An interview with 2017 Superior 50 Mile winner Brent Loberg (BL), Brent ran the 2nd fastest time ever on the modern day 50 mile course – Interview conducted by Kevin Langton (KL)
KL: Congrats on a great race. Please tell us how your race played out.
BL: It was about a five year dream to win that race and it felt unreal to pull it off.
I knew Jake Hegge would take the race out pretty brisk if history repeated…and it did. Looking at Jake’s good friend and training partner Michael Borst’s Superior 50 Mile win from 2016 I figured it would take roughly a time of 8:40 to pull off a win. I look up to Jake and Michael and have enjoyed following their career since they burst on the ultra scene at the Voyageur 50 in 2012. I studied Jake and Michael’s Strava data from the Voyageur and Superior races to calculate my training pace.
Within the first mile of the race Jake had about a 10-15 second gap on me and about the same gap was the pack behind me. I had to make a critical decision to catch Jake or drop back and run with the pack. I decided to go for it. I caught him by mile two before entering the SHT. A quick exchange of names between the two us and and off we went. Jake pulled out his trekking poles as we entered the trail, a tool he used while racing the UTMB CCC race in Europe. It was a marvel to watch Jake maneuver through the roots, rocks, and elevation. We had some friendly conversation going. It was neat to hear about Jake’s UTMB experience. I had to pinch myself that I was running with in my eyes one of the top Ultra Runners in the Midwest, if not the country.
About a mile before the Sonju Lake aid station I started seeing reflections through the woods of another head lamp. As the runner caught up to us we did another quick exchange of names. It was Forrest Tracy, another pre-race favorite. All three of us ran in silence to the Sonju Lake aid station. The bright colorful lights and upbeat volunteers greeted us with welcoming enthusiasm.
We spent about 90 seconds in the aid station. I didn’t need any fuel since I didn’t use much yet. I sucked in the positive vibes from the volunteers and waited to leave with the other two runners.
Jake led out of the aid and turned to me and said, “This is the most technical section of the course.” He set an honest pace through the sporadic and unrelenting terrain. I was so focused on staying with him and dodging the trail’s topography I wasn’t sure where Forrest Tracy was, nor did I get a chance to look around, or I’d risk toppling. Coming into the Crosby Manitou aid station is about a mile of gravel road. Jake was pushing the pace, at least for my comfort level. A quick glance around to realize Jake’s pace put us in the lead.
Thanks to help from my longtime coach and friend Gary Lepisto who has coached me for over 20 years (since I was a miler in 8th grade), I was able to breeze though the Crosby aid. Jake again led out of the aid station at a hard effort.
We settled back into a steady pace through the trails. About a mile past the Caribou River Jake pulled off the trail to pull food out of his vest. I went around him and said, “I’ll lead for a while, and if I’m going too slow just go around me.” Off we went.
Before Alfred’s Pond I was still in the lead as we came to a muddy section. Not realizing the bog was over knee deep I went forward, sinking below the knee caps. I remember slowly trudging through it so my shoes wouldn’t get sucked off. I had to laugh at myself at that moment. I was meticulous at picking my shoes for the race, trying to get the lightest shoe possible with all the necessities of making it through the race (thanks to Kate and Brian Klug at TC Running for helping me decide on the Hoka Speedgoat). Now each shoe went from under 9oz. to probably over 2 lbs…so much for light shoes. At that point I went hard for a while to shake the mud from my legs and shoes. Just heading into the Sugarloaf aid station I realized I put some time on Jake.
No stopping at the Sugarloaf aid and just a bottle exchange and I took off (thanks Gary!). I wanted to strip out of my jacket but I didn’t to save time.
Not knowing whether I had a five second or a five minute lead I tried to settle back into the pace Jake had set in the beginning. It was a lonely and unnerving feeling being in the lead with thirty miles to go and having such talented and experienced runners hunting me down. I tripped on something and came down hard on the hand my bottle was in. The bottle and energy gel burst leaving me with no fuel with until the next aid…but the bottle saved my hand (thanks Kurt Decker of TC Running for the Nathan bottle recommendation).
It was motiving to know my wife, three kids, and mother would be at the half way point (Cramer Road Aid Station). I figured my wife Lauren would be shocked I was leading as we had spoken of the talent of Jake and the rest of the field. A quick strip of the jacket, a bottle exchange, and three little bear paw high fives and I was out of there.
I was finally in my own groove from Cramer road down to Temperance. A lot of friendly 100 mile faces made the time fly. Most of my training runs are alone and at night with the busy work and family life. I did an August training run covering half the Superior 50 course. My time was exactly 4:09 for 26.2 miles, which is exactly what I came through 26.2 miles in the race.
With great help from Jeff Metzdorf from Mill City running I was able to run through Temperence aid in under 30 seconds.
I was still moving pretty good from the river to Carlton Peak, but the climb took a lot out of me. The descent down to Britton was touch and go.
The last 12 miles of the race were the toughest 12 miles I’ve run in my life. Between Britton Aid and Oberg Aid I went through some real low patches. It took grinding through the low patches and capitalizing when you bounced out of it.
Coming into the Oberg Aid station Coach Gary said I had at least a 10-minute lead leaving Britton Aid. The Bear was in sight. I kept telling myself to just keep moving. Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain were beasts to climb. I so wanted to look behind to see if anybody was coming, but I wouldn’t let myself. I told myself during an August training run on the SHT that if I was leading I couldn’t look behind until the Poplar River. At the Poplar River I glanced back to see if anybody was in sight to see if I had to hammer it to the finish. Nobody with a blue race number was in sight. It was a glorious feeling to have met my goal. The three kids were waiting at the pool with their swimsuits; it was the most refreshing dip of my life. I was also greeted by Jake Hegge. I didn’t know he had dropped at roughly the half way point. In fairness to him he was beat up still from the UTMB race in Europe. It was a humbling experience to run with him, and I hope to do it again.
KL: What was your low point of your race and how did you work through it? BL: My lowest point was about a 3 mile stretch between Britton Peak and Oberg Mountain (Loberg Mountain, as we call it). I was motived by my son, Bodey, who remembered that the winner got a big bear trophy when I was second in 2015. He said he wanted to put the big bear in his room. I had to win it for him. The bear is in his room with with little second place runner up bear from 2015 following close behind it.
KL: What is something besides running that helped your race? How did it help?
BL: My wife Lauren has her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. I’ve battled running injuries since I met her 18 years ago. If it wasn’t for her I would be held together with duct tape.
KL: What is something we should know about you that doesn’t have to do with running?
BL: I am part owner of Allweather Roof and head of sales and marketing. Our company does flat commercial roofing and has been roofing the Midwest since 1925. People at work call me the Roof Runner. See video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKTNhVONL6A
KL: It appears you’ve been running for a long time, with some really young age group 5k state records that are still in place. However, you haven’t been running trail and ultra stuff long. Your Ultrasignup page shows only three races, and two of them are the Superior 50. What draws you to that race?
When you are on the SHT you really feel connected with the natural environment. It has a magical feel when you are out there. It brings you back to a simplistic way of living and there is a primal instinct that takes over you. In 2015 when I did the race it was my first ultra. I was blown away by the close-knit ultra running community. John Storkamp really makes that race special; he is the unsung hero of the Superior Races. He really is one heck of a guy. John also does the design work on the trophies and all the swag for the race. I would take a metal moose, bear, or howling wolf over a Western States cougar any day.
KL: Please make up a question you think we should know about you and answer it.
BL: How did you get into ultras? My wife and I decided to try a vegan diet a few years back. I heard about Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run. I knew of Scott Jurek back when I was in high school. I competed in cross-country against his brother as well. I bought the book mainly for the vegan recipes, but once I started reading the book I couldn’t put it down and by the end I wanted to run an ultra.