Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lean Horse 100 Race Report

Lean Horse 100 Mile race report August 23, 2008:
Short version:
6th place overall.
Long version:
Mary and I departed Sleepy Eye at 6:00AM on Friday, August 22, 2008. I had estimated our travel time to be 8.5 hours, and as I would find out later that weekend, it is good to estimate times conservatively.
We arrived in Rapid City about noon, so we had enough extra time to travel the scenic route through the Black Hills, past Mt. Rushmore, and travel to Hill City where the 50 mile turnaround is. That way we would be able to preview most of the course and still make it to Hot Springs for the pre-race briefing at 3:00PM. We also were able to find a lot of the aid station locations on our way.
The course is relatively flat from miles 16.6 to 83.4 because it is on the Mickelson Trail which follows an old railroad bed that has a 3% grade on most of it.
The first and last 16.6 miles are much different. They are on Argyle Road, just a gravel road that winds up/down the hills from Hot Springs to the Mickelson Trail. It is 3,400 ft elevation at Hot Springs (Miles 0/100) and 4,800 ft at Argyle (miles 16.6/83.4).
When I got to Hot Springs, I felt intimidated by the hills of Argyle Road. And then I saw ultra legends Pierre Ostor and John Storkamp. I visited with them briefly before going in to Mueller Center for registration and the pre-race briefing.
There was a pre-race dinner at 5:00PM. Mary and I sat down with the Wisconsin ultra guys. There was Dave E, Brian S, Rolf M, and Greg K. Also in attendance was Brian's wife Pat, and Rolf's dad. I first met Dave E. at FANS in June, as he took 3rd place in the 12 hour. It was fun to visit with them, and I asked all of them what the best ultra food is...Dave suggested chicken noodle soup, and Brian thought trail mix.
Fast forward to the race start. - Wait a second...did I mention I fell asleep at 9:30PM, woke up at midnight and lay in bed wide awake the rest of the morning?
Just prior to the race I saw Jamie Donaldson. She was busy getting her stuff together and I wasn't brave enough to just run across the room and introduce myself to her. Just maybe I'd be able to see her run for a little bit after the start. Jamie rocks the ultra world!!
We lined up outside, it was nice and cool. I would guess 48F.
Mary's plan was to run to the first aid station with me and turn around to get 8 miles in. She wanted to get 17-18 miles in for the day, since she is training for her second marathon (Twin Cities Oct 4). She was planning on running another 10 miles with me later in the day.
I pointed out Jamie to her, and we could still see her at the 2 mile mark and then she was gone. Mary got a bit tired going up the first hill, so she turned around at mile 3 and agreed to meet me at the mile 16.6 station.
Argyle Road was tough, but every time the grade got too steep I put a short walk to recover. It was around mile 5 when I met up with Mike H from Fort Collins, CO. Mike was running the 50 and we just did a lot of visiting as we continued through the Argyle hills. It was good to have some company and we had very similar strategies for this race. Mike and I ran and visited all the way to mile 23, when he thought he could push it a little more. I think he hit his 25 mile split in 4:07 and finished in 8:09.....can you say negative split on a 50???......WOW!!
After mile 25 it got pretty spread out as the 50 milers had turned back and the 100 milers were spreading out. Mary was doing a great job crewing for me, and always had new water bottles and supplies ready for me.
Mile 35.5 was shocking, as Mary told me something. I was shocked at the news.
Mary: "You know that girl that was running in front of us at the start of the race?"
John: "Yea, that's Jamie Donaldson - how's she doing?"
Mary: "She just pulled herself out of the race."
John: "Holy crap......I can't believe it".
Badwater course record holder Jamie had dropped. The reality of what can go wrong during an ultra hit me - no one is immune.
The next 6 miles did not go well for me. I was steadily climbing to the highest elevation of 5,872 feet at mile 41.5. But temps were rising, sunshine was bright, and my gut was tied in a knot. I had a good dose of trail mix at mile 24, PBJ sandwich and raisins at mile 30, and I was taking in 20 oz of H2O every hour along with 1 Ecap every hour. Sounds right, but my gut had completely stopped. I needed to take longer walk breaks and felt like crap. It was in this stretch where I ran a bit with David H from MN. It wasn't long and David pulled ahead of me for good.
As soon as I got past the entrance to Crazy Horse I made a gastrointestinal sacrifice to the side of the trail there. I felt a little better, and now I had an easy downhill 8.5 miles to Hill City. Mary met up with me at mile 45 and would run the next 10 miles with me. We made it to the turnaround, but in another mile I was puking again. We got to count how many runners came back from the turnaround. Eight runners, I was ninth. I got to see John Storkamp. He was in third place and looking great. They were strong and I felt weak.
Again, I had to walk quite a bit here. At the Mile 55 aid station it was time to regroup. Sat down, change of socks, new shirt, ibuprofen, and some Red Bull. At mile 56, I urinated for the second time and the amber color said dehydration. I continued to drink water, maybe more like 30 oz per hour. I skipped the Ecap.
Mile 60 got a little better, I remembered Dave E suggesting chicken soup...hmmm that sounded good. The aid station at mile 60 didn't have any.....carp. I sent Mary ahead to make sure there was some ready at mile 64.5. It was in this stretch that I made/broke a lot of deals with myself.
If I could run for 6 minutes, then I could walk for 3 minutes. When I got to the 6 minutes, I broke the deal and ran for another 4 minutes. I started walking, but after 2 minutes broke the deal again and started to run again. The running got longer and the walks got shorter. They were personal challenges against myself and I was winning!
Mile 64.5 had arrived. The chicken noodle soup went down well. I continued to drink water also. It was 5:30PM and it felt like the temp was dropping a bit. The next stretch went much better and my "deals" were getting to a ratio of 15:2 minutes run:walk.
More soup and Red Bull at mile 70 and I was feeling much better. The shadows were getting long and I grabbed my headlamp. Every aid station, Mary let me know that I was gaining back gobs of time on my "dream pace". I remember at mile 70 the volunteers told me that I was behind the next runner by 40 minutes. These runners in front of me were for real!
I was on top of the world, feeling fantastic. But, I kept in mind that this could turn quickly. I gave thanks and prayed that God would continue to watch over me. Got to mile 76 station and finally turned on the headlamp. More soup!!!!! This was my secret weapon!! I got news that I was now #8...a runner had dropped.
Mile 80 - more soup.
Mile 83.4 - end of Mickelson trail, more soup and Red Bull.
The next stretch to mile 89 had lots of rolling hills, but is net downhill. It was nice because the hills let you know when it was time to run or walk. At mile 87.5 I caught up to a headlamp.
This guy was walking, but weaving quite a bit. I asked him how he was, and his speech was slurred a bit. It looked like he could make it another mile, so I wished him well and started running again. I told Chris at Morph (mile 89) aid station about him...I hope that he turned out OK.
When I left Morph, there was another headlamp in front of me...only 200 feet ahead. He was running and it turned uphill. He continued to run. I walked the uphill. When it got level or downhill, I ran. He was looking back a lot. Then he would run, regardless of the terrain. I kept my own strategy. Finally after 3 miles of this cat and mouse game, he walked a longer time on an uphill. I announced "Let's call a truce....and get this over with. I'm 47 years old, how old are you?" He replied, "56". "Well, we're in different age divisions, so our finishing order here doesn't really matter that much does it?"
We visited a bit while walking up the rest of the hill. His name was Robert and is one heck of an endurance athlete. I am sure that he won the Senior Masters division easily. I encouraged Robert on and took off running, we had reached a nice downhill section.
Soon I was at mile 95.2 and Mary was there with more water for my last stretch. She was going to head down to Hot Springs for the finish. I was still feeling great. I announced my number to the aid station at mile 96, but did not stop. There was a hill to walk, but otherwise all running to the finish.
I cannot explain the feeling I experienced as I saw the humble finish line banner. Just fantastic. I crossed the line, gave thanks to God, and kissed my wife....and stopped running.
For you number geeks, and anyone that may have read my simple race plan:
John's simple plan to run 100 miles:
Miles 1-25 - 10:00/mile avg (4:10:00)
Miles 26-50 - 11:00/mile avg (4:35:00)
Miles 51-75 - 12:00/mile avg (5:00:00)
Miles 76-100 - 13:00/mile avg (5:25:00)
For a total time of 19:10:00
I did not believe that I had a realistic chance for this, but it was something to shoot for.
Actual numbers:
Mile 1-25 - 10:00/mile avg (4:09:56)
Mile 26-50 - 10:55/mile avg (4:33:05)
Mile 51-75 - 12:31/mile avg (5:13:03)
Mile 76-100 - 11:13/mile avg (4:40:32)
For a total time of 18:36:36 - TOTAL AVERAGE PACE of 11:10/mile
Beyond my wildest dreams......


Chris said...


Huge congrats on your Lean Horse run. Beating your dream goal by over 30 minutes is pretty impressive!

I actually talked with Mary for awhile while she was waiting for you to come into Morph. I believe I mentioned that my grandma and uncle live just north of Alexandria and I think we talked about Boston a little too (I'm going for the first time next year).

If I remember correctly, the punch drunk runner you were speaking of (there were several of them, as I'm sure you can imagine) also had his wife waiting for him. I'm sure we gave him some food and maybe some coffee before he continued on with his wife pacing him for a bit. So hard to remember the details... To the best of my knowledge, he finished, but I couldn't say for certain.

Funny that you met and ran with Mike H. for awhile. Mike and I have known each other from Blogger and email for a few months now and were supposed to meet in person at the Colorado Marathon in Ft. Collins, but never found each other. So, we finally met (albeit briefly) at Lean Horse. I've always marveled at how small the ultra world is...

Congrats again! Stories like yours have me convinced that I need to run one of these myself soon. After Boston is out of the way, that's going to be my next focus.


Helen said...

Congrats John - way to run 100 miles!! I think this one will have to be added to my calendar for next year. Sounds like you might be up north next weekend?!


fatozzig said...

Congrats, John! You did an amazing job! I, too, started running at 40, and this year ventured into the ultra world. You give me hope that I can reach my goal of moving up in the mileage within a couple of years.

MN Ultra Runner said...

Hey buddy, great work! That's an incredible first 100 experience. Hope to see you next weekend.

Matthew Patten said...


That's smokin' fast for a first 100. Or, any 100 for that matter.

Great race. I am guessing we will see you a lot in the coming years.