Race Reports

Lean Horse 100

Lean Horse 100

Well I won’t put any suspense into this blog piece and many of you that know me already know the result so I will tell you that I have felt like I am on top of the world for the last week. Not only did I complete my first 100 mile race, I finished in 19:01:12 good enough for fourth place overall out of 116, and second in my age division. As many of my readers know I have been training for a year and a half for a 100 mile race and my goal started out as sub 24 hours, then as the training progressed went to sub 20 hours, so to finish an hour ahead of my projection couldn’t have felt any better, well besides the first time I got to sit down in a chair after running for 19 straight hours. This was a day filled with awesome memories, good luck at times, a great crew, and pure elation when I crossed that finish line.

Lean Horse is a different course than most of the races I have run as it is relatively flat in nature and only has 7825 feet of vertical gain over the 100 mile course. I usually like to subject myself to that kind of climbing over 26 miles but this was a great race for a first time 100 mile runner. We arrived in South Dakota last Thursday and to my surprise I actually was not sure if we had just landed in Kansas or if this was what South Dakota looked like. I kept reading about the Black Hills and in my mind I picture these expansive mountain formations similar to what we have in Arizona but the land in more rolling hills and there are mountains in the Black Hills but they don’t take over the skyline like they do at home. We drove from Rapid City to a small town of 4500 people called Hot Springs where my crew, and other running friends Deb Hamberlin, Mark Hellenthal, and Lori Hickernill made our HQ in a large two story ranch out in the middle of a 500 Acre parcel of open land. The views were fantastic and the only thing around as far as the eyes could see are Horses, cows, burro’s and a few other houses. We checked into our house and laid out all of our running supplies and spoke of the upcoming weekend with great expectations. My friends did not want to get bullish with their time predictions for the race and just kept telling me it’s a long day and they just want to finish the race. I knew it was going to be a long day and night but I kept telling myself to shake the nerves and this is what I have been training for and I am ready. I can go sub 20, I am prepared. Endurance races are extremely hard mentally and it is always important to stay positive and keep your focus. I know that once the focus is gone, the race is over. I was not trying to win this race, I was just trying to finish what I thought was the impossible just two years ago.

This race started Saturday morning at 6:00 am from Hot Springs, SD and would take us to Hill City, SD, and then back. 85 percent of the race takes place on the George Mickelson trail which is a rail to trails project that the state has done a magnificent job on. This trail runs the entire distance from Hot Springs to Hill City and it is one of the best surfaces I have ever run on. Normally that would not be saying much because I usually run on rocky terrain but this was just awesome. We got the early directions from the race director and with a quick hug and kiss for my wife and a last minute motivational talk by my brother in law Kevin Conte, I was off. I had some nerves until they said go but as soon as he did I quickly settled down and tried to focus on the task at hand. I kept telling myself that no one will control my pace, I control it myself. I would meet my wife Traci and brother in law for the first time at the 16.9 mile mark and I had told them to expect me to arrive around 9:15 local time. The only issue was that I was feeling great and we were running on a pretty flat trail so I knew I was going to be faster than expected but I didn’t imagine being so far ahead of pace that it would make me nervous I was going to fast early. The first two aid stations were at the 5 and 11 mile markers and I blew right through them without stopping because I had plenty of water still and the temperature was only around 80 degrees. Pretty nice compared to Phoenix in August. After the 10 mile aid station we hit a slight downhill section that would carry us into the 16.9 mile aid station where I had told myself would be my first stop and a good place to eat for the first time. I looked down at my watch and it said 10 after 8 and as I looked back up one of the 125 residents of Pringle, SD greeted me with a cow bell and said welcome to Pringle. Wow I had made it the first 16.9 miles an hour ahead of schedule. My wife handed me a turkey sandwich, changed out my EFS bottles and off I went again. I told her to meet me next around mile 28 so I could settle into a rhythm again. I was feeling great and my energy level was up and as I finished the first of my four marathons for the day I had just ran it in 3:42. That is not by any means a fast time if you are running a marathon, but since I was running four it was an awesome time. I got to the 28.4 mile aid station, and decided it was time to get in some extra calories. This was possibly my only mistake of the day because I tried to cram 1000 calories into one aid station stop. I had downed an Ultragen (320 calories, a liquid shot 400 calories, and then tried to take down a Red Bull for energy 210 calories) and the result was one full stomach. Now the Ultragen and EFS shots didn’t seem to be the problem but the addition of the sweet Red Bull put my stomach over the edge. This section would be an out and back for 1.75 miles each way before returning to the trail. I wasn’t a huge fan of this part of the course as we left the Mickelson Trail and had to head out on to the sidewalks through town to make sure at the end of the day the mileage worked out to be 100. When I got up the first hill I could feel the sloshing in my stomach and I leaned over the bridge hoping to get it out but nothing came out. Maybe lucky, maybe not. I slowly shuffled through this section and on my way back I passed the first female and about 2 miles behind her was my good friend Deb. We gave each other some words of encouragement and I told her she is only two miles back of the leader. Deb looked unbelievable at this point and one would have thought she just started running 5 minutes ago. I on the other hand was still struggling with an over abundance of fluids.

After seeing Deb come through my mindset quickly changed back to positive thoughts and I was extremely happy that she was so close to one of the premier female runners on the course. You see Deb has been suffering through some nagging injuries lately that have caused her to not perform at the level we are used to seeing, but there was no sign of injury when I saw her there. My focus remained strong and I rolled through a few more aid stations before picking up my pacer Kevin Conte at mile 47.9. Normally in a race you have to wait till the 50 mile mark for a pacer but because of logistics they allowed one a little earlier. Kevin and I had a brief talk on how I was feeling and what I would need for the next 5 miles and we were off. I told Kevin to feed me a Tums every 15 minutes and even if I say I don’t want it, make me take one down. This was a life saver and by the 50 mile mark I had not only set a new PR at 8:22 minutes but I was feeling great again. This was Kevin’s first pacing experience and first Ultra experience so he had no idea what to expect, but after the first mile you would have thought he has been doing this forever. We exchanged stories, talked some football, had a few laughs, I whined a little, and he set the rules. The rules were that complaining is okay as long as we were running but as soon as we started walking I wasn’t aloud to complain. That was a motivating factor in itself to run just so I could tell him about my leg cramps.

Well the race really started at mile 52.9 when I picked up my good friend and speed demon Tere Zacher. You see Tere is probably the most competitive person I know besides myself and before I could even say Hi to her she was telling me what place I was in, where other runners were, and where we need to be by the time we finish the next 11 miles. I kept saying slow down Tere, it is a long race and I have all day to catch these people in front of me. Tere doesn’t take kindly to that and that just puts her in another gear. We settled into a 10 minute per mile pace for the slow climbing portion of the race and then something funny happened. We came out of the rocks, crossed a few bridges and I told Tere to turn around and check out George Washington’s face at Mt. Rushmore. It was quite the view I thought and I was enamored with the beauty of our surroundings but there was only one issue. What I thought was Washington was the Crazy Horse Monument and we were well over 30 miles from Rushmore but she was nice enough to let it play out. For the next 5 miles I kept telling her how cool it was and I wish I had my camera but it wasn’t until two days later that she told me that she didn’t have the heart at the time to tell me that was Crazy Horse and I must be really stupid since we crossed the entrance to the monument and I still called it Washington. Maybe you had to be there or if you have ran a long race before you know things tend to look a little different after 60 plus miles.

Miles 60-72 seemed to clip off fairly quickly as Kevin and I made up ground on a few runners in front of me and I was even able to keep solid food down. I would complain a little, walk a little, and then notice Kevin jogging next to me continuously looking at his watch saying we better run this section. I kept saying it’s no hurry, we will catch that guy but I think he was secretly worried about what Tere told him at the last aid stop. She had told him to run along side of me even when I was walking to encourage me to pick up my feet and go. They had a plan to not let me exceed 11.5 minute miles during this section so I could make up lots of ground. I picked up Tere again at mile 75 and right out of the aid station I passed the fourth place runner and that was all she wrote for him. I could see the despair on his face as he was slightly ahead of me all day but he was getting sick and his legs were telling him to sit down. At this point I wasn’t even allowed to stop at the aid stations but was told by my wife, Tere, and Kevin to walk through the aid stations, throw them my empty bottles and they will bring me full ones. When we finished this section it was pitched black outside and there were shooting stars all over the place taking my attention away from the run but I had the worst stretch of the run coming up from miles 83.4-95.1.

Oh the dreaded Argyle Road section. I had been thinking about how bad it was going to be to do this section of country road all day and now I was here. I had Kevin grab me some espresso beans and potatoes with salt and we were off down the lonely road. I had a big lead on the guy I had passed miles before so I told Kevin I needed to take my time. We were told this section would be all rolling hills with a net 1500 foot decent. I am going to call BS on the decent because we were always going uphill and it never seemed to end. We would shuffle the flats, run the downs, and walk the ups to maintain pace and try to get off this road. We tried entertaining ourselves with jokes and yelling at imaginary wildlife but we had both had it by the time mile 95.1 rolled around. This section took us 2.5 hours to complete and it was good that I had spared lots of time earlier in the race.

Mile 95.1 was so welcoming because we left the road and headed up a rocky trail and to the last aid station. I grabbed some chips, took a shot of Mountain Dew and said lets finish. I just want to sit down. There was one issue. My shins and ankles hurt so bad I could barely form a shuffle. My pacers didn’t want to hear it so it was from this point forward that I ran with them about 50 yards ahead of me. I just tried to concentrate at this point and not tear up as I knew I was almost done but it was hard for me to fight back tears as I kept saying this is for you “T”. If you have been reading my blogs since the beginning you know that I started running when my Dad Tom passed away at the early age of 59 from a pulmonary embolism just two weeks after a trip we had just taken as a family to Hawaii. The last four miles was through the town of Hot Springs and we weaved our way through the city asking a motorcyclist how we get to the Dairy Queen which was our landmark next to the finish line and the miles seemed to go very quickly. I looked up with a 1/2 mile to go and the clock read 12:56 am, my hopes of sub 19 were all but out the window and I yelled to Tere and Kevin, “I just need a moment, leave me alone.” Tere said come on, you are almost done and they kept running which prompted me to yell that they are the worst pacers ever and this is not suppose to be a fun run for them, they are suppose to be running with me. That didn’t happen as they continued to run in front and motivate me to finish. We rounded the corner and saw the Dairy Queen and from there we were near the finish. We followed the glow sticks and there was the finish. Tears ran down my face as I heard “come on Danek”, and Tere and Kevin moved out of the way so I could sprint to the finish. I sprinted and as I looked at the finishing clock it read 19:01:12. Had I not taken my moment I would have been sub 19, the clock in the city was fast and I threw in the towel early. I can honestly say I didn’t care and I could see the emotions on my wife, Tere, and Kevin’s face as they knew I had just done something special and they were an enormous part of it. I had finished my first 100 mile race in fourth place, with a finisher’s time of 19:01:12 and I was ecstatic.

So what happened to my friends in the race? As I had thought Deb was running the race of her life and feeling good all day. My crew would go back and assist her at the aid stations after I came though and keep her motivated. Kevin decided he hadn’t had enough fun for one day and even though he had ran 33 miles so far he wanted to bring Deb home. Kevin met her at mile 95.1 and paced her in for the last four miles. I think his presence lifted her up and she knew she was about to do something special. We all gathered at the finish line and at 2:30 Deb came across that line and was the first female to finish. First place in only her second 100 mile race ever! She was truly awesome all day and the second female was now over an hour back. Mark also had the day of his life and at 5:45 am he crossed the finish line for his first sub 24 hour finish with Lori by his side. Lori had to drop earlier in the race due to injury but she sucked it up later and brought her friend home for a great finish. That is what an ultra runner is all about, it’s not about your time but about the people we run with. The ultra community is different in that we all want everyone to accomplish the ultimate goal of finishing.

4th Place Overall Finisher Trophy and Buckle





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This post was written by:

- who has written 22 posts on Trail Running Club.


Started running for the first time in my life three year's ago after losing my Dad to a pulmonary embolism at the age of 58 and since he began running he has lost close to 100 pounds. On 9/23/2012 Jay finished a running streak of 923 Consecutive days with at least 4 miles while compiling over 9,400 miles with 975,000+ feet of elevation gain and completed 15 Ultra's in honor of his Dad who passed away on 9/23/2008. Jay holds a Bachelor's Degree from Michigan State University in Crop and Soil Sciences.

Jay's recent trail ultra running results:

• 13th OA at San Diego 100M in 22:01:26
• 10 Top Ten Ultra Finishes in 14 races
• 4th overall at Lean Horse 100 in 19:01:12
• 9th overall at Javelina Jundred in 2011 in 18:28:26
• 100K Javelina Night Run Champion in 2011
• Cave Creek Thriller 50K Champion in 2010
• Runner up in 2011 DRT Ultra Series

2013 Race Schedule includes:
• Castle Hot Springs 22M
• Phoenix Marathon
• 3 Days of Syllamo
• Miwok 100K
• Speedgoat 50K
• Pike's Peak Marathon
* Mogollon Monster 100

Jay Danek is sponsored by iRun Honey Stinger



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