What did you spend all day doing last Saturday? Did you do the same exhausting thing all day from sun up to sun down? Oh, and how many miles did you cover? Sorry to disappoint, but miles by motorized vehicle do not count.
The racers at the Wild Duluth 100k stepped off the starting line in the dark of the early morning, making relentless forward progress for 50K in the general southward direction through the city of Duluth, Minnesota on the Superior Hiking Trail, and then returned back to their original starting location via the same trail, finishing in the dark of night.
The Wild Duluth 50K runners and the Harder than He!! Half Marathon runners had the privilege of competing in the daylight, although they still ran on the same hilly, rocky, rutty, albeit beautiful trail. As 100K runner Aaron Reeves remarked, “If you didn’t mind being careful to keep pace to finish or not kill yourself with a misstep on the course, you could really get lost in the beauty….”
Make no mistake, the Superior Hiking Trail is no rails-to-trails, flat as a pancake run in the woods – or walk in the park, either. This trail is designed to reach the most scenic areas along the Minnesota’s northern shore of Lake Superior, stretching from Duluth 286 miles north to the Canadian border. Reaching the most scenic areas means that the Superior Hiking Trail does not take the easy way around all the obstacles; the trail, on the other hand, reaches the top of many peaks to the bottom of the river gorges back up to the top of another peak, using the rockiest corridor en route.
The Wild Duluth 100K was the last challenge in the 2013 Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series, sponsored by Wilderness Athlete Performance Products, and offered by Upper Midwest Trail Runners. All athletes who complete all five races (four 100-mile races and one 100K race) receive an equal portion of the $600 bounty put up by Wilderness Athlete, as well as Wilderness Athlete performance products and a coveted work of art by Rock Steady Racing’s own John Storkamp.
The series is composed of five tough, gnarly races. Eleven athletes completed the first challenge of the series, the Zumbro 100 mile, nine finished the second feat, the Kettle Moraine 100 mile, and the third test, the Black Hills 100 mile, and eight survived the fourth obstacle, the Superior 100 mile. That is an incredible amount of rocky and steep terrain! Finishing any one of these races is a feat in itself.
Did the Gnarly Bandit even show up to fight at Wild Duluth? In all fairness, it seems he gave a half-hearted attempt to cause the usual stomach and cramping issues, maybe sticking his foot out and tripping a runner here or there, and he probably tried to infuse doubts into each contender’s mind throughout the whole race. However, the Bandit was most likely so tired from fighting the runners in the previous four races that he was plain worn out and discouraged, and therefore he was fruitless in his half-hearted efforts and all eight series contenders who started the race finished with a smile on their face and a conquering feeling in their heart.
These amazing gnarly athletes are: Joseph Hegman (Edina, Minn.) 14:55:39; Matthew Menacher (Chicago, Ill.) 15:12:36; Tina Johnson (Wauwatosa, Wis.) 15:41.05; Ron Hendrickson (Esko, Minn.) 16:34:42; Daryl Saari (Rochester, Minn.) 17:42:24; Angela Barbera (Mauston, Wis.) 17:47:57; John Taylor (Minneapolis, Minn.) 18:23:21; and Jessica Pendleton (Johnston, Iowa) 18:47:59.
Full results for all races can be found at the Wild Duluth website page.
For the last two years, finishers of the Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series have nearly tripled each year to this year’s all-time high of eight, including the first female finishers ever! It’s rumored that one female finisher commemorated her supremacy over the series with a rather large tattoo. Who can say she doesn’t deserve that?
Moreover, John Taylor and Daryl Saari have each now finished the series more than once! John also completed the series in 2012 while Daryl conquered it in 2009 and 2010. What an accomplishment! What tattoo are they going to get now?
Over the years, this series has assembled some of the most enduring athletes in the Midwest. They have had to overcome some of the toughest conditions and terrain ultra running has to offer and they have conquered!
Do you have what it takes to be Gnarly? The 2014 Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series is awaiting you.