Date for the 2009 running of the Wild Duluth Races?


Another important discussion that I’d like to include my running friends in is the date for next years (and future years) Wild Duluth Races.  We’re planning on offering 50k and 100K distances and possibly a half marathon distance as well.  The date for this year’s beta run was really bad – it conflicted with Glacial Trail ultras, Whistletop Marathon in nearby Asland, WI and an early season weekend deer hunt that was near the course.  All three things conspiring to make the chosen date really poor.  But, it was the only weekend in October that worked for us so that was it.

October is a pretty busy month on the race calendar unfortunately.  First weekend in October – Twin Cities Marathon.  Second weekend in October – Glacial Trail 50k/50 mile, Whistestop Marathon.  Third weekend in October – Nerstrand Big Woods Trail races.  Fourth weekend in October – this year North Face 50 mile in Wisconsin (next year maybe nothing on this date).  If we go to the last weekend in September we then conflict with In Yan Teopa 10 mile trail run.  Let me know if I’m missing any races here.

Based on the above, it would appear that the fourth weekend in October may be the best date for next year’s race.  If conflicting races were the only criteria, then yes, that’s probably true.  However, I hesitate to run Wild Duluth so late in October due to potential for bad weather (snow, cold, ice, oh my!), the colors will no longer be spectacular like they were last weekend, and there will be leaves covering the trail and the possible hazards they present hidden underneath.  If it were up to me only, I would not choose the fourth weekend in October for the race.  I like the first weekend because we’ll more likely have good weather and the colors are starting to get really nice on the hills by then.  This weekend is bad because of the conflict with Twin Cities (Sunday) and a big cross-country meet (Saturday) that our daughter will probably be running in for the next 5 years (and we don’t want to miss).  The second weekend is great in Duluth, but will not work because of it’s conflict with Glacial Trail primarily and also Whistlestop.  The third weekend is a possibility.  The liklihood of bad weather is certainly increasing at this point but many of the trees may still be holding their colorful leaves and we also could have a really nice day.  Nerstrand is a big trail race (around 800 runners last year).  Would a trail ultra like Wild Duluth be a major conflict to a shorter trail race like Nerstrand?  How many runners out there run Nerstrand now and wouldn’t run Wild Duluth because you plan on running Nerstrand every year?  It’s part of the MN Trail Series and the State Championship race this year and it’s a bummer that we may have to conflict with this race.  Fourth weekend probably won’t conflict with any races, but it’s pretty late in the year for a race in Duluth.  What say you?

What about a switch of dates with another MN Trail Series race that occurs further to the south where weather may be warmer at the end of October?  Perhaps October isn’t the best month for Wild Duluth.  Originally I had planned to run the race in August since there aren’t too many ultras in August in the upper midwest.  However, August is a month when we’re often on vacation and it may not work as well from a RD perspective.  Plus, you wouldn’t believe how beautiful the Fall colors were last Saturday during the beta run of Wild Duluth unless you had been there.  It really was spectacular and would add a lot to the race.



Wild Duluth 50K and 100K Cutoff Discussion


Times for the inaugural beta run of the Wild Duluth 50K ranged from 5 hours 53 minutes to 8 hours 57 minutes.  What’s clear looking at these times, is that this is a tough course.  The first 9.5 miles is very nice and runnable with good, relatively smooth tread.  There are lots of ups and downs over the early miles, but it’s really some nice running trail.  Once you hit the climb up Ely’s Peak however, the trail becomes much more challenging.  Lots of rocks and roots lace the trail and there are a few pretty long climbs as well.  These rocks and roots remain throughout the remainder of the course to Bayfront Park.  There are some nice stretches of relatively smooth, runnable trail, but for the most part the last 20 miles is much rockier and rootier than the first 10.

Based on what we know about this course now (including some training runs on the course by some fast runners), what should our cutoff times be?  I’d like to get input from all of you potential runners out there in cyberspace.  Here’s some information gleaned from other 100K ultras around the country to provide some background information.

The most popular 100K trail ultra in the nation is Miwok 100K in Northern California.  In fact, I like to think of Wild Duluth as the “Miwok of the Midwest.”  Maybe someday…  Anyway, course cutoff for this relatively challenging course with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain is 16:30 with an intermediate cutoff at 35.6 miles of 8:40.

Another popular trail 100K on the west coast, Where’s Waldo 100K in Oregon has an 18:00 cutoff with an intermediate cutoff of 10:00 at 32 miles and elevation gain of over 11,000 feet.

Out on the East Coast are two additional popular and challenging 100K trail ultras, both in Virginia – Hellgate 100K and Great Eastern Endurance Run (GEER) 100K.  Hellgate has an 18:00 cutoff with intermediate cutoffs at 22 miles of 6:30 and 42.5 miles of 12:30.  Hellgate has elevation gain of 13,500 feet over its course, has been measured to be 66 miles long and takes place in the winter with a 12:00 midnight start time.  GEER is a very challenging course with over 15,000 feet of elevation gain, a 19:00 cutoff and an intermediate cutoff at 31.2 miles of 9:30.

Closer to home, the Kettle Moraine 100K in Wisconsin has a cutoff of 18 hours, intermediate cutoff at 31 miles of 9:00 and probably a little less than 10,000 feet of elevation gain.

A new 100K in California, Wildest Run in the West 100K, that runs on much of the Western States course has a cutoff of 16:00 and an intermediate cutoff at 30 miles of 8:15 and 38 miles of 10:00.

On the far end of the cutoff spectrum, Bandera 100K in Texas, a challenging trail ultra, has a cutoff of 24:00 with an intermediate cutoff of 11:00.

To summarize trail 100K ultra cutoffs around the country:

Race                                        Cutoff(hours)   Intermediate Cutoff(dist.)
Wildest Run in the West 100K    16:00                 8:15 (30 miles)
Miwok 100K                               16:30                 8:40 (35.6 miles)
Where’s Waldo 100K                   18:00                 10:00 (32 miles)
Hellgate 100K                            18:00                  12:30 (42.5 miles)
Kettle Moraine 100K                   18:00                 9:00 (31 miles)
GEER 100K                                  19:00                 9:30 (31.2 miles)
Bandera 100K                             24:00                  11:00 (31 miles)

Wild Duluth 100K will include over 10,000 feet of elevation gain and descent and some very challenging rocky and rooty trail.  With this information in mind, what are your suggestions for intermediate (50K) and final (100K) course cutoffs?

Wild Duluth Ultra a Winner

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Wild Duluth 2008 Race Report:

Early Saturday morning the sound of thunder and rain on rooftops woke many runners from their slumber.  A few probably chose to stay under their warm covers to wait until next years official unveiling of the Wild Duluth 50 km and out-and-back 100km scheduled for October 2009.  Those that made it to Chambers Grove Park in far west Duluth for this point-to-point 50km beta run to test the course and aid station placements, were rewarded with breaking clouds and golden sunlight through the colorful trees along the course.  Rick Kucinski, first male finisher, remarked at the finish line that, “this was the best course that I’ve ever been on.”

Essentially the course is divided in thirds – the first third will engage one’s spirit with beautiful flowing singletrack along pine needle laden trail below towering white pines. The second crushes it beginning with the rock strewn climb to the summit of Ely’s Peak. The third enlists the spirit to soar as vista views on bluffs high above the City of Duluth lead to a welcome finish down at Bayfront Park adjoining Lake Superior.  Second male finisher, Phillip Gary Smith, found the finish line in the shadow of the famous aerial lift bridge to be a fitting finale to a great day on the trail.

Duluth is covered to the east by this largest of inland fresh water oceans, Lake Superior.  Gigantic Ore Vessels docking in huge unloading ports; crowds cheering at a football game far away, with the stadium in sight below; big sounds of steel-on-steel – all seen and heard while one is making way on the rugged Superior Hiking Trail. Runners found the juxtaposition of surroundings, the tough trail overlooking this bustling port city, a surreal experience.  Kim Holak, first overall finisher and first woman, agreed that this course is spectacular and is sure to become a classic among upper Midwest ultras.

This account was compiled with the help of the runners in this beta run.

Wild Duluth 2008 Update

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A couple of notes about this years race:

– The Minnesota DNR will be conducting a special firearms deer season on October 11 and 12.  We were not aware of this until recently and do not know how many hunters may be in the woods during this season.  The majority of the trail we will be running for Wild Duluth will be within the City of Duluth boundary and there should not be any hunters along the trail along most of the route.  There are a couple of areas, totalling about 2-3 miles, where the trail strays out of the City of Duluth and into Midway Township.  The Superior Hiking Trail Association has advised, “THE SUPERIOR HIKING TRAIL WILL NOT BE CLOSED DURING THIS WEEKEND BUT PLEASE USE CAUTION.  WEARING BLAZE ORGANGE WHEN HIKING ON THE TRAIL DURING THIS HUNTING WEEKEND IS RECOMMENDED.”   Duluth sections Jay Cooke State Park to Fond du Lac and Beck’s Road at 131st Ave W to Magney Snively Park (these sections of trail leave the City of Duluth in several places and go into neighboring Midway Township).  We would recommend wearing blaze orange or another very bright color (lime green or hot pink) early in the race.  White may not be a good color, nor would brown be a good color to wear.  This is something to be aware of, but should not affect our run.  I will have orange flagging tape at the start that you can tie around your head or arms at the very least if you don’t have any bright stuff of your own.

– We will be providing water approximately every 4-7 miles or so.  We won’t have any other aid items.  If you have food you’d like at these “aid stations,” please leave it with me and we will get it to you.  Likewise, if you have clothes or a change of shoes, we can also have those ready for you at these aid locations.  We should have two people (as well as two vehicles) at each aid stop so we can leapfrog ahead and hopefully not miss anyone as people begin getting spread out.

– We will be recording your time at each aid stop and a final time at the finish.  So, we should be able to provide splits at each of these locations.  Aid locations will be:

1.  Grand Portage – mile 3.7

2.  Munger Trail Trailhead Parking lot – mile 9.6 (5.9 miles)

3.  Magney-Snively Trailhead Parking lot – mile 13.9 (4.3 miles)

4.  Highland Street and Getchell Road Parking lot – mile 21.1 (7.2 miles)

5.  Skyline Parkway at N. 24th Ave. W Parking lot – mile 26.8 (5.7 miles)

6.  Finish/Turnaround at Bayfront Park – mile 30.2 (3.4 miles)

We may also see you at the base of Spirit Mountain (2 miles after the Magney-Snively aid stop) if we can get there before you do.

Wild Duluth 2008 Course Profile

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Here is a rough idea of the course profile for the 2008 run.  Note that the distance is just over 29 miles according to this map.  Based on my measurements, the course is closer to 30.5.  It will be just shy of 31 miles probably, but will have over 5,000 feet of ascent and descent over those 30 miles.  That should give you a decent workout.  Check it out: