Climbing up the 5.5 mile hill toward Mt. Rushmore was the beginning of State No. 40 for my quest to run a half marathon in every state. This time Vivian decided to join me.
John was gracious enough to be our driver, sherpa and photographer for our journey which began 3 days before the race. We took a horribly early 5 am flight from Newark to Denver to Rapid City, Idaho. The weather for the first two days was rainy and cool, but Vivian insisted that as soon as we got ourselves checked into the hotel, we had to go for a run. So out into the dreary rain we went. I kept on telling myself that the cool, damp run was just what I needed after such an early morning flight. I must have been very convincing because both Vivian and I felt really good after that run.
We woke up the next morning to more rain. This time I insisted on waiting for the rain to pass. Vivian graciously agreed, but the tradeoff was an additional mile added onto our run.
Since the weather was not accommodating, we drove to Spearfish, SD. Even though visibility was limited, we enjoyed the fall foliage. Deadwood was our next stop. Yes, the series is loosely based on the history of Deadwood’s gold mining history along with being noted as the place where Wild Bill Hickok was shot. The final stop for the day was checking into our accommodations at Yak Ridge Cabins - a series of five small cabins ranging from studio to two bedroom. Yes, there are yaks at the Yak Ridge Cabins.
Once again, Vivian insisted that we go for an early morning run even though I told her that I did not run the day before a race. The compromise was that we would go for a 20 minute run that mysteriously turned into a 27 minute run because she “says” she dropped her glove so we had to go back to retrieve it.
Race day started at 5:00 am. The temps were perfect at 50 degrees. Because Yak Ridge Cabins are close to the race start, John was able to drop us off, and he continued onto his volunteer duties at the finish line.
The Inaugural Mt. Rushmore Half Marathon began promptly at 6:30 am. Vivian and I along with 1,500 other runners began our trek up the 1,738 foot elevation climb at 6:30 am. Starting elevation was 4,394. (Official race elevation says a 1,456 elevation gain, but Vivian’s watch says 1,738 feet.). The 5.5 mile ascent was steep and grueling, but we just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Midway, our efforts were rewarded when we passed through a tunnel and got a spectacular view of Mt. Rushmore. We also wound our way around two pigtail bridges. Finally, around mile 5.5 the climb upward finished and we got to run a glorious stretch of downhill. Since I don’t like to preview the race course, I was a bit surprised that there were two additional mile inclines around mile 9 with another wonderful view of Mt. Rushmore and mile 10.
My time was 2:22 which was much better than I had anticipated. Vivian did better than anticipated and that’s all that she will say.
After the race, there was a Trifecta Challenge that we had to complete ...right??? The challenge consisted of doing a “family friendly” hike up Cathedral Spires Trail. Note to race director - not so family friendly. The hike was challenging. Then we had to hike the Presidential Trail at Mt. Rushmore - very family friendly. The hardest part was riding the Wildlife Loop because we had to sit for over an hour in the car. Talk about stiffening up. Photographic evidence of completing the Trifecta Challenge has been submitted to the race director. We should receive a pin. Vivian thought it was a medal, but it’s just a pin!
We reluctantly checkout out of Yak Ridge and headed back to Rapid City where we visited the Badlands. We tried one hike, but aborted it because our thighs just could not handle the steep inclines. That didn’t stop Vivian from sliding down on her rear - quite the sight. I did another hike that involved climbing up a very steep ladder. The views were worth it.
I highly recommend this trip. Vivian is easy to travel with and John is wonderful for just putting up with us. Couldn’t have done it without him.