In September, we come together to answer a calling, something that sounds much like the distant beating of our own hearts, perhaps the sound our hearts made when we were younger, or when the earth was younger, a faint cry that begins our transformation, a yearning to do this thing we were born to do, to move ourselves across this beautiful and mysterious land created by fire, ice and time, to move with the persistence of waves against rock, in cadence with the earth’s movements. In September, we create a new mythology and we run across the shoulders of those giants who came before us. We ask our gods and our family and friends and strangers for blessings of safe passage and help through the journey. We come to stare dumbfounded at a sea of stars bobbing in a night sky so beautiful we may feel we’ve never seen a night sky before. In September, we shed our skins and peel away our masks and we hope that what we find underneath somehow gets us to Lutsen on foot. In September, we come together. In September, we do Superior.
All Distances: https://www.superiorfalltrailrace.com/2018-bib-assignments/
Stats (all distances) – Registered total: 860, male: 533 (62%), female: 327 (38%). States: 36, countries: 5. Youngest runner: 15 (Andrew Lewis), oldest: 72 (Wally Goettl), average age: 42.5. One or more finishes: 325 (38%), zero finishes or first attempt: 535 (62%)
Let those numbers sink in. That’s a lot of people. A lot of runners on the trail. A lot of volunteers helping them. A lot of crew. A lot of cars on the road, going in and out of parking lots. Please be patient. Please be aware of your surroundings. Be nice to each other. Make new friends. You might like us. You’ll find we feel like family in no time at all.
The race was founded in 1991. This is the 28th year of the Superior 100 mile. Over 300 volunteers are registered, staffing over 525 volunteer jobs/assignments. Notice that’s more jobs than volunteers; some do multiple assignments over the weekends and many may sleep less than the hundred-miler runners. Volunteers, you are the angels of the weekend—thank you! And with three race distances, all run point to point, Superior is a logistical bearcat. Darlene and Brian Poeppel have been named as the 2018 inductees to the Superior Trail Race Hall of Fame. Darlene was the race director from 1998 through 2002 and then again in 2004. Brian has five Superior 100 mile finishes between 1992 and 1997 and nowadays co-captains the Cramer Road Aid Station. Reports from the trail are of dry tread, low water and fast times are expected—this is if nothing changes between now and race day.
100 Mile stats – Registered 100M runners 273, male: 212 (78%), female: 61 (22%). States: 29, countries: 4. Youngest runners are 21 year-olds Alex Kasparek & Nick Korhonen and the oldest at 70 is race founder Harry Sloan; average age is 42.6. One or more finishes: 137 (50%), Zero finishes or first attempt: 136 (50%).
Pink plastic “flagging-tape” ribbons are worn by 100 milers. Please use these as a signal to give those runners a little trail space, a little support, a bit of understanding. We may be seeing things that aren’t there. You may be 5’2” and bald and telling us about your uncle’s tragic death but to us you could be Chewbacca doing standup comedy, especially on the second day of running. Please forgive our laughter and hallucinations. We’ll gladly accept any encouragement you’re willing to offer.
The Split Rock River fjord is still expected but with low water levels it may be a complete non-issue—that said, a deluge leading to a flood-stage Split Rock could force a game day decision on a course/route adjustment, but as of right now we are looking great and relatively dry. For now you can leave your scuba gear and waders at home.
Last year’s top three finishers are back, Neil Collick, Paul Shol and Adam Schwartz-Lowe. In Neil Collick’s first year at Superior he came within a single minute of Jake Hegge’s 100-mile course record last year and won by over two and a half hours. He’ll likely be out for blood, especially after a disappointing DNF at this year’s highly competitive Voyageur 50 where he and another competitor spent some time off trail before calling it a day, but he followed that with a no-taper course record at Marquette 50k. 2017 was also runner-up finisher Paul Shol’s debut at Superior 100—perhaps as sophomores with course experience, these two will run even faster. On the other end of the spectrum and defying—if not putting to shame—the UltraSignup algorithm, Adam Schwartz Lowe was third last year but is ranked 14th—Ultrasignup doesn’t know “The General” and with six Superior 100 Mile Finishes to his name, Adam has racked up an impressive one win, two seconds, two thirds and one fourth place finish, and he’s an excellent night runner. Don’t put anything past him. Scrolling down the list of registered runners further it is a who’s who of Midwest-and-beyond trail-tradesmen looking to make their mark at an historic race. Coree Woltering has an incredible list of impressive races and it will be interesting to see how this strong runner does on technical trails. Matias Saari of Anchorage, AK is a previous winner of Mt. Marathon and other races, though he hasn’t completed the 100-mile distance yet. Mick Jurynec is a two-time winner of the Bear 100 and was 10th at Hardrock this year. Tommy Doias has at least eight finishes at Ozark 100 including two firsts, two seconds, two thirds, and one fourth place finish and is rarely out of the top five at trail ultras that he participates in. On the Grand Masters end, two runners who keep getting better with age, both breaking records and winning races overall, Doug Kleemeier and Jeff Miller, will toe the line and battle it out for the Grand Masters title. “Farmer” John Maas is back this year, and we think he will have his hands full with Kleemeier and Miller but just like the General, never count the Farmer out either.
After a hiatus in 2017, course record holder Mallory Richard from Winnipeg, Manitoba is back—to date Mallory is the only woman to go sub 24 on the modern-day course and even on the faster pre-2006 courses only one other woman ever went under 24 hours, and that was Sue Johnston all the way back in 1999. Last year’s first, second and third place finishers Gretchen Metsa , Tina Koplinski-(Johnson) and Stephanie Hoff respectively are back. If the UltraSignup algorithim has last year’s men’s third place winner Schwartz-Lowe wrong, they really have Steph Hoff wrong—we are just waiting for the day she gets the W (and we are officially giving her the nickname “Boss” here and now because that’s what she is on the trails). All of this said, Metsa, Koplinski, Hoff and Richard will have their hands full trying to figure out how to out-race Ashley Nordell of Sisters, Oregon, who has well over 60 lifetime wins and high finishes at ultras all over the country—Ashley set the course record at the legendary Minnesota Voyageur 50 Mile Race in 2017.
2017 Superior Fall Trail Race inductee Stuart Johnson is looking for his 21st finish, Susan Donnelly her 18th, Chris Hanson his 13th and Richard Plezia his 10th. To date, only six competitors have achieved 10 Superior 100 mile finishes. Race founder Harry Sloan is looking to become the oldest finisher of the 100 mile at the age of 70 this year—Harry is currently tied for oldest finisher for his 2015 finish at the age of 67 when he finished just 1 minute and 22 seconds under the cutoff with a dramatic 37:58:38. It was the most electric finish we’ve seen, and Moose Mountain shook that night with the crowd cheering Harry in. Can he do it again? We’re all rooting for you, Harry!
2018 50 Mile stats – Registered runners 50M: 177, male: 105 (59%), female: 72 (41%). States: 20, countries: 3. Youngest runner is 19-year-old Emily Hegrenes and oldest isMichael Scandrett at 64, Average Age: 40.1. One or more finishes: 40 (23%), zero finishes or first attempt: 137 (77%).
Blue plastic “flagging-tape” ribbons are worn by 50 milers – just another way to help tell who is who out there. The revamped 50 mile start was a huge success last year and remains in effect—it allowed for the field to spread out and resulted in faster times through the first few aid stations for the middle and back of the pack runners.
Here’s the potential mind-blowing headline: Wynn Davis, having won his first Superior Trail Race at the 2007 Superior 100, wins the 2018 Superior 50 Mile and becomes the only competitor to ever win all distances in the Superior Sextuplet. Wynn has won the Fall 100M and Moose Mountain Marathon and the Spring 50K, 25K and 12.5K so the only crown he’s missing is the Fall 50. In order to do it he will have to get past current Superior 100-mile course record holder Jake Hegge, who was second to Wynn at this Spring’s inaugural 12.5K. Davis and Hegge will also need to keep an eye on speedy competitors Kenny Slocum and Colin Hagan as well as a few others but both would need to uncharacteristically falter for anyone else to take the top steps of the podium.
Normally we would give Molly Pennings a shout out as she always races well on her home-turf technical trails but Molly has bowed out of racing this year, and in true-school fashion will be volunteering and helping her would-be competitors from behind the aid station table. Competitors like Emily Wanless and Stacy Dittmer may factor—neither yet capturing any of the monuments of the sport, but both racing consistently well and routinely well, and placing high in the races they have run. Last year’s 3rd place finisher Anna Yurchenko will be there looking to improve her position and can be counted among the favorites.
Michael Scandrett looks for his 7th finish and also carries the distinction of being the oldest competitor in the 50-mile field. Scott Funk and Jonathon Graff seek their 5th finishes.
2018 26.2 Mile stats – Registered runners26.2M: 410, male: 216 (53%), female: 194 (47%). States: 23, countries: 3. Youngest runner is 15 (Andrew Lewis) and oldest is 72 (Wally Goettl), average age: 43.5. One or more finishes: 148 (36%), zero finishes or first attempt: 262 (64%).
Shane Steele from Grand Marais is in for the marathon and he runs these trails every day and he runs them fast—look for him to be one to beat. Brett Busacker, having battled a couple years of injury, stayed quite fit on the bike and came back this season testing the waters at Chester Woods 50K in the southern part of the state and took home the win—at that same race Rob Henderson, who has been on a recent tear, was second and closing fast on Busacker—Rob also has the distinction of being the highest place finisher from last year’s marathon (4th) returning to this year’s race. Dan LaPlante has been on an absolute rampage this year and having convincingly won the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon just weeks after setting a new road PR at Grandma’s Marathon (2:37:19), this year he should be in contention for and likely gunning for the win. At the age of 56 John Horns has completed the Moose Mountain Marathon 7 times and has won it three times—John also has two wins at the 100 and a 2nd and 3rd place showing at the 50—John is likely the clear favorite for this year’s Grand Masters title but could be just a little tired yet after having taken home the Grand Masters title at Hardrock 100, placing 26th overall of 114 finishers.
This is going to be exciting to see how it shakes out. If we were able to look 22 years into the future, Emma Spoon might be racing much like Eve Rukavina-Rembleski is today. Eve has cemented herself as one of, if not the all-time greatest mid-distance (25K to 50K) trail/ultra-specialists ever from our region. While Spoon has two solid Superior 25K and one Moose Mountain Marathon win to her credit, Eve has nearly 40 years of winning and consistency behind her—this one will just be fun to watch. Also in contention is Candice Schneider, just coming off her 6th lifetime win of the hot and hilly Paavo Nurmi Marathon—she is fit, strong and ready for a big day on the trails. With consistency and experience to her credit, Corey McClay typically races well also and after a second place at this year’s Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon, she may have a high finish at Moose Mountain Marathon in store.
This year’s Moose Mountain Marathon contains the Superior Fall Trail Race weekend’s oldest competitor in Wally Goettl at the age of 72. Wally is going for his 7th MMM finish. Andrew Lewis became the youngest ever finisher of the Afton Trail Run this past Summer at the age of 14—while he would have needed to start a little younger to gain this same distinction at the Moose Mountain Marathon (Hadley Knight is the youngest finisher at the age of 9) we have been in touch with Andrew post Afton and know he is full of youthful enthusiasm and is excited for the opportunity to run a Minnesota monument. We would like to give a big shoutout to Michaela Clingaman of Lutsen Minnesota who is an oft Superior Hiking Trail, trail work volunteer and Superior Trail Race volunteer and is taking a run at her first Moose Mountain Marathon!
While we spend a lot of space here discussing the speedsters of the weekend, it’s worth noting—and one of our favorite flavors of this race—that the winning of the hundred mile race here is a lonely reception, a runner meeting a couple surprised volunteers at the finish, maybe his mom, maybe a couple other folks who just stumbled out of sleep, yet the biggest party of the day, when cheering can be heard from atop Moose or Mystery Mountain and the earth and trees and rivers and even the big lake seem to be shaking and shouting in support, is for the final finishers, those who have ventured into a second night of running and are fighting to beat cutoffs. And it’s worth noting that not all of us will finish (even this writer is hoping to break a string of two consecutive DNF’s), and while there is justified glory in that storied buckle and hoodie or wooden finisher’s medallion, there is great honor and courage in the act of the start, the willingness to step outside ourselves and run beyond the realm of possibilities, to live in the moment and run without fear. Remember, this is a communal effort. This September, we hope you’ll help each other and find some new friends at Superior. May you all find the stretch of trail that seems to wander that space between earth and heaven and may the angels circle us (we call them volunteers around here). We hope you find some growth in the challenges you’ll find. We hope all of you will run wild and be free.
Don’t forget to buy the Superior book for more race stories and history. It’s available at Amazon, from me, and from the race merchandise tables.