Sehgahunda Trail Marathon
I have been hearing for quite a while now about how tough Sehgahunda is. I’ve heard it’s “tougher than Ironman” and “intense from start to finish”. I did not diminish these comments and prepared for an intense day. I’d heard of its intensity from too many people to dismiss these comments, but I’d also made the incorrect assumption that my previous tough trail races would give me an edge. What I should have done is looked at the damn elevation chart.
I didn’t do that until the ride to the start with Lisa, Gary and Dan. I assumed the race logo with the scribbled-in line was decorative. They sort of laughed and informed me that that was the in fact the elevation chart for the course. All the website stated was,
“Your meander through the wooded single-track along the rim will be punctuated by a seemingly interminable series of gullies, each entailing a rapid descent and a climb again to the rim. Many small stream crossings and ever-present roots will keep you on your toes. Pace yourself well. The course does not get easier as you near the finish. Prepare to test your endurance, prepare to have a blast, and prepare for an adventure!”
At the start I was informed that there are 112 v-shaped gullies that I would have to traverse. I covered 111 of these gullies without much incident. However one of them (somewhere in the 30’s) took me out big time. I usually wear a pair of leather bike gloves for trail races. They help me grab support and protect my hands when I un-expectently become eye-level with the trail. Well this time, I only remembered to pack one. Sehgahunda made sure it was the wrong one. I don’t know what triggered the wipe out, but I remember feeling airborne and I remember a thud. I came out pretty unscathed except for this odd feeling in my knee. I could still run, so I got back on my feet and trudged on.
Gullies were not the only hazard, by far. I was also faced with mud, creeks, roots, rocks, waist high grass, barbed wire, tons of downed trees in the trail that I alternatively had to climb over, under or through, and 80+ degrees weather. I freakin’ LOVED it!
Within the first six miles, I knew that my legs had not recovered enough from my last run to properly face Sehgahunda. Regardless, I knew I was going to give it what I had and find the finish line, no matter what. One of the great things about Ultra’s is the camaraderie. Whenever I would see Gary on the trail, he would burst out in song. (I know Jim and Marco, if they are reading this, know what song it was!) It really picked me up. No way I’m not going to finish when I’ve got friends here.
Then things changed. I ran in to Dan about mile 10 and he was not doing well. Sehgahunda was not kind to him. Now, Dan is pretty die-hard. He’s done the Beast of Burden four times as well as Virgil Crest. He knows what he is doing, but this was not his day. He was hurting, big time, and I could not leave him to fend for himself. I gave up “racing” at that point and stayed with him for about five miles at a pace that we would have easily been lapped by a mall-walker. Eventually, I got him to an aid station, where I assumed he would end his race. Leaving him in good hands, I headed back on the course.
Helping Dan was good karma, but it also put me much closer to the cut-off times than I would have liked. I had to work my tail off those last 11 miles; I knew I now had to adjust to being on the trail an hour or so longer than I planned. To top it off, around mile 20, my knee started its non-cooperation on the down hills, and they became quite painful. Then I met Stephanie. She is a Marathon Maniac with tons of great advice. We finished side-by-side, smiling! Oh, and I’ll never count out Dan again. He dug down and rallied to finish the race!
It was an amazing experience, and I will be back!!!
I was scheduled to run the Buffalo Marathon the next day. I wanted to do two back to back to move up a level with the Marathon Maniacs. When my knee started hurting, I decided to drop to the half marathon. However, Buffalo didn’t like that idea and refused my request to change distances. I debated so much about what to do next. I knew if I ran the marathon it was going to be a trudge and logistically, I had better things to do with my day. It was my son who convinced me to not even start by saying “Mom, you did almost three marathons in one day, why do you have to see if you can do 2 in 2 days?” Good God, I love that kid. I immediately switched roles from runner to coach/pacer.
I spent the next 2 hours and 10 minutes running from place to place on the course. I was able to get to Noah six times. With the final few miles, I jumped on the course to pace him to the finish line. Noah was cranking out negative splits and with pacing, was able to pick it up to a 7:30 pace. He finished with a personal record on his THIRD half marathon with only one week of training. I can’t remember EVER being so happy and proud at a finish line. It ended up being a PERFECT race weekend.