The Connection Runners + [running man]

Black Hills 100 Race Report: DNF

The Black Hills are stunning. The course that snakes through the hills is magnificent: it is hilly, challenging, semi-technical and extremely runnable. If you're interested in doing a 100 mile race, or a 100K or 50M, consider the Black Hills race. It is well run and well marked with great aid and friendly staff/volunteers. It also has the "small race" aesthetic, the hallmark of this sport.

And with all of this said, I did not have a good race. I went out conservatively, as I planned, and then I fell apart. The first few miles are hilly and gentle. Nothing very eventful happened during the first sections of the race. I sat back and enjoyed the early morning run with the other nuts who were in for an arduous day. I felt good until the weather started warming up around mile 15.

(Kieran, Me, and Bryan - pre-race photo)

I saw my crew at mile 17, Elk Creek Aid, and Kieran asked how I was. I responded "it's hot." This is an indication of how things would go. Miles 17-23 were very warm and I started feeling faint. I figured it was early in the race, so I sat at mile 23 aid, Crooked Tree, and recouped. I realized I'd loose a lot of time doing so, but given the heat it would be good to take the time to cool off. I spent close to 30 minutes talking to the volunteers and drinking ice water before heading out.

I left Crooked Tree and was moving well, but it was getting hotter. The run from Crooked Tree to Dalton Lake, mile 29 aid, was beautiful, with expansive vista views of mountains and valleys. But with ridge line views of valleys, came the valleys. The trail dropped down and snaked through some exposed, stifling hot areas. At mile 29, Kieran asked how I was and I responded "I can't believe I've only run 29 miles." I was moving well, but I felt like I'd already run 65 or 70 miles. Mechanically, everything was working, so I figured I just needed to cool off.

My crew, Bryan Williams and Kieran McCarthy, cooled me off and they sent me on my way. I was getting into the groove when I started becoming nauseous at mile 33 or 34 - like clockwork. During my last few races, I've gotten sick around this point and then struggled to the finish. So I wasn't entirely surprised that this happened. But I was hopeful that it would be different this time around - I had some positive test results the week before showing that my micro-nutrient levels were in the normal-ish range (an improvement over where they had previously been).

I made it to mile 36, Nemo Aid, and sat and cooled off. While there, I tried eating a few ginger chews, which immediately made a reappearance. I ate a few pieces of fruit, and with some encouragement from Kieran and Bryan, I headed back out. Everything seemed to be going fine and I was hopeful that I was rebounding. My legs weren't too sluggish, I wasn't feeling all that hot, and I was moving well. Half-way to the next aid station, I ate a gel and a few salt tabs, which promptly returned. I was only a mile or so from the next aid station, so I ran it in. The running felt good and smooth, but my stomach was in shambles.

(Looking how I was feeling at Nemo Aid, mile 36)

I made it to Pilot Knob, mile 43 aid, frustrated and disappointed. I wasn't too hot, but I couldn't keep anything down. At this point, gels, shot blocks, &c sounded unappealing. Bryan handed me a 1/4 of a grilled cheese sandwich and I was starving so I scarfed it down. I ate another 1/2 and thought that maybe it would stay down. I jogged out of the aid station, thinking positive thoughts, reminding myself that these races are hard, not for the faint of heart, I have suffered worse &c &c.

I ran for a mile or mile and a half and ejected the sandwiches and drink I had put down at Pilot Knob. The next aid station was Silver City, still 5 miles off. I decided to slow and see if I could focus on hydration. My water bag was filled with a powder-energy drink and every sip I took made my stomach turn. Eventually, I felt bad enough that I stopped drinking. I walked the uphills, ran (shuffled) the downhills and finally made it to Silver City where I threw in the towel.

By the time I dropped, I felt like I'd run out of options. From miles 29-50, the only calories I ingested were the ones I was able to digest before I threw up the bulk of the food I swallowed, which wasn't enough. During these miles, I became weaker despite my legs moving fine.

Even though I dropped, I have no regrets about dropping. Certainly, I wish I could have kept more food down, raced better, and finished. But that wasn't possible. Even with help from a fantastic crew, there was nothing I could do to continue.

I did have a good weekend. I made some friends on the course (I think they pitied me and thus befriended me), I saw a great area of the country, I saw Jeremy Bradford - a Denver runner (cyborg) and friend - win, PR and set a new course record, and I learned more about myself. I'm frustrated with my performance and my physiology, both of which remain befuddling. I had hoped I could turn things around this race. As mentioned, I had positive test results that I took as a good sign. I'm not so naive as to think I'd have perfect results, but I was naive to the point where I thought I'd be able to hold it together for 100 miles.

I was wrong. I am going to take some time away from racing and training to get healthy with the thought that, at some point in the future, I will be able to enjoy running long distances. Although I don't know what is preventing me from eating while running, I know that I can't run long distances if I can't eat. As a result, I'm going to cancel the races I'm signed up for. I'm 8th on the waitlist for Hardrock. As much as I want to be out there, as much as I want to test myself against the elements, and as much as I want to hang out with my friends as we traipse through those amazing mountains, I don't want to take a spot that someone else could use. I'm also signed up for Angeles Crest, my HR back-up, which I'm going to drop from. Someday I hope to be back, but I don't think it'll be for sometime. I'm not quitting running. I am, for the time being, quitting racing and training.

So if you're up for a slow jog, hike, bike, or whatever, let me know. If I'm feeling up for it, maybe I'll join you. In the meantime, get out and enjoy your pursuits.