September 7, 2008

Moose Mountain Marathon

Short Version:

This is the only marathon I have ever run where I needed to use my hands.

In 26.2 miles, my Garmin showed 10,923 total vertical feet of elevation gain/loss with the steepest pitch up Carlton Peak being an 89.8% grade.

Long Version:

I managed to get out of the Twin Cities by late Friday morning, which allowed me to stop by the Silver Bay and Tettagouche aid stations later that day to check on my buddies who were running the Sawtooth 100 miler. I think I was actually more excited about their race than my own, especially since it was the first attempt at 100 miles for several of them! It was fun to catch a glimpse of several of them coming through the aid stations and hear how they were doing. I eventually got to Lutsen for packet pick up and the pre-race meeting before stuffing myself with pasta and hitting the sack.

Got up early Saturday to catch the bus to the start - it was perfect weather - slightly overcast and about 50 degrees. Looked like there had been a little rain overnight, but the skies appeared to be clearing. Anywhere on the Superior Hiking Trail is one of my favorite places on Earth, so I was getting excited to get going!

Finally arrived at Cramer Road for the start of the race and got lined up with Wayne and Jim. Larry said "Go!" and we were off on a 1.2 mile loop before heading past the Cramer Rd aid station and down the trail. I had never run this section of SHT before, so really wasn't sure what to expect as far as difficulty. Some said there was a monster climb, others thought it wasn't too bad. I don't remember any long or difficult climbs, but I had fresh legs at this point. Very pretty run past Fredenburg Creek, which was flowing more than some of the rivers! There were quite a few of us running together at this point, kind of like a freight train rolling through the woods.

We arrived at the first aid station (Temperance) 8 miles later and I realized that I hadn't been drinking nearly as much water as I should have. That's one of the problems that I have using a Nathan or CamelBak - I can't tell how much I've been drinking. Decided that I needed to pay more attention to my pre-race plan of 1 S cap every hour, 1 Clif shot gel every hour, and drinking at least 1.5 liters of Heed between aid stations.

The section between Temperance and Sawbill is very pretty and very runnable for about 2 miles up until reaching Carlton Peak. The trail runs parallel to the Temperance River on one side, crosses over it, then begins to climb a bit before hitting the steep rocky section up Carlton Peak.

During this section I had my first encounter with the bees that had already plagued other runners and got stung just above the knee. Dang! I made a mental note of the time since I tend to swell more than the average person, and I'd seen Molly at the Silver Bay aid station just after she returned from the clinic as a result of a bad allergic reaction to a bee sting the day before.

Oh well, nothing I can do about it now - time to climb Carlton Peak and keep moving toward the Sawbill aid station. The volunteers there had some stuff to help take the stinging sensation away, and mentioned that lots of other people had also been stung.

I seemed to waste a lot of time in the aid station, and finally headed back out onto the trail. Shortly after leaving, I encountered another swarm of bees. Thankfully the trail here was relatively easy, so I was able to sprint ahead to get away from the swarm without getting stung again.

The section between Sawbill and Oberg is probably the easiest section of the SHT I've ever travelled - nice open forest and the trail is not so steep, rooty, or rocky compared to the rest. The trail gradually dropped down to a good sized pond and I passed a beaver lodge, but didn't see any resident beavers. A pair of runners caught up to me and asked how I was faring with the bees. They had both been stung too!

Getting close to the Oberg parking lot, I heard the buzzing of yet another swarm of bees. Managed to find another gear to elude the swarm and just kept charging toward the final aid station at Oberg. Just 7.1 miles to the finish now.

After spending too much time in the aid station, I finally headed out to get up and over the last 3 hills and settle a score with one particular blown down tree on top of Moose Mountain. (As it turns out, I'm not the only one who had an issue with that tree last spring, right Barb)? I got past Oberg Mountain and Rollins Creek in good shape, and the long steep ascent of Moose began. This final section is probably the most difficult for the marathon course, and the climb up Moose at this point in the game can be a doozy. I'll be darned if I didn't hear the buzzing of another swarm of bees! I knew I couldn't sprint all the way up Moose Mountain, but I was able to go far enough to get away from the bees one last time.

After reaching the ridge top without any drama, I realized that my tree had been cleared from the trail and it was clear sailing! At least until it was time to come down the other side, at which point my knees were screaming during the steep descent. I think it took longer for me to get down Moose than to go up!

Now there was just the long jog that everyone forgets about: up and over Mystery Mountain. It is not nearly as steep or technical as Moose, but it seems to last forever! Finally, I could hear the rushing water of the Poplar River - almost home now!

Popped out onto the gravel road and jogged home to the finish at Caribou Highlands. Larry was waiting at the finish to congratulate me and give me my finishers trophy. He was also curious as to whether I'd seen any of the 50 milers since they were running a new, more difficult course this year and none of them had finished yet. Nope, I hadn't!

It was fun catching up with everyone at the finish - had to find out how the 50 and 100 milers were doing and how everyone else's run went. A few of us agreed that the marathon seemed easier than the Superior 25K back in May, perhaps because the blown down trees had been cleared and we'd had all summer to run hills ;)

I can't thank the volunteers enough for everything they did so that the rest of us could play in the woods during the bee/wasp/hornet convention. Perhaps I'll save that for a separate post.


Londell said...

OK, where did you see this moose? Nice photo...

k0rnshell said...

I was stung twice on the course this weekend as well. Once on the head and arm. I agree damn bees!

keith said...

u hit bees, too? agh. that sucks!

nice job though!! i didn't see a single marathon runner. yep, it was that hard!

Diane said...

Congrats! I'm glad that I missed the bees this year!

Run 50 Miles said...

kewl report - i kept hearing about all these bees but i never saw nor heard a single one... (?)

Either I was lucky, ...or incoherent.

You speedsters give me lots of motivation for improvement.

Great pics too. I wanted to see a moose.

-- christian

brent said...

Sounds like you had a great day Kel...congratulations! It was nice to finally meet you in the finish area.
The SHT is one of my favorite places as well...I guess that is part of what makes these events so special.

SteveQ said...

So many bees, so little time...

It was great talking with you up there. I always think I'm going into the woods to get away from people, but it's the people I meet up there that keeps me coming back.

Nice job on the "Kiddie's race!"

Mindi said...

Wow - congrats - and awesome pics! Although I am hesitant of this race now considering all of the bee issues!!

Karen G said...

Great job Kel. Nice report and see you on the trails.

Wayne said...

Way to go, Kel. Nice run and finish. And yikes... the run is hard enough without the extra fun of bees. 3 to go, see you at the next one.

scott said...

Great report, Kel and great pics too! I was wishing I brought my camera on my training run after the races, but you need those hands free too often!

Steve said...

Well done, Kel. Love the pics! Be sure to bring your rappelling gear next year.

Helen said...

Great run Kel and report - lovely pics. Isn't Mystery Mountain a killer?!! And nothing like a few bees to keep your mind occupied - I wasn't happy about getting stung but decided it kept my mind off other aches and pains!!

Enjoy In Yan Teppo this weekend.