Trails Considerably Further East of Conscious

It must have been spirits of “Addicted to Love” writer and vocalist Robert Palmer running with me on the steep rocky bluffs overlooking Duluth; alternatively, perhaps those of Dr Jeff Kildahl, nutrition health editor of Snowshoe Magazine.

With the nighttime moon reflecting off Gitchee Gumee while soaking in the sheer delight of making way on the stupendous Superior Hiking Trails on my own, countless others were doing the same throughout the country and the globe for that matter.

Each sang their own version of surrender to the doctor dirt with lyrics sounding somewhat like this: “I got a bad case of lovin’ you . . .”

“Doctor, doctor, gimme the news

I got a bad case of lovin’ you

No pill’s gonna cure my ill”

Only time on the trails will. Cure my ill, that is. On this all-night test I self administered before “qualifying” to enter a particular ultra trail event, a self check-up to determine, hey, are you ready.

It was an awesome time on the trail, for about 7 hours, 6 p.m. on Labor Day Sunday to before 2 a.m. Labor Day itself. Unfortunately, that was 5 hours short of my test qualifier.

I explained to Dr. Jeff the “bats of the emotional night” attacked my brain, sucked out my desire, and there I was, happy to stop.

Like anytime one begs one’s self to quit, I know never succumb on an uphill. I was lumping downhill (big, loooong downhill that I call the I-35W mountain meandering woods) and each step further down became mental pain because I knew I had to go back up. That was the reason for going down, testing the return, and I was getting further and further away from my starting point after a couple hour loop the opposite way I wanted to complete in the remaining sunset light. That was the plan, get as far away as possible, and then the return time would take care of itself.

I used my Wilderness Athlete Altitude Advantage (WAAA) capsules leading to the test in efforts to improve my oxygen intake. This very forward thinking blend is based on historical mixtures, and it works. Going to any high country soon, perhaps February, 2012, for the USSSA National Championships? You should consider practicing with WAAA in your adventures now, preparing for the national championship.

I come across a random canister of a drink mix for the trail in a search through my gear. Here’s an idea: use it, hey, don’t waste, right? But add Wilderness Athlete’s Energy and Focus to the blend. The flavor will be enhanced but more importantly, your performance will improve.

Both of these products aided in my test where there was no peaking or a rest-up prior to the run; I just stopped everything else and went and tried it. I’m confident my performance was improved with the assistance of these products.

The discovery on turning around? Uphill was easy, like the physical burden was lifted once I quit. In other words, going up was easier than going down not because of physicality as much as the physicality could not overcome the mental bats stirring. In other words, edging closer to becoming batty.

There were no mental bats flying around the U.S. Mountain Running Team while winning double gold in Albania’s 27th World Mountain Running Championships. Kasie Enman of Vermont, in her first time out, ran victorious, the first senior woman from the U.S.A. to ever win gold. The team, fourth overall, consisted off (in finishing order) Megan Lund, Michele Suszek, and USSSA Champion, Brandy Erholtz.

Well-known snowshoe advocate, Richard Bolt, was the proudest of all, exclaiming, “In my nine years as team leader, I’ve never been more proud of our athletes than I am today.”

Max King from mountain running heaven in Bend, Ore., won this race outright, no questions asked. His is only the second gold winner for a U.S. Male, the last being Jay Johnson, Boulder in 1989. King described the course a “hard technical uphill and the fast and somewhat technical downhill.” These were extraordinary performances by tops on the globe. We as trailites can use performances such as these to shush away those negatives that invade our being.

Kildahl wrote me about the magical northern Minnesota, the region remaining a special harbor for him. “It was often a graduate school respite consisting of trail running and ‘shoeing before those sports became popular. Its eerie desolation is magnificent and inspiring especially in darkness and when temps are below zero. Aaahh…perfect.”

Dr. Kildahl continued his lecture becoming like the instructive television character Dr. Kildare of old. “The premise of your book reminds me of the time I participated in a masochistic week-long running gig inCaliforniato raise funds for the daughter of a friend who had a particular nasty cancer.

At the end of the week—covered in mud, blood, and only God knows what else—paramedics at the finish exclaimed: “OMG! What happened  . . . are you okay? ‘Never better,’ I sputtered. ‘Why do you do this?’ was the quote of the day.
My answer each time ‘For the pain.’”

What a concept; I should have embraced the pain in my own way, my own space, loving the hurt, happy I was healthy enough to earn it, just as he did, as the mountain team did . . . .

Kildahl continued, “As I was being cleansed for a zillion stitches a young girl timidly asked me if it hurt. ‘Yeah…but it’s a good hurt,’ I said with a smile because I knew
this was truly living life  . . . and a life was being saved.”

I still had a couple of hours to get to my aid station, i.e. the Black Mercury, and then drive hours in the dark to the house, arriving at daybreak.

Experiencing time on trails whether with shoes or snowshoes are real privileges of life. Performances of others, like the now-neighborhood-hero John Horns, 49, Edina, winning the Sawtooth 100 on his first attempt in a heart-throbbing battle with the ever-persistent Adam Schwartz-Lowe, Minneapolis, gives one mental energy even if one is never to attain that level of performance. Horns is no rookie, though, having won other distances of the fall Superior races particularly the Moose Mountain Marathon.

Their finishes, seven minutes apart, were just a few notches over one day. Cheryl Wheeler, NY, returned to these mountains to win fourth overall in an incredible performance. Matt Aro, Duluth, captured third overall. And what about Oak Ridge, Tenn. resident, Leonard Martin, finishing up the race in his first visit here in 37:50. With the infamous Susan Donnelly, now into her second decade of finishes here (31:29), the race has two great competitors from East Tennessee. Now Martin needs to test Donnelly’s Cumberland 50, an extended climb similar to Superior’s Moose Mountain but after mountain growth hormones.

Kildahl wrote, “Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness wrote Dostoyevsky.

I am certain a lot of pain has been endured. It is in my Scandinavian blood: repeatedly test my mettle. The harsh Minnesota winters provided an excellent testing ground…and as Robert Frost eloquently stated. ‘The best way out is always through.’”

Now I look back, and realize the incredible, absolutely incredible time on the trail by myself . . . proving once again a premise in the book, my book,  HARMONIZING: Keys . . . I won by losing. What a great life.

All Photos courtesy UltraSuperior Media
Top: Larry Pederson now retired RD Superior Fall Trail Races; John Storkamp, (not pictured) Mpls, has assumed RD dutiesThird photo: Gretchen and Mike Perbix now retired RD’s Spring Superior Trail Races; Storkamp also has assumed RD duties here

Read Jeff Kildahl’s columns in Snowshoe Magazine + Trails.

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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, or find him on Twitter or Facebook @iHarmonizing.