"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, August 7, 2009

First thoughts on Superior

Time to get serious. Having been ill for a long time, I just let myself eat what I wanted and sleep more and run less. Now I'm in the worst shape of the last 15 years, with a 100 miler in two weeks and the Superior 100 three weeks after that.

I finally looked at the split times for everyone at last year's Superior and did some data mining. One can tell a number of interesting things that way; for example, of those who finished, probably no one suffered more than Matt Patten (I'm sure I'll hear a denial of that from someone) and no one who didn't finish suffered as much as I did - then again, I did have a splint on before the race started. One can see, as one would expect, that the hardest section was from Crosby-Manitou to Sugarloaf, but the data suggests one other bad section, from Tettegouche to County Road 6; this is hard to fathom, as it is not a particularly memorable section. The sun went down while I was running that section and it started to rain, but that was not the case for everyone. I went through a number of possibilities, including course mismeasurement, but it's still a mystery. I guess everyone has a problem from 34 to 42 miles, which isn't unreasonable.

One of the things I'm trying to figure out is hydration. The top runners get by with two hand-held water bottles, but if one expects to take 36 hours, rather than their 24, a third bottle seems necessary and that means extra equipment. The belt I used with two bottles was a disaster, as I couldn't switch them with my handheld (and I only had the one good hand). Perhaps I could use two handhelds and "camel" at the aid stations, drinking an extra 16-24 ounces at each.

There's two approaches to running Superior and I'm not sure which to use. One is to run as comfortably and evenly as possible, which is reasonable, but had me running too slowly (there's a price to pay for running slower than you're used to). The other is to go out hard, then slog through the night and hope for the best in the morning; I might like the idea of having more than a day to do the last 40.

Most of the people who drop out at Superior do it at the Finland station, where they get an official 50 mile finish. A few drop out very early, deciding that it isn't their day. Others get through the Crosby and Manitou gorges and have trouble leaving the next aid station - understandable, as some have taken as much as 5 hours to get between aid stations there - those who move on seem to have trouble with the next section, which is technically easy, but gradually uphill to 77 miles. 70-85 miles is tough in every hundred, but nearly everyone who gets to Carlton Peak at 85 miles, finishes. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who dropped out at a Mayan temple hallucination.

Those who have crew have a much greater success rate. Unfortunately, everyone seems to be either racing that weekend or is unable to take a Friday off work or unwilling to do the drive and stay up all night just to watch the wreckage in person.

And still, I haven't got a plan for Lean Horse yet. My plans for getting there and where to stay have fallen through twice already. I might end up driving straight there and sleeping in the car, but I hope not. I have enough stories from races without that.


Anonymous said...

i agree, running too slow is as uncomfortable as redlining. I'm a fan of rolling the dice and just go for it. If you feel good, than get after it. You'll run a higher risk of something bad happening, but something great could happen too. In your case though I would seriously consider going steady, as you have already made it this far into the journey. If you had not accomplished all the races thus far than I would say just get out and get after it. Then again that's not to say you still could not do that. ahh the dilema. I guess the only certainty is that no matter which approach you choose, there will be suffering had. And that goes for everyone else too. fun stuff!

Mitch R. said...

Go for the negative split.

I have done this at the Ed Fitz 100km about 12 years ago. It made for a fun day.

My Wasatch 100 finish was either negative or even. It was too hard to determine which, without an aid station at 50 miles.

Helen said...

Hope you weren't looking for clear direction from Wynn :) he is right though - sometimes you have to just go with how you feel on the day. Get the right training in, have a few strategies and on race day prepare to be flexible... and you can't go wrong. Most of the time. But then again, there's always the unknown variable...

Fun indeed!