Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Monday 27 July 2009

Voyageur 50 Mile - An Unusual Race Report

Wow, have I been looking forward to writing this.

After 17 hours of travel time from Carlton, we finally made it to København (yes, that's Copenhagen) airport. We then slept all day in SR's parents' house and now we are back in Næstved with The Lorax and Step Daughter.

So who would guess that starting a race 20 minutes late would be so much fun? Well, that wasn't our intention, but it made for quite an experience.

The night before Voyageur, we drove up to Carlton from La Crosse, picked up our packets and then ate a romantic dinner at the Indian Palace in Duluth. I had amazingly good Peshawari Naan and Daal (Indian food in Denmark has been disappointing). We had had a fun but stressful and sleep-deprived week, so it was nice to sit and enjoy a dinner just the two of us.

We then checked in to the Red Roof Inn by Spirit Mountain and were about to get into bed, when a dog started barking in the room next to us. We eventually found out that the owner had left the dog in the room alone and the hotel was unable to contact the owner. Apparently by Minnesota state law, they could not remove the dog from the room.

Here is a picture from the room before the dog started barking.

In a scene that was extremely embarrassing to SR, I convinced one of the nice ladies at the hotel to give us a different room. Suffice it to say, I now understand why SR is so opposed to owning a dog.

In our new room, we layed out our things for the race, set the alarms and tried to sleep. It was about 2:30 by the time I fell asleep. SR was asleep a bit before me.

I then woke up to bright sun shining in the room. Ahhhh! I screamed knowing immediately we had overslept. I looked at the clock, which said 6:52. With a 7:00 start and a 17 minute drive to Carlton, things were not looking good (we had both set our alarms to PM instead of AM--- I am always so obsessive about checking this, but just didn't do it that night).

We grabbed our things and I filled my mug with coffee (I could NEVER race without that.). We discussed as we drove what to do and I said, we had better drive to the start and hope they allow us to start late (SR had wanted to drive to the first aid station). We arrived at the start and, since my English has become so poor, I said "We slept in!" (rather than we overslept!) to the remaining race workers.

We started at 7:19:30 and ran together for the first two hours, trying to catch up. The pace was, of course, way too fast for me. At times we ran under 8 minute miles.

All of your kind advice about what to eat for breakfast was lost on me, since I didn't eat a thing. So, I guess I took Steve Q's advice.

Here we are excited and alone in the first few rocky miles (I did manage to remember our camera).

We caught up to some other racers after about 50 minutes, or at the second aid station.

Here was the "power lines" section. Yes, it is steep.

And, I was so glad I wore a Garmin. I'd never run an ultra without one now. It was great inspiration when I was tired.

I was also glad I wore a watch, because shortly after this photo, I tumbled down a powerline hill, resetting the Garmin.

A quick word on chafing: Ladies (and of course, some men, too), if you have problems with this, buy yourself some spandex shorts! I have previously had nearly fatal chafing between my legs at long races, but none after this one.

Since my family also reads this blog, I won't talk about how sexy I look in spandex. All of my clothing was provided by the company I pretend sponsors me, Geyser.

SR went ahead after a little over two hours and I started meeting people.

The first guy I really talked with gave me the nickname of Wood Shadow and we started singing "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens, but I didn't get his name.

I wanted to ask everyone their names as I passed, but I don't know, it just seemed weird.

Then I spotted Steve Q about a half a mile ahead of me on Skyline Drive. I figured I wouldn't catch him until much later, but was so excited to finally meet him. We had a good conversation and he amazinlgy had narrowed down the real name of The Lorax to two names, one of which was Dag (which I think is actually a Norwegian name) and one of which was correct! They don't call Steve smart for nothing. Any other readers want to wager a guess? (No family members, please)

I then spotted Helen Lavin, coming back from the turnaround. I believe she was 8th overall at that time and looked incredibly strong.

I made it to the 25 mile turnaround in 4:20. Right on pace to run the course in 9 hours. I could see I was 7th woman at that point and 5 of the women were not too far ahead. I met SR, who was about 10 minutes ahead of me. He said he was already tired and that worried me. I told him with great enthusiasm that I was going to be second woman. Yes, I live for competition.

Here was the gorgeous view of Duluth from Spirit Mountain.

I met and eventually got ahead of Lisa Trainor and Traci Amundson. I ran the first 50k in 5:27. But I was dead by the time I got to the powerlines again.

My eating and drinking had been perfect, I think. Fig Newtons, plus many extras and lots of Coke and Sports Drink were the way to go for me. I must have eaten/drunk 150 calories at or between each of the 17 aid stations. The only limiting factor for me was my quads.

Not to make this post even longer, but God, long runs can really be spiritual. I went through a bit of a life crisis in the second half of the run, wondering if we should stay in Denmark and if I am on the career path that is right for me. But perhaps no decisions should be based on thoughts after 40 miles and 3 hours of sleep.

I pushed with great pain through the last 3 miles in Jay Cooke. When I saw the finish line, I started to sob. It was such an incredibly beautiful challenge. I was overcome with thankfullness that my body was in the condition to run those 50 miles without too much problem. I stopped crying by the time I crossed the finish line. If you subtract the almost 20 minutes because of our late start, my overall time was around 9:40, right around the same time as the 3rd and 4th place women finishers.

I found SR, who had come in 15 minutes before me, but had walked the entire last 3 miles. "I'm not meant for such long races" he lamented. He is used to coming in first at races. I do think he could also see, though, what an amazing thing it was he had accomplished.

Almost immediately, Helen Lavin came up to me and introduced herself. This would be the equivalent of Taylor Swift introducing herself to Step-Daughter. I was in such awe. And she is so nice and normal. She ran the course in 8:07, an hour ahead of the next woman, April Cole. She set a female course record. We talked for a long time and I hope to use some of what we talked about to inspire an upcoming blog post.

She then introduced me to Valeria Schuster, the 3rd place woman. I would love to have Val and Helen as running buddies. Too bad we live on different continents!

Then Mark Inbody came up and introduced himself, his wife and his four incredibly cute sons. They had all come from Kansas for the race!

I wish we could have stayed for dinner, but, as always, we were in an extreme rush. SR and I took quick showers (and I haven't taken one since!) in the high school locker rooms. Then we were off to pick up step daughter and head to Milwaukee to stay with my parents, who were watching The Lorax.

On the long drive back, I shut my eyes, about to take a nap and SR said "I love you." I looked at him and smiled. We are so lucky.

Running Song of the Day: Much Better by The Jonas Brothers


Carie said...

Awesome! Congrats!!! I signed up for my first 50 miler, JFK, in Nov. Very excited.

Danni said...

I'm almost sure you posted the Lorax's name when he was born. . . but maybe not! :p

Congrats!!! I started a half-marathon late in December and it was great! The only time I can spend an entire race passing people :p You did awesome and I hope SR feels good too. Have fun with step-daughter!

SteveQ said...

You started with an honorary spot on my "girls allowed to beat me in ultras" list, but you've earned it now. Great race! I wonder how the race would've gone if you hadn't slept in.

A lot of runners swear by compression shorts - I made the mistake of buying a pair that has one seam. One very irritating seam.
The Garmin does help to let you know where you are in the race - I wore mine for two other reasons. 1) Previous years, I'd record splits at aid stations, but I'd miss a few and never know which ones I missed, so the data was useless. 2) With a heart rate monitor, I could set it to alert me when I was pushing too hard (though I ignored it) and one can set it to have a continuous reading of average heart rate, which was very useful - too bad the battery wouldn't last for a 100 mile race.

Come back to Minnesota soon! We have other races! You still haven't experienced the Superior Hiking Trail at night...

SteveQ said...

Oh, and I wish I could've met little Theophilus. No wonder you give him nicknames. ;)

Michelle said...

I remember what you named the Lorax from when you wrote about it after he was born, but I won't spoil it for the rest of your readers. ;-)

amazon said...

I'm pretty sure I know, too, from older posts.

timr said...

Congrats! Was Going To Take A Ride Up And Watch But I Got Invited To A Softball Tourney and I Love Softball! Tell Rasmus Congrats Also! Hope Natalie Is Adjusting Well.

sea legs girl said...

Me, that's awesome about JFK! Can't wait to hear about it.

Okay, a bit strange I forgot I posted The Lorax's name. And now you can all learn SR and Step-Daughter's name in the above comment (thanks to Tim Roe!).

By the way, Tim, we were hoping you'd be running it. Hopefully we'll catch each other at another race.

Helen said...

Tracy - well done on a great race after a rough start! It was lovely to chat with you guys. And funny to think that the Irish & Argentinian girls are the ones living here while you are in Denmark! Let us know when you're back in the midwest. In the meantime I'll be checking in here.


p.s. I had to chuckle that you call me normal - all the people that have known me all my life - or more specifically in my former life before I ran - would strongly disagree :) Also - if you ever want to chat about running stuff my email is

Helen said...

P.P.S I just saw that you guys are doing the Transalpine run in Sept. I am SO jealous!!! Someday...

Looking forward to hearing all about it!