Dr. J on Running

48 Run Crazy Horse Marathon

5 October 2014

A fire in the control tower a week ago continued to affect flights into Chicago O’Hare Airport. My Syracuse flight arrived late into Chicago, and my Rapid City flight departed Chicago even later following an aircraft swap due to mechanical problems. When we landed finally in South Dakota, a wind gust blew my Air Force Marathon hat onto the tarmac as I deplaned. A ground crew member grabbed it and returned it to me.

Hertz rented me a two-door Fiat 500 for the ride to Hill City. A sign on the terminal exit door warned of snakes sunbathing on the black surface of the parking lot, and asked travelers to report them immediately to airport personnel. I picked up my car, but the absence of cell coverage prevented my phone from downloading navigation instructions. A tedious WiFi maneuver allowed eventually storing the directions for the trip.

Sam and Linda welcomed me at the Mountains to Prairies Bed and Breakfast with a fresh cappuccino. My room was very cozy and comfortable. At their recommendation, I walked to the Alpine Inn for dinner. The Inn has been serving the same two-item dinner menu for 30 years: a bacon-wrapped filet mignon with baked potato and lettuce wedge for $9.95 or pasta primavera. I enjoyed dinner, but I should have skipped dessert – the Black Hills are not known for tiramisu.

Saturday morning, I got up early and walked to Ranger Field to orient myself for Sunday’s bus pick-up to the start line. Sam knocked on my door at 8:30 to invite me to breakfast. Cappuccino, omelet and fruits fueled me for the long day ahead. I walked to the race expo, and picked up my race packet and a disappointing short-sleeve T-shirt.

My sight-seeing tour took me to Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore. The 15-minute uphill drive to Crazy Horse National Monument translated into a long downhill stretch at the end of the marathon. My visit to Crazy Horse started with a 22-minute movie on the history of the Monument. Lakota Chief Red Cloud was quoted as saying “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they kept only one. They promised to take our land, and they did.” Billy Mills, a Lakota Indian and 10,000-meter Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo, spoke in the movie in front of the Crazy Horse Monument.

I walked through the museum and the gift shop, my heart set on buying a scale sculpture of what the Crazy Horse Monument will look like eventually. I was sorely disappointed that the scale monuments for sale were plaster, not stone. I consoled myself with a picture of the 1/34th scale sculpture that Korczak Ziolkowski made.

The solemnity of the Crazy Horse Memorial was in sharp contrast to the commercialization of Mount Rushmore. I walked around listening to foreign tongues on cell phones, and felt underwhelmed by the Made-in-China memorabilia in the gift shop. I retreated to the cafeteria for a Made-in-South-Dakota beef stew, and checked my email on the free WiFi courtesy of the US Park Service.

I napped the rest of the afternoon, then walked around town looking for steak. The long line outside the Alpine Inn turned me away, and the menus at other establishments disappointed. I ended up at the local supermarket buying a piece of beef, a crown of broccoli and a sweet potato that I microwaved into a perfect pre-race dinner.

I started race day with a call home to my wife, then I washed down a Powerbar and a banana with a bottle of Starbucks cappuccino. The weather forecast called for temperatures in the forties, scattered rain showers, and high winds intensifying mid-day. I wore a 50 States long-sleeve shirt, a pair of socks on my hands, shorts and a wind breaker. I decided on New Balance Minimus instead of trail shoes. I left the B&B at 6:20, and joined the walking masses towards bus pick-up at Ranger Field.

The bus ride to Crazy Horse was noisy, as runners exchanged injury stories and race predictions. The Visitor Center welcomed us for warmth, water and bathrooms. I spent the waiting hour alternating sitting and walking, then went outside to face the day. A full rainbow greeted us and ushered good tidings. The race director remembered Ruth Ziolkowski, the chief executive of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation and a supporter of the Marathon, who died last May. A Lakota in traditional dress started us off with an Indian prayer and drumbeat at 8am.

I set my watch on 12:30 intervals, and set out to run to mile splits, and walk till timer splits. I projected a finishing time of 5:18 if the race went as planned. I crossed the start line a minute after the drum, and made up quickly for this delay. We ran a lap around the Crazy Horse Memorial before heading south on a seven-mile downhill glide on the Mickelson Trail towards Custer City. The 6,000-ft elevation at the start had no adverse effect on me.

I took off my windbreaker at mile 3 and wrapped it around my waist, not knowing if I would need it on the way back into the wind. My socks stayed on my hands most of the race, coming off and getting back on repeatedly. I ran comfortably, and I walked briskly. I reached the 10-mile turnaround in 2 hours, ate half a Powerbar, and contemplated the next 7 miles from Custer to Crazy Horse uphill into the wind.

The downhill between miles 3 and 10 translated into running half-a-mile and walking half-a-mile. The return trip uphill into the wind nibbled away at this ratio, and I found myself slipping towards 0.7-mile run and 0.3-mile walk to maintain an average pace of 12:30. The gravel surface of the trail changed my gait just enough to give me unfamiliar aches and pains in my lower joints. I reached the Crazy Horse crest at 5,900-ft at mile 16.6 in 3:26, ingested two Ibuprofen pills that I did not need, and found my second wind for the 900-ft drop over the remaining 10 miles.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind advisory starting at 11am, and they nailed the forecast on the head. At 11am, winds picked up to 30 miles per hour, and gusted to 50 mph. Twice, I was stopped in my tracks by wind gusts. I put my head down and powered forward, trying not to lose again my Air Force Marathon hat. Despite the stiff headwind, I maintained 12:30 min run/walk intervals, and I passed too many runners to count.

I ran partway with a Lakota. He answered my question on the anticipated completion of the Crazy Horse Memorial with an estimate of 30 to 40 years from now. I reached Mile 20 in 4:03, well under a 12:30 pace. I ate the second half of the Powerbar and the two remaining Ibuprofens, and attempted to no avail to compute an estimated finish time. Paula was on my mind, and her shoulder surgery in two days occupied my prayers. Unable to compute a finish time, I shuffled forward and put my trust in Christ who gave me strength.

I crossed the Finish Line in 5:17:58, and received a very nice lightweight plaster medal with a leather string. At the 10-mile turnaround, I had estimated 20 runners behind me, but I could not distinguish marathon runners from relay runners. In the final tally, 58 runners out of 176 finished after me, giving me my 3rd best ever percent finish place.

Linda prepared a heavenly chokecherry latte for my post-run celebration, and the chef at the diner obliged with steak and eggs. I passed out shortly after eating, and enjoyed a good night. Electronics-engineer-turned-missionary Fred joined me for breakfast on Monday, and we lamented on the state of affairs. Fred rode with me to Rapid City, and we suffered together the ground stop of the Chicago flight. I convinced eventually a United operator to book me on the Delta flight to Minneapolis, and I arrived home Monday night.

Linda posted the following account of my journey on the Facebook page of the Mountains to Prairies:

The Crazy Horse Marathon weekend is behind us now, and it is a pleasure to reflect on the memorable times we enjoyed with our guest Dr. Jabbour who ran the marathon. He finished 2 seconds less than his goal (previous time) of 2 hours 18 minutes! We congratulated him for his new record with a Wild Chokecherry Latte. Dr. J shared about several previous marathons in which he participated. At the checkpoints he always takes time to visit with the volunteers and thank them for their hospitality. No pressure steps on his heels, as he would have been just as content to arrive in Hill City at three hours or four. After the run he posed with our wooden Smiling Bear, wearing his 50 States Marathon Club shirt.

Thank you Linda and Sam for a memorable weekend.

Dr Kamal Jabbour ran 45 marathons since he started his 50-state quests 4 years ago on 10/10/10 to complete his 48th marathon and 48th state at Hill City, SD. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour