Monday, August 29, 2016

Lean Horse 100 Mile (Race Recap)

Custer, SD
Saturday, August 27 - Sunday, August 28
Ultra Marathon #19
Weather - Sunny and warm during the day, cold at night

Lean Horse 100 was my big "A" race of the year. I planned in putting in a lot of responsible training, all while racing less, in hopes of building a solid base and having a strong race. We all know THAT didn't happen. Leading up to the race, I had planned on dropping to the 50 mile. I was 100% fine with that decision. Until... I got my bib number assignment. I had a 100 mile bib. What if I just went for it? The course is an out and back, and if I was feeling really bad I could just turn around early and get a 50 mile finish? I had not made a FINAL decision before leaving for South Dakota.

Day before the race

Heather was also running, so I asked her if she would be willing to drive (so I could sleep on the way back) if I paid for the hotel. She picked A and I up around 8 am Friday morning for the drive up to South Dakota. The drive was pretty uneventful after we got out of the metro area. We stopped in the fabulous town of Lusk, Wyoming for lunch at The Pizza Place. No, really, that was the name. It was so delicious!
BBQ chicken individual pizza - yes I finished it all
We arrived in Custer at 3 pm, giving us enough time to go to the YMCA to pick up our race packets and drop of my drop bags (in case I went for the full 100).

Since we had time, we drove over to Mt. Rushmore and wandered around for an hour or so before heading back into town for the pre-race meeting.
A says "pondering what it would like to be POTUS"
I captioned this one "looking up the noses of our forefathers"
There weren't a ton of seats so we were in the back and I was trying to pay attention in case there was anything I really needed to know. Our friend and teammate, Kate, was also there - going for her first 100 miler! She had driven the course earlier in the day and reported that it looked dry - good news, since rain had been in the forecast all week.

I had researched places to eat (ok, breweries) before arriving, and we were disappointed to find out that the Sick & Twisted brewery wasn't REALLY in Custer. Womp, womp. With everyone in town for the race, there were long lines at all the restaurants, so we decided to check in at our hotel and see what else was in the area. We ended up going to a small bar & grill down the street that had a live band. Food was good and there wasn't a wait. Score.

After getting all my gear race-ready, A and I went down to the pool so I could sit in the hot tub and try to loosen up. We had plans to be in bed by 9:30 or 10 since we had an early wake up.

Race day

I slept HORRIBLY. It was too warm in the room, and I was sharing a bed with A - who was super fidgety. I tossed and turned all night, not falling completely asleep until probably 2:30. Needless to say, I did NOT wake up refreshed.

We had planned on about 20 minutes to get ready and head out the door. The hotel had put out a few breakfast items for runners, but it was nothing I would eat race day (yogurt and fruit), so I just grabbed a cup of coffee and we headed over to the start. We checked in at the track and then sat in the car until it was almost time to go. It was nice that the track had indoor bathrooms that we could use. The race started on the track, with a 3/4 loop before heading onto the trail.

Heather and I lined up in the back and planned to run together until she turned around at mile 15.6 for the 50k.
At the start line
I was wearing arm sleeves, which I actually kept on for the first few hours. The weather was perfect at the start. Chilly, but not cold, and and a bit cloudy, which kept the temperatures down. The Mickelson trail is a multi-use trail that is pretty wide and not at all technical. We spent the early miles chatting with others that were running roughly our pace. I was taking a decent number of pictures because I know I'm not likely to take as many when I'm tired.

We arrived at the first aid station and I already had to use the bathroom. One of the great things about this event was that there would be a bathroom of some kind at every single aid station. That's so awesome! I know that my downfall in ultras is spending too much time at aid stations, so we were in and out pretty quick. We had been running a gradual uphill, and when we reached the Crazy Horse memorial a runner told us that it would be all downhill to Hill Creek. It was a glorious downhill too, but that just meant that the way back would not be so great.
My memory is already foggy, but I remember thinking that I felt really good. I told Heather that if I still felt this good at mile 25 that I would probably go for the full 100, but that I would message her to let her know what the plan was.
Mile 15.6 came pretty quickly (I think maybe 3:20 into the race) and Heather turned back. We had one ooky section where we had to cross the actual road, but it was well-marked. Well, *I* thought it was marked well, but a mile or so in and I saw a 50k runner heading towards me, he had missed the turnaround. Huh.
Not something you expect to see on a race course!
I was still running well, but it was super hot at this point. I was taking walk breaks when I felt like it and I was trying to stay on top of my salt and electrolyte intake. If anything is going to make or break me during an ultra, I do NOT want it to be because of poor fueling. I wasn't super hungry, and I was  concerned that after eating I would feel a little "off" after, but everything stayed down so I'm sure I was fiiiiine.
My "I'm feeling pretty good at mile 20" selfie
I was also concerned about the blazing hot sun. I had brought sunscreen with me and was trying to apply diligently so I didn't get burned, but I was so sweaty that it didn't seem like it was doing much good. At one of the aid stations I had a volunteer spray some sunscreen - she said I was definitely red. Urg.

Already can't remember SO MUCH from the run. The aid station just before the 50 mile turnaround had "breakfast all day" - so I grabbed a pancake and some bacon. Might have been the best thing I've ever gotten from an aid station. When I got to the turnaround I kept going... Tried to text Heather, but I didn't have any cell phone service.
I guess I'll keep going?
We ran through some tunnels. Run, walk, run, walk... One of the aid stations said they would have beer after it got dark. That sounded exciting. Got to the aid station after that and they DID have some beer. Well, PBR, but still "beer."

The first 100 mile runner passed me about 10 hours in. I think I had like 7 miles to get to the turnaround, can't remember exactly. There was a long section that I called the "mile of misery," although I don't know if it was even that long. It was in a "valley" section and there was a split rail fence on both sides. It was completely straight and it seemed to go on forever and ever. (I apparently was so traumatized by it that I didn't even take a picture of it).

Cow on course. I named this one "Plays With Laser Pointers" (If you haven't heard my story about this, you won't get it)
I finally saw my teammate Kate when I was heading out from the last aid station for the short out and back for the turnaround. She said she wasn't doing well.

I took lots of pictures of these mile markers - they was one at every mile.
The last mile marker before I turned around
I took a selfie at the turnaround and then headed back.
I grabbed my headlamp, strapped my hat to the back of my pack and then headed back for the back 50. I had cushioned myself with about 17 hours to do the last half, which seemed reasonable. It did not take long for the sun to set, and I got a handful of good pictures at dusk.

I didn't have any of my warmer clothes until I could get to my drop bag at mile 62.7, which seemed fine. I had bought an Ultimate Direction jacket that I pulled out of the bungee on my pack when I strapped my hat on, thinking I would get cold as soon as it got dark. I didn't end up needing it until about 8:00, which was a few hours later.

When I got to Rochford aid station where my warmer clothes were, I changed out of my skirt and into tights, put on a long sleeve (which in hindsight, I may have packed something thicker), and then put my skirt back on OVER since I had so much crap in my pockets. I also swapped out my Brooks for the Hokas, thinking they would make my feet feel better with the amount of walking I would likely be doing. I was REALLY glad to have the warmer clothes. Especially during my longer bouts of walking, I got pretty cold. It was extra nice to have a jacket with a hood, as that helped keep me warmer as well.

Almost immediately, I regretted my shoe choice. I haven't run more than a half in the Hokas and the tops of my feet felt like they were rubbing. The good news was the bottoms felt fine? I just hoped that I wouldn't get any blisters, as I didn't have another pair of shoes in my later drop bag.

Tuned into my iPod (one headphone only) around 10 pm. It was a nice distraction, but wow, I really need to change my play list. I have heard all of these songs like a hundred billion times. This part of the race is really a blur. It was dark. I was by myself. I hallucinated seeing people/animals right and left. And I was INCREDIBLY tired. I found myself blinking just a little too long and was "drunk" running and swerving all over the trail. Sometime around midnight I made the decision to sit on one of the benches and take a two minute nap. It actually helped just to rest my eyes for a minute (and yes, I set an alarm so I didn't accidentally fall asleep). Of course the problem with doing THAT was that I couldn't stop thinking about taking another break. About an hour later, I did allow myself another two minute nap. Goodness, how was I going to get through this??

Made it to Horse Creek and was in and out of the aid station, only pulling a stretchier pair of gloves out of my drop bag. And then the confusion started. I had been walking/running a slower pace than I planned and I got super confused with cutoffs and how long I had to finish. My headlamp was pretty dim and I realized it was because my batteries were dying. I used the flashlight on my phone so I could change the batteries, which took forever because I kept putting them in the wrong way. Once I had the headlamp brighter I got my second wind. This section of the course was also downhill a bit so I did quite a bit of running, which was totally unlike the last time I ran 100 miles when I pretty much walked the last 40 or so miles.

I also warmed up when I was running and was more alert, so that all helped a ton. I still was trying to do the math with how much time I had left, and all of a sudden I was convinced that I was not going to meet the cutoff. Still running, still trying to not be grumpy.

Arrived at Hill City aid station very early, before 7 am. Apparently I had forgotten to turn off the flashlight, as when I finally was able to text Heather to give her a better ETA and let her know that I was not dead, but my phone pretty much was. I sat down briefly at the aid station by the fire pit because I was pretty cold (risky), had some broth with potatoes, then headed out. From the aid station I knew I "only" had 15.5 miles to go. However, that seems really far at this stage of a race. The sun was just coming up, it was really cold, and I was back to feeling tired. I needed another nap. This time I couldn't wait for a bench, so I sat on a rock and closed my eyes for another 2 minutes. A runner came up behind me and said "you can't quit now, no sleeping!" I appreciated the concern and told him I had an alarm set.

Back to run/walking since I was so freaked out about the cutoffs. My lower back was beginning to ache from the weight/placement of my pack. I kept stopping to stretch out my back and calves, as they were incredibly tight. Finally, when I arrived at the second to last aid station, I realized I was being ridiculous and that I had obviously been miscalculating my time/pace. Whoops. But what I *had* accomplished was running a lot faster than I expected, meaning, I might even be able to PR this race!!

And then... the hill. Remember that glorious downhill that we had from mile 8 all the way to Hill City (mile 15.5)? Well, about mile 92 is when the climbing started. HOLY CRAP. I am sure the hill wasn't even that steep, but I'm telling you, it was like climbing Mt. Everest. I actually got passed by a few people on this climb because I was moving slow, my back hurt, etc.

When I saw Crazy Horse, I knew it was flat/downhill all the way to the finish. As soon as we got to the plateau, the sun came out and it was approximately eleventy billion degrees. I had to take off all my layers and apply sunscreen as we had gone from Antarctica to the surface of the sun in approximately 2 minutes. While I was happy for it to have warmed up, the chafing in my arm quickly started to hurt again without the long sleeve layer.

At the last aid station a wonderful volunteer put some neosporin under my arm/sports bra, which helped alleviate some of the pain. Bless you, awesome volunteer!

From here, only 4.4 miles to the finish. FOUR POINT FOUR OF THE LONGEST MILES EVER. Again, at least it was downhill. I ran a lot of it, but with the sun being so hot and me being so tired, I was obviously not progressing as fast as I wanted. I did pass another runner in the last two miles, and he looked WAY more miserable than I did. I had a runner in front of me that I was keeping within eyesight to see where he would turn for to enter the track.

I texted Heather to let her know I was coming in substantially earlier than expect. I could see A and Heather sitting in the bleachers when I got close. I took a walk break before I entered the parking lot and then A came to join me for my 3/4 loop on the track. She was so happy to see me and told me "run, Mommy!! You are first in your age group, I checked!!" I ran into the finish line with a PR.
Thank you, Heather, for a sweet finish line pic!
Official Time - 28:22:45
Garmin Time - 28:18:10 (not sure how I'm so far off from official, but still a PR, so I'm cool)
Overall Place - 35/44
Gender Place - 7/12
Division Place - 1/2

There were 26 people that DNF'd, including my friend Kate :(

A and Heather had brought me my flip flops (THANK YOU THANK YOU), and I sat down on a bench while A very kindly took off my shoes and socks. She should get her own award for that. We spent about 20 minutes at the finish line, cheering for a few more runners as they came in, then decided to go to the hotel room so I could shower and pack before the awards ceremony at 12:30.

We packed, cleaned up the room and I showered. They had some leftover pizza that I snacked on, and then we headed back over to the track for awards. I got my FIRST PLACE age group award (seriously, I never podium, this was damn exciting) and my second buckle.
Accepting my AG award from the race director 
All the 100 mile finishers that stuck around for awards
Heather got first in her AG in the 50k and of course too! Winner winners, chicken dinners!
  • Where to begin?? This was an incredible experience for many reasons.
  • The race director is wonderful with communication. I had emailed him a few weeks prior to the event asking what I would need to do to drop distance if I chose to, and he was very responsive.
  • The course was very well marked. The trail itself is marked every mile with markers and signage, but in the few places where there could be confusion there were very clear signs of where to go.
  • Some of the best volunteers/aid stations I have ever experienced!! They were all very quick to ask what I needed, fill bottles, get food for me, it was just awesome. At one aid station in the middle of the night, a volunteer asked how I was feeling. When I said "tired," he got me a cup of coffee (I'm assuming out of their own personal coffee stash).
  • The "breakfast all day" aid station was fantastic. I wish I would have had time to sit and eat some eggs or something, but it really hit the spot.
  • Since I'm still pretty new to extremely long distances, I liked that the trail was not super technical. It gave me a lot of confidence during the night to be able to run without fear of tripping over roots or rocks, or falling off a cliff.
  • Course is beautiful. Lots of trees, meadows, rivers, wildlife.
  • Speaking of wildlife... I saw ELEVENTY BILLION deer. The freakiest is seeing them at night. The way their eyes reflect in a headlamp is kind of terrifying. Other than that, did not see any mountain lions or snakes, so that was nice.
  • The belt buckle is pretty cool, but obviously, the highlight for me is my giant age group award. I will treasure that forever!
  • The best thing about this race was that I did it ALONE. I did not have a pacer or a crew, and I got it done - and faster than the only other 100 mile run I've completed. I had some "inner demons" to battle, and I'm super proud of myself for getting through this without quitting. It helped a lot to have A tell me "Mommy, you can do anything!" - I totally believed her and kept repeating that to myself.
  • This race is gradually increasing in size, but it's really got something for everyone. There is a 100 mile, 50 mile, 50k and 30k, as well as a relay. It's been on my list of races for a while, and I absolutely don't regret going for it.


  1. Awesome job! I'm inspired by reading this!!!

  2. This description of the aid stations almost makes me want to train for an ultra. Maybe I'll FOR REAL unretire now.

  3. Aaahhh! I am so happy to read this - what an AWESOME race you had! Congrats on the AG rock!

  4. Congrats on a running this and completing it. Very cool to read your write-up. One thing I have learned is to not use the sauna / jacuzzi the day / night before a race. It makes it WAY too hard to sleep that night. I think it elevates your body temperature and while it may feel good while you are in it, it doesn't lead to a restful sleep.

    Once again very impressed and congrats!

  5. Congrats on the win! And on a 100-mile race. I cannot even imagine that distance. That's crazy! Great job on the PR, as well.


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