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.