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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.