May 17, 2010: Superior Trail 50k recap
A few months ago, a couple of friends, came up with the idea of getting the usual suspects along with whomever else to go in on renting a condo in Lusten for the weekend of the spring Superior Trail 50k/25k races. After only a little prodding, and it being too early in the season for me to be thinking rationally, I signed up for the 50k. I found myself intrigued about the idea of running an ultra marathon event longer than a standard marathon. It also fit into my training plan, as I had wanted to do a tune-up race for Grandma’s. I had previously been considering doing the Green Bay marathon. The Green bay marathon would be fun, except it is in Green Bay, home of the evil football team. I have also heard tales of the course crossing an active train track and the possibility of having to wait along the course for a passing train. I could be wrong about that. The Superior trail events is closer to home, a bit cheaper and having a group to go with just added to the fun.
We decided to cook dinner in the condo the night before the race. The condo was nice, but I felt the architect might have spent some time designing cruise ships during their career; there was not a whole lot of extra space in the rooms. For dinner I had volunteered to make fresh pasta, which ended up turning out well. The group had a few more people than I had expected when I volunteered to make pasta, but it went ok as a couple of people pitched in to help and it made things go smoothly. After dinner I was asking around about what the course was like and what I could possibly expect to get for a time. I was not really concerned about time, but I wanted to be prepared for how many hours it might take, so I could watch my hydration, carbohydrate and salt intake during the race. I looked at last year’s results and made the comment, I wonder if I could break 5 hours? Ron quite promptly made the joking comment ‘If you break 5 hours, I’ll give you a 100 bucks’. Shelly and Marcus quickly chimed in adding to the potential pot of winnings. The ease with which my friends claimed that they would part with their hard earned money made me think that the course might be a bit more difficult than I had expected. I laughed it off, but it did put a ‘if the planets align just right’ goal for the day into my mind of 5 hours. A pre-race concern was my trusty Garmin was acting up and I was worried that I would not have it for the race, however, I managed to get it to turn on and it will probably be sent in for service later this week.
The morning of the race, I was not sure what to expect, not having done the race before. It was a short walk from the condo to the starting line. I found myself felling a bit tired and not really wanting to move. I decided that I did not really need to worry about a warm up run as, I could just take it easy up the first incline and I was not too concerned about my time, the goal was to finish standing upright.At the start I started running off easy down the road, I did try to get closer to the front as I did not want to get stuck into a train of people hiking uphill on single track. Being my first time on the course, I was not sure what to expect. I had heard stories of 2-3 “enormous mountains”. Living in Duluth, I find that term “large hill” to be relative. I am used to running up a couple of hundred foot elevation change as part of running the trails near my house. Previously the only times I have been to the top of Mystery and Moose mountains were in the winter and I took either the gondola or the chair lift to get there.I did not carry a whole lot of stuff with me, a couple of gel packets, electrolyte tablets and a handheld water bottle. The aid stations were spaced out fairly evenly and well stocked and I like to travel light. Being my first time doing the race, I did not have a drop bag for the aid station prepared, seeing how well organized things were, I may do drop bags in the future. Five miles into the run I twisted my left ankle, I was able to run it out and keep going ok. I met a few nice people along the start of the run.
I felt good coming into the first aid station. I refilled my bottle, drank a couple of cups of water and grabbed a handful of gummy bears. What better carb source than gummy bears? Between the aid stations I twisted my sore ankle again and I was starting to become less than enamored with the preponderance of mud holes along the section of trail. The second aid station came and I started my way to the turn around. Just past the second aid station, I started seeing the leaders of the 50k coming my way. Words of encouragement were exchanged while passing the runners. Everyone was looking good and seemed to be having a fun time. The trek up Carlton peak was rocky, but not as bad as I had expected, much easier that climbing Ely’s peak. I made the turn-around in just under 2:30, now if I could reverse or even split, I might be able to leave Ron’s wallet a light lighter at the end of the weekend. Passing Ron on the way down I mentioned that I had a 2:30 at the half; he later told me he knew that his wallet was safe.
Between the aid stations, I started to feel the miles taking their toll. I twisted my ankle a couple of more times and started the bad habit of cursing every time I saw mud. I started to wonder if I might need to drop at the last aid station. Due to the pain in my foot/ankle, I had to be careful with my footing to avoid pain. I was able to work out the pain by the last aid station and I raided Shelly’s drop bag for ibuprophen, super- prepared people are always handy to have around. I figured I was in good enough shape to run and if things got worse, I could at least walk the rest of the way and finish the distance. After the second aid station, I started to pass a number of 25k runners. Memorable was Liz, doing the 25k, who gave me a colorful greeting and a high five. It turned out she was quite relieved that I was a 50k runner and not a 25k runner passing her. Another 25k runner encouraged me to keep running after yet another ankle twist. I started to walk, but her comments encouraged me to keep going.
At the top of Moose or Mystery Mountain, I managed to get my third wind, the course was mostly downhill at that point and I speeded up. I tried to take advantage of gravity whenever I could, plus with only a couple of miles to go, I did not want anyone passing me. I kept expecting Marcus and/or Ron to come flying by at any point. The pine trees were fun to run through and the downhill from Mystery Mountain was enjoyable, as I knew I was almost at the finish. Once I made the final turn onto the road, I ran at a good clip, I was not sure what to look for at the finish, I knew it was behind Caribou Highlands; luckily the signs were easy to spot. I was afraid of missing a turn, due to my being tired and disoriented from running.I made it across the finish line with an official time of 5:22:14.
At the finish line, Kandi made me go back and forth across it a couple of times, while she got her camera ready. Like the famous photo of General MacArthur’s landing in the Philippines, Kandi needed me to do a couple of takes for her to get her photo. The chili after the run was tasty and the rest of the evening was spent relaxing, with a trip into Grand Marais for dinner at the Gunflint Tavern. A good time was had by all and a fun weekend.
Nothing special was in the pasta, perhaps it was in the sauce. How did the people who did not eat pasta do in the race?
Embrace the mud? You must understand that I was having trouble with my ankle and stepping in the mud brought on occasional moments of sharp pain. The extreme pain caused me not to like the mud.
You had a great first ultra Shane! And on such a technical, ankle-twisting course to boot. My ankle wasn't giving me near the problems I thought it might, so like most everyone else there, I was able to embrace the mud. As the day grew warmer, I actually enjoyed running through the mud and cold water just to cool off!
So Shane...when's your next ultra?!?!
After the turn around I noticed I was only of few minutes behind Shane so I thought I could pick up the pace a bit. I managed to pass quiet a few people my second time through Sawbill to Oberg. I was even feeling a bit cocky by the time I got to the last aid station. I had been keeping my pace at what I though easy. I had only had two gels early on in the race so it had probably been a few hours since I had taken in any calories. Hammer squeeze jell didn't sound good. Oh hey it's only 8 miles to the finish 5 hours should be easy. BONK!!! I got the the top of Moose and my engines died. Soon enough it seemed like everybody I knew had passed me. I decided to sit down (bad idea). Fortunately after awhile an angel stopped and shoved some candy and salt at me. After a bit I was running full throttle again. I even out kicked Steve Quick at the end. A part of me was wishing the race was longer so I could have repassed everybody. Oh well. It was still tons of fun. Duluth was well represented.
Running through the mud reminded me of this recent video I had seen.
Nice write-up Shane - sounds like you mostly enjoyed your first ultra experience :) Hope the foot/ankle is all good to go by Grandma's!
Oh - and thanks for the super-pasta...
Ethan...the yoopers made us proud, of course we count them!
Nice recap Shane, nice sharing the kitchen with you, I think you should tell Ethan the truth about the pasta :)
Ok, Ethan, it was the magical pixie dust I sprinkled in the pasta when making it. You did not notice the "salt" had a little extra shimmer and sparkle in the sunlight?