Race Report by Robert Wehner...
Last year at the Voyageur 50 Mile trail run, I was swarmed by ground wasps just 2 miles into the race. It was a total shock, and while I kept going for awhile, the venom and my body’s histamine reaction to it eventually ground me to a halt - my first DNF in a 50 miler. This came on the heels of 3 straight disappointing runs at Voyageur the previous years, marked by dehydration, nausea, and dizziness over the latter stages of the race.
Flash forward to 2010, and I’m heading back to Carlton, MN, with a group of LPTRs – Craig Swartwout, Tom Bunk, Dave Dehart, and Cobbie Behrend. Joining us on the starting line the following morning would be Brad Birkholz and Jim Blanchard. The ride up proved to be fun, with an opportunity to expand one’s language skills. New phrases picked up included: “I’m so hungry I could eat the ass end of a running grizzly bear” (this one may prove beneficial to Jeff Mallach next week), “draining mountain dew from big red”, “dropping the Browns off at the Super Bowl”, etc.
Race morning found us facing typical mid-west summer conditions, with humidity in the 90% range. The Voyageur course is very difficult, but high humidity has been at the root of my problems in this event. So while I knew many of the other runners, my plan for the day was to run my own race, take an S cap every ½ hour, and keep the fluids going in; goals were to avoid some of the past problems, and finish stronger over the last 10-15 miles.
The first stages of the race went well, although I was sweating profusely. It was a constant reminder to me to watch my pace, and keep the sodium and fluids coming. The rain we had the night before had left parts of the course muddy, but that is the norm. At times I found myself running with friends, which was great, but I didn’t hesitate to stick with my plan, and dropped back when I needed to. Best of all, I seemed to be getting past the bees this year!
After the turn at 25 miles, we started to get some rain. This actually felt good, and I’m sure it helped me keep a steady pace going on the way back. Fortunately, it wasn’t a rain like we had at the KM100, and it ended in less than an hour. What I didn’t realize, was how it might affect some of the trail that lay ahead of me.
When any race veteran talks about the Voyageur, their tone turns grim when they mention the “Power Line” section. This is a couple of miles of clear-cut big, steep hills, with the path straight up and down. Getting through this section upright when it is dry is difficult; when it is wet you will be on all fours. The rain had turned the dirt into greased slides; adjacent trees, bushes, and grass hand-holds were needed to get both up and down. More than once I found myself moving backwards; not the best direction for finishing a race.
Getting through the power lines provides a little lift; you now have only 10.5 miles to go. At this point my plan had worked well, and I was able to keep a steady effort going. For most of the second half of the race I had been alone, so I was surprised to see runners ahead of me as I worked my way back. I ended up passing 5 runners over the last 6 miles; finishing with a course PR was the icing on the cake.
They had record numbers this year for entries, starters, and finishers. Out of 140 starters, there were 119 finishers, and the LPTRs were 7 for 7. My pick for the performance of the day has to be shared by 2 people: Tom, finishing his 23rd Voyageur (the most ever), and Cobbie, scooting in just under 13 hours. The difficulty of this event cannot be over stated; one Voyageur virgin summed it up nicely by saying he had received “a world-class ass beating today”.
Curiously, there were no LPTR women at Voyageur, so my initial thought was that this would erase the shame of the KM100 for the men. But alas, I then realized that the women would counter that some of them opted to run 100 miles that weekend, not 50 measly miles like the men had done. We are not worthy!!!