Long-distance runner Dakota Wagner hasn't allowed his asthma to stop him from running the longest races humans can endure.
The former Jamestown High School and current UJ runner competed in the 50-mile, Black Hills 100 in Sturgis, S.D., on June 23. Wagner placed 27th out of 57 finishers with a time of 12 hours, 51 minutes and 39 seconds.
"I was pretty battered by the end," Wagner said, a computer science major. "The climbs tired me out but the descending also destroyed my legs. The day after, on Sunday (June 24), I was having difficulties walking, which is typical.
"Overall, I think it went really well and I trained pretty hard for that race."
Coming into the race, Wagner said his strategy was to consume GU energy gels every 30 minutes to intake 200 calories an hour. About every seven miles there was an aid station to allow Wagner to eat and drink.
"Every time I would get to an aid station I would eat real foods like peanut butter and jelly, chips and Coca-Cola," he said. "You're taking in enough fuel to sustain a run."
The course featured six major climbs and a couple of smaller ones. Overall, there was an 8,656-foot elevation gain and a 9,990-foot loss.
Despite muddy conditions that caused 41 competitors to drop out early in the race, Wagner cruised through the first 20 miles of the race. But at Mile 32, Wagner's legs hit a wall.
"Around Mile 32 things started to get really rough," Wagner admitted. "I had to mentally force myself to keep going. There comes a point where it doesn't get any worse and you just have to keep moving."
Wagner managed to rally and finish the remainder of the race, even though his legs were telling him otherwise. Once he crossed the finish line he celebrated with his "crew" of best friend Alphonse Schoeneberger, a UJ graduate and ICU nurse, and brother Dustin.
"All the aid stations had crew access and they would have all the essentials like food, drinks and in case I needed to change my socks," Wagner said. "They helped take care of all that for me."
Wagner was initially interested in ultramarathons after watching YouTube videos and reading magazines.
"The way things worked out this summer there was an opening during the Black Hills 100," Wagner said. "I signed up in January and made the commitment. I just wanted to see how much I could push myself."
Training for the Black Hills 100 became a constant grind weekly. In January and February he ran on a treadmill inside the Two Rivers Activities Center. Starting in March, he ran a loop through the Jamestown Reservoir, the U.S. Highway 281 truck bypass and Jamestown Regional Medical Center. When the snow finally melted he ran the local Pipestem and Split Rock trails near Pipestem Reservoir.
According to Wagner, he trained five days a week with four smaller runs, followed by a large one to end the week. He said an alternate training method would be to run 10-15 miles per day weekly.
"I would run 50-55 miles a week and then I would do a week of 20-25 miles. I would start big runs at 20, 22, 27, them I would build myself up to 30 miles."
As far as Wagner's asthma goes, he said the ultramarathon was much better than running a cross country or track race during his JHS or UJ running career.
"When I transitioned into ultra races, being able to run at a lower heart rate didn't really affect me," Wagner said. "I was able to run a race to my full potential, since I didn't have to rely on speed. It's probably the best race I've had in my life.
"When you're running extremely fast, like a 5K race, the amount of oxygen you're able to take in is difficult. I always struggled in races where I'd train really hard but couldn't put out a good performance."
Wagner said he's undecided whether he'll run cross country and track during his senior season for the Jimmies, or continue training for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-mile race in Dousman, Wisc., this Sept. 15.
"The race is flat so hopefully I can get a good time to attract some sponsors," Wagner said.