South Dakota Marathon and Caving

I headed to South Dakota for a women's only marathon.  Kind of different, but a fellow 50 state marathoner I met several months back in Arkansas recommended that I MUST try this race. 
When I flew in and arrived a few days early, I had only one priority on my list besides the race, that of course was to see Mount Rushmore...
Mount Rushmore Day View
Mount Rushmore Night View
 After I visited Mount Rushmore and walked around the area, I headed down the road to Crazy Horse Monument.  This monument I learned is unfinished because the creators refuse to accept any state or federal funds, in respect for Crazy Horse who suffered at the governments hand.  Instead it's entirely funded by the public and viewers of the Monument.

Crazy Horse Monument Today
Crazy Horse Monument how it will look one day
After viewing the monuments and driving around the South Dakota Black Hills, I discovered that there was a lot more to it, and so much more I wanted to see.  So instead of heading to Spearfish (the race town) I spent one more day in the Black Hills Area.  Thanks to GPS and it's odd driving courses it sometimes takes me on, I was able to drive through Custer State Park, absolutely beautiful.  I saw lots of deer, antelope, buffalo, and even a big horn sheep and her baby.
I stopped at Wind Caves National Park, and so glad I did.  I signed up to take the 1/2 mile cave tour, which you first hop on an elevator and go down a few hundred feet below the surface.  This cave is a limestone cave, and quite unique, so many caverns, and places to go, I bet a person could spend weeks scouting through the miles and miles of the cave system.

Wind Cave National Park
After my trip through Wind Cave, I wanted to see more, and down the road was Jewel Cave National monument, so after another beautiful drive through the Black Hills.  I arrived at Jewel Cave just in time to grab the last ticket for the cave tour for the day.
Jewel Cave is just as it's name, there are lots of crystals and interesting colors all through the cave.  Again took an elevator a few hundred feet below the surface, This cave had a lot more drop offs, and stairs to climb.  I only went a 1/2 mile of the 155.00 miles of the cave.
So worth it!!  This cave is also a live cave, so lots of water dripping through them, mud puddle fixtures, odd shapes, orange, red, black, white and so many other color crystals and draperies hanging through the cave.  Really neat to see!

Jewel Cave

Jewel Cave
Finally it was time to head to Spearfish, and get ready for the race, I had a beautiful drive along the way, and thanks to GPS I got to see even a portion of Wyoming that I never intended on driving through.  (Gotta love GPS!)
Race packet pick up was really small, but I will say this about their volunteers, they were great and very nice!
The race shirts were even made of great material and had a good fit, guess they better since this is a women's only race :)
After packet pick up, I decided to head to the famous Deadwood (Where gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok was killed and the term Dead Man's Hand came from.  Also home at one time to Calamity Jane.)
Fun little town, completely redone to look like it did back in the late 1800's.  They still have saloon's and casino's, but some of the buildings are tourist shops.
Downtown Deadwood, SC

After touring Deadwood, I drove back through Spearfish Canyon, and got out and did a (little hiking), couldn't resist:)  The beautiful mountains were just calling my name, besides who knows when and if I will ever make it back to that area...  I come to all these states to run marathon's but also to see everything else I can while I am there.

Finally I made it to bed early because I had a 2:40a.m. wake up alarm set to get me up and going and ready to meet the buses for the Leading Ladies Marathon to take me to the starting line at 4a.m.  (YIKES on the early time, but it's not the earliest wake up time, Disney World Orlando I had to wake up at 1a.m.)
I sat on the bus next to a really nice runner named Mandy who claimed she also ran the marathon's for fun.  But I later found out she places 2nd in the race over all...  I wish my times were so fast that I could have fun and have a chance at winning a marathon at the same time!
I actually met a lot of really nice people at this race, mostly at the start.  I got lots of tips from other marathoners on which races in which states are best to run.
Just before the race started the sun began to come up, and a misty fog began to set in on the mountains around.  The race started in Lead, SC, at the top of a canyon.
Most of the uphill was in the first 7 miles of the race, but over all the race is predominately what I would consider a downhill course.
The race started at about 6800 feet, a bit higher in elevation than all my other marathons so far this year.  The course was beautiful, I was sure I'd see a deer or moose drinking out of the streams standing out among the lush green hillsides and tall dark pine tree's.  But no such luck.

Creek in Spearfish Canyon
     It was still a nice and peaceful run, I'd say there were less than 200 full marathoners, so at times you felt like you were the only one out on the course as you would wind through the canyon.  I didn't bring a headset to listen to music, which I was glad.  What better music than running through a peaceful mountain canyon in the early morning?
One thing about this race although the volunteers were wonderful.  The water stops were a little far apart.  I probably should have researched this ahead of time, but then I am famous for not doing this at most my races.
At the beginning having water every 3 or more miles wasn't too bad, at this point the race was in the shade.  However, I guess through experience knowing the heat of the day that was coming it did have me a little worried.  But I was feeling good, so much better than I thought I might having not ran much at all during the past two months to let my foot injury heal, so I tried not to think of the lack of water stops too much.

We exited one canyon, and then started down Spearfish Canyon, which was just as beautiful and green, except enter the very old large cliffs and mountains, and also a river to run down the canyon next too the road.
Miles 7 to 25 were all in this canyon.  At the half way point we left the road and headed down a dirt road, for an out and back.  (same area that Dances with Wolves was filmed, and the waterfall on the picture above was located.)  I was still feeling good, and the sun was just starting it's full shine onto the course.
I made a deal with myself, if I was still feeling good and on pace by mile 21, I was going to push it harder for the last 5 miles than I normally do and try for a PR.
However, water stops became an issue and creeping 90 degree temps were also pushing on.  I was feeling great until a stretch that I almost didn't get water for close to 4 miles, and in the full out sun.  Even though I had been drinking 2 cups at each stop, this lack of water in the later part of the course and in the heat was a killer, my pace slowed mile by mile, and although I was still on pace to hit a better time than I had in any other marathon's this year the dehydration was setting in.
I was bummed, but there was nothing I could do about it, once that happens you really cannot recover, even when I did finally reach a water stop.  All I could do was do my best to not loose too much time during these final 4 miles.
Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish Canyon, SD

The last mile was on a trail along a river at the back of a campground, the first shade I had in miles.  So that along with the fact that the finish line was within reach pushed me through and my final miles pace was a little better than the past two.
Spearfish Canyon
I finished the race in one of my best times in about 7 years.  I was thrilled about that (still am).  Makes me feel like maybe I am finally back:)  I have high hopes of dropping a few more pounds and trying for a PR in one of my marathon's this fall.  Qualifying for Boston is still way out of my reach, but having my finishing time drop, really is an uplifting thought.

I had a great time, and LOVED South Dakota!!!  I can see myself going back, there are so many more caves I'd like to visit, and with all those Black Hill Forests I can just imagine it's also a hikers paradise!
I recommend The Leading Ladies Marathon, for those (women) who want to run a beautiful course.  But this is one race that I'd suggest it might not be a bad idea to carry a little water, or a container to use to fill around the half to carry some extra water with you for the 2nd half of the race if needed.
I think it's a fast course, having all the hills within the first 7 miles of the race.  However, like all courses like this, it's a killer on the quads:)  Not so much as what the St. George Marathon does to my legs, but I'd say the toll this race took on my body is 2nd only to what marathon's in Utah do to my body...

Creek in Spearfish Canyon

August Wedding Backdrops

Tulle Cross Backdrop, Fushia's and Light Pinks

Roman Pillar Backdrop with Eggplant Satin Swags

Pretty in Pink Lighted Cake Table Gazebo

Wedding Backdrops, Recently Designed and Decorated

Here are a few pictures of some of my most recent backdrops I have designed for weddings this month.

3 Pannel Lattice Backdrop

Western Backdrop

Country Backdrop