Sunday, September 09, 2007

Moose Mountain Marathon

What a marathon! The Moose Mountain Marathon is one of three simultaneous races traversing sections of the Superior National Hiking Trail. Besides the marathon there is a 50-mile and a 100-mile race.

We three “only” ran the marathon, but that is a far tougher course than any other marathon I’ve ever run.

First we spotted ourselves a two-mile handicap by missing a turn at the START. I was just livid when I found that out (but maybe at myself?). However, it’s very hard to stay angry when surrounded by so much natural beauty, and with perfect running conditions, the temperature varying only between 52 and 57 degrees all day.

After the iffy start, we hiked (no running for us) another eight miles to the first of three aid stations, then continued on to the others. The trail is sometimes very nice, soft earth, but more often it is obstructed with roots and rocks. There are lots of long uphill and downhill treks, and those are usually the rockiest parts of the trail. In a few places, it would be very hard to navigate the trail without using hands to steady oneself.
Runners waiting to start
Natural beauty
Beauty every inch of the trail
Fall is on the way

One of several incredible waterfalls.  This is the Temperance River

Sometimes the trail is easy, like this

But often it's rocky and difficult, like this

Or full of roots, which do their best to reach up and grab your foot
The fastest runner this year actually did finish in just under four hours, but people who do that can probably run a paved marathon in 2:30 to 2:40. One friend who can normally run a marathon under 4:30 needed over eight hours last year. It’s a TOUGH, challenging race, not just for people who are competing for a place but for anyone trying to finish it at any speed. The incredible beauty of the Superior Hiking Trail is the compensation.

This race has few rules, but does have cutoff times: You may not leave the last aid station after 5:00 pm unless you have a flashlight or headlight. Further, you may not leave the last aid station after 7:00 pm, period. We arrived there at about 5:50, and my sweeties decided that they wouldn't risk running the last leg on very tired legs in the dark. So I donned a headlamp and took off for the finish, traveling the last seven miles in a little less than two hours, much of that in semi-darkness.

It rained for the last half hour or so, making the trail a little more slippery, but otherwise not causing a problem. In this segment I did run, as fast as I could, walking the steep uphills, the treacherous downhills, and wherever else the trail was too uneven to run safely.
I loved traveling with my sweeties, but I loved this part too, crusing alone, almost silently, through the forest as fast as possible. It’s hard to believe that I averaged only 17 minutes per mile; it sure felt faster. Must be more than seven miles :-)

The casualty, unfortunately was the plantar-fasciitis foot. It hardly hurt at all hiking into the last aid station, then started to hurt a little more as I ran the last seven miles, and finally hurt a lot when I reached the pavement of the last half-mile.

It seems like the podiatrist-recommended two months of “hammock therapy,” with night splint every night and special orthotics, didn’t help at all; the PF came right back. Two wasted months. It still hurts today; we’ll see about tomorrow. Maybe it’s time to see if a surgeon has any advice. The marathon was delightful, but the foot is a big disappointment.

See more Moose Marathon information on Sunshine's blog Best Day of the Year.

Triple threat: Roots, overhead log, narrow boardwalk
Always the beauty
Happy finisher.  Wet shoulders from the light rain

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