Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sawtooth 2008 (in words)

Thank you to everyone who donated to Cystic Fibrosis Ireland. It meant a lot to me running this race knowing how many people had supported this cause.

For the short version see the 'Pictures' post. For the l-o-n-g version, read on...

I’d hoped to get on the road earlier Thursday but work got in the way (too bad there’s no money in trail running!) so it was just after 6:30pm when Teresa and I arrived at the visitor center in Two Harbors for the pre-race meeting. Larry had just started his briefing so I was glad not to have missed that. Although I spent so much time looking around the room seeing who was there, becoming increasingly nervous as I saw more and more trail veterans, that I hardly heard a word he said...

After he finished Larry had us all introduce ourselves which was kind of cool, although again hearing from people who’d run several 100 milers was not necessarily comforting. But I was far from alone in being a newbie. Many of the local runners I’ve gotten to know this year were taking on Sawtooth as their first one. We went out to my car then to get my drop bags. Or drop boxes in my case. I was a little embarrassed by my EIGHT obnoxiously large boxes so I told T we’d just bring 4 in first and get the others later!! I knew I was over doing it with how much stuff I had in each one but I was going with the ‘better safe than sorry’ attitude. Chatted to Kami and her Dad, Julie, John Taylor who I had not met before, Chris Hanson who I’d run with at Voyageur a little but looked totally different off the trail! Duke and Eve, John (and his predictions) and several others were there enjoying the pasta dinner. Plenty of discussion about the weather as it seemed like it might be colder than normal but at least the latest forecast for rain looked pretty positive.

After I got done with registration (and T had snuck in the last few boxes) we headed up the road to our nice comfy lodgings at Grand Superior. Matt and Adam were unloading their car as we got there. It was dusk by now and at first I didn’t recognize who was calling me. Seriously, I wasn’t trying to ignore ye! Chatted to the guys for a bit and after we got stuff sorted in our room we headed over to their cabin with our picnic dinner. Plenty of pre-race discussion on strategy and weather and all manner of things. I had my laptop with me also and was messing around with The Spreadsheet and marking the trail maps for Teresa with my predicted times for each AS (aid station). When I signed up for the race back in the spring I’d thought 32 hours was a reasonable goal. After some good races this summer and a few training runs on the course I figured under 30 was solid. However, over the past few weeks as I’d been devising my strategy and times for each section (with the help of Londell’s stage difficulty rating – Thanks Londell – and I am sorry I didn’t even get to chat with you this weekend!) I was finding it hard not to aim for a faster time. So I ended up with a range of 27-33 hours. I marked all of the AS on the maps and then jotted down my times on a small piece of ‘adventure paper’ (this stuff is the business - I got it in REI and its water/streak/tear-proof). I was planning to stick this in my pocket for the race so I could keep track. I know, how sad, a pace chart for my first 100 miler. I almost left it behind at Finland when I was taking trash out of my pack. Phew. Yeah trash – I picked up no less than THREE items – a few clif blocks in a baggie around mile 12, an empty clif block bag around mile 20 and an empty Stinger bag sometime later. Boys?????

Anyway, back to business. It was around 10pm Thursday when we hit the sack. I listened to Josh Ritter on my iPod for quite a while and feel asleep sometime after 11pm. Woke up several times but feel back to sleep quickly so all things considered I had gotten a decent sleep by 6am. I had a few interesting dreams including one where Teresa had decided she was running the 50 miler. I thought that was great but was worried about how I would get to the race start since she started at 6am (yes, it's all about me). I guess it didn’t register with me that I was starting a day earlier. So I got up, had a shower, microwaved some oatmeal and had that with a banana and a few mugs of ginger tea. All set.

Chatted with Kami, Julie and several others at race start. I wasn’t feeling nervous. Just very excited. Weather was perfect – cool and sunny. I started out with a vest and long-sleeve. I’d debated carrying my Nathan hydration back the whole way or just picking it up later but I knew I was comfortable wearing it and it held all my food too so I decided to just start with it and not have to deal with water bottles.

102.6 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail...

Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock (9.3 miles)

I’d run this section the morning after a long training run up here in early August. I’d started back father on the trail that morning and I’d been running on tired legs so I knew it would feel easier today and sure enough it did. Lots of grassy sections to start with and then some nice trail through the trees. Some hills but nothing crazy. A little steep as we got to the river. Saw Teresa very briefly at the spur trail – that was cool as I hadn’t expected her to be there. The front of the field had spread out pretty quickly and I was running behind a couple from Tennessee and there were a few others close by. I was astonished to hear the guy say something about hoping to finish in under 20 hours. I figured I’d misheard him and he’d said 30 hours. But then he said something about 19… I kind of wanted to say sorry buddy but you’re in the wrong race if you’re back here with me and hoping to run sub-20. But the more I heard them talk and after running between them for a bit and chatting to his wife Kris I realized they are both very accomplished trail runners (including Vermont 100 earlier in the summer). I figured they just didn’t know this trail so well…

As we got close to Split Rock AS I ran behind another guy who was asking far too many questions for my brain to handle 6 miles into a race and just ahead of another guy. I couldn’t see who it was but figured it might be Matt Aro as I remembered him being a tall guy. He went ahead at the AS and I saw him in the distance a few times but that was it. I knew what a great runner he was but it was only after the race I heard how he’d ran, and won, a 100 miler out West just a month ago. I zipped through the AS in about 30 seconds taking just a cup of water or coke I can’t remember which.

1:48:21 (11:39 min/mile)
0:00:34 at Split Rock AS
1:48:55/9.3 miles

Split Rock to Beaver Bay (10.1 miles)

I don’t recall a lot from this section other than the hilarious stories from Doug. I caught up to him about 10 minutes after the AS. He is one funny dude. We’d ran together for a while at Voyageur and that hadn’t worked out so well for him so he kept saying he shouldn’t be running with me. But he did anyway. All the way to Co. Rd 6! He was great company. If you are ever in need of reassurance as to the normalness of your family ask Doug to tell one of his family reunion stories :)

I was in great form coming into Beaver Bay as I was looking forward to a shorter section up ahead. I was shocked - and delighted - to see so many supporters at the AS. But I guess at this early stage so much of the field is still together. John was there and asked if I needed anything from my drop bag – seeing as I had “enough food for a month in there!!” Yes, I totally overdid the early drop bags. I didn’t need a thing. I took a cup of coke and a turkey sambo in a baggie and ran right out of there.

2:01:59 (12:05 min/mile)
0:01:06 at Beaver Bay AS
3:52:00/19.4 miles

Beaver Bay to Silver Bay (4.9 miles)

I left Beaver Bay ahead of Doug and Ron, who had arrived there just ahead of us. BIG mistake. A hundred yards up the trail there is a wooden bridge and then a gravel hill up to the railroad. Just as I approached the bridge I heard a train in the distance. I remembered when running with Wynn up here he’d talked about some people having to stop for a train so I sped across the bridge and onto the gravel and took a right turn down the gravel path. I knew we didn’t cross the tracks immediately so I kept going on this path as it ran somewhat parallel to the railroad. I was running fast because I was not getting stuck waiting for a train! After a few minutes I began to wonder why I’d seen no trail makers. Hmmm. This gravel path is no longer looking familiar. Hmmm. But I’m still by the rail road and there’s been no path across it yet. And then I come to a fork with NO trail markers. S**T. I ran up the embankment onto the railroad and looked each way. I saw what I thought was a crossing up to the right about 50 yards but no sign of any runners. Turnaround Helen. I ran all the way back to the bridge, almost getting taken out by a dirt biker coming across the hill at 70 mph. I get back to the bridge and there are the trail markers – now on my left at the near end of the bridge - clear as day!!! I guess I was so preoccupied with the train… I checked my watch – it had been 12 minutes after I’d left Beaver Bay so I figured I was about 10 minutes off course. I was so mad. Which just made me run even faster. Which of course made NO sense this early in the race. But I needed to work it out of my system. The interesting thing was that as I made my way along the river back on the trail and eventually came up to the railroad I looked to the left and saw the gravel path that I had been running on. I figured I’d been less than a minute from here earlier and wondered what I would have done if I’d found the trail. I’d like to think I’d still have turned back. I’d have covered pretty much the same distance but on easier terrain. Anyway I was glad I didn’t have to make that choice.

I met Teresa about half way through this section. She'd hiked up here from Beaver Bay. This really helped as once I off-loaded about going wrong I instantly felt better and went on my way and didn’t think about it again (well, until the final few miles when I was cursing everything and everyone and thinking if only I hadn’t gone wrong I’d be done by now!!). Thanks for listening to my ranting!!

I don’t think I caught Doug in this section but got to the AS just behind Ron who asked if I’d stopped for a bio break. I ranted some more. Then grabbed some food and a can of sugar free Red Bull from my drop bag. I used to think it was pretty nasty stuff but after I saw John and Duke drink it on our training run up here in July I figured I’d try it. I am so easily influenced. Didn’t taste too bad so I tried it again. This time without the vodka. Yeah it was pretty tasty. And whatever the taurine does it seemed to work. So I had a can in every drop bag!

1:07:53 (13:51 min/mile) (minus the 10 minute diversion pace would be 11:49 min/mile)
0:02:24 at Silver Bay AS
5:02:17/24.3 miles

Silver Bay to Tettegouche (9.9 miles)

This is my favourite section of the course – I just had to stop for a moment at the overlooks to Bean and Bear Lakes. So incredibly peaceful. By now I was running with Doug again and we had some fun through this long section. He is a superb downhill runner. Man I thought I ran downhills well. Not a patch on this guy. He literally seemed to float over the rocks. I don’t know maybe he was really bashing his feet up but it looked good!

Somewhere along here we had also met up with Chris and Scott both of whom I’d run a little with at Voyageur though I hadn’t really chatted with them. Sound guys. And fun. Quote of the day goes to Chris who in the context of wondering if the Marathon WR would ever go below 2 hours was telling us how he was discussing his training with a colleague and commented “nobody works as hard as us to be mediocre”. Indeed. I know, you might say by the end of this there’s nothing mediocre about running 100 miles but it was funny at the time comparing ourselves to Olympic athletes. We weren’t laughing soon after when in the space of five minutes all four of us got stung by a bee! The little b*****d got me just above my right knee and boy did it sting. But just for a few minutes and it only swelled a little. But it is still damn itchy as I write this and kept me awake last night. Though I can’t complain. I heard later how Molly had been stung and had to get to a doctor. Not that it stopped her from rejoining the race! She did have to pull out later but get this – she ended up pacing the guy from Georgia for the last 20 odd miles. Nice one Molly!

Coming into Tettegouche was really cool – not only was Teresa there but also Guy, Holly and Chae from the run club – they were all on their way to Lutsen for the marathon race. It was wonderful to see them. Alicia was working at this AS and several others that I know I should recall their names but cannot. I got my pack refilled here and took a cup of water. And then spotted the chocolate brownies. I commented that they looked yummy but I wasn’t sure it was a great idea at 34 miles. But the lady said she’d had one at some stage during Leadville and it worked a treat. Sounds good to me. It was DElicious!

Life was good. But then I heard from John that Adam had to drop. I was gutted. I’d really enjoyed hanging out with the guys the previous evening. He was in great form and I know how hard he’d trained. I am a big fan of his blog – especially the ‘scientific’ posts about diet and training (Adam – don’t take offence at me putting scientific in parenthesis but you are a sales guy after all. And for the competition no less!)

At this point I was almost an hour ahead of my ‘best case’. But I felt great and didn’t think I was going too fast. And on reflection I see that I’d estimated 2:45 for this section thinking it was one of the hardest. While there are lots of climbs it was the type of hills that I enjoy and at this stage of the race I was running most of them.

2:02:09 (12:20 min/mile)
0:05:19 at Tettegouche AS
7:09:45/34.2 miles

Tettegouche to County Rd. 6 (8.6 miles)

Teresa ran out of the AS with me – she reckoned I needed to slow down so she was going to make me!! We were right at the river – Baptism River I think – and she took a few pics around the bridge. I tightened my shoes and off I went. I was running with Chris and Scott again. I’d left Doug sitting in a chair at Tettagouche explaining to anyone who would listen to him that he shouldn’t be running with me. No more than 10 minutes later he’d caught us again!! Scott was a bit ahead for most of this section and Chris a little behind. At one point Scott and I came up to Brent – but within minutes he was gone again and after Co. Rd. 6 I didn’t see him again. He ran an awesome race. It was great chatting to him afterwards. And he was walking way too good Sunday morning!!

I found this section harder than the previous one – and my pace reflected this. Lots of climbing. But still I was feeling good. We started to get some rain close to the end of this section which felt pretty good. But then it got a little heavier so I was hoping it wouldn’t continue. The temperatures were still perfect – it had gotten warm earlier in the day in the sunshine but overall we’d been lucky. But I knew that as the evening got close and with some rain it could get quite chilly.

We emerged onto the road just down from the aid station at a little after 5:15pm. I figured close to 2.5 hours of daylight once I’d left this AS so I was very happy about this. I was 30 minutes ahead of my best estimate and still feeling like I was running within myself. This was Nancy & Tom’s AS and Jeffrey was there also – it was so cool to see them! I took some chicken broth and started to sort out what I needed. I put my Petzl lamp I’d just purchased in Moab a few weeks ago in my pack. I hadn't used it yet, bit risky, but I had my Black Diamond one at Finland if it didn’t work. As it turned out I didn’t have to switch it on until a few miles past Finland so really it’s just as well it did work out! It was a good bit lighter than the BD lamp so I knew it would be more comfortable and appeared to be plenty strong enough.

I changed my socks and decided to change my top also. I dumped the long sleeve that I’d had tied around my waist for a while then went in the bushes and pulled off my vest and on with a new sports top and long sleeve. Oh it felt good to be dry again! Brent and Scott headed out of the AS pretty quick while Chris and I got sorted. Doug sat for a bit under the tarp and got some warm food into him. I took off with a refilled pack, a bunch of grapes and one of Nancy’s yummy oatmeal cookies!

2:06:37 (14:43 min/mile)
0:05:33 at Co. Rd. 6 AS
9:21:55/42.8 miles

County Rd. 6 to Finland (7.7 miles)

I don’t remember a whole lot about this next section. I don’t think I caught up with Scott at all so I ran this section alone. Though my memory is a bit hazy. I guess I was in my own little world. Still feeling good and knowing that I’d make my goal of 50 miles before dark. I was so grateful for the chance to train up here a few times during the summer. In July I’d run Finland to Sawbill with Julie et al and then in August I’d run Split Rock to Finland with Wynn. I learned so much from these guys about the course and strategy for a 100 miler. And was glad that I’d decided to take Wynn’s advice and go out relatively hard for the first half knowing I’d have chance to recover through the night when I’d be forced to move slower. I also remembered from that run how many boardwalks were in this section. Boardwalks and I don’t get along well at the best of times so I was not taking any chances with the wet ones and walked very cautiously across them.

I think somewhere along here I took my first bathroom break. I was a bit surprised I hadn’t peed before this as I felt like I was drinking plenty. But my god once I started going… honestly there were times during the night when I felt like I was peeing every mile! I knew I was getting close to Finland when I came across the boardwalk I’d slipped off during the training run – I’d cut my left knee open and still have quite the scar. So I took it easy over that one. Some nice grassy sections along here which I normally complain about but the soft terrain felt good under my tired feet. Before long I came to the spur trail which was all lit up with Christmas lights. It was great to see the girls there – Teresa and also Pam and Tanya. They had driven up from the cities that afternoon and had already seen Kami at an earlier AS. She was doing great and running with Julie and others. I took a seat, changed my socks and with the girls help sorted out what I needed. The delightful volunteers refueled me with chicken broth, strawberries and grapes. And in the middle of all this I downed a chocolate soy milk from my drop bag. What a combination. I took my mini-Petzl lamp in case of emergency. This is cute little thing with an elastic band that I guess can be worn on the head but maybe better with a baseball cap or something. In any case I didn’t need to use it but had it on my arm for several hours and forgot it was even there. I also pulled on my arm warmers here (LOVE these things) and stashed my gloves in my pack.

This was my longest stop so far but I felt better for it. And it was just great fun chatting with the girls. The only downside was hearing Wynn had to drop here a few hours earlier. I felt so bad for him. He was in great shape to blast the course again this year. I can’t imagine the frustration those guys experienced knowing their race was over.

Scott had arrived at the AS just ahead of me. His wife is a neat lady and quite the crew master. She was totally on top of everything he might need. I was shaking blister powder on my feet and he was like ‘what is that sparkly stuff?’ It was so funny as sometime during the night when my feet were getting more tired I was trying to will them to feel lighter I started laughing to myself thinking of Scott’s comment that I was putting some sort of magic dust on them! Even funnier was the next afternoon chatting to Scott and him telling me he’d been thinking about the same thing!

1:38:26 (12:47 min/mile)
0:14:50 at Finland AS
11:15:11/50.5 miles

Finland to Sonju Lake (7.5 miles)

Oddly enough I was sort of looking forward to the next section. I didn’t mind that it was getting dark I was ready to slow down a little. I had made my goal of being at Finland while still bright and I was feeling good. My feet were tired but nothing really hurt. I think I’d taken a few falls at this stage but nothing more serious than a bruised knee. Somewhere in one of the earlier sections I’d turned on my left ankle. At first I thought it was bad but was ok after a few seconds. I rolled it slightly several times over the rest of the race, no pain at all but it just shook me up a little. And on a few occasions when I rolled it I would go down on my right knee so it looked pretty bad by the end but wasn’t all that painful.

I’d left Finland a few minutes after Scott and passed him maybe around halfway through. It was dark by now. I’d turned on my mini light around 7:50pm and switched to the head lamp at 8pm. 10 hours of darkness to go! Several times though the night I would convince myself if I moved faster I’d get to daylight sooner. Or I’d think about how the runners behind me had it so much harder as they would be running in the dark for longer. I wasn’t quite getting the whole nighttime concept. I had never run by myself at night and really expected to be kind of scared but that never happened. I guess I was too busy concentrating on my two feet and where to place them that I hardly looked about me at all. Which was just as well considering the odd shapes those trees make at night! The only thing that started to bug me as the night wore on was the back of my neck. It’s bad enough having to look down at your feet so much in the daytime but at least you can rely somewhat on peripheral vision but at night you really have to have your head down all the time. I decided along here that I would change into my Montrails (Continental Divide) at Sonju. I’d started out in my Asics (Trail Attack) and they’d felt good but I thought the slightly stiffer shoes would work better on the roots. Not so!

I rolled into Sonju a little after 9pm. No crew access at this one but the volunteers more than made up for it. So all of the AS were incredible but food of the night must go to Sonju for the two mini pancakes and maple syrup!! I mean, seriously, they had made these pancakes, wrapped them in foil and kept them warm by the fire. And they were like FLUFFY and YUMMY. I don’t know the folks here but they were so nice. I could have sat there by the fire all night. In between snacking I changed my shoes and had a can of Red Bull. Replenished the gel and Stinger supplies in my pack and set off again in search of Scott who’d come in after me and left before me! No sooner had I left the AS than I realized these shoes were way stiffer than I remembered. Of course it didn’t help that they were a brand new pair. I was tempted to turn right back around but figured I’d get used to them.

1:51:21 (14:51 min/mile)
0:10:18 at Sonju AS
13:16:50/58 miles

Sonju Lake to Crosby (4.2 miles)

4.2 miles – what a treat! I don’t remember much from this section other than roots, roots, roots. And stiff shoes. I’d passed Scott pretty soon after leaving Sonju and didn’t see him again for the rest of the race. I knew that Maria and her husband had the Crosby AS so I was really looking forward to reaching it. My feet were feeling the effects of 100K. The longest I’d ever run was 54 miles – my first 50 miler (+ ‘Horton’ miles) at Masochist in November 2007. That is one beautiful race. But instead of having to deal with constant roots there is a rocky section that is completely covered with fallen leaves making it impossible to know what you’re going to stand on next. Nerve-wracking to say the least.

I emerged from the woods and hit the gravel road and knew I was close. About a quarter mile up the road I saw the lamps – candles in paper bags – what a nice touch! And then Maria’s smiling face – and no end of menu choices!! I went for the chicken broth and munched on some fruit. Are they chocolate covered espresso beans??? They sure are. Wow! I’ll have me some of those. And off I went into the night again.

Teresa and Pam hadn’t made it to Crosby. Poor Teresa had ended up half way to Ely after leaving Finland so she’d decided to head straight to Sugarloaf instead. Pam on the other hand had raced to try to meet me here as she thought I’d left my headlamp behind at Finland! I felt so bad when she was telling me yesterday – she’d seen me take the mini lamp but didn’t know I had the other one in my pack from Co. Rd. 6 so when she saw the Black Diamond lamp still in my drop bag after I’d left she was sure I’d be in trouble. She was crushed to have missed me by a few minutes but Maria reassured her I was in good spirits and seemed to be ok for light.

I think it was here that I heard Duke had dropped due to knee issues. I remembered he’d had something go wrong with that before. Turns out he’d had to walk backwards down the hills to get to this AS. It was depressing to hear of yet another name added to the list.

0:58:30 (13:56 min/mile)
0:04:24 at Crosby AS
14:19:44/62.2 miles

Crosby to Sugarloaf (9.4 miles)

This was gonna be one mean section. My goal was around 3 hours. I figured I could do 20 minute miles. A fair amount of climbing in this section. And some pretty rugged terrain. We crossed the Wild Manitou River. Or maybe it was the Caribou River. Anyway, there was a delightful ascent coming up out of the gorge. The front of my right shin was beginning to hurt at this point. I couldn’t tell if it was bone, muscle or tendon but it ended up being the tendons connecting my foot to the shin. It got a bit worse as the miles passed but didn’t really stop me being able to run. Worse was a knot developing in the back of my right knee. At times it felt pretty good to stretch it out on the hills but when I tried to run on flat terrain it wasn’t happy. Well, I guess that’s what starts to happen at close to 70 miles!

This was the longest section but I must have zoned out for a good part of it as I can’t think for the life of me what was going through me head. I believe I started singing at one point which usually isn’t a good sign but I was feeling pretty good and felt like I was at or below 20 min mile pace so I was happy with my progress. I definitely did zone out now that I think about it. I went straight through two trail markers and ended up at a lovely camp toilet. I got there and was like, this is not the trail! Turned right around and saw the markers back a bit. How on earth did I run through them and not keep them on my left? Totally asleep. Better be careful that doesn't happen atop a cliff!

About halfway in, I started to get some chafing from the liner of my shorts (note to self: shaving your bikini line the morning of a 100 mile race is not a good idea). It wasn’t too bad at first but was bothering me after about an hour. I tried to adjust my shorts but that was no good. I contemplated taking them off altogether – it’s not like anyone was going to see me! But I settled for turning them inside out and ran like that until just before the AS – I thought about running in like that to give the volunteers a laugh but figured they’d think I’d lost the plot. I can’t believe I am even sharing this but there you go. All part of the fun!

I was well happy to see the Christmas lights welcoming me to Sugarloaf. Just under 3 hours since Crosby. Cool! Pam was there waiting for me – God love her I didn’t know at the time but she’d been there an hour and a half as she was determined not to miss me again!! Larry was here also – wondering if I was ready to hit him yet! Not quite. But maybe avoid the next few aid stations… Teresa got there just after I did. We sorted out what I needed and I sat for a bit. Teresa had been picking up my drop bags as she went along so I thought my older Asics would be in the car but she hadn’t been at Silver Bay and they were in that drop bag. Damn – I was really hoping to get out of these shoes. They weren’t giving me any trouble as such but I was missing the flexibility of the Asics. Not to worry, I knew for sure I had a pair in my drop bag at Temperance – yeah, I really did make the most of the drop bags!!

Changed my shirt again and also my shorts to see if that would help the chafing. And applied plenty of bodyglide. Took spare batteries for the headlamp and stocked up on food.

Eighteen and a half minutes at this AS!! Holy cow – time to rock and roll!

2:56:20 (18:46 min/mile)
0:18:32 at Sugarloaf AS
17:34:36/71.6 miles

Sugarloaf to Cramer Road (5.6 miles)

This is rated one of the easier sections but I have to say I wasn’t feeling it. In fact, apart from the final section (which I totally underestimated) this was the only one which took longer than my ‘best case’ prediction. But at least it was relatively short and I knew that Teresa would be at the next AS again. Pam was headed back to check on Kami. Tanya was running with her at this stage.

I don’t remember too much about the terrain other than the nice flat section towards the end. Sure enough Teresa was there waiting for me at Cramer. This was the quietest of all the AS. The pair of volunteers were sat by the fire and had everything laid out. I had some nice chicken noodle soup but that was about it. My stomach was feeling good but I hadn’t much of an appetite. I took a granola bar in my pack in case I felt hungry later.

1:36:39 (17:16 min/mile)
0:09:31 at Cramer AS
19:20:46/77.2 miles

Cramer Road to Temperance (7.1 miles)

Now I was on the marathon course I was feeling good about the next few hours. There was never a time I didn’t think I’d finish but every step closer just made that finish line more reachable. I’d run the marathon in 05 and 06, improving a serious amount with the second attempt as I was much better trained. I knew that there were quite a few runnable sections ahead but with my tired legs and sore feet it would be a challenge. On many occasions I had to decide whether I was covering ground faster power walking rather than running – which by this stage and while still dark was more of a shuffle. More often than not I decided to stick with walking as I was able lift my legs better and at least felt like I was making better progress.

I slowed down a bit in this section. It was beginning to wear me down a bit by the end. I kept expecting to get close to Temperance River but I had totally mixed up the layout of the end of this section. Though I think the frustration at not feeling like I was making as much progress as I hoped got me running faster for the last few miles.

Got to the AS at 5:30am – a half hour ahead of my best case. Nothing to complain about. Still Pam said later she thought this was the only point I seemed a bit emotional. I was a bit crabby after that last section taking more out of me that I expected. Mentally more than physically. But I was about to get a whole lot crabbier…

2:08:24 (18:05 min/mile)
0:11:26 at Temperance
21:40:36/84.3 miles

Temperance to Sawbill (5.7 miles)

The sun was starting to come up just as I was leaving Temperance. And as I crossed the river I was feeling pretty good about the next section. I knew Carlton Peak would be a tough climb but I figured just over an hour up and something under an hour to take me the rest of the way to Sawbill and I’d still be ahead of plan. Yeah, that cheerful outlook lasted all of five minutes. I should totally have taken advantage of the brightness and got my ass moving on the runnable terrain but instead I continued walking when the hills flattened out. I was not really thinking too straight along here – more than once I thought I saw a bear in the woods! And I don’t think I appreciated quite how far it was to the start of the big climb. Meanwhile there was plenty of climbing but then there’d be downhill. This frustrated me no end. I just wanted to be climbing and get to the top! Lots of talking out loud and giving out about everything under the sun – but mostly Larry and this god damn course!

Finally the steps. And then the rocks. I love scrambling my way up the final part. Ah yes, life was good again. How quickly the mood can change! I looked at my watch and saw 22:45, just over an hour up. Nice one. And now for the downhill. Oh it was a bit painful on my right shin but I was not gonna miss this opportunity to run some sweet downhill! Unable to do this during the night I was making up for it now…

I ran into Teresa just before the AS. She hadn’t expected me so soon and was out taking pictures. She took one of me and I look so cross in it! Yeah I think I just wanted to be done with that section. The guys at Sawbill were awesome. I chatted to them a bit later and they said it was their first time doing an AS. I hope they come back!

I ate some noodles, changed socks yet again, confirmed with the guys that the next section would be kinder and off I went…

1:35:15 (16:43 min/mile)
0:07:43 at Sawbill
23:23:34/90 miles

Sawbill to Oberg (5.5 miles)

12.6 miles to the finish. Not just 10. No, Larry would not be content with a mere 100 miler. Of course I knew this coming into the race but I was none too happy about it now. Still, this next section was quite runnable for the first few miles at least so I tried to keep my pace closer to 15 minute miles. Hard to judge pace at this stage of the race but I’d make myself run the flat and downhill sections and hiked the uphills. I was in pretty good spirits along here. I was reminiscing about how I’d run through here on the training run in July. We were supposed to finish at Sawbill but I’d gotten mixed up and didn’t recognize the parking lot when I got there so I’d kept going. And going. Eventually I realized I’d gone too far and turned around. I was trying to remember at what stage I’d turned. It all looked pretty familiar. This didn’t help as it made me think how much slower I was running compared to the 40 mile training run.

About a mile or more from Oberg I met Pam and Teresa. It was really cool to see them on the trail. Although it made me think the AS was much closer than it was! Pam mentioned that Matt Aro was at the AS and possibly dropping due to stomach issues. When we got there he was just leaving - by car. I was sad to see yet another familiar name leave the race. Especially this far along. That can’t have been an easy decision.

Kate Havelin was running this AS and doing one heck of a job. While food of the night went to pancakes at Sonju, food of the day most definitely went to mash potatoes at Oberg! Oh man, they were scrumptious! But it was about to get better. I sat into the chair, eating my mash and lifted my legs in the air saying something about looking forward to getting my feet off the ground. Next thing I knew Pam was hunkered down holding my legs up. How about that for a friend??!! I felt (and acted) like the Queen!

I left my pack here and took a water bottle for the remaining miles. I wanted to sit for longer but I also wanted to get done. I had 2 hours to get to Lutsen if I wanted to make 27 hours. And I wanted to make 27 hours. Big time.

1:28:05 (16:01 min/mile)
0:07:25 at Oberg
24:59:04/95.5 miles

Oberg to Lutsen (7.1 miles)

Before leaving I checked with Kate that I didn’t have to do the Oberg Loop. Nope. Cool. That was an add-on to the marathon in 05 and it is a bitch of a climb at mile 20 much less 95. Mind you I’d spent so much time thinking about Oberg that I’d forgotten about Moose Mountain. And Mystery Mountain. It was grand for the first few miles. I got up Moose feeling pretty good. And I was looking forward to hitting the switchbacks on Mystery. But they just went on and on. And on. And then there was more climbing. I couldn’t believe it. I just wanted to be going downhill to that damn river and instead the trail kept going back up. I threw quite the tantrum along here. And then just to really piss me off the trail took us out to an overlook of Lake Superior. Completely unnecessary. I believe I said something to the effect of "if I have to look at that bloody lake one more time..." And then finally. Glorious downhill… but still no sign of the river. The minutes were ticking by. I really thought sub-27 hours was off the cards. I made a lot of promises to God in these few miles. I have no idea what rubbish I was talking/shouting but I gave the couple out hiking quite a fright when I rounded a turn and ran right into them! And then a few minutes later this lady asks me the time!! er, 10:40am. She was about to ask me something else but I was gone…

I knew I had to be getting close now. And then before I knew it I was crossing that lovely bridge. Heaven. Gravel path. BIG HILL that I really DID NOT need. But I ran it anyway. And kept running, along the ski road, past the chalet, across the small bridge and up onto the grass. WOW. I was really going to do this. As I came around the corner of the Lodge there were people shouting out the windows. How cool. And then around the pool and up to the finish line. Lots of cheering from the small crowd of runners and crew gathered there. ONE HUNDRED MILES. FINISHED.

I don’t even remember what I did when I crossed the finish line. I shook Larry’s hand of course. All was forgiven :)

And Teresa, Tanya and Pam were there. And so many more friendly faces. It was wonderful to see them all. I couldn’t believe I’d done it. 26:49. I might have had a best case time of 27 hours but in all honesty I never believed I could run that fast.

I relaxed for a bit. Pulled off my shoes and downed my Recoverite drink. And then it was time for a trip to the lake!! Yeah – as much as I was fed up seeing the lake from on top of a mountain I did want to go sit in it. Nothing better than a soak in ice cold Lake Superior to alleviate some inflammation and speed muscle recovery. And it worked a treat.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent relaxing in the sunshine. Enjoying the wonderful company and watching people finish the marathon, 50 miler and 100 miler. Eric x 2, Holly, Guy, Cathy and Chae all did fantastic in the marathon as did Val in winning the 50 miler!! It was a tough 50 mile course this year having changed from an out-and-back to one way from Finland. We were keeping an eye on how Kami was doing and headed out to Sawbill hoping to catch her there but she’d already gone through – in great spirits according to the AS crew. Pam was pacing her from Temperance so we knew she was in good company. Back to the lodge again to see the marathon awards – CR for Andy Holak in 3:36!! And then back out to Oberg. Kami came though soon after we got there. She was doing great. A few blisters starting to bother her but she was smiling and still moving well. Her Dad was there of course – he’d been with her all day and night and did one heck of a job crewing. A latte at Cramer Road no less!!

Back to the finish and hung out with everyone enjoying the festivities. I didn’t know what I wanted to eat or drink so pretty much had a bit of everything. Sweet, savoury, coffee, beer, you name it! Though I had to refuse Debon's offer of wine from a box! It was great watching everyone finish. They all looked so strong no matter how late it was getting. Julie came through over an hour ahead of last year’s time. Way to go Julie! And Kami ran across that finish line, still smiling of course!

It was an incredible experience. The whole weekend. From Thursday evening to Sunday morning. Those few days will stay with me forever. A huge congratulations to everyone who ran. You all achieved something so great. And I know that like me, many of you never dreamed you’d become a runner, much less a trail ultra one!! The people who take part in these events together with those who support us are the reason I woke up Sunday morning knowing I’d be back next year. Teresa, Pam and Tanya - Thank you! And finally, a heartfelt thanks to everyone who made Sawtooth 2008 possible. Larry, Colleen, John and the dozens of others who put so much work into the race set-up, logistics, course marking, aid stations, timing, and everything else – all so that we can realize our dreams. It truly does take special people to do that.

Congrats to Chris on a phenomenal race winning in just under 22 hours. And to Joe and Brent who came in under 24 and 26 hours respectively. Full results for all of the races available at