Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mickelson Trail Trial by Fire

Trying to find a way to describe this run has been difficult. I struggled with the title for this blogpost. I thought of Ed's quote: "A walk in the park, that sucks", or Double Mick 218, Team Chickengizzard 163. Or something like that.

In a nutshell, it was such a great experience in terms of learning, and a great run considering how hard we struggled to get through each long day, and it turned out successful in the end:

We had fun, we never yelled at each other, we were able to meet each challenge as it came up and figure out solutions to the many unanticipated problems we had, got some good time and miles on our feet in the heat, saw the Black Hills up close, and now consider ourselves experts on running the Mickelson Trail.

Experts enough to be able to figure out how to do it self-supported next time. Except we don't really have a next time in mind...and I doubt we ever will. I certainly don't foresee it.

I originally thought of doing this thing solo. I'm glad I didn't, because there was hardly ANYONE out on the trail and it would have been really...boring. Yes, I would have been bored. The scenery is pretty, but the trail itself is really boring. I don't know any other way to describe it.

Don't get me wrong. It's a beautiful area, it's worth seeing, and definitely worth doing the entire thing once, but...

The surface has no variation, just finely groomed gravel, a lot of it is exposed with no shade, and the biggest thing that drove me crazy was having milemarkers every single mile, so you'd get fixated on the next milemarker. You always knew where you were. There are no big climbs or descents to look forward to. Everything is a 3% grade at the most.

I run Badwater, and that's all exposed asphalt in the desert. But it's different. Completely different. Badwater has it's own unique character that makes it unboring. It's the epitome of anti-boring. It has hills. It has flats, it has killer heat. And it has it's own extreme set of challenges.

In another nutshell, we ended up bagging our plans to double by the second day, because doing it self-supported in 5 days was simply impossible for human beings of our running ability. If we were both superfast elite runners it would have been possible. But we're not, and we're human, and we need things like sleep, food, ice, and so on.

I had originally planned to do it solo, and I had 9 days off work. Once Ed said he would join me, I knew I could count on him, and we began making plans to use the Rocket. So I never made an effective solo plan. I'm sure I would have needed the whole 9 days for that.

But then Dale offered to crew before I finished planning for a Rocket Run, so I planned for a crewed run instead. And then crazy things happened this spring, life got busy, and by the time I had it all figured out for Dale to crew us, I had abandoned the plans for both a solo and Rocket run.

And then just as it was time to go, the High Park fire happened, Dale had to back out because of the fire in case he needed to evacuate, and there we were with a plan that didn't really fit, and I hadn't made a backup plan.

Being the strongheaded stubborn ultrarunners that we are, we decided to go ahead and make the best of it.

So we did it by the seat of our pants. In order to do the entire double self-supported we needed at least one more full day of running, and maybe two. A day and a half longer would hhave been perfect. But we didn't have it by that point, and we just did the mileage we could.

But it was exhausting and the cumulative effect was apparent daily, as we had little time to sleep and absolutely no time to relax. As a result our mileage got shorter and shorter each day, but the length of time on the trail didn't get much shorter. In the end, we got 163 miles total, and doubled on almost half the trail, giving us "a Mick and a half", which we feel very proud of. And I don't regret not doing the other parts as a double because they sucked.

Again, don't get me wrong, the trail was nice, the scenery was awesome, but, as I described above, boring, as described by Ed's hit the nail on the head quote: "A walk in the park, that sucks".

On the Mickelson my favorite part was the north end, from about where the tunnels started, from Mystic to Deadwood was nice, the northern 35-40 miles. That was worth doubling, and we did double the entire way from Rochford to Deadwood, as well as the Custer to almost Minnekahta section at milepost 23.

So here's the breakdown, day by day, and what we learned.

The Day Before

Thursday the 14th Ed drove to my house and we decided which coolers we needed and took off in both of our vehicles. We decided we were going to need to do car drops once we didn't have Dale to help us. It's only a 4 1/2 hour drive from Fort Collins to Custer. But we stopped along the way to check out the southern end of the trail, Edgemont, Pringle, and points in between.

The air wasn't too bad that morning in Fort Collins, but the wind can shift and it can go from clear to no visibility and raining ash within a few hours. I was concerned about the fire, not only because of Dale, but also several people I know who were closer to the fire and did get evacuated.

In Edgemont we stopped at the city park to see the south end of the Mickelson Trail and the only person at the park was a big guy on a lawnmower. It was hard to figure out where the trail was, since the milepost 0.0 was on the sidewalk. We assumed it took off through the park so we checked out this old railroad bridge there and found we were not on the trail. No one was around, so we asked Lawnmower Man. He didn't know either!

You'd think in a town as small as Edgemont, with not much else going on, a local would at least know where the Mickelson Trail was. So we started driving back to head toward Custer and we found the signs in town, then it made sense. The last mile of the trail goes down the main street in town.

We arrived in Custer mid-afternoon, and checked into the Rocket Motel. It looks like a cheesy little 1950's style place. The letters on the door to the office said, "Rockin with Jesus".

The room was tiny, but very clean, just barely enough walking space around the beds, and a litle bathroom. The room had a microwave and a fridge. But that was all we needed. The beds were small, and my feet hung off the edge, so I can only imagine what it was like for Ed. But he said he's used to it.

When I checked my phone in Custer I had an e-mail message from my friend Troy who had been evacuated due to the fire, I had called him before I left town a couple of times and didn't hear anything and I was a little concerned. He was letting me know he was okay. He didn't sound okay in his message though, he sounded stressed out, so I was worried about him. I called him and got a hold of him, and then I was less worried, but it was still in the back of my mind. We talked for a while and then Ed and I had to hit the road.

It was hard to get reliable cell phone service. You'd be in town and it was fine, but the minute you got out of the downtown area, it was unpredictable. Sometimes it worked, but mostly it didn't. That presented a challenge for calling Dennis, since I wanted to call him when we could talk, but often I wouldn't get into town until so late that he was already asleep because he had to work in the morning. So I would text him instead.

We looked at the maps, talked strategy, and decided to go drive up to the north part of the trail to see what we were facing in terms of car drops and driving. So we got in Ed's car and drove to Deadwood, checking out the trailhead at Mystic along the way.

Driving to the Mystic trailhead was a long detour off the main highway, and the road was under construction. Most of it was a dirt Forest Service road. Some parts were paved, but not much. There was a lot of dust, but the traffic wasn't bad.

We backtracked to Hill City and took highway 385 to Deadwood. There we found our hotel for Friday night, the Best Western, and the north end of the Mickelson. The drive was really pretty, but long. I wasn't impressed with Deadwood, but then I'm not into motorcycles, smoking, or gambling. Seemed like that's all we saw people doing. We did not see very many people on the trail at all.

We drove back to Custer and it was already late, and we planned to be up at 4:30 to get our act together and hit the trail by 5:30 or 6 the next morning. We found a place to eat, and went back to the Rocket to organize our stuff. We hit the grocery store and I asked how late they were open. Nine o'clock. Just like the restaurants.

We decided it would be bettter not to spend a night in Edgemont on Sunday, as we planned, and stay at the Rocket instead. That way we'd have a home base. That would at least minimize some of the work each night and day of dragging stuff in and out of the room. We checked on our reservations and were able to make this work, so we kept the same room. The people at the Rocket were really nice.

Speaking of Rockets, we had Rocket with us in case we needed a way to carry ice on long stretches of trail. But being uncrewed made it necessary to do car drops, which eliminated the need for the Rocket. We took him just in case the temperatures got extreme, but we ended up just using large running packs and poor Rocket just stayed in the car. I'll use him on self-supported runs in the future, though.

I made a list of the things I thought I would need to do each night and each morning to get ready, because I knew as the days went on, it would be harder to think clearly, and it always sucks when you forget something important, it can really screw up your day!

After the drive to Deadwood, I was thinking, it is going to be a bitch to get everything done and have time to sleep, plus getting food, gas, ice, groceries, or whatever else we needed before things closed. I didn't verbalize this to Ed. I thought, we'll see how it goes. I thought, maybe it won't be bad after we finish the day in Deadwood, because then we'd be back at the Rocket.

Day 1

Friday morning we woke up at 4:30, got our act together, checked out of the Rocket since we were staying in Deadwood that night, and dropped my Rav 4 off down the road at Pringle, and then came back in Ed's Forerunner and parked at Harbach Park, the Custer trailhead at milepost 44.5, and got going at 6 am sharp.

This is the middle section of the Mickelson Trail, and a lot of it is exposed, but it does pass by a lot of pretty meadows. It was hot, and Ed was trying to figure out what would work for his feet, since he's been having some heel problems. We got to Pringle, got stuff out of the coolers in my car, and went into a local bar a block away that sold ice, and topped off the ice in the cooler, which was melting fast.

Then we did the lower section and turned around at milepost 23. That was hot and desolate. On the way back up, we passed the Lime Kiln again, and Ed was overheating. I was starting to worry. If Ed was having problems with the heat, and his feet, and it's only Day 1, what would the rest of the trail do to us? And I knew we were going to be short on time.

I was walking my fast powerwalk, and Ed was needing to run to keep up with me. I was trying to conserve my energy in the heat, and I can walk forever, but running in the heat is really taxing. Ed took a little break in a shaded area and then he seemed to be doing better.

All afternoon I struggled to get my head in the right place. I felt this huge distraction. So many things felt unsettled. Underneath it all was doubt that it was going to be possible for us to pull off a double, after seeing all we had to do to sustain ourselves on a daily basis. I was also thinking about Dennis, and the girls, and the fire, and my friends who were affected by the fire, and I felt like I really didn't want to be where I was at the moment.

I felt extremely unenthusiastic. I didn't say any of this to Ed, but now I know he was thinking similar thoughts. As we walked along in a particularly hot section with no shade, I asked him what he thought of it so far.

He replied, "It's a walk in the park, that SUCKS!"

By the time we got back to my car at Pringle, Ed was getting a blister, so I grabbed my foot kit, but I was unable to think. Then I realized I need to eat more. Once I got a few calories in, I was able to help Ed. I put some Hydropel on the hot spot on his foot, and taped over it with Kinesio tape. Then I did the other foot the same way.

We took a long break at Pringle and then started heading toward Custer. It was another 12 miles. There were some clouds in the sky, and a few miles out of Custer we felt raindrops and there was finally cloud cover over the hot sun. The last 5 miles into Custer we ran our butts off fast, it was a thunderstorm and raining fairly hard. We arrived back at Harbach Park at 6 pm.

We decided to get a pizza since we could order take out. Food was first priority, but if the pizza took a while figured we could go back to Pringle and get my car. We also needed to hit the grocery store before it closed at 9 pm. And we needed ice for the coolers. As it turned out, there was an hour wait for a pizza! So we ordered, picked up my car, got groceries, ice and gas, and then went to get the pizza.

It was ready, and we sat down and scarfed half of it. People were staring at us. Especially me. I was wearing my pink animal print gaiters and my white hat with the mudflap on the back. I guess they'd never seen anyone dress like that in South Dakota before.

Then we had a 55 mile drive ahead of us, and we had to take both our cars because of the car drops, and it was raining like hell for a good portion of the drive. The drive was pretty and there was an amazing sunset.

We arrived in Deadwood after dark and checked into the room, which was upstairs, above the casino and restaurant. The room was $180, it was a busy weekend with lots of events going on, and I'd struggled to find a reservation. The room sucked. It was a nonsmoking room but it smelled like smoke. There were people smoking everywhere, and it came up the vent by the stairs from the casino. There was no microwave or fridge either. The only good thing was that there was walking room between and around the beds, and the beds were a decent size.

It was late, and there wasn't enough parking for both our vehicles so we had to drop Ed's car off at municipal parking a half mile away, which meant we had to THINK about what he needed for the morning. We decided to deal with it in the morning, just get our showers and get some sleep, and I'd take Ed down to his car in the morning before we did anything else.

We got our showers, I sent Dennis a quick text and then that was it. Toast. We probably shut the lights off around 11:30 pm. The longest, suckiest day ever.

Day 2

We purposely set the alarm for 6 am so we'd at least get some decent sleep. We knew it would mean a late start, but we decided to figure it all out in the morning. The car drop at Dumont looked pretty straightforward. We checked out of the hotel, and drove through the town of Lead (pronounced "Leed") and promptly got lost. We pulled over and asked the only person who was walking around in a parking lot, who was obviously drunk, if there was a fast food place to eat. No luck.

We got some ice and Ed got a deli sandwich at a gas station, and we found the right way to go. Except we overshot the Dumont turnoff, which was actually pretty close to town, by a long way, about 15 miles. So that took forever, and we finally found the Dumont trailhead, left my car there, and went back to Deadwood in Ed's car.

By the time we got started on the trail it was 9:00. It was a long climb out of Deadwood, and the trail tops out at about 6300 feet before you hit Dumont. It was pretty, much cooler with aspen and mixed conifer forest, and a lot more shade.

I felt a lot more like myself despite being tired from the lack of sleep and the long day Friday. About 5 miles into the run we saw a biker bar off the side of the trail where it paralleled the highway, with a banner advertising burgers and cold beer, and I said, "That's what I want right now." So we decided that's where we'd eat that night.

The big bike ride that was supposed to be happening seemed to be nonexistent. Supposedly there was a trail ride called the Big Mick that covers the entire trail on that morning, which is what I was told when I had such a hard time finding reservations in Deadwood for that night. But we hardly saw any bikes, just a few, and none of them looked like very serious riders capable of riding 100 miles. Most didn't even have helmets.

We enjoyed the trail to ourselves, a few times we'd pass some people on bikes. At one point we passed this young couple on a bike going uphill, and we joked that we chicked them and sharpei'd them. Actually Ed thought Geezer was a better term, so he geezered them. After that, we became "Team Chickengizzard".

We were both in better spirits all day, but we were aware of being short on time. We decided to shorten our day so we'd have enough time to do everything before the stores closed, and we still had the drive back to Custer and had to check into the Rocket again.

We made it to Dumont and went just a little bit past it, to the 92 milepost, since it was 2 pm, we figured that was enough to go out, we could make it up on the day when we approached the 92 from the south.

Then went back to my car at Dumont for a break. We sat on a bench and ate and drank, did foot checks, and relaxed for a few minutes, but as soon as we did, a vanload of very large people drove up and they got out.

We were finishing up and didn't feel like chatting, so we restocked our packs with cold drinks and what we needed, and by the time we left, there were three very large people occupying the bench where we had just been sitting, eating junk food. They had potato chips and soda.

I looked at them, eating the same kinds of food that we were eating on our little break for salt and calories, but we were running a lot of miles. After we left I remarked to Ed, "If those people had been sitting there when we showed up, I think I would have kicked them off the bench."

And then the quality of conversation and descriptive words deteriorated from there. It's nice to let it rip, when you normally can't say things that might offend someone. Let the snark fly.

One thing we noticed along the trail and on our drives, as we went past campgrounds and RV parks, was the tendency for people to set out a row of chairs in the shade, for sitting. We decided that sitting was the official sport of South Dakota, since we didn't see too many people doing much else. As you can imagine the commentary on that went south, too.

Soon after that, we ran into a cattle drive. There had been no sign of it on the way in, but now there were two women on horses moving cows across the trail. We were brain dead. There were people coming through on bicycles, and the trail was full of cows. And cowshit. We pressed on, a few times we had to wait for cows to move out of the way, but we were determined to get down to Deadwood.

On the way back down, it was hot, even though it was the coolest part of the trail. We were pushing the pace, trying to run as much as possible, to make it down by 7 pm, to give us time to do everything. We finally admitted to each other that we felt stressed. I told Ed what I'd been thinking and that I didn't care anymore whether we did the whole thing as a double, I wanted us to have fun, and not get to the point where we were so tired and stressed out that we were yelling at each other. So I suggested this: that we only double back on the nice sections, that we get the entire trail in once, but limit the double sections, and just do what we could manage.

Ed agreed. We immediately felt relieved and got into Deadwood, with 35 miles of running in for the day. We went up to get the burgers, but it occurred to us that we couldn't have any beer because we still had that long drive ahead of us back to Custer. The burgers and fries were really good anyway. I called the motel in Custer to let them know we'd be checking in late. It was almost dark by the time we picked up my car at Dumont, and then we had to drive back to Deadwood, and then the 55 miles back to Custer.

We stopped in Lead to get gas and groceries, since everything would be closed by the time we got into Custer. I went inside the gas station to buy ice and the cashier started giving me an earful about all his problems.

Here I am, 9:00 at night, in my Walmart animal print top, my pink leopard gaiters, my hazmat hat, with salt and dirt and sunscreen all over me, after 80 miles in 2 days, and this guy starts bending my ear. Excuse me, but do I look like your therapist? Because if I do, therapists in South Dakota must be really strange. I thought this only happened in the sauna, but apparently I must give off some sort of vibe.

I excused myself and went back out.

"Let's get ice in Custer tomorrow", I suggested to Ed.

We arrived in Custer at 10:30 pm, after one of those drives where you're desperately trying to stay awake by opening the window for cool air. Another reason why we needed to modify our plans. We checked into the room, got our showers, and crashed again. No alarms set.

Day 3

I woke up at 5:30 anyway, even after little sleep. I was awake hot flashing all night. Ed was still asleep, and I got up and tried to make my coffee quietly. He woke up not too soon after, and we had to do our car drops again, this time for the Harbach Park to Hill City, and then Hill City to Mystic. It was a bad brain day for us from the start. It took us forever to figure out how we were going to pull off the car drops, and it was very simple. I did have an ice cream sandwich for breakfast, which brightened my day quite a bit.

We drove to Hill City, dropped off my car at the trailhead there, then drove Ed's car back to Custer. We ran to Hill City, and then went back to Custer, got Ed's car, and dropped my car up at Mystic, on the dirt road. Then we drove Ed's car back to Hill City and started running toward Mystic.

We passed the Crazy Horse memorial, which is not finished yet, but is visible from the trail.

We saw a few more people on the trail. We even saw a trail patrol ranger. He stopped us and chatted, we showed him our passes. He seemed really excited that we had annual passes. He was nice, we talked for a while about the trail and he told us there weren't that many people riding in the Big Mick, which is why we saw so few of them the day before.

I'd been on the lower section in the Lean Horse 100 before, and I suggested to Ed that it should be one of the sections we leave out of the double. It's not that exciting, and it is exposed and hot. The section from Hill City to Mystic was nice though. Lots of flowers along the trail, and nice shade in places. At the end we hit Tunnels A and B, two of 4 tunnels along the trail.

We entertained ourselves by smelling the ponderosa pine bark. I told Ed how the bark smells like vanilla or caramel. I even got him to sniff the trees.

We got 30.5 miles in for the day, and we were tired but we actually got off the trail, had time to shower before we went out to dinner, and got there before the one restaurant that was open until 10 pm closed. We got served by a waiter named Igor who was from Moldova.

And we had our first beers of the trip! Ed had Coors light and I had a Samuel Adams. I ordered a salad and Ed got some salmon. I didn't want any dressing on my salad, I don't like most salad dressing. I make my own at home. So I asked the waiter for some barbecue sauce and some lemon wedges, and freaked Ed out when I put it all on my salad!

Trying to call Dennis and have a phone conversation was a challenge. I couldn't talk. Cell phone delay makes it awkward, and my brain was not functioning anyway. Dennis understands. He made me talk to the girls instead.

We actually got to sleep before 11:00 that night.

Day 4

We woke up hurting. Both of us had issues. My feet were okay so far, I had no blisters except for a tiny one on top of my foot from my shoe uppers. It wasn't bad. But my shoulders were sore from carrying the heavy pack, having to carry 15-20 miles worth of water and food all the time. My hips hurt from the pack. I hadn't trained for this run by using a pack. Ed was getting worse blisters on his feet each day, he had a little toe triangle blister, and blisters on the ball of his left foot.

We dropped Ed's car at Mystic, then took my car to Rochford, which was a long drive up on the dirt road. Then we ran up the trail to Milepost 92 below Dumont where we had turned around on Saturday. Then we doubled back and ran to Mystic, where we finished for the day. The trail was pretty but again, it was hot. The redeeming feature of this part of the trail was the other tunnel section. There are 4 tunnels, and we had seen 2 of them the day before. They are cool! We also saw a horde of Geology students from a university checking out the rocks.

We were so tired that we were no longer able to form sentences and complete them, so we resorted to grunting. And we understood each others' grunts very well. Walking was much more efficient than running. We did 28 miles, and didn't have much conversation at all, it took too much energy.

During the day Ed made a bet with me about how the Black Hills got their name. I thought it was because they look dark from a distance, with all the ponderosa pine trees. He thought it was because of the black rock we saw everywhere. We decided to google on it as soon as we got back to the hotel. We forgot, of course.

It was a long, but uneventful day. Pretty, but the miles and long hours were wearing on us. My feet hurt all day. I was able to focus elsewhere, so it wasn't a problem, but it does make it less enjoyable at times.

We knew that the last day we only had about a 23 mile stretch to do to complete the trail. The famed rattlesnake and poison ivy section. The weather forecast had predicted 80s but every single day it had underpredicted the actual temperatures by at least 10 degrees! If we'd had Dale, our personal meteorologist with us, we could have solved that problem! (Dale is a meteorologist in real life. You know what that is, don't you? Someone who studies meteors.)

We did get off the trail earlier, but picking up the cars took a long time. We had time to stop at the Dairy Queen for a chocolate shake, though. We got into the same restaurant where we ate the first night, just in time before they closed at 9 pm. Beer time again. Ed: Coors light. Me: Fat Tire. And food, tons of food.

Day 5

Team Chickengizzard was ready to get 'er done. We woke up around 5:30 again, and decided since it was looking to be a hot day, that we would do an extra car drop. That would give us three sections of trail to do, each about 8 miles. We dropped my car at Minnekahta, then took Ed's to the Argyle road. We needed to start at milepost 23, where we'd turned around the first day. Where we parked, we couldn't quite see the milepost about 1/4 mile in, so we ran up to it just to make sure we didn't miss a section. Turned out it was milepost 24, one we'd already been to. So we ended up with a little extra distance.

This was the hot dry section and it did not disappoint. There were practically trees of poison ivy in places. It was everywhere. No snakes though. When we reached Minnekahta, we had to come back to Argyle, get Ed's car, then find the Chilson bridge, where we did our next car drop, 8 miles from Minnekahta. Another hot, open and exposed, slightly downhill, but pretty stretch.

We had to hike off the trail and up a hill to get to the car, and then did that in reverse on the way down. We did our final car drop in Edgemont, left my car at Chilson, and kicked it in gear for our home stretch. It was 90 degrees in Edgemont when we did the car drop, and we ran quite a bit. We knew we were done, could smell the barn.

A half mile before we got to the end, we came up on some railroad tracks in Edgemont, and there was a train going by, with another train waiting for that one. It was a long coal train. We had no choice but to stop and wait. It was hot, we wanted to get done, and the random perimenopausal bitch in me was mad because it was the only thing standing between me and an ice cream sandwich. Dammit.

It was only about a 20 minute wait, but it seemed like forever. We did see a dead rattlesnake, but it was a snake wafer, all dried up and flat.

Finally the trains were gone and we marched down the main street in Edgemont to our finish line. And there was no one around to take our picture, not even Lawnmower Man. So we used the iPhone to take one. It turned out pretty good. We had 25 miles in, which gave us a total of 163 miles in 5 days.

We stopped off for some ice cream sandwiches and hit the road to get my car, then back to Custer for showers, food, and beer.

I have never been so happy for a run to be over with!

Wednesday morning we got a huge breakfast at the Bakery in Custer. I had a burrito the size of Ed's foot! Then we hit the road and drove back to Colorado. When I got across the Wyoming state line, in the photo below, the sky was clear, the air was clear in Fort Collins, and there is progress, thanks to the efforts of the firefighters, some 2000 of them, working on the High Park fire. I'm hoping my friends all get to go home soon, to their intact homes.

What we learned

There is a huge difference between self-supporting and being crewed on a multiday run. I do like the self-supported way but it takes a lot more planning, prepwork, and modification of miles. Also the other thing that limited our mileage was that we couldn't run at night due to trail regulations. So that made it another challenge- having to get everything done in daylight hours.

The learning curve included finding out what you can realistically do on a given day. It's a curiosity thing, learning what your body is capable of doing, and what's sustainable. What's possible? That's what drives me.

As it turned out, our days were still long even after the modified mileage, car drops took hours, but we managed to keep a good pace despite the heat and relentless exposed miles of trail. And we never even got pissed off at each other or yelled, not once.

A crew person could have done the footwork, checked into hotels, ordered food to be ready when we were, done the planning ahead and anticipating, getting all the little details out of the way so all we have to do is run, eat, drink and sleep. We wouldn't have needed car drops, topping off the gas tank, buying ice a million times. The crew could have been our brain. Because in something like this, THINKING is the most difficult part. And it gets harder each day.

To do something like this self-supported, you have to first figure out how much time you need for the non-running essentials: sleep, recovery, food, shopping, ice, gas, driving, resupplying, dealing with the little necessary evils like checking into hotels, etc. and THEN planning your daily mileage and route around what's leftover in terms of hours in the day.

You have to find someone compatible with you to do something like this. Ed and I are both strongheaded people but we are both able to compromise. We are also well-matched in terms of pace and attitude. We weren't willing to give up, but we made the best of a difficult situation, even when we felt like crap and doubted our own sanity.

It was really nice to be rude and say things, anything that comes to your mind, no matter how sarcastic or smartassed it is. So much of our lives we have to be careful what we say. It builds up like steam. So it's fun to blow off some of that steam and just say whatever comes to your mind, and be as obnoxious as you feel like being. It's like a vacation in itself to make really snarky comments about whatever you feel like, and to have a buddy to do that with, who won't be offended by anything.

Ed and I ran together in Badwater and learned a lot about how we both operate, and I saw how strong he was during my 5 days on the road in Death Valley. He did a lot of miles in the intense heat there. I knew his mind was in the right place, he has the ultra experience, and he can work through challenges.

It's hard to find people who can do this kind of stuff, with right kind of job they can leave behind, enough vacation time, and it's just plain hard to find people who want to do these long multiday runs in general. There's no glory in it. No cheering crowds, no aid stations, no tshirts, no trophies. Not even free Hammer Gel. There's no medical team to tend to your aches and pains, you have to fix it yourself.

I often get asked, does your husband go on these trips? And then there's always the question, one that is implied but less often asked, does your husband object to you going off with another man for a week, sharing a hotel room, and having almost no contact with you for the whole time?

No he doesn't object, and I don't object to him doing things with his women friends. I have a husband who is secure enough to be okay with me going off on adventures like this, I've been doing this almost the entire 22 years we've been married. I'm too independent and energetic to stay home and worry about what people think. I would be miserable if I couldn't get out and do these runs just because my husband isn't as into it as I am. I'd rather slit my wrists than be stuck home.

As far as I'm concerned, doing these runs is what life is about. You only have so much time here on earth, so you might as well do the things you want to do and have fun and live. Who wants to spend their whole life sitting on their ass?

And I bet you already know my snarky response to that question! recovery will consist of a few weeks on the bike, with gradual re-introduction of running. But you know how ultrarunners think: I only ran 163 miles instead of 218, so I can start training again sooner!

My left foot is a little sore and both of my hips are sore from the pack waistband, but in general I feel good. A little sleep deprived, but not too bad. I'm not limping, I can do the stairs, and I'm not stiff or sore in general.

One more thing I wanted to mention, the iPhone sucks for outdoor use. Battery life isn't long enough, you can't read the screen in sunlight, and when you get fingerprints on the screen you have to wipe it off. Potato chip grease, sunscreen and sweat make it hard to read. In the motel at night I could use it but there was no time, unless it cut into my sleep time.

Here is a link to the full photo album on Facebook: Mickelson Trail photos


On Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 8:54 AM, Green, Ed wrote:


I owe you a buck….

The name "Black Hills" is a translation of the Lakota Pahá Sápa. The hills were so-called because of their dark appearance from a distance, as they were covered in trees.


On Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 12:22 PM, Alene Nitzky wrote:

Hey Geezer,

You can pay me in beer. But it has to be a microbrew, not some yellow pisswater not befitting a princess.

The Chick


matt said...

Great report.Considering the quote below, could Ed have whupped them if came to fist a cuffs???? Alene you aren't that big. ;)

"After we left I remarked to Ed, "If those people had been sitting there when we showed up, I think I would have kicked them off the bench." "

Alene Gone Bad said...


I'm big enough to kick some butt. Even Ed is scared of me. ;-)

HappyTrails said...

We weren't impressed with Deadwood at all, either. We like Hill City. And you are right - the Mick Trail is a bit 'boring' in that the surface is smooth and flat but it's a pretty area and good for something new BUT only for a couple of days, max. 5 days would be a bit much. We like the section between Crazy Horse and Mystic. Haven't been north of Mystic and don't care to go south of Crazy Horse - too open, exposed, and extra boring. FYI - we were told SD doesn't have snakes. There is some REAL trail running in and around Hill City which is good singletrack stash. All in all it sounds like you had some fun and a memorable week. Recover well and enjoy your bike rides!!! I bet the girls (and Dennis!) were glad to have you home!

Alene Gone Bad said...


That's funny, no snakes in SD. I saw one of the biggest sidewinders I've ever seen, in South Dakota near Hot Springs. I wondered if it was an escapee from the Reptile Museum.

We saw a lot of trailheads for single track trails around Hill City and Mystic, those intrigued me. Looks like it would be nice in the fall. Also, the Centennial Trail sounds more interesting.

I'm not giving up on the area, but I doubt I'll need to revisit the Mickelson itself.

Yes, Dennis and the girls were happy to have me home. I got lectured by the girls!