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Archive for September 22nd, 2011

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!


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.


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