Sunday, September 30, 2012

Arrowhead Gear Not-List

I got a lot of questions after Superior about my experiences and equipment for Arrowhead.  I was encouraged to write up a list of all my gear and I started working on one.  It was going to have photos and lots of detail and all that, but then I realized it wouldn't do anyone any good.

Seriously, I'm not trying to be a jerk.  There is a great gear list out there already.  It's the same list I use as I prepare for the race each year.  Besides, it really doesn't matter what brand of stove or pants I'm using.  There are plenty of good choices out there and just copying someone else would be foolish and dangerous at this kind of race.  What is important is that you try out the gear you are going to use.

I know how it sounds, and I've been on the receiving end of it, but it's the truth.  Go running, biking, skiing, and camping in the cold and see what works and what doesn't.  There's no other way.  There is time between now and the end of January to do that.

In the lead up to the 2006 Arrowhead I learned a lot.  I did a windy ride in 14f that told me my gloves weren't enough.  I slept on my back porch in the snow (and scared my roommates) on the coldest nights of December.  I rode 20 miles out of town and found out that I hated sardines.

There are a few tips that I can safely give you though.  They aren't super specific because what works for me might not for you, but here they are:
  • Your sleeping system is warm.  If you have the required gear you have a sleeping bag, pad, and bivy that will keep you alive and warm at -40f or lower.  When you pile a -20f bag, an insulated pad and a bivy together along with perhaps some down pants and jacket you might even be sweating!  Don't be afraid to use it because it's "too cold."
  • If something is wrong do something about it.  Feet cold?  Put on warmer footwear or socks.  Hungry?  Eat.  Hydration pack hose frozen?  Thaw it in your jacket.  Panicking or toughing it out won't help.  
  • You will sweat.  You are working hard.  Don't freak out.  Deal with it.  Unzip your jacket a bit.  Slow your pace.  Wear a man diaper if it makes you happy.  Try out some different layering systems in training, before it matters.  
  • Hands and feet are tough to keep warm.  Try layering gloves and mittens.  Step away from the cycling shoes and try pac boots.  Try socks on the outside of your shoes for extra insulation.  
  •  Again, don't freak out.  Do something about it.  That something might be getting in your sleeping bag and drinking something warm before you end up with frostbite and hypothermia. 
I am happy to answer specific questions on the blog, forum or Facebook, but I can't answer everything in one post or even a book.  Much of this is something you just have to find out for yourself. 

Backyard training at 10f back in '10.  If you look closely you can see some of my "secrets."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Superior 100 Run (the abridged version)

I had a huge, detailed, blow-by-blow account of the Superior 100 almost done when I realized, no one wants to read this...I don't want to read this.  Here's a condensed version of the same:

I ran/walked 100 miles and it wasn't easy.  Hard lessons were learned last year and so I started out slow and made sure to eat more, much more.  The first 42 miles went pretty well.  Knowing the course helped and I made it to County Road 6 much earlier than last year.

Once it got dark I started walking a lot more than running which was a mistake.  The course from CR 6 to Finland and on to Crosby-Manitou was the most runnable part of the trail.

At the halfway point in Finland I slept for 30-45 minutes and spent too much time drying my socks by the fire.  It would have been nice to have had a drop bag with dry socks and shirt.  Thanks to Dallas Sigurdur I left Finland with a dry, if not completely clean shirt. 

I chatted with Jason Buffington at the Sonju Lake Road aid station in the middle of the night.  It's always good to see folks you know.

By Crosby-Manitou aid station (mile 63) I was falling asleep walking and really needed a nap, but there was just no way I could stop and still finish.  The sky was beginning to lighten.

From Crosby-Manitou to Sugarloaf was the most trying section of the trail.  I almost dropped out.  I had to take a nap on a rock (only about 5 minutes, but it really helped).  It started raining and kept raining.  Combined with the cool temperatures I was starting to get to a really bad place.  Luckily my Arrowhead instincts cut in and I stopped, made a raincoat out of a garbage bag I was carrying (thanks to Lynn Saari), and was able to continue if slowly and unfashionably.

By the time I arrived at Sugarloaf I was a wreck.  My feet were wet and blistered, I was cold, and in a foul mood.  Kurt Neuberger and his wife (whose name I should really know) nursed me back to health with some warm soup (squash, very good), ibuprofen, and clean dry socks!

From there I started to feel better and move faster.  I started to pace off of some of the 50 mile runners and that along with some conversation made the miles pass.  Climbing Carleton Peak I was stung by a wasp which was painful but took my mind off of the rest of my pain and the ~20 miles I had left.

At the Sawbill aid station I found that I was dangerously close to the cutoff.  I would really have to book it if I wanted to finish.  I ran like an old man, but I ran pretty much the whole way to Oberg.  I was stung by a wasp once again and by happenstance met another runner from Ames.  I arrived at Oberg with 15 minutes to spare.  I would have 3 hours to run 7 miles.  That was a cushion I could deal with.

I mostly fast hiked the last stretch with a small group.  Two 50 mile runners and two 100 mile runners.  The "Stairway to Heaven" section of Moose Mountain was a welcome sight (I am good at uphills) and soon enough the lights of Lutsen were in sight.  My right ankle was screaming at me on every downhill.  More than once I had to stop for a second and collect myself.

Breaking out of the rocky, rooty trails and on to a paved road felt strange on my feet.  Like standing on solid ground after a day on a boat.  I crossed the finish line in 37:36:42.  Less than 24 minutes before the cutoff, but I finished. 

Roberto Marron, the author, and Dallas Sigurdur early in the race.
photo: Londell Pease