January 19th, 2019
A Beautiful Day for the First Wild Duluth Races
Saturday October 17th, 2009
A Beautiful Day for the First Wild Duluth Races
A common occurrence usually takes place ten days before an ultramarathon for
many ultrarunners. They flock to weather.com to check the ten day forecast. As first time race directors of the Wild Duluth 100K and 50K races, we did
the same thing. The ten day forecast didnít look good. Forty-two degrees
with a rain/snow mix. Fortunately, as is the case for most ten day
forecasts, it was wrong. Race day dawned with starry skies giving way to
bright sunshine. It would be a beautiful day for our inaugural Wild Duluth
At 6:00 a.m. the 100K runners departed from the start/finish line at
Bayfront Park located right on the Duluth harbor of Lake Superior. They
would run the Superior Hiking Trail, which traverses the entire length of
the City of Duluth, from East to West, turning around at Chambers Grove Park
and returning the same way to the finish line at Bayfront. For the 100K
runners, the out-and-back course would begin with a relatively long climb to
the top of the ridge at Enger Park where runners had the opportunity to ring
the Peace Bell. While the Wild Duluth course does not have any really long
climbs or descents, the climbing and descending is relentless. For most of
the course the trail runs up and down along the ridge above the City of
Duluth with many great views of the Lake Superior Harbor, Duluth
neighborhoods and the hills that runners will traverse strung out before
them. Runners will find rocky gorges, waterfalls, clifftop running, open
meadows above the city, boulders and rock outcroppings, towering red and
white pine trees, pine needle laden trail and also rocky, rooty trail all
within the city limits of Duluth and its 80,000 residents. It truly is a
wilderness trail within the city, living up to the name Wild Duluth.
From the start of the 100K race, it was clear that Sean Andrish from
Virginia was in great shape and ready to run a fast 62 miles. Chad
Brackelsberg from Park City, Utah hung with Sean through the early aid
stations and was also looking strong. As the race progressed, Sean began to
build a lead that he would never relinquish, finishing with a super time of
10:52. We figured anything around 11 hours on this very challenging course
would be very good. Sean exceeded those expectations while telling us that
he absolutely loved the course. Chad stayed steady to finish the 100K in
second place and local ultrarunner Matt Long came on strong to close the gap
on Chad finishing a solid third. Julie Treder from St. Francis, WI ran a
very good, well paced race and overcame an acrobatic fall off a rock to
finish first for the women and fourth overall in 14:45. Alicia Hudelson
finished second for the women and Shelly Thompson Placed third.
Fifty-kilometer runners began their journey from Chambers Grove Park
finishing the point-to-point course at Bayfront Park near downtown Duluth.
At the Chambers Grove start runners and spectators were stunned by the
golden sunlight shining brightly on the autumn colored trees on the other
side of the St. Louis River. As the runners left the park and immediately
climbed steeply up the bluffs, they were again bedazzled by the beautiful
pine needle covered trail beneath huge pine trees and colorful maple trees
which produced an almost unearthly glow as runners filed along the steep
Midwestern speedster Wynn Davis immediately took the lead and, like the 100K
race, never looked back. It was clear that Wynn was going to set a solid
standard for the 50K course. Would he also exceed our expectations of what
we thought would be a fast time on this course? We felt a 4 hour 30 minute
winning time would be a great time on this course. Wynn smashed those
expectations, finishing the race in 4 hours 11 minutes. Both Sean and Wynn
set the bar very high at our inaugural race.
Local runner Ryan Braun from Superior, WI ran a super race to finish second
in the 50K, hanging close to Wynn for the early part of the race. David
Worley, another local runner from Duluth, MN ran a superbly paced race just
edging out local Darrin Johnson from South Range, WI for third place and the
The womenís 50K may have been the most exciting race of the day. Leslie
Semler from Hermantown, MN led local running champion Rochelle Wirth of
Duluth, MN through the early aid stations before Rochelle overtook Leslie,
relying on her ultra experience to win the 50K with a super time of 5:13 and
place 5th overall. Leslie finished a very strong 2nd just over 5 minutes
behind Rochelle and 7th overall. Duluthian Anne Flueckiger placed third.
The women were really moving fast over the rocky course throughout the day
and also set strong standards for others to try to match in coming years.
No ultra is complete without a few special stories of runners persevering in
the face of adversity. There were many stories on the trail at Wild Duluth,
but two stand out in our minds. Both involved first time ultrarunners.
Until recently, 100K finisher Phillip Watson, a 27 year old from Inver Grove
Heights, MN, didnít know what an ultramarathon was. He had heard about the
sport at some point recently and decided to Google ultramarathons in
Minnesota. This led Phillip to the Wild Duluth races. He told me at the
start that he thought he might as well go all out and run the 100K when he
decided to sign up for his first ultramarathon. Phillip chose a very
challenging race for his first ultra, and despite not knowing a lot about
the gear and nutrition most ultrarunners use while racing, he remained
strong and cheerful all day, overcame blisters and motored to his first
ultra finish in the Wild Duluth 100K. Phillip provided a great example for
all of us that what truly matters in an ultra is our attitude and putting
one foot in front of the other all day for a long time. Great job Phillip,
and I might put one of those hooded sweatshirts with the big pockets in my
race wardrobe soon. You were pulling food out of those pockets all day!
In the 50K, first time ultrarunner Juliana Bertelsen finished behind
everyone and took home the Taconite in Your Pants Award. What makes her
finish truly special is that she got off course for an extended period of
time and still persevered to the finish. We received a call that a runner
was off course and we began trying to track that runner down. Shortly after
beginning the process of tracking the runner down, we received another call
that the runner was back on course and heading for the finish. In the true
ultrarunner spirit, Juliana never gave up and ran strong to the finish
despite the extra miles she ran.
Many thanks to all of our tremendous volunteers who endured a long day but
remained cheerful throughout. The runners truly appreciated your efforts.
Weíre looking forward to next year and hope to see many of you at the 2010
Wild Duluth Races.
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October 22nd, 2009 9:47 am
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