It was the 30th anniversary for this great trail race this year. I allowed Jeff Mallach to talk me into doing this race, and before you know it Robert and the gang (Dave Dehart, Tom Bunk, and Jeff Mallach) arrived to pick me up to head north. It’s always a blast going to these types of races with a group, especially other people from the LPTR. Nothing makes a 7 hr or so car ride fly by like countless stories of racing, past races, trapping, and pole cats (don’t ask).
We checked into the Black Bear Casino and after dropping off our stuff went into town for some dinner and packet pick up. Ran into Jim Blanchard and his wife Sue, along with Deb and Dawn and other friends at the restaurant and settled in for all you can eat spaghetti. Weather was beautiful up there and the scenery was pretty awesome. The next morning all of us stopped down at the VFW for the pancake breakfast , which at first I was a little leery of but my stomach won the decision so I enjoyed a few with plenty of syrup. We were all in good spirits, looking forward to the race and getting this thing going! It was kind of nice hearing the stories of past Voyageur races and what people thought of them, what to expect, and what the general course was like. Of course one starts to get their own idea of what its gonna look like- and that’s usually way off.
Race started with a brief message from the RD Andy Holak and then we were off. I guess there were a record number of entrants this year. It was incredible how many people I talked with during the race who said that this was their first ‘trail race’?? It was gonna be a long day…
Of course there was the usual; some people holding back while others flew on by. I took my time and settled into a good rhythm, trying to sneak peeks at the scenery around me while not getting tripped up. The trail was pretty technical in spots, and there were plenty of places where you did NOT want to go down. It was like Robert said, “There’s spots where if you slip or step off the trail your automatically 10 feet away from it” ha-ha very true!
The first half went well, I think for a lot of people. There was some overcast which really helped keep things somewhat cool. I was introduced to the power lines, which have the STEEPEST hills I have seen yet in my few trail running years. Little slick going out, I could just imagine what they would be like if it was raining! They are a force to be reckoned with, for sure. This course was an out and back which was nice considering you get to see everyone at least once. When I saw the leader, I was pretty amazed-wow, that guys is like 14 miles ahead of me! CRAZY! Ok, back to my own race…
Everyone I saw at or near the turnaround looked like they were doing well. Ron and Dave looked like they were feeling no pain. I informed Dave I was getting ready to drop the hammer even though I knew I was not, and was basically just trying to keep a good pace going. I am lucky in an ironic sort of way considering that I work in the heat most days, so I am pretty used to it and therefore it doesn’t seem to be that much of a factor in my runs/races. However once the temps crept up to around 90 people started feeling it big time. During the second half I saw quite a few people not looking so good.
Flash forward to mile 35 or so- I catch a second wind of great energy and decide that I am going to blast through the power line section round 2 while I got it and so I do, passing quite a few people who were more than happy to step over and let me by. That burst got me through and back into the woods which was a helluva lot nicer than being out in that sun where the buzzards were circling. My quads were starting to hurt, and I slowed down for awhile. At every stream crossing I took advantage of the cool water, splashing my face and enjoying it. Ran with a few people here and there but it was getting pretty spread out at this point for me.
There were a few people that I had been yo-yo ‘ing with for the last 15 miles or so and at the last aid station I saw them yapping so I figured this was my shot…grabbed the minimals and got right back out there. Back in the woods heading through the last 3.5 miles or so, I see them coming…I pick it up, threading my way through the rocks and gaining ground. I glance back a few times and they are nowhere to be seen. I relax a little, and glad to be because I am hurting pretty good. Then all of a sudden he’s like right next to me! I notice he dropped his buddy. “Hey man, that trails got to be coming close eh?” I hear him say, all nonchalant. I’m thinking “oh great…well buddy how bad do you want it? I’m going to make you work for it!”
So we are running together for a little bit, picking it up where we can. I can’t shake him. There’s the paved bike road leading to the finish…we pass a guy on all fours, with someone watching over him…We catch another guy, and I got this rock in my shoe just screaming at me. I stop to get it out; they get about 50 feet or so ahead. I catch up, talk with them a bit, and then say “well, guys, nice run today. I’m heading in” and I take off. I don’t stop to see if they are chasing, all I know is I am emptying the tank. Around the corner I see the finish. Suckin’ air I ride those tired legs right in… man I love that feeling!
Tough race, tough day, but the smiles afterwards came real easy. The showers afterwards were ice cold- not sure if that was a blessing or torture, but it didn’t matter. It was done. It was great seeing the rest of the crew make it in…Riding the high I already knew I would be coming back next year, even as I watched this guy cross the finish and throw up, take a couple steps, throw up a little more... I applaud a little louder-it was epic.
This was an invaluable experience, with great company and trails that were a blessing to see and to run on. I am glad I took the time to spend it with such great people, I will never forget it.