September 13, 2017

09/09/17 Fall Superior Moose Mountain Marathon

Moose Mountain Marathon (and volunteering!)

Registering for Moose Mountain Marathon now involves entering into a lottery. They have 250 spots available and many more registrations than that so the lottery system was put into place a few years ago. I was lucky enough to get one of the lottery spots in 2017 so I could go back and run my 3rd Moose Mountain Marathon. After last years pacing gig I decided it was time to run my own race this year.

This is a trip I would not miss (and haven't for 4 years now!) so had I not gotten into the lottery I would have still gone up to volunteer and possibly see if anyone needed a pacer for the 100 mile race.

I headed up Friday morning and was scheduled to work the Tettegouche Aid station from Noon to 7:30 pm. If it was not busy toward 6:30 or so I was hoping I could head out early so that I could pick up my packet on Friday evening rather than at the start line on Saturday morning.

I always enjoy helping out at the aid stations for the 100 milers. I have volunteered at Silver Bay and Beaver Bay aid stations in the last two years so was excited to help out at a different location this year. When I arrived the station was already set up so we were able to just await the arrival of the first of the runners. This aid station is in Tettegouche State Park and it is about a 1/3 mile walk uphill to get to the aid station. There is not a lot of space in this area and the Superior Hiking Trail runs right past where the table is set up.

The area starts to fill up with crew and spectators awaiting their runners arrival. The front runners start to arrive one or two at a time and they do not stay long nor need much from the aid station. We concentrate on getting them back out on the trail quickly. This aid station is at 34.9 miles into the race and comes off a hard section. For the most part the runners are still looking strong and good at this aid station and there are very few drops here although I did notice one that appeared to be a drop due to a twisted ankle.

Julio from Defeat the Stigma was crewing a 100 mile runner.
In between runners I am able to visit with friends whom are crewing or spectating and it is fun catching up with those I have not seen in a while. I finished up my volunteer duties around 6 pm and headed back to the car to drive over to Caribou for packet pickup. I opted not to have a drop bag as I thought I would not make it Friday evening to drop one off. I reconsidered briefly while at packet pickup but realized that I really would not change socks in a marathon anyway. Takes too much time anyway and they would just get wet and muddy again very quickly.

I stayed at Sollbaken Resort this year which is just north of Lutsen about 5 miles. I shared a room with some friends. After laying out my gear for the morning I crawled into bed and shut the lights out around 10pm or so.

Flat Janet ready for the morning!
The alarm was set for 5:25 am to leave around 6:15 or :6:30 for Caribou Highlands to catch the first bus over to the start line which is Cramer Road. This is a point to point race run totally on the Superior Hiking Trail. We had been getting reports that it was quite muddy with all the recent rains but the weather was suppose to be perfectly sunny with high temps somewhere in the high 60's. The start was colder at about 50 degrees but we really could not ask for a better day for running a race on the SHT.
On the bus waiting to leave for the start line

On the bus waiting to leave for the start line

Listening to the race announcements and the countdown to the start of the race.

My friend Amy at the start line. I had contacted her on facebook and said, "hey lets run together for awhile".
We arrived at the start line with about 45 minutes to wait for the 8 am race start. Got into line for the porta potties as I figured I would be standing around anyway so might as well make it productive. It turned out to be a good decision. I saw many of my friends either running or volunteering while waiting around for the start. It is always good to catch up with old friends.

John made his announcements (they added porta potties to the Temperance Aid Station which received some enthusiastic applause!) John kindly waited for those waiting for the porta potties to get their turns and then counted down to race start.  This race begins running Cramer road before it goes onto the Superior Hiking Trail. The idea is to spread the runners out so there is less of a bottle neck at the trail. It is also suppose to get the runners more in line with their pace so that the faster folks are out front and on down the line. Amy and I pushed forward to at least the middle of the group so we did not have everyone in the field in front of us. We hit the trail and came to a complete stop. I was expecting this though. It happens every year. Not much to be done to change it when you have 250 people trying to funnel onto a single track trail.

We got moving onto the trail and immediately we pop back out to cross the road where many spectators were waiting for us and cheering us on. We also ran past the Cramer Road Aid station as we came upon that very quickly. No aid needed so early in the race so no need to stop.

Researched the last two finishing times and determined the pace needed to PR.
 Cramer Road to Temperance

This first section is the longest distance for the Marathon at 7.9 miles. This section is very runnable (as runnable as rocks, roots and mud is!) and Amy and I were cruising along very well. We leap frogged this section with each other as well as many other runners. I managed to run splits that varied between 14, 15 and 16ish minute miles. I was well ahead of my overall average pace of 16:30 needed to PR and from experience knew that I needed this cushion to account for the big climbs coming up but especially for Moose and Mystery Mountain in the last leg of the race. Amy and I ran into this aid station together. I knew that I needed to get in and out of aid stations as quickly as possible if my PR was even going to be a possibility so with a full hydration bladder only planned on grabbing pb&j sandwiches and using the porta potty. I took one look at the line and quickly made the decision I would be using the woods instead of wasting precious time waiting in line. I saw my friends, Dave S. and Mike M. here but only had time to say a quick hi before leaving. If I spend too much time in aid stations my races would be really long!

Temperance to Sawbill
I left Amy behind in the aid station and headed out. The section running down along Temperance River is one of my favorite sections. #1 I enjoy running downhill and #2 it is running along side the river with great views and the sound of the running water! I quickly had to find the best spot get rid of that morning coffee and then hit the trail running yet again. After crossing Temperance River we run the north side of the river and this is where we slowly start what I call the long slow incline to the backside of Carlton Peak. Some of this section is runnable but with the climb many of it needs to be power hiked. I passed some runners throughout this section and I am sure many runners also passed me. There were groups of runners that I leapfrogged with many times on this section and even the next.

There were many opportunities for awesome pictures
 but I was so set on trying to PR this is it for trail pics!

At some point Amy caught up with me again and even passed me by. We swapped positions many times during this first half of the race. Some friendly competition ensued and I think we both pushed each other harder than we might have if we had been alone. One thing I have noticed in my races is that running or trying to keep up with someone can sometimes make a race not as enjoyable for me after a while. I think Amy even agrees with me (we discussed it on trail) that we both like to be out there on the trail running alone at times. Lots of company on the trail is not always welcome when running such long distances. I do know playing leap frog constantly can get uncomfortable after too long. The climb up the back side of Carlton Peak seemed to go on forever! I remember thinking that I was glad that I did not need to go all the way to the peak like during the Spring Superior 50k race. Running down the hill on the way north brought back memories of the difficult climb during my 50k race in 2016. For that race I had been trying to keep up with Robyn and that was when I realized that I enjoy myself much better if I am not trying to run someone else's race. I was still ahead of my average pace and was feeling good if not a bit tired up to this point. I had not paid attention to how far Sawbill was so when we were close to Sawbill aid station I was surprised. Sawbill was at mile 13.6 miles making it just slightly greater than the half way point. I ran into Sawbill and just grabbed more pb&j sandwiches and walked out of the aid station eating.

Sawbill to Oberg
I don't remember much about this section except that my right knee was starting to hurt. It was hurting on the outside of the knee and behind the knee slightly. It felt fine walking or climbing but running flats and going downhill was starting to hurt considerably. I watched my cushion of time just melt away in this section. Amy also caught up with me just before coming into Oberg. This section is very runnable and I was starting to slow down considerably. I got into the Oberg aid station and was no longer smiling. I knew what was coming up and going downhill was no longer working for me. I typically love running downhill and try to use it to make up for time lost going uphill. Going into climbing Moose and Mystery without a cushion I knew that I would not be hitting my goal for this race. At this point I just wanted to be done and I knew I just needed to take the next section as best as I could.

Oberg to Finish

I grabbed some more food to go and headed out of the aid station as quickly as possible. I knew I had major climbs ahead and just concentrated on moving forward by running when I could and walking when I had to. This meant that I did a lot of walking down the hills. Oh well I would just finish the best I could and not stress out too bad and try not to beat myself up over missing my goal. When stuff like this happens I just reevaluate my priorities and get it done. I need to finish this race doing the least amount of damage to my knee as possible. If this meant slowing down so be it. Amy passed me up on this section and I just had to let it go. She was doing very well and feeling good. She looked like she was having a great race. I powered my way up Moose and hit my favorite section at the top. I tried to enjoy this section as much as possible. I ran my slow slog with some walking mixed in. I hit the downhill and moved through the downhill slowly but was still moving forward.

Next up is the long slow climb up Mystery Mountain. This is a more gradual climb with lots of switch backs as you move up the Mountain. Somewhere on this incline another runner came up behind me and passed me by. She was moving well. We power hiked together for awhile and talked about where we lived. Turns out she moved from the east coast to Illinois about the same time I moved out of my hometown of Kenosha which is not far from the Illinois border. It was nice having a short distraction as we kept moving forward. On this section there is much up and down throughout. I have learned that the trail is all downhill after we hit the campsite. Once I see that campsite I know it is all downhill following the Poplar River. Normally I enjoy this downhill but with the knee that was not happening this race. I just powered through knowing I had only about 1 mile left until I could cross that finish line for my 3rd Moose Mountain Marathon finish.

I finally hit the bridge over the river and knew I was close while at the same time knowing the rest was going to hurt. No problem, just keep moving forward. I really tried to pick up the pace once I hit that gravel road but my knee was not having any part of it. I got passed by a handful of runners on that last road section and while that killed me my main goal was not to injure myself further so I let it go.

Finally I crossed the finish line! I heard my name announced as I was running in and not sure why but it was announced that I ran the marathon without a drop bag. Still trying to figure out how they knew that. Finishing time was respectable, even though I missed my goal, of 7:36 and change. The race did not go as well as I would have liked but I am pleased that I finished.
Me glad that it was finally done!
 (Photo credit: Mike Wheeler)

This captures how I was feeling the last half of the race. Pain.
(Photo Credit: Mike Wheeler)

Finishing stats:
Finishing Time: 7:36:25
Overall Avg. Pace 17:40
Overall Place 196/302
Female Place 78/139
Grand Master Place 7/25

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