This weekend Matt & I headed to Duluth for a weekend of adventure. I was joining my trail buddy, Steph, along with her husband, Chris, and friend, Joy, for the Voyageur 50 mile Trail Ultra. While the ladies were running, Matt & Chris headed to Canal Park in Duluth to see the Tall Ships that were spending the weekend in the harbor.
We had elected to camp this weekend given the jacked up prices of area hotel rooms. Plus camping always adds to the adventure anyway. Ma Nature can be a finicky lady, and after a week of 90 + degree days here in the cities, she graced us with a week of 70's and a nearly picture perfect forecast for the weekend.
We packed the car for a casual summer adventure in the northland. As we drove north, we checked the weather and found cooler than average temps & lots of rain forecasted... Probably would have been wise to check the forecast BEFORE we left the house, because we'd have likely tossed in rain gear...
We drove through patches of rain & arrived at the campground to chilly, cloudy temps, but no rain. Got the tent set up (which was a pain, given we were trying to stake into really rocky soil,) and enjoyed a lovely evening around the campfire with the gang.
Pretty soon it was time for bed & the alarm was set for 4am. As luck would have it, our piece of ground wasn't nearly as flat as we'd have hoped, and I had a restless night's sleep. I was cozy given I have the warmest mummy bag ever, but didn't sleep well.
The alarm went off & we got our stuff organized. I had packed a tank top to run in along with my new favorite skirt. I had tossed some arm sleeves & a long sleeve shirt in my bag, but managed to leave those in the tent, so I was stuck running in a tank at 48 degrees at the start...
Once we got moving, I was ok. Luckily I had my buff, that I could make into a hat, so that really did help keep me warmer.
6am race start - short trip on the pavement to the trail, and right away we were greeted with some really technical, rocky stuff along the river. It was slow going since all the runners were still in packs, and picking through the rocks takes time. I made a mental note, that the last 3 miles could be slow, since the course was an out & back.
After the 2.9 mile aid station, things opened up & we had some very runnable sections. Plus multiple creek crossing of ankle deep water, & river crossings with broken bridges... The race director did say "If it looks unsafe, you're in the right place." He was definitely right. But that just added to the adventure.
Steph, Joy & I stayed & worked together to make the miles pass quickly. Some places I lead the way, other times it was Steph or Joy. The hardest sections were miles 20-25 & 25-30. On the way out, at about 19-20 miles, we hit the Powerlines. It was overcast & cool - such a change from last year, where I felt like I was baking in the direct sun. The powerlines are these rolling "hills" maybe 200-300 feet straight up - think steep enough that you are grabbing the ground in front of you, to help you lift yourself up. And repeat it 4-5 times... Up, down, up, down, repeat...
The next section was Jarrow's Beach... the farthest thing from a beach... about a mile long section of pointy rocks just waiting to grab an ankle.... Really slow going.
Just past the 25 mile turnaround, about the time we were heading back through Jarrow's Beach, it started to rain.... We got through the beach before the rocks got too wet, but not soon enough to get through the powerlines before they turned into a greasy mess.
It was insane on the return trip through the powerlines. They were so slippery that once you scrambled your way to the top, attempting to grab anything, bush, root, bramble, anything, to get traction on, you then slid on your butt down the other side because if you didn't, you'd end up on your butt anyway.
All of us hit the ground at least a time or two. But I keep saying, "It's not how many times you fall, but how many times you get up." I've come to learn that falling is a part of trail running & you just have to dust yourself off, and carry on.
There were times on the return trip that it was really raining, and cold. It was gross, but we just kept moving & working together. My main goal for this event was to finish feeling strong enough to continue. Given that I have Sawtooth 100 coming up in Sept, I wanted to know if I could keep going. Mission accomplished. I was happy to be done for today, but didn't feel totally trashed... I still have a lot of miles to log between now & September, but this gave me a good boost of confidence. Plus Steph & I set nearly a 2 hour PR from our time last year. 11 hours & 31 minutes, compared to a slightly different course last year in 13 & 1/2 hours. And we finished as 10, 11 & 12th women overall. :-)
I love spending the day on the trail with these ladies. Plus it was so fun to meet some new people along the way. Even if it was cold & gross, it was an awesome day!!!!!