September 13, 2016

Superior Volunteering & Pacing

Superior Fall Trail Races

Superior Fall Trail Races
Photo Credit: John Storkamp

Friday, September 9 - Saturday, September 10, 2016

  Where: Lutsen, MN on the Superior Hiking Trail

  What: 100 mile/50 mile/26.2 mile

  Why: volunteering at Beaver Bay Aid Station on Friday, 10:30 - 3 pm/ Pacing Janet from Finland Aid Station to ?? (hoping to stick with her until the finish in Lutsen). This is the plan.

I am excited to once again be traveling to Lutsen, MN to participate in the Superior Fall Trail Races. In past years I have volunteered at Check in on Friday night and the next year Silver Bay Aid Station Friday morning/afternoon prior to running Moose Mountain Marathon. I have completed that race twice now and it is one of my favorite races of the season.

This year I am trying something different. I will be volunteering at Beaver Bay Aid Station Friday then trying to get a few hours sleep before pacing Janet in the 100 mile race overnight. My plan is to run with her from Finland Aid Station (at mile 51.9), running through the night and hopefully into the next day, running with her into Lutsen.

If this is my favorite race of the season, why would I voluntarily miss it? Well I have my very first 24 hour race just 2 weeks later on September 23, 2016 at the Goosebumps 6/24 hour Walk/Run in LaCrosse, WI.  Plus I really enjoy pacing Janet in her races and she did not have anyone else lined up for pacing so I thought why not?  Training run for Goosebumps.

Friday, Volunteering, Beaver Bay Aid Station, Mile 20.1

I woke up at 4:50 am to get ready to hit the road by 5:30 for a 10:30 arrival at the Beaver Bay Aid Station for my volunteering shift. I  arrived on time and there were already lots of crew members there waiting for their runners to come in. This is the first aid station that crew is allowed to help their runners. The runners coming in still look good and fresh. The aid station was completely set up by the time I arrived so I visited with crew members while waiting for the runners to start to arrive. At this aid station the biggest job, being early in the race, is filling bottles with water or heed. The aid station soon became chaos as crew members and runners were everywhere. I do enjoy the energy and being able to help the runners. I don't volunteer enough at races and really  need to change that but life is so crazy busy it is hard to fit it all in. I was ready to leave the aid station around 1:30 or so. I believe it was around 2 when I got in my car to head north to Lutsen to try to get some sleep before my pacing started. I got into the room at about 3 pm and managed to get a few hours sleep. I was staying at the Caribou Lodge Townhome and wow was it nice! I normally would not stay here but asa pacer it was a perk I was able to enjoy. I was expecting to be picked up between 6 and 7 depending on when Janet left County Rd 6 aid station to run into Finland aid station where I would start running with her.

Friday night Pacing, Finland Aid Station to Sugarloaf Aid Station

I got the text message at 6:35 from Mike saying he would be at the hotel in 30 minutes. I made myself some oatmeal and coffee and made sure I had all my gear in my bag. We arrived back at Finland Aid Station around 7:30ish and I waited for Janet to arrive. Robyn was at the aid station so I was able to chat with her for awhile when she was not busy helping runners at the aid station.

Janet ran into the aid station shortly before 9 pm. It was dark outside. She took care of what she needed to and we headed out of the aid station ready to tackle the next 11 miles before seeing Mike again. We had one aid station before that but crew is not allowed at the Sonju aid station. Janet likes to get in and out of the aid stations very quickly so it is best to know what is needed at the aid station before getting there. Janet was moving very well at this point and it was quite the effort to keep up with her even though she was mostly power hiking. I believe I did a poor job of making sure I was taking in enough calories and fluids. I have noticed running at night I tend to be less diligent in this area. Maybe it is the weird schedule but eating at night is difficult for me.

Before the Crosby aid station, where Mike was waiting for us, there is some gravel road running and Janet took off in front of me. I was amazed that she was able to get so far ahead of me when she had been running all day and had 60 miles on her legs. She was running strong and I realized that she had improved greatly in her running since I paced her at Zumbro in 2015. Of course it did not help that at about 5 miles into the run my right toes started hurting yet again. This has me worried for my future races. I was able to manage the discomfort and keep it under control but I am hoping that it goes away and does not turn into an injury that stops me from running. I do not know what is causing it which makes it hard to figure out what I need to do to fix it. When I made it into the aid station I had to ask Janet if she still needed me to run with her as I felt I was not doing a good job as her pacer if I could not keep up to her. But she said yes she definitely wanted me to keep running with her.

The next section we had to run was 9.4 miles into the Sugarloaf aid station. I asked what to expect in the next section and was told it was a rough one. One big climb and a lot of up and down. Not to mention that it is long. It was also very technical! We hit that hard climb within the first 5 miles and wow was it hard! Janet cruised her way up, making it look effortless and I chugged my way up with my heart beat pounding in my ears and my lungs near to bursting! All I could think was that this climb rivaled Moose mountain. That got me to thinking that I most likely would not be able to run all 50 miles with her. I pretty much decided at that point that I would, at most, be able to run till light but probably not much further than the 25 miles that would entail. If Janet was moving this strong overnight I could not help but think that come light I really would not be able to keep up. I knew that there were backup pacers that had volunteered to help pace and it would be better for Janet to run with them.Well, after those 9 miles from Crosby to Sugarloaf things took a turn for the worse. Janet was experiencing some nausea but it must have gotten much worse as she got sick. I won't get into all the details as it is not my story to tell but my pacing duties were finished at the Sugarloaf aid station at about 6:30 am Saturday morning. While I was sad that Janet's run was over I was not necessarily sorry to be done running myself. Those 21 miles overnight on the Superior Hiking Trail were really difficult! The tagline for this race is Rugged, Relentless, Remote and all I could think about during my run was that the roots and rocks (and mud this year) was definitely Relentless! Running in these conditions can really take a toll on the ankles and mine were starting to hurt. I did not want to take ibuprofen because I did not want to mask the foot pain to make sure I was not hurting myself worse. I did take some finally when I realized that I would not be running the full 50 miles with her. At that point I needed some ankle relief.

Mike gave me a ride back to the hotel in Lutsen and after taking a bath and falling asleep in the tub I got out and crawled into bed and slept for about 3 hours. I had considered going home early but decided to head over to the finish line about 12:30 and see what was happening. I started seeing people I knew, including some friends that were unable to finish the 50 mile race due to missing cutoffs. After running with Janet overnight I realized that with as slow as I run my chances of making the 50 mile cutoffs would be near impossible. My chances at the Moose Mountain Marathon were definitely better considering I have run and finished it twice now.  Sheila was heading out to an aid station to crew her husband, Terry, running the 50 miler so I asked her if she wanted some company and we headed out together to the last two aid stations to meet up with her husband at the aid stations. I enjoyed this a lot as I was able to see many of my runner friends coming into the aid stations on their quest to complete their 50 mile race. I had fun encouraging other 50 mile racers as they ran into the aid stations and offering help when needed.

This is the third year I have been to the Fall Superior Races and it is one race that I thoroughly enjoy and plan on going back to next year. We shall see what distance I will be running then.

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