Sunday, October 21, 2012

2012 Lean Horse 100M (25~26 Aug)

I first did the Lean Horse 100 back in 2008.  I read about it as one of the easiest 100 milers around for beginners due to its super friendly course - an out-and-back course mainly on the Mickelson Trai.  But I didn't make it that year as I was unprepared for running in the dry heat.  This year, I was prepared.  I arrived in Rapid City, SD on Wed, 22 Aug.  The next day, I rented a car and drove to Hot Springs, SD.  Race packet collection was on Thursday and Friday with the race briefing on Friday at the Mueller Civic Center, which  I attended.  I collected my race packet and deposit my drop bags prior to the briefing.  After the brief, a pre-race meal (something like a pasta party and free for runners) was held at the sports hall next to the auditorium.  There, I met Lu and Tracy, who would be running the 50 miles to celebrate 50 years of birthdays.

Lean Horse Race Pack Collection & Pasta Dinner

On Sat, I had early breakfast offered to Lean Horse runners by the hotel before checking out.  I left my car at the Mueller Civic Center before checking-in myself to catch the bus ride to the race start.  The race start for this year was different from that of 2008, when it was a truly out-and-back course starting/ending at the Mueller Civic Center.  This year, it would start at the Minnekahta Trailhead.  We reached the Minnekahta Trailhead about 25mins before race start at 6:00am and I mingled around, taking photos, trying to stay calm.  At exactly 6:00am, the 3 events were flagged off concurrently!

Start of Lean Horse

Cottonword (4.2 Miles / 52mins) and Argyle Loop (4.7 Miles / 1hr 6mins)
The weather was excellent - not cold at all.  Maybe because it was still summer time then.  However, I felt laboured when I ran.  Although my legs didn't feel heavy, I was panting really hard.  I decided to slow down.  Still, I didn't feel right.  Then, a thought flashed through my head!  I quickly switch on the GPS on my Garmin 410.  After a few minutes, my worst fear was confirmed!  I was running at around 4,000ft high in elevation!  While it might not be as intimidating as Leadville - a small town in Colorado standing at 10,000ft from sea level, it was still high enough to create some effect.  It was the same feeling I got when I started running the Canadian Death Race, which started at 4,110ft.  I felt dejected and wonder why didn't I feel that way 4 years ago.  The only logical reasoning was because I had just arrived from Manitou Springs, CO back in 2008, which stood at 7,000ft.  I had to rethink my race strategy as it was impossible for me to keep running (most of the way) though it was a gradual uphill to a peak of 4,800ft.  So I decided to go on a run-walk (1-1, i.e. run 1min walk 1min) strategy.  When I got into a rhythm, I would go on a 2-1 or even 3-1 strategy.  Then back to 1-1 again.  It worked but I was slow.  The 1st aid station was 4.2 miles away at Cottonwood, which I arrived in 52mins (4.2miles).  The volunteers at the aid station were awesome.  They greeted the runners enthusiastically and asked how could they help.  I asked for a cup of water, thanked them before continuing my run.  The next aid station is 4.7 miles away.  The sun was slowly coming out though the weather was still nice.  I was enjoying myself more though I was running as though I was doing a training run.  :p  I reached the 2nd aid station in 1hr 6mins (4.7miles).  One of the volunteers quickly got my drop bag.  I took a can of milo, thanked them and pushed on for the 3rd aid station.

1st Aid Station @ Cottonwood

2nd Aid Station @ Argyle Loop

Lime Klin (3.7 Miles / 52mins) and Pringle (3.7 Miles / 52mins)
I loved some of these 100 miler races.  The aid stations were not so far apart so it was something easy to work towards.  But before I reached the next aid stations, some runners ran past me on their way back!  I reckoned these must be the 50k runners.  And I was right when I ran past the 50k u-turn sign just before I reached Lime Klin.  Sometimes, in a out-and-back loop, it could get pretty depressing when you saw runners on their way back to the finishing even before you reached the half-way point.  I could feel that my speed had slowed down even more and I was not wrong, reaching Lime Klin in the same time I took from start to the 1st aid station - 52mins (3.7miles).  I told myself not to panic as it was very early in the race.  After a quick stop, I continued to the next aid station at Pringle where I could retrieve my drop bag.  Pringle was also 3.7 miles away.  In 2008, I wore a short-sleeve tee over a singlet and when the weather got warm, I ditched my short-sleeve tee at Pringle though I didn't put on sunblock.  In the end, I got sun-burnt and had to DNF.  This year, I wore a dri-fit long-sleeve tee from the start and reminded myself that no matter how warm, it would never be as hot and humid as in Singapore.  I reached Pringle in 52mins (3.7miles) - pretty consistent pacing.  :p

Top: 3rd Aid Station @ Lime Klin
Bottom: 4th Aid Station @ Pringle

Carroll Creek (10.1 Miles / 2hrs 40mins)
There were 3 sections to Carroll Creek.  It made the 10.1 miles looked easier to attempt.  The first section was along the same Mickelson Trail.  Then we had to turn left into a forested area to make a loop before coming out and continuing on the Mickelson Trail.  Though the Mickelson Trail was easy footing, I did prefer the real trail.  So I was excited when I had to exit the Mickelson Trail into the forested path.  It was undulating but it meant I could run on the downhill and walk on the uphill.  I loved running in the forested area surrounded by trees.  Along the way, I met other runners on their way out and after I made my u-turn, I met other runners on their way in.  I was sad when I exited the woods as it meant more running on Mickelson Trail in the afternoon sun.  I thanked the water-point set-up at the entry/exit point to the forested area, before continuing my run towards Carroll Creek.  Weather was getting hot as the trail was not shaded.  It took me 2hrs 40mins (10.1miles) to get there eventually.  My pace had slowed down quite a bit.

Top: Water-point towards Carroll Creek
Bottom: 5th Aid Station @ Carroll Creek

Harbach Park (5.8 Miles)
I DNFed at Harback Park in 2008.  But I was confident that this year I would not need to stop there.  I passed 2 ladies about halfway after Carroll Creek.  But one of them came back strongly and we traded places with one aother a few times before she left me for good just before reaching Harbach Park.  It was getting tough as the route was rather boring though on a few occasions, other trail users (mostly cyclists) would cycle past and give us some words of encouragement.  I was happy to reached Harback Park.  Again, the volunteers were fast to hand over my drop bag and ask me what else I need.  I drank up another can of milo and had a banana.  Thanked the volunteers and left.  Next stop: Mountain Aid Station 5 miles away!

Mountain (5 Miles)
This section of the Mickelson Trail was new to me.  So it was refreshing to run this section of the race.  There were a few road crossings to make and at one of them, I was unsure of the way as I didn't see any sign.  But I was able to guess correctly as a runner ran past me soon after.  There were also trees next to the trail and it provided some sort of shade to the runners.  Besides, the sun was also setting and it created shadows that helped block out some of the afternoon sun.  I was getting really tired and I walked more than I ran.  In 2008, the leader of the 100M race was on his way back just before I reached Harbach Park.  This year, the leader ran past me after I left Harbach Park so it was a consolation that I did slightly better now.  :p

Oreville (5.7 Miles)
At Mountain Aid Station, I could feel the weather getting cooler.  I grab another banana before leaving the aid station.  The volunteers there said that the route was going up but on a positive note, that meant after the u-turn, I would be on my way down back to Mountain.  The trees were nearer to the Mickelson Trail during this section of the race.  After a short while, I could feel the strain on my groin.  I was not sure what had caused it.  I had to run in an unnatural way and soon, my other muscles in my lower back and legs hurt.  It hurt so bad that I couldn't even walk!  I decided I had to stop and stretch my calves.  Somehow, the stretch worked.  And I was able to walk normally.  And so I walked most of the way to Oreville.

Hill City (5 Miles) - U-Turn Point
I was glad to reach Oreville.  Weather was turning cool.  I asked the volunteers if they had any hot soup, which they helped me to get it without any fuss.  I made a quick stop and pushed on fast though I continued to stop to stretch at regular intervals, in case my groin decided to give problem.  My foot also started to feel sore.  Sometimes, I felt there were stones trapped inside my shoes but when I stopped to clear the stones, there wasn't any.  I massaged my foot for a short while.  I met more and more runners on their way back.  Most gave me words of encouragement but it didn't give me added boost.  I could only walk by then as I felt painful every time I tried to flex my foot when running.  Even when walking, it was a little painful though bearable.  I managed to limp into the turnaround Hill City!

Oreville (5 Miles) - DNF!!!
I told the volunteers that I couldn't continue any further.  The sight of another runner calling it a day at the same aid station didn't help.  The 2 ladies whom I trade places with towards Harbach Park had decided to stop for good too.  One of the volunteers suggested that I could perhaps get some rest.  He offered a safari bed and blankets!  I thanked him, removed my shoes and socks, wrapped myself comfortably and requested him to wake me up in 20mins time before lying down.  I told myself that if I managed to wake up, I would continue.  Otherwise, I would stop for good as it was feeling COLD!  After about 10mins, I decided that I was refreshed and should continue.  I asked for some hot soup and took out my headlamp from my drop bag.  After finishing the soup, I wore my socks and running shoes and pushed on!

A while after I left Hill City, I met 2 more runners on separate occasions on their way to Hill City.  I wished them all the best and urged them to try catching up with me (since I loved company while running in the dark).  The sun had set and it was getting dark.  Soon, I had to power on my headlamp.  At first, it was still okie as the sky was not totally dark.  But when it got totally dark, it was scary.  I wasn't sure why I felt that way.  Maybe the trail was wide and the surrounding trees were near but not so near.  It gave me a creepy feeling.  I tried not to think about it but when the route was "easy", your mind tend to wonder unlike when I did the UTMF, I had to concentrate on my footing during the night due to the undulating terrain.

I didn't run in this section of the route back to Oreville.  After crossing the bridge over the road, I noticed I was about 2 miles away.  But the 2 miles seemed like eternity.  I felt very cold and I knew I made a mistake of putting my windbreaker at Harbach Park drop bag instead of at the turnaround at Hill City.  :(  I hated to think that after Oreville, I still had 10 miles back to Harbach Park.  I decided to stop at Oreville.  At least I had covered 52.9 miles.  The volunteers kept asking me if I really want to stop when I reached Oreville.  They said they could let me the jacket and gloves.  I decided to wait for the other runners to arrive to see how I feel.  If I felt good, I would have company to cover the rest of the route.  If not, I would DNF.  The 2 runners came after about 40mins later.  By then I had cooled down sufficiently and I was too comfy to want to continue.

Hence, another disappointing DNF but I learnt my lessons.  I was too focus on the morning/afternoon sun that I had completely forgotten to prepare myself about the chilly night.  I should have known better.  And whoever said that there was an easy 100 miler race, I had better don't read too much into it.  As far as I know now, there is never and there will never be an easy 100 miler race!  Every 100 miler race is TOUGH!!!

No comments: