Race Report from LPTRunner, Robert Wehner....
I wasn’t dreading turning 50 this year. Honestly. In fact, I was feeling just the opposite. PRs at 50K and 50 miles this spring showed me there was still potential to improve, despite getting older. At the Fish Days 8K, just a few days before my birthday, I got a taste of how satisfying it was going to be. I ran a steady pace, and was able to slowly move up through the field. As I started to pass a teenager near the 2-mile mark, he bolted ahead while I kept to my pace. By the 3-mile mark, he was in my rear-view mirror and fading. Kids these days, when will they learn! Finishing 44th out of 500 runners felt pretty good too.
A week later, I’m standing at the start of the Voyageur 50 mile, grateful that the race hadn’t been canceled. The Carlton/Duluth area had endured big flooding in June, with roads and trails washed out. The state park that the usual course runs through had been shut down, and it’s historic bridge which we usually cross had been washed away. The race organizers did a great job configuring an alternate course, which still included the famous “power line” section. They also figured that this course was going to be tougher, estimating that on average it would take 40 minutes longer to complete. So we started early with an hour added to the cut-off time.
Although the course was different, the weather was typical for Voyageur: sunny, warm, and humid. The summer we’ve had so far certainly would prepare us for that! Facing 50 miles on a very tough course, I kept to a relaxed pace for the first few hours. I’m more than happy to let those behind pass me if they want, and I chuckle to myself when I hear how hard they are breathing compared to me. It’s always someone younger, so again, another benefit to getting older (and hopefully wiser)!
I had decided to not wear a watch, to focus on the course markings and run by feel rather than time. The first 16 miles went well, but then I started to drag. I had taken in extra calories at the aid station I had just left, and they weren’t sitting well with me. While nothing came up on me, I had to slow my pace for the next 8 miles. It wasn’t until I neared the 25-mile turn point that I started to perk up, and I was pleasantly surprised to reach there in 4:25. I would agree that the alternate course was tougher, so hitting the half-way point in a time similar to usual for me provided a bit of a lift.
It was also great seeing Tom Bunk out on the course at various spots. I know he would have rather been running (he has the most Voyageur finishes, 23), but his encouragement really helped me out. Tom was crewing his son Craig, who was just getting back into ultras; other familiar faces out on the course were Deb, Kathryn, Kathy, and Dawn. Seeing them at various points and hearing their positive comments helped as well.
The second half went well for the first few hours. I had caught up to another runner that I’ve run some of the past Voyageurs with, and we were able to keep a steady pace together. This lasted all the way through the power line section again, with us passing at least a half dozen other runners. Hitting the 40-mile mark, I started to slow a bit, and ran the last 10 miles in by myself, finishing in 9:34. This was only 2 minutes slower than my previous best at Voyageur, on a course that was tougher; finished 17th out of 140+ runners (last year was 25th). The difficulty of the course was evident by the number of drops, 40+, which was twice the usual number.
Yes, I’m getting older, but so what. I say bring it on!
More photos from the race, as taken by 23 time Voyageur finisher, Tom Bunk: