Saturday, September 19, 2015

2015 Superior 100 Mile Trail Race


Date:  Friday September 11th, 2015 - 8AM Start
Distance: 100M
Weather:  Mid 40s to start.  High 50s on Friday.  Cooler Saturday.


My love affair with the SHT and the Fall trail race goes back only a couple of years, but it is already pretty deep.  We have spent 3 successive falls and 2 consecutive springs racing coupled with with numerous training runs enjoying this rugged and remote wilderness I had passed by so many times over the past 30 years on our way up to the Gunflint Trail.  I had spent some time hiking trails on our way to/from "up north", but had never really spent much time exploring the SHT specifically until the Fall race in 2013.

In 2013 Courtney and I had a newborn on our hands in the spring so I had no plans on training/racing until that Fall.  So come summer I had not yet signed up for a race but there was a lot of buzz around the Moose Mountain Marathon in our MDRA group and Reid and I had talked about doing the Wild Duluth 50k.  We thought why not try both as they are about 6 weeks apart.  Signing up with a whole bunch of other MDRA'ers I got up there not knowing any of the history of the race or even the fact that there were other distances being run concurrently.  

Being on the course that day and passing 100 milers on the course on my way from Cramer Road to Temperance I remember thinking that these guys were in bad shape.  I had no frame of reference for how quickly these guys were moving considering the crazy heat and humidity they had been dealing with to that point.  They had made it well past marathon start before 8AM and I thought they were screwed not knowing these guys/gals were just killing it.  After finishing the marathon, and lamenting the climb up/down Moose, we set up a little bit of an impromptu party near the finish line as all of the MDRA'ers started making their way in.  This was the first time I got to see 100 milers come across a finish line.  I remember seeing Bill Gengler and Joseph Hegman finish.  I would in later years run into them and pick their brains about that experience specifically but also what it takes to do 100 milers in general.  Little did I know how accomplished those two guys were but as per usual in this ultra community they were more than happy to impart what wisdom they could onto a new guy.  

Over the winter the 50 miler was in our sights.  That Fall both Reid and I were able to go up there and tackle that distance, this time with a little more knowledge of the race and respect for the 100M runners on the course.  I made sure I spent extra time giving them encouraging words when I passed by them on the way to the finish.  As I was hiking up Mystery under the stars watching a train of headlamps going back and forth up the switchbacks I asked myself if I could keep on going and convinced myself that I could after I had gotten through some lows earlier in the race.  I planned on signing up for the 100M right then and there on that climb.  Reid took some convincing over the winter.  There were some discussions about maybe trying an "easier" race to lead up to this one, but after some discussions with some other 100M'ers, and my convincing that Superior had to be "the one", he got on board.  With a goal set, and my training partner in crime on board, it was time to put in some miles.


I like to think that my training has gotten better over the years as I have gotten a bit wiser on the courses I am running and what is required of my body during race day.  Last year we had spent some time out at Hyland doing hill repeats and started mixing in a bit of Afton here and there for long runs.  This year we upped that ante significantly with the vast majority of long runs out at Afton and really cranking up the hill repeats at Hyland.  I also pretty much eliminated "short" mileage runs out of the week and focused on making sure if I went out it was for at least 8-10 miles at a time.  We got to a point where we were doing 25 hill repeats at Hyland over about 2.5 hours getting about 3800 ft of climbing in.  We even got the kids into it with Courtney and the boys showing up to do some repeats as well as Kelly and Courtney carrying kiddos up with them.  We would follow it with a nice picnic afterwards.  Just another awesome way to get outside with everyone.
Top of the Ski Hill with the Family
My overall mileage wasn't super high maxing out in the 50-60 miles per week at the most, but averaging about 40-45 miles per week total.  However, the total time I was spending running vs. past years was probably about the same even though the mileage was "less".  Focusing more on trails, hills, and longer mid week runs just seems to make more sense.  I'm sure as time goes on I'll reconsider this as I have all of my previous training revelations.  But 2.5 hours and "only" 10 miles at Hyland beats any 15 mile road run spent in the same amount of time as far as the SHT is concerned.

One hiccup in the training was our long run up at Voyageurs 50M race in late July.  It ended up being a super hot/humid day which was not surprising given the late July start.  What was surprising was the fact I was cramping up about 11 miles into the race.  This isn't the first time that has happened, but this was the worst cramping I had ever had.  I could hardly hike and running was impossible without my quads or calves cramping up.  It got to the point at the turn-around that when I went to eat a cookie, my jaw cramped up.  At this point I decided to drop as I was only about 10 minutes ahead of the cutoffs.  I went and rested and eventually came back to watch Reid finish.  This was disappointing as up until that point I had really tried to get out in the heat and acclimate.  I had no cramping in any training runs as per usual.  So heat in the fall race was looming over my head for weeks to come.

As we were just hanging out at the finish line I ran into Aaron Hanson who had completed Superior in 2014 in his first attempt.  He was super positive and confident that I had made the right decision to drop and to focus on the fall race.  His confidence really helped me get through the next few weeks of training and is another example of this awesome positive community supporting each other towards common goals.  

Race Weekend

I stayed home from work on Thursday morning to send the kids on the bus for their first day of school and Grady's first day of kindergarten.  Man are they growing up fast.  I chilled out doing a bit of work from home and Brandon and I left to go up and meet up with Reid around noon.  An uneventful trip up north and some spaghetti dinner and we were off to the pre-race meeting.  It was really neat to be a part of this event and seeing everyone milling about with their sweatshirts on was just awesome if not a little bit intimidating.  Storkamp took the podium to go through the rules of the race and before you knew it we were on our way back to the hotel in Two Harbors to get some sleep.
Reid, Sherri and I in the foreground nervously listening to John.
I am not always the best sleeper, and usually before a race I have a hard time falling asleep without sitting tossing and turning thinking about the race ahead.  This race turned that behavior up by at least ten times.  For two weeks leading up to the race I was restless.  Work helped take my mind off of it for a few hours, but any idle time at home, and especially as I was trying to fall asleep at night I would be thinking of various aid stations, climbs, trail sections, and how I wanted to try to feel at different points in the race.  I was getting maybe 4-5 hours of restless sleep a night for the week leading up to the race and the night before would be no different.  I considered myself a bit lucky as the only time I have ever slept well before a race is when I have come down with a cold.  With no symptoms I got my 3-4 hours of sleep and just waited for the other guys to get up so I could go take a shower and get going.

We made our way to Gooseberry a little after 7AM with Kelly, Peter, and Kim along to see us off at the start.  We ran into a few folks before the race started and it was fun just feeling the energy and excitement of everyone around.  Just a great vibe.  Before you know it we were lining up and getting ready to take off down the trail.  Storkamp went over a few more notes and counted down from two to get us going down the paved trail.  Having been thinking about this moment for an entire year, it was a bit surreal to finally get going.  It was almost like a weight was lifted off as we started running.  I was just happy to be running.  It didn't hurt that the weather and forecast looked amazing either.  High spirits all around.  No more thinking.  Time to turn the brain off.  It was time to go and see what the days would bring.
Alex, Reid, and Brandon at the Start

Gooseberry to Beaver Bay (Miles 0 to 20.1)

The race started on the re-routed section of the course new for this year that took us down the Gitchi-Gami trail for the first 4.5 miles before we got on the SHT.  Knowing this and how amped up everyone was we really tried to take this section slowly and not break 10 minute miles on the pavement.  We mostly did that and just enjoyed the run and views looking over a pristine Lake Superior.  We finally made our way under the highway and on the Split Rock loop.  I have driven by this wayside probably a hundred times, but have never actually made the hike.  I didn't even know until about a week before the race that there is literally a split rock on this section of the course for which it is named.  

The first 25 miles of the course is the only section we had not seen up to that point.  We had debated trying to get up for a day trip in the summer but we simply couldn't find a good time to fit it in.  Turns out the section in general is fairly easy and I'm glad we didn't kill ourselves to get up and see it before the race.  The single track section was fairly technical but with fresh legs it was easy to traverse.  I got in behind a really nice guy (Andrew Grosvneor) who was using trekking poles.  We talked about the poles which I had decided not to use and the brutal conditions where he finished in 2013.  It turns out Andrew is the race director for the Marquette Trail races in the Upper Pennisula of Michigan.  We talked for a while about how he got into directing and some of the issues he has had getting volunteers in the remote section of Marquette, MI.  This section just flew by and we were in and out of the Split Rock aid station during a quick out and back section seeing all sorts of folks coming up and down the hill leading to/from the aid station.
Early in the race - Feeling Good.
The run to Silver Bay I don't remember much about other than I had a bit of pain in my left foot.  This seemed pretty weird as it was like nothing I had ever felt before.  I was still really excited about the weather, and Reid and I were sticking together making decent time and staying right on our pace.  We came into Silver Bay right on schedule and got to see the crew for the first time that day.  Some quick refills of Perpetuum and water and we were quickly moving down the road.  I left a bit before Reid knowing he would catch up shortly.  I was hoping the foot pain would somehow go away.
Coming into Beaver Bay

Beaver Bay to Silver Bay (Miles 20.1 to 25.0)

Reid caught up to me shortly after the aid station, but I was starting to have a hard time running due to the left foot pain.  Reid passed me by as I was spending more time hiking than running, especially on any section that was tilted toward the lake as many are.  This is when demon thoughts started creeping into my head.  How is it possible that my foot was hurting this badly this early in the race?  I haven't had any issues with foot pain in years.  The last couple miles coming into Silver Bay I was feeling like just crap mentally.  My legs felt just awesome.  My fueling had been pretty good.  I had been drinking plenty of water.  But I couldn't run.  And hiking now was starting to hurt.  I made my way down to the aid station and right before I got there my Mom saw me and I took my eyes off the ground for a bit and tripped which caused my calves to cramp up.  
Cramping across the bridge coming into the aid station.
As I got in and was re-fueling I didn't know what to do.  My parents were offering me up some Advil for my foot but having never taken it during a race I didn't really want to take any worrying I might get an upset stomach or that I might hurt something else and not know it.  Our good friend Kim Pease was there and she just got in my face and demanded that I take the Ibuprofen.  It wasn't a choice.  I took the Ibuprofen. I changed out my shirt to help refresh.  Kim just started "yelling" at me that I was the best hiker she had ever known and that I didn't need to run.  "Just get out of here and hike."  She was so confident and emphatic it gave me a bit of confidence.  

After the pep talk and before I left I tightened up the front parts of my shoes.  I didn't want to mess with them up until that point as I had gaitors on and I was worried that bending over to mess with my shoes might bring on some cramps based on previous history.  I was also worried about getting my shoes too tight which happened at Voyageurs earlier in the year and caused some major ankle pain during and after that race.  But I had to change something as the current norm was not working.  I took a couple minutes, re-tied my shoes making sure that I didn't tie my ankle too tight but that the fronts of my feet were as snug as they could be.  Before leaving the aid station I gave Kim a big hug and made my way across the road back onto the trail determined to hike all the way to Tettegouche if I had to.  It was still early.  I was hours ahead of the cutoff.  There was still time to fix this.  Just keep moving forward.

Silver Bay to Tettegouche (Miles 25.0 to 34.9)

I hiked over the road and started up the hill on my up the trail.  Just a strong hike while waiting for the meds to kick in and see what they were going to do. When I came upon a couple of flat spots I started giving some short runs a try.  To my surprise my foot essentially had stopped hurting.  The pain in my left foot was gone.  My legs felt great, my nutrition was working alternating Perpetuum and some Cliff Shots.  It was time to start moving.  I was running all of the flat sections and power hiking all of the hills.  I was cramping here and there on some of the uphills, but the cramps were manageable.  I would make sure to take a few seconds to stretch out the legs and they would subside allowing me to run again.  At Voyageur, this was not the case.  Once the cramps set in they stayed for the long haul and even hiking without cramping was difficult.  This was manageable pain.  It was a bit concerning considering that there was a lot or race to go and it wasn't that hot, but I was just determined to fight through it and get to the night where it was going to be straight up cold.

I was running with several groups of folks in this section.  We got to make our way to the top of Bean and Bear lakes and see that really gorgeous view.  It was awesome to see with the foot pain gone replaced by some cramping and some foot pain (blisters??).  We will have to look into that at the next aid station I guess.
On top of Bean/Bear Lakes
Before I knew it we made our way down the drainpipe and I ran strong into the Tettegouche aid station.  As soon as folks saw me they lost their minds.  I had a huge smile on my face and Kim was just screaming.  I'm sure their expectations were set that it was going to take a bit longer for me to get in.  Instead I was only minutes behind Reid who was still at the aid station.  It was pretty cramped here with lots of crew and lots of folks getting ready to go back out.  I changed out my shirt as I had soaked through another one in the last section and refilled my Perpetuum and grabbed some more Cliff Shots.  I grabbed some more ibuprofen to carry along but didn't take any as I had felt fine for a while and didn't want to take it for the next 24 hours if I didn't need to.  Hopefully between tying the crap out of my shoes had more to do with it than the meds.  Reid was kind enough to wait for me to leave the aid station so we could run for a bit together and we were off with cheers getting us out.

Tettegouche to County Road 6 (Miles 34.9 to 43.5)

It was awesome to run for a bit with Reid here.  While we had been close together up to this point, we really hadn't run together and talked for over 20 miles.  I was just super pumped at this point.  I told him about my foot, Kim's pep talk, and the now miraculous recovery and how there was no pain at this point.  He was having a super strong race up to this point with no issues to complain about.  I just said "we are going to do this man".  He agreed.  I didn't want to get ahead of myself, but it was at this point that my head was back in the game.  The weather was still "warm" but it was going to cool off.  We both felt strong, and were making strong forward progress.  

I'm sure I was running way to fast through this section trying to keep up with Reid.  We fell in behind Susan Donnelly who we knew was going for her 15th finish.  Meeting people like this on the trail who you can so easily just chat up is what makes events like this so fun.  Just down to earth people all out for a nice day in the woods.  Just awesome.  I was lagging a bit on the hills as I was still cramping here and there.  Reid was keeping up and during one section Susan took a spill and went down.  She was shaken a bit but in general fine.  She let us pass mentioning that the older you get the more the falls hurt.  It was good to see her get up and going again and pretty shortly after she was passing me by again.  I had already lost Reid and wouldn't see him for a long time.  

I know this section from having run it earlier in the summer.  It is one of the sneakier hard sections on the entire course and I think ranks right behind the Crosby section as the hardest on the course.  Just really long climbs in here that are deceiving.  I knew they were going to be there so I just dealt with them and the cramps all over my legs.

After I got to the top of one of the hills I had a nice view of Superior so I just spend 30-60 seconds stretching out my legs enjoying the view.  As I was waiting I heard a voice I thought I recognized.  A woman came up the trail and I asked if she was Katerina Claiborne, it turns out she was and we took off down the trail together.  For years I have been listening to podcasts during my runs.  One I got turned onto a few months ago was a trail running podcast called Ten Junk Miles.  It is hosted by a group of friends in Chicago who run with a group called the Flatlanders.  They do a lot of the races I am familiar with and I knew that Katerina (Kat) was going to be running Sawtooth and I wondered if we would run into each other.  

Within a minute of meeting her and semi stalking her about the podcast, she asked if I ever had gotten cramps on the inside of my thighs.  I couldn't believe it.  I have gotten these for years but only on the SHT.  Here was finally another person complaining of the same malady that has been plaguing me on these trails for years.  She asked if they go away.  I didn't lie.  I said sometimes they are better than others, but sometimes they persist for hours as mine had up to that point in the race.  We ran together talking for about 30 minutes but she was too fast for me at this point with the cramping and I wished her well as she took off by me.

You get to see the Country Road 6 aid station a few miles before you get there and I knew that so I just motored on and got in behind another woman who had spoken about the last time she attempted the race two years ago.  It was hot as hell in 2013 and people were dropping like flies at County Road 6 where she eventually dropped only about 10-20 minutes ahead of the cutoff.  This year we were rolling in before we even needed headlamps a good 2.5 hours ahead of the cutoff.  Just awesome.

I knew Courtney was going to try to see us at Tettagouche but that aid station was a bit of a pain with the kids to get to so they passed.  I figured there was no way I would see them at this aid given it was almost 8PM and they still had to get up to Lutsen.  As we came down the hill and across the road for the short run into the aid station I saw some kids in the woods, and sure as shit it was the boys running through the woods to come see me.  What a huge boost.  Just awesome to see them for the first time and get a kiss from the wife with Cam hanging out in the carrier screaming "Daddy!!".  Just awesome and I am so thankful for Courtney dealing with tired/crabby kids just to see me for a few minutes.  Totally rejuvenating before my long night in the woods.  

I sat down for the first time all day to take a look at the feet.  I can't remember what we did here other than maybe put a band-aid on my heel and change out to some fresh socks.  I got a bit of chicken noodle soup drinking the broth and loaded up on Gus.  I was done with Perpetuum at this point and was going to try Gu for a few hours here.  I gave some hugs to all of the kids, gave the wife a kiss, got my headlamp on, and moved off into the woods on my own to start the long night section feeling strong. 

County Road 6 to Finland (Miles 43.5 to 51.2)

I was determined to walk the majority of the night section.  I had been trying to move too fast over the last 15 miles and I couldn't keep that running pace up.  But I could hike pretty quickly.  I wanted to get my climbing legs back and hopefully lose the cramps now that it was getting cooler.  I had a dry long sleeve shirt I had just put on. I had a jacket that I tied to the back of my pack and was hesitant to put on until I knew I wasn't sweating anymore.  I didn't want my jacket to get wet and cool me down as the temps continued to drop.  There were groups of two's and three's of people ahead and behind me.  I could tell a low was coming after being high for hours since leaving Silver Bay.  I decided to "fix it" right away.  Reid had given me that advice at Beaver Bay and I should have listened and tried to fix my foot at mile 20 instead of waiting to see if it would go away.  I didn't want this low to come on strong and struggle into Finland.

I stopped, took a piss for the first time since the first few miles of the race (10 hours ago?) which was crazy considering how much I had had to drink since that point.  I'm sure that was contributing to the cramping and I mentally made a note to just keep drinking all night and get back to pissing on a regular basis.  I put on my jacket and fished my headphones out of my pack along with my phone.  I tied one of my bottles to the back of my pack and stuffed on the outside where my jacket was.  I put on the tunes and started back down the trail newly warm and with music pumping.  The Scott Jurek Ultimate Direction pack is just unbelievable.  So much storage room and even when it is heavy as hell and weighted down with 110oz of water it rides super comfortably.  I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Stopping and "changing up" was one of the smartest decisions I made all race.  I was now moving with purpose and the music was distracting.  I only had a couple of hours until I would get to Finland and meet up with Marcus.  I remembered this section from training and knew it was relatively easy, especially the last couple of miles.  I just kept power hiking at a quick pace and enjoyed the "peace" of the music pulling me along.  Before I knew it I was rolling through the out and back that leads to/from Finland.  I made my way to the aid, saw my dad outside with Marcus staying warm inside with my mom.

They haven't made much of an appearance up to this point in the report, but my parents were a huge support through this race.  My dad was at nearly every aid station from the start through the finish of the race.  My mom was at most aid stations doing her best to fix my feet and keep me fueled.  This is a team sport and without their help this would not have been possible.

I think we did some stuff with my feet here, but I honestly can't remember.  They had a nice fire but I stayed as far away from that thing as possible not wanting to get sucked into its warm vortex.  I filled up on GU's, thanked Marcus for coming along, and we were soon ready to go.  I knew I was feeling good and really happy to be feeling like I was at 50 miles into the race.  I was also way ahead of where I thought I might be.  I had initially expected to be into Finland around midnight.  It was barely 10PM, 4 hours before the cutoff, the stars were out, I had pacers lined up from here on in, and I was ready to go.  But given all of that there is no way that we should be anywhere near as happy as this picture makes us look to go off into the woods at 10PM at night.  I mean, seriously.  This is just ridiculous.  But awesome.
Two kids ready to go play in the woods.

Finland to Crosby (Miles 51.2 to 62.9)

Man was it nice to start running with someone again.  For most of the afternoon and pretty much all night I had found myself pretty alone.  I had some nice conversations with folks but in general I was moving much faster than they were or they were moving much faster than me.  I have found through the years that trying to keep a pace with someone who is moving faster is a recipe for disaster.  And I typically don't like to slow down to hang with someone who is moving slower if I do feel good.  So having a dedicated runner who essentially had to stick with me for the next bunch of hours was a nice change.  Marcus was super helpful doing exactly what I had asked of him, making sure I was eating, making sure I was drinking, and trying to figure out if he should be in front or just sit behind me.  I was pretty lucid at this point and in high spirits so we just moved on down the trail with me in the front.

Finland to Sonju just flew by.  We were just talking about a bunch of stuff and conversation was easy to be had and before you knew it we were into the aid station.  This was a remote aid station with tons of people huddled around a fire.  I found a spot in a chair away from the fire, again not wanting to get comfortable in the vortex.  I'm can't remember exactly why I was sitting down here but we got some more food/GU's and moved to make our way to Crosby.  Having run this section several times in the past, I knew how treacherous it can be, even on fresh legs.  Being 60 some miles in at this point, and it being nice and dark, I decided to slow down my robust hiking pace and just take it easy.  While this is a rough section, during the day it has some nice views of a river.  At night you could hear it, but you get none of the niceness.  We just motored on.  We were passing groups of people, and getting passed by groups of people here and there.  I remember thinking we would be done a bit quicker than we were and listening for the road.  We finally popped out of the woods and got another glorious view of the sky.  Man, it was just a perfect night out with no moon and the stars were just awesome.  I am so lucky to be able to do this and vow to never take it for granted.
Ready to Leave Sonju.
We hiked up the road on the way to the aid station looking for dad sleeping in his car.  We surprised him out of nowhere and half woke him up as he was looking for us in his rear view mirror.  I asked him to meet us at the aid station with some supplies for my feet and we came into the rockingest aid station I have ever seen.  Reid and I had the pleasure of running with the aid station captain Maria and her good friend Kathy at Afton a little over a month before the race.  They were nice enough to come out and run with us and give us all sorts of advice on how to run Sawtooth.  Their best advice was to toughen the fk up (TTFU) which was their running club of which they had bumper stickers on their cars in the lot.  I have a long way to go to hang with these super strong ladies but it was awesome to see them in their element.

My dad and I sat down to take a look at my foot.  I got my shoes and socks off.  Honestly, for how badly my feet had been hurting, they didn't look that bad.  I had put a band aid on my right heel and that helped a bunch.  However, the bottom of my right foot hurt something fierce.  My dad and I performed an ad-hoc wrapping job on my foot as Marcus dissapeared here.  I got my shoes and socks back on and grabbed a whole bunch of GUs.  This was one of my longest stops of the race to, but it was time well spent to help fix my hamburger feet with Crosby looming ahead.  Time to get moving forward.  Long section ahead.
Dad and I filling up supplies at crosby.

Crosby to Sugarloaf (Miles 62.9 to 72.3)

I had broken this race up into essentially three big sections patterned after Jason Husveth's great race report from 2013.  This report is one of the best I have ever read and has some great insight for this course specifically, running these distances in general, and life in total.  For the first third of the race I was trying to "do no harm".  I had mostly done that though I could have dealt with my foot a bit sooner.  But in general I had stuck to that plan and took it easy.  For the next third of the race the mantra was to "thread the needle".  Getting through Sonju without injury and through Crosby without being completely toast was my "threading the needle".  So here goes nothing.

We made the long descent down to the gorge.  Downhills at this point were more painful than anything else I was doing, so I wasn't looking forward to the climb down.  We made an uneventful trip to the bottom and before you knew it we were making the ascent up the other side.  Man, was I glad I had done this section before so I knew that it just doesn't stop.  I was attacking these climbs all through the day.  I had not had cramps since I started hiking through the night, and had just hoped that would continue during this test.  I started passing multiple groups of folks on the way up especially on many of the false summits.  It was nice to get to these plateaus, get a nice view of the sky, and then, get onto the next hill.  It was building my confidence that I could make my way along these sections with little issue.  Having never run this far, this was a good test for how I would feel the rest of the race and a testament to the hundreds of Hyland hill repeats done throughout the year.

After a dozen or so fairly descent hills we finally started making some good progress on some flats.  Marcus kept up the whole time and was a rock star.  I was moving quickly, though hiking, but he never faltered, always on my heels pushing me up those hills.  Marcus made his way into the woods for the fastest poop in history, and I saw a large shadow looming ahead.  It turns out it was Brandon which wasn't a great sign as the last I had heard was that he was about an hour ahead of us and moving well but having some problems with his vision after recently having Lasik surgery.  I asked him how he was and he said he was done.  It turns out his vision problem which had started fairly early on in the race had essentially blinded him during this last section.  Not being able to see, at night, with the hundreds of roots and rocks had just trashed his legs.  How he was even moving forward at all was a mystery to me.  He asked us to keep going but there was no way I was going to leave him in the woods.  Marcus and I finally decided that he would stay with him while I moved on ahead.  There was still probably about 4-5 miles to go though the worst of the section was behind him.  Brandon made it out fine and his vision returned over the next day.  No real cause to the issue, but he might be back next year.  A shame as he was so strong for the whole race to that point.

After I left them, I decided it was time for some more tunes.  I fished my phone and headphones out and started moving down the trail.  I was feeling great.  I had made it through what I knew was the hardest sections.  My legs still felt strong.  Other than my feet I was in nearly tip top shape.  The sun was slowly starting to creep up.  And my beautiful wife was waiting for me at the next aid.  Everything was good.  Just need to keep moving forward.

When I got into the Sawbill aid station I saw Courtney right away, but she couldn't find my dad.  I was hoping he was going to be there so I could do some foot maintenance.  After a few minutes, and standing around cooling down and seeing the walking dead exit the woods, sadly some with their races obviously coming to an end, I knew I had to get moving again and get out of that atmosphere.  Courtney sent out some texts letting folks know I was leaving and to meet me at Cramer Road with foot supplies.  Time to move on.

Sugarloaf to Temperance (Miles 72.3 to 85)

It was awesome to see Courtney and get to spend some time with her on the trail.  It isn't often we get to run together as we normally share duties with the kids and running, so this was a nice change.  It helped that I was feeling really strong and the daybreak had given me some new life.  I had debated starting to run more in this section but decided to take it easy, power hiking for a bit to see how it would go.  I had been hammering out GU's every 30-45 minutes which had been working well so I decided to stick with it unless my body started demanding something different.  The caffeine didn't hurt either.  I drink a fair amount of coffee, so the "little" caffeine I was getting was a nice boost here and throughout the day.

This section during the 50M last year was supposed to be a nice easy, runnable section to get to Cramer Road.  Instead it was a mud filled slop fest where I had my biggest low of last years race, wanting to quit at Cramer.  I was hopeful this year would be different.  It turned out to be pretty dry which was a really nice change.  Courtney and I just talked about her day with the kids/crew and I went over our race so far and the issues Brandon was having.  Before we knew it we were coming into Cramer Road a little before 9AM.  I just remember thinking to myself that I had 13 hours to do a marathon.  There was nothing that was going to stop that as I was moving about 3 miles per hour pretty consistently.  I knew I wasn't supposed to be doing math but I couldn't help myself.  I knew if I stuck to power hiking most sections I could keep a decent pace up so I just focused on that.

Tanya and my parents were at Cramer, and it had been many hours since we had taken a peek at my feet so I sat down in a chair offered by a nice volunteer and we went to work.  The pain was pretty bad in spots, especially on the bottoms of my feet.  But we were simply in damage control at this point and wanted to get them to a point where I could just finish.

As my mom and sister worked on my feet I saw John Storkamp who was about to leave after seeing the marathoners on their way.  I thanked him for the great race and told him I would be seeing him in a few hours.  He wished me well and snapped a pic of my team trying to help me out.  I mean, how am I smiling here.  Unreal.
Working on the feet.
That is one of the biggest lessons learned on this race.  I have never had major blister problems in a race and had "planned" on dealing with issues during the race.  I packed some bandages, gauze, tape, a lighter, a needle, and some other things in a quick kit.  However I never actually looked at what people do to help feet during a 100M foot race as I'm sure there are all sorts of tips and tricks that could have been implemented.  I will be doing some reading before my next race so I at least have the right tools and some general knowledge as to what to do if these same issues pop up.
Tanya Courtney and I ready to leave Cramer.
Tanya joined up with Courtney and I on our way to Temperance.  I knew this section really well and knew while most of it was run-able I was going to stick to my hiking plan as I knew there were some annoying climbs here and there.  I was still passing people and we weren't getting passed by tons of folks so I figured my hiking pace at this point was probably on par with people who were actually running.

I had heard that Brandon and Marcus had made it to the aid station which was good to hear and that Reid was ahead of me doing well.  I was seriously pumped at this point and was hiking way too fast through some of these sections.  I knew there was still a fair amount of race left, but I just couldn't hold it back.  Somewhere in here the two leading 50 milers passed us looking super fresh and strong.  It would be a good 60 minutes until John Horns passed us on the way up to Carlton in 3rd place.  Those leaders were moving.

Sometime during this section I believe we passed a kid that was out walking in the woods.  He was about 10 years old.  About a minute after passing him I thought I saw a woman sitting on a log in the middle of the woods typing on a laptop who I assumed was his mom.  It was at that point that I asked if I actually saw the boy who we passed or if I just hallucinated it.  Turns out the boy was real, but mom wasn't.  Having heard about hallucinations on the trail, this was my first.  I had a few others, a snake that was a twig, a fox that was a leaf, but the weirdest was a tree that was seemingly falling towards me when I stopped for some reason or another.  The tree had vertical bark on it in lines, and that coupled with my constant movement created an optical illusion that the tree was "moving" towards me as I stood still.  I actually moved out of the way and mentioned it to Tanya who told me it was normal and it happens sometimes when you stopped.  Made sense to me at the time and we continued on down the trail.

We rolled into Temperance where I saw Kim and Marcus for the first time in a while.  Kim had ended up pacing Reid all the way to Temperance after a mixup with Noelle, Reid's second pacer, at Cramer.  Kim deserves a special shout-out for her crewing duties.  She saved my race at Silver Bay and kept up with Reid for a nice little 50k.  She hung out at nearly every aid station.  Just an awesome friend and we couldn't have done this without her.

Getting into Temperance I was just jacked up.  It was awesome to run with Courtney and still be feeling good.  Everyone was shocked to keep seeing us keep up this pace.  Kim mentioned Reid had a little dehydration issue and had to sit down for a bit but they think he would be ok.  I just wanted to get moving again and left the aid station yelling something about "I got you Carlton" running down the trail.  I'm sure I sounded like a crazy person but could have cared less.  I mean, look at this picture before we left with my crew.  I am never that happy.  During races I am typically the guy questioning why the hell it is I do this.  I look high as shit.  What an awesomely weird day.
Marcus, Tanya, crazy person, Courtney, and Kim at Temperance.

Temperance to Oberg (Miles 85 to 96.2)

I was running out of that aid station.  I had been moving too fast from Cramer to Temperance and decided to pare it back on the way up Carlton.  I hadn't cramped since yesterday afternoon, but I knew that things can change quickly, and running here and taking it too fast on the way up to Carlton could make for a painful last bunch of hours.  I have cramped on the climb up Carlton many times.  Need to take it easy and just get to the other side.

Tanya had never been to Carlton only running the Spring 25k race.  So it was neat to run with her on this section which was completely new to her.  I remember being with different groups of folks in this section and getting passed by John Horns who has won both the marathon and 100M here.  I knew there were a bunch of false climbs before we got to the steep climb so I just plodded away.  My legs still felt really strong on this section.  Where many people climbing this section start getting tired you get a look from through the trees at Carlton's granite face that still seems impossibly high above you.  I knew I had it, but am glad to have been through here many times before so I wasn't shocked at the sight. 

We began bouldering up Carlton and with little fanfare, and no cramping, we were up and over.  I had yet to change shirts during the day and had not sweat through one and felt dry.  It was like a switch had been flipped in my body at some point overnight.  I was peeing pretty regularly now and I was still taking in tons of water so I knew I was plenty hydrated.  It seems like there might be something to learn from this.  I need to re-visit this in the future as it seems that after some point during exercise my body adapts and slows the rate at which it sweats.  

After getting up and over Carlton, the climb down was ok.  This descent isn't nearly as bad as some of the others on the course so I knew I would be in good shape getting into Sawbill.  I got there and got to see the crew again with screams greeting us coming out of the woods.  I just asked for some GU's and filled up my water and before you knew it we were on our way to Oberg.  

An excited sister with a guy moving too fast for pictures.
The section from Sawbill to Oberg is probably my least favorite on the course.  It has some nondescript pain in the ass climbs throughout, and is typically super muddy.  This year, the mud was fine and it was easy enough to go around most of the really bad sections which typically isn't the case.  I wasn't in a "low" in this section, but just wanted to get through it in one piece.  Tanya and I were chit-chatting here and there, but mostly I think I was just complaining about how much I hate this section.  It always takes much longer than you think it should as it is only 5.5 miles long.  But at our current pace that was still nearly 2 hours.  Oh well, just put my head down, watch my feet, and keep moving.

With how badly my feet had been hurting me to that point, especially the tops of my feet and my left ankle bone where my shoes had been digging in, my legs had been strong enough that I was able to keep them up and above the roots/rocks and had thankfully only tripped a handful of times all day and had never taken a spill.  So often on this trail, one second of lost focus equals disaster followed by hours of cramping for me.  You can see in the series of pictures I found after the race how easy it is to do.  I love this sequence.  I found the picture of the guy saving his fall and went back a pic or two to see if you can see what caused it.  You can barely see his toe catching a small rock on this relatively moderate terrain.  That small mistake is the difference between success and disaster out there.
Runner Catching Toe.
Runner saving a fall.
I had not slept well for the weeks leading up to the race.  One thing I had dreams about and had spent countless hours lying awake at night thinking about was the Oberg aid station.  Just getting there is an accomplishment.  I hoped I could get there in one piece and have a few hours so that I wouldn't have to spend too much time in the dark as I did last year in the 50M.  Going down Moose last year with a headlamp on was pretty difficult. I knew I could do it if I had to.  Looking at my watch now, I realized if I could keep moving I could easily finish in the daylight and wouldn't need a headlamp at Oberg.  Again, math shouldn't be done on the trail, but realizing this was another boost.  

We came out of the woods to huge cheers at Oberg, again ahead of where folks thought we would be.  Kim said Reid and Kelly had just left and that we were certain to catch up to them.  I just grabbed a couple of GU's and wanted to get going again.  Folks were asking about my feet and if I needed a headlamp.  I just wanted water and some GU's and to get to one of my favorite sections of the course.  I knew it was still a couple of hard hours of effort from here on in, but this was going to be a victory lap.  I left the aid station screaming something about "Moooooose!!!!".  Crazy person.  Time to get going to the finish.

Oberg to Lutsen (Miles 96.2 to 103.3)

Hearing that Reid was just ahead of us was a little bittersweet.  I was happy I was moving well enough to be near him, but based on our previous race history and how well he was doing early he should have been hours ahead.  I wanted him to have a good race and experience.  Tanya and I hiked out of the parking lot and started heading up Oberb mountain.  There is a long descent after Oberg before you make the long slow climb up Moose and eventually get to the proper climb.  It was somewhere in here where we caught up to Reid and Kelly.  

It was nice to get to talk with him.  He has having problems with his right leg which he had been dealing with for much of the race.  And it turns out his little dehydration issue at Temperance was actually him stopping, not feeling great, and fainting.  That was followed by him sitting in a chair for 45 minutes.  Not exactly the story I had heard and it was awesome to see him moving so well at this section.  I just got in behind him and we both started the climb up Moose. 

In years past, this climb was simply daunting.  But my legs are strong now.  Both Reid and I and our pacers made quick work, hiking up the entire thing without stopping.  Seeing Reid tackle that I knew he had a strong finish in him.  On the ridge-line I was moving a bit faster and just power hiked my way past Reid and Kelly wishing them a good finish and we were moving on our way down Moose. It was much easier to get down the back side of the hill in the light not having to deal with a headlamp.  A bit of hiking through the basin between the mountains and we started our ascent up Mystery.  We got passed by one 50M woman who was moving really well, but other than that we were passing most folks and still making good time.

Once we got to the top of Mystery I knew it was literally all downhill from here.  I started to run a bit here and there knowing the end was in sight.  This section is always a bit longer than you think after the big adrenaline pushes up Moose and Mystery.  But within 20-30 minutes we heard one of the best sounds in the world coming through the trees.   Crossing over the Poplar River the past few years has been pretty emotional for me.  I'm not a super emotional person in general, but that sound just signals the achievement of so much hard work for so many people.  All of the times I went out and did solo runs, the endless hill repeats, the failures at other races, and sacrifices by friends and family to support the time spent training and preparing for these races all comes together in that one instant and it can be overwhelming.  Just a huge rush of emotions and so awesome.

We made our way across the bridge and up to the road.  Tanya and I ran this last section in with me just trying to process everything.  I remember talking to Tanya about how surreal this all was just being here after so much time spent thinking about it.  I had dreamed about this run for a year, and here I was finishing.  The fact I was doing it in the daylight was crazy.  My original time goal of 36-38 hours was going to be shattered.  

Before you knew it I was veering off the road to make my way around the pool to the finish.  I saw my boys getting ready to run in with me.  They were shy at first but then sprinted past me.  I almost took them out coming around the corner but we made it safely to the finish.  I just screamed out "Storkamp" when I saw him ready to hand me my wooden medal for finishing.  So awesome.

Before I knew it I was being mobbed by a huge group of folks at the finish line. I knew tons of people who were doing the marathon in tribute to our friend Greg Riebe, and they were all there to congratulate us on the finish.  Unlike last years 50M, I wasn't "ready to be done".  I had felt essentially great for 70 miles.  My legs still felt really strong and I didn't feel the need to sit down.  I was just going around person to person giving thanks for their support and taking pictures.  
Me and my rockstar wife.  Thanks babe.
Big hugs for my sister - Her first marathon done!!!
Two happy 100 Milers.  Just awesome.

Post Race

The finish line was just a party.  It was awesome.  So many people I have trained with over the years along with all of the family and friends that had come up to support us.  After thanking bunches of folks I finally made my way to sit down.   That was shortly followed by a pretty big hunger so Anne helped me walk over to the lodge to get some of the crazy good chili I have enjoyed in years past.  This was my first real food in over a day and it was delicious.  Reid and Kelly came in about 30 minutes after I did.  Cheering him in was just awesome.  

I hung around the finish for a bit, but started to get pretty chilly and wanted to get check on my feet.  Courtney was able to get some pizza ordered from Moguls and I made my way down to our place to get my shoes and socks off.  There were blisters all over my feet, but in general, nothing too awful.  I managed to hobble upstairs and get a shower.  Besides my feet, I had not had to do much maintenance with chafing like I had expected.  Having switched out shirts a bunch the day before I was careful to apply body glide on my chest.  But I had the same pair of running tights and shorts on I had the day before and I never re-applied glide below my waist in the two days I had been running.  There was no damage to be found in the shower like years past so that was a nice relief.  

As it was relatively early, we ended up having everyone over to our place to decompress after the race.  Courtney's parents were nice enough to get an ice bath for my feet going to help with the swelling.  There were a huge help with the kids throughout the weekend.  Just awesome to have them up there supporting.  I used the ice bath the following few days after the race and will do so again in upcoming events.  Reid and I were both falling asleep on the couches and I put myself to bed around 9:30pm.  I actually managed to get some sleep and felt pretty good all things considered in the morning.  

My legs were really sore, especially my quads.  I knew Monday would be no picnic. We called ahead and got into the Duluth Grill for a nice brunch on the way home.  I ended up driving my car back home and was feeling pretty good.  I rested a bit at home but we went for a walk around the park with the kids that night.  I was moving slowly, but could move and it felt good.  It is now a week later and besides some numbness in my toes which is getting better every day, everything is back to normal.  My leg pain has been gone and everything feels as strong as it has in years.  

A huge thanks to my wife who has allowed me to train for this for years.  So supportive.  A big thanks to both my and Courney's parents who have also been a huge help in allowing me to train and help with the kids countless times, let alone their huge support on the trail during the actual race.  A huge thank you to Marcus and Tanya, who paced me and kept me eating and talking for the second half of the race.  They both completed personal long "runs" during the race and neither faltered one step during the steep climbs and descents.  Just awesome to share this with them during the race.  And a huge thanks again to Kim for her help at the aid stations.  Getting me out of silver bay was an unbelievable help and having her cheer me on in the late stages was just awesome.  And thanks to John Storkamp, his wife, and all of the volunteers and other supporters out there.  Just a first class event that should not be missed.

So, Reid and I both have a lottery ticket for Western States.  I figured my odds will be about 3% this year but I have to put in.  And barring that, another go at the Superior race seems in the cards.  It is just such a special race in such a special place with so many awesome people.  It would be hard not to come back.  This year might never be topped.  It was my first 100 miler and in general everything went much better than I expected.  The weather was perfect and the support was awesome.  I now know I can finish these suckers, and feel good doing so,  It is a high bar to set the first time out, but it is nice to know going forward for other races and other challenges in life.  
Race Results

Lessons Learned

  • Prepare for bad feet.  Beyond straight up prevention (good shoes, socks, glide, tight laces, etc...) plan on having bad feet at some point during the race.  Have an action plan and supplies to deal with them early and often.  This could have easily derailed my race and has made recovery much longer than it probably needed to be.
  • Use the knowledge of the course/aid stations to help the crew plan better.  It was awesome to have folks out on the course to help out, but I could have easily gone longer in between seeing folks by utilizing drop bags with a handful of more supplies in them.  Hopefully that would ease their burden a bit, especially overnight.  
  • Really try to prioritize Courtney's time out on the trail.  We only got to spend about 5 miles alone together on the course.  Next year I want to make sure that we can spend a longer stretch together.  It is just really fun to be out there together without kids.  So rare to spend that time together and needs to be done more.
  • Planning really helps.  Besides feet, I had everything I needed.  I packed tons of extra stuff I didn't end up needing, but some last minute things I threw in "just in case" ended up coming in really handy.  Extra GU's, T-Shirts, Socks were all last minute additions that worked out really well.  So in general, it is better to bring it and not need it than be looking for it.  
  • Pacers are the best thing ever.  Having never run with one, and not running with my pacers really at all before this race I didn't know how I would like them.  Turns out they are simply awesome.  I really respect folks out there on their own, especially during the night segments.  I'm sure if I was alone this would have been a completely different experience.  Being able to just pass the time on the trail, but also get in and out of aid stations without having to worry about cleaning up after myself or forgetting something was super awesome.  
  • I need to eat more "real food" during training.  I used to always eat cliff bars during runs/races.  I need to get back to that.  I survived on GU's for over 20 hours, but I'm not sure that is something I want to do going forward, especially on training runs.  I didn't want to switch it during this race as my stomach was in good spirits, but it would nice to be more confident in it for future races.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

2015 Superior Spring Trail 50k

1           Details
Date:  Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Distance: 50K

Weather:  Mid High 40s to start, up to the low 50s during the peak.  Sunny all day.  Warmer than expected but no complaints.  Perfect day.

Runners:  Reid and Kim in the 50k.  Courtney, Kelly, Tanya, Marcus, Anne, Zoey, Noelle, Brent all running the 25k.  600 people total on the course (200 50k, 400 25k).

Crew:  None.  The first race I was out there “alone”.  Totally fine and buoyed by knowing so many other people I knew were on the course.

Gear: Ultimate Direction SJ Hydration Pack (got it on the Wednesday before the race and more on this below), arm warmers for the start, Brooks shorts, multiple shirts, Hoka Stinson ATRs, Gaitors.

Fuel:  Perpetuem Caffe Latte for the start of the race.  Gu for the last few hours after my stomach wasn’t right.  Hammer Endurolytes Extreme every hour then damn near every half hour after I started cramping.

2           Training and Preparation
This year training is a bit different as it is essentially focused on the Fall 100M race.  The winter was just awesome for running on trails.  The weather was fairly mild and we picked our spots often getting long runs in on Friday afternoon/nights when the weather was typically 20 degrees warmer than Saturday mornings.  We ended up doing tons of runs out at Afton often doing the full race loop.  As my training is constantly evolving, I really didn’t focus on overall mileage at all.  Due to our hectic schedule with the kids and Courtney running, I only managed to run about 4 days a week.  But I really tried to make those runs count typically running 8 miles or more on all of my “short” runs. I also didn’t have too many “easy” short long runs.  Most of the runs were 15-17 miles.  However, I didn’t manage to get one 20 mile run in either.  So my training was really all over the place.  Low’ish weekly mileage at 37 miles per week in the 11 weeks leading up to the race.  Two weeks at 49 miles but none over 50 (or over 60 like years past). 

But through all of that, I just felt stronger in general.  I found I could run on more uphills during the long runs, and also feel stronger on the flats.  I’m sure lots of this is me being almost 5 years into running so my base is pretty large, but I think being smart about training and really getting used to 10 mile runs being easy and making Afton our staple for long runs all plays into it too. 

3           Race Weekend Preparation
Courtney and I traveled up after she got off work.  Got in and met up with Reid and Kelly who had gone up earlier and checked us in.  Flew the DJI Inspire in the parking lot and showed it off to Kim and Co. when they showed up. Got our race packets, ate some good dinner and got to hang out with Kelly’s parents and settled in around 9pm.  Courtney and I had been feeling the lingering’s of colds coming on but I decided not to worry about it as there isnt anything I could do at that point.  Turns out I felt pretty good.

Everyone hanging out pre race.  Notice the 25kers in their jammies.  

4           Race Start to Oberg (Mile 0 to 7.75: 7.75 miles)
Interval Time: - 1:31     Time on Course -  1:31     Interval Pace – 11:45   Avg. Pace – 11.45

I wasn’t going to be too conservative in the race.  I figured I knew how to deal with a lot of issues that have come up in the past and really wanted to push running the flats and downhills versus years past.  As per usual, the first couple of miles are a bit of a conga line going over Mysteray and climbing up the backside of Moose.  I ran behind Robyn Reed for a while and we chatted about her blog which inspired me in part to write these race reports.  After conga line’ing it across the ridgeline on top of Moose we got to the descent.  People were picking there way down and I just decided to let it loose.  I passed easily 15 people on the downhill here just flying.  I had one other guy behind me as we bombed the hill.  I mentioned to him that I will probably pay for that later but he said “you have to do it, right?”.  I agreed as that was some of the most fun I have had in a race to that point.  We went up and over Oberg and I just flew coming down into the aid station.  My many hours running at Afton on the downhills really helped during those descents.  I was surprised to see Kim and Reid just about to leave the aid station.  They waited for me to drop my hydration pack out, change shirts, and fill up my bottles (one with Perp and one with water).  We headed out on our way to Sawbill as a group feeling really good.
50kers ready to go.

5            Oberg to Sawbill (Mile 7.75 to 13.3: 5.55 miles)
Interval Time: - 1:11     Time on Course – 2:42     Interval Pace - 12:47     Avg. Pace – 12:10

We left as a trio with some other runners.  The first mile or so out of Oberg are extremely runnable.  It was really nice to run at a decent pace for sections large-ish sections.  This section at times was extremely muddy.  There were bits of mud on the first section, but this eclipsed that and was easily worse than last year which is saying something. I didn’t tip toe around anything this year from the get go.  I would just go right through the middle trying to find rocks to jump on if I could.  Often times you would find deep pools of mad that were calf deep.  I didn’t lose any shoes, but it weighed on your legs slogging through this.  I eventually lost Kim and Reid which wasn’t much of a surprise.  I stayed positive through this section and ran much of it on my way into Sawbill getting ready to go up to Carlton. 

6           Sawbill back to Sawbill (Mile 13.3 to 17.7: 4.5 miles)
Interval Time: - 0:49     Time on Course – 3:31     Interval Pace – 10:52  Avg Pace – 11:55

Wow, I had no idea I was able to get up and down Carlton so quickly.  Those paces and overall average pace all don’t seem quite “right”.  I am using the course map to calculate paces through the report but plan on going back to look at last years race in detail to compare. 

This was the first time during the race I regretted bombing down Moose as I had a couple cramps on my inner thighs that I have felt so many times before on the SHT.  I just kept walking through the pain (slowly) and doubled down on hydration and added a salt pill in.  Managed to make it up with Kim who I ran into on the way up all the way to the turn around.  A quick selfie at the top and we were back on the way down.  Managed to run much of the downhill even though cramps were lingering and come back into Sawbill feeling really pretty good.
At the top of Carlton's peak with the man, the myth, the legend...

7           Sawbill to Oberg (Mile 17.7 to 23.25: 5.55 miles)
Interval Time: - 1:32     Time on Course – 5:03     Interval Pace – 16:34   Avg Pace – 13:01

I hate this section.  It seems to go on forever, and is always muddy as hell by this point.  Most of the downhills are rivers of mud it is difficult to run on, and there are large sections of flats that are just lakes of mud.  I am glad I have run this section many times before as I knew from experience and landmarks that when you think you are close to the aid station, there are typically a couple of miles left.  So mentally I was much scronger here than in the past even though I was still dealing with cramps.  My stomach also didn’t feel great on the perp, so I switched over to Gu’s which I had stashed in my pack.  Overall it took about 20 minutes longer on the 5.55 stretch than on the way out which sucks at a 16:34 pace.  Cramps and crappy stomach certainly didn’t help but ugh.

I had passed out some scratch off lottery tickets here on my way out.  I asked the guy if he won and he hadn’t scratched them off yet.  I told him I was going to go to the bathroom (only time all day) and he had to find a way to scratch them off.  He did, didn’t win, but I high fived him anyway and headed on out. 

The Ultimate Direction pack has serious storage capabilities.  Overall I was really happy with it but it would have been nice to run with it a couple times to figure out its quirks.  But happy in general and being able to really monitor water intake was nice.  There are a couple of deceiving climbs in this section that I slogged through and managed to run a bit coming into the aid station.  I was happy to have this section behind me with only the finish line ahead.
8       Oberg to Finish (Mile 23.25 to 31: 7.75 miles)
Interval Time: - 1:56     Time on Course – 6:56     Interval Pace – 14:96  Avg Pace – 13:24

Cramping aside, I was happy with my race so far.  My stomach seemed to be handling the Gu well, and I had my half-filled pack along with 40 oz. of water in my bottles.  I got up and over Oberg walking all the way and decided to give running a healthy try on the way down the backside.  I had some tunes on and overall felt really strong.  I was feeling really good on the downhill, but I ran into some cramps again that forced me to stop on the downhill.  It was frustrating, but I took it ok considering everything else that could go wrong.  I made my way to Moose where there were probably 15 people climbing up at this point between the 25kers and 50kers.  I kept making sure that I was sending out positive vibes to everyone I was passing at this point.  I still love that about trail racing.  Nearly everyone on the course will give words of encouragement no matter how poor they are feeling.

I made it up Moose without really stopping, but I was going pretty slowly at sections.  Last year I just killed this climb, but I didn’t really have too many issues to deal with to that point.  I got to the ridgeline and walked most of it though I managed some spurts of running.  I was able to half stumble/run down the backside of Moose which was nice.  Having traversed this in the dark last Fall, it was nice to do it in the light where you could see things a bit more clearly.  Made my way to hike up Mystery which I was happy to do.  I found Kim on the climb up and found out she had really messed up her nutrition and was having a really hard day.  I gave her some words of encouragement and made my way to the top and back down the backside of Mystery.

I managed to run most of the way down the hill (mudslides aside) and made it over the glorious river and to the road.  Ran all the way in as I really wanted to finish in sub 7 hours if possible.  I was hoping since I didn’t see anyone I knew on the trail that was running the 25k that everyone in general had a good day.  How I didn't manage to take a post race picture is beyond me.  I had to move my phone to the back of my pack and need to find a more convenient place for it to take pictures on the course.  But there is no excuse for a post race picture.  Luckily someone else was at the finish line snapping photos.
Across the finish line.

9       Post-Race and Recovery
Everyone finished the 25k and they all just killed it.  I was super proud of Courtney (knee issues), Kelly (9 months post baby) and Marcus (3 weeks post-surgery) all doing just awesome on their first tries on the SHT.  Tanya did awesome too and is really getting a handle on this trail running thing which is nice to see.  We made it back to the room took some showers, hung out with Peter, and got some Pizza to go from Moguls which was really good.  Ended up sleeping like crap after the race and we were all up and out of bed around 6AM.  Packed everything up and headed home by 7AM.  Got home early, mowed the lawn, and hung out with the kids.  Started getting fairly sore that night and Monday morning the biggest issues are where I was cramping (inner thighs and right calf). 

All in all I feel really good.  It was another super fun weekend and I love this distance.  Just long enough to really test you, but short enough you can have a normal day/night afterwards.  It was super fun to be running the same race with Courtney and have Marcus and Tanya up there as well.  Good to see the group of people I know who participate in these events grow.  I also made some contacts of folks that are well versed in 100M runs so I hope to tap into those over the coming months.

Voyageur is next and cramping early in this race at 50 some degrees is worrisome.  Really need to acclimate my body to some heat and figure out how I can handle salt/fluids/other fuel to offset some of what I have felt.  Then we can bring on the fall race.  Giddyup!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fall Superior 50M – 2014 Race Report

1           Details

Date:  Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Distance: 50M (Officially 52.1 miles). 

Weather:  Mid High 40s to start, up to the low 70s during the peak, and back down to the 50s?  Kind of weird to have to highlight the different portions of the day.  Low humidity and in general just perfect weather.  Couldn't order up a better day, especially after last years heat and humidity.

Runners:  Reid Plumbo in the 50M.  Tons of other folks doing the marathon: Brandon in his first marathon killing it in a little over 6 hours, Ann, Drew, Kim, Julie, Dean, Anna, Lisa, Shelly, Brent, others I’m forgetting.

Crew:  Court, Kelly, and Peter came up Saturday and I saw them later in the race and the finish.  Pretty solo on the course this trip.

Gear: Nathan Hydration Pack, arm warmers for the start (lost one so didn't use them at the finish), Black Diamond Storm Headlamp (fit in my pack better than the Nao), Nike shorts, multiple shirts, Saucony Xodus 3.0s, Gaitors.  Three drop bags with fresh socks (ha!!), t-shirts, Perpetuem, and other assorted goodies.  

Fuel:  Perpetuem Caffe Latte for the majority of the race.  Supplemented with Gu or Hammer Gel during big climbs and some other aid station stuff (PB&J didn’t work out well).  Hammer Endurolytes Extreme every hour like clockwork. 

2           Intro

It has to be said up front that none of this would be achievable without the huge amount of support I get from family and friends.  It is hard to really comment on the huge gift Courtney has given me letting me run 5 days a week. Let alone grandparents that routinely watch the kids so that we can get away for long runs and races. And a huge shout out to Reid, my partner in crime.  No way this is possible without you brother.  And to all of the friends that come out and run all over the cities making putting in those large weekend miles tolerable and the race weekends so much fun.  It is all just awesome and I can’t thank everyone enough. 

3           Training and Preparation

Training really started the day after our finish at Moose Mountain in 2013.  After coming across the finish line and feeling completely spent in the hot/humid weather that day there was a fairly large group of us camped around the finish line waiting for our other friends to come across.  The atmosphere was electric seeing all shapes and sizes finishing in different states of anguish, glee, exhaustion, and relief (marathoners, 50 milers, and 100 milers).  To that point I had been on the same course many times with 50 milers, including competing in one at North Face where I DNF'ed at 40M in, but I had never seen 100M'ers in the flesh and it was truly eye opening. 

Not really having any plan for 2014 at this point, Reid and I really didn't have to think that much about what we would do next year after seeing those folks cross the finish line.  The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) is really just something you have to traverse to really appreciate the beauty and pain it can provide in equal measure.  We were hooked.  We signed up for the 50k in the spring which we both killed with the larger goal of attempting the 50M in the fall hoping to match some of the awe inspiring performances we saw from folks finishing in the fall.

Through the summer we really tried to focus on quality workouts and not total volume.  Always trying to get long back to backs and hill repeats in vs. just straight up mileage.  Yeah, a nice 8 mile road run is good, but I would much rather have 5 miles of hill repeats thank you very much. 

This training season we really started working Afton into the mix and most of the quality long runs and back to backs were spent here.  To date, it is the best place in the cities we have found to get quality runs that best represent the SHT if you pick your trails right.  Nice long climbs and descents.  We did some nice back to back 20s there, a 30 miler, and other assorted runs out there in preparation.  We also focused on Tuesday hill repeats at Hyland that started at the parking lot, up the ski jump hill for a warm up, over to the ski hill, followed by no less than 12 hill repeats up and down the largest ski hill and back to the parking lot.  I'm convinced these repeats were the most valuable part of my training regimen this year.  All in all, we had a nice volume of training in and I averaged about 45 miles per week over 12 weeks leading up to the race. 

I was also able to see the first 20 miles of the course running with Ann Norton during our trip up North at my parents cabin.  This training run was really fun to do with Ann, but after Crosby Manitou on our way to the Caribou River trailside I cramped up something fierce in my inner thighs that I had to deal with over the next 6 miles or so.  This was pretty demoralizing considering all of the training I had done up to that point on hills specifically.  Also, this roughly 10 mile stretch was no fun.  The first 4 miles of which had some serious descents/ascents in them and it is just a long ass section.  I am really glad I saw it so I knew what to expect come race day and think about how to attack it, but hopefully I would be in better shape on race day. 

4           A Minor Hiccup

About two weeks out from the race I started getting some stomach pain across my abdomen that was just a general unease I thought would work itself out.  I went for a nice 12M run with Heimark at Murphy on that Saturday and felt really strong.  Followed up with a Sunday run even though the lingering pain was still hanging out.  Ended up going to the doctor on Monday but I got a clean bill of health.  Tuesday afternoon after lunch I felt pretty awful and I went home.  Ended up puking my guts out all night and the following day.  Thinking the stomach pain was related to whatever bug this was I just powered through.  By Friday, all of the bug was gone, but the stomach pain was still around.  Went to the doctor where they took blood this time, with nothing found.  Ended up talking with Marcus (MD-PHD who is now a psychiatrist but at least has some sort of reference to what the doctors were doing) and since my stomach was feeling better we just put it off as a weird bug.

Having not run for about a week, and with my stomach feeling better, I went for a run on Labor Day (Monday before the race).  I had no plans going out but ended up doing a nice 10 miler which felt really good.  Followed that up with a 5 miler on Tuesday.  It was a weird run that I had to walk for a minute to get my bearings.  I chalked it up to taper stuff and the fact that I was just getting over a weird viral something or other.  On Wednesday I went for another short 3 mile run after work and found myself light headed which was really odd.  At dinner that night I had some serious stomach pain coming on.  Having taken solace in a heating pad the last time that happened I tried it again to no avail.  I was up all night and in some serious dire straits as the race was now 48 hours away and I had this mysterious stomach ailment.

I went back to the doctor Thursday morning.  They did the standard exam which found me with a clean bill of health.  I started pressing the doctor explaining I had a race I had been training for all year in 2 days and it wasn't exactly a 5k.  She said I could run it, but that I might have to concede that I might not finish it. Great advice doc.  I pressed on something Courtney had been harping on for over a week that maybe it was stress related due to work.  And as per usual, I should have just listened to her.  The doctor said that yeah, the pain I was feeling could easily be ulcers.  She "prescribed" some over the counter Prilosec to help which Courtney told me a week before to try.  The problem was this was a shot in the dark and Prilosec takes 1-4 days to work and the race was less than 48 hours away. 

If there isn't enough stuff to worry about for a really hard 50M race, ulcers, stomach pain, no sleep, and long term damage of doing a race with some as yet unknown condition doesn't really help the situation.  Hopefully day 3 of Prilosec might make the difference (fingers crossed...).

5           Race Weekend Preparation

There is a new addition to the family now that Reid and Kelly have welcomed Peter into the club.  He came in at precisely the right time giving his parents a nice two weeks together before he gave this race a shot.  That meant that Reid, Brandon and I drove up together for the race and Kelly, Peter, and Courtney would drive up Saturday to join us for the race.  The drive up was nice and we were making good time so we decided to stop by an aid station for the 100 milers at 25 miles in.  We got there at a perfect time as we saw about 10 runners go through.  Most looked really good and excited (though these were in the lead pack), but it was cool to see them out on the course regardless.  My stomach was really starting to give me issues at this point and we moved onto Lutsen.

We checked in and by this point I was doubled over in the lobby due to the pain.  We got into the room and I went upstairs and laid down.  After about an hour of this with little change I decided to go for a walk.  Leaving our room (the same room we have had two times before which is crazy), I ran into Kim/Dean/Rick and eventually most of the other crew that was up for the race.  Most commented on how much weight I had lost and after I explained what was going on with the stomach (ulcers?) they were extremely sympathetic and wanting to know what they could do to help.  Explaining I was on day 2 of a 14 day course of meds and that I just hoped moving would help things I went out for my walk.

I made my way north up the road and to the Poplar River Bridge.  Having heard the river during Moose and the Spring 50K, I stood on the bridge for about 5 minutes just visualizing (and hoping) to hear that sound sometime the following night on my way in during the race.  I was really in a low place at this point with very little confidence.  I had trained all year for this race.  My last 50 mile attempt two years ago ended in a DNF that I have thought about constantly since.  In hindsight, I easily could have continued that race knowing what I know now about my body, hydration, food, walking, and 100 other little things.  So physically and mentally I was more prepared for the race than I ever had been.  But, if my stomach felt like it did at this moment there was a pretty good chance I would not even start, let alone finish this race. 

I made my way back to the room and my stomach started to feel a little better.  We went and picked up our packets and drop of our drop bags which I had packed before I came up.  I was able to get down some spaghetti I had brought which an hour before would have been impossible.  The walk seemed to have helped (and maybe the drugs too).  Reid had brought up Unbreakable, a documentary about the 2011 Western States 100M race.  Watching these elite athletes just kill it was fun. Also, making fun of how easy the terrain these guys were running on at States vs. what we would be dealing with tomorrow was good times.

The bus was leaving at 4AM and they wanted us on there at 3:45 AM.  I slept a “good” 2.5 hours from about 10:30PM to 1:00AM before I was wide awake waiting for the alarm to go off at 3AM.  I was constantly trying to gauge my stomach at this point which wasn't hurting but was not "right".  I got up before my alarm, took a shower, ate a sandwich, cleared the pipes (well most of them) and got all of my gear ready. 

We made our way to the bus which was packed.  Leaving Caribou Highlands the bus driver immediately took a wrong turn and had to do a 5 point turn to get back to the main turn.  Another couple of hijinks and we were on our way.  Making the route to the Finland Rec Center the bus was pretty quiet and calm with the lights off.  It was pitch black and there wasn't a whole lot of banter going given it was 4 in the morning.  Taking a turn on Hwy 1 our driver missed the turn to the rec center.  Some folks called out the mistake and were able to get the driver to backtrack.  But he was resistant to moving the half mile down the road to the rec center where about 50 cars were going with lights on at 5AM.  Someone yelled out "I have to poop" which was enough to get the driver to move on down the road towards the rec center.  This broke a lot of the tension there seemed to be on the bus up to this point and everyone was in a good mood making our way to the Rec Center.

The Rec Center is a nice hall with facilities inside and out, heated, and sheltered.  A pit stop in a biff, some bantering, staring at the crazy amount of stars, and we were out to the street to start the race.  A few words from Storkamp the race director emphasizing that "pound for pound this is one of the hardest 50 milers in the country" was not necessarily something I really wanted to hear with my stomach still not "right".  But, that is why we do this, right?  It was time to get moving and see what would happen. 

6           Race Start to Sonju Lake (Mile 0 to 7.5: 7.5 miles)

Interval Time: - 2:01     Time on Course -  2:01     Interval Pace - 15:58   Avg. Pace - 15:58

I really wanted to start super slow.  I have now relegated myself to a back of the packer and have no problem with it as long as I don't feel completely wrecked by the end of the race.  I want to enjoy these runs (as much as is possible) vs. really racing/pushing pace and having serious consequences for walking that tightrope.  So at the beginning of this race I settled in behind a group that was power hiking/jogging most of the sections.  The woman leading the pack was a seasoned veteran that had done dozens of ultras, but was not moving particularly fast.  Not wanting to get ahead of myself, and having a headlamp that had batteries that were less than ideal, I stayed with the group to just feel myself and my stomach out.  I made my way into the first aid station with the stomach pretty absent from my thoughts, and started thinking about the rest of the race and how to go about it.  I had been pretty tunnel visioned up to this point about not feeling well and solving my stomach issue and I hadn't spent much mental energy preparing for managing my race.  I doubled down on focusing on nutrition/water/salt and putting blinders on my feet so I wouldn't trip and then cramp up throwing my race into disarray.  I filled up water and left the aid station with no major issues and decided to start moving a bit faster leaving before the seasoned veteran and her entourage that had piled up behind her.

7           Sonju Lake to Crosby Manitou (Mile 7.5 to 11.7: 4.2 miles)

Interval Time: - 1:03     Time on Course - 3:05     Interval Pace - 15:19     Avg. Pace - 15:40

This is one of the shortest and most runnable sections of the entire course.  I started chatting up a fellow runner who was a college professor who was a beekeeper out in Massachusetts in her spare time.  We got to talking about her hobby selectively breeding hearty cold resistant queen bees that didn't have a temper.  I think we talked the entire 4 miles during this section and we were to the aid station before I knew it.  I felt really good at this point.  Really strong and no stomach pain.  The first of 3 drop bags were here (I stashed a drop bag at every other aid station), and quickly made my way back on the course, feeling bad about ditching the beekeeper but thinking I might see here again.

8           Crosby to Sugarloaf (Mile 11.7 to 21.1: 9.4 miles)

Interval Time: - 2:41     Time on Course - 5:45     Interval Pace - 16:35  Avg Pace - 16:02
Up to this point there really isn't much climbing, which I knew we were going to pay for.  In general, the trail up to this point by SHT standards is pretty "runable".  That changes during the "Crosby" stretch.  Having run this section with Ann earlier this summer, and cramping on the large climb out of the gorge, I had mentally prepared for getting out of this section under the mantra of "Do No Harm".  I really wanted to make it to Cramer Road with no cramping, and making it out of the gorge efficiently was key.  The climb down was uneventful, and as I made my way up I really tried to make sure my foot placement was as economical as possible. 

I started taking baby steps, and whenever I saw a large step up, I would look for ways to go left or right and take three small steps for one large one.  I also started walking up the climbs parallel to the incline, then straight ahead, then rotating 90 degrees to be parallel again in the other direction.  I would continuously move between these three different stances all the way up the hill in the hope of working different muscles the entire time.  Most of this was based on the fact that I have run hundreds of miles of trails without cramping and trying to find a different way to minimize the large extensions that in some spots you simply can’t avoid on the SHT.  Not to foreshadow too much, but I didn't cramp up for more than 10 seconds the entire day when I had to climb over one of the many downed trees across the path.  Contrast that with me sitting against a tree at Moose last year for 2 minutes cursing everything I could think of and I color myself purple for hopefully figuring out a way to manage these hills without causing undue stress going forward. 

After the first half of this section it turns out to be very runable.  I made a lot of time back making my way to the Sugarloaf aid station.  There had been a lot of talk about the course cutoffs which I had never paid too much attention to.  However, it was clear that even minor setbacks might push me close to these cutoffs if I wasn’t careful.  On the way in I ran into someone who told me we had about 1 mile left to the aid station.  I told him it was more like 4 miles according to my watch and he wasn't too pleased though he was moving faster than me and made it to the aid station before I did.  I passed another guy not looking too good and I asked if he was alright. He asked for some water which I opened up my pack for.  I had a handheld 24oz. bottle I had already drained and had been through most of my pack to this point so I didn't have much left for him.  I gave him about half of what I had left and moved on wishing him luck.  Experience had paid off for me here and I was extremely glad I had lugged that 24oz. with me up to that point specifically for this long roughly 10 mile section.  I would have easily run out of water in this section and if the weather hadn't been as accommodating as it was it would have been seriously sketchy out there.  I had run the last few miles and was ahead of the cutoff at 11:45AM by only about 40 minutes at this point.  Had to keep it moving forward.

9           Sugarloaf to Cramer Road (Mile 21.1 to 26.7: 5.6 miles)

Interval Time: - 1:42     Time on Course - 7:28     Interval Pace - 18:11   Avg Pace - 16:27
Having run out of Perpetuem during the Crosby section I picked up some PB&J sandwiches at the aid station before I left.  I figured between that and a gu or hammer gel and I would be fine until I got to Cramer.  I should have tried a bite at the aid station vs. carrying them with me as it was immediately obvious to me as I made my way back out on the trail that these were not a good idea as my gag reflex kicked in.  I choked them down as I know I needed calories but these ended up really screwing with my stomach. 

This is really the only section of the course I had not seen yet in training.  Reid had told me that it was runnable so I had planned on making up some additional time in this section making my way to the midpoint of the race.  Well, what Reid didn’t know is this section was going to be a huge mudfest with large sections that you simply couldn’t run through.  It reminded me a lot of the Spring race and I just had to slog through.  Not making up much time in this section and having to walk a bunch through these sections I really started to doubt myself.  My stomach pain was ok and I was feeling better that that would stay away, but my stomach started getting pretty upset.  I wasn’t even half way into this sucker yet and had a days worth of running yet to do, and now my stomach was turning on me.  As I was being pathetic in my misery, I tripped on a stick in the mud and landed hard into a huge pool of mud.  This caked the water bottle I had been carrying which wasn’t the end of the world as I had planned on dropping it off at the next aid, but now my whole right side was completely covered in mud. 

I just slogged through this looking forward to the drop bag I had stashed at Cramer that had some Perpetuem in it and a dry shirt.  Making my way into the aid station I quickly changed out shirts and mixed some Perpetuem up and filled up my pack completely for the fairly long run down to Temperance. 

10       Cramer Road to Temperance (Mile 26.7 to 33.8: 7.1 miles)

Interval Time: - 2:10     Time on Course - 9:39     Interval Pace - 18:37  Avg Pace - 16:57
Shortly after leaving Cramer Road I knew my stomach issues were not going to be solved without a trip to the woods. I had prepared and had some paper towels with me in a Ziploc bag.  I looked for a good spot in the woods and took care of business.  Between this and the Perpetuem I was able to get my stomach under control.

From this point on I knew exactly what was in store on the course having run these sections multiple times before.  Even though I knew what was coming up I was terrified that I was only halfway in at this point with some really hard climbs looming ahead.  I have listened to a ton of podcasts and read a bunch of race reports in the last year to learn as much as I can about how people run these distances.  One of the biggest themes that I know Reid has really embraced is to simply focus on the aid station directly ahead of you.  Once you are in the race, you really can’t focus on the whole thing once you start getting tired.  That is the easiest way to just kill yourself mentally.  I really just focused on getting to Temperance and put Carlton and Moose out of my mind. 

I don’t remember a ton about this section.  I was able to run through parts but was walking more sections than I would have liked.  The Beekeper made her way past me in this section and was doing really well on the flats and we exchanged well wishes.  When I was walking I was still moving fast.  My new watch had the average pace for the race that I knew if it started getting close to 17:30 or slower would put me near the cutoffs at the upcoming aid stations.  So I really tried to make sure I was moving fast enough to keep that sucker about 17 minutes/mile to give me a buffer.  At the aid station I saw some hundred milers who were still moving forward.  Realizing they had been out here for around 30 hours at this point was crazy.  How could I feel bad/tired if they were out here still moving forward.  They were getting pretty close to cutoffs and I’m not sure how many of these folks got an official finish, but it was still inspiring. 

At the aid station I handed out some PowerBall tickets to some volunteers who helped me fill up my pack.  I had picked up 10 tickets on the way up and put them in a Ziploc bag to hand out. Lot’s of these folks had been out all night and I figured this was a little bit of karma I could send out and hopefully get back.  The PowerBall tickets were neat but I think I will do scratch offs and make them check them while I am there in the future.  This might be really fun on a looped course like Surf the Murph where you will most likely see the same volunteers multiple times.  Well, having survived and refilled my pack, I moved out with the beast looming just ahead.   

11       Temperance to Britton (Mile 33.8 to 39.5: 5.7 miles)

Interval Time: - 1:44     Time on Course - 11:24     Interval Pace - 18:33   Avg. Pace - 17:13
While this section is “only” 5.7 miles, it has the largest climb on the course with some boulders you have to crawl over.  I have been up this section a couple times before so I knew what I was getting into with Carlton.  I had been trading spots with a few people who were faster on the flats where I was faster on the hills.  I was hiking most of the next couple miles as I knew even this slight grade making your way towards Carlton can take its toll if you are not careful.  There are some false climbs before you really get to Carlton I knew about.  One woman who was super enthusiastic I had been trading spots with for a while hadn’t seen Carlton before.  I had mentioned the peak and we came around a corner and through the trees you see Carton’s granite face staring you down.  She thought I was joking when I said we get to climb most of that.  I told her she would be fine and just take it slow. 

When I finally made it to the climb I really focused on my new climbing technique.  Alternating footings and really keeping my steps to as little extension as possible.  There were some large boulders you can’t help but climb up and over but in general I was doing really well and no cramps to speak of.  I continually climbed the entire way up with no need to stop and rest and ended up walking down the backside of Carlton.  It was a bit frustrating to not be able to take advantage of running these downhill’s but I knew from previous experience that the time gained running could easily be offset but catching a tow and tripping/falling and most likely cramping up.  So I just picked my way down knowing the last mile and a half into Britton was totally runnable.  I made my way to the pine forest where I hoped Courtney, Kelly and Peter were waiting.

Coming into the aid station I found them patiently waiting my slow arrival.  It was really nice to see them as I called previously with no luck trying to get a hold of them (no cell service for them).  They had waited hours after driving all day to see me for 5 minutes on the course.  Just awesome and a huge mental bump.  I asked how Reid was doing knowing he was killing it, and he was close to 2 hours ahead of me at this point.  I told them to skip the next aid station and meet me at the end to make sure they could see Reid finish.  My real reason was that I didn’t want any outs at Oberg.  I wasn't sure what was going to happen in the next 5 miles, but I didn't want the ability to catch a ride back to the finish if the wheels fell off.

This was my last drop bag so I changed shirts, mixed some more Perpetuem, and had Courtney sort out the batteries in my headlamp as they were dead in the morning.  I had her stuff my lamp and a cliff bar in my pack which was bursting at the seams at this point with various gear.  I had my Body Glide in there which I had used a couple times on my inner thighs as I could feel some chafing and dealt with it immediately.  If I didn’t have my Body Glide with me I would have been in some serious pain.  Really glad I brought it with me as I could reapply immediately. 

12       Britton to Oberg (Mile 39.5 to 45: 5.5 miles)

Interval Time: - 1:43     Time on Course - 13:07     Interval Pace - 18:26  Avg. Pace - 17:21
I gave Courtney a kiss and asked some of the workers about the cutoff before I left the aid station.  I had about 2.5 hours I think to make it to Oberg and I didn’t want to be that close knowing Moose and Mystery were behind that.  I knew this section was runnable and that I had a chance to make up some time.  I was as motivated as I have ever been at any point in any race I have done at this point.  I just thought to myself what better chance would I have to finish a 50 miler than right now.  I hadn’t cramped up, my stomach was back to manageable, the sun was starting to go down and it was getting cooler.  It was at this point that I really started to believe I could maybe finish this sucker.  I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself knowing how much there was left to do, but I was motivated as hell to beat that cutoff at Oberg and give myself a buffer for the last section.

I really tried to run every section I could and made some of my best time of the day here.  I was really surprised at how “good” I felt at this point.  I was still moving forward and running for long stretches.  Yeah, I wasn’t moving fast, but I was moving and had some buffer on the cutoff.  The heat of the day was starting to wane and it was cooling off which was helping too.  The group of folks I had been trading back and forth with all through Temperance and Britton were behind me and I didn’t see many of them again.  This section was pretty uneventful other than a quick application of Body Glide again and I made my way to Oberg. I filled up on water and picked up some Hammer Gel’s for the climbs and handed out my last PowerBall tickets.  Everyone here was super helpful as at every aid station. They got me moving and sent me on my way confident that I was going to finish. 

13       Oberg to Lutsen (Mile 45 to 52.1: 7.1 miles)

Interval Time: - 2:25     Time on Course - 15:31     Interval Pace - 19:48    Avg. Pace - 17:39
I started power hiking up Oberg making my way to Moose.  I had been here a couple times before so I knew what to expect.  I had my headlamp on and it was starting to get pretty dark.  I had my headphones on for a while now and had been transitioning them between my ears and my neck as I had actually been in a fair amount of traffic up to this point and I didn’t want to be a menace out there and not hear people coming to pass.  During this stretch I put them in and turned up some Pearl Jam and started singing some Even Flow belting out the tune pretty loudly on the course.  Good times.

When I really got to the climb up Moose there were two groups of 100 milers and their pacers half way up the hill that had a tree we had to climb over.  It was awesome seeing these guys out here surviving.  They were going to make it if they just kept moving forward.  I climbed over the tree and kept moving on up to the right up the stairs.  Making it to the ridge line I wasn’t doing much running here.  Partly because I was pretty damn tired, but mostly because I knew that I had enough time that if I just power hiked the entire way in I would make the cutoff with time to spare.  I didn’t want to do anything stupid like catch a toe and fall or start cramping up with Mystery still looming.  Going across the ridge line was fine, but I had to make my way down the backside of Moose.  This ended up being one of the hardest things to do the entire day.  Really large drops using only a headlamp made finding footing and handholds really difficult.  The climb down seemed to take forever but eventually it bottomed out and I knew there was just one last climb left. 

There were multiple 50 milers and groups of 100 milers and their pacers all making their way up the switchback going up Mystery.  It was really cool looking up the hill and see all these trails of lights moving up the hill.  I passed a few of the 100 milers on the way up the hill and gave words of encouragement to these warriors.  They were always super positive and give it back which is still so awesome.  These guys were out here for 36 hours at this point and they are telling me good job.  This sport is just filled with awesome people it is a joy to share with. 

I made my way up Mystery and knew I still had plenty of work to do.  By this point it was getting pretty cold and I was coughing pretty badly.  But I had plenty of time and just kept on hiking down the back side of Mystery so I didn’t focus on it.  This section took longer than I have ever taken, but it was pitch black, and I was over 50 miles in at this point and didn’t want to do anything stupid, so I just took it easy and waited to hear that glorious Poplar River. 

I shut my headphones off and shortly after I could hear the rushing sound out of the woods. I couldn’t even really begin to process what I was feeling at this point. I had stood on that bridge just over 24 hours before with serious stomach pain and even more serious doubts in my head about what the hell I was doing.  Finally making it out the other side and up and onto the pavement I was running my way in.  I have no idea what pace I was doing but I was running home.  Making my way around the lodges I caught Brandon and Courtney on the corner who were shocked to see me come by.  I heard my name over the speakers and saw Storkamp waiting for me with a handshake, some nice words, and a medal. 

I saw Courtney and was pretty delirious.  She was asking what I needed and I didn’t know.  I had no plan for the end of the race.  I just decided to sit down for the first time in over 16 hours and figure it out.  Everyone had stayed around to see me come in which was awesome.  Being able to talk with everyone after the race was a blast.  We shared war stories for a bit and then made our way up to the room so I could take a well needed shower. 

14       Post-Race and Recovery

After a nice shower washing immense amounts of mud off of myself I ate some pizza and drank a bunch of water.  Reid's family stopped by and we talked a bunch while they hung out with super trooper Peter.  I put myself to bed shortly after as no partying was going on that night.  We made our way home the following day with no major issues.  I was sore getting out of cars but no real cramping and the stomach pain for now has seemed to subside.  Yay Prilosec? 

This was the hardest thing I have ever done physically and mentally.  I was on the course for 15.5 hours about 7 hours longer than any of my other races to date.  I hit some pretty large lows (mud up near Cramer) but followed them with some really nice highs (running with determination on the way to Oberg).  I can finally say that I have finished a 50 miler.  Good times.

14       Things Learned

  • Mental is about 10x as important as physical.  This isn’t anything new, but it has never been tested like this for me before. 
  • Never think about the big picture.  Only focus on what you can do in the moment because that is all you can control anyway.  Aid station to aid station.  Small chunks you can bite off. 
  • Make sure to have enough Perpetuem for the entire race.  I had no issues when I was eating this and it was plenty appetizing for the duration.  I just wish I had it all day long.
  • Try to run more.  I know this sounds stupid, but I mentally try to save myself for the climbs, but the hill repeats have gotten me to a place where my body is prepared for them and I don’t need to save as much.  I feel like I can spend more energy on the flats.
  • When walking up hills, alternate positions and keep the steps as short as possible.  Always look for a way to walk around big steps even if it means taking more steps or a larger distance.
  • Take pictures on the damn course.  I lug my phone with me the whole time and I didn't take one picture on race day.  I know I will regret that in the coming years.  At least a couple during every trip in between aid stations at a minimum. 

15       Results

  •  15:31:15 total time on course.
  • 18:38 min/mile pace (counted over 50M, actually 17:40 min/mile)
  • I finished 91/107 overall.  138 starters of 185 registered or so.  77% finishing rate which is pretty high.

16       Original Pace Chart