If you’re like me, you’ve been wondering what makes our Gnarly Bandits tick. Why are they undertaking this year-long, 462-mile project? And what wisdom are they acquiring along the way? This week, I spoke by email to three of our five contenders to find out more about what motivates them, and what they can teach us. Thank you, Matt, Even, and Brian! If you see them on the course or at the finish line this weekend, be sure to give them a hearty cheer!
I just want to run a hundred miles in the woods with friends. I really enjoy the 100 mile distance. The vast range of emotional and physical challenges you face over the duration of a race of this length really pulls at me. I haven’t found the same level of satisfaction in events shorter than this since I started running them. This is the only place for me to strip down and find peace and happiness from everything else in life. I am getting older, thereare other races that really appeal to me that I want to do, and my good buddy Brian was doing it. Brian and I talked about doing The Bandit together this year in the lead up to last year’s Superior and Here We Are! Zumbro is really special to me, Superior is the best time of year in our community and I can’t ever imagine not being at either one, I had crewed and paced a number of times at Kettle, the Black Hills of SD are beautiful, and Wild Duluth is a really challenging 100K that time of year. It just made sense.
Basically, “gnarly bandit” just sounds cool. I mean, who could resist? Really though, it’s pretty simple: the Gnarly looked hard, and I wanted to try something hard.
At 2016 Wild Duluth I met and ended up running for awhile with Jim Lemke, he told me about each of the races and I became interested in each of them individually. I really wanted to run Zumbro, Black Hills and Superior in 2018, so adding in the others and doing the series seemed to make sense.
I have really honed in on my ability to shoot a quality snot rocket. Seriously. You can’t spend that much time out in the woods in the elements and not be able to blow a booger. If you’re wiping your nose for 29+ hours, you’re going to have bad day. Surround yourself with like-minded good people and you’ll have fun doing it. There will always be someone who has ran farther, faster, and has finished more races than you. They all have a story to tell. Find something to take away from every one of those people for when you need it.
It seems like the secret to the Gnarly is to just keep on not quitting. Whatever the heck happens out there, keep on not quitting and you’ll get through it just fine. I look at the Gnarly (and running ultras in general) as good practice for tricky future situations. Hopefully at the end of this thing, I can wrap up the whole experience into a tidy, cohesive metaphor for later use. For now, though, the best I can do is say, “NO QUITTING!”
Each race in the series is so different from the others. They all have beautiful views along the way and challenge you in different ways. The one constant is the great people you meet and see at each of the races.
You never know what you’re going to get. Be mentally and physically ready for anything. I was lucky enough to have my friend Mark Smith pace me at Zumbro. Mark is doing the Grand Slam this year. Mark is an accomplished 100 mile finisher and spoke of this year’s weather at Zumbro as, “This is really something special.” Mark saved my race. I can’t underestimate that enough. Zumbro was Zumbro, the weather at Kettle was nearly perfect, the hills on the first half of Black Hills should not be run.
I didn’t think that mud was going to play such a pivotal role. I really don’t care for running in mud at all, and when I imagined running these races, in my head, there wasn’t any mud. Cut to reality, and the trails have been like a darn monster-truck rally (those are muddy, right?). I guess there’s probably a lesson here, like letting go of expectations or learning to be adaptable or something, but… I’m still too bitter for that kind of perspective.
How awesome our trail running community is. The support at each race has been incredible, from the amazing volunteers pulling all day/nighters at the Zumbro blizzard to friends taking time off work to travel and help crew and pace at races. It has been great being surrounded by so many supportive people.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” (Mike Tyson). You’re going to get punched in the mouth. Go out and have fun. Don’t spend a lot of time and frustration with every detail on what pace you are going to run at, what you are going to wear, run comfortable, run by feel. Find a friend or friends go along for the ride with you. Enjoy every mile out there.
My one piece of advice would be: don’t listen to me, I’m not qualified. Really, I have no idea what I’m doing. But if I could give 3 pieces of advice (demanding, I know), number two would be to get yourself a mantra. It helps keep things on track when the delirium sets in. And third, remember to hear the birds chirping, smell the forests, and say thank-you to all the badass volunteers helping you get this thing done. Oh, and “no quitting.”
Do it. And add the Sandlot Marathon on your spring race calendar to get the year started right, it’s the best pre-Zumbro training around.
Matt McCarty is from Ramsey, MN. He is 39 years old.
Even Semrud is from St Louis Park, MN. He is 29 years old.
Brian Corgard is from Coon Rapids, MN. He looks forward to celebrating his 37th birthday at Superior, and thanks everyone “for showing up and making it so special”!