John Storkamp, race director for the Superior 100 told all competitors at the pre race briefing, ‘Look around, because you may well not see everyone back at the finish. The Superior 100 is rough, rugged and relentless.’
Race images available HERE
A point-to-point race, the route traverses the ‘Sawtooth Mountain Range’ in northern Minnesota. Taking part on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), starting at Gooseberry Falls State Park and concluding in Lutsen, 100-miles later.
It’s a trail of immense diversity and one that is constantly shadowed at all times by the impressive and dominant Lake Superior. Terrain, as the Storkamp suggests, is relentless. With a low point of 183m and a high point of 558m, the race doesn’t get high, however, the repeated nature of the course (Sawtooth profile) offers no opportunity for recovery or rest. Add to the mix, brooks, mud, rocks, tree roots and a rollercoaster of small climbs; the Superior 100 is considered one of the toughest races in the USA. It’s reflected in the current course record of 21:02. Crossing the line in Lutsen is no easy task… Ask each and every finisher, in fact, you don’t need to ask, the gaunt and hollow expression on each and every face shows each mile and each minute and hour that has been undertaken to achieve the buckle!
Run in almost perfect weather conditions, Superior 100 2014 was an experience to embrace. Have you heard the term, ‘Minnesota Nice?’ (A stereotypical behaviour of Minnesota residents to be courteous, reserved, welcoming and mild-mannered) Well believe me, this Brit was submerged in it from registration, during the race and beyond.
‘It’s so awesome that you are here, thanks for coming!’ I can’t tell you how many times I heard this phrase during my incredible weekend. No matter at what point in the race, no matter how sleep deprived they were, each an every runner would go out of their way to express warmth. It’s humbling. Of course, it’s in the nature of the people but my host for the weekend, Kurt Decker assured me, ‘These folks are genuinely the salt of the earth, they mean every word but this weekend they have taken it up a notch.’
Imagine being on the trail in the middle of the night, a runner appears and we shout, ‘Looking good, keep it going, you are doing great!’ the runner stops, looks us in the eyes, grabs our respective hands and shakes them, ‘Thank you guys for being here and supporting, it’s really appreciated.’
No matter how nice these folks are, racing did go down at the weekend and at the front end Kyle Pietari and Michael Borst dictated the early pace followed by Nathan Leehman, Adam Schwartz-Lowe, John Cameron and John Horns, the 2013 race winner.
In the ladies, 2013 1st place winner and 2nd overall, April Cole looked set be a dominant force pushing consistently hard throughout, however, at the summit of Carlton Peak with just under 90-miles covered she complained of being cooked. To my surprise April dropped at Sawbill with just over 90-miles covered.
Adam Schwartz-Lowe had been the bridesmaid on 2-occasions at Superior, 2012 when Steve Moore set the 21:02:41 CR and 2011. After a sub-20 run at Western States earlier this year, Schwartz-Lowe wanted this win, however, Pietari and Borst had different ideas. At halfway, Wisconson runner Borst had pulled away and from Pietari who was paying for the early pace, so much so he would eventually drop. Running without a pacer, Schwarz-Lowe went in pursuit from the Finland aid (51.2) and as he ran past he aptly said, ‘I smell rabbit in front of me.’
The rabbit took some catching though! Running only his 2nd 100, Borst looked to have the race dialled after dnf’ing his 1st 100 at Zumbro earlier this year. Experience paid off though, at Sonju Lake Road the gap was 8-minutes, at Sugarloaf (72.3-miles) it was 5-minutes and then at Cramer Road (77.9-miles) it was 2-minutes. From here on in, the guys ran together for an hour until eventually Schwartz-Lowe pulled away gaining a 1-minute advantage at Temperance (85-miles) and 24-minutes at Sawbill (90.7-miles). The hay in the barn could be smelt and as the race progressed the gap tweaked open. At the final aid, Schwartz-Lowe didn’t hang around, a quick re-supply, a few questions on the location of the 2nd place runner and then he scooted off up the trail.
From here on in, Borst consolidated his 2nd place looking relaxed and happy, his pacer doing a great job to keep the motivation high. Leehman took a seat at Oberg and although the temptation to hang out and chill was tempting, he rejuvenated himself and pushed on for the final podium place after a welcome ‘Monster’ drink from 4th place runner, Cameron’s crew.
With April Cole out of the race, the ladies race became a war of attrition and I saw each lady as they climbed up and over Sawbill with 90.7 miles covered. Embracing the relentless nature of the race they pushed on through never failing to offer a smile and a thank you. Ultimately at the line, the gaps were quite wide with Mallory Richard taking the victory ahead of Frayah Bartuska and Johanna Ylanen.
100-mile races are tough, no matter what the terrain is like. Here in Minnesota on the Superior Hiking Trail, John Storkamp and the Rock Steady Running crew have a gem. A gem of epic proportions… if you like your trail tough and gnarly and your people warm and welcoming, then Minnesota is for you!
Believe me, it’s Minnesota Nice!
Race website – HERE
- Adam Schwarts-Lowe 21:58:32
- Michael Borst 22:52:28
- Nathan Leehman 23:26:47
- Mallory Richard 27:32:27
- Frayah Bartuska 29:56:58
- Johanna Ylanen 31:08:10
- Chris Rubesch 8:56:33
- Forrest Tracy 9:23:47
- Alex Kurt 9:35:24
- Kristin Rognerud
- Annie Behrend 13:03:34
- Shelly Groenke 13:41:38
- Ben Kampf 3:32:27
- James Sorenson 3:49:30
- Ryan Braun 04:00:11
- Jayna Tilstra 4:53:31
- Kelly Johnson 4:56:10
- Heather Weckwerth 5:20:01
Race images available HERE