June 3rd, 2020
Caregiving, Exploring the Unknown and Playing the Odds - 2015 Lean Horse 100M Race Report
Saturday August 22nd, 2015
Living in the Chicago area all my life should make me immune to wind and cold - you would think...
If there was no wind and cold at Lean Horse 100, it would not be as memorable. I signed up just a few weeks prior to race day when I realized, in a panic, that 2 1/2 months had passed since my last 100 at Kettle 100. Life and too much work had thrown me off my game.
I picture myself in a confessional cataloguing my sins and when they were last committed - I had a small sin of 19 miles in a 24 hour called Christmas in July. I didn't feel good so I went home after just a few hours - saved by a sick stomach and no desire to torture myself. A week before that, there was a torrential downpour during a hilly 50 mile race called Cry Me a River. I slipped and slid in the mud and blew out the microphone on my hearing aid but I finished - that was a dirty sin but at least it was consummated. But no 100 miler consummated for 2 1/2 months???
Lean Horse 100, a run I had wanted to do, beckoned and was open for the running. I saw Donna Creditor and Tom Gladfelter on the list - 2 fellow Illinoisans who did more than talk about moving west. I also saw many others on the list whose names were familiar, whether I knew them or knew of them, some from the U-list.
"You know the course is over a mile high and you don't do so well in altitude," Val said a few days before Lean Horse. "No way - that is feet of climb, not above sea level," I responded. I was wrong :) Custer, SD is as high as Denver, CO - who'd of thunk???
This was the second running of LH on the new course, 40 miles from the old one. The beauty of the Black Hills along the Mickelson Trail is enough reason to run this race. The surface is easy, crushed limestone. The climbs are insidious and when I struggled to breathe, feeling a tightness in my chest, I couldn't tell if I am really that intolerant of altitude or if it was the long, sneaky climbs, just as you might expect on a rails to trails course.
Val crewed me but a crew was a luxury as there were aid stations about every 5 miles with anything you might need, especially enthusiastic, supportive and most helpful volunteers who tolerated the cold so we could run. John Derby mentioned the lady on the bike in his report, who rode out to take orders so the food would be ready when we got there. The volunteers, the backbone of any respectable ultra, went above and beyond.
After running with Tom, then Wally Heseltine, seeing John Taylor and Allan Holtz, meeting Jenn and Laura, Bridgette and others, I ran the last miles to the 50 mile turnaround alone. I felt battered by the wind, had trouble breathing despite using an inhaler for asthma, and felt sick to my stomach, a problem I rarely experienced before Christmas in July. Coming in at about 12 hours for the first 50, my plan was to quit. "It is our anniversary tomorrow and we can enjoy it if I quit now." "I have 58 100 or more finishes - I don't need to do this." "I am done suffering and I'm cancelling the other 100s I am registered for." "I'm too old for this - it's time to grow up!"
The voices in my head were winning and then John Taylor came upon me, coming back from the turnaround. He told me I was about 5 minutes away from the aid station just before 50 miles. I told him I was done and why. John reminded me of the things I should be doing to take care of myself - he was right and his encouragement came at just the right time - thank you, John! Wally H came upon us and said "You have enough time to walk it in!" The two of them got my head back in the game.
I had no pacer which in a 50 mile out and back is definitely a luxury -- unless you are afraidy of the cats prowling about at dusk and during the night. Mountain lions are out there, and could get curious, even if they do have better prey than humans with the ubiquitous deer. I heard stories of sightings on the trail, even during the race. I was wishing for some harmless pit bulls instead :) Being tired and out on the trails alone at night with rock ledges to one side and forests to the other is a perfect storm for one who needs no encouragement. I carried a big stick in case I was called upon to defend myself. I pictured the cats pouncing like I see my cat, Ruby, do at home. The thought of a big, powerful mountain lion doing what the itty bitty cat does ever so well is absolutely terrifying. I whirl around often, thinking they are stalking me.
My arms still hurt from the weight of that big stick that was never swung at the lions that were probably lurking miles away or curled up sleeping somewhere. I did find a rattle snake on the trail and it didn't scare me a bit - go figure! They can't chase you down once you've side-stepped them :)
I find my second wind and begin running stronger at about 4:30 AM with 18 miles to go. I see 2 runners ahead and think I will catch them and hang with them until the sky gets lighter. It is Kummi from CO and Dave from MN. They are running their first 100. Dave looked strong but was sticking with Kummi who had a bad blister that forced her to limp and sore legs. She looked determined. I asked if I could hang with them as I had no desire to keep pushing at the pace I caught them with. There was time to finish under 30 hours. Long story short, Dave and I both tried to keep Kummi moving but I believe the key was a change of shoe inserts and 2 Tylenol to get her walking under an 18 minute pace and running spurts in the last 5 miles. She never complained, was positive and gave it her all to move fast enough to make it in by 29:30. We were in this together, to the end. We told stories, got to know each other, laughed, built each other up -- we kept it light but focused with no whining allowed :). Val, Chris and Ben met us at the aid stations. Val skipped one so Chris took my winter coat as it was heating up after the frigid night. Always have plenty of warm clothes at any 100 miler - The freeze at night was not a factor for me at LH with warm clothes and hand warmers.
We decided to go for a photo finish, all noses in alignment, with the last quarter of the track at Custer High School taken at what we would think of as "running" no matter what it looked like to onlookers :) We all finished at 29:08 to 09, within tenths of a second - I thought it was a photo finish until I checked the results as I was writing this...
Friends who finished earlier were there to greet us - John, Allan, Ben, Chris, Val, the RD, Royce, and more great volunteers. Royce has the cutest daughter, Hailey, who was also at the finish.
What I thought was going to be an exhausting final 18 miles, using up the last of my resources trying to pull a "not so great race" out of the toilet, turned out to be the height of the race - spending time with Kummi and Dave and sharing in their first 100 mile finish.
Congratulations to the winners and runners of all 4 distances and to all first time 100 mile finishers - especially Kummi and Dave!!!
Thanks to RD, Royce and his spectacular volunteers for putting on a great race, despite the challenging weather conditions! Thank you, Kummi and Dave for allowing me to hang out with you and be part of your finish!
Oh, the title -- I am an RN, APN, Kummi is an aerospace engineer and Dave is a math major and an actuary, like our Paul Lefelhocz!
Who decided it's not time to retire from hundos yet...
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