Saturday, June 24, 2017 was the Black Hills 100 race events. The course options are 100M, 50M, 50K and 30K. I signed up for the 30K. This would be my longest and no doubt, hilliest event ever. I think after the Maah Daah Hey Trail half marathon last year, I really wanted a taste of some more trails. The idea of a 30k terrified me but the fact it is in the Black Hills (which are about mountains to this flat lander) and I could make this into a weekend vacation was a strong draw.
This was my “A” event for the year. I wanted to finish this run and show myself I was capable. As usual, I really had no idea how to train for this or where to event start. I tried Googling a few 30k plans and didn’t see anything in line with what I thought I should be doing. So, I came up with my own plan. Twelve weeks of workouts dedicated to making me stronger and able to cross that finish line. With those goals, I laid out these plans:
- Run further
- Run more often
- Cross train with cycling/spin
- Dedicated body weight exercises 2x/week
- Incorporate trails and hills where possible
I had six days of dedicated workouts and generally one full day of rest or active recovery. My biggest concern was fitting in longer runs. I have a few half marathons under my belt but I don’t feel like I had strong finishes.
The good news is I have family who is there to always support me. My Mom, Dad, sister and I left Hazen on Friday, June 23 to go to Sturgis where we’d meet up with my Aunt and her husband. When we arrived (5 hour drive) I checked in easily, got my packet, went to eat and stayed at the local Days Inn which was close to the finish line/bus leaving area at Woodle Field. Generally, the night before an event I like to keep it easy, eat something not too unhealthy and have a few beers. Check, check and check. On the way down to Sturgis, I felt a tingle in my throat like I was maybe getting a cold so I took some Emergen-C as well.
Saturday morning seemed to drag on forever. Due to the time change (we gain an hour on the way there), I was up early and had ample time to eat and worry! That little tingle in my throat was still there but I felt OK. I took advantage of the continental breakfast and what I had brought with to eat a larger than usual breakfast. The race buses left at 8 and the run started at 9 (I usually run at about 4:30 a.m. on days I work). Due to the later time, I wanted to have some fuel in the tank. My ladies dropped me off for the bus and wished me well. I think they knew I was nervous.
The buses were full and I was happy to see two faces I knew. A married couple from a nearby town were doing this event. They had participated before so I quizzed them on any tips. They were gracious to answer me and calm my nerves. A young lady boarded the bus and asked to sit with me. I was too nervous to say anything to her. I would say about 15 minutes into the ride, I finally asked her if this was her first 30k/time doing the Black Hills. To my relief, she was super nice and fun to chat with. This was also her first 30k and longest distance so we had that in common. She was from central Nebraska and we easily chatted the rest of the way. Once we got to the trailhead area, we had some time to kill so chatted some more and met a few more people. The married couple introduced me to their friend Dave who would be instrumental in my finish. Little did I know!
From the website – here is what they say about the 30K:
Last but certainly not least is the 30K. Yeah, we know, technically a 30K isn’t an “ultra”, but it is a good starter distance for those runners who want to get out on the trails and are curious as to what the trail distance running thing is all about. This course is roughly 30K, give or take a km or two…us ultra runners have never really been that good at math. Overall, you’ll be losing elevation but be prepared for a few significant climbs along the way too.
A word of warning, don’t be deceived by the relatively gentle, rolling terrain of the Black Hills. While this course does not feature the lung searing elevations and jagged mountain peaks of some other western ultras, it is by no means an “easy” course. The best way to describe the Centennial Trail is “relentless”. The trail is almost constantly moving up or down. All of those climbs add up eventually, resulting in more elevation gain than you might expect from an ultra in South Dakota. It’s a challenging route, but also a very beautiful one. Make sure to take a look around while you’re huffing up one of the climbs!
This is already super long so I’ll break it up into another post. Be back in a few days! The photo above is me with my parents the night before the run.