My First 100-Mile Race
Superior Sawtooth 100
Friday, September 5, at 8:00 am, I will take my first stride towards completing my first 100-mile trail race. The Superior Sawtooth 100 leaves Gooseberry Falls State Park Visitors’ Center, just outside Two Harbors, MN and finishes 102.6 miles away at Caribou Highlands Lodge in Lutsen, MN, where I have rented a room for two long days of recovery.
I am going at this challenge alone.
No support crew. No family. No friends.
I have no idea what to expect. I’ve never even been to Minnesota.
But, I am training hard, learning all I can from 100-mile race veterans, and quietly developing a plan – a plan that will probably completely be tossed to the side once the race starts …but a plan none-the-less.
See Blog entry, My First 100 Mile Race, for all the straight dope on the race, why I’m doing it and what it’s all about…
Superior Sawtooth 100-Mile Pace Chart
I developed this chart that shows the necessary times I will need to arrive at each aid station, focusing on three race finish scenarios:
- An impossible dream goal of a sub 24-hour finish
- A difficult-to-obtain, but possible, 30-hour finish
- A 38-hour minimum approach
The race is actually 102.6 miles, and must be completed in 38 hours. Runners not keeping at least a 38 hour pace will be pulled.
Pace chart created at Trailrunners.net
Superior Sawtooth 100 Course Description by Section
Information from the Superior Hiking Trail Association
Start to Split Rock
This section starts out traveling through a variety of forests. The trail then climbs to and follows Bread Loaf Ridge with stunning views of Lake Superior making this section one of the best views on the SHT.
Split Rock to the River Loop
This is one of the premier day hike loops on the SHT. The attractive trail gently ascends the west side of the river. Some washouts, steep banks, occasional overlooks make this section moderately challenging and interesting as it courses generally 50 feet above the river. The river cascades past cliffs and through clefts of sheer red rock walls draped with conifers. After crossing the bridge, the descending SHT affords some beautiful views of the river valley as a whole. When the SHT leaves the river it remains rather level until reaching a park shelter with a commanding overlook of Lake Superior and the river valley before a moderate descent along a spur to the highway about a 1/3 mile northeast of the bridge.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park to Beaver Bay
A challenging rocky trail affording dramatic views both of Lake Superior and inland. In many places the SHT follows along the edge of high escarpments with conifers clinging precariously 300 to 400 feet above the valley floor. There are many steep ascents and descents that take one through a wide variety of forests – much birch, maple, and aspen as well as impressive stands of cedars and white pines. The section also traverses part of the Merrill Grade, one of the historic logging railroads. Many sections of the SHT traverse long ridges of table rock, or follow long outcroppings which form walls for the SHT. In several sections one must proceed carefully along ponds bounded with large rocks and small boulders.
Beaver Bay to Silver Bay
The Superior Hiking Trail traces a serpentine route through one of the more developed sections of the North Shore, almost entirely within Silver Bay city limits. Despite the near-constant presence of taconite operations, highways, and towns, this section offers dramatic views as well as an intimate look at the Beaver River and its gorgeous falls. Easy access at both ends makes this a worthwhile journey, especially for the local history buff.
Silver Bay to Tettegouche State Park and Highway 1
This is one of the more challenging sections of the SHT, with lots of up and down, great views of the Lake and inland bluffs. It begins in the outskirts of Silver Bay and winds past beautiful Bean and Bear Lakes into Tettegouche State Park. The thick maple forests make it a popular fall colors hike.
Highway 1 to County Road 6
This section, one of the most challenging, varies greatly from easy, long stretches along the contours to steep, scrambling ascents and descents. There are many open ledges affording beautiful views of both Lake Superior and its shoreline, and inland lakes, mountains and valleys. The trail is mostly dry and winds through pockets of maples.
County Road 6 to Finland Recreation Center
This hike leads to some of the more impressive terrain on the SHT, including the high cliffs overlooking the Sawmill Valley, popular with local rock climbers and known to them as Section 13. There is an impressive boardwalk that has been constructed over a beaver dam and glacial erratic that is over 20 feet tall. The hike ends with a trek through the valley that includes the east branch of the Baptism river.
Finland Recreation Center to Crosby-Manitou State Park
This section, while longer is relatively level hiking. It offers a wide variety of terrain and forest types. SHT passes through mixed hardwood forests, groves of large cedars, excellent moose habitat and past two spectacular inland lakes. Unique features of this section are the old trappers cabin and the boardwalk to the island on Sonju Lake.
Crosby Manitou State Park to Caribou River
This section of the SHT is quite dramatic in terms of topography, offering broad views of both inland ridges, ponds, and rivers, and of Lake Superior. The SHT here is more rugged than most sections and visits a variety of forest habitats. The western half of the section skirts valley of the wild Manitou River, while the eastern half explores the cedar groves of the dramatic Caribou River Gorge.
Caribou River to Cook County Road 1
After ascending the beautiful and dramatic Caribou River gorge, this section of the SHT follows a series of ridges and overlooks through mixed deciduous woods. The bog vegetation of the Alfred’s Pond area is a quiet highlight. Lots of evidence of logging, including roads and clearcuts, helps the hiker understand the role of logging in forest ecology. Although this section is lengthy, it is one of the easier sections to hike – perfect for a long nature walk.
Cook County Road 1 to Temperance River State Park
This section of the SHT offers a comprehensive look at the steep character of the region’s watershed. The climb to Tower overlook, the descent to Fredenberg Creek, and the hike along the marsh set the stage for the highlight of the section, the historic Cross River. Also, there is a ample evidence of both recent and historic logging.
Temperance River State Park to Britton Peak
This is one of the most easily accessible sections of the SHT and one of the most commonly used. The hike to Carlton Peak from either direction is an easy ascent,and the scramble to the top of the peak is a fun adventure with ample rewards of incredible views. Coming from Temperance River State Park, the hiker gets to see the amazing Temperance River, with the roaring river deep in a dark basaltic canyon.
Britton Peak to Oberg Mountain
This section crosses the Sugarbush cross-country ski trail system several times. The section, one of the easier of the SHT, begins as an easy, rolling path through maple and birch forest, with a carpet of leaves underfoot in autumn. The topography becomes more dramatic in the central section and the maple and birch give way to spruce, balsam, and cedar around the beaver pond. From the pond the SHT ascends to Leveaux Mtn. loop and on to the parking area. Wet and seasonally wet ground is typical along this section.
Oberg Mountain to Lutsen
This section has a bit of everything, from scenic overlooks of Oberg Mt. and Moose Mt. to the dense maple forests of the east end. After the optional climb to Oberg Mt., the SHT winds through boreal forests of birch, spruce, balsam fir, and alder then climbs to the top of Moose Mt., where the views in all directions are rewarding. The ups and downs make this one of the more challenging sections. The last three miles go through a rich maple forest before emerging at the gorge of the Poplar River. This section was constructed by the Forest Service and is one of the oldest sections of the SHT.
Superior Sawtooth 100 resources
- Superior Hiking Trail photos
- Superior Hiking Trail photos from the race web site
- SS 100 race report | Julie Berg
- Press Release: Atlanta Runner Tackles 100-Mile Ultramarathon Trail Race
- Race report: Superior Sawtooth 100 Race Report