Well, you know..another amazing adventure!
In May I emailed the MN DRS group that I belong to, to see if anyone was up to a BETA II run on the SHT. We did one last year, a 50 mile beta run, trying to help out Race Director, Larry Pederson, to see when and where he'd have runners at aid stations and how long would it take runners to get through the first 50 miles of the new 102.5 mile SHT Superior Sawtooth 100 (102.5). Well, we had a blast. So it was only obvious that I'd ask the question.
In the end, there were 8 others that were able to make it up for a run on the SHT. Maria and I planned a night run on the trail. We'd run the night portion of the race. Maria's great roving aid station volunteer and husband, Doug, agreed to follow us along the course and offer us aid. Race Director, Larry Pederson, offered to help Doug. Now, how many RD's do you know out there that are willing to offer aid for 13 hours during a training run? Maria, me, Jason, Pierre, Duke and Wynn were going to run.
We rented a home in Tofte, right on the beautiful Lake Superior for the festivities. This home has it all. 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a home theatre, bar and pool room, awesome deck looking out onto Lake Superior, bonfire upon the rocks. It was incredible.
I arrived about 2PM. The cleaners were still doing their thing inside so I sat on the beautiful deck, taking in the view of the lake, waiting for the next arrivals. Pretty soon Maria and Doug, Larry and Wynn, Pierre and Duke showed up. Jason was going to meet up with us later on the trail, as he was waiting for his friend, Amy, to get off of work, then they would drive up, meeting us around 8 at Co Rd 6 aid station.
After getting our packs, food, water, etc. together we all piled into the roving aid station and headed out to Co Rd 1, where we'd begin. Ah, the excitement!
We took some pictures (which I will post soon) and headed on up the trail. I had two 24 oz bottles of heed and a few gels to start out. In 6.8 miles we'd meet up with Doug and Larry. It was beautiful, warm, still, I love the SHT. I was surprised as we were climbing up a huge cliff, up to Sawmill Dome, I told Maria "I smell cigar smoke, what the hell?" Sure enough, we rounded the corner and there was a guy, sitting on the huge outcrop of rock, smoking a cigar! I laughed at him, told him I KNEW I smelled someone smoking a cigar, that he wasn't able to get away with anything! We ran on, amazed that one would damage their lungs that way, while out climbing cliffs.
At the next aid, Co Rd 6, I was dry on liquid. During the race I carry 3 24 oz bottles, but during this run only carried 2. Don't know why. We met up with Larry and Doug and were surprised that Duke and Wynn were here. Apparently they waited for Larry and Doug, as they were waiting for Jason somewhere. They never found Jason, so came to aid us. Duke and Wynn are super fast. They waited quite a while for their aid, then left for the trail as Maria, me and Pierre filled up. We had our lights ready, this section would become dark. This section would be 7.6 miles, before we'd meet our aid at Finland Rec Center. As we were eating peanut butter jelly sandwiches, rollups and filling our bottles, Jason and Amy pulled up. He was able to run the next section with us and Amy went to the house to rest. This section has the Cliffs at Section 13, the crazy beaver boardwalk, it passes through excellent moose habitat. As we were going over the beaver boardwalk the beavers began thumping their tails at us! We talked of alien beaver attacking runners. Sure enough, they were out to get us! Crazy beaver.
The bug section wasn't bad this time. There were plenty of moths bothering us, gathering toward our lights, but the other bugs weren't bad at all. Unbelievably, Maria and I AGAIN passed the SHT trail sign as we were running quickly down the Finland Ski Trail. We missed it last year during a training run, too! We laughed, turned around Pierre and Jason, and headed back 10 minutes. Sure enough, there was the sign for the turn off the ski trail back onto the SHT.
Finland Rec Center to Sonju Lake Parking Lot is 7.5 miles. This is the rooty section. The Cedar bogs are deep and thick. The roots grow across the SHT, causing major lifting of the legs and foot pain. During this section I heard something in the tree. It made a TON of noise. I was leading the pack..for some reason I did most of the leading..I was scared when I heard this thing and screamed and ran way back to Pierre .. and hid behind his knee. His bad leg, I was trying to squat down and hide behind it. Jason aimed his flashlight at the 'thing'. Here was a crazy, mad, giant .. ROBIN fluttering his wings at us. Jeeze. A frickin' robin! It scared the heck out of me :)
We went past the Old Trapper's Cabin, overlooked Sonju Lake, Jason incorrectly took a boardwalk out to the lake, we called him back to us on the trail and finished this section up.
When we arrived to Doug and Larry it was about 4 AM. Duke and Wynn were finished for the night, and Jason said he was done as well. Maria, Pierre and I wanted to continue and run the next section..9 miles of hell from Crosby-Manitou State Park to Caribou River Wayside. We filled up on aid and headed out. Doug and Larry would take the three guys back to the house, then meet up with us in 3 or 4 hours. It was only 9 miles but this section is tough as hell. One thing on our side: the bridge was now built across Manitou River. During the 100 it wasn't and I fell here and cut my head. At least I now knew I could walk upon a bridge. I remembered this was a tough section, but thought that since I only had 30 or so miles on my legs, it wouldn't be such a bitch. AH, was I wrong! It was still a bitch. Man, the wild Manitou River, has deep deep gorges that you go down, on lose rock, pounding your legs and toes. You can't run this section. Most everyone will hit this section in the dark. I guess those slower may get lucky and have the sun rise-but then you'd be pushing the cut offs. The first 4 miles are all walking. You climb down down down into the gorge, cross the river and climb up up up forever and a day. I was becoming very quiet, worrying about how tough this was for me on relatively fresh, 30 mile legs. I thought about the 100 mile race at Vermont I had just finished, three weeks ago, maybe this is why my legs felt so sore? I couldn't believe how tough it was. SO TOUGH. Finally we climbed out of the Manitou River gorge, to higher ground, that we could actually move a bit faster over. We went over a bridge at the Caribou River, where there was an aid station last year, where Larry's daughter was serving up pancakes. She won't be there this year, we will have to go another 2.5 miles to the Caribou River Wayside for aid.
We were running forever to reach the Caribou River. Finally, there it was. We knew we had only 2.5 miles to wrap this run up. Maria wrote into the notebook at the SHT stand, I sat on the bench and ate a PBJ 1/2 and took the first Advil of the run. My legs were aching like never before. My quads and hamstrings. I couldn't figure it out. Pierre squatted on the bridge. A few minutes later and we dragged ourselves up and out. I said "Shit. This next 2.5 miles is going to take us an hour". It was daylight now, we put away our lights, but still, the moving was slow. We told one another it didn't matter if it took us an hour. This was all about time on feet, training the night portion of the race.
Maria led us the next 2.5 miles. We ran! We were able to do quite a bit of running this next 2.5 miles. I couldn't believe that the pain went away in my legs, it felt good to use running muscles again after all of the climbing and downhill picking. It was wonderful.
13 hours later, we ran into Caribou River Wayside to Larry and Doug. Happy faces all around. Thank God. We completed 38.6 (I think) miles in the time it takes me to run the 50 mile here in the daylight. This was one fricking tough 50K+ in the dark!
I kept telling myself during this section "now during the race, just keep thinking..only one aid station at a time" I can't think about the 30 miles still ahead of me, that's just too big. I need to focus on one aid station at a time.
We climbed into the van and headed to the house. Duke and Wynn asked us all about the 9 mile section. They were going to go out and run it later in the day.
I showered, went down to the beautiful deck and enjoyed the day. It was fabulous. We hung out, cooked dinner, rested, had a bon fire on the rocks and slept deeply and soundly Saturday night.
What a fabulous weekend. Big thanks to Doug and Larry. Without them, this would have been very difficult and long. We would have had to do aid plants along the course, then we would have had to go back and pick up everything. They were just so generous of their time, to do this for us. Thanks to Jason, Maria, Pierre, Duke and Wynn for joining me in a wonderful training run and another fun weekend adventure !
The next time we meet up there it will be showtime. The Superior Sawtooth 100 Mile Trail run. There is also a Moose Marathon and a 50 mile option; something for everyone. Go HERE for more information.