Saturday, October 18, 2014

Superior 25k Trail Race, 2014

  • If you never tried things that intimidate or scare you, you'd never see how far you could go.- Coach Amber
This is what my coach told me between my Zumbro 17 and Superior 25k races. I was nervous. I was recovering from one race. I was scared for the next. 

This Superior 25k race re-cap is a long time coming since the race was in May.
It's going to be long. I'm going to share a lot. Mostly because I don't want to forget but also because it was and is an amazing run.

This video is from a 50k runner who shared it on the race's Facebook page. The first 2:25 minutes show what I ran up to the Oberg Mtn aid station. The 50k'ers continued further down the trail before turning around while the 25k'ers turned around at the Oberg station to head back.

The race coincided on the same weekend the boys were going to Zumbro to ride their bikes. Apparently (and I do not remember this but Bill says so) I agreed that he would come with me to the Zumbro race but not necessarily the Superior race. As I mentioned, I did not remember this detail and as the race got nearer and I was planning travel logistics, Bill said he would be going to Zumbro (Theilman) to ride and not to the race with me. After much crying and so on, I asked my friend, Jenn, if she would in any way be willing to drive with me to the northern shore of Minnesota for seven hours, be left for four hours or so on her own and then drive me back another seven hours. Miraculously, she said she would love to!! For this favor and for being my dear, dear friend, I am forever in debt to her.
The weather up there is tricky. Near the shoreline it is almost always cool because of the wind off the lake but warms up significantly once away from the lake. You feel that part way up the ski road and of course it was morning. Layers, but how many and what kind? I chatted with a very chatty runner and she was going to wear a wind jacket. I had everything with me but went with what I had on. I shed my long sleeve shirt and gloves not half way up Mystery Mountain. Since I knew there was still snow on the course and not sure how much, I couldn't bring myself to not wear capris. If it had warmed up any more than it did, I would have preferred shorts. As it was, I made good clothing choices. (Seriously, months of training and I'm hooked up over what to wear?)

The race director stood on a ladder to share last minute details. The 50k racers had started earlier that morning and were reporting that there was giant, shoe-sucking mud holes with dangerous rocks in them. Awesome. Really couldn't expect anything else since the week before there was still snow up to four feet deep in some places. 

A section of the trail a week before the race
All the evening before and the morning of, I was nervous. I was trying to be cool but Jenn could totally tell. She made me go to bed but was asleep before me. She sat I while I fiddled with stuff. I couldn't bluff her. However, once I got to the starting line, I felt a strange sense of calm. I was here and I was going to do this. I held back at the start even though this time I placed myself mid-pack. I'm okay with getting passed but there is something to not starting at the back. I knew how I sort of wanted to run the start and stuck to it.

Can you spot me?
We quickly log-jammed once on the trail because of the mud. Running was down to picking through the mud. I walked only a bit because of just trying to not go out too quick but by the second mud hole, I couldn't take it anymore. There was going to be mud all over this course and there wasn't a way to avoid it. Since I had my fair share in Zumbro, I was already over it and shot up the middle and passed probably 10 people. It was a great move. I got to the first camping spot and shed my long sleeves and gloves. I remembered all the gnarly roots and rocks from Bill and my run last fall and said hello to them. Climbed some steep parts, then made it to the overlook to the southeast. That is pretty much the summit of the trail. Whooped and hollered and headed down being careful with my form. Slippery mud, slippery planks over mud. 

The second pair of shoes I trashed in two months time.
The climb up Moose Mtn was an adventure since I've never been on that section. I took it all in. One thing I noticed right away was that the smell had changed to pine. It hit me and, while not refreshing, took on a significance of its own. I always notice changes in scent on the trails. (insert farting joke)

This isn't taken at an angle. This is the angle of the trail. 
The trail was quite steep and I was sometimes face to foot with the person ahead of me. The top of Moose is so different than I expected. Grasses and less gnarly trail. I loved that section and cruised along, chatting with someone from Mpls who was with someone from Des Moines. We headed down and I made a mental note about the trail. Essentially, it wasn't going to be all that fun going back up. A long decent. I couldn't really place where the aid station was in correlation to Oberg Mtn. and the kind of elevation we encountered when my family hiked there a couple years ago. Well, it turns out that Oberg is its own little fun time of a climb.
The man I had been chatting with had passed me but was only slightly ahead of me. We came to a fork in the trail where we were to turn right. There was a big sign with trail and information about Oberg Mountain on it. He turned to look at it and tripped over the most obvious rock in the middle of the trail. He turned head over heels, tried popping up only to go back over again. It wasn't necessarily graceful but it did happen fast. He said he was okay but I've taken a tumble before (not of that magnitude) and it leaves you shaken up for a while. Trail running tip- keep your eyes on the ground.
I got to the aid station and grabbed a gel and some pretzels. I learned from Zumbro that I can shave some time off just getting in and out faster, which is something I've heard and read before as well. I decided I didn't need to hang around anymore and back in I went.
All along the trail are low sections that are covered with planks to keep one out of the water. The Spring had been unusually cold and the snow was still melting so there was a lot of standing water in the low sections. With runners bouncing across the planks, it made them wet, muddy and slippery. Plus, the planks weren't secured at both ends and so sometimes there was a teeter totter effect- me being the lightweight and a guy runner being the heavier weight. Yikes! Well this time I was crossing a plank over standing water when my right toe caught on basically nothing and I hurtled towards the water. Behind me I heard all the runners gasp as they watch me fall. But I didn't fall. I landed upright on my feet. Standing there in the water I assessed the situation and announced that that could have gone a lot worse than what it did and hopped back on the plank and kept moving!

Oh wooden planks. You look so dry and runnable here. 
As I suspected, going back up Moose was a challenge. I hit the stair section and just kept climbing. I knew they would have to end. I kept going even though my legs were on fire. It's interesting but always at the top I have to take a few more steps but then I'm ready to resume running. So I did. I didn't feel like I was flying through this section in the same way as out but kept going. The rocks and roots take on a new face when looked at from a different direction. By now my right knee is definitely making itself known. I pressed when I could. I was on the backside of things and I knew if I could make it down Moose without too much more pain, I could probably endure whatever happened on Mystery. At the top or near the top since I'm not sure exactly where that was, I knew I was finishing this and finishing it well. My mind was a party of "You're doing it!" I was going to leave it all out there even if it meant hobbling for a week after.
Early on, I had challenged myself to not walk or hike Mystery at all coming back- that I would run it. Well, as would happen, I met up with a group of people who slowed to a walk. Some of them were 50k's and I think they earned their walking. I stayed with them for a while. It turns out, my Garmin became more and more out of sync with the mileage. In my mind, I knew the race didn't have four miles more to go, but my watch said so. But I also realized uphill at that point for me was my strength. I could climb/hike/run faster than those around me, so I passed a few people and got going. Downhill was so hard. My knees were painful but I was determined to leave it all out there. I slowed down quite a bit more than I wanted too but kept going. At some points I would realize my knees didn't hurt only to have them immediately start hurting again. Mental? Several people passed me and they probably would have anyway and I tried to not let it bother me. I was still running what I thought was my best race and I wasn't going to begrudge them for wanting to get it over with as well.

I've found that during training runs I can focus enough to pray but during races I can't focus like that. Maybe it's because I want to get a "good' prayer in? Whatever. What I can do is focus on shorter things. During this section while I was trying not to think of my knee, I started on working my way through the attributes of God alphabetically. "A"- God you are Awesome. "B"- God you are Beautiful. "C"- God you are Creator. I never made it farther than "C" because I started having a little worship session in my heart and mind. The man I told you about earlier had shared with me that he was out running because he was on a spiritual journey. He was worshipping the created when he should have been worshipping the Creator. When you see a beautiful tree, sunrise, sunset, vista, or even a cloudy and blown over day with cold piercing through- its all to point to the One who created it! "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1 "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20 I loved being up there, running up and down those mountains, mucking in the mud, balancing over slippery boards, testing my resolve on rocks and stairs but in my last miles back, I worshipped. I worshipped the Loving Creator who made me and all that I was experiencing.   

Poplar River is breathtaking any time of year
An interesting sensation started once I crossed the bridge until I reached the parking lot- my left (right? don't remember now) butt started feeling flabby. Sort of tingly but more like someone was taking my butt cheek and the back of my thigh and jiggling it around. I'm only believing this is a real running symptom of some kind since just about everything else I've mentioned to my coach, she's come back with an answer. Well, it stopped or I stopped paying attention to it once I hit the pavement. (My coach got back to me and said she hadn't any idea about this so now you know about my weird butt thing.) Also, running pavement after running all that trail wasn't nearly as easy as you might think. I wanted to bolt to the finish line but my body wasn't playing. I just kept going. Amazingly, I hated the finish area. It's tucked behind the condos and I really didn't know where it went. Also, there was about 10 feet of really slippery snow as you go from road to the path and that's just stupid for not clearing that. 

I finished this race in 3 hours, 44 minutes. This finish placed me about halfway for overall finishers, female finishers, and age group finishers for the 25k. I was really happy with my effort. My friend, Jenn, was there to meet me at the end and give me a huge hug. It was so nice to have her there to be my friend, cheer me on and help me out while my brain, emotions and body turned to mush.

Jenn and I
I really couldn't believe I was ran a race that I only hoped I could do one day. A race that made my stomach do flip-flops when I looked at the elevation chart. This race was my biggest dream and I did it!!

A majority of these pictures were taken from other the race or runners' sharing on the Superior Trail race Facebook page.

Superior Trail Race website and Facebook page


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