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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

On the Sawtooth Record

John, the Superior Sawtooth 100's race director, is talking about how many fast runners there are this year and the possibility of a course record. The weather's co-operating, but I don't think the record's going to fall. I haven't looked up race results for out-of-staters, so there may be someone off my radar, but the person most likely to go for the record would be Chris Gardner, who was only 16 minutes off the record in 2008 and was ahead of record pace as late as 90 miles. He's been quiet this year; I haven't heard much about how his training has been going - he never enters a race unless he's ready, though. Without seeing that he's done any fast ultras this year, I'd have to think being four years older will be the difference.

The record of 21:42 isn't exactly soft, but 21:30 or even 21:15 is possible with the talent that's run the race in the past. The winners have been 2:31-2:36 marathoners. Anyone who could do a marathon in 2:15 is probably too much of a road marathon specialist to do well at a trail 100, but there hasn't been an elite-class ultrarunner entered in the race, either (and you can probably name all of them yourself, if you're reading this).

What's the ultimate record time for Sawtooth, the time that could be done under perfect conditions? I think 20:00. There's a nice 3:1 ratio between finish times at Sawtooth and the Voyageur 50, with Voyageur usually won in about 7:15-7:30 (Gardner won in 6:55 in 2010), which leads to Sawtooth times in 21:45-22:30, which would be fast winning times. The reason I use this is that Scott Jurek set the record at Voyageur at 6:41, after a number of tries, and that's the best elite-level comparison that can be made; three times that is 20 hours.

I used three different methods to come up with split times for a 20 hour Sawtooth and what I found was interesting (to me, at least):
Split Rock 1:16-1:32
Beaver Bay 3:20-3:30
Silver Bay 4:13-4:26
Tettegouche 6:04-6:24
Co. Rd 6 7:56-8:10
Finland 9:19-9:34
Sonju 10:40-10:54
Crosby 11:19-11:34
Sugarloaf 14:03
Cramer 15:07
Temperance 16:20
Sawbill 17:30
Oberg 18:35
Lutsen 20:00

Looking at Gardner's actual splits when he ran it, he was as much as a half hour ahead of pace at Co. Rd. 6 and only 7 minutes behind at Sugarloaf. That doesn't mean he could've run sub-20, though; as tough as he is, he's more of a 50 Mile/100K runner and not a night-running specialist. Adam Schwartz-Lowe has shown how fast the night sections can be done and his 149 minutes from Crosby to Sugarloaf is (coincidentally) exactly what I have in my splits above. Also worth noting is that Helen Lavin's splits through the first 4 aid stations are proportional to what I have listed; in other words, she ran exactly perfectly even splits for 40 miles, which wouldn't surprise anyone who's raced against her.

The common wisdom of the race has been that, as one can't run technical as fast at night, one should try to get in as many miles as possible before nightfall. Hitting Crosby by sunset has been the standard, and that's exactly what I have above. Several people have hit that mark, but none of them were capable of a 20 hour finish; they've run the first half too hard.


Men: Chris Gardner (22:10), Ben Hian, then any of: Joe Boler, Kevin Grabowski and Adam Schwartz-Lowe.

Update (Wednesday): Toss-up between Gardner and Hian. Steve Moore and James Kerby should finish before Boler and Grabowski and probably before Schwartz-Lowe. Thanks to those who caught the oversights!

Women: Sheryl Wheeler (26:55), then Rebecca George and Christi Nowak. Wheeler gets the nod because of experience, but the other two could be very fast in their first 100's. Kristina Folcik, Kim Martin, April Cole and Veronica Jarlehag also deserve consideration.

Added: This post needed a photo. Enjoy.

It was this, or start "Shark Week."


Anonymous said...

I thought I heard rumor that Jurek was coming to pace somebody this year? Is that no longer happening?

RIchard C

Edward Sandor said...

Ben Hian is pretty decent at this whole running thing. http://ultrasignup.com/results_participant.aspx?fname=Ben&lname=Hian

Anonymous said...

Jurek told me at his book signing that he was going to pace Dusty Olson. It doesn't look like Dusty signed up.
Gardner ran a 100 miles on a treadmill earlier this year. It'll be fun to see how well he does this time around.

Running with MTP said...

I would agree Ben Hian is a factor

As a younger man (2005) James Kerby ran Wetern States in 18:01

Likely a couple I do not recognize

There are so many factors to get right for a course record. Weather is as important and course knowledge (Knowing how to run it). Then there is all the things that have to go right for the runner personally - Pacing, nutrition, hydration + general body cooperating that day.

I think breaking 20 is possible - Right runner, right weather, right day. Just not likely it all comes together.

Anonymous said...

Not knowing James Kerby at all to know other races or his preferences.. But I would tend to believe that a 18:01 at Westernstates might not even transfer to a sub 24 on this trail. Western States has the heat in the canyons and some river crossings other than that very runnable from what I have read and understand.

I would like to see somebody like Geoff Roes or even Adam Cambell from Team Arcteryx come and run it, I think the latter of the two could possibly put in a sub 20 on the trail


Running with MTP said...

All I was saying is 18:01 Western States = he is in the mix of people to watch.

But someone doing an 18:01 that is a super billy goat climber compared to an 18:01 by someone that is a speed demon and struggles on Rocks and Roots are 2 different things. But on avg and 18:01 would indicate a chance to break 24 hours at Superior = a chance to win.

Anonymous said...

I would guess that there are several top runners in the U.S. that could probably go well under 20 hours at Sawtooth.

Running with MTP said...

I would agree that there are several top runners that "Could" go under 20.

Could meaning they get weather that is not 80s and humid (Most mountain runners are used to very dry air), that they have some sort of motivation to push that hard = competition or $$ to break 20 and their body gives them a good race that day.

If you line up 10 runners that could in perfect weather conditions, all motivated to break 20 ... I think it would be likely (Not a sure thing) one would.

But - You are not going to have the top 10 ultra runners in the world line up and it is rare that you will get perfect weather.

Just my opinion

Running with MTP said...

Cascade Creast course record is 18:27 and Superior is considered harder -

Superior is also 102 miles

I hope someone has a breakout race this year - That would be fun!

Olga King said...

No word on Steve Moore?"

SteveQ said...

@Edward: Hian's been almost unbeatable this year and will give Gardner a run for his money, but I have to go with the local.

@Richard C & Marcus: If Dusty were running, I'd have to show up half an hour earlier for my aid station because he starts so fast - doubt anyone would have to pace him beyond Sugarloaf, though; he'd drop.

@ MTP and Olga: didn't see Kerby's name and naver heard of Moore. Time for more research, I suppose.

Alicia said...

Good lists. For the women, there's also Yukiko Nishide, who I met at Grindstone last year--she did about 31 hours there while apparently taking it easy! I'd guess that 31:00 at Grindstone equals about 28:00 at Sawtooth, and faster if she feels like racing...

Running with MTP said...


I guess I may be the last to know about the above shuttle, but I think its pretty cool to park and get taken somewhere to run back to car to avoid all out and backs.

Richard said...

I am going with Ghris G. He is local and he knows the trail better than anyone else and that does count for something. I still don't see a a sub 20 on that course anytime soon, like Mike said it is 102.6 miles.. not 100. and it is at a time of year where perfect weather could happen. 30's-50's.

I guess I should clarify an earlier statement when I said an 18:01 at WS does not translate into a sub 24 at Sawtooth... it most certainly could and most likely would but Sawtooth is such a technical course that to me it does not suit the all out runner, so I was making a statement that it does not automatically mean a sub 24.. one has to be very good at technical running.... not just running.

Larry said...

In regard to the weather, anything below 95 degrees w/ high humidity would be considered perfect conditions for Steven Moore. Anything below 70 would be phenomenal weather for him considering he has raced all summer w/ race start temps around 100 degrees, which he has.

zagbag said...

And then all the posting falls silent for another year! Sure was fun out there and yes, the weather was perfect. Could have used some local knowledge of the course but didn't get off course at any time. Double checked a few places but never off. Very envious of such a beautiful trail! Steven, Austin TX.

SteveQ said...

Steven! Good to hear from you. When I ran the race in 2008, I infamously got lost and I know the course. I thought the pace you and Adam were on at Beaver Bay was suicidal, but it doesn't appear to have been a problem. And your crew has convinced me I need to visit a canyon in the Texas panhandle some day...

zagbag said...

My folks were a top notch crew for me and they had a blast talking to everyone! Palo Duro canyon near Amarillo. They have some races up there too! Details can be sketchy but every fall folks hit the canyon for some fun. http://www.palodurocanyon.com/race.php