Saturday, September 19, 2009

Superior Trail 50 2009

Last Saturday was the fall version of the Superior Trail Races where I attempted my first 50 miler. There's always a question of how well I'll do in a race but this is the first time I really didn't know if I could finish. As if 50 miles isn't enough this is on the Superior Hiking Trail - enough said for those who've experienced it. So obviously there was some excitement leading up to this one... more than usual.

I could just say "I didn't make it, I got pulled at mile 39.5 for time" and call it good, but what fun would that be??

at the start in Finland

The day started with what seemed like a really LONG bus ride from Lutsen to Finland (an-ti-ci-pa-tion!) - I sat and visited with Holly K on the way. At the start I hung out with Karen and Rick B as we waited to get going. Rick pulled another sign-up-at-the-last-minute-for-the-longer-race trick. Larry Pederson said go and off we went... towards the back it was the 3 of us and Mick with a few others in the mix. And of course right off the bat I was wondering if I was going ok or pushing a bit too much. Mick was really holding back as he was running behind me for awhile. That didn't last long and he went on to finish in just under 14 hours - way to go, Mick! Karen and Rick got away from me as we worked our way through the first section. Nice Karen waited for me at the aid station, Not-so-Nice Rick didn't.

I thought Rick was going to run with us??

We got to the first aid station at Sonju Lake a couple minutes ahead of the Cramer Rd soft cutoff pace. I never did see Rick again, though Karen did [sorry for bringing that up, Rick. :)]. Between aid stations I'd intermittently see Karen as she'd drop me and then slow down so I could catch back up. It was definitely nice of her to hang with me as it's more fun that way and it's too easy to back off when you're by yourself. Before too long we were at the Crosby Manitou aid station.

Crosby Manitou

It was nice to see Kel at this aid station and she was nice enough to take some of our stuff to the Oberg aid station where she was going to be working late into the evening - thanks for all your help, Kel! We hit this aid station at 3:03, right even with the Cramer Rd soft cutoff pace. And then it was on to the longest, toughest section that everyone talks about. There's a long climb and I'm glad someone told me there are 3 or 4 false plateaus before you are finally to the top. This is a LONG section (9.4 miles) and we thought we'd probably lose some time but were hoping to limit it to 10 minutes or so. Somewhere in this section we stopped for what turned out to be our last photo-op.

Karen seemed to get way ahead of me a couple times in this part. At one point I glanced up and got a glimpse of someone I figured was her but it wasn't. When I caught up to this other runner I asked how she was doing and she responded "not so good, I think I might have a concussion... I have a bump on my head and I've thrown up twice". Ohhh, that doesn't sound good. The conversation in my head was pretty short: "hmmm, what should I do?" - "Uh, you will stay with her and make sure she gets to the next aid station...", and that was that. She seemed to be moving well and said she had plenty of water. Early on she'd run for short periods and when I asked said she was light-headed. Later she couldn't run any more, was pretty wobbly at times just walking, and mentioned once that her head was really pounding. But she was a trooper and I was impressed - she knew she needed to get to the next aid station and she didn't stop even once.

There's a picture of her right behind Holly at Crosby Manitou so I suspect she'd been walking for awhile before I caught her. Initially I predicted about a half hour to the aid station (running and walking) and it took us about 70 minutes. Eventually we made it and I figured she was in good hands from then on. I heard she went to the hospital but was out later Sat evening, so I think she ended up being just fine. Hopefully a relatively happy ending to a long day for her.

I figured Karen would get to the aid station, wait a little bit, wonder what happened to me, and then be on her way... and thankfully that was the case. If our thought of being 10 minutes over the target pace was accurate she would've been there in ~5:40 and I got there in ~6:20! And then there was Pete. He made the trip up to see me and help me get through this thing and what do I do but leave him standing around wondering "what in the world happened to Wayne??". He was still at the aid station when I got there so it was great to see him, get pumped up a little bit, and then get back to it.

Pete got to see Rick, at Sugarloaf

So Rick was long gone and now so was Karen and it was up to me to keep myself going. I did pretty well in the next section... of course I had just walked for 70 minutes and was feeling good. I started out pretty fast thinking "I need to pull a Ragnar"... well that lasted about 10 minutes and then I settled into a more reasonable effort. In all my pre-race excitement my biggest concern was the 7 hour soft cutoff at Cramer Rd. I got there in ~7:55 and nobody said a word about it. All that worrying for nothing! Of course that doesn't mean I wasn't really late, it just means nobody said anything about it. When you get to Cramer Rd you can start thinking about the slower Oberg cutoff pace. Unfortunately I was already ~12 minutes over that and I'm not sure I was thinking about it.

So I made it to the Cramer Rd aid station, visited with the people there (Pete, Holly, aid station workers), changed my shoes and socks, refilled my gel flasks (Pete did that), had some food, and then got on my way. It was a quite enjoyable time - too bad I took WAY too long. It seems foolish now but at the time I'd been going for 8 hours and taking it easy for a bit felt pretty good. Unfortunately it cost me my chance to finish the race or at least make it one more section. Yeah, the 70 minutes into Sugarloaf helped put me behind but the way everything turned out I think I would've made it through Sawbill anyway if I had gotten in and out of Cramer Rd in a reasonable amount of time. Grrrr to wasting so much time, I should really know better.

The next section was pretty long (7.1 miles) to the Temperance River aid station. My main memory here is that I was running along a river and excited that I must almost be to the aid station. Unfortunately I was by a different river. After you cross over there's a sign that says Temperance River 1.9 miles. doh. At Temperance I was told I had 2.5 hours to get to Oberg by the 13 hour/7:00pm cutoff, so that put me 44 minutes over the Oberg cutoff pace. I was happy Pete was at Temperance to give me some encouragement. With that and some water I was off to Sawbill.

leaving Temperance

This section is 5.7 miles and I dropped ~8 minutes so was 52 minutes over the Oberg pace. As I got close I met Steve Q and Pete on the trail - they'd come out on a scouting trip. They warned me that I was very close to being dropped and my reaction was "WHAT? That's not right!". As far as I knew there was no cutoff time at Sawbill and the sweeps weren't anywhere around. Well, the decision was made to send the sweeps ahead out of Sawbill and I was pulled. I was pretty upset but hopefully didn't say anything too crazy. Word is I only missed getting through there by a couple minutes so taking too long at Cramer Rd really did cost me. So after some huffing and puffing Pete and I took off [and I'm glad Pete is such a stand-up guy that he'd never repeat what was said in the car!].

We hung out at Oberg for a little while, and then the finish line. Pete needed to get going (Thanks again for coming up for the day to help me out, Pete!) so I went to the hotel to get cleaned up and then headed back to the finish line. There I hung out with Shelly, and Kel joined us when she was done at Oberg, I had some ice cream, and we watched and congratulated the runners as they finished. It was fun watching people come in. Eventually Karen came in and was a total riot ("I think I was hallucinating, I didn't think I'd gone up Moose Mountain but someone said I had, I kept taking naps on the trail"). Funny stuff. :) Congrats, Karen! And then FINALLY [just kidding] Rick came in which was really cool... his 2nd sign-up-at-the-last-minute ST 50 and he's now 2-0... Congrats, Rick!

do I get to wear it?

So now it's a week after my biggest race ever and I DNFed, got pulled for time, didn't finish the race -- I'm sure other people will understand this: I think the biggest disappointment comes from the fact that I still don't know. I was feeling good and moving well... but was slow and walking a fair amount. The steep climbs were getting tough (like up Carlton Peak) and I knew there were more of those to come. The mind was starting to think "I've got a long ways to go... it's going to be tough... do I even like doing this?". So the big question remaining is... hours later in the dark and pouring rain, how would've I responded? There's a lot of excitement and nervousness when attempting something big and I think beneath it all is the question "what will I do when things get really tough?". Well I still don't know. I guess I'll have to find out another time!

Thank You to everyone involved in putting on the races --- and special thanks to Karen and Rick for being excited to see me do my first 50 and running with me, as well as Pete for making the trip to be spectator and crew, and everyone else that wished me well and helped/encouraged me and everyone else along the way. Thanks to Londell for loaning me an extra garmin 305. And Congratulations to everyone that toed the line up there and gave it what they had.

So the big question now of course is "what's next?". As Kel says I now have a 50-mile monkey on my back and I need to figure out where to get rid of it. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Superior Trail 50 Mile Preparations

This coming weekend is the Superior Trail Races in Northern MN. There are 3 races all held on the Superior Hiking Trail: marathon, 50 mile, and 100 mile. I'll be attempting my first 50 mile on Sat. ALL DAY Sat. Yikes.

So of course I've been getting ready... I have piles of stuff around: stuff I'll wear and carry, stuff going into drop bags.

I'm scared to pack everything I think I'm carrying with me into my bottle carrier and vest... I suspect it's going to feel like I'm backpacking!

I'm not superstitious or anything, but I'm wearing 3 of my Superior race shirts to work this week (not all at once, one at a time... at least I only wore one today. Hmmm, maybe add one each day... be wearing all 3 by Thur??). And when I get home I put on my FANS 12-hour shirt and my Pikes Peak Ascent jacket and wear those all evening.

Please tell me I'm not the only one that does stuff like this!?!? :)

For everyone heading up there... whether you're running or crewing or volunteering I hope you do GREAT!