I’m a bit behind in the posts but I’m trying to catch up. This is from July 28, 2012. The Black Hills have a good series of races going on and a friendly community. Race pictures and information can be found here: http://www.bhrctrails.com/crow-peak
Spearfish Canyon, SD
July 28, 2012
I awoke in the spacecruiser parked in a vacant, gravel, trail head parking lot. When I drove in last night, I was unsure this was the start of the Crow Peak Ascent race. There were no signs that this would be the site of a bunch of trail runners in the hours to come. Slowly, about an hour before the start, vehicles began to show up. Concessions and operations were set up and folks quietly went about there business as the coffee kicked in and socializing became comfortable. I paid the nice lady for registration as more runners trickled in and I saw a few familiar faces from the Heart of the Hills race and Poverty Gulch.
The air was still muggy from recent rains and was warming up as the 9 AM start approached. Race strategy is still foreign to me. Some how I ended up at the front of the pack for the start and I thought to myself, what am I doing in the front. My plan was to run as well as I could and let the rest fall into place but I didn’t want to be trampled by the stampede behind me.
We took off after the countdown from the race director, ran a few hundred feet down the road and filed into the single track on our way up. I was about six or seven runners from the front. I ran close behind two guys, one in a running kilt, for most of the way up until the long switchbacks began. I was pleased that the first half of the climb was much more gradual than I had anticipated but then the switchbacks began. I geared down and kept chugging upward, pacing off of the two in front. However, I could see they were starting to struggle. At the turn of one of the switchbacks was a steep rocky section for about a hundred feet or so. The two in front immediately took to hands on the knees. I took the opportunity to take a few lunges and pass them both. I was feeling the climb already but these lunges almost killed me. Fortunately, straight ahead was a gradual declining straight away to get the breathing back and take a sip from the bottle I was unsure about carrying. Now I was thankful for the small sip. I kept chugging on the climb and could really feel the humidity in the air. The air felt so heavy when taking in the short breaths. Near the top was a tunnel of thick vegetation that put a tight, heavy squeeze on the lungs. Felt like running through a sauna.
Four people passed by me on the way down. Phil was in the lead as I figured he would since he trains on this course all the time. Dave was the only person that passed me on the climb and wasn’t too far ahead when I turned around at the summit sign and took another swig from the bottle. It was time to put that funny little rudder on the Altra Lone Peaks to work and bomb this mountain. I really didn’t know how fast I could run down hill or if I could catch anyone or care too much since I was in fifth place. However, I caught back up to Dave rather quickly and then surprisingly passed the third place runner. I couldn’t believe I was actually in third place. I kept going down, down and down at a pretty good clip, narrowly avoided tripping and planting on my face several times. I just kept telling myself to keep the toes up and let gravity take me down. Near three quarters of the way down my quads really start to feel like mush. I’d heard stories of this but personally had never experienced this sensation. With each turn I expected the finish line but the trail kept going and the legs kept quivering. Then I heard another’s feet pounding behind me. It was Dave! He had caught up. I was hoping to ease off a bit and cruise into the finish but now I had to race. The sound of Dave behind me really kept me pushing on to the finish and third place. I realized I do have a little bit of the competitive spirit.
I came out of the trail head gate in 57:29. I was pleased to have finished under my goal of 60 minutes and was pleasantly surprised to have gotten third. Dave came in about 30 seconds afterward. He had seemed a lot closer on the trail. I asked him why he had to make me run so hard. He replied that he was glad I hadn’t been behind him! Some real racing felt good.
My splits were: 3.5 mile climb in 37 min and 3.5 mile descent in 20:30.
Can’t wait to get back out here next summer. The Black Hills are so great for running and have a bunch of races including the Black Hills 100 that I hope to complete some day.