Monday, September 14, 2009

Superior Sawtooth 100 report

You might be an ultra runner if.....

You go an extra 12 miles in a race just to prove to everybody you can't go anymore.

I was done at 50, but nobody believed me. Cry me a river. They made me go to mile 58, a new crew access aid station. (code for - can't drop here).

I rolled into 50 saying "I have nothing to prove, I don't need to be out here anymore". I was just wanting to go home and crawl in bed.

Bill Pomerenke, my crew, had to put up with my crap for a while. Thanks Bill.

Saturday, sitting at the finish area, I was with Brad Birkholz and I said to someone "I knew I was done at 50". This person asked "How did you know?". Both Brad and said "YOU JUST KNOW".

This was not a funk. My stomach had gone south and that caused a chain reaction of everything else falling apart.

But the long and short of it is.... I am cool with it. To finish would have meant spending a lot time at aid stations as well as tearing my body to pieces. I did that last year, had no desire to do that this year. I was out there to do something different. I am glad I tried. It made the event a different feel and experience than last year.


The journey to the start line

Being on the road for work created more of a challenge than I expected. I sat in the Houston Airport looking at my flight get delayed 5 minutes... 10 minutes... 1/2 hour. I kept doing the math. This will be a short night of sleep.

Bill met me at my house at 8:15pm and we left around 8:30. We arrived at Gooseberry (hotel) around 11:30, and head hit the pillow at midnight. At least I can sleep in until 6:30. I woke up at 4:50.

Combined previous 2 night sleep around 11 hours. Both a result of me just waking up around 5am, my usual time. Not good.


The Start

I see Daryl Saari right off the bat as he holds up a newspaper with the headline "400lb bear killed at Finland" (Finland is the half way mark. Someone asked if that made me nervouse. My response "Not really. I don't plan on being the slowest runner out there, so I should be okay".

Larry gave one of his priceless speaches. Included in the speech was "In the extreme case you have to drop, notify a ham radio operator". I chimed in and said "Don't you mean the likely case?"


The First Few Legs

Adam Harmer and I decided we would run the first 50 together, but running our own races. We were cool if one of us had to back off or pull ahead. A group of us went out in a pack right at the start, and by the time we hit the bridge, Angus Repper started to pull away.

Angus looked back at us with an expression saying "Is anybody coming with me". I was a smartass and said "Go ahead, have fun!". I turned to everybody else and said "That guy is doomed, you can't do that pace out here". Turns out he showed us how it was done by winning the race.

Kevin Grabowski, Wouter (The Belgium Guy), and Chris Hanson took off together. It was at that point that I put my money on Hanson. I have seen him run this course, and he is patient, calm, and does not get caught up doing stupid stuff (like the rest of us). I think I even said that we would catch Kevin becuase it looked like they were going "guns a blazing". Kevin ended up bring the heat and kicked some serious ass. It must have been his cool looking shorts.

We soon grouped a pack together consisting of Adam, Sean Faulk, and the guy from Mexico. I deduced that the english equivalent to his name was "Bill". I made a trade with Sean - a few S caps for a week long stay at his cabin in Finland. Remember that Sean? You must have been out of it, because you basically said I can go there anytime I want :)

Soon the pack grew, and we had Bryce Carlson (Georgia), Jason Boon, Ryan Flynn, Scott Meyers, and at least 1 or 2 others. I had a suspicion Boon was waiting to turn on the heat. He had an amazing Afton 50K and Voyageur 50 Mile.

At that point I said "26 hours will win this race". A few said that the runners ahead were trying to break 24. I knew from experience that you have to be a top dog bad ass to do that, and only four guys have done that. None of us out there were at that level. Around that time Adam said "statistically speaking, half of us won't make it there". As far as I know, Bryce was the only one in that pack to end up finishing.


Things get tough

We knew it was a warm and humid day. In hindsight, we were in denial. At least I was. I kept pretneding it was not as humid as it was. I kept expecting Lake Superior to bless us with her cool breezes. No such luck.

Leaving the Beaver Bay aid station was the first of the mountain climbs in the exposed sun. At this point, you are climbing a couple of hundred feet at a time, but there was not shade.

By this time, we had already backed off. I was flipping my pace chart to reflect longer and longer times. I thought we were adjusting correctly.

Adam and Sean had to listen to me freak out about how we were approaching where I was attacked by bees last year. They were not there, but there were old honeycombs and dead hornet nests all over that section. I was PHREAKED.

When we rolled into Silver Bay, we were hot. Sean said he was going to back off and cool off. I still felt fine, but was hot.

The next section of climbs were BRUTAL. All sun. No breeze. Adam kept cursing. I periodically stopped on the climbs to get my heart rate down. I was starting to chaffe bad. We backed off more.

I kept saying if we could just manage this heat until 4pm, we should be in good shape. I adjusted the strategy to keep a lid on the heat problem, thinking we could recover and make up ground once the sun goes down. I knew there were plenty of runable sections at night.

We rolled in to Tettegouche a bit beat up. I had run dry on fluids, and was raw from chaffing. There are some rumors out there about what I did at that point, but they are just rumors.

You might be an ultra runner if.....

Let's just say I am going to have to pay off a few people to delete pictures.

We left Tett, and I felt a ton better. I felt so good, that I made Adam work for it. But that section from Tett to cty rd. 6 is hard. Very hard. The hills keep coming. I had forgotten how hard this section was.

The fequency of the hills did not allow my heart rate to recover. My average HR was skyrocketing over a half hour period. I should have stopped and taken breaks at the top of climbs.

Close to Cty rd 6, we passed Wouter (The Belgium Guy). Turns out, he had run Cascade Crest 100 two weeks prior AND he rode his bike here this week from Grand Forks (almost 200 miles per day). This must be Pierre's brother lost at birth.

We made it to 6. I tried to put on a strong face, but was not thinking straight. I knew I would need lights in this section, but we couldn't find them. Oops. Bill gave me his headlamp (which I left on the chair) and my crappy little hand held.

I think I could have had better illumination with moon shining off my white butt than that little hand held. I kicked every root and rock in that last mile before 50.

Somewhere between 42 and 50, I lost it. I was already sleepy tired (I have not had that happen so early). My stomach was so upset, I was starting to dry heave. When I did, my whole mid section cramped up. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn't eat or drink anymore. I was too sick.


50 and on

I rolled into 50 announcing I was done. I knew I was past the point of no return, but everybody thought I was just at a low point.

I sat there whining and complaining, shaking from being cold (it was still warm out), and just a sack of crap.

After what seemed like an eternity, and everybody trying to kick me out, the Belgium Guy gets in my face and says "You are coming with me". I said "Are you walking?" He assured me we were. I followed.

His walk is BLAZING FAST.

At that point, 1/4 mile out, I realized ..... there is no crew access at the next aid station. THEY WON'T LET ME DROP THERE. I started to strategize how I will get to the station after that without running.

The Belgium Guy dropped me like a trappist ale yeast just finishing primary fermentation (that one is for you, Quick), and I was alone in the infamous "Sonju roots". Quite honestly, they are not that bad. I did bash my toes up, though.

I eventually arrived at Sonju Lake, mile 58 aid station. Larry, the race director, was there. I felt like my parents had caught me skipping schoold. I kept saying I was done, and Larry just laughed. Bill Gengler was there, trying to get me back on race. I kept thinkg "you of all people should understand". Problem is, he did understand. He didn't want to hear my whinning.

I don't know how long I stayed there, but after a bowl of vegetarian beef broth (yes, you heard that right), I figured I had to go.

Larry said "It's only 4.1 miles, you can do that in a half hour". Sweet. I was off.

WAIT A SECOND! Thats 7:30 mile splits!

It took me 1.5 hours.


The walk of shame

Walking into Crosby, mile 62, John Storkamp and Kevin Martin were leaving in their truck to help out other stations. John said I couldn't be a wuss like Adam and drop here, but I couldn't do it anymore. I said I was done 12 miles ago.

I had not eaten or consumed water between the last 2 stations. I could not without heaving.

Doug and Maria Barton welcomed me, but I said emphatically "I AM DONE".

Bill tried to get me to reconsider, but it was not use. I also said "There is NO WAY" I am going into the Manitou gorge in this shape.

Ring the bell. Stick a fork in me. I am Done!


And that was that

I feel guilty for wasting people's time helping me, crewing for me, cheering me on, all to DNF. I greatly appreciate all of the support.

Bill did his job. I went for it. It was not my day to go for it like I did.

But, I enjoyed the race. Staying in the race would have done more damage than it was worth. I actually feel pretty darn good today. I can even run up and down stairs.

There is more to post about what everybody else did, but I will do that separately as this one is already too long.

Congrats to

Chris Hanson for brining home a strong 2nd place
Kevin Grabowski for a strong 3rd (caught it on tape)
Zach Pierce - stayed in the game and got his jacket
John Stuart - First hundo!
Daryl Saari - Last gnarly bandit standing!
Lynn Saari? (not sure if she finished or not)

and all of the others who gave their time and effort to make it a great race.

Thanks again to Bill P. for putting up with my crap.

More to follow later


SteveQ said...

I may go down in history as the only guy to ever drop at Sonju - 12 hours freezing at the station was better than trying to go the next 4 miles! I know exactly how you felt at 50; you go on, knowing you'd regret not trying, yet knowing it's just going to prolong the agony. Pierre dropped, so you know you're in good company

I got to meet Bryce and Wouter. Nice guys. Wish I'd met Alicia, though.

Kel said...

Lynn & Sara finished together in fine form :)

Julie B said...

Hey Matt, thanks for posting your report. Well done. I know just how it is to feel like a sack of crap..exactly! I'm glad you are feeling OK with it all. That makes it a good ending.

Bill S said...

Well done, Matt.

Karen G said...

Sorry it did not go as planned. But what would be the fun if we always knew how things would turn out. Life would be way too boring.

Anonymous said...

I didn't forget about the Scap trade (thanks again) but I remember it a little different:) We'll have to talk when I decide if I want to inflict that kind of fun on myself again next year! Either way I had a blast - wishing I had continued longer but still glad I didn't if that makes any sense. GREAT REPORT!


Anonymous said...

I may have one of those pictures.... I do like a good sweet stout. :)

I think we need to buy you some longer compression shorts for Christmas. You totally freaked Zach's pacer with your insane chafe!

Helen said...

Hmm - might take more than a beer to convince me to part with the pics!!

Great report. You were definitely ready to be done when 30 mins to Crosby sounded doable :)

nwgdc said...

You might be an ultra runner if.....

You go an extra 12 miles in a race just to prove to everybody you can't go anymore.

That is absolutely golden. I love it.

Congrats on a great run, nonetheless, and once again confirming to my wife that the 100 mile race is something I should probably stay away from. The SHT, however, is calling me bigtime.

Does the focus (run-wise, that is) now move to Chippewa? I remember Adam mentioning that it could be your turn to run it!

Londell said...

Thanks for sharing the report. Felt your pain as I was there in 2007. I did go on, and then at Sugerloaf they coerced me to go again, then I was done. I agree, you just know it when that times comes and then we all make wise decisions. Rest, Heal and try again?

Steve said...

I feel ya, Matt. I felt "done" at 50 too. But, somehow I managed to find my legs again and knock out 4 more aid stations before timing out at Sugarloaf. There's no shame in DNF'ing at Sawtooth, only in DNS'ing, and you toed the line like a man without making excuses. Way to go!

Brian said...

Nice work out there Matt on getting through the 100K...was great to read about the race. I was thinking about you and Adam on and off all day on Saturday.

Sorry i wasn't much for conversation after the 50...was really awesome to see you though then and thanks for all the help man. see you soon I'm sure.

Scott said...

I got the yeast joke too, nice. Thanks for sharing all of these details, though sorry you had to deal with that pain. I can't imagine Finland to Crosby-Manitou with no food or drink, that's unreal and tenacious. I'll do something up there next year, not sure what, but hope to see you back on the trail.

Anonymous said...

Great report, Matt. I've been there - puking up everything for hours and my teammates not letting me quit. There's a time to quit!...But I'm glad you didn't get stung!


johnmaas said...

Great report Matt!
It was nice to visit with you on Saturday afternoon. Thanks also for the home brew - drank it last night.
Congrats on pushing yourself the extra 12 miles. That had to be painful.
You left it all at Superior, that's how you're supposed to do it.

Anonymous said...

Nice meeting you att eh start.

COngrats on your second place finish in the 100K :)

Chris said...

Great story! I can almost taste hints of Heed residue from a dry heave as you describe your night! You did great to make the 50 mark in the humidity, earned your 50 finish and added those extra miles to make sure you got all the suffering you signed up for.
Sorry my trail numbed brain couldn't come up with any witty post race race comments for your camera. It's a pleasure running with you. See you later on the trails.