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2013 Superior Trail 100 Mile Race Report

Posted by scott on September 19, 2013

I had the race of my life at Superior Trail 100 Mile this year!  I need to re-group in a separate post on everything I did pre-race and during the race that I think contributed, but here is what went down.

Northward

I had spent an unreal amount of time planning and packing drop bags, as I have never had to pack drops before.  It turned out to be a fantastic experience to think ahead about my race so much.  Thursday morning, I put on the finishing touches, then threw everything into Tim’s car and he, Jay (his crew) and I headed North to meet Hugh.  We met Hugh at at Fitgers for an awesome lunch, then wandered up the shore to Duluth Running Co to check out gear, and also chatted with Tony there.  We then went up to Stony Point to hang in the sun and let Hugh finish packing drops.  I soaked my feet several times in Lake Superior and told myself I would want to be thinking about how cold that felt if it got hot on Friday (<COUGH> – foreshadowing!).

Pre-Race Meeting

We got to the pre-race meeting shortly after 5, and it was already a-hoppin’.  I saw John right off the bat, and he gave me a great pep talk about how I had gone (descended?) from volunteering to the 50 mile to the 100 mile and was now a “returning, hardened warrior”, etc, etc followed by a heavy dose of John-speak adjectives that I can’t remember!!  ;-)  I had brief chats with a lot of great runners – the pre-race is like a reunion.  The energy is so amped with everyone in anticipation.  I triple-checked my bag labels as I put all of my drops into the large aid station-separated construction bags.

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Pre-race past feed and meeting at the Two Harbors 4H building.

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Contruction bags sorted by aid station for depositing your drop bags before the race.

We had good conversation with some Superior first-timers and 100-mile first timers, chatted about the trail sections and the terrain and weather.  I still feel humbled and a novice on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), but conversations like those give me a bit of confidence that I might have learned something in the now-100s of miles I have put in on that trail.  We ditched immediately after the pre-race and booked it to Caribou – straight to bed, feeling the annual anxiety that we were out too late.

Race Morning

I got up around 5:15am and started coffee, then went outside to a fantastic pre-dawn morning.  It felt really warm compared to the night before, so I was confident that I had packed plenty of layers in drops for the overnight.  I did some yoga outside the condo while coffee brewed, and felt very stretched and ready.  Breakfast was a a protein/berry smoothie I had packed from home, hard-boiled eggs and dark chocolate covered almonds – the latter less for nutrition and more because I’m an ADDICT!!

Gooseberry Falls (Start) to Split Rock

Friday, September 6th, 8:00am

The race morning was absolutely spectacular, sunny and cool.  People who have any interest in these races should at least stop by the start and the finish of a 100 mile as they are great for different reasons.  Everyone is SO amped at the start and in great moods.  John lined us up at the starting line and gave his final pre-race chat, and I decided to try my hydration pack – for the first time since packing gear at home.  CRAP!  I only got about 50% water out of the bite valve, and about 50% air – it was like carbonated water.  I accidentally packed the wrong bladder back at home – and my good bladder was sitting in a pile of stuff to come up North with Neil and my son, Ian, Friday night.  I frantically dug out my phone, turned it on, waited for coverage, and squeaked out a quick text telling them I would definitely need the new bladder.  I got my phone re-packed right before the countdown.

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Hugh, me, Tim at the starting line.

The first section was nice and easy.  I had to pee right off the bat due to nerves right in the first few miles in Gooseberry State Park, and at one point I popped back out of the woods and had the privilege of being in dead last place!  Hugh, Tim and I stuck together for this section and it was seriously crowded.  At our spot in the pack, you could really tell the 200 runner limit was met this year – there were way more people than past years.  At a few points, we came to a dead stop and had to wait in line for ascents.  I stopped two times early on to re-tie my shoes – first looser, then tighter.  I was determined to avoid what happened to me last time at Cramer Road, where I thought my foot was broken (in retrospect, I think my shoe was just too tight).  Fix problems early. I ran with Jason for a short bit and chatted about training.  I asked about Zach and only then realized he was about 2 runners up.  Bummer we didn’t chat then, because we wouldn’t see each much of each other again until after the finish!  You just never know at Superior.

2:29 segment duration (hh:mm)
15:22 pace (mm:ss)
9.7 mile segment / 9.7 miles total

Split Rock to Beaver Bay

Friday 10:29am
2:47 Split Rock aid station (AS) time (mm:ss)

Hugh, Tim, and I all dropped into Split Rock aid station (AS) together, then quickly separated to take care of needs.  I slammed 3 HEEDs while talking to Jordan about about his sick run at Lean Horse 100 mile – sub-16 hour finish!  I grabbed quick bananas and oranges, and a couple of Hammergels to pack and then took off with Hugh.  We looked through the AS and couldn’t find Tim, so assumed he had already left.

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Running with Hugh, early-on.

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River running with Hugh and Tim.

The pack was separating a bit, but still quite tight so we made moves up whenever someone was going slower than we wanted to.  We eventually caught back up with Tim.  There were a lot of trains of runners, and a traffic dynamic with slowdown on many ascents.  It’s early on and people are feeling relaxed and chatting a lot, but I already had the need to be moving forward.  We jumped a lot of packs if they were walking slower than we wanted.  Hugh was content to hang back just a bit more.

2:55 segment duration (hh:mm)
17:01 pace (mm:ss)
10.3 mile segment / 20.1 miles total

Beaver Bay to Silver Bay

Friday 1:32pm
5:47 Beaver Bay AS time (mm:ss)

I got into the AS a minute or two before Tim, and found Jay and my first drop bag.  It was getting warm already, so I grabbed a handheld from my bag and filled it with HEED before realizing that it was only 5 miles to the next AS, so I dumped it and clipped the handheld to my pack with a carabiner.  A volunteer re-filled water into my Nathan pack.  I ate bananas, oranges, and potatoes with salt quickly, then saw that Tim was already leaving.  I shouted to him to wait a minute while I finished with my pack, but he threw his hands in the air and asked what I was going to do – he was antsy to get going!

2013-ST100-Beavery-Bay  2013-ST100-Beavery-Bay-2

This section has some nice, scenic forest sections.  I always think about my work running buddy Brian-the-barefoot-runner who does the Bay-to-Bay race here barefoot!  Tim and I hung with Andy Grosvenor and Julie Berg for awhile.  Julie’s 2008 Sawtooth race report is one of my favorite race reports ever, and I read it before races to remind myself to think about solutions whenever I find a problem, and to just stay positive.  We had a nice chat for a mile or two, and then separated out.  I got anxious and passed more runners to keep the pace up.

1:18 segment duration (hh:mm)
15:59 pace (mm:ss)
4.9 mile segment / 25.0 miles total

Silver Bay to Tettegouche

Friday 2:59pm
7:47 Silver Bay AS time (mm:ss)

There was quite a crowd of crews at Silver Bay.  We checked in with Misty, I grabbed my drop and we found Jay.  I ate quickly and re-packed my bag, and filled my handheld with HEED.  It was getting quite hot and muggy.  During the last section I noticed that at the toe of my shoe, the sole was starting to separate from the upper.  Too early for this – we are only at mile 20 and my shoes are breaking down, and I don’t have another pair of shoes packed until mile 77!!  Luckily, Tim had Shoe Goo in his box, so while Jay and Tim fixed up Tim’s feet, I Shoe Goo-ed my shoes – something I have never had to do during a race!  But whatever, you do what you have to.  I was anxious to take off, and Tim needed time so we agreed to meet up on the trail.

On the hike up, I could already tell the Shoe Goo was going to be a multi-step process.  I stopped twice to find a rock to re-set the Goo and ended up pressing it down (with added trail dust) into the groove, hoping to re-Goo it at Tettegouche.  I ran with various groups of runners in this section, and even though it was hot I was really enjoying the day.  Everyone was commiserating about the heat and humidity, and anxiously anticipating the sunset.  This section has a lot of exposed rocky bluffs that soak up the heat – you feel the heat rise several degrees, and it really burns you out before Tettegouche.  But it also has the spectacular views of Bean and Bear Lakes, one of my favorite sections of the race.  And it has the Drainpipe – its just fun to say you did The Drainpipe.

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Bean Lake

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Bear Lake

I was definitely feeling the heat, but was really actively drinking and upping my S! cap intake to cope with it.  And, perhaps more importantly, I was really actively working on positive mental attitude.  I kept picturing myself finishing strong tomorrow, thinking about finishing in daylight.  I had conversations with myself at mile 90, and wanted to be able to think back to Friday and feel like I had put as many miles behind me as possible.  I would also take a few very deep, cleansing breaths and exhale everything – its amazing what a nice deep breath does for your mind.  And you just have to take moments to enjoy the views in this race, we are so lucky to experience these views.

2:51 segment duration (hh:mm)
17:19 pace (mm:ss)
9.9 mile segment / 34.9 miles total

Tettegouche to County Road 6

Friday 4:55pm
5:28 Tettegouche AS time (mm:ss)

As soon as I got into Tettegouche AS, I saw Tony from Duluth Running Co.  He offered to fill my pack up, which was great and I found Jay and some light food.  Tettegouche was a zoo of people, it was almost hard to move around so I hung by the food table.  Jay had the Shoe Goo, so I re-applied another layer.  My stomach was just the slighest bit off, it had been on my radar as something to watch but not quite a problem yet.  But I heard someone say “Ginger Ale” at the aid station table and I paused.  I haven’t had pop in 3 years, but that just sounded like the perfect thing, so then and there I decided that Ginger Ale was my new AS drink instead of HEED – I drank 2 cups, and hit the trail.

This section is beautifully scenic along the river.  Shortly down the trail, I picked up a runner behind me on the boardwalks.  After chatting a bit, I introduced myself and turned around to realize I recognized him.  We compared notes for a few mins and figured out that we volunteered at a Zumbro AS last year, small world indeed.  Andy and I hung together for that whole section and really hit a nice pace.  We both wanted to speed hike rather than walk, and passed several runners to keep that pace up.  It was Andy’s first 100 and he seemed well prepared, but we chatted a lot about strategies for later sections and the race in general.

2013-ST100-Cty-6  2013-ST100-Cty-6-2

We pulled out headlamps as the sun went down and saw many runners having trouble, but few needed/took help.  One exception was a guy struggling who had run out of water. Without hesitation, Andy offered him some of his own water and ended up emptying an entire handheld into the guy’s empty bottle.  The guy said “Man, you just saved my day!”  It’s so cool to see the help runners offer each other in ultras, it’s one of the things I love most about doing these – everyone wants everyone else to do their best.  Andy and I dropped the long down into County Road 6 but got separated before the road.

2:38 segment duration (hh:mm)
18:29 pace (mm:ss)
8.6 mile segment / 43.5 miles total

County Road 6 to Finland

Friday 8:48pm
13:41 County Road 6 AS time (mm:ss)

At County Road 6, I was feeling like my race was going fantastic and I was in a great mood.  In 2011 here I was having some stomach trouble and food wasn’t tasting good or going down easily.  Londell was running this station this year, and he and I chatted a bit.  I think they had watermelon at the table, and I ate a few slices – it was AMAZING in the heat.  I swear it cooled me down.  I had planned for this to be a longer stop, so I took time with my drop bag to sort out what I needed, repacked my Nathan, and ate some soup.  They also had olives, which was awesome for variety.  I love olives!  I switched to my good headlamp and packed my handheld light for later on.

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Night running on the boardwalks.

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Night running boardwalks along the water – water is right up to and next to the boards.

I bounded out into the section and ran everything I could – flats and downs.  I speed hiked all of the ascents.  I don’t recall much detail from this section other than I was passing people and feeling great.  But the heat and humidity were not subsiding, so I continued to stop at any river or stream I could and use my bandana to wash my face, neck, arms, and soak my head down.  It felt great.  I bet people get sick of me talking about how much I love that bandana, but I’m telling you its my best piece of running kit!

2:08 segment duration (hh:mm)
16:38 pace (mm:ss)
7.7 mile segment / 51.2 miles total

Finland to Sonju Lake Road

Friday 11:06pm
10:00 Finland AS time (mm:ss)

The approach to Finland AS is awesome.  It’s on an out-and-back spur trail, so you see a lot of refreshed runners going the other way and its fun to anticipate the station.  They have lights along the trail at the end, and they were jamming loud tunes so the atmosphere was really festive.  As soon as I popped out of the woods I heard “Dad!” – Ian and Neil had just gotten there, the timing was perfect!  It was great to see them, and I gave Ian a big, sweaty hug and he complained about how gross I was.  We chatted about how well the race was going, and they jumped right into crew mode with my drop bag and help with my pack.  It was just after 11:00pm, and I could tell I was well ahead of my pace from 2011, and feeling loads better than I did then.  I re-applied for chafing, and had packed wipes in my bag for a wash down and that was great.  I shared them with another runner who was in a chair and looked to be having trouble.  I think he puked right after his wipe down.  I pulled out my pace chart and told Neil and Ian it would be around 3:10 to 3:40 for the next 2 sections to Crosby-Manitou (mile 62) where I would see them next.  I also chatted with Jordan, who was helping Ed and looked ready to pace.  Ed seemed to be having a little trouble so I didn’t bug him, and said goodbye to Jordan assuming they would catch me soon on the trail.

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Sonju roots – by flash.

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Sonju roots – by handheld.

In 2011, I started struggling in this section and was having trouble maintaining a running pace or frankly running much at all.  So I was downright celebrating this year how good I felt.  I was in a fantastic mood, feeling fueled and running strong.  About halfway through the section I turned off my headlamp and switched to the handheld light.  I think it is so much more helpful when you get into the Sonju roots to use a handheld – it really throws shadows on the rocks and roots so you can read the terrain and run faster and safer (thanks for that tip, Zach).  I also think it gives your brain more variety and keeps you alert – it gets pretty old following that same spot on the ground for 9 hours.  Although I will say that I thought I kept seeing giant black bugs scurrying under the plants – it was just the shadows from the leaves as I waved my handheld around.

2:10 segment duration (hh:mm)
17:27 pace (mm:ss)
7.5 mile segment / 58.7 miles total

Sonju Lake Road to Crosby-Manitou

Saturday 1:21am
3:35 Sonju Lake AS time (mm:ss)

Sonju is another awesome station off a spur trail.  It’s so serene when you get there in the middle of the night – no crew access so it is quiet and contemplative with a great campfire going.  As soon as I popped in, I heard “Mr. Mark!”  and there was Matt Lutz sitting by the fire – just like back in 2011!  We laughed about that, and I told him he looked way better than he did here 2 years ago.  I found my drop and chatted with the AS workers while I quickly ate and drank Ginger Ale.  I was in and out pretty quick since I was feeling great.

Barely 5 minutes out of the Finland AS (the previous aid station), I realized that I had miscommunicated with Neil and Ian about my arrival time at Crosby.  When I said 3:10 I meant 3 hours 10 minutes elapsed time – my whole world right now distilled down to time between stations.  But I realized that without me clarifying that, they would have rightly assumed I meant 3:10am.  Couple that with the fact that I was hammering (in relative terms!) the pace, and would probably be on the early end of my estimate, I figured out that I would probably miss them at Crosby.  I checked cell coverage at Sonju AS on the off chance that I could let them know, but of course – no dice.  No worries, I kept on trucking to Crosby.  I passed and talked to a lot of runners struggling – it was still hot and muggy.  Many people seemed dehydrated and under-fueled.  A couple said they were just under-trained.  I gave my best advice or a pep talk on the way by – I was really trying to help anyone I could, I have been there and it is not a happy place.  I was really realizing how different life is at night when your race is going well – its completely different.

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Reflective course marking at night.

I spent a lot of time doing positive reflection overnight.  I kept thinking about everything I have to be thankful for – my wife, my sons, my health, that I can run anything at all, the great trails for training near our cabin, that I can participate in this awesome and epic race, that we have this beautiful trail in MN, that it wasn’t pouring rain and super cold, and on and on.  If you are able to even toe the line at a 100 mile race, you are doing well in life.  Everyone one of us out there has a lot to be thankful for, and it really helped my race to focus on that.

1:17 segment duration (hh:mm)
18:21 pace (mm:ss)
4.2 mile segment / 62.9 miles total

Crosby-Manitou to Sugarloaf

Saturday 2:48am
9:59 Crosby-Manitou AS time (mm:ss)

I stopped on the road into Crosby and turned off my light to enjoy the stars – it was a fantastic night, and at least once in this race when no other artificial lights are around you have to celebrate the utter blackness of these deep woods.  As soon as I got into the AS and found Jay, there was someone next to him and I shouted “NOOOO!!!!” thinking that it was Tim and he had dropped (I knew he was having some trouble).  Turns out it was just another crew member – so good news.  I confirmed that Neil and Ian were asleep, and told Jay about the miscommunication so asked him to let them know when I would be at Sugarloaf.  I chatted with Matt Patten who was running the station, and pounded Ginger Ale and fruit.  I saw Todd Rowe on the way out of the station, and we chatted a bit.  It was too bad Todd wasn’t running this year (stress fracture), but he’s a great example of how cool the ultra community is – he wasn’t sitting at home sulking, he was volunteering and taking photos.

I love this section!  It’s beautiful and challenging, and I did my very first training run for these races on this section with Tim back in 2008 so have fond memories of that weekend.  Since I was still running strong at this point (a first for me), I could see why it is frustrating for many people because you do have to do a lot of walking and hiking – it really slows down your pace and you start to question if you are flagging.  You’re not, its just Crosby-Manitou!  But this section seemed to go by faster for me than previous years.  After the Gorge and the ups and downs, I felt like I cruised through the Birch sections and the covered bridge, which seemed to take forever in the past.  I hit the pine forest, which I love.  My boys met me here in 2011 and that was fun to think about that as I dropped into Sugarloaf.  I don’t think I passed anyone in this section, and spent a lot of time alone, which I enjoyed.  I was excited that I was running this section by headlamp, as well, because I knew I was way ahead on pace and I’ve never run this in the dark.

3:21 segment duration (hh:mm)
21:26 pace (mm:ss)
9.4 mile segment / 72.3 miles total

Sugarloaf to Cramer Road

Saturday 6:19am
9:51 Sugarloaf AS time (mm:ss)

Sugarloaf was a pretty quiet AS this time.  I found Neil and my drop and quickly got down to business (Ian still asleep in the car).  I brushed my teeth and repacked my bag.  After a few minutes, I noticed several runners come in right after me, I didn’t realize that I had  a train behind me.  That put a little hustle back in me so I got back out on the trail, but then realized that it was going to be light enough soon so I hollered back to Neil to give him my light. It was starting to get more light out, and that really resets your mood and your outlook on the day.  I remember how much that perked me up from a serious mental low at Crosby in 2011, and I was celebrating how I was feeling so much better this year.

So the sunrise was all upside for me – I chowed down some Honey Stinger chews and started to run.  I ran a ton this section and it was awesome. I remembered that you run boardwalks on the approach to Cramer, so when I hit those I knew I was getting close.  I saw a road up ahead, and flags in the ditch up to the road, then I thought I caught sight of more flags across the road so assumed it was just a road crossing.  But I got really confused when I popped out on the road, and saw a ton of people to my left.  I stopped on the road for a moment, and processed.  I assumed it was the aid station, but was confused that I couldn’t find where the canopies and tables were.  I looked to my right and saw cars and people, and one of them pointed at the flags across the road.  I looked back to my left at the large group people and realized they were all in running gear – I was at the marathon start!!  I couldn’t believe it – I have never been that far ahead of the pace in this race.  That totally jazzed me up, so I took off across the road, then turned and ran past peeing marathoners towards the AS.

1:28 segment duration (hh:mm)
15:53 pace (mm:ss)
5.6 mile segment / 77.9 miles total

Cramer Road to Temperance

Saturday 7:59am
10:46 Cramer Road AS time (mm:ss)

Cramer was another quiet station.  One of the AS volunteers made me scrambled eggs, which tasted fantastic even though I could only eat about half of what I was served.  The volunteers at these races are so unbelievable.  They express genuine interest in how you are doing, offer a million things to try to find something that you want, serve you made-to-order food, and seem like you disappoint them if you don’t take their help.  You gotta love the volunteers.  I talked to the Sandors who had timed out earlier and were collecting Ed’s drops, which I was bummed to hear.  I re-packed and refueled and then got into a confusing conversation about the marathon start.  Someone was trying to convince me to stay in the station a few more minutes because the marathon runners would be through.  I couldn’t wrap my head around why I wouldn’t just leave?  It was one of those odd moments of slow reasoning in a 100-mile.  Finally someone else said “just hit the trail and let them pass you!” which is what I had been thinking, so I felt like I wasn’t off my rocker.  Fist bump to Neil, and I was back on the trail to Temperance.

I still felt really strong and got passed by the front half of the marathon pack in this section.  It was really fun to see totally fresh runners, and get a lot of congratulations and comments on doing the 100.  “It’s the same as what you are doing, ” I would say, “just 3 more times when you are done!”  Snark!  I’m sure I looked haggard from their perspective, but I felt almost as good as like they looked.  More hiking than I remember in this section due to ascents, then another long drop down into Temperance.

2:10 segment duration (hh:mm)
18:24 pace (mm:ss)
7.1 mile segment / 85.0 miles total

Temperance to Sawbill

Saturday 10:14am
4:52 Temperance River AS time (mm:ss)

UMTR was running the Temperance station, so there were familiar faces here including Bill Pomerenke leading the station.  Neil and Ian were both there, and I grabbed my drop and looked for shade which was minimal.  I crowded in behind 4 gals, who seemed to retreat into a small group and start whispering to each other.  I assumed it was because I probably STUNK like funk, so I apologized.  They laughed and said they were “in awe” of seeing a 100-miler who was still speaking in complete sentences!!  They were crewing a friend doing the marathon, and threw questions at me like “what was it like to run at night?”  It was a fun chat that pumped me up because I was able to give honest answers about how great it was going.  While we chatted, I kept rifling through my bag and reloading, and put on sunscreen while Ian brought me Ginger Ales one after another.  I tried to keep this stop short because I wanted to ride out this wave of good feelings, and because I LOVE this next section with the Temperance River and Carlton Peak. I hit the trail and ate a gel and some Honey Stinger chews to fuel for the climb up Carlton.  I walked for about 15 mins to let my stomach settle down, and then stopped at the Temperance River to wash down with my bandana.  Then I started running whatever I could and pounded out those flats dodging the day hikers.

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Cooling off in the Temperance River.

The ascent up Carlton Peak went awesome.  It was a grind, but I was able to run more sections on the approach than I remember, and I took some photos this time because you just can’t quite describe the final approach accurately – its basically a boulder field at the base of a cliff.

2013-ST100-Carlton-1   2013-ST100-Carlton-2   2013-ST100-Carlton-3 2013-ST100-Carlton-4

I had a race highlight after crossing the river.  There was another ascent, and right at the top there was a bench, and then the trail turned left.  Erik Lindstrom was sitting there taking photos, and I thought he said “hold up” as I came to the top so I stopped.  He looked up at me quizzically, and then I realized that he had said “how are you holding up?”  After what he probably thought was a dramatic pause (it was me just being slow), I said “Dude, I am having the race of my life.”  In one swift motion, he leapt forward off the bench to his feet, threw his hand up in the air for a high five, and shouted “FUCK YEAH!” at me.  It was shocking and hilarious!  I gave him a high five and took off running, hearing him fade off in the background still shouting “THAT’S what I love to hear!  THAT’S why you train!  THAT’S when the training pays off!” and more that I probably missed.  You rock, Erik.

1:47 segment duration (hh:mm)
18:23 pace (mm:ss)
5.7 mile segment / 90.7 miles total

Sawbill to Oberg

Saturday 12:07pm
8:09 Sawbill Trail AS time (mm:ss)

I love Sawbill AS because my whole introduction to ultrarunning and these specific trail ultra races started with a volunteer shift here back in 2008.  Dale was right there to meet me and help me out with my pack right away.  He also said they have a shower I should check out – a shower??  As I was handing off my bag, another volunteer came and asked me if I had soap – soap??!!  “You must have quite a shower!” I said, and he looked at me kind of bizarre – it turned out he asked me if I had salt – miles taking their toll, I guess.  At any rate, a volunteer drenched my head with water from their cold “shower” and it was awesome and rejuvenating.  I ate and drank quickly and tried to hoof it back onto the trail, and halfway up the hill I remembered the chafing.  My inner thighs, which never ever chafe, were getting raw – I think from the salt in my shorts from so much sweating.  So I had to hike back down to the AS to deal with that.  Desitin to the rescue, and I had no problems for the rest of the race.

I hoofed back up the trail and when I got near the top of Britton Peak I started running again.  This section has a lot of great runnable terrain until you get towards Leveaux and I ran what I could, still feeling great.  Leveaux mountain is one of the sleepers on this course, I think, when I get there its more of a climb than I ever remember and has several switchbacks so if there are people ahead of you, then you get a visual of what you are in for.  But overall this section feels like it goes by quickly for me, probably because I’m anticipating the last section already.

1:39 segment duration (hh:mm)
18:02 pace (mm:ss)
5.5 mile segment / 96.2 miles total

Oberg to Finish

Saturday 1:53pm
6:23 Oberg AS time (mm:ss)

I had pushed the pace coming into Oberg, and by the time I got into the AS I was finally starting to feel a little gassed.  Its really the first time I had felt that low during the race, so it messed my head just a bit.  I chatted with Ian and Neil while I ate and reloaded my pack.  TCRC was running this station and one of the volunteers (Kurt Decker, I think that was you?) pointed out that I really hadn’t drank much water and that most of the runners coming in hadn’t eaten or drank much.  That was a great wake-up call for me – I had indeed stopped eating during the last section.  I was anxious to get the last segment underway, and told Ian and Neil that I was going to just take it easy.  I knew I was way ahead of my goal, and wasn’t really in a hurry to finish at this point.

As I walked towards the trailhead, I double-checked that attitude though – maybe I was just under-fueled and a bit dehydrated?  Isn’t that what I had committed to fixing this year?  I ate a gel and a bunch of Honey Stinger chews and then took several long pulls of water from my pack.  I decided to deliberately eat more than I thought I needed to on that section, and max out on fuel and water.  I hiked up to the spur, and then started running when I turned left to the trail – I really wanted to bag this section now.  For the first time in a very long time, I checked the time of day and realized that I was seriously ahead of any goal pace I ever had – 34 hours at one point sounded unattainable for me, and I was well ahead of that time.  At that moment “32:15″ flashed in my head, and I thought “no way” – but looking at my watch, it seemed like just… maybe.

This is a really epic and exciting section in this race, I feel like it combines a lot of what you get to see in all of the earlier sections.  Its a great final section because this race isn’t letting you off easy!  It’s also great that the 50 milers and marathoners get to run this in their events.  There are some crazy ascents in this section, especially Moose Mountain, but I felt really strong and power hiked them all.  Before the race I had read an article in Ultrarunning magazine about racewalking, and had decided to use some of those techniques for the ascents.  I probably looked ridiculous, but anytime I got tired on an uphill during the race, I would bend my arms and swing them back and forth in front of my body and really try to think about using my hips to swing my legs forward.  I had a noticeable pick up in the pace when I did this, and it was not as tiring as the caveman knuckle-drag I usually do on ascents, so for whatever its worth, I’m sold.  I had great ascents in this race.

By this time the marathon pack had really spread out, but I still got passed by a few groups here and there.  I felt something itchy on my ankle under my timing chip strap and stopped 3 times trying to figure out what it was.  On my 3rd stop, one of the marathoners said “you got stung too, huh?” – I guess!  I didn’t even realize a bee stung me (lucky only once this year), but switched my chip to my right leg and felt a lot better.  I was still trotting the downhills and running the flats, and got passed by Joe Hegman on the way down Mystery Mountain.  He was looking extremely strong, and there was no chance I was going to catch him – Gnarly Bandit indeed.  But after he passed, I did some internal recap and couldn’t remember being passed on the trail by any 100-milers since leaving Silver Bay (mile 20).  I bet I got passed in an aid station or two, but I felt good that I was hitting the trails hard and decided to try to not get passed again.

I cruised past the Caribou Highlands overlook and was a little bummed that its now so overgrown you can’t really see it – or maybe that’s what it has always looked like in the daylight.  Around the campsite and you know you are getting there… but I never let myself think I’m close until I hear the Poplar River.  I love hearing the Poplar River!!  It is the most exciting sound, and just fills me with good feelings.  I ran down the road toward the bridge over the Poplar and popped out for a moment of reflection there, and just took in the scenery.  The river just roars and its beautiful.  A couple of marathoners ran by and said they had been chasing me since Oberg.  I was taking pictures, and said “It’s kind of sad that it’s ending, isn’t it?”  They groaned, but I was serious.  I really could have spent more time there at the river, just soaking in the last moments of the race.

2013-ST100-Poplar

Poplar River, just before Ski Hill Road and the Finish.

Time to reel it in.  I ran across the bridge, onto the spur, passed the marathoners and popped out onto Ski Hill Road.  I was to totally amped and I started booking it on the road – I was at least running a 9-min mile pace.  There was one runner ahead of me, and as we got close to the turn down to the condos I looked at my watch, right as it flipped to 32:15!  I wondered for a moment if there was any way I could make it around the pool in less than a minute!  No way, and not really that important so I just jogged in around the spectators, the pool, and onto the mat.  It is so awesome, inspiring, rewarding, gratifying and so much more to hear that crowd cheer for just you, finishing solo, as you round the pool and someone shouts “100-miler!!”  I was finishing strong and I felt great!

2:23 segment duration (hh:mm)
20:11 pace (mm:ss)
7.1 mile segment / 103.3 miles total

Final time:  32:16:32, 25th overall, 8th Masters division

Post-Race

John was at the finish to congratulate me, and I told him I had a fantastic race and took over 5 hours off my last finish time.  “Great!” he said, “and next year we’ll take another 90 minutes off!!”  Never surrender!  I laughed and shook his hand, then wandered around for a minute before I saw Ian, who was on the phone with Neil telling him that I had already finished – these guys need to stop listening to my predictions of when I will come in!  I picked up my sweatshirt and buckle, and my 2 stars (for 2 Superior Trail 100 mile finishes).  Julie Berg was near the table, and unfortunately dropped due to her ankle, but she congratulated me on my course PR.  I grabbed some food and then chatted with Jordan and Ed a bit about their day on the trail.  Then I sat down for the first time in 33 hours, and relived the race with Ian, Neil, and Hugh.

2013-ST100-finish

Neil, Ian, me, and Hugh right after the finish.

We decided to try to catch Tim at Oberg AS, so walked back to the condo and I showered up.  My “pals” kept shouting upstairs that I needed to hurry because we were about to miss Tim, so I grunted and winced through painful movement, going as fast as I could to get dressed and back downstairs, only to see big grins on both of their faces – no hurry needed.  You guys are just gems.

We got back to Oberg AS and found Jay, Tom, Joy and Aidan all waiting for Tim.  I sat in a camp chair and chowed down my turkey sandwich, which tasted fantastic.  I chatted up a couple of runners that were still going, and we saw Tim come in looking just great.  I hadn’t heard much about his race since I heard he was having trouble at County Road 6 last night, so wasn’t prepared for how great he looked, I knew he was going to finish.  We sent him off, and then went to Bluefin so Ian and Neil could grab dinner.  I was terrible company, falling asleep at the table, so excused myself and promptly crashed in the back of the van.  I woke up sometime later back at Caribou, with them dropping me off at the finish area to wait for Tim.  I got a chance to catch up with Zach and a few other runners I didn’t get to run with, great time hanging out.  Tim came in at 36:43, and looked really excited to be a 100 mile finisher!  We hung together very briefly at the finish, and retired back to the condo.

My joints felt fine, I was fatigued, but my feet were finally catching up with me and feeling pretty tender.  I didn’t last long at the condo, and went up to bed thinking I would totally crash as I have before.  But I only slept a few hours before my feet woke me up, and I spent awhile sleeping on the kitchen floor with my feet soaking in a pan of ice water.  Then I went back up to bed and slept with my feet and legs vertical up the wall to try and drain the swelling.  I wouldn’t quite call it rest, but it sure felt good!

Sunday morning we went down to Lockport Cafe (Hugh’s mom’s place in Lutsen) for their unbelievable sourdough pancakes.  That is a fantastic post-race breakfast.  I bumped into John Taylor and we traded race stories – he said he came in DFL (dead f***ing last), which speaks to the challenges of the day – he is a strong and seasoned 100-miler.  On the drive home, we stopped for one more foot soak in Lake Superior – that is the next best thing (after breakfast at Nan’s) for a great recovery from this race.

2013-ST100-Supeior-foot-soak

Icing the feet in Lake Superior.

I had the race of my life this year at Superior Trail 100 mile, I couldn’t have asked for a better race and indeed never really aspired to do that well.  It was a fantastic experience to pack drop bags and really think ahead about the race – and even approach it as if I had no support.  Of course, it was awesome to have help from Jay, Neil, and Ian.  Even if we only see you for a few minutes every few hours, you guys should not underestimate how uplifting it is to come into an AS and see someone who is there looking out for you. I felt great about my fueling for this race – I can’t wait to try that magic combo of Ginger Ale, Chocolate Almond milk, gels and Honey Stingers in my next race.  I also felt great about my prep for this race – I am not a purist, but am definitely making Crossfit Endurance part of my regular training.

Thanks so much to John and Cheri Storkamp for hosting this epic romp in the woods.  This race is a gift, and we are lucky to be a part of this weekend with you every year.  And thanks to all of the volunteers that they somehow shanghai into being a part of the Superior trail races each year as well.  Hopefully you have as much fun as we do.

Like Ed says, “This thing we do is pretty special.”  Indeed.  I feel lucky to be able to tackle this race, regardless of the outcome.

Posted in Races | 7 Comments »

Course Marking for the Hangzhou Mountain Marathon and an Awesome Trail Run!

Posted by scott on November 21, 2011

I feel like I have finally been to China, after 6 or 7 visits!

I had a Saturday free between work days and after Googling around for trail routes came across something called the Hangzhou Mountain Marathon – sounded like my kind of thing!  The race is set for Saturday, November 19, 2011 so unfortunately 1 week later than I would be in Shanghai.  But I managed to get connected to Nicolas Musy, the Race Director, and joined he and another expat runner, Doekle, for an epic trail marking / training run.

 

Hangzhou (map | wikipedia) is a beautiful city about 1 hour by high speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao station.  I booked the same train as Doekle, whom I hadn’t met before, yet we easily met up in the train station as we both stuck out like sore thumbs as tall white guys in outdoor clothes.  After arriving, we met up with Nicolas and grabbed a cab to Shangri-la hotel where Nicolas and a friend were staying.  We quickly changed into running kit, packed water and food, and grabbed a taxi (and spray paint) to head out to Longjing, a small town up in the mountains which is famous for producing the wonderful Longjing tea.

We were dropped at the edge of town, partway up the side of the mountain right at the edge of the tea fields.  We were quickly ascending up into the mountains on dirt trails through stepped and perfectly manicured tea fields, and it was breathtaking in every direction.

The views didn’t quit for the next four hours.  We summitted various peaks around Longjing and Hangzhou, and ran trails and saddles (sometimes as narrow as 2 meters) between them.  Nicolas refreshed his course markings with bright green dots on trees and rocks, with 3 dots in a row to indicate a turn coming up.  He lamented that they had been aggressively paving the trails in the area, so it was getting harder to mark a pure trail course – but I have to say the stonework was very beautiful.  The weather was perfect – mid 50s and quite sunny which had been rare lately.

Nicolas and Doekle were excellent running mates.  Nicolas has been organizing the Hangzhou Mountain Marathon for several years, and also the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset 100k for even longer (13 years?).  I had to laugh when I heard that – I remember learing about that race several years ago before my ultra days and sending it to some friends saying “can you believe this race!”  Doekle has completed his first couple of ultras and is gunning for Mongolia next year – he will do great.  I heard many tales throughout the day of their runs throughout Asia with the Hash House Harriers.

We dropped into small mountain villages now and then, refueling as necessary and running down the cobblestone streets to odd looks.  One young guy up in the hills even wanted his picture taken with us!  Some parts of the trail are stone-paved, but the vast majority is awesome single track.  There are some crazy rugged climbs that reminded me of the Superior Trail, as well as serene flats that ran along creeks and through bamboo forests.  We ran by monks.  We ran by people getting married.  We even ran through a restaurant patio at one point!  It was quite the adventure run.

We finished by following the cobblestone trail called 9 Creeks that connects various small villages and ultimately finishes in the West Lake area of Hangzhou.  Hangzhou is immensely popular with Chinese tourists because of the beauty of this area, and we saw them in full force.  Our last 4k were like running through a mosh pit – dodging through travel groups, bicyclists, inline skaters, and sprinted to stay right in front of (then immediately behind) and electric tram.  We stopped for tofu, and even took time to fill out a tourist survey!   It was hilarious.

All in all, we finished marking 20km of the course in 4 hours, which is a testament to the rugged nature of our route.

Nicolas was kind enough to let us clean up in his room, then we enjoyed some Longjing tea and conversation on the balcony as the afternoon faded.  We had a fantastic dinner at Shangri-la, then said our goodbyes and Doekle and I grabbed the train back to Shanghai.  I tried desperately to stay awake and be good company for Doekle, but I sure I feel asleep a couple of times – sorry!

If you happen to be in Shanghai next weekend, definitely check out the Hangzhou Mountain Marathon – it will be a fantastic event!  Thanks Nicolas and Doekle for letting me join you, hopefully we can share the trails again sometime.

Posted in Races, Training | 2 Comments »

2011 Superior Trail 100 Mile Race Report

Posted by scott on September 22, 2011

Ann Trason says 100 mile races let you experience “life in one day”.  They are a tremendous physical challenge for sure, but they are far more of a mental and emotional challenge which is not as obvious to people who don’t do them.  For me, the two 100-milers I have completed have felt like a colossal, visceral experience of my whole personality.  You get exposed to the entire surface area of your emotions and are constantly challenged by a problem-solving expedition that changes moment to moment.  Superior did not disappoint!

Pre-Race

If you look at my training, I had absolutely no business committing to this race.  Early in the year it was my objective, but seemed less and less realistic.  But Kelly did the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer 3-day Walk in August, and it really inspired me to see her team out there and be part of a huge event.  That experience and the pull of the Superior Hiking Trail threw reason out the window.  When Tim said he was available to crew, I knew it was a done deal.  Zach and I went for a training run and it sounded like he was going to put in.  I somehow managed to talk Hugh into signing up the week before, on even less training than I had (I outsold the salesman there).  It was on!

Hugh and I traded tons of phone calls the week before the race, building up the excitement.  I think I was at REI 3 times in 3 days gearing up.  Hugh, Tim, and I caravanned up to the North Shore on Thursday kicking around the Fitzger’s boardwalk to let off nervous energy.  We bumped into Matt Patten and Bill shopping for last minute grub at Super One.  I bumped into many trail friends at the pre-race dinner – John Storkamp, Larry Pederson, Dale Humphrey, Londell Pease, Zach Pierce and Jen, Susan Donnelly, Don Clark, Adam Schwarz-Lowe, Matt Lutz, (probably forgetting others, sorry) and met a few new people.  I love the intimate and electrified atmosphere of a 100 mile pre-race!

By the time the meeting concluded, we were feeling a bit pressed for time.  We had planned to cook dinner at Hugh’s cabin and by the time we made it through traffic it was past 9.  We quickly whipped up a great spaghetti dinner, then Tim and I hustled to Caribou Highlands to check in and crash.  I was in bed by 10:30, a fair bit later than I hoped.  But I fell asleep immediately and didn’t move until 5:30 – a great night’s sleep.

Race Morning

Tim and I had a quick breakfast at the condo and were joined by Hugh.  He brought over a couple things I had left in his cooler, I boiled up some eggs for the race and we headed out around 6:30am.  With traffic, we got to the start around 7:30 and everything was in full swing!  Cars, gear, and people were everywhere.  I met Helen Lavin and Chris Scotch on the way to check in.  Hugh and I got bibs folded and pinned on, then went for final pre-race relief.  I bumped into Zach and got a starter’s picture taken.

By the time I got back to the car and got my gear on, we were the last ones to leave the parking lot!  We hoofed it to the start just in time to hear John’s final send off.  He said “go!” and everyone started symbolically running, but we were very quickly walking on the first uphill.  It was a fantastically beautiful sunny day – Friday morning, 8:00am.

Start to Split Rock – 9.3 miles

We started off at a pretty good clip, in a long train of runners.  I tried to start near the back, and let anyone pass who wanted to.  I definitely wanted to keep the pace down early on.

We fell into a group with a few people chatting and introducing ourselves.  I don’t remember a whole lot from this early section other than lots of runners and fun conversation; it was early and everyone was feeling great and excited.  We saw Londell at the spur going down to Split Rock aid station (AS), which turned out to be a longer downhill than expected – I’m thinking 1/3 to 3/8 mile.  This was a new spur this year – we were going to push the legendary 102.6 miles over 103!  I shook Jason Husveth’s hand when we passed, and Londell got a picture:

Jason and I would be seeing each other a lot that day.  Hugh and I ate up quickly at the AS and tried to keep moving.

Start to Split Rock (9.3 miles / or 9.8?)
2:31:56 (15:30 pace)
AS 3:02 (AS = time spent in Aid Station)

Split Rock to Beaver Bay – 19.4 miles

Again, there are not a lot of specific memories on the trail from this segment but I was having a great time.  Hugh and I largely stuck together, but he kept urging me to go ahead.  We leapfrogged here and there and at some point he came up with some amazingly perfect, trail-made hiking poles.  We had good company while we ran together and joined and broke from a few trains.  Somewhere in here I also met Ray Gruenewald from Seattle, who I ended up sharing trail with throughout the day and night.  We met up with Tim for the first time at Beaver Bay AS, and he helped get us checked out and back on the trail.  They had pickles at the AS, which I have never seen for aid – they were great!

Split Rock to Beaver Bay (10.1 miles)
2:58:55 (17:43 pace)
AS 10:34

Beaver Bay to Silver Bay – 24.3 miles

This was yet another non-descript section in my memory, I think I had too much nervous energy early on!  I wasn’t eating too much on the trail, but kept nibbling on a Pro Bar when my watch beeped.  It was early afternoon and the heat was really kicking in, I was trying to drink tons of water and had noticed that my mood was going a bit up and down with my hydration.  I made a mental note to drink several large gulps of water if I ever started feeling down.  I was also glad that I was taking an S! Cap every 45 minutes; I had planned on hourly, but this turned out to be a smart early adjustment.  We passed a few people who seemed to be having trouble with the heat and associated (?) stomach issues.  I was amazed that I was still feeling a lot of energy and only really eating in the stations, not very much on the trail.  We ran by streams in this section and the previous section, and Hugh and I regularly wet down our bandanas.  I would wipe off my face and neck, and then tie it snug around my neck so it would cool down the blood going to my head.  That cheap REI bandana has been my best race investment.

Beaver Bay to Silver Bay (4.9 miles)
1:25:40 (17:29 pace)
AS 11:05

Silver Bay to Tettegouche – 34.2 miles

I was really looking forward to this section and to seeing Bean and Bear Lakes.  I had heard so much about them and never been through here.  This section turned out to be much more challenging than I realized with tons of small technical ascents and descents.  For those not familiar with trail running or the Superior Hiking Trail, “technical” means very rocky and/or full of roots – extremely hard footing and need for caution.  It was getting seriously hot, I was drinking a ton of water and almost wishing I had my handheld with HEED.  It seemed like there were a lot of exposed rock bluffs in the early part of the course, so that really heated you up.

I was sweating like crazy when we came up behind a guy wearing black arm warmers – I couldn’t believe it!!  I asked how he was doing and he said he was freezing!  “Dude, you are in the weeds, start drinking!” I told him.  I think he was dangerously dehydrated and I tried to pass on a sense of urgency.  As we got up to the bluffs over Bean Lake, we ran into the rest of his group, a couple of them had already run out of water with plenty of this section left to go.  This trail leaves a tight tolerance – you need to plan for the worst and pack plenty.

The overlooks over Bean and Bear Lake are magnificent!  I took pictures and videos and chatted with Hugh on the overlook for Bear, it’s a breathtaking view.  We spent a quick minute there but kept on moving.  At some point in here I passed Misty Schmidt and had another conversation about keeping up with drinking, she was having a bit of a low.  I caught up with Zach and he was having significant stomach issues, he seemed kind of down.  Misty caught up too, and we formed a small train with Roy as we navigated through The Drainpipe:

We all ran together for awhile and chatted our way into the Tettegouche AS.  This section was long, and many people hate it, but I loved it.

Silver Bay to Tettegouche (9.9 miles)
2:56:51 (17:52 pace)
AS 15:33

Tettegouche to County Road 6 – 42.8 miles

We grabbed headlamps and an extra night layer here, as we were leaving about 6:00pm and wouldn’t make County Road 6 before dark.  I was starting to feel a bit anxious about how much time we were spending in aid stations.  I’m generally a mid- to back-of-the-pack runner at these events and AS time can really add up in a 100-miler.  So far I was spending about 3 times the duration that I spent at Zumbro 100 last year.  I was goading Hugh out of the station, and right when I was heading out Zach looked up and asked if I was leaving.  I saw something in his expression and/or heard something in his tone that made me think he needed some company, so I waved Hugh onto the trail and waited for Zach.  He had eaten a ton at the AS and as we got back on the trail he was thinking his stomach issues were behind him.  We got onto the State Park section of the trail, which was all boardwalks, wooden steps, etc. –the only real developed part of the trail we would touch.  About 10 minutes in, I was running behind Zach.  I saw an S! Cap drop off to the side of the boardwalk and I told him about it in case he dropped it and would be short.  He didn’t say anything, and when I looked up he had stopped and was silently holding his hand over his mouth.  I won’t go into details about the next several minutes, but it was more difficult for Zach than me!  Everything from the AS came up, several times over.  I dug out some TP from my pack and handed it to him to clean up.  I was sure he was going to head back to Tettegouche, but after only a couple minutes rest, I followed him running down the trail.  He seemed to bounce back perfectly.  We went over the wobbly cable bridge soon after in this section and joked about how that felt on ultra legs – but he was back in full gear by that point.

Zach and I were still together when dusk settled in, and turned our headlamps on.  We were getting a kick out of some of the crazy dropoffs in this section.  He would shine his handheld light over the edge of a cliff and we would just barely see the top of a few trees.  Fortunately, these are well marked.

“Triple X” reflectors mark cliffs and dropoffs on the course – welcome safety for night running on the ridges.

I started to get an upset stomach and joked that maybe Zach and I were trading roles.  Fortunately, I had put a ginger chew in my pocket along with peppermints so I sucked on a ginger for awhile and my stomach settled down.  I had also tried dialing back my S! Caps, but the stomach told me that was a bad idea.  Zach and I finished together in the dark at County Road 6.

Tettegouche to County Road 6 (8.6 miles)
3:05:58 (21:37 pace)
AS 15:26

County Road 6 to Finland – 50 miles

County Road 6 was a turning point for me, as I quickly realized that I could not muster much solid food down any longer.  I tried some mashed potatoes which tasted dry to my mouth and I chewed a grilled cheese sandwich for way too long before spitting it out in the woods – it wouldn’t go down.  Time to switch to sports foods!  While I was wandering about Tim casually pointed out that Kelly and the boys had made it to the aid station in time.  It was so great to see them!

I added a spare light and top layer, ate a few more quick bites and then headed out into the dark with the boys.  They ran with me for a few minutes with handheld lights before we said goodbye for the night.  I was running with Hugh.  Joel, Zach, and Roberto caught up to us before long and we kept pace for a little while, but I was soon trying to divide my time between two camps of runners.  Hugh said matter of factly that he was going to drop at Finland and I should go ahead.  I was torn with guilt, but stopped and asked him firmly if he was serious about dropping.  He was, and I wanted to hold onto the prospect of not being alone all night, so we said goodbye and I took off to catch Zach and company.  I felt terrible about leaving Hugh, but he seemed OK with it and he had a phenomenal day given his prep.

I hung with Zach and Joel for the rest of the section and we had a great time.  Joel was gracious to keep an eye on me as well as Zach, ensuring that my stomach was feeling better and that I was eating and drinking.  He double-duty paced Zach and I into Finland, me barely keeping up with them.

When we pulled into Finland I told Zach they shouldn’t wait for me.  I didn’t want to head out alone, but I loathed the idea of having to keep someone else’s pace.

County Road 6 to Finland (7.7 miles)
2:23:18 (18:37 pace)
AS 15:56

Finland to Sonju Lake Road – 58 miles

The Finland aid station had quesadillas that were great.  Roberto and I split one, as they were in short supply.  I sat down at a picnic table with Jason – my first sit in 16 hours.  I was starting to feel a funk coming on and it was about 12:30am (a bit early for this).  I ate a bit and decided that I would sit down at the remaining aid stations, just as something to look forward to – a dangerous decision.  I headed out onto the trail solo and Roberto quickly caught me, giving me a hard time for not waiting for him.  We ran together for awhile and then split off.  I also spent some time running with Ray again and we picked up a small pack of additional runners.  We were lead for awhile by a guy who kept making wrong turns and leading us down latrine spurs – Ray put a stop to that and took charge of the lead.  I started having very strong thoughts of dropping from the race.  It was great to see Kelly and the boys at County Road 6, but I wasn’t quite prepared emotionally for the impact – I was dwelling on how nice it would be to just go crash at Caribou with them, swim in the pool on Saturday, etc.  I was feeling the miles and really just starting to realize that even though my body seemed to be metabolizing fat for fuel, my brain was still needing a constant stream of carbs to stay straight.  I needed to up my eating from earlier in the day and the heat.

Finland to Sonju (7.5 miles)
2:45:06 (22:00 pace)
AS 9:59

Sonju Lake Road to Crosby-Manitou – 62.2 miles

Sonju AS was a welcome sight with a great fire going.  Unfortunately, Matt Lutz and his pacer were holed up by the fire with Matt looking extremely rough.  I grabbed some food and a spot by the fire.  Ray was there and we were chatting through Matt’s issues, which seemed to mainly be extreme cramping.  Ray suggested mixing salt into a very small amount of water an slamming it to get electrolytes in fast – that absorbs faster than electrolyte capsules.  I left those guys to get Matt fixed up and hit the trail solo.  They all ended up passing me in this section as I was doing a lot of walking and sulking.  I had major emotional lows this whole section.  I seriously wanted to quit and was beating myself up a lot about whether I could finish, how long it would take me to finish, whether I had trained enough, why I put everyone through this, etc., etc.  An ugly time.  I started doing the math that if I could maintain a 20 min/mile pace from Crosby it would still take me close to 14 hours to finish.  It didn’t help that I really needed one more layer on top.  I was cold, alone, down, and it was dark.  It took a lot for me to keep running during this section and toughen up coming into Crosby to not let it all spew out at the AS.  I kept trying to rationalize that 3 to 5 am and 60 to 70 miles is the known low point in a 100 mile race – I just needed the sun to come up and start a new day.  But it was hard to slay those dragons and get positive.

Sonju to Crosby-Manitou (4.2 miles)
1:45:41 (25:10 pace)
AS 17:16

Crosby-Manitou to Sugarloaf Road – 71.6 miles

I spent awhile at the Crosby AS, not looking forward to heading out on the trail.  I got a pep talk from Tim and from an AS worker, who kept telling me the sun would be up soon (it was then 5:00am).  I had some coffee, which I thought would clear my head, and some soup and fruit.  They were frying burgers and I wanted to want one so bad, but the thought of trying one made my stomach roll.  I finally rallied and got up to head back on the trail, snapping a forced-smile pic with Tim to remember “how much fun we are having!”  He mustered a laugh at that comment, but I don’t know if he knew the depth of the sarcasm for me.  He was a rockstar crew, handling every high maintenance request I had, and nudging me back out onto the trail.  Case in point:  he later told me he figured that I wanted to drop there, but he never would have let me.

A few minutes onto the trail, I recorded a short video journal about my low – I knew it would end at some point and thought I might as well save a memory.  And, low and behold, not 20 minutes into the section the sky started to lighten up and my mood along with it.

I love running the Crosby section and have fond memories of training on it.  I caught up with Matt and his pacer at The Gorge, and lead them up the hill.  Shortly after that when it was fully light out, I came across Jason laying on a rock bluff taking a nap!  I made sure he was OK, and left him there – he seemed to be confident that later runners would wake him up (I wouldn’t dare).  He re-joined me before long and we had one of my favorite ultra-brain race memories:

There are a lot of downed trees across the trail.  Most you can easily step over, some you can easily duck under.  With Jason leading, we came across one that was at exactly the wrong height – too high to go over, and a pain to go under.  Jason dropped down and dog-rolled on his back underneath it.  Without really giving him any room (not sure why, just impatient I guess), I dropped to all fours and shuffled underneath right next to him.  We both end up on the far side on all fours, and he declares he’s going to “stay down here and stretch his legs a bit”.  So I shuffle around him on all fours, and then leave him to stretch.  I wish I had a picture!  I bet it was quite a sight to see these two sore goofballs shuffling under that tree together.

The lead fifty milers passed us in this section, burning up the course.  My mood thoroughly lifted during this section even though my body was feeling rough.  At some point in here, I think Jason made the comment that we just had to get to Cramer Road and then “run a 10 hour marathon”.  It’s a sickening comment and only a Superior Trail runner can really appreciate how realistic yet mentally challenging that prediction was!

Crosby-Manitou to Sugarloaf Road (9.4 miles)
3:42:52 (23:43 pace)
AS 13:39

Sugarloaf Road to Cramer Road – 77.2 miles

Kelly and the boys were at Sugarloaf again and helped perk me up.  By this point fruit and soup were my mainstay AS food and I was mainly eating oranges and bananas for solid food.  I dumped my lights and night layers to lighten the load, and packed up with Honey Stinger chews, Hammergels, and Clif Shot Bloks which were keeping my brain going.  I also brushed my teeth, which actually helped perk me up.  I hit the trail with the boys for a few minutes before sending them back, and don’t remember too much more about this section.

By this time I had convinced myself that it was destructive to do any math about how long the rest of the race would take, and made sure I only focused on the current section I was in.  That was hard to remind myself to do, but was a vital part of my finishing strategy.

Sugarloaf to Cramer Road (5.6 miles)
2:00:25 (21:30 pace)
AS 16:49

Cramer Road to Temperance River – 84.3 miles

A building race issue caught up with me at Cramer Road.  Sometime back around mile 30 my foot had skipped over the top of a rock and I thought I heard a tearing sound.  I turned to look and didn’t see anything so kept going.  While Zach and I were running after Tettegouche, I felt a flapping and after inspecting my soles for me, Zach tore off a section of lugs that were just hanging off the bottom of my shoe (New Balance Minimus).  I kept running on them because they seemed fine but as I was running this section I started hearing flapping on the other shoe.  I had the gang look at them in the Cramer Road AS and they were declared unfit – the original heel was just raw, and a tear on the other shoe threatened the same.  This trail eats its young.

Kelly gently pulled off my shoes and I switched into my old New Balance 790s, which have around 700 miles on them and have run every ultra I have ever done.  Hugh showed up at this AS and was talking about pacing me for a later section, which was great to look forward to.  I made the comment that the top of one foot was really sore, and I honestly even wondered if I had fractured a metatarsal.  Hugh suggested that maybe it was the strap across the top of the Minimus – he might have been right.  At the very least, I think the suggested source helped, and my feet quickly felt better back in my 790s.

I again don’t remember a whole lot from the run in this section.   I spent most of the time anticipating Temperance AS, which is a great AS and also the start of a very scenic section afterwards.

Cramer Road to Temperance (7.1 miles)
2:36:21 (22:01 pace)
AS 14:41

Temperance River to Sawbill – 90 miles

My whole gang was waiting for me at Temperance – I love that AS and have pleasant memories of that AS from the Superior Trail 50 mile race.  We chatted a bit while I ate fruit.  Hugh, standing there in plain clothes, told me that he swapped spots with his wife Karla and she was going to pace me to Sawbill.  It was great to see someone geared up and ready to run with me.  I apologized in advance that she wasn’t going to get a great workout or enjoy great conversation, but she was ready to go.  Kelly and I talked again about Ian pacing me for the last segment, which I was looking forward to.

Karla and I hit the trail and I soon as I made the first turn she caught that I had dropped my bandana.  My bandana!  She made her wage right off the bat, that was my security blanket.  My mood picked up just having company and I was feeling well fueled, so we set off at a good clip (for me, at this stage, at least) for most of the first part of the course along the Temperance River.  There are some fantastic scenic spots along the Temperance River here, this is one of my favorite stretches.  I told her that I wanted to bag the first miles before we started climbing Carlton Peak.  Carlton is the highest climb on the course – 900 feet over 2 miles and we would be climbing for a good hour straight.  I guess no one told her about that climb when she agreed to pace this section!  Welcome to Sawtooth rules.

The climb up Carlton went fairly well.  I met a previous co-worker, John, on the way up who was backpacking and on his way down towards the Temperance campsite, fun to chat.  The Carlton climb felt like it was going on and on and I was really starting to wonder how long it went when we finally hit the boulder field.  This is another spectacularly scenic section of the course.  I paused for minute to let another 100 miler and her pacer pass; her pacer had a baby doll head in the front pocket of his Nathan.  There was a story behind it that I don’t remember!  During the 50 mile I signed the trail register on top of Carlton, but wasn’t in the mood this year so kept on the push to Sawbill.

Karla and I had a funny ongoing conversation about how irritating it is to hear “you’re almost there” from spectators during an event.  Kelly had complained about this at the 3-Day Walk.  They have no idea how that feels, how relative it is to your pain, etc. and it usually is just the wrong thing to say to a runner.  A woman on the course above Temperance had told me “You’re there!”.  I stood next to her, looked at the loose rocky steps right next to us, followed by the long rocky downhill and no trail head in sight.  I said “No I’m not, I need to go down that first.”  Not moments after Karla and I were chatting about moments like these, we started around a corner and a woman said “you’re almost there!”  We were defintely not (in my terms).  We eventually crossed County Road 2, and I forgot how much trail you hit before the AS.  Karla had been a great pacer and this was a good section for company to keep me moving up Carlton.

Temperance to Sawbill (5.7 miles)
1:53:57 (19:59 pace)
AS 10:41

Sawbill Trail to Oberg – 95.5 miles

I had been doing math and new that I was closer than I wanted to be for cutoffs.  I think Tim had been distracting me from it to keep me going, but I knew that I was close.  I chatted with Dale at the AS and he filled my hydration pack after bawling me out for not drinking enough – thanks (honestly) for that, Dale.  He had his own perspective on the heat and carnage of the day – they had run low on water throughout the day and had to help re-supply other earlier stations who ran out.

Against Tim’s recommendation (he was trying to keep me optimistic), I insisted on packing sleeves and a headlamp just in case I bonked and ended up in the dark before Oberg.  But he said the phrase that defined the next section for me – “The race is to Oberg.”  I had 2 hours and 20 minutes to make the cutoff at Oberg by 7:00pm, and then I would still be allowed to finish.  I loaded up on carbs, made final arrangements with Kelly to get Ian ready at Oberg and then I hit the trail.  I packed in some Honey Stinger chews and a gel right off the bat and walked up Oberg Mountain.  After it flattened out I was trying to get my running groove, when I woman passed me at a great clip.  She became my rabbit and I took off trying to keep up with her.  I really felt the wind and dropped the hammer on that section.  I walked the major ascents but I ran faster and more in this section than I had in more than 24 hours – I even lead a 50 miler for awhile who turned down my offers to let him pass.  In the end, I think it only amounted to an 18:16 pace, but that was a huge negative split for me and a massive mental boost.  I was even starting to imagine what I would do if I got to Oberg and my crew wasn’t there! ;-)

Sawbill to Oberg (5.5 miles)
1:40:28 (18:16)
AS 3:41

Oberg to FINISH – 103 miles

Kelly, Ian, and Tim were all ready and waiting at the station and it was great to see them.  I was feeling great about making good time, and that I would have a 45 minute lead on the sweeps.  I grabbed some food and a fantastic brownie, which was my first sweet/dessert food of the entire race.  Jenn grabbed a goofy picture of me on my way to sit down.

Ian was all geared up and we divided up my top layers for the evening.  I could tell he was excited to join me, and I was thrilled to have him along.  He was fed, packed, and psyched up.  I gave him one last pep talk that we were switching roles – I was his Dad, but this time around he was there to take care of me, not the other way around.  I told him that the worst possible thing we could do was slip on the terrain and get hurt; that we wouldn’t be able to finish then.

As we walked out of the station, Don Clark gave me a huge smile and pep talk, getting me fired up.  Don had been awesome throughout the race for me.  Every time I saw him, he made me feel like a million bucks, like I was the best looking runner on the course.  He even called me “Mint!” at one point!  I thanked Don and told him he was a hell of a guy.  “Just keep your goons off me!” I shouted.  He stopped walking, pointed at his chest and laughed saying “I’m one of the goons!”  Aren’t we all, out here.

Ian was awesome company on the trail.  His excitement was subdued but infectious.  As soon as we got into the woods, he spotted a deer right off the trail.  I talked him through all of the terrain we would hit, and he loved anticipating technical sections and asking if we were on the parts I had described earlier.  He was excited to run at night, but also a bit apprehensive.  He kept asking me “is this how dark it gets?” and I kept saying “No, look at the sky, it’s still light!”  He would look up and just say “Wow” in anticipation.  By the time we hit the thigh-burning Moose Mountain downhill it was pitch black.  We wound around Mystery Mountain for what seemed like forever.  I thought I knew this section well, but I guess not.  It became a crushing mental challenge to be finishing in the dark – running into a second night.  The terrain started to look like a scrolling piece of flat gray wallpaper to me.  I started falling asleep on my feet and swaying.  I would stop when Ian needed a “woods break”, and lean on my knees.  After moments, I would wake up seeing my feet in a different spot than when I last saw them.  I told Ian that if I fell asleep and went down, he should do his best to wake me.  I told him all of my fundamentals felt fine so if he couldn’t wake me it probably was just fatigue and that he should stay with me and wait for the sweeps rather than going back.  We stopped off at the Caribou overlook and enjoyed the lights in the distance – so near, yet so far!

We would see reflective flags jump out of the dark, and occasionally see headlamps up ahead.  At one point, we saw a pair of lights coming at us, then going away, then coming back at us and continuing.  I thought it might be backpackers, and Ian asked if it was the sweeps, not knowing they would come from behind.  We came upon two runners who said “you’re going the wrong way.”  This put my brain into a minor tailspin that I quickly righted and said “There is no way we are going the wrong way!  Did you leave the trail?”  They seemed to get freaked out and disoriented because they hadn’t seen a flag in awhile.  I insisted we were going the right way, so we all kept going.  They promptly had us pass, as the woman was having “a lot of trouble” in her words.  Before too long, a pair of runners up ahead spotted flags by the campsite and shouted back.  Ian relayed the message back to the couple we passed, and we moved on.

Before long we caught another runner on the drop towards the Poplar River.  I had told Ian about this moment, how I love hearing the rapids on the Poplar because it means you are close to the road (I’m allowed to say that!).  He and I celebrated the sound of rushing water and met up with another runner we accompanied to the road.  As the three of us ascended the spur to the road another couple asked if they could pass, and our friend joked “Are you 50 milers??!!  I didn’t come this far just to get passed at the end!”  They were, and they did.

Ian and I ran the whole road at a nice solid jog, following flags up to the condos.  A guy on his bike was riding in circles and started swearing like a sailor about how awesome I was because I was a 100 miler.  It was hilarious, Ian probably hasn’t heard that much swearing since the school bus.

As we came around the condo, we picked up Sean to finish with us.  I love to finish these races with my boys.  I am so proud of them, and so proud to share that exciting moment with them and make them feel a part of my accomplishment.  I absolutely love the finish at the Superior races – it’s an exciting and emotional moment to have huge crowd of people cheering only for YOU.  I pumped my fist in the air and ran onto the mat.  I was done, and it felt awesome.  It was 9:23pm on Saturday night.

Oberg to Finish (7.1 miles)
2:57:45 (25:02 pace)

Total time:  37 hours and 23 minutes.

Post Race

I thanked John Storkamp and Larry for a great race while they took off my timing chip and gave me my belt buckle.

I immediately saw Zach run down, and he gave me a gigantic hug and congratulated me on my finish.  It was no awkward bro-hug – it was a full on meathook grab hug!

I could tell he had been worried whether I was going to make the cutoff or not.  That finish moment summed up so much of what I love about 100 mile races – a shared epic challenge that you work through and share with your friends.  Matt P was also there to congratulate me and kept telling me I looked great and made it look easy.  Very thoughtful, I felt anything but that.  Jenn offered me a piece of cheese pizza, and I couldn’t believe how good it sounded – my first real food since a quesadilla back in Finland 21.5 hours ago.  It was awesome.

I made my way over the Kelly and kissed her and thank Tim immensely for his support.  Hugh and Carla were there, and I also thanked them.  It was so awesome to see Hugh at the finish, it was really nice of them to come.  I was hoping to cross the line with him, but it was great to at least have him there to share the experience.

I went over and chatted with Zach and Jason and congratulated them on their finishes.  We were all amazed that the three of us with minimal training, and no real business being there, actually finished.  I signed up for my jacket, said a few more goodbyes and headed back to the townhouse.  I had dinner, a Summit and some ice cream, and kept waking up on the couch staring down into my bowl.

Thoughts and Lessons

It’s impossible to sum up everything you experience and learn in a race like this.  This report is already too long, and I can think of so many other things to write down.  I absolutely love the Fall Superior Trail races, I really think these are my “home” events that I want to keep coming back to in one way or another year after year.  I was amazed at the level of soreness and fatigue I felt in my quads and calves for the last 50+ miles – they were sore and felt absolutely empty and done.  But I learned during this race that as long as I maintained focus I could run – they really didn’t feel any worse running, its just that they kept getting my brain to say “walk” when I need to force “run”.  I made permanent diet changes last Fall that I really think set me up metabolically for a better race.  I ate low carb for a few weeks before the race, and I believe that helped me metabolize fat for running energy and mainly needed carbs for keeping my brain working properly.  My approach of eating only real food for as long possible before introducing sports foods (chews, gels, and bloks) worked great, and I will do that again.  I have only done two 100 mile races, but I think I did this one a lot better, even though it was way more grueling.  I didn’t have a mental low late in the race and never really had a hard energy bonk.

The Superior Hiking Trail is the most beautiful and demanding trail in the state.  It’s an amazing and exciting accomplishment to finish the Superior Trail 100 mile race, and I don’t think this will be my last finish.  Thanks a million to Tim for crewing me, I couldn’t have done it without him.  Thanks to all of the volunteers that work hard and keep a smile on while helping demanding runners – you do so much so we can just have fun in the woods.  And thanks more than anything to Kelly and the boys for cheering me on the course (even Country Road 6), and putting up with all my absences to train for hours so that I can drag them Up North once a year to watch me run for even more hours.  I love you guys.

Posted in Races | 12 Comments »

Race Week! Chasing Away the Shadow

Posted by scott on September 7, 2011

It’s race week!

The week leading up to a trail ultra is so exciting for me.  Its a wild ride of emotions – excitement, fear, anticipation, determination – and a healthy dose of logistically planning.  I make list after list, revise them, rewrite them.  Trips to REI, trips to the grocery store.  Lighting up the phones with calls to my buddies chatting about who is going to be where when, what is everyone packing, when should we leave.  Looking over Londell’s old pace chart, and making up a new one for my crew.

All of the above is so much a part of doing trail 50 or 100 mile races, you better love doing it.  I do.

The Shadow

Photo courtesy of stuant63 on flickr

I wrote last year about being chased by a Shadow during the week leading up to the Zumbro 100 Mile Endurance Run.  This time I am the one doing the chasing!  Sure I have my moments of doubt or insecurity, but I’m on top of them and they are on the shelf.  I woke up several times in the middle of the night Sunday night, and each time I looked at the clock and wondered where I would be, and that I would have been running that whole time I was asleep.  But it was exciting, not daunting.

The weather looks to be perfect.  I have a great crew member.  I have a buddy I will be hitting the trail with, and several other ultra friends to check in with along the way (and express my sympathy since they will be slumming it with me).  I will get to see my family.

Life is good, let’s hit the trail!

Posted in Races | 4 Comments »

Channeling Chuck Norris for the Superior Trail 100 Mile

Posted by scott on August 31, 2011

My sister just gave me this shirt for my birthday. I just might cut the sleeves off and wear this at the Superior Trail 100 Mile! Awesome.

I think this calls for a post of Chuck Norris Facts about the Superior Trail Races.  I’ll start – who else is in?

Posted in Races | 6 Comments »

Superior Trail Race Haiku

Posted by scott on August 28, 2011

I love haiku, it is so meditative.  Here are some snarky haiku about the Superior Trail Races:

26, 50,
Or maybe the 100?
They all hurt.  Pain cave.

34 hours
40k elevation
Finish for ice cream!

Sonju roots, Drainpipe
Carlton Peak and The Gorge
Why can’t we be friends?

Up, down, up and down
Run when you can at Sawtooth!
Really sorry, quads.

S! cap, eat and drink
Repeat each 60 minutes
For 2 days, 1 night

Rivers, streams, and creeks
Cross and hold on to hand rails
If there are any

Posted in Races | 1 Comment »

What is it Like to Tackle 100 Miles?

Posted by scott on August 24, 2011

It’s hard to describe to people how exciting it feels to tackle a race like the Superior Sawtooth 100 Mile, or many other trail ultras.  I watch the following videos for inspiration, and they capture the feelings that I enjoy about doing tough trail ultra marathons.  Maybe these will help communicate the idea.  Enjoy:

Posted in Races | 2 Comments »

9 Reasons to Do the Superior Sawtooth 100 Mile

Posted by scott on August 20, 2011

There are far more reasons to not do any 100 mile race than there are to do one.  But here are 9 reasons to do the Superior Sawtooth 100 Mile Run:

  1. Awesome singletrack, and loads of it.
  2. Breathtaking scenery.
  3. 36-ish hours in the wilderness.
  4. Rocks, roots.
  5. Fantastic aid stations and aid station volunteers.
  6. A great Race Director (and family).
  7. Carleton Peak, Temperance River, Moose Mountain, Crosby-Manitou gorge(s).
  8. Hearing the Poplar River near the finish.
  9. Epic everything.

These factors are big enough for me that I feel a pull to tackle this race, even if I’m not quite ready.  You should enter any race with a goal to finish, but this is one where any time on the trail is a great time.

Here’s to 102.6 miles on the greatest trail in Minnesota!

Posted in Races | 8 Comments »

Fargo Marathon Recon Run

Posted by scott on March 2, 2011

I had my coldest run of this winter in Fargo last weekend:  -15 degrees F air temp / -28 degrees F windchill.  Layered up and no problems over 14 miles:

image

I was in Fargo for a hockey tournament, but took some time out to do a recon run on 8 miles of the Fargo Marathon route for Neil, who is considering that race.  I was giving him a hard time about doing it, but now I feel a little bad.  It was no Superior or Twin Cities route for me, but it was an enjoyable, low-brow run with a small-town feel.  It reminded me of a 22-miler I did through Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa while training for Grandma’s Marathon.

The mileage I did was in the middle and was very residential.  My guess is you would have a lot of spectators for most of the route.  I did brief segment that went through the quaint area of downtown Fargo and that was nice; though I would be tempted to stop at Sammy’s pizza and risk a DNF.

I think I even ran the “hilly” parts of the course – which were actually just running the dips of underpasses.  I think the thighs will be alright on this one.

Anyhow, this is definitely a flat and fast course.  Though I’m not really fast on any course.

I also had a successful test of keeping food and hydration warm:  I took water bottles and Gatorade, put them upside down in wool socks (so any freezing wouldn’t freeze the lids in place, it would be at the bottom), put gels and Clif bars in the socks, added hand warmer packets, and then stuffed them in my Nathan Endurance vest.  They stayed room temperature and drinkable for 2+ hours in -15F temps, very cool!

Posted in Races, Training | 1 Comment »

Surf’s Up!

Posted by scott on September 16, 2010

I  might be going surfing!  I am still finalizing plans, but it looks like this monkey might be going surfing in a little over a month.

Sock Monkey in San Clemente
photo credit: Zen Cupcake on flickr

This is a rather unknown surfing spot in the Midwest, that has only been surfed for the last two years.  The “waves” are more gentle than some of the waves you would find on the North Shore.  I won’t need a wetsuit, even though its in Minnesota in late October.  I probably won’t even bring a board.

Any idea where I will be surfing?

I’m invigorated to have another event on the calendar.  I’m even working with Vespa to test out their amino acid supplements for this event, and will report my findings.  Surf’s up!

Posted in Races | 2 Comments »

 
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