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Lean Horse 100

August 23, 2014

Horsin around at Lean Horse: Why do they call it Lean Horse when there are deer everywhere?
Short story... 27 hours 56 minutes, 1st in my age group, 5th woman, 23rd overall
Long story...
I chose this race because it was a rails to trails course where the gradual 2% elevation change would be right in my wheelhouse....I like the flat stuff.  I neglected to check on the starting elevation.  The race was relatively flat, total 5000+ elevation change for 100 miles ...but.....it started at 5200 ft and maxed at 6200 ft.   This isn’t really high elevation, except when you were born and raised in Seattle at sea level and love lots of oxygen.
I had some goals for this race but when we got started I couldn't talk....let alone breath.  The start was uphill for the first four miles so I listened to all the chatter and tried to get my lungs to work.  When we started downhill I met several runners, some attempting their first 100 or first 50 .  One new mom planned on breast feeding her daughter at the 50 mile turn around, she did and won her age group.  Another first time 100 miler came in second overall.  Both looked battered by the experience at the awards ceremony but you could tell they were hooked on ultra running.
This was a fun 100 mile trip because my family came.  Chris, Aurora and I did some sight-seeing, Badlands hiking, Mount Rushmore, etc.  One of the unique drives we took included some tunnels where you could look through and see the presidents, kind of cool.  I usually don't use a pacer or crew so it was fun to have Chris and Aurora at the race ...for a little while.  I told them I wouldn't need them during the first 50 miles so of course they went horseback riding.  When they came to the turnaround spot Aurora chatted with me and told me about her day and her horse.  She paced me for 1.5 miles while we walked and talked at the highest point on the course.   When I tried to tell her about my day she realized I was breathing hard (6200 ft elevation) and told me I didn't need to talk, so she continued...chatterbox.  Chris helped me get my special carbohydrate drink mixed up and helped with other things, like kisses and what not.  He is so positive and supportive, what a guy.  It was so nice to see them both and it inspired me.  Now I know why people have crews. 
The George Mickleson Trail is a beautiful trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Along the trail is a river and farmland with lush green fields and cool rock formations.  You go over many bridges and through many tunnels that are a little intimidating when it is dark.  They say this race will take your breath away because of the beauty and the elevation and they aren't lying.  I did find myself gawking at the scenery and even took pictures.  Because the trail was crushed pea gravel and smooth, it was nice not to have to constantly look down like when running northwest single track trails.
I only got one small blister so no real foot issues (changed socks twice and shoes once) and I felt like I fueled myself well, just disappointed I couldn't run faster on a course just right for me.  They had four drop bag locations and because of recent rain in the area I brought two different rain coats.  The day before the event we got caught in a thunder storm.  In the Midwest they have serious thunder storms, rain, hail, lightning and thunder ...and it was coming down hard.  I couldn't imagine running in this....during a 100 mile race.  I was freaking out about the weather as they were forecasting the same for race day, yikes.  Well, it rained all night before the race, how did I know? I don't sleep well before a race so I listened to it and fretted.  On race day the weather was great, 60s and sunshine. One rain shower in the afternoon cooled us off.  At night the skies cleared and you could see stars everywhere.  However, about 3AM the warm breeze turned cold.  Learning from this race:  even if you sign up for a 100 in August where you expect excessive heat, plan for it to be cold at night.  I didn't have enough warm clothes in the right drop bags so I wore three shirts and a rain coat and shivered for a few hours until the sun came up.  I kept telling myself that once the sun came up I would be okay...but the wind would not stop blowing.  I was cold from around 3AM till right before I finished at 10 AM.   Not fun.  Live and learn.
Deer deer everywhere.  Two came across the trail right in front of me and then the baby went back across and hid behind a bush, like I couldn't see her.  I thought this a little strange as they were very close.  A few miles later two deer ran out of the woods across the trail and out into the road ...they hung out and then went about their day.  Then a big buck leaps a barb wire fence right in front of me, wow.  What is it with deer in SD?  The start and finish of the race is at the athletic stadium in Custer, SD.  As I am making my way back to the stadium, right next to the gate to the track are my special welcoming crew, two deer.  They hang out while I get a picture then I enter the track to finish the race.  Wildlife was abundant along the trail and we were warned about this.  When it got dark I heard owls and that was enough, I put my headphones on and listened to music all night long, so I wouldn't wonder what was making that noise in the bushes.  I have an active imagination especially when running hundreds, let's just say I really don't want another freaky opossum (reflector) experience.
The real interesting learning from this race is that White River 50 with 8500 ft elevation change was more difficult for me than Lean Horse 100, twice the distance.  Now a 100 miles is a long way and I whined a little to myself, but there was no crying or cussing.  I usually run well and enjoy the first 50 -70 miles, then I ask myself why do I keep signing up for this stuff and I try to convince myself never to do this again, just stick with 50 milers, but then I listen to my tunes and enjoy the rhythm and pace of walking and shuffling and forget the pain for a while.  Then it comes back in the 80s and I ask myself again, why.  By the 90s I know I will finish and I almost cry for joy and ask myself when will this be over. This race pushed me but not as hard as that nasty 50 miler.  I would like to try more rails to trails races as I think that is the best course for me.  Just a few hours ago at mile 75 or 80 I was asking myself why I keep signing up for these things....now just a short time later I am ready for another.  It must have been the two pieces of pie!

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