I am as dumbfounded to be writing this email as you will be to receive it. Late yesterday when we were out marking the alternate course I saw that the level of the Poplar River had gone down significantly from its peak a few days ago. The footbridge that crosses the river is the gateway to the majority of what was to be our alternate race course. While crossing it I found that the recent high and fast moving water had stripped away the rock armouring that protects one of the abutments that the bridge sits on. The rock armouring consists of massive stacked stones that have been there since the 1930s, protecting the river bank and thus the abutment. As a result of the loss of the armouring and an unknown amount of new erosion to the river bank from its pre-flood state, the bridge’s integrity is unknown. This bridge spans over 30’ and sits fairly high above deep and fast moving water. Given this extremely short timeline there is no way to get structural engineers from the managing agencies out to assess the bridge before tomorrow’s race. I had been over this bridge several other times in the past week and ironically noted each time how the bridge and abutments had remained unaffected from the floodwaters – this damage appearing sometime in the last 48 hours. While there is a chance that it “could” be fine, I cannot in good conscience put runners on that bridge. I was (literally) up all night trying to figure out how to pull another rabbit out of the hat and with the help of a lot of awesome people, we have. Read on.
Before I get to that, it is important to note that this is not the main / iconic Poplar River bridge that we use for the normal Superior Spring and Fall Trail Races, this is a different and lesser used bridge that crosses the Poplar River much further out of Lutsen.
With some quick thinking from the team here, we have come up with the following: should you choose to join on Saturday. Check in will be held at the normal times on Friday evening and Saturday morning. On Saturday 50K runners will get on buses in the large surface parking lot across from Caribou Highlands Lodge at 7AM, 25K runners will get on buses at 8AM, and 12K runners will get on buses at 9AM – each group will be taken to an approximate 2.1 mile (uphill / downhill) course (4.2 miles round trip) out of Tofte with an absolutely stunning view of Lake Superior at the top. There is about 600FT of elevation gain in the 2.1 mile uphill segment. There will be toilets at the start, but no shelter. Runners may run (close to) their entire race distance, run a little longer time permitting, or can cut it short if they choose – each runner will get timed / credit for however many laps they choose to run. Runners will have full aid every 4.2 miles. 50K runners can bring their drop bags and place them in a central location to work out of. There will be a cutoff at 2:30PM meaning no runner can start another loop after that time. You will receive your medal once you finish. Once you are done, there will be buses to bring you back to Caribou Highlands / Lutsen Parking. Chili, beverages and socializing will be at Caribou Highlands when you get back, just make your way to the party tent at the back of the lodge, where the normal finish line is, chili will be served until approximately 5pm. You can also go get cleaned up first and come back, your choice.
If you can, bring a plastic bag and some warm clothes, a rain jacket, etc. to stash in before and after your run. A plastic bag is key as we will not have a way to protect that many bags. Do not put valuables in your bag. Be sure to label your bag so you can easily identify it when you are done running.
Masks are optional on the buses but I am sure nobody would mind if the windows are open a bit for the 12 minute ride. There is very limited parking and it would not be safe to get dropped off at this location, so the bus is the only option. Your crew or spectators may ride the bus, space permitting. If they cannot get on the first trip, they can try to get on next time a bus comes back around. They are welcome to be at the aid station, or walk out onto the race course, as long as they give the right of way to runners. Crew may only give aid at the aid station.
If you can, please keep your sense of humor about all of this, I am trying to keep mine. Let’s enjoy a day on the North Shore together tomorrow.
Loops (approximate distances):
1 = 4.2
2 = 8.4
3 = 12.6
4 = 16.8
5 = 21
6 = 25.2
7 = 29.4
8 = 33.6
Superior Trail Race
P.S. Given the short timeline, if you have a friend or acquaintance running the race, shoot them a text or give them a call to confirm they are aware of this information.