The inaugural Black Hills 100 was the site for my 2nd 100-miler this past weekend. "Cruisin' the 89" was the motto as we took an out and back course from Sturgis along the Centennial Trail. I came in to this race vey excited to explore these beautiful mountains. I also came into this one with a plan that would hopefully put me to the finish in under 24 hours and maybe in the mix near the front in a race that, as far as I could tell, was lacking any really elite runners. It is kind of funny how quickly a "racing" plan can turn into a "survival" plan and the only thing that matters anymore is making it to the finish line (under the cutoff time).
After some nasty thunderstoms the night before the race, which were sure to add a little more mud to the course, we took off from the track in Sturgis at 6am on what was looking to be a very nice (but warm) day. Around 150 starters for the 3 races (100-mile, 100K, and 50-mile) all taking off together, with about 100 of us going for 100 miles.
|Less than 1 minute to start.|
|Running strong into Elk Creek Aid Station (Mile 17).|
|Approaching Dalton Lake Aid Station (Mile 29.5).|
|Coming into Dalton Lake with Adam Schwartz-Lowe.|
|Still going strong into Boxelder (Mile 37).|
I knew my pace was really slowing through this last section to the turnaround and I kept expecting to meet up with the race leader on his way back. Much to my surprise, I didn't meet the leader until my Garmin watch said 49.4 miles. I knew there was no way that I was still only 1 mile back of the leader so we had to be in for some bonus miles. I pushed on past the 50-mile mark at 11:07 (my fastest 50 miles ever) and with no hint of the Rapid Creek aid station in site. When I met up with the 4th place runner Alistair Munro, who I ran along with earlier in the race, he gave me the bad news, "3.5 kilometers to the turnaround". Doesn't he know my brain can't do metric conversions right now! So I hit the Rapid Creek turnaround (Mile 52.3) at 11:45 pretty depleted physically and mentally. No sub 24 hours gonna happen for me this time. And I didn't eat or drink a thing over those last 9 miles.
|Just chillin' at Rapid Creek with my daughter Madison.|
So bad stomach, long course, what's next? Well on the long 9-mile section back to Pilots Knob and the skies getting dark, just like the night before, it was time for some major thunderstorm action. Not only was there "drench to the bone" rain, but then came the hail stones that had me eventually ducking for any cover I could find. Soaked, cold, and still not eating or drinking (dry-heaving anytime I tried), I knew I had to get to Pilots Knob as quickly as possible. Luckily, I got there in time, stripped off my clothes and jumped in a heated car for 2 hours (best crew ever).
Some sights and sounds from Pilots Knob Aid Station:
This "sport" of ultrarunning paints a fine line between courage and stupidity. I knew that it wasn't right to keep going on for hours without eating or drinking, but I've never quit a race so maybe I just don't know when to stop. I'm sure if they had mandatory medical checks, I would have been held back and probably not finished. So why do we do it? Even though it was a death march through the night and I was doing all I could do to stay upright through the seemingly endless mud along the double-track sections from Pilots Knob to Dalton, I was amazed by the views of the night sky. The surrounding storms were some of the coolest sights I have ever seen. And I welcomed the challenge of getting through the next aid station before the now increasingly challenging cutoff times.
|Choking down a granola bar at Boxelder (Mile 68).|
After the last aid station at Alkali Creek, where Kevin graciously provided a popsicle for me that I actually felt like eating, I hit 100 miles in just under 30 hours (still 5 miles to go). Getting up over some of the last remaining steep climbs and with Sturgis coming into view, the sense of accomplishment started to set in. No not a sub 24, or a top 10, but a finish! I didn't care if I was the last finisher (that might have been kind of cool). It turned out that 7 finished after me. Congrats to the winners Adam Schwartz-Lowe (23:01) and Lisa Deyoung (30:17), and the other 29 finishers (full results here).
I obviously still have a lot to learn on these 100-milers. Most importantly, how to hydrate and fuel beyond the 7 or 8 hours that are typically as long as I will ever go in training. I wonder if I didn't have any stomach issues how well I would have done. Well that answer will have to wait for another day and another 100-miles.
For a first year race, some glitches were expected. The course is first-rate. Some of the most beautiful single-track trails I have ever run. Very challenging terrain, but not to the point that the course can't be predominantly "run". I enjoy the added aspect of some major stream crossings (adds some adventure). I never got off-course, although I know some did. Just stay on the "89". The 13 or so miles (each way) of double-track ATV trails would have been better if not for all the recent rain and resulting mud. Having underestimated the distances was only a bummer because it wasn't expected. I had the 50-mile turnaround at 25.4 miles and the 100K turnaround at 32 miles (also both a bit long). With the extra distance, I feel the cutoff times need to be extended a little. There also really needs to be a more organized check-in and check-out process at the aid stations with more medical attention provided. I say this knowing full well that I probably would have DNF'ed if they had this in place. I did end up in the Sturgis hospital after the race needing a couple bags of IV fluids. Unfortunately, the post-race was a bit anti-climatic (got handed my buckle at the finish line), but with 70% not finishing no one really wanted to hang around for an awards ceremony. Again, the crew access was very convenient for this course, which is a big plus. The host hotel (Holiday Inn Express in Sturgis) was great and even offered a 4am breakfast the morning of the race. Finally, the Black Hills region provides a great family destination with so much to see and do. I hope you guys (Chris, Ryan, and Jerry) can keep this thing going for years to come and I will see if we can get Fort Collins more represented up there in the future. Thanks guys and thanks to all the volunteers!
So back to the question, "Why do this?"
The data (to nearest 0.5 mile):
Alkali Creek (Mile 6) In: 0:59 Out: 0:59 Goal: 0:50
Bulldog (Mile 10) In: 1:45 Out: 1:45 Goal: 1:50
Elk Creek (Mile 17) In: 3:01 Out: 3:02 Goal: 3:26
Crooked Tree (Mile 23) In: 4:09 Out: 4:10 Goal: 4:44
Dalton Lake (Mile 29.5) In: 5:39 Out: 5:47 Goal: 5:56
Boxelder Creek (Mile 37) In: 7:31 Out: 7:35 Goal: 7:48
Pilots Knob (Mile 43.5) In: 9:19 Out: 9:28 Goal: 9:12
Rapid Creek (Mile 52.5) In: 11:45 Out: 12:40 Goal: 10:43
Pilots Knob (Mile 61.5) In: 15:25 Out: 17:15 Goal: 12:42
Boxelder Creek (Mile 68) In: 19:02 Out: 19:25 Goal: 14:12
Dalton Lake (Mile 75.5) In: 22:05 Out: 22:20 Goal: 16:12
Crooked Tree (Mile 82) In: ? Out: ? Goal: 17:54
Elk Creek (Mile 88) In: 26:05 Out: 26:21 Goal: 19:24
Bulldog (Mile 95) In: 28:20 Out: 28:21 Goal: 21:23
Alkali Creek (Mile 99) In: 29:40 Out: 29:41 Goal: 22:38
Finish (Mile 105) In: 31:22 Goal: 23:48
(over 4 hours at aid stations, ouch)
25th overall, 22nd male, 32 total finishers
GPS data here
More photos here
I got quite a bit of variability on the total elevation gain. According to Sporttracks (with elevaton corrections) it is 20,995 feet round-trip, and according to Garmin Connect (with elevation corrections) it is only 15,256 feet. The course was advertised as 16,231 feet of climbing. Anyway, there was plenty of climbing.