This may be lengthy as I try to paint a picture of the course section by section.
You’ve got to love it when a plan comes together.
My heart is filled with gratitude. Three guys rallied to my side and selflessly gave of themselves all without ever even being asked. Their generosity is still a little overwhelming to me as I sit here and think about what transpired this past weekend.
Don, Travis, and I headed up to Gooseberry Falls to set up Travis’s camper at the campground where the race would start the following morning. I had the whole week off, but these guys took half the day off Thursday and a whole day off Friday. Stu would join us after school on Friday. (He’s a teacher) After unhooking the camper we headed to the fairgrounds to the mandatory prerace meeting. We all ate spaghetti that was served up by the local 4H kids. This is my 4th year doing this race and the atmosphere is more like a summer picnic with extended family. It’s a blast getting together with these amazing people that know no limits. We sat with a group of Hrimthurs and a couple friends(Bob and Lindsey) from Cloquet. Scott Kummer, also a Hrimthur, and host of the podcast Ten Junk Miles got there a little late and was scrambling to find a place to stay for the night. I told him where we were staying and he said he might come visit after the meeting. As soon as we got back to the camper Scottie was messaging me that he was coming over. When he arrived we cracked some beers, sat around, and shot the shit for a few hours. Scottie is one hell of a story teller. If you ever get a chance have him tell you the one about the Italian girl. One beer turned into 4 or 5 and soon it was midnight. That was my cue to turn in. After all, I had a race to run in the morning.
Race morning the alarm went off at 6am. Bob and Lindsey had a dead car battery so I headed over to there campsite to give them a jump. When I got there they had already got it going again. Letting it sit overnight seemed to have recharged it enough to start. I head back to the camper to make some java on the camp stove. After coffee and a quick shower I take extra care to lube up real good knowing it was going to be a wet race with all the rain we’ve had. I pay special attention to my feet and make sure they are coated with lube. The race starts at the visitors center at Gooseberry falls State Park. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the north shore with its gorgeous waterfalls plummeting into Lake Superior.
As usual John Storkamp(The Race Director) gets up on his ladder and gives us some last minute instructions. Mainly covering the two early water crossings. This year Split Rock Bridge is out and the beavers (a little further up trail) had a pond over flowing it’s banks. He warns us the river isn’t bad if you rock hop, but the beaver dam will be mid thigh deep. This doesn’t bother me one bit. I knew we would be wet anyway. There would be no avoiding having wet feet for most of the 103 miles. Then he starts the count down at 99, 98, 97…. He was only kidding and got a good laugh out of all of us. With a quick 5,4,3,2,1 we were off.
GOOSEBERRY FALLS to SPLITROCK 9.7 miles
The first 4 miles is a gorgeous paved bike trail overlooking Lake Superior on our right side. Everyone uses this time to visit and find their place in line before we turn left and head under HWY61 through a tunnel and onto the single track of the Superior Hiking Trail. I run with Lindsey, Mary, and Aaron. Aaron and I met thru Facebook, but this was the first time we got to meet in person. Mary and I ran this section together last year too.
As soon as I get on the single track I find myself next Lourdes who was also at Arrowhead with us winter Warriors this past winter. She had come all the way from Calgary, Canada. Kummer was going to crew and pace for her later in the race. It don’t take long and we were to the Split Rock River crossing. There are 3 or 4 volunteers there for safety. I know 3 of the 4 and say hi to them as we make our way across. It’s pretty easy to stay on the rocks in the shallow water. The water is just over ankle deep if you rock hop and the crossing is about 40 feet across.
The trail basically follows both sides of the river before and after the river crossing. Then after the water crossing the trail steadily rises to the cliffs high above Lake Superior. It’s a blue bird day and the views are absolutely spectacular overlooking the lake.
Soon we are turning onto the spur trail down a long stairway that leads to the aid station. With it being an out and back down the spur trail you get to see where a lot of other runners are at this point. I top off my water, grab some endurelytes, and head back out. I thank Angela whom I met last year and go to give her a fist bump. With a big smile she smashes the hell out of my fist.
SPLITROCK to BEAVER BAY 10.4 miles
Leaving the aid station it’s a long climb back up the stairs to the top of the cliffs. This section always gives me trouble. These early sections there is a lot of ledger rock and it is very unforgiving. The trail is also very exposed as it overlooks the lake as the day starts to heat up. Not too long and the trail heads inland away from the lake. The trail goes through a couple real good ups and downs in this section. On one of the downs we skirt a beaver pond. I figured this would be our other water crossing but soon we are climbing high up on the cliffs again in among the giant majestic pines. Once again the views are amazing from the cliff tops.
Now the views are of an inland marsh land instead of the the lake. When we descend again we skirt yet another pond and come to the flooded section of trail that the beavers have wreaked havoc on. We slowly make our way across the mid thigh deep water. The guy in front of me trips on something and almost goes down. At the same time I trip on a submerged log and I almost go down as well. This has us all laughing because we notice Cary off to one side taking photos of our misery.
Shorty after the beaver pond crossing I run out of water. I still have a couple miles into the aid station. Being without water will come back to haunt me. Up to this point I was still running up some of the smaller climbs. I chose not to use my poles from the start and I could tell I was starting to over exhaust my quads. My quads started to cramp. My feet are also beginning to have some trouble spots. They needed to be addressed quickly or I would be in major trouble later in the race. As we arrived at Beaver Bay it is bustling with activity. I get in and out quick leaving with Lindsey.
Beaver Bay to Silver Bay 4.9 miles
Knowing my quads were being over taxed I start using my poles on this section. We leave Beaver Bay on a 1/4 mile of dirt road. As we veer off onto the single track Lindsey stops for a bathroom break. I go ahead as the trail goes along the river. I stop at the river to address my feet. I find a rock to perch on and remove both my socks and shoes. I rinse them thoroughly to get all the built up mud out. As I go to put them back on my legs start to seize up. As I sit in the icy water my leg muscles are in full out revolt. Fortunately I stocked up on endurolytes at the first 2 aid stations. After getting back on trail I take 4 endurolytes to help with the cramping. I even break the last one open and put it on my tongue. This helps but this entire section I’m right on the edge of completely seizing up. I go into catch up mode with my hydration after running out in the previous section. With this being a short section I attempt to drink the entire 2 liters in my hydration pack. This section only has a couple big climbs. In past years I’d have to stop to allow my heart rate to get under control. This year I am able to just power right up them. This section used to play mind games on me as well because the trail brings you close to the aid station then circles back away around the back side of two big hills. This year I am ready for it. I catch up to April Anselmo(The 2013 Superior 100 winner) It is so cool to get to share the trail and get to know her a little. She is planning to pull out at the next aid station due to knee trouble. As I make the descent into Silver Bay I have a plan to Hydrate as much as I can and fill my bladder plus an extra soft flask for the next long section. I hope to get the cramping back under control.
Silver Bay to Tettegouche 9.9 miles
I leave Silver Bay I am with a guy from the state of Virginia. Him and I will pass one another about a million times over the course of the next couple sections. It’s almost comical. Starting out on this section I keep telling myself to do no harm. Take what the course will give me. I must have listened to Kevin Langton and Jason Husveth say that on the Rub Some Dirt On It Podcast about a dozen times in the 4 times I listened to the Superior 100 preview show. I also kept telling myself that Jason says it’s very runnable in the second part of this section. That is exactly what I do. I embrace it and just keep plugging away enjoying the views as we climb high above Bear and Bean Lakes. I even take a detour to take pictures and video from one of the overlooks.
I know the race doesn’t even start for me until sundown so I am just out there enjoying every single minute. After coming off the overlook I start looking for the 1st creek crossing. From a training run I did 3 years ago I know It’s about the half way point for this section. It’s also when I’m guessing it gets a lot more runnable like Jason says. We are now over 50k into the race and I hadn’t gone to the bathroom yet. This worries me a bit so I continue to work on my hydration. I also start working on keeping my energy up by eating a trail size Baby Ruth every time my energy wanes a bit. Who would have thought a candy company would make a bar specifically for trail running! 😉 I had gels with me too in case the candy bars didn’t work, but they end up being the only on trail calorie source I used for the entire race. Gels have become increasingly difficult for me to stomach as of late. It didn’t take long and we were to the drain pipe. The drain pipe is a super steep technical descent that goes straight down. It has some gnarly rock and roots, but this lets you know this section is nearing the end. Tettegouche is teaming with activity. I’m very pleased at how early I make it there. I even start to think I may make it to the next aid station in the daylight. Something I haven’t done in the 3 years previous. Stu has now joined the crew and this makes me happy! He was with me for my 1st two Superiors 100s.
Tettegouche to Co. Rd. 6 8.6 miles
Leaving Tettegouche aid station the trails are well worn and built up with it being a State Park. There is a lot of stairs leading down to a magnificent bridge that crosses the river. Climbing out the other side I am passed by Susan Donnelly. She is going for her 100th 100 mile finish. Usually she passes me in the second section around Mile 15. This and the fact that there is still a lot of daylight left let’s me know I’m doing well compared to previous years. I’m still using Jason’s and Kevin’s do no harm method and I couldn’t care less about the people that are still passing me in this section. This section really is gorgeous to go through in the daylight. After the river crossing we travel through the Wolf Ridge learning center vicinity. It’s got one of the most beautiful overlooks of either Raven or Wolf lake.
This is one of my favorite spots. We never get close to the actual learning center but their campus contains 2000 acres. The Superior Hiking trail cuts right through their property. There is a big set of stairs in this section too that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. Some how toward the end of this section I get in with a train of other runners. They start wondering when we will get to the aid station. Having done this race 3 times before I explained to them that once the trail turns back to the left we will be high above the aid station. From there you are able to see the it from the cliffs high above Co. Rd. 6. From that point it’s a good mile or so of descent down to the road crossing where we will have a 1/4 mile to go in the ditch along side the road leading into the aid station.
^^Photo credits: Mike Wheeler^^
Over the day I had slid from 98th to 121st. Soon darkness would fall and it was going to be time to hunt headlamps.
Co. Road 6 to Finland 7.7 miles
I got to Co. Road 6 and I had done no harm. I felt good. I had worked my way through my cramping issues and managed to get my hydration back under control. I even finally went to the bathroom at the end of the last section. I picked up my 1st pacer here and we were on a mission. The sun was about to set and the goal was to not be passed the rest of the night and gain as many spots as possible by morning.
Part 2 coming soon…….