Emily Ascending – Photo Credit Scott Rokis
“Marathoners! I have some bad news. The bears, squirrels, and a few of the other forest critters have formed a blockade between the start here at Cramer Road and Temperance River, it looks like it could be impassable, and I am putting you on notice that we may have to cancel the race. I will be getting an email out to everyone shortly… It will be required reading and will take you about 15 minutes to get through. I will then be following up with several other emails in the coming days, all at least as long, or longer, that I will need you to take the time to read.”
OK, I am not the funniest person in the world, but this garnered a few laughs at the start of the Moose Mountain Marathon on Saturday morning. After the two years we all just went through, capped off with a wildfire cancellation scare… well, sometimes laughter is the best medicine.
BTW, the following is NOT required reading, this is a recap and a thank you and will hopefully prove helpful for those of you still readjusting to the “real world” after another transcendent Superior experience.
On a more serious note, the other thing I mentioned at all of the race starts this year, is how awesome everyone has been. Pretty regularly over the past couple of years I have gotten an email from one of you – oozing with positivity, gratitude and encouragement. These notes have been so appreciated, and have been a great opportunity to connect. Some of these correspondence end with “I hope nobody is giving you too hard a time about these… [ insert; Covid cancellations, modifications, long emails, refund policies, etc. ] ” I always tell these folks, and I told you on race weekend, 99.9% of people have been truly incredible. This is a reflection of what those that came before us established, and what we have all continued to build and foster over the years – a loving, caring and supportive trail community. We are all so lucky to have this.
50 Mile Race Start – Photo Credit Sam Olson
These race recaps are my attempt to translate what are ultimately spiritual, mystical and metaphysical experience into some kind of terrestrial format. About as challenging as when someone asks you (while still shell shocked after your race) “how was your race, were you happy with it!?”… haha, one of the toughest questions to answer after an incredible inner journey that cracks you so wide open, isn’t it? But here goes… below are a few things at the top of my mind after another Superior weekend, by no means is this comprehensive and may skew a little desultory.
• I have been continually reminded over the last couple of years how awesome our runners, their friends and families (spectators, crews and pacers), volunteers, communities our events visit, partners, sponsors and permitting agencies are. There is so much love and support for these events, it is humbling, and a real honor to be a steward of them. A DNR employee, who is a retired Army chaplain that works at Afton State Park (the site of one of our other races) said something after our race there this year that really struck me. He said that what we all come together to do is ‘noble‘. His thoughts and comments really helped to elucidate something that I have often thought (and felt), but could not quite articulate. There is meaning, value and good reason for doing all of this.
• This was the smallest field of runners we have had at Superior since 2013. I can only chalk this up to some folks still leery of Covid, people finding themselves untrained after a turbulent couple of years, correspondingly complicated work and personal schedules, an extra-challenging return to school week for parents and their kids, a handful of Spring races having been rescheduled to the Fall, challenges for our Canadian and international athletes to attend, our disengagement from social media, and who knows what else. Small, medium or large we love Superior in whatever shape / size it occupies, it is all good. We will continue to be here to serve all of the runners / seekers that want to be a part of it, while responsibly managing the event.
• Superior is not possible without volunteers. We had about 285 this year, that is nearly one volunteer for every two race starters. Some people think that it is just a nice thing to say, but it is 100% true: (insert hand claps between each word that follows) this. race. is. not. possible. without. volunteers. The average Superior volunteer spends a minimum 8 hours helping, many spend up to 18 hours and there is no small number of folks that give anywhere from two to six full days of their time. My pal Sam and I were going back and forth via text a couple of days ago, he said “Our absolute privilege to be there. Even though it’s your race, I take a healthy dose of personal responsibility to make sure everything goes as well as it can. So hopefully it did!” Sam is well on his way to being a RSR / SFTR volunteer Jedi Master, in the final phase of his development he will fully realize that it is not “my race” but it is his too… that it is in fact all of ours. A huge thank you to all of our volunteers that take this same kind of ownership and put so much of themselves into this event: Given the complexity, our aid station captains essentially direct / are responsible for their own event within the event. Dedicated aid station volunteers come out en masse, year after year. Our trail marking crew consisted of 34 this year, all but two who were multi-year / return volunteers – many having been there for 10 or more. The sweepers all make multi-year commitments to helping in that capacity and work to keep the entire race safe and on track. Our logistics team deploy and then pick back up about 25,000LBS of gear, water and food. Our advanced team gives extra time, starting set up on Tuesday, then work through Sunday. A small army of volunteers help us unpack and clean up the race at our home on the Monday after the race. Skilled teams of Medical, HAM Radio / Communications, Timing, Runner Tracking, Photography, Packet Pickup, Race Start and Finish Line volunteers go above and beyond each and every year. You can (and should) read this years volunteer recap / thank you HERE https://www.superiorfalltrailrace.com/thank-you-letter-to-volunteers-2021/ – if you want to see something incredible / see the enormity and complexity of Superior and all that your fellow runner/volunteers give, see THIS https://www.superiorfalltrailrace.com/volunteer-assignments/
• Susan ran her 20th Superior 100 this weekend – inspiring, if not a little mind bending. Gretchen broke the course record by nearly a half hour and placed second overall in the 50 miler – if she continues on her trajectory of late, we could see her with an overall win at any one of the three distances in the years to come. Brian was not sure if he would be doing a trail race ever again due to a bad knee which he had some work done on. He finished multitudes of trail races over the years, plenty of 100’s (including six Superior 100’s), the Gnarly Bandit, volunteered as frequently and fervently as anyone we know. Brian maintained a great attitude all along, and (so importantly) stayed connected to his trail family throughout, even over the many years that he could not run, and then on Saturday he quietly finished the Marathon. Thomas won the 100 mile race; was in 26th position at Split Rock, 15th at Beaver Bay, 19th at Silver Bay, 6th at Tettegouche, 3rd at Finland, 2nd at Crosby and 1st from Sugarloaf to the finish. Katie’s 100 mile win was as brilliantly tactical (the 100 mile splits linked later in this recap tell the story). At the age of 77 Les became the oldest ever finisher of any of the Superior Fall races, finishing the Marathon. Irina became the oldest woman to finish the 100 at age 62. Jay ran both the Spring and Fall races this year in honor of Dean, an oft participant, volunteer and friend of RSR races and friend to so many others. Every time we spoke this year (at races and via email) I could feel Jay’s anguish for what his friend that he loved and revered was going through. A couple of days after the race (just this past week) Jay learned that Dean lost his battle with ALS, he sent me a note a couple of days ago to say as much. Crushing. Dean will not be forgotten, his spirit and energy will live on, through Jay and the others that he so deeply touched. After finishing his 50 miler on Saturday night, Scott took a knee and proposed to Karin who greeted him at the finish after having finished her marathon earlier in the day. Two beautiful huskies raucously bounded across the finish line, exuberant to see that their runner had returned. Countless children sprinted across the finish line with their Mom’s and Dad’s. The stars on Friday night were otherworldly.
These are just a fraction of the powerful experiences that unfolded at Superior this year. Started, finished, did not finish, ran fast or slow, crewed, paced, spectated, volunteered, worked or supported in other ways. We are all one, it takes all of us to create this harmonious vibration. Like I said before, we are so lucky to have this and to have each other.
Beaver Bay Aid Station Volunteers – Photo Credit Teri Stocco
“I just wanted to drop you a quick note about this weekend. This was my 4th RSR race this season. I loved every one! They each got their own flavor. I’ve been dreaming of the Superior 100 for at least five or more years (since I got into the crazy world of ultras). This race exceeded all of my expectations. The aid stations were incredible. Very well stocked. Every aid station had some specialty food items to keep things interesting and fresh. The volunteers were thoughtful, polite, and funny. The photographers on course were very kind and encouraging. The race organization, logistics, communication, and apparel design (t-shirt, buckle, hoodie) are exemplary. It makes me proud and happy to know that you sit at your laptop and pound out these artistic, wearable masterpieces. I appreciate all the hard work that you and Cheri put into these races. It’s a labor of love I’m sure. In closing, I loved your start line speech and I really appreciate your vibe and aura. Very humbled, grateful, and proudly moved to become a part of the Superior family. This weekend was one of the best in my life (right up there with my wedding day and the birth of my kiddos). I can’t really articulate how thankful I am for the things you do that enrich peoples lives. Grateful for you and everything you do. Take care. Enjoy your fall. Very sincerely, 1st time Sup100 finisher – Justin”
Results, Splits and Stats:
Official race results are available on our website [ 100, 50, 26 ]. Results have also been uploaded to UltraSignup [ 100, 50, 26 ] and have been sent into UTMB [ 100, 50, 26 ] so qualifying points can be awarded to those that wish to do those races some day (UTMB, CCC, TDS, OCC). 100 mile splits can be found HERE https://www.superiorfalltrailrace.com/splits/
A lot of great companies / small businesses support the Superior Trail Race. These are not just faceless organizations slapping their logo up on our website, instead, the vast majority have a presence and participate in race weekend; running, volunteering or supporting in other ways. A huge thank you to all that support our event. https://www.superiorfalltrailrace.com/sponsors/
We want to give a huge thank you to Caribou Highlands / Odyssey Resorts, which is the race host lodge, race headquarters and finish line for our races. The entire Caribou Highlands staff works tirelessly to support our event – we are grateful for their partnership.
Support Where You Can:
A large percentage of you are already Superior Hiking Trail Association members. Many of you who are not, indicated at the time you registered, that you would like to be. Now is a great time to show our support en masse that we, as trail runners support the trail that we love to run! You can join, or make an extra donation to the SHT via the following (custom for Superior Trail Race) links… https://superiorhiking.org/joinsuperior/ and https://superiorhiking.org/donatesuperior/ – The Superior Trail Race will continue its charitable legacy to the Superior Hiking Trail Association with a $3,000 donation in 2021, in addition to ongoing volunteer efforts on the trail itself; building, clearing, maintaining and improving.
In both 2020 and 2021, between all of the races we direct, we brought in roughly 1/2 of our normal registration revenue (imagine a business that loses half of its revenue two years in a row – obviously not good). My best guess is that the coming years will bring additional bouts of uncertainty ala’ pandemic, climate change and its related complications. We will continue to adjust and adapt the best we can. One of the big challenges here is that many of our costs (overhead, insurance, taxes, etc.) are fixed and this has stung, to put it gently, and we are not out of the woods yet. People have asked how they can support, and to date many of you have. Keep running, volunteering and being awesome, that is first and foremost. Next, please understand that my and Cheri’s time is more divided and fragmented than before (pre-Covid), and while we are essentially putting full-time hours into events, our attention is more divided than when the revenue allowed us to put even more of our focus on this, Cheri is back to full time work (as opposed to contract work that previously gave her more flexibility) and I am working outside of races (as I always have) but even more so in order to make up for the shortfalls of the last two years. From there, picking up swag for yourself or your crew/pacers/family members and / or making a donation via our online store HERE https://www.rocksteadyrunning.com/shop/ goes a long way. We have lived a good portion of our adult lives doing this and we hope to do it for many more years before ultimately transitioning these events to someone else that will care for them as much as we do. Thank you for your ongoing support.
The Superior Fall Trail Races are always the weekend after Labor Day, the 2022 event dates will be Friday September 9 and Saturday September 10. We hope to open registration on Jan 1, 2022. While numbers were down all year, we will go with the lottery again in 2022. There are quite a few people from the 2019 cancellation, that were unable to run this year, that opted to defer to 2022. We will give them automatic acceptance should they enter the lottery, then run the lottery like normal. If there are still spots left after the lottery, we will open it up to conventional registration until the race is sold out. For many of you, this works great since you already know now, that you want to be at Superior in 2022 – makes no difference. For those that make plans on shorter timelines, I know it is less than ideal but we can only do so much before it gets overly complicated… there are tons of good races out there, plan in advance for the ones you want to do, and get signed up.
The Beauty of the Boreal – Photo Credit Scott Rokis
My brother Jason and I both receive the same handful of daily spiritual readings and meditations via email. The one copied below hit both of our inboxes at 4:00AM on Friday September 10, about four hours before the start of the 100 miler and the kickoff to Superior race weekend. This was just a couple hours before Jason would set off for his 9th Superior 100 finish and before I would work / volunteer / direct my 16th year at Superior. Jason sent me a text at about 5:00AM with the opening stanzas, kind of like “haha, what!? can you believe this?”. Walking this path, we both learned a long time ago, that if you are tuned in, there are no coincidences, just energy, flowing in, around and through, permeating and connecting everyone and everything, on this plain and all plains. Until next year my friends, lets stay connected. Gratefully, John Storkamp, Race Director – Superior Trail Race.
Trail Sign by Geneen Marie Haugen
Just around the bend, past
the bog if you’re not sucked in
turn into the darkest tangle.
If you’re seeking safety:
You’ve come the wrong way.
If you dare this crooked path
prepare for landslides, lightning,
ravenous beasts, sneaker waves,
raven disguised as people,
people disguised as raven,
ceremonies from the holy Earth,
stars landing in your cupped hands,
and the most amazing views.
When the trail disappears,
as it does — often — remember
our teacher who said:
you make the trail by walking.
Beyond this sign
your customary currency
has no value:
Here, no one wants it.
Are you sure this is the way?
You can still turn back.
Farther down this tangled trail
love will crack the guardhouse
of your heart until you wail
with Earth’s pain — or weep
with the ecstasy of angels.
In the least presence you will find
unspeakable cosmic glory.
In the night sky you will
The dead will come in dreams.
The living are everywhere,
wearing the faces of clouds,
water, sequoia, granite.
If you want searing aliveness
there is no safe route.
There is no safety.
You don’t believe it.
See for yourself.
Just around the bend, past
the bog if you’re not sucked in
turn into the darkest tangle.
Follow the barely heard call.
Sometimes it will seem
the singer is beside you —
or ahead — or behind
— or inside.