I didn't realize how nervous I was until I left all four of my drop bags and home, after I had left, for Lutsen. I had decided to return home, as I left my vitamins and hair conditioner behind. I walked into the laundry room, and there were my drop bags. Oh. No!
Thursday night was wonderful. I met Doug and Maria at their lodge cabin to head over to Two Harbors for Larry's race briefing and pasta dinner. It was so great to meet the other 30 runners, eat pasta, breadsticks and salad and see the awesome swag for completing the race. A Brooks red jacket and belt buckle that had color, plus all race entrants received a very nice tshirt.
Larry told us that because the group was small and intimate, he'd like to do something he used to do at his earlier races. I am thinking 'what the hell is he going to have us do?'. He had each racer get up and introduce themselves, then state a bit of their running background. It was a real nice ice breaker, a way to put faces to names and a great introduction.
Back to Lutsen, I phoned phone to check on the boys' football games and then headed to sleep. I actually slept very well, only waking a few times to make sure it wasn't 5 AM. The race began at 8 AM so we had plenty of rest time.
Doug and Maria picked me up at 6 and off to Gooseberry Falls we went for the start. It was cool and misty, but not raining. The forecast was getting better each day with only 20% chance or rain during the race but very cold. Lows in the low 30's for Friday night. I was glad I had my winter clothing packed in a drop bag.
We had a good hour to mill around, go to the bathroom too many times, visit and take pictures. Then it was show time. We were off at 8:00.
Even though I and Maria had been training on the Superior Hiking Trail together quite a bit, we never made a commitment to run the race with one another. That's a tough commitment for me to make. I was very pleased though when it became apparent that we were going to run this race at the same pace as our training runs.
We ran together for 65 or so miles!
The first aid stations were spaced far apart. 9.9 miles, 10.1 miles, long hauls without food. The trail is so primitive that car access isn't available in many areas. The aid/supplies for station 1 had to be hauled in by the volunteers. You would have never known that, they had everything very well stocked.
I saw Don Clark, a mentor of sorts to me, a very experienced ultra runner. I was so excited. I gave him a big hug and said "it's here Don, the race is finally here." I was super stoked. Had my 3 bottles filled with Hammer Heed, grabbed a sandwich and a Salted Nut Roll to put in my shorts for later and headed for aid station 2.
The trail is relentless up and down, rocky and rooty and just plain old damn tough. But beautiful. So very beautiful. We covered the rocky section that I hated most of all sections during the training, but while picking our way through it this time it didn't seem so bad. It was raining last time I ran through it, that is probably why.
Maria and I picked up two other runners that we ended up running most of the race with: Jerry from Missouri, it was his 51 Bday, and his 4th attempt at Superior. He had 1 finish but got his second yesterday in 31 hours! Awesome. Also, Stuart from Kansas City was with us, he was attempting his 10th finish!! 10th! He got it too. Amazing!
We made a train through the woods, running, talking, just enjoying each others company. I felt very lucky to be running with some experienced runners.
Darkness fell upon us, we turned on our lights and man, it was a whole different race. Maria asked if all the roots and rocks would go recess into the ground now that the sun went down. I wish!
We reached 50 miles only 40 minutes faster than our training time. I don't think we ran any faster, I think our aid station time was less. We were very pleased with our pace.
Larry had told me that a section near Sonju Lake was what he thought the worse section would be. Now I agree. We ran - no walked - through it in the dark. It is a low cedar tree area, just full of millions of tree roots. Some spots I couldn't find foot placement, so walked upon the roots and could feel my blisters on the bottom of my foot pop.
Yeah. The blisters were back, with a vegenance. They made up for the lost time, when I didn't receive any from Superior 50K through Voyageur 50 Mile. My feet are raw on the bottom and a few toes.
There were miles of this cedar tree root crap. We just kept plugging along. We noticed that we were all feeling tight in the shoulders/neck and realized it was from looking down at our feet so intensely, and holding the light downward to see. You couldn't stretch out while walking or you would go down immediately. Stop to stretch. Stop to take a drink from my bottle as my head had to tilt back and I couldn't see the roots. Crazy. I would love to watch the winners go through this area. I know they go a lot quicker than we did! It would be great to see how they do it.
Eventually we made our way through and man did it get cold! We were told by Mike and Shelly at an aid station that Larry went through at 11 PM and said it was 36F. We saw Mike and Shelly after midnight and I think it was cooler than that by then!
I put on long pants, another jacket, gloves and a hat. I was still freezing! At another aid station I grabbed a pair of my socks and put them over my hands but was still shaking uncontrollably. This made me so angry. I was afraid I'd become hypothermic due to my own stupidity of not packing enough warm clothing.
During the walking of the night time hours, Chris and Bob hooked up with us. Chris led our merry train of runners through one section, telling us rhymes such. It was a lot of fun. We now had a train of 6-8 runners. It was wonderful not going through the night alone, one of my fears before the race began.
The walking and cold took it's toll on my legs. I was thinking that maybe all of the walking would restful, that went the sun came up I'd feel well rested. Not. I felt worse. The back of my knees became sore; something I'd never felt before. Then I could feel that pain extend into my hamstrings and down into my calves. I tried stretching at each aid station and I just wasn't loosening up.
I and Maria stopped to pee and our train went up ahead. I and Maria were slowing. Chris was still leading us, but she was waiting for us to catch up quite a bit. As we came into the next aid station our train was just leaving. I knew we were in trouble. I re-lubbed up my painful feet. A heel blister popped so I salved up that, the arches were popping. I didn't look very closely. There was nothing I could do about it. I tried stretching out and my legs were like cement.
Bob switched with Chris and headed out with I and Maria. We had the Manitou River crossing ahead of us. It was still dark, we would be crossing in the darkness, in the water as the bridge had been removed for replacement the week prior and no new bridge was yet constructed.
Bob and Maria were moving better than I. I was taking mincing steps, 2 inches in stride, moving from my hips as my knees would no longer bend and my calves and hamstrings were cement. Shit. I've never felt this before! Go away pain! The blisters I can handle, this I was having a hard time with.
Bob felt concerned about leaving me in the dark. He came back to me and explained that he was there to pace Maria, that he told her he would get her through months ago. I knew that. I was lucky to have had Maria most of the race. I told him I totally understood, please don't feel responsible for me. He was so sweet. As they left me he would yell out : 'See my light, you take a hard right at the bottom of the curve' It was very nice of him.
It was dark. Total darkness. Lucky for me it was about 430 AM so I knew daylight would be coming soon. Thank god. It took me forever and a day to get to the river.
I came to the river crossing and there was a guy there to help me out. He took my hand and guide me across the dry rocks. But I couldn't bend my knees. He did a good job for me and I feel into the river anyway, hitting my head on a rock. Shit. Maybe it'd knock the leg pain away? Not so. He apologized, I apologized, told him it certainly wasn't his fault!! Thanks and I'm on my way..
As I was going up the relentless climb out of the river I saw Bob and Maria. They didn't see any markers so thought maybe they went the wrong way. Maria was sure they must have taken a wrong turn. I was too tired to worry about it. I heard Bob say that he thought they were on track so I just kept on trucking. Bob once led me out of Superior 50 mile through the dark. I would have never made it without him. I'll do whatever he says!
I followed Maria and Bob for a while, then took some more Advil, even though not even 4 hours had passed, and felt some pain in my legs subside. I was able to shuffle a bit, so went out in front and didn't see them again. The sun came up so at least I could see where the hell I was going. I wished my energy would come up too. Not to happen.
As I came across Caribou river I could smell pancakes from the aid station. They smelled good, but then my stomach turned as I though about eating them. I puked. I've never been sick during a race. Great. Just what I need. I'm finally shuffling and now I'm barfing and I'm doing the frankenstine walk again. Damn.
When I got into the aid station the pancakes still looked good so I had one, and it wasn't a good thing to do...
The next aid station was another 2.5 miles. I tried to shuffle but was reduced to walking with my hips, straight legged. I couldn't get down hills, I had to drop onto my butt and scooch down the rocky hills. I was trying to figure out how long I could do this.
I came into the next aid station, with a shuffle, I didn't want them to see my gait. I put some lube on one foot, I couldn't get the other shoe off, my foot was too swollen and sore of the blister fiasco. A very kind woman gave me a peanut butter sandwich in a baggie and I was on my way. I forced out a shuffle, a smile and laugh and hobbled across the road. 6 miles to Cramer Road.
Longest 6 miles of my life. I went 1.5 miles in 1 hour. I was on my butt scooching down the rocky hills when a woman out for a trail hike found me. She was very worried about me, asked if I had broken my leg, I tried explaining what I was doing..she couldn't figure out why I was trying to RUN a 100 mile race and I just gave up. She asked if she could help, I told her no and continued to scooch down the hill. Joe Lovett came across me next. He had DNF'd at Superior 100 last year and was out for retribution. He looked great, he passed me like I was standing still. Oh, I was! He finished too!
Eventually the sweeps, Don Clark and his son Joe, came upon me. Apparently Don had been behind me for a while, watching and assessing my condition. He helped me to stretch and told me I had to decide what I was going to do about continuing this race before the next aid station. I couldn't believe I was contemplating dropping from the race. I had never ever ever thought that I would quit. Until the last few hours, it was all I was thinking about. Was I going to be able to resurrect myself? Would my legs get energy back? This was one of the three 100's that I wanted to do this year. Was I willing to give up that goal? I put on my sunglasses and tried to cry quietly and I was thinking out all of these thoughts. God, I was a failure!! I didn't have the mental strength to push my broken body through another 23 miles. Could I do this walk thing for another 23 miles? I figured this race may take me the whole 38 hours but never did I think I would drop.
I did. 77 miles in. It took so long for me to get to the next aid station, I was dead last and I was dead. My legs had given out on me. Maria had dropped a few aid stations before. Shit pie. 1.5 miles an hour was not going to get me to the finish. Would it get better?
Neither of us finished.
It's the hardest decision I have made. But it was the right one. I was afraid I'd injure my knees, calves or hamstrings and not be able to run again. What if I couldn't go for the 5 mile runs with Topaz each day? That's what I love. That's what I love more than a finish of a hundred mile race. I love to run. I couldn't let Superior stop that. Or, is that a cop out I kept asking? I didn't know. I still don't.
It was awful to come into the aid station where many of my friends working the station were at. John, Alicia, Maynard, Rick, Linda, Bonnie; they were all there. I was done. I was stunned. This race beat me.
There was another guy there, from Minneapolis, that dropped as well. Rick and Don and Joe drove us back to the hotel. We felt like we were going to a funeral.
Back at the hotel I collapsed in my room. I couldn't move. I pulled myself to the shower and tried to clean up. Everything ached. I was afraid I pulled everything in my legs. They are dead.
I sat out at the finish line and watched the runners come in from the marathon and 50 mile and then later in the evening, the 100 miles. It was wonderful to see them cross the finish line.
Kudos to Al Holtz - who just ran CCC 100 two weeks ago! He was in our train for a while and he finished in fine form. And Kathy Weix, who only decided at the pasta dinner to run the 100-she finished too.
I spoke with the winner woman, Kerry Owens, from Washinton, DC. She ran Massanutten and came in third there. She told me Superior was more difficult that Massanutten. The winner male finished in 21. He won Massanutten in 20 hours. Amazing. It was wonderful to watch everyone finish the race.
I think 34 were entered and roughly 18 finished the race. I was getting too cold to watch the last finishers come in but I was there in spirit!
As I was packing my stuff this morning I began to wonder how in the world I was going to get my stuff up three flights of stairs to my car. I put everything out in the hallway and began the trek. Much to my delight, Scott and John appeared. John carried all of my stuff to the car. And I sobbed on Scott's shoulder. I couldn't help it. He gave me a hug and all of my emotions came pouring out. How embarassing.
This morning we all gathered at Betty's Pies for breakfast. I saw Kathy and began to cry. Again. I'm way to emotional about this. I was so happy for her, so had happy tears for her, and so sad that I didn't finish. She was just kind and began to cry and said she was so sorry I didn't finish. She has 6 100 finishes now.
I had a difficult time driving home. I needed to use my hands to move my leg to press upon the gas or break. My knees still don't want to bend. It's not all bad though. I have to take this as a learning experience and turn the negative into a positive.
I need to rest, regroup and lick my wounds. I'll be fine. It isn't everything. But damn, it's much better to feel this pain when there are buckles and finishing jackets in the mix!!
And next year..I'll finish that race!