Monday, September 8, 2008

Superior Sawtooth 100

First off I would like to thank Larry and Colleen Pederson and all the volunteers for putting on a fantastic race that is a first class operation from start to finish!

I would also like to thank my outstanding crew (family), Michelle, Jakob and Hanna for all their help along the way to keep me supplied and providing encouragement. Even though Hanna is not quite 4 years old...she understands what dad is doing, and Michelle and Jakob have this crewing thing down cold. Thanks a million!!

Now to the race report...

Race morning broke with beautiful weather and I was excited to see so many of the runners I have met over the last year and a half in the Ultra community. It was also nice to meet some of the people I knew only from blogs and race results. This is a great bunch of people that do these events!

The race start was simple...Larry saying "ready, set, go". Everyone started the first mile or two at an easy pace and it was good to be running after thinking about and training for this race over the last year. Soon enough, some of the faster runners pulled away and I was running with a few people that I seem to be around in races quite a bit...Scott Meyers, Chris Hanson, Doug Hansel, Adam Harmer among others. The first couple of aid stations came and went without much to say other than I was staying on plan.

What was my plan? I had a rough idea of how I was going to take this beast of a race on, some of it gleaned from my KM100 suffer fest in June. I wanted to run conservatively with a focus on running all flats and downhills and power walking all the uphills with reckless abandon. My game plan also included taking it easy on the downhills, even though I was running, I was being mindful of not pounding the heck out of my quads, knees and feet...I figured this would come back to help me later in the race. The quick report is that I think this strategy worked for me.

The course was absolutely beautiful and I have never been able to get enough of the SHT. The down side about running on this trail is that you don't get to take the time to enjoy it as much. Eventually I was running on my own much of the time, occasionally seeing and running with Scott Meyers and Helen Lavin. I changed shoes and socks at the Tettegouche aid station at mile 34.2 and it was great to have dry socks! I was stunned when Michelle told me that Adam Harmer had dropped at this point because of an achilles problem. I knew he was honed for this race and felt terrible about it.

The next couple of sections of trail were a blast to run and I had a great time even though my stomach was giving me some problems. I'm not sure what was causing the stomach upset but it seems to happen occasionally in races. Eventually this subsided by about mile 50 at the Finland aid station.

I saw my crew for the last time at Finland and it was 7pm, 11 hours into the race and I was right on the pace I had intended. I picked up all my night running gear which included a hydration pack, headlamps and more food. Scott and Helen had just come into the aid station as I was getting ready to leave and they were the last runners I saw for the duration of the event. Hanna didn't want Dad to leave this time and it was hard to turn and run down the trail with her standing there watching. I think she got over it soon as the next stop for my family was Caribou Highland and the swimming pool!

Sometime around dark I was running up a slight incline and heard what sounded like a freight train moving through the brush. Luckily, I noticed immediately it was running away from me. Moments later I heard a huge splash and a snort and then some swimming noises. I was pretty sure it was a moose. I'm not sure which lake I was near but I think it was Sonju lake. I kind of shrugged my shoulders and just kept running...and hoping I wouldn't see the next one.

The running at night on this trail was rugged in places and I was reduced many times to walking slowly and trying to pick my way through the maze of roots and rocks. I arrived at the Sugarloaf aid station (71.6) after what seemed like an eternity on the trail...three hours and 9.4 miles from Crosby Manitou aid station. This section of trail was relentless with the constant ups and downs combined with the rocks and roots I think it was the hardest part of the race. Michelle was there and it was 1:05 am...what a trooper. She did say that she was having a great time sitting around the fire with the volunteers and I could hear the hooting and hollering as I was coming in. They all jumped into action as soon as I arrived and like all the aid stations the volunteers were amazing.

I was still waiting for the "shoe to drop" and have my legs crash and burn and have the rest of the race turn into a survival shuffle but so far it had not happened and I was becoming more optimistic that I would be able to keep running this race to the end. I know when I reached the Cramer Rd. aid station at mile 77.2 I would be running familiar trails from last years 50 mile race. But what I didn't take into account was that it was still dark and nothing seemed familiar to me until reaching the banks of the Temperance river. Hearing the roar of the water and running next to steep drop offs was exhilarating to say the least and I just tried to keep my eyes on the trail and stay safe.

Somewhere near the top of Carlton peak it was becoming light enough for me to turn off my head lamp and that gave me some extra energy to push the pace a little into the Sawbill aid station (90 mi.). I dumped gear into my drop bag and found out I had missed Michelle by about 3 min. as she was trying to track down my location. I left the aid station as quickly as possible and just kept moving forward, staying on plan and running all flats and downhills and power walking the uphills. I was surprised that at mile 90 I could still hit the uphills hard and even though I was pretty sore, my legs had energy. I must say though that the 5.5 miles to Oberg was one of my low lights because I jut wanted to get on the last section of trail and finish this race off.

I finally made it into the Oberg Mountain aid station (95.5 mi.) and found Michelle waiting for me. It was nice getting a little extra boost from her and I was in and out of there in just a couple of minutes. She told me as I was leaving that I was in third place overall and I was stunned that I could be in that position. It gave me even extra energy and now I was determined to run the last 7.1 miles as hard as possible. I ran this section 6 times during our vacation a month earlier and it really came back to help me. I thought I had a chance to break 26 hours but I didn't want to be looking at my watch constantly, so I turned it to the timer mode so I couldn't see how I was progressing. My mini goal was to run the best I could and not check the time until I reached the overlook at the top of Mystery mountain. The trail seemed to pass beneath me feet more quickly at this point and even though I was sore my legs just kept on giving. I power walked hard up Mystery Mt. and when I reached the overlook I had 30 minutes to get across the finish line. On one of my runs during vacation I happened to look at my watch and noticed that it took me 20 minutes to cover this section but only to about the gondola. I knew I needed to really move to make it in sub 26hrs. I felt like I was flying down this section and when I hit the bridge over the river I knew I could make it in time. After crossing the finish line I think the first word out of my mouth was "wicked"...and that is definitely what this course is.

It was great hanging out in the finish area after the race to experience the other finishers crossing the line throughout the day. It is just a fantastic atmosphere to be around a finish area in an event like this...more spine chills and watery eyes than you know what to do with.

Congratulations to all the runners who took on the Superior Sawtooth 100 and finished...especially Matt Patten who worked it out and made it happen. Also, to all the runners who made the attempt and came up short for whatever reason...

"To some extent, we are all labeled by what we're able to achieve. But more importantly, we are defined by what we attempt." --Scott Tinley all had the guts and commitment to toe the line and that in itself says a lot about who you are.

Pictures to come...

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Minneapolis, MN, United States