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?
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.
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.
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.
Since I finally ran one of these races I’m off-and-on writing about, I figured I’d throw a race report in here instead of another boring recap. I don’t even write recaps half the time anyway (Wild Duluth). We’ll see how this goes:
Surf the Murph 50k is the first over-26.2 race I’ve run twice. I’m a big fan of the race’s time of year (late fall) and proximity to the Twin Cities. I have a semi-special relationship with it since, as my second 50k, it was the first time I realized I could actually put a race-like effort into an ultra rather than suffering through a really hard jog. Earlier that summer I’d debuted at the quite difficult Bighorn 50k, shuffling in just under 5 hours; fast-forward to October 2011 and I’m cruising with the lead group like it’s another hungover Sunday long run in college. It was the best I’d felt running in a long time, and though I blew up spectacularly in the second half, it made me hungry to revisit the course and see what I could do.
Additionally, both the 50k distance and Murphy’s terrain seem to suit me well. A trail 50k is perfect for me to fake my way through, with neither the speed to really succeed on the road (McMillan says I’m probably good for a ~2:40 marathon) nor the gritty strength to slog through a longer ultra on tougher terrain; and Murphy has the right combination of gnarly climbs and flat horse trail to be conducive to anyone who spreads their training between trails and roads – and between mega hill-repeats and track workouts – but specializes in neither. That’s pretty much me.
Then came race day:
On race morning, the weather was shaping up to be perfect, if a little windy – mid 30s and clear (though it would be dark until we were about 40 minutes in). I spotted Steve and John Horns near the check-in and chatted with them for a bit; Arley joined us too. Steve and I train together pretty often and had been talking about running together for the first half, ideally on 4:30 pace. That was what I’d run in 2011 and, since I also have a 50-miler on the horizon in December, thought a conservative-ish pace was a smarter decision than wrecking myself trying to chase a course record (4:08).
I was also hoping to run the first half with Eric Nordgren, whom I spotted around the parking lot beforehand. From the couple of times I’ve seen him race, excluding a couple times in the buildup to or shortly after Western States this year, I’ve learned he has a keen knack for racing smart early, being consistent, even-or-negative-splitting, and nailing his goal times pretty well. Eric assured me his training hadn’t been very consistent after the Superior 50 (he was second), but I erred on the cautious side and assumed he was being modest.
As we gathered near the start, I was joking with Steve and noted that I was debuting a never-before-tested Nathan fannypack that allowed me to carry all my own gels, and that I would probably spend the entire day either trying to pull it up or push it back down. Sure enough, as the RD shouted “go” and we stormed down the first hill, it took about four or five steps for the pack to slide up from around my hips to the bottom of my ribcage. I pulled my jersey around it and vowed to monitor whether the chafing required me to drop it at an aid station – luckily, this wouldn’t be a problem, but it probably made for good spectating whenever I needed something and had to lift my shirt most of the way off to access the zipper.
First north loop – As we sped through the dark, hopping from one to the other piece of doubletrack, I found myself briefly in the lead; Eric Senseman, who last year had won the 50-mile in a course record, got up beside me and after some brief pleasantries, sped off down a hill; I wouldn’t see him again and it didn’t look like a smart move to try and chase. Right after that, I realized I needed to settle down – my breathing was already getting heavy from charging the early hills – and I moved into hands-on-knees at the next climb (walk before you’re tired, they say). Just as I did that, the ever-smooth Nordgren caught and passed me briefly; another racer named Jason was with him and the three of us stayed clumped together for the rest of the hilly section, taking turns reminding the others to relax the pace.
Horse Camp Aid Station – Mile 5.5 – Everyone seemed strong coming into this aid station, which meant I could check off box #1 – my in-race goal was to survive the hilly section in passable shape and throw down on the flat side. As we pulled out of the aid station and moved toward the lake and the flat expanse of the horse trails, Jason and I started to pull comfortably away from Eric; as early as it was, I worried that maybe it was too early to move like this, but I felt remarkably comfortable. For the next few miles I wound the pace down and felt awesome, cruising around turns over gently rolling terrain; I also noticed that whereas I typically am hanging on for dear life in a situation like this, I was actually leading Jason the whole time (usually only by a couple steps) and felt ready to pull away if I wanted. My legs started to feel some heaviness around mile 10 but, having experienced a lot of damn pain going into the TC 10 Mile tired, I wasn’t very worried. Otherwise I felt frigging awesome – lots of tempos and 8x1ks and mileage in general and all that junk were paying off in a big way.
I also made a point to watch pretty carefully for course markings. The south side of the course (pictured below) has some detours that are easy to miss and easier to fail to realize you’ve missed, as you end up rejoining the trail in short order. I’ve known plenty of people who have missed turns, and I’ve even written about this in the past. But my prudence on this – and my noting to Jason that we needed to watch carefully – was ironic in the end. More on that later.
Horse Camp AS #2: Mile “12.5” – I powered into the aid station, starting to put a little gap on Jason, and buoyed by having just seen Kurt and co. out on the course cheering (as well as by starting to pass some 50 milers, who had started an hour ahead of us). As we turned and headed back into the hilly half of the park, I knew this was when I’d see whether I still had a good loop left in the tank like a good ultra bro, or if I’d end up paying for the early pace like a hotshot roadie. I tried to stay relaxed and put a more significant gap on Jason.
Start/finish AS – halfway – mile “16.7” – I rolled into the drop bag area to a smattering of applause and a jubilant John Horns cheering in a blaze orange jumpsuit. “How are you feeling?” he shouted. “Good!” I shouted back. Then I looked at my watch – 1:53 – and looked back at John. “Not so good anymore!” All I could think of was this video of Rob Krar hitting the halfway split in his Grand Canyon double crossing this spring (the record prior to his try was 6:40-something):
Of course, Rob went on to break the record by about 20 minutes and had spoken in some interviews about not getting freaked out when you realize you’re on pace for an awesome race. Jack Daniels has also written about not letting doubt creep in just because you’re way ahead of expectations – it could be your expectations were too modest. So I took off on my second loop on a positive note – maybe my training was finally paying off and I was having a real breakthrough. Plus, I was wearing the same shoes as the Krarbarian when he set the Canyon R2R2R record.
North Loop #2 – Jason and I started off the second lap together and vowed to keep it relaxed. In 2011, this was where I became really unhinged; it’s the toughest part of the course and you hit it 17+ miles in. Despite feeling like ass, I was actually moving pretty well and wasn’t slowing down, and before long I had gapped Jason again. I wouldn’t see him the rest of the race. Though I know it’s bad mental form, I started doing the math on how much I could slow down and still break the course record, or even how much I could slow and break four hours.
Horse Camp AS #3 – Mile “22.2” – I rolled in alone with no real pomp or circumstance (the volunteers were great as always, of course). At this point in the race, I was mixed in with 50 milers and 25kers, so from a spectator’s point of view, it was tough to tell how the race was unfolding. I asked someone how far ahead the leader was and they didn’t know.
I moved out of this aid station determined to keep my turnover high – I knew this was where I could make or break the race. I was in pain but moving just fine, as long as I made sure to force a GU down every 30-40 minutes along with some Coke at each aid station. The close-together stations made this pretty easy. I was also buoyed by some positive energy – in 2011, this section had taught me a lot about simply putting one foot in front of the other when you hit a bad patch; what a contrast I was seeing today.
Smurf Village “#1” – I was positive the big orange markings I was following were the same ones I’d taken on the first loop – just better marked. But as I ambled through an unfamiliar stretch of singletrack, decked out with pictures of Smurfs (was I hallucinating? No – turns out the Murphy RDs really get a kick out of “Smurf” rhyming with “Murph”), I had to give serious consideration to whether I’d been through here the first time. I wasn’t so sure. Then again, I had been pretty in the zone. Either way, with about seven miles to go I was wondering whether I’d messed up. Sorry Jason.
Horse Camp #4 – mile “29.2” – I was greeted by some above-average spectators who no doubt knew how the race was unfolding – Christi, who had been cheering hard all day, was now joined by a jubilant Ethan, jumping up and down and shouting. Apparently I looked better than I felt. I asked them how far up #1 was, to which Ethan said “I think you are #1.” Yikes. “Well, one of us took a wrong turn then,” I replied, 99% sure it had been me. But I thanked them and kept moving – I didn’t have much of a choice at this point. It was a bummer to slog through the last series of hills knowing the unreal time I was throwing down was, indeed, unreal. I’m just grateful I didn’t realize this after the first loop, because it would have been torturous to run 17 miles with that same knowledge.
Finish – mile “33.4” – I don’t blame the volunteers for not quite believing I was the first 50ker and trying to direct me away from the finishing chute. I’d have just broken the course record by about 13 minutes and would have been the first person ever under four hours on the course. I had a great, great day, but not that great. Bill Pomerenke (standing at the finish) sure believed it for a second, though, and was surprised when I walked right up to the finish-line guy and said “I think you need to DQ me.” Horns came over and we talked for a bit – he said Senseman had (very graciously) noted that two 50kers had mysteriously taken the lead without passing him and might have been DQed; Horns also said he didn’t realize it was Jason and I until just then.
The takeaway? It would be easy to get bummed about this – a lot of work goes into a good 50k and it’s frustrating that it can be undone so easily. It’s also tempting to blame the race directing, as a lot of people seem to get lost in the exact same spot every year and they’ve apparently not looked into how to prevent that.
But I really can’t be bummed about it. The race was very nearly my masterpiece, and was an indication that all the work I’ve done has been paying off, and I know that I could have had a strong second-place, possibly under the old course record, so the fact that it doesn’t count and won’t go on ultrasignup is the least important thing to me. I’d rather have a great race that doesn’t count than a crappy race that does, or a great time on paper that I didn’t earn.
It’s also my own damn fault that I missed a turn. Yes, it would be nice if it was better-marked, but plenty of people managed not to miss it, including me two years ago. It’s still an awesome race and I’d like to come back and run a 4:08 for real.
I can also look at it this way – I ran 3:55 for about a 32-mile race, or about 3:48 for a 50k. Remember that the Murphy course is pretty long. Booya, 50k PR.
The most important lesson I learned was never pass Eric Nordgren early. Both times I’ve raced him, I’ve ended up ahead of him early, and both times I’ve ended up taking a wrong turn (the other time was the 2012 Superior 50, where I left the second aid station ahead of him and promptly got lost).
Nike Lunar Racers – in my defense, I owned and raced in them before I knew Krar did, but I’ll admit that seeing him wear them for WS100 and UROC were partial inspiration for my wearing them at Murphy. And honestly, I’m glad I did – it’s such a runnable course and I just plan feel faster in them. There was only about a 50-yard section, where you’re pointed straight downhill on some muddy singletrack, where I wish I’d had some better traction, but unless it’s raining, Murphy is a road-shoe kind of course. Also they got muddy, which is too bad. They some nice-lookin’ kicks.
Fitsok CF2s – my favorite socks, period. The only downside is that they’re so synthetic that they might not be great for races longer than a marathon, particularly when your feet get wet. Fitsok has some great new merino wool socks coming out, and I’ll be wearing a prototype of them at TNF San Francisco.
Nathan fannypack – this one was doomed from the start. I got no end of sh*t from a coworker for buying it, predicted it would be trouble, and ended up with an undesirable how-much-it-helps:how-big-a-pain-in-the-ass-it-is ratio. I’ll have to figure something else out before TNF.
Peanut butter and salted caramel-flavored GU; vanilla and espresso-flavored Clif Shots – pick your flavors based on what tastes best coming back up. It didn’t happen this time, but I got some double-tastes, especially out of the Clif Shots.
Results are up here.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
Elevation Profile: (not for the weak-stomached)
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
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.email@example.com.
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:
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:
In 2012, Jake Hegge and Michael Borst took the upper midwest ultra scene by storm – not just for winning several races (often going 1-2 as a pair), but for doing so while under the legal drinking age. Hegge first made a splash at the 2012 Chippewa 50k placing third (at age 20) in the highly-competitive race ahead of several older, more experienced runners, running 3:58:24, under the old course record. He placed second at the Ice Age 50k in 3:50:39 two weeks later.
That same summer, Borst, then 18, won the Dances With Dirt – Devil’s Lake 50k in Wisconsin in 4:07:07, with Hegge close behind in 4:09:51. Two weeks later, Hegge and Borst were first and second, respectively, in the Minnesota Voyageur 50 Mile, in 7:34:52 and 7:52:06. Their season earned them the numbers two and four spots in UltraRunning Magazine‘s list of the youngest ultramarathon winners in 2012. (#1 was Andrew Miller, 16, of Oregon; #5 was Dakota Jones, 21, of Colorado).
This year, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse students, who have eschewed NCAA cross-country to train exclusively for ultras, have showed no signs of slowing down. They tied for first in the Zumbro 50 Mile in April; Borst won the again-stacked Chippewa 50k in 4:08:57 on icy trails (Hegge was fifth), and placed second in the Kettle Morraine 100k in June. This weekend, they’ll be taking on the Afton 50k, where they’ll face defending champ Forrest Tracy and Team USA Minnesota retiree Josh Moen (making his ultra debut).
Ultra Minnesota caught up with the training partners ahead of this weekend’s race to talk about their training, their ambitions, and their less-conventional path to ultrarunning.
How did you get into running in the first place, and then how did you get into the trail and ultra scene? At your age, and in college, why aren’t you running with UW-LAX’s vaunted cross-country and track teams?
Hegge: I first started running in 8th grade when my girlfriend [now wife, as of May 11] Becca convinced me to join the cross country team. I ran in high school and wanted to continue in college. I chose UW-La Crosse because of their well known cross country and physical therapy programs. I ran on the cross country team my freshman year with some decent success – 26:20 for an 8k. I enjoyed the team atmosphere and competing collegiately, but I knew that if I wanted to make myself stand out for the physical therapy program, I would need to do more than just run. [He started the PT program at the end of May.]
I became injured near the end of the cross country season and was not able to run at track tryouts. I figured I was not missing out on much because track never really interested me. I dropped track my senior year of high school to work and run trail races. Since I was not running track, I still needed something to train for. I decided on the 2011 Madison Marathon (which is how Mike and I sort of met). I decided to give my first ultra a shot at the 2012 Chippewa 50k. I was hooked and ran another 50k at the Ice Age 50 two weeks later.
Borst: I started running in middle school track, but that was a joke. I never had to do much in practice and I goofed around a lot. Then in high school, I played football freshman year instead of running CC. During track that year, the distance coach, Terry Krall, convinced me to run CC my sophomore year. He told me that if I ran 300 miles that summer before the CC season, I could get a free t-shirt that said 300 mile club on it. I thought that was pretty cool, so I jumped on that offer and ran the 300 miles. Then I had a good first season in CC, and a decent track season my sophomore year. My junior year, however, was not so good in CC, and I became discouraged after a poor season, and did not run track that year. Instead I focused on wrestling, which was the winter sport I participated in. Going into my senior year I was extremely determined to do well in CC. I ran over 600 miles during the summer and had a pretty good senior season of CC.
Towards the end of that CC season, I had a conversation with my coach about a desire I had to run a marathon. He made a deal with me. If I went out for track that year he would make me a marathon training plan for me to follow during the track season. (Coach Krall was a good marathoner back in the day). So I decided to run track, and at the end of a fairly successful season I did the 2011 Madison marathon. My dad also ran the Madison marathon, his first ever, and we both qualified for the Boston marathon.
I chose to come to UW-La Crosse for Athletic Training. I had considered running at UWL, but being in the Athletic Training program does not allow for you to work on the athletes and be an athlete. [The program] requires you to have observational hours in the university athletic training room. During my time in the athletic training room I began to talk with some of the CC runners. They told me about Jake and told Jake about me. Next thing you know I get an e-mail from Jake asking me if I wanted to go on a run sometime. I said sure. From then on we started running together. He showed me a plethora of trails in the bluffs of La Crosse that I had never known about. That spring my dad and I ran the Boston marathon. Then Jake convinced to me sign up for some ultra marathons with him. the idea of long runs on the trails is what really got me hooked.
When you decided to jump into your first ultra – Chippewa and Dances with Dirt, respectively, how did you plan your training? Did you train specifically for a trail ultra, or just go off what you had done for track and XC previously? Did your training change after that first race, when you decided to run more of them?
Hegge: After cross country freshman year, I have not followed a structured training program. I did not run the winter before Chippewa due to plantar fasciitis and work obligations. I finally started training about two months before Chippewa. I was running between 40-50 miles per week on trails with no workouts. Finding time to run was difficult, because I was taking 18 credits of science classes along with working full-time. After Chippewa, I bumped up my mileage to 60-70 and started focusing on hills and fast finish long runs. Long runs do not usually go over 22 miles.
How did that first race unfold for you? And what spurred you to enter more ultras after that?
Hegge: Chippewa was a great first ultra experience. I went into the race without any expectations or goals, just to have a fun time. I started in the lead pack with guys who I would later find out were some of the fastest ultra runners in the Upper Midwest. I tried to stay with them as long as I could. I reached the turn around in 1:51 in third place. I made the rookie mistake of not carrying any fluid with me, or refueling at the aid stations. It was pretty painful most of the way back, but then I got to “the hill”. John Storkamp had passed me about a mile back and was already making the climb up the hill. I decided to give it one last push and caught John at the top which led to a sprint to the finish. I was able to pass him and also dip under the previous course record.
I decided to enter more ultras because I love to push my limits and challenge myself. The trail running community also makes me come back for more. The friendly people make the whole running experience that
much better. They truly know how to have fun out on the trails.
Borst: My first ultra was the Devil’s lake Dances with Dirt 50K in 2012. Jake did Chippewa earlier in the year and after hearing his experience, it convinced me to sign up myself. I won this race (Jake took second), and that definitely encouraged me to continue with ultras. Two week after completing the 50K I ran the Voyageur 50 miler and took second behind Jake. Then in the fall I ran the Wild Duluth 100K. This race was very interesting. Jake and I were in the lead, but about 15 miles in, we took a wrong turn that added 10 miles onto the race. Then Jake had some hamstring issues and dropped out, but I still managed to come back and take 5th overall,despite the detour.
As I have done these races I have learned a lot about properly fueling myself. In marathons, I don’t need to much replenishment. However, with my ultra experience, I have learned what to eat and how much I can eat.
My training has been mainly to just keep increasing the mileage as much as I can so that my body is ready for the hours spent on the trails in ultras.
How did you two meet and start training? Since you’ve met, what has your training been like? What are the trail offerings in La Crosse?
Hegge: Mike and I were introduced by a friend of mine from high school. Mike and I both ran the 2011 Madison marathon but did not know each other at the time. I took first in the 19 and under division with a time of 2:56, and Mike took second in 2:57. Once I found out that Mike was going to UW-La Crosse, I contacted him to see if he would be interested in training together. I showed him around the bluffs and we have been running together ever since.
We run together about two or three times per week with the occasional weekend trip. We do not focus on workouts, just running for about two hours and pushing the pace the whole way. I tend to charge the hills and he flies down them. And we always finish our runs together with a nice kick. Mike is more of a mileage guy, while I like speed. It tends to make our training runs and races very interesting.
There are quite a bit of trails in La Crosse. I can run from campus and be on top of one of the bluffs in about 20 minutes. On top of the bluffs in Human Powered Trails which offers about 13 miles of technical trails. Every now and then we make trip to Perrot State park or St. Mary’s in Winona.
Borst: Without Jake I am not sure if the ultra running would have developed as it has for me. I thought before I met Jake that I was just going to run marathons. I had no idea that ultra marathons even really existed, but running with him in the trails made me realize how much I preferred long runs on trails to long runs on roads. When he started telling me about these ultra marathons, it seems like the further a race is, the better I seem to get so why not try.
I have been increasing my mileage as much as I can…when I was at the peak of my training before the Wild Duluth 100K, I was hitting 120 miles a week on average. Most of my training runs involve going up the bluffs through the Hixon Park trails and running on the Human Powered trails in La Crosse. I occasionally trow in some tempo runs and hill work outs when I want to, but I try to just listen to my body and do what it wants me to do. I also have to listen to the clock. With school, athletic training (I have clinical hours i must do just about everyday from 2pm-7pm), and being a Resident Assistant in the residence halls my schedule can get pretty full. But even if I have to wake up before dawn, I always try to get a run in.
Aside from physical strengths, e.g. hills, do each of you bring different mental or attitudinal aspects that complement each other, go well together, etc.? What are the pros and cons of having a training partner?
Hegge: Mike is in the athletic training program and I am in the physical therapy program, so we are often talking about rehab techniques and things like that. We share many of the same views, so we can often talk about one topic for the entire run. He is busy at night working with athletes, and I am busy at night working at an Adult Family Home, so we try to find time during the day to run together. Mike has a lot more motivation to train than I do. I usually do not run on the weekends, while he runs everyday. He trains year-round, while I usually take three months off. I have started to rub off on him as he is realizing that rest is necessary to remain injury free and prevent burnout. My attitude towards training is way more laid back than his. Sometimes I let college life get the best of me, so those long runs on the weekends do not happen. But when we are running together, I take it seriously. He likes to make us run further, while I like to make us run faster. He keeps the pace going in the middle of the run, while I always make sure that we hammer the last few miles.
Pros: Having someone that is waiting on you to run, so you need to show up. Talk about race strategy together. Long runs are easier. Push the pace. Always have somebody to out kick.
Cons: Someone is waiting on you, so you can’t sleep in. You need to explain to someone why you don’t want to run.
Borst: I see only pros in training with Jake. We are incredibly even matched, we both do our training runs at the same speed, we both race at the same speed for most parts of races, and we have a lot in common to talk about. Running with Jake is awesome. We have some great talks about life, and we bond over just being free on the trails.
What are your goals – short- and long-term? Do you plan on sticking with ultras, or do you have any other ambitions with running, e.g. a fast road marathon?
Hegge: I hope to place near the top in most of the races this season. I secretly hope to set a few course records, but I know that there is going to be a lot of competition at these races. If I don’t break them, I will be sure to push the pace so other do. I am really looking forward to going back to the Voyageur and trying to defend my title. Maybe even try to chase after Scott Jurek’s record. I have found some powerlines of my own to train on here in La Crosse.
For long term goals, I want to complete the Gnarly Bandit series within the next few years. Western States, Leadville, HURT, and Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc are all on the bucket list. I want to see how I stack up against some of the elites in the sport.
One of my biggest goals is to break the Ice Age Trail speed record. The current record of 22 days 6 hours was set by Jason Dorgan who also went to Verona Area High School. The Ice Age Trail is how I first got started with trail running, and I thought it would be a neat way to increase publicity of the trail and help complete it.
I plan on sticking with trail ultras. I plan on running a 100 miler next year, but not sure which one yet. I have no desire to train for a fast road marathon. Road ultras and timed events do not interest me. Mike is interested in those, but I do not have that kind of running mentality. In my opinion, the harder the trail conditions, the better.
Borst: I plan to continue staying successful as possible in the races that I have planned for this year (ed. note: these still include the Dances with Dirt 50K and Voyageur 50 miler). Jake and I are still discussing our fall plans, but we are hoping either another 100K or possibly a 100 miler. My hopes are to continue running ultras, as well traveling to some of the bigger races to meet some of the well known runners that share the same passion as me. I would love to see how I compare to others in the running world as I have stayed local up until now. I am excited to see what the future has in store for me and where my love of this sport will take me.
Do you see any pros or cons to being into ultras a lot younger than most people traditionally are? Do you feel like you’re missing out on running faster at some shorter distances while you’re still younger?
Borst: I am not super fast. I was never a spectacular racer in high school, and my favorite part of training was always the long runs. I personally don’t feel as though I am missing out because I have way more fun running ultras then I have ever had running 5Ks. The only cons may be that I have an increased chance of having some joint issues as I age, potentially due to the constant pounding, but the pros are the fact that I LOVE every second of it. Nothing makes me feel more free and happy then a long trail run. Also, because most people don’t run ultras until later in life, younger athletes as ourselves, have a little more hop in our steps that has helped us be successful to this point.
Just for fun – what kind of shoes, gear, etc. do you like to use?
Hegge: I won a pair of Montrail Rogue Flys at a trail race last spring, and I have been hooked on them ever since. I actually have four pair sitting in my closet right now. I usually carry a Fuelbelt Slice water bottle with me.
Borst: For trail running I love my Montrail Rogue Fly shoes, and for roads I typically wear Asics (right now I have the Blur 33, but I recently ordered a pair of Gel-Lyte to try out) I have also dabbled in minimalist running with a pair of Altra shoes. I think minimalist running can be very beneficial when done right. I like Heed to drink during races because that is what I have used in most ultras so far and it has served me well. I also enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and GU shots during ultras. I like my Fuel Belt hand held water bottle for long runs and races as well.
You can follow the Afton 50k online Saturday at the event’s Facebook page: facebook.com/aftontrailrun
Minnesotans took both individual crowns in the 50-mile race. Alison Fraser (Minneapolis) won the women’s race and placed fourth overall in 10:50:36, while Jason Tischer (Blaine) won the race overall in 8:26:39. Fraser narrowly edged the second Minnesotan dude, Tony Pierce (Grand Rapids), who finished fifth overall (fourth male) in 10:56:50.
Other Minnesota finishers included Alex Kretchmer (Minneapolis), Kris Rosenbusch (Stewartville), Adam Iverson (Minneapolis) and Rick Bothwell (Moose Lake). Complete results are here.
Cake-eater and Grand Master John Horns won the 100k, as he did in its inaugural running (2011), when he set the still-standing course record, finishing this year in 11:51:03. Jim Wilson (St. Paul) and Wayne Nelson (Rochester) also finished. Full results can be found this way.
Christi Nowak (St. Paul) was Minnesota’s top finisher in the 100-mile race, coming in fifth overall (second female) in 20:58:56. She chick’d Ethan Richards (also St. Paul) in the process – he finished sixth overall (fourth male) in 21:02:40. Give Ethan some slack, though – he’s got a summer racing schedule that might rival the difficulty of the Grand Slam.
Jeremy Bradford, of Denver, defended his title from last year and broke his own course record, finishing in 19:05:26. He beat the top female finisher by a mere six and a half minutes – Kaci Lickteig (Omaha) ran the second-fastest time in course history, male or female, in 19:12:01. Horns came within four minutes of Bradford at a late aid station last year before ultimately finishing second by a half hour.
There were several other Minnesotans who finished the 100-mile race. Click right about here to see the full list.