My goal at Superior Spring in 2016 was to experience the people like I hadn't before. Mission accomplished.
Although I wasn't trained physically as I've been in year's past I was confident I would be successful. My plan was to start slow and finish strong and that's just what happened.
Knowing the only way to finish with a fast time is to start quickly, speed was not my goal this time. This whole summer is one big event culminating at Superior 100.
Zumbro 17 was the beginning and Superior 50k was ultra 1 of 4. Using Zumbro strategy as a microcosm of my events all season, the first 13 miles took 3:11: +. Sawbill to the turnaround was slow too but I wasn't concerned by that.
Early on I leapfrogged with a couple of new friends until they finally passed me and said, "tag, you're it." Thus beginning the longest game of tag I've ever been a part of.
My buddy Todd would take off well in front of me and I wouldn't see him until the flat coming off/heading on to Carlton's Peak. I was about to climb and he was finishing his descent. When we passed each other I said, "I'm after you Carter. Now I've got your scent. It's stinky but I've got it." I would chase him from the top of the peak but never really expect to see him until the race was over. From the summit my "race" was on. The energy at the top served as fuel.
Friday, the night before the race, has always been a time for me to mentally prepare in isolation for Saturday's adventure. This year was different. I was one of the first to check in and pick up this year's race poster (I've got them all). Then, instead of holing up in the room, I lingered and, in line with my '16 SS objective, experienced the people. What a beautiful group it is. Eric and I sat outside packet pickup and became a part of the party. We talked with a 12 year old who was there to do the 25k. We heard conversations about logistics and witnessed others discussing strategy and sharing stories of past events.
Then my buddy John came over. We talked about the weather as our conversation started. He was pulled in a few directions and our conversation continued. Eric ended up getting picked up for the sweeping crew and we were off to our room for spaghetti dinner complete with bread and salad. Thanks Todd! The monster cookie was a nice treat. What a beautiful day... I was in bed before 8.
Our room overlooked the start/finish area so we were able to sit on the deck and soak it all in, even the pre race briefing. This race is quite different now than it was in '10 when I walked up and registered to run the night before. Somehow the small race feel has stayed even after needing a lottery process to manage the impact on the trail. That is certainly credit to Rocksteady Running, the 80+ volunteers, the SHT and many more who keep the scales balanced.
I'm always up early on event day. Saturday was no different. My alarm was set for 5:16 and I was up just in time to denessecitate setting it. Catalyst and Spark 30 minutes prior to two eballs for breakfast and it was down to race day check in. Todd and I headed down and lingered as other runners checked in. We talked about strategy and looked forward to another beautiful day on the SHT.
I have run some tough miles on the Superior Hiking Trail and didn't want to get "there" again on Saturday. Temps in Lutsen are calculated at the lake and our race is run up the hill. So, from a handful of learning experiences, I add 10 - 20 degrees to whatever the temp is in Lutsen. Especially considering my lack of miles leading into this race, slow and salty was my main strategy. I always concern myself with chaffing and do what I can to stay ahead of it. It's a fact of my life in this game though so I expected to deal with some of it. And I did but was able to work through it.
From the top of the peak I had reason to run:
Once I hit the flats and boardwalks into Sawbill it was time to close a couple of gaps and run. At Sawbill I had fresh socks and electrolytes waiting for me and after I crossed the road made the decision to change them out and get ready for a strong finish. I dropped my shirt, changed socks and ate a few potatoes dipped in salt (I'd been doing this since Oberg on the way out).
About the middle of Sawbill to Oberg I tagged my buddies and kept moving. They talked about catching me but I felt that was unlikely. My legs felt as fresh as they could after 20+ miles. Then as I approached Oberg I saw a familiar gait. It was Todd. I'd been chasing him but thought I'd need the Oberg section to have a chance at catching him. He was in rough shape and would drop at Oberg. Who was I going to chase now?
The answer is no one and I was perfectly fine with that. The Sport Beans finally came out and I'd ride them all the way in.
Part of me was waiting on cramps and the closer I got to the Poplar the more convinced I was that I might avoid that discomfort in this race. I did! Up the stairs, down the roots, across the boardwalk and up the switchbacks. From there I stopped and got situated for the homestretch. Rolling down to the river felt great and I thought about how long and seemingly endless this stretch of trail had felt in the past. Not today though.
I would pass five more runners from the river to the finish line and my buddy John would hang yet another round chunk of wood on twine around my neck.
Even after finishing I'd spend some time hanging around the finish. Todd and I had some beef chili, listened to a few stories of adventure, congratulated my new friends on a game of tag well played and headed up to our room to clean up and get back to the party.
There doesn't seem to be much to say that hasn't already been said. Superior Spring '16 was yet another great event put on by the Rocksteady Running crew. It was yet another great weekend spent with family and friends at Caribou Highlands in Lutsen. Congrats Jesse on your 25k finish. This was my 12th ultra finish and I'll be going for #13 at Afton 50k in early July.
I experienced the people like I hadn't before and met more than two new friends.