An Interview with 2017 Superior 100 Mile Women’s Winner Gretchen Metsa (GM), Gretchen placed 10th overall and is a Type 1 Diabetic – Interview conducted by Kevin Langton (KL)
KL: Congrats on a great race. You dominated the women’s field and finished tenth overall. Please tell us how your race played out.
GM: Thank you! I had a great time and I want to shout out a HUGE thank you to John and his family, RSR and all the great volunteers that helped make this race exceptional. I was so excited to get the opportunity to cover so much of the SHT. I can feel that flutter in my chest as I remember the trail stretching out in front of me. I love it! I start every race with the mindset of, “I get to go for a run with my friends.” During the pre-race meeting we were told of a few water crossings and that made me nervous because I’m known to be afraid of water. One of my knees had been giving me pain while training so that was in the back of my mind going into this. It was a beautiful day for a race and the temperature was perfect. The start was relaxing and I told myself I was going to “just run for an extended period of time” (my husband’s brilliant training advice). My knee began to give me grief from miles 8 to 30 but then it subsided. I enjoyed Beaver Bay to Silver Bay and it’s a favorite because of the technicality with all the roots, rocks and beautiful views. I would recommend this section to anyone wanting to try out a portion of the course.
My crew consisted of my husband, Adam, my sister ,AnnaRose, and my brother-in-law, Micah. All three of them have incredible work ethic and I was sure they would set me straight if I ever started complaining. Like all the races I’ve ran before as a Type 1 diabetic my number one focus is to maintain my blood sugar. If I am unable to predict or stay ahead of highs and lows my race is over. We had figured out the logistics of aid stations and had a set schedule for the crew to follow and they did great! As I went from aid station to aid station what struck me the most was all the attention to detail. The volunteers were happy and you could see their love for the sport, not to mention they looked incredible in their Storkamp swag! They had intense flow and knowledge and I was surprised at the questions and care they offered up. I could tell many had been in my shoes before.
I ran with Tommy Doias a bit, who finished in 9th. This was his 19th 100 miler and his wife was working on her 12th. This was amazing to me and an inspiration (The Endurance Athlete is a kind and generous breed and must suffer from some sort of short term memory loss).
At Crosby Manitou, mile 63, I picked up my first pacer and we quickly realized how important good batteries are in headlamps. I switched between my husband, Adam, and my sister, AnnaRose ,throughout, and they both ran the last section with me. By the last 20 miles I felt like a jellyfish and rolled my left ankle pretty bad. To be honest, I felt like all the bones in my feet were cracked and as though I was running barefoot.
Getting to the last checkpoint at Oberg was exciting, but then that last seven miles sits ahead of you and the images of the elevation chart loom in your mind.
Our three little kids, Mialynn whose nine, Ezra whose six, and Emma whose four, with Grandma and Grandpa had been waiting since 7:30 all bundled up at the finish line. It must have looked like an episode of Walking Dead North-Shore edition when we crossed the finish line. To wrap it up, it was a great experience, but my dream is to finish in the dark so I can see Lusten Resort in the distance all lit up.
KL: What was the low point of your race and how did you work through it?
GM: I think the last 25 miles becomes unnatural. Passing through aid stations at God forsaken hours and seeing my brother-in-law, Micah, still awake and happy made me smile (we both enjoy sleep and like to be in bed around nine). My pacers, Adam who is in PT with IT band issues, and AnnaRose who just started running this spring! I knew that they both were tired and were having some of their own pain. I felt very humbled and grateful for all three of them and to quit would have been an insult.
KL: You’ve had a great season (first at Curnow, third at Voyageur). According to Ultrasignup, this is only your second year of trail and ultra running, and Superior is your first 100, with Voyageur being your first 50. You’ve had some immediate success at the sport, and it’s a sport that sometimes takes accumulated training. What do you attribute that quick success to?
GM: Yes, spring 2016 was my first race ever. I would have to attribute this season to all the research I have done pertaining to nutrition and training. Discovering Hammer products has made me able to not only allow my muscles and stomach to go the distance, but for me to sculpt my nutrition to each run and what my body needs. Not to mention it has been a key in helping me even be able to participate in this sport as a Type 1 Diabetic. As for training, apparently you just run for an extended period of time!
KL: What’s something non-running that helped you at Superior?
GM: As a child my favorite verse was “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:13). To have the knowledge that we are never alone in any battle in life is very empowering. Things aren’t always easy but what gift would that be to ride through life with ease? We would never be allowed the realization of the strength that we hold nor would we feel the need to acknowledge God’s power.
Years ago I found myself a strong and independent teenager when all of a sudden I was 95 lbs, with blurred vision, and Insulin being my source of survival. Every food you eat and activity you do has an effect. “Your drivers’ license is suspended young lady until further notice,” and “Here’s a bag of needles, don’t worry you’ll get use to it!” were some of the memorable doctor statements that took me by surprise. I lived in a state of fear. I would go to bed with a desperate prayer, “Lord please let me be alive in the morning.” I have never asked, “Why me?” The real question should be “Why not me?”
I turned to educating myself. To be great at anything, you must first see where your weakness lies. I became a ninja with counting and weighing my food, and making adjustments with my insulin doses and settings.
When my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 I was filled with guilt at the realization of what I had passed on to her. But then I realized she could be proud of how strong and knowledgeable she would become and that this was not a death sentence. We choose to be or not to be a victim; that is a decision we all make many times throughout life. Two years ago I felt like I couldn’t run a marathon. I could give you a million reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t. But how dare I set that limitation for myself or for my kids. Hard work always pays off.
KL: Bonus question! Please make your own question (and answer) that reveals something you think we should know about?
GM: Well a few people have asked me, “What’s with the red band that you wear on your arm?” I wear a Continuous Glucose Monitor. It makes it possible for me know what my blood sugar is doing, how food, insulin and my activity is affecting it. Also, I often cannot feel when I am having a low blood sugar so the CGM will sound an alarm. The red band keeps my continuous glucose monitor from falling off when I get sweaty. And, you have to admit it looks kind of cool. 🙂