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A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall: Zumbro 2014

I’ve stumbled on the side of 12 misty mountains; I’ve stumbled on the side of six crooked highways

Friday was warm – warmer than almost any day all year. But the drops didn’t really start until a big purple storm cell went out of its way to miss every major town within reach and settle instead on Theilman, Minnesota, pop. 2 (editor’s estimate).

I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests; I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans

LaCrosse-based wunderkid Michael Borst took out the 100 hard on Friday. With him went Joe Boler; not so hot on their heels but sitting steady in third was long-haired Nathan Leehman, from Charlotte, North Carolina, who in September opened the specialty shop Ultra Running Company in December and was spending purportedly his first day off since then running a 100-miler in the bluffs of southeastern Minnesota. Bob Gerenz, who won the duel in the moonlight two years ago, also stalked. On the women’s side, April Anselmo (nee Cole) cruised alone.

By lap two, Borst was alone in the lead, but at mile 53, near nightfall, he was visibly suffering at the first aid station of his fourth lap.

“I went out too hard,” he said, perfectly cogent but in pain. Indeed, the young gun had inadvertently broken his 50-mile course record, set last year with training partner Jake Hegge, on his first-half split. He would stagger, suffer, walk, drop, then re-enter a few more times, but there would be no sixth lap for Borst in his 100-mile debut. Leehman burst into the lead, tailed by Gerenz, who took significantly less time in the aid stations than the then-leader. But Leehman’s gap would remain, then grow slightly, as he used a second-half surge to nab a win and a course record in 20:30:51. Gerenz held on for second in 21:21:04.

Anselmo’s only trouble all day came from a heel-nipping local dog that she said (with a convincing menace in her eyes and edge in her voice) she was ready to assault if he continued trailing her. The night shift-working Anselmo dialed in as the sun dropped and won in 23:21:01 – good for fourth overall – while the dog, resigned to the threat of a hundred Zumbro Bottoms coyotes overnight, stayed at the aid station.

Full 100-mile results can be found here.

As late night turned to early morning, 50-milers (who started at midnight) started pouring through. Borst’s LaCrosse counterpart Hegge took a commanding and easy lead, and the weather was holding. This aid station captain slinked away for what was supposed to be a 20-minute nap.

I heard the sound of thunder, it roared out a warnin’; I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world

Three hours later, I woke to the sound of…is that hail? I stepped out of the TCRC RV and into a shin-deep puddle. The corps of volunteers had completely turned over while I slept, leaving me with no familiar faces. A Little Ceasar’s pizza sat on the aid table, and a bonfire had apparently been started, long enough ago that it was surviving the torrent.

A lot had happened.

Among those things, Hegge was overtaken by Mike Dietz of Wauconda, Illinois, who won in a course record 8:30:07. Hegge held on for second in 8:58:24. More predictably, Leslie Semler of Hermantown led most (maybe all, though moments like the initial burst off the start line are unaccounted for) of the way to win in 10:54:02, over 26 minutes ahead of second-place Molly Pennings, of Culver.

Complete 50 Mile results can be found here.

Not to be outdone, 100-milers adorned the course throughout and were some of the last people standing as the cutoff loomed. The thunderstorm and ensuing wet cold so thrashed the field that apparently only two of 11 runners entered in the Gnarly Bandit Series – of which Zumbro is the first event – are still in the running. (Update – apparently five finished. Thanks to Lisa for the tip in the comments section.)

I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’

17-milers were the only racers treated exclusively to mud, and the only ones to start their race amidst a thunderstorm. Results are here.

Other notes, or The Skinny, week of general vicinity of March-April 2014

The Mad City 100k, aka the US 100k road championship as designated by that corrupt and/or inept monkey court USA Track & Field, was this weekend in Madison. Of the Minnesotans I know of who went, both were felled by GI issues. Chris Lundstrom was forced to drop at 70k, though Sonya Decker managed a finish before trekking to the hospital next door with severe dehydration. She’d better not repeat this at the next edition of the Decker beer relays, as I hope we can repeat as champs.

Results are here.

Note that five men met the time standard for the IAAF (world) championship. That’s some major pressure of prominent folks who skipped the USATF championship race on the assumption they’d get a qualifier elsewhere, because though only one spot was guaranteed out of the USATF race, any performances meeting the IAAF standard are given precedence for US team selection. They take six. So only one fast time outside of this race will make the team.

For the utter irrelevance USATF has in the MUT world, it could help turn things around if competitors started treating national championships like national championships. Most people looking to make a world team probably won’t be so casual about it after this year.

Editorial: Disband USATF

It’s a wretched artifact of bureaucracy run amok, and can’t be trusted to fix itself


This is a blog that focuses on trail and ultra running. So why the concern over USA Track & Field?

First, technically, mountain, ultra and trail running falls under USATF’s auspices. The MUT committee determines national champions and national teams for world championship events, such as mountain running and 24-hour.

But – more to the point – if you started by wondering why Ultra MN would give a rip about USATF, you’re on to something. In the MUT world, is there anything that matters less than a USATF title? Maybe if there’s a world championship for which we need to determine the US team, but when there’s not, well…

Quick, tell me which 100-mile race served as the USATF 100-mile trail championship in 2013. Tell me who the USATF 100 mile trail champions – men and women – were. Hint: it wasn’t Western States. It wasn’t Hardrock or Leadville. It wasn’t any of the races in the Grand Slam.

It was the Burning River 100 in Ohio; your national champions were Connie Gardner and Peter Hogg.

Now, do the same for the 100k, 50 mile and 50k trail championships. Do it for the 10k trail championship. Some of you can, but not nearly as many as can say who won WS100, or UROC, or TNF 50.

This isn’t to take away from the accomplishments of any USATF champions. Winning any race is hard and a USATF title is something I will never be able to earn. But the point is that USATF titles are not all that relevant in the competitive realm of trail and ultra running.

What gains someone notoriety, or consideration for UROY, is winning races where other big names show up. That can be whatever race the athletes want it to be; and if a race wants to be that race, they lure athletes with superior organization and good prize money. See: TNF 50 San Francisco; UROC; Lake Sonoma. None of them are USATF championships, but they’re the races we watch and remember. They’re the races athletes want to run.

USATF should take this as an example that people are fully capable of not caring, at all, what USATF does. USATF titles are only legitimate if people care about USATF. And USATF is doing its very best to make sure no one does.

I’m a former board member of USA Track & Field Minnesota; I’m a member of USATF and race on the MN road circuit. And I say we need to get rid of the whole thing. The sooner, the better.

Why so extreme?

It’s not just a lack of necessity. USATF has done wrong by its members and by athletes; it’s acted contrarily to the spirit of the sport it is designed to help. It has acted unfairly and unjustly and has not been anything remotely reeking of accountable for any of it.

Toni Reavis makes a very strong case that USATF simply needs to be reshuffled so varying interests aren’t constrained per being under the same umbrella organization. But realistically, when an organization has demonstrated as thoroughly as USATF that it can’t be trusted to do the right thing, I don’t believe we can expect it to reform itself and make itself less powerful simply because it will better serve the sport. USATF either needs to be coerced or done away with by someone outside.

The USOC and the athletes who comprise the sport would be a good place to start.

But let’s back up just a bit. Why am I, like many others, so angry?

The crime

On February 22 in Albuquerque, Gabriele Grunewald won the US indoor 3000m title, and it wasn’t close. Then USATF, the national governing body of the sport and the organization putting on the championship meet, said she hadn’t.

If you think I’m exaggerating, read this.  I won’t recap here since most people with a pulse on the running world have heard the story.

It’s as absurd as it sounds.

At best, USATF disqualified a national champion, crowned by their own pre-set procedure, breaking their own appeals rules in the process and without evidence of a DQ-worthy infraction, because they got scared when Alberto Salazar started yelling in their faces.

At worst, USATF disqualified a national champion, crowned by their own pre-set procedure, breaking their own appeals rules in the process with no evidence of a DQ-worthy infraction, because Salazar and his athletes are sponsored by Nike, which happens to be the largest contributor to USATF of any shoe company (Grunewald runs for Brooks), and the organization is horribly corrupt.

The latter wouldn’t explain the yet-unexplained DQ of Nike-sponsored Andrew Bumbalough, but asking USATF to be consistent would just be too much.

By the way, I know the people who reversed the decision – the people toward whom Salazar’s forehead veins were creeping as he spat white rage – were volunteer appeals judges and not USATF officials. USATF’s official stance on this, per spokesperson Jill Geer, is that they cannot overturn “field-of-play” decisions. She compared it to the NFL’s replacement ref fiasco, where the league did not overturn the results of the Packers’/Seahawks game. What a goddamn cop-out. Crying precedent, or claiming to follow the rules, is not an excuse when your own rules were so very clearly broken.

It gets worse

USATF has not answered for anything. They have not apologized to Grunewald or her coach, Dennis Barker. They have not so much as acknowledged that their concerns were heard or that there may have been some sort of issue with how things were handled. Barker has heard literally nothing from USATF as of writing. And of course there are no plans to release the “compelling” evidence that, in USATF’s amended story, constituted the re-open of Salazar’s appeal against the initial decision.

Geer says Hasay’s withdrawal “we were procedurally able to resolve the matter in a way that was in everyone’s interest.”

So everyone’s happy! Technically. If we just forget the little thing you did before that.

Meanwhile, the Track & Field Athletes Association (TFAA), a union representing professional track & field athletes, started a petition for more transparency in the appeals process at meets; namely, they wanted an athlete present for all decisions. USATF scheduled a conference call amidst growing outcry that they hadn’t answered for their complete fumbling of their indoor championship and their shameful “if I cover my face you won’t be able to see me” approach to the follow-up.

That conference call was scheduled for Monday, March 24. They canceled. On March 26, USATF President Stephanie Hightower released a statement that writer Jon Gugala aptly paraphrased: “shut up.”

The alternative

The alternative is no more USATF. Seriously.

People will still show up and race at big meets that are well-run, and they will run fast times, and if they meet IOC standards they can compete in a meet that the USOC or IAAF determines ahead of time will be a national championship or Olympic Trials race.

Or – get ready to have your mind blown, guys – the races that serve as championships could be voted on by the athletes themselves. TFAA members. US citizens. God, anything would be less arbitrary than USATF’s decision process.

Those meets could be run by professional race management. And/or they could be run by the people who normally run those meets. USATF’s usual monkey court approach, with arbitrary exclusions and their maybe-we’ll-tell-you approach to heat cancellations, wouldn’t be something athletes have to put up with simply to get their shot to wear the US jersey.

I hate to go all Fox News on you, but meets that offer superior organization, decent incentives, and proper timing relative to world championships and Olympics would be rewarded with athletes’ approval. The market would do the talking, so to speak.

Are there some tweaks needed to my grand plan here? Of course. But this isn’t, like, out of the realm of possibility. And if “perfect” is a requirement for any plan to move forward, USATF’s method isn’t meeting it either.

Yes, the team circuit in Minnesota as we know it would cease to exist. But you know what wouldn’t? The Brian Kraft 5k. Get in Gear. Grandma’s Marathon. City of Lakes 25k. The TC 10 Mile. Those races aren’t run by USATF, and meanwhile, we can all still wear our jerseys and compete as teams. Any idiot can score a meet. I should know. I’m an idiot and I can score a race, either off times or points. (I only barely passed Tim Miles’ “theory of Coaching Track & Field” class but aced the section on the final exam where we score a fake XC meet.) Athletes could vote on which races count, and we would probably manage to affiliate with a team without a USATF number and a $30 annual fee. A lot of people do this anyway…

Again, tweaks, yes, but not out of the question. And “to make the team circuit organization more manageable” is not a sufficient reason to retain this wretched artifact of bureaucracy run amok in amateur athletics. The AAU isn’t relevant anymore; we can do the same to USATF.

What now?

I was having coffee with a friend the other day when we somehow arrived on the topic of USATF and my general disapproval of their recent governance.

“How do you, like, have an opinion on that?” he asked. Lest we smugly assume the myriad ways in which USATF ill-serves its membership and athletes has resonated with people outside the runners’ bubble, he assured me it has not.

And that’s part of the problem. While the outrage over USATF’s cancellation of its conference call with TFAA and Stephanie Hightower’s eloquent and wordy middle finger to the haters was festering and boiling over online, Anthony Famiglietti astutely tweeted out the following:

@recklessrunning: “Athletes need to realize pouting to media/fans 4 support won’t solve this: bit.ly/1iA1Z77  Boycotting @usatf events is real solution”

On February 24, one day after the events in Albuquerque had unceremoniously wrapped up, he tweeted this:

@recklessrunning: “The only solution to cleaning up @usatf corruption is to boycott their events [sic] all together. Athletes are fulfilling status quo via cowardice”

To make USATF irrelevant, we as athletes have to collectively stop acknowledging its existence. This will be hard, and it’s far, far easier for me to do it than for an athlete who would, in boycotting USATF events, be throwing in the towel on a chance to represent their country. USATF holds the keys to that highest honor, so athletes at that level might be stuck with them. Unless they all collectively walked out – but I’m guessing a certain project in Oregon would gladly step in and take all the Olympic and IAAF spots that are then handed to them by default.

More realistic, probably, is that the USOC can strip USATF of its governing power. They threatened to do this in 2008 and in response USATF had to cut its structure by about half. Another championship handled like Albuquerque and the USOC might just say “enough’s enough.”

Realistic or not, right is right, and wrong is wrong. The right thing, for the sport of track & field and its affiliated competitions – running, racewalking, everything – is for USATF to become a thing of the past.

Ian Corless is coming to Superior

Ian Corless, host of the popular Talk Ultra podcast, will be bringing his extensive and unique brand of race coverage to the north shore this September as he covers the Sawtooth 100. You can read more about it at his site.

Corless’ race coverage usually includes absolutely stunning race photos, and to move briefly into the editorial point of view, it’s very exciting that this race is about to get the level of coverage it deserves. Minnesotans have been saying for a while, with good reason, that the race is epic, rugged, and way the heck underrated on the national scene, but that could change with Corless on hand for it.

If you’ve never listened to Talk Ultra, add that to your podcast subscriptions. It’s long but features ultra-world news and really in-depth coverage of the sport, including some fantastic interviews. Great to listen to while you’re doing core, or driving to Fargo.

Hey, speaking of Superior, registration is open and already well over half full in all three races (100M, 50M, and 26.2M). Sign up RIGHT NOW. Then book a room in the vicinity of Lutsen with equal urgency.

After you’ve thrown down and registered, enjoy a Let It Ride IPA from Indeed Brewing. Indeed made a limited release (on tap only) a year ago and it’s been my white whale ever since RePublic’s kegs ran dry. Now it’s in cans! It’s a delightful swirl of three different hops and two different malts that has filled the very ubiquitous void in Indeed’s great lineup where an aggressive IPA should have been, and in a darker and more savory form than I would have expected. Pleasant surprises abound. Bonus that it’s brewed about two miles form where I’m typing this. I think I speak for everyone in saying please, Indeed, transition this from a seasonal to a flagship brew.

The Skinny: Big Balls of Winter Edition

Polar vortex, schmolar schmortex. What better time and place than the heart of winter in the upper Midwest for two of the country’s longest footraces?

Jim Wilson, wearing every piece of clothing he owns, finishing at Tuscobia

Jim Wilson, wearing every piece of clothing he owns, finishing at Tuscobia. Photo: Wilson’s Facebook page

Tuscobia 150, 75 and 35

A handful of athletes trekked to Park Falls, Wisconsin to burn off their holiday pounds on December 27. A lot of them took until December 29 to finish. The race featured ski, bike and foot options, and full results for every category can be found here.

135: There’s a new course record courtesy of Jason Buffington, who won the 150-mile race in 45 (hours):55 (minutes). Second overall was first female and also a new course record holder, Sue Lucas, who finished in 54:30. Not to diminish the record – it’s a stout time – but Sue also deserves some props for being the first woman ever to finish the 150 on foot.

Co-RD Chris Scotch had this to say:

“[Buffington’s time] is silly stupid considering the conditions.  He busted his arse so hard for the better part of 36 hours that he actually had to rest on the trail for a about an hour only 9 miles from the finish line.  Pretty amazing given the overall finish rate in the 150 mile and the ever changing conditions.  It was too warm, and then cold, and then too warm and then real cold and windy.”  

Also noteworthy in the 150 was Roberto Marron becoming the only person ever to have finished the longest iteration of Tuscobia all four years of its existence. He actually completed it twice last year, prompting Phillip Gary Smith to write this. Scotch was the only other person to have gone 3-for-3 but did not race this year.

75: Another course record went down as Brandon Purdue finished in 15:46, almost five hours ahead of second. Especially stout when you consider he was pulling a sled and a trough of required gear. The women’s race was co-won by Laurie Tulchin and Bonnie Busch, who ran the whole race together and finished in 29:00, right alongside Larry Sandhaas, who I assume was trying to get in the winners’-finishing photo.

35: The reliably speedy Wynn Davis won the “kids’” race in 5:20, 48 minutes ahead of runner-up Gregory Danowski. On the womens’ side, Faye Lopez won in 7:57, good for 10th overall and 23 minutes ahead of runner-up Linda Britz.

Arrowhead 135

We move now to International Falls, for an event so dull MPR decided to cover it (http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2014/01/28/sport/photos-arrowhead-135). But seriously, they have some stellar pictures and I appreciate this niche sport going mainstream. Or they covered it because it’s a freak show. Either way, thanks MPR.

The event isn’t dull per se, but I imagine pulling a sled for 135 miles in the place that regularly records the coldest temps in the United States requires – or imposes – a sort of dulling on participants’ mental state.

Add to that the fact that we were in one of those polar-vortex, exposed-skin-will-become-frostbitten-quickly, my-god-think-of-the-children kind of days when the race started…and that it went on for 60 hours.

Full results aren’t up yet, but we know that Scott Hoberg took the win in 43:26:00, followed by local RD and friend of Ultra MN John Storkamp in 46:30:00. Alicia Hudelson was first gal and third overall in 47:59:00.

Other notes

Back to Tuscobia for a second – Scotch has alerted me to a potential legal battle brewing with the State of Wisconsin that could threaten the future of the race. It seems the state does not allow camping outside designated state parks, and the race’s requirement that participants carry sleeping bags is seen as an encouragement to break the law. Of course sleeping bags are required for safety purposes, and the approach by WI seems like an overreach – am I not allowed to keep a sleeping bag in my car in case it breaks down on a cold night and I have to hunker down? It would be a shame to lose the race over something like this – if a battle ensues, we’ll put the proper routes for advocacy up here.

The Rocky Raccoon 100 is this weekend in Texas and serves as the 2014 USATF 100-mile trail championship. Two Minnesotans that I know of – Mike Bateman and Arley Anderson, both of the TCRC race team – will toe the line with my onetime bedmate in a Managua hostel, Ian Sharman. Sharman is the prohibitive favorite but since he’s a Brit, the US title will be up for grabs. God save the Queen.

Finally, the Minnesota Masochist title for this round (this will be a title bestowed irregularly to members of Minnesota’s ultra community who display noteworthy, er, cajones) goes to Edward Sandor, who first attempted the brutally technical HURT 100 in Hawaii (he was forced to drop around mile 67) and returned to race Arrowhead (135) about nine days later (he finished 10th in under 56 hours…57 if you count the time penalty he weirdly acquired for warming up in his car instead of the designated shelter a few feet away). I think I speak for everyone in saying kudos for attempting probably the toughest double – race-wise and weather acclimation-wise – out there, you sick son of a bitch.

For reference:

Sandor at HURT. Photo: Rob Lahoe

Sandor at HURT. Photo: Rob Lahoe

Ten days later. Photo: Alicia Sandor

Ten days later. Photo: Alicia Sandor

Carnage: Superior Recap

The Superior 100, 50 and 26.2-mile races were this weekend, and it was hot both days. Like 2011 hot, when Christi Nowak was able to sweep up all the carnage in the men’s race and place second overall, only a few minutes behind Steve English.

100 mile

Dusty Olson (Bozeman, Montana via Duluth) was undeterred by the weather and shot off the front to an immediate lead. He would drop at mile 24, citing residual effects of Lyme. By mile 25, a more patient John Horns (Edina), the 2011 winner, took a permanent lead.

Horns at mile 25 Friday. Photo courtesy of RSR

Horns stayed steady as the heat and the course took its toll on runners behind him – early Saturday morning, over 70 of the ~170 100-mile starters were rumored to have dropped – expanding his one-hour lead at Cramer Road (mile ~77) to a two-hour, forty-one minute victory margin at the finish. He also lopped a bunch of time off his 2011 victory, going under 24 hours in 23:21:36 and earning his Hardrock lottery qualifier (his professed top priority).

Equally steady was April Cole (Hammond, Wisconsin), who not only won the women’s race but reeled in victim after victim of the conditions to finish second overall in 26:03:14.

Cole with her first-place trophy. Photo: RSR

Garrett Peltonen (Madison, Wisconsin), winner of the 2013 Zumbro 100 and Dances With Dirt 50 Mile, overcame early-and-often foot problems to finish second in the men’s race in 26:11:37; Courtney Dauwalter (Denver) finished second female in 29:16:09. Only 88 runners ultimately finished. Complete results are here.

50 Mile

The heat didn’t let up Saturday, and as the leaders reached the Oberg aid station (mile ~45), a rumored 50 of 150 starters had dropped.

Kevin Ash (Colorado Springs) put his altitude training to use, winning the 50 in 9:31:55; Eric Nordgren (Duluth) repeated his runner-up finish from a year ago in 9:52:14. In the women’s race, Tracy Hoeg (Naestved, Den) outlasted Laurie Kocanda (Minneapolis) to win 12:03:24 to 12:23:33.

62-minute half marathoner Josh Moen, donning road shoes, made it halfway before dropping. Here’s hoping he takes it seriously next time, because I’d actually like to see what a talent like Moen could do in a harsh 50 like Superior.

Full results are here.

No great pictures of the 50, so here’s one of Dusty wearing a cutoff button-up early in the 100. Photo: RSR

26.2/Moose Mountain Marathon

In probably the most predictable race of the weekend, former Gopher and Mr. Heather Kampf Ben Kampf won the marathon commandingly, missing the course record by 7 minutes in 3:38:14 and earning himself a 26.2 bumper sticker in the process.

As close as the marathon would be all day. Photo: RSR

The race for second was close, meanwhile; Paul Shol (Fergus Falls) edged out – relatively – Jeff Maclellan (St. Paul) 4:18:37 to 4:21:09. In the women’s race, Kris Hansen (Afton) finished over 22 minutes ahead of runner-up Brenda Cid (Carlton) and third-place finisher Lisa Trainor (Maple Grove) in 4:55:50.

Full results are here.

The Big Dance: Superior Races Preview

This weekend marks Minnesota’s premier set of long-distance trail races and some of the toughest events in the country: the Sawtooth 100-Mile, Superior 50-Mile and Moose Mountain Marathon, all run point-to-point on the rugged Superior Hiking Trail north of Duluth.

The weather this year looks less-than-noteworthy – between 54 and 77 forecasted for Lutsen between Friday and Saturday. One catch – scattered thunderstorms in the area Friday with a 40% chance of rain. Those rocks, you see, they don’t run so good when they’re wet.

All three races run northeast on the trail and finish at Lutsen ski area; they start at different spots and at different times. Here’s the deal:

Sawtooth 100

This historic race – originally called the Superior 100, it was one of the original few 100s in the country – starts Friday at 8:00 AM at Gooseberry Falls State Park. Though it’s spread out, the total elevation gain and loss actually exceeds that of the much-vaunted Leadville 100. It also serves as a qualifying race for the notorious Hardrock 100.

Course records: 

Men – 21:02:41, Steven Moore (Austin, Texas), 2012

Women – 24:49:06, Kristina Folcik (Goffstown, New Hampshire), 2012

Last year: Course records fell for both men and women in near-perfect conditions.

This year: Can a Minnesotan reclaim the title, or even the course record, in either race? 2011 champ John Horns is back to claim a Hardrock Lottery qualifier, and Dusty Olson is ready to, in his words, “throw down” on his hometown course after recovering from Lyme and moving to Bozeman. Becky George looks to reclaim her unbeatable-ness from early 2012. Any others?

Course Map:

Elevation Profile: (not for the weak-stomached)

Superior 50-mile

Course Records: 

Men – 8:53:19, James Sorensen (Minneapolis), 2012

Women – 10:03:54, Christi Nowak (St. Paul), 2011

Last Year: Two (almost three) men went under the old course record.

This year: Former Team USA-Minnesota-ite and 46:xx 10-miler Josh “White Pine” Moen makes his 50-mile debut after a rough ultra debut at the Afton 50k in August (where he finished behind two women and a guy wearing sandals). 2010 third-placer Forrest Tracy looks to avenge a DNF in 2012; Eric Nordgren, last year’s runner-up, is the top returning finisher and has the fastest time on the course of anyone racing this year. For women, watch Laurie Kocando – and who else? (Sorry my predictions are male-centric; that’s who I race against and so that’s who I pay more attention to. We welcome contributions by anyone who knows more about the women’s field in any race this year.)

Moose Mountain Marathon

Course Records:

Men – 3:31:29, Wynn Davis, 2009

Women – 4:11:03, Helen Lavin, 2009

Last Year: Lane Johnson (Bayfield) pulled out a narrow victory over the PED-free Ryan Braun (Rochester), 3:55:38 to 3:56:07 in the men’s race; in the women’s, Willie Tibbets (Eagan) dominated in 4:39:03, winning by almost 20 minutes.

This Year: Ben Kampf, winner of 4 of the last five Afton 25ks, is taking a stab.

Following the race

Last year, Rock Steady Running provided some updates on the progress of 100-milers on Friday, but that plan had to be abandoned as the few on the race directing crew had to turn their attention to directing two other races Saturday. This year they will be attempting to do some live tracking again – you can follow what they post on the Superior Endurance Runs (Fall Races) Facebook page.

Two days to get in shape!

The Skinny: week of August 19 (or, the Minnesotans-in-Colorado edition)

Leadville 2013 is now history, meaning summer is mostly in the books. It also means my new claim to fame around here is my defeat of now-reigning LT100 champ Ian Sharman in a beer mile in February…by about 20 minutes. If ultrarunning somehow required simultaneous beer drinking, Patrick Sweeney would be a regular Kilian, and Sharman (along with his pacer at Leadville, Sean Meissner) would probably be hovering around the 40% mark on Ultrasignup.

Quite a few Minnesotans journeyed to the “top of the world” this weekend for the storied race (which, if you listen exclusively to the Born to Run crowd, you might think is not only the far-and-away toughest but also only ultramarathon that exists anywhere…neither are quite true, though it’s a grueling race, so not to take away from that). The results page doesn’t list home states, so I’ll list the ones I know of here – do add any I miss in the comments section:

-Joe Zeigenfuss, who now lives in Golden, CO, but screw it (he wore a TCRC shirt pacing for Troy Howard at Hardrock, after all), was 45th in 22:49:13                                                                                                                     -Bob Gerenz (2012 Zumbro 100 winner) was 62nd in 23:21:31                                                                                 -Tom Caughlan, who I think has some Minnesota roots and serves as iRunFar’s minimalist gear editor, was 103rd in 24:20:20                                                                                                                                                            -Ed Sandor, who I’m just calling Ed now, was 252nd in 27:55:52                                                                              -Sonya Decker, crewed by zenmaster/her husband, Kurt, was 74th female (441st overall) in 29:30:11

Full results are here.

Sandor slacking off in the vicinity of Hope Pass. Photo courtesy of the Leadville Race Series

Sandor slacking off in the vicinity of Hope Pass. Photo courtesy of the Leadville Race Series

Along the lines of summer ending, the Endless Summer trail series did indeed end last Wednesday with the Lebanon 7-miler. Results of all four races are here.

Speaking of Lebanon, there are no more horse flies there. Rejoice, etc.

The Lebanon 7 MI was also part of the USA Track & Field Minnesota Mountain/Ultra/Trail (MUT) series for 2013. Remaining races are:

August 31: River Bottoms 10-mile (Mendota, MN)                                                                                                 September 4: Autumn Trail Series 5.7k, QBP Parking Lot/Hyland Lake Park (Bloomington, MN)                 September: Muscle Milk Woodsy 8.9 Mile, Murphy Hanrehan Park-Reserve, (Savage, MN)

It’s not too late to get in on the series, but you’ll have to be a USATF member first.

This brings us full circle, back to Colorado, where USATF-MN MUT chair Sam Rush ran the Pikes Peak Marathon in Manitou Springs, CO this weekend, finishing in 8:39:38. A whole gaggle of Minnesotans ran both the Marathon (up and down) and the Ascent (just up), including Minneapolis native and Colorado College-educated Alex Nichols, who placed second in the marathon. Full results are here.

Also, there was a 50-miler in Marquette, MI this weekend. Jake Hegge (one half of your famed LaCrosse duo) won, and a truckload of familiar UMTR faces made the journey as well. Results seem hard to come by, even on the race website. But at least there are photos.

Coming up, it’s all Superior, all the time. Get ready for the fall classic, y’all! And don’t ever say “y’all,” either. And while the races are full, they are still looking for volunteers.

The Skinny: week of July 29

Most of my roommates are taking the bar exam right now; boy, am I glad I didn’t go to law school. I was this close.

Which reminds me of this excellent series from Running Times last summer, documenting a few of the oddly common instances of pro ultrarunners (and one journalist) leaving their day jobs in law firms to focus on running. It’s written by Adam Chase (JD, CU-Boulder; LLM, New York University), who knows a thing or two about trying to balance those very demanding endeavors.

Speaking of people who have largely left their day jobs to focus on running, Mike Bialick’s 100-mile debut didn’t go quite as he had hoped. Bialick, who earlier this year left his full-time training job at The Marsh to dedicate himself to running ultras (though he still does a lot of training on the side), took his first shot at the distance at the Burning River 100 in Ohio July 27, which this year doubled as the USATF 100-mile trail national championship. Says Bialick:

My 100 mile race started out rocky (literally). I fell very hard at mile 3 onto jagged rocks and gashed up my knees, hands, forearm, and big toe. I recovered from the fall and was able to run well for the next 52 miles. I entered the 55 mile aid station in 6th place and feeling pretty good. The next 5 miles did me in. The steady rain had turned this section into a muddy mess. My legs were totally shot after this section and was no longer able to run at any speed. I walked the next 6 miles and dropped out at the 66 mile aid station. I am disappointed I wasn’t able to fish but I tried my best.

Full results should gradually be made available here.

Also this weekend, and closer to home, Michael Borst continued his tear through the upper Midwest ultra scene at the Voyageur 50, winning the storied race in 7:01:34. He was followed closely by training partner and fellow UW-LaCrosse-ite Jake Hegge, who finished in 7:20:05. Duluth’s Chris Rubesch was third in 7:25:43; all three men were faster than Hegge’s winning time of 7:34:52 from 2012. A nice recap of the race from the Duluth News Tribune is here.

It’s worth noting that the 2013 Voyageur course had mostly returned to its original form after flooding last year made much of the normal course inaccessible; however, a few bits are still amended to reflect flooding alterations. No matter in terms of course records, though, as some scrub named Scott Jurek still lays claim to that with a 6:41:xx.

In the women’s race, April Cole (Hammond, Wisconsin) showed she can handle the Voyageur course at any distance, bouncing back from her win in the Eugene Carrow Trail Marathon (formerly the Half Voyageur) two weeks ago to win the full 50 in 8:23:22. Cole also worked a night shift as a nurse in Woodbury, MN the Friday night before the race. Christi Nowak (St. Paul) was second, just under an hour back. Cole will purportedly be running the Sawtooth 100 in September, so we’ll see if her good streak on the SHT continues.

Full Voyageur results will eventually make their way here.

Out in the mountains, Duluth native Dusty Olson returned to racing at Utah’s Speedgoat 50k, placing 35th in 6:42:22. The Dustball seems to have shaken his lingering symptoms of lyme disease, as a Facebook post from July 11 indicates his health and training have gone well and that his registration in the Sawtooth 100 is not a ruse of some kind. He wrote:

“Well my 4 day self supported [sic] run on the Superior Hiking Trail went well. I ran almost every uphill with a 30 plus pound pack! Most of my Lymes stuff is gone! And I am looking forward to throwing down at the Superior Trail 100!”

As usual, Dusty was the best-dressed:


Photo from Dusty’s facebook page

Edward Sandor (St. Paul) was also at Speedgoat, finishing in 10:44:57. Full results can be found ONLINE! Specifically, at this web page.

Will they or won’t they? The maybe-paved River Bottoms trail saga goes on. As to what you can do, I’ll refer you to this comment left on the last “Skinny” by River Bottoms regular Forrest, Forrest Tracy:

“Cindy Wheeler [of the MN DNR] can be reached directly at 651-259-5601. Respectful calls expressing concern for losing one of the very last natural resources in the cities to “development” can be a great tool. I called her and she was very open to talking. I recommend as many people as possible do the same. Make sure to ask what the next steps are to express concerns to those who have influence.”

In other news, I can confirm that the horseflies are out at both Lebanon and the River Bottoms, so maybe they should just go ahead and pave both. The Lebanon variety of Black Fly is special in that it continually bombs various crevices on your head – open eyes and mouths are particularly susceptible. The River Bottoms breed, on the other hand, is the good old-fashioned bitin’ sort. Neither seems like a strategy geared toward survival, but I’m not a horse fly, so what do I know. In the meantime, let’s see what this week’s cold spell does for their general virility.

Minnesota’s horseflies even got a shout-out in Trail Runner Magazine’s most recent issue, which featured Duluth in its profile of eight great trail towns in the US and Canada. I presume Colorado wasn’t allowed to compete, but it is nonetheless neat to see our own north woods listed alongside the likes of Bend, Oregon in this sort of category. Check out the new issue.

Speaking of shout-outs in nationally circulated running magazines, check out the most recent Running Times and its feature on local trail race series; there is a nice shout-out (and some good photos) of the Endless Summer series in there. Speaking of, the last ESTRS race is in about two weeks – August 14 – at Lebanon Hills. It’s seven miles. There will be beer. You can sign up to run or volunteer in this corner.

Call for comments. What did we miss this week? What performances were overlooked, which Minnesotans traveled near and far, and what’s going on on the trails these days? Let us know.

Happy trails…

The Skinny: week of July 15

Hot enough fer ya?

The Minnesota DNR – not the city of Bloomington, as I’ve previously asserted – seems to be plowing ahead with their tentative plan to pave the Minnesota River Bottoms trail as part of completing the longer Minnesota State Trail in the MN River Valley (much of the paved trail is in place southwest of Shakopee). It appears the person to contact to lodge a protest is Cindy Wheeler – she can be contacted at Cynthia.wheeler@state.mn.us.

The response I received from the City of Bloomington (via Julie Farnham, who graciously took the time to send a very detailed message) included this:

“The MnDNR asserts that the MN Valley State Trail is to be hard surfaced in order to accommodate the maximum range of users including: parents with children in strollers, those with limited mobility who need to use wheelchairs, and pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities who wish to enjoy the Minnesota River Valley.  In addition, MnDNR asserts that a hard surfaced trail is more economical to maintain in a flood plain.”

Let’s just ignore the nagging issues with that idea – that a paved surface handles flooding better than crushed limestone but not as well as dirt (is it not a question of whether they’ll “develop”  the trail, but what surface they’ll put up?), that some of the narrower hilly sections off the Old Cedar trailhead would make for awfully dangerous paved trails (are they planning to flatten the hills too?), or that it can’t be easy to get cement-laying equipment into those trials without pretty much destroying the trail – and suggest the DNR act consistently, leveling every hill and draining every lake in the state so they can accommodate the maximum range of users. If destroying a trail system so parents can push strollers on it, bypassing plenty of other sidewalks along the way to drive there first, isn’t the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with everything, then I don’t know what is.

Turning to some races…

Chris Lundstrom predictably threw down at the Afton 50k two Saturdays ago, but the real story might be how he was pushed to an 8-minute course record (3:40) by 20-year-old Michael Borst, who it turns out is a legitimately elite talent on the trails. Borst and Lundo went through 25k in about 1:40 – what would have been a near runner-up finish in the 25k race – apparently chatting audibly. While Lundo put the hurt on late, Borst was only two minutes back in 3:42, the second-fastest time ever on the course (and on a pretty hot day). Full results (including women’s) are here. Running Times’ recap of the race, which includes worthwhile mentions of both Lundstrom’s beard and Borst’s shorts, is down the page here.

In the 25k, Ben Kampf reclaimed his USATF-MN trail title, and Emma Lee retained hers. Full 25k results are here.

And perhaps you’ll remember our Q&A with Borst and his training partner Jake Hegge, which is here.

As for upcoming races, Mike Bialick is headed to Ohio’s Burning River 100 Mile for the USATF 100-mile trail championship July 27-28. This will be the 100-mile debut for Bialick, whom you’ll recall had a big debut season last year, finishing just a minute behind Ian Sharman at TNF Madison and coming in eighth at the stacked and fast JFK 50 in November. Our Q&A with him last fall is here. The race website is here.

Know of any noteworthy performances in the recent past or near future by Minnesotans, near or far? Let us know in the comments.

In other news…

It’s July, it’s Minnesota, and so…Facebook chatter indicates that the horseflies are, indeed, alive, though not everywhere. Lebanon Hills is at its predictable worst, though. I’m headed there today and tomorrow to verify.

Are you looking for a race this Wednesday? You could pay an exorbitant fee to be herded through downtown for five kilometers with ten thousand fuelbelt-toters, have flames shot off next to your head in what should be 95-degree heat, and wait in line forever afterwards to redeem one of the two Michelob Golden Ultras you’ve been allocated with your wristband at the LifeTime Fitness Torchlight 5k, OR you could pay a titch less exorbitant a fee to run some trails under the shade of tree cover for twice as many kilometers, after which there is ample pizza and real beer, at the Endless Summer Trail Series Murphy 10k. It’s the third in the summer race series sponsored by TC Running Co and put on by RockSteady Running. Register here. Course info, etc. is here. Fuelbelts are welcome, though there’s actually an aid station partway through.

Finally, TC Running Company opened its second location last week in Maple Grove. Stop on by:

TCRC maple grove

Help keep the MN River Bottoms trail unpaved

The City of Bloomington is reportedly looking into paving the MN River Bottoms trail – this according to some chatter on the Twin Cities Trail Runners’ Facebook page.

As you may know, the river bottoms offers some top-notch singletrack right in the cities; along with Battle Creek it might be some of the best trail we have within the X94 freeway loop; for those of us in the cities who have to drive to the nearest trail, the river bottoms offers a spectacular run, really close. It’s also a great spot for mountain bikers.

It obviously wouldn’t be the same if it were paved. My feeling on the matter is that there are plenty of sidewalks already – I can hop out my door and onto 20-odd miles of the river parkway, for instance, and in Bloomington, aside from Hyland Park further south, dirt offerings are scarce. It would also cost a fair amount of money to pave and keep up, especially considering the frequency with which the bottoms flood. Dirt and grass can naturally deal with a high river, but pavement will require maintenance (not that trails don’t, but the infrastructure requirements are almost certainly more modest).

If you can, write to the Bloomington City Manager to make your voice heard:

Mark Bernhardson



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