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!