FKT: Lance Smith - Sage Creek Wilderness Area Loop (Badlands National Park, SD) - 2020-12-04

Route variation
Standard loop
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
3h 27m 8s

Decided to give the route I posted another try. My first attempt was a fine effort but I knew I could do much better.  I had 53 minutes of non moving time and I really was not pushing that hard.  I was moving quick but also show casing the route and getting pictures and video.  

John Haak set a new FKT a few weeks after me of 4:02:??.  He actually ran 3.3 miles farther due to his first time on route, navigation issues and not being familiar with the landscape.   I know eventually he will be back and get in a shorter route and better his time and hopefully set a new FKT. 

This FKT has allowed us to chat about the route and we will continue to try and get others out there to experience it. It is such a marvelous place to run/experience. I suggest doing it slow first to just check it out and get your bearings.   I have done it 7 times total and 3 times this year. 

I left Sioux Falls at 5:30 am. Drove to start and got going by 9:46 am Mtn time.  I live over 300 miles from the route.  I was gone a total of 14 hours from home.  8.5 hours were driving.  3.5 were running.  The rest was getting ready and stops for breaks/food.  I got back home at 7:30 pm CST. 

I met Michael Zimmy at start.  He is from South Dakota Public Broadcasting.   He is doing a story about FKT in SD and Badlands.  He actually got some photos of me running at the start. Here's a link to the story:…

I took off from TH at a blistering pace for me.  I ran first 2 miles in 14:33.  I was hoping this would not hurt me later.  I think it may have as the last 4-5 miles we’re a real struggle and I had a hard time moving as fast as I wanted.  I got to the top of Deer Haven with out incident.  I picked a different route than my first attempt.  I was able to ask John Haak how he moved so quickly on the North side of Deer Haven.  He said he stayed in creek bed.  I had got up on the banks last time and tried to stay higher. His suggestion worked great.  This will only work when it has been dry.   I did get out of the creek a little sooner than last time and this seemed to work well. 

I made it through the Sage Creek Area quickly and got to where the route opens up more.  I did take a slightly different line this time.  I was trying to keep my path as straight as possible and not weave around so much which is easier said than done.  I was pretty much able to accomplish this and felt strong.  I did see a very large Ram and 2 mule deer bucks.  Nature is so cool.  I also at one point felt as if I was running with the deer as they kept bumping ahead of me.  

Eventually I got to the far end and started the turn to the South into the Tyree Basin.  I felt I could straighten my line here also.  I suggest staying out farther to the West and find a line that takes you to the South side of Sage Creek pass.  This is pretty much running in the grass/weeds which always feel as if they are pulling at your feet.  You may find a Buffalo trail to follow but sometimes these don’t keep you going the way you want.  

I saw the grave site of Howard and Eugene Tyree again but did not get as close as last time.  To save time I continued past.  I did stop at Visitor center and asked about the grave site.  I was told that the park service does not maintain it and leaves it as is. It is a historic site.  They said the family might take care of it.  I might research this more to see if I could help them. 

I continued down Sage Creek Pass and started heading East.  I was feeling lower at this point and was starting to struggle.  My legs were feeling heavy and I was getting hot.  I made a 5 minute stop and took off my long sleeve shirt.  That was a game changer.  I still felt bad but at least I was cooler.  It was upper 50’s to low 60’s this day.  Winds were to pick up about 1 pm.   The wind did pick up at that time but fortunately it was at my back pushing me.  I had hoped I would time the wind right and it was perfect.  I felt as if God was blowing me along to the finish!  

The last miles were the hardest.  At one point I felt I could go under 3:30. That was my new goal but it felt as if it might be slipping away.  My stomach was starting to feel bad and my legs just wanted me to walk.  I did a little jog-walk which helped me recover.  I did the last miles quick enough to come in at 3:27:08.  My first effort was 4:58, so over 1hr 30 min improvement.   I am so happy with the day and how I did.  I never imagined being able to go that quick.  I had told John Haak that I was hoping to just squeeze in under his FKT time.  

I am dedicating this FKT to Andy Hille.  I know him from church.  He is near my age(50) and was recently diagnosed with cancer.  He is having his own battle and I wanted to go out and battle for him.  He is a great guy and when he shared this horrible news with us at church, it got me to set an appointment for a physical and more than likely my first colonoscopy!! See I’m pretty healthy and I have not been to Dr. for past 5 years.  It’s important to take care of ourselves so we can continue to do the things we live for.   So get that appointment set and do the right thing!  Do I want to have a colonoscopy-No! But I will do it due to Andy. 

What a great day.  I saw the sunrise/set. I saw lots of wildlife.  I experienced a perfect weather day.  I pushed myself harder than I thought I could.  I set an New FKT.  God is good!  He has blessed me so many times so far in my life.   I will continue to do what I can to honor that.  

If you are looking for a great route-give this a try. If anyone wants to talk through the route let me know.  Text/call to 605 360-9658.  It was a great joy to me that John Haak decided to try it.  It is my hope other will as well and this will help me connect with other like minded people.  

I took a small running pack. I had about 16 oz water and 40 oz of Tailwind.  I ate 2 Hammer gels and 3 figs.  I did listen to music the entire time.  I had on a baseball hat, short(polyester)and long sleeve shirt(merino), Russell shorts, Walmart compression socks(black), Old worn out Altra Timps, light weight gloves which I mostly wore at the beginning.  I never imagined I would be out there in December in SD.  Normally it is much colder and we have snow.  

This was the year of the FKT for me.  I set 4. Two on Centennial Trail in SD and two on Sage Creek Wilderness Loop in Badlands NP.  Such a surprise to be doing this.  I had never started out thinking about this until after I hiked the Centennial Trail with friends and family in June 2020.  

Take care and if you made it this far-thanks!