Monday, July 14, 2008


Each year, mid spring, I send out an email to the MNDRS (Minnesota Dead Runners Society) list serve to see if anyone is interested in the BETA run on the Superior Hiking Trail. It has become an annual event. I look forward to it every year, as do others. Maria, Pierre, Duke and I have made it to each BETA. This year we had 12 turn out for the weekend of fun.

My plan was to leave Big Lake early so that I could run some of the SHT that I haven't seen before. Check in at the House Of Beauty wasn't until 4 PM. When I left Big Lake it was already 80F with a high of 95. When I arrived Lutsen it was 51F. Crap. I arrived in Lutsen at 930 and stopped in at Caribou Highlands. Vladimir offered me a ride back from Cascade State Park when I was finished with my run so I left my car there. I ran the section of the SHT from Lutsen to Caribou Trail to Cascade State Park. It was a great section of trail. Some hills, some runnable areas, Lake Agnes, it was beautiful. 18 miles later Vladimir picked me up and brought me back to Caribou Highlands. I still had a few hours so I ran up to Moose Mountain and back, another 12 miles. Moose was covered in fog. I couldn't see the trees off of the trail. It was kind of erie but very cool.

At 400 I pulled into our house for the weekend. It sits on the rocky Lake Superior shoreline. It's incredible. Really. Well, for $500 a night it should be, right?

Maria was at the house and Duke, Pierre and John had arrived and were already out running the trail and stashing water for the 40 mile run on Saturday.

The past two years we have had someone crew for us. The crew will meet us with water, food, etc at designated areas. This year we didn't have that luxury. We did pretty well without a crew, however.

After everyone arrived we had a great Mexican feast. Spicy chicken, rice, beans, salsas, chips, cilantro corn dish, queso, salads, amazing food items . We then figured out where we needed water and gels. We figured out where we would leave cars for the finish to get back to home base and how many cars we needed in the morning to transport ourselves to our start at Finland Rec Center, which is mile 50.5 of the Superior Sawtooth 100 mile run (or the start this year for the 50 mile run). Alicia, Helen, Jim, Holly, Maria and I deposited water jugs and gels at designated posts. With the water that Duke, John and Pierre dropped earlier we were all set.

Nancy and Tom were going to meet us at mile 22 or so 6 hours into the run. The thought was they would do some hiking, then if someone wasn't up for the full 40, they could catch a ride here back to the house at this point.

By 1030 we were all in bed, resting up for the run on the trail. It stormed. There was thunder and lightening and rain all night long. I was thinking that the run Saturday would be wet and slippery.

By 430 we were all awake, drinking coffee and eating breakfast. The sky was no longer stormy. By 500 we were nearing the start point and the sky was BLUE! It was going to be a great day.

We began our run at 516 AM. John and Duke would lead the pack as they are the speediest of the group. I figured they would finish in 9 - hours. I figured it would take the rest of us about 11-12 hours.

I couldn't help but run with a smile on my face. The morning was spectacular. It wasn't raining! The temperature was 51, a nice stiff wind, I was with a bunch of friends doing what I love to do. Within a few miles we heard a loon talking up a storm. He went on and on, probably calling for his mate.

Pretty soon I had removed my jacket. It was warming up nicely. I had on my Golite Rush pack with 42 oz of Heed, some powder Heed, gels, a few sandwiches and some nuts. I was ready for fun.

There really aren't any spectacular views from miles 50.5 to 80 of the 100 mile race. We began at Finland - mile 50.5 I don't really care for the Sonju Lake area as it is nothing but low land, roots and bugs. During the 100 I'm running this area at night so it is difficult getting over the roots, but in the daylight it isn't all that awesome. It kind of wears on a person. During the 100 mile race the first miles bring Bean and Bear Lake views which are spectacular, Mount Trudee which is real cool, the drain pipe which is awesome, the beaver dams which are way cool. The last 20 miles of the 100 bring Carlton Peak which is incredible..huge granite walls of rock which you don't see in MN anywhere else, Temperance River which is amazing and Moose Mountain. Those middle miles of the 100 are kind of crappy, in my opinion, in comparison to the rest of the trail that I have seen so far. I don't know why some people want the 50 mile to be point to point. For 2008 , it will now begin at Finland to Lutsen. It will be a much slower race, as the course will be more difficult, but the views are not great. I'd rather run the 50 out and back. Being able to climb Carlton peaks front and back, going across Moose Mountain 2x, than seeing all the roots of Sonju. Although, Manitou River is pretty, the 50 milers will see that section now. Still, I would prefer the 50 out and back.

Back to the Beta Run. We were having an absolute fun fest. Maria, Holly, Alicia, Jim and I were running in a pack. Duke and John were way ahead, then Pierre and then Helen were up ahead. Jeff was in between them and us.

We stopped at our drops and refilled our water bottles and bladders, filling up on gels and depositing our garbage into a ziploc bag. We were going to pick up the garbage and remaining jugs after our run.

As we made our way through the Sonju Lake area we were slipping and sliding on the board walks. Holly and I went across one board walk in particular and yelled back to Maria, Alicia and Jim "it is slippery, slow down!" they didn't hear us. I yelled "i stopped on that one, it's too slippery". They didn't hear us. We watched in fright as Maria was running fast and came to the board walk, taking one step, her legs came out from under her, she went down on her back, hard. Oh man. She really whacked herself. The board walk was like glare ice. Maria couldn't move her three fingers on one hand. As she righted herself and began to scoooch along the walk she tried moving her fingers. Eventually she was able to move them. They did swell and bruise. Pretty soon we noticed her pack was leaking. When she came down on her back, her pack cushioned her fall. Her bladder was punctured and her water was leaking out. She pulled out her bladder and ended up turning it upside down to save some of the water, the leak was near the spigot. She was in rough shape. We continued on through Manitou River. It's a steep descent, then a steep uphill. It isn't so bad early in a run, in the daylight but during the 100, in the night, it is plain old tough. Maria is going to have her aid station here. I am already looking forward to it! It's at the 100K mark of the 100 and for most of us, we will hit it before day light. I'll be moving slowly so will be able to have a full hot meal here before heading up river.

I looked at my watch and saw that we would probably miss Tom and Nancy. It was near 12 and I told them we would meet them at the next check point between 10 and 11. As we approached the check point we noticed a Red Bull can full of wild flowers! Nancy had been there. Sure enough, a few more steps and we came up to the check point and Tom and Nancy. Jeffrey was here too. He had reached the point 40 minutes earlier, had rested and refueled. He was ready to head out with us. Maria and Jim decided they were ready to call it a day. Maria was pretty sore from her fall. They would go back to the house and clean up, then meet us at other check points.

Alicia, Holly, Jeffrey and I took off for some more running of the Superior Hiking Trail. Alicia began to have some trouble with her stomach. Holly and I ran up ahead and increased our pace a bit. The next sections were more runnable than where we had been. We ran to the next aid point in 1:35 and waited for Jeffrey and Alicia. When they didn't appear in 15 minutes we decided to head on. I crushed an empty jug, opened up another that we had stashed and refilled my bottles. Holly now had Nancy's pack so she refilled her bladder, we ate and headed out. Holly and I had a great conversation and a wonderful time running together. We had never run together before so had plenty to talk about. Pretty soon we were nearing Temperance, one of my favorite sections, and we saw Maria and Jim coming toward us. They hadn't seen Jefferey and Alicia at the last check point. I told Maria we waited, then left. She said she saw a crushed water container, that this was the sign Jefferey had gone through. I told her I crushed the water container! Now I was worried that I had messed up and left Alicia and Jefferey high and dry. It almost made me vomit. What if I because I crushed the jug, causing Maria to clean the aid, leaving them without water and gels. Oh no. I felt horrible. I hoped that they had made it through before Maria and Jim arrived.

Holly had run her longest run ever! 35 (?) miles on the SHT! She was finished. I was going to run the last leg of our planned run, from Temperance to Britton Peak, one of my favorite sections, 7 miles. The Temperance River was full and the waterfalls were crashing. It was a beautiful sight. I ran along, enjoying myself, reflecting on the fun day I had. I still felt strong and was excited to see Carlton Peak.

I was becoming hungry. So far I had been drinking Heed and taking gels, plus I had a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I remembered that Nancy gave me a baggie of trail mix that Jeff had stuck into my pack. I began to think about how good that mix would taste. After thinking about the nuts and pineapple and blueberries for 15 minutes I finally stopped and removed the mix from my pack. Oh, it was as wonderful as I had imagined it would be! I guzzled Heed and ate a fair amount of trail mix, now I was ready to finish this run up. As I came to Carlton Peak, taking in the huge granite rock wall I realized that this section was longer than I had thought. I had forgotten about the 1.5 miles to Britton. Dang. All of a sudden the remaining 1.5 miles was a dreary trudge. I wanted to be done. It's amazing how the brain can change everything. 1.5 miles seemed daunting. I laughed at myself. If I can be excited about a 40 mile run, surely a 1.5 mile section isn't going to exhaust me.

Finally I ran onto Sawbill Trail. I was finished. 11:40 for the run. Holly's car was at the finish. She gave me her keys at Temperance where she finished. There was a jug of water in front of her car she left. I guzzled most of the gallon of water and stretched out, went to the bathroom, removed my pack and felt totally relaxed. It was a great run.

Pretty soon I found myself driving to Finland Rec Center, where my car was. I had left it at the start. I was craving the Diet Pepsi that I had in the back of my car. Before I made it to Finland I realized I was driving Holly's car and surely couldn't drive the two cars back to the house. Sheesh! I turned around and went back to Tofte. Ultra Brain.

I pulled into our lot and went to the house, asking if someone could take me to my car. I didn't want to shower, eat and still have the hour drive to pick up my car and come back. I'd be exhausted. I wanted to get that over with and then enjoy the evening. Jim, Duke, John and I went to Finland. The first thing I did was ask Jim about Jefferey and Alicia and the aid. Thank goodness, they had made it through the check point before Maria did. They refilled and refueled. They stopped at Temperance. I had wasted so much energy worrying about them. I was so relieved to hear that everything went well.

John and Duke finished in 8:16! Faster than I thought they would. Pierre and Helen came in a few hours later.

After returning home I quickly checked in with everyone. John had grilled burgers, there was a ton of food on the table. I took a shower and ate Nancy's asparagus/carrot bake with 5 scrambled eggs. I was hungry! We cleaned up the dishes and spent the evening visiting. At about 10 Duke decided to build a fire on the rocky shoreline. By 1130 everyone was snug in bed, exhausted from a fine day of running and fresh air.

Sunday morning and everyone was up by 630. Pierre brought cheese, bread and wine; Maria had cinnamon rolls, I made eggs, Holly had a sweet potato bake, there was fruit, great coffee; another fine meal.

We packed up and said we'd be back for more next year. Maybe three nights, with a trip to the Canadian border. We will be marking BETA IV on the calendar for next July.

Before going home I wanted to run the new section of the SHT through Duluth. Unfortunately, the SHT store was closed in Two Harbors and neither of the two gas stations that I stopped at to ask employees for SHT maps had a clue as to what I was asking for. I finally had to call home, have Tyler look up the SHT website. He let me know there were maps at Thompson Hill rest area. I always stop there on the way out of town!

I stopped by the rest area and sure enough, there were maps of the SHT going through Duluth. I grabbed what I needed and headed off to find the Rose Garden off of London Road. There were the blue blazes! I couldn't believe it. On the trail the blue blazes are on the trees and rocks, guiding me along the trail. Here in town, the blazes were on the telephone poles. I couldn't get lost! I crossed London Road and followed a few blocks to Chester Creek Trail to Skyline Parkway. It was awesome. I felt like I was on a treasure hunt, following blue blazes and my map through town.

Before I knew it I was near UMD and then into the woods. I ran along and took in the new views, views that I had never seen before. I was quite proud of myself for not becoming lost. As I reached the nature center I looked at my watch and realized I needed to turn around and get back to my car and head home. I followed my trail, in reverse and was able to make my way back. I did become a bit confused once I was nearing London Road. A quick check of my map to get the street numbers straight and I was back on track. I think I covered 15+ miles here. What a great trail. I think I'll make a day trip and cover another section of the trail near Duluth.

I had an incredible weekend on the Superior Hiking Trail. Total mileage for the three days was roughly 85 miles. As great as it was, it sure is nice to be back home! After being at the cabin for a few days and off to Lutsen it seems like I have been gone quite a bit.

Steve and the boys returned from the lake, they had a fabulous time. Troy was so exhausted, he slept until 930 this morning. He NEVER sleeps past 630. I couldn't believe that he was still sleeping when Topaz and I came home from our run.

Both boys played baseball tonight. Luckily they both played at the 4 plex so I could watch both of them. They are wrapping up their seasons. Tyler is done tonight and Troy only has a week left. Summer is winding down. Boohoo. No Twins until Friday as it is the All Star break. We're watching the Home Run Derby. I don't care for it. We have tickets for Saturday's game against Texas. Don't know what I'll do with so much time on my hands as the boys finish up baseball. I'm sure I can think of something :)

I have two loaves of bread in the oven and it's getting late. I'll post pictures of BETA III tomorrow.


Kel said...

Anywhere on the Superior Hiking Trail is one of my favorite places on Earth. Sounds like you had a great time and will rock Sawbill this year.



SteveQ said...

Your description just makes me itch to get up there! I wonder if Larry will let me enter in a wheelchair division (can you imagine?)

Steve said...

Sounds like an awesome time was had by all, (excpet for Maria's fall). Hopefully I can make it out next year. Can't wait to tackle the 50-miler in September!

Anonymous said...

Hope you had fun running around in my neck of the woods! It's funny to drive around Duluth and see the blue slashes, it makes me giggle!The funniest part is when you see some person with a gigantic pack lumbering in a residental area!

Yeah for a good time! Great house! I wiped out last weekend on the trail in two spots. Once on one of those bridges and once over a rocky wet area. A bit further down the trail, we noticed they covered some of the boardwalks with chicken wire to give it some traction. I ripped my new zip of pants and wracked my knees and hands up pretty bad! Darn things, they are just like ice! Hope your friend is ok!