September 16, 2009

Superior 2009

Bean Lake

For this year's fall Superior races, I chose to participate by spending time on the other side of the table at Oberg aid station. Volunteering gives a whole new perspective to races when you see just how much work goes on behind the scenes!

Drove up to Gooseberry where I would camp for the weekend on Friday afternoon. Got to the Silver Bay trail head about 4:30 and decided to hike up to Bean and Bear Lakes with the hope of getting some nice photos of the 100 milers coming through on their way to Tettagouche. As it turned out, I was a little too late and only encountered 3 runners on the trail before meeting the sweeps near Bear Lake. Temps were unseasonably warm and the humidity was ridiculous for this time of year. It was hazy enough that I could hear the fog horn in Silver Bay going off the entire time I was on the trail.

Bear Lake

Just barely made it out of the woods before dark, though I did at least have the good sense to bring my headlamp along just in case. It was pitch black by 7:30 and still very warm and humid. I didn't sleep very well that night in the tent because it was too warm for the sleeping bag, but too cool to remain uncovered for very long. I think the temps only got down to the mid-upper 50's overnight (that's what you hope for highs, not lows when running long distances).

Woke up shortly after 6 am and drove to the Crosby Manitou aid station on my way up to Oberg to watch the 50 milers go through. It was the first opportunity to meet crews or drop bags for this group, so I figured I could snag lights or extra clothes from runners who didn't have crews and relocate that stuff to Oberg where they might be needed again later. Doug and Maria had the place decked out with glow lights, lanterns, tiki lamps, leis, etc. Must have been very festive for the runners coming through, especially the 100 milers who passed through overnight!

Crosby Manitou aid station

Unfortunately by daybreak a third of the 100 milers had already dropped, most likely because of problems caused by the heat and humidity.

Got to my assigned aid station at Oberg by 10 am where I would remain until 9 pm with Kate, Jim, and Curt. Oberg is the "Last Chance Saloon" for all 3 races (marathon, 50 mile, 100 mile), and this year many of the runners wouldn't make it that far. Those who did should be proud even if it took longer than anticipated - it was a tough day on an already tough trail!

By far, the most common question runners had when they rolled in to Oberg was "What's this next section like?"

Kel: Do you want me to tell you the truth, or should I fluff it up a little?
Runner (ponderin'): ummm, tell me the truth.
K: You've got 3 hills and 7.1 miles left.
R (gulp): Are the hills bad?
K: The middle one is noteworthy.
R: How long is it?
K: I don't remember exactly, but it's called "Moose Mountain."
R: What's the trail like?
K: Some rocks and roots. It's well marked - just follow the orange flags.
R: Can you give me more details?
K: Yes, but they probably won't help.
R (staring across the Oberg parking area towards the trail head): Tell me anyway.
K: It's at least 0.1 miles across the parking lot to the Oberg trail head. When you get to the top of the hill, you'll come to a trail junction - make sure you stay to the left. It will be well marked with orange flags - keep the flags on your left. You should see a little inland lake on your left as you follow the trail. If you see a great big lake on your right, you're most likely doing some bonus miles on the Oberg Loop. It's a delightful little loop and I highly recommend doing it some time, but not today. This first hill really isn't that noticeable, and you'll descend to Rollins Creek which means that you've got 5 miles left to go. Then you'll start climbing a steep hill. And climbing. And climbing.
Curt: It's the stairway to heaven.
K: Once you're at the top, it's fairly flat and runnable for a bit - just make sure you don't take the spur trail up to the gondola. Stay to the left. Then you have a steep descent. Once you're done with Moose, you've only got 1 hill left. It isn't nearly as steep or technical, but it keeps going for awhile. Eventually, you'll hear the sound of water running - that's the Poplar river and you're almost home. You'll pop out of the woods where you've got a long, gentle downhill on a gravel road into the finish area that's more than half a mile long. So, you've basically got just 10K of running in the woods and a little bit of flat, easy gravel.
R (still staring across the Oberg parking area towards the trail head).
K: They have beer at the finish.
R (perking up): Well, I guess it's time to go for it. I'll just follow the orange markers.
K: Good idea.
R: Thanks!
K: Have a great run!

Next runner in to Oberg: What's this next section like?
Kel: Do you want me to tell you the truth, or should I fluff it up a little?

Thanks to all of the runners who toed the line at Superior this year! It was a pleasure and a privilege to serve you!


Londell said...

Next year, record it with pauses and rewind and press play all day long... I really missed being up there...

SteveQ said...

Being at the station before yours, I was telling everyone they'd just done the longest hill (Carlton Peak) and the next section was one of the easier ones, but that there's a couple of nasty climbs in the last section - yet, they're close enough to the finish that they wouldn't care. They were probably asking you to see if you agreed.

I kinda felt guilty about not running the race. Guess I have some unfinished business there.

Karen G said...

They had beer?
Oh well I am used to there being nothing left by the time I get there.
Thanks for being there Kel.

Wayne said...

Kel, It was nice to see you at Crosby Manitou and thanks for taking some of my stuff to Oberg. That repeated conversation is pretty funny! Probably got a bit old for you though so Londell might be on to something. :)