Less Than a Month to Go!
The Lean Horse Hundred is only 26 days away!
I admit that I have been having second thoughts.
- Am I fit enough to do this?
- Will I be too slow and miss a cut-off?
- Will my stomach give out?
- Am I completely crazy for attempting to run one hundred miles?
Well, of course, "yes" is the answer for that last question but then all of us ultramarathoner are.
After running the 52 miles a few weeks ago at 24 hours at Laramie…The Run, my legs seem to have lost their "spring." I have not felt tired or apathetic. My muscles have not been sore. I still look forward to my daily runs so I doubt that I am overtrained. It's just that my legs simply have not wanted to move as quickly as normal. They've lost their bounce. Coming down rocky trails, instead of my usual fast footwork, I have had to step slowly and cautiously to avoid stumbling. Now this sluggishness is normal for a week or two after a long race but my legs just have not wanted to come back for longer than usual.
All of this has worried me greatly.
SATURDAY JULY 26th
This weekend was to be my last back-to-back long run weekend before the race. I had hoped to do 20 or 30 miles on Saturday and 10 or 15 miles on Sunday. However, as I would discover, the weather had other plans for me
I started on the George Mickelson Trail at the Harback Park Trailhead in Custer, South Dakota. The Lean Horse Hundred Ultramarathon would pass through here. I wanted to familiarize myself with this section of the trail before race day.
People were gathering and many of the side streets were closed off. I asked a bystander what was going on. Apparently, Custer was celebrating their Gold Rush Days this weekend. They were getting ready for a parade, car show, bands and other entertainment. I was glad that I would be out of town and on the trail by the time all of the loud festivities had commenced.
It was going to be a hot day. Instead of running 15 miles out and 15 miles back, I decided to play it safe and run 10 miles out and back. At mile 20, I would be back at my car and could eat my lunch packed in my cooler. If I felt good, I could run an extra 5 or 10 miles. Going out only part way turned out to be a very wise decision, I would later realize.
I had a gallon of frozen-solid Gatorade in the car which would be melted by the time I got back. I wore my Camelback on my back. From past experience I have learned that the 100 oz bladder gets me anywhere from 18 to 24 miles before it runs out, depending on the weather. There is a faucet at Harbach Park from which I could refill my bladder on my return.
As I passed the concrete factory pictured above, I spotted a skunk peering at me from the tall grass. He was gone before I could get my camera focused. It would have been a great photo but I was not about to follow him to see if I could get another chance. I may be insane for being an ultrarunner but I am not stupid. I don't follow skunks into tall grass.
As I headed south, the temperatures steadily climbed. There was a slight breeze which was refreshing but it was still hot.. up to 90 degrees by that afternoon.
There were only a few places with shade, otherwise the entire trail was sun exposed.
Then, I saw what at first thought was a stem of grass laying on the trail.
It was a tiny little green grass snake!
He was so frightened that he froze completely. I had to touch him before he would move.
What an adorable lil' guy!
I don't blame him for not moving. I am sure that any bird that spotted him would snatch him up like any other worm… not realizing… or caring… that he was a snake and not a worm.
A few miles down the trail, suddenly I heard a loud SNORT!
It was a mother bison snorting a warning.
I thought: "Don't worry momma bison, I'm not about to climb that fence and mess with your calf!"
As I approached the ten mile turnaround, I was in trouble. My Camelback was very light, much lighter than it should have been by this distance. I realized would not be able to make it back to the car without running empty. There were no faucets or water pumps along this part of the trail.
I started limiting my sips of water to make it last as long as possible. I began to feel thirsty and my mouth became dry. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already far behind hydration-wise.
At mile 16.2, I took the last sip. "Now," I thought to myself, "just under 4 miles to go. That's not far. Just pace yourself and you'll make it."
My thirst grew every hundred yards. I noticed that the volume of my sweat had decreased considerably. A very ominous sign.
My pulse was over 170 and I started feeling very dizzy. I found some shade under a pine tree and sat down. Ants crawled over me but I didn't care. We don't have the stinging kind of ants here. Within five minutes, I was still extremely thirsty but my heart rate was under 100.
I started a slow jog but within a half mile felt worse than before. I started looking at the muddy water where the cattle had been bathing and pooping and thought it looked very good. At least it looked wet. I didn't care what it would have tasted like. If my dogs had been with me, they would have immersed themselves belly-deep and drank heartily from each of those wallows.
At that moment, I sincerely wished that I was a dog and could have done exactly that.
I stopped and rested in the shade a few more times. Each time it took longer to recover and my dizziness returned more quickly when I started again. Only a mile from town, I was slowed to a walk. As I passed some houses, I looked desperately for a faucet, hose or outdoor spigot. At that point, I would not have cared what the homeowner would have said to me if they had seen me helping myself. Heck, I would have paid them $20 just to take one clear cold deep gulp.
As I walked the last few hundred yards, I heard the band playing and weaved through the crowds of people at the festival. I wondered what they would think if I passed out now. "Just another drunk," probably.
I opened my car, pulled out that gallon of Gatorade and started drinking. It was almost completely melted but still ice cold.
That tastes GOOD!
I found some shade under a tree and laid down with my feet up hill. I took a SUCCEED! electrolyte cap and drank half of the gallon.
After 15 minutes, I felt much better but was not about to cover anymore miles that day. On the way home, I finished the rest of that gallon and still did not have to pee until I had gotten home and drank even more water.
You know, before I ran out of fluids, I was doing OK. I felt hot but was still moving along. It was nothing intolerable. Then, after I ran out everything changed and within only a couple of miles. It is amazing how rapidly a body will shut down in the heat without fluids. Scary.
I learned a valuable lesson: Drink!
And don't ever run out of fluids!
Besides not going too slow to avoid getting pulled at a cut-off, I realized that my other challenge during Lean Horse will be maintaining adequate fluid intake and not getting dehydrated.
SUNDAY JULY 27th
The following morning, I was a little bit stiff but not bad. After my experience the day before, I admit to not looking forward to getting out today. So I stayed inside during the morning, ate the last two slices of pizza from the previous night (I ate an almost entire large pizza for dinner last night) and caught up on work.
By the afternoon, I felt well so I decided to go for another run, this time just north of Custer and south of Hill City. I parked near the Oreville shelter and headed south.
Today was even hotter than yesterday, it was a high of 93 degrees. The dry breeze was a little more than yesterday. Even though it felt good, it also meant that I would dehydrate more easily.
Within a few hundred yards I looked down and narrowly missed stepping on a "stem" of grass. Another grass snake! The impact of my foot only two inches from his head made him quickly slither to the cover of the weeds. Only a fraction of a stride shorter and he would have been squished!
My plan was to make it to the Mountain Trailhead six miles away. There was supposed to be a water pump there. Gosh, I hoped that it was working.
Despite feeling a bit stiff, I moved along fairly well. The "spring" in my step seemed to have come back. Now, if only the heat didn't get to me, and I didn't run out of water, I should have a good run today.
The wildflowers were blooming. I noticed several that were not blooming even two weeks ago. One of the aspects of trail running that I love, is how in touch it puts you with nature and the cycle of the seasons.
These flowers announced that mid-summer was here, as if I didn't already know that by the heat.
Bergamot, or Oswego Tea, is an aromatic member of the mint family. It can be made into a tea like all mints but I much prefer the flavor of mountain mint, peppermint or spearmint.
As I approached the 6 mile turnaround, I looked back to see the Crazy Horse Memorial. It was begun in 1947 by Korzak Ziolkowski (1908-1982) self-taught sculptor to honor Crazy Horse, hero and war chief of the Lakota. After his death by heart attack while working on the memorial, the work on the monument has been continued by Korzak's wife Ruth and their family. All construction has been without federal and other government funding.
I understand and appreciate the effort and hard work that has gone into this. I also understand the reasoning that if a mountain can be carved with the faces of American Presidents, why should there not be monument to the hero of the Lakota?
Still, I find carving up a mountian to honor a Native American warrior to be ironic. Are these mountains not the Paha Sapa, sacred to the Lakota and others?
Korzak was originally invited to construct this memorial by Chief Henry Standing Bear and several other chiefs. Nevertheless, I would have preferred to see this and other mountains left alone in their natural state and not blown to pieces.
Not all Native Americans support this monument. Lakota medicine man, Lame Deer in his autobiography in 1972 said: "The whole idea of making a beautiful wild mountain into a statue of him is a pollution of the landscape. It is against the spirit of Crazy Horse."
I arrived at the Mountain Trailhead and was very relieved to find the pump in working order. The water felt good over my head and tasted even better. In six miles, I had almost completely emptied the 100 oz bladder. I filled it completely and continued to drink heavily on the return trip.
As I headed back to my car, I felt very good. I felt much better than yesterday, even though it was hotter be a few degrees. It was a slight downhill so I pushed it.
My legs were back!!!
I ended up running the last few miles 2 minute per mile faster than any of my miles yesterday (specifically any of those miles before I bonked).
When I finally got back to the car, I enjoyed the cool ice-cold water waiting for me. Today was a good day, the opposite of yesterday. Even though I was tired and slightly stiff from the day before, I ran faster and felt much better. This only difference is that in 12 miles I drank two full 100 oz bladders of water where yesterday I had only one for 20 miles.
Yes, I learned a valuble lesson that I will apply to Lean Horse in a few weeks: Drink much and drink often.
And don't get dehydrated!
Once any soreness from this weekend goes away, this week I will do a short fast runs. Yes, my legs are back. But I do need to do some faster running to optimize my cruising speed. I will need all I can get to keep from missing a cut-off.
After next weekend, it will be taper time!