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Black Hills 100k – Recap June 30, 2011

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Uncategorized.

The Black Hills 100 tried to kill me.  At least I think it did.

All three distances started together at the same time, the 50 mile, 100k and 100 mile, about 160 racers total.  Before the start Helen and I got a chance to chat with the other local runners and snap a few pics.  Daryl Saari (100 Mile), Brian Peterson (1ook), Adam Schwartz-Lowe (100 Mile),  Paul Holovnia (100 Mile) and John Horns (100k) who I had previously never met.  Minnesota and TC Running Co certainly represented, with John, Brian and Helen placing 1,2, 3 respectively in the 100k.  And Adam took first in the 100 Mile.  And Daryl is flat out an animal – this is his third 100 Mile in 4 weeks, having just come off of Big Horn 100 the week before and the Kettle 100 2 weeks prior.   It is sort of fun to hang around great runners like these folks!  Guess you could call me the groupie.

The race started on the track at Woodle Field in Sturgis.  One quick loop around the track and we were on to the bike path that leads out towards the Centennial Trail and 30 miles out, and 30 miles back, of good, tough fun.  The 100k course has nearly 11,000 feet of climbing and 11,000 feet of descending and not a lot of flat stretches where you can let it rip.  The elevation at the start in Sturgis is about 3,400 feet and the course tops out just shy of 5,500 feet, with a majority of the course probably at 4,300 feet or higher.  Not insane elevation, but enough for flat-landers to feel the burn.   The terrain isn’t quite as technical as the Superior Hiking Trail, but definitely warrants you paying attention, especially on the downhill sections which have a lot of loose rocks of peculiar shapes and sizes. Five water crossing with ropes each way and a number of smaller creeks not needing ropes added a nice flavor, and wet feet to the race.  But my how they felt good on the way back after hours of schweaty running.   There were 4 manned aid stations each way and a couple of unmanned water stops thrown in.  The weather felt warmer that it was, the temps somewhere in the low to mid 80’s, but in the direct sunlight it was hott!

My goals for the race were:

1) Have fun – check.

2) Don’t get injured – check

3) try to run close to even splits – no check.  I haven’t seen the splits, but I think I arrived at the Mile 31 turn-around in 7:30,  the return trip was 10:30

My total time was 17:57 – not a time I ever care to ever repeat in a 100k race, but meeting my first two goals makes the event a success.  Looking back, I deserved all 18 hours hours I was on the course, especially the miles that were the toughest.  I don’t think I ran 60 miles in the three weeks before the race combined.  Maybe not even in four weeks.  My heart, head and body didn’t feel much like running most of this spring and I didn’t force myself to do the training.  There is some give and take here – I put a lot of race miles in the previous  July – February and I needed some time to refresh.  Other things have been occupying more of my brain and time as a result.   So I didn’t train a lot and I paid the price with a long day, but the flip side is I met my overall goals for the race and I feel ready to keep the miles coming, both training and racing.

Special thanks to Lynn Saari, who was a guardian angel at the Mile 29 and Mile 33.  The heat and the course were taking it toll on me and she talked me off the ledge a bit fueled me up with nutrition. Thanks!!

The Black Hills 100 tried to kill me.  At least I think it did.

So the part most of you have been waiting for.  Like how I put the “Clearance Items” at the back of the store so you have to wade through aisles of things you didn’t come for, in the hopes you would see something else you like? 🙂

How the Black Hills 100 tried to kill me:

1) Near Mile 50, around 7 pm.  I have been running alone since the turn- around at Mile 31, nearly 5 hours.  I recently started to feel better and was on a very runnable downhill slope and making good time.  I typically don’t look too far down the trail, but for some reason I looked up and suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.  It took a second for it to register and I was so caught off guard I didn’t have time to even be frightened, at first.  About 40 yards ahead of me was a mountain lion.  It was walking down the middle of the trail, away from me thankfully, with it long tail swinging back back and forth in a big “S”.  After a couple of seconds it rounded a corner and was out of sight.  Holy Crap!!  I knew that mountain lions existed in these areas but the thought of seeing one never crossed my mind, especially after the pre-race meeting where we were told it would be nearly impossible that we would see one.  It was much bigger than I expected it might be.  A dark greyish-brown color.  And it’s hind quarters where muscular.  Holy Crap!!

(not the lion I saw)

About 6 miles back as I was leaving an aid station two other runners were just pulling in.  I didn’t know how long they stopped, or if they dropped out of the race, but I now hoped they were close behind me.  I called out “Heeelllllooooo” but there was no answer.  I repeated a number of times for about a minute with the same result.  I was now starting to get worried.  All that I remembered about mountain lions is that you can’t run from them – it triggers some instinct to chase and they will catch you.  Typically they kill be lunging onto their prey’s back and taking a chunk out of their neck.  Just great – I am  in a running race and now I have to figure out how to not run so the lion won’t rip my spine from my skull.  The other thing that is supposed to keep a mountain lion from attacking is to “be big and loud.”  Well, I have already been yelling, so all set there.  I had an empty water bottle in my hand and decided to change it out for the full one in my water pack.  What the hell, house cats don’t like being sprayed with water, so it will work on a Big Cat, right??  Now armed with a full water bottle I look for a stick and find one about two feet long and about 4 inches thick.  The plan is when the lion jumps out to eat me I will raise my bottle-and-stick clad hands in the air and I will tell it to go to hell in my biggest meanest voice I can muster.  If that doesn’t work I will spray that bastard with water and club it on the head.  Sweet, I have it all figured out, nothing to worry about.  All this planning and prep takes what seems like an eternity, but in reality was less than 5 minutes.  I start walking slowly down the trail, scanning both sides of thick brush, and calling out “Heeeellllooooo”.  Occasionally I stop and look behind me, hoping that I will see another runner approaching and that I won’t see the lion.  This goes on for about 10 minutes, not exactly keeping my race pace, but what else am I going to do?  I look back another time to scan the trail behind me and finally there is a runner approaching.  Gregg Mentzel from Wyoming.  He continues running until he is about 10 yards from me and realizing I am holding a big stick in my hand and likely a ghostly look on my face is probably wondering what I am going to do to him with it.  I tell him I saw a mountain lion and describe the scenario for him.  He isn’t all that excited about what I have seen, but we decide to get moving, when he reminds me that I don’t have to out run the lion, just him.  I was just thinking about this fact, and how that wasn’t going to work out that well for me because I knew Gregg was running faster than me at this point…..Gregg took the lead and we headed off, both of us peering to the sides of the trail as we made our way.  I think for the next couple hours the lion was on our minds, especially as  a storm moved in and it started to get dark, making every grey stump in the forest look like the silhouette of the lion.

2)  Near Mile 6, around 9:30 pm.   It is dark and I don’t have a light.  Greg has a small headlamp and I can see parts of the trail as I follow him.   The storm is here and it is angry.  We are leaving the forest and the lion behind, but not for greener pastures.  Just pastures.  A huge open area.  The storm is in full force with high winds, heavy rain and lightning.  Lots and lots of lightning.  Gregg and I are the tallest objects by far and have at least a mile to go to reach the aid station.  The lightning is surrounding 270 degrees of us and is frequent.  It is hard to gauge how close the thunder is because the wind and the rain are so loud.  We are moving as fast as we can to get to the aid station and I wonder if it would be better to turn off the trail and head for the forest to our left and wait it out.  Nope, can’t do that, there is a mountain waiting for us there…  It was one of the most terrifyingly beautiful things I have ever seen as the thick bolts of lightening flash all around us, vividly lighting up the dark sky.  Gregg tells me if I feel the hairs on my head suddenly stand up to hit the ground as fast as I can – don’t know if this is good advice or not, but I file it away and suddenly become very aware of my soaking wet hair.  I space myself back from Gregg a bit thinking it will lessen the chance of one bolt striking us both, and just soak up the scene.    We finally made it to the aid station.

(nor is this the lightning I saw…)

Helen has finished her race, taking 3rd overall and 1rst woman.  She has equally tremendous amounts of grit and grace, as she has left the finish area and skipped he well deserved R and R to drive to the aid station.  What a woman and boy am I glad to see her!  And she has her wonderful niece from Australia, Ella, with her.  The two of them help me get some warm soup and food and a dry shirt.   The jeep also has my headlight, my shell and my trusty wool hat.   Gregg and I spend about 20 minutes in our respective cars, his wife Joy is with him.  She has been on the course all day crewing for him.  For a few minutes Gregg and I are happy, warm and safe.  In another danger zone of sorts- we have to get back on the trail and finish this thing lest we decide to fold to basic comforts!

We headed out from the aid station and confirm with each other that we will be walking until we hit the paved trail and the last mile of our course.  The next 2 hours we tell stories and share experiences. By the end we can even see some stars.   Try as it did, the Black Hills 100 didn’t kill me, but it took a good swing – What a day!



1. Chris - July 1, 2011

Nice write up, Chris and thanks for coming out to the inaugural BH100. To clarify, I didn’t say it was nearly impossible to spot a mountain lion, just highly unlikely ;). Rest assured, there were probably more lions that saw you….well, maybe that wouldn’t make you rest, which is why I didn’t mention it before the race.

Tough course, severe thunderstorms, large carnivorous cats….what more could you want in a race, right?

Thanks again for coming and congrats on your finish!

whereschrisscotch - July 1, 2011

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I agree, all the excitement I experienced at Black Hills 10 adds up to a whopper of a good time. I happen to like severe weather and a few good scares, so it is all good for me. As the trail meandered back and forth it on itself occurred to me that the lion was probably watching us come and go with curiosity and amusement. Great event and see you next year!

2. Deirdre - July 2, 2011

What a day out, Chris – incredible determination to gut it out with the bad weather conditions, local fauna(!) and non-ideal training.
I thought I was taking my life in my own hands with Cooper on the skijor harness 😉 I clearly need to up the fear factor a little!

3. Alicia Hudelson - July 5, 2011

I just burst out laughing (at work!) thinking about what the runner behind you must have thought when he saw you with that stick. Congratulations on getting through such a tough race!


Gregg - July 16, 2011

I really didn’t know what to think a first….. other than what the heck is he doing?

4. Scott Rassbach - August 14, 2011

I broke into a sweat reading this even now 7 weeks after the fact. I was about ten minutes ahead of you at the turn-around. Next year if you find this cat feeding on my remains, just let my wife know at the next AS. Thanks.

whereschrisscotch - September 14, 2011

It was quite an experience – all of it! I am sure if you were only 10 minutes ahead of me at the turn that little kitty saw you too. Maybe he wondered out on the trail after you passed by?? Hope to see you out there again next year.

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