Sunday, August 21, 2011

With one epic, run, I am ready for Sawtooth

Yesterday I wrapped up my training for the Sawtooth 100 with an all-day run at Afton State Park; my tapering starts today. Myself and a handful of runners got together to run a few loops of the Afton Trail Run course. The idea was to put a get a lot of easy time on my feet in preparation for the task that is Sawtooth. My plan was to run up to three laps (75K, or 46.5 miles), time allowed. I ended up going 38.1 (~61K) miles in 7:25, about a 11:51/mile pace.

The run was a great success. We ran slow and easy, taking our time and walking more than I would if I was only running 50K or racing the course. After each loop, we took an extended break to eat watermelon, drink coffee, and otherwise re-fuel.

This morning, I have minimal soreness. This is a testament to two or three things: we did not push the pace or try to thrash our muscles, we adequately drank water and consumed food whilst running and during breaks, and hopefully, my level of conditioning now only three weeks out from the hardest race of my life thus far.

With that said, there are some lingering thoughts in my head as I prepare for this race.

I really don't know what to expect

There will be a distance after which I do not know what to expect from myself. In my two completed 50 milers, life got very difficult after about mile 40 or so. I distinctly remember telling my wife at mile 45.5 or so at Surph the Murph that I was dying - I meant I was fading, but you get the idea.

This weekend's run is encouraging - it demonstrated that I can run 40 miles without feeling like I want to give up. Fatigue was starting to set in, but it had occurred later than it normally would.

I don't exactly know how to run this race

This is my first 100 miler, and other than starting slow, I don't exactly know how to run this race. Give my inexperience and singular goal of finishing, my run will be about the basics:
  • Eat and drink early, often and in large enough quantities to protect myself later in the race
  • Start slow and run with an even effort
  • Always continuing moving forward
  • Never, ever, ever give up
During the run at Afton, one of the runners said it was also the hardest 100 miler in the Midwest - i.e. you'd have to go to Leadville or Hardrock just to get a harder race. Now, I don't have the race experience to be able to evaluate that statement, but the statement is pretty bold in itself.

My run at Afton did much for my race psyche. It told me that I can run 40 miles at a fairly easy pace and maintain that pace for a long period of time. Only when we got north of 35 miles did the stress from the distance start to set in, and by then it was minor and manageable. Our pace also set my mind to how I need to start out.

The run also was a test of running slow. We intentionally ran slower than our legs and minds permitted because we had the tremendous distance at the forefront of our thoughts. (There were times when we got over excited and ran a little too hard; these moments must be eliminated during the race.) During Sawtooth, going out too hard or trying to put time in the bank could be devastating later down the trail.

A final note

I ran the first 25K with a pair of original Luna Sandals, Barefoot Ted's sandal company. My intention is to run a portion of Sawtooth in them, if not the entire course. To my knowledge, no one has completed the race in anything but shoes i.e. no one has completed it in FiveFingers. In order for me to do that, I'll need the raw foot strength to handle the stress - in the past, I've gotten top-of-the-foot pain after about 10 or so miles. It occurred at Afton this weekend at some point during the loop, so perhaps I won't be able to rock the sandals for the race.

Unfortunately, something on the sandals failed because the suede top separated from the Vibram sole. I had gotten the sandals quite wet by running through dew-covered grass and I suspect the glue dissolved under the wetness. I have contacted Luna and asked for an return/exchange to a model without a suede top. I would like to get a pair of Leadvilles and use that at Sawtooth, for example.

The failure said, I still would recommend the sandals to people - I love running in them, and they do wonders for your efficiency because they require you to run light, smooth, and easy. Just don't get the top if you ever want to run in anything wet or during a rain - I was slipping and sliding all over the place when the sandals got wet. This did a number on the space between my toes where the strap went.


Eugene Smith said...

Wow, best of luck to you out there Matt. Hopefully you keep it all together, and if/when things may fall apart, you keep on pushing.

brothergrub said...

Your feet will thank you for wearing some shoes with at least a little protection at Sawtooth - My feet felt like someone assaulted them with a ball-peen hammer after that one - and I don't usually have any foot soreness. There just so much technical - the downhills on rocks and roots eat feet! Either way, good luck on your first 100! - You picked a great one!

SteveQ said...

Sawtooth is like hitting your feet with hammers for a day. By far the hardest section is Crosby to Sawbill, 10 miles which you'll do in the dark; getting to the next two aid stations after that without quitting is the mental challenge. The footing around Sonju is hard to navigate for first-timers. The section before Co. Rd. 6 seems much longer than it is. If shooting for a fast time, spend as little time at aid stations as possible - keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.

Best of luck!

Matthew Patten said...

I would say you are the best prepared of anybody I have seen to do this in minimalist shoes. With that said, have a back up plan. This is the only race which has literally destroyed my shoes.

Hey Steve.... it's Crosby to Sugarloaf. LOL

SteveQ said...

@Matt P: I ALWAYS switch those two in my head, and only those two... I think that course just fried the brain cells that store that info.

@Matt L.: Just saw the results. Congrats!