Thursday, September 17, 2009

Superior Trail 50 Race Report

Superior Trail 50 Race Report - September 12, 2009
What a ride..
This is a great event, one that any ultra or trail runner should consider. The experience of running on the Superior Hiking Trail is one that I will cherish for a long time. I will try to recap some of the highlights (and low points) of my run there in the next few paragraphs.
Pre Race:
Mary and I drove into the area mid afternoon on Friday and decided to check out some of the 100 mile aid stations on the way up. Since they had started at 8:00 AM Friday morning, I figured the leaders would have about 36 miles in. We decided to stop at Tettegouche (mile 34.2) to see if we could see some of the 100 milers on the trail. We parked in the lot and walked a ways up the hill and got to the aid station. Saw some familiar faces. John Storkamp, Helen Lavin, and Alicia Gordon. It was here that Helen introduced me to Brian Peterson - last year's winner of the 50 mile run. Everyone was just hanging out, 4 runners had come through already. It wasn't long before we saw Matt Patten and Adam Harmer come into the station. They looked good, but both were complaining about the heat and about how many S-caps they were needing to take. Matt also had a problem with his running shorts and chaffing.
He found a solution - that's all I will say about it. After Matt and Adam left Tettegouche, I think it was Jason Boon who came in next.
We left Tettegouche and continued on toward Lutsen. We located the Temperance aid station and saw that they were just setting the tent up. Finally, we made it to Caribou Highlands Resort in Lutsen. The first thing I saw was Moose Mountain. Wow. That thing is big! And the sheer cliffs on the northeast face of it....quite impressive. All I could think about was that tomorrow I need to get to the top of that thing after running 48 miles. This is going to be tough.
Mary and I had a nice meal at the restaurant, and visited a bit with Matt from Iowa who was going to be running the 50 also. After that, it was time for pre-race briefing with race director Larry Pederson.
I got to visit some more with Brian Peterson there also and we talked about the course and how he ran it last year. Brian is a very talented and smart runner. Keep looking for him to perform well in races like this!
Race Start:
We followed the bus with our Trailblazer, as Mary was going to crew me at the aid stations that had crew access. The bus left Lutsen at 5:05 AM and got to Finland about 5:45 AM. A quick restroom stop and I was ready to go. We lined up on the road, and Larry sent us off. I ran a bit with Brian right behind the leaders (Duke Rembleski and I think Matt Howard). The road was just a couple hundred yards and then we ducked into the trail. These guys just attacked it. I hung behind them for a while, but it was just too fast.
Mile 1 (Initiation):
In over 4 years of distance running, there was a fact that I didn't talk about much. The fact is that with over 10,000 miles of running - I have never fallen. Going into this race, I expected the terrain to be tough and my streak would end.
Before Mile 1 even passed, my right foot did not lift up enough and a root grabbed it. I went stumbling, hopping, yet stayed upright. Two of my water bottles flew and had to pick them up in the leaves. I didn't fall, but that was really close. Somebody hollered "Great save". At that point, I slowed down. I need to run my own race.
On to Sonju (mile 7.5):
The most surprising thing about this trail is that there are NO flat sections. It is always going up then down. A lot of the trail is runnable in this section, but I wasn't pulling back enough on the uphills. I could feel it in my quads already. Coming into Sonju area, yes there are a lot of roots.
My toes are still telling me about them. Arrived into the aid station and downed some Heed and refilled water bottles.
The way to Manitou (mile 11.7):
It was a short time on this section where Val Shuster and another runner passed me. They looked so strong and made their way through the roots with ease. I tried to stay right behind them. It was getting warmer, and I had already taken 3 E-caps along with the water. My holder on my belt can hold 5 of them. There were some places where the running was easier, but still - this trail is tough as nails.
We hit a section of road before Crosby-Manitou Park, and I needed to stretch out the legs. Passed Val and the other guy and got to the aid station where Mary was waiting. Refilled water, got some Pop Tarts and headed out.
Long haul to Sugarloaf (mile 21.1):
After just a few minutes, I realized I did not restock my E-caps. I had one left and took it. Brian had told me that this section was the toughest. I started to go to pieces. Up and down hills, more roots - and as we got closer to the Manitou gorge - rocks. Not just little ones, but now we've got boulders. I remember crawling down some of them toward the Manitou river. This is pretty technical stuff that I have never seen before. After the Manitou gorge there's a lot of uphill going up what they call Beaver Valley (just further up a branch of the Manitou river). Lots of hills. Then another tough stretch going towards the Caribou River. Again, just plain tough. After Caribou River, I think the trail gets a little easier, but I was turning to mush. My water was just about gone and my legs felt totally trashed. Somewhere in this stretch a root grabbed my toe a little harder and I took a digger.
Everthing flew. Just rolled over on my back and looked up. That hurt. Got up slowly, picked up water bottles, and got some sharp cramps in my quads. Walked those out and started to run slowly. Not much later another digger. I just can't lift my feet up high enough now, my legs are too tired. Continued on at a slower pace, but I was feeling like quitting. One more digger at the slow pace. This really sucks. Slowly, I made my way into Sugarloaf. My feet started to hurt real bad, especially in my left arch.
I told Mary I needed salt - bad. She looked at me and saw the dirt. "Did you fall?", she asked. I felt like a five-year old boy who fell off his bike where nobody saw eyes welled up with tears immediately. "A few times" I told her. I felt beaten. I told her I wanted to quit but won't. My plan was to walk most of the next section to Cramer Road. The guy at Sugarloaf got me some watermelon and salted it down real good. I had two slices. Thank you watermelon guy!
Then I took 3 E-caps and stocked up with more.
Slowly towards Cramer Road (mile 26.7):
Walked for a bit leaving here. Decided to try and run again and FELL. I wasn't even going very fast. My legs just were not working right. I looked at my Garmin and it had just shut down for good. It was here where Val passed me and asked how I was doing. I just told her I needed to slow down and get myself together. She took off ahead of me like I was standing still. I think this is also where 50-year old Joe Jameson passed me. He looked really strong and was gone. I think he got ahead of Val here also. On the way to Alfred's Pond, I started to feel a little better. Kept drinking water and taking E-caps. On an uphill section I saw Val, but didn't catch up to her. Just knowing she was ahead of me kept me going. I decided to keep her within reach. Just keep moving. Got into Cramer Road and restocked.
Cramer to Temperance to Sawbill (mile 39.5):
Honestly, this part of the race is really blurry for me. All I know is that Val and I played a lot of cat and mouse. Sometimes we ran together. She inspired me. There were places where maybe I inspired her. I remember someplace where there were some construction workers next to a river. We had to climb over the orange mesh fencing and go right past the house/cabin..whatever they were building. The workers told me that it was the finish line and I wanted to believe them. I still can't remember if I was seeing things or where the heck on the course this was?..?..? (maybe it was much further back on the course - honestly I don't remember. It's like a wierd dream). The other thing I remember was approaching Carlton Peak. Wow. Now it is rock climbing. Seemed like straight up the boulders. And then I remember the cave to the left in the side of the mountain, I remember that.
Coming into Sawbill, I was feeling much better. I do remember seeing Steve Quick. He didn't say much, but I made some dumb comment like "Steve, am I ever glad to see your pretty face!" I still don't know what that was supposed to mean. Ultra brain makes you say dumb stuff.
Mary had some Red Bull for me, more water and E-caps. I left Sawbill with the attitude that I only needed to climb 4 more mountains (Leveaux, Oberg, Moose, and Mystery). But then, if they were all as tough as Carlton Peak, I'm in big trouble.
Revival to Oberg (mile 45.0):
I started to run a lot better here. My whole body hurt, the left arch still hurt a lot, but I was able to run quite well in this section. The climb up towards Leveaux wasn't really that bad. I think this is where I caught Joe Jameson again. Never thought I would see him again. Got into Oberg and knew that this was the last aid station.
Let's just get to the Finish (mile 52.1):
More Red Bull, Water, Heed, E-caps and some food at Oberg seemed to help. Oberg mountain wasn't that bad, and it was slightly downhill to Rollins Creek. And then the climb up Moose Mountain. Really, this one is not nearly as steep as Carlton - but it goes on forever and ever. There was a place where a 100 mile runner and her pacer were shaking the smaller trees to get the rain water to sprinkle down from the leaves on themselves. I giggled to myself at the sight of it. I just kept a good power walk going and did not stop. Keep at it, keep moving. Pretty soon I realized that it had leveled off a bit. I started to run. It was slightly uphill yet, but I ran. I was already on top of Moose Mountain! And was able to run!
Now I knew it was about 4 miles left, with another serious downhill and then up Mystery and then mostly downhill to Lutsen Resort. Now I start to see signs that had an arrow pointing to Lutsen Resort - I'm getting closer. And then, crossing the Poplar River. On the bridge, a ground hornet buzzed right by my head and landed on my lower lip. I quickly brushed him off before he stung. It would suck to run all this distance and get stung at mile 51. Some more trail, and then finally I'm on the road. It felt good to run faster again. Saw some people around the gondola area, but they looked at me kind of funny. On towards Caribou Highlands, made the turn behind the resort and alongside the pool and heard the people. Crossed the finish and gave Schmoopie a big hug!
It was over.
Brian Peterson was there and shook my hand immediately. He had taken 2nd place with a 9:48:36. Duke Rembleski won the race in 9:32:35.
Post Race:
We sat around and visited a bit. Matt Patten was there. Helen showed up - and then we found out that besides everything else - she had run the marathon. And smoked it like a Rockstar! 4:11 for 1st female and 3rd place overall!
Talked to Brian quite a while after the race. He was feeling pretty ill, so I hope he got better!
At awards, I ended up in 7th place overall and got 2nd place in Mens Master's. Val was close behind me to win Women's overall in 10:52:43.
The Longest Night:
Over all this time, my left arch began to hurt more and more. It had turned into a hard lump, and it was painful to walk on it. I took more ibuprofen to see if that would help.
Throughout the night, I had very sharp, shooting pains coming from my foot and travelling up my leg. It just kept on and on like someone was jabbing a sharp knife into me nonstop. I did not sleep one minute that night. It hurt like hell.
By morning, the whole foot was swollen from the big toe to the heel, and over my ankle. It was red and warm to the touch. When you would press on it, it would leave temporary white marks. Just like a big infection now. Mary and I left early that morning. On the way home, I couldn't take the pain and lack of rest any more. We stopped at the emergency room in Edina. The doctor X-rayed the foot (nothing on the x-ray) and diagnosed it as plantar fasciitis and prescribed me some Vicodin. At least the Vicodin took the extreme pain away. Had to take two more doses of Vicodin (it lasts exactly 6 hours) to get some sleep on Sunday night.
The miracle:
Went to work on Monday morning high on Vicodin. I was due for another dose later that morning, but the shooting pain did not come back. By the end of the day my foot hurt, but I didn't need the Vicodin any more. By Tuesday, the foot was feeling much better. Wednesday, I went for a run.
I do not have plantar fasciitis.
John's Diagnosis:
This pain was a cramp. The mother of all cramps.
The lack of electrolytes was when it started. Add the excessive pronation/supination that the roots and rocks of Superior provide. The cramp took hold and "grew" on itself, causing the swelling and sharp pains.
I survived Superior Trail 50. It was the toughest race I have ever done. These trails are beautiful.
What a ride!
I will return.....


Get Primal said...

Great job John! Thanks for coming out to see us Friday, it's nice to see familiar faces when you pop out of the woods. If I remember correctly E-caps are pretty low in sodium, might want to give SCaps a try. SCaps have about 350mg per cap. I felt like a drug addict out there Friday, desperately popping SCaps handfuls at a time;) Recover well.

JojaJogger said...

Wow, what a race report. Congratulations, you did a great job. "I will return...", for the 50 again or for the 100?

Brian said...

Awesome work out there John. Was fun to read about your race. Congrats on the great finish. I'm really glad to have met you and Mary up there and visit with you both. One of my favorite parts (other than the running), is all the great people.

Can't wait to see you at future races for sure. Best of luck with the recovery.

SteveQ said...

Now that you've fallen, welcome to the real world of ultrarunning! I didn't say much to you at Sawbill because Mary seemed to be taking care of you and there was another guy who really needed attention. You might not think so, but you looked pretty good at that point.

You really should consider getting your medical help elsewhere; diagnosing plantar fasciitis is as easy as bending the toes up with one hand and pressing on the arch with the other (if you holler, you got it). And handing out vicodin that easily - you had inflammation and needed an NSAID; two aspirin would've helped more.

Jessica said...

so sorry for the pain, but sooooo glad you don't have pf again. I know how bad that can be. Mine is finally 95% better! I have had the same issue with cramps after 20 milers, marathons, and ultra's. They seem to attack in the middle of the night making sleep impossible. Great job!!

Helen said...

Who needs doctors eh?!

Great race John and a really fun report. I am not sure where the construction was but not on the marathon course so maybe you were dreaming :)

Chris said...

Nice race in tough conditions! Glad to hear that your foot issue apparently is nothing serious. I'll have to keep this race in mind for future reference.

Coincidentally, I actually know Angus, the guy who won the 100 mile race. I've never met him in person, but we know each other from a couple of different online forums. He's a strong ultra runner, and relatively new to it. Glad to hear about his triumph.

Lean Horse again next year? I'm seriously considering the 100.


David Ray said...

I'll second the S-cap recommendation. Great report and congrats on running a tough race.

I can't believe you did all that running without taking any falls. Way to make up for lost time. :)

Joe said...

Nice report. I remember you went by me and said something like "come on and run with me" or some such. My knee was really bothering me and I had to walk a lot of the last 10 miles. Maybe we can "duke it out" in another race in the future!

Joe J

joe said...

John, here is my race report:

Joe J