Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lean Horse 100

Then Nike frowned. Running was done.
Pain came to end the steady run.
Ares, though, refused to give up.
On my side he fought, past sunup,
Until the race was nearly done.

Cold hands warmed by a rising sun,
So the heart by views on the run.
So 'twas all day - walk then speed up.
Then Nike frowned.

Ah! She's mean, this capricious one!
First her strident call to action,
Then glimpses of the Victory cup.
Could I have seen 'twas a setup?
My mind's eye sought the play's curtain.
Then Nike frowned.

Date: Aug 25-26, 2007
Race: Lean Horse 100M
Location: Hot Springs, SD
Time: 25:39

What a fantastic race this was. I had one of the best races of my life, the last 22 miles notwithstanding. I got to meet a lot of amazing people and ran a race out of my comfort zone i.e. without friends, pacers or crew.

Thursday, Aug 23
I flew out of Oakland airport on the 2:00 p.m. flight. I had a connection to make in Denver, to Rapid City (South Dakota), at 9:45 p.m. and so had a few hours to kill in the airport there. I ate dinner (veggie burger) and had a tall beer that went down really well.

The 9:45 United Express flight did not board till 10:45 (they had over fueled the plane!). Don Lundell (http://www.zombierunner.com/) was on the same flight. As soon as we had buckled up, the pilot announced that we would be spending time on the tarmac since the landing lights in Rapid City had failed. One could hear the collective groan that went through the small plane.

The flight eventually took off at 11:30 p.m. and landed, without any further problems, at 12:15 a.m. The Hertz agent offered me a choice between a Suburban and a Toyota Sienna van. I chose the latter. I hit the road promptly and got on the phone to talk to my Mom in India. Hardly had the conversation started that the connection dropped. No signal. I found out later in Hot Springs that the only provider in that area is Verizon. Other cell phone users were out of luck.

I stopped a few miles outside Rapid City to buy some chocolate milk and potato chips (baked, naturally!) to quell the hunger pangs. I reached the Best Western Sundowner Inn in Hot Springs around 1:30 a.m. I saw 5 vehicles only during that 55 mile journey from Rapid City to Hot Springs. Some would call it the boonies. I call it wide open beautiful country.

I fell asleep at 2:15 a.m. after taking a quick shower and setting the alarm for 9:00 a.m.

Friday, Aug 24
I woke up promptly at 9 a.m. and went and ate a quick breakfast in the hotel. After that it was time to make the drop bags. Unfortunately I had forgotten to note the salt content of Heed and Perpetuem that I use these days for my races. Fortunately there was a computer in the lobby for public use that I promptly logged into.

After getting the information I wanted, I sent out an e-mail to my friends about the lack of cell phone coverage. Instead, I asked them to call the hotel room in case they wanted to wish me luck.

I deposited the drop bags in the Mueller Center (next door to the hotel) around noon and then went across the street to Pizza Hut. I ate a small veggie pizza and drank 2 small beers (needed to hydrate!!). I had them pack me, in foil, a small cheese pizza that I promptly went and deposited in my 50 mile drop bag.

After that it was back to the hotel for some more rest and then back to the Mueller Center for the RD, Jerry Dunn's, briefing. The 100 mile course was a new one this year. Instead of starting and ending at the George Mickelson trail head, the race was to start and end in town, right there behind the Mueller Center.

I sat with Don during this briefing. It was back to the room for more rest before heading to downtown Hot Springs to a restaurant called Flat Iron for the pasta feed. The food was good, especially the chocolate chip cookies. Don had come to Lean Horse to run with Lynn Newton and help him finish a 100 miler. Lynn, who wound up suffering debilitating back pain between miles 70 and 80 in previous attempts, was giving it another go. Such courage!!

I got back to the hotel soon after dinner and decided to hit the sack as soon as I could. I had spoken to Anu earlier in the day. The hotel phone rang for only the second time that day. It was Pallavi calling me to wish me good luck. Such wonderful friends I have!!

Saturday, Aug 25
Race day dawned nice and clear. There was a bit of a fog around but it was not cold. I started the race in a sleeveless orange running top with gray piping and gray shorts. A Cool Off bandana around the neck, an orange visor atop my head, Julbo sun glasses, orange Dirty Girl gaiters and 2 Amphipod bottles completed the picture. The "best dressed runner on the course today" was the remark by a passing runner 5 minutes into the race!

I spent the first 12 minutes walking. I wound up striking up a conversation with Lisa Weiss who spoke of her pelvic pain that might hamper her running that day. We had met in the Miwok 100K earlier this year in May. I wished her good luck and started running.

I espied a familiar figure ahead. Nattu Natraj, the only Indian to finish Badwater, two years in a row that too, had come up to me just before the start and introduced himself. He was in his trademark outfit - cap with cloth in the back that covered his neck, long sleeved shirt underneath a short sleeved one, double bottle waist pack and loose shorts. We struck up a conversation about his Badwater runs and wound our way to the first aid station. We soon made a left turn onto Argyle Road soon after the AS and it was a climb after that for the next many miles. Rolling hills, some with a decent grade, that caught most runners by surprise (I think). I had stopped to answer Nature's call and met a runner named Joe, from Salida (near Denver), who stated that I had sent him some information about ITB on the Ultra mailing list. We ran/walked for the next couple of miles in companionable conversation. He was doing his first 50 miler that day.

The views along this road were magnificent! Rolling hills going off into the distance. Small farmhouses, some yellow, some red, here and there with cattle dominating the landscape. It was a sight to warm the heart.

(Photo courtesy Don Lundell)

I passed Nattu on one of the climbs and he caught up with me on the next one. We rolled into the Argyle at Mickelson Trail AS (mile 16) together. I had been experiencing some irritation under my right foot for some miles now and Nattu was kind enough to give me some of his Hydropel cream. We continued running together after the AS.

The trail was flat and the surface just amazing. Crushed limestone made for wonderful footing. The trail was a result of the Rails To Trails project - unused railroad beds converted to trails.



We were in the Black Hills. This is where gold had been discovered more than a hundred and twenty years ago.The countryside was green wherever we looked. Nattu was using a 3 min run followed by a 2 min walk strategy. Not having any strategy of my own, I decided to go with him. He has run many more 100s than I have and if he was using it, it must work! It sure did as I found out later.

We breezed through the Pringle AS (mile 24), where I drank some more Ensure from my drop bag, and then on towards the Harbach one (mile 35.5).


(Approaching the Pringle AS. Photo courtesy Don Lundell)

I asked him to go ahead right after this AS as I wanted to walk 6 minutes straight to give my legs a break. I took the opportunity during that walk to set my own watch to a 3 min run+2 min walk timer.

The Harbach AS was another place where I availed of Ensure. I had been replenishing my hand bottle with the Heed+Perpetuem mixture in the aid stations with drop bags and that mixture proved to be the best thing for my nutrition, along with the Ensures.

The section after Harbach was really hot. It was nearing 3 p.m. and there was no shade along the route. I changed my timer to a slightly longer walk, i.e. 2.5 minutes, and used this to power my way to the 40 mile AS. I met 2 runners here. TJ and Stephanie. Stephanie looked worse for the wear. I gave her a few of my salt tablets since her face and shoulders had salt crystals aplenty. We soon came upon the part of the trail that winds its way past the Crazy Horse monument. That was one of the best sights in this beautiful race.

The trail, except for the slight climb to the 43 mile mark, the highest point in the race at 5800 feet, was quite flat. The run+walk strategy was still paying off so I decided to ride it for as long as I could.

The 50 mile turnaround came up at 11:31. I had planned for not more than 12 hours so I was making good time. I met TJ and Stephanie again at this AS. Nattu had left the AS. He was a mile or so ahead of me (I met him just before the turnaround). I spent 20 minutes at the aid station changing into warmer clothes and eating pizza.

I left at 12:06 into the race and promptly walked for 9 minutes. I had been meticulously following a 6-9 minutes walk every hour. I continued to use it. It seemed to help my legs recover and made the run+walk part much more enjoyable and easier.

I met Gene and Fahmida going the other way (towards the turnaround) and then Don and Lynn a little later. By now I had picked up my pace during the run part. I was flying! The race was beautifully marked with large mileage signs every 5 miles. 55 miles went by in a flash. As did mile markers 60 and 65. At the Harbach AS I used a kind volunteer's phone to call Anu and give her an update on my race. She was overjoyed and promptly sent out an e-mail to all our friends (I saw the e-mail later). I changed into slightly warmer clothing and left the AS as soon as I could.

Mile 70 was near an aid station and I did not linger long there.

I finally caught up with Nattu around mile 75. He was doing OK (as he stated). I wished him good luck and continued to run on into the Pringle AS at mile 76. The Ensure I downed there tasted a bit funny and I started feeling queasy a mile out of the AS. My left arch suddenly started hurting around mile 78 and I was forced to abandon the timer and resort to walking the rest of the way.

All along the race I had been trying to estimate a finish time for the race. The fast pace between 50 and 75 had given me visions of 24:30 or 24:40. The walking now changed the equation. I had somehow settled on 25:43. That figure had been repeatedly popping into my mind throughout the day. This was 3 hours faster than my previous best of 28:43, achieved in my first 100 miler, the 2006 Rio Del Lago race.

Ask the Universe for something and it delivers - my eventual finish time was 25:39!

The walking was now being done, despite the pain, at 16-17 minutes per mile pace. The mile markers were still rolling by albeit slower. I had not been able to eat anything since mile 76 owing to the queasiness.

Mile 80 went by in 19:18.

(Photo courtesy Don Lundell)

The 85 mile marker, after the Argyle Road at Mickelson Trail aid station (mile 84), took the longest in coming. I had taken a couple of No Doz pills by now in addition to a couple of Tylenols. I finally rolled into the 92 mile AS at 4:50 a.m. feeling a bit sleepy. I decided to take a 15 minute nap and asked the AS volunteer to wake me up. I could not sleep at all.

I decided to get off the lounge chair at 5:06 a.m. which is when Nattu came into the AS. He was down to walking too and we decided to walk it home together. Nattu is a fantastic runner. I am in awe of his achievements. In spite of all of his accomplishments, he is an extremely humble person. He rarely talks about himself. I, on the other hand, did nothing but talk about me! [ :) ].

We made it past the 96 mile AS and then into the last part through town. The only part we ran was the last 50 feet. We finished together in 25:39.

The volunteers were as good as any I've met in other races. They were always willing to go the extra yards to help the runners. Kudos to Jerry and his crew for putting up such a superb race. I hope this race becomes ever more popular.

I promptly went back to the hotel to sleep a few hours. Got up at noon, went back to the Pizza Hut for a quick beer and pizza before making my way back to the Mueller Center for the awards ceremony.

The belt buckle was superb!

It was back to the hotel for more sleep. Dinner was in the only Chinese restaurant in Hot Springs. I came back and packed my suitcases before hitting the sack.

I left Hot Springs at 7:30 a.m. to make it to the 10:00 a.m. flight out of Rapid City. The journey back was uneventful.

22 comments:

Eudemus said...

Awesome job, Rajeev. Truly awesome! That is such a great time. I really should try the run/walk thing, but it just doesn't seem to fit with my mental state. Congrats on a great finish at a course that many people said was harder than expected.

Quizman said...

Great job, Rajeev. Nice, detailed report that makes the reader feel that he/she was accompanying you.

Rajeev said...

Steve,

Thank you my friend. You are a runner I admire a lot. Fast and determined.

The weather was great and the course beautiful.

Good luck with your next race.

Rajeev

Rajeev said...

Arun,

Thank you my friend.

Rajeev

Rajeev Char said...

Another great race - another great report. Congrats! RDL <25 hours here you come...

Rajeev said...

Char,

Thanks my friend. We both had a fantastic weekend!

Rajeev

Mark Tanaka said...

Rajeev, Congrats on your new 100 mile PR even with the foot pain! I hope to see you at Rio again this year.

Rajeev said...

Mark,

Thank you! How are you doing? Any runs after Kettle Moraine? I'll definitely see you at RDL.

Rajeev

Nattu said...

Very nice report Rajeev. See you at RDL.

Nattu.

Rajeev said...

Nattu,

Thank you for stopping by! See you at RDL too. Good luck with your recovery from the pacing in Grand Teton this past weekend.

Rajeev

Peter Lubbers said...

Nice race report, Rajeev. Congrats on the new PR. It looks like you had a good strategy. See you soon,
Pete

Rajeev said...

Pete,

Thank you!

See you in Sierra Nevada/RDL. Good uck with that race.

Rajeev

hao said...

great job, rajeev. this is hao. it's great to read about a wonderful race like the lean horse. looking forward to see you in rio del lago.

cheers

hao

Rajeev said...

Hao,

Thank you very much for stopping by!! How have you been after the run in Cool?

I was so impressed with your story about your run from SJ to SF!

Along El Camino that too!!!

See you in RDL.

Rajeev

anil said...

Congrats Rajeev. Thats a one of a run. keep it up. you are closing it on sub 24hr.

I remember you telling, "I can run 50k all out, but you seemed to have jumped directly to 100M all out run!!"

Great going.

Anil

Nicole said...

Rajeev, what a performance! What an adventure too, going by yourself and to a beautiful sounding location. I really got a good sense of your experience through this post.

John and I are planning on running the Helen Klein in November, if my heel holds up.

Rajeev said...

Anil,

Thank you my friend. The race was indeed a wonderful one. The course was not as demanding as TRT or RDL so I could lay it on the line a bit more.

Let's have fun in RDL!!

Rajeev

Rajeev said...

Nicole,

Thank you for stopping by! It was indeed fun going up to SD for the race.

Hoping you make it to Helen Klein this year too. Good luck with the heel. Hope it heals soon.

Rajeev

Suraj said...

Great report Chief..Keep it going.

Rajeev said...

Suraj,

Thanks my man! Running any more barefoot races this year?

Anonymous said...

Rajeev, I didn't realize that you had actually just run Lean Horse when you mentioned it during our conversation this afternoon. Congratulations; you really seem to be on a roll. What's next? The Grand Slam next year? See you at Firetrails! Chris

Rajeev said...

Chris,

Thanks for stopping by. Lean Horse was fun. I would recommend that race to anyone who is willing to fly to SD.

See you Oct 13.

Rajeev