This past weekend I did the Leanhorse 100 mile
race in South Dakota. Since I am a walker, I walked 100 percent of this race. In short: my previous PR's for the 100 mile walk were 23:40 (track, Cornbelt 24 hour 2004) and 34:16 trail (McNaughton 2005). This time I hit 50K in 7:42, 50 miles in 12:50, 85 miles in 23:59:50 (or I had an 85 mile 24 hour performance) and finished the race in 29:34. Four runners passed me between miles 98 and 98.5 and finished in my sight, and yet another finished about 30 seconds behind me. The cut-off was 30 hours.
My lessons: I made two major mistakes. The first mistake is that I forgot my trail gaiters (these are coverings that drape over your shoes to prevent rocks from getting into your shoes. Not only did I have to stop several times to take rocks out of my shoes, but the smaller, finer pieces of grit stayed in my socks and gave me huge heel blisters. My left heel was literally covered by one gigantic blister, and I had a tennis-ball size blister on the outside of my right heel.
The second major mistake is that I didn't trim the spenco pad on my foot orthotic properly. Hence the spenco bunched up in the front of my shoes and continually pounded my small toes. Therefore I lost several nails (impacted) and my toes ended up being a bloody mess.
If there was any good to be had from this it was that my body held up well (i. e., I was properly trained and tapered) and my legs (aside from my feet) were not sore the day after.
So, though my finish time was lousy and my last 15 miles were truly pathetic, I found that I could overcome mistakes. Of course, part of this was due to the easy surface; in the last 40 miles I yelped every time my foot made an unplanned landing on a rock that was larger than a pebble. This reminded me a bit of the fairy tell about the Princess and the Pea.
This report is organized as follows:
See the above chart; the surface was 98 miles of groomed crushed limestone trail, and 2 miles of sidewalk through a small town (mile 43.5 to 44.5 on the way out, and 55.5 to 56.5 on the way back). The photo shows the typical surface. There were several aid stations (12, which means that the 100 milers saw 24 aid stops) as well as 4 different drop bag points. The volunteers were outstanding!
Oddly enough, the relatively smaller uphills on the way back were more difficult than I anticipated. The last two inclines (roughly 5 miles in length) seemed to go on forever, though they weren't all that steep.
The trail had markers every mile and we started at mile 16.2. The race director put Leanhorse signs every 5 miles (to account for the .2 mile discrepancy). We turned around at mile marker 66 (which was certified to be 50 miles from the start.)
The surface started off as pinkish, small pebble limestone gravel, and changed slightly as the course went on. There was a stretch where the surface was black, and yet another stretch that contained lots of glittering mica. This was downright eerie when one passed over it at night and was wearing a lamp; though perhaps the faster runners (or those doing the 50K or 50 mile) didn't get to see this effect. There were some stretches where one could see the rose quartz rocks (the State Rock of South Dakota).
Some of the course, but not much, was shaded and the daytime temperatures got into the mid 80's. The nighttime saw a full moon, clear starry skies, and a pleasant mid to high 50's.
We were bussed from Hot Springs to the Mickleson Trail. The 50K types started 1.5 miles behind where the 50 and 100 mile people started. The trail was plenty wide enough to handle the crowd of 100-120 that started the 50 or the 100.
There were farm animals on the sides of the trail in some stretches. I also saw a couple of small snakes, chipmunks, a rabbit and a raccoon. There was also a mountain lion which I (fortunately?) did not see, though the runner ahead of me did.
In summary, this course was not a particularly slow course, but I didn't think that it was easy either. Though it might seem as if the return leg for the 100 would be easy, those long, long (albeit gradual) inclines seemed to go on forever.
I fell into a very moderate pace and did some chatting. I talked to a runner from Georgia (who was to get away) and to Joe Galloway (who was to get me later). I noticed that the "push-off" motion of walking had a bit of slippage and that I was already getting rocks in the shoes! Still mile 5 came at 1:11. The next several miles were uneventful; I more or less just enjoyed the scenery and kept stopping to take the rocks out of my shoes. My previously sore knee gave me no trouble at all.
My first hint of trouble was at around mile 36; here my left heel felt "hot". I stopped at this aid station, lubed my heel and decided to switch from my "ninga" socks to thicker trail socks; this helped to keep the rocks out of my shoes. But the extra thickness, plus the bunching up of the toe part of my spenco orthotic pad was to cause me grief later. It was at this spot where the first runners were on their way back!
I was starting to get a bit crankier and my aid station stops were slowing my pace, though my actual walking pace stayed at around the 15 minutes/mile range (9:20 min/km). I had survived the 1400 foot climb from the start was was taking advantage of the downhill. Also, I enjoyed seeing the Crazy Horse Monument and was catching up to some of the 50 mile runners who were burning out or getting sick.
Eventually, I saw the outskirts of Hill City and moved along the sidewalk. I welcomed the reprieve from the rocks and was grateful to have volunteers escort me across a sort of busy street. There, I rested a few minutes and got some moleskin from a 50 mile runner who had finished for my right heel. The moleskin worked, but a blister outside of the region formed!
The out and back (stiff uphill) was challenging, but I was on track to be under 13 hours at the half. I saw some other souls who were still out there and felt kind of sorry for them. I shouldn't have, as 4 of them were to pass me much, much later.
On the way back I was told that there had been a mountain lion by the trail at about the time I passed by. I didn't notice; I guess I stank too badly for it to find me appetizing!
It was starting to get dark now and I needed my headlights once I got out of Hill City. The lights seemed to do the job, but I had slowed. My five mile segment times (which included aid station stops) had climbed from the mid 1:20's to the 1:30's; still that was enough to get me under 28 hours if I could hold on. That was to be a big "if".
Miles 55 to 75 were horrible; it took me 6:42 to do this stretch! I mentally broke during some of the long climbs and my feet were killing me. Tylnelol helped. I didn't know how bad off my toes were; what hurt were mostly my heels. That lead me to make a more forefoot type landing instead of my usual "heel-toe".
But, I began to get a bit more confident as I found myself arriving at aid stations just when Uli Kamm (an excellent ultrawalker) was leaving; evidently I wasn't doing that poorly. And, the cool night air helped some. So 75 to 85 took me 3:01; normally slow but not that bad for that deep into a 100 mile event. And it felt good to reach 85 miles at just under 24 hours; that is my 3'rd best 24 hour performance.
Climbing up the hill to get to 85 in under 24 hours took something out of me; folks that I was chasing began to get away and I got very wobbly. I was having trouble keeping food down; I was out of the dried pineapple that sustained me for the first half of the race and was spitting up my cheese and crackers.
I got to the aid station at 88.2 and was completely whipped. I could barely stand and I gave some thought to dropping; but the aid station people encouraged me to stick with it!
So, after soup and fruit I got to mile 90 in 25:53; that last five miles took me 1:53 to do and would be my slowest 5 mile segment of the race.
The last part didn't include much climbing and I picked up company for a short while at around 95 miles. The aid station person at mile 92 was also very kind and encouraging!!! I'd like to thank ALL of the aid station volunteers, and especially those at 88 and at 92. That sure helped a great deal.
My last 5 miles were in the "just get it over with" mode. Something funny happened when I got to mile 98. Joe Galloway caught me and passed me! We were minutes apart at McNaughton earlier this year, and were destined to be minutes apart yet again. Then with 1.8 miles to go, a string of 3 runners passed me, and every one of them was leaning over to their left!!!! It appeared as if they were mimicking each other! And, this other runner whom I kept leap-foregoing with was closing in on me.
Nevertheless, I kept walking for the finish line knowing that 30 minute miles would be enough and I made it. Was I ever happy that I could see the finish line when I did!
Proper fitting footwear is essential. I need to trim my orthotic pads a month in advance to ensure proper fit.
Trail gaiters are a must for me, given my low-to-the-ground walking style. Even small grit can lead to blisters
Late in the race, I needed to keep up with the calories. I think that I had a small "bonk" at around mile 85. Dried, unsweetened fruit seems to work.
Taping works; I got zero blisters on the arch/ball of my foot. Next time I need to tape my heels too.
I can keep going even when I think that I can't.
My training seemed to prepare me well as my legs aren't sore at all. Or perhaps they are really sore but I can't feel them due to the fact that my feet are killing me (impacted toenails). But, for me on this course, 85 walking miles in 24 hours isn't too bad (previous results were 101, 80 (track) and 88 (road 4000 meter loop course). Of course, the last 15 miles really stunk.
Socially, this trip was a success. First, I actually enjoyed the often scenic drive though South Dakota and enjoyed my very brief stay in Chamberlain, South Dakota (beautiful view of the Missouri River). Next, I met up with Mark and Janet and hung out with them. We socialized at packet pick-up, ate dinner together at the Flatiron, and got to meet CVRT'er Ron Pyle (who had a successful 50K debut run and then worked the race). I also saw others including Uli (who gave me a 29:30 race schedule) and Joe.
The next morning, I met Mark and Janet and rode the bus with Janet (Mark was shipped to a different starting point for his first ever 50K, which he did in a respectable 7:30). I teased Janet a bit, but didn't see her much after the race started. She was to win her age group with a 10:02 50 mile! (I had predicted a 10:00 for her, and, alas, a 28:00 for me).
After the race, I got a ride back to the race headquarters, picked up my buckle and drop bags and went to get a shower, some footcare and some sleep. Later, I had dinner with Mark and Janet who both got to tell me about their races.
The next day, I went with Janet and Mark to the mineral water pool (87 F) which felt great. Later I ate breakfast with some of the other runners (who finished in times from 19 hours to my 29:34) and got to meet someone who really congratulated me (named Eddie). Little did I know that Eddie was once a 2:3X marathon runner! It is amazing how humble and friendly some of the really good runners can be.