I hadn't thought about it when I scheduled the op for right after Bighorn but it turned out that my return the trails would coincide with the annual Beta run on the Superior Hiking Trail. Perfect timing! The Beta run was originally conceived as a test run for the Sawtooth 100 mile race directed by Larry Peterson. I first joined the group up here in 2008 when I was training for that race - my one and only 100 to date - and it was a really great opportunity to share the trail with some more experienced ultrarunners. It has equally become a wonderful weekend to enjoy with friends.
Friday morning myself, Maria, Holly and Jim met at Lutsen and ran north to Cascade River State Park. It was a beautiful 15 mile run. I had run the first 6 miles to Caribou Trail back in May but the next section to Cascade was new for me. And what a pretty section it was - very cool to be able to see both the vast inland forest and the great lake at the same time from several ridges along the trail. After a very short run last Sunday and then 4 miles on Wednesday I was thrilled to be able to go that far with no foot issues. Well, I shouldn't say no foot issues - my feet were definitely feeling the trail, but the ankle felt good. The tibialis tendon is slightly tender just above the ankle bone but it was exactly the same before and after the weekend so I figure it's just going to take a bit of time for the tendon to fully recover from being disturbed during the surgery.
We took our time enjoying the fabulous weather, plenty of hiking and numerous raspberry picking stops! The only bummer was Maria's stomach wasn't cooperating. After picking up cars back in Lutsen we stopped off across the road for a dip in the Lake - found the perfect spot on the beach at the mouth of the river where the warm water meets the icy cold waves. Back at the house later we caught up with everyone else and started to make a (small) dent in the mountain of food that had accumulated.
Saturday morning we set off for the Caribou wayside to join the trail at around mile 68 of the race with some people planning to finish at Temperance and others going further north, some all the way to Lutsen (~34 miles). Others still, opting for a more interesting route. Suffice it to say that if you see any signs during Sawtooth that read "Flags left, Lake right" you can assume they are meant for Eric. I fell into a nice relaxed pace with the Friday crew, with Tom and Jason always within "hearing" distance... :)
It was another beautiful day, getting pretty warm in the unshaded sections. Jason and Amy had kindly put out water the night before so we had a quick stop a few miles in at Sugarloaf and a refill a few hours later at Cramer. A fully stocked aid station greeted us at Temperance in the form of Tom & Nancy's car - coke and corn chips are hard to beat after 16 miles on the trail! Those of us who were continuing along headed off towards Carlton at a nice clip - being led by Jason after I took us off trail! The hike up Carlton was gorgeous - it's amazing how much fun it can be when you're not mid-race. Holly and I decided to call it a day at Sawbill. I was really enjoying being out on the trail but once I sat down on the grass for a few minutes as we refilled water I knew that "quitting while ahead" was the smart thing to do. Jim, Tom and Jason headed off towards Oberg and then onto Lutsen to complete a very nice training run... I guess a 50K+ could be considered a taper for Voyageur??
After a dip in the lake the legs felt somewhat refreshed but I decided to abandon plans for a Sunday morning run. 37 miles on the SHT is good enough on any weekend and probably more than enough after a month off. I am thrilled to be feeling good as I try to get back into some sort of reasonable race shape in time for Where's Waldo. Though I am sure the endless chocolate, cookies and cupcakes will do their part to counteract that. Tomorrow. Tomorrow will be the start of the end of the over-indulgence.
After a smorgasbord of delicious food Saturday evening, we chilled out on the rocks by the fire (that Holly taught me to how to light). Chatting the night away, watching the starry, starry night, listening to the sound of lapping waves. I make no apology for sounding like a sap. Two days of running the trail with friends, sharing good food and great conversation. Not to mention the humour provided by Mr. Look-It-Up. This is what weekends were made for.