Monday, September 8, 2008

Superior Sawtooth 100

First off I would like to thank Larry and Colleen Pederson and all the volunteers for putting on a fantastic race that is a first class operation from start to finish!

I would also like to thank my outstanding crew (family), Michelle, Jakob and Hanna for all their help along the way to keep me supplied and providing encouragement. Even though Hanna is not quite 4 years old...she understands what dad is doing, and Michelle and Jakob have this crewing thing down cold. Thanks a million!!

Now to the race report...

Race morning broke with beautiful weather and I was excited to see so many of the runners I have met over the last year and a half in the Ultra community. It was also nice to meet some of the people I knew only from blogs and race results. This is a great bunch of people that do these events!

The race start was simple...Larry saying "ready, set, go". Everyone started the first mile or two at an easy pace and it was good to be running after thinking about and training for this race over the last year. Soon enough, some of the faster runners pulled away and I was running with a few people that I seem to be around in races quite a bit...Scott Meyers, Chris Hanson, Doug Hansel, Adam Harmer among others. The first couple of aid stations came and went without much to say other than I was staying on plan.

What was my plan? I had a rough idea of how I was going to take this beast of a race on, some of it gleaned from my KM100 suffer fest in June. I wanted to run conservatively with a focus on running all flats and downhills and power walking all the uphills with reckless abandon. My game plan also included taking it easy on the downhills, even though I was running, I was being mindful of not pounding the heck out of my quads, knees and feet...I figured this would come back to help me later in the race. The quick report is that I think this strategy worked for me.

The course was absolutely beautiful and I have never been able to get enough of the SHT. The down side about running on this trail is that you don't get to take the time to enjoy it as much. Eventually I was running on my own much of the time, occasionally seeing and running with Scott Meyers and Helen Lavin. I changed shoes and socks at the Tettegouche aid station at mile 34.2 and it was great to have dry socks! I was stunned when Michelle told me that Adam Harmer had dropped at this point because of an achilles problem. I knew he was honed for this race and felt terrible about it.

The next couple of sections of trail were a blast to run and I had a great time even though my stomach was giving me some problems. I'm not sure what was causing the stomach upset but it seems to happen occasionally in races. Eventually this subsided by about mile 50 at the Finland aid station.

I saw my crew for the last time at Finland and it was 7pm, 11 hours into the race and I was right on the pace I had intended. I picked up all my night running gear which included a hydration pack, headlamps and more food. Scott and Helen had just come into the aid station as I was getting ready to leave and they were the last runners I saw for the duration of the event. Hanna didn't want Dad to leave this time and it was hard to turn and run down the trail with her standing there watching. I think she got over it soon as the next stop for my family was Caribou Highland and the swimming pool!

Sometime around dark I was running up a slight incline and heard what sounded like a freight train moving through the brush. Luckily, I noticed immediately it was running away from me. Moments later I heard a huge splash and a snort and then some swimming noises. I was pretty sure it was a moose. I'm not sure which lake I was near but I think it was Sonju lake. I kind of shrugged my shoulders and just kept running...and hoping I wouldn't see the next one.

The running at night on this trail was rugged in places and I was reduced many times to walking slowly and trying to pick my way through the maze of roots and rocks. I arrived at the Sugarloaf aid station (71.6) after what seemed like an eternity on the trail...three hours and 9.4 miles from Crosby Manitou aid station. This section of trail was relentless with the constant ups and downs combined with the rocks and roots I think it was the hardest part of the race. Michelle was there and it was 1:05 am...what a trooper. She did say that she was having a great time sitting around the fire with the volunteers and I could hear the hooting and hollering as I was coming in. They all jumped into action as soon as I arrived and like all the aid stations the volunteers were amazing.

I was still waiting for the "shoe to drop" and have my legs crash and burn and have the rest of the race turn into a survival shuffle but so far it had not happened and I was becoming more optimistic that I would be able to keep running this race to the end. I know when I reached the Cramer Rd. aid station at mile 77.2 I would be running familiar trails from last years 50 mile race. But what I didn't take into account was that it was still dark and nothing seemed familiar to me until reaching the banks of the Temperance river. Hearing the roar of the water and running next to steep drop offs was exhilarating to say the least and I just tried to keep my eyes on the trail and stay safe.

Somewhere near the top of Carlton peak it was becoming light enough for me to turn off my head lamp and that gave me some extra energy to push the pace a little into the Sawbill aid station (90 mi.). I dumped gear into my drop bag and found out I had missed Michelle by about 3 min. as she was trying to track down my location. I left the aid station as quickly as possible and just kept moving forward, staying on plan and running all flats and downhills and power walking the uphills. I was surprised that at mile 90 I could still hit the uphills hard and even though I was pretty sore, my legs had energy. I must say though that the 5.5 miles to Oberg was one of my low lights because I jut wanted to get on the last section of trail and finish this race off.

I finally made it into the Oberg Mountain aid station (95.5 mi.) and found Michelle waiting for me. It was nice getting a little extra boost from her and I was in and out of there in just a couple of minutes. She told me as I was leaving that I was in third place overall and I was stunned that I could be in that position. It gave me even extra energy and now I was determined to run the last 7.1 miles as hard as possible. I ran this section 6 times during our vacation a month earlier and it really came back to help me. I thought I had a chance to break 26 hours but I didn't want to be looking at my watch constantly, so I turned it to the timer mode so I couldn't see how I was progressing. My mini goal was to run the best I could and not check the time until I reached the overlook at the top of Mystery mountain. The trail seemed to pass beneath me feet more quickly at this point and even though I was sore my legs just kept on giving. I power walked hard up Mystery Mt. and when I reached the overlook I had 30 minutes to get across the finish line. On one of my runs during vacation I happened to look at my watch and noticed that it took me 20 minutes to cover this section but only to about the gondola. I knew I needed to really move to make it in sub 26hrs. I felt like I was flying down this section and when I hit the bridge over the river I knew I could make it in time. After crossing the finish line I think the first word out of my mouth was "wicked"...and that is definitely what this course is.

It was great hanging out in the finish area after the race to experience the other finishers crossing the line throughout the day. It is just a fantastic atmosphere to be around a finish area in an event like this...more spine chills and watery eyes than you know what to do with.

Congratulations to all the runners who took on the Superior Sawtooth 100 and finished...especially Matt Patten who worked it out and made it happen. Also, to all the runners who made the attempt and came up short for whatever reason...

"To some extent, we are all labeled by what we're able to achieve. But more importantly, we are defined by what we attempt." --Scott Tinley all had the guts and commitment to toe the line and that in itself says a lot about who you are.

Pictures to come...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pics from the SHT

Here are a few pictures from the Superior Hiking Trail that I took while on vacation a couple of weeks ago. This is just a little sample of what to expect and get excited for in just a week and a half!

Pics are in no particular order...but you might recognize a few of these spots on the course...especially the top of the back side of Moose Mountain.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Back in the saddle-Voyageur 50 mile race report

I know I haven't blogged in over a month but I have been having too much fun enjoying summer and it is going way too fast. Hopefully there are still a few people out there checking my blog from time to time and want to read a race report from the Voyageur 50 mile on Saturday.

I wasn't expecting much from myself performance-wise in this race, mostly due to the long recovery after KM100. I only had about 3 good weeks of training leading into this event and I was a little suspect of my durability (wondering if I am fully recovered). I was really just looking for a good training day in preparation for SS100 in six weeks.

From what I heard, 137 people signed up for this race, a record! It was a big group and for the first 3/4 of a mile it is on city streets and a paved bike path ,which helped spread out the group before entering the single track trail. I noticed how rocky and rooty it was on this section of trail, but running it on the return route would be the story of the day for me.

I settled into a good pace and really enjoyed running this course for the first time. The trail went from single track to ski/horse trails to single track again while in Jay Cook State Park. I was wondering where all the hills were but soon enough we were winding our way up and down some long switch backs that make this park famous. The "power lines" are what everyone talks about and I was surprised at how steep they really are. We were lucky it was dry because it would be a mess running these in the rain.

I ran for a while with Scott Meyers who was second last year at SS100 and Chris Hanson who won SS100 in 2004. They had a lot of good advice for Superior and I enjoyed their company and steady pace.

I think the dirty little secret about this course is in the long gradual hills that seem to never end. They are fun and easy to descend but they are a nightmare to go up because they are not steep enough to walk and take a big effort to run. I did however find a comfort level for running these that will surely help me in future events.

The last section of trail crosses Spirit Mountain and drops down to the 25 mile mark at the Zoo. This is where I saw the first runners on the return trip. Wynn Davis had a small lead with 4 other runners within a minute or two. The top two women were within a minute of each other and looking strong.

I reached the turn around in about 4:20 and had a drop bag waiting for me to re-supply my gels and drink mixes. For most of the run I was drinking Succeed Clip 2 and taking in gels and bananas with an occasional cup of Coke. I also drank 3 bottle of Ensure and took S-Caps every 45 min. increasing it to every 30 min for the last few hours.

The return trip was fairly uneventful until reaching the power line hills at which point my legs were beginning to ache quite a bit and gave me some discomfort on the steep downhills. The sun was beating down hard making it a hot exposed section of the trail. The breeze at the tops of the hills really felt great and I looked forward to cresting each hill in search of any cooling I could get.

Soon enough the trail dipped back into the woods and its shaded canape. It was at this point that I realized I had a shot at a sub 9 hour time but it was going to take 10min/mi. for the last 11-12 miles. I was holding close to this pace all the way to the last aid station at Jay Cook. Just before crossing the suspension bridge I looked down at my watch and I was at 8:25 with 3.4 miles to go. On the other side of the bridge I was reminded of what lie ahead...rocky rooty trails and legs that didn't like running anymore. I checked my watch a couple of times while running through some technical areas (I know it's not smart to take my eyes off the trail) and I was working hard to keep a 10:30-11:00 pace. I ran hard all the way to the finish knowing that I was going to come up a little short. It was fun running into town and finishing at the High School(with showers waiting) with a good cheering section to boot. 9:03(PR) and a fun day of running!

My crew for this race was my Mom and Dad, Jakob (son) and Hanna (daughter) and they did a fantastic job of meeting me at aid stations on the return trip and supplying me with what I needed. This was a new experience for my parents and they seemed to enjoy the company of aid station volunteers and other crew along the way.

Thanks to the RD- Rollie Everson and all the volunteers who put on a great event.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I mentioned in my KM100 race report that I would follow up with a "lessons learned" here it is:

Lesson #1
Run your own race.
Everybody hears this all the time, but how many people really follow this rule? Keying off somebody else is common in shorter races and I did this all the time in the years I competed in Nordic skiing and triathlon. The 100 is just is, at least for me. I followed this rule very well, most of the time, but there was one time at about the 80 mile mark, three runners encouraged me to stay with them and I paid dearly for it. I ended up walking the next 10 miles after pushing myself to run somebody else's pace. I found that my body had highs and lows and when I flexed with the way I felt, everything seemed to work itself out. I had to let the three runners go on ahead but because I slowed down and worked through the low, I was able to run again and actually passed them with about 3 miles to go.

Lesson #2
Ice is good.
In a hot race, ice is your best friend. Ice in your hat. Ice in a bandanna. Ice in your shorts. Ice in your water bottle. As Adam mentioned in his in your Moeben arm sleeves. Ice is good.

Lesson #3
Be flexible in your nutrition plan, but have a plan.
I was able to stay on plan most of the time but the heat caused me to stray slightly in that I needed to take in most of my calories in liquid or gel form. Ensure meal replacement drink worked very well, but I would try it on training runs first to make sure your stomach handles it. It has 250 calories per serving and I had no problems drinking the entire serving. As the race progressed I had a hard time with the gels or anything sweet. Solid foods like grilled cheese and pancakes went down well once the temps moderated. Chicken noodle soup was a fantastic night time snack. I also drank less of my Succeed energy drinks and more water as the race went on. However, I was able to "force" gels and energy drinks down out of necessity and they never upset my stomach and always gave me the even energy I was looking for. I found that when my gut felt a little empty and my energy fell just slightly, it was a signal to take in, at minimum, a gel and some water or energy drink. These signals for me were very subtle, and to some degree I guess I have learned my nutritional needs from past races, but I believe it helped me in this longer race.

Lesson #4
When you think you can't run really can, you just don't know it yet.
Just keep moving forward and soon enough your energy will come back to you...hopefully. At about the 85 mile mark I was resigned to the fact that I would be trying to power walk the rest of the way home. This is what I did for 10 miles, but two well placed aid stations( with soup and "pigs in a blanket") and the fact that the sun was coming up, helped me to get my energy back and I actually ran the last five miles at a decent pace. I would never have believed 10 miles earlier that I would be running you may be able to sneak in a few more miles even when it seems impossible.

Lesson #5
It is not scary to run in the woods at night and trees do make a sound when they fall.
I found that the headlamp I was using was adequate for running on trail and in some cases fairly technical trail. Some of the "foot grabbers" were difficult to distinguish with L.E.D. light and in my case light shining from eye level. I read somewhere that a handheld can help the rocks in the trail stand out a little more because the light is shinning from a lower plane across the tops, creating better shadows. I had a handheld in my pack in case of technical issues but I never had to use it. It seemed like I was running in a world about 6 feet wide and 15 feet long the entire night. It was difficult to see the terrain changes and I never seemed to know how long a hill was (could be a good thing at the Sawtooth 100). And yes, trees do make a sound when they fall in the woods. I heard a very big one fall at about 1:30am and it was way too close for comfort.

Lesson #6
Boudreaux's Butt Paste + compression shorts + 100 miles + huge volumes of rain = no chaffing!
Nuff said.

Lesson #7
Blisters suck!
Yes they do, and when your feet look like prunes from the rain that just won't stop falling, it is pretty hard to dry them out and tape them properly. I know now that I have a problem area on the ball of my left foot that will need to be taped in certain conditions. In this case, I would have pre-taped my foot before the race and prayed that it would stay on through 16 hours (4pm-8am) of rain and wet trails. I also had 4 shoe changes if I needed (I only used 2 because it just kept on a rainnin') , and I actually talked to one runner who had 7 and used them all. My recommendation would be to put together a good foot kit and buy John Vonhof's- Fixing Your Feet. Learn and be could save your race.

Lesson #8 Never underestimate having a good crew. My crew was vital to my performance out on the trail. They always had what I needed, ready and waiting at the "crew accessed" aid stations. My crew happened to be my wife Michelle, my son Jakob (15) and my daughter Hanna (3.5), but it could be anybody who is interested in helping you. In my case, at the 62 mile mark, after being at one of my lowest points in the race, tired, sore and chilled standing in the rain preparing for what I knew was going to be a long cold wet night, it was my crew who walked me back out on the course and got me going again. Thanks crew, you guys are awesome!

I may think of more but these are the lessons that stand out from my first 100 mile experience.
One thing I will say...everyone is different and what works for me may not necessarily work for others. Hopefully this gives some ideas to try before or during your next event.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Kettle Moraine 100 Race Report

I’ve been sitting at the computer staring at the screen not really knowing how to start this race report. I am still processing everything that has happened over the last couple of days and I hope I can just get all these thoughts down in a readable format.

My family and I arrived at the packet pickup, which was situated in the back yard of the La Grange general store, on Friday evening. We met up with Matt and his family and chatted while the kids ran around in the yard.

The race began in the usual low key ultra fashion and I was finally starting what I had been planning to do for months, run 100 miles. The first 7.5 miles is run on wide Nordic ski trails, which is nice when you have a couple hundred people starting together in a trail race. I was happy to hit the single track of the Ice Age Trail just after Bluff aid station (mile 7.5) and it was beautiful terrain.

The run was fairly uneventful for quite some time and I was enjoying the scenery of southern Wisconsin. Then came a section of trail about 10 miles long that was mostly in open meadows with very little tree cover and I realized it was going to be a brutal day of running. I felt fine at the time but it was getting hot and it was steamy. I was happy to see Michelle, Jakob and Hanna (my crew) at the highway 67 aid station (mile 23.9) and they had all of my supplies ready to go and got me out running again quickly.

During the next section I started having a queasy stomach and I decided to up my electrolyte intake to 1 S-cap every 45 minutes instead of 1/hr. It seemed like a long haul to get to the first out and back turnaround at 31 miles but I was happy to be headed back the other direction after getting some supplies from my crew.

I saw Matt on the way back and he indicated that he was having a tough time with the heat and that he was thinking of dropping at the turnaround. I said to hang in there and re-evaluate after resting for a bit. After reading his blog, I believe he made a wise decision in light of the signs and symptoms of heat related illness.

Michelle started getting worried about me after seeing Matt at the 31 mile mark and she decided to bring me my bandana that can carry ice to the next aid station. I gladly accepted the bandana and once around my neck it made a huge difference in how I felt.

After getting one more chance to fuel up at the highway 67 aid station (mile 39) I was ready but not excited to run the open fields…again. This time the heat was unrelenting and I was slowed to a walk on a few occasions but I continued to move forward and eventually made it to Emma Carlin (mile 47.3). My crew had a shoe change ready and I worked on one blister that was developing on the side of my left foot. Fresh socks and shoes brought some life back to my legs. Put more ice in the bandana, drank an Ensure and I even had Hanna (3.5 yrs) as an escort for the first 50 yards on the way back out on the trail. She thinks she is faster than dad and at that point I think she was.

Hot one minute, torrential down pours the next, it seemed like Mother Nature wanted to have a say in how this race would turn out. It started sprinkling at first but from the sounds of thunder in the distance, it just felt like we were going to get some serious weather. Soon it was raining steady and it felt great to get the cooling effect of the water. But as is rained harder and harder the trails started filling with water and on any hills it became running streams…so much for the fresh socks and shoes. At one point a 25 ft. pine tree fell across the trail about 10 feet in front of another runner with me right behind. We both stopped, looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said “that was close,” and kept running.

Running the flats and down hills and walking the up hills is what I did until reaching the Nordic aid station at mile 62. I slowed quite a bit because my feet and quads were starting to hurt. It was nice to see Michelle and the kids but it was also 8pm and I knew I would be heading out in the dark so I gathered my headlamp, backup flashlight, wind jacket, refueled and…more rain. This was the weakest point in the race for me, I was cold, tired, sore, hungry and I knew I could just call it a day and even get counted as a 100 Kilometer race finisher, and be back at the hotel in 15 min. But I was prepared for this and I also coached Michelle to try to keep me motivated, and that’s when she said they would walk me out for a little while on the trail. Bingo, game on.

My legs loosened up after a short distance and I was back to running. Soon it was dark and I was running with a headlamp. I was able to run pretty well in the dark and I was able to run the next 10 miles to the Duffin Rd. aid station (mile 72.8). Sometime in the next mile is when my legs turned to cement and refused to run…so I walked and as I walked it stormed and dumped another round of rain onto the already muddy trails and runners.

I made it to the Hwy 12 aid station around midnight and Michelle was waiting for me with any food or gear that I needed. It was nice just to have someone on the course for moral support. At times the lows can be pretty low and the highs are not much above the lows so crews can make a big difference. Some runners had pacers (runners that accompany a competitor) but I decided not to use one. I didn’t mind being on my own most of the time and when I did join up with others it was a nice change.

Soon I was at the Rice Lake aid station (mile 81.5) and it was at this point I knew I would finish barring any bizarre occurrence. I hooked up with three guys from Illinois on the trail back to Hwy 12 and I really had to dig deep and push myself to keep up with the 15 minute/mile walking pace they had going. After some soup and a brief rest at the aid station I went out ahead of them knowing that I could not keep up that pace any longer and they would soon catch me. It was after loosing contact with the runners from Illinois that I first tried listening to my ipod…for one song. I just couldn’t do it. I was having too much fun listening to all the creatures in the forest and swamps, so I took it off and it will probably never be carried in a race again.

I would tell myself, “just keep moving forward,” as I slogged along to the Bluff aid station (mile 92.8) at first light. I ate some soup and kept on going…knowing that they were making pancakes at the Tamarack aid station. It was a long 2.3 miles but well worth the effort for a taste of those pancakes. The only solid foods that I ate the whole day were from this aid station, grilled cheese sandwiches and pancakes. Mary Gorski (who is running Badwater this year) handed me a “pancake rollup,” a pancake with sausage and syrup inside, and I ate it as I headed back out on the trail. I also drank 2 cups of coke and this was the magic combination that gave my legs some life.

I was actually able to start running again, even with badly blistered feet, and according to my GPS watch I was clipping along at 11-12 minutes per mile. It helps knowing that the finish is only 5 miles away. It seemed like it took forever, but no time at all, to run the last miles…sort of a contradiction as time seemed blurred by all the events of the day and night and day again.

I rounded the corner leading into the finish area and I could see Michelle, Hanna, Jakob and a few volunteers and spectators (family waiting for their runners) and they started to cheer. It was a good feeling to finally be done with what had become a very difficult day for all the runners involved. Official time: 25:25:17 (15th place).

On a final note I would like to thank the race directors Timo and Jason for organizing an outstanding event and to all the volunteers out on the course that had to endure some crazy weather to make this event possible.

My next blog entry will detail my lessons learned from doing this event.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Off to the races

One last note before heading off the the KM100...there is a webcast that will attempt to give some checkpoint times and possibly some other information about the race as it is happening.

Planning on arriving in the area tomorrow evening for race packet pick-up and last minute preparations...which include a swim in the hotel pool with the kids!

Time to go run...race report to follow.

Monday, June 2, 2008

So close

When the expiration date on a jug of milk is past the date of a big's time to step up and be ready. Counting the days on one hand makes me nervous. My first 100 is so close it has become a constant daily distraction. I haven't been this amped up and excited about a race since 2001, when I competed in Ironman USA in Lake Placid, NY. This is what I was looking for out of a big event like this...something beyond the hardest thing I have done so far. Bring it on.

Last week I ran 30.5 miles on the heels of a 76 mile week which was preceded by the Superior 50K. This was my lowest weekly mileage since the second week of February! It feels good, but now I know why I usually have a short taper...I am so antsy I almost can't stand it. A two week taper seems like it is working for me, but I can't help but feel like I am loosing my edge on training. I know I'm not, but this is a mental game I always play during a taper period. I know my body is loving the rest...I can feel all the little nagging aches and pains that had become "normal" going away.

This week is very easy mileage wise, with a couple of 6 milers and a 10 miler tomorrow. I am a morning runner but I have been trying to run in the "heat" of the afternoon when the temps present themselves. This has been a challenge because of the cool spring. I don't know how much more I can acclimate for an 80 degree day on Saturday...but I figure it can't hurt.

Here is a quote by Triathlon Legend Scott Tinley:

"To some extent, we are all labeled by what we're able to achieve. But more importantly, we are defined by what we attempt." --Scott Tinley

Thursday, May 29, 2008


How do you know if you are prepared for a 100 mile run? How many miles do you need to run per week/month? How long does your longest run need to be? Food, hydration, electrolytes, socks, shoes, foot care, flashlights, batteries, clothing, sunscreen, bug everything in order and accounted for? Is the "crew" trained and ready? Am I do this?

I don't know if I can answer all of these questions but I have given it my "best shot" in preparation. In 8 days I will need to give it my "best shot" in a 100. I am truly looking forward to this event and the challenge and hardship to complete this goal.

It sounds strange and crazy to most run 100 miles, but to me and many others in the ultra running community...we understand. Most people I know ask me "why?". I tell them the usual "challenge" explanation and I still get "but why?". Sometimes I will reply "why a 10k or a half marathon or a marathon?". I don't think most people give themselves enough credit for what they can achieve physically. Usually, after a full discussion about running a long event, people seem genuinely interested and excited to know what the outcome will be. I think I either have really good friends and family or they want to stop talking about running and move on to something else in the conversation.

Which brings me back to the I prepared?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blog name

(Rescue of Haakon Haakonsson, painted by Knud Bergslien 1869)
I had a couple of people ask me about what my blog name meant, so this entry is in response to those inquiries.

I was having trouble coming up with a blog name and asked my 15 year old son Jakob to help brainstorm some ideas that related specifically to running, trail running and ultras. We came up with all kinds of crazy names, but in the end, nothing really seemed to fit. Later that night we teamed up with my wife Michelle and she mentioned using a translation of the Norwegian ski race name "Birkebeiner" to English, which is "birch legs". This seemed to fit well because my last name, Bjerkness (Norwegian) translates as "birch point".

My relatives came from an island in Norway called Byrknesoy or "birch point island". When arriving in America the spelling was changed slightly to "Americanize" the name, even though it may not seem so American. We still have some relatives that live on that island and also in Bergen, a city on the east coast.

So why not just name the blog "birch point"? Well, we thought having legs in the name was a good fit for running, but especially relevant to trail running, as birch trees are very prevalent in the forests of Minnesota and Norway alike.

Now for a Norwegian history lesson:

Birkebeiner is a term for a ski race but it means so much more than that to the people of Norway. In 1206 the Birkebeiner (named so because of the birch leggings used to keep snow away from their lower legs while skiing) set out on a dangerous mission to rescue the future king of Norway, Haakon Haakonsson IV, from the Swedes (see photo above). In fact, part of their route is the current course for the cross-country ski race, Birkebeinerrennet, from Rena to Lillehammer. In this race, it is required to carry a pack weighing 3.5 kg in remembrance of this brave mission.
In Norway it is remarkable how many people run, hike, ski, orienteer, bike or otherwise recreate in the woods and mountains around their country, not unlike the trail running community here. Having lived there for a year in Hammar, I was able to experience the joy of these activities first hand, which has impacted my life tremendously.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Superior trail

Superior trail.

That pretty much sums up the experience on Saturday at the Superior 50K/25K. This trail never ceases to amaze me even though I have run this course a couple of times and hiked portions of it as well. Besides the apparent beauty of the area, it is the ruggedness of the trail and terrain that appeal to me most. I think it taps into my primal instincts to endure...and that it did as I ran the 50K course.
It was a crisp morning at 39 degrees, blue skies and a brisk wind out of the west, perfect conditions for a trail race.
I found Matt Patten before the start and we chatted for a few minutes. He introduced me to Pierre Ostor, Carl Gammon and Steve Quick, all of whom are experienced runners.
The race start was low key, which is common for trail races..."just let me get a picture and then you can start". This is one of the reasons why I love this sport, the laid back approach is a perfect fit for trail races, as well as ultras.
I won't get very detailed in this race report, but I wanted to point out the highs and lows of the day.
The race was progressing nicely for me and I was comfortable in my pace through the first aid station. I was talking to a runner behind me for a while after this checkpoint and I inadvertently missed a turn in the trail that was well marked by flags. We continued up the trail which switch backed 3 times and came to another fork in the trail, which just happened to have a primitive map on a tree. I stopped because I did not see any markers for which way to go and I started getting a bad feeling about what happened. We decided to turn around and find the last trail marker, but on the way down we ran into a couple other runners, and one was convinced it was the right way. We turned around again and ran back up a couple of hundred yards to the split in the trail with no markers and that's when I blurted out to the other 4 guys "I don't know about you, but I'm going this way" and I took off running back down the trail. I looked back after the first switchback and saw them all coming back down, which made me feel better, as within a few minutes we were back at the intersection with flagging pointing us in the right direction.
This was a long winded explanation of a minor issue in a trail race but it took me about 20 minutes to finally calm myself down and realize that I could not let this "get to me" because I had hours of running ahead.
The rest of the run out to the turn around was comfortable and it was good to start seeing other runners coming back towards the finish. I "high fived" Matt on the way down Carlton Peak and attempted to give most people I saw encouragement as I ran past. The rest of the run back to the finish was uneventful, and for the most part, I was comfortable and relaxed. What struck me the most about this run is that I had extra "gears" to use, meaning I could surge when I wanted to and ease back when I needed to.
After a couple of the switchbacks on Mystery Mt. I began to push the pace all the way to the finish and it felt like I was gliding over the last few miles of trail.
Overall, my goal of beating last years time was met (20 min.), but I really was looking for having a comfortable and relaxed run and having fun in my final preparation race for the Kettle Moraine 100.
Thanks to the race directors, volunteers and other runners on a great day!
I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Posting my first blog seemed like an easy task at first, but once I started trying to get things organized, I became apprehensive to actually "publish" my comments and try to live up to some of the blogs in the ultra running community. Having the beginnings of a blog page started I figured the day has finally arrived to, at the very least, jot a couple of thoughts down and get this thing bear with me.

Just finished a solid couple of weeks of training in my preparation for the Kettle Moraine 100 on June 7-8. Last week I was able to put in 80 miles with a long run of 35 miles at Hyland Park on Saturday. It was a soggy slog, but effective in its results...tired legs and feeling like I had more to give.

The previous week I put in a total of 70 miles with a combination of a 30/20 on two consecutive days. I have heard from a number of sources that pairing the 30/20 run concept can be a good way of preparing for a 100 miler without having to put your body through the rigors of extremely long runs. Running 30 miles one day and running 20 miles the next is a training tool to simulate running on tired legs, mind and attitude. My experience included running 30 miles at Hyland Park that ended up going into the evening hours and testing my headlamp and night running skills, followed by an early morning run about 7 hours later of 20 miles along the Minnehaha Creek and River road in Minneapolis. I definitely found what I was looking for during the last 10 miles of that run. I would recommend this training concept to anyone preparing for 50-100 mile races that has a good base of training. I guess I'll find out how effective it was in about a month.

This is a recovery week for me that includes some runs on the shorter side and lots of active recovery, stretching and rolling (massage). This week ends with the Superior Trail 50K on Saturday. I'm looking forward to getting back up on the is such a blast to run that trail!

Congratulations go out to Matt Patten on his strong performance at the Ice Age 50 on Saturday, finishing 7 min. ahead of last years time and having some war wounds to show for it. Nice job Matt!

One last note:
At the end of the day, I hope that the information I pass along will be somewhat interesting and sometimes helpful for athletes and non athletes alike.

...maybe this blogging gig won't be as hard as I thought.

About Me

My photo
Minneapolis, MN, United States