Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 Wild Duluth Race Report

100K Champion Chris Rubesch
The 3rd Annual Wild Duluth Races were once again blessed with spectacular weather.  Along with the great weather, we also had some great performances.

The Wild Duluth Races are run on the rugged and beautiful Superior Hiking Trail through the city of Duluth, MN.  Runners new to the city and trail are always amazed at the wild, rugged trail with its amazing views of Lake Superior and the city, rocky waterfall laden stream gorges, white pines and cliffs and rock outcroppings on points like Ely’s Peak.  All this within the city limits of a northern city of 80,000 people.  It’s a spectacular route that would make a tremendous race even if we as the race directors screwed everything up.  Fortunately, with our great volunteers, we just can’t screw things up too badly.

The 100K race starts before dawn from the start/finish line at Bayfront Park near downtown Duluth.  Runners make the big climb up to Enger Park from the start, winding their way up the hill through rocky outcroppings to the top, where they can ring the Japanese Peace Bell to signal their passing into the early morning light.  100K runners are treated to spectacular sunrises over Lake Superior shimmering far below them.

From the start, it was apparent that local runner Chris Rubesch was going for the win.  Not too far behind him, Duluth runner Christi Nowak was also running strongly with her machine like pace, not too fast, but never slowing. 

As the sun rose and 100K runners made their way to the turnaround at Oldenburg Point in Jay Cooke State Park, Rubesch continued to extend his lead.  He would run unchallenged on the day and finish with the fastest time on the newer course, which measures almost exactly 62 miles, for a satisfying win in 11:25:02.  Sean Andrish still holds the event record of 10:52:00 on a slightly shorter course from the inaugural race.  Ethan Richards would hang onto second for the men in 12:05:31 while Adam Scwartz-Lowe would finish off a strong season of racing with third place in a time of 12:11:00.

Christi Nowak steadily moved through the front runners to finish second overall and first
2nd place male Ethan Richards followed by 100k  women's champion Christi Nowak
woman in 12:05:31, breaking the course and event record by over two and one half hours.  Her time would have been good for second place overall in all three runnings of the Wild Duluth 100K.  Her 100K performance was truly phenomenal and another in a string of several wins for Christi in 2011.  Joy Parker would finish second for the women in 16:12:58 and Michelle Annandale from Manitoba would come home third in 16:17:44.  With nearly 60 starters in this years 100K race, the Wild Duluth 100K is becoming a destination race for many ultrarunners looking for an immensely challenging and satisfying 100K trail adventure.

In the companion 50K race, which starts at Oldenburg Point (the 100K turnaround) and ends at Bayfront, 119 runners were treated to sunny skies in the morning, windy conditions and perfect cool temperatures for running.

Another Duluth runner, Craig Hertz, took it out strong and maintained the pace to the finish line to win the race in 4:23:42.  Craig’s time would also be the fastest 50K on the new course with Wynn Davis holding the event record from the first year in 4:11.  Craig would then go out after the race to help man an aid station for the 100K race late into the night.  Matt Zak finished second for the men in 4:30:00 while Mark Rapacz was third overall in 4:41:49.

women's 50K champion Jenna Krueger
On the women’s side, Northern Minnesota runner Jenna Krueger held on to beat last years women’s champion Leslie Semler in 5:24:57.  Leslie finished in 5:30:11 for second, while Rochelle Wirth finished third in 5:51:50.

In the Harder 'n He!! Half Marathon which starts at the top of Spirit Mountain, almost 90 runners would make their way along the trail to the finish at Bayfront Park.  Tom Heinitz cruised in for the overall win in 1:53:57.  Less than two minutes later, first woman Michelle Jebsen, would finish off a spectacular race to finish in 1:55:19 and second overall, less than two minutes behind the overall winner.  Second in the men's race was Dave Pipho in 1:56:05 with Bob McGrath finishing third in 1:58:02.  Second for the women was Tara Croteau in 2:01:20 and third was Brenda Cid in 2:11:45.  Most half marathon runners would agree that the race did live up to its name.

Conversations among veteran ultrarunners at the finish line reached a consensus that the Wild Duluth 50K and 100K are the most difficult races at those distances in the Midwest.  If you disagree or don’t believe this general agreement, please join us on October 20, 2012 for the 4th running of the Wild Duluth races to experience the course for yourself.  We think you’ll probably agree with this assertion and that you’ll have a wonderful time in the process.  The weather is usually cool and perfect for running and the Fall colors are beautiful as well.  Wild Duluth has all the makings of a destination ultra.  We’d love to see some more top runners from the left and right coasts come over to join us and see what makes this course so special.  Immense thank you to our wonderful volunteers who were universally praised by our runners.  This race would not happen without you.


  1. Hey, what about us runners in the geezer's divisions?? We had to work twice as hard as all those darn kids! LOL.

    It was an amazing day, and I'm already thinking about payback next year. The course was by far the most challenging I've ever raced, so it's good to hear that others thought so as well.

    I will definitely spread the word to my east/west coast and Rocky Mtn friends.

    Thom Patterson

  2. Awesome event, Andy and volunteers! I'll definitely be back. Hoping for Sawtooth and Twin Peaks (Corona, CA) next September and October, so not sure if I'll be able to run Wild Duluth in 2012. Hopefully I can be there to volunteer. I'm trying to recruit some of my friends from Phoenix to get up here to try our incredible trails! -Bill

  3. Another difficult 50K finish, $1500 hospital bill after insurance, time to return for the 100K!