On Saturday I finished my 7th Voyageur 50 Mile Trail Run. Voyageur is really a special race. Even though the race grew by over 100 runners over last year, to 340 starters this year, it still has the small home-town feel as well as a family feel. The first year I ran Voyageur in 2004, there were 85 starters! Yes, 85. I know so many of the people who run Voyageur or who are volunteering , it is just like an ultra family reunion.
I stayed with Jean and Jody. Jody would be running her first 50 mile race! Woot!
We stayed at Black Bear Casino. It was clean, it wasn’t very noisy, but oh man, the smoke! I hadn’t thought about the fact that Casino’s allow smoking. Ugh. Our room was ‘smoke free’ but the cigarette smoke penetrated the non smoking room. I won’t stay there again.
Race morning was beautiful, 48F with a promise of mid 70s with clear skies. The promise didn’t disappoint!
At the start there were so many friends! Hugs, kisses, photos, it was like a family reunion. I dropped a few Ziplocs off at the drop bag stations incase I might want to use gloves or spikes through the powerlines. I never did need them.
Greg and I were going to run the first few hours together. He felt he went out too fast last year and wanted to hang with me as I don’t go out to fast. Ever. I just don’t go fast period. We ended up running the first two hours together. It was so great to hear about his trip out West to crew/pace Bob while running and finishing HardRock! The miles went by quickly.
There were a few bunch ups along the first section out to Jay Cooke and the swinging bridge. I don’t recall this in the past. There was some mud, some water and a few rocky climbs. It was holding people up. We stood around and waited. No rush!
After running over the swinging bridge we came into Aid Station 1. Woo! It is so much fun to run along and see friends volunteering. With so many aid stations I really have to watch the clock to make sure I’m not spending too much time visiting! There were 9 aid stations, which you hit twice which means loads of time to spend hanging about talking. I just have so much fun though and love these people so much. I can’t help myself.
Shelly was there with Greg’s bag, switching out bottles, asking what he needed. I had a full Nathan vest on so didn’t need anything. It was getting warm and humid. We moved on through and began the run toward the powerlines.
When we ran into Aid Station 3, Peterson’s, I had a Ziploc bag there. I grabbed my gloves from the bag just incase I needed them for grabbing vegetation to hold onto while climbing the powerlines, if they were muddy and slick. Rick was pouring water and was going to fill my pack while I still wore it upon my back. All was going well until he dropped the pitcher of water. BRRR! Down my back/butt it went. It was freezing! We had a good laugh and off we went!
The miles were going by quickly. We were going to be heading into the powerlines soon. Guess who we run into, Andrew and Ed! So funny. We have a little game going on this year, since Psycho Wyco. They are in front of me, I catch them, they try to beat me to the finish. They succeeded at PW, not at Chippewa, and now at Voyageur. So much fun, really!! I couldn’t contain my laughter and smiles.
Aid Station 4 Grand Portage, entry to the powerlines. As I was running toward the station I spied Jean on her bike! It was so good to see her and get a hug. She was there to support Jody and thought she should be coming in soon. She took a few photos, I emptied my gels, mixed a bottle of UCAN as was on my way.
The powerlines weren’t muddy! I didn’t need the spikes or the gloves. I was able to climb them just fine and pick my way down. Greg had some nifty poles, I might look into a pair. After we climbed the first few powerlines I asked Greg if he’d like to go in front of me as I was picking my way along more slowly and looked like he could really move. He went off ahead and I didn’t see him again until I was coming into the turnaround, as he was about two miles ahead. He was moving well!
As I was climbing along I ran into Casey, who I haven’t seen since Superior 100, 2006, I believe. We talked and laughed, caught up a bit. It was so good to see him again.
I felt really great. My legs felt strong, my breathing was good, no problems, I was so thankful to be able to do this race, to spend a long day in the woods. I gave thanks. I thought about how fortunate I was to be able to do this. I really love it.
Before I knew it I was out of the powerlines and running toward yet another aid station. Amazing. They were all over the place. Wearing my vest was overkill. I really only needed a handheld bottle, which is what I normally use. With Superior 100 on the horizon, a vest is a practice measure.
I began to run alone. Even with over 300 people on the trail we had spread about and I enjoyed the solo time. I was taking care of myself, consuming salt tablets, nutrition and plenty of water. I wasn’t in any pain. I was just smiling, spending time in the moment, feeling joy. I hadn’t even thought about listening to music.
I was coming in on Fond du Lac and knew that Doug and Maria would be at this station. I couldn’t wait! I ran in and saw all of the ducks that Todd had placed in the water. So cute! Big blow up duckies. What a treat! I hugged and caught up with Maria for a few minutes, congratulated her on NeverSummer 100K and then had to get a move on. I ran through the water, petted a blow up duck and hit the trail.
Becks Road was coming up next. UMTR aids this station so I knew I’d see many friends there as well. As I came in there were many hugs and photos. Matt, Amy, Willow, Rob, so many that I am not listing because I still have ‘ultra brain’. Rob asked me to try a pickle. I did, it was really good! I had a few cups of Coke and headed across the road. Good times!
I felt like I was running from one group of friends to another group of friends; strung together by a wonderful trail. This was really great.
The woods were beautiful. There had been plenty of rain this summer, everything was green and lush, most of the horse holes were filled in with thick grass and running was pretty easy. I was keeping my heart rate under 140 without a problem, running about an 11-12 minute mile most of the time. I was going to be running into Skyline Parkway next and knew that I had a drop bag there. I could get rid of the spikes I had been hauling and the gloves. Shelly was going to drop my bottle here, too, so I could mix another bottle of UCAN. The UCAN, a few gels, some watermelon and Coke seemed to work well for me.
The water crossing were not real deep, but deep enough to cool my feet. I couldn’t believe I didn’t feel any blisters yet. This year I haven’t had any blisters at all. This may be due to the Altras I’ve been wearing. I usually have at least some hot spots.
I came into Skyline and Brook and Mike said someone came through asking if anyone knew Julie Berg. Shelly had dropped my bottle for me! How thoughtful. They handed it off to me, I dug around in my bag and prepared a bottle of UCAN. I dropped the spikes and gloves, chugged the bottle and headed out. It was so much fun to see everyone. I began to climb the road section, knowing that I’d be at the turnaround soon.
The cut-off for the turnaround at the Zoo is 7 hours. I figured I’d be there by 6. No problem. The sun was warm now, we were exposed along the road. Much of this part was a climb before heading down into the Zoo. I walked along, climbing climbing climbing. Pretty soon I was at Spirit Mountain. It is so cool to run along the face of the ski hills, looking down at the Lake Superior, looking up at the chair lifts. I enjoyed it so much. As I was running along many of my friends were running back toward me. I love the out and back on this course. I never meet anyone in the powerlines where the trail is narrow. I usually meet the bulk of the runners along the wider paths going into the turnaround. I saw so many friends, stopped to chat, hug, talk, then run along. I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt blessed. I am.
At the turnaround I spied Jean! She asked me how I felt so good, how could I be having so much fun? I tried to explain it to her-that I just really, really enjoyed spending the day in the woods, how much I love to run, how great it is to reconnect with friends. I don’t know if I was able to explain this well enough to her. She told me she was expecting Jody soon, I was thrilled! I filled up my bladder, emptied out a few gel packs, consumed was watermelon and told Jean I had to head out. She took a few more pictures and I began the long climb back up Spirit Mountain.
I began to notice a feeling kind of like shin splints in my left leg. That’s weird. Maybe it was the walking, climbing out from the turnaround. I haven’t had shin splints for years, I couldn’t really understand the feeling in my leg. Maybe my sock or gaitor was too tight. I haven’t been walking that much. I found that it hurt more to walk than it did to jog, so I began to jog up the hills. That helped for a while.
I dug out my iPod and figured I’d listen to some music to distract myself. Unfortunatley I think my iPod decided to die on this day. I kept messing with it but couldn’t get it to work. I have had it since 2007! I asked a guy running along to take a look at it, turns out his last name was Berg, too! He couldn’t get it to work, he was willing to GIVE ME HIS iPod (really!), then we tried my iPhone in airplane mode. That worked fine, so I listened to music for a while. Thank you Mr. Berg!
I popped back into Skyline, was happy to get off of the exposed road and ready to hit the trail again. I dug around in my bag, grabbed a few cliff blocks, said hello and goodbye to Brook and Mike and was on my way.
The trail to Becks Road was quiet! I only saw a few other people during this time. It was such a beautiful day. I was running well, feeling good, feeling so thankful for this day..and then the left leg would remind me that it was not happy.
I was beginning to lose the ability to push off with my left foot. It felt stiff. I ran into Becks, had some more coke, thanked everyone and pushed on.
Maria was coming up next at Fond du Lac so I was going to ask her for advice. I’d get this gaitor off and see what was going on under it. When I looked down at my leg it looked a little bit swollen, but none more than usual after 30 miles..you know?
I came into the aid station and asked if I could sit in the chair. I never sit in the chair! I plopped down and told Maria and Doug I had to get my gaitor off. Maria asked Troy to retrieve her BioFreeze. I told her I felt like I had a shin splint or something. I was was flexing my foot up, feeling my shin, I told her it felt like tendonitis. She removed the gaitor, I told her to throw it away. She placed it into a baggie and said she’d wash it and maybe she’d sell it on EBAY. How much can we get for a Julie Berg gaitor she asked? It was hilarious. I sat there laughing! The BioFreeze felt good, I got up and was able to walk ok. Maria walked me out of the aid station and off I went!
The next section has some crazy climbing with ropes going up hills to grab, now I’d be going down very steeply. I knew this could be rough without any flex in my foot. I tried to keep it steady as I took teeny tiny steps down the steep downs. Ouch. Now it hurt. What the heck? Shin splints are dumb. Go away.
I moved on, still found that running felt better than walking so jogged the uphills and picked my way down them, trying not to flex my foot. I decided to take a few Advil to see if that would take the edge off. It didn’t. That kind of concerned me.
The course flattened out a bit, I was able to run pretty well in sections before climbing back through the powerlines. I knew it would be difficult with this stiff foot hanging behind me. I just couldn’t flex it. I never thought that this might be anything more than soreness from shin splints, a bit of tendonitis. I knew that shin splints go away pretty much as soon as I’m done running, I’ve had them before.
I found that I could still run downhill pretty well. There were long long downhills that I was able to run along pretty quickly, again passing Ed and Andrew. Ha! Good times! I really was having a blast and kind of tucked my pain away into another crevice of my mind. I just wasn’t going to think about it.
The powerlines were pretty warm now. Climbing was great, coming down was a bit difficult without flexing my foot. Oh well. It wasn’t too bad. It was getting real warm. The powerlines are exposed so I was heating up. I took a few more salt tabs. Drank some more water, began to think about Coke at Peterson’s! I was only about 10 miles from the finish.
I came into Peterson’s, so excited for Coke! I drank 2 cups, had a gel, knowing the sugar and caffeine was going to be like rocket fuel for me. It was. I was able to really run quickly on the flats, enjoying the experience.
Jay Cooke! I couldn’t believe that I was at the final aid station. I gave out hugs and thanks, drank some more Coke and ran across the bridge. I was really excited I was going to finish around 13 hours with this leg thing which had held me back. The last section is the most difficult for me. Not so difficult at the beginning, miles 1-3, but difficult at the end, miles 47-50. It is rocks, roots, steep scrambles over boulders and just painful. It also feels like it goes on forever.
I kept smiling, knowing I had almost made it. I moved very slowly, all of those people that I had passed were passing me now. Even Ed and Andrew came along. I had to laugh, told them I’d see them at the finish. Now I was getting concerned, I was dragging my foot along, it was not letting me move it at all. What the hell?
I had to scooch down onto my butt to get down some of the rocky ledges, trying to hold my foot straight. My shin was pretty swollen now. What in the world. Dumb shin splints. I finally came up to the bridge, walked across the bridge and up onto the bike path. I tried to run and couldn’t even run on the bike path. Hmmmm….not good. My foot was not having it. Another person passed me. Oh man. I grimaced and kept on. I made the turn and could see the finish line!
Oh happy day! I blocked out the pain and jogged toward the end. I could hear all of the bells, the Julie Bergs!, the clapping and cheering. So much fun! I crossed the finish line in just over 13 hours. Thank goodness!! Jean and Jody took pictures; Jody made it to 40 miles before she was pulled-her longest run!!! So awesome!! She felt good! Big hugs for all of my friends, Greg finished in 12 something, was doing well, it was one big party. I feel so grateful to be a part of this community, it really is special.
I visited for an hour or so and decided to head for home. I have about a 2.5 hour drive. I had some cramping on the way, didn’t stop, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to walk on my foot, it felt stiff.
Sunday my leg was red and swollen. I hobbled around, able to make it to Church and grocery shopping. Monday I couldn’t place weight on it. Red, swollen, intense pain. I was sure it was broken now. How could have I run on a broken leg? Did I cross that damn line again between fun and injury again? No way. It didn’t feel that bad at the time. I thought it was a shin splint. Or tendonitis. Ugh.
I went to the clinic on Monday and learned I have a thing; cellulitis, a skin infection. The MD diagnosed it right away. I told him I really thought I broke something. Nope, it’s a skin infection. He drew a line around the red swollen area and told me if it grew out of this line I needed to go to the ER. He prescribed antibiotics that I’ve been taking for three days now. The redness is gone. I still can’t walk on it, can’t place any weight upon it which seems odd to me. The swelling is going down. I’m unable to flex my foot. I can’t help but think I have cellulitis AND a fracture. It’s very painful. The MD doesn’t believe the run had anything to do with the infection. The infection just came out while I was running. If it had come out a day earlier I wouldn’t have been running. Very strange.
Oh well, I otherwise have felt great after this race. No muscle soreness, no blisters, no other pains. Awesome recovery. I guess I was in pretty good 50 mile shape!