Gretchen Metsa Above Lake Superior and the Split Rock River Gorge En-Route to Her 2017 Superior 100 Mile Race Win and 10th Overall – Photo Credit Ian Corless

 

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. 🙂

 

+ Click HERE for Quick Info

Superior Fall Trail Race
100MI, 50MI, 26.2MI Trail Race(s)
Lutsen, Minnesota
(approx 4hrs North of Minneapolis, MN)
September 7 & 8, 2018
100MI Friday 8:00AM
50MI Saturday 5:15AM
26.2MI Saturday 8:00AM

Registration / Lottery:
Registration via 15 day lottery registration period.
Opens Monday January 1st, 2018 – 12:01AM CST
Closes Monday January 15th, 2018 – 11:59PM CST
Complete Lottery / Registration Details HERE

Directions:
100MI Start: Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN HERE
50MI Start: Finland Rec Center – Finland, MN HERE
26.2MI Start: Cramer Road – Schroder, MN HERE
Races Finish: Carbibou Highlands – Lutsen, MN HERE

Terrain:
The Superior Fall Trail Races 100MI, 50MI & 26.2MI are run on rugged, rooty, rocky, 95% single-track trail with near constant climbs and descents.  The race is held on the Superior Hiking Trail in the Sawtooth Mountains paralleling Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota / not far from the Canadian border.  The race located approximately 4 hours North of Minneapolis, Minnesota.   The Superior Fall Trail Races are very difficult / challenging races and are probably not a good choice for your first trail or ultra race (see Registration Info for qualifying requirements).

100 Mile:
Point to Point 103.3 Miles
Elevation Gain 21,000 FT
Elevation Loss 21,000 FT
NET Elevation Change 42,000 FT
13 Aid Stations
38 hour time limit
Complete 100MI Info HERE

50 Mile:
Point to Point 52.1 Miles
Elevation Gain 12,500 FT
Elevation Loss 12,500 FT
NET Elevation Change 25,000 FT
7 Aid Stations
16.5 hour time limit
Complete 50MI Info HERE

26.2 Mile:
Point to point 26.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 5,500 FT
Elevation Loss 5,500 FT
NET Elevation Change 11,000 FT
3 Aid Stations
14 hour cutoff
Complete 17MI Info HERE

More About the Race:
The Superior Trail 100 was founded in 1991 when there was no more than a dozen or so 100 mile trail races in the USA, back then if you wanted to run a 100, you had choices like Western States, Hardrock, Leadville, Wasatch, Cascade Crest, Umstead, Massanutten and Superior . Superior quickly earned it’s reputation of its namesake today – Rugged, Relentless and Remote and is known as one of the tougher 100 mile trail races.  Superior lives on now as one of the “legacy 100 milers” and is considered by many to be one of the most challenging, prestigious and beautiful 100 mile trail races in the country. Shortly after the inception of the 100, the Superior 50 was started and in the early 2000’s the Moose Mountain Marathon was added. None of the history or tradition of this race has been lost and is a great event for those looking for a world-class event with a low-key, old-school 100 miler feel.  The Superior Trail Race is put on by ultrarunners for ultrarunners.

More About the Area:
The North Shore of Lake Superior runs from Duluth, Minnesota at the Southwestern end of the lake, to Thunder Bay and Nipigon, Ontario, Canada, in the North to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in the east. The shore is characterized by alternating rocky cliffs and cobblestone beaches, with rolling hills and ridges covered in boreal forest inland from the lake, through which scenic rivers and waterfalls descend as they flow to Lake Superior. The shoreline between the city of Duluth to the international border at Grand Portage as the North Shore.  Lake Superior is considered the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. It is the world’s third-largest freshwater lake by volume and the largest by volume in North America.  The Superior Hiking Trail, also known as the SHT, is a 310-mile long distance hiking single-track hiking trail in Northeastern Minnesota that follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior for most of its length. The trail travels through forests of birch, aspen, pine, fir, and cedar. Hikers and runners enjoy views of boreal forests, the Sawtooth Mountains, babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. The lowest point on the trail is 602 feet above sea level and the highest point is 1,829 feet above sea level.