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2011 Sawtooth 100 – Recap September 12, 2011

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events - Recaps, Uncategorized.

“The important thing in life is not victory but combat; it is not to have vanquished but to have fought well.
The most important thing. . . is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” Pierre de Coubertin

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I didn’t complete the 2011 edition of the Sawtooth 100. I dropped at the Cramer Road aid station, mile 77 of the race. And while the goal was to finish, and to improve on my time from last year, I don’t have any regrets about my decision to drop. I left everything I had on the course. I have spent the last 2 days trying to learn from my failure, but I can’t point to any one thing that I did wrong. But there are lessons to be learned and I will take them forward. And knowing I gave all I had will suffice for the time being.

Helen volunteered at the Split Rock and Tettagouche while also crewing for me as her volunteer duties allowed. After I passed through Tettagouche at mile 34 we decided to have her start pacing me at County Road 6, mile 43, instead of at Finland, mile 50. I was a behind last year’s pace, and my goal for this year, by a couple hours, but neither of us were too worried about things. Going into the race my plan was to take things slow for the first half to three-quarters of the race. I slowed things down even more when it became evident even before the race started that it was going to be very hot during the day. Temperatures ended up approaching 90 degrees on Friday.

I realized that things had turned a bit sour on the 9.4 mile section between Crosby Manitou and Sugarloaf. It took over 4 hours to do this section, roughly 2 miles per hour, and this included running the the last 2 miles of this section as fast as I could. I came into Sugarloaf, mile 72, knowing that the end was near and that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race. Even if I would press on the clock would eventually hit 38 hours and I would be swept from the course. Helen has seen me at my worst moment in a race, at the Arrowhead 135 in February, and I don’t think she believed I was finished with Sawthooth just yet. She rationalized, cajoled, threatened and baited me to just go one more section to the Cramer Road aid station. Only 5.7 miles. I resisted every attempt she made, but eventually with the help of Jen Pierce, Vicky Begalle and Nancy Griffith they got me on my feet and back on the trail. I am glad we decided to do this section. While there were certainly some tough moments and some slow parts, we ran a fair amount of this section and I truly enjoyed the last couple miles of this journey with Helen. We ran into Cramer Road and I felt a strange mix of emotions. I knew I was done, but I was at peace with my decision. Of course Helen wanted to make sure and she did a thorough job of rallying me for “just one more section” but I think she could hear it in my voice that I just couldn’t do it and she allowed me to turn in my timing chip. The heat, blisters, cramps and fatigue had finally taken thier toll and gotten the best of me. For this year, Sawtooth had beaten me into submission. We’ll see what the future holds for the two of us the next time we dance.

I was happy to see so many friends, old and new, reach the finish line. Jason LaPlant, Jason Husveth, Edward Sandor, Jordan Hanlon, Ben Bruce, Aaron Buffington, Roberto Marron, Zach Pierce, Scott Mark and everyone else that finished. I reveled in seeing your faces as you crossed the finish line. Congrats to you all and to everyone that finished. And to those I didn’t see finish because you are sooo damn fast – John Horns (winner of the 100 mile), Adam Schwartz-Lowe (second place), Chris Hansen, Pat Susnik, Christopher Martin, Julie Treder, congrats to you as well. And to the unnamed runners that I spent time with – I enjoyed the moments we shared on the trail, however brief they may have been.

Thanks to the race organizers, volunteers and aid station workers. This group of people make this event not just possible, but special. For anyone even considering taking part in this event – Just Do It. In some capacity, if not a runner, as a volunteer. You won’t regret your decision. This event stacks up against any ultra event in the world, if not for the toughness of the trail, for the commradery of its participants and volunteers.

I would like to especially thank the following people:
Joi Electa for coming out to support me during the race. Joi doesn’t know this, but she has had a hand in fueling my love of the North Shore and all its beauty. Check out some of her pictures and paintings – http://joi-electa.artistwebsites.com/?tab=artwork
Jen Pierce, Vicky Begalle and Nancy Griffith – these three provided just the right combination of cookies (Nancy), medical supplies (Jen and Vicky) encouragement (all of them) and ass-kicking (all of them) to help Helen get me back on the trail for the last 5.7 miles I ran this weekend. I apologize for my disgruntled and obtuse behavior, and I thank you for getting me back out there.

And finally, I want to thank Helen. She never ceases to amaze me. As if volunteering at two aid stations weren’t enough, only weeks after she ran the Leadville 100 she spent 14 hours on the brutal Superior Hiking Trail making sure I got as far as I did. We laughed often, enjoyed the beauty of the North Shore under a full moon, gleefully watched an amazing Lake Superior sunrise and shared conversations I know we will both always look back at fondly.


1. Brian - September 13, 2011

Sounds like Superior really worked you to the core, Chris. It’s crazy though how even on those tough days, there are still those moments on the trail that make it all worthwhile.

You are right about this race being special…best kept secret in ultra running, although I think I like it that way. I look forward to sharing the trail with you at Sawtooth again sometime down the road!

whereschrisscotch - September 14, 2011

“Superior really worked you to the core.” – that is a great way of stating it. I can’t point to one thing that was the reason why I had to stop – just a lot of little things that added up. It was indeed all worthwhile, especially seeing all the people finish that did.

You making any appearances at any of the upcoming races in October? Would be cool to see you out there.

2. Brian - September 14, 2011

I’m sure I’ll make it out to volunteer for at least one more this fall…maybe Surf the Murph or Wild Duluth. Recover well Chris!

3. Scott - November 21, 2011

OK, so I’m a little behind on reading my Sawtooth reports… Chris it was great to finally meet you in person before the race. I knew your race was in trouble when a slow guy like me caught up with you at Sugarloaf!! 😉

That race eats its young. You obviously know you can finish that beast, so something just didn’t line up that day. Hope to see you again at one of the few events I make it out to. Good luck with your winter races!

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