I went into the 2013 edition of the 100k, the fifth, with few expectations for a good day. I was in the process of moving from Minneapolis to Duluth and had weeks of stress and sleepless nights leading up to race day. I’d had a pretty good year of running so I wasn’t concerned about knocking out another solid race, but just run casually and enjoy a day on the trail.
The 6AM start was dark, early, and cold. Rousting myself at 4 and heading down to the start wasn’t making me particularly happy, but once I connected with friends at the pre-race briefing everything was good. After Andy gave us the low down on the course, we all headed out into the cold and dark to toe the line and start the real fun. I landed in the first row with Chris, Ethan, Christi and a few others. After just a few minutes we were off. It was a big pack of lights circling Bayfront before heading up the ramp over the highway, crossing Superior Street and onto the single-track of the Superior Hiking Trail.
We are really lucky to be able to run on 30 miles of trail, in the woods, in the middle of an urban environment. And run we did. We quickly had things sorted out with Chris Rubesch and two others charging off the front followed by a group of myself, Christi, Ethan, Bob Gerenz and a couple others. We cruised up the hill to Enger Tower, a good 1.5 miles of uphill, and rang the peace bell as we went by. We were all chatting it up, and Ethan and I had largely the same plan of running easy and seeing where it took us. Now the thing with Ethan and I is that prior to this race, we’d run three other races together and our combined time difference was less than 10 minutes. So we can run together pretty well.
So up over Enger, and through the Piedmont aid station I went without stopping. It was cool and kind of humid and somewhere past Piedmont it started raining a bit, with some snow mixed in. Not exactly the prime conditions I was hoping for, and if the rain kept up there was going to be a lot of carnage. There was nothing to do but run, since I didn’t even put a spare pair of socks in my drop bags. Fortunately it only spat for a couple hours then stayed dry the rest of the day. It wasn’t long before Ethan and I separated and moved into 4th and 5th with the others out of sight ahead of us. So we ran with each other, pushing trail under our feet while the hours ticked away. We did play touch and go with Artur from Canada for a while, but he was huffing and puffing whenever he went by us.
Still in our same places we came into the Munger A.S. to see the third place guy leaving. Mmmm, rabbit! Ethan and I turned it around quickly (thanks UMTR volunteers) and set to chase. After a mile or so we roped the young lad in while going up a hill. He said he came to run for a podium spot. I don’t think it worked out real well. I was still feeling really good, though Ethan was unfortunately feeling the love. On the way to E. Palkie A.S. I lost contact with him behind me. I kept expecting him to show up, but it wouldn’t happen. In this same section I saw Sean, the number 2 guy and spent a couple of miles slowly roping him in, passing him for good right before the aid station and the 7 miles of road it ushered in. I grabbed a snack quick, and started on the flat hard stuff and making time to the turnaround.
Banging out some fast miles I finally saw Chris headed back, a full 22 minutes ahead of me. I wouldn’t worry about that, remember, I was just here for a fun day on the trail. After that I didn’t see anyone until I hit the turnaround and headed back. I bumped into Marcus on the trail, pointing me to the cutoff and the turnaround aid. I hit it at 5:35 into my day. Not too, shabby, and I was feeling great! Now, I told myself, I could race if I wanted to. I grabbed my gels from my drop bag, then turned and burned. Time to get home.
I had a lot of fun the first 10 miles running back, since I got to see everyone else in the race. First up were Sean, Ethan, then Christi, Artur, and Bob McGrath. Periodically was the other 40 or so runners. Most looked pretty good and like they were going to make it, but there were a few moving awful slowly and probably in danger of missing the 50k cutoff. In a change from my usual experience, I was smiling and happy the whole way back, not like it wasn’t work, but I never got into a funk.
I felt like I had the hammer down pretty good, even down the muddy hills and stairs leading back to Munger Trail and Ely’s Peak. By the time I got close to Munger, all the other runners were behind me, and I wouldn’t see anyone for a long time. I made short work again of all the aid stations, spending just a few seconds at each. Hit it and quit it is the way to do it. I do most of my training alone, so running alone on the way back wasn’t a problem. I just cranked up the iPod and pushed as hard as I could. I also spent a bit of time looking over my shoulder.
It felt good to broach the top of Ely’s, which was the hardest climb remaining. Todd Rowe was up there snapping photos and gave a shout. And so it was back through Magney, Spirit and Highland/Getchell. No crashes, no bonks, just steady running in the sunshine. By the time I got to Highland, though I was ready for it to be over. Chris was far enough ahead, I didn’t have to even think about catching him, but I had no idea how close third place was. In here I started picking up more rabbits, 50k runners! I caught the venerable Rick Bothwell and ice cream loving Wayne Nelson, along with a couple of others.
I knew exactly how far I had to go once I hit Lincoln Park and the climb to Piedmont. I ditched my coat with my parents, who had come to watch the finish, and punched it. I really like this last 5k and try to save energy for it, particularly to have the legs to crush the downhills. Back past Twin Ponds and up to Enger again, then bombing the long downhill back to Bayfront. Coming across the bridge again, my folks were there and I was giving it my all, nailing the last mile in about 6:30 and crossing the finish line 11:35:31 for second place and first masters. Not too bad for a day for which I had no expectations.
Chris Rubesch took first with 11:01:43 and Bob McGrath was third in 12:12:26 (I hope I run like him when I’m 50). Christi Nowak walked with the women’s win in 12:17:03, followed by Julie Librizzi in 15:05:32, and Annie Beherend in 15:39:36.