Friday, September 16, 2011

VoyageurQuest 2011

Julie Treder "tapered" for Superior by running a four-day stage race... Huh?!?  Here is her report...
Who could pass up an opportunity to do a 4-day, 105-mile stage run… on the Superior Hiking Trail??  Not me, that’s for sure!  Four days of hanging out with like-minded people, running on the beautiful trails overlooking Lake Superior, spending nights at three different locations.  Doesn’t get much better than this now, does it???

Wednesday evening was the start of it all… a 1.5-mile run up Mt Josephine.  Believe me…it did feel like you were running up a mountain with this leg of the event.  After traveling for 10 hours, this was definitely what the legs needed.  The 18 runners were sent off, one-by-one, in one-minute intervals, to charge up to the top.  I may have hacked up a lung along the way, but the pain quickly subsided when you reached the top to see this spectacular view of Lake Superior.  Awesome!!  Some notables of the day… LPTRs very own Brad Birkholz outran everyone else to win this stage and earn the coveted red stage winner shirt.  Sam Librizzi (misled to seriously believe there was beer waiting for the runners at the top of the climb) sprinted to the top to earn 3rd place overall honors… only to shed a tear when no victory libations were awaiting him.  Well done, boys… way to represent!!

Day 1 started just a stones throw away from the Canadian border, near Grand Portage.  The kick-off run took us about 29 miles along the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT).  While Brad was off in a quest to maintain his stage winner jersey, Sam and I found our spot among the group we would end up spending the majority of the four days with… Maria, Wendy, Jerry, Rick, and Wayne.  The highlights of the trail on this leg was hitting the highest elevation point on the SHT and day one of Sam’s earning his “vertical smile” reputation.  The memory of the day was running out of water with over 6 miles to go.  Nearing the end of the leg, we came upon a set of stairs that brought you up from the river level.  It felt like you were climbing Mt Everest at that point… although it was probably comparable to climbing from the base of the stairs at Lapham up to the top of the tower.  I can’t tell you how many times I had to take a break to catch my breath on that climb… geez!!

Day 2 started at the Magney State Park Campground… running a 24 mile leg to Grand Marais.  An additional runner joined our posse at this point, ultra-running rookie, Neil (who only started running in February!!).  This section took you through the 2-mile lake walk section.  Thinking “lake walk” brought visions of a boardwalk along the shoreline of Superior.  Not quite!  The footing was tough with loose rocks along the shoreline… bu the shoreline view was spectacular.  A bit of fog rolling in, the sound of waves crashing in, a fully stocked portable bar just tempting us off the course.  The place looked like party central!!  This leg brought you up and down steps, across many bridges (where no two looked alike), up and down more steps… leading you to the deepest gorge in Minnesota.  Who knew you could see so much along the SHT!  Since the distance of this leg of the run was shorter, it allowed us runners more time to tool around the city afterward… and enjoy a very memorable evening in Grand Marais!!

Day 3 was the Big Kahuna… the 35-miler (and Sam’s longest run… EVER!!).  The same crew ran a chunk of the distance together again…this time gaining another familiar face, in Jim Wilson.  Never a dull moment on the trails, for sure!  This section was full of different waterfalls, which definitely put me in my happy place… LOVE waterfalls!!  Many more scenic overlooks took us off the path for pictures.  Luckily, Sam has a good sense of direction as to which way to go when we got back on to the trail after our photo shoots.  We could have done a bit of backtracking, if it was up to me.  Lots of hikers and campers and backpackers on this section… always ready to wish you well or send you off with applause.  What a pick-me-up!!  The finish took us to the spot we will be very familiar with in a few days… poolside at Caribou Highlands Lodge.

Day 4… The last leg took us from our comfy lodging accommodations at the Lodge to the beach at Tofte… about 17 miles.  Sam was ready to roll on this run… sprinting off the line to hold the lead for, ah, about 10 steps.  After the laughter died down, we were all on our way.  Sam was able to get a sneak peak of what he’ll be on for the final miles of his first 50-miler at Superior.  Climbing, descending, rocks, roots, boardwalk bridges… the works!  You could see where the finish would be long before you got to it.  The final miles were down a long gravel road, emptying you out on a bike path… and finally spilling you out on the road that brought you to the finish line, right on Lake Superior.  The hearty ones kept running straight into the refreshing lake… the wimpy ones (OK, the wimpy one… me!) just iced her legs.  We also got to experience once of the coolest finishes of the event… all 17 runners who previously finished waiting to welcome, cheer, and high-five the final runner in.  How many races do you see that at?!?!  18 starters… 18 finishers… perfect!!

It was all topped off with a pizza party at the local lodge, where RD (Andy Holak) handed out winners and finishers awards… and telling some little story/memory about each and every runner – very personal touch to the event!

If you love running and you love spending time in the outdoors on some beautiful trails, make sure to mark this run down on your calendar next year.  You won’t be disappointed!!

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