Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Marquette 50 Mile: The Softer Side of Superior

Race Report from Marty Kanter-Cronin:

So with Superior Sawtooth looming three weeks away, it was perfect timing for a last tune up race for some of the LPTR gang. Angela, Jeff, Kevin and I road-tripped up to the softer, south shore of Lake Superior for the Marquette Trail 50 mile, with a concurrent 50K race held in Marquette Michigan.

Also gathered at the Tourist Park Campsite in Marquette, which serves as the site of race, were LPTR Robyn, and the LPTR’s in waiting Kada and Izzy (Kevin’s girls, with Allison as capable mentor).

This is a relatively new race, but is shaping up as a great one. Attracting a small field of about 50 runners for both races, much of the course was held on the North Country Trail System along Lake Superior shoreline.  To quote Jeff Mallach: “Felt like an old-school ultra -- a bunch of friends getting together to go for a run in the woods”.  Mixing in a multitude of great trail running types, the race had technical single track (serious rocks), two peak climbs (one on stairs), miles of deep forest running on pine needles and dirt, a couple miles of jeep road, and finally the ever popular cross country ski trail out and back.

So at 6:30 am the race started in Tourist Park with a short bicycle paced 1.5 mile lead in to the trail system. Once there, the runners were off on the first short section of flat single track leading up to a very technical part of the race. For about 3 miles, the trail undulated and exposed rocks and roots made the footing tricky and the pace slow. About 5 miles into the race, runners were greeted with a long stretch of deep forest running, and the footing was much better and the course relatively flat. After the first aid station at 9 miles, came a climb up Sugarloaf Mountain and a significant number of stairs to the top. The view was breath taking, as was the heart stopping decent down a single track mountain trail.

Once past the ascent and decent of the mountain, runners were greeting with a long stretch of Superior shoreline running; this was the place to gain some time as the footing was perfect and the course completely flat almost all the way to second aid station at the 17 mile mark. More shoreline and a small run along a technical single track lead to the third Aid station which started runners on a climb to the “top of the world”, a slow three plus mile via another significant climb and descent and back to the third Aid station.

The next stretch missed a variety of running surfaces, including an old double track leading up to a logging road. This lead to the Forestville aid station and the official split of the 50 mile / 50K courses. It was nice that the two races shared this much of the race early: 27 miles the 50 K runners were mixed in with the 50 milers. Unfortunately, this is also the place of a very strict cut off time, leading inexplicably to the diverting of some of the 50 mile runners into a 50 K course. So many runners were diverted, that eventually no official female runners would complete the 50 mile on the day. Race director Joe understood that the cut off times need some adjusting.

From here the 50 milers headed out on a cross country ski trail, a 9.5 mile out and back loop exposed to a little more sun and heat. Jeff Mallach: “The 50k course was fantastic -- probably one of the most scenic, challenging and diverse 50k routes I've run. The additional 19 mile-out-and back for the 50 mile was nothing special”.

The race from the 50-mile race winner Kevin’s perspective: “I was happy with how the race unfolded for me - patient early and pushed a little when I had to... There was just enough technical to keep the pace controlled without beating us up Sawtooth style... I loved the feel of this race - very personal - you could tell the race director knew & loved the trails.  Met a lot of great people and got to spend lots of time with some my favorite LPTR's!!”

The race from my perspective: “Course was outstanding, just enough technical to keep it interesting. Plenty of scenic views of Lake Superior, and a deep-woods feel in a lot of the race. Beautiful 50K course, and a very “Nordic Blue Loop” feel to the ski trails. Good time of year weather wise, and superior trail marking by the race organizers. Quite happy with knocking an hour off my 50 mile PR and would rate right along side Ice Age in terms of difficulty elevation wise, although a bit more technical footing wise.”

Final word from Jeff M: “Really liked that the race started and finished in the campground where we were staying.  Walk to the start...hobble back from the finish.”

Post race, the LPTR’s gathered round the fire for stories and race critique. A major hit with the group were Robyn’s “Pie-Irons” which cranked out sloppy-joe’s and cherry pies to go with the many post race beverages making their way around.

It’s a long trip up to Marquette MI, but this race is a ‘must do’ if you want to get outstanding scenery along with a late summer race on your schedule.


  1. Nice race report, Marty. Great photos, too. Did you take those? PRed by an hour and took time to take photos? It was good to meet you and the gang at Marquette. I'll be looking for you at Superior. Good luck.

  2. I emailed Joe Jameson, inquiring about the 2012 race, and he said he'll be unable to direct it. So the race apparently needs a director or it will not happen in 2012. Any ideas on recruiting an RD for the Marquette Trail 50?

  3. Hey, Andrew Grosvenor here... The Marquette Trail 50 goes on! Please spread the word!!! I am the new race director. Joe is still involved, and may RUN the race this year! We hope to make the event EVEN BETTER! New, even more challenging, course, including some great climbs and views! Check out our website: http://www.marquettetrail50.com/ We are also now on Facebook: Marquette Trail 50 Hope to see you out there......

  4. Great race report! As I said, NEW COURSE THIS YEAR! No 18-mile out-n-back section... more great single-track and excellent climbs, views, etc.