Superior tech notes

One of the cool things about blogging is that there aren't a lot of rules. I had some thoughts about racing at Superior that I wasn't able to weave into my previous post, so I'm just making a new post about technical aspects of the race. What I wore, what I carried, and what I ate.

I brought rain gear and extra clothing to Minnesota, and used it on Friday. But when the forecasts converged on dry and mild for Saturday, I left that gear out of my pack and drop bags. I sent a pair of shoes (Evo Speedgoats) and socks to the Cramer Road aid station at 27 miles and a spare headlamp to the Sawbill aid station at 40 miles. No other non-consumable items. I didn't use the spare Speedgoats. My feet were still feeling okay at 27 miles. In hindsight, it would have been better to have sent completely different shoes to Sawbill. A pair with a different fit, like my Nikes, would have been lovely to change into at 40 miles.

I wore the same clothing all day. Smartwool socks. A very light tech top from Patagonia. Venerable capilene boxer briefs from REI and slightly ratty, but lucky, Vuori Banks shorts. I trust these to be non-chaffing at home and they came through for me again. My Gnar Runners Boco tech trucker was on my head until sundown, after which I intermittently wore a capilene beanie. I wore my nylon windbreaker (Patagonia Houdini) for the last seven miles. With clear skies, the air cooled quickly, but never got very cold. I left my wool gloves in my pack. I wore almost everything I packed and didn't need anything more. I'm going to have to retire some of these items soon. Plastic clothing lasts a long time, but not forever.

I carried everything in my trusty Ultimate Directions Mountain Vest (4.0). It weighs almost nothing, is breathable, and fits well whether lightly or heavily loaded. I brought a small first aid kit, but didn't use it. Nor did I use my sunglasses or small stick of sunscreen. For hydration, I carried three 16-ounce soft bottles. One was mostly a spare. It was never very warm, and I never carried more than two full bottles at a time between aid stations.

I brought light hiking poles to Minnesota, the ones I used at the Never Summer 100k last year. They're very helpful on muddy trails and on technical descents in the dark. I left them in my room at the lodge on race day and didn't regret it. I would have used them in the last hour of the race if I'd been carrying them, but they wouldn't have improved my time or saved my feet.

Shoes... I do think that my Speedgoats weren't adequately broken in. The heel and toe areas were a bit stiff. I did appreciate the famous cushion and traction. They're a good choice for the Superior Hiking Trail. It's a super rugged trail, so you need some combination of cushion, armor, or dancer's feet. I ran for miles with a guy who was wearing the Speedgoat 5, which I have worn for up to 20 miles, but no further, and he loved them. I might see about switching over.

Fuel is the last technical detail to cover. I drank a lot of Tailwind solution. 400 calories worth at six of the 7 aid stations. I stashed pre-measured amounts in my drop bags to pick up along the way. I sucked down 4 packets of GU and ate three Stinger waffles and one bag of Stinger chews. I drank 8-10 ounces of Coke, one of my go-to calorie sources, at every aid station. I was able to eat plenty of solid food all day long. From pancakes and sausage in the morning, to mashed potatoes and chicken noodle soup in the evening. Mid-day I got tired of aid station food and that's when I went for the chews and gels. I did a much better job fueling than I did at last year's Never Summer, where I bonked badly in the last 10 miles.

What about crewing? I didn't have a planned crew. My friend David Bitner, a devoted Superior runner and pacer, met me at mile 27 to pump me up and help me get set for the second half. Outside of that, I found my own groups as I went. 50 miles, in my experience, is not so long that I need help. I would love to have some crew help on a 100 mile race and a pacer to help me flow quickly through aid stations.

That's all the technical notes for the race. I went into it with a B fitness level, extra pounds, a little uncertainty about my heart, but with experience at this race distance to lean on. I flunked my shoe choice, but did everything else right, enjoyed tons of support, and had a great time.

Superior 50

Last weekend I traveled to Minnesota's North Shore to run the Superior 50: 52 miles through the North Shore Highlands and Sawtooth Mountains on the Superior Hiking Trail. On the Thursday before the race I flew into Duluth and drove a rental car 90 miles up Highway 61 to a lodge at the Lutsen Mountains Resort, the finish line for the event. Friday I met David Bitner and his partner Marin at Tettegouche State Park for lunch and some easy hiking on the cliffs next to Lake Superior. Marin would be running the Moose Marathon (the last 26.2 miles of the 50 and 100 mile course) on Saturday and Bitner, a 100 mile finisher in 2019, would be pacing a 100 mile runner overnight. After a few hours with them, I drove north again to Grand Marais to wander around and find a pre-race dinner, and then back to the lodge to sleep before Saturday's early start.

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Finland, MN, 5:00 a.m.

The 50 mile race began at 5:15 a.m. in Finland, Minnesota. A school bus took me from the finish to the start, leaving the resort at 4:15. Friday's clouds and rain were gone and the 50 mile race kicked off in calm and cool conditions under a full moon.

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Somewhere on the Superior Hiking Trail.

The Superior Hiking Trail, or SHT, is wild, rugged, and challenging. I estimate that a quarter of the 50 mile course was fairly runnable. The rest was steep, or overgrown, or root-bound, or all of the above. You have to watch your feet, closely. On the other hand, I didn't need sunscreen, because we were traveling under the canopy of the boreal forest, with only small breaks at river and road crossings and rocky summits.

My plan was to take it easy in the first third of the course and, if I felt good, pick up the pace in the second third and try to sustain it through the final 17 miles. I settled into the tail end of the pack and stayed there until just before the Crosby-Manitou aid station (mile 12). During this part of the race I was briefly in a small train with Courtney Dauwalter (two time UTMB winner and winner of this year's Hardrock 100) and her mom, which was fun. They say never meet your heroes, but the Dauwalters were friendly and gracious. At the aid station I got a small cup of coffee, a big pancake and a sausage patty, and really began to enjoy the race.

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Feeling good at the Cramer Road aid station, 27 miles in. Photo by David Bitner.

I felt great at 17 miles. My heart was behaving properly. My legs felt good. The trail conditions, considering Friday's rain, and weather were much better than I'd expected. I found some good company and longer stretches of runnable trail at this point did my fastest running of the day all the way into the Sugarloaf aid station at mile 21. I kept going steadily, passing two packs of runners on the way to the Cramer Road aid station.

My favorite place on the trail was the Temperance River Gorge. The river's name is, according to Bitner, a pun: there is no sand bar where it reaches Lake Superior. I took a bunch of photos of swimming holes just past the race's Temperance aid station. Not much further downstream the gorge narrows and deepens dramatically. I didn't take any photos there, but you can easily find them online. It's a real wonder of nature.

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Temperance River Gorge, looking downstream. 34 miles.

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Temperance River Gorge, looking upstream.

In hindsight, I might have neglected to eat enough after Cramer Road. I was feeling sluggish on the 1,200 foot climb up from the Temperance River to Carlton Peak. My ambitions of finishing before the sun went down were starting to look unrealistic. The trail near the summit was steep and rocky, not unlike the approaches to Arthur's Rock or Horsetooth. I saw Columbines and raspberries (flowers and fruit long gone), which also reminded me of home.

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Carlton Peak, 38 miles.

Near the Sawbill-Britton aid station I began to catch up to slower 100 mile runners. Some of them were suffering. Some were perfectly executing their plans to beat all the aid station cut-off times and finish in just under 38 hours.

Around mile 40, my feet began to literally fall apart. I'm not sure whether my shoes (Speedgoat 4s with ~25 miles of wear) were inadequately broken in or I hadn't toughened up my feet enough in training. I only ran 20 miles once this year before Superior, whereas I ran 20, 25, and 30 miles before Quad Rock last year. My heels and toes blistered, and in trying to spare them on downhills, I absorbed more force in my quads than I otherwise would. The last 7 miles were a slow, painful slog, much of it well after dark. All the people I passed between miles 21 and 40 caught up to me and left me behind. Going uphill felt better than going downhill. But I finished! Good company helped. I ran the last 3 miles with a woman from Littleton, Colorado. We'd run some of the first few pre-dawn miles together and had some laughs about the rest of the day.

My official time: 15:36:21. This was an extremely well-run event and I can see why people keep coming back for more. Thank you, Superior volunteers and friendly runners. Thank you, Bitner and Marin, for lunch and crewing at the 27 mile mark. My biggest thanks are to my family, for putting up with my obsession and letting me off the hook for chores so I can sleep in during blocks of high training volume. I couldn't have finished without your support.

I just now found a link to the race director's recap in my inbox. It is here.

Superior training week twenty-three recap

I did less running last week, but it was high quality running. Plenty of technical, hilly single track and strides. Sunday I went for an hour long bike ride with Ruth instead of running.

  • 4 hours, 9 minutes (running)

  • 19.0 miles

  • 3,097 ft D+

Friday I stopped by the top of Arthur's Rock for a view over Horsetooth Reservoir and the plains. This Saturday I'll be getting views of Lake Superior.

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Arthur's Rock has a rock

Superior training week twenty-two recap

I got some running-is-a-part-time-job kind of numbers this week.

  • 14 hours, 32 minutes

  • 60.4 miles

  • 10,656 ft D+

I ran every day except Monday and hills every day but Thursday, when I did an easy run by the river.

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Osprey at the Cache La Poudre River

Two weeks ago I wrote:

I want to get ~110 miles and 15,000 ft of climbing in over the next two weeks.

I pretty much did it. 103 miles and almost 18,000 ft of climbing. My training is finally coming together and none too soon, with my one race of the year less than two weeks away.

Today I went back to RMNP to beat the heat and had a great long run on the loop I did in June, but in the other direction and without snow. I weathered some afternoon rain and hail, for the first time on a long run, and at the end of the day dealt with a herd of elk at the trailhead where I had parked. I'm comfortable being close to mule deer, but adult elk are big and can mess you up! The smart thing to do is wait for them to move along, or go around, giving them a wide berth. In about two weeks, male elk will begin competing for mates and it will become more dangerous to be out in the meadows with them.

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Elk at Rocky Mountain National Park

Superior training week twenty-one recap

This was my biggest week since the end of June. A busy family calendar made it hard to get more time on the trail.

  • 9 hours, 40 minutes

  • 42.8 miles

  • 7,303 ft D+

The Superior trail race is less than three weeks away. I'm planning to run quite a bit this week, do some fine tuning for a week, and then have a short one week taper.

Busy

I'm solo parenting next week while Ruth is traveling. Between work, running, and the first week of school for the kids, I'm going to be busy. Apologies in advance for delayed replies to emails and open source project issues.

Superior training week twenty recap

Week twenty was supposed to be a rest week. I took it pretty easy and did just one long high-altitude run on Friday. From the Bear Lake Road Park and Ride lot in Rocky Mountain National Park, I ran past Bierstadt Lake, up to Flattop Mountain (12,324 ft), Ptarmigan Pass, and back. 16 miles and 4,000 ft of elevation gain in all. I saw moose grazing in Bierstadt Lake, elk at Ptarmigan Pass, and pika all over the FLattop Mountain trail. This run dominated my numbers for the week.

  • 7 hours, 3 minutes

  • 26.1 miles

  • 5,020 ft D+

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Moose in Bierstadt Lake

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Tonahutu Trail at Ptarmigan Pass

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Odessa Lake, Lake Helene, Two Rivers Lake (left to right)

I want to get ~110 miles and 15,000 ft of climbing in over the next two weeks. I hope weather and my health continue to stay good.

Superior training week nineteen recap

I spent most of week nineteen on the hot and humid coast of North Carolina. I did three hour-long barefoot runs on the beach, some bodyweight strength training, and three hour-long surfing lessons. Back at home on the weekend, I did one long run at Horsetooth Open Space. Two trips to the summit from the parking lot. That one run accounted for 3,900 ft of my week's elevation gain. There aren't any hills on Hatteras Island. Here are the numbers for the week.

  • 7 hours, 16 minutes

  • 29.5 miles

  • 3,973 ft D+

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Vacation

I'm on vacation until Monday, August 8. I hope that you are, too. Apologies in advance for slow response to emails, DMs, and GitHub mentions.

Superior training week eighteen recap

I continue to feel fine and finished a hard hill interval workout and some tempo running in week 18. Saturday was a travel day but I did get in a long run out here on Hatteras Island island yesterday. The training volume for the week is a little lower than I planned, but that's okay. I'm happy to be at the seaside with with my family.

  • 7 hours, 21 minutes

  • 36.9 miles

  • 3,071 ft D+

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