Do you have a place where you LOVE to run? Where it is so difficult, where you have to dig deep, where the trail is so technical that you can't take your eyes off it for a split second or boom..on the ground you go? It is so beautiful: the vegetation, the rocks-sheer granite-the climbing, the river crossings, the waterfalls, the mountains, up up up, the roots, the quad crushing downhills, the smell of oak and pine and wildflowers. That is the Superior Hiking Trail. If you haven't run it, you must. It is THAT wonderful. It is THAT difficult.
When I first began running ultras I refused to run the Superior Hiking Trail. My newbie ultra running friend, Bonnie, was going to run her 3rd 50 at Superior. I was too afraid. I had heard stories of the moose, the bear (yeah, its true), getting lost in the dark (been there..done that), the bone crushing up hills and down hill, I wanted no part of it. I chose to run the City of Lakes 25K instead. She came back and RAVED about the SHT. I decided to run it the following year and now go back for the Spring and Fall races. It's THAT awesome.
I've run 3 50 mile (14 hours, 17.5 hours and 12:20) and 2 50K's up there now. The big 100 I'll be running in September. I love it.
I have always stayed at Caribou Highlands; the races start and finish there..it's perfect. Nice pools, hot tubs, rooms with multiple bathrooms, bedrooms, fireplace, bunk beds, etc. Great view of Moose Mountain. I, Troy, Ryan (Troy's friend) and my Mom and Dad stayed there this weekend. We had a blast.
I and the boys left Friday about 9 and met Mom and Dad in Duluth, we made it to the Temperance River and I ran out about 4 miles while they hiked, then ran back. We arrived Caribou Highlands, swam, hot tubbed and relaxed. Went to the packet pickup and had dinner. Race Directors Rick and Linda asked if I would say something about Ann's passing. They wanted me to speak to the group of runners for the pre race meeting after the dinner. I agreed; then realized I had 20 minutes to think of something to say. I decided to talk about how I enjoyed the SHT and talked Ann into running this same 50K with me last year. I spoke about how much fun she had, how we enjoyed the race so much that she came back for the marathon in the fall as I did the 50 mile. How Ann ran a PR at TCM in October and was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma in November. How Scott honored her at his Fat Ass Afton run and I had the Ann Maser 8K in January. How she passed on in February and how she would be with us on the trail come race day. It was tough..but I think I did OK.
Saturday morning was beautiful! The 50K began at 7 AM; the 25K at 9 AM. I didn't have to wake early or anything. What a bonus. After having coffee and a sandwich I kissed my family goodbye and headed out to the start.
Last year I ran a 7:09 here. I'm stronger and more fit this year. I figured I could run a 630 for sure; maybe a 615 if I pushed it. But did I want to push it with FANS in only 2 weeks?
Rick said go and we went. I started out with a front pack of 10 or so men and 3 other women. I caught one of the women fairly early and was trying to gain on the others.
The trail was beautiful. The sun was shining, the rivers full and moving swiftly, the wild flowers were out, it was perfect. Just perfect. There was a bit of mud in spots, enough to make it feel like your shoes could be sucked off, but in most spots it was dry.
Moose Mountain is tough. Up up up up up you go, but its early in the race, so not so bad. On the way back Moose Mountain is a bitch. She's mean and will suck the air right out of your lungs and make your quads quiver.
I could feel Ann running with me. A few times I broke down and began to sob. I had a few conversations with her; I talked about this race last year that we ran together and how much fun we had at TCM last October and about her treatments. Then when I was sobbing so hard that I couldn't see my feet while I was running over rocks and roots so told me to stop crying, wipe my eyes and run for both of us.
I ran my heart out.
At the turn around I was at 2:57. I couldn't believe I had traveled 25K that quickly. I decided to run hard the way back too. I told myself 'who knows, you could have the flu during FANS, why hold back?' Duh.
I tried to catch the gals in front of me. I saw them before I reached the turn around and figured I could catch one. I could not!
At the last aid station-Oberg-I spotted my family. It was awesome to see them at the aid station. They have never come out to an aid station before. I was so happy! My iPod had died during the downpour (oh yeah..the sun left..the clouds came and a downpour followed) so I was able to get that off my arm and give it to me Dad, got a big kiss from Troy and Mom and fled for home.
I passed 7 men during those 7.2 miles. Some young men too. That's a great feeling, for a 41 year old woman to pass those young guys! It made me run faster..I couldn't have them catch me!
Moose Mountain was her bitchy self. She's tough on the way back. There were 2 young guys in front of me, climbing up and complaining about their legs and saying " I bet the RD is laughing about this climb..right here with 5 miles to go." I chimed in "well, at least it is 25 miles in and not 95. Just think if you were running the 100...you'd hit this at 95" They both grunted and said never. Ha! I passed them on the hill and watched them finish.
I ran as hard as I could that last section. It wasn't enough to catch the girls, but it was enough to take 1:06 of my fastest time out there! I finished in 6:03...good enough for 4th Woman! I ran across the finish line; Mom, Dad, Troy and Ryan were cheering. Scott put a medal around my neck and gave me a huge hug. It was wonderful.
Nothing hurt, I was able to eat and drink..everything went well.
I know that Ann was running with me.
It was so much fun to watch the finishers come in..some beat and bruised..but all so happy to have spent the day on the trail. It was a perfect day for running. But what day isn't?