2019 Superior 100 miler - Rugged, Relentless, Remote

 The Journey Begins

If you take a rubber band and pull it apart quickly, it will probably break.  Yet if you take that rubber band and slowly pull it, you just might be surprised what you can do with it.  Just like the rubber band, the human body if stretched too quickly can break, but if you slowly push your boundaries, it will surprise you.  Superior 100 certainly pushed my boundaries in training and during the race with great suprises.

The sun sets on day 1 at Superior as Manoj paces & helps me settle in for a long night.
(Photo courtesy of Tone Coughlin Photography, Duluth, MN)

Disclaimer: This is a fairly in-depth race report for me to reflect on the race and to help runners looking to one day run Superior.  I am grateful for those who wrote race reports before me which helped my preparation mentally and physically.  Now sit back and enjoy a tale from the Northwoods of Minnesota.

Superior 100 is one 10 original 100 mile races in the United States; numbers have now grown to 180 events listed in 2019 at the 100 mile distance.  Superior 100 was started in 1991 along the developing Superior Hiking Trail in Northeast Minnesota in similar fashion to Western States with a point to point race.  It quickly became known as one of the toughest races around.  Today's elevation change of 42,000 feet is still one of the toughest 100's you can find.  The race passes across the Sawtooth Mountain range whose elevation chart resembles that of a saw-blade (below).  You won't get massive climbs like out West, but with technical trails and constant climbs/descents, it is punishment by 1000 cuts.  Race director John Storkamp has made the Superior races some of the best trail races in the entire country with 50 miler and Marathon distances being run on the same weekend as the 100.  From the time you sign up for a Rocksteady Running (Storkamp) event, you will notice how extremely well organized and passionate John and his fleet of volunteers are.  It is hands down the most professional and friendly race I have ever attended or taken part in.

Superior Fall Trail Races - Elevation Chart

Just like that rubber band, Superior 100 has a long path on how I arrived at the starting line.  As a kid growing up in NE Minnesota my family would take trips up Hwy 61 stopping at places like Temperance River and Gooseberry Falls for day hikes.  Eventually those trips turned to me taking my family on those same hikes.  In 2011 we moved to South Carolina for my job and those hikes went away but my introduction to trail running came through co-worker Don Rice and the Rock Hill Striders.  8k trail races turned to 50k's and and eventually to running the Superior 50 mile race in 2018 (you can read my report here).  Since late 2016 my running has been a focused journey with Superior 100 in mind.  Pacing friends at their 100 milers, helping at 100 mile aid stations, and learning at shorter distances all taught me lessons on how to train for and run 100 miles.

Superior 100 Course Location

On January 1st I entered the lottery to get an entry into Superior 100 with the realization it might take 2-3 years before getting in.  On Friday January 18th an email came to my phone from UltraSignup confirming my entry into Superior 100.  My heart raced with the realization I had been selected from the lottery and it was going to happen this year.  I sat at the kitchen table taking it all in and what it really meant.  The 8+ months which lie ahead would be a personal journey through long training runs, planning, and eventually the test of my running life over 103.3 miles.  Yes this race is 103.3 miles and we have to earn those last 3.3 on Mystery Mountain switchbacks!

Preparation & Training

This journey may have been highlighted by crossing the finish line to receive that shiny new buckle, but that's not what this race is about for anyone who takes it on.  From the moment I announced I was in the race, I had a generous amount of support that I could have never imagined.  My running friends reached out volunteering to come crew/pace me and/or with ideas of training runs we should share together.  My wife and kids didn't ask to go on this journey, but they supported me 100% and understood when I was out on a training adventure instead of at a soccer game or just being around the house Saturday mornings.  My wife jumped aboard for coming to the race along with my friend Manoj.  A crew of 2 is almost ideal for a race like this, it is the perfect combination of support and pacers without being overwhelming in preparations or personalities.

Below is a short list of races and training runs I utilized to help prepare me for Superior.  Living in South Carolina has the benefit of being able to train starting in January but the heat and humidity of summer presents its challenges.

  • January 19th - Tsali Frosty Foot 50; The day after finding out I am in Superior 100 I ran this race with a great group of friends and a solid time of 5:51 in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.
  • May 3rd - Knock on Wood 100 miler; A 5 mile loop trail course with ~1000 feet of elev. change per lap (20,000' change total).  This was a test of gear, nutrition, and early summer heat on a long distance run over 100k.  I went in hoping to learn and run at least 100k, the day went amazing and I finished my first 100 miler in 27:34 as 2nd place male.  I also got to meet Colleen who was signed up for Superior 100 and would be traveling there with her husband Rob (both awesome people I got to know and see again at Superior).  My other buddy Rob ran 50 miles and helped turn my race around in the late afternoon sun by getting me to sit for a while and get some caffeine and ice water in me, even as he heckled me drinking a tasty cold beer.
Colleen, Rob, and I wondering what we are doing running a 100 miler in SC heat (Upstate Ultras photo)

Lap 1 with 99ish miles to go (Upstate Ultras photo)

  • May 18th - Quest for the Crest 50k; Well this was just stupid to race 2 weeks after a 100 miler, but I had entered it back in 2018 and I was going to give it whatever I had.  12 hours and 54 minutes later I had done 24,000 feet of elevation change in brutal NC summer heat on tired legs.  Glad to have finished but never doing those races back to back again.
Quest for the Crest 50k - My legs were shot at 25 miles in!!

  • June 22nd - Grandma's Marathon;  8th year at this event which has always been a great way to go home to Minnesota when it is 100 degrees in South Carolina.  I ran a new PR at 3:41 and knew my training was increasing my fitness.  After Grandma's I normally relax for the summer but it was time to hit the Western North Carolina mountains and train for elevation change.
Grandma's - The only road marathon I run and love.

  • 6 weeks out - Pisgah Forest Camping Weekend with fellow Rock Hill Striders.  Runs on Black Mountain and Art Loeb Trail got the legs thinking about mountains, it was near 90 and humid all weekend.  We momentarily lost my friend Russ which gave me some additional miles as we chased him down ;) 
Misery loves company on afternoon climbs

Views above Fish Hatchery off Art Loeb Trail
  • 5 weeks out - Smoky Mountains Camping highlighted by a 41.6 mile/ 10k+ elev gain run with friends Jeanette & Natalie climbing from base camp to Mount LeConte.
A great group of friends to go on crazy runs for 12 hours in Wilderness.
  • 4 weeks out - Mount Mitchell Camp for Big Kids, an Upstate Ultras running camp with 40 miles over 3 days including a morning 5.6 mile climb of Mount Mitchell and back in 3:45.
Running friends are some of the best friends (Upstate Ultras)
There is no better place to train on the East Coast

Mount Mitchell views views views!
  • 3 weeks out - I was lucky enough to have a work trip to Minnesota and stayed for the weekend to run on the North Shore.  I camped Friday night and Tettegouche State Park and Saturday night at Cascade River State Park.  I ran Friday night along Baptism River heading North.  Saturday I ran from Tettegouche parking lot South to Silver Bay road crossing and back.  It was a picture perfect day and got some great views from Mt Trudee and Bear/Bean Lake overlooks.  Sunday brought heavy rains and I had to rush off to the airport anyways. 
    Baptism River Crossing
    Bean Lake Overlook
  • 5 Days Out - Not advisable, but ran a 10k road race.  Around the Crown 10k was an inaugural race in Charlotte hosting over 4,000 runners so I found good friend Tim who was pacing the 50 minute group.  He had just run Pikes Peak Marathon the weekend before so we ran together and he kept me from going too fast, I was also able to get rid of a lot of nervous energy.
Completely sane to race 5 days before Superior 100
  • Taper to Raceday!! - This is the best yet toughest part of a big race, trying to taper mileage and effort while still feeling like you are ready to go.  I can honestly say going into this race I was in the best shape of my life since junior year of high school at the peak of track & field season.
  • Crew Meeting - A week before the race we met as a team to go over the logistics of the race and itinerary for the trip.  I am an engineer and fairly detailed, it was important that if I was dragging two people with me to Minnesota on this adventure that I give them all the information I could.  They would have enough things to worry about while I was running that I hoped to give them everything available.  I had a binder filled with all race related information, SHT maps, course maps, pace chart, gear lists, MN highway map, and anything else I thought might be useful for a crew.
My gear for the race I will detail later for those interested, but most of it I had packed including my drop bags when we went to Minnesota in June for Grandma's Marathon.  I left the box and my gear at my Grandma's house, this gave me the comfort in having it packed and not worrying about the airlines losing it when we flew up in September.

Travel to Minnesota

My vacation was very thin this year after our Grandma's Marathon/Boundary Waters Canoe trip in June so I didn't have much time to take off.  I worked the Wednesday before the race and we flew out of Charlotte direct to Minneapolis.  The flight was supposed to leave shortly after 8:00 pm but a delayed inbound crew pushed it closer to 9:00 pm.  We touched down in Minneapolis at 11 pm and grabbed our rental car.  AVIS had a Jeep Compass with Trailhawk package in the line, we grabbed this one for the perfect crew vehicle (yes it was lots of fun on the logging roads!) We decided to stay just north of Minneapolis to avoid rush hour traffic in the morning but it was well after midnight before we got to sleep and planned to be up by 5:30 am to head North.

Thursday morning we left the Hotel by 6:30 am and jumped on I-35 Northbound.  We were all hungry after a long night of travel and little sleep so we hit Key's Cafe in Forest Lake for some awesome omelets with wild rice and plenty of coffee.  Back on the road we talked about the upcoming race as we drove North and told running stories.  Manoj had never been to Minnesota so we gave him a flavor for the local culture and what to expect on the trip including our favorite foods and beers!  Next was a stop just outside Duluth in Proctor to see my Grandma.  She had a pot of fresh coffee on and snacks for us.  It was great to spend time talking with her.  She had kept my race supply box at her place all summer so I opened that.  My parents had left a nice note inside and my Grandma gave me a bag of my favorite Candy Corn for the race weekend.  We said goodbyes and headed for Duluth.

In Duluth we stopped for groceries needed for the weekend since we had a condo at Caribou Highlands with full kitchen and ability to make our own meals.  Anne and Manoj went on a nice run along Duluth's Lakefront trail that also parallels the Superior Hiking Trail for a bit.  I bummed around Duluth getting gas for the Jeep, beer for the crew, and a enjoying a seat in Canal Park.  They came back and we went to Amazing Grace Bakery in Canal Park for lunch and coffee.  Up until this point in the week I had been mostly calm but a full on nervousness took over for the rest of the day.  The realization of everything which lay ahead consumed me and I probably looked zoned out to Anne and Manoj the remainder of Thursday.  

After some coffee it was a drive up to Two Harbors along the North Shore.  We took Manoj on the Grandma's Marathon route to show him what an awesome course it is running along Lake Superior and into Duluth.  Hopefully someday he can come back to enjoy it with us!  In Two Harbors we enjoyed a couple beers at Castle Danger and then went to get a couple extra groceries for dinner that we didn't want hanging in the car all day.

My awesome crew getting out to enjoy a run of their own in Duluth

Its official now!

Ahead of schedule we got to the Two Harbors fairgrounds around 4:30 pm for packet pickup.  We went in just after setup was complete and quickly got my drop bags in where they needed to go.  Then I got my packet picked up, some Rocksteady Running merchandise, and my Ian Corless photo pre-race.  I was just as nervous for the photo, they have looked so cool the last few years and just hoped I wouldn't be blinking in mine, it turned out great and portrays how I felt that evening.  Ian Corless is a famous race photographer out of the UK and host/founder of Talk Ultra podcast who loves the Superior 100 so much he has come the last several years to photograph it.
Superior 100 race eve portrait
(Photo courtesy of Ian Corless, UK) 
We found a bench to sit down as the pre-race meeting wasn't scheduled until 6:30 pm.  I was still really nervous at this point and didn't feel much like socializing.  I had read so many race blogs and watched YouTube race reports over the last couple years that I felt like I knew so much about the people I saw around me yet they knew nothing of me.  We would point out people from our favorite race reports, even Anne said, "Hey there is Andy, I love his YouTube videos, they are hilarious!".

Packet Pick-Up
At promptly 6:30 John Storkamp took the stage and began with his pre-race briefing.  It was very detailed and organized as he combed through the sheets of paper he had prepared.  Race logistics, rules to be aware of, and an amazing pep talk.  He told the story of a couple who had met volunteering at Cramer Road aid station a few years back.  They were both entered into the 100 mile race and would run together to Cramer Road aid station (mile 77.9) before being joined by family and friends for an exchange of wedding vows!  Afterwards they would continue on in honeymoon fashion to the finish in Lutsen.  I thought I was nervous, how about your wedding riding on the 100 mile race?!  John ended with a huge thank you to the volunteers and words of encouragement for the runners.  I felt the nervousness subside and be overtaken by the excitement of what was on the brink.
Excitement builds as it rains outside
Outside we headed for the Jeep with temps around 50 degrees as a cool heavy mist fell to the ground.  The rain became heavier at times as we drove North in a line of crew vehicles all headed for our places to sleep that race eve.  Back at Caribou Highlands it was now almost 9:30 by the time we checked in and unloaded.  I had picked up the perfect pre-race evening meal in a pasty so I cooked that in the oven.  For all my Southern friends reading, here is the amazing food of a pasty (pa-stee).  After enjoying it with a little ketchup I felt nourished and ready to go.  It was almost 11:30 before I got to bed and knew the 4:30 am alarm would come quick.  It had been a busy day and I slept with no problems.  I looked forward to the next time I would be able to lay in that bed, hopefully as a Superior 100 finisher. 

I awoke just minutes before the alarm and tip toed downstairs trying not to wake my crew.  I knew they had a long tough day ahead as well.  I got a nice shower to wake me up and enjoyed a slice of toast with peanut butter.  I packed another slice with a banana for the bus ride to the start.  Anne and Manoj both had gotten up to wish me luck and say goodbye.  I had packed everything the night before and only had to fill my hydration bladder and run out the door.  Staying at the Caribou Highlands was not the most cost effective route, but I wouldn't do it any other way.  I walked literally 100 feet out the door to the buses and got on the first one with the first dozen or so runners waiting.  The buses were to be loaded by 5:45 am and leave promptly at 6:00 pm.  It seems as though many runners found alternate transportation that morning as the last bus was empty and the couple others we only partially filled.  

A runner from Iowa sat next to me and we talked most the ride about Superior and other races around the country.  He was a multiple time finisher of the race and was again doing the race without a crew or pacers.  I enjoyed hearing his experiences and as we headed to Gooseberry Falls the sun rose over Lake Superior.  Gooseberry Falls was about a 1 hour and 15 minute bus ride from Caribou Highlands.  When we arrived it was just after 7 am so I went and got checked in since the line was short.  Fika Coffee was being served nice and hot so I grabbed a cup and walked around the start line area saying good morning to John who was just coming from the bridge area above the falls that was under rework.  John is everywhere during race weekend, I don't know how he does it.  Later that weekend at the awards ceremony he would say the only sleep he got was 1-1/2 hours in a utility closet at Finland Community Center before the 50 miler start Saturday morning.  Thnk you want to be a race director!?  After a quick trip to the rest rooms inside the Visitor Center I found Colleen and her husband Rob.  Also helping them was multiple time finisher John who I met that morning.  We shared some laughs and talked about the long day ahead.  Colleen is an amazing and smart runner from North Carolina who was no doubt going to be a contender in the women's field all day.  She was and finished 4th overall female!!

Crowds build at Gooseberry Falls visitors center

The calm before the storm at the Start

Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock (9.7 miles)

251 runners made it to the start line that morning but looking around every 1 of 4 would not make it to Lutsen.  I lined up in the first 75 or so runners as I knew I wanted to push the pace to Split Rock and not get tangled in early conga lines of walking.  Shortly before 8:00 am John Storkamp took to his aluminum ladder at the start line and with a microphone delivered the last few words of sage advice.  John has a presence that makes everyone feel welcomed and valued at his races from the lead runner to the last volunteer sweeping the course.  You just want to be a part of his events in anyway possible.
Time to put down the miles

John's final few words for our race

At 8:02 am John gave the command to start and we all began our journey North.  I couldn't believe how many crews, pacers, and volunteers came out to cheer us that first 1/4 mile.  People were staged along the rock banks cheering with cowbells loudly clanging.  I felt focused leaving and after getting around a few slower runners I got into a groove.  9:28, 9:28, 9:32 minute miles clicked by with ease and nervous energy turned into determination to go to work on the trail.  The first 4.4 miles are on the paved Gitchi-Gami bike trail due to a land dispute with the Superior Hiking Trail and a landowner.  I am certainly okay with this and it was a great warm-up.

I wore a Norway trucker hat for my Grandpa Floyd who passed away 10 years ago the week of the race from cancer.  Grandpa Floyd gave me my love for all things Minnesota especially the history and love of the land.  I wanted to take him with me on this journey and knew he was looking over me.  At the end of the 4.4 mile stretch was a young girl, maybe 6 or 7 years of age with her Dad cheering on the runners.  She had a 1-gallon ice cream pail filled with candy.  It was not just any candy, it was Werther's Original candy, the same candy my Grandpa Floyd always had a dish of next to his chair in the living room.  I took a couple and knew he was with me on the journey ahead as we hit the single track trail.  I told myself I would carry those having 1 on the final section past Oberg and 1 at the finish if it was meant to be my day.

The pace was slow going on the single track as we made our way along Split Rock river traveling West, crossing over and then back East towards Lake Superior.  The bridge at the river has been out for some years so we carefully made our way across on some rocks.  I took a few extra moments to step on the best rock path I could across and only lightly got 1 foot wet.  Wet feet this early in a 100 miler was not my preference if I could avoid it.

At just under 2 miles left to Split Rock Aid Station I came over a rise in the trail to see a huddle of a dozen or so runners gathered near an unconscious runner.  They were beginning to pick him up in an attempt to get him to medical attention.  We lent a hand while Kate (who I recognized from her previous race blogs and videos) called 911 letting them know our location.  We had just ran past a ground nest of hornets or yellow jackets.  The runner had taken an epi-pen but went unconscious.  The trail here was technical and we knew we couldn't carry him 2 miles without risk of dropping.  He had come back to us and was talking for a few minutes before going unconscious again.  This was an extremely chaotic scene but so glad it was early in the race when we had plenty of help around us.  I am not sure how I would deal had this been midnight and only myself around.  A registered nurse runner came up and gave the okay to administer a second epi-pen.  A gracious runner gave theirs and it was administered.  At this point there was probably 35-40 runners on the scene and we knew EMT's were coming our way.  I felt helpless and bad but continued on down the trail and said several prayers for the runner.  A couple of volunteers came down the trail to assist the runner.  By the time I arrived to Split Rock aid station the EMT's had arrived and were on their way.  John was also there getting briefed while several volunteers had already gone back to the runner.  I found out later in the race that the man was okay and able to walk out under his own power but his 2019 Superior 100 was over.

At the aid station I quickly got my water refilled in the chaos.  This is an extremely busy aid station as large groups of runners come through early in the race.  I grabbed a section of PB&J sandwich and hiked the uphill out of the aid station.

Split Rock to Beaver Bay (10.3 miles; 20.1 total)

The Split Rock aid station is down off a ridge so when you leave it is just under a 1/2 mile hike up the spur trail back to the SHT.  It was a good time to eat my PB&J and drink some water.  In all the chaos of the aid station I realized I never gave my bib number to anyone, I asked the guy in front of me if I missed that, he eased my mind by telling me that they take bib numbers after you get back onto the SHT.  Phew, I thought I had already screwed up my first aid station.  We got back to the SHT, turned right and there was the ham radio operators taking bib numbers.  I proudly shouted #235 and felt like the race was beginning.

This section of course is a very nice climb to several ridge lines providing views of Lake Superior and nice easy running.  We met lots of day hikers in this area cheering us on!  One gentlemen proclaimed it had just taken him 10 days to backpack from Lutsen and we were doing this in one day.  When you put it in perspective, it is a huge undertaking.  I enjoyed the views of the lake, the beautiful wild flowers still in bloom as Fall approached, and by this time the group had strung out into a comfortable pace.
Our first views over Lake Superior during Superior 100

Its going to be a great day!

The last mile is a steep downhill section as you drop to the Beaver River and Beaver Bay aid station.  It had now crossed Noon and the skies had cleared.  The next 10+ miles of this course were some of the most exposed and although temps were cool, the sun beating down created a little extra sweat.  I came into Beaver Bay spotting the ham radio operator early and shouting #235 making sure I wasn't missed being here.
My crew anxiously awaits me at Beaver Bay
Cruising into Beaver Bay
This was the first time I got to see Anne and Manoj since I left the condo.  It was great to share a big smile with them and actually realize that we were doing this!  20% of the race was behind us and things were feeling great.  They had all my stuff there for me next to a chair which I declined.  They changed out my hydration bladder and handed me a bag of grapes.  I grabbed another PB&J sandwich, quickly said goodbye, and headed back to the trail.

Time for some grapes and smiles

My amazing crew - Manoj & Anne

Beaver Bay to Silver Bay (4.9 miles; 25.0 total)

The first two sections of this race are longer in length and took me almost 4-1/2 hours to complete.  I looked forward to this easy and short section going by quick and getting me back to my crew.  Leaving Beaver Bay you run a short section of dirt road until making some turns through low wetlands and eventually crossing under railroad tracks.  After making this cross under the tracks you follow along the Beaver River before eventually getting into a few intermediate climbs.  The afternoon sun was now at full work and I was sweating the most I would all race.  I met up with a runner in this section who if I remember correctly was going for his 14th finish.  We talked about favorite trail sections and I tried to get any information I could from him.  What an amazing accomplishment that takes years and years of training and racing.  In this race Susan Donnelley went on to finish her 19th Superior 100 and Stuart Johnson took home his 22nd!  Huge congratulations to them both!

It was in this section at around 2 miles in that my stomach decided to take a turn.  I normally have a very good stomach in running and don't have to worry too much about what I eat.  I am not sure if it was the afternoon sun and climbs or the grapes I just had but things began to turn sour.  I have eaten grapes in many other races and like them for the easy digestion and extra fluids.  Within another mile I was growing to object the tailwind in my hydration bladder mixed with 4 scoops of powder and the few grapes I had leftover in my pack.  While this was taking shape I also reminded myself it was nothing major, I just had to let my stomach settle until things got better.  I continued to sip water to the next aid station and focus on other things like the views. A bad day on the SHT is still better than a good day anywhere else. We made a final climb in this section and I caught up to Colleen less than a mile out from Silver Bay.  I knew I was maybe going too quick at this point as she is a very smart runner, this would turn out to be true as she put hours on me in the 2nd half of this race.

 A photographer sat on top the hill taking pictures as we had a nice overlook of Silver Bay and Lake Superior.  A spectator told us to be careful as it was a steep and technical descent to the aid station.  The Superior Hiking Trail does not believe in switchbacks, the trail only goes straight up or down these mountain ridges.  We crested the ridge and looked straight down onto Penn Blvd and the Silver Bay aid station.  Next came a sharp and sudden descent with lots of loose rock.  We took our time and the aid station came quick.

I gave my bib number to the ham radio operator here who just happened to be an old college friend of mine Matt.  Matt and I went to Michigan Tech at the same time and he now lives in the Twin Cities area.  Matt was stationed here for the day taking bib numbers just as he did every year as a volunteer.  He has been volunteering during this race for many years.  Back when I was just starting with 5k's and training for a 1/2 marathon in 2010-2011 he mentioned to me about this race.  I laughed at him when he mentioned 100 miles on trail, that's insane!  I wasn't even running trails at this time, a dirt road was as much trail as I was running.  We talked for a couple minutes before I had to get going and told him I would see him at Cramer Road tomorrow in a lot worse shape.  He laughed and said he would be in worse shape too.  
Catching up with friends at Silver Bay aid station

Feeling positive with a 1/4 of the race down

I said hi to Colleen at the aid station as I made my way to Anne and Manoj.  They had my trekking poles out for me which I requested and a swap of hydration bladders.  I grabbed another small bag of grapes and PB&J.  They said they planned to see me at Tettegouche even though I told them it was not necessary.  I grabbed some extra tailwind in my vest just in case they were not there.  It was exciting that the first 1/4 of this race had gone so well and my legs were feeling strong, in fact I had almost no soreness in them yet.  Even though there was a long ways to go, I knew that baring injury my body and training were not going to hold me back from finishing this race.  We all said goodbye and my crew wished me good luck!

Silver Bay to Tettegouche (9.9 miles; 34.9 total)

25% done right?  Well technically yes, but at Superior 100 the first 25 miles are by far the easiest of the race.  There are no major climbs, the trail is not real technical, and you have quite a few flat rolling sections you can run and stretch your legs.  The Superior Hiking Trail doesn't begin to show her toughness and beauty until you leave Silver Bay.  Immediately after you leave the aid station and cross the highway you begin an exposed rock climb that continues in and out of the trees for 4 miles.  It was now early afternoon with the blue skies and clear sun.  I had just run this section 3 weeks ago and knew exactly how I wanted to tackle this section with it lying clear in my mind.  

I dug into my poles and spent those first few miles climbing away up and down the ridges towards Bean and Bear Lakes.  Bean Lake is accented by a shear rock drop off that the trail edges along and makes for the most picturesque photographs.  Just as I came within 1000' of getting to the overlook a photographer was making his way down.  He got some shots of me climbing but knew I wasn't going to get that signature Superior 100 photo at Bean Lake.  Luckily I had just been here and took enough photos to keep me sustained until the next time I would run this trail.  After Bean Lake you make a short drop before climbing over to the adjacent ridge and Bear Lake overlook. I passed several runners in this section as they took photos or took a moment to cool off from the sun.  I heard the terms hot, muggy, and warm during the race.  I felt lucky to have been training all summer in the Southeast and really enjoyed this weather in the low 60's.  Yes the sun was out but it could be so much worse.
Bean Lake from my previous trip

After Bear Lake you make a descent down and around the edge of Round Mountain before dropping down several hundred feet to Palisade Creek.  This is a muddy and wet section that is wetlands taking water runoff from the nearby Sawtooth Mountains.  It had many sections of run-able terrain but you had to be careful over the wet boardwalks and muddy logs laid across multiple sections.  This section is also not heavily trafficked and becomes overgrown.  Shortly after leaving the east and west branches of Palisade Creek you begin to climb Mt. Trudee which has amazing views to the interior of Minnesota.  This is a technical climb with lots of rock scrambling.  I was glad I had picked up my poles for this section even though it was early in the race.  I enjoy climbing with poles and caught several runners on this section eventually bypassing them at the top.
The mud before Mt. Trudee climbs

The array of boardwalks begins

Time to climb
Once you crest Mt. Trudee and take in the views it is a short but technical descent.  From here you go up and down several ridges including Raven Rock before starting a long 3ish mile descent to Tettegouche aid station.  This is a very run-able section and helps make up for the last 7 miles of climbs and descents.  Only about a mile out from the aid station you will get to the drain pipe which was gifted a set of stairs on the lower section last year.  This is a short but steep descent off a ridge that you need to be careful on.  From there it was a nice run to the aid station and I found myself back in a group of about 6 runners.

Thank you to all the volunteers who put these in!!

I ran this section fairly hard and knocked it out in 2-1/2 hours (right on my schedule).  Tettegouche is a chaotic aid station placed at the crossroads of the SHT and a spur trail.  As you come in spectators and volunteers alike are crunched into the edges of trail and brush that lines it.  The aid station sits in the intersection and crews careen to try and find their runner coming in.  It is chaotic and I had read this from many previous race reports so then encouraged Anne and Manoj to skip this and get some rest instead.  They insisted in coming but in the chaos of this aid station got lost and missed me by just a few minutes.  Upon arriving they checked the live tracker and saw that I had already been through here.

While at the aid station I got my water refilled, grabbed a PB&J sandwich, and spent a few minutes looking for Anne and Manoj.  I knew I was in quick so probably missed them and headed back to the trail.

Tettegouche to County Road 6 (8.6 miles; 43.5 total)

The first mile of this trail after leaving the aid station is a popular hike in the State Park and has a nice wide flat trail.  For 1/2 mile it is a quick downhill run before you get to a series of boardwalks and wood stairs leading you to the Baptism River at High Falls (the highest waterfall in Minnesota).  There were lots of day-hikers out enjoying the Falls on a late Friday afternoon.  I felt great leaving this aid station and was positive about making County Road 6 with lots of daylight left.  I was especially excited to knock this section out and pickup Manoj as my pacer to Finland.

I ran the last of the wood stairs to the bottom and touched my feet to the rocky shoreline of the Baptism River.  We had been told during the pre-race meeting that this older suspension bridge was found with a broken coupling earlier in the week.  The State Park & DNR had graciously allowed the race to continue across but only 1 runner at a time and no jumping or swaying on the bridge.  A DNR worker was sitting at the bridge as I arrived and told me to continue safely along the bridge.  I thanked him graciously for being out there and helping Superior 100 continue on the planned course. 

From the Baptism River to Country Road 6 was the last stretch of SHT on the race course that I had yet to run or hike previously.  Everything else I had done before and knew areas to watch for and what to expect in terrain and time.  This 8ish mile stretch was simply put HARD.  It is a huge climb to a bunch of unnamed peaks that just go up and down.  It felt like the blade of the Sawtooth Mountains was working its way into me on this section.  It just felt like it went on and on and on from one peak to the next.  There sections in here are also technical with lots of little rocks and roots hidden by overgrown brush.  I don't think many people hike this section so it really only sees thru-hikers south of Country Road 6.

My stomach had also not gotten any better since Silver Bay and started to take a turn for the worse here.  I contemplated throwing up to try and help it, but just kept sipping water and hiking forward.  Each mile went by very slowly and I just wanted to see my crew.  It was my first real low point in the race and was disappointed to see it before the sun had even set on day 1.

As with any other part of this race, I just had to keep moving forward.  The sky began to become dark towards the West and the heavy clouds moved it.  It looked like I was just on the northern edge of this storm cell and hoped I might miss it.  About 2-1/2 miles before Country Road 6 the rain came heavy for about 30 minutes.  I was under the tree canopy for most of it and really didn't get wet other than a refreshing shower here and there.   This section was really disheartening.  After the last big climb you catch the ridge-line and can see Country Road 6 aid station just down from you.  At this point you start a long descent away from it and then make another big climb up to another overlook for day-hikers before finally going down again.  I felt relieved when my feet finally touched the pavement to cross Country Road 6.  As always a friendly volunteer greeted me to the road and helped me cross safely.

A short run along the shoulder and I arrived to Anne and Manoj waving and smiling!  They apologized for having missed me at Tettegouche.  I told them I wasn't feeling the best and they got me to the chair while switching out my hydration bladder.  This was the first time I had taken a seat since the bus this morning and it felt good to sit.  I told them we would do a shoe swap at Finland and also that I wanted some solid food there.  They got me a cup of soup broth which tasted amazing and I went for a second cup with ramen noodles in it.  It felt good on my stomach and so did the sinking sun.  Manoj told me prior to the race how he was amazed at Hellbender 100 how just a simple piece of food like a cup of soup can excite a person and make them new.  He was spot on with the ramen and broth because I felt reawakened and ready to tackle the night.

I tucked my headlamp in my vest for later and Manoj and I set off to welcome darkness.  It was a boost of energy to have Manoj heading out with me on the trail but at this point I also began to realize just how much race was left.  Anne gave me a kiss goodbye and we told her we would see her shortly at the 1/2 way point!!
That section was not easy, ok I hated it :(
Smiling to see my crew

Ramen and broth made me a new person!

County Road 6 to Finland (7.7 miles; 51.2 total)

Manoj and I set off from County Road 6 right at 7:00 pm and still had a good hour of daylight left.  John Storkamp had told us in the pre-race we would go over a 400 meter section of boardwalk across a beaver pond that was in "abysmal shape" with drop offs that you might not be able to climb back from if you fell off.  Manoj and I hoped we could get across this section before we lost all daylight so we kept a steady pace.  First we had to tackle a big climb up Section 13 and then a sharp descent to Sawmill Creek.  

I welcomed Manoj to the Superior Hiking Trail and he was excited to be out with me, even if it was at a run/walk shuffle pace.  At this point I was running the flats but mostly walking the uphill and technical downhill sections.  As we started our climb the rain clouds from earlier began to break-up to the West and the sun peeked through.  Not only did this help brighten our spirits with a great sunset, but helped extend our daylight.  The Section 13 climb is steep but not very technical.  Manoj and I got up it pretty quickly and Tone Coughlin Photography was there to capture a perfect shot as the sun went down on Day 1.

The sun sets on day 1 at Superior as pacer Manoj helps me settle in for a long night.
(Photo courtesy of Tone Coughlin Photography, Duluth, MN)
The descent also went by quick and was not technical.  We hit the Sawmill Creek area and started on multiple boardwalk sections and overgrown grass and flowers.  It was slow going with lots of hidden rocks under the overgrown brush and I didn't want to twist an ankle.  Just as we came to the long boardwalk section in need of maintenance, a couple runners caught us with one of them having a pacer.  We all took this section slowly with me in the lead.  We would call out to each other the loose boards, rotted boards, or ones sloped so far over you were walking on the top edge to keep from sliding into the beaver pond.  The beaver pond was a good 4-6 feet below the boardwalk and who knows how deep.  I really did wonder what would happen if you were to fall in and how many people it might take to get you back on the rickety boardwalk.  We all took our time and made it across safely, then I let the other runners who caught me pass by.

After Sawmill Creek there are two smaller climbs before making it to Finland and the 1/2 way point.  Manoj and I made good time in just over 2 hours from Country Road 6 to Finland and the 7.7 miles, I still had strong feeling legs here.  We hit the spur trail to Finland and by now it was pitch dark.  The skies had cleared and a heavy wind had picked up.  The spur trail was lined with lights and glow sticks leading us to the wonderful oasis of Finland.  Finland aid station is located outside the beautiful Finland Community Recreation Center and has a huge outdoor pavilion which houses the aid station.  There is a line of tables with all sorts of good foods, including many hot options provided with the available electrical power.  Anne was there to greet us and I took a seat in the chair.

At Finland I would spend the most time of any aid station during this race at 20 full minutes.  I made a bathroom stop and changed to a dry long sleeve shirt for the cooler night ahead.  We refilled my hydration bladder and added some extra snacks in my vest.  I changed from my Altra Lone Peaks to my Altra Timp shoes to offer some additional cushion for the second half of the race.  I changed socks and also dried my feet using the Lee Connor method.  I wiped them dry and then covered them in anti-bacterial hand sanitizer.  The alcohol in the hand sanitizer along with the low humidity that evening helped dry them out quickly.  I put on a dry pair of socks and shoes and my feet felt great.  To this point I had no blisters and barely hit my toes on any rocks.
Get a seat at Finland aid station

Anne and I ready to hit the Superior Hiking Trail together!

I got a cup of chicken noodle soup and an additional cup of broth to drink while there.  I also took a 1/4 of a cheese quesadilla to take with for the walk out of the aid station.  I felt great and was excited to share some miles with my wife Anne at Superior.  We would not see Manoj now until Crosby-Manitou at mile 62.9 as the next aid station is remote and doesn't allow crew access.  We wished him well getting some rest.  We were also making sure we were all awake enough so that the keys for the Jeep were being swapped and not headed out on the trail with Anne.

Finland to Sonju Lake Road (7.5 miles; 58.7 total)

Anne and I left Finland aid station across the baseball field and back to the spur trail.  It has become customary to run the bases on the field before leaving Finland.  For me 103.3 miles is enough, I don't need to add 360 feet around a baseball diamond, but maybe on a future Superior 100 when I figure this thing out.

We spent time catching up from the day and everything that had happened while I was on the trail.  I believe it is harder to be a crew and pacer of a 100 mile runner than it is to run, not physically, but mentally.  You have to stay up for 30+ hours going from aid station to aid station to only see your runner for 5 minutes at a time.  A crew is responsible for not only getting there, but also having all the required gear and special requests their runner comes up with.  The aid stations are remote, most without cell service where you spend your time peering to the trail head waiting for your runner to appear.  As a pacer you walk or shuffle a bunch of slow miles when you could be at home sleeping.

I told Anne and Manoj it was like babysitting a toddler for two days.  You take the toddler on some slow hikes, feed them, deal with giant mood swings, and are generally just exhausted at the end of it.  I can't thank them enough for their sacrifice and being there for me.  I also joked with Anne that this was our Friday night date night without the kids.  It would be a nice hike in the woods followed by gourmet food at Sonju Lake and Crosby-Manitou aid stations.  Somehow I don't feel I am getting off the hook for this one.  

After the aid station you take the spur trail back to the main SHT which then dumps you off on the road for a short 1/4 mile before getting back on trail.  Anne on fresh legs was running a 9ish min/mile pace, I told her this wasn't Boston and we needed to slow down.  We still passed a couple runners here and got into the trail.  It is a short section of wide forest trail before getting into technical single track.  We made a climb to the highest point of the entire course at Eagle Lake (weird the highest point is near a lake) and at just under 2,000 feet elevation.  

The trail then becomes technical with lots of SHT rocks and roots littering the trail.  I was hiking a steady pace with a few spurts of running mixed in.  I quickly realized Anne was having trouble keeping up and her headlamp would fade back until I stopped to let her catch back up.  I run in the dark most of my training at 4:00 am during the week before I head to work and then on the weekends I try and start on the trail early.  I am comfortable running at night and with a headlamp.  Anne while being a faster runner than me, wasn't feeling as comfortable on this section of the SHT at night.  I slowed my pace a bit in this section and while we got passed by a few runners we also passed a few who were struggling for various reasons.  Things slowed to miles between 20-22 minutes/mile but I was glad to have Anne with me.  If I had any legs left later in the race I would make up the little bit of time from here.  Going a touch slower in this section probably helped extend my legs further into the race.

We could hear voices and cowbells as we closed in on Sonju Lake aid station.  This is a remote aid station where only the volunteers have access and it creates a fun atmosphere that is not crowded.  I remember having gotten here last year during the 50 miler just after dawn and you could tell everyone had a long night.  It was much more fun to arrive right at midnight when the volunteers still had lots of energy.  A cheery volunteer welcomed us at the start of the spur trail to the aid station along with lots of Christmas lights and a giant lit up alien.  We hiked up the very short spur trail and arrived at Sonju Lake Road.  As usual the volunteers jumped to anything we needed including filling my water.  I took out my reusable cup and drank some water and grabbed some snacks from the table.  A few other pacers here were very excited and joking around trying to raise their runners from the walking dead, it gave me some laughs to enjoy.  They had some excellent looking cookies that I munched on while grabbing a seat.  Anne took care of her stuff and we said goodbye to everyone there.

Sonju Lake Road to Crosby-Manitou (4.2 miles; 62.9 total)

Anne and I set out with another group of runners and pacers but they quickly took off running.  This section is a group of very short climbs and descents as you come to the Manitou River.  The trail follows along the Manitou River which is very scenic during the day, at 1:00 am it was just dark with the loud noise of the water rushing not far from you.  This is a popular section and known for the network of tree roots which work their way across the trail like a spiderweb.  After leaving the river around 2.5 miles in we made the climb to Horseshoe Ridge and then a mild descent to Crosby-Manitou.  We both were pretty quiet in this section and just took in the trail.  The skies were clear under the windy skies and were lit up with a full network of stars.  

Eventually we came out to the road where you run for a little over 1/2 mile down the access road to Crosby-Manitou aid station.  All the crews are required to park out on the road and walk in.  We ran the access road in and it was a great cheering section of crews and pacers as they walked in or out from the aid station to their vehicles.  After being out on the dark trails for the past 13 miles it was fun to see everyone's bobbing headlamps on the road as we arrived at 1:30 am.

We made it up to the aid station which was a huge bustle of activity.  Manoj was there to greet us and showed me to where he had setup my chair and gear.  I didn't need much here other than a refill of water and taking in some food.  Manoj got me a couple cups of soup which went down well and a couple slices of cheese quesadilla.  I made a mental note of how they kept foods warm in various crock-pots including the quesadillas.  I thought it was a good idea and beats eating cold quesadilla.  They even had hot dogs & burgers here but my stomach wanted no part of that.  At just past 1:30 am Anne was tired and ready to get to the next aid station and get a nap before we made it. 

Crosby-Manitou to Sugarloaf (9.4 miles; 72.3 total)

This section of the course is often deemed the hardest for quite a few reasons.  First most runners take this section in the darkness of night, often in the early morning hours as I was.  It is also a very technical section with areas that have you crawling on your butt or hands and knees to get up or down.  Finally, its the last long section of the race at 9.4 miles.  Most runners do this in 3 to 4 hours, my goal was to do it around 3-1/2 and Manoj definitley kicked my butt to come as close as we could to it.

The first mile is a sharp descent to the Caribou River.  It is a very popular hiking spot and is well worn from heavy traffic.  The descents are often more like sharp drop offs where you are hanging onto rocks and roots as you slide your butt down the hill.  Remember, they don't believe much in switchbacks on the SHT.  Manoj and I took our time to get through here safely in the dark.  My legs still felt good going into this section but I knew they would be beat up by sunrise.  We made it down and across the river, immediately after crossing the bridge over the river a big uphill section stares at you. Your climb starts and it seems to go on much longer than it is.  Moving slow in the dark you just keep your headlamp pointed up and dig for the next step up.

The elevation chart doesn't do this section much justice as the trail is probably the most technical going through here.  There are lots of rocks and roots on the trails so even on the downhill and flats you can't ever get any rhythm going in the sense of a run.  Shorty after leaving the aid station Manoj had taken the lead from me.  He pushed me hard and after the first 3.5 miles of this section my legs were burning.  We passed a few more runners in a technical downhill section.  When we could catch a group they would ask if we wanted to pass which Manoj would then ask me.  Most of the time I gave him the go ahead and appreciated him keeping me running hard here.  We joked about all the beautiful overlooks we were missing as we would summit each climb.  We could see the half moon and stars dancing off Lake Superior in the night but nothing else past what our headlamps illuminated.

My legs wore on and I tried my best to push ahead with Manoj.  I really was beginning to dislike his  motive at the time but looking back I appreciate how strategic he was in this section pushing me right where I needed to be.  We did this section in 3 hours and 26 minutes from the time we left Crosby-Manitou, wow, I wanted a sub 3-1/2 hour section, how good of pacing is that?!!  Manoj is one heck of a pacer from what he did for me during Superior 100 to his last 10.5 mile stretch with Anne last year at MillStone 50k to get her first sub 6 hour at that event.  If you need a pacer, I haven't found a better one out there for support and pushing you right to your limit but not beyond.

The last mile to Sugarloaf aid station began to drag on with tired legs.  It was now almost 5:00 am and I was feeling the sleep deprivation.  It was time for some real food and caffeine.  Sugarloaf was by far my favorite aid station of this whole race.  At 1/2 mile out they had signs every few hundred feet that was a menu of the foods available.  Bacon, sausage, hash-browns (with olive oil!) and we anxiously awaited the next sign and food offering ahead.  It was super unique and fun to see!

When I arrived we saw Anne and she got us over to the chair.  A volunteer came right up asking what they could get for me.  I asked about the hash browns and she immediately asked if I wanted them with bacon or sausage, mmmm.... bacon please!!  The volunteers were also very attentive to the pacers and asking what they needed, I greatly appreciated that cause they were working hard as well.  Unfortunately Anne had gotten lost momentarily driving to Sugarloaf and arrived later than expected.  She was only able to grab a few minutes nap before getting out to us.  She had some coffee waiting for me which I took down.  Manoj got me the standard cup of soup as always and a cheese quesadilla for the walk out.  I put down a bunch of calories and felt really good.  After a short 11 minute buffet stop at Sugarloaf, it was time to get back out there.  Thank you to all those amazing Sugarloaf volunteers, my race hit a huge high here!

Sugarloaf to Cramer Road (5.6 miles; 77.9 total)

 I told Anne and Manoj I wanted to knock out the next couple sections on my own.  I enjoy running alone and taking in nature's beauty, especially in Northern MN.  They both insisted to running with me but they had also worked hard all day Friday and all night, it was important they get rest, especially since they were out driving on the roads.  I knew Cramer would be chaotic with the Marathon start happening at 8:00 am so it best they go ahead together.

This section to Cramer was a highlight for me during the 50 miler in 2018 and it hit as a favorite again.  I took off from Sugarloaf onto mostly low land flat trails and passed a few runners.  It was dark at Sugarloaf when I left at 5:20 am but twilight was coming.  Everyone talks about the rising of the sun after a night in a 100 mile event and what it does for the spirit.  You have made it through some of the toughest stuff while navigating by only your headlamp and sleepy eyes all night.  The oncoming daylight gives a big boost as it begins to show the silhouettes of the trees.  The song birds come to life with their welcoming of a new day.  It really is a great experience to take in.

I unfortunately didn't have my phone with me here to take pictures after having ditched it with Anne last night at Country Road 6.  I was treated to an amazing sunrise from Lake Superior to my right along a stand of birch and aspen trees.  The first half to Cramer Road breezed by and I ran a large section of it.  There is a steep climb and technical descent in the middle of this section but also offers some nice views over the lower wetland areas to your left.  I felt good in this section and it went by quickly, the 5.6 miles clicked off in 1 hour 46 minutes and it felt good to be running a bit again.

I ran towards Cramer Road aid station and saw John Storkamp out putting up some additional flagging for the start of the Marathon race.  I told him good morning and thanked him for the perfect weather.  The skies were blue and clear and the sun was coming down to warm up the 40 degree temps.  I arrived at the aid station and again saw my buddy Matt working the ham radio.  It was great to see him again and he was right, we were both a little more beat up than when we saw each other yesterday at Silver Bay.  We talked for a little bit and Anne took our photo together.  I appreciate his and all the ham radio operators efforts over race weekend.
Matt and I both looking a little more tired Saturday morning

Anne and Manoj showed me once again to the chair and I got some coffee, soup, a pancake, and water refill.  I was feeling good and was excited to have gotten through Cramer Road before the Marathon start, it was one of the small goals I had to keep me moving through the night.  I left the aid station at 7:17 am, almost 45 minutes before the marathoners would go off.  I told Anne I would see her at Temperance which is a favorite section of ours that we would run together.  I remarked, this is awesome, we are already going to Temperance!!

Cramer Road to Temperance (7.1 miles; 85 total)

I like to break this section down into two main components.  Leaving Cramer Road there are lots of runnable sections with rolling hills.  The only thing which can slow you down here is the mud but this year it was not too bad.  The second half is much more technical as you get to the Cross River and eventually make your way to Temperance River.  I was exhausted but still able to run sections through here.  I felt good and was excited to get to Temperance and pick up Anne as pacer.  Things slowed down as I got to the Cross River.  The rocks and roots are numerous through here and it really is hard to get a running pace going.  I just ended up hiking fast through most of this.  After running along the Cross River for a while I crossed the bridge and then it is about a 2.5 mile section to get you back towards Temperance aid station.

Shortly after this entering this part I heard someone sprinting up the hill behind me and I quickly got off to the side.  The leader of the Marathon went flying by me and tripped on the next downhill on a rock, he almost went flying face first but somehow regained his balance and footing to keep on going.  This would continue all the way to Temperance with fast Marathoners running through and I would step off to the side.  The trail is very narrow here so it was my only option.  These last couple miles went by painfully slow as I kept stopping and getting off to the side.  It seemed that every time I would look behind me I would at the same time jam my foot into a rock.  My toes were now starting to feel all the rocks they had hit from the overnight section.  It was also somewhere in this section that within a 1 mile stretch I took two hard falls on boardwalks.  The boards here were wet, slippery with mud, and in general needing repair.  Several sections had boards in downhill sections that sloped left or right.  Even slowly walking I still managed to wipe out hard.  I wound up with some good bruises that I still felt weeks after the race.

Trudging slowly along I made it from Cramer Road to Temperance in 2 hours 5 minutes which I projected for 2 hours 12 minutes, felt good to knock out the last couple sections quicker than I expected and was feeling good heading into the final section of the race.

Anne and Manoj quickly pulled me over to my chair and it was now just after 9:00 am.  The early morning sun was beating down and I actually felt warm sitting here.  Manoj got me the trusty soup broth and we refilled my water.  I had a wonderful pancake with syrup which so many others rave about in their race reports.  Only a few short minutes here and Anne and I were ready to head out.

Temperance to Sawbill (5.7 miles; 90.7 total)

One of the biggest and most technical climbs lay ahead for Anne and I in just a couple short miles.  We left in what seemed like a crowd of people heading East along the river until you cross over at the Gitchi Gami bike trail.  A quick left and you head back West along Temperance River.  Anne and I love to hike this section when we are on the North Shore.  When we lived in Minnesota it was always our favorite to hike and we would always go here on Labor Day weekend to end the summer.  This time I was starting to battle sleep deprivation and on tired legs.  It meant a lot for me to go through here in the 50 mile last year and now with Anne in the 100 this year.  I soaked it all in as we left the Temperance River.

Cael and I at Temperance River (Labor Day 2010)
Anne and Cael where Temperance River flows into Lake Superior (Labor Day 2010)

Cael and I hiking in 2010 at Temperance.  Maybe one day he will run a Superior race along this section?
Cael, Hazel, and Anne at Temperance in 2017

The whole family (Temperance River 2017)

Did I mention Temperance River holds a lot of family memories for me?  Sorry for the flashback in time, now back to the race.  Anne and I began the big climb up to Carlton Peak as we left the river.  It starts gradually with some easy stairs and then becomes more technical as you near the base of the peak.  We were under full attack at this point from Marathoners passing us.  Anne was speaking for me telling them to keep up the great work.  They would give us huge encouragement and I felt the same towards them.  This is no easy Marathon course, congratulations to all who finished this race!

Making our way along Temperance River
The best way to describe Carlton Peak is a huge rock precipice which sticks above the entire area around Temperance River.  It is impressive in nature to view from afar and up close.  To climb from the South is an art of bouldering. It would seem that someone dumped a load of large granite boulders to the side of Carlton Peak so one can get to the top.  Anne and I navigated this section with another 100 miler and we were lucky to not have a group of fast marathoners breathing down our necks through here.  Anne captured some pictures, she loved this section and it was nice to see her smiling!

Bouldering up Carlton Peak

Who puts this at mile 88 of a 100 mile race?!

We made it to the top and past the Spur Trail which would take you to the actual peak (thankfully we didn't have to do this).  The trail from the North is technical but much easier and family friendly.  My legs were now starting to feel pretty shot, the quads and calves were burning and just didn't feel like they had much more running left in them.  I hiked quickly the rest of this section down to Sawbill which we did in under 2 hours.  I was feeling relieved that only a 1/2 marathon lay ahead of us to Lutsen and the finish line.  At the aid station Manoj was waiting but I just wanted a quick in and out.  We filled my water and left the aid station in less than 3 minutes from when we arrived.  Most of this was Manoj explaining to Anne how to get out of the parking lot, we were all now sleep deprived!

Sawbill to Oberg (5.5 miles; 96.2 total)

It was shortly after leaving this aid station that full exhaustion began to take shape.  My mind had slowed down and my body wanted to follow.  The miles seemed to go on forever and I just couldn't seem to find my positive thinking.  Looking back I really needed some caffeine for these last two sections.  My brain had gone to caveman state and everything going on around me from Marthoners passing me, Manoj pacing me, and the last 28 hours was overtaking me.  I just had to zone it all out and I don't believe I said more than 10 words to Manoj over these miles.  He kept trying to keep me positive and moving while also talking with the Marathoners who would catch us.  All I could think was one pole and foot ahead at a time.

This section is also where I started to hallucinate for the first time in my running career.  I began to see real objects in the woods which were not actually there.  Aspen trees turned to propane tanks, a pile of leaves and a stump became a doll house, a leaning tree became a roadside stand, sticks became mice.  The hallucination would take my attention and after just a couple seconds I would see the object for what it really was.  These came to be more frequent and vivid until I finished this race.  I didn't tell Anne or Manoj about these until after the race as I didn't want them to worry I was going to pass out on the trail.  I felt fine moving ahead, just was certainly feeling the effects from lacking sleep.  I believe this was also compounded by not getting much sleep the two nights heading into the race.  Wednesday and Thursday nights were only good for 4-5 hours of rest each night.  I am the type of guy who needs his 8 hours of sleep, especially when training for a race.  In my first 100 miler I was in my own bed leading up to the race and got plenty of sleep, this made a huge difference.

We trudged along, this is a very runnable section if someone has fresh legs, I didn't so I think we fast hiked this whole thing.  It went by slow and took well over 1-1/2 hours.  Anne was waiting for us at Oberg (the final aid station!!).  She had planned to join as pacer since Oberg to the finish you can have 2 pacers with you.  I had forgotten my phone was still with her so I asked her for it, we would need it back at Caribou for any of my contacts to get us back to Oberg to pickup the Jeep.  She ran to get it while Manoj and I got something quick to eat from the aid station.  They had dumplings and quesadillas there which tasted great.  I also refilled my water and I set off for the trail.  Manoj stayed back to pick up Anne when she returned with my phone.  They both quickly caught me not far from the road at Oberg.
Manoj and I shuffling into Oberg

Oberg to Caribou Highlands (7.1. miles; 103.3 total)

Did I mention this race is 103.3 miles long, not 100?  You are not given anything at Superior, and the last 3.3 miles definitely make you earn a finish.  The three of us left Oberg down the trail towards two of the biggest climbs of the whole race.  They are not very technical but Moose Mountain was up first.  It is a straight climb up and has a set of stairs that haunt most 100 miler's dreams.  We were moving steady but not a lot of running was going to happen.  I broke it to Anne and Manoj that while we didn't hit our sub-30 hour ultimate goal, I still thought we had a real shot to break 32 hours.  It was going to take some work but it was realistic.  We power hiked heading up Moose Mountain and got momentarily hung up behind a struggling 100 miler that had some Marathoners in line.  We eventually all got by and continued the climb.  We arrived at the stairs and I just zoned them out, one after the other until we reached the top of them.  There is a nice ridge-line you get to run before one more big climb to the top of Moose Mountain.  From the top we could hear the finish line even though we were still almost 4 miles away by trail.  

My legs were shot and I was forced to side step down most of the way from Moose Mountain.  It is a steep descent with loose rock and dirt that is tricky even on a good day.  Quite a few Marathoners and a 100 miler passed us through here.  Just as quickly as you get to the bottom of Moose Mountain do you make a turn and start the long grind up Mystery Mountain.  While Moose is a straight climb up and down, Mystery could also be deemed Misery Mountain because it is an incessant amount of long switchbacks taking you back and forth on yourself.  The ascent is long, the descent is just as long.  On the descent I was running as much as I was able here to try and break 32 hours.  I was a little uncertain just how far out the finish was as last year it was dark by the time I got here in the 50 miler.  We just kept pushing the pace and Anne and Manoj stayed positive for me.  We got out to the gravel and ran over the bridge at Poplar River and kept running on the gravel road.  We took a little walk up the steepest part of the hill and then began our run as we hit the pavement.  From there you make a loop around the resort and dip off the road to come around the finish line at the pool.  Anne and Manoj went off aside before the pool and were there to see me at the finish.  I was stunned as they called my name and that it was my 1st Superior 100 finish!  I did it, we did it, a finish at Superior!

The finish area is busy and I was given my aspen wood medal around my neck and the finisher's buckle!  I dreamed about this moment and what emotion would pass over me, when it came I was just in awe and disbelief.  I made my way over to the Superior wolf for a big kiss and at this moment I felt what had just happened.  A huge smile came over me knowing it was done and I had finished!  We took some obligatory photos then headed to relax, get a shower, food, and beer.  It was over, Superior 100 finisher!

Look, I can still run!

That finish line moment!!

A kiss none sweeter

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The best crew and pacers I am forever grateful to

The After

After a I got a nice long shower Anne and I still had to go get the Jeep back at Oberg.  We didn't know anyone around the finish area so just headed to the parking lot hoping to catch a ride with someone leaving.  An amazing group of 3 ladies who had just finished the Marathon offered us a ride to Oberg as they drove back to the Twin Cities.  We got to Oberg to retrieve the Jeep and cheered on several more 100 milers as they began their final section from Oberg to go become finishers.

Back at Caribou Highlands I enjoyed a couple beers while cheering on finishers and later Anne and I watched the awards ceremony.  It was then time to eat!  Anne cooked up the best tasting burgers in the condo and I went to sleep shortly after.  It had been a good day, well 2 days actually.

We spent Sunday with some hikes at Temperance, Palisade Head, and taking in the last of the North Shore.  A quick visit with my cousin Grant at his new home in Duluth and we were back to the Twin Cities for a flight in the morning.  We bypassed more sleep in lieu of Surly Brewing for celebratory beer and dinner.  It was an incredible journey and I can't thank those who supported me from my family, friends, co-workers, and most importantly Anne & Manoj!!


  • 103.3 miles
  • 21,000 feet elevation gain (Denali Mountain is 20,310 feet from sea level)
  • 21,000 feet elevation loss
  • 42,000 feet elevation change
  • 11 cups of soup (thanks volunteers & crew)
  • ~20 liters of water or Tailwind
  • 2 pairs of shoes and socks used
  • 1 finisher buckle
My 30 hour race with actual times (feel free to email me for an Excel copy if you want for future Superior 100 race)

Race splits as given by Ultralive (Note these can vary drastically as to when the radio operators record)

Race Gear

The weather for this race was almost ideal with temperatures in the low 60's during the day and lows in the low 40's at night.  I had additional gear for cold or rainy weather which I didn't use but should be planned for.
  • Sanity: None
  • Shoes: Altra Lone Peaks to Finland aid station, Altra Timps from Finland to Finish
  • Socks: Injinji toe socks, 1 change out at Finland.  If this had been a rainy year more sock and shoe change outs.  I used Trail Toes cream for my feet at sock change.
  • Hydration Vest: Ultimate Direction Jurek North with 2 liter hydration bladder.  If weather had been warmer I had a backup additional soft flask to use on longer sections.
  • Watch: Garmin Fenix 3 (big thank you to Manoj for borrowing me this just days before the race when my Fenix 2 decided to die a slow painful death)
  • Buff: wrap one around the wrist to wipe all sorts of gross things (bugs, salt, leaves) from your face during the run.
  • Shirt: 3 changeouts, 1 at night to long-sleeve
  • Shorts: 1 pair; Salomon
  • Nutrition: Tailwind, Gu blocks, grapes, coffee, hash browns with bacon (Sugarloaf); soup/ramen with broth at every aid station starting at Finland, pancakes (Temperance & Cramer), dumplings (Oberg), numerous cheese quesadilla slices, Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies, & PB&J sandwiches
  • Jacket: New Balance light shell that I carried with me for rain but only used as a warm-up jacket before the race start, then it was in my pack the rest of the race.
  • Hat: Norway trucker hat in memory of my Grandpa Floyd
  • Cold weather gear not used: gloves, hat, light windbreaker pants, Columbia mid-layer shell, sleeves
  • Poles: Leki Mico Vario Trail Pro poles used starting at Silver Bay; utilized on and off to the finish.
  • Spot Gen3 tracking device - For crew and my parents to track me along the route, turns out no one looked at it, why did I carry it?
  • Headlamp - Foxelli 280 lumen that I picked up at Country Rd 6 and used until Cramer on 1 charge.  I had a black diamond I carried as backup but never used.
  • Gear my crew brought from aid station to aid station
    • Tailwind powder
    • Spare hydration bladder they had filled for quick change out
    • Medical supplies (tape, benadryl, ace bandage wraps, gauze, ibuprofen, scissors, etc.)
    • Spare clothing (socks, shirts, shorts, shoes, cold weather gear, etc)
    • Duct tape for any gear repairs
    • Notebook with maps, aid station instructions, pace chart
    • Gu, grapes, Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (mmmm)
    • Crew picked up my backup drop bags in case they hadn't arrived
    • Spare headlamp

Race Notes & Lessons Learned (for those looking to run Superior)

  1. Aid Station Times - I had allotted for no more than 5 minutes time at each aid station and knew I could lose a lot of time there.  5 minutes was fine Friday up to County Rd 6 and again later in the race after Cramer Road.  The overnight sections take their toll and you are going to spend more than 5 minutes at overnight aid stations (Finland, Crosby-Manitou, & Sugarloaf in particular).  I ended up estimating 1:02 for total aid station time and actual was 1:54.  Unless you are an elite or only taking Gu for nutrition, allot for extra time on overnight aid stations.  Getting a chair and having some solid foods, hot soup, or a cup of coffee with your gear change is only going to benefit you on trail.  Next Superior 100 I will plan for 2 hours of aid station time with most of that being on the overnight ones.  Plus they are just a fun experience to chat with crews, volunteers, and fellow runners you may not have seen in a long time.
  2. Training to Hike - My training runs were just that, runs.  On mountain runs I was always fast hiking the uphill but this was only for 1-2 hours at the most and not sustained long hikes.  For future training I will add a weight vest or backpack with 20-25 lbs weight and go on more hikes, at least one every couple weeks.  My hiking was steady but really slowed late in the race to where I found it hard to manage 20 minute miles, at points it actually felt better to run.  Add long hikes with weight to your training plan. I passed other runners just hiking fast at points in the race and felt I could have been more effective with better training.
  3. Crews & Drop-Bags - I used a crew with backup of drop bags in case they got lost and didn't show.  Can you run your first Superior 100 without a crew?  Yes, but why would you want to?  Anne and Manoj saved my butt so many times I can't thank them enough.  Manoj was always there to help force me to eat late in the race at aid stations and having something to look forward to at each aid station was a huge mental boost.  Anne being there to support me was so uplifting and only she knew exactly what I needed.  I can see running this race on drop bags only but I wouldn't have done it for my first race.  Volunteers are great with drop bags and will get them for you.  Pack them, if you don't use them so what, they could save your race.
  4. Boardwalks - In most places there are (2) side by side 2"x 10" boards for you to run above the mud or wetlands you are in.  In most cases these are great and provide a nice smooth surface to run on.  I estimate there is somewhere around 3 miles of boardwalks on this course, maybe more.  The boards also become muddy, wet, and slick in spots.  Forget fast technical descents, you are probably more likely to get injured on the boards.  I watched numerous falls including two of my own. Sections of these boards often fall out of disrepair and are loose, tiled at strange angles, or rotted out.  10 days out from the race and I still feel the bruises from the two major falls I took on boards along the Cross River.
  5. Mud - It's there, almost every section of the course right up until you hit the pavement in Lutsen.  Don't try to be a hero, just trudge through it and change socks as you need.  Again, saw several people fall by trying to dance the edges around which also widens and damages the trail. 
  6. Mental - This is the most important factor to finish at Superior.  You have put in the training, maybe it wasn't perfect, but you are ready for Superior.  This race is HARD, not in the manner you are going to have to suffer for a few hours, but HARD in that you will suffer on and off for long periods of time over two days. It is a roller coaster and the lows and highs only become more extreme through the race.  I was hating myself through the sections after Crosby-Manitou at night and again the last 13 miles from Sawbill to the finish.  Miles become longer, slower, and tougher the more the race goes on.  The toughest climb is in the last section, there is no place to rest on this course except the first 4.4 miles on paved trail.  After that it becomes a mental game.  I never imagined the places this race would take my mind or how hard it would be to keep going.  All that being said, for the HARD, there is no greater reward than overcoming this course and crossing that finish line at Caribou Highlands.


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