An Athlete's Diary
rugged | RELENTLESS | remote - Superior
This is the story of my Superior 100 mile trail race 2013
Tuesday night I was not well. I had a full day at work and I was exhausted. My stomach was tied in knots and I was in bed by 8pm.
Wednesday was more of the same. I woke up for a couple of sessions, came home and slept. Again, Wednesday night, I was in bed by 8, but this time I was up on the hour starting at 1am, not throwing up, but losing fluids quickly.
By Thursday mid-morning, I was again able to eat (lots of fruit) and I began drinking lots of fluids (Gatorade and water). I took my time packing and enjoyed the peace of a quiet house.
At 11:40 Jesse came over as we’d leave from home at noon. We stopped for gas, then at Subway for food and off we went to the North Shore.
Our accommodations for Thursday night were really close to the race start (Grand Superior Lodge). We met Todd at 5pm at Two Harbors Fairgrounds, checked in, ate our pasta pre-race meal, and saddled up for the briefing at 6:30. That lasted an hour. John Gustafson, you're the one that got me into this and it was great to see you both Thursday night and Friday morning at the race start. I wish we could have met up at the finish too. Next year, right... We headed back to the room, organized gear while watching the first half of football, and went to be bed.
Gooseberry Falls - Split Rock - 9.7 miles
It already felt muggy, and I knew early on that the long sleeve shirt and cowboy hat I was wearing were going to be hot and heavy for the first 20 miles today. We left in a big pack and everyone settled in pretty well to where they would run their race.
A mile or so in, I found myself behind a legend in these parts, Jason Husveth. I’d run with him for a while last November at Ozarks and studied his style. I studied again this morning.
I remember this section being quite runnable from a few weeks ago and it didn’t play technical here either. It’s easy to go out too fast so I stayed back and kept it pretty steady. The loop at Split Rock was included in the first section as I anticipated would be the case. A few weeks back, I included that loop into section 2 which brought that stretch from 10 to 15 miles. I got into trouble that day.
It was overcast as the sun had not yet burned off the morning cloud cover. It would though, as temperatures climbed to 90+ degrees, and the humidity would play a factor for the entire 30 hours I was on the trail. We caught a spur trail to the aid station, climbed back up the hill and headed off to Beaver Bay. Beaver Bay would be the first time I would have access to my crew.
Split Rock - Beaver Bay - 10.3 miles
My recollection was that this section of trail would be two different halves. It turned out to be mostly in the woods finishing with more rocks and climbs. The biggest thing on this section today, was my hat gaining weight. That thing, with all the sweaty buildup, must have weight 5 pounds by the time I got to Beaver Bay.
There was trail maintenance and we were rerouted through some very thick wood until we reconnected with the SHT.
As I came into Beaver Bay it was great to see my crew waiting for me. This was the first time in the race I had access to that. Dad and Caden made it up by that point too.
Beaver Bay - Silver Bay - 4.9 miles
At Beaver Bay Todd informed me that the leader had dropped at Silver Bay. The heat had gotten to him at mile 25. It was hot and humid and I had convinced myself that I was done running. The whole section from Beaver Bay to Silver Bay was right in the heat. I leapfrogged another guy who was in as rough a shape as me. We limped in to Silver Bay.
My friend Troy was the first friend I saw at Silver Bay followed by Dan and Jessica (thanks for the pictures), Dad, Todd, Caden, and Jesse. I am so thankful to have had such wonderful support, not only in person at the event, but here at home too.
One of the first things Troy said when I got in was that I needed salt. For some reason, this didn’t make it through my thick skull.
I came into Silver Bay convinced that my race was done. I had mentally checked out and was physically not doing well. This is where my crew, knowing I didn’t want to stop, kept me going. Jesse even said, “You told me you were going to tell me you wanted to stop. You also told me to tell you to keep going.” He did and I’m thankful for that.
I ate a lot of food, drank a lot of water, but didn’t take any salt (big mistake).
As I headed across the road to the trailhead for Tettegouche, Caden stopped me, put his head in my chest and said something that completely changed my attitude and got another 50 miles out of me. That conversation will stay between the two of us but I get choked up just reliving that moment now.
That statement stayed with me for the rest of my time on the trail and will for the rest of my life. - Thanks Caden - keep motivating and inspiring others!
Silver Bay - Tettegouche - 9.9 miles
I was looking forward to Bean and Bear. The first 3+ miles flew by as Caden’s encouragement moved my tired legs. When I reached the lakes, I snapped a photo and sent it to some friends.
I was banking on it cooling off a bit but it never really did – even as we got into the night.
At about the 4 mile mark into this section is when I got into trouble. On our trip a few weeks prior, I had gotten into similar trouble. The cramping was back. I should have learned from my training run and listened to my friend Troy that I needed salt. Unfortunately, I didn’t do either and was stuck deep in the woods with severe cramping.
There must have been a lot of praying back home at that moment as my new friend Jeffrey came up on me as I was beginning to groan in the woods. He gave me a S – Tab, then a small baggie with a TBSP of light table salt in it. It was almost instantaneous how that salt was saving my muscles and my race. Jeffrey only had enough for himself but he stopped to get me moving again. A perfect example of the camaraderie that exists in the trail running community. That bought me 15-20 minutes and a mile before the cramping came back. I was still a good 5 miles from Tettegouche. And… along came my new friend Bill. He asked, “How are you doing? Do you need anything?” I said, with what I’m sure was a desperate tone, “salt.” I’ll never forget his response as he reached into his pack and pulled out a Ziploc full of S – Tabs. There must have been 100 capsules in there. It’s difficult to explain the feeling of relief at that moment. I emptied a Sports Beans pack and filled up on S – Tabs. These guys kept my race alive and kept me moving.
From that point on, I would have one S – Tab every 15 – 20 minutes and wouldn’t deal with severe cramping for the rest of my race.
My mind was ready, my attitude was good, and now my body could keep up. I now employed a way of moving that I’ve dubbed “the Husveth Hustle.” It’s a way of moving quickly through the woods. It’s almost like running, but more of a constant scurry. I don’t remember much of the last 5 miles except that I was hyper focused on moving as fast as I could.
Approximately 1 mile from Tettegouche I sent this message to my crew, “new socks, long shirt, lots of water, headlamp and flashlight. Turning and burning at this one!” I've heard that they were shocked to hear that after my previous message just a half hour prior - "Severe cramping. Not good." Turn and burn I did and it was off to County Road 6 where I would pick up Todd and be on my way.
At all the aid stations Caden was my Mike and Ike getter. He would immediately ask if I needed Mike and Ikes and grab a handful, give me 2 or 3, and eat the rest. Thanks for your help Cade – O!
Tettegouche - County Road 6 - 8.6 miles
My plan was to go hard until 10:30 and hopefully I would run into the aid station first. Then, I knew I was doing what I could to get where I was going on time.
This section was much like the second half of the last. I was feeling good, moving quickly, and the trail was letting me. I passed a dozen runners and pulled into County Road 6 aid with 10 minutes to spare. Sadly, that meant everyone that I’d passed would not make the time cutoff, including Jeffrey and Bill.
I sat down for a few minutes, ate, grabbed a cup of coffee, picked up Todd and headed off to Finland.
County Road 6 - Finland - 7.7 miles
The cutoff at Finland was 2am.
It was still hot except when we got into the lower areas and the wood was getting slippery with the dew from the grass. What I remember most about this section is pace. I was still in the good groove I’d picked up after Bill and Jeffrey saved my race awhile back. We must have been cruising because we made it into Finland by 1:15.
After circling the aid station, we finally found the crew at the car preparing to pull out the gear. I sat down for a few minutes, changed socks (I’ll get gator skins), ate, drank, switched pacers and Jesse and I were on our way.
To this point I was feeling pretty good. Getting tired, but still wanting to move quickly. The next cutoff now wouldn’t be until Sugarload at 11:30 so we had 10 hours to cover 20 miles.
Finland - Sonju Lake - 7.5 miles
Jesse left Finland with me at 1:30 am and I was excited to share this night with him.
Rugged | RELENTLESS | Remote – Superior
On this section of trail, it definitely lived up to its name. I had a friend of mine ask me what I would do differently next time. I’m going to do my best to share my response to her with you here. I would have had salt was my first thought. The second thought takes a little bit more energy to explain, but I think it’s a lesson that we can all stand to learn or be reminded of, as it transcends the trail into our lives every day.
It takes a lot of energy to have a bad attitude.
I was upset that the trail wouldn’t “let” me go fast. The road was rocky, the trail was rough, it was definitely not smooth sailing. I had no control of that, yet, I let it bother me and had a negative attitude. Not only does it take a lot of energy to have a bad attitude, but then to change direction, and bring your spirits all the way back up. Mine never made it back to positive. Here are a couple of things that I discussed with my friend when we were walking and talking about attitude and the essentiality of having a positive one when facing adversity:
-Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.
-The Serenity Prayer - God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference
I do this on purpose, I signed up for this, I knew what I was getting into when I toed the line at Superior and still I was unable to maintain a positive attitude. I understand the challenges I faced on the morning of September 7th were insignificant in comparison to the things that some of us deal with in our lives every day.
My message here is this: if there is one thing that you can do for yourself and the people around you, it’s have a good attitude. It is contagious, fun to be around, and truly does make a difference. Make it intentional!
I would have had a better attitude. Thank you Jesse for putting up with me on the trail and doing what you could to facilitate attitude change in the moment.
We needed something. Enter John Taylor (54 – 100 mile finishes) and a group of 5 others. For the last 3 miles to Sonju, their pace was just what we needed. The respect for this Upper Midwest Trail Legend was incredible. Stories of adventures past and positivity that we needed. The smell of a campfire and the sounds of chatter are always welcomed in the woods.
We should have left Sonju with the pack.
Sonju Lake - Crosby-Manitou - 4.2 miles
Moving slowly, we saddled up and headed on our way out of Sonju. The trail offered more of the same... ROCKS.
I just now remember back to 50 mile races past with 100 mile finishers. The section from Finland to Crosby is notoriously difficult with rocks like teeth looking to chew up trail runners and spit them out! Factor in darkness and it’s that much more of a challenge. It was encouraging to see the sun coming up, to see the light glow grow on the distant horizon.
I was leading for this whole section until the sun started coming up. With a couple of miles to go, Jesse made a "suggestion" and took the lead. We made it my goal to keep up. Looking back, that’s the way to go. We settled into a good rhythm, then hit an uphill road for the last half mile of this section. Jesse put up with a whole lot of negative talk on this road, and for that, sorry Jess. I was convinced my race was once again… over!
On one stretch of trail early in the morning, there was a split in the trail. The race went left and I stayed straight. With my head down
2 feet in front of me, I took a step into thick, wet mud almost over my shoe. As I brought my eyes and my headlamp up to see what was ahead of me, I saw nothing but water. Without the mud, I’d have walked right into the middle of it. We found the trail and continued on our way.
I knew the next section was 10 miles and I had convinced myself my race was over. We did the math at Crosby aid and figured I just needed to average 2mph to make it to Sugarloaf in time. I would pick up Todd at Crosby and, drawing on Caden’s words from earlier, continue on my journey. Todd was right, if I'd have stopped there, I would wonder today if I could have made it to Sugarloaf on time. Thanks for keeping me moving.
Misery is the picture I would insert here if I had one...
Crosby-Manitou - Sugarloaf - 9.9 miles
I didn’t remember this section from previous races, but knew there would be some climbing involved early. It wasn’t the ups that gave me trouble, it was the downs. My attitude was negative leaving Crosby aid. There are a few factors that contributed to my inability to snap out of it.
1. Severe cramping Friday - I'm sure that contributed to the heaviness of my legs as we climbed early then flattened out in this section
2. A bad attitude - There is no excuse for a bad attitude. Our attitude is a 100% choice. I choose positivity and challenge you to do the same. We do have an impact on those we deal with every day. Add value to people. The more we focus on adding value to others and spreading that message, the more others will focus their energy on adding value to our lives as well.
3. I was tired - Not a surprise. I would be worried if I hadn't been
With a better attitude, I’m confident I could have pushed through the pain. That’s painful for me to say looking back on the moment… The climbing took a lot out of me early in this section and I never came back. Thank you Todd for walking very slowly with me for 6 hours on Saturday morning. It was good to see Troy and Maranda on the trail. Way to go Maranda on your 1st place finish! I limped into Sugarloaf at 12:30, 1 hour after the cutoff time, crawled into the back of the minivan and went to sleep.
Neil, it was good to see you at Sugarloaf. I hope I didn’t look bad enough to push you away from this craziness.
Up until Tuesday after the race, I was never going to do this again. I signed up for Surph the Murch 50k this afternoon.
I am so blessed to have family and friends who support my running and adventures. My wife, this whole time, spent the weekend at home with two little ones. Not to mention the hours she "let" me run leading up to this race. She’s a rock star. Thanks Kate!
I do this to challenge myself, keep motivated and also to write about my adventures and be an example that anything is
possible. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how many kids you have, how busy you are at work, Those are all excuses. I don't know your situation, but I do know that it's a lot easier to make excuses than it is to put yourself out there and pursue your dreams. I sat on my tail for years. That's a story for another day.
I challenge you to pick a dream and toe the line. You might surprise yourself and accomplish something you never thought possible.
Share your dream in the comments below and get started today!
For the last 2 months I have been training with a friend of mine, Dan Harvey. He had done 1 marathon long ago and has hiked the entire SHT. He toed the line Saturday morning and finished the Moose Mountain Marathon in 8:17:00. Great job Dan and congrats on your finish!!
I Love the North Woods and look forward to a schedule full of Ultra Marathons next summer with Superior 100 being the race that will put 100 miles in the books for me. Who’s with me?
Jon Howard - Husband and Father of 3 | Ultra Endurance Athlete | Owner - Training Edge Sports
Training Edge Sports, LLC