Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"So that's what the trail looks like": 2012 Spring Superior 50k

Kettle Moraine 100 is coming in a few short days, so it's time to memorialize what was my 2012 Spring Superior 50k "race" before being on the hook for yet another race report.

The Superior Hiking Trail is majestic.  It's beautiful, it's technical, and unless your name is Chris Lundstrom, it will figuratively and literally bring you to your knees (or face, palms, back, or whatever other body part you decide to sacrifice to the trail gods).  In my case, I barrel-rolled off the trail at the top of Moose Mountain after catching my foot on a root before deciding to slow down for the day.

Spring Superior 50k starts where Sawtooth ends, in Lutsen at Caribou Highlands, and goes out-and-back along the last two sections of Sawtooth to Oberg and Briton Peak before capping out at Carlton Peak.  Although I'd been on nearly all of this course at Sawtooth (the exception being the last quarter mile up to the summit of Carlton Peak), I had practically zero recollection of the trail outside of some working knowledge of the aid stations, which isn't all that shocking given the first trip was at hour 30+ of Sawtooth with the hallucinations in full effect.  

Alicia, Andy, and I set up camp at Temperance River State Park and ran to packet-pickup at Caribou Highlands with the rest of the crew before settling in for the night.

Like all of my races, I didn't have much of a strategy going in, and as the race started, I got excited and found myself following Jeremy pretty quick off the bat up Mystery Mountain.  We were hauling.

A bit of elevation at Superior
Right before the race, I'd taken a gel.  On the way up Mystery, I learned that I apparently forgot to cinch up the front pocket on my Salomon pack, and my baggie of gels had fallen out.  I started to worry and imagine what an early calorie deficit would make me feel like towards the end of the race, so, I pushed a little harder to catch up to Jeremy, who was pulling away from me, and stole a gel from his pack.

A line formed on the trip down Mystery, and Jeremy zoomed by off the side of the trail.  I was content to just stay in line, and did, until the way up Moose, where people started passing.  At the top of Moose I took my spill, rolling off the trail and somehow not hurting myself.  Lying on the ground, looking up at the sky, I decided that, with a 100 mile race in just two short weeks, it might be a good idea to slow down.

And just like that, my mood switched, and I was done racing.  From here on, this was a fantastic, beautifully gorgeous training run for Kettle.

I was so happy to get into Oberg and grab some gels.  The weather was slowly heating up, but it wasn't too warm yet, so I didn't need to refill the pack.  I snagged a few cups of water, an s-cap, 2 gels, and moseyed out towards Carlton with a new pal, BJ Knight, in tow.  

I knew of BJ from facebook, but we'd never met.  It was his first ultra, and he chatted about going out too fast.  I told him I knew the feeling.  All through this next section he hung on to my heels, walking when I walked, running when I ran.  I was holding him back a bit, but that might have been a good thing at the moment.

Before I made it to Briton, the leaders, Sam Jurek (no relation to Scott) and Chris Lundstrom flew by on their way back.  At the time, Sam had a minute or so lead on Chris.  Sam hit a bit of a rough patch later in the race, but at this point was flying.  It was pretty amazing to see the pace the leaders were holding, and I cheered on as many people by names as I could on our way into Briton, where I re-filled my pack about half-way and grabbed a gel before BJ and I jetted out towards Carlton.

The climb up Carlton was fantastic.  The weather was heating up, but the trail was mostly shaded and gorgeously technical, and were were running into most of the people I was running with earlier.  I got to see the women's leaders, Becky George and Christi Nowak, both just flying down from Carlton, and then Jeremy close on their heels.

Todd Rowe was stationed at the old turn-around and was snapping pics of people on the way up the added section to the summit of Carlton.  In prior years, the course had ended prior to the summit of Carlton, but John Storkamp is never quite happy with just the advertised distance.  In all seriousness, the trip up to the top of Carlton was more than worth the extra distance, and I summited just shy of 2:45 and began the trip back.  

The way back down from Carlton to Briton was fun, and I was running into everyone, from Alisha Mayer, to Amy Carolan, Jason Husveth, and on and on and on; everyone just a few short minutes behind me.

Pulling into Briton, I made a quick stop at the facilities.  Antsy to get back on the trail, I made another huge mistake leaving Briton, forgetting (or rather neglecting) to refill my pack before BJ and I headed out towards Oberg.  It wasn't but 5 minutes into that section where I sucked the last drops of water out of my pack.  The day just kept getting hotter, and I didn't have any water for the next  5+ miles.  No worries, I knew just what to do; slow down.    

The 5.5 miles between Briton and Oberg ended up taking forever without water.  It wasn't so much that I needed water that was bugging me, but more that I just didn't have it, if that makes any sense.  With temps now in the mid-80s and sunny, I was warming up, so I didn't feel bad letting BJ go as Erica Lensink passed by.

The Oberg aid station was a welcome sight, and I stayed for a minute, having a few glasses of water, some salt, and a gel before hiking out.  A few more people caught up to me here before the downhill to Rollins Creek, including Amy Carolan.  What a doll!  She's always just so darn pleasant, and she looked really strong as she pulled away.

Most everyone I came across, be it a 25k or 50k runner, was having a great time and enjoying the day.  Don't get me wrong, they weren't having an easy time--the trail was hard, and it was warm--but it was gorgeous, and most had a mindset similar to mine and were loving every second of it.  Crossing Rollins Creek, though, there was a 25k runner down by the water.  I stopped to retie my shoe just a bit up the trail, and he came walking up, just complaining about everything.  "The trails in Minneapolis aren't anything like this."  "I can't believe how hard this is."  This guy was definitely stomping all the fun out of the race, and I got away from him as fast as I could.

A bit later, Jason Husveth came motoring by.  I thought about latching on, but was content with the 100-mile pace I had moving along.  The trail really was gorgeous, and, with a full pack of water and a few gels stashed in my pack, I had not a care in the world, and didn't feel like pushing.  I guess that was my Zen moment, there in the woods, moving at that relaxed pace, smiling, taking it all in.  What a fantastic place to be, to just exist.

It wasn't much further up the trail that I ran back into Jason, who was taking a breather and trying to cool down.  "I'm cooking my kidneys," he said, so I offered to douse him with some water--I had plenty to share.  We chatted a bit about how great it was to be out on a day like this, and I wished him luck before taking off.

Then, a few minutes later, I ran back into Eric Forseth, who was still out, armed with his camera, capturing the day.  I ran up to him, then we walked for a bit, chatting about his day and the people he'd seen.  He told me about Alicia's stumble on the trail as he was snapping pictures of her and Andy.  He said she was still smiling afterwards, though, so she must have been ok.

Eric has such a great attitude!  Even though he didn't get to run the race due to an injury, he was having a blast and enjoying every second of his day.  My kind of folk.  But hey, there was a race going on, and I had to get on my way.

On the climb up Mystery, as I was taking a hands on the knees breather, I heard someone yelling behind me, "Quit slacking, Edward!"  I replied, "Quit telling me what to do, Joy!"  "Can you really tell it's me without looking?" she asked.  "I can feel your presence, Joy."

At trail races, Joy Parker is my doppelganger.  She beat me by one spot at Voyageur last year and we seesawed at Sawtooth and Wild Duluth.  At the latter, she finished one spot behind me.  Here, she was on the hammer and easily ran away from me atop Mystery.  There's going to be a "Parker v. Sandor" cooler of beer at the finish of Voyageur.  Hopefully she saves me one ;)

The run down Mystery was a blast!  I kept it nice and relaxed and popped out on the road at an easy clip, content to bring it home, until I heard someone coming up behind me.  I looked, and sure enough, there was Allison, headphones in and on a mission.  I said, "Damnit Allison, you're going to make me run!"  She told me she was on a 20+ minute negative split on the way back, and she looked determined, so I picked up the pace and tried to pull her along to the finish.    

We crossed the finish in 6:14.  The official time has Allison crossing a second in front of me, which is just fine by me.  The finish and the time means a lot more to her, and I'm happy for her.  She ran a great race.

Afterwards, we hung out at the finish, cheered people in, relaxed, and told stories of the day before heading back to camp and cleaning up for a cookout at the Storkamp/Husveth/Pierce cabin and then drinks at the Laplant/Carolan cabin.  This really is a great community of people that run these things.

Even after going out on the trail that morning, it was amazing how little I recognized from Sawtooth on the trip back to Lutsen.  That kind of makes me need to run Sawtooth that much more this fall.  I know the Zumbro course like the back of my hand, but the Sawtooth course is still a stranger to me.

But first I've got Kettle, Black Hills, and Voyageur to tackle.  One step at a time.

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