An Athlete's Diary
In 2010 I showed up for Superior Spring 50k having never run an ultra or spent any time around the ultra-running community or on the SHT. I was alone, carried no water and hadn’t even signed up for the race yet. Oh, how times have changed. Storkamp had me sign the release form and promise to mail my check within a week or so. I did. That was my first ultra-finish.
Fast forward five years and more than a dozen ultra-finishes and I find myself a sponsor at Superior fall. I set up a table and collected email addresses for the chance to win a poster or a T shirt. Those names have been drawn and the winners will be notified very soon. And… I was signed up to toe the line at the 100 for the third time. I finished in ’14. I look forward to serving this community.
On to the race… I was trained. Something was missing. On my third attempt at the 100 mile distance I was finally successful in ’14. That was huge motivation and my reason to “press on” late in that event. That was not the case this year. I needed something different and my why was unclear before leaving Gooseberry on September 11.
Gooseberry - Split Rock
The first 4.5 I ran sub 10’s. Then we hit the Split Rock Loop. Since the first number of miles were on bike path it was still pretty bunched up on the loop. What a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping. It was very comfortable. I was ahead of pace after section 1. Thanks for the help Wendi and Erik, it was great to see you heading into aid.
Split Rock - Beaver Bay
I ran more on this section than I thought I would. It’s quite a runnable section really. I spent some time with Taylor on this section. It was good chatting with you. Thanks for pointing out the wolf scat!
Beaver Bay - Silver Bay
This section started poorly for me. Something wasn’t quite right. I slowed down, ate food, sucked on some table salt and pressed on slowly. I like Silver Bay – Tettegouche so I took my time getting there. By the time I got to the top of the ridge I was feeling a bit better. Jesse, Dad and Caden waited for me a Silver Bay and it was good to see them.
Silver Bay - Tettegouche
The views are incredible and expectations for speed low on this section. The second half is runnable though and I made great time. I had given myself 20 minute miles through this section and averaged under 17’s. In all my training this section is one that I rarely miss which probably explains my comfort with it. The gluten free brownies were amazing at Tettegouche.
Tettegouche - County Road 6
I had to stop a few times and soak in the beauty. There is some climbing and difficult terrain on this section but the back half is beautifully runnable in the light. This was the first time in three years I didn’t need a headlamp. It was a blessing to be able to move quickly to County Road 6.
County Road 6 - Finland
I know there were hairy parts of this section but I had forgotten how much they slowed me down. Dark doesn’t help any, of course. I think I was out of Finland by 11. Thank you volunteers!
Finland - Sonju - Crosby
Yeah, there’s an aid station at Sonju. While I appreciate the support there I have found it best to keep moving so after a brief stop I was off. This section is where my attitude needs to be checked. Some can move quickly through here. Not me. This proved to be one of the more relentless sections yet again. It’s dark, tired and those darn wet, muddy roots. For a minute, on the road to Crosby, I turned my headlamp off and my eyes to the sky. Crosby was coming and I knew it would be the greatest test yet.
Crosby - Sugarloaf
This is the last real long section of the entire race. At 9.4 miles the climbing and descending seems to never end. One of my goals this year was to finish this section prior to the light of day. I was on pace and it seemed that every time I looked at my per mile pace it was 25+. This was discouraging to me. Then, my GPS ran out of battery. About three quarters of the way through this section I finally started to feel tired. Like not enough sleep tired. No surprises there that this would eventually become an issue. My knees were hurting and I began searching for reasons to continue from Sugarloaf. I went quiet for a mile or so. I doubt Jesse even knew where my head was at. By the time the sun began to come up I had talked myself into dropping at Sugarloaf. Jesse tried to keep me going. One thing he said was that he would finish the last 30+ miles with me. That’s a big deal. The farthest Jesse had gone at one time is about 15. Let’s just say we would have been feeling similarly come about Sawbill and his Worlds softball tournament this weekend would have been a completely different experience. I’m glad I didn’t take you up on that bro although it would have been motivating to suffer with you. Thanks for all you’ve done for me and all you did for me at Superior ’15. You did everything right and I wouldn’t ask anything be done differently. I quietly dropped at Sugarloaf and am at peace with that decision.
Jesse and Dad headed home and Caden and I stayed around the North Shore to enjoy each other, the beauty of the north woods and the ultra-running community. Congrats to Aaron on his first finish. Jason, it was great to train with you and congrats on your fifth finish and 9000th day. To all who I spent time with on the trail, it was a pleasure and you are all inspiring. Regardless of whether you covered 103 miles or 25 miles, way to go! When we toe the line we don’t know what will happen next but what we do know is that the only chance of being successful (whatever that looks like) is to start.
It was a pleasure being a bigger part of Superior ’15 this year and I feel extremely blessed and grateful to be a part of such an amazing community of people.
I read something the other day that made my race. It hasn’t even started yet but I’ve got my mindset heading in.
Once we cross the line at Gooseberry on September 11, 2015 I will be entering into a long tunnel. This tunnel is 103+ miles long and the only way out of it is through the other side at Caribou Highlands in Lutsen, MN.
I don’t plan on any bad things chasing me but they will be if I need them to. Last year the theme of my finish was support. It will be no different this year although the support will be.
With my finish in ’14 I feel like I am now in some special club of ultra runners. I don’t make the club special. The runners who made up the club before me and the ones who will join the club after me are the ones that do that. This club is full of a champion’s mindset.
Let me share briefly what all goes into training for finishing a 100 mile footrace. First of all, what will do you in? Will it be the chaffing? Maybe you’ll get behind on calories or the temperature dropping near freezing will get you. Will it be poor planning? We can anticipate all we want and once we step in the tunnel it could all turn out differently than our mind prepared.
What about the mind? I’m often asked what it’s like to experience 100 miles on foot. My response is the same as it would be about running a marathon. It’s the same except that the frequency and depth of walls grow exponentially. In a marathon most runners cross one or two walls. When running 100 miles it’s difficult to count and frankly, why would I waste what little energy I have counting them.
How about the sleep deprivation? Well, it’s real and anyone who’s gone any length of time without it can attest to that. The headlamp has a dizzying effect on everything. The trail moves and the trees sometimes spin. Animals appear that don’t even exist. At least I don’t think they do.
Then, why do you run 100 miles? Don’t you know that you’re crazy? Well, yes I do know that. Don’t you know that you’re crazy too? It’s always something. My response was because I was practicing pain and the ability to overcome it. When we voluntarily put ourselves in positions where we want to quit, and don’t, we automatically gain confidence in our ability to persevere and carry on. I would say that reasoning has shifted to sharing time with the incredible community of people that make up any ultra running event.
What’s next? On Friday, September 11, 2015 I’ll enter into a tunnel where the only way out is 103 miles through to the other end.
What do I look forward to most? The unexpected excites me more than anything else. What barriers will present themselves? I don’t know. Superior ’15 will be an experience all its own and I look forward to sharing it with many amazing people!
What inspires you?
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