The Black Hills, long a spiritual home of the Lakota people, stretch across southern South Dakota and Wyoming with proud granite faces that erupt from the spacious Great Plains. This produces two wonderful results for outdoor enthusiasts - valleys full of single track, creeks, and lakes worthy of a super-endurance event, and long, smooth roads for motorcycle cruising.
|(Nemo, SD, near Sturgis)|
|(I see myself on a Harley someday...)|
|(The Spearfish Canyon, photo courtesy of Steve Shames)|
|(Cruisin', photo courtesy of Jonco)|
|(Racer and crew, ready for the 50-miler)|
|(BGID - Beard Gettin' It Done)|
|(Billy sends us off with a prayer and song)|
|(...and we're off!)|
|(Just follow the Centennial Trail and you can't go wrong)|
We refueled at the first aid station (mile 6), and dashed under the highway before escaping into the aspen trees for the next climb. The trails were wonderful! Plenty of shade with lots of steady grade switchbacks. If you listen close, the aspen leaves applaud you! (ha, ha) We had a group of five runners fairly close, including Naoki Ouchi from Japan taking more pictures than I was.
|(Lush trails, covered in aspen trees)|
|(I was wondering how we were going to cross the Highway)|
|(The Bulldog trail angel sets us up)|
|(So far, so good!)|
|(The Black Hills get their name from the black trees)|
|(Gorgeous views...the iPhone w/Instagram ain't bad!)|
|(Max and Stephen find some shade to regroup)|
|(Jeff crushes some single track)|
|(Sharing the road)|
|(Grinding the hot uphill)|
|(More yummy trails)|
|(Silver City, here we come!)|
About half of the runners coming in were dropping, while the others pointed to the sun in its downward arc in the sky and said the worst was over. John Horns got out quickly (he would end up getting 2nd place in 21:25 - a negative split!), as did Olga King who came in first Woman (and would finish first Woman, 26:11). Max S refused to give up, no matter how long it took, and was soon on his way (he would finish in 30 hrs), while Bill Geist took a full shower before hitting the road home (he would get 7th in 26:30). Stephen Young was done after duking it out for 11 hours - definitely not his day.
I took a second pee with similar results, and decided it wasn't enough to risk that something bigger might be amiss. Alas, a rare DNF. I kept replaying the story in my head of how I would explain to my wife that I peed blood and kept going...not sure if that story ends well if I finished or not. ;-) The likely culprit was the Harley that shook my organs until they settled like sand, my lack of heat acclimation and long run training, or not being smart enough to bring a hydration option bigger than two bottles. I took solace knowing I had seen the whole course, and my legs had held up well. Given the smile on my face, this day couldn't possibly be chalked up as a disappointment. All in all, a worthy adventure.
|(Women's winner, Olga King)|
|(In case you were wondering how tough Olga is...here's her right foot at the finish)|
|(Jeremy Bradford gives a noogie to his 1st place trophy)|
As I congratulated those who finished the next morning, we all marveled at the amazing volunteers, ample food and water, and gorgeous trails. I don't see any need to market this race as an alternative to Western States - it stands up just fine all by itself. My thanks to the RD's, the great volunteers, the boys at Rapid City Harley-Davidson, and the good people of South Dakota for their hospitality. My soul has been awakened, and my smile hasn't left my face. I will certainly return!