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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Sawtooth 100

Steven Moore's record run at Sawtooth may be changing the common wisdom of running the race (though "wisdom" and "running the Sawtooth 100" may be contradictory). He was kind enough to supply me with his splits from the race, dutifully taken by his parents, and I found it illuminating.

One thing Blogger's really bad at is making charts, so here's the aid stations, their mileage and Moore's time (in minutes, to make the math easier) at each station: Split Rock 10.0, no time; Beaver Bay 20.1, 202 (assuming wrong hour listed, otherwise 142); Silver Bay 25.0, 255; Tettegouche 34.9, 365; Co. Rd. 1 43.5, 485; Finland 51.2, 565; Sonju 58.7, no time; Crosby 62.9, 719; Sugarloaf 72.3, 840; Cramer 77.9, 900? (uncertain); Temperance 85.0, 1004; Sawbill 90.7, 1095; Oberg 96.2, 1171; Lutsen 103.3, 1263.

Assuming that each section has average technical and elevation change and assuming continuous slowing at a constant rate, his times would be almost identical! Here's the idealized splits, using a logarithmic linear regression: 92, 200, 256, 371, 475, 570, 664, 718, 839, 912, 1005, 1081, 1155, 1250. The further into the race, the closer the technical and elevation smoothing gets to reality; the sections before County Road 1 and before Sugarloaf are particularly difficult. The slight slowing and then rebounding at County Road 1 in his actual times makes complete sense. If he took a rest of 13-14 minutes at the Sawbill station, his splits are incredibly consistent.

This is a major departure from the way the race has been done in the past. Chris Gardner's splits from 2008, before 0.7 miles got aded to the first section were: 81, 183, 233, 342, 452, 539, no time, 684, 850, no time, 1043, 1125, 1200, 1318. Gardner ran the daylight section to Crosby 35 minutes faster than Moore, but was 10 minutes behind by Cramer. The standard had always been "run as hard as possible to make it to Crosby by nightfall, then have a meal, change clothes, and get prepped for the longest slowest section done in the dark." Moore ran the difficult Crosby section exactly like all the rest of the course. He may have had the advantage of being able to do the first descent and steep ascent of this section in daylight or at least twilight.

Most runners doing Sawtooth run steadily to Tettegouche, then have a major slowdown to County Road 1, slow a lot section by section from Co. Rd. 1 to Crosby-Manitou, have a major slowdown between Crosby and Sugarloaf, then run fairly steadily to the end. Moore ran the same regardless of the terrain and regardless of whether it was day or night. This - if one can do it - may be the best way to run Sawtooth.

Using Gardner's times for the first 62 miles of the race, correcting for the distance added since then and then using Moore's numbers to generate later splits, a final time of 20:04 is the result. Twenty hours is probably the limit for how fast anyone can ever run Sawtooth, until, of course, someone comes along and finds a still better way of doing it.

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