Last year, the wife and I did a spur of the moment race up on the north shore called Grand Traverse. This is a low-key event with four different distances (27, 21, 16, 10), that runs along the Superior Hiking Trail from Jay Cooke State Park to Fitgers Brewhouse. It’s a small event, but it’s growing in popularity. Last year a few of our friends came up to do it, and they joined us again this year.
This year we opted for the 16 mile distance (we did the 21 last year), and that meant starting at 8am near the Magney-Snively trailhead. We launched promptly, and soon were back in the woods around Spirit Mountain ski resort. I hadn’t run 16 miles in quite a while, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from my body, but when I started I was feeling great. I kept pace with a few other folks around me, but eventually had to stop to relieve myself, and then found myself all alone (which is how I like it).
I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the southern portion of the SHT, but with all of the new bike trail additions, there were moments where I had to stop and look around to make sure I took the correct turn. There were a few spots where I took a couple of steps down the wrong trail before turning around and going the right way.
One of the benefits of running the race this year was the weather. It was beautiful and perfect for running. Last year, the hillsides were shrouded in fog, meaning that we couldn’t see anything beyond 15 feet or so. This year I could see everything, and stopped far too many times to take pictures of the view I couldn’t see last year.
The portion of the trail from Beck’s Road to Highland-Getchell is VERY rocky. Even though I was feeling good, I wasn’t able to move as quickly as I would have liked because of all of the rocky footing. I was still having a great time, but it meant that I my feet ended up much more beat up than on a regular trail run. In addition, the course was VERY muddy, and I ended up with the back of my legs looking quite coated in brown.
I eventually made it to the second (and last) aid station of the 16 mile distance, and from my memory the only thing left was the climb to Enger Tower, and then the long descent to the path that leads to Canal Park. I forgot that the climb to Enger was a good mile in length, and by the time I got up to the top I was ready to be done. The descent down the other side is very rocky and relentless. I picked up a running partner on the way down and we chatted a bit to keep each other company on the tricky footing.
Once we hit the pavement we decided to jog the rest of the way in. I followed the blue line into Canal Park and then down the lakewalk to Fitgers. I had really hoped to beat 5 hours, but alas, I just didn’t have that much in me and I managed 5:09:29. I would have had to really push harder on some of the earlier miles to make 5 hours a reality.
I climbed the stairs to the finish line behind Fitgers and met my wife. She had also started on the 16 mile route, but due to a sprained ankle a week ago, she only did 12 of it (which she was very happy with). She would have dropped down to the 10 mile race, except for the fact that the bus was full. The race director was happy to give her a ride back from the final aid station to help her get her miles in.
Once I finished, I got cleaned up and we waited for our friends to finish. They were doing the 27 mile and many of them decided to run together. They came up the stairs smiling and happy, and excited for what they had done. Once everyone was cleaned up we hit the brewhouse for some food. I had a burger that really hit the spot, with some delicious tater tots. When we finished eating we still had an hour before the recognition ceremony, so we headed down to a new brewery a few blocks away (I’ll write about that tomorrow). I tried out some new beer, and then headed back for the fun recognition ceremony and the door prize giveaway. I walked out with a nice pair of socks, and a great bike tire lever.
I really love this race. It’s a great course, nice and low-key, and a lot of great people run it. I know that they’re growing a bit, but I hope that they still do what they can to maintain that small feel. It’s a wonderful example of the trail community on the north shore, and an excellent way to spend a great autumn day.