Running For My Life
Running For My Life- Superior 100 Race Recap
I went into 2017 with a much different mindset and a bigger determination to get this finish. I almost doubled my training miles in 2017 but cut way back on my long runs. I was training smarter and with purpose. Other than the couple 50k's and the one 50 mile race, I did not have a long run out of the mid 20's. I did more focused training especially making sure i got sufficient hill repeats in since hills tend to be my weak spot. I also ran more with others this year than ever before. Majority of the time with my Superior pacer Jayna. It wasn't until during the race I finally asked her why in the hell she runs with me since she is so wicked fast. I was just enjoying her company throughout the year and her ability to push me to the limits was great training. All this being said, my training couldn't be better but I could not execute a race for anything this year.
The last big training race before Superior was the Voyageur 50 mile. The heat got to me in this race and I did not nearly do as well as I thought I would but learned that pickle juice does me wonders, and I would carry this knowledge into Superior 100. Shortly after Voyageur, I was devastated by a breakup. This triggered some very serious and dark depression that left me feeling hopeless and quite honestly like I did not want to go on. She was everywhere, she was nowhere. I had no desire to run anymore and was thinking I would not even make it to Superior, who cares about a finish even. A thoughtful tribute or a moment of silence might be had and then I would be just part of the distant memory. Thankfully my pacers, Amy and Jayna, as well as Willow kept forcing me to get out for miles on the weekends, one of which even included a hilarious reading of Scaredy Squirrel at Starbucks. They encouraged me to eat again which I often would go days without. I was still going forward with Superior not for me, but so I wouldn't disappoint everyone else. Still in my mind I thought of all the possibilities of disappearing before the race, "accidentally" miss-stepping off a cliff at Bean and Bear since I knew the momories of our hike there a couple months earlier would haunt me, you name it, I thought it. I had no intentions of finishing, even on the car ride up. The one person I wanted there that supported me at my last couple races would not be there so I had no desire to even toe the line.
Arriving in Two Harbors at packet pickup helped a little bit. Seeing my friends and enjoying the trail running community helped calm my soul to an extent. Anxiety got high though with that many people there so I bailed before the race meeting. (shhh do't tell John!) We made our way to Caribou Highlands and checked in. Once I got settled, I spent about an hour with my friend Kamie just talking things out which was very therapeutic. My head was finally in the race I felt. Sleep evaded me that night, just like it had for the last several weeks since the breakup. Nights of 30 minutes - 2 hours of sleep had became normal to me. This lack of sleep and losing 10 pounds scared me and I knew this would catch up to me during the race no doubt.
Race morning came, and I felt abnormally calm. I elected to take the bus from Caribou to the start and remained mostly quiet throughout the hour ride. I listened to some music which I rarely do before a race. Arriving at Gooseberry Falls where this journey starts had a different feel this year. I felt lost and out of place. I chit-chatted a bit with everyone I saw. I got a much needed hug from Maranda that helped put my mind at ease. I'm sure she made some smart ass comments about calming down or being a spazz but they were probably needed at the time.
I learned a lot from last years race and as soon as we were off, my mind suddenly went to where it needed to be. I bantered a bit with various people around me, but really just wanted to hit that single track and be a bit more alone with my thought. The miles ticked off fast and we hit the Split Rock River crossing which was rather underwhelming. I don't know why I wanted and expected raging waters, but they were not there. I got lucky and got my two bee stings out of the way in this section. I got into the first aid station, and took my time and meticulously went through my routine which included a 2oz shot of pickle juice, some calories, bottle refills and I was off.
The next section into Beaver Bay was rather uneventful other than the fun flooded section where the water came up to mu crotch. I was still feeling really good. I changed socks and shoes at Beaver Bay and headed towards Silver Bay. I have ran this section more than any other as it's a nice out and back to do while I am in the are for work. This was also the section where I started cramping last year. There would be none of that this year and I felt strong coming into Silver Bay. I ate more and topped everything off as well as my shot of pickle juice which Maranda so humorously decided that would be an opportune time to snap a picture. Thankfully as of now that has not surfaced. My crew of my brother Jon and Kelly are performing like clockwork getting me in and out of the aid stations as prepared as possible.
Silver Bay to Tettegouche is a scenic section that includes the previously mentioned Bean and Bear Lake. Running on ledges high above the lakes offering astounding views of the backside of the Sawtooth Range. My mind was more clear once I got here and ahead I saw Cole up on a ladder taking pictures! I got the customary shout out from Cole that I have got every time I have seen him since the race here last year in which I borrowed him my spare headlamp, thus "saving" his race. It's our little moment that we will always share. His amazing pictures though have more than made up for this in my mind. I knew Mount Trudee was in this section as well, and remember it being a pretty solid climb, but this day it passed as nothing more than a blip on the elevation map. On down the drain pipe and into Tettegouche. I roll in seeing Amy still volunteering which didn't surprise me as you can't get this dear woman away from helping long enough for her to ever help herself. I shooed her out to get ready since she would be pacing me starting at the next aid station. Jon and Kelly took over and got me my pickle juice and food, and topped everything off. I asked for my headlamp at this point to be safe as I remember it getting very dark in this section last year.
On my way up the stairs on the other side of the river I came across my friend Matt Lutz who was suffering from a calf cramp. I think I had flashbacks from last year and chose to stay with him and share some miles on the trail with him, gaining some knowledge from his past finishes. Somewhere in this section I took off and was feeling strong. I hit that ledge coming around Sawmill Dome hearing the Count 6 aid station for the first time, but knowing it takes a while to make it there still. I was in disbelief that I rolled into County 6 in daylight. Last year I was an absolute shit show cramping and the first time in my life fighting cutoffs. Jamison kindly came over to tell me that his wife Lisa was not there this year to massage my legs as she had done for who knows how long last year, and he would not be filling that role this year. I was initially heartbroken but got over it quick. My crew sprang into action. I was a little behind on calories by this time but nothing was sounding good. I ate what I could, and got the heck out of there while it was still light. I wanted to see how far I could make it towards Finland without a headlamp.
Amy and I took off and a pretty steady clip. She was a little concerned that I would not turn on my headlamp but I wanted to push without it for as long as I could. Her zillion lumen light was good enough for quite some time so I stuck with that until I had no choice. I hammered through this section pretty quick as it is mostly runnable and we arrived at Finland before we knew it. I was here over 5 hours faster than last year and still feeling super strong. I changed socks and got some night layers on this point, downed my pickle juice, had some hashbrowns and got on my way towards Sonju.
I was moving into uncharted territory since the year before I dropped at Finland. This was such a mental boost especially going into these next couple sections that are the demons spawn of roots. Much of the next couple sections were a blur as the last month or so of no sleep started to take its toll. I know I got to Sonju very well and enjoyed the sweet hippie party here! I had some hamburgers and got moving again. Getting to Crosby Manitou became more of a struggle. I was moving well but fatigue was setting in and all I wanted was a nap. I told Amy that I have to sleep for 20 minutes at Crosby no matter what. Everyone agreed to this but also would not shut up asking me what I wanted or needed. Amy says they let me sleep for 20 minutes but it was all a lie at the time. Matt Patten who always seems to save the day for me, offered me caffeine pills which I have never tried before. I know it's always best to try new things on race day, so why not? One down the hatch and 6 for the road.
The caffeine pill kicked in and I woke up and picked up the pace. This is a long tough section, so they say, but I felt like I floated through it. At one point, like the big meany I am, I started running the climbs and messing with Amy to see if I could drop her. I don't know if it was the caffeine talking but I have never felt this good and have never ran this many miles before. I started feeling hot spots on my feet during this section and knew it was best to address it at Sugarloaf where I would also pick up my next pacer, Jayna. The sun was just starting to show its first light of day here. I went through my routine and Chalayne tended to my feet.
Now it was Jayna's turn to babysit, I mean pace me. I honestly don't remember this section other than it leads to Cramer Road which is where the marathon starts. The only thing I recall is the dressings on my feet shifting and moving and I knew I had to get it redone at Cramer Road. The marathoners where just lining up for a start when I got here, I was hoping to be an hour or so ahead of them but really I was still moving well so no complaints. Aid station food of any sort was still not appealing. I wanted more hamburgers, or pancakes, something of substance. Once my feet where done we boogied out and on our way to Temperance.
In this next section, I also do not recall much but do remember hitting the wall and realizing that I was exhausted and very calorie deprived. I remember sitting on a rock on a downhill, ready to give up. Jayna tried to coax me along but I had to just sit there and wait for all the other runners to pass. I made sure to let each and everyone one of them know they were doing a great job. I think it was Jayna that was struggling at this point because she kept telling me no one was around us. Then who were these people? They were fresh and moving much faster than I was. I had reached the point of hallucinating. Jayna later told me she was a bit nervous about the state I was in. She finally got me going again and we made it to Temperance!
I have never been so thankful for pancakes! Bring them on Mill City! I stuffed my face as much as I could. the day was starting to warm up so it was time to strip back down. My feet were killing me, so stupidly I did not want to take off my shoes in fear they would swell more. I would later regret this decision and proceeded to have my tights cut off so I wouldn't have to remove my shoes. I felt ready for Carlton Peak, especially knowing there was only two aid stations remaining. I know this was a slower pace but I still recall that I was moving at a decent pace considering. The climb up Carlton was tough, but I maintained a decent pace with the other runners we were with. The decent seemed to take longer than I remembered but alas we arrived at Sawbill! Only one more aid station after this!
I was so hoping for more food of substance as everything was just tasting like poo. I ate the little I could and we got out of there. I was excited to get to Oberg and just getting this done.. This section is nothing special and would normally be very runnable, but I could not run. I could barely stand let alone keep forward momentum. Every step hurt more than the last. These last 13 miles would end up taking me 6 hours to complete. My right arm was killing me at this point from a fall much earlier on. The long death march had begun. This was the longest 5.5 miles ever to get to Oberg. It was one mile to go for 3 miles and I was getting annoyed.. I was already dreading Moose Mountain and had told Jayna to have a game-plan ready when we got there because I knew it was going to be a struggle. I had a first in the section and took a deuce in the woods while Jayna warned everyone not to look as they past. Damn that's tough to squat on trashed legs! I finally heard the joy of Oberg off in the distance and Jayna reminded me of my first dump in the woods by asking if I had to wipe when we got into Oberg. I guess she had forgotten that she handed me TP so I responded something like, "no mommy, I wiped while in the woods." Stupid how moments of levity like this bring a little spark back in the monotony of the death march. TCRC always does a phenomenal job at this aid station and this year did not disappoint. While I was in no mood to celebrate and take it all in, I did what I had to do which included resigning to the fact that I would be seeing another sunset.
I was ready to get this done, I got up to head out and my pacers thought I was just going to the bathroom, but really I just wanted to leave. I was done. They scrambled to finish their prep and join me. While halfway up the climb out of Oberg, I remembered that I had used up the TP the previous section and was going to have Jayna grab more at Oberg. She darted back down to get some and on her return I joked about how I had dropped her. This was about the last of my interaction for some time. I was miserable and every step hurt. I repeated in a raspy voice over and over "this is stupid, this is stupid". Amy and Jayna must have heard me and told me it wasn't and I was a rock start blah blah blah. I wanted to tell them to shut the hell up and leave me alone, but I knew I couldn't do this without them.
We got to Moose Mountain and I wanted to die. Jayna faked she had a plan to get me up and over it but she lied. They both lied to me so much during this race. I was weak, I had nothing. I sobbed as I climbed Moose. I grunted and groaned, I had nothing left in me. tears rolling down my face I pushed my way up, passing other runners. I had nothing left, I hurt, I was done, I made Moose Mountain my bitch. I think this was the point that Amy made some comment in her list of accolades about me being a gangster and about the last coherent words spewed from my mouth, "it feels good to be a gangster".
Amy and Jayna laughed it up as I fell back into silence, sans some crazy groaning on every step and the occasional ritualistic chant of how stupid this was. I sunk pretty low again in my mind to where I had been the previous month or so. I wanted to quit. I didn't care how close I was. I wanted no satisfaction of finishing this race.. I told no one, but every aid station was going to be the one that "she" was at. Dejected every one and knew she wouldn't be there to see me finish either. I was getting angry, I didn't want this. I heard the Poplar River and didn't care.
We got to the road and I saw a car that looked like my brothers and I hoped it was because I would have gotten in it at that moment. Nothing mattered. That road grew longer and longer as I trudged down it emotionless. Not a tear, nothing but anger and hurt. I came around the lodge by the pool as John was doing awards and heard the shout, runner! runner! I faintly remember my name called over the loud speaker congratulating me on my first Superior 100 mile finish and I walked across that mat with nothing but a blank stare and emptiness in my soul. I had done it but I didn't care. I don't remember who the first person to give me a hug was but that's all it took to leave the hurt on the trail and I cried, hug after hug and I cried. weeks, days, hours before I never thought I would make it to this point. All I could do was cry. I earned that hoodie and star. I earned that belt buckle. I owned this race and even though I finished nearly 17 hours after the winner, I just won this damn race. The best part was, this amazing group of people that I call family, many of whom had finished hours before me, knew I had won this race as well. The comments I heard, the mumbling in the crowds, the hundreds of people at that moment were there for me.
My anxiety levels were sky high so I saw who I could and got out of there. I wanted to shower, I wanted to eat, I wanted to cry. I turned my phone on to a chorus of alerts, including a congratulations from her. My heart sank and I did't know how to respond. She followed me along all night but congratulations were not the words I wanted to hear, but those words were never said and I went back to celebrating with the ones who loved me and made sure I made it to this point.
Days have passed, the high has worn off, the hurt and depression and sleepless nights have returned. Time heals all wounds. What's meant to be will happen, what's not, won't. My running will help fill the void as it once did eventually I hope. I signed up for Wild Duluth 100k because why not? Physically I feel stronger than ever, mentally I will get there. I have a great support system with my running family that cares about me and my well being..
Don't be afraid to talk about the feelings you have, the people who truly care about you will help get you through. Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255