2021: Back 9 Endurance Run

While I had been a part of 3/8/12-person teams in relay races (lap-based or not) in the past, I had never done a time- and lap-based 12 (or 24) event before. Getting to be a part of it so close to home and doing so in the company of many friends made it very appealing … and started swinging my mind back towards the first edition of the Back 9 Endurance Run held on the premises of the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. To say that I showed up late to this party is an understatement. Many in my family of friends had signed up, been training methodically and spreadsheeted their laps in detail for weeks, if not months … and then there was me, needing a special invitation from the kind-hearted race director to sign up. It was special (and not special) because I had waited until three days after the registration had been closed to make up my mind.

After weighing the pros and cons of various combinations of lapping (1-2-3-4-3-2-1 or 1-2-3-2-1, 2-3-2-3 or 3-2-3-2 or 1-2-3-3-1-1), I settled on 3-3-3-3 with approximately one hour break after each set to change into dry clothes and get some nutrition. Never having done anything quite like this before, I felt 10 laps would be within reach, and that 12 (or more) would be the stuff of secret (or double secret) goals. It didn’t take long to pack the necessary stuff the night before – four sets of running clothes (each packed in its own zip-lock bag – an idea borrowed from Mary, from circa 2014), two pairs of running shoes and a few other essentials. The drive to Copper Harbor on Saturday morning and picking up the race packet were seamless as well.

The event started on time shortly after the pre-race guidelines from the race director and off we went. First lap was with Shannon and it went by fast. The course was beautiful and challenging – starting with a noticeable downhill over the first mile, then a semi-noticeable ascent for the next 2 ish miles and a fast downhill finish over the final half a mile or so. Ascent had sufficient recovery stretches and it didn’t feel like all uphill. The course involved a service road, tiny stretch of asphalt, parts of a golf course, some single and two tracks, and near-perfect weather plus the usual fixings of a trail run.

3.6-ish miles and 300-ish feet of elevation gain. Not sure why the map is showing 4+ miles.
Garmin Forerunner 945 and WP GPX Maps Plugin

After writing my lap #1 time on the whiteboard, I completed the second and third laps in quick succession. The highlight for latter two laps was running the final few strides with Ayden and Ellie! After another short 40 minute break (I didn’t feel like I needed the entire hour), I started my second set of 3 laps. Majority of the first lap was with Cory, all of the second and third laps were with Christine and Rob respectively.

As I completed the second set, I felt like I got what I needed out of the event – uneven terrain to awaken my footing, a bit of pickups when the terrain permitted – especially in laps #3 an d#6 on somewhat tired legs, and the longest run of this calendar year so far. So, after six laps, I duly informed the race director that I was done for the day. Shortly thereafter, I cleaned up, got a bite to eat and spent the next several hours hanging out and cheering friends (Dan, Dusty, Dyresons, Greens, Haases, McClouds, Meyers, and more) as many of them completed lap after lap towards their own personal goals.

Summary
Lap Technical details Company
1 - 3 8:00 am, 4:29 am, 10.93 miles, 1:51:36, 10:12 min/mile Shannon, Ayden and Ellie
4 - 6 10:30 am, 10.89 miles, 1:56:26, 10:41 min/mile Cory, Christine and Rob
7 11:45 am, 3.67 miles, 0:46:55, 12:48 min/mile Ana and Mary
8 1:20 am, 3.62 miles, 0:41:35, 11:30 min/mile Angela and Keith
9 2:50 am, 3.63 miles, 0:45:06, 12:26 min/mile Christine
10 4:30 am, 3.66 miles, 0:47:49, 13:04 min/mile Shannon

From about 11:45 pm from Saturday through about 5:15 am on Sunday, I got the opportunity to pace my friends (11:45 pm – Ana and Mary; 1:20 am – Angela and Keith; 2:50 am – Christine; 4:30 am – Shannon) during their nighttime laps. The night sky was so pitch dark and so clear during the first two laps that we shut off the lights and stopped to admire the stars for a few minutes. Third lap included a beautiful moon rise amidst some clouds and the final lap presented vibrant bands of reds and oranges as the Sun came up above Lake Superior!

After a cat nap that probably lasted about 15-20 minutes, it was time to wake up and pack our belongings from the start/finish area. I got a warm shower, a bite to eat and a trip to the downtown before coming back to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. I hadn’t carried my phone during any of my runs and so, I didn’t really have any photos from the course. So, I walked the course one more time – stopping to chat with friends and fellow trail users and to take necessary photos. After spending some time with Kim and Greg and checking out the Art In The Harbor, I safely made my way back home.

For an event in its maiden edition, it was very well organized – good course, good course markings, clear instructions, excellent (and healthy) food options throughout the day and night, and good people. It’d suffice to say it the experience outlasted all of my pre-race expectations. If the then training cycle permits, I’d consider doing this event again (and will register before the registration closes, of course).


Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as an athlete and a person. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable tips with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.

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