Superior 100 2014 - Redemption

It’s a little hard for me to write this race report, for the simple fact that by doing so, means it’s over.  It’s that strange sensation that you have after major life events when you feel changed on the inside, but the rest of the world is moving along as if nothing out of the ordinary ever happened.  It’s a little surreal. 

As most of you already know, I had attempted the Superior 100 in 2013, and had to drop at mile 85.  It wasn’t long after that I knew I needed to return this year and take care of some “unfinished business.”  Coming into the race this year, I felt stronger and more confident than I had in 2013.  My 2013 DNF (stands for “did not finish”) actually taught me a lot of really good lessons.  Many of which I hoped would keep me moving better this year.

Soon enough it was race week and I was excited to head north.  I had an awesome team of people that were going to be a part of my journey.  First, was my wonderful husband, Matt, who had seen last year’s DNF first hand.  Then there was my mother in law, my parents, my dear friend from Michigan, AnneMarie, my friend Tracy, who’s husband was running the marathon, and my two best running pals Colleen & Steph.  I was surrounded by love, friendship, and the best support a girl could ask for to get to the finish line.

On Thursday we hung out in Duluth and then had dinner at my parents camper in Two Harbors before the race meeting.  After the meeting Annemarie and I spent the night at the camper with my parents and everyone else headed up to the house in Lutsen.  Lucky for me I had earplugs – because sleeping on an air mattress listening to the sound of multiple people snoring was not allowing for the most restful night’s sleep…I tried not to stress about it, and just rest as best as I could.
Dinner at the Sierra Base Camp

Race morning arrived and we got up and moving.  I had some coffee, scrambled eggs, a banana and a muffin before heading to the start.   It was cool, sunny and dry.  Perfect conditions.  There was a lot of excitement surrounding the visitor’s center at Gooseberry Falls State Park.  And after a few pictures and some nervous chatter, it was time to get lined up to start.
Pre-race pic with my parents and Patch

And we're off!

I lined up near the back with my friends Kamie and Joli.  After a couple of announcements we were on our way.  As the runners got more spread out, I was leading a small train of runners – me, Joli, Kamie, and one or two others.  I hadn’t seen Joli in a year, and we had plenty to catch up on.  Kamie said we were going to eat every 30 min.  That sounded good to me, and every 30 min, we’d all have a snack.  We’d remind each other to drink, and the camaraderie was lovely. Those first 9-10 miles passed easily and we came into Split Rock aid station.  I grabbed ½ a pb&j sandwich, refilled my water and electrolyte drink and headed out.  Kamie was right behind me.  We were right on schedule.  It was 10:35am.   Kamie and I would be together for over 50 miles of the race, and there is no doubt in my mind that was a key to my success.

Kamie and I continued to work together, her reminding me to eat, and turn my toes forward (when I duck walk, my knees hurt…I had no idea, just that tip alone saved me a lot of pain!) and me keeping the pace conversational, and relaxed.   The day was perfect and we kept checking off the aid stations. 

The first place you can see your crew is at 20 miles at Beaver Bay.  We were a little ahead of schedule, it was 1:20pm.  It was great to see most everyone there, it’s hard not to get sucked into a lot of chatter at the aid stations, so I told my crew to “get me in and get me out.”  They did a great job.  Most of the time I could keep it to about 5 minutes.  Refill my pack, grab some food, pb&j or broth and get going.
Coming into Beaver Bay

It was great having Kamie for the first half – we knew that we’d each run our own race, but we figured we were closely enough matched that if we could get to County Rd 6 – or 43 miles to pick up our pacers together, that we’d be in good shape.

My goal was to get to County Road 6/43.5 miles before dark – the section leading up to that is long and challenging.  That coupled with the sun going down and being eager to reach the pacers, it can be a mental game.  This is where our pace started to slow some, even though I was motivated to get there before it was totally dark.  I finally had to break down and put on the headlamp.  Shoot. But eventually we made it to the paved road, and jogged down to the bright lights and excitement of the aid station.  We arrived there at 8:45pm, about 30 min behind my anticipated schedule.

One thing I really found interesting is how during this event I lost my sense of time.  Kamie and I were chatting at one point when we realized we’d been out there for over 11 hours… Didn’t feel like that at all.  I became more motivated by the rise and fall of the sun – Friday – get in as many miles before dark.  Then Friday night, get in as many miles in the dark as possible, because that will get you closer to the finish line.  Saturday, get as many miles done in the daylight, so you don’t have to put that darn headlamp on again!!!

At 43 miles, I picked up my first pacer, Colleen, and we headed off into the night.  She was excited to be pacing and there was a lot of fun chatter.  Pretty soon Kamie and her pacer were right behind us.  Having 2 new people to talk to was great.  I continued to lead the train and set the pace.  We were having a blast. 

The four of us rolled into Finland – 51 miles at 11:20pm, I was about an hour behind my “plan.”  I was starting to get some hot spots on my heals – so changed socks and added some tape to the heals to prevent more blisters.  This was my first long aid station – I think it was just over 10 minutes.  Colleen and I headed out and before too long Kamie and Sue were right behind us again.  Another 4 + miles and we were into Sonju Lake Road.  No crews here so we checked out the buffet of food and refilled our packs.  I was going to have some more pb&j, but a guy dry heaving right behind me into the bushes, turned my stomach… Let’s get out of here!

Off into the darkness the 4 of us went.  This was probably where I started to really notice some other runners not doing so well.  We offered salt tabs, and reminded them to keep eating.  We were still eating every 30 min – whether we liked it or not!! And there were times that I did NOT want to eat.  But we were moving right along.  Our pace continued to slow some – the trail can be really technical in places, plus it was dark, my headlamp sucked, and I was starting to get tired.  I still wanted to hold off on caffeine as long as possible.  It was during this section that Kamie & Sue pulled ahead.  I wouldn’t see Kamie again until the finish, but my crew kept close tabs on her & let me know she was moving well.

After another 4+ miles, we came into the Crosby Manitou aid station.  I was ahead of my time from last year at this point, but still falling behind my plan for this year.  It was 4am Saturday.  My crew was getting nervous.  I was still feeling better than I had a year ago, so I wasn’t too worried.  I love this aid station.  They have the “best worst” hamburgers ever.  It was the wee hours of the morning and I inhaled ½ a cheeseburger.  It was gross and delicious all at the same time.  I also changed pacers here, and Steph and I would share the next 27 miles together.

We moved out of the aid station and deep into the Manitou river gorge.  Down, down, down to the river, up, up, up to horseshoe ridge.  The stars were amazing!!! This is a long section –nearly 10 miles, but the sun started to come up and the end of it is pretty runnable.  So enough power hiking and on to some jogging… I called it “shuffle shuffle” – hardly a run.  Just using different muscles.  I wanted out of this section badly.  My feet were hurting like mad.  I was fighting the good fight, but it was definitely getting harder.
Morning Sunrise on the trail

Finally out of the woods to Sugarloaf aid station.  Matt, Sandy and Annemarie were there.  They were fresh after getting a good night’s sleep.  I needed to change shoes and address what was happening to my feet.  They pointed me towards a chair and covered me in a blanket.  I wasn’t cold, why would I need a blanket, I wondered.  And within a minute, I was shivering.  The wind was breezy, but it was another beautiful morning.  Matt took off my shoes and socks and we determined I had one large blister on my left heal and a small one on my right foot.  The right foot we’d leave be, but the one on the left was getting big.  I drank some soup and tried to eat while they worked on my feet.  Matt poured cold water on them, even though I was shaking the cold water felt awesome.  Annemarie handed me some alieve, and I washed that down with a V8.  After about 20 minutes, I was up and headed towards Cramer Road. 
Steph getting me moving after shoe change at Sugarloaf
My feet were KILLING me when I got out of that chair.  But I knew I needed to just put it out of my mind.  Steph pushed me along, and continued to remind me to eat and drink every 30 minutes.  Pretty soon the alieve kicked in and I felt great.  This was a short section and we cruised, even making up some time.

We arrived at Cramer Road feeling good.  It was 10:30am and I was still an hour behind my planned schedule.  I was excited that I was moving well again.  I passed on the eggs this year, (I was superstitious that the eggs I ate here last year were my demise… I know they weren’t but I couldn’t take that chance) filled up my pack and we were off again.  It was on to Temperance.  I had some demons to slay here.

Steph mentioned this was runnable so I put on some music and cruised – until the mud and the rocks and the climbing slowed us down.  Just get to the boards by the river she said – then you can run… It wasn’t quite that simple, but we got it done… There was more climbing than either of us remembered and the miles weren’t clicking by quite as quickly either.  I was motivated to get to Temperance and get out of this section; it just felt like it took forever.   Finally we were there.

We arrived at Temperance at 1:05pm.  Within 10 minutes I was headed back out.  The early miles out of Temperance are nice – runnable trail, you see some tourists, you realize there is life outside of the Superior Hiking Trail… but then you climb, and climb, and climb up to Carlton Peak.  This was the physical barrier I was worried about last year – Temperance was the emotional barrier I was worried about this year.  I was through Temperance, now I just needed to conquer Carlton Peak at nearly 88 miles on my legs… I get to the top and boom, the tears, the first and only tears of the race.  I had made it…. There was no stopping me now.  2 more aid stations and a half marathon to go.

At 3:15pm we pulled into Sawbill aid station.  I was back on my pre-planned schedule.  I was feeling good.  I was over 2 hours a head of the cut off time.  My parents were here, along with my crew.  It was refreshing to see everyone, and I get to change pacers.  Annemarie was joining me for the last 12 miles. 

Annemarie and I headed out of Sawbill and on to the mucky trail.  This section was so bad after the 100, 50 & marathoners had gone through here.  But we moved right along trying not to get our shoes sucked off in the mud. 

We arrived at the Oberg aid station at 5:25pm.  Plenty of time ahead of the cut off and maybe even enough time to get done before dark.  Maybe?  I was in and out of there in 2 minutes.  I didn’t have much left to do.  Make sure I have just enough calories to get there without bonking… I hadn’t really bonked yet – eating every 30 min was like magic!  Annemarie and I headed out.  I tried to keep power hiking to stay one step ahead of the sunset.  This section was a bit of a mental game, too, you are so close, but yet, still far enough out that it takes a couple of hours.  I wanted to get done before dark.  The sun was starting to set and I probably should have put on my headlamp, but we finally made it out on to the gravel road just before the river.  And once we were out of the woods, the moon was amazing.  We stopped on the bridge over the poplar river for a split second to take it all in and snap a couple pictures. 
Moon over the Poplar River.  I made it!
I ran up the hill to the paved road.  Then up the paved road and there was Steph, Colleen and Matt waiting for me.  I ran even faster, across the road back into the grass and around Caribou Highlands.  Just as I came up to the building I heard a deep voice from above, “Kate is that you?” I responded, “I think so!” For a split second I wondered if it was God, then I realized there were people standing on the balconies above me… I giggled and ran it on in to the finish line.  Kamie was standing there waiting for me, looking as fresh as a daisy.  She gave me a huge hug & my family escorted me to a chair along the side.  And just like that it was all said and done.