The Resurrection | A Superior Sawtooth 100-Mile Trail Race Report

I did it. I got my first 100-mile trail race belt buckle; however, I share this buckle with the Superior Sawtooth aid station volunteers, my new friends Molly and Brian, and every other runner out there on that beautiful, but brutally technical, race course.

As I lie here in bed at the Caribou Lodge in Lutsen, MN, I am in complete pain and suffering intense exhaustion. I spent a straight 38 hours on that trail. I went to Hell and came back again. As if the trail itself wasn’t enough to shatter a runner, the trail Gods were relentlessly throwing every possible additional challenge my way. I suppose they wanted me to truly earn that buckle.

Physically, I feel like I’ve been run over by a pack of moose; but emotionally, I am a different person today. I am humbled. I am amazed. I have increased my faith in people, …in the human spirit, and experienced some of nicest, most helpful individuals on this Earth. I simply can’t say that enough and you’ll read why.

Lastly, I now, more than ever, truly understand the concept of “relentless forward motion”.

This is how it all went down:

“There aren’t any Mountains in Minnesota”

Yeah? Well, someone forgot to tell that to Minnesota.

Here’s how most conversations about my upcoming race developed:

me: “I’ll be running my first 100-mile race in September”

them: “wow, really? I don’t even like to drive 100 miles. Where is it?”

me: “Northern Minnesota”

them: “Well, at least it ought to be kinda flat…”

They couldn’t be more wrong. The Superior Sawtooth 100-Mile Trail Race has 20,000 feet of elevation gain and 21,000 feet of descent; and actually offers up 102.6 miles of brutal trail terrain. This is no exaggeration regarding this terrain and I am shocked that I haven’t heard more about this on the Ultralist, in the Ultrarunning magazine, or anywhere else.

I like to think that our Meat Grinder training grounds are gnarly rugged trails, but this Superior Trail up here in Minnesota made my training spots, and even the tough South Carolina Foothills, seem a whole lot less daunting.

Not many southerners get up to this race, but I’m officially shouting out to all the Laurel Valley runners right now. This race is right up your alley. The nature might be different, the tree species foreign, and a lack of sweltering humidity, but the the terrain is SC Foothills-nasty all the way.

There are millions of tree roots. Not little trip-ya-up tree roots, but big fat daddies that go on for ever and ever. Mini hurdles. And the rocks? …dude, the rocks. Bowling ball-sized is about the smallest, with most of the rock sections being large, mossy, slippery and dangerous – oh, and they like to appear during steep descents which makes it twice as hard to negotiate …especially when the legs and hips are sore and fatigued.

The hills, like Laurel Valley, are relentless. At least, at Laurel Valley, you have some flat sections and runnable, rolling uphill and downhill in which to stretch out the legs. No much luck at Superior. It is constant up and down. Again, no exaggeration. Sure, the mountains may never get more than 2000 feet, but you are presented with tons of mini-climbs constantly. I can’t stress it enough. CONSTANTLY. When you go up, you immediately go down. Almost zero ridge running. And once you descend to the bottom, you again immediately go right back up.

These trails are hard and the Minnesota runners, whom I’ve learned are quite a humble bunch, deserve props for being so tough and training/racing on some incredibly difficult terrain.

phew, ok, sorry to go so long into that, but it’s important to the story to really stress the terrain of this race. I love technical trail – it’s my absolute favorite – and this trail taught me a lesson. It chewed me up and spit me out and left me for worse more than once throughout the race experience.

It all starts at Gooseberry Falls, Minnesota

Northern Minnesota is what I imagine Alaska to look like. I have never been anywhere near this kind of area before and it was really stunning. Lots of tall pines of various type, big cliffs overlooking Lake Superior, and lots of untouched, undisturbed forests and nature. They have moose here. I think that’s cool. Moose.

I was amazed at how many runners had crews and pacers. This being my first 100-mile race, I wouldn’t have known how to put together such a group, but you could really see how much it meant to the runners to get hugs and support before the race.

I was sitting alone, trying to collect myself, my nerves, and trying to stay warm under a little patch of sunshine. Just minutes before the start, a girl comes up to me and says,

“You’re the guy from Atlanta, right?”

She apparently used to live in Atlanta, but transplanted to Minnesota and was crewing for her boyfriend. I’m not sure if I looked lonely and pitiful sitting alone in that little patch of sunshine, but she offered her genuine sincere support and said that she’d be at most aid stations and would be glad to help me with anything I needed.

Like so many others, she ended up being a big part of my race.

There were 57 brave souls geared up at the starting line, and at 8:00 a.m. Larry Pederson sent us off into the forest.

Don’t judge a race by the first 20 miles

Oh boy, was I ever cocky.

I trained hard. I was ready. I felt fantastically fit and strong. After all, I am CrossFit-man, and I was convinced that I could handle this 100-miler without falling apart. {wink, wink}

Ha ha ha — what a joke I am. I have so much to learn …all the time – and I seem to live a life of constant lessons and a big, fat foot in my mouth. Lesson one at Superior: pace yourself.

I ran the beginning of the race with Susan Donelley, one of my longtime running idols, and someone who has racked up a handful of wins at the Superior Sawtooth.

The weather was nice at the time. The views of Lake Superior and various elements of nature were captivating and plentiful, and it was hard not to feel especially at ease and comfortable. A few climbs here and there, but the beauty of trails at this point trumped the early challenges.

I was running pretty damn strong. Once I got to the Beaver Bay aid station, twenty miles into the race, I found myself in the front half pack of runners pushing a 25 hour finish pace; but I was beginning to pay the price of going out too fast.

I was already fatiguing significantly.

The trail changes face

What was once a manageable and visual masterpiece, became an intense, brutal beast. That’s one thing to note about this race – the toughest sections are also the longest sections with roughly ten miles between aid stations for most of ‘em. Naturally, this is where the mental and emotional parts of your fitness come into play. It’s in these sections where you learn what your made of.

Miles 20-34 kicked my butt all over the place. This is where the relentless climbing began. Constant up and downs on inclines made up entirely of rocks. Many times, the trail, simply wasn’t discernible because it was rocks. (sorta like Blue Hell at Mt. Cheaha 50K) – You’d step on one rock, initiate a one-legged squat to get to the next rock, and then “swoosh”, the rock below you would fall and you’d end up over-stretched in a sort of front split, fearing a cramp and scrambling to find some stable footing before really injuring yourself.

This was a common scenario for me in this race. I had gotten to the loopy mental point where I would have discussions with the rock climbs before I started up ‘em.

“Please Mr. rock climb. Please let me find the stable, secure rocks to negotiate, and NOT go tumbling down…”

or speaking directly to a particular rock:

“ooooo, I see you tricky-man, I’m not stepping there you bastard!”

I can only imagine what it must have looked and sounded like if anyone would have been around.

The rock hill after rock hill was always followed by just as nasty a’rock descent after rock descent. My legs were starting to get trashed and my inexperience was rearing it’s ugly head. “Smart” 100-mile veterans, who had paced slower earlier in the race, were starting to pass.

It felt like FOREVER getting through the ten miles from the Silver Bay aid station to Tettegouche, and I was soooo happy to finally get there, get some food, and collect myself a bit.

John Taylor becomes my dark buddy

John Taylor was an interesting guy. We had a similar approach to the trails, running well through the flats and downs, and aggressively power-hiking the ups, and even though I don’t think we really intended on staying together, off-and-on, like we did, it was a great help to me.

John was an experienced 100-miler. He has done over fifteen hundos, and over 75 marathons. He had tree-trunk legs and massive power on the hills. And massive power in the lungs!

Dude had a story for everything and was telling me all kinds of wild stuff. I appreciated this because it kept my mind off the growing pain in my legs, hips, and feet and generally kept me entertained.

The power of other people

I rolled into the Couny Road 6 aid station with John just before dark. He was stoked because he was an hour ahead of his time last year, so I was happy that I was a positive addition to his run and not slowing him down in any way. I was stoked because here they had grilled cheese sandwiches. I ate 3 of ‘em. This was the 43 mile mark and I was still running pretty well. I was now in uncharted territory for myself since my previous longest run was only 40 miles.

Now, this is where I’d like to reintroduce the girl that approached me before the start the race. Almost every significant aid station had lots of runner crews, pacers and supporters all waiting for their runner so they could cheer him or her on and help them with anything they might need. Not having that for myself, this awesome girl would always cheer for me and offer to help me with my bottles or get me food. Sometimes it was her and some other girlfriends of hers cheering. It made me feel really, really good. I would have been lonely without it, and I began looking forward to seeing them throughout the race.

Never underestimate the power of support. I never will again. Ultras have a way of peeling away our insecurities about things.

Running in the dark is whole new ballgame

I was sorta’ looking forward to the dark since I planned to just walk all night, and regain running once it became light again – but nope.

When I shared that game plan with John, he had an unintentional way of making me feel my nighttime approach was sissy-fied. I know he didn’t really set out to do that, but there was no way I was gonna’ take that approach now. Not if he wasn’t. If he was running, I was running.

Running in the dark was a crazy trip for me. It gets so dark in the trails that you literally live inside a 15 foot circumference of light. Everything else around is pitch black.

To add difficulty to the situation, it began to rain, but it was a light rain which actually felt good, but made all the rocks on the course very slippery. {right John? hehe}

There were some rocky areas but for the most part, this particular section after county road 6 was very runnable and we cruised along this portion of trail and pretty much ran 90% of this stretch – crossing the awesome Beaver Dam thing – to the 50 mile point – Finland aid station.

You run the first 50 miles with your legs and last 50 with your heart

From here on out during the Superior Sawtooth 100, this mantra would continually be thrown at me from other runners, aid station folks, and complete strangers who wanted me to succeed.

This might sound dramatic, but my life changed after 1:30 a.m., as I left the Crosby Manitou aid station, headed through the most treacherous, the most intense, and easily one of the scariest experiences of my entire life.

The section begins with an immediate and ridiculously steep decline. A very, very long descent with huge, loose boulders, vanishing trail, extremely loud rushing rapids (that you can’t see, I might add), and all surrounded by total and complete darkness. This descent killed me and at the bottom, I sat down and began to second guess my decision to run this course.

They say it takes the first snowflake to make an avalanche and this was the beginning of my avalanche of self-doubt.

After finding, and crossing. the rushing rapids, the trail started climbing …and climbing …and climbing. Turn a corner, climb again. This climb was the nastiest climb for me of the entire race. I started to really hurt and tears were welling up in my eyes.

I was lonely and began thinking of my wife in our nice comfy king-sized bed, with posturepedic pillows, soft blankets, and a snoring beagle. Recently, before bed one night, she shared her concern for some of these nutty things I do and right about now, I was feeling a little guilty for making my sweet lady worry.

As you can see, I was sorta’ falling emotionally, and it was coming fast.

Extreme fatigue hit me during this climb and I found myself taking rest breaks along the trail. Just’a ploppin’ on down in the dirt, exhausted, and lying there thinking one or two minutes of sleep might help.

No luck. I’d begin to shiver and have to get up and start moving.

The most frustrating thing about long technical sections is the fact that without the ability to run as much, coupled with the painfully slow, difficult climbs, it feels like for-absolute-ever to get through it.

It took me about six hours to run this gnarly stretch and I ran it completely alone. I was cold, and shivering so badly, that with about 1.5 miles left in the section I ran. Hard. And never stopped running until I got to the 72-mile aid station – Sugarloaf.

Hypothermia in full effect

This is where I wish the aid station volunteers at Sugarloaf could jump into my report and share from their perspectives – but I was a complete mess. Babbling, stumbling, mumbling, shivering, nodding in and out of coherent-ness. I couldn’t really eat, didn’t want to drink, and all I wanted to do was close my eyes. Give me a chair, the ground, a bed of rocks, I did not care.

I wanted to drop.

The idea of trying to negotiate 30 more miles when I was already in a state of delirium seemed more than crazy – it seemed 100% impossible. In fact, I was so out of it, I didn’t even care.

Thank God that the volunteers cared. Every volunteer jumped to action with the intent of getting me well again and getting me back out on trail – even when I had given up all hope.

They wrapped me from head to toe in blankets (I hear there are pictures) in a sort of cocoon. They filled water bottles with hot water and put those under the blankets with me. I just shivered and shivered, under the covers, babbling a bunch of nonsense and proclaiming I was dropping this race and that trying to help me recover was futile.

I mean, come on – look at me {below}

I think his name was Patrick

I laid there for about an hour, shivering, and listening to runners come in the aid station, and leaving, all just adding to my frustration as my race placement fell deeper and deeper.

The guy that finally got through to me was a veteran runner volunteer named, I believe, Patrick. He had a sort of matter-of-fact, military-esque direct mannerism that somehow got me off that cot, out from under the blankets, and willing to try it his way.

He even gave me a dry, long-sleeved, shirt from his personal stash.

The volunteers filled up my bottles, gave me some food to carry, and Patrick lead me back to the trail telling me, “just get to the next aid station …don’t think about the total miles, just get to the next aid station and walk the whole way to recover.”

With that he wished me well, waited for me down a cup of soup, and I was, somehow, back in the game.

I honestly have tears in my eyes while I type this. It was an example of humanity during a period when every layer was peeled away from me. This guy, this entire aid station, saved my race and I will always think about them when I wear my buckle loud and proud.

A series of highs and lows

After about five miles, I started to come back to life. I wasn’t running again yet, but I was moving forward and starting to feel really good about NOT dropping. I ate a Snickers bar, took some more caffeine, and now that it was light again, the start to day 2, I actually started to feel, dare I say, “happy”

But that wouldn’t last long.

When I got to the 77 mile aid station, I had a drop bag there with Boost drinks, a warmer shirt and Ibuprofen – which by the way, did nothing for my pain.

Yet another lesson in 100-mile ultrarunning – expect severe high and low swings – and take each in stride.

…which I did not do.

As soon as my short spurt of elation evaporated, I began to collapse yet again. I got passed in this section by just about all the remaining hundred milers. I was so tired, I was wobbling on the trail and craving sleep. I don’t think I have stayed up all night like that since college, and the sleep deprivation was eating me up.

I would stop about every half mile during the 77 and 84 mile stretch and lie down to sleep. The marathon had just started, and runners were flying by, jumping over my legs and wishing me well.

“Keep it up”, they’d say.

“You’re looking great”…

Yea. I’m lying in the fetile position on the trail like a little sap. I’m mumbling. My hands are swollen the size of grapefruits and I can’t even make a fist to grab rocks on steep descents. My legs and hips hurt so bad that I’m stumbling like the town drunk.

Yep, I’m looking great.

Molly saves the day

When I finally got the 84 mile aid station, I had endured enough. I just didn’t care anymore. All I wanted to do was sleep. I had already rehearsed how I would rationalize dropping to all my friends, family, the ultralist, …I had accepted that I would catch a little grief for my steadfast confidence. All I wanted was to speak to my wife and be told, “it’s ok.”

I announced that I was dropping – which I have now learned is the stupidest thing to do if you really want to drop. There is no faster way to spark good aid station volunteers into action than to announce a drop.

People were feeding me food and every running cliche under the sun to change my mind.

Then, out nowhere, a girl named Molly said, “come on, get up, I’ll pace you to the next aid station”

Molly had started the 100-mile race with everyone else but got stung by a bee at around mile 24 and had a terrible allergic reaction. The ironic thing is that when it happened, she was right behind me with some other guy and when they caught up to me they asked if I got stung – and when we got the aid station after her sting, she looked all puffy and was scratching all over and peeling off her shoes and socks…

That was the last I saw her back at 25 miles, and now here she was, willing to help me to the finish. It’s crazy how things work out.

Her husband prepped her, we grabbed some food to go, and hero #2 and I headed back to the trail.

More rain? You’ve got to be kidding

I was NOT looking forward to going into my second night. I was hoping to finish this race before dark, however, a second night on the trail is more common than not during this brutal 100-mile race.

Molly and I made it through one additional aid station, and she continued to stay with me, chatting away and keeping my mind off of the pain. I couldn’t believe it. What an angel. A true angel.

Then, at about mile 92, it started to rain again.

“I can’t F’in believe this”, I yelled.

I was scared to death of getting cold again, like the previous night, and I had come this far only to possibly risk a finish. Molly and I got drenched. It rained really hard, and within minutes, I was cold again.

“This trail is doing everything it can to prevent me a finish”, I hollered. I was very upset and frustrated.

Molly stayed positive, we kept moving, and finally made it to the last aid station where Brian, her husband, had the truck. We scrambled into the truck, cranked up the heat, and thawed out for about 15 minutes.

I couldn’t find my drop bag at the last aid station, so Brian, who doesn’t even know me except as the guy his wife is pacing to the finish, gave me a dry shirt and a wind-breaker. The support from those around me made this race for me.

“I can’t believe it, I’m going to finish”

And with that, we checked out of the last aid station at 6:30 p.m., complete with lights for night #2, rain jackets, and garbage bags to keep us dry.

All I had to do was make it 7.1 miles to the finish. I was excited, but in so much pain that the upcoming 7 miles weighed heavy on my psyche.

The last stretch felt really long. There are some very tough climbs, including Moose Mountain (a ski mountain) and a bunch of steep, rocky descents. Seeing a theme here?

Again, I forced Molly to stop every now and again while I’d take brief, 1-3 minute breaks, lying on the ground in the dirt, against a rock or tree stump, and collect myself. The pain was tremendous and I was close to my complete breaking point.

The finish line

There was one guy in front of me whom we caught up to within 100 yards before the finish. I couldn’t see the finish line, but I heard everyone cheer for the dude so I started running. I was so happy, so elated, so satisfied, so emotional… and the greatest thing was seeing all those who supported me, helped me, and pulled for me to finish, all standing there congratulating me.

It was one of the greatest moments in my life.

Yep, I got my finisher buckle, but I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of a cast of people here in the great state of Minnesota.

Thank you to everyone associated. I am indebted to each of you – and not just because you helped me get that buckle. It means so much more than that. You helped change my perception of the “fellow man”. You taught me that it’s ok to rely on other people, and hell, that other people get something out of it too.

You taught me to be more humble. Something I need to work on more and more.

I’m in a lot of pain today. My ass cheeks are so inflamed that a shower just hasn’t been tolerable yet – my chaff is so serious there’s puss involved. My hips cannot hold up my torso without 30 seconds of leg balance and acclimation, and my feet feel as though they are in a constant cramp.

I have heel blisters, between the toe blisters, and bug bites on my shaved head.

And I love every moment of this agony. I heard 29 out the 57 starters dropped the race, and while I can surely empathize, I am so glad I hung in there to get that damn buckle. So, so very glad.

I’m a hundred-miler now.

{pictures to follow when I arrive back in Georgia}

to send me pictures:

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Great first 100 miler race report! I’m trying my first 100 next November and reading all I can right now. Thanks for writing about it.

Great race report – it’s true, most do think of Minnesota as flat! The north shore is SO much different than the rest of the state. I’m from the “more northern” part of the state on the Canadian border, ~4 hours northwest of Lutsen, and it truly is flat as a pancake up here. I’m eyeing the Superior trail races for my first ultra in the future, though I’m sticking to plain old marathons for a year or two more :)

Congrats on your 100-miler!

im attempting my first 100 mile run in march 2012. ( thames path 100) – i found your blog via a google search and read it several times – inspirational – thank you.

I had to go back and read this one again after running the Jewel last weekend. I’m reading with new eyes. Thanks again for sharing the experience.

Wow, what an experience and an amazing job at telling the story. I’m headed up to do Sawtooth next weekend and I’ve been up on that trail and completely agree with you at how relentless it is. I hope to have an equally inspirational experience, but hopefully slightly less painful then yours. Great job man and I hope you will be back in MN again.

Reading this after 3 years very inspirational and has got me fired up to do Sawtooth next year. I’ve done some 50′s JFK and local race in Ohio but nothing like this. Next time someone asks me why I do these races I’m just gonna hand them a copy of your report, maybe then they’ll understand.

Thanks for sharing this. I am doing my first 100 in one week and I know that I will be thinking of this post while I am out there next week. Very encouraging! Look at this 2+ years ago and your experience is still encouraging people. Fantastic.
Thanks again,
Tim Duffy

[...] of physical challenges that can be anticipated during longer events (read this race report for what true ultra-marathoners push through).  With this being my first ultra, and incidentally my first marathon along the way, I’m [...]

Hi, Christian.

I stumbled across your blog from another runner-friend of mine. We don’t know each other, and surely we may not bump into each other since I live in Asia (Philippines), but your blog helped me tons.

I recently finished my first 100-mile road race (open road, highway, dirt, smoke, and all that nasty crap) this weekend. And there were times during the race wherein I started to doubt myself. In fact, a week before the race, I was starting to have doubts as to whether I would be able to finish the race.

In case you’re interested, here are the results –

I am number 12.

The race is a commemoration of the infamous Death March that Filipino and American soldiers went through during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during WW2. They marched 151 kms, but of course, the RD thought it best to make the race an official 100-mile, so he added 9 kms to 151.

The race started on Saturday (Feb. 26), at 5 AM, with a cut-off time of 30 hours. 59 of us insane runners started. Only 34 finished.

Anyway, back to the race, as I said, at km 80, I was having doubts. Lack of sleep was kicking in. I was tired. We needed to reach km 102 in 18 hours (middle cut-off) in order to go on to km 160. – if not, DNF. But then I remembered what you wrote in one of your blogs – that you should never doubt yourself (otherwise you’ll have to contend with that too), and that you should chill, relax, and rely on your training and abilities. I did just that – thanks to you.

So, thanks, Christian! Keep on writing!

Great job. Superior races are awesome. Got several to choose from. 25k,Marathon,50k,50 miler,100 miler. Most pople don’t realize how tough this course is. Great job, and Superior being your first 100 miler-that simply awesome.
I live in this great state Mn. and superior ultra’s are the best.

Wow!! You are a rock star. I am so proud of you for finishing. I will be running a hundred in February, my second. I did not finish my first one. I was looking at training programs and came across your site. Thank you so much for telling your story. You are an inspiration.
Laura Range


I came across your site when I was researching the NB MT100′s. I have always been fascinated by the 100 mile distance, it’s something I’d like to do, and your account was certainly inspiring; enjoyed reading about it very much and the humbling process along the way. I wish you continued success in your ultra endeavors.

Edward Edmonds

[...] easy climbs. I feel I have a very unique appreciation of this relentless concept having run the the Superior Sawtooth 100, and getting my butt kicked by a similar “relentless hill” [...]

Thanks so much Christian. I’m planning on doing my first 100 miler next year. Your report was really inspiring and I’ll think about you during the inevitable low points in my race. I hope to find great support along the way like you did. Congratulations, and thanks again. I have a hard time explaining to people that finishing an ultra is worth all of the pain that went into it. Your article gets to the heart of it. You’re awesome!

I am absolutely speechless. Your review was amazing. I don’t know you and I am so proud of you!

[...] This is the year that I completed my first 100-mile trail race. [...]

[...] minutes off my time, and get that sub 4-hour marathon. I knew I was strong enough, but since my 100-mile race experience in September, I had not endured any training runs beyond 15K (9.3 miles), but had run quite a few [...]

[...] challenge I have ever encountered. Naturally, I must go back and do it again, right? This race changed me as a person in [...]

Great job! Character revealing and building… what
a super life experience. Congrats!

WOW, just WOW! Thanks for sharing and CONGRATS on finishing! Someday I want to run a 100!

What a great story…and an amazing accomplishment! Congratulations, man. You did an amazing thing.

Great job & great report. The picture of your corpse on the cot was excellent. Story was almost as good as the one where you lost your shorts!

Thanks for taking the time to write such a valuable story…even for those who never intend on attempting a 100 miler.
I certainly don’t run for the money and believe that each race presents the opportunity for a new experience. You certainly got something to remember. Nice medal.

I must admit I have now read your entire race report twice. The raw detail is what the guts of ultra’s are all about. I have always said that no one finishes a distance event alone. To me that is what makes trail running so different from road and that is what I love most about it.

At one time I considered doing a 100 miler and this year I am going back to MMTR to claim those mountains. Last year I was pulled at mile 33 due to sickness. So this is my year!! Looks like you will be toeing the line as well. Amazing!!!

Cheers to recovery and running another great race.

Wow what a great race report. One of the best I’ve ever read. I have never ran more than a 50K trail race, and have had no hopes or ambitions to run (walk, crawl)100 miles, but after reading this post, it makes me want to think of trying. Congratulations on a well-deserved buckle.

Hey, awesome job and awesome race report. I just ran my first 100 miler on August 23/24th, the Lean Horse in Hot Springs, SD. I am planning my next season and was looking at Sawtooth and now that I have seen the buckle I am SO THERE, it is very cool. I’m glad to have seen you race report too, I would not have expected such a technical trail. Good luck in your future runs!

You write just like you speak. Your words brought me along on that trail. I respect your accomplishment so much. Congratulations! – Carol Ann

Chrisitian, I finally got around to reading this awesome and inspirational post.



Brilliant! Just brilliant. What a way to complete your 100 miler and what a great write up. Truly inspirational the way you hung in there. Huge congrats and I hope you come back to visit us in MN again soon.


I just finished reading your account, and all I have to say is WOW. Loved every minute of it. Your well documented pain was my glee (sorry). I’d been looking for a true retelling of what it’s like to run a 100 miler for the first time. I imagine my first attempt will be very similar to yours, unfortunately. But even with all your hardships, it still made me want to run one even more, just to taste that feeling of crossing the finish line.

[...] Bad score was nothing to brag about at 226, but seeing as how I am still recovering from a nasty 100-mile mountain trail race, I’m just happy I was able to get through it – and have fun throughout the [...]

Your humililty attests to your great strength. I am forwarding your story to my son who left for the Alaska Wilderness by himself. He is 23 years old and doesn’t yet understand his humanity and how much he needs to allow people in his life to help him and challenge him when he feels like giving up on himself. There is no doubt that your strength as illustrated by your experience, has and will motivate many people to challenge themselves…me included to both get in the race and also to serve others. Thanks for sharing your story!

THANK YOU ALL!!! for your feedback, well wishes and hearty congratulations. I really appreciate the attention.

The only way I can sum it all up is…

“Now I know”

It’s an all-encompassing comment – hope it makes sense.

Congratulations Christian! What an inspiring experience. See you tomorrow at the Affiliate Challenge.

Great report. I have done Superior a time or two and can share your thoughts. Last year I was one of the last finishers. at 37:20 The last seven miles would not have been possible if my oldest son had not jumped in and paced me. Went to wasacth this year , but hope to be back to my home course ST next year. You did a great job and kept moving. I believe your report was an inspiration to all of us even us old geezers.

Happy Trails
Al Sauld

Thank you for your report Christian. Congratulations!

Great race report Christian – congrats on finishing a brutal race!

Hope you enjoyed your visit to the North Woods :)

Awesome job Christian, I’m new to the endurance running great recap of the race, very inspiring.

Congrats on finishing. Also, thanks for giving Molly a reason to get back on the trail. We were just happy to help. I have one more photo of you at the finish, I’ll get it to you soon.


WOW!!!! WHAT A WINNER!!! christian, i am so impressed with what you have accomplished and heart you have to have finished!!! GREAT JOB!! CONGRATULATIONS!

coach b

Awesome race report! You captured it well! You are truly inspirational! You really were amazing on how you kept moving.

Like I said out on the course, I’m just glad you let me finish the race with you. I probably got more out of the situation that you did, really – thanks! It was a great experience.


Wow. that’s about all i can say. your story made me cry, because even though i’m just marathoner, i know that feeling of being mentally through. what an inspiration you are to the human spirit. i’ll think of you and all the times you picked yourself back up next time i’m battling my own psyche. Keep it up- amazing accomplishment.

Christian -
outstanding report – just goes to show you that no matter how wasted you are, there are still some indelible mental impressions made. Congratulations on your first 100 – I’m sure it won’t be your last!

aloha, Tropical John

Great writeup and job finishing!

WOW! That is just amazing. It sounds like you really went to hell and back during the race. It really goes to show how much a positive attitude can push us to do things we never thought possible. You’ve totally inspired me! I may have to shoot for my first ultra soon :) Rest up and hope you’re back to 100% soon!

Christian – congratulations! As usual a wonderful report. You’ve come such a long way!


I was so happy you made it. I felt bad about leaving you out there- but I felt I had to run my own race. I knew that you would be uncomfortable- but would make it- your mentally and physically strong.

I was hoping to see you come in at the finish- but I couldn’t stay awake, and had to go set up my tent and sleep.

You were a lot of fun to run with. I hope to run with you again sometime.

Keep up the good work!!!

Your Dark Buddy,
John Taylor
Minnepolis, MN

wow, another great report.
I continue to be amazed at the ultra community and how they all come together to help each other’s race.

Wow, Christian! You continue to amaze and inspire with your accomplishments and your words. Congratulations! Heal up and come back to the Y so we can all bow down before you!


I’m a blogging buddy of Spurgeon’s….a total stranger. This is the most amazing race report I’ve ever read. It left me in tears and yet gave me great hope and inspiration. Congratulations on a life changing journey. I’ll never forget this report.

May you have many good miles in front of your.


“Ultra Goosebumps” you just applied! I’m just speechless and in aws. With your triumph, makes my Ironman seem like a walk with my dogs! Nonetheless, I had no doubt in you! Killa Dude!!! I’m next!!

Congratulations Christian! Never doubted you would finish. I can not even begin to wrap my brain around such an enormous undertaking. We are very proud of you – your friends back in Ohio! Take care of that pain now. Jan, Steve, Daniel and Ryan.

What an awesome story, would have loved to have been there myself. I’ve read many stories of first attempts by others, congratulations on finishing on your first attempt, as most do not. I’m not surprised by the support but love to read the praises of those I’ve come to know.

Fantastic story..Us 3 were finishing up a hike loop by Beaver Bay Sept. 5th around 9:30am and we encountered a few runners..We didn’t know about the race and enquired a few who ran by. We had just did 60 miles of hiking in 6 days and were so proud of how we did.When we got home I checked out the race on the internet and having hiked up on the SHT for 27 years we are amazed that people could actually run the entire 100 miles in a day or so..You,and everyone involed in the race are truly a inspiration..CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey Christian, are you going to do the Pumpkin Butt 50K? I don’t see it on your calendar. We are getting up a few guys to do a Double Pumpkin Butt (our last long training run before Pinhoti). Are you interested? It might be a little close to Mountain Masochist … but just in case you are up for some more abuse, we’d love for you to join us.

Christian – Fantastic report! Way to gut it out. I’ve only just entered the ultra trail running craze and am in awe of those who complete these 100 milers. I just crewed for a friend’s first, at the Headlands Hundred here in California, and it was an incredible experience for me.

I almost laughed out loud when you talked about inflammed butt cheeks. I suffered this severely after my first 50k. I have 3 words for you, my friend, diaper rash lotion. Lube up before (and during if need be), and you will be oh so much happier at the end! Oh, and if you need to go while in the great outdoors – baby wipes. These two items are key to a happy butt crack. :o )

so im guessing the riding was definately out. lol

congratulations, youve come a long way!

Hey Christian,

I remember being there with you at a couple of the aid stations (Sugarloaf and all of your “cocoonedness” by the campfire being one of them) – waiting to pace my friend because you were ahead of her for quite sometime. I was the girl in the neon yellow and black jacket. I checked to see if you had stayed in it when we got to the finish. I was so excited to hear you were still out there and sticking with it. I’m proud of you. You did it!

Congrats Christian!
That 100 mile race must have been some crazy hell. You’ve inspired me greatly. Now you can take on anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if you started PRing in everything, at least as soon as you recover. Congrats again!


Most epic! Crossfit-man indeed! That cracked me up.

Your report communicated well the drama of the race.

Thanks and Congratulations!

Christia, congratulations, I am sure everything will be sore for a while except the most important muscle; your heart, which you show you have heathily developed.

Congrats again!

Congrats Christian on your first 100M. Enjoyed the story and the way you gutted it out towards the end. “Relentless Forward Motion” will forever have a new meaning for you. Might see you at FATS 40 (Terri Hayes’ SC Ultra Series) in October. Good luck on the recovery.

The trail to Sugarloaf put me in a van last year to take a nap. Too cold to sleep on the trail and I’d have listed off a cliff without a break. This year I knew the potential for the perfect storm was waiting for me: early dark moring hours at a circadium low, brutal trail footing and profile, and long distance (does anyone really believe that section is <10 miles?!) This year I kept praying for renewed strength. I didn’t want to be weary, stumble, or fall. Why wouldn’t God grant me renewed strength? I needed some eagle’s wings. He did answer that mantra-like prayer. Like it did for you, my answer came in the form of grilled cheese sandwiches, dry clothes at the right time, and most of all, support from other people. I realized that no one enters this race hoping it will be easy. We all want to be challenged. An “easy” finish doesn’t hold the same lessons or even appeal for us. I know there will be DNF’s among us, and those will hold valauble lessons and experiences as well. Congratulations on a supreme effort. Thanks for the report. You captured a lot of what makes an ultra-running community special, by Tettagouche you were already a part of that community.

Hey Christian – I helped you out at Sawbill. You looked tired but great and I knew when I patted your back and sent you off that you would finish. Great job!

WAY TO GO, cuz!!!!! I am super proud of you and I know the rest of the family is too. You’re all I have been hearing about lately. And you have defiantly earned it.

Talk to you later,

Loved your race report. I have yet to run a 100, but reading about your adventure has me all fired up to try one in the next few years.

I noticed you are entered in Across the Years. I’ll be there, too. 24-hour race on the 31st. I look forward to meeting you there.

Thanks for the great report, Christian. I attempted my first 100 at Burning River a month ago and had a DNF at mile 55 due to a bad sprained ankle I sustained at mile 38. I can’t get it off my mind and reading your report was truly inspirational and a testament of the human will to succeed and also of others who surround us during the challenge that pick us up, give us a kick, and support us all the way. From the volunteers to our spouses/kids.

I hope to meet you in Lynchburg on November 1st. I’m one of the 300.

The best recovery to you…

What a tale. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Congrats, Christian. What a heroic undertaking. Rest and recover.


His name was Patrick Susnick. I now remember he was at Sugarloaf. I was fuzzy there too.

I was the guy with Molly who got stung. I think I even accused you of pissing of those hornets.

Great job. Great Report. Great Race. This made me laugh hard.

I mentally crashed at about the same spot. I am amazed you were able to get to the end.

Thanks for coming to our part of the country

Matthew Patten

Amazing man – congrats

Excellent Race Report! I’m glad there were folks around you to give you that extra kick in the ass to get you to the end. I think this is the reason why I’m just as interested in crewing again this 2008-2009 for someone (anyone) and enjoy volunteering at races (instead of only running them). When I was crewing Tim Lofton at his first 100 miler, I was able to see his highs and lows throughout the whole process and being there for him was like being apart of something bigger. The satisfaction that you have in finishing is the same satisfaction everyone else had in helping you get to your finish. It’s just too bad that the belt buckle isn’t big enough for everyone to wear. :-)

I hope that my first 100 miler will get me across that finish line and that I get the same spirit of those wonderful volunteers who helped you get one foot in-front of the other in 2009.

Recover well!


Way to go man. I am bvery proud of you for sticking it out. It took me finishing a 100 miler myself to fully understand the true essence of the ultra community. Recover well and congratualtions again.

Oh my gosh, and I forgot to add..CONGRATULATIONS!!! You hung in there and you will never ever be the same. It’s a grand thing.

You captured the race well in the report, great job reporting. Yup, it is a bastard of a course. It is beautiful, so very beautiful, but oh, so very very difficult. A person does not know how very difficult the SHT is until they have run the 100 mile race. Heal well. Cover the chafe with vaseline and shower those butt cheeks :)

Congratulations, and thanks for sharing your story. This is a great report. I ran the marathon so my guess is that I saw you along the trail. After covering 1/4 the distance that you all did, I cannot state how impressed I am by the effort of the hundred and the 50 milers.

Enjoy your accomplishment.

Way to go brother! Sorry I never got to meet you in person, I was one of the 29 that didn’t make it. She’s a tough old hag and you fought her tooth and nail for two days and came out on top. Great report, I’m not surprised to hear about the help you received. Hope you return one day for another battle.

Congratulations Christian!!!!

Great report. Way to gut it out!

Happy trails,

Connie Karras


What a great report. First and foremost, congratulations to you! There are hundred milers and there is Sawtooth Superior. It is clear you are a man with immense fortitude, willpower, and heart.

This race is now on my shortlist thanks to your report.

Enjoy the recovery.

There ya go Christian, congrats man!I knew you’d hammer away at it!…No advise can comes close to preping you for your 1st 100. You do exactly as you did, whatever it takes. Another unique thing about 100 milers as you saw, we *all* appear naked before it’s over, stripped down to a combination of our absolute physical and mental preparedness and how we manage the two along the way. I think that’s where a fair amount of the humility comes from you mentioned. Lastly, and as usual, great report…You ‘da man, 100 miler!!!


A fantastic and palpable race report!Congratulations to your first 100. Well deserved.



Thanks for sharing this great story! Huge congrats on your 100 miler!!!!!!

Wow!! I knew your race report would be epic but that was incredible. I was laughing and in tears reading it. Reminded me a lot of my last 7 miles at Rocky Raccoon last year and that race is nothing like what you went through. But yeah, the aid station volunteers, you are right, you will never forget…Congratulations Christian, you did it! :-)

Christian! Dude!! I humbly bow in your general direction. As you know, I am running my first hundred in November. I can only pray that I muster up the kind of courage that you have. Kudos on a job well done. The next time somebody asks me why in the heck I want to do a hundred, I will just tell them to read this report.

Way to hang on to get your buckle. I was swaddled in blankets at Oberg after being soaked during the 50 miler. I saw you and Molly get there and was amazed that you were still standing!! Way to finish, dude!! Good job!

See you next year!



Great job… I ran the 50 Mile (as my first 50) and asked every 100 runner there name hoping to introduce myself. You must have been at an aid station. Your report is Awesome!!!
I also agree that many people from other parts of the usa probably take our terrain forgranted.

Wear your buckle with pride

I am really proud of you for suffering thru your first 100m, Christian. Congratulations on your buckle and finish.

Chris what a wonderful report. I can’t believe you’ve done this and what demons you fought internally to get to the end of the race! Well done I am so impressed with you. Rest those cheeks and everything else now – and spend some time in that kingsize bed!

Dang, dude, congratulations!


You were definitely spot on when you stated in your e-mail to the Ultra list that this report is from the heart. I could feel your agony and your intense you at finishing this race.

Above all else, you repeatedly express your gratitude to everyone who made this accomplishment possible. The biggest one was, of course, YOU! Celebrate that hero within!!


christian. so cool man.
great report and huge congrats!
what an experience?!@
life is good!

Congratulations Mr. Crossfit Guy!! That’s a great report – takes you right there in the thick of it. Rest well – you deserve it!

When I read your report I immediately thought of my 1st 100…Leadville ’85′.
I remember standing at the starting line, looking at all those wonderfully fit runners knowing that nearly half of them would not make it to the finish line. I vowed not to be one of them. I did finish much the same as you did with the help & encouragement from people I knew & didn’t know…..that didn’t seem to matter. What mattered was that they helped me finish no matter what! When you get a chance look up the Nov, 1985 issue of Ultrarunner Magazine & read my account. “A High Country Adventure”. We’re all family,
Good running & congratulations on your 1st 100.
Kent Holder

You did it Bro! Huge!! I understand the struggle, and I understand the sense of accomplishment. Your report (awesome. thanks!) brings back many memories…Several years ago, late in a hundo, I was desperately trying to hang on the back of a pack of 4. They were very upbeat and having a good time…But then, without warning, one of them had a complete breakdown. This runner started sobbing and repeating over and over “It hurts so much, it hurts so much.” Another runner gently answered, with complete understanding and compassion, “I know it does. I know it does.” They had this exchange all the way up the last climb.

Powerful stuff, the things we witness and learn out there.

What an epic tale that happens to be more real than most of our lives!

I will do this race one day in the not distant future because of you.


Erskien in CA

I’m tickled to read this report and very proud and happy for & with you. I also think I’ll have to stop bitching about taking the dog for his 1/2 hour walk now. I’ll just call it ‘training’ instead.
Good work, Mr. Man!


You are my hero…seriously. Thanks for sharing. You have given me the courage to continue on my own race (I think you know where I’m coming from on this.)

Congrats on the finish…well deserved.

with love and gratitude…randi

Hey Dude,

I was one of the people at Sugerloaf when you came in insisting you were done. Mentally you were a mess but I just saw those aid station volunteers pull another person out of the dooms of hell. You said you were going to drop and we all started telling you to rest, repair and go. You looked OK physically, but mentally, WOW! I am so excited you pulled through. Honestly, it gives me something to hang onto for the future if I try again after DNF 2ce now. You are super to dig down like you did… And what a report… Thanks for sharing.

The Superior Sawtooth 100 is an amazing journey into the lore of Gitchee Gumee. The spirits were with you during the trek; you made it.

I know these runners you write about. I know these aid station volunteers, mostly. That they would do this is very heart warming and encouraging to the human spirit.

But, it is no surprise.

There is a strong sense of ‘all’ on these trails, that everyone helps everyone, not because you have to but because that’s the way it is on the trail.

I once wrote that all should be required to enter a trail race before ever being allowed to drive a car . . . the feeling being that the niceness on the trail would carry over to the highway.

As a native of East Tennessee, I’m glad one of us Southern types finished in 2008.

Come back next year with a whole contingent to learn the mysteries these trails create.

Phillip Gary Smith


Great post dude. Congratulations. You will find that the Superior Trail is the gift that keeps on giving! Wait till tomorrow! Ouch!

Those were some great descriptions, especially the Crosby Manitou section. I was only doing the 50 and I just started laughing as I climbed down. All I could think of was “Demented”

I passed you and Molly on that last section and I was frankly surprised at how good you were doing. DFL indeed.



Congrats man :)

Congrats Christian, As you know the aches and pains will go away. Luckily the great memories will stay with you forever. Great report. You are the man.

Randy Miller

What a wonderful story!! Thank you so much for sharing!

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