Cruising the 89: Black Hills 100K Race Report

The Black Hills 100 was the Virginia Happy Trails Destination Run for the summer. Most of the stalwart “Blue Train” chose to run the 100 miles; Bruce and  I went for the shorter option of the 100K distance.

Dan, Bruce and myself were also best color co-ordinated VHTRC;ers.

The course is an out and back;  not my favorite type of  race course, but at least, with it being a new course to me, I would know the second half!

This is the tunnel under I-90. A little more scary at night.

Alot of the course looks like this. Nice dirt single track.  Nice areas that are totally runnable. And lots and lots of climbs and decents!

The 100K course stays almost entirely on the Centennial Trail, which is permanently marked with the carsonite trail markers.

Early in the race, I got to chat with a nice man named Jim, I believe from Missouri.  This was his second 100 mile race. Jim stopped at Elk Creek, for his crew and to get a foot massage, and I didn’t run into him until my turn around.

This is really a tough trail.  For people who know about “The Ring”, which is the Massanutten Trail Loop of 71 miles, I found this really comparable with gains and ascents.  Except this trail is not rocky like MMT at all; so therefore there is no reason not to bomb the downhills.  Alot of running involved!

My Garmin data

In fact, lots of ups and downs!

You would also climb up a hill and get these fabulous views like this:  A huge rock formation on the other side of the valley.

Most of the flora is pine trees.  But the Black Hills were green this time of the year (kind of unusual, but there had been alot of rainfall in the previous few weeks).

At mile 20.5 is the famous “Crooked Tree” that is in the design of the Black Hills Ultra Logo.

The weather was not that hot-probably around 80, and for an Easterner, low humidity!  But what I  had forgotten about was that blazing Western Sun!  Despite my sun screen, I was getting a bit cooked on the exposed sections.

When I run a new race, I read over the course descriptions carefully. I  had even condensed down some important facts so I had some idea of where I was.  One mile stone, for my 100K, would be the 25 mile marker, where the 50 mile races were turning around.  I knew then Dalton Lake would be at mile 29, and I would then only have 1.8 miles to go before my turn around.

It is a loooong downhill to Dalton.  Which only means a BIIIIG uphill out of Dalton.  I check my time.  I want to be at the turn around at 7 1/2 hours. Well, I am just to the Dalton AS at 7.30.  I decide to just fill up my hand held, and climb up the hill to the 100K turn around.

It’s a big climb right out of the AS, and sure enough, I have a wild Gary spotting!  I finally catch up with Gary  Knipling, he’s been in front of me all day. But Gary is running the 100 mile, and rightfully conserving energy, whereas I am still trying to hit as close to my 7 1/2 goal as I can.

This climb spilled us out onto a road, or a jeep trail.  A big climb up, and exposed to the sun. I resolutely climbed and climbed-I had a goal.  I knew I  had my turn around somewhere around here. It turns out this is the “ATV Trail” and this road is very technical, full of rocks. I am glad my 100K race is only on this section for a mile or two.

Woo hoo! Finally my turning point! Time is now 7.54, so I am a little behind on my time goals.

But now I am more than halfway there, and am meeting both 100 milers and 100K runners.  It’s nice to see other runners, and wish them well on their trail race.

One of these runners is Jim! He is doing the 100 miler, so we get another runner to stop and take our pic, and I wish him well for his race.

I get back to Dalton Lake AS.  I know I need to regroup, as I’ve really gotten parched on the climb, and have a Big Climb out of Dalton.

The AS workers are so great.  They look at me, and remark that I really need some sunscreen.  Oops, I do not have any.  The AS workers go and get some, luckily a spray type (with my poison ivy, I don’t want to touch my body!) and spray me down.

Starting the climb back out from Dalton Lake. I was smart with both using my hydration vest and one hand held. I pulled the Buff mainly over my head and used the handheld full of nice ice cold water to keep pouring over my head.

It is a big climb out out Dalton.

I catch a breeze up on the ridgeline and try and get the curly hair dried out.

With this out and back, I am pretty much past all the 100 miler and 100K runners. I know I am going to be alone out here. Which is fine.

I stop at the next aid station to wrap some duct tape around a blister on my heel.  I continue down the trail, and am startled to see the Crooked Tree.  Huh? Did I miss an AS? I pull out my piece of paper. Oh, the last AS I went through was the Crooked Tree AS. Oh good, the next AS is Elk Creek!
I’ve got my music stashed in my hydration vest, but the rule (my self imposed rule)  is to not get it out until Elk Creek, which I do.

At Elk Creek, I gulp down down my Sweet Tea from my drop bag, and also grab a 1/2 sandwich from AS. This is a big amount of calories to get into my stomach, but I do have a climb, but I am still getting a big of a low spot with this climb

So I turn on my Zune.  On the playlist, the first song up is “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.

Hmm. Maybe not the best song, about a shipwreck on the Great Lakes, where I am pretty much at a low spot.  I skip ahead.

Okay, Jimmy Buffett “If I could just get it on paper” and then Lisa Loeb “The Wake up Song” I am getting into a better groove with the climb out of Elk Creek. 

It’s also getting later and later. I’ve gotten out of my low spot, and once I climb up from Elk Creek AS, there is a huge long section of downhill, runnable.

I get to Bulldog AS, just barely stopping there, I’m still working on my water from Elk Creek, and I’m trying to get through as much trail as I can before dark.  I was still hopeful I could meet my second goal, which would be to finish at 10 pm-which is when I told my husband to come pick me up at the finish line.

It gets dark on this last stretch , and I have to turn on the light.  I get to the last AS, in a very good mood.  The AS workers try to tell me I am first female, but I know better.  I grab two cups of Coke, for the last big climb.

The last hill isn’t that bad.  Except it’s not the last hill.  It’s hard to remember terrain way back from 16 hours ago.  There are a bunch of little hills on my way back to Sturgis.  The last two miles are a bit frustrating, as there are much less course markings-just some pink flags after we leave the Centennial Trail.  I know I take the concrete bike path, but I am hoping there aren’t two concrete paths, because I’m not really looking up from the ground.  A few more pink flags and maybe some flagging into the stadium would have been helpful; I wasn’t sure what entrance to go into to finish on the track.

I finished in 17.09.  If I was a better spinner, I would just say I finished 2nd female, 11th finisher overall.  But I am too self deprecating to just leave it at that.  I was 2nd of out 3 females, and 11th out of 19 finishers.  Pretty mid pack finish, that I am okay with.  I am no longer a totally back of the pack runner.   I’ve got alot of work to do, to work on speed.  So, as soon as I give myself a few days to recover, it’s time (again) to clean up the eating, weight loss is an easy way to gain a bit of speed.

I still haven’t decided whether I had a “good” run or not yet.  I met Goal #1-finish the race.  The rest of my “race” goals, that I either had before the race or developed during the race-I didn’t meet.  I was a bit disappointed to not finish under 17 hours. Oh well, it is what it is.

I did greatly enjoy the Black Hills Ultra.  Nice trail, nice course, very friendly and helpful volunteers!  Now, I don’t think  I would advice the 50 mile/100K or the 100 mile for a first timer, it’s definitely a tough course! And beautiful!!

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