After much preparation and stressing over gear choices and my sled, the Susitna 100 finally arrived. As if running 100 miles in the middle of the Alaskan winter wasn’t going to be hard enough on its’ own, it turned out that I was also going to have a CNN film crew following me!
Let me take a few steps back and explain that last part. Around the end of January, the race directors were contacted by CNN. They wanted to do a story on the race for their Fit Nation series, and were looking for suggestions for someone “interesting” to profile and follow during the race. They gave them several names, and after a preliminary interview, I found out that they had picked me! They flew up to Alaska from New York the week of the race, and I spent several hours with them over a couple of days recording interviews, getting shots of family time at my house, and doing some “Hollywood running” around my neighborhood and on nearby trails. They planned to follow me as much as possible during the race (only 2 of the 6 checkpoints are accessible by road), and they also gave me a small video camera similar to a GoPro to take some of my own footage during the race.
These past couple of weeks, we’ve had several good dumps of snow in the Anchorage area. This has meant lots of long runs dragging my sled through deep snow. Aside from this being really hard work, I also quickly learned that I needed a cover for my sled before race day. My sled was taking on tons of snow, adding unnecessary weight and soaking my non-waterproof duffel bag. Something needed to be done – so I headed to Jo-Anns for some DIY supplies. I picked up some rip-stop nylon and a heavy-duty zipper.
The rip-stop nylon serves several purposes:
As the name implies, it’s resistant to ripping or tearing, something I certainly don’t want happening during the race.
These past few months, I’ve been running lots of miles outdoors in the cold while training for the Susitna 100 next month. These past few weeks it has been especially cold in the Anchorage area, and on race day, there is always the potential for it to get down to -20 to -30°F. Keeping your water from freezing when running for hours in these kinds of temperatures is a very important skill. I’m not going to last very long in a winter 100 miler if my water is frozen solid, and there are only aid stations every 15-20 miles.
As part of my preparation for the Susitna 100 next month, I had to build a sled to haul my 15+ pounds of required gear. Much to my frustration, I had trouble finding much good information online on building a sled for winter running. I did find some decent information on building a pulk, but those are typically geared toward hikers and/or hunters pulling a much larger load, often travelling across unpacked snow. Some of the ideas are transferable, but many are not. I also spent a fair amount of time talking to other runners I know who have done this race, and asked them about how they built their sleds. I even went as far as scouring the intertubes for photos of runners pulling sleds, zooming in and gathering as much information as I could about their sled construction.
In the end, what I came up with was a pretty basic sled design. There are some people who get way more complicated with their sleds. Although their designs may be superior in some ways, my decisions on my sled design were guided by 2 principles:
I wanted my sled to be as simple as possible, with the least likelihood of something breaking during the race.
If something did break, what would be the easiest to repair out on the course?