Thursday, June 30, 2011

Black Hills 100K

The trip last weekend to the Black Hills 100K last weekend was a memorable one.  It was a great trip, good times with friends, and came away inspired by people toughing it out on the trail - especially those 100 milers.  They are tough.

The best part of this trip for me was the road trip and seeing friends accomplish more than they ever would have imagined not long ago.  It was a great showing for Minnesota runners:  Adam Schwartz-Lowe won the 100 mile in an incredible performance and fast time on the course of 23:01, John Horns won his first 100K in 11:18, and Helen had another win in the 100K.  There were a bunch of others from the Twin Cities who represented MN as well.  And of course Western States was going on at the same time, and I’m proud of my good buddy Arley for gutting it out to the finish on a tough day.  I’m not sure if he is able to walk again quite yet, but I know he’s glad he finished.

As for the race itself for me, it was not exactly a confidence-builder.  My hope going into this one was to get in some really good training and have fun with it, run steady and finish strong, and see how I felt over 5,000 feet (about the same elevation as Cascade Crest 100 in August). The first half was about what I expected at around 5:20.  The second half was about 7:17.  That pretty much sums up how that went.

To be honest, I’ve been a little frustrated the last few days trying to figure out what went wrong and how I am going to not crash and burn at Cascade Crest in 8 weeks.  I think I’ve had enough miles of thinking to come to a few realizations now though:

  1. I’m always good for an epic bonk one or two times a year – and maybe that’s not such a bad thing when training for a 100 miler.
  2. I’ve learned a million times more from the toughest runs than from the best ones.
  3. I might not ever figure out exactly what it is I’ve learned, but I just need to trust that I’m better off because of it.

The race was an out and back course starting and finishing on the Woodle Field track in Sturgis, and venturing through the Black Hills on the Centennial Trail.  The course was challenging and a lot of fun to run –constant long climbs and descents, lots of great single track trail, five river crossings each way, and great views of the Black Hills.  The weather was not as hot as I expected – maybe around 80 degrees – but definitely warm enough to make those five river crossings on the way back feel really good.

I went out behind the lead 50 milers but in front of the lead 100 milers.  After the first mile of track and bike path, I kept it fairly steady and not too fast through most of the first half, and was hoping to be able to even split or close.  I could tell by the time I got to the mile 25 mark or so that it was going to be a long day though.  John caught up to me about a mile before the mile 29 aid station, and we were together until just after the turn-around point.  He had a great race and kept it real steady.  I had a feeling he was going to have a great race based on all the training and hill repeats I’ve seen him do…I’m excited for him that everything came together!

As for me, the trek back to Sturgis felt more like the last 50K of a 100 miler than the last half of a 100K.  My legs actually felt pretty good the whole way, but my biggest problem was breathing normally and having to work way too hard for how slow I was going.  I was short of breath most of the last half of the race, and when I stopped at the aid stations it felt like I had the wind knocked out of me – definitely wasn’t getting enough oxygen through me.  This was one of those days where the accomplishment was getting across the finish line at all – and that I guess I am happy with.

Maybe it’s all in my head, but part of me is wondering if I’m cut out for this running above 4,000 feet stuff.  I’ve got a couple months now to figure it out, so hopefully I’ll pull myself together.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to some Minnesota training for the rest of the summer!

Here are a few pictures from the race and the trip...

50 Mile, 100K, and 100 Mile all started on the track in Sturgis, SD.
Running with Todd Gangelhoff from CO at about mile 5.
Todd went on to win the 50 miler in 8:05...great guy.
Adam Schwartz-Lowe with his hardware from his 100
mile victory!  I was honored to carpool with the Champ!
They do exist!


  1. Brian,
    Glad you had a great trip to Black Hills. The races give us a chance to soak up the surroundings, enjoy the company and have some fun. It was good to see you, and you were enjoying yourself!

    Imagine for a second if you weren't as hard working and as fast as you are (and damn you are hard working and fast!!) - then you might think your problem might not be the altitude, rather your results. Build on your positives and your attributes. Don't let your mind spend more time on the (perceived) shortcomings than your strong qualities or it will drive you crazy and eventually wear/slow you down. You will be fine at Cascade - believe it!

  2. Hey thanks Chris. I did have fun out there in Sturgis...was great hanging out with everyone!

    You're right man...this sport is way more mental than I think I or most people give it credit. Once the training's in place, it's all about getting the head in the right spot.

    See you at Afton buddy...good luck. Hope you're at least somewhat recovered.

  3. The two hour slowdown on the second half sounds like one of my races - if you learn from it, you're WAY ahead of me, as I keep doing that. But what really gets me is: somehow I went to Wall Drug and totally missed the giant jackelope! Does that mean I have to go back?!

  4. The one thing you forgot to mention in your otherwise great write-up was that you finished 2nd overall. Not too shabby on a tough course when you're having a rough day!

    Thanks for coming out to the BH100 and congrats on your finish! We hope to see you (and the rest of the Minnesota crew) back sometime!

  5. Thanks for all the work you guys did to put this thing on, Chris...great event. Can't wait to get back out there sometime in the next couple years...I think they'll always be some good MN representation out there.

    And Steve, yeah you definitely have to go back to Wall Drug. Try their ice cream...and the jackelope's in the back!