Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Superior Trail Races

There's nothing like a series of 3 hardcore races on my favourite trail to get me excited about trail running! And even though I wasn't actually racing this year, I was looking forward to the weekend as much as always. It was a long one. A busy one. A memorable one. And most of all, a fun one. I could write pages but given how bad I've been at posting lately I am just going to get my thoughts down and leave it at that. As always, the pictures tell the real story... here are a few but many more can be found at the links posted below.

Don's map is an indication of how much work he puts into this event... (Helen)

Course-marking with Bonnie & Maria on Friday... (Bonnie)

Brian and crew at Silver Bay... (Helen)

Chris arriving into Tettagouche... (Mark)

Vale leaving Tettagouche... (Helen)

The shirt every girl shown own :) Check out the fun website here... (Jeff)

Cooper eyeing up the Baptism River (runners cross the bridge in the background)... (Mark)

All smiles at the finish line! (Mark)

The Races:

The Sawtooth 100M race starts at 8AM Friday, the Superior 50M race at 6AM Saturday and the Moose Mountain Marathon at 8AM Saturday... all are point-to-point so that finishers cross the line at Lutsen sometime Saturday morning / afternoon / evening... it is an awesome finish line and luckily the weather had started to clear by the time most of the finishers got there.

The Weather:

WOW - it rained several inches between nightfall Friday and dawn Saturday... and continued to drizzle for a few more hours. Combined with that foggy conditions in the woods and you can start to appreciate what the 100 milers went through on the toughest sections of the trail. Sonju and Crosby-Manitou are bad enough in the dark! Even though the 50 mile and marathon runners didn't have to content with the downpour they did have to deal with the effects. A pretty wet course made for some tough navigation.

The Action:

It was pretty much happening all over! From Brian leading the way in the 100 miler from the get-go (seriously - take a look at the startline photos - he is already 10 steps ahead of everyone else after 20 seconds!!), to the exchange of the women's lead late in the game, to the awesome course record in the 50 mile and the record number of marathon finishers - it was tough to keep up at times. Especially when cell phone coverege is severely lacking in these parts!

The Winners:

Without exception, every runner should feel like a winner. This year more than ever given the tough conditions. But the top finishers do deserve special mention - Brian Peterson for his incredibly consistent pace throughout the race, only slowing slightly in some of the night time sections when he started to get cold; Sheryl Wheeler, the women's winner who ran the last 10 miles at lightening speed, 47 but showing no signs of it - I want to be like her when I grow up! Vale for her awesome 2nd place finish in her first 100 mile trail race. I don't think anybody smiled as much that whole race! Chris Rubesch for a smokin' hot 50 mile finish and John Horns along with him (in his first 50 miler) - both going under Duke's CR time from last year. In the women's race Arika Hage capped of an awesome first season of ultrarunning. Kirk Walztoni ran a speedy marathon in his first race on this trail while 2nd place finisher Ryan Braun took ~15 minutes off last year's time! Rochelle Wirth added to her resume of wins in the women's race, while Deirdre took 2nd in her first attempt at this distance on the trail. Looking at the results you would hardly guess the conditions were so unfavourable!

The Volunteers:

I was among this awesome group of people for a few days and got to see some of what it takes to put on these races. It's unreal the hard work a core group of people put into the event - Larry, Colleen and their family, Don Clark, Maria Barton, John Storkamp, Joe Lovett, Bonnie Riley to name a few - all of these folks and many others put in long hours preparing for race day, course-marking, setting up/supplying aid stations, manning aid stations, tearing down aid stations, and then when all of that is over going home and cleaning all of the gear. It's pretty incredible. For my part, I had an absolute blast course-marking the first 19 miles with Bonnie and Maria on Thursday, working the Temperance River AS (mile 84.3) for a few hours Friday night / Saturday morning with Holly, Karen and Jeff (Jeff very kindly covered for me when I took off - during the busy hours - to pace Chris to the finish), and then later sweeping from Sawbill to Oberg with Bonnie (and Cooper!). It gave me an insight into the dedication of the folks that you often don't see at the finish line because they are elsewhere still working... As runners, we generally want to be out there on the trail but an equally rewarding and enjoyable way to participate is to volunteer. If you've not done so already this year, please make it a priority to help out at one of the upcoming fall races.

The Pacing:

Woohoo - success! My pacing record ain't so hot but to be fair this year was a little easier as I wasn't running with Chris until the last 18 miles so I was hardly going to let him drop at that point! Not that he would have even considered it. In his first 100 mile race, in his first season of ultra running, in his, ahem, first year of running AT ALL... he sort of did all the work :) It was great to be a part of his race, seeing him at the aid stations during Friday (giving him a hard time for coming into Beaver Bay almost 1 HOUR ahead of plan - though I could tell he'd been having a lot of fun...!), hanging out with his Dad and knowing he was in good hands after mile 50 when I headed off to Temperance River to help get the AS set up. When he came through at around 8AM Saturday morning he was luckily not suffering from the cold having made a smart decision to wear his gortex shell during the night. The rain had eased off quite a bit at this stage and was due to stop completely within the next few hours so I didn't have to worry too much about my gear. Chris refeuled, as Cooper looked on - no doubt bemused by the events of the past 24 hours - and soon we were ready for off. We got warmed up running along the west side of the Temperance River, crossed the bridge and started the long haul up to Carlton Peak. I was impressed by how quick Chris was moving along here but that was nothing compared to the descent! The next section wasn't quite as much fun given how miserably wet and soggy the trail was and those rolling hills are a killer for tired legs. But we made it into Oberg at just under 28 hours on the clock and I knew that despite a painful hip, Chris was on track to finish strong. And that's just what he did. Read his own story here and find out about his St. Jude Children's Hospital campaign.

The People:

More so than any other local race this is THE social event of the year! It was great to see all the usual suspects out there on the trail, and to have time to chat with the volunteers and supporters (many of whom were running the marathon or 50 miler Saturday) at the aid stations throughout the day on Friday and while running / sweeping on Saturday. The fun continued at the finish line Saturday night as we gathered to cheer the runners, all of whom, even those braving a 2nd nightfall on the trail, crossed the line with a smile. And a well deserved sense of accomplishment.

The Visitors:

We always love showing off the Superior Hiking Trail to (sometimes unsuspecting) runners from other parts of the country. Sheryl Wheeler, the women's 100 mile winner, traveled from New York, and Adam Cassedy came from West Virginia to run a strong race and take 2nd place. And because he says such nice things about our lovely race I stole a few excerpts from his race recap (which I would encourage you to read as well as other postings on his blog - Adam is a very accomplished runner):

"These trails are seriously technical with rocks and roots everywhere. I found the roots to be far more menacing than the rocks. Several folks asked me afterward how this course compared to MMT and I just said, "they're totally different, but they certainly have the technical stuff in common." The climbs on the course were deceivingly difficult. Trail designers definitely didn't believe in switchbacks and had no aversion to scaling rocky ridges by hand-over-hand climbing."

"We hung out at the finish a while and it was good to finally get to meet the guy I had chased for the last day, Brian Peterson. He ran a phenomenal race, especially in his first 100. I expect to see some big things out of him. Race director Larry Pederson has his hands full over this race weekend with the 100-mile, 50-mile, and Marathon all going on simultaneously. I don't know how he does it, but he manages amazingly and puts on a top notch event. This is really as good or better a 100-mile that I've done. I'd love to come back and run it again and would highly recommend it to anyone. The Superior Hiking Trail is absolutely amazing, the aid-stations are second to none, and running a point-to-point 100-mile race in such beautiful country makes this race very special."

Several others traveled across the country, including Susan Donnelly who returned for her 10th year! Larry presented her with a beautiful handcrafted table to mark the occasion. A great accomplishment for Susan and an equally great piece of work by Larry - who makes all of the wooden awards by hand.

The Photograpic Evidence:

As always there were many talented photographers along the course to capture the events of the weekend (click on the name). And I took a few also... enjoy!

Londell Pease: "Please feel free to download them as I posted them actual size. I expect I will delete them from Picasa in late December to make room for other photo's I take."

Jen & Zach Pierce: "If you want print quality copies to keep, click on the photo until you get to the black background version and click "View All Sizes", "Original", "Download"."

Helen Lavin & Mark Scotch: This is an unorganized mix of photos I took and Chris' Dad also - feel free to download any.

Brian Cochoran (the true professional!) was out there also and in between supporting Molly in her awesome race to take 4th place he snapped some pics... I expect they will be posted on his website soon (I think the ones on there now are from the 2008 race).