When Doug Zarowny crossed the finish line in St. Paul on Saturday night, he swore he’d never do it again.
“But what creeps into my mind is could I do it faster? Could I have accomplished this in a more efficient manner? I was inexperienced and made lots of mistakes. I really think that I could have shaved off an hour,” said Zarowny.
Zarowny finished in 14 hours 10 minutes and 54 seconds, placing 13th overall in the men’s 100-kilometre solo division of the Iron Horse Ultra.
Roughly half of the soloists in the 100-kilometre and 100-mile races were new to the event according to race organizer Monique Poulin.
‘Whole new territory’
Runners started in St. Paul at 6:50 a.m. on Oct. 3 and ran through the day and night with the last runners finishing around 9 a.m. on Oct. 4. The 100-kilometre route takes participants from St. Paul to Elk Point and back along the Iron Horse Trail and other mixed terrain. The 100-mile route is a round trip from St. Paul to Lindbergh.
A total of 99 runners participated in the race, including 57-100 kilometre soloists, 23-100 mile soloists, and two teams.
While this was Zarowny’s first year to complete the route solo, he’s no rookie runner. Zarowny has been participating in the Iron Horse Ultra as part of a team for the past decade.
“This was a whole new territory. You can get through 40 to 50k, but it’s the second half that really sort of gets into your head, and where you just have to sort of push yourself through it.”
He said he walked a quarter of the way including most of the pasture and uphill stretches and ran a lot of intervals in the second half of the race where he ran for four minutes and walked for one. Zarowny described Moose Mountain as a killer where he had to really work to get rehydrated and get the energy he needed to keep going.
“I had such a phenomenal pit crew. My wife Jana. She was at every station. She kept me fueled up and actually ran the last leg with me,” said Zarowny, noting his brother also ran about 10 kilometres alongside him.
“I think you can ignore the pain a little better. It just distracts you. You hear your brother telling you a funny story about his jackass friends and you can laugh. You might not be participating in the conversation so much but at least it gets your mind off how sore your knees are, or how gassed you feel,” said Zarowny.
Poulin said one of the benefits of having fewer teams this year was that a lot of the people who would normally run chose to volunteer as trail support instead.
“It’s something we really do require, but don’t necessarily always get because they want to run. So it’s always something we’re looking for is trail support people to be on the trail hiking those trails during the race in the middle of the night, so that runners have that peace of mind,” said Poulin.
She said having to cancel the usual big gatherings like the awards banquet and the Sunday morning breakfast was disappointing for everyone because runners missed the usual fanfare.
But they made the best of it.
“The runners and their very limited crew that they brought with them were very respectful of just coming in and getting out and staying within their little groups just to just to help us out. But of course, ultra-distance running really lends well to social distance.”
To further facilitate social distancing on the trail organizers staggered the start with each runner having a five-minute window to start in over 40-minutes instead of having the usual massive group start.
“So that limited the amount of people in one spot at one time but then also limited the how they came into the aid stations. The first aid station usually has a huge chunk of people that get there at the same time, but this way, it spread them out a little bit,” said Poulin.
Zarowny said running the distance is something he gets a lot of attention for, but most people just don’t understand the motivation behind it.
“I’m good at it. And, you know, I feel like a 25 year old, doing something like that. And I’m twice that age.”
A full listing of race results, including the 100 km solo male, 100 km solo female, 100 mile solo male, 100 mile solo female, and 100 mile team categories, can be found here.