RE: 2018 Superior Spring Trail Race Thank You Letter to Volunteers
Leading into this years Superior Spring Trail Race, my and Cheri’s beloved dog Autumn was nearly a year into her battle with cancer, and at 14 years old she had been with us just about as long as Cheri and I have been married. Like many dogs, Autumn was almost too resilient, she just would not give up. The month and a half leading into Superior were a whirlwind to say the least – after producing an exceedingly challenging Zumbro Endurance Run, navigating life’s normal day to day challenges and Autumn’s declining health, it just did not feel right to try to squeeze in any major decisions about Autumn until things had calmed down after Superior. On Wednesday morning I traveled North to the race, but for the first time ever, I was without Cheri. She would spend one more day at home with Autumn prior to dropping her off with her parents and heading up to join us. A hot day (and correspondingly hot pavement), a heavy load, a new truck that pulls our aging race supply trailer a touch faster than it should be pulled, and I sustained a flat tire – then 50 miles later, another! After changing spares twice and having two different tire shops remount the blown tires, the usual 4-1/2 hour drive was completed in something 8-1/2. As Cheri prepared to leave for the race, she sustained a migraine headache, something she has been struggling with off and on since she was kid, this one likely due to normal race-week stress along with the added stress of leaving Autumn – something we have only done a couple of times in the past year. Cheri arrived up in Lutsen on Thursday night and then went on to have cluster of migraines – something that she has not experienced before. Later on Friday, after setup and just before the pre-race meeting we received a call from Cheri’s parents, they said that Autumn had taken a sudden and significant turn for the worse and that Cheri better get home as it looked like this might be it – you see, Autumn, while both of our dog, was Cheri’s baby. Cheri made the long trip home and we connected by phone at 10:30PM, she would call our vet Dr. Brown and Autumn was put to sleep at Cheri’s parents home by 11:30PM. Wishing so badly I could have been there, I laid awake with a heavy heart and had a sleepless night in advance of the race. When morning came, I told a couple of our very experienced, long-time and trusted volunteers (interchangeable with “close friends”) what had transpired overnight and that Cheri would not be at the race – another first since Cheri and I started directing races well over a decade ago.
You see, races, while an escape from day to day life are certainly not immune to the small, medium and large challenges of every day life; the tragic death of a beloved participant at last years Superior Spring Trail Race, the 2011 Afton Trail Run when Afton State Park was closed just one day before the race due to a government shutdown and we completely moved the race to a new venue, this years Zumbro Endurance Run which took place during one of the most significant blizzards in the states history and its corresponding complications and cancellation of the 17 mile race, and I guess now we can also add the minor but annoying flat tires to the list! But the lessons we learn on the trail are lessons that can be applied to life; life is akin to an endurance event and we should focus on the long-game, no matter how bad it is now it will almost always get better, no matter how bad we think we have it someone else always has it worse, if you get knocked down 9 times get up 10, no matter what difficulties you are having personally always seek to be of service to others, be consistent, persevere and endure. In the midst of all that was going on personally for Cheri and I, putting on the race was still the priority precisely because of the lessons that we have learned from the trail over the years – others come to Superior to learn those same lessons and our job is to help facilitate that. With Cheri absent and me operating well under 100%, unsurprisingly and quite characteristically our cohesive team of volunteer leaders, that have worked together many times before, knew exactly what to do and set about doing it. And this, this is precisely why I always ask each and everyone of you back, year after year, because you are the spokes in this wheel, you are the elders of our community, the ones that make this happen, and our ability to execute in Cheri’s absence only reinforces this point. Make no mistake, if we all choose to continue to do this long enough, there will come a day that I will be forced to miss a race as well, maybe it will happen at the Superior 100, who knows, because like so many other things in life, we do not get to choose, life just keeps happening in spite of what we might prefer – but when that day comes I am confident that you all will once again skillfully rise to the occasion.
For those of you that are new to volunteering and feel like maybe this email is not geared towards you because you played a less significant role in the success of Saturdays race, make no mistake, nearly everyone on the team that is now capable of stepping up as leaders started out as a new volunteer at one point as well and have since grown to indispensable individuals on our team and thus indispensable members of our community. Additionally, no matter what our position at a race, or our station in life for that matter, we all have the opportunity to affect those around us in a positive way should we so choose. And so then what specifically of this years race? It was in fact executed flawlessly as usual with each and every one of playing an important role in creating the envelope not only for the usual fun, sense of community and personal achievement of the runners, but given the circumstances of last years race, you all provided the framework for much needed purging, closure and joy.
As I write the last few sentences of this years thank you letter, it is 4:00PM on Sunday and I find myself pulled off of I35, sitting in a gravel lot next to a gas station near North Branch MN. Two of my good friends and key volunteers, Brendan and Maria have just run over to the tire shop to get two trailer tires mounted after sustaining a flat earlier in the trip and now a broken trailer spring and resulting second blown tire for the day on our other supply trailer – that’s four tires on the weekend for those counting! Whether its races, or dogs, or tires… in life we must face each challenge as it is presented to us, just as we have learned to do on the trail. So friends, to you I say this… keep coming back, keep learning the lessons and keep helping others to do the same. Thank you for being with us. As always should you have any comments, questions, concerns, complaints or compliments, I am always available.
Superior Trail Race