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Archive for September, 2009

Food and Hydration for the Superior Trail 50 Mile

Posted by scott on September 18, 2009

Here is a rough accounting of how I fueled and hydrated for the Superior Trail 50 Mile race this year.  This is probably 85-90% accurate as far as exactly what I ate and calorie estimates, so take it for what it’s worth.  While I was training I just always wanted to see a complete plan to get some idea of what other people did as a whole picture, not just “I like this” or “that does down well”.  Times are very approximate, and likely won’t add up exactly to my race time – I’m just not bothering with being that accurate.  It is what it is.

Important Note: This should not be considered any type of plan or recommendation.  This is just what happened to work well for me that day, in those conditions.  It probably won’t work well for you, and it probably won’t work for me again.  Like I said, it’s just a snapshot.

AS = Aid Station.  Also note that a major ultra rule I broke is that I spent a lot of time in aid stations.  I even got kicked out of one (thanks Dale! That was funny.).  Most people recommend no more than about 2 minutes per AS.  But guess what?  I loved it!  My family was there, I got to eat a bunch, and it’s part of how I really enjoyed the overall race.

Segment/AS Time Spent (h:mm)
Food (cals) HEED (oz) Water (oz)
Start —- —- 8 —-
Start to Sonju 1:38 1/2 Clif bloks 100
Hammergel 100
1/2 Lara bar 100
20 —-
Sonju AS 0:02 Pretzels 60
Potatoes 50
8 —-
Sonju to Crosby-Manitou 0:55 1/2 Lara bar  100
Hammergel  100
1/2 Clif bloks  100
20 —-
Crosby-Manitou AS 0:04 Banana  80
Cookie  50
Strawberries 10
Potatoes 50
1/4 PB&J  100
8 —-
Crosby-Manitou to Sugarloaf 2:23 Monkey Fuel (see below) 620
Clif bloks 200
—- 20
Sugarloaf AS 0:12 1/2 Ramen 190
Egg burrito piece 50
Potatoes 50
Sugarloaf to Cramer 1:15 1/2 Clif bloks  100
Hammergel  100
20 20
Cramer Road AS 0:07 1/2 PB&J  200
Bananas w/PB 50
Oranges  25
4 cookies 200
Cramer to Temperance River 1:48 Clif bloks  200
Hammergel  100
20 20
Temperance River AS 0:07 Turkey wrap  50
Potatoes 50
3 cookies 150
Hard-boiled egg 75
Temperance to Sawbill 1:18 Clif bloks  200
Hammergel  100
20 20
Sawbill AS 0:10 1/2 Ramen 190
1/2 PB&J  200
Oranges 25
Cookies 100
Sawbill to Oberg 1:22 Clif bloks  200 20 20
Oberg AS 0:08 Strawberries 10
1/2 PB&J  200
Cookies 100
Oberg to Finish 2:05 1/2 Clif bloks  100
Hammergel  100
16 16

4935 calories
2.12 gallons of HEED (272 ounces)
.9 gallons of water (116 ounces)

Monkey Fuel mix (Inspired by Scott Jurek’s drink mix)
16 oz. Rice Milk (I like enriched Vanilla Rice Dream)
3 tbsp Soy Protein (I like Yammer Soy Essence)
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp chia seeds

Other Notes

  • I took an S! cap every 45 minutes, religiously, throughout the day.  I might have been able to up that to 1/30 mins in the middle of the day during the heat.
  • I frequently had a very full stomach leaving the AS and and to walk for 15 minutes or so to clear it before running again, but I preferred that to eating large amounts on the trail.
  • The honey and chia in the drink mix worked well for me during training, but didn’t seem to taste right during the race.  Maybe it was the heat?  I could have left the honey out for sure, maybe even the chia.  But it was nice to pack in those calories in liquid form.
  • I carried 2 Nathan handhelds for most of the race, thus the 20/20 for HEED and water.  For a couple of longer sections I could have drank more.
  • This works out to about 350 calories per hour (almost 14 hour race), which was my original plan.

Posted in Races | 5 Comments »

A Word About Primadonna Attitudes and Runners

Posted by scott on September 16, 2009

I’m sorry to say that an otherwise great time at Lutsen ended on a sour note right as we were leaving, when my wife encountered a runner with a Primadonna attitude.  The runner was complaining about the poor course markings going to the finish area where it dips down behind the condos.  She was complaining that they should have had someone posted there directing runners.  She instead ran past all that and continued down the road in front of the condos before she realized her mistake and turned around.  My wife commented sympathetically that she saw that happen when she was looking for our kids in the dark down the road the other direction.  “Why didn’t you SAY something??!!” the runner barked, “I was wearing a headlamp, what did you THINK I was doing??!!” she barked again.  Of course I didn’t hear all of this until later, or I would have offered my thoughts at the time.

I can’t stand this weird sense of entitlement that many runners have, thinking that everyone in sight is required to give them any and all assistance they possibly need, now.  Guess what:  no one else cares about your race as much as you do.  You make the mistakes, you live with them.  People help you when they are able and willing, and you thank them.  It’s pretty simple.  Of all places on Earth, this is especially true at at ultramarathon on the Superior Hiking Trail.  Have you seen the course ratings in Ultrarunning magazine?

I could have been more sympathetic to the runner had this exchange happened the night of the race.  I was as beat as anyone at the finish, and your mind gets mushy when you are exhausted and finishing in the dark.  You just want to be DONE.  But this was the next morning, and by then I would expect people to cool down and see the bigger picture.  This is the one thing that really bugs me about the running world, as this sense of weird entitlement is just too prevalent for my liking.  I haven’t encountered this nearly as much in the ultra world, I thought I had left this behind at road races.  Fortunately, the vast majority of the regulars I have encountered don’t seem to have this attitude.

And finally, for the record, I thought the course was superbly marked right up to the finish.  Good job Don and Bonnie!  The flags jump out at you in the dark with a headlamp.  And no, I don’t think they needed to have anyone posted there to point to the several flags marking the turn.  I went off course at the finish in the Spring race, because rather than remember the pre-race instructions I clearly heard, I followed the path that I was convinced the course would follow. I’m guessing this runner did something similar.  It’s an innocent mistake, it happens, you fix it and move on.

On a lighter note, we stopped on the way home for a fantastic lunch at the Lemon Wolf Cafe in Beaver Bay and then Betty’s Pies for dessert.  So we still ended the weekend on a good note.

Posted in Life | 8 Comments »

2009 Superior Trail 50 Mile Race Report

Posted by scott on September 14, 2009

Short Version

I finished the Superior Trail 50 Mile race in 13 hours 48 minutes (according to my GPS, no published times yet).  The race was a total blast, I loved it and will do it again.  My family was there to crew me and I loved seeing them at the aid stations, and running with my boys when they came to meet me on the trail.  It was crazy hot and muggy for me, but I think I was able to stay ahead of food and hydration enough that it didn’t bring me down.

Long version

I just had a blast with this race.  By rights, I was bold even toeing the starting line and frankly had no business finishing.  My training this summer was nowhere near what I wanted.  I had a few injuries that lead to 2-3 week breaks in running, and I only did 2 runs over 20 miles (26 and 30).  To top it off, I only got 4 hours of sleep the night before the race.  Before going to bed, I discovered that I had forgotten the bladder for my Camelback, and my 2 Nathan handhelds were with my crew and showing up at Crosby-Manitou (11.7 miles into the race).  So I started with my Camelback as a backpack and had to carry an REI water bottle for the first couple hours.  I knew it was going to be warm, so decided to take an S! cap every 45 minutes, much more frequently than I did in training.

For the first sections of the race I just really took it easy with the pace.  I started towards the back of the pack and a lot of people passed me.  No worries.  I kept telling myself to go slow and do my own race.  I started eating at mile 2 with Clif bloks, and planned to steadily eat all day.  I drank HEED at the start and filled my water bottle with HEED there and again at Sonju and was downing it like crazy.

By the time I got to Crosby-Manitou (mile 11.7), I could really tell it was going to be a hot and muggy day.  I dropped my Camelback and picked up my handhelds.  Mom had mixed my custom ultra fuel (rice milk, soy protein, chia seeds, honey – 620 calories) in one and I put water in the other.  I ate a bit at the car, then chatted with Maria Barton and John Storkamp at the food table while I ate some more.

Crosby-Manitou Aid Station

I hit the trail still feeling great and ready for this section, which I love and know.  The massive gorge didn’t seem as bad as the first time I went through and I finished this section with a surprise.  My two boys had hiked in to meet me!  They filmed me coming down the trail and then wanted to run with me to Sugarloaf.

At Sugarloaf (mile 21), I had some Ramen noodles and a bit of breakfast burrito along with a lot of HEED and other aid station snacks.  I realized there that I was going to be able to eat a lot more at the aid stations than I had planned, so wouldn’t have to eat as much on the trail.  My goal was about 350 calories per hour, or 4900 calories for a 14 hour race.

Sugarloaf Aid Station

My older son ran with me out of the aid station for a bit, then we said goodbye and I walked while I finished eating.  During the sections I usually ate a pack of Clif bloks and a gel.  I tried Lara bars, but they were just a bit too dry.  I don’t remember anything notable about this section terrain-wise, but I did start to realize that I was feeling absolutely great.  The heat was starting to get to me, but fortunately it absolutely poured rain during this section for a mile or two.  I loved it!  I mean poured-cats-and-dogs rain.  It really cooled things off and I loved it.  I did feel bad for the 100-milers getting their feet repaired at Sugarloaf.  I imagined how great it must have felt to get blisters fixed and put on dry socks and shoes, and how disenheartening it would be to have them get soaked less than a mile later.

I just kept cruising along the trail, running when I could and walking when I had to.  I had done some math while planning and found that the average finish time for last year ended up being around a 16 minute pace.  Note for anyone not familiar with this trail, that’s a statement of how tough it is and how much walking is required!  So I was shocked to see a lot of my miles ticking by at 12 and 13 minutes – I’m getting some in the bank!  A mistake of the day that didn’t turn out catastophic was that my S! caps had melted in my pocket during the rain.  I managed to smear one last one into my mouth in this section before they were scrap.  Have you ever eaten an open S! cap?  Don’t.

At Cramer Road (26.7 miles) I picked up my empty mini-M&M bottle filled with S! caps and ate, ate, ate.  I drank a bunch of HEED and filled one handheld with HEED and one with water, which I did throughout the day.  I was drinking and peeing like crazy trying to stay ahead of hydration and it was working.

I had also picked up a bandana at the last aid station and it was a godsend.  Honestly that was the most valuable piece of gear I had on the trail that day, a cheap REI bandana  (actually not cheap it was $3.50, which I thought was kind of a ripoff for a bandana at the time – the day before the race).  It was still wet from the rain and kept me really cool in the heat.  I used it a lot just to wipe away sweat and cool off, and stopped to dunk it in rivers and cool myself down – awesome.

I cruised along to Temperance River (33.8 miles)  and was still feeling just awesome.  I had a very slight headache that I was tracking, but really could figure out any food or hydration reasons behind it.  So I chalked it up to heat and did what I could to cool down.  I was passing a lot of people on the trail, surprisingly.  At Temperance I ate a bunch again (thanks for the turkey wraps, gang, those were great!) and hung with the family a bit.  I think one reason for my picked up pace was that a couple miles out I would start thinking “If I just pick up the pace a bit, I can chat with my family longer!”.  They really kept me in the game.

I had never run this next section, and it was absolutely beautiful along the river.  I passed a lot of day hikers, who politely moved off the trail for me which was very nice.  I wondered how many of them knew what was going on.  There were a lot of backpacking campers in this section, and their campfires all smelled so inviting!  I wondered why no one ever mentions how challenging this section is.  There is a long but 900 foot ascent to the foot of Carleton peak, then a 600 foot scramble over a rock fall – it was a sick joke.  That is a crazy section at the end, one of the toughest spots but very beautiful views.  I signed the guestbook at the top and kept booking onto Sawbill, where I volunteered last year.

At Sawbill (39.5 miles) I hung out for awhile and chatted with my family and with Dale and Steve.

Sawbill Aid Station

I chowed again on more Ramen noodles and other snacks.  I heard about Matt and Adam dropping and felt bad about that.  I was still just amazed that I was feeling great.  I knew the last section was hard, but I was feeling like I had the race in the bag as long as I didn’t do anything stupid (certainly not out of the question).  I also showed my geek colors – I was determined to get a full GPS track from the race.  I plugged a USB charger into the base for my 205, then strapped the watch hugely around my wrist and tied the charger to my forearm with the bandana.  Totally geeky but it worked – I recharged all the way to Oberg where I dropped it off again.  For some reason I thought Sawbill to Oberg was a fast, runnable section – not so.  This was way slower than I thought, and finally at mile 43 something changed.  My quads started to bark and I was finally feeling the race.  It wasn’t awful, but I just really reset expectations to take it easy.

At Oberg (45 miles), I drank and ate a ton and really tried to hydrate since I knew the last section was going to take me awhile.  I re-lubed to prevent “ring of fire”, put on my headlamp and hit the trail.  I had arrived here way ahead of schedule.  I didn’t really set pace expectations other than knowing the averages from last year so my crew could roughly plan, but I had been ahead of them since Crosby-Manitou.

This section was grueling as usually.  By the time I got to the top of Moose Mountain, I was really feeling my quads.  I was doing a lot of walking and just doing anything to not fall and screw things up.  I remember the overlook towards Caribou Highlands and thinking, yikes that’s a bit farther than I want.  Every time I have run this section I have confused the small dip at the end of Moose for the descent of Moose and the ascent of Mystery.  So I was sorely disappointed to be reminded of Mystery mountain of the end.  It’s not the biggest, it’s just killer when your gassed.  At long last I could hear the welcome sound of Poplar River, and knew I was close.  That’s such a great sound to hear.

As I popped out onto the road, I couldn’t believe it but there were my two boys standing in the dark waiting for me.  We ran together all the way to the finish, and it was the best race finish I’ve ever had.


I’m sore and hobbling around like an old man, but nothing too serious.  I had a fabulous day out on the trail and will definitely do this race again.  That is one tough trail, but the reward is all of it’s beauty.  I still don’t know how I had such a great day out there, but I did.

My family was a phenomenal crew, and there was no way I would have done this well my first time out without them.  Thanks you guys for chasing me all day and giving me something to run towards.  Larry and all of the volunteers put on a great race.  I also couldn’t have finished this without help from the mn-drs list and all of the local ultra bloggers I read, you guys are a great source of information and inspiration.  More than others, I want to thank Adam and Matt for advice and encouragement along the way.  I really appreciate your posts and thanks for letting me bug you with email questions along the way – your responses were invaluable and I wouldn’t have done this well without your input.

GPS details
52.44 miles in 13:48:30
Overall average pace 15:48
5600 calories burned
Map at RunningAhead

Posted in Races | 12 Comments »