May 18, 2008

Superior 25K Race Report

Since the Superior Hiking Trail is one of my favorite places on Earth, I was really looking forward to this race. Drove up from the Twin Cities Friday afternoon with temps in the mid-70's, then got to Duluth where the Lake Superior Air Conditioning effect takes place and the temps were suddenly in the upper 40's. Set up camp lakeside at Temperance River during a brief rain storm, then was treated to the double rainbow in my last post. Went to the pre-race meeting at Caribou Highlands in Lutsen and got to meet up with some fellow trail runners. Saw Larry, RD of the Superior fall races (there are going to be a few changes to the 50 & 100 mile this fall), Kate, Phillip, Matt, Carl, Maria, and Keith. Met Alicia from the MN Dead Runners list, and (sorry who I'm missing - I'm sure there were others).

Race morning, the big dilema for me is always what to wear. I am notorious for over dressing, and almost pulled it off again. Temps started out in the 40's, but with the sun out things were warming up fast. Also figuring in to the equation were the windy conditions and forecast for afternoon rain. I must have changed clothes 3 times before finally getting it right! It turned out to be a beautiful day for running, and the trail was in great condition. A few wet spots and some downed trees (especially on the top of Moose Mtn), but in great shape for May. No bugs :)

At the start of the race, there was a 0.6 mile road trot into the wind until we crossed the bridge over the roaring Poplar River gorge and reached the single track. As soon as we were in the woods, the wind was a non-issue. Mystery mountain is nice for running; gradual inclines and declines through maple, birch, and spruce forest. Just the usual cast of characters on the SHT: lots of roots and rocks. A small unmarked overlook provided a view of Lutsen Mountains ski area, which still has patches of snow! Then the real work began: the steep rocky ascent of Moose Mountain. Quad and calf burner deluxe. Had to go over, under, or around several blown down trees, which left me with a few "tree bites". I didn't really take time to enjoy the views from the ridge top, since anyone who knows about this trail realizes that taking your eyes off the ground while your feet are moving is an invitation to disaster. (Side note: this can leave one vulnerable to not noticing tree branches at forehead height. Ask Matt or Carl about attempting to move trees with one's forehead).

By the time I passed Rollins Creek, the front runners were starting their return to the finish on this out and back course. I didn't recognize the first few leaders, but noticed that Wynn was leading the 50K. I'm pretty sure I saw Gregg pass through soon afterwards, and Keith seemed to be having a great run too. Felt great at the Oberg (only) aid station which was also the turn around. I took my second Endurolytes cap there, had a gel, and headed back. Was feeling great!

Started back up the steep rocky climb to the top of Moose Mountain and started to notice my right calf getting tight. Made it to the top and started all over again going over, under, or around the downed trees. Then - it happened. Climbed over a fallen tree and my calf completely seized up. Tried to slide over the tree onto my other foot when that calf also cramped. So, there I was, straddling the log, neither foot on the ground, with both legs in complete tetany. Crap! (Actually, I do recall saying something out loud. It was four letters. It wasn't "crap"). I finally managed to get off the tree, but my legs were continuing to cramp even just walking. Took my last 2 E-caps and pretty much stumbled along the trail. This was frustrating because it's a nice stretch for running. The cramping seemed to come and go and I made it down the steep descent of Moose Mountain. Shortly afterwards, Matt caught up to me as he was finishing the 50K. He gave me some S-caps, which helped immensely. Thanks Matt!! They took a while to kick in, but I was able to start running again for the last 1.5 miles and didn't have any further problems after the race.

Post race, I finally got to meet Julie, who had finished the 50K and was planning on doing hill repeats up and down Moose Mountain the next day. Also met Wynn, who did in fact win the 50K (he also won the Sawtooth 100 mile last fall), and Diane who has some light reading to do after getting Kate's copy of Running Lore by Tim Noakes. Steve made it to the finish line, having run on a severely sprained ankle at Runnin' in the Ruff 10K two weeks ago, Ice Age 50 mile last weekend, and the 50K at Superior yesterday. And he's going to do FANS in 3 weeks. With what turns out to be a busted ankle.

Finishers were awarded a hunter's orange bandana (to match our hunter's orange race shirts), so we can now run in the woods during hunting season to train for next year.

It reads, "I kicked the snot out of the Superior Hiking Trail at the 2008 Superior Trail Race."

Special thanks to RD's Mike and Gretchen, as well as all of the volunteers who helped to support us while we enjoyed our romp through the woods. I will definately be back!


Runnin-From-The-Law said...

Nice job Kel! Congrats! What are E-Caps and S-Caps?

Kel said...

Thanks Cindi. E-caps and S-caps are basically salt tablets (with other electrolytes as well). The difference is that they are different brands.

Mindi said...

Blaze orange race shirts! Only in WI! That will actually probably very handy. I run on a trail near me and last fall as I was running along, I saw several hunters with their rifles driving forward parallel to the trail - only about 100 years off the trail!! At that point my husband and I thought it would be best to talk VERY LOUDLY during the run. :)

Nice job on a big race - recover well!!

phillip gary said...

Getting the fueling and supplement needs down is a constant process. Al Holtz seems to get it best, but in my world I find more is better than less.

These Superior trails are special and are especially challenging. Any finish is a victory.

Phillip Gary Smith

Wayne said...

Kel, I experienced the Lake Superior Air Conditioning effect on Fri, but thankfully didn't experience the double calf cramping on Sat... ouch. Glad you could get out and enjoy the day, and get it done!!

Londell said...

nice job ... Now the moose mountain marathon? SHT 50? The bug has bit!

Diane said...

Glad to have finally been able to put a name with the face, Kel! You're right on with "The Lore of Running"... I have never seen so much info/data/insight compiled in one place!


Matthew Patten said...

Great job Kel,

The first time I had electrolyte/crampage meltdown was at the top of Moose 2 years ago. They guy behind me laughed because he could see my calfs knotting up.

s-caps have more electros than e-caps. Karl King has great advice and articles on dosage, usage, and everything else on his website

nice job toughing it out.

Carl Gammon said...

Great job, Kel. I think Londell was right. You should think about the marathon in the fall. It will give you a reason to run trails all summer. (As if you need a reason.)

SteveQ said...

The first thing to consider with cramping is simple dehydration. If you're not dehydrated, then it's probably low sodium. If that doesn't do it, then it's either potassium or magnesium. So: water first, then salt, then fruit.

Kel said...

Thanks guys! I already plunked down my entry fee for the Moose Mountain Marathon about a month ago, so I'll be running SHT in again in Sept.

I thought I had my eat/drink strategy down since I've been using the same sports drink for the last 10+ years without any problems, but trail running has thrown me a curve ball in that department. I had 40 oz of isotonic drink (includes Na, K, Ca, Mg, glucose/maltodextrin), another cup of water and hand full of trail mix at the aid station, 2 Clif Shots, 4 E-caps, and 2 S-caps. My hands/fingers were a little swollen, but it's tough to tell if it's electrolyte imbalance or the "pendulum effect" of running non-stop for a few hours. The swelling goes away shortly after I stop running, so I'm thinking pendulum. However, I am a salty sweater, so the increased energy expenditure on trails may be something I still need to adjust for.

keith said...

nice job, kel! way to rally after the cramps!

brent said...

Way to hang in there...I've had a few cramping episodes myself and they are no fun. I second Matts advice about reading Karl Kings info on his website. I also use a 6" foam roller almost every day to keep my calf and hamstring muscles well massaged. I've had no problems since. Hope to meet you sometime at another race or training event. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Jean said...

Kel, way to go, and an excellent description of the race and the course! That was a brutally tough race. Way to overcome the cramping and bring it home!