Voyager 50 mile trail race

Wow, I'm not sure even where to begin.  Yesterday was such an amazing day.  I think I may need to backtrack a little to share how this race morphed into something unexpected.

Matt and I wanted to continue to push our limits this year by exploring the world of ultra trail running.  We started with the Trail Mix 50k, which was a good day for me, but not so much for Matt when he pulled out due to an injury after the 3rd loop.  We then had our sights set on the Afton 50k trail run as a final tune up before the Voyager 50 mile trail race, our "A" race of the season.

Two days prior to Afton, Matt suffered a significant back injury and elected to not run Afton, but also took Voyager off his calendar.  I ran Afton solo (see previous post), and met some new friends along the way.  Steph, who I met during Afton, took a leap of faith and agreed to run Voyager with me - this was her 1st 50 miler as well, and only her 2nd trail run ever!

As many of you may have heard, Duluth suffered a terrible flood the end of June.  This destroyed much of the original Voyager race course.  The amazing race directors still managed to put the race on with some changes.  From what I understand, these changes made the course even harder, and the R.D gave us an extra hour for the time allowed - 14 hrs this year.  The only goal Steph & I had for the race was to finish within the time allowed.

Matt, along with our friends Jennifer & Jonathon would be our crew and meet us along the way.

Race morning came, and Steph and I were ready.  The 6am start gave us until 8pm to finish with in the time allowed.  The course was 2 big loops, but there were loops with in the big loop.  We needed to finish the first loop in under 6.5 hours to not get pulled at the turn around.

The first mile was nice, some gentle climbing and lots of energy all around us.  Soon enough we were climbing the face of Spirit Mountain, which felt like (and was!) straight up.  The course was pretty well marked with  pink ribbons.  You had to be on the constant look out for the ribbons - at one point we nearly missed a turn.  Luckily somebody behind us was paying attention, and called it out! Who knows where we would have ended up??!

The next major spot on the course was Jarrow's Beach - a nearly mile long section of boulders surrounded by rock walls on either side.  This was mentally challenging.  Having to go slow and pick your way through the rocks.  We did see a snake in there, and screamed like little girls!  But it slithered out of the way quickly.  Whew.

After Jarrow's beach, we had an aid station before a 5 mile loop including the infamous power line section.  350 feet of climbing, over and over, and over, with no break from the sun.  It was plenty hot out there, especially on the second time around.  After the power lines, there were 3 creek crossings, and if you were talented, you could likely make it without getting your feet wet.... ha! I'm not that talented.  But the cold water did feel good.  And luckily I had dry socks waiting for me. :)

The final 10 miles of the main loop was relatively runnable.  That was important on the 2nd loop.  During the first loop, we picked up another runner named, Joli, and she hung with us most of the day.  At the end of the first loop we picked up another woman, Dawn, who needed some friendly faces to help her along.  So now we were 4.  It was so fun to chat, and run, and enjoy each other's company.

The miles clicked along, and soon we were at 35 miles.  Farther than I had ever run before! I was so excited to see my friends, Ann & Charles, there.  What a great boost.  Our crew was always spot on helping us get food and water and what ever we needed at the aid stations.  We headed out to the power lines for the 2nd and last time.  It was at this point that we started to get a little spread out.  Steph and I pulled ahead, and returned to the aid station at 40 miles.  We had 3 hours to go 10 miles.  We knew we needed to boogie.  3 miles to the next aid station - 45 min.  3 miles to the final aid station - 50 min.  This was the final aid station before the last 4 mile push to the finish.  Our crew was there and I was feeling a little glassy-eyed for the first time - I guess I can feel a little off at 46 miles! Some potato chips a hug from Matt and we were off to the finish, with time to spare!! Our energy was waning, so I carried my phone with music playing for us both to hear - a little "Eye of the Tiger" and Nelly's "Heart of a Champion" helped carry us in.

I would have had a very different day if I had been facing this challenge alone.  Having Steph with me every step of the way made for a great experience.  Plus meeting Joli and Dawn on the course added to the enjoyment of 50 miles.

I am disappointed that Matt couldn't run with me, but he was there with me every step of the way, none the less.  Next week is Matt's big event, as he unfortunately faces his 3rd back surgery :(  I'm sure this is just a road bump in the highway of life's adventures.  We'll get through it together and come back stronger than ever.

Until next time.


Jarrow's beach...

Top of the power lines...

FINISH LINE!!! :)

Afton Trail Race 50k

Summer is truly here, and Mother Nature hasn't taken any sympathy on us and jacked up the temps and humidity for the last couple weeks.  I guess that is good news for those of us preparing for July races, in that we are able to test out hydrating and fueling on the run while sweating buckets!

Last weekend, Matt and I did back to back long runs at Hyland Park.  18 miles Saturday, 20 miles Sunday.  It was unbelievably hot and humid, and running may be too strong of a word - there was lots of walking and power hiking, and short bursts of running (mostly in the shade when were being tormented by bugs!)  It was the most milage I've put in on foot in one weekend in my entire running career.  And I enjoyed every minute of it!  We did a lot of hill repeats straight up the ski hills at Hyland.  The thermometer at the top read 86 in the shade, and not a breeze to be found.

On our way home from Saturday's run, we stopped at the hardware store and picked up a plastic kiddy pool - we filled it with water from the hose and, Wa-laa! The poor man's ice bath!  It felt so good to sit in the cold water.

This week was still hot, and I didn't get much running in, but I think that set me up for a good run yesterday at Afton State Park.  Luckily, we had a small storm blow through and broke the temps for Saturday morning.  The biggest downer was that Matt was not going to be toeing the line with me.  As he is nursing a back injury and not taking any chances.

So at 6:30am Saturday, we were off, to enjoy 2 - 15+ mile loops of Afton Park.  It starts with a significant downhill, a short section of very runnable flat, and then a long uphill.  I knew most of the course, and the plan was to run the sections that I could, and walk the uphills.  A few miles in to the first loop, I joined up with some new friends, Steph & Joe, and we got to know each other over the next miles.  Chatting about a million different things really made the miles click by quickly.  Occasionally we would get spread out, and I was able to run some on my own, but by the time I got bored, I would have reeled them in again at a aid station or big hill, and the chatting would pick up where it left off.

Part way into the second loop Steph and Joe took off on flat section along the river.  I wasn't able to reel them in after that.  But it was ok, I was feeling good and had my own race to run.  I wasn't fast, but I easily put one foot in front of the other, and soon enough I was beyond 26.2 miles and on my way to my second 50 kilometer finish.

My biggest goal for this race was to use it as a long training day for the Voyager 50 mile trail race coming up on July 28.  I'm feeling much more confident that my training is preparing me to run 50 miles in the coming weeks.  I know it's not going to be easy - because like I always say - "If it was easy, everybody would be doing it!" But I'm ready to take on the challenge and meet the demons along the way.

Until next time...