Superior 100 2016 Race Preview

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SUPERIOR 100, USA

I knew very little about Minnesota and the Superior 100 in 2014 when I first came over to experience the most rugged, relentless and remote 100 miler there is. The area and the race was a revelation. You see, too much information in advance can lead to disappointment and more importantly, it can cloud judgement.

Running brings people together, together in a way like no other; it crosses boundaries, crosses countries and binds like a harmonious family. I’d been in Minneapolis for just over an hour in 2014 and I already knew that I was going to love this place.

The Superior 100 race follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior, a ridgeline of the Sawtooth Mountains. Race director John Storkamp said in 2014 at the race briefing, “It’s gnarly, tough, rutted and many of you won’t finish.” He was correct. It’s a tough race.

John Storkamp - race director

John Storkamp – race director

But like any race, a runner needs to be on the journey with a chance of completing and if they make the finish or not, the experience will be remembered because Superior 100 is so much more than a race.

Founded in ‘91’, Superior 100 is one of the oldest 100-mile trail races in the country. Way back in the day it was one of an elite band of 10-12 100-mile races in the US. Founded by Harry Sloan, the race did have a name change some time back when it was called, Sawtooth 100, however it was changed back to its original name and that has stuck to present day.

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A point-to-point ultra-marathon that is 100% trail! The race route traverses the Sawtooth Mountain Range (hence the old Sawtooth 100 name) on the Superior Hiking Trail in the far reaches northern Minnesota.  Lake Superior, the greatest freshwater lake in the world provides a stunning backdrop to a race that climbs to near 2000′ peaks with breath-taking vistas of the lake and inland forests. Crossing countless whitewater rivers and serene streams the 100-mile route meanders through mystic Boreal forests. Gooseberry Falls State Park Visitors’ Center, MN hosts the start of the race and a welcome finish awaits each and every runner at Caribou Highlands Lodge in Lutsen, MN.

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The 2016 edition of the race, like in all years has some notable starts and you’ll have to forgive me here if I maybe miss a few potential podium influencers…  this race is a long way from the UK!

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With 2015 winner and course record holder, Jake Hegge running the marathon distance race, this opens the doorway for the 2014 champion, Adam Schwarz Lowe. In 2014 he had his race dialed and he ran with tunnel vision controlling his pace until the last marathon when he broke away to a solo victory.

But the presence of Joe Uhan is no slouch and when one compares Schwarz-Lowe’s Western States time to Uhan’s, there is a considerable difference. Uhan was 4th at Bandera 100k in 2015 and recently was 2nd at McKenzie River 50k and 3rd at the Elijah Bristow 24 hour.

Ultrasignup founder, Mark Gilligan is also running. He placed 9th recently at Salt Point 50k and 22nd at Cruel Jewel 50.

Joe Fejes has a string of top results over a variety of distances – 100 miles, 24 hours, 6 days and so on… For example, in 2014 he ran 580.3 miles in Anchorage at ‘Six Days in the Dome.’ His most recent 100-mile result came at Desert Solstice where he placed 6th in 15:50.

Gary Davis has had some good results recently with a victory at Kat’cina Mosa 100k and 2nd at Salt Flats 100 and Skyline Mountain Marathon 50k.

Brian Klug was 3rd in 2015 in 23:07 and his last race was Minnesota Voyager 50 where he placed 55th.

Scott Hoberg and Marcus Berggren recently placed 2nd and 3rd at Arrowhead 135 (Scott won in 2014) and in July Marcus went on to run and finish Badwater 135.

Other notable mentions are for Frank Pipp, 3rd at Quad Rock 50) and Stephen Graupner who was 5th at Minnesota Voyageur in July.

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Mallory Richard was 10th at Superior in 2015 and overall First Lady. Winner of Blackhills 100 in June 2015, pretty sure she will be looking for a victory again. A recent win at the Falcon Fatass 50k in August shows good form. 

Tina Johnson is a favourite after placing 2nd last year. Recent results also show Tina is in good form, 4th at Bunk House Trails 50k in May and in August 2015 she won Marquette Trail 100k.

Casey Ullman is running Superior for the first time I believe and is coming off 4 solid results in 2016 at Capt’n Karl’s Colorado Bend, Mulshoe Bend and Pedernales Falls 60k and Hells Hills 50k. In 2013 Casey won and placed 8th overall at Mark Twain 100.

Crystal Hutchings placed 32nd at Zion 100 in 2015 in 32:29 but recently won the Yankee Springs Trail Run (104 miles) in 29:40, so, an outsider for the podium?

Susan Donnelly is the most experienced lady in the race with 15 finishes, yes, 15! 2016 is hopefully the 16th. In 2015 Susan was 11th lady in 33:03. This lady races a great deal and has been running ultras since 1994. In 1999 she placed 3rd lady at Superior in 29:48.

Janet Hausken has 3 good results in 2016 with 2 2nd places and a 13th at Zion 100. In 2015, Janet was 7th at Superior in 31:15.

Finally, Shelley Groenke was 9th at Superior in 2015 and recently placed 3rd at Zumbro 50m.

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The action will unfold on Friday but in the spirit of Superior let’s give a nod to some key elements of the race… Runners can’t run without aid stations and volunteers. It just can’t happen. Those who are passionate about the sport often pay back with a volunteer stint at an aid station, marking the course or manning road crossings.

“If you get to the Crosby-Manitou Aid Station this year and you are feeling a little down and thinking you might want to drop out, consider this… the volunteers comprising that aid station have 17 Superior 100 finishes amongst them, you may not get a lot of sympathy – instead a good motivating kick in the butt! – John Storkamp

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Despite the difficulty, despite the fatigue, despite sore legs and being mentally tired, only one man and one lady can top the podium. So why run? Superior 100 provided many answers to this question on my first visit. Staff, volunteers, supporters, each runner – first to last, all came together to make a collective gathering of many individual passions to create one wonderful whole. Storkamp repeatedly touches on this and on the race Facebook page and just recently he said:

Storkamp

Tom and Nancy have been with me since the beginning, from the beginning of my ultra-running and from the beginning of race directing and they are still here now, heading up the Beaver Bay Aid Station with their great friends the Stocco’s – Jim Stocco was on the original Superior Trial Race Board of Directors circa 1991. These guys have volunteered at and run more ultras than most and they still love it. Friendship, history, tradition, togetherness – these are out values – this is what makes us great. Thank you being there for me, for the race and for our awesome runners!

Minnesota the Superior Hiking Trail, Superior 100 and the amazing people involved were all told by Storkamp before the race in 2014 that ‘this’ experience would change them, it did!

I am pleased to say that after missing 2015, I am back in 2016 to experience another dose on Minnesota nice!

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Information:

Course records are 19:30:37 and 24:49:06 for the 100-mile race, held by Jake Hegge and Kristina Folcik set in 2015 and 2012 respectively.

Stuart Johnson and Susan Donnelly have an incredible 33 100 mile finishes between them, 18 for Stuart and 15 for Susan.

Race tracking – http://www.ultralive.net/superior100#tracking/overview

100-mile information:

Start: Gooseberry Falls S.P., Minnesota

Finish: Caribou Highlands / Lutsen, Minnesota

Start Time: 8:00AM Friday

Point to Point 103.3 Miles

Elevation Gain 21,000 FT

Elevation Loss 21,000 FT

NET Elevation Change 42,000 FT

13 Aid Stations

38-hour time limit

Complete 100MI Info HERE

 

Please note that during the weekend a 50 mile and classic marathon distance race will take place.

 

50 Mile:

Point to Point 52.1 Miles

Start: Finland Rec Center, Minnesota

Finish: Caribou Highlands / Lutsen, Minnesota

Start Time: 5:30AM Saturday

Elevation Gain 12,500 FT

Elevation Loss 12,500 FT

NET Elevation Change 25,000 FT

7 Aid Stations

16.5-hour time limit

Complete 50MI Info HERE

 

26.2 Mile:

Point to point 26.2 Miles

Start: Cramer Road / Schroder, Minnesota

Finish: Caribou Highlands / Lutsen, Minnesota

Start Time: 8:00AM Saturday

Elevation Gain 5,500 FT

Elevation Loss 5,500 FT

NET Elevation Change 11,000 FT

3 Aid Stations

14-hour cutoff

Complete 17MI Info HERE

Ultra Trail Mount Fuji 2014 Preview #UTMF2014

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 The UTWT rolls on and Japan will host what will arguably be one of the most competitive 100-mile races we will see this year… certainly over a tough course (Hardrock excluded). I say a 100-miles but actually the course is 105 with approximately 10,000 meters of altitude gain. The fifth race in the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) in reality, UTMF is a follow on race from Transgrancanaria as many of the big hitters will re-assemble in Japan, to do battle once again for key ranking points. Nuria Picas was always going to race on the clockwise loop around Mount Fuji, by contrast, Ryan Sandes after his success in the Canaries has shifted focus from Australia and placed his emphasis and efforts on this tough and challenging race.

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Without doubt, at the stroke of 3pm (local time) on Friday 25th April a battle royal will unfold both in the ladies and men’s respective races. Dropout rates are usually around 30% to give an indication of how tough this race is.

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Race statement:

The ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI is an unparalleled event that challenges the human spirit through the outdoor sport of trail running. By connecting mountain trails, local footpaths and forest roads around the foothills of Mt. Fuji, this 168km course allows participants to enjoy majestic 360 degree views of Mt. Fuji while experiencing the stunning natural beauty and culture of this region.’

LADIES

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas; would you want to bet against her? Nuria has transformed herself in the last 24-months into one of the most competitive and focused female mountain, trail and ultra runners in the world. Her skill, dedication and focused attitude has seen the Catalan excel over every distance and terrain. Her only nemesis has been her good friend, Emelie Forsberg. In 2013, Nuria raced TNFUTMB, her first 100-mile race and placed 2nd behind an unstoppable Rory Bosio. Earlier this year at Transgrancanaria we once again had a master class in how to prepare for, run and win a race! Without doubt, Nuria is a hot favourite for UTMF.

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa excels at tough, long and hilly races when the terrain is not too technical. To be honest; the longer, the better. A 100-km race is very much a warm up for Francesca as her impressive victories at Ronda dels Cims and Tor des Geants confirm in 2013. However, Francesca is no one trick pony. She has placed highly at shorter and faster races such as Speedgoat 50k and UROC. UTMF will without doubt suit Francesca’s running style and after her win at HK100 and second at Transgrancanaria earlier this year, Francesca will without doubt be looking for a consistently strong repeat performance and important UTWT points.

Nathalie Mauclair Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair burst onto the scene in 2013 with a stunning top placing at Transvulcania La Palma. A relative unknown, Nathalie went on to impress her female competitors (especially Emelie Forsberg) and not only did she become IAU World Trail Champion that required pace, she also was crowned Raid de le Reunion (Diagonale des Fous) champion. Her diversity of pace, endurance and technical ability earmarks Nathalie as ‘one-to-watch’ at UTMF.

Shona Stepenson, Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Shona Stepenson, Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Shona Stephenson placed 2nd at UTMF last year but had a very mixed 2013. Shona dropped from TNFUTMB and Ice Trail Tarentaise and just recently placed 6th at Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon (also a UTWT race) where I expected her to place top-3, so, the jury is out. She will be in the game early on pushing at the front, let’s hope she can hold on and keep the momentum going.

Fernanda Maciel Everest Trail Race ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel Everest Trail Race ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel after a 3rd place at Transgrancanaria is looking for more UTWT points to boost her overall rankings. Her Everest Trail Race win in late November 2013 would appear to have boosted Fernanda’s running after a troubled 2013 season. Certainly Fernanda’s 7th at TNFUTMB and Transgrancanaria win in 2012 shows that she has all the required armory to compete with the best-of-the-best; she will just need a little luck!

Nerea Martinez Ronda dels Cims ©ianccorless.com

Nerea Martinez Ronda dels Cims ©ianccorless.com

Nerea Martinez like Francesca Canepa like races that are long and tough. Winner of the inaugural UTMF, Nerea won’t repeat that performance in 2014. She has all the required abilities but lacks the pace required that Picas, Mauclair and Canepa have in abundance. However, if it comes down to survival and pushing on through to the line, Nerea will be around and ready to mop up the places. Her 2nd place at the 2012 Tor des Geants proves that she cannot be ruled out in any race.

Julia Boettger, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Julia Boettger, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Julia Boettger had a solid start to 2013 placing 2nd behind Jo Meek at the tough multi day race, The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. However, she was DNS at Transgrancanaria due a potential niggling injury. Recently she has been working on and providing instruction on several training camps. If in form, UTMF will suit Julia’s skill set and we can expect a top-10 performance and if she has ‘one of those days’ we may well see her top-5.

Nora Senn placed 3rd at UTMF in 2012 behind Nerea Martinez. Taking into consideration that result and the ladies previously mentioned, Nora can hope for top-10.

Hitomi Ogawa along with Kumiko Amikura and Akemi Ban may well have the hopes of Japan in their legs, placing 3rd, 4th and 6th respectively in 2013; they all have the knowledge and understanding of what UTMF requires from a race and survival aspect. Top-10 is possible for all-3 and top-5 with this quality of field would be an incredible result.

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Yoshikazu Hara gets the nod first as last years UTMF champ. One could arguably say it was a lucky day… but hold on a minute, you don’t beat Julien Chorier and Seb Chaigneau on luck alone! Had Hara excelled at the 2013 TNFUTMB I would be hailing him as a potential 2014 champ as he does seem able to use some seriously fast 100km speed (6:33) on long courses. However, Hara dropped from Tarawera with injury and this leaves some huge question marks in this quality of field.

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes is on a roll… having spent a great deal of time with him on Gran Canaria and getting a great understanding of the man, his training and his thought processes, I’d find it difficult to bet against Ryan at UTMF. As we are all aware, his 2013 season was one to forget but his 2012 season had moments of brilliance and his 2014 victory at Transgrancanaria and then subsequent FKT on the Drakensberg Traverse with Rhyno Griesel will either mean ‘Sandman’ will be in the form of his life or a little jaded. What do you think?

Seb Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Seb Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Seb Chaigneau placed 3rd at UTMF in 2013 so knows the course. A tough competitor with a unique and endearing view of our sport, he is a true champion. His win at Hardrock 100 and CR in 2013 was a popular result and without doubt he would be a popular champion in Japan. His recent drop from Transgrancanaria leaves a couple of question marks but I don’t have the answers… you see, dropping from a race whilst in the lead leaves the door wide open. I think we will see Seb pushing top-3.

Iker Karrera ©iancorless.com

Iker Karrera ©iancorless.com

Iker Karrera is understated and arguably one of the best ultra distance runners out there. His quiet, modest, no nonsense approach of arriving, winning and leaving a race often leaves a void in this media savvy world. However, you would have to have been in an ultra void not to notice his impressive victory at Grand Raid des Pyrenees in 2013 and then his follow on victory at Tor des Geants. Potential winner!

Francois D'Haene ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene has a vineyard and that has taken a priority. His run season now evolves around seasons, grape picking and bottling, however, it hasn’t affected Francois’s performances. When Francois races, he races in top form. His 2nd at Ice Trail Tarentaise where he raced side-by-side with fellow teammate, Kilian Jornet shows he has all the skill and speed required to win any race. He proved this with a great victory at the tough and technical Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale des Fous). This race amongst all his experiences, even his victory over a shortened UTMB course, will put him in a great place for success at UTMF.

Nick Clark The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

Nick Clark The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

Nick Clark; enough said really! Tough as nails, really competitive and one of the best 100-mile runners out there; his consistent performance over the ‘Grand Slam’ in 2013 was a joy to behold. Nick kicked off 2014 with a tough outing at his first multi day race at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, a race that provided Nick with a new perspective on how tough running back-to-back, day-after-day can be. With some solid training behind him and experience on tough courses such as Hardrock 100, one has to give a nod to Nick and put him on the ‘hot’ list for this race.

Mike Foote TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Mike Foote TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Mike Foote has been super consistent at TNFUTMB with 3rd place at the shortened race when Francois D’Haene won and 5th place in 2013. Don’t expect to see him up front in the early stages… Mike has a canny knack of almost being out of the race and then in the latter third applying the afterburners and moving up through the field. In addition to great climbing ability, he also has speed. This natural speed will be extremely useful on the faster section of the UTMF course.

Gary Robbins TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Gary Robbins TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Gary Robbins 4th at UTMF in 2013 and recent winner at HURT100 will bring his adventure racing background, the love of the tough and gnarly and some pure old grit back to Japan and armed with knowledge, I can’t help but think that Gary will be a force this year. Of course, one must consider that this field is super stacked and to repeat 4th or move even in higher in 2014 will be a supreme effort, but Gary on his day can do it.

Thomas Lorblanchet looked to be about to break into the big time after winning Leadville 100 and placing highly at Transvulcania whilst running under Salomon colours. However, since moving to a new sponsor, Thomas appears to have been in a running wilderness. Surely a win at the highly competitive ‘Templiers’ was a great result in late 2013 but I have little else to go on… he may well surprise us.

Joe Grant Cavalls del Vent ©iancorless.com

Joe Grant Cavalls del Vent ©iancorless.com

Joe Grant recently won Alaska White Mountains 100 with a new CR; a great result! However, it is extremely difficult to say how this performance will set up Joe for UTMF. Post his impressive Iditarod performance in 2013, Joe struggled to find form (more due to fatigue) and even at his beloved Hardrock 100, he had to drop (whilst in 2nd place) with medical issues. Regularly training with Anton Krupicka, Joe is very much a new breed of ultra runner, inspired by Kilian Jornet, who combines running, climbing and time in the mountains to fulfill his passion. UTMF in principal will suit Joe 100% and if in form, we can expect him to be a main protagonist at the front of the race.

Brendan Davies Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Brendan Davies Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Brendan Davies 5th at UTMF in 2013 has plenty of speed but lacks true mountain experience. He openly said that the 2013 edition of the race was a shock to the system and the time he lost going up, he pulled back on the fast flatter sections. I am sure Brendan will come to UTMF with more vertical training. However, this field is stacked with out-and-out mountain men. It’s going to be a tough race to keep in touch with the top-5 and repeat his 2013 performance.

Antoine Guillon 4th at Reunion and 5th at Transgrancanaria will be hunting UTWT points. I think he will be in the mix but not top-5.

Dave Mackey was one of the first runners to embrace the UTWT and I am sure we will see his presence throughout the series. One of the most respected ultra runners out there, had this been a 100km race he would be a hot favourite. But over the 100-mile distance and on this terrain, I don’t see Dave making top-5 despite his success at Western States. But he is due a big performance…

John Tidd to many will be a complete unknown, I first met him at Transgrancanaria in 2013 when he went on to place 6th running a strong and consistent race. Later in the year he repeated this consistency with 6th at UTMF and then 10th at TNFUTMB. I very much doubt he will make top-5 but top-10 is a distinct possibility.

Emmanuel Gault recently won the Eco Trail de Paris in a quick 5:40, so, he’s in good shape. However, even dating back to 2007, I am not sure he has raced over 100km. So, he may be up front in the early stages but past 80km he may well fade. It’s an unknown? Without doubt, Emmanuel specialises in French races such as Templiers, SainteLyon, CCC and so on, his recent 22bd place at Transvulcania gives us little insight into what may be achieved at the tough UTMF.

Stone Tsang from Hong Kong will potentially be a ‘one-to-watch’ after solid UTMB and HK100 performances, but he will need a great day to break top-5.

Minehiro Yokoyama,

Kenichi Yamamoto,

Koji Yamaya,

Minehiro Yokoyama,

Shougo Mochizuki

And Shinsuke Isomura have all raced UTMF in the past and in reality it is about as much insight as I can provide.

Kenichi Yamamoto Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Kenichi Yamamoto Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

If I had to pick one runner it would be Kenichi Yamamoto. Kenichi raced against Julien Chorier in 2013 and placed 2nd. A happy and talented guy (expect film crews following him) he has had success with a top-3 at UTMF in 2012 but not against a field of this quality.

The 2014 UTMF will be quite a race. In addition to all the above, several other notable runners are taking part and it almost feels rude not to mention the ever present Christophe Le Saux, Jeremy Ritcey or Timo Meyer. But I have tried to preview who will contend top-5.

UTMF website – http://www.ultratrailmtfuji.com/en/

Runner entry list – http://www.ultratrailmtfuji.com/en/about/entrylist/