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.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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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:
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!
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
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.
Point to Point 52.1 Miles
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
Point to point 26.2 Miles
Start Time: 8:00AM Saturday
Elevation Gain 5,500 FT
Elevation Loss 5,500 FT
NET Elevation Change 11,000 FT
3 Aid Stations
Complete 17MI Info HERE