A Beautiful Day for the First Wild Duluth Races

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A common occurrence usually takes place ten days before an ultramarathon for many ultrarunners.  They flock to weather.com to check the ten day forecast.  As first time race directors of the Wild Duluth 100K and 50K races, we did the same thing.  The ten day forecast didn’t look good.  Forty-two degrees with a rain/snow mix.  Fortunately, as is the case for most ten day forecasts, it was wrong.  Race day dawned with starry skies giving way to bright sunshine.  It would be a beautiful day for our inaugural Wild Duluth Races.

2nd Place 100K Runner Chad Brackelsberg

2nd Place 100K Runner Chad Brackelsberg

At 6:00 a.m. the 100K runners departed from the start/finish line at Bayfront Park located right on the Duluth harbor of Lake Superior.  They would run the Superior Hiking Trail, which traverses the entire length of the City of Duluth, from East to West, turning around at Chambers Grove Park and returning the same way to the finish line at Bayfront.  For the 100K runners, the out-and-back course would begin with a relatively long climb to the top of the ridge at Enger Park where runners had the opportunity to ring the Peace Bell.  While the Wild Duluth course does not have any really long climbs or descents, the climbing and descending is relentless.  For most of the course the trail runs up and down along the ridge above the City of Duluth with many great views of the Lake Superior Harbor, Duluth neighborhoods and the hills that runners will traverse strung out before them.  Runners will find rocky gorges, waterfalls, clifftop running, open meadows above the city, boulders and rock outcroppings, towering red and white pine trees, pine needle laden trail as well as rocky, rooty trail all within the city limits of Duluth and its 80,000 residents.  It truly is a wilderness trail within the city, living up to the name Wild Duluth.

From the start of the 100K race, it was clear that Sean Andrish from Virginia was in great shape and ready to run a fast 62 miles.  Chad Brackelsberg from Park City, Utah hung with Sean through the early aid stations and was also looking strong.  As the race progressed, Sean began to build a lead that he would never relinquish, finishing with a super time of 10:52.  We figured anything around 11 hours on this very challenging course would be very good.  Sean exceeded those expectations while telling us that he absolutely loved the course.  Chad stayed steady to finish the 100K in second place and local ultrarunner Matt Long came on strong to close the gap on Chad finishing a solid third.  Julie Treder from St. Francis, WI ran a very good, well paced race and overcame an acrobatic fall off a rock to finish first for the women and fourth overall in 14:45.  Alicia Hudelson finished second for the women and Shelly Thompson Placed third.

Morning Sunlight on Trees Across the St. Louis River from the 50K Start

Morning Sunlight on Trees Across the St. Louis River from the 50K Start

Fifty-kilometer runners began their journey from Chambers Grove Park finishing the point-to-point course at Bayfront Park near downtown Duluth.  At the Chambers Grove start runners and spectators were stunned by the golden sunlight shining brightly on the autumn colored trees on the other side of the St. Louis River.  As the runners left the park and immediately climbed steeply up the bluffs, they were again bedazzled by the beautiful pine needle covered trail beneath huge pine trees and colorful maple trees which produced an almost unearthly glow as runners filed along the steep ridgetop.

Rick Bothwell on Trail Above St. Louis River

Rick Bothwell on Trail Above St. Louis River

Midwestern speedster Wynn Davis immediately took the lead and, like the 100K race, never looked back.  It was clear that Wynn was going to set a solid standard for the 50K course.  Would he also exceed our expectations of what we thought would be a fast time on this course?  We felt a 4 hour 30 minute winning time would be a great time on this course.  Wynn smashed those expectations, finishing the race in 4 hours 11 minutes.  Both Sean and Wynn set the bar very high at our inaugural race.

Local runner Ryan Braun from Superior, WI ran a super race to finish second in the 50K, hanging close to Wynn for the early part of the race.  David Worley, another local runner from Duluth, MN ran a superbly paced race just edging out local Darrin Johnson from South Range, WI for third place and the Master’s title.

The women’s 50K may have been the most exciting race of the day.  Leslie Semler from Hermantown, MN led local running champion Rochelle Wirth of Duluth, MN through the early aid stations before Rochelle overtook Leslie, relying on her ultra experience to win the 50K with a super time of 5:13 and place 5th overall.  Leslie finished a very strong 2nd just over 5 minutes behind Rochelle and 7th overall.  Duluthian Anne Flueckiger placed third.  The women were really moving fast over the rocky course throughout the day and also set strong standards for others to try to match in coming years.

Climbing Ely's Peak

Climbing Ely's Peak

No ultra is complete without a few special stories of runners persevering in the face of adversity.  There were many stories on the trail at Wild Duluth, but two stand out in our minds.  Both involved first time ultrarunners.

Until recently, 100K finisher Phillip Watson, a 27 year old from Inver Grove Heights, MN, didn’t know what an ultramarathon was.  He had heard about the sport at some point recently and decided to Google ultramarathons in Minnesota.  This led Phillip to the Wild Duluth races.  He told me at the start that he thought he might as well go all out and run the 100K when he decided to sign up for his first ultramarathon.  Phillip chose a very challenging race for his first ultra, and despite not knowing a lot about the gear and nutrition most ultrarunners use while racing, he remained strong and cheerful all day, overcame blisters and motored to his first ultra finish in the Wild Duluth 100K.  Phillip provided a great example for all of us that what truly matters in an ultra is our attitude and putting one foot in front of the other all day for a long time.  Great job Phillip, and I might put one of those hooded sweatshirts with the big pockets in my race wardrobe soon.  You were pulling food out of those pockets all day!

The Finish Line at Bayfront Park

The Finish Line at Bayfront Park

In the 50K, first time ultrarunner Juliana Bertelsen finished behind everyone and took home the Taconite in Your Pants Award.  What makes her finish truly special is that she got off course for an extended period of time and still persevered to the finish.  We received a call that a runner was off course and we began trying to track that runner down.  Shortly after beginning the process of tracking the runner down, we received another call that the runner was back on course and heading for the finish.  In the true ultrarunner spirit, Juliana never gave up and ran strong to the finish despite the extra miles she ran.

Many thanks to all of our tremendous volunteers who endured a long day but remained cheerful throughout.  The runners truly appreciated your efforts.  We’re looking forward to next year and hope to see many of you at the 2010 Wild Duluth Races.

Thanks to Zach Pierce and Rick Bothwell for the above photos.

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2009 Race Photos Posted

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We’ve posted some photos of the 2009 Wild Duluth Races on our Event Photos page.  Thanks to Rick Bothwell, Zach Pierce and Chris Amley for these great photos.  If anyone else has photos of the 2009 race that we can post on our website, please send them our way or provide us the link.  Thanks!

2009 Results Posted

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Results for the 2009 Wild Duluth races are now posted.  Once again, many thanks to the runners and volunteers.

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50K Winner Wynn Davis

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50K Winner Rochelle Wirth

Short story – We had some of the toughest ultrarunners I’ve ever seen at the Wild Duluth races this year.  We had only one runner not finish the 50K race and only two runners not finish the 100K race.  This course is tough, and if you don’t believe it, come up next year and check it out! Great job runners!

Wynn Davis smoked the 50K course running a very fast 4:11 on this challenging course to win the 50K.  Rochelle Wirth ran an equally smoking 50K to win the women’s race in the 50K in 5:13.  In the 100K, Sean Andrish set an amazing standard by running a very fast 10:52.  Julie Treder took the women’s race in a great 14:45.  These winning times for our inaugural race will set the bar pretty high!

We had some good stories out their on the trail.  Our final finisher in the 50K got way off course early in the race but gutted it out and finished her first ultra.  She ran some extra miles but never gave up – the true ultrarunners spirit!  We also had a great first time ultra finisher in the 100K.  He had never run an ultra before and knew little about the sport before accepting the challenge of 100

100K Winner Julie Treder

100K Winner Julie Treder

100K Winner Sean Andrish

100K Winner Sean Andrish

kilometers on a very rough, rugged and challenging course.  Needless to say, he finished strong, had an amazing positive attitude and

showed everyone what ultrarunning is all about.

I’ll try to post a longer report when I wake up a little more.  Looking forward to next year already!

Beautiful Day for Wild Duluth!

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Results will be posted soon!

We had spectacular weather for the inaugural Wild Duluth races yesterday.  Huge thank you to our runners and huge thank you to our great volunteers!  Check back later tonight for results.

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(photo courtesy of Zach Pierce)

Final Wild Duluth Update

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Just a few more brief updates before the race on Saturday.
Drop Bags – If you plan on using drop bags for either race, remember drop bags may only be left at the Highland/Getchell Aid Station and the Magney-Snively Aid Station.  You can leave your drop bags at the packet pick-up at Bayfront on Friday night from 5-7 p.m.  100K runners may also leave their drop bags in the morning at the start at Bayfront Park.  50K runners can leave their bags at the start in the morning at Chambers Grove Park.  Please mark your drops bags with your race #, last name and the aid station you’d like it dropped at.
Warm Ups – 50K runners taking the bus can leave their warm-ups at the start at Chambers Grove Park.  You might want to put them in a bag to keep all of your stuff together.  We’ll bring your warm-ups back to the finish line at Bayfront Park.  Don’t leave anything on the bus.
Cups – Please try to minimize the number of cups you use at aid stations.  If you don’t need a cup, just fill your bottle with water or sports drink.  We’d like to minimize waste and litter.  Also, be sure not to litter anywhere on the course.
Trail Between Chambers Grove and Grand Portage Aid Station – Most of the course will be run on the Superior Hiking Trail.  For the most part, the SHT is very well maintained and won’t have any downed trees or logs across the trail.  Be aware however, that the trail connecting the 50K start at chambers grove (middle of 100K) will not be as well maintained.  There may be a few logs across the trail in this section.  Just pay attention and follow the course markings and you will be fine.
Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!  Hope all of your travels are safe!

Updated Course Photos

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Updated the course photos with a few photos of the new start segment for 50K,  middle segment for 100K.

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Race Update

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The Wild Duluth races are about one week away.  Below are some race updates.

Course Details – The start of the 50K and middle section of the 100K (section between last aid station and turn-around) is different than last years beta run. This year we will be going directly across Hwy 210 upon leaving Chambers Grove Park. This section will start out on very primitive deer trails, climb the hill overlooking Chambers Grove Park through a beautiful forest of white and red pine and then follow a mix of primitive footpath, ATV trail, Mission Creek Trail and part of the powerline trail from the Voyageur 50 Mile race. This section will be marked very clearly with orange flagging.  PLEASE PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE TRAIL MARKINGS.   If you pay attention, you won’t get lost.   I may also run this section with the 50K runners at the start just to make sure the trail markings haven’t been disturbed and are where they’re supposed to be.   We don’t want anyone getting lost at the start of the 50K.  Once you arrive at the first aid station at Grand Portage, you will then run the remainder of the race on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT).

The SHT is marked VERY well with small signs, arrows and blue blazes on trees and rocks. For the most part, the portion of the race on the SHT doesn’t even need additional course marking.  You should see blue blazes on trees or rocks almost constantly when you’re on the trail. The blue blazes are confidence markers that are placed at very frequent intervals. If you’re running for a while and don’t see a blue blaze ahead, you might be off the trail. Backtrack until you find a sign or blue blaze. We will have additional orange flagging at trail intersections and we will have reflective tape for the night portions of the race for 100K runners (basically the last 15-18 miles of the course).

There are two out and back sections to aid stations on the course. For 50K runners, the first will be into the Grand Portage Aid Station and back out on the SHT. This is a relatively short out and back. Pay close attention to the turn off to the aid station on HWY 210. The second out and back to an aid station for 50K runners is to the Kingsbury Creek Aid Station near the Zoo. This is a much longer out and back, approximately 1/2 mile each way. You will leave the SHT, go down to the aid station, and then back up to the SHT, continuing to the East for 50K runners and to the West for 100K runners on the way out and then to the East for 100K runners on the way back. We will have this out and back clearly marked. It is up to you to pay attention to the signs at this intersection. The trail down to the aid station at Kingsbury Creek Trailhead should be marked with white blazes. White blazes along the SHT indicate spur trails. You will only take spur trails when you’re going into an aid station that is off the main trail. The Munger Trail Aid Station and Magney Snively Aid Station also involve a short diversion off of the main trail. Here you will get back on the trail going a different direction and these won’t be out and backs. Aid station personnel will point you in the right direction upon leaving the aid station. After leaving the Munger Trail Aid Station, you will run on the paved Munger Trail for approximately 0.4 miles. Don’t miss the rocky trail for the SHT taking off steeply uphill to the LEFT  just before the rocky cut in the paved Munger Trail. Also, after leaving the Magney-Snively Aid Station, you will follow Skyline Parkway approximately 0.2 miles, crossing Stewart Creek on a stone bridge. Don’t miss the SHT where it turns right, off the road and downhill.

Bus Transportation to Start of 50K – There will be bus transportation from the finish at Bayfront Park to the start of the 50K race at Chambers Grove. A bus will arrive at 6:45 a.m. and depart promptly at 7:00 a.m. for the start at Chambers Grove. If you plan on riding the bus, please consider a small donation. The cost of the bus was significant and was not included in the race registration. We will have a donation can at the packet pick-up on Friday night, on the bus, at the packet pick-up Saturday morning at Chambers Grove Park and at the finish line. Thanks!

Road Crossings – Please remember that traffic will not yield to runners. Runners MUST yield to traffic at all times. Please pay careful attention at the road crossings, slow down, look both ways and proceed with caution. We will not have road crossing officials at all road crossings. The future of our race is contingent upon runners being careful at road crossings. For your well being and for the future of our race, please ensure that there are no accidents at road crossings.

Packet Pick-up – Packet pick up will be available on Friday night from 5 to 7 p.m. in the enclosed shelter at Bayfront Park. Packet pick-up for 100K runners will also be available at the start/finish at Bayfront Park on Saturday morning. For 50K runners, you may also pick up your packet on Saturday morning at the starting line at Chambers Grove Park. Runners please check-in in the morning. Shirts/hooded sweatshirts will be in your packet before the race. You will not have to finish to receive your shirt/hooded sweatshirt.

Trail Hazards – The Superior Hiking Trail through Duluth is a very rugged, narrow trail. There are many rocks and roots as well as sharp uphills and downhills. Please be careful and pay attention to each footfall. A trip or a fall could be hazardous and the rocks and roots may make a sprained or broken ankle a real possibility if you aren’t paying attention. Please be careful. Toilets – There will be two bathrooms available indoors in the shelter at the Bayfront Park Start/Finish. The shelter is also heated so runners can stay warm after finishing their race. There will be chili (meat and vegetarian) and other food in the shelter for runners after the race. We will try to have 3 portable toilets available at the Chambers Grove start before the 50K race. Please plan accordingly.

That’s all the updates for now. Stay tuned for more updates if necessary. We look forward to seeing you all at the starting line next Saturday!

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