Superior 100 Race ReportBy Jason Husveth, #87, Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota
Fourth Finish in 35:00:31 and Sixth Superior 100 Attempt
September 6 and 7, 2013
Training:I signed up for this year’s Superior 100 back in February 2013 when registration opened. I had last run it in 2011, and then crewed and paced for my wife Amy in 2012 as she completed her first Superior 100 on her first attempt at the distance (she’s tough like that). As I supported her on her run, I was sure I would be at the start of the 2013 edition. Running the Superior 100, from my perspective, is a great privilege that only relatively few will ever realize. Every year that I have a legitimate shot at going the distance, I want to be on the starting line. So I signed up in February when registration opened, and planned on Superior being my big race for the fall, and then Arrowhead 135 in the winter of 2014.
I had run the Ozark 100 with the Lynn and Daryl Saari and John Storkamp in November 2012. That was my first 100 outside of Minnesota, and a dream come true to cover 100 miles in the Missouri Ozarks – a place I have always wanted to visit. I learned some valuable lessons at Ozark with regard to how to better pace myself for the 100 mile distance, and the last 20 miles were my fastest of that race. That is a fun way to finish a 100 and something I was hoping to replicate at this year’s Superior 100. Just to be able to run the majority of the last twenty miles of Superior 100 would be a new experience for me.I trained through the winter for a failed flu-ridden 150 bike attempt at Tuscobia (dropped at 30 miles with a fever, vomiting, and a splitting headache), and then a 52 mile DNF at Arrowhead (I wasn’t prepared to pull sled through a snow storm, and I extend my utmost respect to those 7 men who did). I have learned to take the falling short with the successes, and no longer let this sport so narrowly define who I am. I am so much more than that.
So I trained hard all spring with the Superior 100 in mind. I ran the Superior 50K, and then got scorched at the Afton 50K. With all of the strength training I had been doing over the past 18 months, along with added distance running and changes to my diet, I had gained a lot of weight in the spring which can become problematic for me at the 100 mile distance. The week prior to Afton 50K, I weighed in at 233lbs, which had me nervous about Superior 100. I ran 40 to 60 miles per week and biked a lot over the summer. Most of my running was on gravel roads and on trails at Afton and William O’Brien State Parks. In May, I rode the 110 mile Minnesota Ironman in the St. Croix Valley with my friends Jeffrey Swainhart and Paul Hasse (these were the first road bike miles of the year). I followed that up in June with a blistering (for me) 135 mile road ride around Lake Pepin with Storkamp, Swainhart, Ripka, and a few other guys that were very strong riders. We averaged around 17MPH when moving.On the Friday of Voyageur weekend, I enjoyed a 50 mile training run at Afton in the July heat (85 degrees) with my good friends Zach Pierce and Joel Button. We ran two 17 mile extended race loops, and a third 16 mile loop in 14 hours total elapsed time, including car breaks. Our running pace was 4MPH-ish. Zach and I did the entire distance and felt really good at the end. This was encouraging and gave me confidence that if I paced myself at Superior, I would be just fine. Plus it would be much cooler on race day… right? The Monday after the Afton 50 mile, I rode 103 miles on the 9:Zero:7 fatbike from Marine to the Minneapolis Lakes and back. I was content with the first 80 of those miles, and the last 23 were brutal. The following Saturday at Decorah’s Nordic Fest, I ran the Elvelopet 15K in 1:17 and threw a 100 pound rock 25ish feet, and I was pretty damned tired.
Usie of Zach Pierce and Jason Husveth finishing up an Afton 50 Mile training run. July 2013.
The month of August was spent focused on training lightly and trying to lose 10 or so pounds before the 100 mile. I succeeded at training lightly. I mostly failed at losing the weight (I weighed in at 229 the night before Superior 100). I ran and walked moderate distances (5 to 8 miles) at night during the week. Amy and I travelled up to the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) three times in August to run sections of the 100 mile course. We ran Sawbill to Temperance (backwards with regard to the race route), then Silver Bay to Tettegouche out and back (20 miles), and finally Crosby Manitou to Sugarloaf out and back (20 miles, with Storkamp and his Scott Jurek nipple vest). I believe these runs were essential training for my 2013 race, plus they were a hell of a lot of fun (thanks Amy!). Race week had arrived before I knew it, and I will admit that I was nervous about my odds this year. Add to it the record high temps forecasted for race day(s), and I knew I would have to be smart about pacing myself if I had any hope of finishing. In past years I have burned up on the first day and DNF’d. Yes, I am that guy that took 7 hours to get through the 9 mile Crosby to Sugarloaf section in 2009, 6AM 'til 1PM on Saturday. Our failures can be our greatest teachers.
|Jason Husveth and John Storkamp at the Crosby Manitou Gorge Crossing. August 2013.|
Pre-Race:I rode north with my good friend Joe Boler. We left the Twin Cities around 10AM on Thursday and arrived at the pre-race location in the early afternoon. Joe kept exclaiming how chilly it was. I made it clear that if he kept it up, I might have to smack him. Joe and I played frisbee to keep loose while we waited for the pre-race to begin. It was nice to have all of my drop bags figured out and packed ahead of time, a solid plan for a pace, and plenty of time to relax and stretch before the pre-race briefing. I met up with Amy after the briefing, and we headed north to the cabin in Tofte to meet up with the Pierces. I was in bed by 10PM and I slept like a bear. I have never slept so well before a 100.
Race Start:One of the reasons I really wanted to run this year was because of the record field; 205 registered and 178 starters on race day. My first attempt at the Superior 100 was in 2001, the weekend after 9-11; there were 60 or so starters and 37 finishers that year (I was not one of them, DNF’d at 68 miles). I was looking forward to running the 2013 race with the usual suspects: Zach Pierce, Lynn and Daryl Saari, Dallas Sigurdur, John Taylor, Aaron Buffington, Dan Laplante, Marcus Taintor, Edward Sandor and The Clan, Joe Boler, Chris Scotch, Matt Maxwell, Maria Barton, Greg Allen, Rick Bothwell, Scott Mark, Susan Donnelly, and Stuart Johnson… as well as meeting a bunch of new people. I was so glad to see Julie Berg back in the mix! And the race start this year was packed. I soaked up the energy from the extra large field. I forgot to check in, but Amy checked me in before the MIA roll call and official start. The weather was warm, 70F or so, and the air was humid, and that was just going to get more oppressive before it got better. After receiving final instructions from the Wild Dog, we were off at 8:02AM.
Do No Harm:This was my mantra for the first 25 miles of the race. Do No Harm. From Gooseberry to Split Rock, to Beaver Bay, and Silver Bay; just cover these 25 miles like nothing has happened. That was the plan and the goal, and I repeated this mantra to myself, silently and aloud, throughout the first 25 miles. I ran the first few miles with Bill Gengler, catching up on things and talking about inventions, patents, and wetland restoration. But Bill’s too fast for me to keep up with and I ultimately fell into a comfortable pace with Zach Pierce, as we had planned. I was amazed at the sheer amount of people all queued up at the climbs along the Split Rock River. This might have been frustrating for me in past years, but this year the train of runners just helped keep my pace easy and reasonable and in accordance with the plan. We arrived at the Split Rock Aid Station a little ahead of schedule but no worse for the wear. At Split Rock, the lines of runners started to dissipate as some were in and out quickly and others stayed a while. Zach and I were climbing out of the aid station in short order and on our way to Beaver Bay.
The stretch between Split Rock and Beaver Bay is a good 10 miles, and the temperatures were not yet hot. There was actually some cloud cover which protected us from the sun. I was eating and drinking and moving along fine with Zach. We joked about this being the section we usually catch up with Daryl Saari (yes Daryl, humor at your expense), but that was not the case this year (we caught him a bit later, zing!). I was carrying a 24oz ultimate direction hand held and a 70oz camelback. I can clip the empty bottle(s) on my camelback when they are emptied, and I drink them first since they get warm before the bladder does. Although the temps were rising, I was drinking and taking salt and eating 2 GUs an hour. We arrived at Beaver Bay around 1:00PM or 5 hours elapsed. Coming into Beaver Bay aid station, I could start to see the shock of the SHT on the faces of a handful of runners. This trail is no joke. The real deal. Let’s face it, you have got to be strong to even show up to the start of this race. It is very easy to unleash all of that strength onto this trail in the first 20 miles. It’s difficult to restrain, to be a Peaceful Warrior. Do No Harm.
Zach Pierce along the ridge leading to Split Rock Aid Station.
The section from Beaver Bay to Silver Bay is a relatively short one. I was tempted to drop the handheld for this section and just use the camelback. But Amy was there, and she helped me fill the bladder with ice and blue PowerAde, as well as the handheld. I replaced my GUs, grabbed some food, and was off to Silver Bay. There’s a bit of climbing in this short section. The day was starting to heat up, the sky was clearing and the sun was beating down. I reminded myself to pace myself, to eat and drink and keep up on the salts. My pace chart for the entire race was an even 3.33 miles per hour, or 10 miles every 3 hours. I was sticking to that, even though I could do 4MPH for the first 40 miles if I wanted to burn myself up like I had in past years. I stuck to the plan. My legs felt great. My core temperature was down and manageable. I was able to fuel and to sweat and to move. I kept my head down and my pace easy. In this section my neck and chest were mauled by a single fire ant for about 20 minutes until I stopped and checked out what the heck was making my skin burn… that’s a new one for me, and I am certain I've now been attacked by every insect on Earth. I had a little hot spot on my right heel, something to keep an eye on. Do No Harm. I arrived in Silver Bay around 2:30PM, just a bit ahead of schedule. I knew what was coming next. But now it’s ‘only’ a 78 mile race.
Jason Husveth's 3.33MPH Pace Chart for Superior 100. Blue = AM, Red = PM, Yellow = Close to Cutoff
Silver Bay to Tettegouche:I ran this section out and back with my wife Amy a month prior to the race. This is the Bean and Bear Lake section of the course. One of the most beautiful and I believe one of the most difficult 10 mile sections. Of course, by itself this section is none too treacherous. But after 25 miles, in the heat of the first afternoon, with dehydration potentially setting in, pushing a pace, steep climbs, and exposed southwest facing bluffs; this section can chew you up and spit you out. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Not this year though, I was not going to take the bait. Amy was at Silver Bay to fill my bladder with ice and PowerAde. I filled two 24oz handhelds with the same. I had plenty of S!Caps and GUs for this section as well. Allowing an extra 30 minutes in this section will pay dividends later. I was going to take my time to get through it, and I knew it was still going to take a bite out of me. I was prepared to be bitten.
Because I ran this out and back a month prior (and several other times in years prior), I knew what to expect. I knew when to run, and when to take it really easy. Some of the climbs in the first part of this section are straight up. Bouldering. I’ve experienced severe cramping here before, trying to do too much too soon in the race. And severe cramping at 28 miles into a 100 tends to lead to panic and disbelief. This year, I cruised through these 9.9 miles as if I knew each turn, each climb, and each descent. I noticed a few of the walking wounded along this section. One runner was down on the ground grabbing his calves, howling like a wolf. I came up on another man on his cell phone, calling in that his running partner was blacking out on the climbs. Yes, Blacking Out. I ask myself “when did this become normal to me?”. I asked if I could help each time, and when the answer was “no, thank you”, I kept on moving. 3.33MPH. Easy does it. I caught up to Daryl Saari on a lookout at Bean or Bear Lakes, he was having a hard time cooling off. I concurred. After briefly enjoying the lake views and landscape scale panoramas (it’s hot and exposed up there), I kept on moving toward the descent to Palisade Creek, back up a ridgeline, and then down “The Drainpipe”, on to the Raven Rock spur, and ultimately to Tettegouche. I drank all 118oz. of ice/PowerAde I had brought along. Yes, that’s almost a gallon of fluids over 10 miles. I ate 8GUs, and arrived at the Tettegouche aid station a little chewed up, but definitely not spit out.
At Tettegouche, Amy promptly refilled my bladder with ice and PowerAde, as well as the two handhelds. I had grabbed some turkey and cheese wraps she made for me, ate some rice, and re-upped my S!caps. I forgot to replenish my GUs here, which would be an important mistake. I was bummed to see my friend Joe Boler at this aid station, under a space blanket and out of the race. He barked at me to ‘get out of the aid station’, and I replied ‘maybe I should refill my water first’. Joe can be ornery, but he means well. I believe I left the Tettegouche Aid Station (Mile 35) around 6PM, 10 hours into the race. 3.33MPH pace.
While at the Tettegouche Aid Station, my mind was focused on getting baptized in the Baptism River which is less than a mile out of the aid station, down some wooden stairs. I met up with Dale Humphrey there, and he joined me for a brief swim. I was sitting in the ice cold river, cleaning off and cooling down, as other runners passed by over the bridge. One runner exclaimed, with tongue in cheek, that lying in the river might be cheating… I assured him it wasn’t. Past experience has assured me that my time spent in this river in late afternoon pays dividends for me down the trail, and this year was no exception.
After 15 minutes in the Baptism, I could feel my core cooled down and was ready to go. I spent 5 minutes drying and prepping my feet and packing up. 20 minutes well spent. I headed down the trail, feeling renewed.
Tettegouche to County Road 6:
In past years I have done this section entirely in the light of day. That wasn’t the plan for this year, and that wasn’t going to happen. I have only run this section a half dozen times before, and I quickly realized that I forgot how much climbing was involved here. I brought my 118oz of fluid along, and was focusing on drinking, and eating, and moving. I realized that I had forgotten to bring 6 to 8 GUs that I should have consumed through this 8.6 mile section. I had eaten some food at the aid station and I had brought along two small wraps that Amy had prepared (thanks Amy!). I was probably going to get behind on my calories but the PowerAde I had in my pack and bottles would help. I focused on moving steady. I was now completely by myself. I had not seen Zach in many hours, even though he was probably only a few miles back. I had passed Dale a mile into this
|Jason Husveth swimming in the Baptism River at Tettegouche with Dale Humphrey. Photo Scott Mark.|
Section at the County Road 1 crossing. He was nauseous from an antibiotic medication he had taken. I passed a few other runners who were nauseous and/or dehydrated. I kept on moving. I figured this section would take me close to 3 hours, especially with night fall. I stayed positive. I knew this section had lots of twists and turns and views to the lake that would trick you into thinking you were close to the cliffs that overlook County Road 6. I knew the last 3 miles of this section well. And I knew I wasn’t even close. It was hot and muggy in the woods. Oppressive. There was no wind. Not a puff. Even up on the cliffs. Nothing. I drank plenty of liquid calories, and I rationed my solid food. I thought about Arrowhead, about dragging 40 pounds of sled for 135 miles in sub zero weather. This wasn’t too bad. I thought about my wife and my dogs and how blessed I am. I would be to the cliffs that look over County Road 6 shortly after nightfall. I turned on my headlamp that I had carried from the start (100 lumen Black Diamond). I scaled the cliffs and descents and the last climb to the ridge top and descended down to County Road 6. It was dark and hot in the woods, and just a few degrees cooler out on the road. From the race start, I was looking forward to night fall and the falling temps that typically follow. I now knew that wasn’t going to be the case. I would have to make the best of it, and I was glad that I took it easy the first 25 miles. I have a few Pepto chew tabs that I packed, and I am glad to take them as they take the edge off my now churning stomach.
I arrived at the County Road 6 Aid Station around 8:45PM. It was packed with runners, crew, and volunteers. I shined my light on myself as I arrived, and Amy picked me out of the crowd. We were stationed at the east end of the aid station. I sat on a boulder. I changed my socks and fixed my feet the best I could. Both heels were now blistering deep under the pads. I duct taped them. Amy gave me plenty to eat. Rice (Arrowhead food of choice). Wraps. Twizzlers. She refilled my water, all 118oz were coming with me again. My stomach was turning. I ate some warm mashed potatoes and some soup broth that I would later throw up. I switched over to my 200 lumen Black Diamond head lamp, and changed my shirt, still sleeveless and light weight. I packed an ultralight Salomon jacket, but I knew I wouldn’t need it. Wishful thinking, I suppose. I repacked my 100 lumen light as backup (or someone else might need it). I changed my shorts in the dark. I made sure that I had everything I would need from Amy until Sugarloaf or Cramer Road. Amy and I had agreed that she would go home and sleep this year while I made my way solo through the night. I left the County Road 6 Aid Station (43 miles) shortly after 9PM, 13 hours had elapsed. I was focused only on trying to keep moving, cool off, and get my digestion working again. I remind myself to take salts even though it’s dark and I am sick of salts. My legs are good. My head is sharp. My attitude is positive. I am right on schedule. And I am free.
Threading The Needle:
Having run Superior 100 a few times now, I have come to think about County Road 6 (Mile 43) to Cramer Road (Mile 77) as “Threading The Needle”. So much can go right or wrong in the first day of the race. But I try to pay no mind to the first day, and just make it to County Road 6 around nightfall. When the first day is behind me, it’s behind me and now it’s time to focus on the most challenging part of the race (in my opinion). These nighttime mid-sections, County Road 6 to Finland to Sonju Lake Road to Crosby Manitou, the dreaded Gorge, to Sugarloaf, to Cramer Road… these are the sections that require extreme mental focus and physical endurance for me. I find that if I can thread myself through the eye of this needle, I am on very familiar trail on the other side. But there is little margin for error and things can go awry in a matter of a few miles. If I can make it to Cramer Road still moving, I can shut the mind completely off and finish the race. And this year I would be running this portion of the race mostly solo, with the exception of chance encounters and conversations with fellow racers and their crew.
County Road 6 to Finland:
Man it’s hot. It’s 10PM and it’s 75F, not a puff of wind, and the humidity is like a blanket. I can barely get myself to drink. I remove my shirt for the first time in the race and wear my camelback bareback. This will increase my risk of chaffing, but I have to cool off. I dump a water bottle on my head and clip it to my pack. It’s hot, my stomach is churning, I throw up some broth and potatoes but keep the rest down. I take my last two Pepto chew tabs. I am on the move, solo. No pacer. No designated crew for the night. I pass and I am passed by groups of twos and threes. I spend some time with Paul from Illinois, and we talk about Ozark 100 which we both have run. This section, despite being hot and humid, seems to pass by relatively quickly. I arrive at Finland, Mile 51.2, around 11:30PM. I am looking for TUMS or Pepto and Mary Pramann (bless her) has two TUMS for me. That helps. I am surprised to see Edward Sandor lying on a cot, under a blanket. Says his stomach has quit. I understand. I tell him I am confident he will rise from the ashes and wish him the best… I eat a few things, refill my water bottles (pack bladder is still full of blue PowerAde that I have not been drinking), and head out on my way into the dark.
Finland to Sonju Lake:
The most important part about Finland to Sonju Lake is getting the hell out of Finland. Don’t hang out, don’t think about being ‘half way’. Just get what I need, and leave around 12:30AM. I headed out from Finland by myself. I have been on this section many times for racing and training, and it’s a lot of mild ups and downs. I like the dark and the solitude of the bubble of light I am travelling in. There’s no distractions. The Spring Peepers are peeping. It’s warm and humid and they love it. I will make the best of it. Somewhere in this section I change the 4AA’s in my 200 lumen, because I was too cheap to put fresh batteries in prior to the race start. Now my light is much brighter again. That’s better. I don’t remember much of this section except focusing on moving. 3.33MPH or 10 miles every 3 hours. That’s the plan. I stick to it. I drink water when I can. Take salts when I must. Choke down a GU every 30 mins. This trail is relentless. So am I.
Sonju Lake to Crosby Manitou:
I do not recall what time I arrived at Sonju Lake Road. It’s the middle of the night. Probably 2:30AM or there about. I am travelling solo. I get in. Refill some water. Eat a few things. I get out. This next section is relatively short, peaceful, and full of roots. Is so hot and humid, the rocks and boulders are sweating. I make my way back into the dark. In past races I have hallucinated a lot in the dark. At Superior hallucinations are the occasional treat. At Arrowhead they’re guaranteed. Last fall at Ozark everything I looked at, limestone rocks, leaves, roots, tree bark… all these things instantly morphed into human skulls. Not scary, but pretty hilarious. When the hallucinations started this year at Superior, I was pleasantly surprised. As it turns out, all the rocks, leaves, roots, and bark were morphing into… smiley faces. I had to laugh. I thought to myself that I have come a long way, and many of my daemons have been exorcised. The first few times I took on this race, my daemons just about tore me to pieces. In the black of night, I am heading for the Crosby Manitou Aid Station where I have a large drop bag and plans for a late night swim.
Crosby Manitou to Sugarloaf:
I arrive at Crosby Manitou Aid Station around 4:00AM. 63 Miles, 20 hours total elapsed time. I am instantly greeted by my sister from another mother, Lynn Saari (she’s tough as nails), and Dallas Sigurdur, my Canadian brother and fellow winter warrior. They’ve dropped from the race a ways back. But what the hell?!... they figure they’ll just crew their friends all through the night in into the next day. That’s the kind of people they are, the kind of friends this sport has blessed me with. My feet are mash. About 1/8 inches of my heel pads are coming off. Lynn sits me down in her chair while Dallas goes and finds me some food to eat. We work from my drop bag. We peel off my socks, and we strip all of the duct tape off my heels. We clean my feet and lower legs. We re-apply fresh duct tape and new Injinji socks. I cram my blistered and mashed feet back into my Brooks Ghosts, which are now showing signs of falling apart after a long summer of training. Lynn tracks down some TUMS for me. I find a package of 8 Pepto chewable tablets that I happened to have placed in my drop bag (I feel like I have won the lottery). I deliberate with Dallas about whether or not to go swimming in the river gorge. John Storkamp, Amy, and I swam in the river gorge in daylight a few weeks back while training on this section and the water was frigid. But my feet are mashed and now re-taped and dry with new socks. Failing to cool down my core in this overnight heat could end my race or make for one miserable finish; I was having a hard time eating and digesting food. Failing to take care of my feet would surely end my race. I decided with Dallas that I would not swim. Lynn gave me Honey Stinger bites from her own drop bag (these later save my ass, thanks Lynn!). She gave me all kinds of gels as well, and I packed GU’s from drop bag too. I changed shirts. I packed a fresh small towel… just in case I might decide to go swimming after all. I headed out of Crosby no later than 4:30AM. I knew from experience that this section was going to take me at least 3 hours and more like 3:30, especially if I went swimming.
I made my way along the first mile or so of the gorge section. This runs along the river before it drops rapidly into the Manitou River gorge. I start my descent and I note how relatively good my quads feel at this point in the race. I am hot. I am nauseous. I make it down to the river crossing with little trouble. And I am faced with the choice… cross the bridge and climb out of the gorge overheated, or find a way to get in the river while preserving the tape on my feet. I choose the latter. I climb down the boulders to the river’s edge and hatch a plan. I check my watch, and say out loud: “I am crossing that bridge out of here in 15 minutes, no more”. I remove my shoes. I remove my socks. I carefully remove the duct tape from each foot and lay it sticky side up on the rocks. I put my headlamp on a boulder and point it into the rolling frigid pool below. I immerse myself in the Manitou River.
man·i·tou or man·i·tu:
1. In Algonquian religious belief, a supernatural power that permeates the world, possessed in varying degrees by both spiritual and human beings.
“It’s cold”. That’s the first time I have thought that in days. I am cold and I have made the right decision. I sit in the water with just my eyes and top of my head exposed. I can feel my innards cool, my kidneys relax, and my nausea subsides. Steam is rising from me as the cold fresh water surrounds me. Runners’ headlamps cross the bridge overhead like scenes from Close Encounters. As I relax in the frigid water, I realize I am not alone. Two American toads float by my nose, staring at me with amphibious wonder. They are enjoying their 4AM ice bath with a massive steaming Hungarian beast. 10 minutes pass by, I need to get out but I decide 5 more minutes. I crawl out of the water, dry my feet, re-tape, apply socks and shoes. I am on the move again, over the bridge in 20 minutes elapsed time and I am climbing out of the gorge. With my core cooled, I am able to eat and digest again, and with that I am better able to fuel my forward motion. I believe there needs to be a few toads included on next year’s race shirt. I will have a word with the race director.
Sometimes in the middle of the night on a long run, I am inspired with new insight. I meditate on the movement of running, or whatever it is my body is doing. I am conscious of the Earth pulling on my legs, I realize that distance running is actually playing with gravity. I concentrate on the Earth’s gravitational pull on my legs and my hips, and torso. I am no longer focused on getting somewhere. I am playing with this massive Earth and its energy. I can feel the Earth pull the pain and stiffness from my body. I give this sensation space inside of me for the rest of the journey, and it is rejuvenating. I am present and peaceful and grateful for the experience.
I think about my brother Gary throughout the night. He took his life in 2011 after a long struggle with the same things I have struggled with and have now let go. I feel Gary’s presence during these races. Superior, Ozark, Arrowhead… he is with me on these journeys and he enjoys the freedom that I have found. I am grateful for him, the lessons I have learned from my brother, and his gifts that he continues to give to me. Occasionally I speak out loud to him. Occasionally he speaks back to me through the chatter of ravens, the blue jays, and the rumble of rivers.
I climb out of the gorge, encountering fellow runners along the way. Some are stalled (lying down), others are moving slowly but steadily. I have slept on exposed slabs of bedrock in this section in past years, right before sunrise. This year, I keep moving. I lose track of time and distance but I reach a half-way landmark that I know. Twilight has come and my mind is foggy. My eyes are crossed. I travel with Stephanie Hoff from Somerset, WI and her two pacers. We joke around. I tell her she’s got this. It’s her first 100. I lose track of where I am. I have crossed the Caribou River a few miles ago, but don’t realize it. We come up on the little covered bridge, and then the bench, and I know we are a mile from the aid station. I am relieved. I run it in to Sugarloaf, hoping to see Amy for the first time in 30 miles. I arrive at Sugarloaf Aid Station around 8:15AM. 72miles, 24:15 hours total elapsed time.
Sugarloaf to Cramer Road:
When I arrive at Sugarloaf, I am hoping that Amy will be there as we discussed almost 11 hours ago as I left County Road 6 around 9PM. At this point, I can’t remember what I said or what arrangements we had agreed on. I just have it in my head that she will be there. Someone says “your wife was here earlier but she left to go take a nap”, which I knew didn’t make much sense because she had gone home to sleep at night. Oh well. I look for my drop bag. It’s not there. Also doesn’t make sense (turns out I dropped it in the wrong aid station bag at the pre-race). It’s daylight. I am so mentally foggy and tired my eyes are crossed and I can’t focus. I refill my water. I grab some aid station food and drink some ice cold Coke. I was hoping to see Amy and my heels are so badly blistered I was hoping to change shoes. Well that’s not going to happen here. Deal with it. Ok, done. I ask if anyone can get a text message out? Yes? Ok, please send this message to this phone number (Amy’s emergency contact phone number is printed right on my race number, a simply brilliant idea!). Text: “Jason left Sugarloaf at 8:30AM”. And so I did.
I head on down the trail. It’s daylight and my head is swimming. My legs are fine. My stomach is starting to settle. It’s showing signs of cooling off a bit. The air is moving, and it’s finally less humid. We are getting back closer to Lake Superior now, as well as the Cross and Temperance Rivers. That should help cool things off. I take a NODOZ for the first time all race. It rights the ship immediately. I have plenty of GUs from Crosby Manitou Aid Station to get me through to Cramer. I will see Amy there for sure. Change shoes. Perhaps sit and close my eyes for a few minutes? This gives me my next goal to focus on. I am moving again, picking up the pace.
Somewhere along this section, I meet up with Kevin Langton, from Mankato, Minnesota. He’s tall, lean, and wild eyed and moving along well with trekking poles. Kevin and I team up for this section, talking all the way. I immediately feel like I’ve met him before, but I haven’t. Turns out that after 20 or 30 minutes of swapping stories, we are living parallel lives and its uncanny some of the things we have in common. Its Kevin’s first Superior 100 and I believe he’s got this one by the tail. We take turns pacing each other but are focused on enjoying the moment and the experience. Fellow warriors sharing a moment along the space/time continuum. It’s cooling off and the day is perfect. And I have a great new friend to share it with.
We arrive at the Cramer Road Aid Station at approximately 10AM. 77.2Miles in 26 hours. Amy is there to greet me with everything I could possibly need. As is always the case, my Spirit is lifted just by her presence. I change out my socks and clean my feet. My heels are hamburger. Or peeling strips of bacon. Take your pick. I ask for duct tape, and one of the volunteers, I think a Ham Radio operator, goes to his truck and brings me a roll. I re-tape my heels. Re-apply a fresh pair of Injinji toe-socks. And slip into my Hokas. Amy washed my clothes over night. I put on a fresh favorite shirt. Ahhh yes, that’s so much better. I eat everything I can get my hands on, including scrambled eggs from the aid station (thank you!) My core is cooling, I am waking up, and my digestion is improving. Perhaps I hear a rumble of the diesel engine firing up?... it’s going to be a good day. Amy refills all of my bottles and bladder with blue PowerAde and ice.
Cramer Road to Temperance River:
Kevin and I leave the Cramer Road Aid Station together, around 10:20AM. We have over 11 hours enjoy the final marathon distance, and we will. I realize now that if I keep my focus on time and pace, I could potentially PR for this course today. I quickly dismiss this idea as the focus of my day, and decide to focus the next six to eight hours on enjoying the journey and enjoying the feeling of actually running a good portion of the last 20 miles of the Superior 100. I was not going to let a pace and the clock (past and future) ruin the experience of each of these present moments.
Somewhere shortly outside of Cramer Road, I spot another location of a state-threatened sedge species (Carex novae-angliae, New England Sedge) that I have been studying for several years now. I make a note of its location. It’s right along the trail.
|Jason with state-threatened Carex novae-angliae, New England Sedge, found during training run.|
In short order, Kevin and I come upon the rumble of the Cross River. Like every year, I am amazed at how long the trail parallels the Cross before we finally cross the bridge to the other side. I am glad for Kevin’s company. We are moving along with a purpose. We cross the Cross River and we climb up and up, approaching the final drop down to the Temperance Aid Station road.
Kevin and I arrive at Temperance together, around 1PM, letting out a loud WHOOO!!! upon our arrival. We agree that we are going to take a short time here, and head out together again. My feet are feeling much better in the Hokas, and there is no need to replace the duct tape on my heels right now. Amy refills my water bottles and bladder, and gives me rice/butter/salt and other solid food. I replenish my GUs and salts. I am ready to go. Before leaving Temperance Aid Station, I ask Joel Button if he’d be willing to pace me in the next short section. He agrees, and he will meet me at Sawbill with Amy as my crew. I am looking forward to having this time with Joel. I track down Kevin under the aid station tent, and we head out down along the Temperance River.
Temperance River to Sawbill:
I know this section like the back of my hand, and every section from here to the race finish at Lutsen. I’ve hiked and run the Temperance to Sawbill trail section dozens of times. We make the most of the well traveled and packed trail section in the state park along the river. It is cooling off in the early morning and a consistent breeze if forming off of Lake Superior. The humidity is dropping, and with it my energy is returning. I am able to eat and fuel a running pace. Kevin and I run through the river section, cross the bridge, and then run and hike back up the river. I am picking up speed. Kevin is keeping up, and then we start climbing the several ‘false climbs’ on our way to Carlton Peak. It’s steep and hot, sunny, and exposed here. I do my best to balance an aggressive pace with staying cool, hydrated, and fueled. I climb and climb and climb, passing runners along the way, including Stephanie Hoff. She’s still moving well and I remind her that all she needs to do is keep moving and she’s got this. She laughs as she boulders up the side of Carlton. My legs feel good, my feet are holding together, and now my stomach is processing fuel. The light gray exposed granite of Carlton Peak reflects the heat of Grandfather Sun. I overdo it here but get over the top of the Carlton Peak ascent, and I know what’s on the other side. Cool shade. Gradual downhills. Boardwalks through shaded swamps. I take it easy and recoup. I am thinking about the upcoming road crossing and then the short stint to the Sawbill Aid Station. I haven’t seen Kevin for 30 minutes or so. I lost him on the climb. I arrive at Sawbill Aid Station. Joel is there to pick me up. I eat, replenish supplies, and I am out of there in less than 5 minutes. I tell Joel I need to chill out for a bit, and we head off power hiking up the SHT and into the woods at the base of Britton Peak. We leave Sawbill around 3:30PM, 91 miles at 31:30 total elapsed time.
Sawbill to Oberg:
I am enjoying my time with Joel. Here’s a guy that is just plain good from top to bottom, inside and out. Good energy. Generous. A brother that I am glad to know. We focus on moving as fast as I can. But I am feeling the burn from the past section, maybe I went a little too hard? There’s only 10 or 12 miles left though, so I need to strike the balance between chilling out and being smart and leaving it all out on the trail. Joel has an objective perspective, something I lack from going solo for most of the race, and he encourages me to focus more on power hiking and less on a running stride. This makes sense, but I could not see it on my own. At this point, I can move almost as fast and climb just as fast while power hiking, with about half the effort. We are probably moving around 3.33MPH or 17 minute miles. Joel likes to ask questions about the Boreal Forest and ecology, plant species and plant community ecology. And I am glad to spend our time talking about that. We cross a bridge over a creek, there’s a carved wood sign “Frederick’s Creek” or something like that, and then there’s a long stretch of threatened New England Sedge again. I point them out to Joel (he takes my word for it). It’s a big population. I make a note of the location. We keep moving. We head up to the “Raspberry Hillside”, and I tell Joel that’s about half way. We are mostly power hiking for the first 2 or 3 miles. We hit the side of Leveaux overlook, and Joel says we are getting close. We start running the long downhill toward the Onion River. We cross the river and onto the gravel path through the spruce and balsam fir. I know we are getting close to the aid station. We run that last half mile section fast and it opens up to the Oberg parking lot. We arrive at Oberg at 5:05PM or so, 96 miles in 33:05 total elapsed time.
Oberg to Finish:
Joel and I arrive at the Oberg Aid Station in good form. I am glad to have shared these 5 miles with him. I am grateful that he would do that for me on a moment’s notice. Here I am greeted by my favorite pacer, and Amy’s ready to go. This next section I know like its my back yard. And I am moving well, this is the first Superior 100 where I have my quads intact for the last section, and I am able to climb, run the flats, and scale the downhills equally well. My feet are a little f’d up, but that’s to be expected after 95 miles of rocks and roots. After a brief 5 or 10 minutes at Oberg we are heading out around 5:15PM. We bring headlamps just to be safe, should shit get ugly for some currently unforeseeable reason. I enjoy this time fully with Amy leading the way. The Superior 100 has played a large part in forging our relationship (that’s an even longer story for another day), and I appreciate every aspect of that now as we run and hike together. There have been other years when finishing this race where I had been more focused on time and pace and finishing position, and I see clearly that such a focus is meaningless and false for me now. For me, Superior is no longer about that.
The last section of this race, when compared to many other sections, is very run-able. The terrain is mild. The footing is good and non-technical in most parts. There are only two climbs worth mentioning really, and those are the foothill ascent and stairs of Moose Mountain and then the switchbacks of Mystery Mountain. We make easy going of Moose Mountain. I put my head down drop it into the low gear and do not stop until we are at the top. I am gassed at the top but we keep moving along the ridge top. We make it to the steep descent off of Moose, and in past years I have hobbled my way down this hill bitching and moaning the entire way. A real drama-fest. Sorry Tom Burr, that you had to witness such a pathetic display. But this time I am grateful for the improved perspective and intact quads that carry me down to the white cedar swamp base of the hill, as if nothing has happened. We move onto the Mystery switchbacks, and we are picking up steam. My lungs are burning from the 33+ hour workout. I realize I have probably burned over 20,000 calories on this 100+ mile jaunt. And I am hungry. Stay back, or I might eat you.
We pass the lookout with a view of the lodge and the race finish. Just two more miles. We are heading toward ‘the campground’ and then the final descent on the SHT to the gravel jeep trail. We pick up a 50 miler and use him for a pacer. We catch up to Susan Donnelly, who ground out this 100 after finishing a 100 less than a week ago in Europe. We wish her well and keep moving. We make it to the campground, and then descend to the jeep trail. Once on the gravel jeep trail, the adrenaline kicks in. We start running. We cross the rumbling Poplar River. We climb the last climb on the gravel. We dump out onto the asphalt turn-around. I see Joe Boler and Jayna Tilstra, and they are cheering me on. We are running at an 8min pace. I am filled with a mix of extreme gratitude and yearning to get this done and a contrasting desire to savor every moment. I exclaim to Amy “this is one of the best feelings in the world… finishing this race!” And she says “yes, it is!” because she knows that feeling. We run full stride as fast as I can toward the finish. Up the rise toward the lodge, then back around along the pool. Someone yells “nice finish!” from the balcony, and that just fuels the fire. We sprint along the pool, and I try not to wipe out on the last turn, and we cross the line. I am greeted by many good friends and fellow travelers. It’s great to be done. I think this is the first year I can remember finishing Superior 100 and not saying “I will never do that again!!!” I will surely be back to enjoy this journey again.
|Amy and Jason at the finish of the 2013 Superior 100, in 35:00:31|
A special thank you to my wife Amy for all of her love and support every day and for crewing and pacing during races. Thank you to Zach Pierce and Joel Button for training with me and getting me ready. Time spent training with people like you is the true reward of these endeavors. Gratitude to John Storkamp for reminding me always to embrace the freak of nature that I am and to capitalize on my strengths. Also thanks to Team Vas, especially my sister Lara and her husband Karl for helping me figure this shit out and in the process, helping me to heal myself. A special thank you to Tom Burr for past pacing, friendship, and sage advice, as well as Nancy Griffith for her unwavering support. Thanks to all of the volunteers that make this race possible. Congratulations to all of my ultrarunning friends who took on the 2013 Superior races, regardless of the distance or outcome. I really appreciate your friendship and the privilege of doing this with all of you.