The first 300 yards of the race.  100 mile, 50 mile and 100k runners all started together.
I'm not going to give a blow by blow of the course but you can roughly think of it as divided into two roughly equal (effort wise) halves.  The first half is the 29 miles to the Dalton Lakes AS which is the second drop bag spot.  The 21 miles to the turnaround is the second half.  The first half has a ton of really sweet dirt single track trails.  As advertised there were constant ups and downs and while there are several pretty good hills for the most part it was 150ft or less per hill.  Coming back on Sunday morning they seemed to have added a lot of small hills in the last 5 miles that I did not recall from the outbound  journey.

Some pics from the "first half":

A very early climb.  Once again I find myself near the back of the pack.

Dennis Drey showing the efficient stride that has brought him around the Hardrock course 8 times.

One of the hills that seemed much longer and harder on Sunday.

Sweet.  Many of the hills returning to town in the last 15 miles have steep ups and cruiser downs.

I believe this aid station was either Alkali Creek or Elk Creek.

One of the 100's  of carsonite signs that we followed.

Allan Holz and a blaze.  The course follows the Centennial Trail (a NRT) which is number 89, hence the  "Cruising the 89" from the race website.

A scenic highpoint.
There was one section of trail in the Elk Creek section where we were running up high above a beautiful rocky gorge.  I took a movie of it but had trouble getting it on the blog.  This section, past the Elk Creek AS, was the coolest part of the run in my opinion.

The second half of the course from Dalton Lakes to the turnaround in Silver City is very different from the first.  Here too there were sections of sweet single track but the character of this section is defined by double track that is more or less torn up by ATVs.  I didn't get too many pictures of this section probably because the trails weren't so pretty.  I did capture some of the character of the trail here but there were miles long sections of trail that were WAY worse than any of these pics show.

I believe this shot is on a long climb up out of Dalton Lakes where the "open to motor vehicles" section starts.

There was lots of this kind of stuff.

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Larry Hall, Beth Simpson-Hall and Mike Smith.  I took this from behind them to give everyone an idea of what I've been seeing all year.  Mike Smith has finished several hours ahead of me, though I see him during the race, in probably 6 or 7 100 milers this year!
This race was definitely a low point in the year for me.  I was hurting and unhappy for way too much of this run.  I was really having some negative thoughts about how much time, money and energy I was putting into this project that was causing me so much pain and doing harm to my body.  I'm really feeling beat up, unable to do the maintenance exercises for my back, and I'm developing hammer toes on the second toe from the outside on both feet.  As I sit and write this I'm deciding whether to give Angel Fire a shot or not this weekend.  I feel confident of being able to finish Hardrock in 2 1/2 weeks which is important to me but I don't know if I can do both.  And I just don't feel like doing another rocky 100.  I'll decide by tomorrow night.

Once again, cudos to race management and all the volunteers out on the course.  The event was well organized, well executed and everything was done necessary to get us to the finish.  There was food and beer at the finish line.  Yay!  Many people had already left when I got in at just under 31 hours but there was still plenty of tacos and some beer.  Thanks to Ryan, Debbie, Chris and everyone else who helped out last weekend.  

Liz had a great time doing the Great New York 100 mile finishing just over 24 hours.  I'll post a report if she writes one.

Race count:  Liz (18)  Scott (13)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Big Horn 100

The Big Horn Wild and Scenic Runs celebrated it's 20th anniversary this year with the 100 miler in it's 11th year.  All this experience has paid off as the race is as well executed as any and pulling this one off is much tougher than these folks make it look.  There are three main aid stations where you can have drop bags in the 100 mile and these can all be driven to but many of the other aid stations must be accessed by rough 4 wheel drive roads, ATV trails and one, Bear Camp, is only accessible on foot or horseback.  Coming into these very remote aid stations though, you would never guess it by the service you receive or by the food, drink, and first aid supplies.  In this race I wore new shoes which were much heavier and stiffer than I have been using and so had blister issues but even these back country aid stations had full blister kits.  Impressive!

Liz and I had a weekend off before this one but both of spent much of this time "off" working and suffering from a head cold.  Neither of us are much prone to getting sick but this is the 2nd or 3rd time this year and I think it's due to the stress we are putting our bodies through.  Our immune systems are depressed from the constant travel, work, and physical abuse of running these races.  We both started this race with stuffy heads and both produce copious quantities of "nasal mucus" as well as coughing up unidentifiable substances also in copious quantities.  Sorry for all that but it was a significant part of our race!

One unique and positive aspect of this race is the 11am start time on Friday.  This is nice as it lets you get a full night's rest without the sleep disturbing anxiety of oversleeping.  For this one we flew into Denver on Tuesday, picked up the RV and drove up to Sheridan for the Thursday packet pickup and drop bag drop off.  There was a nice buffet dinner of pasta, pizza, chicken and a full salad bar Thursday night where we spent about 4 hours eating, chatting with old friends and meeting new folks.  One of the new people we met was Mark Tanaka from CA who weighs about 120 lbs but I swear he put away 10 lbs of food before our very eyes!  Good to meet you Mark!

We drove to Scott Park in Dayton about 10 miles from Sheridan and parked the rig near the start.  It was a bit noisy early but quieted down and we both slept decently with the aid of Nyquil.  There was a 9am race briefing and then a carpool to the start 3 miles down the road.  We started on a gravel road for 2 miles to the trail which led us a few miles up the Tongue River canyon and then up a big climb into the high country.  The course is an out and back but we would run past our starting point down the gravel road all the way to Scott Park.

The gravel road at the start. 160 or so started.

Still on the gravel road....

Singletrack along the Tongue River.  Liz just ahead.

Leaving the river and heading up high.  Descending this on Saturday was rough with blistered feet.
After leaving the river we ran across 20 or so miles of rolling terrain at around 7k feet of elevation.  With no acclimation I was worried about so much running at this elevation but for some reason neither Liz nor I really had any problems with it.  Going up to 9k feet at the turnaround we felt it but not so much through here.  At 30 miles you hit the Footbridge aid station after a long descent from Bear Camp.

Looking back towards the Tongue River canyon.

Upper Sheep Creek aid station at the end of the climb from the river.

This and the following pic are from the long traverse toward Footbridge.

Starting the descent to Footbridge AS.  Liz and I ran near each other during much of the race.

The footbridge with the excellent aid station just across the river.
After Footbridge the course basically climbs for 18 miles to 9k ft and a very chilly turnaround at the Porcupine Ranger Station and a cozy cabin.  About 2 miles before the turnaround there is a mile or two where there was plenty of snow, mud, and soggy (Cold!) ground.  By the time I got to the turnaround my feet were starting to get numb and my hands were also quite cold from getting them wet and muddy catching myself as my feet slid out from under me on a muddy creek bank.

Fairly early on the climb up from Footbridge AS.

Heading down to Footbridge early Saturday morning.  A couple of miles before this I witnessed Liz startling a large bear from the top of a hill when I was about 1/3 mile behind her.  She never saw it.
As we were coming into Footbridge on the return I was worried about time thinking that we would be slow on the long high traverse after Footbridge.  Liz was less worried.  We had several hours on the cutoff at Footbridge but I wouldn't relax until we had reached Cow Camp, an aid station about 11 miles past Footbridge.  On Friday the weather had been quite nice and chilly with a very light rain for several hours.  I like the cooler weather though it did get too cold for me at the turnaround.  On Saturday though it was a different story.  We were at a high elevation for much of the run which helped but the sun was out all day long and much of the course is out in the open.  By the end of the day I was done with the sun.

Dry Fork AS the last main AS.  From here it is mostly downhill.  I had been ahead of Liz Cow Camp but she caught up at the AS while I refueled and did some foot maintenance.
The single most painful part of this race was the long descent down to the Tongue River.  My feet had blisters all around the heels but the really painful one was on the ball of my left foot.  This long descent was much too steep (much steeper and longer than I remembered from ascending it) and rocky for comfortable running with sore blistered feet.  Talking to Liz after the race she also suffered big time here experiencing the joy of blisters popping while on the run.  Ouch!

Many runners talked about how difficult the 5 miles of road was at the end of the race but I found it quite nice.  I was able to shuffle most of it in as it was less painful for my feet to shuffle slowly rather than walk.  I finished in 32:45 and Liz came in about 30 minutes later around 33:15.  We were both hobbled and could barely get around enough to change shoes and get a bite to eat at the park.  It was very sad to finish so late and to be so wrecked as we both missed out on socializing at the finish.  This one was very tough for both of us.  It even brought tears to Liz's eyes as she removed her shoes, saying "That was too hard.  I don't want to be tough anymore."

This race has a pancake breakfast and awards ceremony in Sheridan on Sunday morning.  We were able to spend some time with friends and enjoy ourselves there though we were both very footsore as were many of the other runners.  The awards ceremony was very well done by emcee and ex-RD Wendall Robison.  This is a good value race.  For your entry fee you get a pre race buffet, a goody bag with technical tee, socks and a first aid kit.  You also get treated like a king (or queen) on the course and if you finish you get an embroidered fleece blanket and belt buckle.  And then the awards ceremony free pancake breakfast.  Not bad.

I have to put in a huge shout out to race management and the aid station volunteers.  This is truly a "wild and scenic" run.  It is a true backcountry experience and it couldn't be done without these dedicated volunteers.  Every aid station this year was run by the same crew as the previous year showing dedication and a willingness to work hard so we can play hard.  Thank You!

I am writing this in Sheridan on Thursday and will be running the Black Hills 100 starting at 6am on Saturday blisters willing.  Liz is in GA and will be flying up for the Great New York 100 also starting on Saturday.  Wish us luck.  This is getting hard....

Race count:  Liz (17)  Scott (12)

Old Dominion 100

The OD 100 is all about tradition, a great varied course, and "a fair test of running 100 miles in one day."  The race was started in 1979 by Wayne and Pat Botts and is now directed by Pat's daughter Wynne Botts and her husband Ray Waldron.  There's a lot of great history at the link in the previous sentence and I won't attempt a synopsis.  I once read a quote by Greg Soderlund to the effect that you can't call yourself an ultra runner unless you've run the W$ 100.  I disagree and would add that the OD 100 is probably more about ultra running's roots than Western.  The race is still low key and all about the challenge of running 100 miles in under 24 hours.  For any of you newer runners reading this do OD!  There's no lottery and it's cheaper by far.  Talk to Pat and Ray and Wynne about the old days.  They'll be there and there won't be 3000 others competing for their attention.

Ray Waldron starting the race briefing which includes all you need to know about the course as well as much history.

The barn at the Shenandoah County Fair Grounds where the race starts/finishes.

Pat Botts talking about the origin of all this madness.

Liz and I went into this race as the 4th 100 mile run in 22 days and we felt it going in.  Leaving the 2nd aid station with Konrad Gannon we were told that we were the last runners!  Yikes!  I'm not used to being the caboose.  I knew that there were lots of people going out too fast and the I would catch many later in the day but it was weird to be at the back of the pack.  Liz and I had really lucked out weather wise at both the Keys 100 and Nanny Goat with cooler than normal temps and that luck held through OD.  It was actually comfortable running all day long with low temps and low humidity.  There were only a few times that I got warmer than comfortable and this is rare for this run.  It can easily be in the mid 90's with high humididty.

A few notes about the course.  I think the defining characteristic about this course is how varied and beautiful it is.  There are climbs but also a lot of very runnable terrain.  There is asphalt, beautiful rural country dirt roads in Fort Valley, cruiser single track, and being in the Massanuttens there are sections that are all about rocks.  Liz and I both have run this several times but seem to have blocked out the rocky sections as we both wore road shoes the whole way and regretted it.  If you're fresh and don't have so many 100's on your feet road shoes would work but we both had feet that felt on fire by the end.  I finished in 25:40 and Liz in 27:23, personal worsts on the course for both of us.

Another great thing about OD is the post race breakfast held on Sunday morning.  So many races nowadays don't have anything like this.  You come, you run, you get in the car and drive away.  I really value the time to sit and tell war stories and catch up with people I only see a few times a year.  Hooray for this tradition!

My final message about OD is if you haven't done it get out there and experience some ultra history!  The RD's are not big on marketing and they are definitely not there to make money.  This race is great value and if you pass the fair challenge of running this historic course in 24 hours or less you will receive a very nice real silver belt buckle that is well earned and part of ultrarunnings roots.

Race count  Liz (16)  Scott (11)