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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Black Hills 100

Black hills 100 recap

Kiera eating Mountain House & me happy in my element. No nerves at the start.

I had one main goal going into Black Hills 100, to enjoy most all of time out there. See I have a tendency to race hard, whether it's marathon, 50K, 50 miler or even 100 my nature is to race hard, which in many cases can result in some tough miles. I decided long before this 100 that I was going to enjoy 95% of the time on the trails or I was not going to do 100's anymore. I told myself if you can't figure out how to have fun out there, you aren't doing this anymore. I started running 100's mainly because of my love of being on trails. An opportunity to be on trails with my type of people for multiple hours pushing my body to do amazing things is what I think about when I think about why I run 100s.

We were one of the first vehicles to pull up into the start area on Friday morning. A 10:00 am start allowed for plenty of time to chill and make sure I had everything ready. I learned something I knew about myself but I always seem to forget. When I'm preparing for a 100 miler I think i need so much more than I actually do. I had my Orange Mud Double Barrel pack loaded up with so many items it seemed like a backpack that morning. I took 2 or 3 items out there in the parking lot trying to lighten the load. I still had a bunch of Clif bar pouches and gels and such & all my water.
Fellow OM Ambassador, Chad.

As the place started buzzing with more and more 100 milers rolling in Crystal, Kiera, my Mom & I all chilled in the grass waiting for it to get closer to 10:00 AM. I had the pleasure of meeting Chad here and got to chat with him about our strategies to combat the heat & how our training had been. I also had some good conversations with one of Black Hills 50 most consistent entrants Lori. She was the only other Nebraskan registered this year that I knew.
Chatting about Western States

Soon it was 10 & we were off down a bike path to get out of town, I tried to shuffle my way to about the middle of the pack to give myself many opportunities for connection and trail vibes out there. Last year I had a big head coming into this race and went into the hills in the top 10 percent and was alone most of the run, I changed that up this year and it made such a difference. Early miles were mostly filled with chatting with other ultra-runners about Western States & making our predictions. I spent a good chunk of these first 5 miles running with Chad. We had some good chats and made our way to the first aid station. I felt like I hit that first aid station really conservative and felt absolutely great. I filled my water bottles up here at Alkali Creek and gave Kiera a high five and made my way back into the woods.

She gives me so much motivation.

I slowly ran the first mile or 2 here hoping to see Chad come up behind me but I didn’t so I kept rolling. This trail was some of my favorite single track. There were tall skinny pines all around in grass like fields, the trail was lightly covered in the needles and it was track that was easy to just roll through. I loved these miles to Bulldog Aid Stations. I came into Bulldog (mile 10) and just filled my water. I saw the co-RD here and it was nice to see him out on the course scoping out the runners and seeing if they looked like the sun was taking to much out of them early. I could quickly tell in his glance of me that was what he was doing and smiled and said doing great, absolutely gorgeous trails out here. He said thank you & the AS captain said I'll see you at mile 90. I laughed a bit and said yep, mile 90, just a bit from now. That seemed like an eternity away.
I actually took a picture on the trail. 

I moved out of Bulldog and in route to Elk creek. We had been doing some pretty significant climbing from Start to bulldog but I was able to conservatively do all the hills so was still feeling fresh and not sweating much. That changed here. There was an 1100 ft. climb waiting for us as we headed back out and it was about 3 miles long. I power hiked when I needed to and ran until my body would heat up then dialed it back. I did this up that climb until it started to level out and we had some good running trails. I felt good through these trails and was still having fun. I hit mile 17 aid station Elk Creek about an hour in front of my plan and I was hot. I wasn't dehydrated at all but it was around 98 right then and I needed a cool down. I had grabbed a flower off the trail and handed it to Kiera at this aid station. I told her she needed to get some sunscreen on because her cheeks were all red, I learned shortly after that it was a mile hike up hill to the Aid Station from the car, that's why they were all red. Amazing what an 11 will do to see her Dad rock some trails. I spent about 5-10 minutes at this AS getting re-hydrated and trying to convince a runner named A.J that he could go on but his mind had already decided he was done. I quickly heard of another here that dropped as well. I gave Kiera her flower got some positive vibes from Crystal & my Mom who were both really happy with how I was running and looking at each AS. They were going to try and get a horseback ride in and then meet me in 12 miles at Dalton Lake. I said perfect, have fun and I'll see you there. Still 100% happy, having fun enjoying my time out here.
Crystal & K & my mom crewing all day. 

Leaving Elk Creek was mostly runnable single track trail to the next AS. I think I may have over-exerted on this stretch of trail because a lot of it was direct sun & it was so runnable. I started getting pretty hot here and had my first battles with my stomach. It was 6 miles from Elk to the next AS and by mile 3 I was burning up hot & I had already drank my water and only had some electrolyte drink left. The thing about electrolyte drink is it’s great when your stomach is solid but when your stomach hurts every drink is hard. I battled this stomach pain all the way to the next AS and almost immediately sat down here at mile 23. I was spent, i needed time to get ice in my hat & get my body temp down. I also needed to find things to get my stomach back on track. Chad showed up shortly after and gave me a Tums, i ate a bit of watermelon and had some ice to try and get it back but it was a struggle.
This sums up the day pretty good, ice was gold. 
 Finally from just time sitting there it started to get better and I power hiked my way out of crooked tree thinking ok 6 miles to Dalton Lake & you get to see your crew. Another big climb here of around 800ft meant just power hiking this first part. I'm not a fast hiker at all so this is where people catch me during events like this, I know that and am working on hiking faster but for now it was just about moving forward. I would try to run when I had runnable track but my stomach pains got worse and worse. Mostly on each side and high up they felt almost like side pains. I wasn’t sure how to fight them off, I tried eating, drinking, walking etc. and couldn’t shake them, this was the time out there that I was 100% not enjoying myself. This quickly turned into my lowest moment of any ultra I’ve ever done. By mile 25 I could barely hike. It all hurt, I saw Chad again out here in this stretch and we did some hiking together. Trying to get one another to stay positive we chatted about stuff but we were both in some pretty low lows. Knowing how hard he trained and worked I went on praying his low would end soon. With about 1.5 miles left to Dalton & my crew, I had been walking for the last mile. Every time I tried to run my body shut it down back to a hike. I kept getting more and more negative, telling myself you can’t even hike you are not cut out for this. This is the last run, after this one no more running, I’m done, and I’ll find something else. This is ridiculous, so with that 1.5 miles left to Dalton in my lowest low a runner came up behind me. I'm not sure what kind of Ultra magic he had with him but we got to chatting early with hike and he was going to start running again and I was like I'll see if I can hang with you. We ran most all of the next 1.5 miles, not because I felt good again but because with the presence of another person the pains were tolerable, I did it, I arrived at Dalton AS. In many ways this felt like the finish line because I longed to get here for so many miles. I knew I was not quitting but people were dropping here a lot, it was sad to see, so many people having to drive home and feel like I did last year after dropping at 50. I was determined to figure out my issues and get this thing back right.
coming out of the forest in on of my biggest lows ever.

Dalton Lake. I will not forget Dalton Lake. I arrived here defeated, dehydrated, sharp pains in both sides and totally down. I went from saying I was going to enjoy this entire thing to hating it just like that. to making myself think that I couldn’t, even if I set out to enjoy this thing. That all changed here at Dalton. I lied down next to the AS with my hands over my head breathing slow and they side pains started to subside. Crystal ran all the way back to the truck and got me a smoothie and my other hydration pack. I drank that smoothie in about 30 seconds flat. I was already feeling somewhat better. I told her how my whole body was so hot i wanted to walk back 1/2 a mile to the lake and get in, that I thought I needed too. She drug me over to this tote filled with creek water and a towel and said here you go. I washed my whole body with that cold water and my HR started coming back down. I chatted with Kiera and my mom and started feeling better. I saw Chad come in shortly after that in the same condition i just did about 15 minutes earlier and made a point to try and help him as much as I could. Assure him it was going to get better. I was proof, I was feeling better. I went back and Kiera and I had a quick contest to see who could jump the highest. After 4 or 5 jumps she determined I could and said see Dad you got this, you're going to be ok. This AS stop made my day, I left Dalton in route to Nemo.

leaving Dalton & my lowest point with Kiera's encouragement.

I left knowing that everything after Nemo gets more runnable, from the beginning my mentality was get to Nemo feeling good and you can haul butt from Nemo to the turnaround and back to Nemo. I made my climb out of Dalton and was feeling good. When I got half way to nemo the trail descended for the next 3 miles and I laid down some great miles here. To get to Nemo there is about a half mile run to finish up this segment on the road. I was blazing here when I saw the guy with all the Ultra Magic from earlier here. He wasn’t moving well and it was devastating, I was like oh no what's wrong. He was having some major kidney issues but was committed to do the things to get it better and continue on. I told him the same stuff that we talked about before, keep your mind right and you will get through this. Coming down into Nemo the road felt great, I was able to stride out here and run like I run on a 5 mile training run. I felt like i was flying when I saw my crew. I knew i needed to give them something amazing after that last AS stop. I ran as fast as I could into Nemo and saw Sarah had made it down from North Dakota and gave her a big stinky 98 hug. I was laughing, making jokes and running form was on point, I was in and out of Nemo in under 3 minutes and back out & I think I left them with a whole new mindset about this whole thing.
SARAH!!! Truly one of the best in ultra-running.

Nemo to Pilot Knob was not as runnable as I remembered or had in my head. Lots of big loose rocks and strange climbs that created issues with the rocks. I met a runner named Gary on this stretch, and we told some stories to get our mind off the trails. We talked about my whole story about Boston and had some laughs. I had a pretty decent stretch though and made it to the next AS at mile 43 in good spirits. I sat down and had some soup and Jeremy Bradford was sitting next to me. I had to get filled in on his Across the Country run so I kept asking him questions about, such a remarkable athlete. I had a detailed list in my head when I came into Pilots Knob. I'm like ok Mom can you get my other headlamp, this one has auto adjust and i keep tripping on the rocks. Crystal got me soup, Kiera got me dew. Then they filled my packs and chatted with me about strategy. I was feeling great & mind was all positive. I felt lucky to get to do this and be out here with my kind of people. My favorite line from this AS was when i was swapping headlamps I swapped batteries and I'm like "Oh way to go Jeff, who uses Toys R Us batteries in there Headlamp at an ultra"
Doing that shuffle down the trail

The Crew


Out of Pilot knob and on my way to the turn around. This section was nice sweet single track again. This is the part where i called it quits last year but I was feeling great and that though never crossed my mind. It was all about getting to the turnaround to pick up Crystal so we could start making our way back. I ran every section of this that was flat and walked the climbs and descents. The descents were tricky here with the headlamp and I decided I didn’t want to risk anything before the halfway point. I needed a good break to eat and chat with other runners before Crystal and I could make our way back out of here and towards Sturgis. The sharing of stories from all the other runners is always a reminder that everyone is going through their own thing; they can get through it and you can too, just get back out there. That's what Crystal & I did...headed back down the rocky trail 50 miles from Sturgis.
Half 1 of dont be and idiot done...now Half 2 of dont be a Wimp


We were off and it wasn't long before we were running at a nice easy pace and chatting away. It probably felt like walking to Crystal as she had been waiting for hours & hours to run. We met quite a few runners in these first miles as they were making their way into Silver City. It was nice to see so many still out there, we had been hearing tails of dropping all day it started feel like there were hardly any runners left. The temps were about perfect by mile 55 or so, a real nice little breeze that felt like air conditioning on my face as we ran those headlamp miles together. The moon sat just above the tree line and lit up most the sky. Stars were out & we just kept rolling through miles until we came to the first aid station on the way back. We came in and saw my Mom. This is the only AS Kiera slept through. I had some pop & a quesadilla and some soup then we headed back out. We had many more miles of night time together laughing and enjoying trail talk.

The sun started coming up on the horizon in front of us and it almost took my breathe away. Not only the beauty of it but also the fact that I thought it was only around 2:00 am. See going into this 100 I pinpointed the overnight hours as my biggest struggle & my biggest dread. Jason Koop gave me some great advice and told me to accept it as a challenge & not go into the night all complacent; try to conquer it. That advice along with managing my caffeine intake & my crew not mention anything about what time of day it was helped me to never feel fatigued over the night hours. So when I saw daybreak and I had just realized I had conquered my biggest struggle of the 100 I got an instant rush of adrenaline. 
We were just before Nemo AS and I started really turning on the burners. The daybreak, accompanied with no more having to shine the light on the rocks to get the best footing & the fact that my legs felt fresh as can be made for some really fun miles. We spent very little time at Nemo AS & headed back to the trail ready to keep tearing it up. These miles were so much fun plus we got some really awesome views. There were 3 or 4 times where the trail opened up to the hills in the distance and I'd point and say "Crystal Look" and we both would take it in. 
Coming into Mile 71 w/Crystal
After all the hours joking and signing Alanis M, Crystal & I departed at Dalton Lake AS (mile 71) and here i picked up my second pacer, Sarah. I have no clue how I got lucky enough to get two of the most wonderful pacers ever but the ultra-gods must have aligned just right for this race because it was like we didn’t even miss a step. All the fun Crystal & I were having on the trails immediately passed over to Sarah at that AS and her & I just took off back into the woods.
Heading out with Sarah

This next session with Sarah started out with some pretty decent climbing so we had some miles of just chatting and power hiking in front of us. The sun was getting higher and higher in the sky and I was slowing down with the heat. It’s really difficult for your body to manage your temperature the second day of an ultra, after the heat on day one, then the cool down over night the 2nd day heat was very hard to process. I’d run in spurts but then get to hot and have to dial it back. This was very common on all 29 miles that Sarah & I had together. It was easily manageable but just something that slowed us down considerably. Had day 2 temps been lower like we were expecting I think I could of rode that momentum I had early all through the day but that day two heat was very tricky. Sarah & I set the Course Record for the most well placed, good-spirited profanity ever, not only course but maybe world record as were completely rolling for many miles. For most all of these 29 miles the most sore I was from laughing and chatting than from running. I could write a book about these miles but I'll let the photos below do the talking. We came into a clearing just before mile 95 and I was like over this way Sarah & started just striding out to probably my fastest mile of the day. Everything looked great at this point, 5ish miles left and fresh as can be. I told my crew 1 hour and we'd be in. We left and boy did things change...
What is your pain level on 1-10? I'd say a 2...OMG Run!


laying down some speed at mile 95

Mile 90 refuel stop

mile 90 pee check... all clear!

5 miles left, we've done 95 & most all of those 95 have been great except for that 1 battle with heat exhaustion. This is going to roll by, we will start with this one big climb then roll from there in. The climb seemed to never end and for the first time in 40 miles brought my spirits down. We finally got to the top of it and the part we were going to blaze suddenly seemed un-runnable. Then I over extended my foot in a cattle guard and had this pain in my ankle, ugh more frustration. Then the bottom of my feet started feeling like I'd run on rocks for the last 30 hours, ugh what is going on. Here I am just 4 miles from the finish and I can’t run. Sarah helped me so much work through all this. I kept saying we had to have this, no way were the ultra-gods going to let us go through a 100 miler & 30 hours of trail time and not have a big struggle to have to work through, so we got it all in the last 4 miles. We hiked almost all of those last 4, even the last 1 that is sidewalk on the way back to Sturgis. I took off my shoes to try and help with the feet issues but really it was all mental, I let myself go there and I couldn’t' bounce back, I did a great job of staying mentally focused on the positive for 30 hours and I guess I just didn’t have the mental energy to stay there anymore. Regardless we met Crystal with a .25 mile to go and all ran in together.
Finishing this 100 mile was about so much for me. It was redemption. It was not giving up. It was never quitting. It was proving to myself that I do absolutely enjoy this sport and the time out here. That I can manage my body in a way that it takes me on the most amazing journeys imaginable. It was about connecting with amazing people & showing Kiera that enormous feats can be conquered when you just break them down. It was complete duckery but it was worth every second.
The most amazing crew &; pacers.


Until next time Black hills, Happy Trails.

Also a big thank you to my Mom, she is not pictured in any of my photos, she must have been the camera person but she was instrumental in all of this, at every aid station, rocking the crew chief roll with Kiera.

Ok that's a lot of screen time, I need a run....

Jeff