Updating My Sled For My 3rd Run at Susitna 100

This upcoming February, I’ll be running the Susitna 100 for my 3rd time. When I ran it last year, I left my sled unchanged from the previous year. This year, I decided to make a few modifications. During the race last year, I made a point to pay attention to other runners’ sleds, and noticed quite a few using only a single pole. The double pole setup is really for stability and helping to keep the sled tracking behind you when you’re going downhill. Susitna 100 is a very flat course overall, so I really don’t think that’s necessary, and I’d like to try and cut weight this year anywhere I can.

After deciding to drop down to a single pole, the next decision was how to attach it to my sled. Previously, I just used rope running up the center of the pole, which is effective, but doesn’t do much for stability. Since I’d be losing the stability of the double pole setup, I wanted to do something different. I bought some stiff rubber tubing, cut it in half lengthwise, and used that to attach the pole to my sled, and to my belt. The tubing is stiff enough that it doesn’t allow the sled to flop around, but has enough give to act as a mini shock absorber.

Here’s the finished product:

So far this winter, I’ve been able to get in several good long runs pulling my sled. Many of them have been with friends pulling their sleds, who are training for Susitna as well. At least I’m not the only weirdo out there running around on the trails dragging a sled behind me! 🤪

Tackling The Bear

At 6:00 AM next Friday, I’ll be toeing the start line of the Bear 100 in Logan, Utah. This is a race that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I’ll admit I’m a bit anxious about it – both excited to run 100 miles on beautiful trails, but also nervous about the difficulty of a course with 22,000 feet of climbing:

This summer, I’ve been doing as much climbing as possible to prepare myself for this race. Earlier this month, I did the Alyeska Climbathon, which is a timed race where you climb the Alyeska North Face trail as many times as you can in 10 hours. Each lap is around 2.25 miles up, with 2,200 feet of climbing. After reaching the top, you take the tram back down and start the next climb. I ended up completing 6 laps for just over 13,000 feet of climbing for the day.

Photo by Andy Romang

The weekend before that, I ran the Day at the Beach 24 hour race. I wanted to take it relatively easy, since it was only 4 weeks out from Bear. The race was from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday, so around 1:00 AM Sunday morning when I started getting sleepy, I went and slept in my truck for about 5 hours. Considering the long break, and that it’s a really hilly course, I felt pretty good about getting in 66 miles, which was good enough for 3rd place.

Now that race week is upon me, I’m keeping my eyes firmly planted on the weather report for Friday and Saturday. Right now they’re calling for a high in the mid-to-upper 70s, with an overnight low in the low 40s or even high 30s. That high temp is a little warmer than I would like, although that will be nothing compared to the 100+ temps I faced when I DNF’d at Pine to Palm a few years ago.

If I can manage to survive through the heat of the day, the cold of the night, and all the relentless climbing in under 36 hours, I’ll be rewarded with one of these sweet babies:

Technically, this race offers 3 different belt buckles depending on finishing time (under 24 hours, 24-30 hours, 30-36 hours). I think that’s a pretty neat touch, but I know that this is going to be a very difficult race, and in all honesty I’ll just be happy to finish under the cutoff.

If you’re so inclined, I’m bib #311, and live tracking will be available on race day.

Preparing For Another Run at Susitna

I’ve been spending the past several months training for my second running of the Susitna 100, coming up in two weeks from today. We’ve had another interesting winter here in Alaska, with not a lot of snow, and it hasn’t gotten particularly cold until just recently. The extended forecast doesn’t go out all the way to race day yet, but it’s currently showing temps in the mid 30s at the start of race week. We could end up with even higher temps than last year!

I feel much more confident going into the race this year, now having done it once before. With a long race like this in the winter, there are just so many different variables and things that can go wrong. I’ve already got my sled situation figured out, and I won’t have a camera crew following me this year, all I have to do is run 100 miles in the middle of the Alaskan winter – easy peasy!

I’ve had the good fortune lately to be able to do most of my long runs with a group, which has certainly helped. Two weekends ago, I ran a 30 miler pulling my sled in single digit temperatures, and was very thankful to have friends out there with me.

There have been many early mornings in the past weeks and months, preparing my body and mind for the many long miles that await me at Susitna.

I’m looking forward not only to the challenge of the race, but also to being “out there” for many hours with friends old and new. I’ve said it before, but especially up here with a relatively small ultra community, these races are a lot like a family reunion. I can’t wait to see everyone and spend some (or a lot of) time on the trail with them.

Throwing My Hat Into the Western States Lottery

After completing Zion 100 back in April, I’m qualified to enter in the Western States Lottery this year. Since I DNF’d Pine to Palm last year, I wasn’t able to enter the lottery, and so I’m back to 1 ticket this year. They haven’t published the stats for this year’s lottery yet, but based on last year, 1 tickets gives me about a 2.5% chance of getting into the race.

I realize it’s a long shot and I’m certainly not holding my breath, but a guy’s gotta try, right?

Update: they’ve released this year’s race statistics, and with 1 ticket it looks like I’ve got a 2.3% chance of getting drawn. Here’s hoping!

Update #2: as expected, I didn’t get in 😭