Sunday, September 09, 2007

Superior Sawtooth 100 Mile Trail Run The Report

I am sure it will take me a while to get through this report. I have tears in my eyes and find myself sobbing from the comments some of you left from my last post. CJE-wow, thanks for the prayer. It is just what I was asking of God before, during and after my race. Thank you all, for not only wishing me well, but dropping in here, leaving comments, inquiring about running, my Mom, etc. It really is amazing to me.

You may find this strange, as I open up here, about so many things in my life; but in my non blog life, I don't open up all that easily. I don't really confide in others, I've lost some very close friends of the past. I've lost friends to cancer, drugs, alcohol and suicide. I now have a hard time creating friendships. I become afraid and close up like a clam. I begin to get close, and create space.Thanks for listening here.

OK, Superior. I was freaked. I couldn't enjoy the last week at all. All I thought about was the race and how tough it was going to be and how would I make it through the night and how would my legs hold up this year and was I trained enough?

Since I DNF'd last year I have been putting in more miles, tougher miles, faster miles, tons of hills and heavy lifting. I increased my mileage from 70 miles average to 85 with many weeks at 90-115 miles. I decided to set the goal to 4 100's this year: McNaughton, FANS, Vermont and Superior. I began to lift heavy on the legs 2x a week. I had read that runners should lift lighter with more reps. That didn't get me anywhere last year. Didn't get me to the finish line. My legs gave out. I increased my poundages and lifted less reps; more sets. Laying hams curls up to 100 lbs, barbell squats up to 205 pounds, calve raises over 400 pounds. Long sessions on the stair stepper. I worked my legs until they screamed at me in agony. It became easier and easier. They recovered more and more quickly. Instead of lifting 1x a week I could lift 2x a week. I began hill work. Long runs on hilly asphalt each week, then Buck Hill. Paul Hasse told me 30 Buck Hills to finish Superior. I began my first session with he and Pierre Ostor and thought I'd die at 5. Really. I got in 10, then 15 the next week, 20, 25 and 30. Progression. Slowly but surely. I felt confident that I had the training in, but was I strong enough MENTALLY? I had to be. I was not going to quit this time. I didn't even say 'unless I break something'. I was not quitting. Larry told me I could be a finisher even if I finished at midnight. Oh Lord, don't let me be out there finishing 102.6 miles at midnight, but if I am, so be it. I had lights, I'd be a finisher.

I met Doug and Maria at our townhome at Caribou Highlands on Thursday afternoon. The race finishes at Caribou. It's a great place to stay during the Superior Spring/Fall races. I packed up my zillion and one drop bags into the van and we headed out to Two Harbors for packet pick up. It was hot, but was going to storm. I couldn't relax. I was scared to death. I had a stomach ache. I had a head ache. I was nervous.

I dropped my bags at each station sign posted and said hello to so many of my friends. Eve and Duke were there, Scott-who I hadn't seen since Trail Mix, was his old funny self, so good to laugh with him, Stuart from Kansas City, whom Maria and I ran a good portion of our race with last year. Stuart received a beautiful table that Larry handcrafted for finishing 10 Superiors! Amazing. Bonnie, Andy, Les, Dallas, Sara, Jerry, John, we were all running the 100. I managed to eat and we headed off back to Caribou. It stormed and rained hard all night long. Ugh.

Friday morning, still pouring outside, Doug drove us all to the start. We begin at Gooseberry Falls and are able to use the Visitor Center. Nice and clean, warm; a great place to start. I looked outside and couldn't believe that the rain had stopped. Happy Days!

Larry ushered us to the starting point and said GO. We were off! We began on a bridge/pathway that went uphill so most of us just walked for a long time, then a big grassy uphill into the woods, more walking. I could finally feel the tension leave my body. I just needed to begin this race and let it happen.

9.3 miles to the Split Rock aid station. Last year this took me 2.08 hours, I was ready to run it this year in 245 or so. My plan was to slow down a bit during the day from last year, and hopefully gain the hour in the evening. I wore a Rush Pack from Golite this year. I had only worn it for a two hour run prior to the race. I could not stand my waist pack any more. I can't use a Camelback because I drink too much and can't gauge the amount that I'm drinking. I'm a guzzler. With the Rush Pack I can carry two 24 oz bottles on the side, storing all my gear (clothing, iPod, camera, food, foot potion) in the bladder area. I loved it! The pack never bothered me. I drank both 24 oz bottles before I reached the aid station, but I didn't want to carry 72 oz of Heed with me so decided 48 oz would have to suffice between aid stations.

During this first section I hooked up with Maria, Stuart from Kansas City and Jerry from Missouri! Just like last year. Crazy. Unplanned and very fortunate! I and Maria made no plans to run together, we needed to do our own thing, but I was very pleased when I found myself running again, in this group. The first section took me just over 230. I was feeling wonderful and happy. It wasn't raining, it was a sunny great day.

10 more miles before the next aid station at Beaver Bay. Another long haul. Lots of climbing, the beautiful Split Rock River Loop, lots of waterfalls, rhyolite from the lava flow, simply beautiful. HARD, but stunning. Many, many steep climbs.

Again, I came into the aid station dry. I conserved my HEED to last just about a mile short of the aid station. I was drinking about 24 oz an hour, as usual. Drop bags were at this station. I restocked my pack with gels, blocks, filled my bottles and grabbed a whole peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was famished. The past 20 miles of climbing was creating a lot of hunger in my belly. I was still running with Maria, Stuart and Jerry; having a fabulous time. We were about an hour later than last year. Right where I wanted to be.

Beaver Bay to Silver Bay is 5 miles but tough and slow. Lots of rocks and scrambling around trying to get over them. Lots of high leg lifting, climbing, etc. Tough stuff to get through. We took pictures, laughed together, we were all very happy to be running together again. I was thrilled to be here!

Silver Bay to Tettegouche is another long 10 mile section, but with beautiful spectacular views. Climbs and overlooks of Bean and Bear lake, Mount Trudee, just awesome. We stopped frequently to snap pictures, to look at the views and catch our breath. We had to stop to look. There was no way you could look at views and run at the same time. You'd hit a rock or root and fall down in a second. Yeah, it's that crazy of a trail. You can't take your eyes off of your feet for one second. There is a white and red tower in Silver Bay that we saw 5 or 6 times from the overlooks. There are neat views of the City. What a great time I had, I enjoyed every minute. Of course, I did complain of all the rockiness and rootiness sections. There is a section called The Drainpipe. Oh my gosh! It's craziness. Steep, steep, rocky downhill that you have to climb down down down. "Man, this is just awful rockiness" "This is too climbful of a section" "This is a section of nothing but climbiness" "This is just too rootful" I was making up all kinds of words that I used over and over and over again.

After we hit the aid station, we ran across the suspension bridge at Tettegouche, we noticed John Storkamp had run from the aid station to the bridge to take pictures. I don't know how he got out there so quickly. It must be the fact that he just ran a 2:53 marathon!

From Tettegouche to Co Rd 6 I'd need my flashlight. I'd been carrying it my pack, with my headlamp at 6. Sure enough, it became dark. I began to worry. I was running well, now with nightfall I'd have to slow down. I wasn't looking forward to that. This was no Vermont; I wouldn't be able to really run during the night. I'd be picking my way over damn rocks and roots. Yeah, the expletives began flying out of my mouth. We climbed, climbed and climbed out of Tettegouche, to the Sawmill Dome, climbing, climbing, climbing up rocky cliffs. The first 4 miles of this section just sucks. Sweat was rolling into my eyes, my feet were hurting. Just hold it together. You are finishing this thing so don't start to worry about it now.

As night fall came, the stars popped out. It was a beautiful, clear night. I was looking forward to the aid station as I knew Tom and Nancy would be there working. Pretty soon we came out to Co Rd 6 where the aid was. They had hot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches that were excellent. An added surprise: Jeffrey was checking the runners in. I didn't know he would be there. I took all of warm night clothing out of my drop bag and packed it into my pack, along with extra batteries, food and strapped on my head lamp. Night time was here. I was afraid of what was going to happen out here during the night. Would my legs cease up on me? They felt fine so far. I hadn't taken and Advil, every now and then I'd feel a pain in my knee, but nothing too bad. The bottoms of my feet ached but I didn't have any blisters. It wasn't raining. It was a clear, warm night. Good stuff.

On we went from Co Rd 6 to Finland. Maria was going to pick up Lynette at Finland and Lynette would pace her to the finish. The four of us were still running together, I was so grateful to have Jerry, Stuart and Maria with me. We also ran alot with Jason and John. It was really nice to have company during the night. John has some incredible stories to tell about this race. He had a half a dozen very odd things happen to him. He is a riot!

During this section is a 440 foot boardwalk that goes over a Beaver Dam upon which you walk. A small portion was under water. I was afraid to go over it, for fear of falling into the damn dam. I didn't. I walked slowly and gingerly, making it across safely. There are more huge climbs, and a long downhill into the depths of the earth. It was cold down here, but at least there were no bugs this time around!

Jerry was feeling really good, and wanted to hit it hard. He hoped to reach Cramer Road (mile 77) by 9 AM, to meet up with his son, Mitch, who was running the marathon. The marathon begins at Cramer Road. We gave him a birthday hug and he headed off into the darkness. We told him we'd see him at the finish.

When we ran into Finland, Lynette hadn't yet arrived. I refilled my pack with supplies, ate another soup and sandwich and we headed out. As we were running along, Lynette caught up! She had just missed us at the station and Doug told her she could catch us. She sure did. She and Maria hung back a bit, and Stuart and I pushed on. I was so relieved to have Stuart to run with. Knowing that he had finished 10 of these bad boys gave me confidence. If I could just stick with him, I'd finish this bastard.

It was getting tough. The bottoms of my feet ached, but I was able to eat, drink and move along. Not quickly, but at least I could move along. My legs weren't killing me yet. It was OK.

We went through the Sonju Root Fest and I became pretty quiet. I was wondering if my legs would cease up. This is where they ruined my race last year. I was very careful of the roots. I hadn't fallen down yet and last year I had fallen 4x in this section. I took it slowly and easily. Stuart led most of the way during the night. I just followed behind. Swearing and grunting and complaining every once (or more) in a while.

I was happy to get through the root fest without breaking anything. I still didn't feel any blisters. Now my toughest section was up next. The Manitou River. It's nothing but rockiness and toughness and pain is the assness. It's so hard. It's badness in the darkness.

I was apprehensive. We came into the aid station and Steve Quick was volunteering at the aid station. "Julie, you told me you'd be here at 5 AM. It's 5:01" I was shocked. Wow. Still on track. I refilled my HEED, my supplies and we headed on out. I was scared. The Manitou River gorge is bad ass.

We climbed up forever and a day, down forever and two days and we are 62 miles into this race and legs are tired and so is everything else. My skin was beginning to hurt. Down we went, into the gorge. Down upon the pointy, slippery, sharp shale rock stuff. It moves under your feet. Past the campsites, down some more. The positive thought I had in my mind was 'well, at least this year there is a bridge, last year it was out; and it will be light soon'. Eventually we came across the first bridge, climbed and climbed and climbed, down, down, down, across the second bridge. The raging river below us. Now the climb out of the river gorge. Oh man. Up, up and up we went. Sweat rolling off of me, I had to take my night jacket off. My body ached. My feet were crying. My head was pounding. Keep going. Just climb. Don't look up, just go up. When we finally reached the ridge I began to cry to myself. My legs weren't dead. Thank God. Pretty soon we began to see the sun rise. Rejoice! Daylight was upon us. I took a few pictures and listened to the first birds. I put away my lights. Yippee!! I knew there was a runable section coming soon. Once we went over the next bridge we could RUN! It would feel so good to use different muscles.

The bridge came and we ran the next 2.5 miles to Sugarloaf. What a sight for tired eyes! Doug, bless his heart, was there and had my drop bag in his hand. He helped me take off my jacket,my lights, take my pants, gloves out of my pack and placed everything into my drop bag. He gave me a hug and I was up and out of there.

Man. The next aid was where I dropped last year. I told Stuart the hill of doom was up next. The hill where I decided I couldn't take another step. The hill where my legs could not go on and my brain said stop. Would it be as bad as I remembered? We climbed up and up. We complained. I swore. This trail was freaking relentless. It is always up or down or rock or rooty or all at the same time. It goes on and on and on, beating you until you are a bloody crying mess. It pummels you. Over and over. Eventually there she was. The hill. I began the descent. It was as horrible as last year, but my legs held up. I wasn't going to quit. No way, no how. Alicia was going to me at mile 77. New life! New conversation! A new voice! I was excited. I was going to go and and damnet, I was finishing this damn thing.

As we ran into Cramer Road there were cheers everywhere! Tom was picking up Jason here, Alicia was here for me, it was wonderful. I was all smiles. I sat in a chair for the first time during the race and applied some foot potion. I didn't feel blisters but the bottoms of my feet were painful. Every step hurt. I bit my tongue as my eyes teared. It hurt so badly. I restocked and got out of there. I was on new territory. It was only 1045; I told Alicia I'd be there at 12. I was on Cloud 9!

Off we went. We told Stuart he'd catch up, we were going to walk out. Tom and Jason headed off and John after them. Stuart caught us and we moved along the course. It felt so good to be further in the race than last year. I was feeling very positive. Joe Lovett told me at Tettegouche "you'll finish. just don't lose your head" he was right. I wasn't going to lose my head. So much of this is mental.

I couldn't believe that Temperance was up next. I love Temperance. I had never run it, of course, during the 100, but I love it in the 50 mile. We were beginning to see some of the 50 milers. They began at Caribou at 6 AM. Some of the speedy ones were arriving. It was awesome to see them! When they saw our 100 mile race numbers they would yell out a shout to us, telling us they were in awe, how could we run 100 miles? Just seeing life out on the trail was exciting. I pretty much saw the same 5 people the whole race. 5 very wonderful, special people, but it was nice to see others! Stuart even told me he was sick of looking at me! In a kind, gentle, kidding way :)

Temperance River was beautiful and crashing and misty and loud. We saw tourists! Dogs! People in the other world, hiking and enjoying themselves. We went through Temperance aid and were heading out toward Sawbill! Sawbill! Wow. I was stoked.

Before I knew it we were approaching Carlton Peak. Ah, another favorite place of mine during the 50 mile. Beautiful granite rock, so huge, so cliffy, so incredible awesome. The last 25 miles of this 100 are easier than the first 75. If I had never run the 100, I wouldn't believe a person could call the last 25 'easier'. There would be no easy on the Superior Hiking Trail. When you are running the 100, it gets easier past Cramer Road. Oh yea, there are climbs and descents and rocks and roots, but nothing like the first 75 miles.

We see Valeria, and Jeffrey and Karen and pretty soon Curt. We see Mary and Deb, all running the 50 mile. It's great to see everyone out there. I get tons of hugs and good jobs. One gal stops and grabs my had and introduces herself and says 'your Julie Berg, you will finish today Julie Berg'. It's good stuff.

Sawbill! Oh man. It's coming to a close and I'm OK. No blisters, I hurt everywhere, my feet hurt so I'm biting my tongue to hold back tears as I run, every foot placement is pain, my skin hurts but I have 12.6 miles left. I can do anything for 12.6 miles. Me, Alicia, Stuart and John. We're going to finish. We walk a good portion of the section, my feet ache worse when walking so we begin to run. Oberg is coming up.

I know when Oberg comes I will begin to sob. I know when Oberg comes I will be able to finish. I know Oberg is everything. Sure enough, I see a sign that says Oberg Parking Lot with an arrow pointing. I don't know how far or how long ahead the aid station is, but it is somewhere out there. I begin to run hard and everyone follows. We're panting and breathing hard. It feels like we are flying, I'm sure we are not. We run forever. Oberg isn't there and isn't there and isn't there. We walk a few hills, pretty soon, it has to arrive. We run hard some more and tears flow from my eyes. I gasp and sob. Oberg! It's here!!

7.1 miles left. I get confused. I ask Alicia if is 7.1 or if it is 7.1+ the 2.6 for the 102.6. I want to be done, that's all. She says 7.1 Thank God.

7.1 miles. I don't want to have to turn my lights on again. I don't want night two of darkness. Yuck. I look at my watch. The award ceremony begins at 8 PM. It will be close, but I'm going to try to make it. If we get there before 8 we won't need lights. Maybe. I'm going to try to run hard. Well, as hard as I can.

Alicia takes the lead, I ask her to run, I need to run, my feet ache, they feel better when running. Alicia, me, Stuart and John. We're running when we can, climbing when we have to. We climb Moose Mountain and I argue that this isn't Moose Mountain. It wasn't steep enough, tough enough, it didn't take my air away. Surely there is another climb, a rougher tougher one. They all tell me, no, this is Moose Mountain. I don't believe them. There is a rougher tougher one. I know it! I've run the 50K, 50 mile each 3 times out here. There is certainly a climb tougher than this one in this section. Guess what? I was wrong. Moose Mountain just didn't seem that tough this time..

We run along and Alicia says we're getting close. Well, I need to know how close. I ask her 'one hour or two hours' she tells me 1 hour. Everyone else agrees. Maybe even less than an hour they say. Holy shit! Less than an hour? I can't contain my excitement. I'm too excited. I try not to be, I try not to be too confident, I could fall or die, or who knows what could happen, but I think I can finish now.

Oh man. There is the bridge and the dirt. We're off the freaking trail. The trail of pain and tears. We're on the gravel road. I'm running as fast as my legs can carry me. There is Matt, in his van, screaming and yelling and taking pictures. I'm bawling! Bawling! Stuart says we'll finish in 35:something. OH MY GOD. 35 something. Holy Freaking Shit. I'm swearing a blue streak. It's a release. I'm crying, I'm so thankful Stuart ran with me the whole 102.6 miles. And John, and Alicia the last 25. I'm blessed. Truly blessed.

We are running up the pavement FAST. Feels fast. They let me lead. I turn into the resort and see the pool and Alicia directs me to the finish line and I'm crying and sobbing and oh my god it is done. 35:37.

Everyone is there. Everyone is clapping and screaming and yelling and crying. I'm beside myself and all of these people that were a part of my finish. Maria and Doug and Eve and Duke and John and Alicia and Stuart and Jerry and Tom and Nancy, they are all there and so many more and Larry and Colleen and Jo and I'm just going to burst hugging and crying on everyone. It's crazy fun.

Someone tells me that Wynn won! He won in 23 something and it's his first 100 and I can't wait to congratulate him. I talk with him for a long time and am so excited for him and get to talk with his Dad, who crewed for him. Great job, Wynn; and Duke! His first 100 too, he ran so well, I'm so excited! Crazy fast boys!

We watch many more finishers and then it's award time. Susan Donnely won the woman's race in 31 hours! I received Woman's Masters FIRST in 35:37. What a treat. I finally have the red finishers jacket, and the buckle that I have wanted so badly for the past year.

After congratulating everyone and settling down, I go back to the townhouse for a shower. Doug, Maria and Lynette go to bed and I am wired. Alicia and I go over to Jason's. Oh, Jason finished, 10 minutes before me, congrats Jason!! We visit with Jason, Pierre, Tom, Nancy, Jeffrey and John. Then it's time to go back to rest.

I sleep like a rock until 5 AM. We all pack up, head on out. We met at Betty's Pies, our traditional post race breakfast. Then it's time to leave the festivities behind and head on home. Thankfully, I made it home without any problems. I was a bit worried, as after leaving Valeria at Betty's Pies, I ended up seeing her at the gas station. We talked at laughed, I was going to put gas into my car and she asked 'is something wrong with you car?' I was like, ah, no. Why? She pointed to my hood. It was open. I pulled the release on the hood instead of the gas cap cover. I've never done that! I guess ultra brain set in! Sweety that she is, she asked me if she should follow me home! I told her thank you, but I'd be ok. Actually, I was afriad I'd fall asleep. I was exhausted. But I arrived safe and sound.

I'll post pictures tomorrow, I'm going to help the boys with their homework, take a bath and go to bed!

Now, with this monkey off of my back, I think I'll begin to plan 2008...


Harriet said...


I need to remind myself that when my feet hurt during an ultra, I am not alone. :-)

Way to conquer your personal mountain!

Heather V. said...

Congratulations! :) I was tearing up reading your entry. You are AWESOME!!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Julie, Yeah!!! I couldn't wait to read you race report and I too had tears in my eyes as I read about your success!Congratulations!


Anonymous said...

Whoooop! YES! WOW! Awesome! Everyone yell, let's party!
Julie, we celebrate with you from afar...

RR said...

Congrats Julie! Way to tough it out. Redemption is sweet isn't it?

Jeffrey S. said...

Rock on Julie. Great job. It's been great to watch your personal journey.

Superior 100, yikes! It makes my feet hurt just thinking about it...


Anonymous said...


Congratulations!!!! What a fabulous run you had. I'm so glad that you conquered your demons on this run.

Londell said...

Your such and inspiration! Congrats... Hard work and determination pays off...


Adam said...

Great work! It was nice to meet you this morning, enjoy your deserve it!

Geoff said...

congratulations. hope the recovery is going well.

Anonymous said...

As usual your race report brought me to tears.
I'm so very happy for you.
You rock!!

Your friend,


Lisa Smith-Batchen said...


wow is al I can say, your amazing!!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! A wonderful reminder to us all that when careful preparation, seriously tough training, mental and emotional stamina, good friends, and a bit of luck with weather all come together, great things can happen. What joy!
All your "freakin" pseudo-swearwords had me cracking up! :-) You are "freakin" awesome!

Bedrock said...

Congrats on your finnish. What an inspiring story. Your aching feet reminded me of Massanutten this year. Great job.


Anonymous said...

zrAwesome job Julie!! You worked hard and prepared well! Congratulations on a great finish!


Suspended Animation said...

Great job I know you were so stressed but I also knew you would make it. :)

Anil Rao said...

wow, what a run julie. congrats on such a great effort.


Olga said...

Yeah, Julie!!! Got this done in style, swore this one off your chest, girl! Man, tough life, but you DID prepared this time so much more, and it paid, it paid off, and you're a Superior gal now! Hearty congratulations, Jul:)

WynnMan said...

Julie- a sincere congratulations on your redemption, especially on arguably one of the toughest and most rugged courses out there.

recover well

keith said...

julie, it was nice to meet you. i've been following your monumental achievements in your blog for a while now and they never fail to give me inspiration. great job on getting the monkey off of your back. looking forward to see what is next for you.

Anonymous said...

Two words kept creeping into my head as a read your recount.

H O L Y. C R A P.

Sorry if anyone is offended, not the most eloquent, but that's what it was!

I am in total awe. Total awe of this achievement. Total awe at you as an athlete. Total awe of you as a Mother and wife and balancing it all. I strive for an eighth of what you accomplish in a day.

I feel very fortunate and humbled to have stumbled on this blog. I whine less and think bigger.


Sarah said...

Congratulations Julie! Your preparation has been awesome and it truly paid off. I hope you are still basking in your incredible accomplishment! What sweet success! : )

judi ~ said...

wow. just WOW.


Anonymous said..., I'm scared.

Just kidding. I am so friggin' pumped to run this race I can't stand it.

Your report only added to that anxious excitement.

Felt like I was there with you.

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Anonymous said...

congrats on your finish Julie. I enjoyed reading your report, hopefully this will help me as I tackle the Sawtooth in a copuple of weeks. Tony Cesario