I was so pumped up to do this series because I wanted to get some more experience on the Superior Hiking Trail, the same trail that ate me up and spit me out on my first attempt at Wild Duluth 100K. The trail fest was in a three race format spanning from Saturday morning until Sunday . Saturday morning was a 5K and they included the element of beach style trail running in the first run. I had convinced my Dad and one of my long time running buddies, Dennis, to do this run with me as well. I had no idea what the first two races were but I did know that the third and final run was on the Superior trail and that made it reason enough for me to do it. Before leaving for Duluth, Skora sent me a loving care package and that totally raised the spirits of the event for me a ton. I love being able to show off the latest and greatest in a minimal shoe.
This was no ordinary trail that I was used to running, St. Cloud is flat. Duluth is like an uphill run no matter what way you turn and something inside me loves the up hill challenge. I took off down the trail in Chester Park having no clue where I was going but I figured I would just stay on one single trail and try not to get turned around. It just so happens that I stumbled across a man wearing a Western States 100 shirt, immediately I stopped and started talking to him because I wanted to figure out both the trail and that amazing shirt. This was no ordinary trail runner, this guy looked legit I mean he had two pony tails and they looked cool plus an amazingly awesome beard, tell me this guy didnt know his stuff. He told me that there was a ski hill just ahead about two miles and from there I could really have some fun. Finally I had to ask about the shirt, he casually told me the story of how he was a crew member for Scott Jurek, who is from Duluth area, and how that year he won the Western States race with a huge PR in that race. I was both blown away and totally recharged and ready to rumble.
Saturday morning came and it was time for that sweet festival to start, we arrived at the park and got checked in. My Dad knew that it was on the beach but he did not know that this was some of the softest sand I had ever been in, talk about burning up the legs. I warmed up and was ready to go. My goal for the event as a whole was to be in the top 10, never having done a race series like this before I figured that to be a reasonable goal. We lined up and I have to admit I was quite nervous for the gun because I dont have that "drop the hammer" kind of speed anymore with all my long endurance training. Boom! Gun goes off and we are taking off, we started down a big long gravel straight away that seemed to turn into sand pretty quickly. The trail section was fast and had a great flow to it, the sand sections just about did me in. As we hit the first long sand/beach strip I got passed by a 10 year old little boy who was just flying through the sand, in my head I knew that I would lay it all on the line to not let this go down. We got off the beach and I flew through the next trail section. I knew I needed a lead since we were about to be on the beach again for the finish. I put a good minute or two on him, he was in 6th and that is hugely impressive because that was a very competitive field, and headed out toward the beach for the final half mile. I tried as best as I could to stay light on the sand but my legs were rocks already so I gutted it out and took 5th. (PS. Thats not my finishing time)
We went back and tried to rest the legs to get ready for the hill challenge in Chester Park. The race was going well and morale was high but I can tell ya that my legs were tired I hadnt tapered or rested or anything for this series. We made it to Chester Park later on that day and as we drove in we saw the hill. It is the landing to a down hill ski jump, making it extremely steep.
Sunday was the 15K and this had everyone in the group a bit nervous, I mean seriously though it is up Elie's peak as well as Spirit Mountain, but we put on our racing shorts and went out and hammered away at it. The start was not as fast because it was a 15K but when you start going up the peak you instantly space out from other runners and I felt like I was lost, even though I have already ran that route I was still uncertain. It was different from the other runs because this run was still blazing fast but completely solo. I ran the entire race by myself besides the last mile where I had a guy come up and he tried passing me, after working that hard I was not about to let someone pass me in the last mile. I hammered it out and passed him in the end but man was he quick. If you are in the Mid-West I would strongly recommend trying the festival next year. I ended up 6th over all and pretty ok with that :)
Thanks goes out to Skora running as well as Amy for being there taking care of me after each race.
Trail Fest Race Results