Superior 100 2017 Race Summary

Rugged, relentless and remote, Northern Minnesota near the Canadian Border, is the home of the Superior 100 – a course that parallells the North-Shore of Lake Superior traversing the Sawtooth Mountains on the Superior Hiking Trail. Breath taking vistas and panoramas make this point-to-point race a ‘must-do’ on the USA 100-mile scene. It’s a race with history and is one of the oldest 100’s in the US.

This my third year on the race, my first experience coming in 2014, I missed 2015 and I was back in 2016 for some more Minnesota nice! Kurt Decker who works for TC Running was once again my host and a huge thanks to him and of course race director John Storkamp from rock Steady Running for once again allowing me the opportunity to follow and document such a wonderful race.

Gooseberry Falls State Park (Minnesota) is the start line for the race, the finish comes at Lutsen 103.3-miles later, just short of the Canadian border.  It’s a tough race and as US trails go, a gnarly and often muddy one. Heading up and down those sawtooth peaks provides a surprising 6400m of elevation gain and descent.

Mud, tree roots, rocks and a never ending green tunnel of trees pulls runners to the finish line. The race is one of the oldest 100-mile races in the USA and with a capped field of just 250 runners it has a feel that is akin to Western States or Hardrock 100.

Founded in 1991 when there was no more than a dozen 100-mile trail races in the USA, back then if you wanted to run a 100, you had choices like Western States (’74), Old Dominion (’79), Wasatch (’80), Leadville (’83), Vermont (’89), Angeles Crest (’86), Mohican (’90), Arkansas Traveller (’91) and Superior (’91).  Superior quickly earned its reputation!

2017 Race Photography

Portraits HERE

Day 1 HERE

Day 2 to HERE

THE RACE

The smell of coffee, a relaxed atmosphere and the constant chatter of nervous runners was very much the backdrop of Gooseberry Falls State Park as the 2017 Superior 100 was waiting to kick-off and get going.

Race director Storkamp, released the runners on the stroke of 0800 and the field immediately fragmented with podium contenders getting quickly into their race pace – behind others respected the 103-miles ahead of them and eased into a long day and night with a walk.

It soon became apparent that it was going to be a hot day and the forecast was good for the whole weekend with potential clear skies and a full moon for the night section.

At Split Rock River a stunning view of the surrounding landscape and Lake Superior is provided and with approximately 9-miles covered Neal Collick was leading the race by a substantial margin followed Matias Saari and then a strong group lead by Adam Schwarz-Lowe.

In the ladies’ race, it was a relaxed start but Kirsty McBride leading ahead of Gretchen Metsa. It’s worth mentioning here that Superior stalwart and running legend, Susan Donnelly was not only running her 17th 100 but if she finished the race it would be her 100th 100 – wow!

At 20-miles, Metsa had drawn level with McBride in the ladies’ race and Stephanie Hoff was moving up through the ranking along with Tina Johnson and Jamie Solberg – the race was starting to take shape.

Collick continued to pull away from the rest of the men’s field. It was a brave move setting such a fast pace on such a tough course. Saari looked comfortable behind and as did Brian Klug and Paul Shol. Pre-race favourite Schwarz-Lowe was looking ok but out of the top-5, he notably said, “The races hasn’t started yet!”

Silver Bay came just 5-miles later and Collick and Metsa pushed ahead of their respective fields.

At MT Trudee Collick was extending lead and was full of life, he had a spring in his step that defied the distance and terrain. Saari was 2nd and then Klug was following in 3rd. Metsa like her male counterpart was dominating the ladies race and McBride, Johnson, Hoff and Solberg looked to be running for 2nd place. But, it is 100-miles and anything could happen.

Finland at just over 50-miles is a significant marker of the race and provides an insight on how the runner’s are managing their day on the trails. The 2016 edition was a hot one and it’s fair to say that the heat and humidity was once again having an impact as runners struggled to stay hydrated.

The first men came through and no surprise it was Collick ahead of Saari, for the ladies, Metsa was like a machine spending little or not time at the aid stations.

Sonju Lake at 58-miles started to provide more information on how the night ahead would pan out – Collick was still looking strong but Saari was showing some fatigue and Klug complained of a real rough patch and the need for calories. Metsa arrived in the dark, didn’t stop and pushed on – she was on a mission. When Schawrz-Lowe arrived he was in 9th place, but the darkness switches something on in his mind and as he left the aid he said, “I am going hunting!”

It was a cold night, a really cold night and it impacted on the runners, some revered in it, others didn’t. Fatigue and cold brought an end to Saari’s race after he had run in 2nd for so long allowing Shol to move into 2nd and Klug into 3rd. The miles were ticking by and they were getting the job done. Metsa and Collick pushed ahead and in all honesty, they were know in a different race opening up huge gaps on the competition – Collick consistently hovering under course record pace.

Oberg is the final checkpoint and Kurt Decker and the TC Running RV was waiting – music played, pancakes were flipped and the closing 7-miles of the Superior 100 waited the runners.

Collick arrived at 2am – he was ahead of course record pace and was flying! He was relaxed, positive and despite the cold and dark was in a great mood and full of energy. It was over 2-hours later when Shol arrived and closely followed by Klug. Notably though, Schwarz-Lowe’s hunting was going well he was in 4th place.

Metsa arrived in the daylight and without little fuss didn’t stop and pushed on for the closing 7-miles. Her gap was huge over Johnson, Hoff and McBride who followed.

Collick won the Superior 100 2017 edition in 19:31:40 missing the CR by just 1-minute. The trails this year were super slippery in places no doubt sapping some of that speed that would have made a record possible. Shol finished 2nd in 22:12:46 and incredibly, Schwarz-Lowe had moved up from 9th to the final podium place, crossing in 22:14:40. Klug who had run much of the race in 3rd was 4th in 22:34:42 (a huge PR on this course) and Mike Ward rounded out the top 5.

Metsa crossed in 25:23:03 followed by Johnson, Hoff, McBride and Solberg, their times 28:19:14, 28:39:58. 29:53:50 and 30:44:19.

Full results HERE

Notably, Susan Donnelly finished her 17th Superior 100 and her 100th 100-mile race – incredible! Also, John Taylor also completed his 100th 100-miler, what are the chances of that happening?

As with any 100-mile race, the front of the race only tells a small story of the allotted 38-hours to complete the race. Highs and lows are followed by tears and laughter. The assembled crowd in Lutsen welcoming each runner home.

There was no failure… just undone business for those who withdrew or did not make the line in the cut-off time. I have often said running is a metaphor for life and Superior 100 never disappoints. It’s low-key, traditional and like a family reunion. It’s a special race and if the 100 is too far, a 50-mile and classic marathon distance takes place on the same course and concludes at the same venue. Roll on 2018.

A full set of images will be available at iancorless.photoshelter.com

      Image upload should be available by Monday 11th September

Superior 100 2017 Race Preview

Superior 100

Rocks, roots, a rollercoaster of hills and all with the stunning Lake Superior for company – Superior 100 is a tough race. It’s a point-to-point race and I like that, no contrived loops, no lefts and rights to make up miles – Superior starts and finishes in two completely different places providing those who take part a wonderful journey that leads towards the Canadian border.

The route doesn’t suit someone who likes consistency, this race throws everything at its participants and it’s all the better for it.

Runners return year-on-year, it’s like long lost family members who spend a year apart coming together annually for a coming together of mind and body. It’s a unique family and one that I am privileged to have been part of on many occasions.

I too look on my time at Superior as coming home.

It’s a unique race and one that harks back to the early 90’s when 100-mile races numbered single or maybe ‘just’ double figures. It doesn’t quite have the history of Western States but it comes close. It is the brainchild of Harry Sloan and over the years it has developed and grown, it was even called Sawtooth 100 at one time reflecting the small and relentless climbs that run along the North Shore. Of course not every one can or wants to run 100-miles and therefore over the years a 50-mile and marathon distance race was added – they all take part on the same route reflecting the midway and final 25% of the course.

The 100 starts at Gooseberry State Park and concludes at Lutsen Mountains – a key feature of the race is the undulating and technical nature of the route with stunning views and vistas. Think of a scene from Sleepy Hollow and you won’t go far wrong!

As anyone who has experienced the race will tell you, Superior is also about the aid stations and volunteers that make the races so memorable, in particular the Immerfall Family who have inspired me ever since my first introduction and of course my good buddy Kurt Decker and the final ‘TC’ aid station with great food and rocking music.

The race is now under the control of John Storkamp and his team and what a stunning job they do.

The 100 is arguably the flagship race and starts 0800 Friday September 8th. It’s not an easy route and I am pleased to say includes little or no road. It’s an out-and-out trail run over some gnarly terrain. Elevation gain and loss is substantial with almost 4000m of up and down – that is half of Everest! An allocated 38-hours provide the 250+ entrants a fighting chance of arriving to glory and a hand-crafted wooden medal in Lutsen. To give an idea of how loyal runners are to this race, 40% of the field are returning competitors.

Superior 100 is about achieving goals and everyone coming together in the hope that they will have a 100% success rate. Of course, this never happens – 100 miles is just too tough and too unpredictable. As in any run, a race will take place, notably, Frank Pipp and Mallory Richard, champions in 2016 will not return, the likely contenders for victory are as follows:

MEN

Five time finisher and five times in the top five make Adam Schwarts-Lowe a hot favourite for victory in 2017. He has won the race once and he then provided a masterclass of 100-mile running, slowly hunting down the early leaders to take over on control in the final 25% of the race and glynch a long awaited top of the podium.

Neal Collickhas one 100 mile finish to his name (as far as I know) and this was in 2016 at Javelina Jundred with a 5th place. He ran Superito 50k in earlier this year and placed 3rd and recently won Minnesota Voyageur 50.

Mick Jurynec has run Western States, has won Bear 100 twice, placed 8th at Hardrock and placed 2nd at Zion 100, so, he knows the distance and mat well be Schwarts-Lowe’s biggest rival?

Tommy Doias won Ozark Trail 100 in 2016 and earlier this year placed 2nd at Dark Sky 50 and Cry Me A River 100k, so, his form is good.

It’s rare that 100 rookies can win, especially at Superior. However, two names to watch will be Matias Saari and David Hyopponen. Saari won Angel Creek 50 in July and Hyopponen is showing no results for 2017, in 2016 he won Surf the Murph 50.

Brian Klug is a hot-tip from TC Running Companies, Kurt Decker – Klug has been 3rd and 6th at Superior before.

LADIES

Tina Johnson has won 100 and placed 2nd at two other 100’s this year. The last race being Black Hills in June. That is a good thing, recovery and fresh legs should be a problem, neither will endurance. Based on these results, she has to be a odds-on favourite for the win.

April Anselmo won Superior in 2013 and in the process placed 2nd overall. She won Zumbro 100 and was 4th overall in 2014 and it looks like in recent year’s she has moved from the 100 to 50-miles and 50k.

Jennifer Doias comes to Superior 100 for a first-time experience. She has been running ultras since 2007 and has a sting of successes at 50-miles and 50k. In 2010 she ran her first 100 and placed 2nd. Her last 100 was Ozark with a 7th place, so, the form looks good for a podium shot in Lutsen.

Stephanie Hoff finished third last year and has finished Superior on three occasions here.

Kristy McBride just ran 23:42 at Western States and in June 2016 won Kettle Moraine 100, so, without doubt she is a podium contender in Lutsen.

Gretchen Metsa is another 100-mile rookie but has experience – a dark horse?

Susan Donnelly comes to Superior as one of the most experienced runners out there, she has won the race in past editions and completed sixteen times.

Last year she placed 4th and can never be ruled out. She loves to race! Take a look at her list of results on Ultrasignup, it’s pretty mind-blowing. Less than 1-month ago she completed Bigfoot 200 – ouch! In 2017 alone she has already run six 100’s and placed 4th, 4th, 1st, 5th, 5th and 17th respectively.

Superior 100 2016 Race Summary

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Packet pick-up was as bustling and busy as usual. It was s series of high fives and hello’s as the runners entered the hall to collect numbers ahead of the next day’s Superior 100. Traversing the Sawtooth Mountains on the Superior Hiking Trail in the far reaches Northern Minnesota near the Canadian Border, the Superior 100 course parallells the North-Shore of Lake Superior. The race rolls along a series of sawtooth peaks with breath-taking vistas.

It’s a race with history and a race that is unique, very unique.

I was last at this race in 2014 and I was blown away by the experience. Believe me, folks down in Minnesota are some of the nicest you will ever meet. I wrote an article on my last trip called Minnesota Nice. I had wondered if my 2016 experience could live up to the 2014 experience.

The simple answer, yes!

As in 2014, I was looked after by Kurt Decker who works for TC Running. TC is the ‘go-to’ place for running shoes and apparel in the Twin Cities area and Kurt, well, Kurt is the ‘Godfather of Trail’ in this area. Kurt and the TC Running crew man an awesome aid station at Oberg (95-miles) on the Superior route and as the last aid before the 103-mile finish line, it’s a really important one. Music, fresh food, open fire, incredible crew and an abundance of chairs make this an oasis that is difficult to leave for that final 7-mile push for the line.

Gooseberry Falls State Park (Minnesota) is the start line for the race, the finish comes at Lutsen 103.3-miles later, just short of the Canadian border. A 38-hour cut-off, 13 aid stations and 6400m+ of elevation gain and descent make this race one of the toughest in the USA.

iancorless-com_superiot2016-4422As race director, John Storkamp says,’ it’s Rugged, Relentless and Remote.’ It is. Taking place on almost 100% single-track, Superior 100 is a special race of mud, tree roots, rocks and a never ending green tunnel of trees that pulls runners to the finish line. The race is one of the oldest 100-mile races in the USA and with a capped field of just 250 runners it has a feel that is akin to Western States or Hardrock 100. Founded in 1991 when there was no more than a dozen 100-mile trail races in the USA, back then if you wanted to run a 100, you had choices like Western States (’74), Old Dominion (’79), Wasatch (’80), Leadville (’83), Vermont (’89), Angeles Crest (’86), Mohican (’90), Arkansas Traveller (’91) and Superior (’91).  Superior quickly earned its reputation!

Superior 100 is old school.

You can view the runners portraits from the 100 HERE

You can view race images HERE

You can purchase race images HERE

The 2016 Race

The 20% chance of rain was looking less and less likely on the start line of the 2016 edition of the Superior 100. Fresh coffee was free flowing and the 250 runners who would toe the line milled around chatting and talking about the day, night, day and possible 2nd night that lay ahead. It was chilled, calm, relaxed and un-cluttered. At the stroke of 0800 Storkamp released the runners and almost immediately the race fragmented with the podium contenders leading the race. At the rear, many participants were already walking with a full understanding of the task ahead – better to ease in and finish strong and not the other way around.

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Joe Uhan, Jeff Vander Kooi, Adam Schwarz-Lowe, Doug Kleemier, Ben Vanhoose, Joshua Nichols, Brian Klug and Timbo Jenkins amongst others dictated the early pace. It soon became apparent that it was going to be a hot and humid day. Timbo Jenkins arrived first at Split Rock River where a stunning view of the surrounding landscape and Lake Superior was provided. With approximately 9-miles covered Jenkins started to walk. He looked us in the eye and said, ‘this is not where I am supposed to be… how did I end up leading the race?’ It was Timbo’s first 100 and as is often the case, he was feeling good in the first 10-miles. Schwarz-Lowe, Uhan and the other main contenders followed and at aid 1, Frank Pipp was 6-minutes behind Jenkins.

In the ladies’ race, it was a relaxed start for two-time winner (2014 and 2015) Mallory Richard and three-time winner, Susan Donelly (who was running her 16th Superior 100, yes, 16th). I have a simple rule for long races, watch what the experienced runners do and copy it, if you can. In this scenario, it was relatively easy for the other ladies to copy as experience was saying, taking it nice and slow and steady!

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Carla Goulart lead the race followed by Mallory Richard 5-minutes later. Amy Broadmore, Tina Johnson, Janet Hausken, Tracy Denbleyker and then a group of 4 or 5 followed within a 30-minute window.

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At 20-miles, Richard had drawn level with Goulart in the ladies’ race and Janet Hausken was trailing 20-minutes later – the race was starting to take shape. Jenkins despite his comments at 9-miles had somehow continued to pull away from the rest of the men’s field. It was a brave move for a rookie ‘hundo’ runner and his 7-minute gap over Kleemier, Schwarz-Lowe, Peltonen and Uhan was looking good.

Silver Bay came just 5-miles later and any hard work by Jenkins was undone as 2014 champion, Schwarz-Lowe drew level along with pre-race favourite, Uhan. The writing was starting to appear on the wall. Importantly, Frank Pipp, also running his first 100 had closed to 4th and trailed the front group by just 5-minutes. In the ladies’ race, Richard was opening up a gap and the remaining ladies could only see her run off into the distance. Goulart was still holding a strong 2nd place over 30-minutes ahead of Janet Hausken and Tina Johnson was another 8-minutes back.

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At MT Trudee it was all change, in just a short section of trail, Pipp had caught the front men and passed them. No easy task! Uhan followed 6-minutes back and Schwarz-Lowe was another 2-minutes later. Early leader Jenkins was 4th 28-minutes behind Pipp and it was looking like he had made the classic rookie mistake of going out too fast – ‘I’m feeling rubbish; I may quit’ he shouted as he went past. Kurt shouted, ‘keep plugging buddy, it’s a 100-miles, anything can happen!’

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For the ladies’, Richard was in the form of 2014 and 2015 and was grabbing the 2016 race by the scruff of its neck. At Tettegouche her lead was 12-minutes over Hausken. Early raced leader Goulart was cooked and had now dropped back to 5th lady over 30-minutes behind the leader. Crystal Hutchings and Tina Johnson had moved into 3rd and 4th with the experienced Susan Donnelly in 7th.

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Finland at just over 50-miles signified in the midway point of the race and it was soon becoming apparent the impact a day of sun and humidity was having on the race – exhaustion, dehydration and fatigue was the order of the day! Richard was now in a race against herself and ultimately the other men in the race, her lead over 2nd place was 2 hours and 12 minutes. But guess what, early race leader Goulart has found some inner strength and closed the gap from 5th to be back in 2nd 8-minutes ahead of Johnson. Was this going to be one of those incredible comebacks?

In the men’s race it was a similar story for Jenkins. He was still running in 4th but he hadn’t dropped and he was closing the gap on Schwarz-Lowe in 3rd and Uhan in 2nd. Pipp was still leading the race by over 30-minutes now and many thought he was either on for an incredible first 100-miler victory or a potential detonation over the next couple of hours.iancorless-com_superior2016-7125

Darkness was now upon the race and the 20% of chance of rain came… the only problem being that 20% became 100% and for a good 8-10 hours the heavens saturated the Superior 100 course making what is already slippery and challenging terrain even more challenging.

Pipp pushed on at the front of the race with no pacer. At Crosby Manitou his lead was 50-minutes over Uhan and Jenkins had had one of those great comebacks to be sitting in 3rd level with Schwarz-Lowe. Richard was now not only obliterating the ladies race but she was lying 6th overall level with Steven Graupner. Johnson, Hausken and Hoff were all now running for 2nd.

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Cramer Road at 79.9-miles signified a significant marker with the final 25% of the race ahead, it’s here that places can change as a full day of running takes its toll. Despite this being a first 100, Pipp was showing no sign of flagging. On the contrary, he was looking strong! He arrived with 14:49 elapsed and believe it or not, early race leader Jenkins was back in 2nd with 16:09 elapsed and Uhan back at 16:23 and Schwarz-Lowe was 4th in 16:41. If Pipp didn’t blow up the race was his, but the fight for 2nd was wide open. Richard arrived in the ladies race with 17:37 elapsed and I am sure she had eyes on the men in-front of her. Johnson was still in 2nd but 4-hours back and experienced Superior runner, Donnelly had moved all the way up to 3rd, her 16th finish was looking guaranteed.

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Kurt was waiting at Oberg with his TC Running aid station. The pancakes were cooking, the music was playing and at 02:45 Pipp arrived like a train. It was 3-hours later that Jenkins arrived still in 2nd. Remember, he nearly dropped at 30-miles… anything can happen in a 100! However, Uhan and Schwarz-Lowe had closed the gap and the trio left together. With just over 7-miles to go, this was going to be one hell of a finish.

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Pipp crossed the line in 20:24:00 a superior, Superior 100 champion. His run for a rookie 100-mile runner was incredible. Uhan had run a clever and smart race, he had saved something for those closing challenging miles and he pulled away from Jenkins and Schwarz-Lowe. His finish 22:46 was a solid 8-minutes ahead of Jenkins who had no doubt had the race of his life… he had managed to pull ahead of Schwarz-Lowe and take the final podium place by just 1-minute. But this only tells half the story. In the closing miles, under darkness, tired, fatigued and lacking focus, Jenkins had run into a head height true branch that cut his head open sending him flat to the ground. Somehow he managed to pick himself up and find the effort and pace to hold off a charging Schwarz-Lowe.

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Richard finished next, first lady and 5th overall with a new course record 23:51. Her performance was stunning and almost looked effortless. It was impressive! Tina Johnson finished 2nd and Stephanie Hoff 3rd, 29:50 and 30:52 respectively. Queen of the Superior 100 finished 4th in 31:07 and in doing so, achieved her 16th buckle.

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What followed was a long day and night of struggle and strife. Some achieved their goals, others failed to complete the challenge that they had set themselves. There was no failure… just undone business. You see, Superior 100, more than any other 100 I have witnessed is so much more than a race, it’s an experience. It’s a low-key traditional race experience and one that I encourage anyone to participate in. It’s a special race and if the 100 is too far, a 50-mile and classic marathon distance takes place on the same course and concludes at the same venue. I have often used this quote and having witnessed the highs and lows of the 2016 Superior 100, I am going to use it again for all those who have unfinished business.

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It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

 

Check out Superior Trail Races and consider being one of the lucky 250 in 2017

HERE

Race Images are available HERE

Superior 100 2016 Race Images and Summary

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Frank Pipp, ‘pipped’ everyone to the line at the 2016 Superior 100 in a time of 20:24:00 in what turned out to be a dominant performance. Pipp (Iron Mountain, Michigan) was a professional cyclist from 2005 to 2013 and Superior 100 was hist first 100!

In the ladies race it was three ‘outa’ three for Mallory Richard in a time of 23:51:00. Her performance was strong enough to rank 5th overall.

Joe Uhan and Timbo Jenkins placed 2nd and 3rd in 22:46:00 and 22:59:00 respectively with 2014 Superior 100 champion, Adam Schwarz-Lowe placing 4th in 23:00:00.

Tina Johnson was 2nd lady some way behind a dominant Mallory in 29:50:00 and Stephanie Hoff placed 3rd in 30:52:00.

RACE SUMMARY HERE

Images are available to purchase from HERE

You can view the ladies 100-mile results HERE

You can view the men’s 100-mile results HERE

Images from Day One

Day 2 – The Green Tunnel

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Superior 100 is featured in my new book, RUNNING BEYOND (information here)

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The FACES of the 2016 Superior 100

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Storkamp, RD of the Superior 100 has a twinkle in his eye, the challenge he and his wife Cheri provide is tough, the runners know it. But they want everyone to achieve and as he says, not all of them will, however, they need to be on the journey with a chance of completing and if they make the finish or not, lives will be changed. Storkamp knows the enormity of the task and the responsibility he has. Like a father, the runners are his children; if possible he will nurture them to the line.

You can read a full preview of the 2016 Superior 100

HERE

Racing starts in the 100 mile race at 0800 (local time) Friday 9th Septmber

Follow Live RUNNER TRACKING of 100 mile runners only via our friends at UltraLive will be available via the following link. HERE

Live RESULTS for the 2016 Superior Fall Trail Race 100MI, 50MI & 26.2MI will be posted in real-time as runners finish via the following link. HERE

Below, the many faces of the 2016 Superior 100