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Friday, September 4, 2015

What's your key to success at Superior 100?

From the forthcoming book, Superior. With gratitude to finishers of the Superior 100 below.

April Anselmo: Positive attitude, and the drive to want it, along with putting in the time on feet to train in all sorts of conditions.

Maria Barton: Be at one with yourself. Be okay to be with yourself and the trail and the woods and the moon and the stars. Be okay being in the wilderness by yourself. And get up there as much as you can in all weather. Learn the nuances, landmarks, and features of the trail. Be a student of the SHT. Respect your body (I’m working on that) and the SHT.

Frayah Bartuska: I became obsessed with Superior after I completed Kettle. I read every race report, spent every single day on trails, and went up there to train as well. It was the first race that I was unsure about being able to cross the finish line. I was worried I was being too confident in my ability, and I was being too impatient with my race season. Even if I was still unsure of my abilities, I used my training as a sense of therapy as my grandfather was dying. My grandfather was a forester and he raised me, so my training allowed me to feel close to him again. Even though he didn’t remember me or his family toward the end, he always remembered the trails/forests until the day he died. It was engraved into him, and I felt that was my only way to talk to him. To be honest, losing him was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made it better was being on the trails. So, not to discredit my hard work, because I worked really damn hard for this race. Rain or shine, day and night, hot or cold, I was out there. Doing hill work every day, doing 400+ mile months, traveling to different trails so I could train on different terrains. I never worked so hard for a race. However, I was also really sad and angry. That was the fire under my ass. I had so many emotions when I crossed the finish line. I made peace with the world that day. It makes me emotional talking about it, but I had this sense of understanding of the things going on in my life and I wasn’t so pissed off anymore. You think a lot on these 100 milers and when you have a lot to think about they tend to go by a little faster.

Julie Berg: To believe in myself. To know deep down that I can finish. To trust myself. To stick to gels and water, S-Caps, good lights and back up batteries.

Mike Borst: Getting past the mentality that I need to go fast and win. I went into the race telling myself that finishing was the ultimate goal, and during some of the mental low points for me during the run I would just keep telling myself: you came here to finish, no stopping now.

Don Clark: From my sweeping experience, I don’t even like that word, “success.” If I can be there and talk someone into getting off their ass and motoring, I’m so happy. I’m proud of everything I’ve done for my friends and with my friends.

From running it, it’s that streetcar named Desire. It all has to do with self-gratification and desire. It’s the only time you’d see me patting myself on the back. This one is special.

JD Coolidge: My key to success at Superior is to maintain common sense. I am pretty confident that I will not win any ultramarathons so my goal was to maintain an even, constant, deliberate pace. Throughout the race I kept telling myself that as long as I put one foot in front of the other I am gaining ground and bringing myself closer to the prize.

Susan Donnelly: It helps that I love the 100 mile distance, the place, the people I’ve come to know, and the whole atmosphere of this race. I am grateful to the race directors that have kept the race true to its original spirit. Every year, I look forward to race weekend and want to see every inch of the trail.  

I’ve also learned a lot since my first Superior run. At this point I’ve finished 70 hundred milers, 200 ultras overall, so I've become more familiar with the 100 mile distance, this course, ultras in general, and the mind and soul side of the sport. 

All of that helps, but this race wouldn’t be as alluring if it wasn’t such a true challenge with the real potential for failure each time. I love that it’s such a deceptively tough race. It wouldn’t be remotely as fun if it were a sure thing. There’s nothing like facing the unknown, with everything you’ve got—brains, physical strength, and spirit—and Superior requires it all.

John Focke: My key to success was my crew and never looking beyond the next aid station. My crew was amazing, from the aid station pit stops to my pacers, they kept me moving, taken care of and they gave me a great attitude. 

Stephanie Hoff: My main key to success at Superior was my mindset. I told myself for weeks leading up to the race that there is no such thing as quitting or DNFing. Once you start this thing, you finish it. My friend, Kate, and I started the race together. We told each other that we would stay together as long as possible, but we both realized at some point we would no longer be together. We separated a few miles before County Road 6. Kate was in a low point and I was in a high point, so I went for it and picked up the pace. I didn't see her much after that. At the last aid station, they told me that she dropped at mile 85 and the tears rolled down my face. I was so sad for her; this had been her goal for so long.

My other key to success was the belt buckle. Around mile 75, I was hitting a low. Not finishing crossed my mind several times. But I told myself that I'm not allowed to quit. I told myself the pain I am in right now is temporary. The pain of quitting will last forever. I kept picturing myself wearing that black finisher’s sweatshirt, with jeans and my big belt buckle around my waist. Then I would tell myself to get my shit together and finish this effing thing. And then I would rebound from my low, and be cruising on my way again.

Another key to my success was my awesome crew and pacers. My mom was the best crewmember I could ask for. She knows me so well, and she knew what I wanted at every point in the race. She stayed up for the entire race and met me at every aid station. My pacers were amazing too. They kept me hydrated, fueled and had great conversation. My first pacer even made a "to talk about" list and wrote it on her arm so that she had subjects ready to go. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to support me at Superior. I even had a friend from my running club who was up in Duluth for the day drive all the way up to the last few aid stations to see me at a couple of them. My support team was amazing!

John Horns: Keys to success: a) physical—there is no magic to the training but you have to do it; b) mental—there is a whole lot of thinking time out there on trail and you need to embrace this; c) nutrition and hydration—a key piece of the puzzle that is often overlooked.

David Infante: Camaraderie, friendships and incredible luck. Friendships and friends who don't let friends give up. I ran with people who understood the challenges and didn't let me succumb to the lows that occur over the long hours. Everything from a text saying, "Get up and move forward" as I lay on a rock after emptying my stomach to a refusal by a runner who’d adopted me to let me quit at mile 50 as I shivered uncontrollably at an aid station. He said, "In 15 minutes, you'll be bitching about how hot it is!" He was right.

I envisioned being reunited with my running partner at the finish, getting the sweet hoodie and buckle and the incredible happiness that would be the reward for the effort. I imagined my pacer who was driving several hours to meet me at Temperance and who I was not going to let down. I really got lucky. Attaching myself to a runner with crew (and experience) was a godsend. 

TJ Jeannette: Preparation. It seems so obvious but it’s true for everything in life. The better prepared you are the more unlikely it is you’ll mentally break down. You know you’ve got the time in. You’re prepared. You’ll finish.

Stuart Johnson: Being a back of the packer, I have to be very stubborn. 

Nick Koenig: Success was a mix of training and luck. I always say luck is for the ill prepared. But to use the term loosely, luck may exist. If I twist an ankle out on the trail, is it bad luck? No, it’s improper attention to where I’m placing my feet. If I get dehydrated it’s because I didn’t bring enough water with me or chose to forget to drink. I’ve had success and failure on the SHT. I prefer success.
Soy sauce is another key for me. I do a shot if I feel like hell. Seems to always balance me out immediately.

Scott Kummer: The key to success at Superior is PERSEVERENCE. The time cutoff is generous enough that you can finish if you just don’t give up. I literally heaved my body down that trail for two days. 

Kevin Langton: Show up prepared, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I need to be centered for this one, for any hundred. Positivity and gratitude can carry any runner a long way too, and those are things that we can practice, things we can cultivate. It doesn’t hurt to do some long runs on the SHT either.

Also, if you have Lisa Langton for a crew person your odds increase greatly. But you can’t have her. She’s mine. I’m lucky that way.

Matt Long: Never give up.

Matt Lutz: Pay your dues, put in the time and the miles, and hit your calories and fluids. You can do anything if you get enough calories and fluids in you. 

Roberto Marron: Be prepared for anything. Have fun and when the pain comes, embrace and deal with it. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

Steve Moore: Hard training in the Texas heat all summer made the mild weather at Superior feel outstanding. I was able to eat plenty of calories and keep a decent pace going without getting too hot or having the GI revolt. My folks crewed for me and were more excited than I was. I fed off their energy when I saw them.

Christi Nowak: Going in with the mindset that I was going to finish was helpful, as was my familiarity with the course. However I think the biggest help was my pacers. The first friend who paced me twisted his ankle on the first section he ran with me, so the second one started running with me at Crosby Manitou and did the last 40 miles with me, rather than the 25 she had planned on. Those 40 miles included a lot of low points, particularly going through the gorges in Crosby Manitou, but she helped me through them.

Larry Pederson: Telling yourself you’re going to do it no matter what. Total persistence. I’ve had races where my head wasn’t in it and I dropped. You have to be in the right place mentally. As a director, the key is having a lot of really good volunteers. And I did.

Scott Rassbach: More than anything else, the key to finishing Superior was previous failure. In 2009 I entered the Ozark 100 as my first 100 mile race. It was an unseasonably hot day for Missouri in November, 84 degrees. I neglected to adjust my time goals for the heat. I neglected my eating and hydration. I lost the will to take care of myself. I didn’t run a step after mile 42 and dropped at mile 68, completely demoralized. When Superior 2011 turned out to be similarly hot, I knew to adjust my expectations. Before the first aid station I threw time goals out the window and concentrated on just finishing. The dehydration, fatigue and pain were normalized and I was able to deal with these sensations because of previous failure and determination not to repeat the result. Sleepiness, hallucinations, and a course where every step is contested meant the result was in doubt even as I started the second night.
The other reason for success was my crew. My wife, Rita, met me at every possible aid station. She made sure I had what I needed for the next section and gave me the moral support I craved. The desire to see her at the next aid station kept me going through several difficult sections. My pacer, Shelly Groenke, ran/hiked the last 60 miles of the race with me at a pace that must have been pretty frustrating. We don’t talk much, but she gave me a kick in the tail when I needed it and kept me on course.    

Mallory Richard I'm decently proud of my pacing at Superior. Both times so far I've started my race slow enough that I have energy left to keep running in the second half. I've also had great pacers and crew. My buddy, Joel, paced me for a few legs both times I've raced Superior and I've been lucky to have family and friends as my crew. Oh, and my archrival, Steven Graupner, runs Superior so that helps drive me to be competitive. He beat me by two minutes in 2014.

Husveth and Button
Jeffrey Rock: My DNF at Arrowhead in 2014. Had I not learned from that race I may have DNF'd at Silver Bay after becoming severely dehydrated. Instead, with the help of the aid workers, I was able to take the time to rehydrate and my race only got better as it went on. In a race that long things are going to go wrong. The easy way out is to quit. Once you quit you can't get it back! You are going to have an entire year to troubleshoot what you should have done instead of quitting.

Todd Rowe: I wanted it badly enough to focus solely on getting to the finish line in one piece by the cutoff. And I was determined to have fun. I had a few dark moments early on, before Beaver Bay even, when I wondered what the heck I was doing. Beaver Bay to Silver Bay was scary, because I was feeling a little bit over my head. Up until then I had run with friends (Amy Husveth and Joel Button) and enjoyed lots of chatting but several hours of solo time had me wondering. I was passed by Roy Heger before Mount Trudee. I had ridden to the race with Roy—he is a long time training partner. Roy likes to start slow and then he just reels in runners and gets it done. He had finished Hardrock that summer and was as humble and inspirational a runner as you are likely to find. Not long after he passed me I caught back up to him and he was limping badly. He had taken his eye off the trail for a second and fell and twisted his knee. He announced in no uncertain terms that he was fine but his race was over. All I could think of was how that course had claimed another victim (I kept repeating over and over that, Superior eats its young, along with, This course truly is Rugged, Relentless, and Remote). I was determined to run mindfully and carefully, especially during the night hours. I didn't care when I finished. I just wanted to finish. I proceeded to be careful and have a ball from that point on. Every aid station was a joy to behold. I didn't have to act as if I was happy and joyous to be out there—from that point on—I truly was. I had a few dark spots like when it poured on me 30 minutes after ditching my jacket (before Temperance) or when my last pacer—Matt Patten, rang his cowbell for the 400th time and I couldn't take it anymore. But they were always very short-lived transient moments. There is something magical about that trail. Running 103 miles on it makes it even more amazing. 

Jordan Schmidt: Reflecting. I need to reflect. Every DNF, every finish, every time I interact with somebody, it’s all about learning. Attitude is definitely one of them. Keeping perspective on aid station to aid station is true. But it’s also about why I’m there.

Adam Scwartz-Lowe: Partly, I'm just lucky to be good at technical ground and have a solid stomach. I've never really had an issue with either of those. Now for what I can control, I train consistently and run most of the year. I don't have weeks where I run 1 day, then 7 the next. I run 6 days a week and keep to a sustainable mileage. I've also done a bunch of 100's and I know exactly what I'm getting into, especially at Superior, which I've run 4 times. That course familiarity goes a long ways, and is one of the best things going for you when running a good race. I don't train on the course itself, but I regularly run on trails with similar footing, so I get better at moving over rough ground quickly.

Helen Scotch: Training on the course. It's a trail like no other I've run, with endless ups and downs, and rocks and roots that take on a life of their own. Knowing the trail is a definite advantage in this race and training on the course allows you to dial in gear choices and mentally prepares you for the rough spots. Ultimately the race will throw new challenges at you despite the most dedicated training plan, but having course experience gives you the extra confidence you'll need.

Shawn Severson: Definitely wanting it. I need to get into the present moment. Sticking with it through the dark spots. I always hit some emotional lows where I’m bawling, crying, and I reach out to others. I rely on other people I bump into helping me get out of those slumps.

John Storkamp: Culture. It is all about the culture, which is a direct result of the people. Superior 100 has a rich history and a lot of great people behind it. Many of the people that were involved in making the race happen in the beginning are still among us today in one way, shape or form, and we rarely "lose" people. We have one of the strongest volunteer groups of any race anywhere in the world and runners (and volunteers alike) new to our event come into a strong established culture. This makes for a consistently good event with an even greater vibe.

Marcus Taintor: As far as key to success at Sawtooth (for some reason I have a hard time calling it Superior, as people in Duluth think I'm talking about the town across the pond), always stay positive. I've learned to laugh at myself a lot. It's all pretty silly and we do this stuff for fun. Sometimes it helps to just stop for a moment and enjoy the scenery, or even taking a few minutes to cool off in a river can make all the difference. I also think it's important to just take it easy for at least the first 50 miles. I feel like I've kind of got this race figured out now, but twice I've gotten horrible shin pain at about mile 75, and last year [2013] was just ridiculously hot. It's so weird because last year I actually was able to run almost the whole course, but I was spending hours at the aid stations trying to cool off, keep food down, and such. I'm going to keep doing it as long as I can though. I enjoy the challenge, and I never really get tired of being on the SHT.

Marcus Taintor

Ed Thomas: Don't quit. Whatever happens at Superior or anywhere else, just don't quit! There will be pain and lots of it—don’t quit! The weather could be too cold or too warm—don’t quit! You may get tired and exhausted—don’t quit! The demons may ride upon your back telling you to cease this crazy thing you're doing—don’t quit! It's all about preparing your mind to accept what's happening or what's going to happen. Yes, you need to be in physical shape but even if you're in better physical condition than anyone else in the field, if your mind is not there with you, you will not...I repeat...will not, finish...DON'T QUIT. Pain is temporary: a DNF is forever.

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