Ultras at Wild Duluth Yield Sleuth Truth

The most perfect of a fall day invited ultra trailites to untangle the mysteries of the new Grand Portage trail addition to the mix of twists and turns, climbs and rocks that comprise this intriguing course. On one of the country’s ten best 100 km layouts, a single athlete outdistances all. Matt Aro, Superior, Wisconsin, led the field by nearly 20 minutes with a third of the course remaining, and extended that gap to win in 11:35. Bob McGrath, Wyoming, Minnesota, took second overall, with a finish nearly an hour later yet the third best time for the race’s young history.

Aro is an accomplished tri-athlete having won and  registered a second in two of the country’s Double Iron Man Triathlons. Perhaps one needs to read that sentence again just in case one missed what he actually did. In July, he finished his first Badwater Ultra, nailing a 29th (of 73) on his first try, adding a new definition of performing while being uncomfortable.

Compared to that venture into misery, the 40 degree start and 55 high temperatures on the Superior Hiking Trails overlooking Duluth’s waterfront must have seemed downright cold. Sponsored by Immuno Viva, Spooner, WI, he donates these funds and support by individuals to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. He said, “I faced many challenges while training for, and competing in, the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon, which snakes through Death Valley, CA.  However, these challenges are quite miniscule compared to those faced by those athletes seeking support from the Challenged Athletes Foundation.” You can put his campaign over the goal by clicking http://bit.ly/cbmqX9.

Earlier in May, he completed the Bishop 100 km in California, winning second in a course that also features relentless climbs in 11:17.When not giving all lessons in trail running in events like the Wild Duluth, Aro is a scientist for the Market-Oriented Wood Technology Program for the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute.

How did he handle the additional challenges, discover their mysteries, and solve the challenges Race Director Andy Holak added to the course this year?

What seems to be the secret of his success?  Not only the ability to withstand — and embrace — discomfort, but also by training using a secret formula — ride a bicycle.

Julie Treder, St. Francis, WI, won in 14:47, crossing simultaneously with Brad Birkholz, Watertown, WI. Kim Martin leading through mile 37, finished second in 16:14, finishing with Dan LaPlante, Duluth.  Treder won the Kettle Moraine 100-mile event in June, and has so many wins at this classic race, the name may have to be changed to Julie’s Kettle Moraine.

Nearly 40 entrants signed up for the second year of this well organized 100 km. Minor improvements are being made to some of the trail markings as runners found ways to miss the bright orange flags in a couple of spots. Otherwise in the field, 50-year-old Jim Reed, Duluth, finished fourth with Darrin Johnson credited third, South Range, Wisconsin, both at 13:32.

Oldest finisher was Gary Sheets,58 of Eagan, while Lisa Messerer (photo), a popular trail runner from Duluth, finished her first 100 km. Regarding the Wild Duluth races, she said, “I can’t think of a better way to be introduced to the world of ultra running (than the 50 km in 2009) and then to the 100 km distance (this year).

Darryl Saari, Rochester, by completing the event won the Ultimate Gnarly Bandit Trail Series. Consisting of multiple 100 mile and kilometer distances, the Gnarly is distinguished by some interesting calendars for the races, and the fact winning the series can be won by multiple entrants finishing either designation’s races: the Ultimate or the Ultra races. Lynn Saari ran the half-marathon then crewed for Darryl.

Jakob Wartman, Duluth, 24, won the 50 km in 4:26 over 82 finishers. He tuned for the race by winning Wisconsin’s Berkie Half-Marathon at the end of September. He is a Graduate student with the UMD’s Department of Geological Sciences, pursuing an award to study , among other things, timing of gold’s presence in the Rainy River Greenstone Belt further north. He now has the gold medal from the Wild Duluth races to remind himself what he’s looking for.

Matt Zak from nearby Eveleth captured second, trailing only by a few minutes. Earlier in the year, he was part of the elite top five finishers at the Minnesota Ultra Championships held at the Spring Superior 50 km race in Lutsen, MN.

Local legend at only age 29, Leslie Semler won the women’s 50 km in 5:14, edging race nemesis and a legend in her own right, Rochelle Wirth, 48, by just three minutes. Rochelle won the 2009 Wild Duluth and added the tough Moose Mountain trail marathon just a month before this competition. Leslie won the Superior 25 km Spring Trail Race. She is a geological engineer in Duluth.

Nearly 100 entrants signed up for the second year of the 50 km course. This point-to-point course is a race deserving national attention. With the Duluth area having more athletic activity than the Boulders of the world, recognition will come with travel to the region relatively easy, and as athletes continue to congregate in the region.

The new event added to the schedule this year is the Harder Than He!L Half-Marathon featuring 50 competitors even though the event was kept mostly under wraps. Doug Jannusch won the inaugural in 1:47 trailed by Ananda Bates at 1:49 and Jon Flaa at 1:50. Christie Haupert with the women’s division at 2:04, followed by Shelia Hill.

Tentative date for 2011’s race is: Saturday, October 15, 2011.

write phillipgary@snowshoemag.com

more race info: http://wildduluthraces.wordpress.com/

Gnarly Bandit Trail Series (Are you tough enough?) : http://www.uppermidwesttrailrunners.com/gnarlybandit.html

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photo credit Ely Peak Runners and Ely Peak View: Eric Chapman
photo credit The Rock: Matt Evans
photo credit Lisa Messerer: Jen Pierce


About the author

Phillip Gary Smith

Phillip Gary Smith, Senior Editor, published "The 300-Mile Man" about Roberto Marron's historic doubling of the Tuscobia 150 mile endurance snow run. He publishes "iHarmonizing Competition" on various forms of competition, including drag racing, his favorite motorsport. Earlier, he wrote "HARMONIZING: Keys to Living in the Song of Life" as a manual for life with chapters such as Winning by Losing, Can God Pay Your Visa Bill?, and a young classic story, The Year I Met a Christmas Angel. His book, "Ultra Superior," is the first written on the Superior Trail ultra-distance events. He mixes writing with his profession--the venture capital world--a dying art. He is a creator of CUBE Speakers, a group espousing themes in "HARMONIZING: Keys" in a unique way. Currently, he has two books in the works.
Write to him at Phillip@ultrasuperior.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook @iHarmonizing.