Superior Sawtooth 100 mile race report by Tina Heil...
WHY? My answer is usually I love to run and I love a challenge! Or, I’ve had so much fun doing 50 miles that I have to find out if it’s as much fun running 100.
But really this all stemmed from a bet with my husband.
Paul: Bet you can’t run an ultra.
Tina: Ya think? If I run an ultra, you have to run a marathon.
So I immediately hop online and sign up for a 50k.
Paul: A 50k? Really? That does not count.
So I run the 50k…and then a 50 miler just to seal the deal. Now we can all agree that I won this bet.
After much deliberation, Paul decides that a destination marathon is in order. San Diego! In the meantime I decide I want to attempt 100 miles and my good friend Angela suggests that I run Kettle. No dice – that was the same weekend as San Diego. She then suggested Sawtooth. She assured me I had enough Sisu**, heart and balls to pull it off.
** SISU (see'-soo) is a unique Finnish concept that cannot be fully translated. One definition is: special strength and stubborn determination to continue and overcome in the moment of adversity. It's a combination of stamina, courage, and obstinacy held in reserve for hard times.
Fast forward to September 9, 2011. I had reserved a cabin near Schroeder, MN, where I stayed with my crew/pacers: Paul (who planned to pace me in from Temperance), my mom (first crew experience), sister Becky (Sugarloaf to Cramer), brother-in-law Curt (Cramer to Temperance), nephew (cutest crew member ever who can also play a mean cowbell), friend Denise (insomniac mountain goat to get me from Finland to Sugarloaf), and friend Ash (amazing massage therapist).
Denise woke early to make me a breakfast of gluten- and dairy-free pancakes, nitrate-free bacon and some strong Alterra coffee. (I’m a delicate flower and cannot tolerate gluten, dairy, soy or nitrates/nitrites.) Paul & Becky drove me to the start at Gooseberry Falls, and Denise and Ash followed. Ash set up his table to offer up pre-race massage, where he was able to release a nagging kink from my hip flexor/quad. It had been bugging me the previous week and I was a bit worried. Luckily Ash was able to take care of it within 5 minutes and I never felt it during the entire race.
I also saw my cousin Darrin Johnson. We were both incredibly nervous. As we toe up I think I nearly passed out. I am normally a very relaxed, roll-with-the-punches kind of gal – being so anxious was weird. For the first time I felt that I had no business being at the race amongst the veterans. I even tripped over my feet during the first mile. Totally embarrassing.
I had the pleasure of meeting LPTR Angela B soon within the race. (Now I really need to make an effort to make it out on Wednesdays!! You LPTRs are good people.) I have to admit that the first two legs were rough. I brag about my steel stomach but I managed to barf up my Gu. Not sure if it was the heat, dust or nerves. Regardless, it eventually passed. My mantra was to always focus on getting to the next AS within cutoff. A good friend told me that the end is merely a distraction. My job is solely to make it to the next AS where I get a clean slate with every leg. Great advice! My Aunt Lynn also told me that when times get tough to sit down wherever I am at and re-group. Again, great advice. I also heard that my next step is the most important. I learned that after the 6th time I fell.
Night running was a relief! It was so cool to hear the wolves howling. I went for hours without seeing a single person. At the top of the bluffs I felt like I could reach up and grab the stars. I tear up thinking about how beautiful it was and how blessed I am to have had that experience. Nearing County Road 6 I could smell the campfire and hear the cheers. I was also nervous about making cutoff… but I had to keep reminding myself that was not my focus for this leg. As I “woot-woot-ed” myself into the AS I heard my friend Angela Hill cheering me on!! Great surprise! We talked about how neat it was to hear the wolves (she is a 2010 finisher). We also talked about how un-cool it would be to see Pennywise the clown. Anyhoozy, I’m concerned about making cutoff so I book it to Finland.
Running into Finland was awesome! I finally picked up my pacer!!! I stayed a little too long, but my insomniac running spitfire friend kept me on track. We were in giggly spirits until we saw PENNYWISE the clown!! Those Sonju volunteers think they are very funny hanging a clown mask on the trailhead sign. Not funny. Not funny at all.
I have to admit that Crosby was a treat, too. This was the first time I was starting to reallllly get fatigued. Luckily my friend Sam Carlson was (wo)manning the aid station. It was great to see a familiar face, as well as my crew who had Red Bull and Bonk Breakers on hand. I left that AS a new woman. And thank gawd because that next section was a doozy!!
My next obsession was getting to Sugarloaf where I would see my sister... My sweet sister who does not like running but trained to run a leg with me. (Believe me! I know how lucky I am!!) I rolled into that AS on cloud nine. My sissy and I had a blast running that leg! I knew then I would make the Cramer Road cutoff, where I would run a leg with my brother-in-law. We too had a great time… despite more stomach issues. I just kept telling myself to make it to Temperance and I would feel better.
I made it to Temperance where my crewmembers were flaunting custom “Team Tina Sisu” t-shirts and my awesome AWESOME awesome husband joined me. I was euphoric at this point because I knew I was going to earn my buckle. Paul and I enjoyed our time on the trails and he even busted out “Charles” the doll head he found during 2011 Syttende Mai. (yes, creepy.) After we scared some people on the trail, we met Mary Gorski. Such a pleasure to meet Mary – she has great energy!
I was actually happy for darkness to fall during our last leg. I wanted Paul to experience it with me. (Paul actually said he wants to come back and attempt the 50 miler!!) The moment I heard the Poplar River was amazing. I knew at that point that this was real. That this dream had really come true and that I earned it! We ran into the finish where so many people were still out cheering and someone handed me my buckle. I’m still smiling.
Who to thank? My amazing pacers (in order: Denise, Becky , Curt, Paul), crew (MOM!!, Aaron, Ash and Pacers-not-running), race volunteers, fellow runners I met on the course, you LPTRs whom most I have never met in person, and my friend Angela Hill who told me I could do it!
Would I do this again? In a heartbeat. I got Sisu.
Things I did right: Strength training, walking at least 6 miles 1x week, Body Glide, Bonk Breaker bars, salt & vinegar chips, salt mixed into the Cytomax at every AS, Nathan hydration pack, and S-caps.