DMTM Report

Posted on 16. Sep, 2003 by in press

Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon

by Terry Simmering

Tell me I didn’t just run the most scenic marathon I have ever had the luck of running! On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 10. It was great that the weather cooperated to bring extra punch to the experience. Bright sunny skies dominated the sky for the whole time we were out there, thus giving added beauty to the already majestic views of Mother Nature.

The day before the race we spent catching up on sleep from the 15-hour drive to Kay’s Mom’s ranch in the Hill City, SD., about 30 minutes from the start of the race. During our resting day and catching up on family gabble, it began to snow huge white snowflakes about two in the afternoon. What a sight that was! We began to consider that our long legged running pants back home was something that should have been tossed in the luggage.

Sunday morning we headed out for the start, Kay’s Mom drove us to the start and she would be at the end to bring us home. What a great Mom. The temperature at the starting point was somewhere in the low forties. We both donned our plastic trash liner to help stay warm while waiting for the start, and cotton gloves were a welcome that we just happened to have with us. The town that we started in had three – maybe ten buildings total – very small. We also saw some of the 50 & DC people that we had met while running our “double marathon” last year. Kay and I started out together and we stayed that way for about the first three miles, then the groups and packs began to thin out as the elevation began its rise into the mountains. This course would begin going up and supposedly, take about a 3 percent uphill grade to the 12.5-mile mark before turning downhill at about the same drop. I kept my bag on until the race started and then destroyed it while ripping it off; it was going to get warm very soon.

The Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon is run on a “rails-to-trails” conversion project. The stone that is laid on this trail is much finer than the stone found on the Katy. I began getting little pebbles in my shoes before getting three miles out. I had already thought this would be a problem and I think I was overly concerned about the harm the stones would cause to my feet. It wasn’t long before we came upon a tunnel cut through a hillside that I sighted a bench at the entry of the tunnel, this is were I sat while pulling off my shoes and unloading the pebbles (tick-tock, tick-tock). I would stop twice more to empty small pebbles. Oh well, not PR possibilities today, the elevation alone is giving memories of Wyoming’s run from last year. The elevation in St. Charles is about 600 ft? Here at the start it is 5250 ft., rising to 6200 at midway then back down to 4400 at the finish in Deadwood. (portable oxygen highly recommended). The temperature began to rise to a very nice 50 something until nearing the halfway point where two things happened; the temperature began to drop again (sharply) and remember the snow from Saturday, it was still on the ground near the upper ridge as we ran through that section.

From this point forward the scenery would greatly intensify and the course gave us some very interesting nature settings. No roads could be seen or heard during this last half of the run, only the sound of the breeze making the leaves rustle or the noises of birds, antelope or foxes would occasionally drift across the air. If you never got out of your car to hike over the two ridges to get here, you would never see this part of the county; it was truly beautiful. This section was where the movie, “Dances with Wolves” was filmed. This was a very quiet marathon, just the sound of nature, very few people talked.

The time seemed to go by very fast during this race. I even noted this during the run, I thought, “How could this be the halfway point? I feel like I have only been running for a short while, when will I get tired? The scenery does keep you mentally alert and cheerful. To prove to myself that time was going by I had reached halfway at a time of 2:06. I was a little shocked by this slow of a time, but then again with the elevation and the incline I realized my error. Now, down the other side of the ridge the course did have a muddy section that was also still icy and it made for a slow transition through a technical section. The drop was so sharp that my toes were banging into the shoes. No fast running through this section.

I remember how one section changes so fast that my head was spinning. This happened when I was running along a trail that had hundreds of aspen trees with bright white bark lining both sides of the trail and then while turning a tight corner the entire mountain side opened up with a view that had no ceiling now and a huge majestic rock formation right out of the western movies! Now I wish I had brought a camera! Other similar views just as majestic kept my run very upbeat the entire time. This was one fantastic marathon. You can’t always run a marathon just to try to improve your time; you actually have more fun by enjoying the scenery along the way (but you knew that).

Some of this trail had great bridges that crossed over running mountain streams and one bridge in particular was well over 300 feet long. When the course began to reach the twenty plus mile markers I wished that I could continue right on past the finish line and I would keep on going until the views had run out. But! Soon enough, my mental state lost the argument to my legs that started wearing out and some lactic acid seized the quads to say, “How does that feel?” I was near the 20-mile mark that I (unfortunately) looked at my watch and tried to imagine beating the four-hour mark of the clock. You know how you think you can figure out this math stuff towards the end of a marathon and you realize the brain never turned on? I went through three mile markers first convinced I could do it if I picked up the pace just a little and then back to thinking, NO stupid, that has no way of happening, and back again to well… maybe I can? Yep, that’s what I did. And the fact that the 22-mile marker was missing really got me goofed up. As I came upon the 23-mile marker I said to myself, “If this marker says 22, I’m going to lose it!” (Funny how I decide to think negative about now, huh?)

Sliding into the town of Deadwood should have been better, but after spending all that time on a great trail and being ushered onto a brick main street of high temp heat of 70 plus was no fun for the last mile. While running by a railroad car in town there stood Calamity Jane (young girl punk actually, or maybe a Disney reject- {just kidding}) with a leather whip. She snapped the whip and said, “my Grandma’s up ahead IF you think you can catch her”. So sorry, at this point I just can’t press a smile from this face. But thanks for trying; maybe these people should have been at the halfway point. I came across the finish line at 3:57 Oh boy, I did a negative split. I don’t think I missed too much of the scenery due to my increased pace the last portion. I will be going back to ride this trail next spring, I want to ride it on my mountain bike and stop often along the way to really get better views and appreciation of this part of South Dakota. This is one great marathon. Honest.

Club Challenge

I’ve decided to challenge anyone from the club for the fastest time on this course. I would regret that someone would run this race and not stop to enjoy the scenery, but maybe being able to do both is the key. So, I think nobody on this club can beat my time. Prove me wrong. I dare you. If Bert or Bruce do not run this marathon very soon I will have to disown them.

Terry Simmering

St. Charles, MO YMCA Running Club

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