The Gnarly Bandit is Shut Out at the Black Hills 100

During the first two runnings (2011 and 2012) of the Black Hills 100 races, the finishing rate of the 100 mile was 35 percent and 40 percent, respectively. That’s even low by ultrarunning standards. The main culprit was the weather, bringing heat, humidity, thunderstorms and the like for race participants’ enjoyment, or lack thereof.

The beauty of the Black Hill 100 race course, photo by Wayne Nelson

The beauty of the Black Hills 100 race course, photo by Wayne Nelson

Even with the historic weather conditions, the Black Hills 100-mile, 100K, and 50-mile races are enticing to a variety of ultrarunners. These races offer nearly 100% singletrack (with much of it being shaded) on the Centennial Trail, splendid views, fantastic volunteer support, and really cool awards. These races should be on the bucket list for every nearly ultrarunner. And the family would even enjoy the vacation; the Black Hills is home to so many natural and family attractions.

The remaining Gnarly Bandit Ultra series competitors: (front from left) John Taylor, Jessica Pendleton, Tina Johnson, Angela Barbera, Jason Davis; (back from left) Daryl Saari, Matthew Menacher, Ron Hendrickson, Joseph Hegman

The remaining Gnarly Bandit Ultra series competitors (prior to race start): (front from left) John Taylor, Jessica Pendleton, Tina Johnson, Angela Barbera, Jason Davis, (back from left) Daryl Saari, Matthew Menacher, Ron Hendrickson, Joseph Hegman (photo by Lisa Messerer)

The running of the 3rd Annual Black Hills 100 races, which start and end in Sturgis, South Dakota, took place on June 29-30, 2013. Temperatures were moderate, rising to the 70-80s depending where on the course you were and a drop of rain was not to be found, so no scary bright jolts or icy hail came from the sky threatened anyone’s safety or sanity. And lows were just below 60, so there was little chance of being cold during the nighttime hours.

With all this being said, the Gnarly Bandit had no easy weather or race circumstances to capitalize on, so he chose to attempt to scare the willies out of some of the nine remaining athletes in the 2013 Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series. According to the race packet, racers should only be concerned with encountering mountain lions and rattlesnakes. So guess what certain racers encountered? A mountain lion and a rattlesnake!

Elk Creek Crossing - your feet are gonna get wet unless you plan to walk the rope, photo by Wayne Nelson

Elk Creek Crossing – your feet are gonna get wet unless you plan to walk the rope (photo by Wayne Nelson)

Angela Barbara relates, “I had a rattlesnake in my path during the last 10 miles!! Luckily a mountain biker was nearby and removed the snake from the path because I was prepared to go well around it.” Near the Nemo aid station during the dark hours, Gary Knipling, Lynn Saari and Daryl Saari were convinced they encountered a mountain lion, ya’ know (actually I hope you don’t know) those big, wide eyes in the middle of a fairly big, round face reflecting back at you. , As they said at the time, “it’s gotta be a cat, a big cat!” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Gnarly Bandit was behind the encounters of these creatures trying to freak some runners out.

However in the end, the Gnarly Bandit was thwarted by all the remaining athletes in the series: Matthew Menacher (Chicago, Ill.) 23:27:24; Joseph Hegman (Edina, Minn.) 26:38:57; Tina Johnson (Wauwatosa, Wis.) 26:48.24; Ron Hendrickson (Esko, Minn.) 29:11:43; Jason Davis (Sioux City, Iowa) 29:54:16; Angela Barbera (Mauston, Wis.) 30:46:08; John Taylor (Minneapolis, Minn.) 30:30:46; and Daryl Saari (Rochester, Minn.) 31:11:32; and Jessica Pendleton (Johnston, Iowa) 31:51:48.

Jessica Pendleton crossing the finish with her pacer

Jessica Pendleton crossing the finish line with her pacer (photo by Jennifer Ross Nostrala)

Jessica Pendleton had the privilege of being the last official finisher of the 100-mile, crossing the line with less than nine minutes to spare. The Bandit also lost out on that opportunity to stall her just a bit longer. The Bandit was officially shut out!

Full results for the 100-mile, 100K and 50-mile can be found at

This year’s finishing rate for the 100 mile was sky high at 69 percent, nearly equaling the finishing rates from the last two years combined. However, interestingly enough, only one of the 64 finishers was from South Dakota. Maybe all the South Dakota ultrarunners think that this race is just too easy to bother signing up – which is a lie. Any 100-mile race is challenging, no exceptions! If you doubt that, try any one of them out there.

The last two races for the Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series racers are the Superior Sawtooth 100 mile (Sept. 6) and Wild Duluth 100k (Oct. 19). Only 162.2 miles left to the series, but who’s counting?!?

Ron Hendrickson enjoying post-race nirvana, photo by Lisa Messerer

Ron Hendrickson enjoying post-race nirvana (photo by Lisa Messerer)

The Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series, sponsored by Wilderness Athlete Performance Products, is offered by Upper Midwest Trail Runners. All athletes who complete all five races (four 100-mile races and one 100K race) receive an equal portion of the $600 bounty put up by Wilderness Athlete, as well as Wilderness Athlete performance products and a coveted work of art by Rock Steady Racing’s own John Storkamp.

About the author

Molly Cochran

Molly is a self-proclaimed adventure addict who participates in a number of sports - ultra running, mountain biking, orienteering, kayaking, snowshoeing, triathlon, nordic skiing, and adventure racing.

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