Sorry for the delay here. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how to write this thing. It was a beautiful and brutal course that really beat me up. There could be some inaccuracies in the section descriptions, but I think I am close.
The Drive Up – I was lucky enough to have my father-in-law and crew chief extraordinaire volunteer to take some driving time of the 11.5 hour trip from Troy, IL to Lutsen, MN. We left Thursday night and drove up to Madison, WI and grabbed a hotel for the night so we did not have to take the whole trip in one shot. Got up, ate some breakfast and hit the road again.
We arrived in Lutsen around 3 with a few hours to kill so we grabbed the aid station map and went to Oberg Mountain aid station and checked out the trail a bit. This trail section was not bad, but was a good preview of what was to come from a footing standpoint. Lots of roots and rocks coving this single track section.
Start – We started this point-to-point 50 miler in the town of Finalnd, south of the finish at Caribou Highlands Lodge in Lusten. We all gathered on the road listened to a little pre race briefing then were off. We were on the road for about a 1/4 of a mile then turned left onto the Superior Hiking Trail. The trail had some tricky footing with some good softball sized stones scattered about but for the most part this section was relatively flat without much climb only some rolling hills here and there. I ran with a some folks from Illinois, Iowa, and some native Minnesotans. I locked in with a guy named Paul who had ran the course before (both the 100 and the 50) and was moving at a similar pace as me and we stayed together for a fair amount of time.
Sonju Lake – We rolled into the aid station at Sonju Lake and filled up our water bottles. I usually don’t spend much time at the first aid station, but they called out that it was over 9 miles to the next one so I decided to refill everything and eat a pretzel or 2. This next section of the course was SLOW moving. We basically would drop down to the river, then head up the Sawtooth Mountain range. Lots of rocks and roots riddled the trail. All of the terrain made you work for it. The roots and rocks were not just there, they were tall, meaning you had to lift your feet higher than normal. Below is a picture of my crew (Ron) the day before. Those type of roots were a common occurrence on the trail.
Crosby Manitou State Park to Sugarloaf I don’t remember much here except that the last 9 miles were painfully slow and I was glad to be done with that section. I was still with Paul for a bit longer when we rolled in here. I do recall this section not being that rough and was able to up the pace a little, which was welcome after the slow climbs on the previous section.
Sugarloaf to Cramer Road – I started feeling pretty rough though this section, which is normal for me. Usually around the 20 mile mark I start getting a little blah. The temps had started to rise and the humidity was already way up. I am guessing it was in the 70%’s. I hit the Cramer Road section and was about 25 miles in and feeling pretty rough. Luckily Ron was there at the aid station to give me a pick me up and get me going. The heat and humidity took it’s toll on a lot of runners and a significant number of runners dropped at this point.
Cramer Road to Temperance River – 25 -32.7We were lucky enough to get a nice douse of rain at this part. I was hot, grumpy and grimy feeling so this was perfect! I met a guy from BC at this point (Brett.. I think) and we cruised together for this entire section. He was feeling rough and I was coming out of it so we just helped each other though and talked. This was his first ultra… what a pick!! My legs were really starting to feel rough though here, but the views were unreal! I was on top of a mountain.. literally. Now this is not Everest or even the Rockies but man this was sweet. I really wish I would have brought my camera for this section. Ron was waiting at the aid station and said lots of people came out saying “this part of the course was the hardest” He said that he heard that with every section and being a point-to-point, it may have been true that each section got progressively harder.
Temperance River to Britton Peak –32.7 - 37.5 – This section of the course was again rough. The climbs here were just unreal. Fellow ultrarunner David Wakefield (3rd overall in the 50) said after the race when we were talking “I guess they don’t believe in switchbacks up here!” It was so true. Everything was straight up or straight down… and the straight downs were killing my legs. I came into the aid station at Britton Peak and again said bent over with my hands on my knees breathing hard “that section was rough!” Ron helped me refill water bottles and reloaded my E-Caps. As I was getting ready to get back on the trail, fellow SLUG Jeremy Bolt and Matt (who I shared some time with earlier) came in. I decided to run with these guys for a bit.. but it was short lived.
Britton Peak to Oberg Mountain 37.5 -44.9 – This was pretty much the end for me as far as running went. I lead Jeremy and Matt for about 1/2 a mile then my right ITB locked up and I was forced to walk….. the entire rest of the race! This sucked. I though about dropping once I hit the Oberg Mountain aid station and was actually convinced that I would. I just kept walking and watching people pass me. It was miserable, I was in 10th overall and now a parade of folks are cruising by me and there is nothing I can do. I saw the signs on the trail for the Oberg parking lot and decided, “I’ve come this far, might was well finish as long as I can make the cutoff.” I rolled into the aid station and there was Ron asking how things were going. I told him I could not run anymore and had to walk it in so if he wanted to see the trail, he could just walk it in with me. He was up for it so he started getting himself ready to go. While at the aid station, I ran across Curt. I had met Curt at the PCT50 back in 2007. We talked for a while and he asked how my daughter was. Which I thought was great because when we had met, my wife was 7 months pregnant and did not even make the trip to Oregon. He had just remembered. Once again, you can’t beat the people involved in ultras!! Kurt took good care of me. Grabbed me some food, some aspirin and was just good to have there and lift my spirits. We said “good-bye” and Ron and I started walking.
Oberg Mountain to Finish 44.9 – 52 – Ron and I walked together in the dark for a LONG time. There were some tough climbs and of course the continued tricky footing. It was especially rough for Ron since this was not something he does and it was dark out so we only had flashlights and headlamps for a light source. We cussed and laughed and talked about the course and the day. It was really great to have him out there with me. I wish I would have been running, but then Ron would not have been able to go out there and see this section of the course in it’s entirety so I guess it worked out pretty well. We finally popped off the trail onto a gravel road, the end was near! We kept walking and could finally see the Caribou Lodge coming up. I mustered up enough to grit my teeth and “jog” it in for the last few hundred feet to the finish line. I crossed in 14:13 minutes. I had walked for about the last 6 hours!
Finish Line – What a great way to finish a race! We ended on the back patio of the Caribou Highlands Lodge. Other finishers were there hanging out and talking. I was really glad that I had not pulled out because I would have hated to be sitting here with a DNF hanging over me. I talked with David Wakefield about the course and we both agreed (and so did the finishing times) that is it a very hard course.
Looking back I can say that my legs were not prepared for the amount of decent that this course offered. Which is a great lesson to learn without a doubt. Now as I sit here, still a little beat up, I know that if timing works out, I’ll be back to this course next year to try my hand at it again. If not, I got to see a beautiful course and saw that if I dig deep enough I can still get the finish.