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Next up for “Where’s Chris Scotch” – Twin Cities Marathon September 30, 2010

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events Schedule, Uncategorized.

I am quite excitedly looking forward to TCM this weekend.  Back in April this was one of the two marathon’s (Grandma’s Marathon was the other)  I planned to run in 2010.  Then I decided to run for a purpose, as a St. Jude Hero.  I am running TCM  (as all the events I am doing in 2010) in an effort to raise awareness and money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital on behalf of Katelyn Atwell.

Please consider making a donation at:                http://www.mystjudeheroes.org/cjscotch

While the distance is less,  my anticipation for the weekend and the marathon are as high as the ultra’s I have done this summer.

In 2009 I ran TCM, my very first marathon, and had a great experience.  My parents came to support and crew.  My dad was actually able to ride his bike for most of the course, taking pictures and offering encouragement along the way.  The energy of this race is unbelievable.  An estimated 350,000 spectators lined the course last year – there wasn’t a stretch of any considerable distance where there wasn’t music playing,  someone ringing a cowbell, cheering loudly or trying to hand out various items that may or may not be beneficial.  The Bailey’s stop at mile 3, while tempting, might not be the best idea when running a marathon.  But obviously I haven’t let the idea slip from my mind over the last year!

I went into the 2009 marathon will a goal of finishing in 4 hours or less.  I was excited for the race, and that was amped by the energy of the spectators, the costume characters along the way (high-fiving or hugging everyone I saw),  the loads of friends I saw along the course and my parents.  I ran with no watch, no real plan other than to soak up the experience as much as I possibly could.  I thought I had trained hard for 2 months to get ready and finishing the marathon was going to be a great payoff.

About mile 18 or 19, amidst all the fun I was having,  I asked my dad what my time was and asked him to do some quick math.  He looked at me sort of strangely, wondering why I needed to know what pace I would have to run to finish in 3:10.  I explained, that inexplicably and unexpectedly, I was flirting with qualifying for the Boston Marathon and would need to finish in 3:10 or better.  He did the math for me and I realized I was not going to run the final 7 miles in under a 6 minute pace, but I decided I would go as hard as I could and get as close as I could.  At mile 20 I made up my mind that I would run the Sacramento marathon in December with the goal of qualifying (which I did not, another story for another day).  I finished TCM strong and completely satisfied.  I had set out with a goal enjoying the run as much as I could and finishing in under 4 hours.  Check and check!  My parents being there to support me as I finished my first marathon topped off the day perfectly.

Pics courtesy of Dark from his blog.

This year is a bit different, but not entirely.   My primary and only goal this year is to have fun while raising awareness about Katelyn and St. Jude.   I have no intention of trying to qualify for Boston.  The past 3 months have been been a wild ride.  My campaign for St. Jude brought me into ultra marathons and through those events I have been able to spread Katelyn’s story and have met so many wonderful people.  The only downside, if you can call it that, is that I have not been “training” for running a fast marathon.  But that is not the purpose of running TCM, or any of the other races this year.  TCM will be another chance to spread Katelyn’s story while enjoying the experience with family and friends. Good Luck to all my friends who are also running TCM and let’s make it one to remember!   I am so stoked for the weekend!!


Bib# 767

Should finish somewhere around 3:45, depending on how many stops I make for bacon, bailey’s and the bathroom.  I will be wearing my St. Jude Children’s Hospital singlet.  I will post my chip number when I know it.

Tiger Sushi Soiree for St. Jude Children’s Hospital September 27, 2010

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Uncategorized.
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Tiger Sushi in uptown is throwing a party for us!  Thanks to Tiger Sushi and GM, Lisa,  for their wonderful support for the “Where’s Chris Scotch” campaign for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Get all the info and tickets at:


Hope to see you there!


Sawtooth 100 Mile Trail Ultra – Recap September 23, 2010

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events - Recaps, Uncategorized.
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Now that I am ten days out from the completion of the Sawtooth 100, things have settled and started to sink in a bit.  Less than a year and a half ago I couldn’t finish a 2.8 mile loop around Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, and yet last weekend I completed 103 miles of arguably one of the hardest 100 mile ultra races in the country.  This is not a testament to anything unique or special about me – rather an example that all of us are capable of more than we think.   As I have mentioned previously, the  Where’s Chris Scotch campaign is two-fold in purpose.  The first is to raise money and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Hospital on behalf of Katelyn Atwell.  The second was to challenge myself to live outside of my comfort zone and use running as the primary vehicle for the campaign.  Grab a seemingly outlandish idea, add few drop of pure, genuine inspiration and a framework of support and you can achieve beyond your current perception.  It might be a physical achievement but certainly does not have to be.  My outlandish idea was to run for charity; the pure and genuine motivation was supplied by Katelyn, whose story, laugh and energy for life moves me every time I think of her.  The framework of support was started by my family, strengthened by my current friends and broadened by new ones.

100 miles!  Well, 102.6 officially.  Then again, unofficially, rumors swirl that course is actually 103.4 miles. Whatever the number – BOOOOYAAAAAHH!!

First, I want to say thanks to  a lot of people:  to  Larry and Colleen for directing an amazing race that was impeccably organized and for creating an event with an atmosphere that can’t be beat.  Thanks to the loads of volunteers that prepped the race, marked the course, manned the aid stations and all the other aspects of the race that the runners probably don’t ever see or remember.  I can’t imagine how different this race would be without the wonderful people that enthusiastically and endlessly encourage the racers through the miles.  Doug and Maria’s bacon cheeseburgers and hot ham and cheese wraps get the credit for nutritionally sustaining me through the 20 miles of pouring rain in the middle of a dark foggy night.  I can’t tell you how great it feels to come into and aid station and having such wonderful people there thinking of everyone but themselves.  And all the other aid stations and volunteers were just as fantastic (but didn’t have bacon cheeseburgers! 🙂  )

Also, a big “Thank You” to Dark and Helen who supported me all weekend and also helped keep tabs on Cooper.

Resting in the comfort of my crew.

Dark came to the race to cheer and crew for me and it was really great have my dad there with me as I progressed through the miles.  To be able to share this experience with him means a lot to me.  His experience with his own races coupled with his paternal instincts (and knowing how to deal with me 🙂  ) were spot on at the aid stations during the night hours of the race.  While  my head teetered between thoughts racing a million miles an hour through my head and my mind being completely brain dead, he was calm and steady.  He seemed to know exactly what gear and words I needed at the right times and I looked forward to seeing him at each aid station.  The second half of my crew team was Helen.  How in the world I ended up having such an accomplished ultra runner in my corner of the ring I will never know, but I sure as heck will take it!   Helen crewed for me up to mile 50 at Finland, and her experience as the women’s course record holder for Sawtooth was invaluable.  She had bits of information about the next sections as I left each aid station, knew when, what and how much I needed to be eating and drinking,  as well as keeping an eye on my pace and effectively communicating to me to slow down or push it a little harder.   She worked with me on my pre-race plan and goal of 30 hours which turned out to be just about perfect.  Helen was also part of the volunteer crew that marked the course for the race and she also volunteered at the temperance aid station (mile 85) throughout the night, helping the lead runners as they came through.  Helen is a very accomplished ultra runner, but this pales in comparison to the wonderfully selfless  person she is to everyone she encounters, even people she doesn’t know.  When I arrived at Temperance river around 8:30 am on Saturday she paced me to the finish from mile 85.  When I got to that aid station I was struggling mentally and physically but she was having none of that from me.  She perfectly balanced the right amount of butt-kicking and comforting to get me through the last 18 miles as fast as possible.     I was lucky to have both Helen and Dark at the race, as was Cooper.

I can’t find the words for all the feelings I have about this race.  The week leading up to the race I had an unusual confidence – almost looking forward to the relentless struggle that would ensue.  I questioned myself repeatedly for this arguably insane confidence, knowing that there was no guarantee that I would finish the 100 miles – this distance, especially on this course, is never a given, no matter the training or preparation or condition of your body.  The night before the race I was borderline cranky due to the nerves.   The morning of the race I was feeling ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get started.  I could barely get dressed I was so excited – truly a kid on Christmas morning.  Periods of the next 30 hours found me experiencing everything from pure joy to self pity; Extreme confidence to dejection and loathing in the lack of my physical and mental abilities;  Satisfaction that the miles of training and racing I have done this year were paying off to second guessing my efforts at preparation.  You name it, I probably felt it, as I suspect so many of the racers do.  But while it may sound like all the emotions were a roller coaster with equal ups and downs, that was not the case at all.  99% of this race was nothing but pure awesomeness.  And the entire experience was 100% ultra-positive on the whole.  I knew my purpose in running this race for Katelyn would help carry me through the tough times.  I always believed I would find a way to finish (although the math in my head sometimes added up to me actually crossing the finish line sometime in the middle of the next week).    I knew my crew, the race volunteers and other racers on the trail would do all they could to ensure I would completed the course.   The ultra community that has taken me in over the past 2 months is just wired that way, to constantly support each other.   Short of my legs being removed from my body, I was going to cross the finish line on them.

In a strange contradiction, while this race was the most difficult event I have ever competed in, is was also, at times, seeming effortless.  I don’t mean to say running 100 miles is easy for me – not at all.   It was hard as hell.  Especially for someone who doesn’t consider themselves a runner.  I only mean that with the right preparation, mental approach and framework of support, we can accomplish things we never imagined.  When we are able to align these three prongs, preparation, mindset and the support of others, and combine them with the something we believe to be a worthy cause, in this case for me – Katelyn Atwell and St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the possibilities are only limited by what we can’t conceive.

The actual start of the race quite literally snuck up on me.  I was standing around stretching and nervously chatting with people when all of a sudden the crowd of runners started moving away from the Gooseberry Falls visitor center.  All of a sudden we were off to the races!

I was so pumped up and I ran most of the first 20 miles with the likes of Andy Holak, Adam Casseday and Nolan Ming.   Running with these three was furiously fast and fascinating while I tried to soak up everything  Andy was offering in the way of tips and advice while I kept pace.  As I posted  in my VoyagerQuest recap, Andy and his wife Kim organized and directed VoyageurQuest last month in its annual year.  I got the chance to get to know Andy a little bit and find out how willing he is to share a laugh and his vast running experience with anyone.  Getting to know him over the last month has been great, and his support to my running as well as the campaign for St. Jude is much appreciated.
These first 20 miles were pure running joy.  Floating over the endless rocks and piles of roots.  Running up the hills and screaming down the descents all the while soaking up nature and the companionship of great people on the trail.

Running Joy

Running Joy 2

If I were to keep the pace of these three experienced (and faster) runners, it would eventually burn me out.  I knew sooner or later I would need to drop back and slow down.  And I had a pretty good idea when I would be doing that.   It was when I, with a big sheepish grin on my face, bounded into the the mile 20 aid station at Beaver Bay and was quite directly asked by Helen,  “What are you doing”  and told I better slow down. 😀

"What are you doing? You better slow down!"

I knew this exchange was coming  miles before the aid station, but I felt good and was letting it rip.  But I also knew that Helen was right – I could not sustain that pace for another 80 miles and come out the other side to tell about it – no matter how big my smile was at mile 2o.

Beaver Bay Aid Station

I settled in to a more efficient pace and the next 30 miles were beautiful as I climbed and descended through Silver Bay, Tettegouche, County Road 6 and on to Finland.

I think my favorite viewpoint  is from the Twin Lakes (Bean and Bear lakes) as you climb up a spiral to the top of the trail and suddenly Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center glides into view.  I had to stop and admire the beauty for a few seconds.  Another memorable moment was food related, which for those of you that know me won’t surprise you.  I tried to set the record for the number of grilled cheese sandwiches, 6,  eaten at the County Road 6 aid station (mile 42.8) but an official judgement was unable to be provided.  (Which means Jason and I will have to have a grilled cheese-off sometime this winter).

My pre-race plan had me getting to Finland (mile 50.5) in 12 hours and before dark.  I arrived ahead of schedule at 7:30 and changed my socks, shoes, shorts and shirt. Grabbed my headlamp and headed off ready for nightfall and the infamous Crosby Manitou section, which was now only 12 miles away.  Val picked up her pacer, Igor at Finland and they caught up to me very soon out of the aid station there.  I followed them through the setting sun and into dark all the way to the Sonju Lake aid station (mile 58).

Leaving Sonju Lake

I spent less time than Val here and started out on my own, figuring that Val was running  faster pace at this point and they would catch me soon.  But before I left Dark grabbed my gore-tex shell for me and I donned that just as the rain was starting to pour from the sky, which it would do for the next 12 hours.  This decision turned out to be hugely important, as it must have rained 3 inches or more over night as sections of the trail become small rivers and lakes while other were washed out completely.   My upper half stayed dry, warm and comfortable through out the night and I trudged onward with a smile on my face.

Patrick made sure I got what I needed at the aid station and then found me after the race to congratulate me. What an awesome thing for someone I have never met to do. Thanks Patrick! (and nice hat!! Go Sox!)

I came into the Crosby Manitou aid station to Doug excitedly cheering for me, ushering me to a seat and proceeding to rattle items off the menu.  His enthusiasm, and dinner selections, were fantastic.  He and Maria totally rock!  I stayed at this aid station for far too long while I ate most everything they offered.  But the rain was coming down hard and I was physically and mentally prepping myself for one of the longest and arguably toughest sections of the course.

Crosby Manitou Aid Station - courtesy of Susan Donnelly

Val and Igor passed me while I sat and ate – the last time I would see Val until the finish line (great work Val!!).  Another reason for my longish stay at this aid station were my failed attempts to get Andy to get out of bed and come run with me.  He had started having stomach issues as he was trying to close in on Brian Peterson who was crushing the course and the field on his way to 1rst place.  Incidentally, I had the privilege of meeting Brian on a training run over a weekend  this summer and in addition to obviously being an awesome runner, he has been very supportive of my own running and the Where’s Chris Scotch campaign.  Thanks Brian!  I headed off into the rain and fog and the next hours are mostly just that – a foggy memory.  I hunkered down in my gore-tex shell and made steady progress.  The only runner  I saw  for many hours was the eventual women’s winner, Sheryl Wheeler, as she passed me around mile 70.  My nutrition was perfect, my body was warm and I was relishing the hellacious weather (there is something short circuited in my brain that prefers harsh weather over pleasant when I am competing).  I kept my focus on the trail and moving one leg in front of the other and making my way to the Temperance river aid station at mile 85 and Helen.

The sun had come up shortly before I arrived at the Temperance aid station – which made navigating the huge puddles of standing water and small rivers of gushing water down the trail only slightly easier to navigate.  At this point, though, dodging puddles wasn’t really doing any good, as it had rained for the past 10 hours.  I had spent the better part of the past 7 miles having a conversation in my head between Helen and myself.  I was sure I would be able to convince her I didn’t need her to pace me, thus save her the agony of running me with at what I was envisioning as a snail’s pace.  I figured I couldn’t get any slower, but that I could keep the pace through the finish line and there wasn’t any need for her to be out running in the rain and horrible trail conditions with someone so slow.  It was all perfect in my head – I had answers to every objection she would pose to my newly devised plan.  In reality, the conversation lasted about 2 seconds – Helen told me she was running with me,  and that was that.  I had spent the past 2 hours perfecting my argument and she dismissed it faster than I could slump to a chair for some food and hot soup.  Also in reality, I needed her to be running with me at that point.  I had started convincing myself that I wasn’t running a good enough race and was experiencing moments of frustration with myself and my body.  Helen understood what I was experiencing, and also knew me well enough to know how to snap me out of it.  We scrambled up Carleton Peak at a faster  pace than I had run in hours and bolted down the decent with smiles on our faces and into the Sawbill Aid Station (Mile 90).

Sawbill Aid Station

While Helen’s  memory of the next few hours might be a bit  different than mine as she had to listen to me struggle and urge me along the trail a number of times, I sit here now and look back on that section of the race and with fondness and will cherish the time we spent on the trail.

And at the end of the day, Helen can chalk one up in the category of a “Successful Pacing”. I think that moves her up to 2 for 5 in her pacing attempts! 🙂

Courtesy of Bryan Cochran

Courtesy of Bryan Cochran via Phillip Gary Smith and www snowshemag com

In addition to spreading Katelyn’s story and raising money for St. Jude, I have been lucky to have learned more about myself and my running with each race this year.  Sawtooth 100 was no different.  This was an amazing experience that I feel fortunate to have been a part of and share with Dark and everyone that was at the race.  Thanks again to everyone that helps make this a successful event.  I will take all the experience and learning into my next events as I continue on my campaign for St. Jude and Katelyn.


The Finish Line!

Finish Line Belt Buckle

The proud new owner of a "Red Jacket!"

All smiles in the end!

Sawtooth 100 Added to the “Where’s Chris Scotch” campaign for St. Jude Children’s Hospital September 8, 2010

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events Schedule.

I suppose after running  a 50km, a 50 mile, a 100km and a 100 mile stage race (over four days) the next logical step is to do a 100 mile race.  If there is anything logical about any of these races to begin with.  But let’s chuck logic out the window and remember how this all started – as a way to generate interest, awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Hospital on behalf of Katelyn Atwell.

In that vein, I am excitedly and nervously announcing the next event for Where’s Chris Scotch:

Sawtooth 100

Sawtooth 100 Mile Trail Ultra

100 mile footrace on the Superior Hiking Trail.  The race starts at Gooseberry Falls and ends at Lutsen Ski Resort.  The Superior Hiking Trail is a wonderful and beautiful trail.  One of the best hiking trail systems in the country.  I also happen to agree completely with the one descriptor I hear most often about the Superior Hiking Trail when it comes to running it – RELENTLESS.   The Superior Sawtoth 100 is regarded as one of the more difficult 100 mile races in the country.  The Superior Sawtooth 100-Mile Trail Race has 20,000 feet of elevation gain and 21,000 feet of descent and is actually 102.6 miles.

I have a strange feeling about this event – it is something different than what I have experienced in the other 4 ultras I have completed over the past 2 months.  I can’t quite put my finger on what is different, but while I am feeling nervous about the distance, and the brutality of the course, I also have a christmas morning type of enthusiasm for this race.  The cutoff time is 38 hours.  Yes, people run for 38 hours straight.  The winner will only run about 22 hours though.  I hope to be somewhere in the middle of that range.  I have joked with people that I believe I will spontaneously combust at some predetermined mileage that fate has set for me.  After finishing Where’s Waldo I know that hellish  number is at least 63 miles – here’s hoping that it is also somewhere north of 102.5 miles.

Why run 100 miles?  On Trails? All at once? Simple.  I am raising funds and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

What’s the big deal – a lot of people run? While I am starting to get arguments from people on this, I am not a runner.   My first marathon was less than a year ago.  In fact, running was something that for most of my life I have despised and found painful.  I upped the ante July 5th when I completed my first “Ultra” marathon – the Afton 50k.  The past two months have been a quest to continue to push the envelope in the hopes of continuing to spread the word about my campaign for St. Jude.

Please consider making a donation at:                http://www.mystjudeheroes.org/cjscotch

VoyageurQuest Recap September 7, 2010

Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events - Recaps.
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VoyageurQuest – A 4 day (plus prologue) stage race covering 100 miles from the northern terminus of the Superior Hiking Trail to Tofte.


Prologue – 1 mile 700 foot Hill Climb

Stage  1 – 29 miles (with Cooper)

Stage 2 – 24 miles

Stage 3 – 30 miles

Stage 4 – 17 miles

This was the inaugural year for VoyageurQuest and I suspect it will be the first of many years to come.  Adventure Running Co, owned by Andy and Kim Holak, created this event and provided and first rate experience.  Leading up to the race I was intrigued by the concept of a stage race, as well being able to participate in the very first edition of this event which was taking place in my own back yard.  While I knew coming off Where’s Waldo and the Portland Century just a few days before VoyageurQuest would mean I wouldn’t be at full strength, I wanted to give it a go anyway.  The first two days my legs were quite sore and I walked most of the uphills as well as the downhills.  My legs started to feel better the third day and by the fourth I felt fairly strong, even winning Stage 4 which included some good climbs and a few lengthy downhill sections.

I experienced a pretty full gamut of emotions throughout the 5 days.  The prologue was a short but steep mile to the top of Mt. Josephine and amazing views of the lake superior, the coast and even Isle Royal in the distance.

View from the top of Mt. Josephine - Chris

View from the top of Mt. Josephine

Prologue Finish - Mt. Josephine

Stage 1 was 29 miles and Coop ran with me. Typically running with Cooper means that I move at an overall slower pace, but this was just fine as I was experiencing significant soreness. Thanks to Andy and all the other racers for letting me run with Cooper. When he gets to run trails with me his eyes light up and his tail wags a million miles an hour – both signs I will take that he is having a blast. Cooper and I ran with the eventual 1rst (Mark) and 2nd (Bill) place finishers the first few miles but I knew I couldn’t keep pace with them so Cooper and I just settled in at a nice easy pace. Coop was feeling strong that day and spent most of it running ahead about 20 yards, turning around and waiting for me with a priceless “what’s taking you so long” look on his face. 29 miles took a bit over 7 hours, but it went by pretty quickly. The views of Lake Superior from the section were really great and overall was a very pleasant and enjoyable day on the trail.

Stage 2 was 24 miles, from Judge Magney park to Grand Marais. I had run this section in the reverse direction about a month previous, so I felt comfortable that I knew the stage well enough to add a bit of strategy to the day. This was an interesting change in my approach to my events this year, as I have been more focused on competing only with myself and just completing the events as they have grown in distance. I think one of the unique features of a stage race is that you can approach each day with a plan to compete with the other runners and it added a great twist to the event for me. I knew if I had any chance of competing with Mark and Bill, Stage 2 would be the day I needed to make my move. I shadowed them the first 7 miles or so through the singletrack, noticing that on the more technical sections I seemed to close the gap on them, but in the smooth flat sections they pulled a way a bit. When we approached the “lake walk”
section of the trail I ran with Mark and Bill to the aid station and then planned to try and take the lead though the next section which ducked back into the woods and was fairly technical. I jumped ahead, Bill was happy to let me go, but Mark wasn’t about to let me go alone. I found myself playing the part of the rabbit next 6 or 7 miles as Mark stayed right on my heels. I eventually had to slow down as I started tripping over roots and rocks as I was going to fast and tiring quickly. Mark and Bill ended up finishing before me, while I took third for the stage.  I realized I wouldn’t be able to reel them in for the overall time, but I wasn’t far out of third place at the end of Stage 2.

Morning of Stage 3 - Grand Marias

Stage 3 was 30 miles and the temperature was heating up a bit. We would be leaving from Grand Marias and finishing at Lutsen Ski Resort. It was going to be a long day for sure. I especially realized this when I woke up in the morning, took a drink of water, and immediately threw up. My stomach was in revolt, and even drinking water was upsetting it. The strategy of the day included running with Mike and Connie, who were both ahead of me in the standings, but within striking distance if I could have a good day. I ran with them for a good portion of the morning and really enjoyed the conversations and company they provided. Mike is a machine – 60 years old and steady as a rock when he runs. Connie is quite a hill climber and it was a challenge to stick with her and Mike as they reeled off the miles. Eventually I had to drop back at Cascade River State park (about a third of the way through the day) as I wasn’t able to eat any food and was tiring quickly. I found myself running mostly alone the next 10 miles, only seeing people as they passed me. I went through some tough times during this stretch. I was frustrated with my body. I was angry I couldn’t mentally overcome the physical condition I was in. I started to ponder the possibility that I wouldn’t ever be competitive in ultra running because I wasn’t able to push myself to run faster. While I don’t think I would have done actually done it, I considered dropping out of the race at the next aid station. I also thought about why I was running this race in the first place – undoubtedly, Katelyn and the campaign I am on, brought me to ultra running in the first place. In addition to Katelyn’s inspiration, I found that I enjoyed ultras and the community that I had found. The beauty of trail running. The triumphs of running further than I ever thought I could. The feeling of sheer joy when tearing down a technical section of trail. I brought myself back the real reasons for running – it wasn’t to be the best runner on the trail, it was to enjoy the time on the trail and all that comes with running ultras. I decided to slow my pace, stop fighting the pain and frustration, and enjoy the run. There was an aid station around mile 20 and I planned to get there and wait for Alicia, who I met at the Voyageur 50 mile race in July and who I hadn’t been able to chat with much at this event. I looked forward to running the last section of 8-9 miles with her and catching up with her. I reached the aid station, where I had a drop bag with pop tarts and fig newtons. I tried eating a fig newton, and to my surprise my stomach seemed to appreciate the nourishment.   I sat down for a few minutes and ate a few more. I noticed on the check in sheet that Mike, who was ahead of me in the standings and who should have been ahead of me today, hadn’t checked in. I asked Doug Barton, who was volunteering and helping with the event what had happened. Apparently Mike, and then Alicia, had wandered off course a bit and were quite a ways behind me. I let this sink in, as well as a few more fig newtons. If I was ahead of Mike, and could finish the stage strong I could close the gap he had on me. The only other issue I getting to third place was Connie. She had pulled ahead of me 10 miles ago, and she also was leading me in the overall standings. I wondered how much she was adding to her lead and if it would be too big to close on Stage 4 the next day. I don’t know exactly what it was that perked me up, but probably a combination of resting for 15 minutes, eating some food and then realizing that maybe I wasn’t quite done competing for 3rd place all energized me. I set off down the trail with the goal of running as fast as I could for the next 8 miles, and getting back some of the lead Connie was building. I was able to finish strong, only 8 minutes behind Connie for the stage, and 30 minutes behind in the overall standings for 3rd place. The stage was set for Stage 4 – I had 17 miles to make up 30 minutes.

VoyagerQuest Stage 3 from Shelly Thompson

Stage 4 left Lutsen and would finish at the Tofte Town Park on Lake Superior. The strategy for the day was simple – do whatever I could to keep pace with Mark and Bill, who were far ahead of the rest of us for 1rst and 2nd place, but were still close enough to each other that they would be running hard. I guesstimated that their pace would get me to the finish line just over 30 minutes ahead of Connie and I could sneak into 3rd overall. I sandwiched my self behind Bill and in front of Mark. Bill was setting a fast pace to try and close time on Mark for the overall lead. Running with both of them, as well as with all the other runners in this event, was a learning experience. Their experience and willingness to offer advice and suggestions is invaluable. We enjoyed each others’ company for about the first 14 miles, and then with only a couple climbs left on Carlton Peak I jumped ahead – I correctly guessed that the climbing was about to be over and that I could push through the final climbs and settle in to the long down hill stretch that led to the shores of Superior. I was able to run the downhill section fast and I managed to build a slight lead over Bill and Mark, winning Stage 4.

Stage 4 Finish at Tofte

I felt strong and very happy that i executed the plan I had set out with for the day. Now I just had to wait and see when Connie would come in. But a funny thing happened while I was at the finish line – I was hanging out with Bill and Mark, Andy and Helen, and the other volunteers just talking, laughing and enjoying the day and the company. We cheered the other racers as they finished and somewhere in all the fun, I forgot about time, in all senses of it. I didn’t realize that 30 minutes had passed since I finished and that meant I had taken third place. I hadn’t started running or enjoying ultras to win them. Why should VoyageurQuest be different? The focus has always been on Katelyn and St. Jude and pushing myself into an area of discomfort and overcoming my own perceptions of what is possible. And in venturing into ultras, I had discovered rewards beyond competition and winning. There is something spiritual about running, and especially for me – running on trails. And there is something amazing about feeling a part of the community that discovered me as I have stumbled through the 4 ultra events I have completed the past two months. VoyageurQuest offered a unique venue to develop these rewards further. I continue to experience the euphemism for life that ultra running is for me, while getting to better know a pretty awesome group of people.

Finish of VoyageurQuest