Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Lean Horse 100 Mile Ultra Marathon is Completed on August 23-24, 2014 in Custer, SD. (Extended Version)

The #17 Ultra is now written in the books and oh, how was it written!  Phew!  The good, the bad, and the ugly,  I will try to divulge in it's entirety.  That is what an Ultra Marathon is all about!

Right off the bat I would like to say that running a 100 mile ultra marathon is not for the faint of heart, by no means.  The planning, training, setting up your crew and pacers, and expense of it all is vital to a successful run.  I'm EXTREMELY GRATEFUL to all who have helped me achieve a successful run!  Most of all I would like to give my love and biggest "Thank You" to Lori, my wife of  26 years, Abby Lyle, my 22 year old daughter who is an unreal athlete in her own right, and Brian Darnell, an ultra-running friend and companion in Buffalo, Wyoming.  These three people paced me the last 50 miles of the race who each paced around 15 miles throughout the night and early morning hours.  The next person whom I'd like to give out an extreme "thank you" is to BJ Haeck, an "ultra-running God" and "Hardrocker".  Bj gave me all the training issues and tips starting from the middle of last year in completing a 100 miler.  With all of his experience in completing
8 - 100 milers so far for his ultra-running career, I listened to him very carefully and took his advise quite often!  I'm sure glad I did, I'll tell you that!

Day 1, Thursday, August 21, The Plan:  To get to Custer, SD. early, have some lunch and drive the whole course beforehand and get a complete organizational layout of the course, elevation changes, drop bag locations, aid stations, as well as where Lori was going to park cars, etc.  Then to drive back to our hotel, shower, and go to dinner in the attached German restaurant and gorge on German food and beer, go back to the hotel, watch some TV and slowly drift off to sleep.

Well, in actuality, oh we got to Custer all right, however not early and had only a few hours to scope out the course.  Lori and I were trying to make sense of the maps I printed out from the website and Google Maps, but we were both getting a bit annoyed at one another and we only scoped out half the course.  This was going to be an out and back course.  I had been of course ramping up my hydration the whole week before so I thought I was doing well on that end of it.  Turns out, when we turned back to go back to the hotel I started to feel a bad headache coming on strong and started getting really nervous.  (there's nothing really like starting an ultra-marathon with a migraine)  (I actually completed a 28 miler with one in Utah and had some issues on that run, for sure!  After a couple of dry heaves after the run, a soak in the tub, and a couple of Shock Tops, I was good to go!)  Anyway......., so next I took a couple of Aleeves, got a neck rub from Lori and tried to relax.  We ate great German food next door and got a good nights sleep.  Before I went to sleep I checked the weather.  It did NOT look good at all!  The weather channel said our area would have heavy rain basically all day on Saturday, partial clearing at night, then finally clearing and sunny on Sunday.  I tried to get that off my mind because my headache was going away!  Thank God!

Day 2, Friday, August 22, The Plan:  Drive the entire course, memorize aid stations, get a good lunch, pick up my race packet and go to the informational meeting at 6 pm, fill up on some great Chinese food, fill the car up with gas, and check all drop bags (4) for the last time, make my avocado sandwiches I'll need for the race, and lay everything out I'll need the start the race -including laying my complete breakfast out in the morning, and getting a good restful sleep, if possible.  I'll be waking up at 4 am to start the day.

Well, I have to say that everything went really well this day!  No headache and both Lori and I were very excited to get this race underway!  We knew the entire course now and memorized all driving directions.  We knew that Abby and Brian Darnell would both be joining us the next day.  Abby would be driving from Wyoming in her own car to meet Lori at around the 50 mile mark.  Brian would be staying in Hill City with his family.  We gave both of them directions on the phone beforehand because there would be no cell reception where the race was going to go.  I started to worry that they wouldn't find where to go, or contact one another, etc, etc, but Lori assured me that this was NOT something I should worry about.  My only concern should be to "keeping one foot in front of another".  So I heeded her advise and didn't think about it again.  We then tried to find a Chinese restaurant and were very unsuccessful.  There wasn't one to be found - I mean, at all, in the whole county!  So, we found a restaurant that served rice as a side dish for one of their meals and headed there.  I ate a couple of servings of rice and green beans and a couple orders of some great "chinese style" vegetable soup.  I got pretty much filled up as I should and called it a day.  I drifted off to sleep around 10 pm and woke up around 1 pm worrying about some little thing I would maybe need for the run, but finally forgot about it and drifted off to sleep again after about an hour!

Day 3, Saturday, August 23, Race Day Plan:  Start the race on time, eat and drink some great food all day, take in the beautiful landscape the black hills had to offer,  meet and talk with as many runners as I can, get to the 50 mile mark around 12 hours, and finish under the cut-off time of 30 hours, and most of all, have a good time!

Well the day started off at 4 am alright and it was raining it's ass off outside!  It looked like it rained all night, which was predicted.  I sighed briefly, but decided there wasn't anything I could do about it now, so I just planned for a very rainy run.  After my breakfast of 2 hardboiled eggs, 2 bananas, 2 oatmeals, and of course my Succeed hydration bottles, and my "pre-race" Succeed pills, I was ready to go over to the Custer, High School Track to start this thing!  Finally, the day has come!

As Lori and I started packing the car, I noticed that the rain was letting up a bit!  I was very pleased this was happening.  When we got to the track, the weather started to clear and I actually saw some blue sky!  I couldn't believe it!  I changed out of all my rain weather gear I had on, gave them to Lori, and got to the track.  It looked like a beautiful day ahead for us!  This was just unreal!  This was totally cool for me!  Lori and I talked with a few runners at the start, took in the excitement, got some last minute instructions from the RD and we were all off!  Wow!  What an adventure already!  I knew this was going to be an experience of my life - and I was so right!

The first 15 miles I talked with great many runners who all seemed to be enjoying themselves - running in and out of conversations.  I believe I was going at a faster clip than I wanted  because I got caught up a bit in the excitement AND all these miles were downhill.  The weather was cool and partially sunny and patchy fog covering the surrounding hills.  I had of course seen the area the day before so I knew the landscape - especially Crazy Horse Monument!  I had a brief pit stop at a lone port-a-potty out in the middle of a campground, so I lost my conversations with other runners at this point.  Hill City was one of the first big aid stations where I saw Lori for the first time!  She was excited for me and had everything ready for me- like some specific foods and hydration I prefer to have during my run.  I changed shoes and shirt here and after a brief stop there and a kiss from Lori, I was off again to get on with some running up the hills of South Dakota.   The entire run of the Lean Horse 100 is run on the George Michelson Trail which is a crushed limestone/gravel surface.  This is a fantastic surface to run on and most of all, one doesn't need to concentrate on rocks or roots at all the entire way - like in most ultra-marathons I run.  This was a very nice diversion to the norm, for sure!  I had got to this aid station around 9 am, which was around 12 min/mile pace.

The next 10 miles or so were mainly uphill sections in which I "ran the flats, and power hiked the hills".  There were a couple of aid stations in these sections where I didn't see Lori, which was no big deal.  I took advantage of the aid station food, and so far, I didn't need anything from my drop bags yet. The day looked like a fantastic day to run!  Partially sunny, cool, but hot when the sun came out for sure!  The trail went in and out of forests and rolling hills.  I was eating and drinking good - sweating a lot, as usual.  I was taking advantage of the aid stations where they had jars of peanut butter on hand.  At most aid stations I asked for a huge scoop full of peanut butter , then I downed it with big glass of water.  It turned out to be great fuel for me!  After Hill City I was kind of on my own - conversation wise, so I powered up the hills with some music in my iPod to help me get through to the next big aid station (horse creek) at the 25 mile mark.  I was in good spirits when I saw Lori there.  I was having a little bit of tightness in my left calf muscle and I got a great massage from Lori's new found friend who was crewing for another runner.  The lady turned out to be a massage therapist!  She knew her stuff because the calf muscle felt better for a good while after!  That was fantastic to get at the right time!  Lori then gave me what I needed, I filled up on food for my pack, changed my shorts and shirt, slabbed on the vaseline, and I was off again.  I think I made this aid station at around 11:15 or so which would be around 15 min/mile.  I was still good on pace.  I figured I could make up some time on some of the downhills coming up.  What I was figuring is that if I could reach the 50 mile mark in 12 hours or so, all I would need to do to finish under the 30 hour time limit is to keep up a pace of 21:50 per mile.  (This turned out to be a lot harder than I thought and was a huge wake up call for me!)  I had no idea what I was in for at this point!

As I started off down the trail and hadn't got more than like .4 mile and I realized I should've checked my drop bag there and see if I mistakenly put my headlamp in that drop bag and not the next one at the 50 mile mark!  I stopped and ran back like a complete nut!.  Lori was packing up and was shocked to see me- rightfully so!  I explained I was worried and she informed me she'll look in the bag, don't worry, and get the hell down the trail!  I turned around and finally started out, again.  I now realized that if I complete this crazy run, I will have run 100.8 miles.  Great!  Why did I do that!

The next 9 miles or so were mainly downhill through Mystic Aid station and Gimlet Creek.  I was surprise that I ran less than I thought I would.  I was tightening up (calf) and in general legs, not bad, but didn't want to push the envelope too much, so I was running/walking fast most of the way.  When I got to Gimlet Creek I saw Lori again and I got what I needed and changed out of the sweaty shirt.  I  knew I had some hills next to climb for the next 15 miles or so to reach the 50 mile mark.  At this point I realized that I was going to walk entirely up the hills and run when I can on the flats and downhills.  I used my 1974 rock music in my iPod for motivation.  At Rochford aid station where I saw Lori again, I changed shorts again, and slabbed on the vaseline in the port-a potty.  I thought it was going to rain then when I started up again but it quickly stopped.  Cool with me!  I had some chafing going on but I was keeping it under control.  It was generally a long slog up to the DMTM Exchange station at the 50 mile mark.  I was still in good spirits and in good condition - no real problems, I was just tired.  I had been following this girl in a pink shirt for a good ways since Hill City and I thought she was doing great until we finally reached this aid station.  I guess she had had enough and decided to pull out of the race - I had seen her support crew in front of me the whole time so I knew them.  I was glad I had someone to key off of for that long stretch of trail.

At this 50 mile aid station I saw Abby the first time and she looked great - refreshed and ready to go!  I was on pace here - it was 6:20 pm - roughly 12 hours 20 minutes to go 50 miles.  Here was where Lori was first going to pace me for the next 12 miles or so down to Rochford aid station.  There, we would meet Brian Darnell who planned on pacing me for the next 18 miles.  I spent some time here changing again, getting foods, refilling, got our headgear lighting on etc, etc,.  I think I got another great massage from the massage lady.  Oh, how wonderful!  Abby seemed to know what she was going to do, Lori was ready to run, and we took off!  Now the course was mainly downhill, but again, I ran when I could and power walked the other times.  Lori and I had a great time talking and the time flew by!  It was like we were in out kitchen having our cocktails at happy hour endlessly talking about everything under the sun!  Specifically, I can't remember all conversations, but they sure were good!  We had a great time.  Our headlamps were turned on around 9 pm and we had a great starlit night to look at!  The big dipper, Orion, and the milky way were all out.  We even held hands a couple of times while walking fast.  I saw a shooting star and I was jacked.  When we made Rochford aid station (which was around 63 miles into the race),  I realized then that I had run the most I ever did in my life at that point!  Realizing that, it gave me strength to go to the next aid station.  Up until this point, that's what I was trying to remind myself of, which is to just run to aid station to aid station, and to break the distance down to 5-10 mile increments.  I think it worked, in the end.

Brian was jacked and ready to go when we started out of Rochford aid station - he had his GPS on so he was ready to monitor our pace per mile.  I think I changed shoes again at this point and got all my necessary food needs and we went off in the dead of night.  I believe it was around 11 pm at this point.  That means I averaged about 18-20 min/mile for this section with Lori.  I knew I was slowing down but didn't realize exactly how much.  Lori just had her regular watch on and didn't really know exactly what pace we were doing.  When Brian and I started going I was a bit shocked that I was starting to run/walk at around this pace!  I was more tired than I thought.  Brian quickly corrected the pace and we were starting then to average a quicker pace.  However, I sort of knew that I couldn't keep up a 16-18 minute pace without running more and I was just tired of running (I thought).  Through the dead of night Brian and I actually had a great time talking about anything and everything.  We joked and laughed.  Every so often Brian would bring me back to reality and we would run to a specific point down the trail, then continue to power walk.  Brian would monitor my walking habits, my SCaps every hour, and fluid intake.  He was very good at that!  He is a doctor, so I shouldn't have expected anything less!  Generally, Brian and I covered part of the course where it was mainly uphill, so my time was slowing down.  My legs were really feeling completely hardened and I couldn't really stretch them anymore.  My quads were also really sore by the time we got to Abby who was going to pace me from the 80 mile mark in.  Abby started around 4 am to help me out.  Brian gave her the GPS unit to monitor the pace.  Abby and I had generally a short downhill section and then another long uphill section of the trail.  I guess it took me 5 hours to go 18 miles with Brian, which is around 16-17 minutes per mile.  We're still on pace yes!

Abby was just fantastic, that's all I can say!  She was so uplifting to run with and she ALWAYS gave me positive feedback and conversation.  She always told me I looked great and was doing great the whole time she paced me.  I could see that she was so proud of me for doing this and it seemed she was truly inspired as well!  I felt her love for me the entire way.  If I were to have looked her in the eye at any point (luckily it was at night), I would've probably have broken down and cried right there!  Again, my pacer Abby was very talkative and kept my mind off the pain I was experiencing and the miles I had to go.  As we watched the sunrise together I couldn't help but think that this very instant was a remarkable one, and one that I should remember for a long time.  This was a very special time we shared together and one that will always cherish.  My daughter and I, running through the night, in the Black Hills, watching the endless starlit sky!  I guess I was really slowing down here because every now and then Abby would say we have to pick it up.  I sort of knew I was slowing down to maybe a 20 min/mile pace.  (she told me later that I sometimes did a 25 min/mile!  Whoa, now that's a bit much and we were cutting it way to close!)  When we reached Hill city aid station again I was really tired and sore.  Everything in my legs and feet were sore.  I tried to stretch them there at the aid station, but that didn't go well.  Lori and Abby gave me a brief leg massage.  I got a little soreness on my left big toe because of some small bits of gravel that had lodged into my socks.  I finally got my socks off and there was plenty of grit in them.  I realized I should've cleaned them out 15 miles ago!  Oh well.

Now all I had was 15-16 miles to go to the finish.  I was just cashed, but still took out of that aid station knowing fully well that I would finish this thing, no matter what.  I have to admit, I thought that if I did finish this thing over the time limit, that it would be ok.  I convinced myself a couple times that finishing is all I want.  In the end, though, I found that this was NOT what I wanted and did something about it!  When Abby and I left Hill city aid station, I remembered the long downhill section we ran 15 hours ago into Hill city.  Now, it was the long, uphill section to eventually the 95 mile mark.  I guess I was just on auto pilot here as Abby and I ran out of conversation and I continued to slow the pace - even though Abby in vain was trying to always get me to start running again.  I would have none of it this whole section.  I felt bad for Abby - she was trying so hard, but I was just being my typical grumpy old self and just continued my slow walk.  The wind now had picked up and it was also very cool during these early morning hours.  This slowed me down even more.

It was around the 94 mile mark when we saw Lori again on the trail.  She had driven to a section of the course where she could access the trail that wasn't near any aid stations.  With a frantic sort of look and expression on her face, she said my finishing time was in serious jeopardy and they will be shutting down the next aid station at the 95.5 mile mark, just up ahead!  She basically said that I have to get up off my butt and run to the aid station before they shut it down!  I instantly got a huge wave of adrenaline and said to myself that NOBODY is going to shut down when I'm still out here, and that I WANT to finish under 30 hours!  I took off running with Abby in tow.  She was shouting and screaming for me to run as fast as I could!  This gave me a huge increase of energy!  Luck had it, I made the aid station I believe around 11:02 am.  I was informed I had 58 minutes to cover 4.5 miles!  All I had to do is run at my normal training pace and I could have an official 100 mile race time!  I was so stoked!  I forgot all about the pain I was experiencing and took off with Lori this time again for the finish.

It was turning out to be a beautiful day and the trail at this point was all a gentle downhill run to the finish on the Custer High School Track.  Lori and I just bolted down the trail.  I stopped every now and then for only a few seconds at a time this whole way.  I can't even remember taking anything to drink or eating anything.  I was running like I hadn't in quite a while and actually it felt really pretty good!  I should've started this long ago!  What was I thinking?  Anyway, we made our way very close to the part of the trail where it would veer off and cut over to the track, but just before we did that, we came upon a runner who was listing off to the left really bad and at a VERY slow pace.  I asked as we passed if everything was going to be alright, and the pacer assured me that it was.  I thought that since I was close to the cut-off time limit, he sure will be!  As we got closer to the cut-off I saw the track and then I saw Abby jumping up and down yelling and cheering for me!  I could've broke down right there but stopped myself short, thank God.  When I saw everyone at the track, people cheering, I sort of knew I was going to make the cut-off.  The tears began to just stream down my face and could hardly see things in front of me - I was so happy!  I tried to really pick up the pace around the track and managed to do it somewhat!  I pumped my arms the whole way around the track while just streams and streams of tears were running down my face.  I was so happy, I couldn't stand it!  When I crossed the finish, it was honestly the best feeling I have ever experienced in an ultra-marathon!  I hugged everyone in sight - people I knew, people I didn't know, people I sort of know!  It didn't matter!  I could barely talk I was so choked up.  I then actually got down on my knees and then kissed the track.  It was a sweet kiss, but not as sweet as the kiss I gave to my wife, Lori.  Lori was THE KEY to my finishing with a time of 29:42.  I can never thank her enough!

FYI:  The guy who was listing over to the left when I passed him - he finished 10 minutes after I and got a time of 29:50 something!  His finish was a sight to behold!  Everyone there at the track gave him a standing ovation!  These ultras are great, aren't they?

I will never, ever forget this ultra-marathon for the rest of my days.  My first 100!  I will always thank everyone who helped me too - without them, it never would've happened.  I feel really lucky to have just been able to do a run of this type, and just to be able to run in general!  I'm a very lucky guy indeed.  I am very thankful.

Thank you all for reading!

$100.00 Donated 8/26/14

I'm ready!

At around 63 miles

Abby and I around 90 miles

The Start!

The Finish Video!

At the 50 mile mark

My pacer and savior, Lori

My Lori giving me love!

Brian Darnell & I at the finish!

Finally going back at the 50 mile mark

Brian, Abby and I at finish

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