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Voyageur 50 Mile Trail Ultra – Recap July 26, 2010

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events - Recaps.
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50 miles is a long way.  A real long way!  I thought I knew this before I started the Voyageur 50, but I don’t think I fully appreciated the sheer magnitude of this distance until I crossed the finish line on Saturday.  I would be going at this on my own, as I wouldn’t have any family or friends coming up with me.  I had been preparing myself mentally for this fact most of the week as I knew I was potentially in over my head on this one.

Somewhere near the end.

Believe it or not,  I managed to get myself to the start line on time Saturday (unlike the Afton 50k just a few weeks ago), even finding time to have a couple pancakes and get my drop bags in the right piles.  I planned to not carry any food or gels, instead using my Infinit Nutrition mix and then eating whatever looked good at the time and as necessary at the aid stations.   The most important items in my drop bags were stocked bottles of Infinit,  dry socks, dry shoes and brown sugar/cinnamon pop tarts. (my favorite)    I planned to have a bottle of Infinit at 4 drops and use the socks and shoes at the the 25 mile turn around and stashed the pop tarts at the mile 41.5 drop – all turned out to be timed perfectly.  My planning worked very well  –  my feet much appreciated the dry shoes and socks after the 4 hours of off and on rain and the Infinit bottles provided the bulk of the fuel I needed.  The only issue I really had is that I couldn’t manage to make my legs go faster!

The course was beautiful and demanding at the same time.  The first ten miles or so (and the final 1o) were mostly technical singletrack with a lot of rocks and roots.  The “Powerlines” were the next section, about 3 miles. These two sections together were probably my favorites parts of the course, in a masochistic sort of way I suppose.   The course in general contained wonderful overlooks of the St. Louis river, great sections of forests and more than a couple sections of “fern jungles” – one “jungle” in particular seemed to have 3 foot ferns as far as you could see – their scent has quickly ascended  to the top of my list of  favorite forest smells.  And on a random side note, ferns always remind of the 6th grade when I went to the movie theater to watch The Land Before Time – do you remember this Jenn  P? 🙂

I am still not sure the accomplishment of finishing a 50 mile trail race has hit me yet.  I felt like there were a lot of things that went right, but I also feel like I can do better than I did.  With more training miles and more hill repeats I am sure I can shave some time when I do this again next year.  For the most part I stayed injury free.   My left knee swelled up somewhere between miles 30-35 limiting the range of motion significantly.  I did get frustrated with this a few times, as I had to awkwardly hop over the taller rocks and roots.  Reminding myself to relax and recount the reasons why I was running – for Katelyn and St. Jude –  quickly snapped me out of the funks.   Other aches and pains can be attributed to all the tough miles.  All things considered, I think I am recovering nicely – even managed a light 3 mile run tonight with only the quads giving me any negative feedback.

I think in many ways, this event was more about the community I found myself a part of, rather than the race itself, although there was some overlap.  I spent most of the miles playing leapfrog with Tracy, who currently resides in Denmark and also happens to be pregnant – check out her blog for some good reading.  Tracy and I kept each other company as we passed each other quite a few times over many of the miles.  When we would hit a tough section of trail she often gave a quick out loud laugh/shriek that always startled me into a big smile.  I don’t think the race would have been as enjoyable had she not been there.

pic by Tracy

pic by HL

Another piece of the community puzzle fell into place the Thursday before the race.  I was perusing the blog of Helen Lavin – and noticed that she had a race on her schedule that I was interested in learning more about (I am not spilling the beans just yet as to which race that might be…)  I sent an email to Helen and over the course of the next 24 hours I had some info on my race and an offer from her to grab a campsite for me at the Voyageur (I think her intuition that I could probably use a little help kicked in:)  ).

This offer turned out to be quite significant as I got out of the cities late on friday and didn’t get up to Carlton until after 8 pm  – with the campgrounds full.   Once I had my tent set up and returned to the campground after dinner my education on how to run the race began.  Helen and two of her friends (Alicia and Alicia), all accomplished ultra runners, cheerfully answered all my rookie questions and calmed my nerves.  As I settled in my sleeping bag for the night I was starting to feel that although I had come to run a 50 mile race through the woods alone, I wasn’t at all lonely.

pic by HL

About a minute before the race started, I bumped into the wife of a friend that I play baseball with – Misty.  She hadn’t planned on coming up to the race but made the decision to run and came up last minute.  Misty and her husband Tony had been big cheerleaders for me at the Afton race so it was nice to see Misty again at Voyageur.    Helen and Alicia (a-lee-see-a) were volunteering at the race, while Alicia (a-lee-sha) was running.  As I saw each of them throughout the day they all had a smile and words of encouragement for me.  Alicia (running Alicia) tuned out to be pretty sick and she still managed to flash a huge smile and encourage me to keep up the good work, even through her own struggles.    And Misty is always ready to cheer everyone on – I was more than happy to share some of my peanut M&M’s when I

saw her at mile 30 after the turn around.  Again, I had come to the race alone, but I was far from lonely.

pic by HL

I finished the race in 10 hours and 10 minutes.  I don’t think there is a coincidence in that time, as my uneducated guess leading up to the race all week was that it might take about 10 hours.  I guess I should have guessed 8 hours instead – hah.   I settled in at the finish line with about a dozen  people  who all knew each other, among them were John Storkamp (the race director for the Afton Trail run – he remembered me as the guy that showed up late and gave me a little jeering for that) and Valeria, also someone I know from Afton and who finished 4th for the women.  Soon Alicia and Misty joined that group  – and we cheered every last runner through the finish line.   Make no mistake about it, most of these runners are “ultra” competitive – but more astounding to me is their endless desire to encourage every runner on the course – even the ones they often battle to the finish line.  Everyone I met the day of the race was genuinely friendly and for a few hours of their lives, let me live in their ultra circle.  Even before I finished running the race, I was thinking about the lessons I was gleaning from the experiences of the weekend.  I already felt the strong sense of community leading up to the race and during the race.  Experiencing the finish line area as an outsider that was taken in by the group, and participating with that group as they cheered every last runner through the finish line confirmed it for me – this race wasn’t about the race quite as much as it seemed.  And I didn’t have to go at this alone – there was a whole community ready to lend a hand or word of encouragement whenever I needed it.  And not only to me – the community was reaching out to everybody.   To experience this, witness this and participate in this outreach was a resounding reminder that whatever the challenge that lays before us, we don’t have to internalize and conquer it alone – there is always a community ready to lend a hand.

Thanks to everyone that contributed to this realization, and for encouraging me on to finishing my first 50 mile run.

chris

Running down the stairs - pic by HL

The next chapter. . . July 16, 2010

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events Schedule, Random Thoughts.
2 comments

I believe I am on the threshold of a new chapter in my running journey.   The Where’s Chris Scotch campaign for Katelyn Atwell and St. Jude has provided me the intention and motivation to more deeply explore my own inner limits and running is the vehicle by which this is happening.  More specifically, trail running. Longer distances.

On the morning of the Afton Trail Run, everything that was clouding my mind going into the run –  (can I trail run?  Can I run 31 miles?  Can I survive the 90 degree heat for 7 or 8 hours? will my body hold up?)  – all  quickly faded  into the background allowing me to fully submerse myself in the present moment.   And that moment was glorious and magically  lasted for the next 6 hours.  The lines to run became crystal clear as I floated carefree over the rocks and roots.  The fragrance of the ferns and trees intertwined producing an intoxicating aroma that permeated my nose and reached all the way through my body to the ends of my toes.   The rays of sun filtering through the canopy were soft fingers gentling touching  my skin.  It felt  as though I was  on the verge of being swept off  my feet.  There were some hard parts and growing pains, as there always are when experiencing something new.  But even in the challenges I faced, I was able to remain in the present moment.  And  I learned from each obstacle that I encountered.  I learned the symbiosis  between the runner and the trail requires constant awareness of where my feet are, lest I misstep and disrupt the dance  (and fall on my face).  I continued to learn how to run faster and farther – with joy and lightheartedness.  I learned that perseverance is a quality I do not yet fully comprehend the depths of, but that to ever have a chance at comprehension requires a decision to explore.     I want to see how far this can go – it almost feels like meeting someone for the first time and feeling a spark of chemistry while at the same time feeling self-conscious and intimidated by them.  There are two choices at this point – go for it or  settle for comfort and turn and walk away.  I don’t want to wonder what could happen.  I want to throw caution to the wind and jump outside my comfort zone.   I don’t want to only live outside the box – I want to tear the box up and be rid of its constraints.   For that extra little push of encouragement, I think to myself – What Would Katelyn Say?  I bet she might say something like ” Running scared is no way to run”.

And thus, I announce my next event in the Where’s Chris Scotch campaign, my second date with trail running, and this time I will find out a lot about just how far this journey could go, and I couldn’t be more nervous….I mean excited!!  I mean nervous….    🙂


Minnesota Voyageur Trail 50 Ultra

July 24th, 2010

7am start

Description:
Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultra, a 50 mile trail endurance run in Northern Minnesota. The Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultra is one of the oldest trail ultramarathons in the nation. 2011 will be its’ 30th Anniversary. The rugged, varied course takes runners from Carlton High School on difficult, rough woodland trails with scenic overlooks of Duluth, MN and St. Louis Bay of Lake Superior, and the infamous “power lines” to the Duluth Zoo and back.

My lodging is still up in the air – figure I have a few days to figure it out.  Will likely end up camping – haven’t been in a tent since February  – waaay too long!

Chris



Afton Trail Run – 50K – Recap July 6, 2010

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events - Recaps, Uncategorized.
7 comments

At the risk starting to sound like a broken record, the Afton Trail Run was another fantastic event.  As I continue to push the envelope, I continue to discover more about myself and raise awareness for Where’s Chris Scotch, Katelyn Atwell and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

This may not surprise some of you, but I managed to get to the start of the race late. I set my alarm Friday night for 4:00 Saturday morning.  Too bad I set the alarm to “weekdays only!”  So I wake up Saturday morning at 6:15, take a few minutes to figure out what day it is and where I am supposed to be at that particular moment.  I grabbed half of an uneaten sweet potato, a banana and a mug of coffee (somehow I managed to get the coffee maker set correctly to self brew) and bolt out the door.  I have 15 minutes to drive 35 miles, pick up my packet and get prepped for the 6:30 start.  Needless to say, I showed up late.  I found the race director, John (more on him later) and explained the situation.  John said no” problem, just get ready and start whenever I can.”

I ended up starting with the 25k group that went off at 7:30 and was immediately in catch up mode.  Being that I had no idea if 1) I could run 31 miles, 2) on a trail, 3) with the elevation profile of this race and 4) in 90 degree weather, I was worried that I would be the last runner on the coarse so I was moving at a fairly quick pace (for me).   As soon as my legs warmed up my mind settled and all my concerns faded to the background.  I thought of Katelyn and the dedication I set for 2010 and soon I was grinning from ear to ear soaking up every bit of the event I could.   It still amazes me every time I run, in training or at a race, how easily my mind and body sync and allow me to enjoy the art of running.

I ran the first 25k loop in approximately 2:15.  I don’t wear a watch when I run, so I was a bit startled at the quick  pace as I came through the transition area.  I was more than happy with this time, but knew I had tough day still ahead of me.   The hills I was able to run the first time around suddenly became walkers.  The heat intensified and I could feel twinges in my quads as I scurried down the downhills.  I slowed myself down and forgot about time again.  The goal I set for this race was to finish so there was no sense in trying to burn myself out. The second loop took approximately 3:30, for a total time of 5:45.  Officially, the results show me at 6:45 – that first hour was spent just getting myself to the start line! 🙂

I have nothing but positive remarks for this race and all the runners that participated.  The race was very well organized by John and his team.  I was able to experience something completely new while pushing myself past my own perceived limits.  Truly a growth opportunity I will not forget.  And this was all made possible by John allowing me to run the race at all.  So “thank you” John!

Every runner I met also added to the overall success of this event.  I met a runner wearing Five Fingers and exchanged thoughts on barefoot running with him.  The long (and only) flat part of course was dreadful the second time around, until another runner pulled up beside me.  We chatted our way through it and for that I am thankful.   It was also great to hear all the runners that encouraged each other on the course.  It reminded me that running  is not really about being the fastest person on the course, rather it is about the internal challenges that we all set for ourselves and then achieve.

The aid station were so well stocked it made them hard to leave.  Watermelon and Popsicles (red, white and blue of course!) were my main staples.  Hammer Nutrition is a sponsor and thank goodness they were – I had run out of endurolytes but there were bowls of them at the aid stations.  These little magic capsules are the only thing I have ever found to keep me from cramping and they were a life saver in the 90 degree temps and high humidity.  The volunteers at the aid stations were every bit as awesome as the goodies.  Every time I came to an aid station they promptly and courteously asked what I needed.  They were like “Guardian Angels.”  The course was extremely well marked and the grill was kicking out wonderful smells and food at the finish line.  Thanks to John and everyone that puts this race together!!

Also, thanks to Tony Schuster, a friend from baseball who was at the race to support his wife.  Seeing a friendly face at the aid stations throughout the day sure is nice!

Official Results:

65th place out of 118; Total Time –  6:44:53  Pace – 13:03

Unofficial Results (actual time spent on the course running):

29th place; Time – 5:44:53; Pace – 11:06