Superior 100 Race Report – Ashley Nordell

Coach Ashley Nordell shares her experience of the Superior Fall Trail 100 race, including what you need to know about the course while training!

superior 100 race report
Photo: Todd Rowe

Race: Superior Fall Trail 100

Runner: Ashley Nordell

Race Date: 09/07/2018

Location: Gooseberry Falls State Park to Lutsen, Minnesota

Results: 23: 46, 2nd F, 9th OA

3 Bests – What aspects of the Superior 100 did you like the most?

  1. The scenery- beautiful lake views, forests, remote and rugged
  2. Point to point- always a plus!
  3. The people/event organization- a great group of people, down to earth, low key, low hype, wonderful fellow runners, volunteers, organizers! Plus, I had a great crew, so they were part of my love of the day.

Not so much – What aspects of the Superior 100 didn’t do it for you?

The rocks! This is more that it was a major challenge for me than a dislike. The terrain was much more rugged than what I am used to and I struggled with it in the later miles.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

You cross a river with big rubber duckies in it.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I tried to always smile, stay positive, and focus on doing my best – the things that I can control. I don’t let myself complain (out loud), and tried to at least appear happy, even when things were going downhill in the later miles. I tried to constantly remind myself to find something positive about the day or course to notice – a tree turning colors, a lake view, when the breeze was cool, etc. I also spent some times with my good friend Tommy and had amazing friends out helping me. My whole family was there, so that’s always a highlight.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the Superior Fall Trail 100 to help the next runner

The race is extremely rugged and technical. It’s also constantly up and down, not huge climbs, but gains 21,000 ft in 103.3 miles. It’s Northshore Minnesota, not gentle farm country Minnesota. Trekking poles at night were helpful for balance.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I would do more race specific training – find more rocky areas to train, get better at finding a flow in that sort of surface, more strength training. Like most races, if you go back, just knowing the course would be a huge advantage.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the Superior 100?

There are long stretches between aid – lots of almost 10 mile stretches, which in the rugged sections at night can take a while. The majority of the climbs are in the later stages of the race. It can also be hot, muddy, and slippery. Prepare for anything!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

It is beautiful – there are views of Lake Superior, smaller lakes, beautiful rivers, etc. The color changes were just starting, so some leaf colors were beginning to pop. Very woodsy, north country-esque.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes! Not just the climbing, but the terrain. I felt like the second half was harder than the first.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

So well run!! Great race director and volunteers

Competition – Is there a strong field?

My high in the sky goal had been to aim for the CR – which I ran, except the gal who had it ran again this year and broke it by more! So I guess I picked a good year for competition. It’s a large race- almost 300 runners, so it’s inevitable that you get some solid runners.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the Superior 100 happen.

January (I believe!) lottery.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard fare, spread apart a bit. The race uses Hammer products, which don’t work for me, so mostly used my crew. There is crew access at almost every aid station, and it’s super crew friendly, so that was helpful!

Weather and typical race conditions

This year it got a bit warm during the day but cooled off at night. The most extra clothing I put on was arm bands, but it can be anything up there. Humid, storms, heat, you name it, they have probably had it.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Ability to carry enough water to go up to 2-3 hours between aid, a solid light for night (it’s dark in the woods and technical) and trekking poles helped me at the end. Always carry a jacket at night because the weather can change fast and got colder by the rivers.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Yes! And the race website gives maps, crew directions, rules on parking, etc. They probably have the best crew packet info of any race. Super spectator friendly!

How’s the Swag?

T shirt, finisher sweatshirt, buckle, and wood metal.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I give it a 10/10. Despite not having the perfect magical day one always hopes for, the race itself was top notch.

superior fall trail 100 race
Photo: Kurt Schilling

Ashley Nordell is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Ashley, check out her coaching page.